In Russia, the increasingly authoritarian government has continued to commit or ignore numerous human rights violations, according to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, issued by the United States Department of State in late June. The Russian government restricted freedom of speech and press, including through new repressive laws, and increasing fines and prison sentences, harassing, discrediting and prosecuting critics of the government.
The government also discriminated against minorities, and used rhetoric that fomented xenophobia against them, coinciding with an increase in violent attacks against members of marginalized or minority groups. Government pressure on political and human rights activists, critics of government policies, and persons linked to the opposition continued.
Corruption was widespread at all levels of the Russian government, including bribery of officials, misuse of budgetary resources, theft of government property, kickbacks in the procurement process, extortion, and improper use of official position to secure personal profits.
The Report also documents human rights abuses in those parts of Ukraine that are under the control of combined Russian-separatist forces and Russian occupation authorities in Crimea, who have caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries and committed widespread human rights abuses. This includes at least 10 Ukrainian citizens, including filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, civic activist Oleksander Kolchenko, and Nadiya Savchenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament. They were transported to Russia and imprisoned there.
But even as Russia detains Ukrainians on Russian soil, it continues to deny its involvment in the conflict. At the Report’s launch, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski commented:
“The Russian Government’s efforts to abolish domestic discussion of its intervention in Ukraine is just one example of how its behavior abroad mirrors and reinforces the persecution the Russian people face at home. Seventy-six of the country’s most respected NGOs are now listed as foreign agents, and a new law banning undesirable foreign organizations will intensify this trend. There has been no progress in identifying those ultimately responsible for past murders of journalists, activists, and . . . leaders of the political opposition.”
Every country should honor the rights and the dignity of its citizens, because when citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled, their countries prosper.