The appeal to the Council of Europe asking the Venice Commission for an urgent legal examination of the amendments to the Russian Constitution and the procedures for their adoption has been signed by more than a hundred thousand Russian citizens in a week. Among the many recent protests in Russia in response to what many have called a ’constitutional coup’ and an ‘usurpation of power’, this initiative has received the most active support of Russian citizens. A number of media outlets including “Ekho Moskvy”, “Meduza”, “Novaya Gazeta”, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, “Vedomosti” and others have written about the initiative and its strong support in the population.

Among the signatories of the appeal are well-known experts, lawyers and civic activists. Many of them also represent member organisations of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum: Stanislav Andreichuk, Elena Belokurova, Valeri Borshchev, Alexander Cherkasov, Valentin Gefter, Veronika Katkova, Sergei Lukashevsky, Magomed Mutsolgov, Lev Ponomarev, Irina Protasova, Olga Sadovskaya, Elena Shakhova, Dmitri Shevchenko, Liliya Shibanova, Andrei Suslov, Natalia Taubina, Mikhail Tumasov, Alexander Verkhovsky, Olga Zakharova and others.

On 19 March 2020 in the morning, the organisers of the initiative submitted an appeal to the Council of Europe – together with numerous signatures.

Yuri Dzhibladze, a co-organiser of the appeal and Coordinator of the Advocacy Group of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, said: ‘We hope that the voices of more than a hundred thousand citizens of Russia will be heard and that the Council of Europe will decide on an examination. The number of signatures under the petition significantly increased, after the Constitutional Court had adopted a positive opinion on the amendments and President Putin had signed the decree declaring 22 April 2020 the day of an “all-Russian voting” on their adoption. The actions of the authorities to push through anti-democratic changes to the Constitution and the ‘resetting of the presidential terms” causes a justified public protest. What also contributed to this form of protest is the ban on public meetings as part of quarantine measures, which prevents people from expressing their attitude towards usurpation of power by means of street protests. We believe it is important to combine a domestic action with the use of international instruments.’

The collection of signatures of Russian citizens under the appeal to the Council of Europe is still ongoing. Find the petition at www.change.org/popravki_konstitutsia