Rights group says Putin ‘pushing civil society activists to sidelines’ with repressive laws

Report describes some of the changes since May 2012

Vladimir Putin: he Russian government has unleashed a crackdown on civil society in the year since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. Photograph: Reuters

Vladimir Putin: he Russian government has unleashed a crackdown on civil society in the year since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 18:03

The Russian government has unleashed a crackdown on civil society in the year since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency that is unprecedented in the country’s post-Soviet history, according to Human Rights Watch.

A 78-page report, Laws of Attrition: Crackdown on Russia’s Civil Society after Putin’s Return to the Presidency , describes some of the changes since May 2012.

The authorities have introduced restrictive laws; begun a campaign of invasive inspections of non-governmental organisations; harassed, intimidated, and imprisoned political activists; and sought to cast critics as enemies.


Civil society
The report analyses the new laws and documents how they have been used.

“The new laws and government harassment are pushing civil society activists to the margins of the law,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The government crackdown is hurting Russian society and harming Russia’s international standing.”

Many of the laws and the treatment of civil society violate Russia’s international human rights commitments, the watchdog ’s report maintains.


Draconian limits
Several seek to limit, or even end, independent advocacy by placing draconian limits on association with foreigners and foreign funding.

The “foreign agents” law requires organisations that receive foreign funding and supposedly engage in “political activities” to register as “foreign agents”.

“The campaign is unprecedented in its scope and scale, and seems clearly aimed at intimidating and marginalising civil society groups,” said Mr Williamson.

“This inspection campaign can potentially be used to force some groups to end advocacy work, or to close them down.”