VILNIUS – Russia is killing its conscience by closing Memorial, Vytis Jurkonis, the Freedom House representative in Lithuania, says.
His comment came in response to the Russian Supreme Court's Tuesday decision to close the most respected human rights organization in the country.
"If I can put it figuratively, Memorial is a certain symbol of Russia's conscience, and this is what they are destroying," the political scientist told BNS.
The Russian court said it made the decision due to the breach of its designation as a "foreign agent" by not marking all of its publications with the label as required by law.
Memorial rejects the accusations and says there's no legal basis for its closure.
Although memorial has come under pressure for many years, a decision to close it would be unimaginable several years ago, experts say.
Jurkonis says the Kremlin "has major problems with both historic memory and human rights".
"The Kremlin is switching off the light for human rights organizations. It’s not the beginning of the process and we suspect it’s also not the end of the process," he said, adding that restrictions on the operation of NGOs are paving the way for repressions against civil society.
The Russian court's ruling, which is final and binding, is so far by far the biggest blow to the organizations Soviet dissidents founded in 1989.
Jurkonis believes the latest events allow speaking about totalitarianism, not authoritarianism, in Russia.