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Thursday, 12 March 2015 - Strasbourg
Murder of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and the state of democracy in Russia

European Parliament resolution of 12 March 2015 on the murder of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and the state of democracy in Russia (2015/2592(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous reports and resolutions on Russia, in particular its resolutions of 23 October 2012 on establishing common visa restrictions for Russian officials involved in the Sergei Magnitsky case(1), of 13 June 2013 on the rule of law in Russia(2), of 13 March 2014 on Russia: sentencing of demonstrators involved in the Bolotnaya Square events(3), of 23 October 2014 on the closing-down of the NGO ‘Memorial’ (winner of the 2009 Sakharov Prize) in Russia(4), and of 15 January 2015 on Russia, in particular the case of Alexei Navalny(5),

–  having regard to the statement of the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, of 28 February 2015 on the murder of Boris Nemtsov,

–  having regard to the statement by the VP/HR of 4 March 2015 on the continued detention of Nadiya Savchenko,

–  having regard to the statement by the spokesperson for the VP/HR of 3 March 2015 on the refusal to allow MEP Sandra Kalniete to enter the territory of the Russian Federation,

–  having regard to the statement by the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin, of 4 March 2014 on public demonstrations in Moscow and the steps taken by the law enforcement agencies,

–  having regard to the EU-Russia human rights consultations of 28 November 2013,

–  having regard to the existing Agreement on partnership and cooperation (PCA) establishing a partnership between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Russian Federation, of the other part, and to the suspended negotiations for a new EU‑Russia agreement,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Boris Nemtsov, the former Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, the former Governor of Nizhny Novgorod, a preeminent reformist of the post-Soviet Russian society and economy and one of the leaders of Russia’s liberal and democratic opposition, was murdered near the Kremlin two days before a demonstration scheduled for 1 March 2015, which he was organising, against the effects of the economic crisis and the conflict in Ukraine;

B.  whereas in the weeks before his assassination Boris Nemtsov was investigating Russia’s participation in the Donbas conflict and had the intention of publishing a report on the issue; whereas five men have been arrested over the killing of Boris Nemtsov, but it is not clear whether any of those detained fired the fatal shots; whereas the Russian authorities did not allow some Members of the European Parliament and some national delegations to enter the Russian Federation, thereby preventing them from attending the funeral of Boris Nemtsov;

C.  whereas Boris Nemtsov was a strong advocate for a modern, prosperous and democratic Russian Federation, open to the world;

D.  whereas the Russian Federation, as a full member of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has committed itself to the universal principles of democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights;

E.  whereas the human rights situation in Russia has been deteriorating in recent years and the Russian authorities have adopted a series of laws containing ambiguous provisions which are used to place further restrictions on opposition and civil society actors and hinder the freedoms of expression and assembly; whereas the Justice Ministry has used newly introduced powers to brand 42 groups as ‘foreign agents’, including the country’s most expert and authoritative human rights organisations, and has used bureaucratic pretexts to try to close down several other groups; whereas in January 2015 the Duma took the first step towards approving a new law that would prohibit the activities of ‘undesirable’ foreign organisations;

F.  whereas Parliament has expressed its concern on numerous occasions over the state of democracy in Russia, and the systematic failure to uphold the rule of law and respect fundamental rights; whereas the rule of law, fair trial standards, due process and the independence of the judiciary are not respected in Russia; whereas the last presidential and State Duma elections failed to meet OSCE standards;

G.  whereas several trials and judicial proceedings over the last few years, including the Navalny, Magnitsky, Khodorkovsky and Politkovskaya cases, have cast doubt on the independence and impartiality of the judicial institutions of the Russian Federation; whereas these high‑profile cases are merely the most well-known cases outside Russia of what amounts to a systematic failure by the Russian state to uphold the rule of law and to deliver justice to its citizens;

H.  whereas there is an increasing need for a united, firm, coherent and comprehensive EU policy towards Russia, supported by all the Member States, with support and assistance backed up by firm and fair criticism on the basis of the universal values that both the EU and Russia have agreed to uphold;

