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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Russian authorities have declared the Sakharov Foundation an undesirable organization

The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation has placed the Andrei Sakharov Foundation (usa) on the list of “undesirable organizations”.

The website of the Sakharov Center in Moscow recalls in this regard that the foundation, founded in 1989 by Elena Bonner and American friends of the world-famous scientist and politician, has preserved its heritage for more than 30 years, and also provides support for the scientific research and educational projects.

In addition, human rights activists noted that in the context of “a terrible tragedy that has lasted for almost a year”, ie. triggered by the Kremlin in the war in Ukraine, the decision of the Russian authorities has a heavy symbolic significance.

“The Sakharov legacy knows no borders. Streets and squares in dozens of cities around the world bear his name, mountains and space bodies bear his name. Russian authorities may, under the threat of criminal prosecution, prohibit joint work and formal contacts, but their desire to destroy cooperation, establish division and enmity is historically doomed to failure,” says the appeal written on behalf of the management of the Sakharov Center.

Recall that the law on “undesirable organizations” was adopted in Russia in 2013. During this time, about 70 foreign and international organizations were placed on the “black list”. Their activity on the territory of the Russian Federation is prohibited, and in case of cooperation with them, a prison term of up to 4 years is threatened.

The Sakharov Center is in no way affiliated with the Sakharov Foundation, said Sergei Lukachevsky, director of the Sakharov Center, in an interview with the Russian service Voice of America. He recalled that we are talking about two independent organizations.

“Yes, both were founded (the foundation in 1989, and the Sakharov Center and the public order in 1990) by Elena Georgievna Bonner,” he said. – But legally, they are two absolutely independent organizations.

The American Foundation, explains Lukachevski, helped the Sakharov Center in Moscow: they had many common projects. “But over the past year,” he explains, “our cooperation has been impossible due, among other things, to the fact that financial relations between Russia and Western countries have essentially been severed due to sanctions. The American Foundation was our closest partner, but not a parent organization or anything like that.

The decision of the Prosecutor General’s Office is part of the general attack by the Russian authorities against the symbols and values ​​of civil society in Russia, says Lukachevsky. “Because,” he points out, “they are personified by Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov. – Throughout this time, the Sakharov Foundation has been committed, like us, to preserving the legacy of the Nobel Prize winner in Moscow. And this, of course, strikes a blow to the memory of the academician. I think this is part of a campaign to destroy any possibility of self-employment with the Sakharov legacy in Russia, and in the first place the campaign is directed against the Sakharov Center.

The authorities systematically destroy all civil society, says the human rights activist. “In a situation where martial law and censorship are in effect in the country, any independent voice is absolutely unacceptable to the Kremlin. It is obvious, and the regime with each month of so-called special operation, and in fact the unleashed war of aggression, is getting tougher and tougher. Of course, the existence of independent public bodies under present conditions is impossible. It’s just that the process of their liquidation is not done all at once, as Lukashenka did in Belarus, but gradually, through a series of repressive steps,” explains the director of the Sakharov Center.

Vyacheslav Bakhmin, co-president of the Moscow Helsinki Group and founder of the Sakharov Center, also explains that from now on the Sakharov Center, like all the other structures in Russia, can no longer officially cooperate with the American Sakharov Foundation. “Under the Undesirable Organizations Act, this is punishable,” Bakhmin points out. “Of course, we will maintain personal contact with the family of Elena Georgievna Bonner, but we will not be able to interact officially.”

The law is not retroactive and cannot apply to our past relationship, Bakhmin said, expressing hope that Russian authorities will adhere to legal standards. “Although the precedents in the country were, of course, different,” he says. – We have not yet been persecuted in the same way as the structures of Navalny. However, everything that is currently happening is part of the general line of the offensive against the NPO, which goes on all fronts. Now, the “advanced units”, those in sight, hearing, are mostly suffering.

Hence the attacks against the MHG and the Sakharov Foundation, points out the human rights activist. “Both organizations were symbols of the human rights movement. But today, such a move in Russia is simply inappropriate from the Kremlin’s point of view, so it is being cut short by all means,” he stresses.

On Monday, the capital’s district court rejected the lawsuit of the Moscow Helsinki Group against the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. The MHG liquidation hearing is scheduled for January 25.

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