News of the Day: 10 June 2021

Amnesty International: Reacting to the news that a Russian court designated three organizations founded by Aleksei Navalny as “extremist”, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: “With this decision, the Russian authorities have equated the activities of civil society organizations with serious crime, placing tens of thousands of Navalny’s supporters at risk of prosecution. This is one of the Kremlin’s most cynical and brazen attempts so far to crack down on the rights to freedom of expression and association. Combined with recent legislative changes, this ruling effectively bars anyone who has associated with or even supported these three organizations from standing for public office for up to five years. An unparalleled campaign of politically-motivated repression has rolled out in recent months in Russia. Vladimir Putin’s regime is compensating for its waning public support by creating an atmosphere of fear and despair, throwing its political rivals behind bars, forcing them out of the country and banning one after another those organizations held in disfavour by the regime.”

The Moscow Times: The committee of ministers of pan-European rights body the Council of Europe on Thursday said it strongly urged Russia to “immediately” release jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in line with a previous ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The committee, which oversees the implementation of ECHR rulings, expressed “its grave concern” that Navalny “remains in detention and his conviction stands”, the Council of Europe said. The ECHR had in February ordered Russia to release Navalny after he was jailed on his return from Germany where he had been convalescing following a poisoning attack in Siberia that he blamed on the Kremlin.

The Moscow Times: A Moscow court has outlawed the political and activist networks of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as “extremist” in a closed-door hearing Wednesday. Here’s what it means for Russia’s most potent opposition force moving forward:

RFE/RL: Members of the political network built by Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny in Russia have pledged to continue their efforts to campaign for change and expose corruption in the upper echelons of power after a Moscow court declared their movement “extremist.” The Moscow City Court handed down its ruling late on June 9, preventing people associated with Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his collection of regional political offices from seeking public office.

The Moscow Times: Siberian doctors falsified Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s medical records that contained evidence of his nerve agent poisoning last summer, the jailed opposition figure’s allies said in an investigation published Thursday. Omsk region doctors who first treated Navalny after he fell severely ill on Aug. 20, 2020, said their tests did not find any toxic substances despite later findings by the global chemical-weapons watchdog and three European labs showing a Novichok-type nerve agent in his samples. In its latest investigative report, Navalny’s team said it was able to dupe the Omsk hospital archive into sharing Navalny’s unredacted medical records in November 2020 and compare them to a cleared copy that the hospital handed over a month later. 

The Guardian: The decision by a Moscow court to declare Alexei Navalny’s nationwide political organisation as “extremist” adds the group to a list associated with terrorist organisations such as al-Qaida and Islamic State. But for a guide to how Russia could treat Navalny’s supporters, a better example is the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a non-violent religious group that has felt the full extent of Russia’s law on extremism.

CPJ: Russian authorities should thoroughly and swiftly investigate the recent attack on journalist Andrey Afanasyev, hold the perpetrators to account, and ensure that members of the press can work safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The Moscow Times: A Siberian journalist investigating a U.S.-sanctioned Chechen fight club said Wednesday that he had been severely beaten by unknown men. Andrei Afanasyev said at least three people had hit him “with either a pipe or piece of rebar” outside his apartment in the Far East city of Blagoveshchensk 7,500 kilometers east of Moscow. 

The Moscow Times: A lawsuit filed with a Moscow court accuses popular YouTuber and journalist Yury Dud of “online drug propaganda,” the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Thursday.  The government-affiliated Safe Internet League — a nonprofit that acts as an online morality watchdog — filed a police appeal against Dud in April, accusing him of promoting drugs in his recent interviews with blogger Ivangai and rapper Morgenshtern.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has fined social media outlets Facebook and Telegram for their “failure” to remove content “banned” by Russian authorities. The Magistrates Court in the Taganka district on June 10 fined the U.S.-based social network giant Facebook 17 million rubles ($235,300) and Telegram 10 million rubles ($138,400) for what it called “administrative offenses.”

The Moscow Times: Russian authorities are ramping up pressure on researchers and activists who oppose Moscow’s historical narrative, especially concerning Stalin-era purges and collaboration with Nazi Germany, an international rights group charged Thursday. The report published by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) “comprehensively catalogues repressive acts related to historical memory” targeting historians, activists and journalists for their work on Russian history. 

FIDH: A new FIDH report finds that human rights abuses targeting historians, activists, journalists, and NGOs working on historical memory of the Soviet past have become systematic since at least 2014. Legal impediments and implementation of laws designed to stifle free speech and freedom of association, arbitrary arrests and prosecutions, censorship, public smear campaigns, and failure to provide effective remedies for past abuses are just some of the violations detailed. Read the report

RFE/RL; Independent investigative groups Bellingcat and The Insider say a detailed investigation shows Russian writer and poet Dmitry Bykov, a critic of the government, suffered a poisoning attack two years ago at the hands of the same agents suspected of being involved in the poisoning of opposition figures Aleksei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. In a report released on June 9, the groups said they had identified “significant correlations” between the travels of members of a Federal Security Service (FSB) squad and the previously unexplained poisonings or deaths of several other public figures, including the twice near-fatal poisoning of outspoken the opposition politician Kara-Murza.

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