I.  whereas the EU has repeatedly offered assistance and expertise to Russia, through the Partnership for Modernisation, to strengthen the rule of law, meet its international obligations and develop its full economic potential;

J.  whereas on 19 February 2015 Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was sentenced to 15 days in prison for handing out leaflets to publicise a forthcoming demonstration; whereas on 30 December 2014 a court imposed a 3,5-year suspended sentence on him and a 3,5-year prison sentence on his brother, Oleg Navalny;

K.  whereas on 4 March 2015 a Moscow court rejected another appeal from Nadiya Savchenko against her illegal detention by the Russian Federation, lodged with reference to her immunity as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); whereas by 4 March 2015 Ms Savchenko had been on hunger strike for 82 days, and whereas, after such an extended period of time, she faces the risk of permanent damage to her health, or death;

L.  whereas six months have passed since the abduction of Estonian police officer Eston Kohver by the Russian security services on Estonian territory, in violation of international law; whereas he continues to be illegally detained in Lefortovo prison in Moscow; whereas he is not receiving adequate legal aid, has been deprived of his right to a fair trial and has been ordered to undergo an unjustified psychiatric examination, the details of which remain unknown;

M.  whereas the European Endowment for Democracy is targeting the issue of plurality of the Russian media, and whereas, together with its partners, it is invited to develop new media initiatives;

N.  whereas the wreckage and black boxes of the Tu-154 Polish Government aeroplane, which crashed near Smolensk in April 2010, killing the Polish president and prominent members of political, military and cultural circles, are still in Russia’s hands; whereas the Russian authorities refuse to return them to Poland despite numerous appeals to do so;

1.  Strongly condemns the killing of Boris Nemtsov in the most significant political assassination in recent Russian history, in which he was shot dead near the Kremlin, in an area with video cameras, police and security services;

2.  Pays tribute to Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition leader, a founder and leader of the political movement Solidarnost and a leading critic of President Vladimir Putin and of the war in Ukraine who committed his life to a more democratic, prosperous, open Russia and to strong partnerships between Russia and its neighbours and partners; extends its deepest condolences to Boris Nemtsov’s family and friends, members of the opposition and the Russian people; condemns the Russian leadership’s decision to prevent some EU diplomats and national delegations from attending his funeral, thereby impeding the EU’s attempt to pay tribute to brave Russian citizens standing for universal values;

3.  Points out that his killing is one of a growing number of unresolved politically motivated murders and suspicious deaths perpetrated in Russia since 1998, which include those of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, who was allegedly murdered in the United Kingdom, lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalist Anastasia Baburova, human rights defender Natalya Estemirova, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, and now politician Boris Nemtsov;

4.  Notes the arrest of five suspects of Chechen origin announced by the Russian authorities;

5.  Requests an independent international investigation into the murder; takes the view that the instruments available within the framework of the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the United Nations would help to ensure an impartial and fair investigation;

6.  Asks the Council, the Commission and the Member States, in framing their future policy towards Russia, to take into account the fact that the political atmosphere which the Russian authorities have created has prepared fertile ground for such murders, violence and pressure; is alarmed by the atmosphere of hatred directed against opposition activists, human rights defenders, minorities and neighbouring nations, which has been growing in Russia in recent years, instigated by state propaganda and official media as part of a political culture that distances itself from democratic principles;

7.  Calls on the authorities of the Russian Federation to stop the shameful propaganda and information war against its neighbours, the Western world and its own people, which is turning Russia into a state characterised by repression, hate speech and fear, where nationalist euphoria is built on the annexation of Crimea and an escalating war in Ukraine, where the rights of the Crimean Tatars are violated and where the Kremlin, in breach of international law, is cultivating and provoking hatred and fighting; condemns the new propaganda war being waged against democratic and fundamental values, which are presented as being alien to Russian society; recalls that both the European Union and the Russian Federation have committed, in numerous international declarations and treaties, to protecting universal democratic values and fundamental rights; stresses the importance of having political opposition forces, in order to ensure a constant debate and exchange of views and ideas in politics and in law-making processes in Russia;

