News of the Day: 12 July 2021

Human Rights Watch: A court in Sochi, Russia, has convicted a prominent human rights defender on criminal charges related to the country’s “foreign agents” law, Human Rights Watch said today. The court sentenced Semyon Simonov, head of the Southern Human Rights Center, to 250 hours of community service, for an unpaid fine levied against the center. The verdict caps nearly eight years of harassment and intimidation against Simonov in retaliation for his human rights work. The authorities should immediately withdraw the charges against Simonov, quash the verdict, and repeal the abusive “foreign agents” law, which is the source of the fine. Simonov told Human Rights Watch that he plans to appeal the ruling.

RFE/RL: Noted human rights defender Semyon Simonov has been convicted on criminal charges related to Russia’s controversial “foreign agents” law. In a July 12 statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said a court in the southern city of Sochi had sentenced Simonov, who leads the Southern Human Rights Center, to 250 hours of community service for an unpaid fine levied against the center. Among other activities, Simonov documented abuses experienced by migrant workers involved in construction for Russia’s Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He was also involved in human rights education and monitored police conduct.

The Moscow Times: Moscow opposition municipal deputy Ilya Yashin said Monday he is stepping down as chairman of a local assembly over state pressure he attributes to his support for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Yashin’s announcement comes less than a month after election officials removed him from the Moscow City Duma ballot, citing a new law that bars anyone affiliated with “extremist” organizations from running for public office. Russia banned Navalny’s activist and political networks as “extremist” in June, banning their activities and putting members at risk of imprisonment.

RFE/RL: Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin has announced he is quitting as head of Moscow’s Krasnoselsky district amid ongoing pressure on him and his team after saying he would run in upcoming parliamentary elections. Yashin wrote on Facebook on July 12 that he made the decision after he was barred from running in the elections and because of politically motivated pressure imposed on him and his associates. “The prosecutor’s office has shaken our accountant and the team with endless inspections. Our employees spend a significant part of their work time answering queries from law enforcement,” said Yashin, who has led the Krasnoselsky district of the Russian capital since 2017.

RFE/RL: Mikhail Alfyorov, an opposition blogger in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, has been charged with inciting hatred and discord over his video about the arrest of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in Moscow on his arrival from Germany in January. On July 11, Alfyorov’s mother, Lyudmila Alfyorova, told the OVD-Info group that monitors arrests and trials of rights defenders and opposition activists that her son was detained on July 5 and spent four days in pretrial detention. On July 9, a court in Kemerovo transferred the blogger to house arrest until September 1.

The Moscow Times: Prominent Russian opposition-leaning columnist Fyodor Krasheninnikov has joined a growing list of activists and political figures to leave the country in recent months amid what Kremlin critics call an intensifying crackdown on dissent. Krasheninnikov fled Russia for neighboring Lithuania last August after being fined and then jailed for “disrespecting authorities” in his online posts criticizing the judicial system. He spent seven days under “administrative arrest” in July 2020 over his criticism of Russia’s constitutional changes that paved the way for President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.

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