On 4 March Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, met with representatives of Russian civil society and Amnesty International to discuss the current situation of non‑governmental organisations in Russia.
The meeting at the Federal Foreign Office was overshadowed by the murder of the prominent Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. Speaking before the meeting, Roth said: “This cowardly murder has shocked us all deeply. We offer our profound sympathy to the family. I am very concerned that the climate of hostility in Russia towards those who think differently is becoming more widespread. It is therefore all the more important that a critical Russian civil society maintains its commitment and makes its voice clearly heard.”
In the talks with the Director of the Sakharov Centre in Moscow, Sergei Lukashevsky, and the former Director of the Memorial Centre for the History of Political Repression Perm-36, Tatiana Kursina, as well as with representatives of Amnesty International, participants shared the concerns they have about their deteriorating working conditions. Laws focusing on critical civil society are hampering their work considerably. Compulsory registration as “foreign agents” is just one example of how non‑governmental organisations are being stigmatised.
Extending cooperation with Russian civil society
Following the meeting Minister of State Roth emphasised: “Vibrant, democratic societies urgently need critical civil societies to help people form their own opinions without fear of repression. The Federal Government is determined to build on civil society cooperation with Russian partners in such areas as education and culture as well as youth exchange. We have agreed to stay in close contact.”