The Moscow Times: ‘Another Attempt to Marginalize Us’: Experts and Activists Weigh In on ‘Anti-Russian Separatist’ Ban

The Moscow Times:

Russia’s Supreme Court last week ruled to ban the so-called “Anti-Russian Separatist Movement” and “its structural divisions” as an extremist organization.

Though no organization with this name formally exists in Russia or elsewhere, the country’s Justice Ministry defined the group as an “international public movement to destroy the multinational unity and territorial integrity of Russia.” Some observers suspect that this vague definition may be aimed at the various movements advocating for the rights of Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities and for Russia’s decolonization. Affiliates and supporters of these groups could now face up to six years in prison if found guilty of involvement in the banned “separatist movement.”

To make sense of what this ban could mean in practice, The Moscow Times asked leading Indigenous activists and human rights defenders for their interpretations and predictions.

Stefania Kulaeva, human rights defender and expert at the Brussels-based Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC) Memorial

“The issue of criminal prosecution for so-called ‘separatism’ is not new. People in Russia have been arrested many times before…for simply advocating for federalization of regions like Siberia, [southern Russia’s] Kuban, [the republic of] Karelia, and others,” said Kulaeva, adding that Russians who say that occupied Crimea or the Donbas are Ukrainian lands have also faced criminal prosecution for “separatism” in the past.

“This [Supreme Court] ruling gives law enforcement authorities free rein, allowing them to effectively criminalize all human rights activities — which threatens not only minority rights activists but all minorities,” Kulaeva told The Moscow Times.

Read more: The Moscow Times