U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has met with leading Russian human rights activists amid concerns about a crackdown by Russian authorities on civil society groups.
The meeting took place on May 8 in the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Moscow.
Among the activists was veteran rights campaigner Lyudmila Alekseyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, as well as members of other leading Russian rights groups.
Kerry told the activists at the start of the meeting that “everybody has great respect for your efforts.”
Speaking after the meeting, prominent rights activist Lev Ponomaryov had strong things to say about the current political developments in Russia.
“We are not only talking about the elimination of independent human rights and other movements — independent NGOs. We are saying that an unconstitutional coup is taking place in Russia,” Ponomaryov said.
“These are pretty serious words and serious accusations.”
More on this topic from RFE/RL.
While there are no reports that the issue of Radio Liberty was raised during the meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, both Lyudmila Alexeeva and Lev Ponomarev, as well as many other Russian human rights activists and civil society leaders had signed letters in defense of the fired Radio Liberty journalists. These letters were sent to Secretary Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, the White House, members of Congress, and members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
Russian human rights activists may consider the case of fired Radio Liberty journalists nearly closed after their earlier meeting in Moscow with BBG Governors Susan McCue and Michael Meehan. The two BBG members later issued a statement that they “have asked Acting RFE/RL President Kevin Klose and his team to continue their timely outreach now under way to all the former Radio Liberty journalists, whose expertise could assist in providing important insight and valuable analysis of the inner workings of Russia today.”
At the end of their May 3-7 visit to Moscow, BBG Board members Susan McCue and Michael Meehan released the following statement:
“Given the rapidly shrinking independent media across Russia over the past few months, we have asked the management of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Russian Service and Voice of America Russian Service to redouble US international media efforts in that country. After our many meetings in Moscow with a range of Russian media experts and champions of human rights and civil society, we believe it is critical to have the best, most experienced news reporters working for us covering Russia both inside and outside of the country.”
“In particular, we have asked Acting RFE/RL President Kevin Klose and his team to continue their timely outreach now under way to all the former Radio Liberty journalists, whose expertise could assist in providing important insight and valuable analysis of the inner workings of Russia today.
“We wish to underscore recent observations by Reporters Without Borders, which noted that ever since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency, the Russian government ‘has had a spate of repressive laws passed in order to prevent the growth of more freedom of information,’ and that this is ‘a crucial moment for freedom of information in that country.’
“Upon our return to Washington, DC, we intend to follow up on positive dialogues with Ambassador Michael McFaul and others about seeking creative partnerships to explore the potential of expanding platforms for distribution of our broadcasters’ programs. Radio Liberty is more critical than ever as Russia tightens the flow of communication throughout the country.”