Interpol is supposed to hunt criminals, not help Vladimir Putin persecute his critics

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Bulgaria detained Russian dissident Nikolai Koblyakov, citing an Interpol Red Notice, issued on April 1, 2014. As one can see, the notice was of a special type – concealed from the media. After this date – April 1 – no one has bothered Nikolay Kolbyakov in France, where he lives and has been granted citizenship, or during his many travels. He was not arrested at takeoff from Paris, but after landing in Bulgaria. Is it a coincidence that the Russian opposition activist was detained precisely in Bulgaria, a country known as the Trojan horse of Russia in the European-Atlantic structures? What is this mysterious notice, issued by Moscow, which is valid only in Bulgaria? The headquarters of Interpol in Lyon did not answer Bivol’s questions.

According to Koblyakov, himself, the Bulgarian border police told him that one day earlier he could pass border control without problems as he was not in the system. If this is true, there is an active operation of Russian services in tracking Koblyakov and using a “mole” in the Interior Ministry at the right time.

Caretaker Interior Minister, Yordan Bakalov, did not respond to an inquiry under the Access to Public Information act as to when exactly was Koblyakov listed for detention in the system of the Bulgarian Border Police. So instead of using the occasion to clean his institution from Russian moles, he actually provided cover-up for them. According to the official response of the Ministry of Interior, the date and time of the recording in the system were…”personal data”.

At the same time, as shows the article from the Daily Telegraph, published below, the international community is increasingly aware of Interpol’s tools to persecute dissidents of the repressive Russian regime. It is a matter of time for Koblyakov’s case to make headlines in international press as well and for the Bulgarian services to reaffirm their reputation of leakers of allied information to the Russians, while, in the opposite direction, the Russians use them as remote repressive instruments. And no reference to “personal data” would conceal these shameful facts…


In May this year I revealed how Interpol has become a vehicle for brutal dictatorships determined to crack down on internal opposition and dissent.

Their main tool is the Red Notice, in theory an international warning system to help national police forces chasing criminals on the run. Unfortunately a number of countries (with Interpol’s complicity) use the Red Notice to hunt down political opponents.

When my article appeared it had a gratifying effect. Interpol turned down or withdrew a series of Russian requests to have a Red Notice (or “diffusion notice” which comes to much the same thing) slapped in its political enemies, including Petr Silaev, a young political activist who was forced to flee Russia after taking part in a demonstration against the destruction of the Khimki Forest outside Moscow three years ago. Last year he was detained in Spain after a Russian Interpol alert in spite of earlier being granted an asylum in Finland, and had to fight his extradition to Russia. After five months the Spanish court refused the extradition request from Russia because it was deemed illegitimate (he is guiltless, except for offending the FSB).

This year, Eerik Kross, an Estonian politician who has upset the Russians by supporting Georgia in their Nato negotiations, was also placed on the Russian Interpol Red Notice list for the absurd allegation of sea piracy.

In the wake of my article, Silaev’s and Kross’s names were both withdrawn from Interpol databases. Unfortunately, since then the Russians have renewed their pressure on Interpol to pursue their political enemies. I understand that last week it bent to the Russian pressure and published the Russian Notices for both Silaev and Kross.

Most disturbing of all is the case of Anastasia Rybachenko, a 22-year-old Russian university student who was caught up in the protests after Vladimir Putin’s re-election as president. Some of the protestors have been captured and put in jail, but Rybachenko escaped Russia. Two days ago the Russian authorities applied for an Interpol alert to be slapped on her as well. Interpol has been silent on the matter.

Fair Trials International told me this week: “As international concern mounts over Russia’s use of vague criminal charges to silence peaceful campaigners, Interpol should justify its decision to reinstate the alert against Silaev and resist Russian efforts to use its systems against Rybachenko. Interpol’s credibility is undermined every time it allows Russia, or any other country, to use its systems to crack down on pro-democracy activists.”

The job of Interpol is to hunt down criminals. Instead it seems happy to assist secret police from some of the world’s most vicious regimes as they target and then persecute internal dissidents. This is outrageous. Interpol must turn down the Russian Red Notices on Silaev, Kross and Rybachenko immediately.


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