8.  Calls on the Russian authorities to stop all pressure, repressive acts and intimidation – both political and judicial – against opposition leaders, civil society representatives and independent media, allowing them to act freely in line with the basic principles of the Russian constitution;

9.  Is deeply worried by Russia’s failure to observe its international legal obligations as a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, and to uphold fundamental human rights and the rule of law; takes the view that the Russian Federation should meet the obligations to which it has signed up; deplores the fact that recent developments show that Russia has moved in a direction contrary to that of a functioning democracy, which includes respect for the opposition, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary;

10.  Deeply deplores the Russian authorities’ failure to respond to the criticism both inside the Russian Federation and on the international scene of the Law on Foreign Agents, and their adoption instead of amendments which restrict even further the possibilities for non‑commercial organisations to act and are discriminatory by their nature; strongly calls on Russia to review the relevant legislation with a view to meeting its international obligations in the area of human rights and democratic freedoms;

11.  Welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision of 28 January 2015 to reject the complaint filed by the Ministry of Justice requesting the closure of the ‘Russian Memorial Society’ and alleging infringements within its organisational structure, and calls for the other NGOs on the ‘foreign agents’ list to be removed from it;

12.  Calls on the Russian authorities to immediately release all recognised political prisoners;

13.  Calls on the Russian authorities, as a matter of urgency, to release Nadiya Savchenko and to respect her immunity as a member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and of the PACE, who was abducted in the territory of Ukraine and is being illegally detained in a Russian jail; underlines the fact that Russia bears responsibility for her very fragile state of health; expresses its deep concern about her health condition and urges the Russian judicial authorities to apply humanitarian law;

14.  Condemns the abduction of Estonian police officer Eston Kohver from Estonian territory to Russia; calls for his immediate release and safe return to Estonia;

15.  Believes that Russia remains an important global player and that it is in the EU’s and Russia’s strategic interest to swiftly de-escalate and restore relations through diplomacy and mediation, provided that this is done with due respect for international law and OSCE commitments;

16.  Expresses its support for democratic forces in Russia, which are committed to an open society and a reformist agenda;

17.  Urges the Council to develop a unified policy towards Russia that commits the 28 EU Member States and the EU institutions to a strong common message concerning the role of human rights in the EU-Russia relationship and the need to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, assembly and association in Russia; is of the view that an EU strategy should be aimed at getting Russia to fully respect the OSCE principles and at motivating Russia’s leadership to move it out of its political and economic self-isolation;

18.  Urges the VP/HR, supported by the EEAS and the Commission, to develop a stronger programme of support for Russian civil society in Russia and occupied Crimea, and to seek and develop new opportunities to engage with it with the aim of promoting the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law; calls for the EU, with regard to the ongoing programming phase of the EU financial instruments, to increase its financial assistance to Russian civil society through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the funding for civil society organisations and local authorities, and to include the EU‑Russia Civil Society Forum in the Partnership Instrument with a view to ensuring sustainable and credible long-term support;

19.  Reiterates its concern, as expressed in its previous resolutions, regarding the Russian authorities’ failure to cooperate with the independent and international investigation into the shooting‑down of flight MH17; strongly underlines the fact that the amnesty arrangement made under the Minsk Agreement cannot be applied to the perpetrators of this crime, so that they are not entitled to any amnesty;

20.  Calls on the Russian authorities to immediately return the wreckage of the Tu-154 Polish Government aeroplane and all of its black boxes to Poland; underlines the fact that the level of dependence of the Russian judiciary on the authorities undermines any impartial and honest investigation;

21.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the President, Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation.

(1) OJ C 68 E, 7.3.2014, p. 13.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0284.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0253.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0039.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0006.

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