20 years under Putin: a timeline

On October 22, the Institute of Modern Russia, Freedom House, and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice co-hosted an exhibit on Capitol Hill commemorating the tenth anniversary of the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most prominent political prisoner.


David Kramer (left) and Pavel Khodorkovsky at the opening of A Decade of Injustice exhibit.


The photo exhibit, entitled A Decade of Injustice, highlighted not only the case of Khodorkovsky, who was arrested on October 25, 2003, but also other cases that have come to symbolize political repressions in Russia: those of the slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the late anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, members of the Pussy Riot band, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the “Bolotnaya Square prisoners.”

Unveiling the exhibit, IMR President Pavel Khodorkovsky emphasized that “the stories we have highlighted here today are just some of the few stories that came to be well-known,” and that “there are many other fates and destinies that have been altered by the Russian government in this path of oppression of its own people. . . . My father’s story, as Russia's most recognized political prisoner, has become a symbol of all that is wrong in Russia today. It is the story of government intimidation, government corruption, the manipulation of courts, torture, and institutionalized oppression.”

Representing the presidency of the European Union, Ambassador Žygimantas Pavilionis of Lithuania said that many people in his country have fond memories of the hundreds of thousands of Russians who held rallies in support of Lithuania’s independence in the early 1990s, and that Lithuania will always be ready to share its knowledge and experience of democratic transition with the Russian people.

Freedom House President David Kramer stressed the imperative for leaders of the democratic world to do more to stand up for human rights and the rule of law in Russia through such steps as fully implementing the Magnitsky Act and occasions such as the upcoming Sochi Olympics to bring global attention to human rights abuses. “We need to hold our leaders to account to make sure that they uphold the principles of democracy and human rights against what Freedom House has called the worst crackdown against human rights and civil society since the breakup of the Soviet Union,” Kramer said. “I think back to 2003 and the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which was arguably the main tipping point in this direction, when we, including myself, in the Bush administration didn’t do enough. I hope we don’t repeat that mistake again.”

Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation and daughter of the late U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, noted that the anniversary for the exhibit is not a pleasant one but expressed confidence that Mikhail Khodorkovsky would soon be welcomed on Capitol Hill in person. She particularly noted that “we are seeing increasing signs of the Russian people saying: ‘No more. We are ready to be citizens, we are ready to take responsibility for the future of our nation. We are ready to pay the price, the very hard price for real freedom, real democracy, real human rights, real rule of law, real legitimacy for the country we love.’”

Video highlights of the event are available here.

Russia under Putin

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