RUSSIA 🇷🇺 Human Rights Defender (70) Jailed

Russian Human Rights Defender Oleg Orlov Jailed for Speaking the Truth

By Aaron Rhodes

On February 27, 2024, a Russian court sentenced human rights defender Oleg Orlov to a two-and-a-half year prison term, convicting him of “discrediting” the Russian army due to his portrayal of the Russian regime as “totalitarian and fascist.”

In a statement prior to his sentencing, Orlov defended the veracity of his words, showing that the Russian government not only dictates social, political, and economic life but has also tightened its grip on culture, scientific thought, and even private lives. He illustrated this with examples of Russian citizens facing persecution for expressing their beliefs, and noting that President Putin had claimed that Poland “forced Hitler to start World War II.”

According to Orlov, individuals are being punished for exercising “any independent judgment,” while political prisoners are losing their lives simply for envisioning a democratic, prosperous Russia that poses no threat to the outside world.

In a concluding echo of the late dissident leader Alexei Navalny’s words, Orlov urged, “Don’t lose heart, and do not lose optimism. Truth is on our side.”

Kremlin critic sent to penal colony
Oleg Orlov, co-founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group Memorial, convicted in retrial of discrediting Russian military (Credits: Australia News)

Ironically, the court’s decision serves as an inadvertent validation of Orlov’s claims, and was thus self-contradictory.  Indeed, it demonstrates Russia’s descent into a fascist state.  In doing so, it also exposes the sheer absurdity of claims that Russia’s war against Ukraine is justified as one to eradicate fascism—a falsehood repeated to the Russian people in daily media propaganda. Accusing others of one’s own malevolence remains a hallmark of fascist propaganda.

During my tenure as the executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), I had the privilege of cooperating with Orlov and the Memorial human rights organization. Orlov’s personality and moral character exemplify the noble aspects of Russia’s human rights dissident tradition: principled, selfless, scrupulously nonpartisan, committed to intellectual integrity, and fearless.

Despite the bleak situation in Russia, along with many other post-Soviet republics and societies globally, we owe it to Orlov and his colleagues not to give up; to keep insisting on the rights of all to basic political freedoms.

See Also

Dr. Aaron Rhodes is president of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe. He was executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights 1993-2007. He is the author of The Debasement of Human Rights (Encounter Books 2018).


  1. ‘Our Country Is Sinking Into Darkness’: Oleg Orlov’s Final Word in Court (The Moscow Times).
    Orlov was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on Tuesday for his opposition to the war in Ukraine. The Moscow Times has translated and republished his final statement in court given ahead of the verdict.
  2. Russia Imprisoned My Friend Oleg Orlov For Telling It Like It Is (Moscow Times)
  3. Russian human rights campaigner sentenced to jail for denouncing war (The Guardian)
  4. Russian Court Liquidates Historical Research And Human Rights Group “Memorial” (FOREF Europe)



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