Court shuts down Russia’s oldest human rights group

MOSCOW (HPD) — A Moscow court on Wednesday ordered the closure of Russia’s oldest human rights organization, the latest step in a relentless crackdown on the independent press, rights groups and activists. of opposition.

The Moscow City Court granted the Justice Ministry’s request to shut down the Moscow Helsinki Group, which it accuses of violating its legal registration by taking human rights cases outside the capital. The group has called the allegations “minuscule and absurd.”

Founded in 1976, the Moscow Helsinki Group has campaigned for the release of political prisoners and the establishment of democratic rights.

Among the founders was Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a pioneer of human rights and dissent who challenged Soviet rule for decades. In 2017, when she turned 90, President Vladimir Putin visited her and personally congratulated her on her work. She died in 2018.

In 2021, Russian authorities shut down Memorial, another Soviet-era human rights group. The group has said it will find a way to keep going.

Several legal aid and human rights groups have chosen to operate as informal bodies to avoid restrictive laws.

Over the past two years, the Kremlin has launched a sweeping crackdown on human rights groups, the independent press and opposition activists to quash any signs of dissent.

He has branded dozens of them “foreign agents,” which implies increased vigilance and carries strong negative connotations. Several groups and media have been declared “undesirable”, which prevents their activity in Russia. Several Kremlin critics are in jail and dozens have fled the country for fear of persecution.

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