All information agencies in Nizhny Novgorod refused EU-Russia Civil Society Forum without explanations to provide space for a press-conference ahead of summit; the last of them being Rosbalt Information Agency which informed the Forum it could not hold the press-conference in Rosbalt’s premises just a few hours before the event was to take place, although it had previously agreed so. According to informal information available to the Forum’s representatives, decisions to refuse space were taken under pressure from local police and the FSB.
On June 8, the main local organizer of Forum’s events during the summit Olga Sadovskaya, a member of its Steering Committee of EU-Russia Civil Society Forum’s, and a vice-chair of the organization “Committee against Torture”, was invited to the prosecutor’s office to give explanations about planned events of the Forum: a meeting with local civil society organizations, a press-conference and also a meeting with officials participating in the EU-Russia summit. Moreover, during these days her credit cards were suddenly blocked due to unknown reasons, license plates from her car were missing and because of that police officers took away her driving license despite that fact that she asked the same police officers for help beforehand.
“In our opinion, such steps hardly can be justified by the security measures during the summit. We can’t understand why the local authorities want to prevent us from undertaking Civil Society Forum activities”, – said Stefan Melle, head of German-Russian Exchange and EU-Russia Civil Society Forum Steering Committee member. “The work of this platform is absolutely open and aims at constructive dialogue and cooperation with governments of both EU and Russia. This can include criticism of one side or another when civil initiatives find grounds for it. For us this is a natural part of open society and democratic government based on rule of law”, adds Natalia Taubina, head of Public Verdict Foundation, another member of the Steering Committee. Local sources also informed that in the last days law enforcement officials conducted conversations with a few civic activists and participants of opposition movements and warned them against conducting any public actions during EU-Russia summit and efforts to pass any information to the summit participants; those who reside outside of Nizhny Novgorod were told not come to the city and were promised to have inspections at their work place and homes.
EU-Russia Civil Society Forum parallel events during EU-Russia Summit in Nizhny Novgorod, including a press-conference, is planned to inform the public about establishment of the Forum, its goals and plans, to meet local NGOs as well as official attending the Summit.
For additional information contact:
Olga Sadovskaya, Committee against Torture, Russia (Russian, English): +7 951 902 43 84
Stefan Melle, German-Russian Exchange (German, Russian, English): +7 911 213 53 73