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Open Russia announces shutdown due to pressure on activists

Source: Kommersant

The nonprofit organization Open Russia (Otkrytaya Rossiya), which is linked to exiled former oil company executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is completely shutting down its operations in Russia and closing its regional branches. The organization’s executive director, Andrey Pivovarov, told the business newspaper Kommersant that this decision was made to protect the group’s supporters from criminal prosecution.

“All members of Open [Russia] have been expelled from the organization and their membership has been canceled to avoid possible persecution. We don’t need new fines and criminal cases, and we want to protect our supporters,” he said. 

Pivovarov added that the decision to dissolve Open Russia voluntarily is linked to the amendments to the law on “undesirable organizations” that were submitted to the Russian State Duma earlier this month. 

“These amendments will be adopted undoubtedly. And then the real hunt for our activists will begin. We can’t allow this, therefore we’re dissolving the organization ahead of time,” Pivovarov said.

In a comment to Meduza, Pivovarov confirmed that there are no plans to create a new organization to replace Open Russia. “There’s a high risk that this will be recognized as a continuation of [our] activities. Each supporter can act in an individual capacity, achieve our goals, and be a supporter of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. But the creation of a new structure is dangerous right now,” Pivovarov said.

Commenting on Open Russia’s decision to shut down, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Our political field is in no way limited to Open Russia. On the contrary, it’s much richer and more versatile. As such, [one group] leaving doesn’t imply clearing the political field absolutely.” 

The Russia-based nonprofit Open Russia isn’t formally included in the country’s list of “undesirable organizations.” However, this status was handed down to the Open Russia Civic Movement and OR (Otkrytaya Rossia), which are both linked to Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In 2019, Open Russia announced its dissolution, after which it established another entity under the same name, but the Justice Ministry refused to register it.

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The trials of Open Russia How the Russian government uses laws against ‘undesirable organizations’ to target activists from a single human rights group

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