Open Russia Movement Sets Out Position On 2018 Presidential Elections

December 13, 2017

On Saturday December 9 the Open Russia Movement held a conference in order to establish the official position of the Movement on the 2018 presidential elections, as well as the increasing use of force and harassment by the security services towards Russian opposition activists.

Over 100 Open Russia delegates travelled from right across the country to take part in the third Open Russia Movement conference, the first to take place on Russian soil.  The previous two were held in Helsinki and Tallinn in order to avoid unnecessary interference by the Russian authorities.

Just two days before the event was due to take place a number of Open Russia delegates were detained as they travelled to the Russian capital and were subsequently forced to sign a document promising that they would decline from attending an event that featured representatives of an ‘undesirable organisation’.

The Open Russia Movement is a Russian civic movement and cannot be classified as ‘undesirable’, regardless of the fact that back in April the Russian attorney general’s office officially recognised the British company Otkrytaya Rossiya and the US-based Institute of Modern Russia as ‘undesirable’.

Open Russia founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky opened the conference with a speech via Skype which laid out his own personal position on how the Russian opposition should approach the 2018 presidential elections.

The conference eventually faced heavy disruption from the police, who had apparently responded to an “anonymous call” that members of an “undesirable organisation” were gathered at the location.  Witnesses claim up to 40 policemen showed up to the conference and attempted to shut it down on the basis that it was an illegal gathering.

Those present managed to convince the officers that they were mistaken, and that the Open Russia Movement is in fact not banned in Russia.  However, it was clear from the altercation that the officers did not know why they were sent to the conference, and were receiving orders from “above.”

Throughout the course of the conference the Movement’s delegates managed to come to a consensus on two key issues facing Russia today.  Here are the official summaries of the Open Russia Movement’s position:

 

The position of the Open Russia Movement on the 2018 Russian presidential elections

09.12.2017, Moscow 

The Open Russia Movement does not consider the 2018 Russian presidential election to be free and fair.  Legally and factually the situation in the political sphere is constructed in such a way that the results of the elections and the victory of the person who is currently president of the Russian Federation, or any person whom the current president anoints as an heir or a technical “president”, are facts predetermined in advance.  In connection with this the Movement has decided not to support any individual candidate, but rather prioritise support for those who share the Movement’s ideas and principles concerning society and the state which will be expressed through various candidates.   

However, the Movement believes that even these “imitation elections” are an important event in the political life of the country.  As a result of support from the media, society’s interest towards politics will rise during this period.  Participation in such a procedure can be utilised as a tribunal in order to make our voices heard and for discussions on the most contentious political and social problems, and for criticism of today’s political regime. 

In connection with this we call for the registration of all candidates who, in accordance with the Russian Constitution, have the right to put themselves forward as candidates for president and collect the required number of signatures.  In the current situation the main aim of their participation in the elections is to present citizens with the concept of the rule of law, the equality of every person before the law, the changeably of government, parliamentarianism, restrictions on the powers of the president, federalism and the separation of state powers.

 

The position of the Open Russia Movement on the increasing use of force towards independent politicians, activists and civic movements by the authorities

09.12.2017, Moscow

As the 2018 Russian presidential elections approach, we have witnessed the next wave of “tightening the screws” and increasing pressure from the authorities on independent politicians, activists and public movements.  Such pressure is being exhibited through “educational” talks with school children and students, as well as expulsions from educational institutions, dismissal from workplaces and absurd fabricated criminal cases for social media posts and expressions of opinion.  Not to mention direct physical attacks and even the murder of opposition activists. 

Throughout the course of the last year alone there have been numerous examples of such pressure: the attack on Alexey Navalny with green dye, as well as the constant refusal of regional authorities to agree to open meetings with him; criminal and administrative cases, detentions and convictions of participants of the anti-corruption demonstrations of March 26 and June 12 2017.   

Beatings of opposition politicians and activists have acquired a systematic character (the attack on the head of Navalny’s Moscow headquarters Nikolai Lyaskin; Vladimir Shipitsina, a Solidarnost’ activist from St. Petersburg and opposition activists from Moscow Ivan Skripnichenko and Alexey Stroganov, who later died from his injuries, and many others).   

Attempts to murder prominent journalists and politicians that remain unsolved and un-investigated are being written off as incidents of domestic crime or simply accidents (the two-time poisoning of Open Russia’s Vladimir Kara-Murza and the attack on the Echo Moscow journalist Tatyana Felgenhauer).   

The shocking murder of the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov remains undisclosed, and the investigation is unable or perhaps simply does not want to go after those who ordered the assassination.   

We now witness the practice of labelling civic movements as ‘extremist’ and ‘undesirable’. 

The civic movement Open Russia has discussed the current practice of political repression and believes that the use of such illegal methods of pressure towards opposition politicians, civil activists and public movements is unacceptable.   

Moreover, the Movement is providing and will continue to provide legal and informational help through all available means to those who face injustice in Russia.  Some of the ways we are doing this are as follows:  

1) The “Open Russia Human Rights Team” provides legal and informational support to people who face prosecution on political motives. The Team’s lawyers represent the interests of people against whom administrative or criminal cases have been opened on the basis of so-called “politicised articles” of the Criminal Code (for instance participation in public meetings, publications on social media and “extremism”.) The Open Russia Human Rights Team has represented people such as Alexey Politikov, Evgeniy Kort and continues to represent numerous people who were detained as a result of participation in the March 26 anti-corruption demonstrations and the June 12 demonstrations, of which many cases have made it to the European Court of Human Rights. 

2) As of recently the Open Rights project was set up to help people who are being prosecuted by or having their rights abused in connection with state and municipal organs of power, monopolies and developers. The Open Rights lawyers provide assistance to defrauded shareholders, find homes for orphans and and assist people who have run into issues with housing and utilities.

3) In the near future the org project will be up and running. The project will gather information on various politically motivated or obviously fabricated cases brought against independent politicians and activists.  Information regarding the people who initiated the cases and those who helped to pass unjust verdicts will be made available for the public to see.  Anyone who considers themselves or another person unjustly prosecuted will be able to file an application to the project.  

Everyone who is not indifferent to what is going on in society should know this: only together, as a united force, founded on the principles of openness and public-spiritedness, can we resist the arbitrary nature of the regime.  We are united by the desire to make our country a free and comfortable place to live in.  What unites us is far stronger than what divides us. 

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