126 episodes

Discussing human rights in Russia [in Russian and sometimes English].

The music is from Igor Stravinsky's Elegy for Solo Viola, played here by Karolina Errera.

Simon and Sergei Rights in Russia

    • Education

Discussing human rights in Russia [in Russian and sometimes English].

The music is from Igor Stravinsky's Elegy for Solo Viola, played here by Karolina Errera.

    Human Rights in Russi week-ending 24 June 2022 - with Varvara Pakhomenko

    Human Rights in Russi week-ending 24 June 2022 - with Varvara Pakhomenko

    Our guest on the podcast this week is Varvara Pakhomenko. Varvara
    Pakhomenko has been a human rights activist for a very long time. Back in her
    native Tomsk she was actively involved in human rights activities. Having moved
    to Moscow, Varvara began working with many human rights activists in the
    capital, but the geography of her travels remained very wide. Since 2006,
    Varvara Pakhomenko has worked in conflict zones in the North and South
    Caucasus: in 2006-2009 at the human rights organization Demos, in 2009-2011 at
    the Dutch organization Russian Justice Initiative, and since 2011 she has
    worked as a programme analyst for Europe and Central Asia at the International
    Crisis Group. When the Russian authorities effectively closed the ICG’s Moscow
    office, Varvara left to work in Ukraine. There she worked first for the UN
    Development Programme and after that for Geneva Call. A move to Canada seemed
    to put some distance between her and Europe, but now Varvara Pakhomenko is back
    again on the old continent.


    The recording took place on 24 June 2022.


    This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our
    website, SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. 


    You can also listen to the podcast in full here (see also below):


    The questions we ask Varvara Pakhomenko include:


    ·        
    How did human rights activism come
    into your life?


    ·        
    One of Tomsk’s leading human rights
    activists was Boris Maksovich Kreindel. He was involved in many projects,
    including defending the rights of Roma in Tomsk region. How did it happen that
    he had to leave his native land?


    ·        
    Tell us about your work in the
    conflict zones in the Caucasus – where did you work? To what extent was it
    dangerous?


    ·        
    Which Moscow human rights activists
    and which organizations have you worked with in Russia?


    ·        
    When and why did you decide to move
    to Ukraine?


    ·        
    How does the human rights movement in
    Ukraine differ from that in Russia?


    ·        
    At least since 2012 the Russian
    authorities have pursued policies of increasing restrictions on human rights
    work in the country, attacks on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and a
    general moved towards isolationism. Do you think they have been preparing for
    the war against Ukraine for a long time?


    ·        
    What has been your role at the UNDP
    and Geneva Call?


    ·        
    How has the Ukrainian army changed
    since 2014. How do you assess the Ukrainian military’s compliance with
    international humanitarian law and with the rules and customs of warfare?


    ·        
    How do you see the future of human
    rights in Russia and the future of human rights organizations?


    Sergei Nikitin writes
    on Facebook: “I remember when I was working on South
    Ossetia in 2010,” Varya Pakhomenko told Simon Cosgrove and I. “I had to make a
    difficult decision at the time: I did not know what to do. I called Sasha
    Cherkasov and asked him what to do in this situation. Sasha replied: ‘You know,
    no one can make this decision better than you right now. Because you know all
    that’s going on there better than anyone.’ And at that moment I realized that
    these fine people had begun to see me as an equal colleague.” In this podcast,
    Varya Pakhomenko talks about her native Tomsk, about Tomsk human rights
    activist Boris Kreindel, and about how a student from Siberia became a human
    rights activist. Varya and I were in South Ossetia together two weeks after the
    end of the war in 2008, so I had a chance to work with her myself then. After Russia,
    Varvara Pakhomenko has worked in Ukraine: in the United Nations Development
    Programme (UNDP) and, after that, with the Geneva Call organization. It was
    then that she participated in training the Ukrainian Armed Forces, teaching the
    Ukrainian military how to comply with international humanitarian norms and
    protec

    • 51 min
    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 17 June 2022 -with Nikolai Kavkazsky

    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 17 June 2022 -with Nikolai Kavkazsky

    Our guest on the podcast this week is Nikolai
    Kavkazsky. Nikolai Yurievich Kavkazsy is a Russian civil society activist,
    human rights defender and opposition politician. He is one of the leading
    Yabloko activists in Moscow. Nikolai Kavkazsky was a defendant in the Bolotnoe
    case. Politically, he defines himself as a left-wing social democrat, an
    internationalist, a supporter of LGBT rights and of feminism. He is an advocate
    of juvenile justice and a humane drug policy.


    This podcast is in Russian. You
    can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. 


    The recording was made on 18 June 2022.


