Press release

Russia: President Biden Should Hold Putin Regime Accountable for Authoritarian Abuses

In advance of the bilateral summit between President Biden and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Freedom House released the following statement:

“The summit between Presidents Biden and Putin is a valuable opportunity to set the terms of US­–Russia bilateral engagement, which must be firmly grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “President Biden should push for the Russian government to repeal the repressive anti-extremism and antiterrorism laws it abuses to silence opposition, activists, and journalists; stop its campaign of transnational repression, through which it harasses, kidnaps, and even assassinates oppositionists beyond its borders; release its political prisoners and open Russian prisons to an international investigation; cease its illegal and unacceptable interference in other nations’ elections and infrastructure; and do more to combat the many criminal cyberattacks emanating from Russia.”

“The United States has a wide array of tools for responding to the Kremlin’s actions, such as the Russia-specific Sergei Magnitsky Act, the Global Magnitsky Act, and the newly announced Khashoggi Ban,” Abramowitz added. “The Biden administration should use these tools to mobilize other democratic nations to respond to Russian repression of civil society, within and beyond its borders.”

Background

On June 16, President Biden will meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia for the first time in his presidency.

The Putin regime is one of the most repressive on earth. Since December 2019, the Kremlin has steadily ramped up pressure on civil society and independent media through a series of increasingly repressive “foreign agents” laws, which target institutions that receive any financial or organizational support from abroad. These restrictions have suffocated Russia’s remaining independent nongovernmental institutions and have put their people connected to them at increased risk of fines, raids, and arrests. Putin further consolidated power in 2020, when the country held a rigged referendum that gave him the right to rule through 2036, and which permits the president to remove judges from the Constitutional and Supreme Courts.

The Kremlin’s increasing transnational repression of opposition figures beyond its borders accounts for 7 of 26 known extraterritorial assassinations or attempts around the world since 2014, as well as assaults, detentions, unlawful deportations, and renditions in eight countries, mostly in Europe. Following the poisoning and subsequent arrest of Aleksey Navalny in late 2020, large-scale protests erupted across Russia, seemingly against Putin’s regime and its corruption. More than 17,000 anticorruption protesters were detained between January 23 and February 2, and police were recorded using brutal tactics against the demonstrators.

In September, Russia will hold parliamentary elections. Elections in Russia are neither free nor fair and primarily serve to provide the ruling regime with an illusion of legitimacy. The recent decision to designate Aleksey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and his political movement as extremist effectively bars any Navalny-backed opposition from running in the polls, thereby ensuring a supermajority for the ruling party.

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, and it is assessed as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2021.