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Simon & Sergei

Simon & Sergei

By Rights in Russia
A podcast about human rights in Russia.
Simon & Sergei. Podcast No. 109 - with Varvara Pakhomenko
Our guest on the podcast this week is Varvara Pakhomenko. Varvara Pakhomenko has been a human rights activist for a very long time. Back in her native Tomsk she was actively involved in human rights activities. Having moved to Moscow, Varvara began working with many human rights activists in the capital, but the geography of her travels remained very wide. Since 2006, Varvara Pakhomenko has worked in conflict zones in the North and South Caucasus: in 2006-2009 at the human rights organization Demos, in 2009-2011 at the Dutch organization Russian Justice Initiative, and since 2011 she has worked as a programme analyst for Europe and Central Asia at the International Crisis Group. When the Russian authorities effectively closed the ICG’s Moscow office, Varvara left to work in Ukraine. There she worked first for the UN Development Programme and after that for Geneva Call. A move to Canada seemed to put some distance between her and Europe, but now Varvara Pakhomenko is back again on the old continent. The recording took place on 24 June 2022. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. You can also listen to the podcast in full here (see also below): The questions we ask Varvara Pakhomenko include: • How did human rights activism come into your life? • One of Tomsk’s leading human rights activists was Boris Maksovich Kreindel. He was involved in many projects, including defending the rights of Roma in Tomsk region. How did it happen that he had to leave his native land? • Tell us about your work in the conflict zones in the Caucasus – where did you work? To what extent was it dangerous? • Which Moscow human rights activists and which organizations have you worked with in Russia? • When and why did you decide to move to Ukraine? • How does the human rights movement in Ukraine differ from that in Russia? • At least since 2012 the Russian authorities have pursued policies of increasing restrictions on human rights work in the country, attacks on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and a general moved towards isolationism. Do you think they have been preparing for the war against Ukraine for a long time? • What has been your role at the UNDP and Geneva Call? • How has the Ukrainian army changed since 2014. How do you assess the Ukrainian military’s compliance with international humanitarian law and with the rules and customs of warfare? • How do you see the future of human rights in Russia and the future of human rights organizations? Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “I remember when I was working on South Ossetia in 2010,” Varya Pakhomenko told Simon Cosgrove and I. “I had to make a difficult decision at the time: I did not know what to do. I called Sasha Cherkasov and asked him what to do in this situation. Sasha replied: ‘You know, no one can make this decision better than you right now. Because you know all that’s going on there better than anyone.’ And at that moment I realized that these fine people had begun to see me as an equal colleague.” In this podcast, Varya Pakhomenko talks about her native Tomsk, about Tomsk human rights activist Boris Kreindel, and about how a student from Siberia became a human rights activist. Varya and I were in South Ossetia together two weeks after the end of the war in 2008, so I had a chance to work with her myself then. After Russia, Varvara Pakhomenko has worked in Ukraine: in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and, after that, with the Geneva Call organization. It was then that she participated in training the Ukrainian Armed Forces, teaching the Ukrainian military how to comply with international humanitarian norms and protect civilians in armed conflict.
51:44
June 28, 2022
Podcast No. 108. Simon & Sergei - with Nikolai Kavkazsky
Our guest on the podcast this week is Nikolai Kavkazsky. Nikolai Yurievich Kavkazsy is a Russian civil society activist, human rights defender and opposition politician. He is one of the leading Yabloko activists in Moscow and for many years has been a member of the social-democratic organisation, LevSD [Left Socialist Action]. Nikolai Kavkazsky was a defendant in the Bolotnoe case. Politically, he defines himself as a left-wing social democrat, an internationalist, a supporter of LGBT rights and of feminism. He is an advocate of juvenile justice and a humane drug policy. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Podcasts.com, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. The recording was made on 18 June 2022. The questions we ask Nikolai Kavkazsky include: • Which word best describes you – civil society activist, human rights activist or politician? • You studied law at the Institute of World Economy and Informatization. At what point did you realize you wanted to be a civil society activist and a politician? • You became a member of the Yabloko party in 2007 and are one of the party’s leading activists in Moscow. Why did you choose Yabloko as your party? • Why are political parties weak in Russia? • You took part in the Bolotnaya Square protest in 2012, after which you were charged with ‘participation in mass riots’ (under Article 212(2) of the Russian Criminal Code) and held on remand for almost a year and a half. Amnesty International recognized you as a prisoner of conscience, along with several other individuals involved in the Bolotnaya case. In December 2013, you were amnestied and the criminal case was dropped. How did all this happen? • What were the conditions in pre-trial detention centre? • You were an associate of the late Andrei Babushkin, who headed the Committee for Civil Rights. What is the work of this organization? And what kind of person was Andrei Babushkin? • You support LGBT rights in Russia. Why is the country so intolerant of LGBT people? • On 24 February 2022 you were detained for taking part in an anti-war protest. The next day you were jaled for six days. What is the situation regarding anti-war protests in Russia? • How do you see the future of the country and, in particular, the future of human rights? Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “Everything, absolutely everything, must be politicized. Including the question of installing benches at the entrance to an apartment building and protesting against plans to build in housing courtyards.” That’s what Simon Cosgrove and I were told by Nikolai Kavkazsky in a conversation we had with him last week. I’ve known Nikolai since the infamous Bolotnaya trial in Moscow. He is first and foremost a politician, a political activist. We also remember his active participation in human rights organizations, including Andrei Babushkin’s Committee for Civil Rights. It was an interesting conversation in which Nikolay Kavkazsky bravely states that he wants to change politics as they now are in Russia; he wants to change society so that it is more just, more free, and integrates all oppressed social groups.
