News of the Day: 5 March 2021

The Moscow Times: Dozens of Russian non-profits have pleaded for President Vladimir Putin to strike down upcoming requirements to disclose their donors’ foreign funding, the Kommersant business daily reported Friday. The dormant rules set to reactivate this spring will leave the homeless, elderly, orphans and seriously ill without support due to fewer donations, said a group representing 57 NGOs. The NGOs argue that it is too costly and time-consuming for them to investigate and then report whether their Russian donors themselves receive foreign funding, Kommersant reported. “We ask you to order changes to the legal requirements,” the group, a socially oriented charitable association called “Vse Vmeste” (All Together), said in a letter to Putin quoted by Kommersant. Russia’s Justice Ministry declined to extend its two-year moratorium on “indirect” foreign funding earlier this year. According to Kommersant, it argued that easing the rules would keep it from “carrying out the full state supervision of non-profit organizations’ activities.” 

RFE/RL: A court in the Russian city of Vladimir has sentenced a man to three years in prison on a criminal charge of attacking a police officer during January 23 rallies in support of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Lenin district court in Vladimir, 200 kilometers east of Moscow, on March 5 found Vitaly Timofeyenko guilty of using pepper spray against a police officer during the dispersal of the demonstrators. Timofeyenko admitted to using the spray, but said he did so to help another protester who was being held on the ground by the police. Prosecutors had sought a prison term of five years for the defendant, in what is the second known criminal conviction for a participant in the January 23 pro-Navalny rallies across Russia. On March 2, a 26-year-old resident of the Volga River city of Kostroma was sentenced to 18 months of forced labor for attacking a police officer in a similar rally on January 23.

The Moscow Times: Russia recorded more than 55,000 excess deaths in January, data from the country’s official statistics agency (Rosstat) published Friday showed. Since the start of the pandemic until the end of January — the latest such data is available — Russia has now recorded 394,000 more deaths than in the previous period. That represents a 24% increase in fatality and one of the highest excess death tolls in the world, even after adjusting for population.

RFE/RL: Russia has barred long-time Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev from entering Crimea for the next 13 years. Russian authorities initially barred Dzhemilev from entering Crimea for five years in March 2014 after Moscow illegally annexed Crimea. However, a decision by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2019 to extend the ban became public on March 5 during Dzhemilev’s ongoing trial — being held in absentia — in Russian-controlled Crimea.

The Guardian: Aides to Alexei Navalny have said they will continue to push for new western sanctions against Kremlin-linked businessmen and officials, as Moscow brushes off the west’s response to the poisoning and jailing of the opposition politician. In interviews, senior advisers to Navalny said they welcomed this week’s sanctions against Russian officials but they had hoped to see oligarchs and others who could influence Vladimir Putin’s decision-making also included. “I’m not going to say that the first round was a false start,” said Leonid Volkov, an aide to Navalny based in Vilnius, Lithuania. “But clearly European decision-makers were being careful. Because this is the first time this [human rights] sanctions regime is being used.” This week Volkov released a video appeal in which he said “sanctions against Putin’s oligarchs would be a maximally painful blow to the Kremlin”. EU and US sanctions announced on Tuesday targeted senior security and political officials as well as companies and research institutes tied to Navalny’s poisoning and imprisonment, but stopped short of including prominent businessmen seen as close to Putin.

The Guardian: Russia’s riot police have launched an online recruitment campaign in the weeks since nationwide protests erupted over the jailing of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Police forcefully dispersed tens of thousands of people who took part in three protests in January and early February, when Navalny returned to the country from Germany and was later jailed for two and half years. The force has since advertised hundreds of times on recruitment websites such as, run by the Headhunter Group, Avito and A Reuters review of the data provided by some of the recruitment firms suggests the campaign has gone well beyond any similar drive in recent years.

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