Via Rights in Russia:
The Russian authors of an article published in the French newspaper Le Monde write: "While European leaders proudly proclaim the beginning of a new era of cooperation with Russia, inside the country journalists, democracy advocates and dissidents are subjected to ever greater pressure."
The article was signed by Elena Bonner-Sakharova, Konstantin Borovoi, Vladimir Bukovsky, Natalia Gorbanevskaya, Andrei Illarionov, Garry Kasparov, Sergei Kovalev, Andrei Mironov, Andrei Nekrasov, Valeria Novodvorskaya, Oleg Panfilov, Grigory Pasko, Leonid Pliushch and Aleksander Podrabinek, reports Newsru.com citing InoPressa.
The authors write: "Journalists are being harassed when they criticize the government and criminal prosecution is not the greatest risk faced by those who do not "inform" public opinion in a "patriotic" manner. In 2009, about a dozen journalists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition were killed."
The government of Vladimir Putin, having shut the mouths of those who criticize its policies in the Caucasus, has now taken up with those who are doing this abroad, especially if they dare to speak in Russian, the authors note. These attacks are supported in Europe itself, the authors declare, and point to the case of the First Caucasian TV channel, whose broadcasts to Russia were terminated by the European company Eutelsat.
"Capitulating to the dictates of Moscow, Eutelsat is sending a clear message: a Russian-language television company that does not support the Kremlin's line will not be allowed to broadcast in the Russian Federation - even if this company is located outside Russian borders, and even if it has a signed contract with a European broadcaster," the authors note.
And the case of the First Caucasian is not unique, the article goes on to say. "Putin’s grand project of strengthening the "vertical of power" within the country, and returning to military imperialism in foreign policy, is fuelled by the connivance and complicity of some of the Europeans," the authors say.
Thus, the French government intends to sell Russia one or more Mistral helicopter carriers, and yet scarcely a year has passed since Russian tanks, as the signatories say, "occupied part of Georgia." They recall how NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that in such circumstances the co-operation that had existed hitherto with Russia was impossible.
Russian troops still remain in Georgia, yet NATO says it intends to strengthen its relations with the Putin regime, the article continues.
"While Moscow muzzles opposition media, eliminates dissenting journalists and intimidates its neighbours, European leaders have not been silent: they speak out for closer ties with the Russian government," the authors of the article write, expressing the belief that these leaders should stand up for freedom of speech and opposition media.
First of all, they should "remind European companies that they must not become instruments of Putin's censorship." European leaders, the signatories are convinced, must also show that “at the beginning of the XXI century a country cannot occupy the territory of other states with impunity.”
The human rights defenders conclude that European leaders must take a tough stance, and not sell arms to Russia, because "what is at issue is not only the freedom of Russian citizens and of Russia’s neighbouring countries, but the conscience and honour of Europe."