Alexandrina Markvo, a well-known cultural figure in Russia and wife of the leading Russian political activist Vladimir Ashurkov, has recently been facing the increasing political persecution from Russian authorities.
Ashurkov is the Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the most high-level and serious force for genuine civil and political activism in Russia with domestic support. Alexei Navalny, who ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013, is the founder of the Foundation. With Navalny already under house arrest, last July Ashurkov applied for political asylum in the UK after Russia issued an arrest warrant – on blatantly fabricated charges – against him. Soon after, Markvo became a target for the Russian authorities. On 16 February, Russia issued an international arrest warrant for Markvo. This is another undisguised attempt to stifle all popular opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s despotic regime.
The Kremlin’s case against Markvo is based on a report published, in November 2014, by the Russian news agency ‘Lifenews’, which is close to the government and security services. The report alleged that Markvo, through her ‘Buro 17’ events agency, embezzled governmental funds in order to support Navalny’s political activities. No evidence was given to support the claim, except the relationship between Markvo and Ashurkov. Nevertheless, on 23 December, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal investigation against Markvo, and on 13 February 2015 she was charged with fraud in absentia. Three days later, Russia issued an international arrest warrant for Markvo. There are reasons to believe that Russia is preparing an Interpol ‘Red Notice’ for her.
Britain must take a firm line against the Kremlin’s illiberal abuse of Russian and international law enforcement institutions to pursue political opponents. Opposing Russia’s attempts to extradite Markvo and offering her a safe haven in the United Kingdom is imperative to protect her from persecution. Should Markvo have to return to Russia she would be placed into Russia’s abysmal prison system, in which the abuse of prisoners is so rampant that complaints relating to the use of torture in Russian jails take up a third of cases in the European Court of Human Rights.
Dr Andrew Foxall, Director of the Russia Studies Centre at HJS, commented:
“The case against Markvo is clearly politically motivated, driven by the Russian authorities’ attempts to shut down any dissenting voices inside and outside the country. The UK government must not be complicit in Putin’s authoritarianism and we should ensure Markvo is protected from the Kremlin’s arbitrary and brutal ‘justice’.”