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Putin expels human rights activists from Council for Human Rights, replaces them with pro-Kremlin politicians and propagandists

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree changing the composition of Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. The document was published on Russia’s Internet portal for legal information.

The decree excludes 10 people from the Council, among them Crew Against Torture founder Igor Kalyapin; executive secretary of the St. Petersburg Human Rights Council Natalia Evdokimova; director of the Sova Center for Information and Analysis Alexander Verkhovsky; and journalists Nikolay Svanidze, Ivan Zasursky, and Ekaterina Vinokurova.

Those who have joined the Council on Human Rights in their place include head of the executive committee of the All-Russia People’s Front Yuliya Belekhova; a deputy from the self-proclaimed DNR, Elena Shishkina; and war correspondent for the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, Alexander Kots.

Presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov commented on the change in the Council’s membership, saying, “In new circumstances, different people become public opinion leaders, and in new circumstances, different people can better represent civil society. They are the most correct reflection of civil society.”

On her exclusion from the Council, Natalia Evdokimova reported that the shuffle was a “relief” for her. “The current Council has no need for people who fight for something. They want people who support the authorities’ structures. Before, each of us was a creator and had our own voice. Now, everything comes from the presidential administration and the chairman of the Council, Mr. Fadeev. He passes his opinion off as ours,” she explained.

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Putin and the Council on Human Rights hold a yearly meeting in December. According to newspaper Kommersant, in 2022 most presentations will concern the war in Ukraine. In particular, says Kommersant, Nikolay Svanidze, recently removed from the Council, wanted to “raise the question of what amounts to a ban on anti-war speech, and the illegal discrediting of opponents of the war.”

In March, 2022, 13 members of the Council called on Russian authorities to halt combat immediately. The president’s November 17 order expelled most of them from the Council.

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