Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow, Russia, November 17, 2022. Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via Reuters
The Russian Human Rights Council was reorganized to exclude critics and bring in pro-war cheerleaders.
It comes ahead of a key annual meeting where free speech on the Ukraine war was due to be discussed.
Putin wants to keep the group “on message,” an expert told Insider.
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday withdrew several critics of Russia’s Human Rights Council, replacing them with some pro-Kremlin and pro-war figures, according to independent Russian media.
The official decree removed 10 names from the council, including internationally respected figures such as xenophobia researcher Alexander Verkhovsky and anti-torture activist Igor Kalyapin.
In his place, the new council members include Alexander Kots, a war correspondent for the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, who has been sanctioned as a propagandist by the UK, and Elena Shishkina, a representative of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, who has not is recognized by the United Kingdom. the west
The changes suggest a change in how Putin deals with dissent as his invasion of Ukraine stalls.
In March, in the first days of the war, 13 members of the council signed a statement calling on Putin to end hostilities in Ukraine, according to independent Russian channel Meduza.
Dr Precious Chatterje-Doody, professor of politics and international studies focusing on Russia at the UK’s Open University, told Insider: “Putin wants to make sure the Council is on message” for its annual meeting, scheduled for to December 10.
One of those removed, journalist Nikolai Svanidze, had wanted to lift Russia’s crackdown on anti-war speech during the meeting, according to Meduza.
Chatterje-Doody said that until the invasion of Ukraine, a “safe” level of political dissent had been incorporated into Russia’s political system “as long as it did not directly affect the image or credibility of the Kremlin or Putin himself.” .
This system, often called controlled opposition, is what Chatterje-Doody said had allowed organizations like the Human Rights Council to voice genuine criticism.
“But the context of the war has changed all that,” he said. “All avenues of dissent in Russia are being dramatically closed, and the replacement of critical voices with warmongers is a continuation of this.”
On October 7, Russia rejected a draft UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning what the body called “the significant deterioration of the human rights situation in the Russian Federation.”
The Kremlin’s top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Thursday that member rotations at the Human Rights Council are normal.
Peskov added that with the changes “other people become leaders of public opinion, and in the new circumstances, other people can represent civil society in the best way, they are the most correct reflection of civil society”, he report the state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti. .
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