Human Rights in Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill envisaging prison sentences of up to 10 years for putting an end to Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, or making calls to do so. The document was signed on the day that an overwhelming majority of countries in the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution effectively demanding just that.
RFE/RL: The Russian-controlled Supreme Court in Crimea has sentenced the owner of the ATR Crimean Tatar television channel, Lenur Islyamov, to 19 years in prison in absentia. The court in the Russia-annexed Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula found Islyamov guilty on December 10 of organizing sabotage, creating an illegal armed group, and publicly calling for Russia’s territorial integrity to be violated. He was sentenced the same day. Islyamov’s lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, told RFE/RL that his client does not recognize the court’s legitimacy. “My client considers Crimea a temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine and therefore considers all institutions of the occupying authorities to be illegal and he does not recognize their jurisdiction,” Polozov said, adding that the court’s ruling will be appealed.
The Moscow Times: President Vladimir Putin misspoke Thursday by asserting that treason charges against former journalist Ivan Safronov relate to his short-lived career at Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos this year. Putin, speaking to the presidential human rights council, claimed that Safronov is being prosecuted for passing secrets to the European special services while at Roscosmos and not during his long career as a defense reporter at leading Russian newspapers.
The Moscow Times: A group of scientists from leading Russian universities has blasted the development process of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine as “completely unacceptable” and “ridiculous” in an open letter raising new concerns over a lack of sufficient data on its safety and effectiveness. The experts said Russia’s state-run Gamaleya Research Institute, which is developing the jab, has ignored requests to share data — despite public pledges to do so — and have raised fresh fears over political meddling and a string of alleged shortcomings in the vaccine research.
The Moscow Times: Russian lawmakers have approved new restrictions on protests, prompting criticism from the opposition that they violate Russians’ constitutional rights. Deputies in Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved a pair of bills Wednesday that ban foreign funding for protest organizers as well as rallies outside law enforcement and security buildings.
The Moscow Times: Authorities in southern Russia say they will deploy uniformed Cossacks alongside police officers on New Year’s Eve to enforce a ban on mass celebrations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Krasnodar region Governor Venyamin Kondratyev called off Christmas and New Year celebrations to slow the spread of Covid-19 as the popular domestic tourism destination saw record-breaking case numbers in November. The Krasnodar region, with a population of 5.6 million, has officially confirmed 23,636 coronavirus infections and 668 deaths as of Wednesday.
Human Rights in Ukraine: 58-year-old Dzhemil Gafarov’s kidney disease is so severe that even Russian law should have precluded his detention, only the law and elementary decency are discarded in Russia’s treatment of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners. Gafarov, who is not even accused of any recognizable crime, has now developed gout, which is directly linked to his kidney failure, as well as the refusal by the staff of the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison] to provide proper healthcare. Lawyer Refat Yakhin explains that there was a hearing at the Russian-controlled High Court in Simferopol on the prosecutor’s application for an extension to Gafarov’s detention. Despite all documentation demonstrating that Gafarov has invalid status on grounds that prevent detention in Russia as well as Ukraine, and although he was brought to the court with a badly swollen leg, the ‘court’ asked no questions and provided the extension demanded.
RAPSI: European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) in its report recognized Russian legal system as one of the most effective in Europe, President of Russia Vladimir Putin said during the meeting with members of the Human Rights Council on Thursday. The President believes the matter cannot rest here. If certain violations are ignored they can assume a mass character that is unacceptable, he said and proposed to work at creation of a special human rights court in Russia. Such institutions require funding and certain changes in the system, Putin stated.
RFE/RL: The United States has imposed another set of sanctions targeting Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya and a loyal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.S. Treasury Department on December 10 announced sanctions against Kadyrov, as well as five individuals and six Russia-registered legal entities with close ties to him. The sanctioned entities include the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation and the Akhmat Grozny soccer team. The sanctions were imposed under the so-called Global Magnitsky Act, a 2016 law that authorizes the U.S. government to sanction suspected human rights offenders around the globe by freezing their assets and banning them from entering the United States.
The Moscow Times: European Union leaders Thursday extended punishing economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine for another six months, an EU spokesman said. The sanctions, which target whole sectors of the Russian economy including its valuable oil businesses, were extended to mid-2021. The measures over Russia’s role in the conflict were first imposed after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014 and have been renewed every six months ever since.