APPEAL TO THE PARTICIPANTS
OF THE G8 SUMMIT OF INDUSTRIALIZED NATIONS IN CAMP DAVID, MD
President of the United States Barack H. Obama
Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper
President of France Francois Hollande
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel
Prime Minister of Italy Mario Monti
Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron May 6, 2012, New York-Paris-London
We, participants of the first National Convention of the American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights, representing Russian-speaking Americans concerned with the situation in their native country, – together with the London-based movement ‘Speak Up!’ and the Paris-based Association Russie-Libertés – are asking each of you to reflect upon the problem of political persecutions in Russia under the guise of criminal justice, and to help Russia address this issue.
Russian Federation, as a member of the Group of Eight of industrialized nations, shares the responsibilities undertaken by this group in the area of human rights, in addition to its responsibilities under international agreements and commitments that it undertook as member of other international institutions. At the same time, Russian authorities keep in jail over 30 people found guilty of various crimes in the proceedings that a number of human rights organizations and experts see as politically motivated and a travesty of justice. Russia’s most respectable and established human rights agencies, Memorial Society and the Moscow Helsinki Group, have recognized many of them as political prisoners.
In recent months, Russia’s growing movement of protest against the violations of civil and human rights by the authorities included the release of these individuals at the top of the list of its demands. In February 2012, Russia’s authoritative governmental agency – President’s Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights – submitted a list of 34 names of individuals convicted or charged of crimes under questionable circumstances, with a recommendation to then-President Dmitry Medvedev to grant them pardon. However, on March 15 President Medvedev indicated that he would not pardon anyone without a request from that person. And such a request implies an admission of guilt which is not acceptable to many of these prisoners. So far, only one of them signed a request for pardon and was granted it.
After the large amount of evidence suggesting widespread fraud in the parliamentary and presidential elections was dismissed by the Russian authorities, they have increasingly shown their confidence of being able to act with impunity and to disregard the opinion of human and civil rights advocates. Perceived indifference on the part of the international community is likely to embolden them, leading to further abuses, while people seen as political prisoners by a large part of Russian society will continue to linger in jail.
To prevent this from happening, we urge you to use your diplomatic leverage with Russian authorities at the G8 Summit to persuade them to release the individuals whose names were submitted for presidential pardon by Russia’s Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights and who have not been pardoned.
The full list of names is available on the website of the aforementioned Council (at http://www.president-sovet.ru/structure/group_6/materials/spisok.php?sphrase_id=529) and includes the following individuals, grouped by the nature of charges:
1) People convicted of divulging classified information related to their scientific research: Yevgeny Afanasyev, Svyatoslav Bobyshev, Sergey Vizir, Valentin Danilov, Igor Reshetin
2) People convicted on charges related to their professional work or entrepreneurial activities: Yelena Bazanova, Anatoly Bashmakov, Vitaly Vorobyev, Vladimir Yermolenko, Aleksey Kurtsin, Platon Lebedev, Vladimir Malakhovsky, Igor Matveev, Aleksei Pichugin, Vladimir Tenitilov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Grigory Chekalin, Yuliya Tsivilskaya, Sergey Tsivilsky, Sergey Shimkevich, Aleksandr Shoror
3) People convicted of being implicated in terrorism in cases where the Council found the charges “dubious, among other reasons because of the defendants’ particular ethnic and/or religious identity”: Ravil Gumarov, Timur Ishmuratov, Zara Murtazalieva, Dias Rafikov, Fanis Shaykhutdinov
4) People determined by the Council to be “persecuted for reasons related to their civic activism”: Ivan Belousov, Igor Berezyuk, Ilya Vaskov, Taisiya Osipova, Kirill Unchuk, Valentin Urusov, Ruslan Khubaev.
This list should be expanded to include the three young singers – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich – who were arrested in March for a performance in the church organized in the context of the anti-government protests, as well as the 3 young politicians – Alexey Navalny, Sergey Udaltsov and Ilya Yashin, who are now in jail on purely political motivations as recognized by leading Human Rights organisations such as Amnesty International. .
We hope, your Excellencies, that you will take advantage of the opportunity provided by the G8 Summit to convince the Russian authorities to release these people from confinement. This will reconfirm your countries’ commitment to the fundamental principles and values of democracy that cannot be sacrificed to political expediency and will help the Group of Eight gain more support in the Russian and international civil society.
