Police raid on Russian human rights group draws condemnation

International human rights experts denounce ‘witch hunt’ against Nobel Prize-winning group Memorial on Tuesday.

Representatives of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates Yan Rachinsky, Natalia Pinchuk and Oleksandra Matviychuk waving from a balcony in Oslo, Norway.
Memorial chairperson Yan Rachinsky, seen here on the left, also reportedly had his home raided by police [File: Markus Schreiber/AP Photo]

Russian security forces have raided the homes of former employees of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights group Memorial on Tuesday, taking some of its members in for questioning, the group said.

Founded to document political repression in the Soviet Union, Memorial was officially banned in late 2021 after the authorities claimed it supported terrorism and extremism, charges that it called absurd.

Tuesday’s raids were carried out after Russian investigators accused the now-dissolved group of allegedly including the names of World War II-era Nazi collaborators on its list of historical victims of political terror.

Police confiscated items and equipment carrying the Memorial logo, the group said, and took some of its employees in for interrogation.

“At present searches of some of the employees are continuing — lawyers are not allowed to see them,” Memorial wrote on Telegram.

Memorial chairperson Yan Rachinsky, who collected the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the group in 2022, was also subject to a raid on his home, the group said.

The raids were condemned by rights groups internationally as well as what remains of Russia’s domestic opposition.

“By raiding the homes of members of Memorial, the Russian authorities are continuing their witch hunt against human rights defenders and activists,” Amnesty International’s Russia Director Natalia Zviagina said in a statement.

Opposition party Yabloko said the raids were a “new step” in Russia’s campaign of political repression.

“What happened is an example of the destructive battle against dissent in Russia,” it explained in a statement.

Since invading Ukraine in February 2022, President Vladimir Putin has accelerated Russia’s drive to suppress dissenting voices, including independent media, nongovernmental rights groups and political opponents.

Putin has his own Human Rights Council, a body that critics say has enabled him to pay lip service to civic freedoms while ramping up state oppression.

Last November, shortly before his annual meeting with the council, he removed 10 of its members and brought in four new ones including a pro-war blogger-correspondent.

Source: Reuters