38:47
June 21, 2022
Podcast No. 107. Simon & Sergei - with Nikita Petrov
Our guest on the podcast this week is the historian Nikita Vasilievich Petrov. Nikita Petrov is deputy chair of the board of the Memorial Research and Information Centre (which is based in St. Petersburg). Born in Kiev, Nikita Petrov graduated from the Moscow Institute of Chemical Engineering and went on to study at the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy. His association with the Memorial Society began in 1988. As a historian Nikita Petrov has specialized in the history of the Soviet security services. He is known as the author and compiler of many works describing the structure and functions of the Soviet security services from 1917 to 1991. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. The recording took place on 30 May 2022. · When and why did you first become interested in history, particularly the history of Soviet repression and the security services? · When did your collaboration with Memorial begin? · You wrote a number of works with Arseny Roginsky, who headed Memorial and died in 2017. Can you tell us about how you first met, what it was like to work with Roginsky, and what he was like as a person? · As a historian who worked in Russia’s archives for many years, can you tell us how historians’ access to these archives has changed over the years? · You have written about the history of the NKVD under Stalin, in particular about Nikolai Yezhov. To what extent can we talk about the personal influence of people like Yagoda or Yezhov on the NKVD, or were they just doing Stalin’s bidding? · You also wrote about the role of the NKVD and MGB in Central and Eastern Europe from 1939. To what extent were the repressions against people of Polish nationality similar to the Nazi repressions on the basis of race – an example against people of Jewish origin? · Another topic you wrote about is that of Ivan Serov and the post-Stalinist KGB. To what extent did the security services change in the post-Stalin period, first as the KGB and then as the FSB? · Is there an explanation for why the security services played such an important role in Soviet and Russian history? For example: in the book From the Red Terror to the Mafia State: Russia’s Secret Services in the Struggle for World Domination the authors [historian Felshtinsky, who is not considered a historian by many, and former KGB Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Popov (Canada)] write about the history of the state security takeover in Russia, presenting developments in terms of a confrontation between the Cheka-KGB and the Communist Party. In fact, did the Chekists confront the Communists or were they basically all the same kind of people? · Why are today’s authorities in Russia so interested in the study of history? · Are there any lessons in history? Including for the citizens of Russia? Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: Read old newspapers and magazines! That was exactly the advice Nikita Petrov got from his father. He taught him that reading the Soviet press would be interesting later, after many years had passed. So Nikita Petrov, who had studied to be a chemist, became a historian. In our latest podcast Nikit Petrov told Simon Cosgrove and me about his love for collecting old newspapers and magazines, how he stacked them in folders and read and re-read them. That's how chemistry came to lose one scientist from its ranks but history gained a remarkable sp
53:13
June 07, 2022
Podcast No. 106. Simon & Sergei - with Lev Ponomarev
Our guest on the podcast this week is Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomarev (pictured, left, with the late Andrei Babushkin). Lev Ponomarev is a human rights activist and head of the For Human Rights movement and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. He also participated in the creation of the Memorial Human Rights Center. As a legal entity, the For Human Rights Movement was liquidated by a November 2019 decision of the Russian Supreme Court. Lev Ponomarev became one of the first private individuals to be included in the registry of "media foreign agents" when the Russian Ministry of Justice included him in the corresponding list on December 28, 2020. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. The questions we ask Lev Ponomarev include: 1 Andrei Babushkin, the well-known human rights defender, died recently - on the night of May 14. You knew him well for many years. What kind of person was he? 2 When did you leave Russia and what made you take this difficult decision? 3 What is the situation like for human rights defenders who still live and work in Russia today? 4 You were one of the organizers of the peace movement in Russia. How strong is this movement? 5 How difficult is it to continue your work outside of Russia? 6 How long can Russian propaganda be effective in the face of Russia's enormous human and material losses during the war? 7 What effect do sanctions have inside Russia? 8 Many people now use the word "fascism" to describe Putin's regime in Russia. Would you use this term? 9 You have advocated democratic reforms in Russia since at least the late 1980s. Why have these reforms - at least to date - failed so badly? 10 How do you see future developments? Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: " Lev Ponomarev said, 'The atmosphere in the country now is like, well, they’re not shooting us yet, but... What is there to say? I’ve been squeezed out, I have been forced to go abroad. The attacks were almost daily. But I wasn't beaten up once, thank God. I have to thank those guys who attacked me. They showed humanism, so to speak. Well, they poured something smelly over me, and I had to throw away my jacket and trousers. The cops stopped me in the metro, told me I was on the federal wanted list, and then they drove me around town and let me go. In general, I realized I had to leave.' In our latest podcast on Rights in Russia, Simon and I talked with Lev Ponomarev. We remembered Andrei Babushkin, who has died recently, discussed the human rights situation in Russia and considered possible scenarios for the future.
50:43
May 24, 2022
Podcast No. 105. Simon & Sergei - with Andrei Kalikh
Our guest on the podcast this week is Andrei Kalikh, a human rights researcher, journalist, and activist with a special interest in the issue of corruption. In the past, Andrei worked as programme director at the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights and he has been a board member of Perm Memorial Society. Until recently, Andrei lived in St. Petersburg. He recently left Russia and is currently in Israel. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. The questions we ask Andrei are: 1) When the war began on February 24, 2022, did it come as a surprise to civil society in Russia? 2) Why did the war begin on February 24, 2022? 3) There were many protests in Russia at the start of the war. You were involved in some of these protests. What was the atmosphere at the protests? How did the authorities respond? 4) Nowadays there are fewer protests. Why? 5) At the beginning of the conflict there were estimates that about 250,000 people had left Russia because of the war. Who were these people and why did they leave? 6) What help is available to those who have left Russia? 8) To what extent is there now an "anti-Russian" atmosphere in public opinion outside Russia because of the war? 9) Many people say one of the reasons the Russian military has not been successful in Ukraine is because of corruption. You worked on anti-corruption projects in Russia for many years. How strong is the corruption in Russia? 10) What do you think will happen in the next few weeks and months? Sergey Nikitin writes on Facebook: Russian human rights activist Andrei Kalikh took part in protests against the war unleashed by the Kremlin. It was not long after the first bombings and shelling of Ukraine: Andrei could not remain indifferent and on February 27 he stood in the centre of St. Petersburg holding a placard to express his opinion in the most peaceful way possible. The police were brutal; no one was spared. They grabbed him, twisted his arm, threw him in a van and took him away. “One of the reasons for the outbreak of this war was the lack of resistance from civil society, the opposition movement and the protest movement. We have all lost; we were weak. I feel personally responsible for this,” says Andrei Kalikh. A former programme director at the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, a board member of the Perm Memorial Society, a human rights and civil society activist and journalist, Andrei Kalikh was our guest on our latest podcast as part of the Rights in Russia project. We talked about many things, including protest and civic activism, not only in big cities, but also far from them. Andrei told us about the protest in the village of Siversky in Leningrad region, not far from where he lived until recently. And in this quiet dacha settlement, known to us from Nabokov's memoirs, as it turns out, there are people who care too. People who are ready to express their position publicly and find a variety of ways to do so. Andrei Kalikh, like many other human rights activists, was forced to leave Russia. He told us that for him living in Russia had become impossible and shameful. "Everything that had been achieved has been wiped out by this war,” he told us.
