German-Russian relations have reached a new low.
After three German organizations were classified by Russia as "undesirable" and can no longer operate there, the existence of the Petersburg Dialogue, which has existed for twenty years, is now in question.
This is a bilateral forum that was launched in 2001 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as a showcase project for contacts between the two countries.
Several board members expressed doubts to the FAZ that the dialogue could now continue.
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“The Petersburg Dialogue should be suspended until the listing as 'undesirable organizations' is removed. A civil society dialogue is not possible if part of civil society is criminalized and thus excluded in Russia and now also in Germany, ”said Marie-Luise Beck, a former Green member of the Bundestag, who is also a board member in the Petersburg Dialogue and Eastern Europe director of the Liberal think tank Modern is - one of the organizations that are now prohibited from any activity in Russia.
The managing director of the German-Russian Exchange (DRA), a second organization that has now been declared “undesirable”, is also part of the steering committee of the Petersburg Dialogue on the German side.
The third organization affected is much smaller, it is the forum of Russian-speaking Europeans founded in 2017 in Berlin by Russian emigrants.
Prohibition of all activities in Russia
"If several member organizations are criminalized, then the dialogue cannot be continued in its current form," said Stefanie Schiffer, Director of European Exchange, who is also on the board of the Petersburg Dialogue. It has been under the spell of the Russian authorities for three years: Schiffer is part of the leadership of the Berlin-based transnational European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), which has been on the since March 12, 2018 - six days before the then presidential election in Russia List of those in unwanted organizations.
"A simple continuation of the Petersburg Dialogue under these conditions is inconceivable," said a declaration of solidarity by the Heinrich Böll Foundation on Thursday, which is supported by 25 well-known scientists, journalists and organizations that deal with Russia.
For German-Russian relations, the decision of the Russian Public Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday is a turning point, which is also a slap in the face for the Federal Government: The Center for Liberal Modernity and the German-Russian Exchange have also received funding from the Foreign Office for their activities in and with Russia . The classification as "undesirable" is linked to a ban on all activities of the organizations in Russia. If Russians cooperate with them, they face up to six years in prison. Stephanie Schiffer explains what that means in concrete terms: After being classified as "undesirable", the EPDE immediately cut off all contacts with the Russian election observation organizations, which were already under state pressure, "since every contact, including an email, can be criminalized" .Keywords: