News of the Day: 1 February 2021

The Guardian: Police have paralysed the centres of Russia’s largest cities, including Moscow, as the Kremlin sought to beat back rallies in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the country’s most significant protests in a decade. Supporters of the Kremlin critic took to the streets to protest against his jailing, despite the biting cold and threat of arrest. At least 5,100 people, including Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, were detained as the rallies across the country entered a second week. Taking unprecedented security measures, riot police and national guards troops shut down seven central metro stations in Moscow and blocked off streets to prevent a repeat of last week’s record protests, some of the largest since 2012.

The Moscow Times: Russia is “legally and technologically” ready to disconnect from the global internet if needed, former President Dmitry Medvedev told Interfax Monday. Russian authorities have long flirted with the notion of tougher restrictions and control over the internet on Russian territory. While the country’s “sovereign internet” law passed in 2019 gives Russia the ability to cut itself off from the rest of the World Wide Web, experts have expressed doubts that Russia was capable of implementing such technology.

RFE/RL, 1 February 2021: The European Court of Human Rights on February 1 announced it has informed Russia that it will consider a complaint filed to the court by the opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Navalny’s legal team argues Russia violated his right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to open a criminal case into his poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent last August. The announcement comes a day after Russia witnessed more nationwide rallies demanding Navalny’s release.

Front Line Defenders: On 30 January 2021 the editor-in-chief of Mediazona Sergey Smirnov was detained in Moscow on the suspicion of repeatedly violating the established procedure for arranging or conducting a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picket. Later that day he was released under the obligation to appear in court on 3 February.

CPJ: Tomorrow, the Military Court of Appeals in Vlasikha, a Russian town near Moscow, will hear journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva’s appeal of her July 2020 conviction for “justifying terrorism” in her commentary, the journalist told CPJ via messaging app. “The absurd case against journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva, who did nothing but practice her right to free speech, should end with her full acquittal,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “Russian authorities should not contest Prokopyeva’s appeal at tomorrow’s hearing – instead they should return her electronic equipment, unfreeze her assets, and allow her to work and travel freely and safely.” Prokopyeva is a correspondent for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and is based in the northwestern city of Pskov; in 2020, she received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award for her work amid government repression.

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