    The questions we ask Nikolai Kavkazsky include:


    ·        
    Which word best describes you – civil society
    activist, human rights activist or politician?


    ·        
    You studied law at the Institute of World Economy
    and Informatization. At what point did you realize you wanted to be a civil
    society activist and a politician?


    ·        
    You became a member of the Yabloko party in 2007
    and are one of the party’s leading activists in Moscow. Why did you choose
    Yabloko as your party?


    ·        
    Why are political parties weak in Russia?


    ·        
    You took part in the Bolotnaya Square protest in
    2012, after which you were charged with ‘participation in mass riots’ (under
    Article 212(2) of the Russian Criminal Code) and held on remand for almost a
    year and a half. Amnesty International recognized you as a prisoner of
    conscience, along with several other individuals involved in the Bolotnaya
    case. In December 2013, you were amnestied and the criminal case was dropped.
    How did all this happen?


    ·        
    What were the conditions in pre-trial detention
    centre?


    ·        
    You were an associate of the late Andrei Babushkin,
    who headed the Committee for Civil Rights. What is the work of this
    organization? And what kind of person was Andrei Babushkin?


    ·        
    You support LGBT rights in Russia. Why is the
    country so intolerant of LGBT people?


    ·        
    On 24 February 2022 you were detained for taking
    part in an anti-war protest. The next day you were jaled for six days. What is
    the situation regarding anti-war protests in Russia?


    ·        
    How do you see the future of the country and, in
    particular, the future of human rights?


     


    Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “Everything,
    absolutely everything, must be politicized. Including the question of installing
    benches at the entrance to an apartment building and protesting against plans
    to build in housing courtyards.” That’s what Simon Cosgrove and I were told by
    Nikolai Kavkazsky in a conversation we had with him last week. I’ve known
    Nikolai since the infamous Bolotnaya trial in Moscow. He is first and foremost
    a politician, a political activist. We also remember his active participation
    in human rights organizations, including Andrei Babushkin’s Committee for Civil
    Rights. It was an interesting conversation in which Nikolay Kavkazsky bravely
    states that he wants to change politics as they now are in Russia; he wants to
    change society so that it is more just, more free, and integrates all oppressed
    social groups.

    • 38 min
    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 3 June 2022 - with Nikita Petrov

    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 3 June 2022 - with Nikita Petrov

    Our guest on the podcast this week is the historian Nikita
    Vasilievich Petrov. Nikita Petrov is deputy chair of the board of the Memorial Research and Information Centre (which is
    based in St. Petersburg). Born in Kiev, Nikita Petrov graduated from the Moscow Institute of
    Chemical Engineering and went on to study at the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic
    Energy. His association with the Memorial Society began in 1988. As a historian
    Nikita Petrov has specialized in the history of the Soviet security services.
    He is known as the author and compiler of many works describing the structure
    and functions of the Soviet security services from 1917 to 1991.
    This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to
    the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. 
    The recording took place on 30 May 2022.
    ·        
    When and why did you first become interested in history, particularly
    the history of Soviet repression and the security services?
    ·        
    When did your collaboration with Memorial begin?
    ·        
    You wrote a number of works with Arseny Roginsky, who headed Memorial
    and died in 2017. Can you tell us about how you first met, what it was like to
    work with Roginsky, and what he was like as a person?
    ·        
    As a historian who worked in Russia’s archives for many years, can you
    tell us how historians’ access to these archives has changed over the years?
    ·        
    You have written about the history of the NKVD under Stalin, in
    particular about Nikolai Yezhov. To what extent can we talk about the personal
    influence of people like Yagoda or Yezhov on the NKVD, or were they just doing
    Stalin’s bidding?
    ·        
    You also wrote about the role of the NKVD and MGB in Central and Eastern
    Europe from 1939. To what extent were the repressions against people of Polish
    nationality similar to the Nazi repressions on the basis of race – an example
    against people of Jewish origin?
    ·        
    Another topic you wrote about is that of Ivan Serov and the
    post-Stalinist KGB. To what extent did the security services change in the
    post-Stalin period, first as the KGB and then as the FSB?
    ·        
    Is there an explanation for why the security services played such an
    important role in Soviet and Russian history? For example: in the book From the Red Terror to the Mafia State: Russia’s Secret Services
    in the Struggle for World Domination the authors [historian
    Felshtinsky, who is not considered a historian by many, and former KGB
    Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Popov (Canada)] write about the history of the
    state security takeover in Russia, presenting developments in terms of a
    confrontation between the Cheka-KGB and the Communist Party. In fact, did the
    Chekists confront the Communists or were they basically all the same kind of
    people?
    ·        
    Why are today’s authorities in Russia so interested in the study of
    history?
    ·        
    Are there any lessons in history? Including for the citizens of Russia?
     





























    Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook:
    Read old newspapers and magazines! That was exactly the advice Nikita
    Petrov got from his father. He taught him that reading the Soviet press would
    be interesting later, after many years had passed. So Nikita Petrov, who had
    studied to be a chemist, became a historian. In our latest podcast Nikit Petrov
    told Simon Cosgrove and me about his love for collecting old newspapers and
    magazines, how he stacked them in folders and read and re-read them. That's how
    chemistry came to lose one scientist from its ranks but history gained a
    remarkable specialist in the study of the Soviet security agencies. We all know
    Nikita Vasilievich as the author and compiler of many works describing the
    structure and functions of Soviet security services from 1917 to 1991. This
    knowledge is very important to all of us today as people from these very
    special service

    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 20 May 2022 - with Lev Ponomarev

    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 20 May 2022 - with Lev Ponomarev

    Our guest on the podcast this week is Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomarev (pictured, left, with the late Andrei Babushkin). Lev
    Ponomarev is a human rights activist and head of the For Human Rights movement
    and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. He also participated in the creation
    of the Memorial Human Rights Center. As a legal entity, the For Human Rights Movement was
    liquidated by a November 2019 decision of the Russian Supreme Court. Lev
    Ponomarev became one of the first private individuals to be included in the
    registry of "media foreign agents" when the Russian Ministry of Justice
    included him in the corresponding list on December 28, 2020.
    This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. 

    The questions we ask Lev Ponomarev include:
    1 Andrei Babushkin, the well-known human rights defender, died
    recently - on the night of May 14. You knew him well for many years. What kind
    of person was he?
    2 When did you leave Russia and what made you take this
    difficult decision?
    3 What is the situation like for human rights defenders who still
    live and work in Russia today?
    4 You were one of the organizers of the peace movement in
    Russia. How strong is this movement?
    5 How difficult is it to continue your work outside of
    Russia?
    6 How long can Russian propaganda be effective in the face
    of Russia's enormous human and material losses during the war?
    7 What effect do sanctions have inside Russia?
    8 Many people now use the word "fascism" to
    describe Putin's regime in Russia. Would you use this term?
    9 You have advocated democratic reforms in Russia since at
    least the late 1980s. Why have these reforms - at least to date - failed so badly?
    10 How do you see future developments?
    Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: " Lev Ponomarev said, 'The atmosphere in the country now is like, well, they’re
    not shooting us yet, but... What is there to say? I’ve been squeezed out, I have
    been forced to go abroad. The attacks were almost daily. But I wasn't beaten up
    once, thank God. I have to thank those guys who attacked me. They showed
    humanism, so to speak. Well, they poured something smelly over me, and I had to
    throw away my jacket and trousers. The cops stopped me in the metro, told me I
    was on the federal wanted list, and then they drove me around town and let me
    go. In general, I realized I had to leave.' In our latest podcast on Rights in Russia, Simon and I
    talked with Lev Ponomarev. We remembered Andrei Babushkin, who has died recently,
    discussed the human rights situation in Russia and considered possible
    scenarios for the future.

    • 50 min
    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 6 May 2022- with Andrei Kalikh

    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 6 May 2022- with Andrei Kalikh

    Our guest on the podcast this week is Andrei Kalikh, a human
    rights researcher, journalist, and activist with a special interest in the issue
    of corruption. In the past, Andrei worked as programme director at the Centre
    for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights and he has been a board
    member of Perm Memorial Society. Until recently, Andrei lived in St.
    Petersburg. He recently left Russia and is currently in Israel.


    This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the
    podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. 


    The questions we ask Andrei are:


    1) When the war began on February 24, 2022, did it come as a
    surprise to civil society in Russia?


    2) Why did the war begin on February 24, 2022?


    3) There were many protests in Russia at the start of the
    war. You were involved in some of these protests. What was the atmosphere at
    the protests? How did the authorities respond?


    4) Nowadays there are fewer protests. Why?


    5) At the beginning of the conflict there were estimates
    that about 250,000 people had left Russia because of the war. Who were these
    people and why did they leave?


    6) What help is available to those who have left Russia?


    8) To what extent is there now an "anti-Russian"
    atmosphere in public opinion outside Russia because of the war?


    9) Many people say one of the reasons the Russian military
    has not been successful in Ukraine is because of corruption. You worked on
    anti-corruption projects in Russia for many years. How strong is the corruption
    in Russia?


    10) What do you think will happen in the next few weeks and
    months?


