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Russia. Liquidation of the Sakharov Center, a pro-democratic organization in Moscow

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The Moscow City Court ordered the liquidation of the Sakharov Center, one of the oldest pro-democracy organizations in Russia, independent Russian media reported. They also announced the arrest of the co-chairman of the Golos social movement, which monitored elections in Russia and other countries of the former USSR.

The liquidation of the Sakharov Center demanded Ministry of Justice Russia. The head of the center, Sergei Lukashevsky, told the independent Russian “Novaya Gazeta. Yevropa” that the activists had prepared for this decision in advance. First of all, as he explained, they tried “to ensure that liquidation in legal terms does not affect what can be done not as an organization, but as a team of people”. He also announced that he would appeal the court’s decision.

The Sakharov Center was founded in 1990 on the basis of a commission that dealt with the preservation of the legacy of Andrei Sakharov – a Soviet physicist, dissident, defender human rights and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Since 1996, the Center has been operating at its headquarters in Moscow.

Headquarters of the Sakharov Center in Moscow Nina Alizada/Shutterstock

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Liquidation of the Sakharov Center

In 2014, the Russian authorities recognized the Sakharov Center as a “foreign agent”. In turn, on January 23 this year, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office also recognized as an “undesirable organization” operating in USA The Sakharov Foundation, founded in 1989 by Sakharov’s wife, Yelena Bonner, and his supporters. IN Russia the Sakharov Center and the Nobel Prize winner’s archive were connected with this foundation.

Now the decision to liquidate the Sakharov Center means that the Russian authorities are getting rid of another distinguished NGO involved in the defense of human rights. In January, the same Moscow City Court ordered the liquidation of the Moscow Helsinki Group, founded in the 1970s by dissidents gathered around Sakharov. In December 2021, the authorities liquidated the Memorial Association, which sheds light on political repression in the USSR and documents human rights violations in modern Russia.

Conflict with the authorities of the USSR

Andrei Sakharov, a physicist called the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, began protesting against nuclear tests in the late 1950s, coming into conflict with the Soviet authorities. He was involved in the defense of human rights, in defense of political prisoners.

In 1975 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1979, when he criticized the entry of Soviet troops into Afghanistan, he was forcibly exiled to the city of Gorki (today – Nizhny Novgorod). He was allowed to return to Moscow only in 1986, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika. In 1989, Sakharov was elected People’s Deputy of the USSR. He died on December 14 of the same year.

Andrei Sakharov. Archive photo Sarembo/ullstein/Getty Images

Detention of the co-chairman of the Golos social movement

Also on Friday, Russian independent media announced the arrest for two months of Grigory Melkonianets, co-chairman of the Golos social movement, which monitors elections in Russia and other countries of the former USSR. The activist had been detained the day before and criminal proceedings were initiated against him.

Melkonianc is suspected of running an “undesirable organization”. He is liable to imprisonment from two to six years. The arrest warrant for October 17 was issued by judge Natalia Dudar.

As the media point out, the Russian authorities have not yet recognized Golos itself as an “undesirable organization”, although the movement has been included in the list of so-called foreign agents. Investigators, on the other hand, attribute to Melkonianec a connection with the international organization ENEMO – the European Election Observation Network. However, when this network was deemed undesirable in Russia in October 2021, Golos suspended its participation in it.

List of “foreign agents”

Founded in 2000 as an association, Golos trains election observers, supports the work of the Russian hotline and online services, provides voters with legal assistance, and observes elections in the former Soviet republics.

Already in 2013, Golos was entered by the Russian Ministry of Justice on the list of “foreign agents”. Eight years later, this status was also granted to the unregistered Gołos social movement, continuing the association’s traditions. At that time, the activists emphasized that they were not engaged in political activity.

Main photo source: Nina Alizada/Shutterstock

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