Participants of the National Convention
of the American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights:
Dmitri Glinski (Executive Director), Alexander Militarev (Board Chair), Sergey Semenov, Anastasia Sorokina, Olesya Sabirova, Alexey Semyonov, Anna Leonti, Arthur Nazarenko, Elena Yakovleva, Kristina Mayman, Alexey Tokmin, Maria Snegovaya, Tonya Raber, Xenia P. Grubstein, Alex Yakubssohn, Dmitry & Nadia Valuev, Nina Long, Yulia Shilnova, Sergey Shilnov, Larry Poltavtsev, Ilya Zaslavskiy, Andrey Strigin, Nikolay Sergeevykh, Tanja Nyberg, Natalia Krapiva, and others
Maxime Filandrov, President, Association Russie-Libertés, Paris, France
Andrey Sidelnikov, President, International Movement ‘Speak Up!’, London, United Kingdom
Russian-Speaking Americans Concerned With Human and Civil Rights Abuses in Russia Appeal to U.S. Congress and the G8 at Their National Convention in New York, Followed by Rally
American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights, Inc. (ARA) held its first national convention on May 6, 2012, in downtown Manhattan. The convention, under the title “Russian-Speaking America on the Rise: Awakening and Empowerment Through The ‘Fair Vote For Russia’ Movement”, was attended by ARA representatives from the states of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, California, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. Leaders of ARA groups in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Kansas addressed the convention via Skype, video, and written remarks. In total, ARA currently has a presence among Russian-speaking population in 20 U.S. states.
The convention was also attended, in person or via Skype, by leaders and representatives of the Association’s allies in the ‘Fair Vote for Russia’ movement and partners in the Coalition of Russian-Speaking Organizations for Civil & Human Rights: Institute of Modern Russia (President – Pavel Khodorkovsky), International Association of Former Political Prisoners and Victims of the Communist Regime (President – Alexander Bolonkin), The Andrei Sakharov Foundation (President – Alexey Semyonov), The General Petro Grigorenko Foundation (President – Andrew Grigorenko) and others.
The event began with expressions of outrage as participants watched online the scenes from Moscow, where police brutally attacked people, including women, teenagers, and the elderly, at the officially approved rally of protest against the inauguration of Vladimir Putin.
The convention opened with a video greeting by Ludmila Alexeyeva, Chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group and Member of Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society Development and Human Rights. The greeting was recorded in Moscow on the occasion of ARA formation. “At last … we have the first organization that unites [Russian-speakers in America] not only on the basis of shared culture, but also around shared policy views,” said Alexeyeva, the winner of 2004 Democracy Award by the US National Endowment for Democracy. “I thank its founders and wish this organization serious growth and real success.”
“Our organization grows out of an unprecedented movement in our diaspora, and out of real community needs, particularly among newer immigrants,” said Dr. Dmitri Daniel Glinski, ARA co-founder and Executive Director. “While the forces in Russia are highly unequal, and the timing of the events that will lead to change is unpredictable, we should capture the spirit of this movement to advance our two main interrelated goals. The first is to advocate with the U.S. government for more human rights-oriented policies toward Russia, including the speedy adoption of the Magnitsky Act. The second is to take part in building a more assertive and influential Russian-speaking community in America and to start catching up with other immigrant communities in the development of our advocacy organizations and nonprofit sector in general. We need to build our capacity to defend ourselves against media bias and discrimination in various markets, including employment; ensure a fairer representation of Russian-speaking Americans in government at various levels and in major philanthropic institutions; gain access to the sources of funding from which our nonprofit organizations have been excluded; create opportunities for our nonprofit talents and ensure their proper recognition; expand the range of communal dialogue and tolerance of different views in our own midst; and reduce our community’s dependency on others, without weakening the bonds that tie many of us to American Jewry.”
“Our Association is created to help increase the cohesiveness of our community and provide a venue for those who want to maintain their links to Russia while integrating in American society,” said Dr. Alexander Militarev, ARA co-founder and Board Chair. “We are building an organization that does not divide Russian-speaking immigrants by ethnicity or religion, and we see those among us who have paid a price struggling for civil and human rights as role models. It is delightful to see so many young faces in this room.”
“We are holding this convention and the rally on the eve of Mr.Putin’s inauguration to convey our solidarity with the movement for change in Russia,” said Xenia Grubstein, ARA co-founder and the chief organizer of Russian rallies in New York since December 2011. “It is particularly important given that today hundreds of people were brutally beaten and detained in Moscow. We also work in close cooperation with the international Fair Vote for Russia movement in other countries, and it is possible that its participants will follow our lead by setting up organizations in their respective countries. And in addition to our advocacy, we shall also get involved in simple and inconspicuous everyday activities to change those things around us that need to be changed.”
