News of the Day: 2 December 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Thursday confirmed 33,389 Covid-19 infections and 1,221 deaths.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has switched the one-year suspended sentence handed to opposition politician Lyubov Sobol, a close associate of jailed anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny, to actual prison time. […] Media reports have said that Sobol is currently in neighboring Estonia.

RFE/RL: Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) says it has apprehended three Ukrainian nationals suspected of working for Ukraine’s intelligence agencies, a claim Kyiv immediately rejected.

The Moscow Times: A Moscow court has fined opposition activists for staging a photo op with Russian and U.S. flags near the Kremlin in solidarity with a U.S. congressional proposal not to recognize Vladimir Putin’s presidency past 2024, independent media reported Wednesday. The Parnas opposition party said police had detained three of its activists on Nov. 21 for the Red Square photo op. 

Amnesty International: Eight political activists are on trial or awaiting trial in Ingushetia (Southern Russia) for leading a peaceful protest campaign in 2018 and 2019. They are facing serious charges, including participation in an “extremist association”, that could lead to prison terms of up to nine years. Having examined the charges and the available evidence, Amnesty International is concerned that the accusations against them are politically motivated and stem solely from their legitimate political and social activities. 

Amnesty International: Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the unprecedented pressure placed by the Russian authorities on defence lawyers Ivan Pavlov and Evgeny Smirnov representing Russian journalist, Ivan Safronov, who has been charged with high treason. The organization is also concerned about the continuing unlawful pressure exerted by the investigative authorities on Ivan Safronov and the conditions of his pre-trial detention. The actions of the Russian authorities violate the rights to fair trial, freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as are entirely inconsistent with the obligations to protect human rights defenders.

RFE/RL: In September 2020, Sergei Boiko, then the head of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s local office, unexpectedly won a seat on the Novosibirsk city council. At the time, he told RFE/RL that his association with Navalny had been nothing but a plus for him. […] Now, the 38-year-old Novosibirsk lawmaker is in self-imposed exile in Greece, unwilling to return to Russia for fear that a criminal case is brewing against him. Looking back over the past year, he says he could not have predicted how events in Russia would have played out in such a short time.

The Guardian: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin are due to hold talks “in the near future” after their top diplomats made no apparent progress in Stockholm towards defusing a standoff over Ukraine, amid fears of a Russian invasion. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov opted not to make a joint appearance after trading threats during a 40-minute meeting whose short duration indicated there was little chance of a breakthrough.

RFE/RL: Russian journalist Aleksei Malinovsky and his family have been granted political asylum in France, where they fled in September fearing for their safety after police raided their house and assaulted him. Malinovsky worked for the Novyye Kolyosa (New Wheels) newspaper in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

RFE/RL: China and Russia have pushed disinformation and propaganda about the origins of COVID-19, unproven cures for the disease, and the efficacy of vaccines aimed at winning over foreign audiences and sowing distrust toward Western governments since the emergence of the deadly virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan two years ago, a new study shows. The strategies used by Chinese and Russian politicians and how their state media outlets carry out these campaigns is the focus of a new study from the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) released on December 2.

RFE/RL: In the 11 years spanning two of Russia’s deadliest mining disasters — at least 51 at Listvyazhnaya, 91 at Raspadskaya — coal mining has grown significantly in the country. And it’s poised to grow even further. The Russian government has called for increased annual production to reach a minimum of 485 million tons by 2035. That’s up from 441 million tons in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic put a brake on the global economy.

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