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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Victims of Repression Remembered

APRights activists laying flowers in central Moscow on Monday to commemorate the victims of political repression.
Rights activists on Monday commemorated the victims of Soviet-era political repression and claimed that even today people were being prosecuted on political grounds.

"We ask only one thing: a just judicial process," Valentin Gefter, director of the Moscow-based Human Rights Institute, said at a round-table discussion on alleged political prisoners.

The Day of Soviet Political Prisoners was first observed in 1974, and after the Soviet collapse it became a day dedicated to the memory of the victims.

Rights activists said it had taken on new meaning under President Vladimir Putin. Activists and foreign governments have accused Putin of rolling back freedoms by restoring the clout of the intelligence agencies.

"Today in Russia we are seeing the rebirth of authoritarian methods of governing the country," said the organizers of Monday's rally, including the rights organizations Moscow Helsinki Group and Memorial, and the liberal political parties Yabloko and Union of Right Forces.

"Once again, civil freedoms are being cut, state propaganda is crowding out the free exchange of opinions, criticism of the authorities is often perceived as practically anti-government activity [and] pressure against independent media and individual journalists has become the norm," they said in a statement.

Participants in the round table focused on new legal instruments such as the law on extremism and a February presidential decree proclaiming huge swathes of scientific and technical information state secrets. Several scientists have been prosecuted in recent years for revealing such secrets.

Alongside the unofficial commemorations, which included a rally on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad, site of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, officials paid homage to Soviet-era victims. Putin called on his government to help make information about the victims available.

"Everyone should remember this, know this, so that no one will ever have the slightest desire to bring back even the smallest elements of the past to the present or future," Putin said in televised comments.

Memorial posted an Internet listing of the names of close to 1.5 million victims of Soviet political terror. It said up to 5.5 million people had been arrested on politically motivated charges and sentenced to death or prison from 1921 to 1985. Up to 7 million others starved to death during the agricultural collectivization campaigns of the late 1920s and 1930s, and 2.5 million members of ethnic minorities were deported from their ancestral lands.