News of the Day: 2 June 2021

RFE/RL: A court has ordered the detention of the former executive director of Open Russia, a pro-democracy movement, for two months after he was removed from a Warsaw-bound plane in St. Petersburg just before departure. The court in the southern city of Krasnodar ruled on June 2 that Andrei Pivovarov should be held for two months after the authorities accused him of publishing a post on social media supporting a local election candidate last year on behalf of an “undesirable” organization.

RFE/RL: A court in Russia’s Vladimir region has rejected imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s request to annul his designated status as a “flight risk,” which subjects him to hourly nighttime checks while he is incarcerated at a penal colony. The court ruled on June 2 that Navalny’s right to have eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night had not been violated by guards at Correctional Colony No. 2. Navalny’s lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, said the ruling will be appealed.

RSF: The “editor-in-chief” of the Russian state-funded media outlets Rossiya Segodnya, RT and Sputnik has publicly congratulated Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on the hijacking of an airliner to Minsk and the arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich last month. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores her comments, which amount to open support for the crackdown by the Belarusian government on independent media.

The Moscow Times: Russian authorities widened a crackdown on the country’s beleaguered opposition on Wednesday as the legislature advanced a bill that would bar opponents from polls and a court jailed another well-known Kremlin critic. Russia’s opposition says authorities are stepping up a campaign of intimidation against dissenters ahead of a parliamentary vote in September, allegations the Kremlin has rejected.

RFE/RL; The Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved in its third and final reading a controversial bill that would allow the government to regulate the basic pillars of minority languages in the country, including indigenous ethnic groups from Siberia and the Far East. Lawmakers say the bill, approved on June 1, will help save some languages from extinction by speeding up the process for approving orthography norms, but many groups promoting indigenous languages, culture, and history in the Russian Federation see it as part of move to increase control over the teaching of such subjects in Russia’s many ethnic republics and regions.

RFE/RL: Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, has approved a bill that would ban supporters and members of organizations designated as “extremist” from being elected to any post — a move making it virtually impossible for anyone connected to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny to gain public office. Under the draft bill approved on June 2 by the chamber, leaders and founders of organizations declared extremist or terrorist by Russia’s courts will be banned from running for elected posts for a period of five years.

RFE/RL: A pagan forest ritual was held in Russia’s Mari El region after a local official called for “radical followers” of the Mari religion to be prevented from worshipping on government land.

RFE/RL: In late April, a court in Arkhangelsk sentenced a former coordinator of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s local office in the northern city to 2 1/2 years in prison for sharing a music video in 2014 that the Russian government later deemed to be pornographic. “It is astonishing that cases like this even make it to court,” defense attorney Natalia Zvyagina said shortly before defendant Andrei Borovikov heard his sentence. What seemed astonishing just a few weeks ago, however, now looks like a trend, as the government prepares for elections to the State Duma, the lower house of the legislature, that must be held by September 19. On June 1, the authorities detained former Duma Deputy and prominent liberal opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov near the town of Kolomna, about 120 kilometers southwest of Moscow, following searches at 10 different locations. According to the Investigative Committee, some 140 law enforcement officers participated in the operation.

The Moscow Times: The exhibition was almost ready when the order to cancel came from above. Set to take place on central Moscow’s trendy Chistoprudny bulvar, the open-air exhibition, part of an ambitious program of celebrations for the centenary of the birth of Andrei Sakharov, was to commemorate the nuclear physicist and Soviet dissident’s campaigns for human rights and world peace. But on 30 April, only weeks before the displays were due to go up, a terse phone call from the Moscow city government changed everything. The authorities would not approve the content of the exhibits. The exhibition was off.

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