News of the Day: 10 February 2021

Amnesty International: We, the undersigned human rights organisations, call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to respond robustly to the recent crackdown by the Russian authorities on independent civil society and dissenting voices in the country. Russian authorities are systematically using the tools of the state to arbitrarily deprive citizens of liberty and curtail the exercise of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. The alarming trends the international community has observed in Russia for more than a decade have been drastically increasing since the end of 2020 and require urgent international action.

FIDH: The Observatory has been informed about the administrative detention and judicial harassment of Konstantin Gusev and Magomed Alamov in Pyatigorsk, as well as of the arbitrary detention and subsequent release of Evgeniy ChilikovSergey ShuninEkaterina Vanslova and Igor Kalyapin in Nijni Novogorod and Timur Rakhmatulin in Orenburg. The seven human rights defenders are members of the NGO Committee Against Torture, a member of the OMCT SOS-Torture Network.

FIDH: On January 23, 2021, Evgeniy Chilikov was arbitrarily detained on charges of “violation by a participant of a public event of the established procedure for holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, march or picket” (Part 5 of Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation) while monitoring the protests in support of Alexei Navalny in Nijni Novogorod. He was released from the local police station two hours after his arrest under the obligation to report to the police upon request. On January 31, 2021, Konstantin Gusev, Magomed Alamov, Ekaterina Vanslova, Sergey Shunin, Igor Kalyapin and Timur Rakhmatulin were arbitrarily arrested while monitoring the protest in support of Alexei Navalny in Pyatigorsk, Nijni Novogorod and Orenburg.

CPJ: Russian authorities should immediately release journalist Dmitry Bairov, drop all charges against him, and allow him to work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On January 28, plain-clothed law enforcement officers detained Bairov near his home in Ulan-Ude, a city in the eastern Russian Republic of Buryatia, according to news reports and Bairov’s wife, Yekaterina Bartayeva, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview. During his detention, approximately five officers ran up to Bairov, pushed him to the ground, and forcefully twisted his arms, dislocating his left arm, according to Bartayeva, who witnessed the raid, and those reports. Later that day, the Sovetskiy District Court found Bairov guilty of “repeated violation of the law on mass events,” and sentenced him to 25 days of detention for his alleged participation in a January 23 rally in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Ulan-Ude, according to those reports.

RFE/RL: Moscow’s Basmanny court has placed two municipal lawmakers under house arrest on charges of breaking coronavirus restrictions by publicly calling on Moscow residents to take part in unsanctioned rallies to protest the arrest of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The court made the ruling on Konstantin Yankauskas and Dmitry Baranovsky on February 9 after earlier using the same charge against a third municipal lawmaker, Lyusya Shtein. The lawmakers did not immediately comment on the situation, but Mikhail Timonov, an opposition deputy in the Moscow City Duma, called the move “an attack against [civil] rights and freedoms.” The lawmakers are three of 10 supporters and associates of Navalny who were detained in January on the eve of unsanctioned mass rallies against the Kremlin critic’s arrest.

RFE/RL: Well-known Tatar writer and activist Fauzia Bairamova has been found guilty of a charge of calling for the violation of the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity in a speech that she says was distorted because of translation errors. A court in Tatarstan’s second-largest city, Naberezhnye Chelny, on February 9 found Bairamova guilty of the charge and ordered her to pay a 30,000-ruble ($400) fine. Bairamova pleaded not guilty, insisting that the translation of her speech from Tatar into Russian contained errors that distorted the essence of what she told a conference organized by the All-Tatar Public Center (TIU) almost a year ago. In her speech, Bairamova quoted a poem by a prominent 20th century Tatar activist, Khadi Atlasi, that called for Tatars to have their own statehood.

The Guardian: The wife of the jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has arrived in Germany on a flight from Moscow. Yulia Navalnaya touched down at Frankfurt am Main airport on Wednesday evening on a Lufthansa flight, German magazine Spiegel reported in its online edition. The reasons for her departure are unknown. But associates made clear that her exit from Russia was temporary and did not amount to her leaving the country for exile. Navalny returned to Moscow with his wife on 17 January, after spending nearly five months recuperating in Germany. A team from Russia’s FSB spy agency poisoned Navalny last summer with the nerve agent novichok, while he was travelling in Siberia.

The Guardian: The celebrated Russian stage and screen director Kirill Serebrennikov, convicted last year in an embezzlement case seen as retribution for his politically charged work, has been forced out of the Moscow theatre he led for eight years. Serebrennikov transformed Moscow’s Gogol Center from a small, overlooked theatre into one of the capital’s most vibrant cultural venues with experimental updates of Russian classics and plays that indirectly addressed official corruption. In the process, he earned the ire of the state even as he found success abroad, working on opera in Europe and directing a film that featured in competition at Cannes. Moscow authorities this month announced they would not extend his contract to lead the Gogol Center, which receives public funding. Associates of the 51-year-old director said they believed the order to sack him had come from the security services.

RFE/RL: Early on the morning of February 8, Nikolai Bondarenko, a legislator in Russia’s Saratov Oblast, got a phone call asking him to move his car. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he noticed that the light that had been burning the previous evening was now dark. “When I entered the dark entranceway that morning, I heard some rustling and saw three large men standing there,” the Communist Party lawmaker told RFE/RL’s Russian Service. “I thought that they had come to deal with me in some other way. After I heard that they were from the police, I even sighed with relief. Better to end up in prison than in a cemetery.” Bondarenko’s anxiety continued, however, in the first hours of his detention at a local police precinct as he waited to find out the charges against him. Just days earlier, on February 4, Saratov Oblast Deputy Governor Igor Pivovarov called on prosecutors to investigate Bondarenko, accusing him at a session of the regional legislature of participating in the takeover of a police station at which weapons were held. The accusation stemmed from events at a local demonstration on January 31 in support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Bondarenko, however, is convinced that the police attention and other pressure on him in recent days is the result of his February 5 announcement that he intends to run for the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, in the single-mandate district in which powerful Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin is considering running. The elections are expected to be held in September.

The Moscow Times: The Russian military has turned down an invitation to attend a European security seminar for the first time in 30 years amid deteriorating ties with the West, Moscow’s arms control delegation in Vienna said Tuesday. The delegation’s Twitter account said Russian Defense Ministry officials opted out of the European Security and Cooperation Organization’s (OSCE) Military Doctrine Seminar, held once every five years, “due to unfriendly policies of the West.”

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has ordered mental assessments for former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, who was sentenced to 9 years in prison in Russia for assaulting police, a charge he has rejected. The Moscow City Court began a hearing into Reed’s appeal on February 10 with a ruling that the 29-year-old Texas student must undergo psychological and psychiatric evaluations before the hearing could resume at a later date. A district court in Moscow sentenced Reed in late July after finding him guilty of assaulting two police officers. Reed denies the charge saying he does not remember anything about the incident as he was drunk at the time.

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