News of the Day: 4 March 2021

RFE/RL: A court in the Russian city of Samara has found civil rights activist Karim Yamadayev guilty but said he should be released after spending more than a year in detention for mocking President Vladimir Putin and two of his close associates online. The Central District Military Court on March 4 found Karim Yamadayev guilty of public calls for terrorism and insulting authorities and ordered him to pay a fine of 300,000 rubles ($4,000). The court also barred Yamadayev, who was held in the Tatarstan region before being moved to Samara, from being an administrator on social networks for 2 1/2 years. Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Yamadayev to six years and seven months in prison, but no jail time was included in the sentence.

RFE/RL: The Moscow-based Memorial human rights organization says police have detained a Turkmen man known for his public criticism of the Turkmen government as he arrived in Russia from Turkey. Memorial said in a statement on March 3 that 27-year-old Rozgeldy Choliev was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport the day before after he arrived from Istanbul. According to Memorial, Choliev used to study at a university in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Karachai-Cherkessia, where he was admitted in 2018.

RFE/RL: Five Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’s Komi Republic have been accused of organizing and taking part in the activities of an extremist group amid a continued crackdown on the religious group, which has been banned in the country since 2017. Russia’s Investigative Committee said on March 4 that a court in the city of Syktyvkar ordered one suspect in the case to be placed in pretrial detention. Two Jehovah’s Witnesses were placed under house arrest and another two were ordered not to leave the city while an investigation in the case takes place. Jehovah’s Witnesses said a day earlier that police searched at least 14 homes of members of their congregation in Syktyvkar. The announcement came days after a court in Russia’s Republic of Khakassia sentenced two Jehovah’s Witnesses — 69-year-old Valentina Baranovskaya and her son Roman Baranovsky — to two and six years in prison respectively.

The Moscow Times: Russia is revoking residence permits and deporting, often informally and without written notice, foreign nationals for participating in recent political protests, the Meduza news website reported Thursday. The outlet said it spoke with four citizens of post-Soviet republics who faced deportation orders after attending demonstrations in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and the opposition in neighboring Belarus.

RFE/RL: The chairman of the All-Tatar Public Center (TIU) says police and security officers in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan have searched his home and summoned him for questioning in a case concerning the incitement of hatred. Farit Zakiyev told RFE/RL that police and officers from the Federal Security Service (FSB) came to his apartment in Kazan early on March 4 and searched the premises, confiscating his and his wife’s smartphones. Zakiyev said he was informed that the case was launched regarding a 2019 event related to the annual commemoration of Tatars who died during the 1552 siege of the city by Russian troops.

Human Rights Watch: “Dear Prosecutor General, We are writing to express our concern and request your action regarding the unfounded criminal prosecution of Yulia Tsvetkova, women’s and LGBT rights activist, theater worker and artist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur. She is facing from two to six years in prison on “pornography” charges for sharing body-positive artwork about female anatomy on social media. […] Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia Director, Human Rights Watch; Svetlana Zakharova, Director, Charitable Foundation “Sphere”; Geir Hønneland, Secretary General, Norwegian Helsinki Committee; Aleksandr Cherkasov, Board Chair, Human Rights Center Memorial; Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Research, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, Amnesty International; Ana Furtuna, Director of Eurasia Department, Civil Rights Defenders; Dr Srirak Plipat, Executive Director, Freemuse.

RFE/RL: Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the Internet in Russia to be bound by “moral laws” that he says will stop society from “collapsing” — suggesting that Russian children are being exploited by his political opponents at anti-Kremlin demonstrations. Putin’s televised remarks on March 4 come amid mounting efforts by Moscow to exert greater influence over U.S. social media giants and frustration from Russian authorities over what they say is the failure of U.S. social media firms to follow Russian laws.

The Moscow Times: A Moscow court has overturned the guilty verdict against Yelena Misyurina, the doctor whose conviction in a high-profile medical negligence case sparked national controversy. Misyurina, 46, was sentenced to two years in prison in January 2018 over a botched bone marrow biopsy in July 2013 that damaged a patient’s blood vessels, leading to his death. Russia’s medical community led a viral campaign on social media to call for her release and wider reforms, while figures including Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin expressed concern over her case.

Human Rights in Ukraine: A Russian court has sentenced 62-year-old Oleh Prykhodko to five years’ harsh regime  imprisonment, with the first year to be served in a prison, the worst of all Russian penal institutions.  The sentence was significantly lower than that demanded by the prosecutor, but then the judges can have been in no doubt that they were sentencing an innocent man to a term of imprisonment that he may not survive.  The defence had demonstrated over and over again that the charges against the 62-year-old who had never concealed his opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea had been brazenly fabricated.

The Moscow Times: Russia on Thursday demanded an explanation from Facebook after the social media giant said it had derailed a campaign to mislead Russians protesting the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The U.S.-based social network said its automated systems detected and disabled 530 Instagram accounts being used in the campaign against protesters who took to the streets in Russia following Navalny’s arrest in mid-January. “Roskomnadzor has sent Facebook management a letter containing a request to provide lists of accounts to which access has been limited and also to explain the reasons for blocking them,” the Russian communications watchdog said. Roskomnadzor demanded that Facebook, which owns the image-centric service, also provide proof that the blocked accounts had been involved in “illegal activities.” 

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