Russia stifles critical civil society movement by blocking five websites

Reacting to the Russian Prosecutor’s Office decision to block five websites of the Open Russia movement founded by the former Russian prisoner of conscience and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia said:

“The Russian authorities are clearly targeting Open Russia in a bid to suffocate dissent and pluralism in the Russian media and expunge Khodorkovsky’s presence in Russian politics and society.

The Russian authorities are clearly targeting Open Russia in a bid to suffocate dissent and pluralism in the Russian media
Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International

“Following bans on UK-registered branches of Open Russia in April, the Prosecutor’s Office gave assurances that the ban wouldn’t affect the activities of the Russian-based movement of the same name. Today’s events now show that promise to be nothing more than a brazen lie. The authorities have shown their true intent to target and harass Open Russia out of existence.”

Background

Late on 11 December, the Russian Prosecutor’s Office blacklisted four sites of the Open Russia movement as well as a personal site of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and requested the official media regulator, Roskomnadzor, to block access to all five sites. The decision came into force today, 12 December.

The State Duma passed an amendment to ease the procedure for blocking websites of “undesirable organisations” without judicial review in November. The UK-based Open Russia and its sister organisation Open Russia Civic Movement were banned as “undesirable organizations” in April 2017. The Prosecutor’s Office’s spokesperson then gave assurances that the ban wouldn’t affect the activities of the Russian-based movement of the same name.

Open Russia activists in Russia have also been targeted through multiple interrogations and searches of its staff and offices.