News of the Day: 10 March 2021

RFE/RL: The trial of Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation who is charged with trespassing, has been adjourned just minutes after it started due to technical issues. The Perovsky district court of the Russian capital started the trial on March 10 but quickly noted that there were “technical shortcomings in the materials of the case” and adjourned the hearing until March 23. Sobol is charged with illegally forcing her way into the apartment of a relative of Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Konstantin Kudryavtsev. If convicted, Sobol faces up to two years in prison.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has fined well-known Russian actress Aglaya Tarasova for taking part in a rally protesting the arrest of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Timiriyazev district court said on March 10 that Tarasova was found guilty of taking part in an unsanctioned public event and fined 10,000 rubles ($135). Tarasova was among protesters detained at a pro-Navalny rally in Moscow on February 2.

RFE/RL: A 34-year-old Moscow resident has been handed a suspended sentence for attacking a police officer during January 23 rallies in support of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Presnensky district court on March 10 said Aleksandr Muchayev pleaded guilty and was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence. No details of the case were revealed. Earlier reports said that Muchayev was driving a car with Maria Alyokhina, a member of the Pussy Riot protest group, and opposition municipal lawmaker Lyusya Shtein inside. When police tried to detain the two women, Muchayev drove the car into making contact with a police officer.

RSF: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Russian federal authorities to protect the editor of a local online newspaper in Kiselyovsk, her hometown in southwestern Siberia’s Kemerovo region, after threats and attacks forced her to flee. The attacks are unacceptable and must be investigated, RSF says.

The Moscow Times: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation Wednesday allowing phone companies to jam communication in prisons in order to prevent scams. The legislation’s authors say that convicts use contraband cellphones to commit fraud and witness intimidation as well as control the actions of fugitive members of criminal organizations. Under the newly signed amendments to Russia’s criminal and communications laws, Russia’s Federal Prison Service can now send phone companies a written request to jam specific phone numbers.

RFE/RL: The Russian medical professional organization Alliance of Doctors will appeal a decision by the Justice Ministry to put it on “foreign agent” list, as the nongovernmental group vows to continue operations.
The trade union will legally challenge the controversial label and does not plan to shut down, the press secretary for the Alliance of Doctors, Alexandra Zakharova, told the website Open Media on March 9. “No liquidation. We continue to work,” she said. The Justice Ministry on March 3 added the Alliance of Doctors to a growing list of organizations it says are fulfilling the functions of a “foreign agent.”

Human Rights Watch: Today, Russian authorities claimed they slowed down access to Twitter in Russia in response to the social media site’s failure to take down allegedly illegal content. Russian authorities have listed Twitter as a “threat” and have said they might block it altogether if it does not censor such content. Earlier this year, the government pressured Twitter and other major tech companies to censor calls for participation in peaceful unsanctioned protests against corruption and in support of the jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny. The authorities fined social media platforms and threatened to block them if they failed to censor posts on protests. Roskomnadzor, the state body for media oversight, said the forced slowdown targets only video and image files on Twitter, rather than the tweets themselves. Internet service providers reported an overall slowdown in access to Twitter.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s media watchdog has announced Wednesday first steps to throttle Twitter for failing to remove banned content by intentionally disrupting the platform’s speed within the country. “Starting March 10, 2021, centralized response measures have been taken against Twitter to protect Russian citizens and force the internet service to comply with Russian legislation,” Roskomnadzor said Wednesday. Roskomnadzor said it slowed down Twitter on all Russian cellphones and half of its desktops.

The Guardian: Russia took action on Tuesday to slow down the speed of Twitter in a move that also appeared to have accidentally shut down the Kremlin’s own website, as well as other government agency sites. The state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, said it was retaliating for Twitter’s alleged failure to remove banned content. It threatened a total block if the US platform did not comply with its deletion demands. The punitive move was aimed at video content on Twitter, the regulator said, and would affect all mobile devices and half of non-mobile users. Twitter’s text-based services were working normally on Wednesday.

RFE/RL: Moscow’s top police official has rejected accusations that law enforcement used inappropriate force against supporters at rallies for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in January and February. Speaking at a Moscow City council session on March 10, Oleg Baranov, the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s main directorate in the Russian capital, said that “Moscow police acted in accordance with the current law.” On January 23 and January 31, tens of thousands of supporters of Navalny held mass protests across Russia, protesting the jailing of the outspoken Kremlin critic. Police violently dispersed the protests.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s National Guard will train journalism students to safely cover mass protests, a senior lawmaker said Wednesday. The lessons will be organized after the detentions of and use of force against dozens of journalists at mass nationwide rallies in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny earlier this year. Moscow’s police chief earlier Wednesday defended his subordinates as acting legally “against offenders who committed crimes at unauthorized rallies.”

RFE/RL: Russian metallurgical giant Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) has fully paid off more than 146 billion rubles ($1.97 billion) in damages for a spill that dumped thousands of tons of diesel fuel into the Russian Arctic last year. The company — owned by Russia’s richest man, Vladimir Potanin — said in a statement on March 10 that its subsidiary, Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company (NTEK), had received the sum from Nornickel and paid all fees that were due in full. Last month, the Krasnoyarsk City Court of Arbitration ruled that almost all of the sum, the largest legal award in Russian history, must go to the federal treasury, while around 1.3 billion rubles ($17.5 million) must go the budget of the city of Norilsk, where more than 21,000 tons of diesel leaked into the environment from a tank at NTEK’s thermal power plant in May last year.

RFE/RL: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has assured members of Congress that the Biden administration opposes the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and said the administration continues to review further sanctions. Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that President Joe Biden thinks the nearly completed pipeline was a “bad idea” and had “been clear on this for some time.” He added that the United States, which has already placed sanctions on companies involved in building the pipeline, was “making clear that we stand against its completion…and we continue to review other possibilities for sanctions going forward.” Nord Stream 2 is designed to reroute Russian natural-gas exports to Europe under the Baltic Sea, circumventing Ukraine.

Leave a Reply