News of the Day: 8 March 2021

RFE/RL: A student from Uzbekistan has been ordered to leave Russia for taking part in a January 23 rally in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, in support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Nineteen-year-old Andrei Lagunin said over the weekend that he was ordered to pay 10,000 rubles ($135) for taking part in an unsanctioned rally and ordered to leave Russia before March 9, even though he insists that he did not take part in the pro-Navalny rally but was walking along the street where police dispersed the demonstrators. His lawyer, Viktor Shabanov, told the newspaper Vechernyaya Kazan that the motion to deport his client from Russia will be appealed, as the decision was unlawful.

The Moscow Times: Russian women in cities nationwide held a strike for equal rights ahead of International Women’s Day.  In cities like Moscow, Kazan and Ulyanocsk, protesters called on the authorities to abolish all “repressive, sexist and homophobic laws,” to pass anti-domestic violence legislation and to institute laws against sexual harassment in the workplace. “We planned the strike right before March 8 because International Women’s Day is a really big holiday in Russia, but it’s also very problematic. It’s a farce,” said Ayten Yakubova, one of the organizers of the strike. “It’s supposedly a holiday to be honoring women when really things are not so great for women in Russia at all.” The March 5 strike is already in its second year and is organized by two organizations: the SotsFem Alternative socialist feminist group and Socialist Alternative, a group that pushes for economic equality. Last year, hundreds joined the strike, with students from 11 universities across the country participating. 

CPJ: On March 3, 2021, the Tverskoy District Court in Moscow sentenced Ilya Azar, a correspondent for the liberal Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, to 15 days of detention and a fine of 150,000 rubles (US$2,014) for allegedly organizing illegal protests on Facebook, according to news reports and a statement from his employer. On March 5, the Moscow City Court rejected Azar’s appeal and said it would keep him in custody to serve his detention, according to news reports.

Human Riights Watch: In late February of this year, Russia’s criminal investigative agency announced that it had referred to a court an investigation into criminal negligence by two police officers that happened on January 14, 2020 in the Siberian city of Kemerovo. Around the time when the investigation was announced, Kemerovo law enforcement issued an official video, which briefly described how, at around 5 am on Jan. 14, a police hotline registered several calls reporting “a woman’s screams” coming from a flat in the city.  The information was passed on to duty police officers, who, the authorities stated on the video, “failed to take necessary action.”

RFE/RL: The last native speaker of the so-called Bering dialect of the Aleut language, Vera Timoshenko, has died at the age of 93 in Russia’s Far Eastern Kamchatka region. Yevgeny Golovko, the director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Linguistic Studies, said on March 7 that Timoshenko died in her native village of Nikolskoye on Bering Island.

RFE/RL: Balkars in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria are marking the 77th anniversary of their mass deportation to Central Asia by Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Balkars are a Turkic-speaking and predominantly Muslim ethnic group that numbers an estimated 110,000 people. Prayers in the region’s mosques on March 8 were dedicated to those who died during their deportation to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan between 1944 and 1957.

RFE/RL: A senior Russian lawmaker has blasted Facebook after the social-media giant said it had blocked articles by Russian news agencies claiming police last month arrested Ukrainian nationalists after experts concluded the radicals were Russian. Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, said on March 8 that Facebook had violated the rights of Russian citizens through a move that was tantamount to “digital lawlessness.”

The Moscow Times: When Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was arrested upon his January return to Russia, his supporters and enemies alike turned their attention toward his wife Yulia Navalnaya. They prophesied that she was poised to replace her husband as Russia’s main opposition politician in a move that would mirror the political rise of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in neighboring Belarus.  While Navalnaya herself would dismiss the calls to enter politics, that has not stopped women from emerging as a dominant force within Russia’s opposition. Navalny’s absence from the political landscape amid his recovery from Novichok poisoning and subsequent imprisonment turned the spotlight on his top female aides, including spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh and Anti-Corruption Foundation lawyer Lyubov Sobol.  This spotlight has been a double-edged sword: Both Yarmysh and Sobol were put under house arrest after they called on Russians to take to the streets for Navalny’s release on Jan. 23. They now face criminal charges of violating coronavirus-related bans on mass gatherings.

Leave a Reply