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Avoiding War With Magnitsky-Pussy Riot Sanctions

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezha Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot at the European Union Parliament on Tuesday.
BRUSSELS – The world has watched with fear in the past months, as the unfolding of the crisis in Ukraine has led to a Russian military escalation on the country's eastern border and the annexation of Crimea. Is Russia preparing for war – and if yes, how can the war be stopped? One method could be to try to curb the actions of those responsible, the political and economic elite, by freezing their foreign assets and denying them visas to the US and Europe.
Sergei Magnitsky
Such an effort to globally stop corrupt or criminal Russian officials has already been made in the form of the Magnitsky list, advocated and campaigned for by Bill Browder. The Magnitsky list has sought to place visa sanctions and asset freezes on those Russian officials responsible for the death in prison of Sergei Magnitsky, who while working as a lawyer for Bill Browder's Hermitage Capital uncovered a massive tax fraud to the tune of 230 million USD – stolen from the Russian people. Corrupt officials and organized crime groups had granted themselves the biggest tax-refund in Russian history as a Christmas present, by taking over Browder's company in Russia, changing the books and claiming back the tax he had paid on profits. Magnitsky was imprisoned by the same people he had caught in a criminal act, and just as the legal limit of one year of imprisoning a person without a trial expired, he died in prison in excruciating conditions, having been tortured, beaten and denied appropriate medical care.

Cinema for Peace has supported Bill Browder's work with the Magnitsky list and advocated for its implementation in the US and Europe since Bill Browder had been honored with the Cinema for Peace Award for Justice along with the film "Justice for Sergei".

 

Nadezha Tolokonnikova and Bill Browder
in Brussels at Cinema for Peace Meeting
Pussy Riot's campaigning for human rights in Russia and worldwide has continued this week in Europe and the US, where they were endorsed by potential next US president Hillary Clinton and interviewed on The Today Show and Charlie Rose. In Brussels, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezha Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot took part in a hearing in the European Parliament on the human rights situation in today's Russia. During an additional public event at the parliament by invitation from Werner Schulz  in a more than packed auditorium Cinema for Peace screened excerpts of the film "Pussy vs. Putin", before Nadezha and Maria gave their public statements. They expressed their opinion that sanctions should be avoided against the Russian people, and should only be laid on the up to 300-500 people constituting the ruling elite, following the example of Browder's Magnitsky-list, which had been signed by Barack Obama into effect last year.    

Cinema for Peace hosted a meeting in Brussels between Pussy Riot and Bill Browder, who met for the first time and discussed the sanctions of the Magnitsky-list. This list shall be expanded with further people who are involved in breaching human rights and the rule of law in Russia. 

The following day the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Council to introduce its own version of  "Magnitsky-list" sanctions against Russia, which consists of 32 Russian individuals.  “The EU should deny visas to and freeze the EU assets of 32 Russian officials involved in the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, its judicial cover-up and the continuing harassment of his family,” the EU Parliament statement said on Wednesday. 

Cinema for Peace, Pussy Riot and Bill Browder all call for sanctions to help avoid a war that would take a costly toll on human lives: pushing for asset freezes and visa restrictions on Putin's elite, in a way that would prohibit them from enjoying the life of travel and luxury they are used to. The hope is that such measures would help to prevent Russia's political elite from waging a war.

The key points of Pussy Riot's speech at the European Parliament as published in the Huffington Post were:

1. The threat of an iron curtain exists.

Putin wants a new Iron Curtain to fall between Europe and Russia. He is doing everything for that. The TV screens spew shameless anti-western propaganda akin to that in the Soviet Union during the cold war.

2. Resistance to the Iron Curtain.

The people of Russia do not need the Iron Curtain. Who needs it is Putin, his officials and oligarchy to keep on with their shameless propaganda and oil and gas money-grabbing. To them everyone around is the enemy. Except Putin. The one that allows his cronies to earn 138 mln rubles a month in wages, like Igor Sechin does.

Putin and his team live by Gegel's maxim: "If facts contradict my theory, so much the worse for the facts". This is the underlying principle of all the Russian media seized by Putin's team. 



3. YES - to expanding sanctions against Putin's official and oligarchy.

The EU should turn to strict sanctions against the Russian elite responsible for aggression in Ukraine and corruption. The list of people under sanctions should grow. 

4. NO - to sanctions against ordinary Russians.

The sanctions should not affect the Russian people. The saction list should only include the members of Putin's elites responsible for aggression in Crimea and robbing Russia. 

5. YES - to expanding contacts between Russia and Europe and lightening the visa regime for Russians.

We must not let Putin build an Iron Curtain he'll benefit from. We need more cultural, social and human rights contacts between Russia and the West. We advocate easening the visa regime with the EU for ordinary Russian citizens – they should have a chance to visit Europe and see everything for themselves without relying on the propaganda.

6. Aid to the people of Crimea from Europe.

The people of Crimea are in a tough legal situation due to the region passing under Russian control and may face problems getting visas to European countries. But if the EU turns their backs on them, Crimea will be left one on one with Putin's oligarchs and crooks from the EU's sanction list that will build villas on the pristine shores of Crimea and throw to jail those who raise their voices against such treatment of the Crimean nature. 

7. We suggest expanding the Putin's elite sanction list.


The Pussy Riot duo continued their journey on Friday to the Women in the World Summit in New York, where they met Hillary Clinton on Thursday and participated in a panel discussion on Friday.

On Sunday Pussy Riot will travel to Los Angeles, where a screening of the film "Pussy vs. Putin" will take place at the Harmony Gold Theater at 4.30 PM.

We invite you to watch the following films:
  • PUSSY VS. PUTIN by Gogol's Wives
  • PUSSY RIOT - A PUNK PRAYER by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin follows the court cases on the Russian feminist/anti-Putinist punk-rock protest group Pussy Riot. Winner of the Cinema for Peace Most Valuable Documentary of the Year 2014 award.
  • JUSTICE FOR SERGEI by Hans Hermans and Martin Maat, winner of the "Cinema for Peace Award for Justice 2012", is a documentary film on Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in November 2009 at the age of 37 under excruciating circumstances in a Moscow detention centre.

WATCH THE CINEMA FOR PEACE TRAILER OF THE WEEK: