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Vanessa Kogan, an American Bringing Russia’s Men to Justice, Is Being Kicked Out of the Country

Vanessa Kogan, an American Bringing Russia’s Men to Justice, Is Being Kicked Out of the Country

MOSCOW—The mother was desperate. In June, her daughter had died in what her daughter’s husband said was an accident, but the mother suspected it was domestic violence so extreme it led to murder. The husband worked in Russia’s security services and authorities didn’t seem to be investigating.

Because she was a woman, said Vanessa Kogan, the American director of the human rights group Justice Initiative, investigators put “less value” on the daughter’s life.

Like thousands of other desperate or disillusioned Russian citizens—political prisoners, victims of torture or abuse or indifferent treatment by the police—the mother turned to Justice Initiative for legal assistance, in a case that is wending its way to an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

However, Kogan likely will no longer be in Russia if that day comes.

She’s being forced to leave the country as part of an escalating crackdown on nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups. First, Russian authorities labeled one of Justice Initiative’s branches as a “foreign agent,” a designation that complicates its work with everyday Russians. Then, in March, without any explanation, the group was kicked out of its Moscow offices. In September, they were forced out of another location in the city.

And now the director, Kogan, a New York-born U.S. citizen, is being expelled from Russia after being deemed “a threat to state security.”

On Dec. 2, Kogan’s Russian residency authorization was annulled, giving her two weeks to leave the country with her Russian husband and children. “I guess they wanted to kill two birds with one stone,” Kogan told The Daily Beast, of the expulsion that will prevent her work in Russia and threatened to break up her family. Her husband, also a human rights lawyer, and their two children, aged 3 and 6, will leave together, she said.

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