Ms. Grubstein also read the greeting to the convention issued by the Fair Vote for Russia movement, which says: “We are confident that by being united in the Association, you will push even stronger in support of the civil rights of the people of Russia, for their fair representation in the government.” Convention participants were also greeted by other international partners, including a written statement from Association Russie-Libertés (France) and the Fair Vote for Russia group in Sydney, Australia.
“Our Association shall develop a broad base of support by serving a wide variety of interests among Russian-speakers, who may or may not have an interest in Russian domestic affairs” said Alex Kodner, ARA co-founder and Associate Executive Director. “In addition to our rights advocacy, we should address the everyday problems of our community, including employment, education, and family, and help individual community members in their integration in American society. This will help us bring together Russian-speaking US citizens and those who keep arriving today in search of a better life.”
“ARA should pay serious attention to Russian authorities’ violations of civil rights of former Soviet political prisoners who struggled for the democratic transformation of Russia and now receive compensation from the government that amounts to 2.5 US Dollars for every month they spent in Soviet jail,” said Dr. Alexander Bolonkin, ARA Vice Chair of the Board, political prisoner from 1972 to 1987, and subsequently senior researcher at NASA. “We also need to ensure that the Russian government pays the pensions it owes to its former citizens and residents, regardless of their current citizenship and residency.”
“We are pleased to have supported the Association, which is a new endeavor for us, but is in line with the direction that we should be encouraging,” said Alexey Semyonov, President of The Andrey Sakharov Foundation. “We need to connect with our social environment that could support our mission and our development. I see the creation of the Association as an opportunity for us to get to another level. It is encouraging, and I hope that the Association will comprise all those directions that were mentioned here and that are important for our shared identity, including a strong component working to help secure human rights in Russia.”
“The Putin regime would not have been able to survive without collaboration with the West, as Putin’s cronies are looting the country and depositing their booty in Western bank accounts,” said Dr. Andrei Piontkovky, senior researcher at the Institute of Systems Studies in Moscow and a leading opposition columnist, in his video address from Moscow. “You will help change Russia by drawing the attention of US government and judiciary to the need to combat money laundering by Russian corrupt officials, including through such agencies as the Financial Action Task Force. In this case, one cannot speak about interference in Russia’s internal affairs – it is all about compliance with U.S. own laws on U.S. territory. And thank you for what you have done in broadening the support for the Magnitsky bill in American society and in Congress.”
“A coalition of Russian-speaking organizations is very important, and should have many different functions – political, cultural, educational, and other,” said Natalia Pelevine in her video greeting from Moscow. “I have big confidence in this undertaking and hope to be able in the future to participate in it directly.” She also invited ARA supporters to join the online organizing of protests in connection with Vladimir Putin’s expected trip to the US for the G8 Summit.
“It seems to me that the minimum platform on which all of us can unite is the defense of human rights and the pursuit of such a social system [in Russia] that allows for the existence of a human rights movement, the independent press, and independent judiciary,” said Andrew Grigorenko, President of General Petro Grigorenko Foundation. “In other words, we are talking about the institutions able to give that society a chance for a continuous self-correction.”
“Tomorrow we are having a meeting in the U.S. Senate, and I just received the news that our message to Sen. Kerry was shared with the CSCE representatives,” said Tanja Nyberg, ARA Federal Government Affairs Coordinator and representative in Virginia. “As we all know, the action on the Magnitsky Act in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee has been delayed in connection with the G8 summit, and our convention should convey our collective message to the Committee. Our Association’s group in the Greater Washington area has been very active and vocal since the first rally in December, and our Magnitsky memorial event on April 8 took place at the Pushkin Monument. So Washington DC now has an extension of the Pushkin Square in Moscow.”
“One of the main priorities for our Association is to develop or strengthen our close ties with those communities with whom we are historically related, including Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Jewish,” said Sergey Semyonov, ARA coordinator in Chicago and Midwest. “We shall promote our ideas through a wide range of cultural activities, as one can often find supporters in rather unexpected places.”
“The formation of ARA helps increase the visibility and influence of the Russian-speaking diaspora in the US,” said Vlad Burlutski, ARA representative in Erie, PA, in his video message. “It will also enable us to work more closely with established institutions of American society and with US Government and to defend the rights of Russian-speaking Americans.”
“ARA human rights activities should include assistance with emigration to those Russians who are exposed to a variety of threats in their native country,” said Larry Poltavtsev, ARA supporter from Vienna, VA, and President of Target Labs, Inc. “We should assist them with moving abroad and adapting to their new country.” He also shared the experience of the Webinon Center, assisting Russians on business-related migration, employment and career pursuit by skilled immigrants, as well as of the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance, a related agency that assists politically motivated migration.