47:57
May 09, 2022
Podcast No. 104. Simon & Sergei - with Kirill Koroteev
Our guest on the podcast this week is the lawyer Kirill Koroteev, head of international legal practice of Agora International Human Rights Group. Previously, Kirill worked as legal director at Memorial Human Rights Centre, where he specialized in handling cases before the European Court of Human Rights. Kirill graduated from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and received his master's degree from the University of Paris I - Panthéon-Sorbonne, where he also taught public law.  The themes we discuss in the podcast include: the work of a Russian lawyer in international courts; Russia's exclusion from the Council of Europe and its consequences; Russia's war against Ukraine; the current brain drain from Russia; and the future of human rights in Russia.  This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, Podcasts.com, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube.  The questions we ask Kirill Koroteev include:  1) As head of international legal practice at the Agora Human Rights Group you extensive experience in international courts and jurisdictions in various countries. How would you compare Russian lawyers today - especially human rights lawyers - with lawyers from other European countries?  2) Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe on March 16, 2022. This is only the second case of the exclusion of a state from the Council of Europe. Was there an alternative to this turn of events?  3) What will be the consequences of Russia's withdrawal for participants in Court proceedings – including those whose cases have already been decided, but not yet executed; those who have applied to the Court but whose cases are still in progress; and those who may still want to bring a case to the Court?  4) Russian lawyer and human rights activist Karinna Moskalenko has said that the inability of Russians to apply to the European Court would be ‘a punishment for ordinary people, not for the government.’ Do you agree with this point of view?  5) What is the future of the interstate case filed by the Ukrainian government on 28 February, as a result of which on 1 March the Court issued interim measures (under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court) requiring Russia to ‘refrain from military attacks on civilians and civilian objects, including homes, ambulances and other specially protected civilian objects such as schools and hospitals, and immediately ensure the safety of medical facilities, personnel and ambulances on the territory attacked or besieged by Russian forces.’  6) What is the legality of showing public videos of conversations and press conferences with prisoners of war. Is this a violation of the Geneva Conventions? Valentina Melnikova, for examples, has argued that such videos can save the lives of Russian POWs (see Valentina Melnikova’s interview with Gordeeva in the program "Tell Gordeeva").  7) Do you see any scenario in which Russia could rejoin the Council of Europe?  8) Could the exclusion of Russia could have a positive impact on the Court, given that Russia has one of the worst records so far as implementing the Court’s decisions is concerned?  9) According to existing estimates, as many as 250,000 people have left Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine. A great many of them are young professionals, including lawyers. Do you think this is a temporary phenomenon? Will people return to Russia in the near future? Or is this a development that will last for many years?  10) How do you see the future of human rights in the Russian Federation?
37:11
April 04, 2022
Podcast No. 103. Simon & Sergei - with Vyacheslav Shilov
Our guest on the podcast this week is the lawyer Kirill Koroteev, head of international legal practice of Agora International Human Rights Group. Previously, Kirill worked as legal director at Memorial Human Rights Centre, where he specialized in handling cases before the European Court of Human Rights. Kirill graduated from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and received his master's degree from the University of Paris I - Panthéon-Sorbonne, where he also taught public law. The themes we discuss in the podcast include: the work of a Russian lawyer in international courts; Russia's exclusion from the Council of Europe and its consequences; Russia's war against Ukraine; the current brain drain from Russia; and the future of human rights in Russia. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, Podcasts.com, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. The questions we ask Kirill Koroteev include: 1) As head of international legal practice at the Agora Human Rights Group you extensive experience in international courts and jurisdictions in various countries. How would you compare Russian lawyers today - especially human rights lawyers - with lawyers from other European countries? 2) Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe on March 16, 2022. This is only the second case of the exclusion of a state from the Council of Europe. Was there an alternative to this turn of events? 3) What will be the consequences of Russia's withdrawal for participants in Court proceedings – including those whose cases have already been decided, but not yet executed; those who have applied to the Court but whose cases are still in progress; and those who may still want to bring a case to the Court? 4) Russian lawyer and human rights activist Karinna Moskalenko has said that the inability of Russians to apply to the European Court would be ‘a punishment for ordinary people, not for the government.’ Do you agree with this point of view? 5) What is the future of the interstate case filed by the Ukrainian government on 28 February, as a result of which on 1 March the Court issued interim measures (under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court) requiring Russia to ‘refrain from military attacks on civilians and civilian objects, including homes, ambulances and other specially protected civilian objects such as schools and hospitals, and immediately ensure the safety of medical facilities, personnel and ambulances on the territory attacked or besieged by Russian forces.’ 6) What is the legality of showing public videos of conversations and press conferences with prisoners of war. Is this a violation of the Geneva Conventions? Valentina Melnikova, for examples, has argued that such videos can save the lives of Russian POWs (see Valentina Melnikova’s interview with Gordeeva in the program "Tell Gordeeva"). 7) Do you see any scenario in which Russia could rejoin the Council of Europe? 8) Could the exclusion of Russia could have a positive impact on the Court, given that Russia has one of the worst records so far as implementing the Court’s decisions is concerned? 9) According to existing estimates, as many as 250,000 people have left Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine. A great many of them are young professionals, including lawyers. Do you think this is a temporary phenomenon? Will people return to Russia in the near future? Or is this a development that will last for many years? 10) How do you see the future of human rights in the Russian Federation? Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “There were several reasons for our departure,” Vyacheslav Shilov said. “The final straw, after which I no longer wished to remain in Russia, was the fact that in the school where we had enrolled our son (it’s a good school, of high quality, with good facilities) they began to give political education to the children, talking about the glorious victories of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.” Slava Shilov,
33:08
April 04, 2022
Podcast No. 102. Simon & Sergei - with Evgenia Chirikova
Our guest on the podcast this week is the Russian civil society activist, now living in Talinn, Estonia, Evgenia Chirikova. Evgenia Chirikova is especially well known for her campaign to save the Khimki Forest and she was leader of Ecological Defence (Ecoborona) in Moscow region. She was also a member of the organizing committee for Strategy 31 and a member of the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition. You can learn more about her work today at: activatica.org.  The topics we discuss on the podcast include: the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, public opinion in Estonia, what the West is doing, what needs to be done to help, why things have come to this, the role of Vladimir Putin, prospects for the future.  Our questions to Evgenia: 1) What does the public in Estonia think about the Russian invasion of Ukraine? 2) Boris Nemtsov was a great friend of Ukraine and was killed shortly after the annexation of Crimea. Do you think he imagined that would be such a full-scale invasion could occur? 3) How do you think Russian civic activists are doing? Many activists are leaving, laws are becoming more repressive. People are being detained and jailed. How do you assess the situation for Russian civil society? 4) Why do you think Putin decided to take this extraordinary step of invading a neighbouring country? 5) How is the West reacting? Are the EU and the U.S. doing enough? What is the impact of economic sanctions? 6) What should the general public in the West do? 7) How will Putin's regime change as a result of this war? Is there a possibility that the regime will not survive? 8) What do you think will happen in the coming days and weeks in Ukraine and Russia? 9) How do you see the future of human rights activism in Russia, what awaits the country and the world?  This podcast is in Russian. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube.  Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “It pains me very much that right now some kind of universal evil is coming from Russia, from my homeland.” Russian civil society activist Evgenia Chirikova, who moved to Estonia several years ago, found an hour to talk with Simon Cosgrove and me. Zhenya says from Tallinn, where she now lives: “We need to help refugees, we need to do a lot of organisational work.” Zhenya told us that when asked "Who is to blame for this" her answer is that we tried to stop Putin with all our might. But we had a very weak civil society that had been decimated during the preceding decades of totalitarianism. "People of my generation - we were actually the first to try to organize movements, to resist unfair elections. But we also saw the cooperation of Western politicians with Putin, a kind of Schröderization of the West. They were feeding Putin." In our conversation Zhenya Chirikova recalled speeches she made in the European Parliament and in the British Parliament where she asked the Western countries not to buy oil and gas from Putin, not to support this corrupted regime. "People laughed at me, said it was real politik. It turns out that we raised this monster together with the West, and now we all have to clean it up together. We live in a new world, where Russia bans slogans like "No to War" and Germany rescues Ukrainians who have fled from Russian bombs. And people like Zhenya Chirikova in this new world continue to do what they have dedicated their lives to: fighting for justice and helping people.
