Blogpost by Kumi Naidoo
Today marks my third visit to Russia, the last being in 2006 when I had the privilege of meeting President Putin to talk about the freedoms with which NGOs can operate in this country. In a curious turn of events, and some six years later, both Putin and freedoms are still very much in the news.
You can take your pick from any number of scandals currently making headlines in Russia: planned legislation aimed at hampering NGO activity and the right to protest, draconian laws aimed at internet censorship – even the fallout from the recent performance by punk group Pussy Riot, which has garnered international attention.
What is different, between my last visit and now, however, is the scale and unbridled nature of the public’s response. Russians have taken to the streets en masse to protest the shrinking democratic space in their country – up to 100,000 at various times in Moscow alone to speak out against Putin’s rule. It’s clear that Russians are no longer prepared to tolerate civil injustices and are increasingly prepared to speak up fearlessly in their own defense. Continue reading