15 Sep 2003 Future-of-Russia.org Launched to Raise Awareness of Anti-Democracy Trends in Russia
The National Center for Public Policy Research has launched a new Web project, www.Future-of-Russia.org, developed to help raise awareness of a growing but largely unnoticed threat from the former Soviet Union.
The site documents recent alarming events in Russia indicating that the democratic reforms undertaken in the Post-Soviet era are at risk. It presents evidence of outright suppression of free press, arrests of those thought to have political aspirations and a disregard for the rule of law — events that, when combined, present a chilling picture of a return to many the old ways of the “evil empire.”
“For years, I helped fight the threats of the old Soviet Union. Nobody was happier than I to see the Soviets overthrown by powers representing democracy and rule of law in the country. But I am deeply troubled by current events indicating an uncertain future for democracy in Russia — and that is why we developed this site,” said Amy Ridenour, President of the National Center for Public Policy Research.
As the Web site chronicles, these threats include a “deeply troubling disregard for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law,” including:
* The free media, previously an increasingly strong voice in Russia, is now being silenced by the state.
* The return of the KGB — Vladimir Putin’s reamalgamation of the security apparatus in Russia has followed a Soviet-style KGB structure and points to the enormous access and influence of the FSB/former KGB in Putin’s inner circle.
* International human rights organizations are noting a growing persecution of the Catholic Church and other religious minorities.
* Irene Stevenson of the Solidarity Center, under contract by USAID to promote democracy in Russia, was detained and removed from the country.
* The Russian government has shut down the Peace Corps’ ten-year-old program in the country by alleging its volunteers were acting as spies.
* Yukos, considered Russia’s most Western-like, open and transparent company, has been raided twice and had two of its executives detained — a move largely viewed as a politically motivated effort to stifle opposition and consolidate power within the growing FSB faction.
* Vladimir Gusinsky, previous senior executive of Media Most, forced to exile the country as part of the suppression of free media, was recently detailed in Greece on charges that had already been cleared by EU member state Spain in 2000.
“With an upcoming summit between Presidents Bush and Putin on September 26, it is more important than ever for all concerned Americans to make our voices heard,” added Ridenour. “Our site — www.Future-of-Russia.org — is set up to allow ordinary citizens to tell President Bush that they are disturbed by the ‘de-democratizing’ pattern inside Russia. It makes it easy for Americans to join us in saying ‘nyet’ to a return to the days of the ‘Evil Empire.'”
The Web site includes a detailed account of the rise of the former KGB in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, a description of all of the alarming rollbacks of attempts at democratization, a blog highlighting current news and events, as well as interactive tools that enable site visitors to share information with friends, sign up for email updates and share their concerns with President Bush.
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