Newsletters / Khodorkovsky Team Spring Review

Dear Friends,
As we enter the spring in uncertain times amidst the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been reflecting on the recent illegal amendments to Russia’s Constitution. The Kremlin is seeking popular endorsement of the constitutional changes. Yet it is impossible for voters to reject them because they have already been enforced. Activists in Russia organized protests against the changes and helped vulnerable citizens in the midst of the epidemic. We’ve also started to translate Khodorkovsky’s video blogs into English. You can watch his comments on recent issues including Russia’s response to the Coronavirus here.

Say no to 16 more years of Putin!

In March Mikhail Khodorkovsky published a book presenting his vision for Russia in reaction to the ongoing discussion on changes to the Constitution. You can find out more about the book here. “What Putin is offering is a road to oblivion (or disaster). It is in our power to prevent this!” Khodorkovsky said in a statement. “I offer my view on the future of the country, based on my personal vision, as well as after consulting with friends and experts.” You can read more about the illegally adopted constitutional changes, which will create a vacuum of state power in Russia here.

In response to the changes, the Open Russia civic movement organized the “No!” campaign. Organizational committees have been created in 18 regions of Russia. Before the quarantine 60,000 signatures were collected under the Manifesto and rallies took place in 20 cities.

Human rights activists fight coronavirus and unreliable employers

Human Rights project activists (HRP) are involved in project COVIDarity, which supports vulnerable social groups during the coronavirus pandemic. Volunteers help deliver food and medicine to the elderly and people at risk.

In addition HRP lawyers are assisting a group of miners from Kemerovo region, who have not received a salary for several months and have gone on strike. The lawyers are seeking help from regional and federal authorities in securing rights of the workers.

Former Open Russia coordinator becomes the first person convicted under “undesirable organizations” law

In February Maxim Vernikov, former coordinator for the Yekaterinburg branch of the disbanded Open Russia movement and editor at MBK Media’s Ural branch, became the first person convicted under a 2015 law that allows the authorities to ban any foreign or international organization that allegedly undermines Russia’s security, defense, or constitutional order. A court in Yekaterinburg sentenced Vernikov to 300 hours of mandatory labor for involvement in the activities of the Open Russia Movement.

Meanwhile former Open Russia activist Anastasia Shevchenko, from Rostov upon Don, the first to be charged under the legislation, remains under house arrest and is awaiting her trial. Her unjust arrest continues for 14 months so far. You can read a recent interview with her here. Yana Antonova, a paediatrician and former Open Russia regional coordinator from Krasnoyarsk is also waiting for a decision in her case despite the death of the main witness for the prosecution. Both women face up to 6 years in jail if convicted.

MBK speaks in Zurich

In February Mikhail Khodorkovsky gave a lecture entailed “Does Russia have a future?” at the Europa Institute at the University of Zurich, one of the leading centers of expertise for European Law. During the conversation with students he said: “The system that exists now (in the Kremlin), is (…) a completely gangster model. (..) Groups fight amongst themselves and Putin takes the position of referee. (…) But at the same time, he makes sure that these conflicts between all these various groups in his environment continue, and intensify. Recently, we have witnessed several, intense disputes, because of these conflicts, in public. I see why he is doing this. Because if he is not in the midst of these conflicts, as the referee, then he’s not needed at all.”