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"Affront to human rights": US condemns Russia's closing of group chronicling Soviet atrocities

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Affront to human rights: US condemns Russias closing of group chronicling Soviet atrocities
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A Memorial supporter holding a placard that reads: "We will live forever" outside the courthouse in Moscow (Image Credit: VOA News)

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and several other world leaders have raised alarm over a Russian court's ruling to shutter Memorial International, a rights group that chronicles the atrocities committed by Josef Stalin and other incidents in Soviet-era Russia.

Memorial International, founded by Nobel Prize winning Andre Sakharov, has been attacked by Russian President Vladimir Putin who accused the group of promoting terrorists and extremists. It was shut down allegedly due to not marking it's publications with a "foreign agent" label which is the norm for organisations receiving overseas funding.

"The persecution of International Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Center is an affront to their noble missions and to the cause of human rights everywhere," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. "The people of Russia- and the memory of the millions who suffered from Soviet-era repression- deserve better."

Prosecutors also accused Memorial International of denigrating the memory of the Soviet Union and its victories and rehabilitating "Nazi criminals" and creating a "false image of the USSR as a terrorist state and denigrates the memory of World War II".

The rights group is. Avichal voice for minorities in Russia and chronicles the atrocities that took place in Stalinist and Societ-era Russia, especially in the network of prisons known as gulags.

Blinken also said that the ruling followed "a year of rapidly shrinking space" for independent civil society, media, and pro-democracy activists in Russia, signalling a rollback in rights to freedom of speech and expression.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that such 'erasure' of history was worrying and boded ill for the future of freedom of speech and human rights in Russia.

"Memorial is not an organisation, it is not even a social movement," the official statement from the organisation said. "Memorial is the need of the citizens of Russia to know the truth about its tragic past, about the fate of many millions of people."

It has announced its decision to appeal the case and pursue any legal means possible to get a better outcome.

Last year, Putin labeled those who disagree with the Kremlin's version of history as Western "collaborators." And the Investigative Committee of Russia has established a department to investigate "falsifications of history," which rights campaigners and historians fear will be used to further stifle free inquiry.

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TAGS:Russia Human Rights Genocide Vladimir Putin 
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