News of the Day: 4 December 2020

RFE/RL: A member of the Pussy Riot protest group has been sentenced to 20 days in jail for taking part in a protest performance in Moscow last week. Lawyer Mansur Gilmanov said late on December 3 that Rita Flores, also known as Margarita Konovalova, was found guilty of repeatedly violating the law on public gatherings. He added that the court’s ruling will be appealed. Maria Alyokhina, a member of the protest group, said earlier on December 3 that police detained Flores after she was taken to a Moscow hospital overnight to be treated for an unspecified illness. On November 28, Flores, Alyokhina, and artist Farkhad Israfilli-Gelman staged a protest performance called Fragile! Handle With Care! not far from the State History Museum near Red Square. In the performance, two women in Russian national costumes tied Israfilli-Gelman, who was wearing a riot police uniform, to a light pole with packing tape.

The Moscow Times: The Netherlands’ top court ruled Friday that shareholders in dismantled oil giant Yukos can continue to pursue Russia for $50 billion (41 billion euros) in compensation pending a final judgement in a long legal saga. Russia was ordered to make the payout in 2014 by the Hague-based international Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), but has been challenging the case ever since through Dutch courts. In a fresh blow to Moscow, the Dutch Supreme Court “dismissed the Russian Federation’s application to suspend enforcement” of the payout while the court deals with the case, it said in a statement.

RFE/RL: A Russian military appeals court has upheld the sentence of Airat Dilmukhametov, a prominent opposition activist from the Republic of Bashkortostan who was sentenced to nine years in prison on extremism charges. The court in the town of Vlasikha near Moscow on December 4 rejected the appeal filed by Dilmukhametov, who has insisted that the case against him is politically motivated. The charge against Dilmukhametov stems from a video statement he made in 2018 urging the creation of a “real” federation in Russia with more autonomous rights given to ethnic republics and regions.`

Meduza: Journalist and Moscow City Duma deputy Ilya Azar has filed a claim with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the 15 days administrative arrest he was sentenced to in May for holding a single-person demonstration. According to Kommersant, Azar’s claim argues that the Russian authorities violated several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to liberty and the security of person; the right to a fair trial; respect for privacy and family life; and freedom of expression. In addition, Azar maintains that Russian law violates Article 14, which outlines protection from discrimination, said his lawyer Leonid Solovyov, from the legal aid group “Apologia Protesta.” 

The Moscow Times: Russian authorities have said they want to relocate all prisons out of major cities, sparking concerns from activists that the move could violate prisoners’ rights and complicate visits by lawyers and relatives. Justice Minister Konstantin Chuichenko told state television that the mass prison relocation is part of the Federal Prison Service’s “transformation” toward “effective and reasonable” management. Russia’s penitentiary system has been rocked by a series of torture and death scandals in recent years.

RFE/RL: A Russian court has ordered the arrest of a physicist specializing in hypersonic aircraft on suspicion of high treason. Anatoly Gubanov took part in international conferences and projects involving hydrogen-powered hypersonic aircraft, the Interfax news agency reported on December 3, citing unnamed sources. “According to the investigation, Gubanov handed over secret aviation development data abroad,” the TASS news agency reported, citing another source.

The Moscow Times: The rapid spread of mobile internet around the world over the last decade has directly contributed to falling levels of trust in government and a surge in populism, according to a recent paper by a group of Russian economists. The research shows that as 3G internet spreads, millions of people gain access to new sources of information, leading to growing skepticism toward authorities and the establishment — phenomena which have characterized the global political economy since the 2008 financial crisis. The effect is particularly pronounced in countries with unbalanced censorship models — like Russia — where traditional media is heavily controlled while online space and the flow of information is comparatively freer.

RAPSI: The Kopeisk City Court in Russia’s Chelyabinsk Region will consider a criminal case over mass riots in a local penal colony in 2012, the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office reports. Three defendants are on trial, the statement reads. The Kopeysk prison protest was sparked in late November 2012 in response to fellow inmates being held in punishment cells. The inmates’ relatives gathered outside the prison and clashed with riot police, who then arrested about 30 of them. The prison warden was dismissed and charged with abuse of office.

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