News of the Day: 12 August 2021

Amnesty International: The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right enshrined both in international and regional treaties to which Russia has agreed to be bound and in Russian law. However, the Russian authorities are flouting the obligations of the state to respect, protect, promote and fulfil this right by using increasingly repressive measures to restrict and suppress peaceful protests. This increasingly repressive legislation is being enforced through measures including unfair trials, unfounded and disproportionate sanctions, and excessive use of force against protesters.

Amnesty International: Authorities in Russia have eroded the right to freedom of peaceful assembly by using increasingly restrictive laws, and heavy-handed police tactics and criminal prosecutions to silence peaceful dissent — to the point where it is almost impossible for Russians to protest in any meaningful way, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today.

RFE/RL: Russian authorities have stifled people’s right to peaceful protests to such an extent that is has become almost impossible for Russians to protest in any meaningful way, Amnesty International has said in a report.

The Moscow Times: Two Russian opposition activists have been sentenced to more than a decade in prison in a case critics say is politically motivated. Lia Milushkina, the former head of Open Russia, an activist movement associated with exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in Russia’s Pskov region, was handed a 10.5-year sentence Thursday for selling an illegal substance, the independent TV Dozhd news outlet reported. Her husband Arytom Milushkin, who was also involved with Open Russia, was sentenced to 11 years on similar charges.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Major Russian NGOs have addressed an important appeal to two UN Special Rapporteurs over Russia’s violation of the right to religious freedom and freedom of association through its persecution of Muslims on trumped up charges. While the appeal focuses on the flawed nature of Russia’s prosecutions in general, these are increasingly being used in occupied Crimea as a weapon to silence civic activists and journalists and terrorize Crimean Tatars.

The Guardian: Russia has reportedly detained the head of a hypersonic technology research facility on suspicion of treason in the latest high-profile arrest targeting a senior scientist for allegedly selling state secrets. Alexander Kuranov, 73, the general director of the St Petersburg-based Hypersonic System Research Institute (HSRI), was arrested in Moscow on Thursday. A Moscow court ruled he be held for two months in pre-trial detention.

RFE/RL: A court in Russia has sentenced Russian businessman Andrei Kakovkin to prison on embezzlement charges more than three years after he returned to his homeland from abroad as part of a campaign to repatriate foreign-based Russian businesspeople. A court in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don on August 12 sentenced Kakovkin to 4 1/2 years in prison after finding him guilty of embezzling $400,000 in 2015.

RFE/RL: The numbers tell the story of 27-year-old Anastasia Bryukhanova’s uphill effort to be registered as an independent candidate for the State Duma in Moscow’s 198th single-mandate district. Ahead of the August 3 deadline, she submitted 15,941 signatures from voters endorsing her candidacy to city election officials. According to an accounting she posted on Facebook that day, the effort cost her campaign 21 million rubles ($284,000). It took 600 volunteers and produced over 30 kilograms of paper. In all, Bryukhanova personally signed 4,968 pieces of paper.

The Moscow Times: A wildfire raging in northeastern Siberia could become the largest in recorded history, experts from Greenpeace Russia told The Moscow Times on Wednesday. The republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia’s largest and coldest region, has been devastated by unprecedented wildfires that are now larger than the rest of the world’s blazes combined. Residents have been under a state of emergency for weeks as thick, acrid smoke blankets settlements and reaches cities thousands of kilometers away, while thousands of volunteers have been recruited to fight the fires.

RFE/RL: A season of devastating wildfires has put the world on notice and generated predictions of an apocalyptic future without coordinated action. But in Siberia, a Russian region known more for extreme cold than scorching summers, residents are depending on a ragtag army of ill-equipped volunteers to help save them from raging wildfires that dwarf all others on Earth combined.

The Guardian: The leader of a Siberian region has declared Friday a non-working day and urged residents to stay at home as smoke from raging forest fires raised health concerns. Aisen Nikolayev, the head of Yakutia, Russia’s largest and coldest region, which has been hard-hit by wildfires this year, said on Thursday that the day off would apply to the regional capital, Yakutsk, and several other districts.

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