Moscow (EFE).- The Russian Svetlana Astrajántseva, director of the oldest human rights organization in this country, the Moscow Helsinki Group, currently persecuted by the Russian Justice, assured Efe that, since the beginning of the military campaign in Ukraine, “Russians have no civil or political rights.”

«I would say that in Moscow there are no human rights, at least when people try to defend their civil and political rights. There are none. Of course, we do not know everything that happens in other parts of Russia », he commented during an interview in the office of the Helsinki Group in Moscow (GHM), founded in the times of the USSR (1976).

The Urban Court of Moscow begins this Wednesday, a judicial process against the GHM, whose liquidation is demanded by the Ministry of Justice, which has launched in recent months a campaign of annihilation of civil society in Russia.

military censorship

«What has changed since February 24, 2022? In the last eleven months, a harsh military censorship has been imposed, a total censorship », he pointed out.

In his opinion, “for a long time” there has been no freedom in Russia “as understood in democratic countries”, that is, freedom of expression and of the press, rule of law, judicial transparency and dissemination of information, but the situation it has worsened.

“Now every Russian understands what he can say and what is better not to say. That’s what has changed,” he noted.

Astrakhantseva, who replaced the late Ludmila Alexeyeva, the so-called “conscience of Russia”, recalls that her predecessor used to say, when human rights were in vogue, that “the success rate was 10%”.

«Now, the success rate is nil. Well, at best, 0.1%. Meanwhile, the failure rate is 99.9% », she assures.

Russian Svetlana Astrajantseva, director of the oldest human rights organization in this country, the Moscow Helsinki Group
Russian Svetlana Astrajantseva, director of the oldest human rights organization in this country, the Moscow Helsinki Group. EFE/ Ignacio Ortega

repression and war

The activist sees “a direct relationship between human rights and global security.” “This war is a direct consequence of the ignorance and repression of all human rights in our country,” she says.

He laments that “the Russians have forgotten the lessons of World War II.” “The Russians have an imperial mentality. In theory, Russia is a federation, but no one knows what this is. With (the annexation in 2014 of the Ukrainian peninsula of) Crimea it was already clear. The normal thing is to recover territories, but international law does not matter », he points out.

As an excuse, he admits that the Russians “are too busy surviving” to care about human rights and question the incorporation of four regions from another country.

“Russians must learn that the world must be humane and that people must be respected,” he stresses.

Putin, professional deformation

Astrakhantseva believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin knows “very well”, as a trained jurist, “all international declarations and conventions”.

“He knows what they are and how they work. What happens is that he does not have a vocation to defend human rights and it is not his priority as president. We are seeing it », he assures.

At the same time, he accuses the Kremlin of trying to make the work of NGOs “as difficult as possible” and of wanting to monopolize all facets of life in the country.

File image of Putin in the meeting with Palestinian President Abbas in October 2022. EFE/EPA/Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Kremlin/Sputnik
Russian President Vladimir Putin in a file image. EFE/EPA/Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Kremlin/Sputnik

“We represent an alternative agenda. Power no longer considers us necessary. The Russians must now fully support what the state is doing. Support domestic and foreign policy, whether you like it or not. And say that everything is going well », she stressed.

Therefore, NGOs, which “oppose power, as they protect ordinary people, are an irritant that should be ignored,” he said.

Astrajantseva considers that the Human Rights Council attached to the Kremlin is a “desecration” since the majority of activists were expelled in 2019 for defending those detained during anti-government protests or for opposing the current “special military operation”.

“Now it has become a sterile, useless organization. The few remaining activists barely have a say,” he said.

hybrid totalitarianism

The director of the GHM considers that Russia “has everything that exists in a police state”, but that this does not mean that it is necessary to give up the defense of human rights.

“If the war in Ukraine is hybrid, then we also live under hybrid totalitarianism,” he stresses.

Still, he adds, “it’s important to remind people that they have rights.” “The president, state bodies, all officials must understand that they violate the rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution,” he says.

Even if they refuse to change their policy, he says, “sooner or later they will at least have to admit that they intentionally infringed” on the dignity and basic rights of Russians.

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