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One day's work for a Moscow NGO

HRW's Sasha Petrov in his office in Moscow
Sasha Petrov has been working for HRW since 1991
Sasha Petrov is deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, running an office with two staff. Here he describes a day in his work for the BBC News website:

The day begins with phone calls to the press - I have another journalist calling today [for an interview on hazing in the Russian army].

Every day I get about 50 messages, 10 or 20 of which I have to answer, which takes me up to lunchtime. After lunch I write letters and edit texts and talk to the press. It's a full eight-hour day. Visits to foreign embassies also take up a lot of time.

Today I got a request for help from a Chechen NGO which is afraid it will be one of the first to be closed down under the new law and I attempted to find people who would take them under their umbrella and protect them. They are a fully self-sufficient organisation and don't ask for anything other than protection.

The situation there remains perfectly catastrophic. There is still a war going on in the south of Chechnya with planes, tanks and artillery. Every day I get messages about what is going on there from my own sources.

Then I had a person from Turkmenistan whose relatives are being persecuted in Ashkhabad. I had to write a letter to Ashkhabad, to the presidential administration and the chief prosecutor's office, to ask them to stop the persecution.

I had another letter regarding a citizen from Uzbekistan who has been trying for some time now to get his status settled with the UNHCR [the United Nations refugee agency]. He wants the UNHCR either to protect him or move him to another country. He is a political refugee.

He has been in Russia for a few years now and he has not been able to get Russian refugee status, which is very hard to obtain except for senior officials.

His lack of legal status makes him easy prey for extortionists. I was asked to write to the UNHCR to speed up the process.

And I got a lot of enquiries from our office in New York about what is happening to Russian NGOs like the Helsinki Group.


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