Moscow (AsiaNews) - US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) was particularly harsh in its criticism of Russia for backsliding on human rights to the extent that 2012 was its worst year since the Soviet collapse. In its annual report released today, the NGO, which is funded by business magnate George Soros, said that 2012 saw the "worst crackdown" since the end of the Soviet Union.
For HRW Europe and Central Asia Director Hugh Williamson, the situation is cause for great concern. Given the number of repressive laws adopted by Russia, its civil society "needs support now more than ever," he said.
After mass protests broke out following allegations of vote rigging in Russia's December 2011 parliamentary elections, many Russians have become involved in civic activism after 12 years of apathy under Putin.
This has led to a crackdown in the wake of Putin's third presidential inauguration in May 2012. Russian authorities have in fact adopted a series of measures to tighten controls on the Internet and foreign-funded NGOs, as well as limit freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate.
Recently, two US-based NGOs, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), have moved their Russian employees and their families out of Russia, fearing persecution after the country passed new treason laws, which now deem foreign funding, technical support and consultancy as a threat to the Russian federation. Anyone convicted under the new laws could get up to 20 years in prison.
For Moscow, US-funded NGOs have always tried to interfere and influence Russia's internal affairs. However, for Williamson, "Russia's backsliding on human rights is completely at odds with being a responsible leader in a multi-polar world."