News of the Day: 14 July 2021

Amnesty International: Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the criminal prosecution of Ernest Mezak, a prominent human rights defender from Syktyvkar, Republic of Komi. Amnesty International is calling on the Russian authorities to stop criminal prosecution of Ernest Mezak as it is unfounded, ensure that he is able to exercise his human rights without fear of prosecution or harassment, and ensure that the principle of independence of the judiciary, the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of expression are observed in line with Russia’s international human rights obligations.

RFE/RL: An activist has been jailed for walking around Moscow’s Red Square wearing a T-shirt demanding Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s release from prison. A Moscow court on July 14 sentenced Vladislav Kazakov to 10 days in jail for violating laws on holding a public event. Kazakov was detained in Red Square the day before while wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “Freedom for Navalny.”

The Guardian: Russia’s army has sent water-bombing planes to support thousands of firefighters battling huge wildfires in Siberia, a region known for its frozen tundra that is now sweltering under a heatwave. Flames are tearing across 800,000 hectares of forest, and the hardest-hit region of Yakutia in the north has been in a state of emergency for weeks as climate scientists sound the alarm about the potential long-term impact. On Tuesday, more than 2,600 firefighters were battling blazes in Yakutia, which has borne the brunt of the fires in recent years.

RFE/RL: A Russian court has sentenced 27 suspects to prison terms ranging from two to 10 years for their roles in a deadly 2019 ethnic brawl. The Penza regional court on July 14 also acquitted one defendant in the case of a mass brawl in the village of Chemodanovka, after which dozens of Romany families left the village. Twenty-five of those sentenced were released from custody, as they had already served out their sentences while in pretrial detention. […] Chemodanovka council leader Sergei Fadeyev said that after the brawl, all Romany families in the village and the nearby settlement of Lopatki had “voluntarily” left their homes for an unknown destination. The regional government said the same day that some 130 Roma left their homes. No official reason was given for why they left, while Fadeyev insisted that they left of their own will and were not forced out.

The Moscow Times: Russian athletes competing under a neutral flag have been instructed to avoid answering “provocative” political questions at the Tokyo Olympics that will open to mostly empty stands next week, the Vedomosti business daily reported Wednesday. “No comment” is the most commonly recommended response on issues ranging from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Russian doping scandal to the Black Lives Matter movement.  Other tailor-made responses include “sports should remain out of politics” when asked about Crimea and “the Olympics should not become a platform for any actions and gestures” when discussing BLM.

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