Kremlin bans ‘Open Russia’ movement ahead of weekend protests

April 27, 2017 8:01 am0 commentsViews: 4

Russian authorities banned the independent political movement “Open Russia” Wednesday as an “undesirable organization” three days before its nationwide “Enough!” rallies aimed at opposing any re-election bid by President Vladimir Putin in 2018.

The order by Russia’s prosecutor general was formally directed at three non-governmental organizations or NGOs: The British-registered “Open Russia,” the Russia-based “Open Russia” social movement and the U.S.-based Institute of Modern Russia (IMR) affiliated with Open Russia.

“Their activities are aimed at inciting protests and destabilizing (Russia’s) domestic political situation, presenting a threat to the constitutional foundations of the Russian Federation and the security of the state,” the prosecutor general said in a statement on its website.

The statement said the NGOs seek to “discredit the results of Russian elections by calling them illegitimate.”

Open Russia acknowledged the order on its website in a two-line statement that ended with the words: “See you on April 29!” — a reference to Saturday’s nationwide protests.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the one-time oligarch who founded Open Russia and now lives in exile, told the Russian-language outlet TV Dozhd that the decision was only aimed at foreign entities and said the Russian Open Russia movement “exists separately and will continue to operate.”

Open Russia recently launched its “Open Elections” campaign to promote opposition candidates for the 2015-2018 election cycle and sought to mobilize Saturday’s nationwide rallies with a call for Putin to forgo a re-election bid in 2018.

Khodorkovsky told TV Dozhd that the ruling by the prosecutor general was “no doubt” connected to Saturday’s planned demonstrations.

“Our plans have not changed at all,” he said. “Quite the opposite; I think that such a terrified reaction from the government will only motivate more people to come out in to the streets and tell those in power that if they can not run the country properly and solve the issues that face Russian society, then they should leave.”

The Economist has described Khodorkovsky as “the Kremlin’s leading critic-in-exile.” The former head of Yukos Oil, who ran afoul of Putin in 2003, spent 10 years in prison on fraud charges. Khodorkovsky, whose trial and imprisonment were denounced by Amnesty International, was pardoned in 2014 and went into exile in Switzerland.

Open Russia, initially established in 2001, relaunched in 2014. Khodorkovsky has called the movement “a nationwide community platform designed to bring together all Russians interested in creating a better life for themselves and their children,” according to The Guardian.

It was primarily established to support an independent media, political education, human rights and the rule of law. It has also supported legal assistance to political prisoners and their families in conjunction with prominent opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

The IMR was founded in New York in 2010 by Khodorkovsky’s son, Pavel, as a public policy think-tank. Its core project has been “Post-Putin Russia: Plan of Reforms,” aimed at producing a “viable and comprehensive alternative plan for the country’s future.”

Among its senior advisors is journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza who has twice almost died from apparently deliberate poisonings while on trips to Moscow, most recently earlier this year.

Courtesy: USA Today