News of the Day: 13 January 2021

RFE/RL: Outspoken Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny says he will return to Russia this weekend after spending almost five months in Germany to receive emergency medical care to survive a poison attack. “The question ‘to return or not’ never stood before me as I didn’t leave on my own. I ended up in Germany in an intensive-care box. On January 17, Sunday, I will return home on a Victory flight,” he said in a tweet on January 13. Navalny fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow on August 20 and was treated and placed in an induced coma in a Siberian hospital before being transferred to a world-class facility in Germany. Lab tests in three European countries, confirmed by the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, have established that Navalny was poisoned with a toxin from the Russian-made Novichok group of Soviet-era nerve agents. The findings led the European Union to imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute.

RAPSI: Moscow’s municipal lawmaker Yulia Galyamina has appealed a 2-year suspended sentence given her for repeated violations of rally holding regulations, according to the press service of the Tverskoy District Court. Galyamina was found guilty in December. In early July 2020, Galyamina published on the Internet posts calling to participate in an unauthorized rally in central Moscow on July 15. However, in the last 180 days the woman was repeatedly brought to administrative liability for similar violations, according to the statement.

Human Rights Watch: The Covid-19 pandemic challenged Russia’s healthcare system and provided a pretext for Russian authorities to further encroach on fundamental rights, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2021. Russia passed controversial constitutional amendments, including allowing President Vladimir Putin to run again for two more six-year presidential terms, that were ultimately approved in a plebiscite. A widespread crackdown on dissenting voices followed, with several new criminal cases and politically motivated raids, detentions, and prosecutions against opposition figures, civic activists, and organizations. Prosecution under the “undesirable organizations” and “foreign agents” laws were used to further intimidate activists, while new draft “foreign agents” legislation, which introduces new, oppressive restrictions, was submitted to parliament. “The pandemic and some of the constitutional amendments added a worrying new dynamic to Russia’s worsening human rights record,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “In 2020, the Kremlin took advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to push for increasingly repressive measures and suppression of dissent and civic activism.”

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