Russia shuts down oldest rights group

Russia shuts down oldest rights group
Russia shuts down oldest rights group

A Moscow court ordered the closure of Russia's oldest human rights organisation, the Moscow Helsinki Group, silencing another respected institution amid a political crackdown.

The judge of the Moscow City Court granted a justice ministry request to "dissolve" the rights group, the court said in a statement.

The Moscow Helsinki Group said it would appeal.

The decision is the latest in a series of legal rulings against organisations critical of the Kremlin, a trend that intensified after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine last year.

The Moscow Helsinki Group was created in 1976 to monitor Soviet authorities' commitment to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms after the USSR signed on to a set of agreements on the last day of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975.

But members of the group were jailed, harassed and expelled from the country and the Moscow Helsinki Group had to suspend operations in 1982 under pressure from Soviet authorities.

Its work was re-established by former political prisoners and rights activists during the perestroika movement -- a series of political and economic reforms -- in 1989.

The justice ministry had accused the rights group of breaching its legal status by carrying out activities such as observing trials outside Moscow.

Before Putin sent troops to Ukraine, Russia dissolved another pillar of the country's rights movement, Memorial.