UN Rights Chief Slams Russia’s ‘Repression’ Of Dissent Ahead Of Election


(RFE/RL) — The head of human rights for the United Nations has chided Russia for its throttling of “dissenting voices” prior to this month’s presidential election, adding that the death of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny added to concerns over the state of human rights in the country.

Speaking at a meeting of the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 4, Volker Turk pointed to the absence of opposition candidates over administrative technicalities in the March 15-17 election, which incumbent Vladimir Putin is expected to easily win, as fostering “serious concerns” about the election.

“The authorities have further intensified their repression of dissenting voices prior to this month’s presidential election,” he said.

“Several candidates have been prevented from running, due to alleged administrative irregularities. The death in prison of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny adds to my serious concerns about his persecution,” he added.

Russian elections are tightly controlled by the Kremlin and are neither free nor fair but are viewed by the government as necessary to convey a sense of legitimacy. They are mangled by the exclusion of opposition candidates, voter intimidation, ballot stuffing, and other means of manipulation.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s tight grip on politics, media, law enforcement, and other levers means Putin, who has ruled Russia as president or prime minister since 1999, is certain to win, barring a very big, unexpected development.

Earlier on March 4, the Supreme Court in Moscow rejected for the third time an appeal by Boris Nadezhdin, the one candidate seen as a legitimate opponent to Putin, over his exclusion from the election due to a technicality pertaining to the signatures submitted from supporters to back his candidacy.

Nadezhdin has said the invasion of Ukraine was a “fatal mistake” and accused Putin of dragging Russia into the past instead of building a sustainable future. His candidacy would have complicated the Kremlin’s more aggressive ambition of boosting the perception of legitimacy for Putin.

Navalny was once a leading opposition voice who attempted to run against Putin in 2018, only to be barred by the Central Election Commission (TsIK) over a conviction in a fraud case in what is widely seen as a politically motivated conviction.

The 47-year-old lawyer, who was Putin’s most vocal critic, died on February 16 in an Arctic prison. The circumstances of his death have not been clarified.

“I urge a swift and comprehensive review of all cases of deprivation of liberty that result from the exercise of fundamental freedoms; as well as an immediate end to the repression of independent voices and the legal professionals who represent them,” Volker said in his speech.

“The future of the country depends on an open space,” he added.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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