Memorial, born out of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s “glasnost” reforms in the 1980s, said in a statement Thursday that he had been informed by the Russian Supreme Court that prosecutors had filed a request to dissolve the group for alleged violations of the law. controversial law on “foreign agents”.
The group has become one of Russia’s leading voices in the defense of fundamental freedoms.
Memorial said there was “no legal basis” for the case, saying he had been accused of failing to identify himself publicly as a designated foreign agent.
“This is a political decision to destroy the Memorial Society, an organization dedicated to the history of political repression and the protection of human rights.
“We have repeatedly stated that the law was originally designed as a tool to suppress independent organizations and have insisted that it be abolished,” Memorial said in a statement.
Focused in its early stages on the crimes of the Stalinist era, Memorial has more recently spoken out against the crackdown on opposition figures, activists, journalists and others under Putin.
In an article posted on his website two days ago, he said he documented an increase in the number of political prisoners in Russia to 420 from 362 a year ago, but said the real number was undoubtedly much higher.
“We are in shock. On the other hand, it is not surprising… In recent years, things have happened so crazy in Russia that it does not really cause any surprise, ”said Oleg Orlov, member of the Board of Directors of Memorial , to the Reuters news agency.
“It is obviously a political decision which came from above to liquidate us. And it is a blow to all of civil society and a really serious wake-up call for them. “
As early as 2015, Memorial was on an official list of “foreign agents,” a label that carries connotations of espionage. Its offices across the country have been attacked on numerous occasions.
The Kremlin says the Foreign Agents Act is justified on the grounds that Russians have the right to know when NGOs, media and others are receiving foreign funds to engage in what it considers political activity.
Earlier this week, Moscow declared the country’s leading LGBTQ rights group a foreign agent, as well as several lawyers close to the Russian opposition.
Putin himself has said that the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the editor of the Russian newspaper Dmitry Muratov will not “protect” him from being labeled a foreign agent if he breaks the law.
Memorial says the case against her will be heard on November 25.
The RIA news agency quoted the prosecutor’s office as saying that investigations had revealed violations of the law by international and regional branches of Memorial, and that claims had been filed with the Supreme Court and the Municipal Court of Moscow to close them. He did not specify what the violations were.
“Winding us up won’t mean it all ends,” Orlov said. “We will work from our apartments until they put us all in jail. But of course our job will get much, much more difficult.