1407th meeting of the Committee of Ministers on 16 June 2021
On 4 June, the President of the Russian Federation signed a new law banning anyone with links to so-called “extremist organisations” from running in elections in Russia. This law is yet another tool against critical and opposition voices, which will further curtail political pluralism in Russia. It is of additional concern that the new law will have retroactive effect.
The 9 June ruling by a Moscow Court to label Mr Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption organisation, the Foundation of Citizens’ Rights Protection and Mr Navalny’s regional offices as “extremist groups” marks the most serious effort to date by the Russian Government to suppress the independent political opposition and anti-corruption investigations, and to eliminate Mr Navalny’s and his political networks’ influence ahead of the State Duma elections in September, and beyond. This unfounded decision has and will have far-reaching consequences for the Russian civil society, opposition and critical voices.
As for Mr Navalny himself, we recall that his continued detention is based on court decisions which the European Court of Human Rights determined to be arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable, and we reiterate our call for his immediate and unconditional release. We expect Russia to fulfill its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, including to comply with the interim measure granted by the Court with regard to the nature and extent of risk to Mr Navalny’s life. The Russian authorities are responsible for Mr Navalny’s safety and health in the penal colony, to which we hold them to account.
The recent case of removal of Mr Andrei Pivovarov, a former Executive Director of “Open Russia”, from an aircraft departing from Saint Petersburg, and his subsequent detention for alleged violations of the law on so-called “undesirable organisations”, also confirms the continuous pattern of shrinking space for civil society, the opposition and critical voices as well as for independent media in Russia. We urge the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr Pivovarov and other opposition activists who are currently in detention, as well as to stop the prosecution of the opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov.
In the same vein, the EU rejects the recent decisions by the Russian authorities to list three German NGOs as “undesirable organisations” and to include the independent news website VTimes on the list of “foreign agents”, which forced VTimes to decide to cease its activities in Russia.
The recent adoption of new restrictive legislation, including the laws on drawing historical parallels, on the extrajudicial blocking of websites, and on the prohibition of working in “undesirable organizations”, together with the above-mentioned cases of the use of the reinforced legislation against political opposition and civil society confirm a negative pattern of a systematic crackdown on human rights and freedoms which are enshrined in the Russian constitution.
The EU once again urges the authorities of the Russian Federation to review current legislation in order to bring it in line with its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the relevant opinions of the Venice Commission.
The following countries align with this statement: Albania, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, Republic of North Macedonia, Norway and Ukraine