One year on – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

On 24 February 2022, Russia started an unprovoked, atrocious war against Ukraine with the false purpose of ‘denazification’ of the Ukrainian people. Since then, the Russian narrative about the war and its alleged purposes has changed many times.

As we pass its one-year mark, many articles are being published about the economic, political and social consequences of the war, both for the Ukrainian people, the Russian people and Western countries. What is often missing in these articles, though, is the impact of the war on the rule of law – a subject which is close to the DRLA’s heart. Promotion of the rule of law is one the core objects of our association.

Sadly, we have established that the legal situation in Russia has deteriorated over the past year. Or perhaps we can even establish that, in the words of one of our Russian legal colleagues, Russia’s legal order is currently in the process of total collapse. Protection of human rights has become increasingly problematic and the right to freedom of speech has been severely restricted – even the use of the word ‘war’ in reference to Russia’s so-called ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, has been forbidden. Any communication to the Russian public about atrocities committed by the Russian military in Ukraine is at risk of being criminally prosecuted.

Earlier this month, Maria Ponomarenko, a Russian journalist, was jailed for 6 years for posting on social media about the deadly attack by Russian warplanes on the Mariupol theatre. Her alleged criminal offense was spreading ‘knowingly false information’. In July 2022, Moscow councillor Aleksei Gorinov was jailed for seven years after speaking out against Russia’s war in Ukraine in a city council meeting. In December 2022, one of Russia’s most prominent opposition figures, Ilya Yashin, was jailed for eight-and-a-half years, allegedly for spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian military after he went on YouTube to condemn the killing of Ukrainian civilians by Russian occupying forces in Bucha, near Kyiv.

Luckily, we still see Russian lawyers continue working in defense of fundamental rights and freedoms against the Russian state. It goes without saying that we continue to support these lawyers and their work. At the same time, we continue to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and strongly advocate the withdrawal of its military from all occupied Ukrainian territories.

– The Executive Board of the DRLA –

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