47:57
March 11, 2022
Podcast No. 101. Simon & Sergei - with Mikhail Savva
THIS PODCAST IS NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FOR THE PRESENT TIME WE HAVE REPLACED THE NEW PODCAST WITH MIKHAIL SAVVA WITH A PODCAST WE RECORDED WITH HIM IN NOVEMBER 2020. Our guest on the podcast this week is Mikhail Valentinovich Savva. Mikhail Savva is a human rights activist, political scientist, and former professor at Kuban State University. In 1993 Mikhail Savva began working in the administration of the Krasnodar region and then later in the Federal Ministry of Nationalities Affairs and Regional Policy - a position from which he resigned in connection with the first Chechen war. From January 2001, Mikhail Savva served as director of grant programmes at the Southern Regional Resource Centre, an NGO, and he was also a member of the Krasnodar Region Public Oversight Commission to monitor human rights in places of detention. In April 2013 a politically motivated criminal case was initiated against Savva under Article 159(3) of the Criminal Code ("Fraud on an especially large scale"). In April 2014, a Krasnodar district court gave him a three-year suspended sentence. Since 2015 Mikhail Savva has lived in Kiev where he is chair of the board of the Sova Expert Group, an NGO registered in Ukraine. The recording is from 4 March 2022 The topics we discuss in the podcast include: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the current situation in the conflict, what the West is doing, why things have come to this, Putin as a leader, public opinion in Ukraine and Russia, and what will happen in the short and long term. The questions we asked Mikhail are: · What is the current situation in the conflict? Where is the front line - if there is one? · The Ukrainian troops have put up very strong resistance. How is Ukrainian public opinion reacting? · How do people in Ukraine assess the quality of Russian military forces - human and technical? · Where do people get their information about the course of the war in Ukraine? Are there reliable sources? · What do we know about Russia's plans in the coming days - and months? · What is the West doing? And should it be doing more? · There are many reports of Russian troops bombing civilian areas. Some talk about the need for a no-fly zone by NATO to protect civilians. Is this realistic? · How do you feel about Putin's reference to nuclear weapons? · In retrospect, why has Putin invested so much – great economic and human resources and even his political future - in this destructive military adventure? · Watching videos of Putin talking to his ministers in Moscow in an empty hall or at the end of a long table, one gets the impression that he is a very isolated leader. Especially when compared to Volodymyr Zelensky. What do you think? · What do you think will happen in the short and long term? This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube.
01:00:27
March 07, 2022
Podcast No. 100. Simon & Sergei - with Dmitry Piskunov
The guest on our latest podcast is Dmitry Piskunov, a lawyer and human rights activist from Russia who works for the Moscow-based human rights organization OVD-Info. OVD-Info monitors politically motivated prosecutions, with a particular focus on the right to freedom of assembly. Previously, Dmitry worked for the Committee against Torture, a human rights organisation based in Nizhny Novgorod. He was also a member of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission.  This podcast was recorded on 22 February 2022  The topics we discuss include: the work of a human rights lawyer, the work of OVD-Info, the most important human rights issues in Russia today, and what’s coming in the near future and in the long term.  The questions we ask Dmitry are:  Where does your interest in jurisprudence and human rights in particular come from?  What types of cases are you currently working on? How has the human rights situation in Russia changed in recent years? What examples can you give?  To what extent does the legislation on foreign agents negatively affect the work of civil society organizations?  To what extent has anti-extremist legislation become an instrument of political repression?  What role does the European Court of Human Rights play? And how do you see the relationship between this Court and Russia? And with the Council of Europe?  What do Russian citizens know about the Russian leadership’s intentions toward Ukraine? What will happen if there is a war? Will the population support such a policy?  What is your prognosis for the future of human rights in Russia?  This podcast is in Russian.  You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube.  Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook:  “No one wants war. And if there is anyone who wants it, it’s radicalized people who hold nationalist views. I don’t think this is the dominant view in Russian society,” said Dmitry Piskunov in an interview shortly before the aggressive attack by the Russian armed forces and the start of the invasion of Ukraine. “The actions of the Russian authorities do not deserve support. Nevertheless, I think only a small part of the Russian public will express their dissatisfation. Most will be afraid. Most of those who can organize protests will keep in mind that now there is a possibility to be prosecuted for treason or for extremism. At any moment, they can start branding individuals as foreign agents, especially in relation to dissemination of information about the army.” Now all the social networks and news feeds are full of information about the army. Law enforcement authorities in Russia are merciless, threatening and intimidating. Peaceful anti-war protests are brutally suppressed by police. The Kremlin is at war with the Ukrainian people. It is also at war with the Russian people, on whom, however, it has not yet dropped bombs and which it has not yet crushed with the caterpillars of tanks. Dmitry sees the future of the human rights movement in Russia in a grim light. He speaks about the possibility of Russia`s isolation from the rest of the world and the likelihood that Russia may withdraw from the Council of Europe and the European Convention of Human Rights. “How close that prospect is, I can’t say,” Dmitry said when we spoke last Tuesday. A few hours later, war broke out.
31:22
March 01, 2022
Podcast No. 99. Simon & Sergei - with Andreas Umland
Our guest this week on the podcast is Andreas Umland, a political scientist and an expert in modern Russian and Ukrainian history and politics. He lives in Kiev and teaches at the National University of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Andreas is a senior expert at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future in Kyiv and a research fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Relations in Stockholm. He has written extensively on the development of post-Soviet countries, including on the extreme right and on nationalism. The topics we discuss include: the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, the situation on the borders, the threat of a Russian invasion, how decisions are made in Russia, reactions in Ukraine and the West, and what is to come. The questions we put to Andreas Umland include: 1) What is the current situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border and on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border? 2) What is the motivation for the concentration of Russian troops? 3) What is the purpose of the "negotiations"? 4) What is the decision-making process inside Russia? 5) Are there divisions within the Russian elite? 6) What is Russian public opinion and does it play a role? 7) What reactions are there in Ukraine to what is happening? 8) How is the West reacting? 9) What do you think will happen next in the short term? And what will happen in the long term? This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: Simon Cosgrove and I spent an hour in an interesting conversation with Andreas Umland, a political scientist who studies modern Russian and Ukrainian history and lives in Kyiv and who has a very interesting perspective on today’s situation. “I think February will be a tense month,” Andreas says. “The Olympics are coming to an end, and these exercises that Russia is holding in Belarus – by the end of February it will be clear whether there will be a military escalation or not. I hope not.” Speaking about the future, Andreas says: “Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policy will remain the same in the future regardless of whether Zelensky is re-elected or not, whether Poroshenko returns, or maybe Klitschko becomes president. Personalities may change, but the direction of policy will not change. In Russia it is rather the opposite. If personalities change there, the whole regime could change. It may, by the way, change for the worse. Anything is possible there, from fascism to liberalism.” Andreas Umland lives in Kiev and teaches at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Andreas has written extensively on the development of post-Soviet countries, including articles on the extreme right and nationalism.
