News of the Day: 1 June 2021

RFE/RL: The former executive director of Open Russia, a pro-democracy movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was removed from a plane in St. Petersburg and detained in the latest crackdown on opposition forces in the country. Andrei Pivovarov was taken in for questioning in St. Petersburg and detained for repeated alleged violations of the law on so-called “undesirable organizations,” according to a message transmitted through his lawyer on Telegram late on May 31. “They just said that a case was opened against me under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code for cooperation with an undesirable organization, which is nonsense,” Pivovarov said in the letter.

Amnesty International: Reacting to the news that Andrei Pivovarov, Executive Director of the recently disbanded Open Russia, a Russian pro-democracy and human rights movement, was taken off a flight in Saint Petersburg and arbitrarily detained, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: “This is an audacious move by the Kremlin in its continued use of the law on ‘undesirable’ organizations to target and shut down critics. The sole purpose of this legislation is to crack down on independent organizations and prosecute those associated with them. In spite of its recent self-dissolution to prevent the authorities from targeting its members, the witch-hunt against Open Russia continues.

Human Rights Watch: Russian authorities have targeted another activist under its “undesirable organization” law, the former executive director of the Open Russia Civic Movement, a pro-democracy organization. On May 31, police detained Andrey Pivovarov, forcing him to disembark from an international flight at St Petersburg airport as the plane was preparing to take off. The egregious offence that prompted such extraordinary action? In August 2020, Pivovarov posted information about candidates in the then upcoming municipal elections. The Krasnodar Investigative Committee, which initiated criminal proceedings against him on May 29, issued a press statement on June 1, alleging that this post constituted public dissemination of information in support of an undesirable organization and that he was detained “during an attempt to flee abroad from the investigation.”

RFE/RL: Russian opposition politician and former State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov said law enforcement officers have searched his cottage and the homes of some of his close associates. Gudkov said in a post on his Telegram channel on June 1 that the search occurred at his cottage in Kolomna, about 100 kilometers southeast of Moscow. “There is a search at my dacha near Kolomna. The same for my former assistant Aleksandr Solovyov. The same for my chief of staff Vitaly Venidiktov. I don’t know the formal reason. The real reason, though, is clear,” he wrote.

Civil Rights Defenders: Russian and international human rights organisations are deeply concerned about the news from Chechnya that Magomed Gadaev, who was illegally deported from France in April this year, refused the services of an independent lawyer. We, the undersigned, call on the Russian authorities to ensure that Gadaev’s right to defense is respected, as well as other rights provided for by international standards of fair trial.

The Moscow Times: Russia has banned non-state-approved educational activities and cooperation with foreign academics, according to highly criticized changes to Russia’s education law that came into effect Tuesday. The law is based on the need cited by lawmakers for broad state power to permit or forbid activities outside formal academic settings. They said that the law was essential to counter “negative foreign influence in the educational process.” “Anti-Russian forces carry out propaganda under the guise of educational activities,” the bill’s authors wrote.

The Moscow Times: Russian lawmakers on Tuesday backed a bill that would force foreign internet companies to set up local offices or face harsh penalties, including an outright ban. The bill was passed on the first of its three required readings, parliament’s lower house said in a statement. The legislation concerns online companies whose daily users in Russia tops 500,000. 

The Moscow Times: Seven out of 10 Russians support government plans to revive the Stalin-era practice reminiscent of the gulag labor camps that would use prisoners for major construction projects, according to a state-backed survey released Tuesday. Several cabinet ministers, the state railway monopoly and the head of Russia’s penitentiary system have in recent weeks proposed dispatching around 188,000 inmates to fill part of the shortage created by a coronavirus-driven exodus of Central Asian migrant workers. 

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