Trump Administration Urged to Press Russia on Corruption, Rights Violations
Washington, D.C.—In the aftermath of Sunday’s mass protests throughout Russia, Human Rights First condemned the detention of hundreds of peaceful protestors, including opposition figure and anti-corruption advocate Alexei Navalny, and called upon the White House to continue to speak out against the Russian government’s human rights violations and rampant corruption.
“Thousands of people in Russia have risen up against the corrupt system here, and we are working to free those who have said ‘Enough,’” said Polina Nemirovsky, coordinator for Open Russia, who was monitoring hearings in Tverskoy Court in Moscow. “The U.S. government should not support corruption in the Russian government—or even look like it supports it.”
This weekend’s protests, the largest in Russia since 2012, drew thousands into the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and more than 80 towns and cities across the country. Participants called on Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev to answer reports that he maintains a network of charities to mask multiple billions of dollars in corrupt ownership of yachts, mansions, and other property. The protests were led by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, which issued a video report last week outlining the findings of its investigation into Medvedev’s financial dealings.
“The fact that these protests drew such large crowds, in so many cities, despite the Russian government’s severe crackdown on civil society and control over most forms of media, is an indicator that Russian citizens are fed up with corruption," said Human Rights First’s Melissa Hooper. "Allegations made against individuals working for the Trump presidential campaign, the Russian peoples’ dissatisfaction with its kleptocratic leadership, and President Trump’s manifest admiration for those same leaders raises serious questions about this administration’s support for human rights and anti-corruption efforts."
Reports indicate that Russian security services arrested as many as 1,300 people, including Navalny, who was fined $350, sentenced to 15 days in jail, and had his offices ransacked and computers confiscated by police. A reporter for The Guardian, Alec Luhn, was also arrested and charged with participation in the protest, despite showing police his press credentials.
Human Rights First welcomed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's reading of a State Department statement criticizing the Russian government’s actions, but urges the administration to do more to show that it stands alongside the Russian people as they fight to exercise universal rights.
“The Trump Administration should make clear to the Russian government that it will not tolerate high-level corruption, nor the violation of human rights committed in the name of masking that corruption. It should maintain, and consider increasing, sanctions on Russian intelligence entities, government-linked companies, and oligarchs,” added Hooper.
For more information or to speak with Hooper, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.