Russia Accelerates Its Retreat from Democracy

The past several years have witnessed a disturbing and accelerating retreat from democracy and human rights on the part of the Putin government. This trend was on clear display yesterday in the raid of one of Russia’s oldest and most respected human rights organizations - Memorial. 

Last July, in apparent retaliation for widespread protests by democracy and human rights activists, the Russian government introduced legislation requiring NGOs that receive any support from abroad to register as “foreign agents”. In the Russian context this is tantamount to requiring them to self-identify as spies and traitors. 

Memorial, an organization dedicated to documenting the human rights abuses of Russia’s communist past and to advocating for democracy and rule of law, is widely respected both in Russia and abroad. 

According to Lantos Foundation President, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, targeting such a high profile organization is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation throughout the Russian human rights NGO community. 

“Putin has reverted to type as an unreformed KGB operative, and is attempting to stifle and intimidate reformers in Russia. Since the recent corrupt elections, we have seen a raft of anti-democratic moves by the Putin regime of which this is just the latest example.” 

The Lantos Foundation has been in the forefront of advocating for democracy and rule of law in Russia and has condemned the unjust trial and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky as well as the suspicious death of the whistle blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, while in Russian government custody. 

Lantos Swett called on the U.S. State Department to condemn the raid on Memorial’s offices; “The American government must not sideline our human rights concerns with Russia. As important as the various economic and security issues on the Russian/American agenda are, we cannot afford to ignore Russia’s retreat from democracy, and we owe it to the people of Russia to let them know that we stand with them in their struggle to protect their freedoms.”