Thank you Mr Chair. Over the past 11 months we have witnessed the horrendous suffering inflicted upon the Ukrainian people following Russia’s barbaric and illegal invasion. However, we cannot become blind to those in Russia who also live in fear due to oppression and Russia’s authoritarian policies. The link between the repression of fundamental freedoms in Russia, and Russia’s aggression against its sovereign, democratic neighbour is clearer than ever.
We are one month into the New Year and already Putin’s regime has signalled that it will ratchet up its suppression of the Russian people – determined to add further to the litany of human rights violations evidenced in the Moscow Mechanism report last year.
On the 25th of January, the Russian Federation landed another blow to freedom of association in Russia. Moscow City Court ruled to liquidate the Moscow Helsinki Group – Russia’s oldest human rights organisation; an organisation doing much-needed work holding Russia to account against its OSCE commitments. The non-profit, human rights organisation, the Sakharov Center was also targeted last week – with an eviction notice on grounds linked to the “foreign agent” law.
On the 26th of January, the Prosecutor General’s Office in Russia targeted another fundamental freedom – the freedom of the media. Outlawing the independent media outlet Meduza and declaring it an “undesirable organization”. It will now be significantly harder for Meduza’s reporters, most of whom are based in Latvia, to reach people inside Russia. And yesterday, on February 1st, a Moscow court sentences journalist Alexander Nevzorov in absentia to 8 years in prison for posting the truth on social media about Russia’s shelling of a maternity hospital in Mariupol.
These are the latest move by the Kremlin to tighten censorship and control discourse over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We are greatly alarmed by the rapid deterioration of the independent media space in Russia. The repression of opposition voices and of those condemning its illegal war in Ukraine is a transparent attempt by Putin to hide the truth of the war from the Russian people, disguise the horrors the Kremlin has inflicted on the people of Ukraine and mask the rising number of Russian casualties. It will not succeed. The Russian people should be free to understand reality beyond Putin’s false version.
In addition, we hear worrying reports of mandatory military training being rolled out in schools across Russia, and of students taught classes in “patriotism” to justify Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.
We stand united in condemnation of Russia’s brutal repression of human rights at home and abroad. We call on the Russian authorities to reverse these decisions, to release all political prisoners including Vladimir Kara-Murza and Alexei Navalny. I thank the OSCE’s autonomous institutions – particularly ODIHR and the Representative on the Freedom of the Media for their vigilance in exposing the human rights violations being committed time and time again.
I will end with a commitment to the brave, tireless and fearless human rights defenders across Russia – we hear you. Human dimension commitments are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all OSCE States – as reaffirmed by all participating States at the 2010 Astana Summit. We will not stop raising the injustices you face.