The Conservative Friends of Russia is scheduled to launch this evening at the Official Residence of the Russian Ambassador to the UK. The organisation declares itself to be “politically neutral regarding Russian political parties and candidates, but does seek to encourage open debate on issues such as international diplomacy, energy security and internal political systems,” and “…welcome[s] anybody with a genuine interest in [Russian] history, politics and culture.”
The Henry Jackson Society notes that the launch of this new initiative comes just days after the jailing of the members of anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot for two years, after an unfair and politicised trial widely held to have been part of the Russian government’s crackdown on dissent.
Unfortunately, the declared political neutrality of this initiative is questionable, given the fact that currently the sole news provider on the Conservative Friends of Russia website is the pro-Kremlin news provider Pravda.ru.
This evening’s launch provides a perfect opportunity for this new organisation to express grave concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia today. The Henry Jackson Society hopes that this new initiative will not whitewash the current situation in the name of fostering closer business links with Russia.
If the Conservative Friends of Russia is to be a true friend to the Russia people, it will act as a forum for expressing concerns about the assault on civil liberties and human rights under Putin’s leadership, which has escalated since his return to the presidency in May. Specific cases relating to British companies and citizens, including the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, should also have an important place in the activities of this new organisation.
We hope that the Conservative Friends of Russia acts as a responsible and ethical initiative to advance the interests of the Russian people, and suggest that the initiative start by addressing the politically imbalanced news content on its website.