News of the Day: 11 December 2020

Amnesty International: Server Mustafayev, a Crimean Tatar human rights defender, was sentenced by a Russian military court on 16 September to fourteen years in a strict regime penal colony. Server Mustafayev must be immediately and unconditionally released as he is a prisoner of conscience, persecuted solely for exercising his human rights and defending the rights of others.

Meduza: A group of Russian State Duma lawmakers have submitted a draft law toughening penalties for individuals and media outlets recognized as “foreign agents” that fail to comply with the stipulations of that status.  In accordance with the bill, individuals considered foreign agents can face criminal liability for failing to apply to be included in the relevant database or failing to submit reports on their activities to the authorities. The proposed punishments include fines ranging up to 300,000 rubles ($4,100) or up to two years annual salary, community service or force labor, or up to five years in prison. The lawmakers proposed similar penalties for media recognized as foreign agents that violate operational procedure, albeit a lighter prison sentence — up to two years behind bars (or a fines ranging up to 300,000 rubles or up to two years annual salary, or community service or forced labor).

RFE/RL: Officials say a suicide bomber has set off a device in the North Caucasus region of Karachai-Cherkessia, killing himself and injuring six police officers. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK) said on December 11 the wounded, including the deputy chief of the regional Interior Ministry’s investigative unit, Asker Abdurazakov, sustained shrapnel wounds after a man approached a police station in the village of Uchkeken and detonated a bomb at around noon local time. Some media reports said that there were two explosions, of which one took place several hours earlier near the police station, but it did not result in any casualties. When police officers and investigators gathered at the site, the man then set off a second device as he chanted “God is great!” in Arabic. The attacker died at the scene, the statement says. Rashid Temrezov, head of Karachai-Cherkessia, said later in the day that the situation was under control.

The Moscow Times: A Kremlin-initiated investigation has found the individuals who ordered the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in 2015, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday during a meeting of the presidential human rights council.  Nemtsov, one of Putin’s most vocal critics, was shot and killed on a bridge near the Kremlin walls in February 2015. A gunman and four accomplices were jailed for up to 20 years in 2017, but Nemtsov’s allies have criticized the investigation for failing to identify those who had ordered the killing.

Meduza: During a meeting with the Human Rights Council on Thursday, December 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the high-profile murders of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova have been solved. In particular, he said that in addition to the perpetrators, the people who ordered the killings have been found. Meduza fact-checks Putin’s comment against previous criminal convictions in connection to both killings, as well as the most recent reports from state investigators.

The Moscow Times: Russia should form its own human rights court, President Vladimir Putin said when asked by a council member on Thursday.  Analysts have said the formation of such a court is likely a response to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which has ordered Russia to pay out millions of euros to plaintiffs for human rights violations over the years. “The idea seems right in itself,” Putin said during the annual meeting of the presidential human rights council, asking members to start working on clarifying legislative and funding details. The RBC news website cited sources in parliament and the expert community as saying that the idea for a Russian human rights court has never previously been discussed among lawmakers.

The Moscow Times: Russia plans to recruit prisoners sentenced to forced labor to clean up pollution in the Arctic, the state-run TASS news agency reported Thursday, citing Federal Prison Service (FSIN) official Elena Korobkova. The announcement follows a string of environmental incidents to hit the fast-warming region this year, most notably a massive fuel spill from a Norilsk Nickel storage tank in May that environmentalists called the largest-ever oil spill in the Arctic. Some 21,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into the soil near the city of Norilsk and waterways up to 30 kilometers away.

RAPSI: The Supreme court of Russia’s Komi Republic will hear a case against a 55-year old resident of the town of Vorkuta over online denial of the Nazi crimes, the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office reports. According to investigators, between April and May 2019, the defendant published open texts containing justification of Nazism on his social network account. The posts were related to murder of people along ethnic lines. The accused pled guilty. 

Human Rights in Ukraine: The lawyers representing Ukrainian political prisoner Oleh Prykhodko have established in court that the phone and sim-card used by Russia’s FSB as supposed proof of Prykhodko’s plan to commit an act of terrorism in Lviv are nothing of the kind.  The trial underway in Rostov (Russia) is of a Crimean who has never concealed his opposition to Russian occupation, and the outcome is essentially predetermined, but it is important that the defence is demonstrating serious grounds for believing that the evidence against Prykhodko has been fabricated. 

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