News of the Day: 13 December 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Monday confirmed 29,558 Covid-19 infections and 1,121 deaths.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s top social media platform, VKontakte, has appointed the son of an influential Kremlin insider as its new chief executive, the company announced Monday. Vladimir Kiriyenko —whose father Sergei Kiriyenko is first deputy chief of staff in the Presidential Administration — will become the CEO of VK Group, which controls VKontakte and a number of other internet businesses, “effective immediately.”

RFE/RL: Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 as the demise of “historical Russia,” a comment that could fuel speculation about his foreign policy intentions amid a buildup of tens of thousands of Russian troops in regions bordering Ukraine. “It was the disintegration of historical Russia under the name of the Soviet Union,” Putin said of the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union while speaking in a documentary film called Russia. Recent History that aired on state television on December 12.

Human Rights in Ukraine: 51-year-old Dmytro Shtyblikov should have been released on 10 November 2021, after five years in Russian captivity.  Instead, Russia’s FSB came up with new charges, as surreal and implausible as the original ‘Crimean saboteur’ accusation used to imprison him, fellow military analyst Oleksiy Bessarabov and Volodymyr Dudka, a retired naval captain.  This time, the Ukrainian is accused by the Russian regime that invaded Ukrainian Crimea under Russian law of ‘state treason’. Having made all kinds of grandiose claims back in November 2016, while showing only a Ukrainian flag, a fake business card and sports airguns, this time almost nothing is known about the charges.  Nor will it be, since the ‘trial’, of Shtyblikov and Oleksandr Oblohanow beginning at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov, will be behind closed doors.   

Meduza: Video blogger Yuri Khovansky has been locked up since June, awaiting trial on charges of “justifying terrorism.” For months, he’s claimed in letters released to the public through his lawyers that the police are trying to frame him for performing a banned song about the deadly 2002 Nord-Ost siege. The case against him, Khovansky says, relies on false testimony from a handful of witnesses who claim he played the song in 2018. He says he performed the piece (which he now renounces) only once, in November 2012, which should exonerate him under the statute of limitations. Journalists at the news outlet RBC obtained copies of the case evidence against Khovansky and found that significant portions of the prosecution’s witness testimony repeat identical phrases and even whole paragraphs of text. Two of the three witnesses also appear to be former police officers.

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