46:27
February 14, 2022
Podcast No. 98. Simon & Sergei - with Vitaly Ponomarev
Our guest this week on the podcast is Vitaly Ponomarev, head of the Central Asia programme of the Memorial Human Rights Centre. Since 2005 Vitaly Ponomarev has also been head of the Centre’s monitoring programme, ‘Combating fabrication of criminal cases of Islamic extremism in Russia.’ In the podcast we discuss the human rights situation in the countries of Central Asia, the relationship between Russian policy in the area of human rights and that of the Central Asian countries, the situation of refugees and the fabrication of criminal cases of Islamic extremism in Russia. The questions discussed are: 1) Where does your interest in eastern countries come from? 2) How do human rights in the Russian Federation compare with those in Central Asia? 3) To what extent do Russia and the countries of Central Asia copy each other’s policies in the area of human rights - for example Russia and Tajikistan or Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan? 4) There are reports that there are a large number of religious and political prisoners in Uzbekistan. Could you shed some light on this situation? 5) What is the situation of refugees persecuted in Central Asia and Russia? How realistic is the threat of forced return in the post-Soviet space? 6) You have been banned from entering Kyrgyzstan since 2017. How did this come about and how common is this phenomenon in relation to researchers such as yourself? 7) To what extent are anti-extremist laws and practices based on the Russian model being used as a tool of suppression? 8) Please tell us about the monitoring programme "Countering fabrication of criminal cases of Islamic extremism in Russia. How does it work and what are the main trends in this area? 9) Does this mean Russia is drifting towards the East? How do you see the perspectives for human rights in Russia? This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “Central Asia is a region that includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. In Soviet times, it was called ‘Central Asia and Kazakhstan.’ Simon Cosgrove and I recently spoke with an expert on the region, Vitaly Ponomarev, head of the Central Asia programme at Memorial Human Rights Centre. At the same time, he has headed the Centre’s monitoring programme ‘Countering fabrication of criminal cases of Islamic extremism in Russia’ since 2005. The five countries have chosen different models of development, and the range - Vitaly Ponomarev explained to us - is large: from Turkmenistan with its totalitarian regime to Kyrgyzstan. "These are different countries, different cultures, and the more time passes since the collapse of the USSR, the more these differences become apparent. When mass repression began in Uzbekistan in the late 1990s, Russia was a relatively democratic country. Now there is this metamorphosis: Russia is becoming more and more repressive. In some aspects of criminal law, Russia has already surpassed in terms of certain restrictions some of the countries of Central Asia that we once cited as examples of serious human rights violations. Vitaly believes that Central Asian countries these days are often borrowing from Russian experience, in terms of the the toolkit for suppressing dissent, including both legislation and law enforcement practices related to so-called anti-extremism legislation.
49:58
February 02, 2022
Podcast No. 97. Simon & Sergei - with Konstantin Kotov
This week our guest on the podcast is Konstantin Aleksandrovich Kotov, a Russian computer programmer and civil society activist. In 2019 Konstantin Kotov was the second person to be convicted under the so-called ‘Dadin’ Article 212.1 that was added to the Russian Criminal Code in July 2014 – ‘Repeated violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, march, or picket.’ The topics of our conversation include: the Russian judicial and penitentiary systems, and the current state of human rights in Russia. The questions we are discuss are: · Why did you become a civic activist? · How unexpected was your arrest, prosecution and imprisonment in 2019? How did you feel at the time? · Your arrest and sentence caused a great public outcry. What did this support mean to you? · You and the defendant in the New Greatness case, Anna Pavlikova, were married in the building of the Matrosskaya Tishina detention centre where you were held. How did this happen? · On 20 April 2020, Moscow City Court reduced your sentence from four years in prison to one year and six months. Through all this time how did you see the work of the Russian legal system, including the President’s intervention? · What has been your experience of the Russian penitentiary system? · How do you assess the current situation in Russia in terms of human rights? · What needs to be done to improve the human rights situation in the country? What is the role of civil society and civic activists? · What are the prospects for the development of human rights protection in Russia? This podcast is in Russian. As well as Anchor you can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts  and YouTube. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “It probably started with the protest on Bolotnaya Square. I was at Bolotnaya, I was at Sakharov Prospekt, I participated in all the peaceful protests that took place in 2011-2012 in Moscow. I had a job, I was a programmer. The turning point was 2018: Oleg Sentsov and his hunger strike. His act touched me deeply: a man risking his life to save others.” Simon Cosgrove and I continue to record our podcasts – conversations with human rights activists, civic activists, lawyers and journalists. Yesterday our interviewee was Konstantin Kotov, the second person convicted under the so-called ‘Dadin’ Article 212.1, added to the Russian Criminal Code in July 2014. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison, but was released a year and a half later, in December 2020. The colony was the same Penal Colony in Pokrov where Aleksei Navalny is now imprisoned. “Your day in the colony is strictly regulated: from 6 a.m., when you get up, until 10 p.m., when you go to bed, you don’t belong to yourself. “ Among other things, Konstantin talked about his experience in prison: “Apart from inspections, sweeping pathways, and other things, you are also obliged to watch TV. Moral support came from letters that I still keep. Many of them came from Amnesty International activists from abroad.”
33:35
January 19, 2022
Podcast No. 96. Simon & Sergei - with Ivan Pavlov
This week our guest on the podcast is Ivan Pavlov, a human rights lawyer specializing in freedom of information and treason cases. For many years, Ivan Pavlov headed the civil society group Team 29, which also worked to promote freedom of information in Russia. The questions we discuss include: 1. Why are lawyers being persecuted now? 2. Is the legal professional community able to stand up for itself? 3. Has Russia ever been a country where the rule of law existed? 4. What needs to be done to bring the country closer to the rule of law? 5. Can you tell us something about the history of Team 29? 6. One gets the impression the Russian authorities today do not want any independent civil society organizations to exist. What are the consequences of this policy for Russia? 7. What are the prospects for fair trial in the Russian Federation? 8. What prospects are there for human rights in general? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes and Anchor. The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: "I remember well the 1990s when we crossed a certain threshold, everyone more or less attained a degree of material well-being and began to think about having some rights, about restoring democratic values in the country. I saw that the judicial system was developing, there were some hopes. This trend lasted until about 2004 or 2005, but then developments took a rather different direction. Every person looks for some stability in their life, something on which to base their decisions. In a society governed by the rule of law, that stable basis is the law. A state where there is the rule of law is considered the most stable. But if the law is not stable, and the only ‘stability’ is that a single person has been in power for a long time, it becomes easier for people to look for the signals that come from that one person rather than to the law, which is one thing today and another tomorrow. Officials today are not guided by the law, but by signals that come from that one person. The ability to change by democratic means those in power ensures the quality of life in a democracy." This is what the human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov, who specializes in freedom of information and treason cases, told us. For several years, Ivan was the head of Team 29, an informal association of lawyers and journalists that fought the growing lack of transparency of the state in Russia. I vividly remember that in Soviet times, wherever I went to apply for a job, the hiring process necessarily included a visit to the First Department, a room with an iron door, where - as a rule - some retired man with a crazy look was sitting. These First Departments actually embodied the closed nature of the state, the total control over everything: why the hell do you need the First Department in the offices of a building restoration organisation where I worked in my youth? Ivan Pavlov in our conversation mentioned his team's new project, which he called the First Department. On Monday, he told a wider audience: "The First Department of the state bodies was engaged in the classification of documents and protection of state secrets. Often what was going on behind closed doors in the First Departments had little to do with the law and was simply arbitrary. Our First Department will fight to ensure that employees of all first departments throughout the country comply with the law, so that they do not violate your rights." Listen to our conversation with Ivan Pavlov, who temporarily left Russia but continues to do his fantastic work. Simon Cosgrove adds: ‘For further information about the past week in Russia, visit our website here.’
