6 Human Rights Violations in Russia Where Snowden Has Asylum

To the chagrin, and the anger, of the U.S., Russia — quite likely with the direct approval of President Vladimir Putin — has granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor who exposed extraordinary government surveillance of metadata for cell phone calls and online communication has spent over a month in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after leaving Hong Kong, where he had first gone public about the leaked files back in June.

Snowden’s U.S. passport has been cancelled and Anatoly Kucherena, his lawyer in Russia, said that he now has a temporary document with which he can cross the border into Russia. Kremlin officials say that immigration officials, not Putin, were involved in the decision “though it is widely assumed here that any decision with such potentially severe diplomatic consequences would require approval from the Kremlin,” comments the New York Times.

Snowden is now at an undisclosed location. Via Wikileaks, he released a statement thanking Russian authorities and accusing the U.S. of acting illegally:

“Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning.”

“I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations.”

Russia did not seem to have warned the U.S. in advance about its decision. While some have speculated that the Russian government had been hiding Snowden, Kucharena denied such and said that Snowden will choose his own place of residence.

It goes without saying that Russia’s decision to grant Snowden asylum means that U.S.-Russia relations are now at a nadir recalling the Cold War era. President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend a summit with Putin at an upcoming G20 meeting in St. Petersburg in September but it is likely this could be cancelled. Obama’s attempts to improve relations with Russia have been criticized as “naive and inappropriate” by some, including Senator John McCain. In a statement on his website, McCain said that “Russia’s action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States. It is a slap in the face of all Americans..”

Snowden’s leaks have more than revealed the very troubling extent of government surveillance and infringements on Americans’ right to privacy. But, as many have repeatedly pointed out, Russia has long been accused of numerous violations of human rights abuses — Snowden must be careful, if he can, not to become part of Putin’s propaganda.

1. A new law banning “homosexual propaganda” that effectively criminalizes gay identity

On July 11, the Russian Duma passed a law that bans the promotion of ”propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, as Care2 blogger Steve Williams wrote. In effect, the law bans “transmitting knowledge of homosexuality in the public sphere.” Russians who break the gay gag rule face harsh fines. Non-Russians can be detained and also charged with fines.

Russia has also sought to ban gay couples from adopting Russian children, another sign of the “increasingly conservative agenda” the country has pursued since Putin again became president last year.

2. Serious concerns for the welfare of gay athletes who enter Russia

As a result of the gay gag rule, gay athletes planning to compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics have more than reason to be fearful they could be arrested

On Thursday, Russia’s minister of sports, Vitaly L. Mutko, said that gay athletes are welcome to attend the Games but that foreign athletes who come to Russia to compete would be expected to obey the gay gag rule or face criminal prosecution. Mutko’s comments are starkly in contrast to the International Olympic Committee saying last week that it had “received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”

3. The prosecution and imprisonment of two Pussy Riot members

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, two members of the punk collective Pussy Riot, have been imprisoned in penal colonies after being convicted last August on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for performing a punk prayer on the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February of 2012. The two women, who both have young children, have been denied parole.

4. The charges against Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky

A whistleblower who charged that Kremlin insiders played a major role in a plan to defraud the Russian government of more than $200 million in taxes, Magnitsky died in a pretrial prison of untreated pancreatitis in 2009. Rather than investigate the allegations he had brought, the Russian government had simply arrested him. Magnitsky was posthumously convicted of tax evasion earlier this summer.

5. Show trials of activists arrested in the 2011 protests

Twelve Russians who were arrested at an anti-Putin rally last May went on trial in June. Ten appeared in the court in the glass cage or “aquarium;” their detention has been extended by six months. Two other activists remain under house arrest and cannot leave Moscow.

6. Systematic raids on foreign NGOs

Proverka means “audit” or “inspection” in Russian but, as Human Rights Watch says, in reality it is “more like a raid.” During a proverka, officials from a number of department — taxes, health, security, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Migration Service — “swoop down without notice into the office of a non-governmental organization and ask lots of questions and demand loads of documents.”

According to a recent remark by Russia’s prosecutor general, all that a proverka is meant to do is to help officials “get to know” what NGOs do. As a result of these audit/inspection/raids, there have been nine court cases against NGOs for various alleged violations.


Photo via Wikimedia Commons


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago


simon short
Simon Short4 years ago

There is no doubt but that Putin's Russia is a corrupt and brutal Kelptocracy with little free speech.
How much more embarrassing that Ed Snowden has found this place to offer more free speech than the USA.
In the meantime, look at how well American Free Speech has supported the one man who opposed torture and illegal military actions - simply because he felt the oaths he took and the words of the Declaration of Independence were more important than his own career.
Bradley Manning. In prison for three lifetimes.
Russia also has principled people like Ed and Bradley who have ALSO been oppressed by their own government for speaking out against state corruption.
Pointing out that the US has a media controlled by massive corporations rather than by the people does NOT make those brave and principled Russians wrong.

Michael H.
Mike H4 years ago

Thank you for posting

Tanya M.
Tanya M4 years ago


3. I already spoke out about the Pussy Riot case here. Basically, the political part of it is bullshit. A group of hipsters kept doing inappropriate things until getting arrested. Why pushing it as "human rights" again? (and those colonies are not "penal")

4. As far as I know, it was worse then that.

5. I can't google it as those are unnamed people. But the provided link itself says "The charges include mass disorder and violence against police." So, they should be let go after being violent, right? "Ahead of the trial, state TV broadcast footage which it said showed the protests had been organised by opposition leaders and a Georgian lawmaker, with US money." What??? (I really like neither anti-Russia, nor anti-US propaganda).

6. I wouldn't even comment on it, sounds like gossip. "Proverka" means "check up", like check up points on roads. Audit sounds like "audit".

Tanya M.
Tanya M4 years ago

This article sounds like a backlash against Russia giving an asylum to Snowden. Who ordered it?

1. The "harsh fines" for locals and foreigners mentioned are 4000-5000 rubles or $122-152 (so harsh). It's only higher if it's an official (up to $1500) or a business (up to $30K). I just read the document (it's quite short) in the original Russian and used a currency calculator.

The document itself (no, it's not called anything "anti-gay", only media calls it so) is about amending the law concerning propaganda harmful to minors, such as porn. The new part is about pushing a preference for non-traditional sexual orientations in kids, not simply education. It's a questionable document (such as it doesn't define what includes "non-traditional" or how to measure preference or why it is needed at the first place), but not as evil as painted. Not sure where the “transmitting knowledge of homosexuality in the public sphere” came from, there is nothing close to it in the doc... Probably, lost in translation big time: "knowledge" used instead of "propaganda", "media" translated as "public sphere", take it out of context etc.

2. There is no "criminal prosecution" according to this law (only if those athletes practice pedophilia), those might be only administrative charges. I don't have time now to check who said what.

3. I already spoke out about the Pussy Riot case here. Basically, the political part of it is bullshit. A group of hipsters kept doing inappropriate

Andy Walker
Past Member 4 years ago

He's not exactly spoiled for choice!

Jacqueline M.

At Least Snowden is SAFE from the Nazi regime of AMERICA !!!

Arild Warud

USA is hardly in a position to critise other Countries.

Robyn Brice
Robyn Vorsa4 years ago

Russia needs to get rid of Putin and the rest of the Oligarchs if they are to become a democracy. Their stance against gays is absolutely disgusting and I will be boycotting the Olympics if they held in Russia.