News of the Day: 5 January 2021

RFE/RL: Russian opposition activist Yevgeny Chupov, who fled Russia in 2019 fearing possible prosecution for his political activities, has received refugee status in Bulgaria. Chupov told RFE/RL on January 5 that Bulgaria’s State Agency on Refugees had ruled he, his wife, and four children could remain in Bulgaria. According to Chupov, his initial application filed in August 2019 was rejected but the agency changed the ruling before his appeal was considered by the Sofia city administrative court.

The Moscow Times: Police in Ukraine have received new evidence that may help identify those who ordered the murder of award-winning investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet in 2016. “The documents and audio recordings, the last of which are dated by 2012, are already at the disposal of the investigation,” the police said in a statement. Fragments of these recordings published on the Internet contain the voices of “unidentified persons discussing the murder” of Sheremet, including the option of poisoning him, the statement added. The National Police also said they had received permission to conduct an investigation in an EU country, but did not specify which one.

The Moscow Times: In Russia’s staid parliament, the dying days of 2020 were marked by unusually frenzied lawmaking activity, most of it centering on civil rights. Over the course of a few days in late December, the State Duma passed a flurry of bills introducing sweeping new restrictions on political protests, legalizing censorship of social media and cementing broad new guidelines under which the government can designate individuals as “foreign agents.” They have already been signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. To many observers of Russia’s political scene, the new legislation — coming on the heels of the August poisoning of opposition activist Alexei Navalny — represents a pronounced hardening of Russia’s authoritarian system ahead of parliamentary elections in the fall. “The state is waging war on civil society,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow in Russian domestic politics and political institutions at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “This is the natural evolution of authoritarianism.”

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