41:24
December 21, 2021
Podcast No. 95. Simon & Sergei - with Sergei Pashin
Today is a special day: 10 December - Human Rights Day, and our best wishes to all who are listening! This week our guest on the podcast is Sergei Anatolievich Pashin, a retired Russian federal judge, Honoured Lawyer of the Russian Federation and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. The topics discussed on the podcast include the reform of the justice system in Russia, trial by jury, and whether there is a fair judicial system in the country. The questions we ask include: 1) Is the judiciary an independent and autonomous branch of state power in Russia? To what extent did the judicial reforms of the nineties achieve their goals? 2) Is it likely that with a critical mass of unjust verdicts, society will explode? Or will irregularities and violations always be tolerated? 3) You were one of those who initiated and supported the introduction of jury trials. What has been the fate of its enforcement? 4) Recently the head of the Investigative Committee Aleksandr Bastrykin, speaking at Moscow Legal Week said: "From the idea of 'the individual as the highest value, which has above all rights', we should return to the classical understanding of the individual as the subject of a set of rights and duties. Why is there such a stress on duties all the time? 5) What are the prospects for fair justice in the Russian Federation? This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes and Anchor.  The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “In many respects, the fairness of the justice system is a private matter, a matter of individual decent judges, decent investigators (there are such investigators, I knew them), and decent policemen (there are such people, too). That is, in any system there are decent people. But it is another thing that they can be discouraged from practicing justice,” said Sergei Anatolievich Pashin. About this, and much more, Simon Cosgrove and I talked with Sergei Pashin in our podcast. We were very lucky that Sergei Pashin was able to give an hour of his time to talk to us. Everyone knows that Pashin is a retired federal judge, one of the initiators of jury trials in Russia, an Honoured Lawyer of the Russian Federation, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), author of the 1991 Constitutional Court Act, and a very busy man. Since 2008, Pashin has been teaching at the Law Department of the Higher School of Economics. Or rather, alas, it’s now necessary to say – was teaching. At the end of November 2021 Pashin suddenly received notice of dismissal and from 24 December he will cease to be an employee of this educational institution: the university terminated contracts with two professors of the Faculty of Law - Sergei Pashin and Gennady Esakov. From 2011 to 2021 the students of the HSE recognized Sergei Pashin every year as the best lecturer - and deservedly so. It was extremely interesting talking with Sergei Anatolievich, as you can judge for yourself Simon Cosgrove adds: ‘For further information about the past week in Russia, visit our website here.’
46:20
December 13, 2021
Podcast No. 94. Simon & Sergei - with Svetlana Astrakhantseva
This week we our guest on the podcast is Svetlana Astrakhantseva, executive director of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Svetlana Astrakhantseva is an economist, lawyer and law professor, and human rights activist. She has been working with the Moscow Helsinki Group since 2008 and has been executive director of MHG since 2016. She is co-coordinator of the Group for Assistance to the Russian-Ukrainian Human Rights Dialogue and a member of the Coordination Council of the Civic Solidarity International Platform. The topics discussed on our podcast are: why be a human rights defender in today's Russia; what MHG does; whether there is a dialogue today between the human rights community and the authorities; is civic oversight relevant today in Russia; and the prospects for human rights in Russia. The questions we ask Svetlana Astrakhantseva are: 1) What brought you to the Moscow Helsinki Group? Why did you become a human rights activist? 2) The mission of the MHG is to promote human rights and democracy in Russia, expose human rights violations and ensure that Russia complies with its international human rights obligations. To what extent is monitoring and pressure on the authorities possible nowadays, when the Kremlin is putting so much pressure on human rights NGOs? 3) Liudmila Alekseeva, one of the founders of the MHG, was known for her ability to conduct dialogue with representatives of the authorities (Kolokoltsev, Putin). How far is it possible now to continue dialogue in the way that Liudmila Alekseeva did? 4) A workshop on civic oversight of the police is planned for December this year in the Krasnodar region, with a face-to-face meeting planned to be held in Sochi. Do the authorities put obstacles in your way? 5) What are the prospects for human rights in Russia? This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes and Anchor.  The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: Simon Cosgrove and I spoke with Svetlana Astrahantseva, Executive Director of the Moscow Helsinki Group – MHG: “It’s always been important to me to help people, ever since I first became a Young Pioneer. You always turn around and help someone who’s in trouble.” “You don’t become a human rights activist. It’s a kind of state of mind.” “While working in business, I kept asking myself the question: why aren’t our laws working?” “I came to MHG as an ordinary employee, a specialist in finance. And when I came here, after getting to know people and reading books, I realized that I was finally in the place that was right for me. It was easy to get better every day around these people. It was fate that brought me to MHG.” Simon Cosgrove adds: ‘For further information about the past week in Russia, visit our website here.’
