Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Finnish-Russian Civic Forum

From Helsinki, Finland, news of a recent Finnish-Russian Civic Forum that was held on Suomenlinna - also known as Sveaborg, or Viapori, the inhabited sea fortress built on six islands within the city limits - on July 3-4. Participants included the following:

Lyudmila Alexeyeva- veteran human rights activist, founder and Chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of the foremost human rights organisations in Russia. Ms Alekseyeva is Cochairperson of the All-Russian Civic Congress and a Member of the Organising Committee of The Other Russia coalition.

Ivar Amundsen - Director of the Chechnya Peace Forum, based in London. He was friend to both slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko. Mr Amundsen is a long-time campaigner for human rights.

Oksana Chelysheva - Deputy Executive Director of the Nizhny Novgorod-based Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, which was refused registration in Russia. The society was then registered in Finland. The organisation is active in protecting the rights of Russia's Chechen minority and promoting interethnic dialogue.

Andrey Dmitriev - Co-coordinator of the anti-Putin opposition's The Other Russia coalition in St Petersburg. He is the former leader of the now banned National Bolshevik Party in St Petersburg. Mr Dmitriev has been active in organising the recent Dissenters' Marches in St Petersburg.

Olga Galkina - Member of the Regional Party Bureau of the liberal opposition party Yabloko's branch in St Petersburg. She is also one of the leaders of Yabloko's youth wing.

Heidi Hautala - Chairperson of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum. She is a Member of the Finnish Parliament, representing the Greens, and a former Member of the European Parliament. Ms Hautala was the Greens' candidate in the Finnish presidential elections in 2000 and 2006.

Neil Hicks - director of the Human Rights Defenders programme at New York-based Human Rights First. The programme assists human rights advocates under attack for their work. Mr Hicks is involved in campaigns including overseas missions, diplomatic advocacy, public education, and grassroots lobbying.

Mariana Katzarova - Founder and Director of the London-based peace group, RAW in WAR -"Reach All Women in War". RAW supports women human rights defenders in conflict areas. The organisation has recently launched a special Chechnya Project. Ms Katzarova is a former researcher on Russia for Amnesty International.

Andrei Kolomoysky - journalist at the Vyborg-based daily, Vyborgskie Vedomosti, specialising in political and cultural affairs, civic rights, and freedom of speech. In 2005, Mr Kolomoysky received the Danish Cultural Institute's prize, "Free Press in Russia". In Soviet times, he took an active part in St Petersburg's underground press ("samizdat").

Oleg Kozlovsky - Coordinator of the opposition youth movement, Oborona (Defence), in Moscow. Oborona is an active participant in the Dissenters' Marches. Mr Kozlovsky recently resigned from the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) in protest at the policies of the party leadership.

Olga Kurnosova - Chairperson of the St Petersburg branch of the United Civic Front, led by Mr Garry Kasparov. Ms Kurnosova is also a Cocoordinator of The Other Russia coalition and an active organiser of the Dissenters' Marches in St Petersburg.

Ruslan Kutaev - Coordinator of the All-Russian Civic Congress, an umbrella organisation of Russian opposition movements, in North Caucasus. He is a Member of the Organising Committee of The Other Russia coalition. Mr Kutaev is a former advisor to late Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

Dmitry Lanko - Assistant Professor at the Department of European Studies of the School of International Relations at the St Petersburg State University. His expertise in Political Science spans throughout the Baltic region.

Laura Lodenius - Executive Director of the Finnish Peace Association. The organisation is Finland's oldest peace advocacy group in operation. The association unites a dozen peace groups in Finland.

Vladimir Lysenko - Co-chairperson of the liberal Republican Party of Russia (RPR), which was closed down by the authorities. RPR is co-chaired by Mr Vladimir Ryzhkov. Mr Lysenko is a former long-time Deputy in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. He is President of the Institute of Modern Politics.

Jukka Mallinen - poet and translator of Russian literature. His most recent translation is Russian journalist Valery Panyushkin's book, "Khodorkovsky: The Prisoner of Silence". Mr Mallinen is Chairperson of the Finnish PEN society and Deputy Chairman of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum.

