News of the Day: 9 June 2021

The Moscow Times: A Russian court has outlawed the political and activist networks of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as “extremist” in a closed-door hearing Wednesday, effectively dismantling one of Russia’s most potent opposition forces amid a wider crackdown in the lead-up to parliamentary elections. The designation bars opposition groups affiliated with Navalny from crowdfunded operations and puts their members and supporters at risk of up to six years in prison.

The Guardian: A Russian court is soon expected to outlaw opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s nationwide political organisation on the grounds it is “extremist”, in a landmark step forward for Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on political dissent. The highly anticipated court decision will effectively liquidate Navalny’s non-violent opposition movement and bar his allies from running for office for years, as the Kremlin seeks to erase the jailed opposition leader from Russian political life.

RFE/RL: A fire caused by the malfunction of an artificial-lung ventilation device has killed three COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Russia’s western city of Ryazan. The governor of the Ryazan region, Nikolai Lyubimov, said on June 9 that the device, produced by the Boaray company in China, exploded overnight, sparking a fire in the medical institution. According to the regional administration, eight people, including two nurses, sustained severe burns in the blaze.

The Moscow Times: Russian security agents linked to the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny previously poisoned prominent writer and journalist Dmitry Bykov, The Insider news website and Bellingcat investigative outlet reported Wednesday. The latest report follows investigations by The Insider, Bellingcat and CNN claiming that alleged members of an elite Federal Security Service (FSB) chemical-weapons unit trailed Navalny for years before nearly killing him with military-grade nerve agent Novichok in August 2020. The investigations used flight logs and phone call data obtained on the black market to track the officers’ movements.

RFE/RL: Police have detained a popular blogger in Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, over his song mocking governm ent’s efforts to solve the deadly 2002 hostage-taking incident at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater. The investigative Committee said on June 9 that Yury Khovansky, whose YouTube channel has more than 4.4 million subscribers, was detained overnight on suspicion of “justifying terrorism.” The committee also placed a video on YouTube showing Khovansky lying facedown on the floor with his hands behind his head as he is being detained.

RFE/RL: The Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved the third and final reading of a bill that widens the scope of a controversial existing law on “undesirable” organizations. Under the bill approved on June 9, Russian citizens and organizations located in any country of the world will be barred from taking part in the activities of foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are labeled “undesirable” in Russia. According to the bill, “any foreign or international NGOs that provide services or transfer money to NGOs that have the status of an undesirable organization in Russia” will be by extension defined as “undesirable” as well.

The Moscow Times: A Dutch court heard Wednesday how two defendants discussed the procurement of a surface-to-air missile which prosecutors say was eventually used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014. Judges this week began hearing evidence in the trial of four people — three Russians and a Ukrainian — charged in connection with an attack on the airliner over war-torn eastern Ukraine which crashed, killing all 298 people on board. Russian nationals Oleg Pulatov, Igor Girkin and Sergei Dubinsky, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko were charged with murder after the Boeing 777 was blown from the sky on a routine flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur. 

The Moscow Times: Russia will probe the recent national music awards for “gay propaganda” after it featured attendees in gender-flipped clothing and what viewers said resembled a gay marriage ceremony. Last Friday’s Muz-TV music awards broadcast sparked controversy when beauty blogger Igor Sinyak walked the red carpet in a gown and one of Russia’s highest-paid TikTokers Danya Milokhin appeared in a half-dress, half-tuxedo. 

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