34:06
December 03, 2021
Podcast No. 93. Simon & Sergei - on Memorial, with Viktoria Ivleva and Yury Samodurov
This week our guests are Victoria Ivleva, photographer, journalist and writer, and Yury Samodurov, civic activist, social and political commentator and co-founder of Memorial. Both Victoria and Yury were detained on 20 November on Pushkin Square in Moscow for participating in single-person protests against the closure of Memorial. Both were held in a police station for two days and then fined by a court. This week’s podcast concerns the future of Memorial and the law on foreign agents, the freedoms of association, assembly and expression, the procedures for detaining protesters, the behaviour of police, the conditions in detention and the practices of courts in such cases. The specific topics discussed in the podcast include: the authorities’ moves to close the International Memorial Society and the Memorial Human Rights Centre; protests; arrests; trials; conditions of detention; what will happen to Memorial; other impressions of events. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes and Anchor.  The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “One of the best things we managed to achieve during perestroika that has survived to this day is Memorial.” These words by Yury Samodurov were supported by Victoria Ivleva and marked the start of our latest podcast with two guests who had very recently left their place of detention. The Moscow police had charged the two human rights activists with organizing “a public mass event with more than 10 participants” and locked them in cells for two days as dangerous criminals. Their “crime” consisted of participating in single-person protest pickets in defence of Memorial. The fines the two were given differed in size: Victoria Ivleva (150,000 roubles) was fined an order of magnitude higher than Yury Samodurov (20,000 roubles). The conditions of detention at the police station were humiliating: no toilets in the cell, a ban on toothbrushes, disgusting food, and the rudeness of some uniformed officers who demanded that glasses, watches and boots (or at least the laces) all be removed, A sum covering both fines was collected very quickly after Ivleva and Samodurov were released. Public support, support from civil society, is as important in individual cases as in the defence of civil society organizations. Including Memorial. Simon Cosgrove adds: ‘For further information about the past week in Russia, visit our website here.
44:08
November 26, 2021
Podcast No. 92. Simon & Sergei - with Grigory Melkonyants
Our guest this week on the podcast is Grigory Melkonyants. Grigory Melkonyants is a Russian human rights activist, lawyer and co-chair of Golos, the movement to protect voters' rights. This week’s topics are freedom of association in Russia, the law on foreign agents, the significance of the attack on the Memorial Society and whether free and fair elections are possible in the country. The questions discussed in the podcast include the following: designation of Golos as a ‘foreign agent’; the imposition of ‘individual media foreign agent status’ on Golos associates; the quality of electoral law and practice in Russia; the attacks on Memorial; why these attacks have happened now; plans for a civil society conference; the future of human rights in Russia. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes and Anchor.  The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “Democrat Steve Cohen, co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, and Republican Joe Wilson, member of the Helsinki Commission, submitted a draft resolution to the U.S. Congress on November 18 this year, one paragraph of which reads: “According to the Russian non-governmental organization Golos and independent electoral analysts, approximately 27,000,000 votes, accounting for 37 percent of the official total, were fraudulent, making the plebiscite the most manipulated vote in the modern history of the Russian Federation.” Golos for Fair Elections, a meticulous and professional organization, has long annoyed lovers of fraud: it is not without reason that many believed that Sidankin’s ‘law’ on ‘foreign agents’ was concocted in the first place to kill off Golos. In April 2013 the Russian authorities labeled the organization a ‘foreign agent’, and in 2016 they ‘liquidated’ it. But Golos’s voice cannot be killled off or ‘liquidated.’ Golos still found a way to continue its work, after which officials designated them twice more as agents, creating another registry of ‘foreign spies’ in which the Golos movement was the first to be entered. The recent stunt with the branding of the organisation Fair Elections also tells much about the implacable Russian authorities, who are trying to undermine all those who work to protect the rights of voters, who help Russian citizens participate in independent election monitoring. After all, the bearer of sovereignty and the only source of power in Russia is its people. I am a huge admirer of these brave people, and Simon Cosgrove and I were lucky to have the opportunity to speak with Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of Golos.” Simon Cosgrove adds: ‘For further information about the past week in Russia, visit our website here.
50:35
November 19, 2021
Podcast No. 91. Simon & Sergei - on Memorial, with Sergei Davidis and Jens Seigert
This week on the podcast we discuss the current situation around Memorial and the moves by prosecutors to close down two organisations: the International Memorial Society and Memorial Human Rights Centre. Our guests on the podcast are Sergei Davidis and Jens Siegert. Sergei Davidis is head of the programme in support of political prisoners at the Memorial Human Rights Centre, an organisation of which he is also a board member. Jens Siegert is a German journalist, writer, and political scientist who has lived in Moscow for many years, was formerly head of the Böll Foundation office in Russia, and is a great friend and supporter of International Memorial.  The questions discussed in the podcast include:  1) What has happened? The International Memorial Society received two notices. The General Prosecutor's Office has filed a lawsuit to liquidate International Memorial, and the Moscow prosecutor's office is demanding that the Memorial Human Rights Centre also be closed down. Why such a ‘division of labour’ among prosecutors and why now? And what will happen to the regional branches of Memorial?  2) Just recently a group of people broke into the Memorial during a showing of a film about the Holodomor, then the police came, and the police searched Memorial’s premises and confiscated some of its equipment! Is there a connection between the events of October 14 (invasion + police) and November 11 (Supreme Court notice)?  3) How has the public in Russia and the international community reacted? Germany is said to have a special relationship with Memorial - what is the reaction there? What is the significance of this attack on Russia's most prominent human rights organization? What is the prognosis? What will happen to Memorial? What will happen to the human rights movement in Russia?  This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes and Anchor. The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.  Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: "The scale and intensity of recent repression is so great that each new episode of repression competes for public attention," Sergei Davidis told us during the podcast. "Each of these events individually should be enough to outrage society. But when several such events happen on the same day, society simply does not have the strength and resources to react. It should be remembered that the possibility of street protests due to coronavirus bans is also ruled out. Nevertheless, many people have spoken out. On the level of public statements, support is strong." As well as Sergei, Jens Siegert also took part in the podcast. He told us that at first in Germany the news about the prosecutors' moves against Memorial were a big shock. "Few people thought the wave of repression that has been going on in Russia for a year now could reach organizations like International Memorial. It's too big an organization, too important. Many people thought they would probably not touch it. We see a lot of solidarity with Memorial, and I think it will continue to grow. There were protests in front of the Russian embassy in Germany and there will be more. People who are not indifferent see this attack on Memorial as the return of the Chekist state." Sergei Davidis said: "We will fight to the last." I'm sure that many, many people will sign up to these words.  Simon Cosgrove adds: ‘For further information about the past week in Russia, visit our website here.
37:32
November 16, 2021
Podcast No. 90. Simon & Sergei - with Sergei Babinets
This week our guest on the podcast is Sergei Babinets. Sergei Babinets is a lawyer and head of the Orenburg branch of the Committee against Torture, whose head office is in Nizhny Novgorod. The issues discussed in the podcast include: How did someone who had intended to work in the prosecutor’s office went to work for a human rights organisation? How does the work of the Committee Against Torture vary in terms of city and region (Moscow, Grozny, Orenburg)? How did you become a journalist (with Ekho Moskvy in Orenburg)? What are the risks that face a human rights defender in Russia today? Is the work of a human rights defender at the Committee Against Torture equally risky across the country? What do you think of the recent revelations of torture in Saratov region penal colonies? To what extent is the state a positive and reliable partner in the work against torture? What is the future of the human rights movement in Russia in the light of what is happening in the country now? This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunesand Anchor.  The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: He dreamed since childhood of protecting people from criminals, following in the footsteps of his soldier-grandfather and his father, who worked in the police force for 25 years. After receiving a law degree, he decided to work in the prosecutor's office, which oversees all law enforcement bodies. Four years as an assistant prosecutor and attempts to join the prosecutor's office as a full-time employee led him to realise that the prosecutor's office didn't really seem to want him. The search for a job where Sergei Babinets could realize his dream led him to the Committee against Torture. Many years ago, I met Sergei in Moscow. He had just started working in the Moscow office of the famous Committee against Torture and he called on us at Amnesty International. Since then, I have kept in touch with Sergei, who after Moscow worked in many cities: Nizhny Novgorod, Grozny and Orenburg. The possibilities to combat torture and protect victims of torture varies from region to region. While in the North Caucasus the office where Sergei worked was set on fire, if in Nizhny Novgorod the group’s exhibition was banned, if in Moscow ‘Basmanny Justice’ simply does not want to pay any attention to human rights activists, in Orenburg the Committee Against Torture can hold events on any topic - here there is no interest in opposing human rights defenders. Sergei Babinets successfully combines his human rights activities with his work at Ekho Moskvy radio in Orenburg: he is good at this work too, and therefore it’s very interesting to listen to him in our latest podcast.
