Human Rights abuses in Russia under President Vladimir Putin have deteriorated significantly in the last year said Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Rob Berschinski.
The Russian Government has stepped up efforts to suppress political opposition, suffocate civil society, silence independent voices, and stigmatize members of minority groups. The list of non-governmental organizations that have been designated as so-called "foreign agents" has risen to over 120, including the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, the election monitoring group Golos, and human rights organization, Memorial.
The "undesirable” foreign organizations law introduced last May has already led to the banning of four significant foreign donor organizations and a decision by two foundations that were major funders of Russian civil society to cease their operations there. Pressure also continues on independent media outlets, the national blacklist of blocked websites is growing, and state propaganda is becoming more virulent.
Those who attempt to speak out against these alarming trends, or question government policy, especially regarding Russia's aggression in Ukraine, are subject to harassment, prosecution, and physical threats. Late last year, a court sentenced activist Ildar Dadin to three years in prison for participation in peaceful protest.
The climate of impunity in Russia had deepened, said Deputy Assistant Secretary Berschinski. While arrests have been made in the murder case of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, the organizers of this crime have yet to be brought to justice.
The best way to honor the memory of Mr. Nemtsov, said Deputy Assistant Secretary Berschinski, is to support human rights, democratic principles in Russia, and international norms. The Obama Administration will continue to uphold those norms. Sanctions will remain in place for Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine until Russia fulfills its commitments under the Minsk agreements. And the sanctions imposed on Russia for its occupation of Crimea will remain in place until that occupation has ended. In addition, the United States will continue to speak out publicly against repressive laws and practices in Russia that impede the work of civil society and independent media.
The United States will also continue to hold Russians accountable for their roles in the imprisonment and death of Sergei Magnitsky and other gross violations of human rights.
It is in America's interest to see a strong, prosperous, and democratic Russia emerge – a Russia that can be a reliable partner in support of global peace – the type of Russian dream to which Boris Nemtsov and many other activists have devoted their lives.