News of the Day: 5 April 2021

The Guardian: Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, has been moved to a sick ward suffering from symptoms of a respiratory illness and has been tested for the coronavirus, the Izvestia newspaper reported on Monday. Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, last week declared a hunger strike. He has accused prison staff of denying him proper treatment for acute back and leg pain and earlier on Monday, he alleged there had been a tuberculosis outbreak on his ward. The 44-year-old politician said three people from his ward had been hospitalised with TB and joked darkly that catching the disease might offer him relief from his other ailments.

RFE/RL: Jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has been moved to a sick ward after complaining of a cough and temperature, the Izvestia newspaper has reported. Earlier in the day, Navalny said in an Instagram post that a third prisoner in his quarters had been sent to the hospital with suspected tuberculosis. In the post, Navalny said prison doctors had officially diagnosed him with a “severe cough” and a temperature of 38.1 degrees Celsius, which indicates a slight fever.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Lawyers representing Yury Dmitriev, the world-renowned Russian historian and head of the Karelian branch of Memorial, have applied to the European Court of Human Rights, citing violation of four articles of the European Convention.  Dmitriev has been in custody since December 2016, despite the first charges against him leading to an unprecedented two acquittals, and the charge used to imprison him for 13 years having only emerged after the first acquittal.  His case has received international condemnation and is widely seen as linked with his work over decades in uncovering the crimes of the Soviet regime, the mass graves of its victims at Sandarmokh and in naming the perpetrators.

The Moscow Times: Russia recorded almost 30,000 excess deaths during February, the country’s statistics agency announced Friday — a figure which takes Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic above 422,000. Since the start of the pandemic, Rosstat has recorded 149,000 fatalities directly related to Covid-19 and another 77,000 where the virus was present in a patient when they died from another condition. 

Human Rights in Ukraine: Rustem Sheikhaliev was first at the Rostov ‘military court’ in December 2018, reporting on the trial and horrific sentences against four recognized Crimean Tatar political prisoners.  The Crimean Solidarity freelance journalist had time to provide  coverage for the next such ‘trial’ of five other political prisoners, before the Russian FSB came for him on 27 March 2019, together with 22 other civic journalists and activists.  In a letter to his family from Russian captivity, Sheikhaliev writes of the strange feeling, entering this same court, in handcuffs, for his own ‘trial’.

RFE/RL: Russia’s state communications regulator has backed down from banning Twitter amid a dispute over content on its platform. However, it said on April 5 that it will continue to slow the speed of the U.S. social network inside the country until the middle of May. Russia has been engaged in a fight with U.S. social media, including Twitter, over content it deems prohibited, such as calls to join political protests.

RFE/RL: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a controversial bill that opens the door for him to potentially remain in power until 2036. The bill, which was recently approved by the lower and upper chambers of parliament, aligns the election laws with constitutional changes approved by voters last year. One of the constitutional changes resets Putin’s term-limit clock to zero, allowing him to seek reelection when his current term expires in 2024, and again in 2030 if he wishes.

The Guardian: The European Union has pledged its “unwavering” support for Ukraine’s government, with the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, expressing major worries over Russian troop movements. “Following with severe concern the Russian military activity surrounding Ukraine,” Borrell wrote online after a phone call with Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba. “Unwavering EU support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Borrell said he would hold further talks on the issue with Kiev’s top diplomat and foreign ministers from the EU’s 27 nations at a meeting later this month.

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