Deputy Chairman of the State Duma of Russia (2016 - to date), Member of the General Council of the United Russia Party (2008 - to date)
YAROVAYA, Irina Anatolyevna (b. 1966) was born in Ukraine and grew up in Kamchatka. In 1988, she graduated from the All-Union Correspondence Law Institute. Between 1988 and 1997, she worked in the prosecution offices of the Kamchatka region as an intern, investigator, assistant prosecutor, deputy prosecutor, head of the investigation department, senior assistant to the prosecutor of the Kamchatka region. In 1997, she 1joined the Yabloko party, was elected to the Council of People’s Deputies of the Kamchatka Region, became chairman of the constitutional-legal committee and headed the Yabloko parliamentary faction.
In 2001, she was elected a member of the Federal Council of the Yabloko Party and in the same year, she attended a course at the Moscow School of Political Studies. In 2003, she became a deputy of the party’s leader, Grigory Yavlinsky. In 2002 - 2006, she supervised the Kamchatka’s branch of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia. In 2007, however, she joined the United Russia party, moved to Moscow, and became a member of the State Duma. The following year, she was included in the General Council of United Russia and headed the “conservative-patriotic club” of the party. In 2008 - 2009, she was Deputy Chairman of the Duma Committee on Federation Affairs and Regional Policy, and after that, she became Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building.
In 2011, she was re-elected to the State Duma and headed the Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption, co-chairing the Federal Budget Spending Review Committee aimed at ensuring national defense, national security, and law enforcement. Since 2012, Irina Yarovaya served as a member of the presidium of the General Council of the United Russia party, a member of the Central Auditing Commission, and was the coordinator of the intra-party “patriotic political platform” and the “state-patriotic club.” She was a member of the editorial board of the party’s online magazine Russian Conservative. In 2016, she was again re-elected to the State Duma and became its Deputy Chairman.
Promoting the establishment of a personalist dictatorship regime, undermining the constitutional foundations of the Russian Federation, violating the rights and freedoms of citizens, assisting in organizing and conducting political repressions, shadow lobbying, inciting hatred and intolerance against the opponents of the regime at home and abroad.
In 1997-2007, Yarovaya was guided by liberal democratic values and was a staunch opponent of the Putin regime. As a member of the Yabloko party, she openly criticized official authorities, the president’s political course, and United Russia. For example, she was an active opponent of the merger of the Koryak Autonomous Okrug with Kamchatka and advocated against the election of the member of United Russia, Oleg Kozhemyako, to the governor of the region. The political activity of Irina Yarovaya in the Yabloko party (including the election campaigns) was sponsored by the Yukos oil company and the Open Russia Foundation. According to media reports, Yarovaya “praised Khodorkovsky in every possible way,” supported the activities of his foundation and even took over the supervision of the organization’s branch in the region.
In 2007, Yarovaya transferred from the opposition Yabloko party to the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. Having turned from a principal representative of the opposition into a staunch supporter of Putinism, the politician began to approve of all the initiatives of the president, government, and the party. Having abandoned democratic values, she became a supporter of “sovereign democracy,” “Russian conservatism,” propagating the idea of Russia’s exceptionalism and a special historical path. Yarovaya also called the period preceding the creation of United Russia a period of “endless competition, when parties promised a lot and did not do anything” and added that “this political fraud led the country into a dead end.” The statement reflects the radical ideological shift of the politician, for whom political competition has become a direct threat to the country, and the parliamentary competition has become synonymous with fraud.
Having joined United Russia, Irina Yarovaya advocated the merger of the Kamchatka region and Koryak district and became a member of the ad hoc working group. Inconsistency in behavior and political views gives experts reason to believe that Yarovaya acted in selfish interests and was guided by the political conjuncture. Former colleagues connect the sharp change in the political orientation of Yarovaya with the wide career opportunities and financial growth that the party of power provides.
So, the chairman of Yabloko Sergey Mitrokhin commented on the behavior of Irina Yarovaya after she was appointed deputy of Yavlinsky as follows: “She asked to transfer her to Moscow, to give her an apartment and a car. We, of course, did not have such funds. But United Russia had.” Galina Mikhaleva, executive secretary of the party’s political committee, suggested that Yarovaya’s departure was related to her desire to move from Kamchatka to Moscow and get a mandate of a State Duma member, which Yavlinsky could not provide her with. It is significant that on the official site of Irina Yarovoy there is completely no information about her membership in the Yabloko party and cooperation with Open Russia.
According to the New York Times, Irina Yarovaya owns an apartment in an elite residential complex in Moscow. The cost of housing is 36 million rubles, which, according to official figures, significantly exceeds her and her spouse’s financial capabilities. Yarovaya did not mention the apartment in an income statement. However, owning an apartment is confirmed by relevant documents and certificates. The origin of the funds for which she purchased this apartment remains unknown. According to some experts, the apartment was provided to the United Russia member as a reward when she changed her party affiliation.
