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Russian Federation

    August 01, 2017

    By Joshua Franco, Technology and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. Follow Joshua on Twitter @joshyrama.

    You have probably heard of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), right? They’re those things you use to stream movies online in other countries that are annoyingly blocked in yours. If VPNs were banned, how would you watch the latest robot apocalypse blockbuster online without having to wait a whole year?

    Now imagine that the online content banned in your country isn’t movies, but rather major social media platforms, or the main sources of information about your religion, or your sexual orientation. Imagine you use a VPN to access this information, and now that tool is being taken away.

    This is what’s about to happen in Russia. It’s already happening in China.

    June 09, 2017

    When reports emerged in April that the Chechen authorities have been detaining, torturing and even killing gay men, as part of a deplorable campaign to purge the republic of people of “non-traditional orientation”, there was international outcry.

     

    An Amnesty International activist in Turkey holds up a sign for Chechnya to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 3 June

    Sir Ian McKellen joined a protest in London, led by Amnesty UK and Stonewall UK

    May 14, 2017

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    In early April, the courageous journalists at Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that over a hundred men suspected of being gay had been abducted, tortured, and some killed in a coordinated government campaign in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya. Men who are released from detention are not safe; they may face honour killings by family members. In response, Chechen officials denied the existence of gay men in Chechnya, and denied they had ordered ‘preventative mopping up’ of people considered to be undesirable.

    People worldwide were outraged. How could this be happening? What could be done to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities in Chechnya from discrimination and violence? What were we doing and could we do more?

    October 08, 2014

    A quiet Saturday morning in Moscow: the distant chime of bells at an Orthodox church and the faint hum of traffic traversing a nearby bridge reverberate around a near-empty Bolotnaya Square.

    In the fleeting September warmth, the flowerbeds are blooming, the verges are well kept and a busload of tourists are busily snapping photos on the edge of this pleasant, tree-lined plaza not far from the Kremlin.

    But like much in Russia today, first impressions can be deceptive. Bolotnaya’s seeming tranquillity belies the central role it played in the country’s growing repression of basic freedoms.

    On 6 May 2012, a very different scene played out in this square.

    Hundreds of riot police, kitted out in military-style camouflage and helmets, and wielding truncheons, charged into crowds of mostly peaceful anti-government protesters who had gathered on the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s controversial return to power.

    March 24, 2014
    Pro-Russian protesters attend a rally in Simferopol, Crimea following the region being formally annexed by the Russian Federation on 21 March 2014

    by Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

    Two decades of stuttering human rights reform in Ukraine was almost scuppered overnight when, on 16 January this year, the Parliament in Kyiv railroaded through a raft of new legislation to restrict the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

    February 05, 2014
    Days before the opening of the Sochi Olympics, activists in cities around the world staged protests against homophobia in Russia © PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

    Lene Christensen, Media Advisor at Amnesty International Norway, blog from Sochi, Russia

    At a café in Sochi, 17-year-old “Ivan” quietly talks about his experiences as an openly gay young man in the Olympic city. A city in which there are no gay people, according to the Mayor.

    Ivan has a disturbing story to tell. After someone hacked his social media account about a year ago, news quickly spread about his sexual orientation.

    When he changed schools, the information about his sexuality again spread like wildfire among his new schoolmates. Now, a regular day at school includes being spat on and verbally abused, he tells us. He’s been physically attacked several times and some unknown attackers poured dirty water and urine on him. One time they went as far as attempting to rape him. His voice breaks as he recounts his almost daily ordeal.

    February 04, 2014
    Yevgeny Vitishko was arrested on 3 Feb 2014 in Tuapse (Sochi area) © Amnesty International

    Emile Affolter, Press Officer at Amnesty International Netherlands, blogs from Sochi

    Just a couple of days before the Winter Olympic Games start in Sochi, an activist was arrested. Sadly, such arrests are not unusual in Russia, but the timing of this particular arrest sent a chilling message across Russian civil society.

    The environmentalist Yevgeny Vitishko was planning on traveling to Sochi today but was stopped by police, convicted of “petty hooliganism” and sentenced to 15 days in administrative detention. His crime? According to Russian authorities he cursed while standing at a bus stop.

    When I heard the news about Vitishko's arrest I was in the middle of a conversation with Semyon Simonov. A lawyer for the human rights organization Memorial in Sochi, he defends the rights of migrant workers.

    November 13, 2013
    A colorful parade of Amnesty supporters stand up for human rights in Russia

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigner and Women's Rights Campaigner

    Basic freedoms are under threat in Russia. Restrictive new laws are making it difficult for NGOs to carry out their work. Our Sochi Winter Olympics campaign, which runs until the end of January, is helping to shine a light on the threats to human rights being faced each and every day by people throughout Russia. The article below is written by one of Amnesty International’s partner organizations in Russia, and details how laws limiting freedom of expression, association, and assembly are impacting their lifesaving work.

    Want to learn more about how you can make a difference? Check out our Russia webpage for more information about our Sochi Winter Olympics campaign. And please sign our online petition calling on Russia to respect freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.

    Sign  Petition

    October 10, 2013

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns

    On the rainiest day in months, a group of dedicated Amnesty activists marched from the University of Ottawa campus to the Embassy of the Russian Federation to Canada chanting, “Our birthday wish for Putin… respect for human rights!”

    August 16, 2013

    By Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women's Rights Campaigner

    In January, a group of people gathered in St. Petersburg for a snowball fight. The police responded by banning it and dispersing the crowd, calling it an “unauthorized gathering.”

    This is not a joke. This actually happened.

    In May, a group of activists supporting the human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, staged a peaceful protest in Moscow against homophobic laws. They were beaten by counter-protestors while police stood by. And then the victims—the LGBTI activists—were arrested by the police.

    On June 30th, Russia passed a homophobic law, which violates both its own constitution and international human rights treaties, and discriminates against the LGBTI community. Under the law, “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” is banned. What this means is that members of Russia’s LGBTI community are being firmly pushed back into the closet, and risk fines and jail time for such things as promoting sexual health for LGBTI youth, or kissing their partner in public.