News of the Day: 7 April 2021

The Guardian: Alexei Navalny has two herniated discs in his back and is losing feeling in his hands, his lawyers have said, as concerns mount about the opposition leader’s health in a Russian prison. Olga Mikhailova, a lawyer for the Kremlin critic, confirmed that he had been placed in a prison sick ward and had undergone an MRI after complaining of numbness and pain in his legs and back. She said a doctor had told Navalny about the herniated discs, calling them “difficult to treat”. Navalny remained feverish and still had a pronounced cough, she said, though his temperature had gone down from 102F (39C) to 99F. Tests had not yet shown that he had contracted coronavirus or tuberculosis, Mikhailova added.

RFE/RL: Jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny is losing about 1 kilogram a day, his lawyer said, as he continues his hunger strike amid growing concerns about his overall health after he reported a severe cough and high temperature. Vadim Kobzev, a member of Navalny’s legal team, said in a post to Twitter on April 7 that his temperature remained elevated but down slightly from the previous day. “Aleksei walks by himself. Feels pain when walking. A very disturbing factor is that the disease is clearly progressing in terms of loss of sensitivity in the legs, palms, and hands,” he wrote in a separate tweet. Earlier, Olga Mikhailova, another member of Navalny’s legal team, said he had had an initial test for exposure to coronavirus and that had come back negative. She said they were waiting results of a second.

RFE/RL: The father of Ivan Zhdanov, the director of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), has been remanded in custody on a charge of abuse of office, which he and his supporters reject. The Rostov regional court on April 7 upheld an earlier decision by a lower court in the city of Rostov-on-Don to keep 66-year-old Yury Zhdanov in pretrial detention at least until May 21. Yury Zhdanov, who took part in the hearing via a video link from the detention center, and his lawyers requested the court transfer him to house arrest due to his age and the danger of getting infected with the coronavirus while in custody.

Human Rights in Ukraine: It is almost a month since Vladislav Yesypenko was seized by the Russian FSB in occupied Crimea, yet he has only now been able to speak to an independent lawyer and to inform a Russian-controlled court of the torture he was subjected to, with this including electric currents attached to his earlobes and savage beating.  It was essentially clear from when the FSB released a taped ‘confession’ that this had likely been extracted through torture, but the details are truly shocking. Yesypenko also formally rejected the ‘lawyer’ foisted upon him by the FSB.  This individual, Violetta Sineglazova,  is known for essentially working with the prosecution, rather than defending clients.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has upheld fines imposed by Russia’s media-monitoring agency against RFE/RL’s Russian-language services for alleged violations of the country’s controversial “foreign agent” laws. On April 7, the Tverskoi District Court upheld 5.5 million rubles ($70,700) in fines, rejecting RFE/RL’s appeals against them. In all, the Roskomnadzor state monitoring agency has filed 390 protocols against RFE/RL for failing to mark its materials distributed in Russia as the product of a Russian-government-designated “foreign agent.” The court has so far upheld about 260 of the protocols with total fines approaching $1 million. RFE/RL has not complied with the labeling requirements.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s media watchdog on Wednesday warned US-funded Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe it had 60 days to pay more than $70,000 in fines over non-compliance with its “foreign agent” law. The statement came after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday expressed support for Radio Liberty /Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) and other U.S. international media.

RFE/RL: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed his support for U.S. international media amid concerns over Russian efforts to shut down and muzzle RFE/RL under its controversial “foreign agent” law. Blinken met on April 6 with the acting head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), Kelu Chao, “to discuss the vital role that free and independent media play in the preservation and promotion of democratic principles worldwide,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

RFE/RL: The European Union’s drug regulator will investigate Russia’s clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine and whether those tests followed “good clinical practices,” the Financial Times reported. The U.K.-based paper on April 7 cited anonymous sources familiar with the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) approval process as saying there were ethical concerns over how Sputnik V was tested before it was released for general use. Approval of the vaccine for the European Union will hinge in part on determining whether the Russian clinical trials met so-called GCP standards, the paper reported.

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