News of the Day: 14 January 2021

The Guardian: Russia’s prison service says it has orders to detain Alexei Navalny, a statement made days before the opposition politician is due to return to Russia after recuperating abroad from a suspected FSB poisoning. Navalny could face prison time when he gets off the plane in Moscow on Sunday. Officials said they would take him into custody for failing to appear for parole reviews after he was attacked with a novichok-style poison in August. The assassination attempt left the opposition leader fighting for his life in a Siberian hospital before he was transferred to Germany for treatment.

RAPSI: Moscow’s Simonovsky District Court will hear a bid of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) seeking revocation of Alexey Navalny’s suspended sentence in the Ives Rocher embezzlement case on January 29, the court’s press service has told RAPSI. In late December 2020, FSIN officials warned Navalny of the possible replacement of his suspended sentence with a real prison term because of breaching obligations imposed by court and evasion of the penitentiary control. According to the penitentiary authorities, Navalny left a German hospital yet in September. However, he has failed to appear in a correctional inspection as necessary since then.

Meduza: Russia’s Military Investigative Committee (a department subordinate to the country’s federal investigative agency) has formally refused to examine allegations that FSB officers were involved in the August 2020 poisoning of opposition figure Alexey Navalny.  This was stated in the official response to a petition for an investigation from lawyer Vladlen Los, who works for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. Navalny published a copy of the formal refusal on his blog on Thursday, January 14. 

RAPSI: A defamation case against Alexey Navalny over his statements about veteran of the Great Patriotic War Ignat Artemenko will be resumed on January 20, RAPSI has learnt in the press service of Moscow’s Babushkinsky District Court. A justice of peace suspended hearing of the case because of the blogger’s illness in late August 2020. In early June, Russia Today TV channel published a video where the 93-year Artemenko and other respondents were reading the Constitution preamble. Following that, Navalny released a video with comments on his social networks insulting the veteran.

RFE/RL: The judges at the trial of a civil rights activist from Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan for mocking President Vladimir Putin and two of his close associates in a YouTube video have banned journalists from attending the proceedings, saying they were adhering to restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Judges of the Central Military District Court in the city of Samara on January 14 refused to allow RFE/RL correspondent Yekaterina Mayakovskaya to attend the ongoing trial of Karim Yamadayev, citing the virus restrictions. Yamadayev’s lawyer Vladimir Krasikov told RFE/RL that, as his trial resumed, his client protested that no journalists were present in the courtroom.

RAPSI: The Moscow City Court on Thursday upheld the detention of blogger Andrey Pyzh, who stands charged with illegal access to the data constituting a state secret, which had been earlier extended until March 5, the court’s press service told RAPSI. Investigators objected to mitigation of the restrictive measure claiming that the defendant had adequate resources for obstruction of justice and escape due to his Ukrainian citizenship.  Pyzh met with people who furnished secret information to him. The accused transferred the data abroad through the Internet and during personal trips, according to the investigation.  The blogger runs Urbanturizm channel where he publishes video about closed and abandoned objects.

Meduza: In her latest video for “Navalny Live” opposition figure Lyubov Sobol revealed that her campaign manager, Olga Klyuchnikova, found a listening device planted inside her cell phone following her release from jail at the end of December 2020. According to Klyuchnikova, her iPhone was “noticeably malfunctioning” when she was allowed to use it while still in custody, leading her to believe that FSB officers had “clumsily” tampered with the device. She now plans to appeal to state investigators to open a criminal case for violation of privacy.

RFE/RL: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that a complaint brought by Ukraine against Russia alleging human rights violations in the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 is “partly admissible.” The Strasbourg-based court was ruling on January 14, among other issues, whether Russia effectively controlled the Ukrainian territory before the State Duma on March 20, 2014 ratified a treaty that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed as part of the annexation process. Kyiv insists Moscow controlled the peninsula since February 27, 2014 and that Russian forces tortured and killed police as well as civilians, allegations that Moscow denies.

RFE/RL: A court in Siberia has extended the pretrial detention of three leaders of an isolated messianic sect who are charged with “creating a religious group, activities of which may impose violence on citizens.” Defense lawyers for Sergei Torop, the founder of the Church of the Last Testament who calls himself Vissarion, and his associates, Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov, wrote on Telegram on January 13 that the Central District Court in the city of Novosibirsk had prolonged their clients’ pretrial detention until April 15. The lawyers added that they will appeal the court ruling. The trio was arrested by security forces in September in a massive raid on the group’s remote settlement in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region.

Committee to Protect Journalists: Russian authorities should repeal the country’s foreign agents law to ensure that local and foreign news outlets can work freely, and in the meantime refrain from fining media organizations over alleged violations of the law, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On January 12, Roskomnadzor, the country’s media regulator, issued four notices to media outlets run by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and four personal notices to Andrey Shary, the general director of the RFE/RL’s legal entity in Russia, as the person responsible for each outlet, according to a statement by the regulator, a report by RFE/RL, and news reports.

RFE/RL: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says Russian authorities should repeal the country’s controversial “foreign agents” law and ensure that Russian telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor is not used to threaten and harass media organizations and censure journalists. “Russian authorities regularly think up new tools and implementations to obstruct the flow of news and information, to the detriment of their own public,” Gulnoza Said, the New York-based media-rights group’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said on January 14.

The Guardian: Anger burns a hole through the screen in this stark monochrome picture from veteran director Andrei Konchalovsky: a gruelling re-enactment of the hushed-up Novocherkassk massacre in western Russia in 1962, when Red Army soldiers and KGB snipers opened fire on unarmed striking workers, killing an estimated 80 people. It was a day of spiritual nausea for the Soviet Union, which had only just entered Khrushchev’s new de-Stalinised era of supposed enlightenment – a postwar civilian bloodbath that was the Soviets’ Sharpeville, or Kent State, or Bloody Sunday, or indeed the Corpus Christi massacre in Mexico City that featured in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.

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