Yulia Malysheva - Chairperson of the Popular-Democratic Youth League, affiliated to Mr Mikhail Kasyanov's Popular-Democratic Union of Russia. Ms Malysheva is one of the organisers of the Dissenters' Marches in Moscow.

Alexander Mnatsakanyan - journalist who has worked as a war correspondent for various newspapers in Transdnestria, Abkhazia, and Chechnya. He has covered the conflict in Chechnya since the early 1990s. Mr Mnatsakanyan is responsible for the project on murdered journalists at the Moscow-based Glasnost Defence Fund.

Andrey Nekrasov - Russian documentarist and playwright from St Petersburg, most famous for his two films, "Disbelief" and "Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case". The latter, on the fate of the former KGB officer, Alexander Litvinenko, was screened at the 60th Film Festival in Cannes in May 2007.

Alexander Nikitin - Director of the St Petersburg branch of the Norwegian environmentalist organisation, Bellona. Mr Nikitin is a former submarine officer, who was charged with treason for contributing to Bellona's report on nuclear safety within Russia's Northern Fleet. He is Deputy Chairperson of the Green Russia fraction of Yabloko.

Grigory Pasko - free-lance journalist, specialising in environmentalist issues. As Editor of the newspaper of the Russian Pacific Fleet, "Boyevaya Vakhta", Mr Pasko disclosed the dumping of nuclear waste into the sea, for which he was convicted to three years in prison.

Yevgeny (Zakhar) Prilepin - Editor-in-Chief of the Nizhny Novgorod edition of "Novaya Gazeta". He is the author of several works of literature, including the novel "Sankya", which was shortlisted for Russia's Booker Prize in 2006. Mr Prilepin is a member of the banned National Bolshevik Party.

Aaron Rhodes - Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), based in Vienna. The IHF monitors compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and its follow-up documents.

Bart Staes - Belgian Member of the European Parliament, representing The Greens - European Free Alliance fraction. Besides environmental issues, Mr Staes has been active in promoting peace. His interests include Chechnya, Turkey, and the Balkans. He is former Chairman of the European Delegation to the EU-Russian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.

Mikael Storsjö - Secretary of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum. He is a vocal advocate of the right of the Chechen people to decide their own fate and an ardent critic of the ruling regime in Russia.

Nils Torvalds - long-time broadcast journalist. He works with the Finnish Broadcasting Company's(YLE) Swedish-language service. He served as YLE's correspondent in Moscow in 1995-1999. Mr Torvalds was recently elected Deputy hairperson of the Swedish People's Party.

Anu Tuukkanen - Country Expert at Amnesty International's Finnish section. She coordinates Amnesty Finland's campaigning on different countries. Russia is one of Amnesty Finland's ten priority regions.

Anastasia Udaltsova - spokesperson for the left-wing youth movement, Vanguard of Red Youth (AKM). The AKM is vocal in its opposition to the
policies of Russia's present government and has been an active participant in the Dissenters' Marches.

Furugzod Usmonov - contributor to the St Petersburg-based opposition newspaper, Delo. He has focused on the problems faced by Russia's ethnic minorities, especially those from Central Asia. Mr Usmonov has extensive knowledge about politics in both Russia and Central Asia.

Ksenia Vakhrusheva - member of the Coordinating Committee of the opposition youth movement, Oborona, in St Petersburg. Oborona is a movement of people who reject the injustices,corruption, and lies of officials.

Alexey Volynets - Editor-in-Chief of "Limonka", the newspaper of the banned National Bolshevik Party. The newspaper continues to be published despite an official ban. The name of the newspaper is a play on words on NBP's leader, Eduard Limonov, and is idiomatic Russian for a grenade.

The program of events (pdf) included a discussion of freedom of expression and "dissidentism" in Russia today, an inquiry into why the work of international human rights bodies is seen by the Russian government as interference in Russia's internal affairs, a screening of Andrei Nekrasov's film about the murder of Alexander Litrvinenko. My Friend Sasha, a discussion of whether a government based on the principles of law is really possible in Russia, and an examination of the present crisis in the North Caucasus, led by the Chechnya Peace Forum's Ivar Amundsen.
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