VII Forum of Free Russia: Traditional and New Topics

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Vilnius discussion platform for the Russian opposition gathers an increasing number of participants

On Saturday, June 8, the VII Free Russia Forum starts in Vilnius.

The Russian media are also showing great interest in this discussion platform of Russian and foreign experts discussing the foreign and domestic policies of the Putin regime. In this regard, it is interesting to note a recent article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which says: “A week before the deadline for accepting applications for participation, a record 440 people are already on the list. The FSR was previously considered a purely émigré event, but now 70% of applications came from Russia. “

In the program of the VII Forum of Free Russia, several traditional topics are announced: how will relations with Ukraine develop, civic activism in the regions, is it possible to criticize the Russian government while remaining a “Russophile”. A number of new topics have also appeared: the situation in Belarus, the boundaries of permissible cooperation with the authorities.

On the eve of the opening of the Vilnius Forum, the Voice of America Russian Service correspondent spoke with some of its participants.

“The Russian authorities helped us to promote this Forum”

The VII FSR will be opened by the discussion panel “Changing public attitudes in Russia”. Its moderator will be Ilya Ponomarev.

According to him, these changes are so obvious that even sociological services close to the authorities cannot hide them. “Their data indicate that the popularity of the country’s president has fallen not just to the level it was before the start of the aggression against Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, but to the lowest level ever since Putin was in the Kremlin. That is, by and large, it is clear that Putin still retains power, because he has no publicly recognized alternative, “Ponomarev notes..

And this situation, the oppositionist believes, is different from what it was in the first three years of the existence of the Forum of Free Russia, because then the opponents of the regime were dealing with a sufficiently popular government. Now the rating of the President of the Russian Federation is steadily declining.

Referring to the history of the Forum, Ilya Ponomarev notes that it was originally conceived by its founders as a discussion platform with a predominance of participants from Russia itself. “And only Russian propaganda claimed that this was an émigré forum, because from the very beginning it was not so. Of course, the Forum was founded on the initiative of several people in forced emigration, but solely for the reason that it is not possible to organize such a discussion platform inside Russia. And the fact that the Russian authorities helped us to promote this Forum is, as they say, a “medical fact”. No other Russian opposition structure has received such media attention that the Free Russia Forum received on the central Russian TV channels. For which we are undoubtedly very grateful to them, “Ilya Ponomarev concluded his comment..

Since 2018, the protest movement has noticeably intensified in Russia, the participants of which demand from the authorities to solve the problem of landfills and landfills. The most notable protest actions took place in the Moscow, Yaroslavl, Vologda, Tambov, Tula, Leningrad and Chelyabinsk regions. Now the largest protest actions are taking place in the Arkhangelsk region.

“What is happening in Russia is incredibly important”

The coordinator of the portal will be the moderator of the working group “Garbage authorities: new forms of civic activism in Russia” Evgeniya Chirikova. In a conversation with the Voice of America correspondent, she pointed out the double meaning of the group’s name: “It is clear that the current government in Russia is not suitable, and many people will come to the Forum to discuss it.

And during a discussion on an environmental topic, I want to show those inspiring trends that exist in Russia today. Namely: a healthy reaction of the people to the completely shameless actions of the authorities. Moreover, all over the country. Of course, we will have a member of the protest movement from Shies, Arkhangelsk Region, where people have been heroically fighting for months against the insane project of transferring garbage from Moscow..

We, of course, will represent Yekaterinburg with a protest against the construction of a church on the site of the park. And I also invited activists of the anti-waste movement from the Moscow region, which is also very powerful, “Chirikova said..

VII Forum of Free Russia: Traditional and New Topics

“I want to show how activists in Russia work from day to day, we will discuss specific things with them that, perhaps, will help keep the victory in Yekaterinburg. What should be the next step in order not to let the officials take this victory out from under their noses and not blurt it out, “she continued.

Speaking about the work of the Forum as a whole, Yevgenia Chirikova noted that in her opinion, the participants devote a “disproportionate amount of time” to criticizing Vladimir Putin, forgetting to discuss specific initiatives of civil society: “But what is happening in Russia is incredibly important, and I would like to give a voice to all civic activists. And, in the end, I hope that I will succeed “.

Another project that continues from forum to forum is the initiative to create an international public tribunal: “Information terrorism of Putin’s television and its victims”.

“We are preparing an indictment on participants in the information war”

Among the co-rapporteurs who will speak on this topic will be the co-founder of the 19/29 Fund investigative journalism community Galina Sidorova. In an interview with a correspondent for the Russian service of the Voice of America, she said that she was part of a group of journalists actively collecting materials for this tribunal. “At present, this work is actively underway, we are preparing an indictment against the participants in the information war, especially since they call themselves that. These are the specific people on whom we collect materials. Because, in our opinion, there is a violation of not just the ethical principles of journalism, which, of course, is also happening. But, there is also a violation of laws, including Russian.

We are trying to analyze the texts of these “participants in the information war”, the website of the tribunal will be presented at the Forum. And I hope that ahead of us is a conference on the topic of the tribunal on information terrorism, ”concluded Galina Sidorova.

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