“Russian-speaking community in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley is one of the largest in the country, and our group in support of the movement for change in Russia counts about 700 people,” said Andrey Strigin, ARA coordinator in Northern California. “In spite of our regular protest rallies, we have also been able to develop normal business relations with Russia’s Consulate General. We also combine our protest actions with musical events. Our largest rally across from the City Hall was also a musical concert. This helps us attract a much larger audience.”
“On behalf of our supporters in Missouri and Kansas, I welcome the participants of the convention and congratulate us all on this important step in our organization’s development,” read the statement by Aleksandr Elesev, ARA coordinator in Kansas City. “Today in Moscow due to government violence a point of no return was crossed. We wish strength and courage to our friends in Russia in their struggle for freedom.”
Participants of the Convention adopted, by signing, two documents. The first is a letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) urging him, as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, not to delay action on the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011. ARA finds it particularly important given Russian authorities’ violence and intimidation of opposition activists on the eve and during the protest rallies in Moscow on May 6. “The passage of the Magnitsky Act through the Committee before, rather than after the upcoming Summit of the Group of Eight Industrialized Nations in Camp David, MD, is in the best interest of both the United States and the people of Russia,” says the letter, which was subsequently signed by many ARA supporters and allies not present at the Convention, including Pavel Khodorkovsky, President of Institute of Modern Russia.
The second document adopted by the Convention is the address to the participants of the Summit of the Group of Eight Industrialized Nations in Camp David, MD. The letter urges them to use their diplomatic leverage with the Russian authorities to address the cases of 33 individuals convicted by Russian courts under questionable circumstances and widely viewed as victims of political persecution. The names on this list are the same as those submitted for presidential pardon by Russia’s Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights. Former President Dmitry Medvedev refused to pardon these individualsin the absence of their individual requests, with an implicit admission of guilt. As a result, only one on the Council’s initial list, Sergey Mokhnatkin, was pardoned. Participants of the Convention also added the three singers of the ‘Pussy Riot’ group to the list of cases they ask to be discussed at the G8 Summit.
The Convention established 11 permanent working groups of the Association, including a group on fundraising, a group on U.S. government relations, a group on inter-ethnic relations, a group on business and human rights, and a group on social issues, including the rights of sexual minorities.
After the Convention, its participants held a rally of solidarity with Russian advocates of democratic change, in front of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, concluding it at the Sakharov-Bonner Corner.
On Monday, May 7, representatives of ARA leadership visited the office of Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) in Washington, DC, where they had a discussion on a range of issues pertinent to the Russian-speaking community. In the course of the meeting, they passed the materials of the Convention to the representatives of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
For additional information or to get involved, please contact us at email@example.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Russian-speaking Americans supportive of the movement for change in Russia will gather for their first national convention in New York, on May 6, 2012
April 28, New York. American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights, Inc. (ARA) will be holding its first national convention on Sunday, May 6, at 12pm, at 55 Exchange Place in New York. The convention will be followed by a rally of solidarity with the movement for democratic change in Russia.
The Association was launched by the participants in the rallies of solidarity with the movement for fair elections and for the release of political prisoners in Russia. These rallies took place between December 2011 and March 2012 in New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Kansas City, and Boston. The founding of ARA was greeted by a video message from Ludmilla Alexeyeva, Chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group and Member of Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council (the video will be shown at the convention). ARA was incorporated in New York in February 2012 and currently has representatives or affiliates in 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
The title of the convention is “Russian-Speaking America on the Rise: Awakening and Empowerment Through the ‘Fair Vote for Russia’ Movement”. The convention shall discuss ARA’s activities in support of the congressional action to replace the Jackson-Vanick Amendment with Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which is supported by the ARA leadership. It will also discuss the situation with the payment of pensions by post-Soviet governments to their former employees currently residing in the United States and our position on the H.R. 2494: Former Soviet Union State Pension Fairness Act of 2011.
Speakers at the convention shall include prominent leaders of Russia’s civil and human rights movement speaking by video from Moscow, as well as the Association’s founders and leaders. Speakers will also include Alexey Semyonov, President of The Andrei Sakharov Foundation; Dr. Alexander Bolonkin, former Soviet political prisoner and subsequently senior researcher at NASA; and Andrew Grigorenko, President of the General Petro Grigorenko Foundation. Our other partners from the Coalition of Russian-Speaking Organizations for Civil & Human Rights – including The Institute of Modern Russia; The Democratic Russia Committee; International Association of Former Soviet Political Prisoners and Victims of the Communist Regime; Russian-Speaking Community Council of Manhattan & the Bronx; Wake Up Russia; and Fair Vote for Russia groups from New York and other cities – shall also take part in the event.
To inquire about participation, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PROGRAM (subject to further changes)
Note: Participants will speak in Russian or in English at their discretion. Limited interpretation will be provided
12:00 am – Video greeting by Ludmilla Alexeyeva and welcoming remarks by Dmitri Glinski
Remarks by Association founders and leaders, friends and partners
Alexander Militarev, Russian-Speaking Community in America: The State of Affairs by December 2011
Xenia Grubstein, Fair Vote for Russia Rallies and Movement
Dmitri Glinski, Why We Need a U.S.-Wide Advocacy Organization? Our Strategies and Goals
Alex Kodner, Our Association and Community Building: Beyond Advocacy and Politics
Alexey Semenov (President, Andrey Sakharov Foundation), Human Rights in Today’s Russia and the Sakharov Legacy
Alexander Bolonkin, Civil Rights for the Senior Generation: Pensions for ex-Soviet Citizens, Compensations for Former Political Prisoners
Andrey Piontkovsky, What Russian-speaking Americans Can Do To Help Change Russia (by video from Moscow)
Natalia Pelevina, Our Campaign Against Corrupt Russian Officials (by video from Moscow)
Andrew Grigorenko, Our Shared Human Rights Legacies Today
1:15pm – Lunch break
1:45pm – Remarks by Association coordinators and partners from other cities
2:25pm – General Discussion 2:55 – Closing Remarks (Xenia Grubstein)
3:00 pm – Leaving for the rally of solidarity with the civil and human rights movement in Russia
PHOTOS FROM THE CONVENTION AND THE RALLY
Hon. John KERRY
Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
218 Russell Bldg., Second Floor
Washington D.C. 20510 May 6, 2012
Dear Senator Kerry:
On behalf of the first National Convention of the American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights (ARA), our supporters and allies around the country, we express our support for a speedy action by the SFRC on the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011.
The Russian authorities perceive the delay in moving this bill through Congress as the lack of firmness on the part of the U.S. government on the issue of human rights. This is worrisome because of the growing sense of impunity on the part of the Russian authorities in dealing with Russia’s dissenters and protesters since the conclusion of Russia’s presidential elections on March 4. Russia’s authorities:
– have not taken any action in response to the massive evidence of widespread vote-rigging in the latest parliamentary and presidential elections;
– contrary to the recommendation of Russia’s Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, refused to grant presidential pardons to the 33 individuals identified by Russia’s human rights experts as victims of political persecution; and
– arrested and intimidated opposition activists across the country on the eve and in the course of the national protest against vote-rigging on May 6.
The passage of the Magnitsky Act through the Committee before, rather than after the upcoming Summit of the Group of Eight Industrialized Nations in Camp David, MD, is in the best interest of both the United States and the people of Russia. It will strengthen U.S. credibility among Russians and civil society worldwide by sending a strong message about the U.S. Congress’ unshakeable commitment to the fundamental principles and values on which modern democracy is built.
Participants of the first National Convention
of the American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights (ARA)
Signed at the Convention by:
Dmitri Glinski (New York, NY)
Alexander Militarev (New York, NY)
Xenia Grubstein (Brooklyn, NY)
Alexey Semyonov (Springfield, VA)
Anna Leonti (New York, NY)
Anastasia Sorokina (New York, NY)
Olesya Sabirova (New York, NY)’
Nina Long (New York, NY)
Arthur Nazarenko (Washington, DC)
Elena Yakovleva (New York, NY)
Kristina Mayman (New York, NY),
Tonya Raber (New York, NY)
Vlad Burlutsky (Erie, PA)
Victoria Averbukh (Bronx, NY)
Ilya Zaslavskiy (New York, NY)
Nikolay Sergeevykh (Baltimore, MD)
Andrey Strigin (San Francisco, CA)
Tanya Nyberg (Fairfax, VA)
Larry Poltavtsev (Vienna, VA)
Yulia Shilnova (Brooklyn, NY)
Sergey Shilnov (Brooklyn, NY)
Sergey Semenov (Chicago, IL)
Dmitry Valuev (New York, NY)
Nadia Valueva (New York, NY)
Aleks Yakubssohn (Staten Island, NY)
Natalia Krapiva (Old Bridge, NJ)
Aleksandr Elesev (Kansas City, MO)
Yuriy Yakimenko (Princeton, NJ)
Kirill Kamynin (Brooklyn, NY)
Alexander Vingardt (New York, NY)
Pavel Ivlev (Sparta, NJ)
Tatiana Yankelevich (Boston, MA)
Nadezda Shavarina (Long Island, NY)
Alexander Zvyagin (New York, NY)
Aleksandra Oheda (Ridgefield Park, NJ)