EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2016

Human rights and governance

25 - Political freedom in Russia

Grade: B-
Unity 5/5
Resources 2/5
Strategy 3/5
Impact 2/5
Total 12/20
Scorecard 2015: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2014: C (8/20)

Political freedoms in Russia continued their downhill slide, with many European organisations banned, but the EU could do little

In 2015, it became still more dangerous to be an opposition politician in Russia. In February, both Russia and Europe were shaken by the murder of the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov close to the Kremlin wall in central Moscow. The perpetrators of the murder were arrested, but those who ordered it remain at large. In January, a fabricated case against another opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, took a nasty turn when the court jailed his brother – who is also his business partner – which Navalny’s allies said constituted “taking relatives hostage”.

In May 2015, Putin signed the “undesirable organisation law”, a follow-up to the 2012 “foreign agent law”. The legislation gives prosecutors the power to declare foreign and international organisations “undesirable” and shut them down. Prominent institutions such as the Carnegie Moscow Center are at risk, as well as the local representatives of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Several other international organisations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy and the MacArthur Foundation, have already been shut down or left the country. In November, two foundations created by Open Society Foundations founder George Soros were banned in Russia.

New legislation restricts foreign ownership of the media: a law signed in January that bans foreigners from owning more than 20 percent of any media channel has prompted foreign investors to sell up, and threatens the remaining reputable publications, such as the business daily Vedomosti (which includes the Financial Times and Dow Jones among its owners). Private and independent TV channels such as Dozhd are struggling with a law that banned advertising on cable and satellite channels from 2015.

European governments and the EU have little power to affect the developments inside Russia, but are learning to support Russian organisations that have moved their activities to the West.