News of the Day: 8 April 2021

Amnesty International: Prominent Russian opposition figure and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny was arbitrarily arrested on 17 January 2021 after recovering from being poisoned. He was subsequently sentenced to two and a half years in prison for “violating the terms of a suspended sentence”. In prison, he is being ill-treated and denied adequate medical assistance despite serious deterioration of his health. In protest, he continues a hunger strike that began on 31 March. Aleksei Navalny’s detention is unlawful and politically motivated. He must be immediately released.

The Moscow Times: A Russian court has handed week-long sentences to several supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after they traveled to his penal colony to demand he receives proper medical treatment. Police on Tuesday detained nine Navalny supporters outside his prison in the town of Pokrov around 100 kilometers east of Moscow for violating public order. The supporters had gathered outside the colony to demand access to Navalny, who is on hunger strike and demanding medical treatment for back pain and numbness in his legs and hands.

RFE/RL: The Moscow City Court has remanded Kira Yarmysh, spokeswoman of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, under house arrest. The court also ruled on April 8 to preserve house arrest as the pretrial restriction for a leading member of the Pussy Riot protest group, Maria Alyokhina; a coordinator of Navalny’s team in Moscow, Oleg Stepanov; and municipal lawmaker Dmitry Baranovsky. The four along with six other associates and supporters of Navalny have been charged with publicly urging Moscow residents to violate sanitary and epidemiological safety precautions. The group was detained in late January on the eve of unsanctioned mass rallies against Navalny’s arrest. Most of them were placed under house arrest.

CPJ: Russian authorities should drop all charges against journalist Daria Komarova and allow her and other members of the press to cover protests without fear of reprisal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Yesterday, the Leninsky district court in Cheboksary, the capital of the central Russian republic of Chuvashia, held the first hearing in the trial of Komarova, a freelance correspondent for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) regional outlet Idel.Realii, in relation to her coverage of protests, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and a report by her employer.

RFE/RL: The house arrest of the brother of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, a close associate, and two Moscow municipal lawmakers who are charged with breaking coronavirus restrictions by publicly calling on Moscow residents to take part in unsanctioned rallies in January, has been cancelled. Vladimir Voronin, the lawyer for Lyubov Sobol, who is a lawyer with Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), said late on April 7 that the Moscow City Court had ruled to replace the house arrest of his client, as well as Navalny’s brother, Oleg Navalny, and Moscow city lawmakers, Lyusya Shtein and Konstantin Yankauskas, with other restrictions. According to the court decision, the new restrictions include being barred from leaving their homes between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., a ban on communicating with other individuals in the case, a ban on the use of all methods of communication to discuss issues related to the case, and a ban on the use of regular mail or telegraphic communication.

The Moscow Times: Ultranationalist supporters of separatists in eastern Ukraine disrupted a movie screening at the Artdocfest film festival in Moscow on Wednesday night, the organizers said on Instagram. This was the second major attack this year on Artdocfest, a popular Russian documentary film festival which has been the target of conservative and nationalist-oriented groups in recent years. About ten SERB (South-East Radical Bloc) activists tried to disrupt the screening of “The Way Home” by throwing paint on the screen, but were caught before carrying out the act, the festival’s organizers said on Instagram.

Human Rights Watch: International attention to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine had faded in recent years. Recent reports of Russia massing troops near Ukraine’s border have brought it back into focus. Monitors reported a significant uptick in hostilities in recent weeks. A key issue of the renewed international focus on the conflict in eastern Ukraine should be how civilians will be protected if there is a further escalation in hostilities. Russia has been pursuing a proxy war in eastern Ukraine since it occupied Crimea in 2014, supporting armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk regions financially and providing them with military support. According to the United Nations’ human rights office, at least 3,077 civilians have been killed and more than 7,000 injured since the war began. On April 2, a child died from blast trauma and fragmentation wounds in the village of Oleksandrivske, Donetsk region. Wounds from explosive weapons with large area effects can be especially difficult to treat in children.

RFE/RL: Lawyers based in Russia and in parts of eastern Ukraine held by Moscow-backed separatists have flooded the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) with thousands of complaints against Kyiv for alleged rights violations in the conflict-ridden Donbas, in what appears to be a coordinated campaign to tar Ukraine, an investigation by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service has found. The investigative TV program Skhemy (Schemes) found that around 6,000 claims related to the conflict in the Donbas, out of a total of 10,000 claims Ukraine faces at the ECHR, were filed by several groups of lawyers from Russia and areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of the separatists.

The Moscow Times: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy traveled to the country’s eastern frontline on Thursday, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Vladimir Putin to reduce Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine. Zelenskiy’s frontline visit came as fighting between the Ukrainian army and separatists has intensified in recent weeks and Russia has built up troops along the border, raising fears of a major escalation in the long-running conflict in Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking east.

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