Authorities in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod sabotaged the holding of an international conference in memory of the slain journalist and human rights defender, Anna Politkovskaya. The event was to have been held on 5-6 October 2007.
The organisers, the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance and the Nizhny Novgorod edition of the independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, will now hold a series of press conferences on the background to the planned event as well as on the pressure on civil society in Nizhny Novgorod and Russia as a whole.
The international conference in memory of Anna Politkovskaya was to have been held in Nizhny Novgorod on 5-6 October 2007. The event was to have included meetings between invited public figures from Russia and abroad, concerts of artists from St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, and Italy, as well as meetings of people whose fates were affected by Anna Politkovskaya’s writings. Victims of the armed conflict in Chechnya and terrorist attacks in Moscow and Beslan, journalists, and human rights activists had planned to attend the meetings as well.
The organisers had booked rooms at Nizhny Novgorod’s Hotel Oktyabrskaya for two foreign guests, Mr John Squier, Senior Program Officer for Russia and Ukraine at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and Ms Anne-Laurence Lacroix, Deputy Director of the World Organisation Against Torture. The hotel announced on 4 October that the two rooms could not be used due to a water leakage. At the same time, rooms not occupied by guests to the conference had no sign of any leakage.
Earlier, police raided the offices of the Foundation to Promote Tolerance and seized its computers as part of an investigation on possible “extremist activities” by the organisation. The police also raided the editorial offices of Novaya Gazeta, seizing computers. The office of the Nizhny Novgorod Human Rights Alliance was also raided on the same day. The raids paralysed the activities of all three organisations ahead of the planned international conference in memory of Anna Politkovskaya.
The series of press conferences to be held in Nizhny Novgorod will be attended by several representatives of international human rights organisations, including the World Organisation Against Torture (Geneva), Amnesty International (London), League for Human Rights (Barcelona), Human Rights First (New York), and National Endowment for Democracy (USA). Russian human rights veteran Sergey Kovalev and Italian musician Anna Garano will also take part..