Russia Clamps Down on Dissent

By Innokenty Grekov

A verdict in the sham trial of members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot is expected this week. Not shaken by a recent gay rights protest at the London Olympics, the Kremlin maintains its ban on LGBT organizations from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Russia is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The Russian government is using antiextremism and incitement laws, which were enacted to combat hate crimes, to systematically silence dissenting voices including independent media, activists, religious believers, and LGBT and other minority groups. Russians who do not agree with President Putin and are unafraid to speak their mind are in trouble.

Secretary Hillary Clinton will travel to Russia in September for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference. Tell the Secretary to stand with those fighting hatred and intolerance, not those perpetrating it.

Members of Pussy Riot are now awaiting their verdict for “hooliganism,” and their sentences may be more than three years if they are also found guilty of “inciting hatred towards Christians.” The group became the subject of a sham trial after staging an anti-Putin prayer-like performance in Moscow’s main cathedral in February.

Earlier this year, Russian courts denied registration to the LGBT organization Sochi Pride from participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in the country. The decision turns logic on its head, stating that “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation” inherently incites “social and religious hatred” and is therefore a direct threat to Russian society and even statehood, calling all attempts to confront homophobia “extremist.” Now, activists all over the world are trying to pressure Russia to reverse this decision.

The United States has made it a priority to promote LGBT rights and support civil society globally. With Russia under international scrutiny, tell Secretary Clinton to use this momentum to urge the Russian government to end the systematic persecution of civil society. 

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Published on August 13, 2012

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