26:49
October 29, 2021
Podcast No. 89. Simon & Sergei - with Marina Pisklakova-Parker
This week our guest on the podcast is Marina Pisklakova-Parker. Marina Pisklakova-Parker is a Russian women's rights activist and writer. She was the founder of ANNA (Regional Organization for Assistance to Women and Children Victims of Domestic Violence), one of the first women's crisis centres in Russia to help victims of domestic violence. Marina has also addressed the problem of trafficking in women and children. The issues discussed in the podcast include: the founding of ANNA, the first such centre in Russia; ANNA’s activities in the early years; the main activities of ANNA today; changes in perceptions of domestic violence in Russia since the early 1990s; the extent to which the state is a positive and reliable partner in working against domestic violence; religious attitudes to domestic violence; the future of human rights in general in Russia and domestic violence in particular. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud,  Spotify  and  iTunes.  The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: Marina Pisklakova-Parker: "This was not the first crisis centre. The ANNA centre appeared in parallel with one in St. Petersburg, and near the time the Sisters centre began working in Moscow. I created my first telephone hotline in 1992. The impetus for this work came from gender research, which became available to us only in post-Soviet Russia. I started to receive letters from victims. It was from these letters that my interest in the issue began, because no one talks about domestic violence. This is what drove me to do it.” In our conversation, Marina talked about the prospects for passing a law on domestic violence in Russia and about the connection between so-called ‘traditional values’ and violence against women. About the fact that citizens, alas, do not understand what rights they have and do not know how to use them. And about how ANNA helps. ANNA has accumulated huge experience in the fight against the scourge of domestic violence over three decades. The organisation has united specialists from the regions and countries of the former Soviet Union into an informal network which continues to grow and develop. They provide assistance, conduct monitoring, interact, educate themselves and others, and share their experiences. Only by joining together can gender-based violence be defeated. Simon Cosgrove adds:  A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.
27:54
October 22, 2021
Podcast No. 88. Simon & Sergei – with Valentina Melnikova
This week our guest on the podcast is Valentina Dmitrievna Melnikova. Valentina Melnikova is a Russian human rights activist and politician, a graduate of the geology department of Moscow State University and a specialist in geochemistry, but better known to us all as the executive secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia. Valentina Melnikova was one of the initiators of the Russian Research Centre for Human Rights established in 1990. The issues discussed in the podcast include: how did a graduate of the geology department of Moscow State University became a human rights activist; the difference between the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers and the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers; cooperation between the Russian military and the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers; the notion that Committees of Soldiers' Mothers are intended to help people avoid military service; the role of Viktor Alksnis; the FSB’s recent decree on unclassified information dissemination of which can serve to designate organisations or persons as ‘foreign agents’; the human rights situation and the future of human rights in Russia. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud,  Spotify  and  iTunes.  The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: "I became a human rights activist overnight in December 1979, when I learned from a radio broadcast that Soviet troops had entered Afghanistan. My two sons were still little but I knew a bit about history and I decided that I will never send my children to the Soviet army led by crazy old folk. Valentina Dmitrievna Melnikova told Simon Cosgrove and me how her search for like-minded people, those who cared about their sons, led her to join the Soldiers' Mothers Committee in 1989. "They were energetic women from all over the Soviet Union, they knew what they wanted, and they achieved a lot through the then deputies of the Interregional Deputies Group of the USSR Supreme Soviet. In 1998 we set up an association called the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia. Valentina Melnikova describes herself as an ‘informed optimist’ and believes that the prospects for human rights activities are not great: "Things will get tougher and tougher, more and more lawless. What is to be done about it? I don't know. I don't expect anything good. But on the other hand, all of us - Memorial Human Rights Centre, the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia, the Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia – what can we do if people keep coming for help? So we have to work, we have to fight.” Simon Cosgrove adds:  A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.
27:03
October 20, 2021
Podcast No. 87. Simon & Sergei - with Ernest Mezak
This week our guest on the podcast is Ernest Mezak, a well-known journalist and human rights activist from the Republic of Komi in Russia. He represents victims of law enforcement violations in courts at the national level and has also acted as a legal representative before the European Court of Human Rights in some 200 cases. In 2012 he won the Moscow Helsinki Group's Human Rights Award in the category "For defending human rights in courts." Previously, Ernest Mezak has worked for the Public Verdict Foundation. The issues discussed in the podcast include: becoming a human rights defender; human rights in the Komi Republic; the role of the European Court of Human Rights in Russia; prosecutions for exercising right of assembly; Mezak’s prosecution for ‘insulting a judge’; the future of human rights in Russia. This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud,  Spotify  and  iTunes.  The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera. Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: At Christmas 2007 Ernest Mezak was detained by two police officers. It was in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic: Ernest was shoved into the so-called ‘dog-cage’, that is, into the back compartment of a police patrol car. Mezak later recalled: "It was very cold and dark in there. I spent 20 minutes in those conditions. Subsequently, I appealed my treatment conditions at Syktyvkar city court. And the most amazing thing happened: the court was sympathetic to my claim and found the detention conditions to be in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention prohibiting torture.” Our interlocutor this week, Ernest Mezak, is a human rights activist from the Komi Republic. He often represents victims of law enforcement violations in courts at the national level, and he has also acted as legal representative before the European Court of Human Rights in some 200 cases. In 2012, he won the Moscow Helsinki Group's Human Rights Award in the category "For Defending Human Rights in Courts. It is understandable that such stubbornness, sometimes bordering on obstinacy, cannot help but irritate people in law enforcement. I think in Syktyvkar he is well known and disliked by all officials. A few months ago in the Komi capital a criminal case was opened against Ernest for insulting a judge. His apartment was searched, and, as usual, all his computers, smartphones, flash drives and hard drives were confiscated. Mezak was summoned for interrogation. Ernest told us what has been happening to him – and about the prospects for the human rights movement in Russia. Simon Cosgrove adds:  A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.
25:24
October 08, 2021