A court in Moscow on Wednesday decided to close Russia’s oldest human rights organization.
The Moscow court supported the Russian Ministry of Justice’s request to close the Moscow Helsinki Group. The ministry has accused the organization of violating its legal registration in Moscow by working on human rights cases outside the Russian capital, allegations the group denounced as “meticulous and absurd”.
The Moscow Helsinki Group was founded in 1976 and demanded freedom for political prisoners and the establishment of democratic rights.
One of the group’s founders was Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a human rights pioneer and dissident who spent decades challenging the Soviet and Russian regimes. In 2017, on her 90th birthday, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid her a personal congratulations and thanked her for her work. She died in 2018.
In December 2021, Russian authorities shut down another prominent human rights group founded during the Soviet era: Memorial. The group said it will find ways to keep operating regardless.
A number of Russian rights groups and legal aid organizations have moved to operating as informal entities in recent years to avoid being hit by restrictive laws.
For the past two years, the Kremlin has cracked down on rights groups, independent media outlets and opposition activists, suppressing any sign of dissent.
Scores have been labeled “foreign agents,” a label that implies additional government scrutiny and carries strong negative connotations. Some groups and media outlets were declared “undesirable” – a label that bans organizations in Russia. Several vocal critics of the Kremlin have been jailed and dozens have left the country for fear of persecution.