Russia's Human Rights Abuses Continue

Mar 22, 2017

Russia's human rights abuses continue to be a serious problem, according to the latest State Department human rights report.

The continuing occupation and so-called “annexation” of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula affects the human rights situation significantly and negatively. The Russian government continued to train, equip, and supply pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, who were joined by numerous fighters from Russia.

Credible observers attributed thousands of civilian deaths and injuries, as well as widespread abuses, to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's Donbas region, and to Russian occupation authorities in Crimea. Russian authorities also conducted politically motivated arrests, detentions, and trials of Ukrainian citizens in Russia, many of whom claimed to have been tortured. Human rights groups asserted that numerous Ukrainian citizens remained in Russia as political prisoners.

Within Russia itself, authorities restricted citizens' ability to choose their government through free and fair elections and increasingly instituted a range of measures to suppress dissent. The government of President Vladimir Putin passed repressive laws and selectively employed existing ones to harass, discredit, prosecute, imprison, detain, fine, and suppress individuals and organizations critical of the government.

Amendments to antiterrorism laws granted Russian authorities additional powers that were also used to suppress and harass activists and critics of Mr. Putin's policies. Authorities especially targeted individuals and organizations that professed support for the government of Ukraine or opposed the Russian government's activities in Ukraine.

The Russian government continued to target civil society. According to the human rights report, authorities further stymied the work of nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, through the “foreign agents” and “undesirable foreign organization” laws. Authorities also significantly expanded the definition of political activities to bring more NGOs under the “foreign agents” category.

Authorities began fining NGOs for not disclosing “foreign agent” status, while courts closed NGOs for violations involving the foreign agents' list. Under the expanded definition of political activities, authorities added environmental and HIV-prevention organizations to the list.

Promoting human rights and democratic governance is a core element of U.S. foreign policy, said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The Human Rights Reports demonstrate the United States' unwavering commitment to advancing liberty, human dignity, and global prosperity around the world, including in Russia.