Staunton, April 5 — A new study by a group of Moscow activists on the state of freedom of assembly in Russia concludes that Vladimir Putin has been first limiting and then eliminating that right as well as others in his drive to prevent the citizens of his country from being able to express themselves on the most important issues of the day.
The report, entitled “Freedom of Assembly in Russia. Anti-Constitutional Norms and Illegal Application of the Law,” was prepared by the December 12 Roundtable group and released last week in Moscow.
Its conclusions, which are discussed by Sergey Sharov-Delone in Yezhednevny Zhurnal, are devastating not only about the specific issue it addressed but, as the Moscow commentator makes clear, about the more general state of freedom or rather lack of freedom in Putin’s Russia.
Sharov-Delone notes that gradually but implacably the Russian state is reducing the ability of Russian citizens to express their views: “Parliament is not a place for discussion; media freedom has been overwhelmed by propaganda;” and public demonstrations have been reduced to a minimum and are subject to increasing harassment.
Ever more often Russian laws depart from the Russian constitution and its assertion that Russia is subject to the international agreements it has signed, the Moscow commentator says; and ever more often Russian officials apply what laws that do exist in ways that further compromise these rights.
The new report underscores that fact: its main conclusion is that “the repressive character of the changes of legislation connected with the realization of the citizens’ right to free assembly and the ever more illegal actions of the authority are beyond doubt directed at the suppression of civic and political activity.”
Indeed, in Sharov-Delone’s words, the situation is such that it is taking Russia “beyond the framework of the European and international legal field and completely contradicts the obligations the Russian Federation has assumed in the sphere of the defense of civil rights and freedoms.”
His words of concern are unintentionally reinforced by his suggestion to readers that they turn to the svobodasobraniy.ru/ in order to reach the entire report. But unfortunately for those who do so, they will find that that site has been blocked, almost certainly by the very officials who are repressing all the other freedoms Russian should enjoy.