Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Russian civil rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who founded Russia's oldest human rights organization, died at the age of 91.
Alexeyeva died in a Moscow hospital on Saturday night after a long battle with illness, the Human Rights Council said.
Born on July 20, 1927, in Yevpatoria, Alexeyeva graduated from Moscow State University with a history degree in 1950 and received a graduate degree from the Moscow Institute of Economics and Statistics in 1956 after joining the Communist Party.
In 1968, she was expelled from the Communist Party for signing a letter to defend Alexander Ginzburg and other prominent dissidents and later became a co-founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1976, defending civil rights by observing Soviet compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which guaranteed basic freedoms while looking to improve relations within the Soviet Union.
Alexeyeva was forced into exile in the United States, as many members of the Moscow Helsinki Group were arrested for their work.
She was responsible for reviving the group in 1989 and returned to Russia in 1993 where she became a critic of President Vladimir Putin.
"However difficult it is to confront Putin on human rights today, try to imagine what it will be like to discuss these issues a few years from now, when either the crackdown has become even more intense or the path of repression results in a real social explosion," she wrote in a 2012 New York Times op-ed.
She most recently condemned the annexation of Crimea as "a shame for our country," along with the "political murder" of former Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Boris Nemtsov.