By John Helmer, Moscow
President Barack Obama issued an order yesterday imposing sanctions against seven Russians whom he and his government blame for the crisis in Ukraine. At the bottom of the Obama list at Number 7 is State Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina (left), chairman of the Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs. She and the other six Russians are accused in the White House declaration of responsibility for “the deployment of Russian military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine” and for policies which “undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.”
The sanctions against Mizulina are explicitly identified in the March 17 order as blocking “all property and interests in property that are in the United States”; barring entry to the US; and banning engagement with US citizens in “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit” of Mizulina.
In a March 17 White House briefing the sanctions were elaborated to include handling US dollars in cash, bank transfers, or credit cards: “If they want to transact in dollars, for instance, they will be unable to do so, unable to send any money through the United States.”
On the record, according to the “Fact Sheet” issued by the White House, Mizulina has been “sanctioned for her status as a State Duma Deputy.”
On background, the White House explanation for targeting Mizulina is that she is one of “the cronies who provide support to the Russian government… individuals who have dedicated significant resources in supporting President Putin and the policies of the Russian government in the past.”
“Each of the Russian officials sanctioned today played a leading role as an ideologist, a strategist, or an architect of the referendum strategy, and is also a leading proponent of formal annexation of Crimea by Russia and has played an active public role both in Russia and in Crimea in supporting and activating the steps that have already been taken.”
Among the “fun facts” the White House briefer alleged, Mizulina was charged with being one of “the key ideologists and implementers and architects of this policy, but they are also key players, politically, in Russia in terms of advocating tightening down of human rights and individual liberties within Russia itself.”
The record of US reporting on Mizulina fails to mention Ukraine. According to the New Yorker, Mizulina is culpable for being “the key framer of Russia’s notorious new law that bans ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors’ and has already incited aggressive and even violent assaults on L.G.B.T. activists.”
Mother Jones claims that Mizulina is also culpable for backing a statutory ban on the adoption of Russian children by homosexual couples, unmarried couples, and single people in countries where same-sex marriage is legal.
None of the US media, and no Washington official claims Mizulina is the target of the sanctions because she is a co-author of two bills currently awaiting action by the Duma. The first of the bills is titled “On Amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law ‘On the Procedure for acceptance in the Russian Federation and education of new subjects of the Russian Federation’”. Introduced on March 7, it is sponsored by seventeen deputies, one of them Mizulina. The second of the bills is titled “On Amendments to Article 14 and 35 of the Federal Law ‘On Citizenship of the Russian Federation’ in order to establish the possibility for citizens of Ukraine receiving Russian citizenship in a simplified manner”. The bill was introduced on March 11. Mizulina is one of 28 co-sponsors. Not one of the deputies named on these bills has been targeted for the US sanctions except for Mizulina.
According to deputies, this is the first time they can recall that a US government organ has imposed sanctions for advocacy on the part of an elected member of parliament in a foreign country (aka free speech). “The decision of the U.S. authorities,” Mizulina announced in an official release today, “I take as a punishment for my professional activities… laws relating , in particular, to the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development… if you call a spade a spade , it’s revenge for my position, which is contrary to the opinion of foreign governments . Thus, the US is trying to put pressure on me to force me to change my professional views… And what has happened I regard as a gross violation of my rights and freedoms as a citizen in politics.”
She added that she has no assets abroad which may be affected by the White House order. “There has been no special activity on my part on Ukraine. On the contrary, I have been worried that I may not be doing enough in order to support our compatriots in the Crimea. I have great respect for their colleagues who were in the thick of things. Mentally and emotionally I share their position.”
“I guess that basically this is revenge. Revenge for my legal views, my professional position on the bills which at the time individual members of the United States didn’t like — bills related to the protection of children from information that may harm their psychological and moral health . This is the only logical explanation. And if this is true, this is an attempt to put pressure on me to abandon my public position. But I will not do that… [This is] a prejudiced opinion of Americans. It is beyond the ethical standards in the field of international legal relations. I’m sorry they are reduced to settling accounts.”
The US Embassy in Moscow was asked if the sanctions order allows a US reporter to interview Mizulina and publish her words in a commercial medium. The Embassy spokesman, Stacy McTaggert, responded that a reporter “should feel free to conduct whatever interviews [he or she] wishes, including with Ms. Mizulina.”