Along with the rapid career growth, Yarovaya began to demonstrate a lack of tolerance and sharply speak out about everyone who criticizes the existing government. In particular, in 2011-2012, Yarovaya made public statements unacceptable to a state official regarding opposition politicians and peaceful civil protests for fair elections. So, she called the protests “a chameleon farce,” “a protest for the sake of protest,” and also said that “people with bad intentions” were going to rallies. She insulted the opponents of the regime, describing them as a “bunch of people who are no different from terrorists, criminals, and are fed from the same hands.” Besides, in her opinion, “for generally recognized moral categories, all ideological and political theses of the opposition set people up to immoral behavior, encourage them to hate and anger.”
Irina Yarovaya is the initiator and co-author of several bills that significantly limit the constitutional rights and freedoms of Russian citizens. In 2012, she introduced a bill to return a criminal liability for defamation, as well as a bill on “foreign agents.” Both laws, despite sharp criticism from the media and human rights defenders, were adopted by the State Duma. According to the first law, the new article of the Criminal Code gave a new interpretation of the concept of “slander” and established fines of up to 5 million rubles. According to the second bill, all organizations that are somehow involved in political activities or advocacy and get any financial support or subsidies from abroad must be registered with the Ministry of Justice as foreign agents. Organizations and individuals that evade this obligation are subject to administrative and criminal liability, up to imprisonment.
According to the expert community, both bills are aimed primarily at combating political opponents, freedom of speech, and civil society in Russia. So, the law on foreign agents applied to organizations whose activities are human rights advocacy, research, or educational:
- Moscow School of Political Studies under the Council of Europe (School of Civil Education), whose activities are aimed at developing civil society institutions and are enlightening in nature (it is indicative that in 2001 Yarovaya herself got training there, but this fact was excluded from her official biography);
- The historical, educational, charitable and human rights society Memorial, which researches communist political repressions and engaged in the restoration of historical justice;
- The Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest human rights organization in Russia that promotes the practical implementation of the humanitarian articles of the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
- Independent media, in particular, Radio Liberty, which the Tverskoy Court of Moscow fined for 100 thousand rubles according to a complaint of the Ministry of Justice.
In 2013, Yarovaya introduced a bill providing for criminal liability for “encroachment on historical memory concerning events that took place during the Second World War.” The new article on the Criminal Code, called “rehabilitation of Nazism,” imposed large fines, as well as up to 5 years of imprisonment. The bill was aimed at preventing a free discussion of Soviet policies and Stalinist crimes during the Second World War and became a real threat to the freedom of speech and media in Russia.
In 2014, the State Duma’s Security Committee, headed by Irina Yarovaya, introduced an “anti-terrorist amendment package.” The document raised the maximum prison term for organizing riots from 10 to 15 years. The new law also lowered the threshold age for criminal liability to 14 years for organizing riots, terrorist activities, attempted assassination of persons holding public office, etc. On May 5 of the same year, Vladimir Putin signed the bill.
In 2016, amendments to the law came into force that toughened the punishment for terrorism and extremism (the so-called Yarovaya Package) on the initiative of Yarovaya and two other United Russia members. The document was criticized by the Legal Department of the State Duma, the Human Rights Council under the President, other members of the Duma, the media, and the world expert community for rigidity, extrajudicial, and violation of citizens' rights. According to the bill, telecom operators, as well as messengers and social networks, are required to store all text messages, voice information, images, sounds, videos, and other messages of their customers for up to six months. Moreover, it expanded the powers of law enforcement agencies and the list of grounds for declaring a regime of counter-terrorist operations, strengthened control over religious missionary activities, and introduced criminal liability for non-reporting.
According to the head of the Center for the Protection of Digital Rights, Sarkis Darbinyan, the bill is the most dangerous of all that have been adopted by the State Duma over the past years: “This bill frees up hands for total surveillance of every Russian.”
Analyzing the law, experts note that the Yarovaya Package violates international standards, the legislation of the Russian Federation, and the constitutional rights of citizens. In particular, citizens of the Russian Federation are deprived of their right to privacy, personal and family secrets, the confidentiality of correspondence, and telephone conversations. The practice has shown that since the adoption of the Yarovaya Package, persecution of various religious denominations has reached the greatest scale. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, a deliberate attack on freedom of speech began in Russia after the protests in 2011-2012, and these adopted laws deliberately restricted the rights of citizens. The report notes that the Russian authorities are applying extremism laws to punish opposition members, and are also trying to take control of Internet correspondence. Human Rights Watch claims that the state is interfering in Russia's media “at a level unprecedented since the collapse of the Soviet Union.” The most popular media, with rare exceptions, have turned into propaganda resources. In its report, Human Rights Watch urged Russia to immediately stop restricting freedom of speech, abolish the Yarovaya Package, amend the bill on extremism, the interpretation of which allows people to be jailed for expressing their views, repeal bills on “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations” and many more.
Thus, with the assistance of Irina Yarova, Russia came as close as possible to the ideology and practice of the police state, which seeks to control all spheres of human life. Citizens of the Russian Federation practically had no legitimate opportunities to defend their interests or openly express their opinions. It can be concluded that all the bills cited above limit the basic constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens and create the prerequisites for turning the system of law enforcement agencies into a punitive mechanism designed to suppress any disobedience.