    Sergey Nikitin writes on Facebook:



    Russian human rights activist Andrei Kalikh took part in protests
    against the war unleashed by the Kremlin. It was not long after the first
    bombings and shelling of Ukraine: Andrei could not remain indifferent and on
    February 27 he stood in the centre of St. Petersburg holding a placard to express
    his opinion in the most peaceful way possible.


    The police were brutal; no one was spared. They grabbed him,
    twisted his arm, threw him in a van and took him away.


    “One of the reasons for the outbreak of this war was the
    lack of resistance from civil society, the opposition movement and the protest
    movement. We have all lost; we were weak. I feel personally responsible for
    this,” says Andrei Kalikh. A former programme director at the Centre for the
    Development of Democracy and Human Rights, a board member of the Perm Memorial Society,
    a human rights and civil society activist and journalist, Andrei Kalikh was our
    guest on our latest podcast as part of the Rights in Russia project. We talked
    about many things, including protest and civic activism, not only in big
    cities, but also far from them. Andrei told us about the protest in the village
    of Siversky in Leningrad region, not far from where he lived until recently.
    And in this quiet dacha settlement, known to us from Nabokov's memoirs, as it
    turns out, there are people who care too. People who are ready to express their
    position publicly and find a variety of ways to do so. Andrei Kalikh, like many
    other human rights activists, was forced to leave Russia. He told us that for
    him living in Russia had become impossible and shameful. "Everything that had
    been achieved has been wiped out by this war,” he told us.

    • 47 min
    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 1 April 2022 - with Kirill Koroteev

    Human Rights in Russia week-ending 1 April 2022 - with Kirill Koroteev

    Our guest on the podcast this week is the lawyer Kirill
    Koroteev, head of international legal practice of Agora International Human
    Rights Group. Previously, Kirill worked as legal director at Memorial Human
    Rights Centre, where he specialized in handling cases before the European Court
    of Human Rights. Kirill graduated from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow
    and received his master's degree from the University of Paris I -
    Panthéon-Sorbonne, where he also taught public law.


    The themes we discuss in the podcast include: the
    work of a Russian lawyer in international courts; Russia's exclusion from the
    Council of Europe and its consequences; Russia's war against Ukraine; the current
    brain drain from Russia; and the future of human rights in Russia.


    This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to
    the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube. 


    The questions we ask Kirill Koroteev include:


    1) As head of international legal practice at the
    Agora Human Rights Group you extensive experience in international courts and
    jurisdictions in various countries. How would you compare Russian lawyers today
    - especially human rights lawyers - with lawyers from other European countries?


    2) Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe
    on March 16, 2022. This is only the second case of the exclusion of a state
    from the Council of Europe. Was there an alternative to this turn of events?


    3) What will be the consequences of Russia's
    withdrawal for participants in Court proceedings – including those whose cases
    have already been decided, but not yet executed; those who have applied to the Court
    but whose cases are still in progress; and those who may still want to bring a
    case to the Court?


    4) Russian lawyer and human rights activist Karinna
    Moskalenko has said that the inability of Russians to apply to the European
    Court would be ‘a punishment for ordinary people, not for the government.’ Do
    you agree with this point of view?


    5) What is the future of the interstate case filed
    by the Ukrainian government on 28 February, as a result of which on 1 March the
    Court issued interim measures (under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court) requiring
    Russia to ‘refrain from military attacks on civilians and civilian objects,
    including homes, ambulances and other specially protected civilian objects such
    as schools and hospitals, and immediately ensure the safety of medical facilities,
    personnel and ambulances on the territory attacked or besieged by Russian
    forces.’


    6) What is the legality of showing public videos of
    conversations and press conferences with prisoners of war. Is this a violation
    of the Geneva Conventions? Valentina Melnikova, for examples, has argued that such
    videos can save the lives of Russian POWs (see Valentina Melnikova’s interview
    with Gordeeva in the program "Tell Gordeeva").


    7) Do you see any scenario in which Russia could rejoin
    the Council of Europe?


    8) Could the exclusion of Russia could have a
    positive impact on the Court, given that Russia has one of the worst records so
    far as implementing the Court’s decisions is concerned?


    9) According to existing estimates, as many as
    250,000 people have left Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine. A great
    many of them are young professionals, including lawyers. Do you think this is a
    temporary phenomenon? Will people return to Russia in the near future? Or is
    this a development that will last for many years?


    10) How do you see the future of human rights in
    the Russian Federation?
    Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “For this reason, a lot of class specialists in the legal practice of the ECtHR appeared in Rusia,” Kirill Koroteev told us, referring to the fact that the flawed judicial system in Russia led to a large increase in applications to Strasbourg. However, on 16 March 2022 Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe. This is the first case of exclusion of a State from the

    • 37 min

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