News of the Day: 15 December 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Tuesday confirmed 28,363 Covid-19 infections and 1,142 deaths.

The Guardian: Germany’s new government is facing calls to stand up to the Kremlin after a Berlin court jailed a Russian man, 56, for life for the “painstakingly planned” assassination of a Chechen dissident in the German capital at the behest of the Russian authorities. Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, 40, a Georgian citizen who fought against Russia during the second Chechen war in the early 2000s, was shot twice in the head at close range in the Kleiner Tiergarten, a park in central Berlin, in August 2019.

The Moscow Times: Germany expelled two Russian diplomats on Wednesday after a Berlin court jailed a man for killing a former Chechen commander on German soil in 2019 on orders from Moscow, escalating a growing diplomatic rift. Judges in Berlin sentenced Russian Vadim Krasikov, alias Vadim Sokolov, to life in jail after finding him guilty of gunning down Georgian national Tornike Kavtarashvili, 40, in a Berlin park in broad daylight on Aug. 23, 2019.

RFE/RL: A Russian court has handed lengthy prison terms to seven people who led protests in Ingushetia against a change to the administrative boundaries between the Russian North Caucasus regions of Chechnya and Ingushetia.On December 15, the court in the city of Yessentuki, in the Stavropol Krai region, sentenced Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoyev, and Musa Malsagov to nine years each; Barakh Chemurziyev, Bagaudin Khautiyev, and Ismail Nalgiyev to eight years each; and Zarifa Sautiyeva to 7 1/2 years in prison. The defendants were found guilty of creating an extremist group and assaulting law enforcement officers.

Amnesty International: Responding to the sentencing of seven Ingush protest leaders to between 7,5 and 9 years in prison for organizing peaceful protests against the authorities in 2018 and 2019, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said: “The sentencing of these protest leaders today represents a gross violation of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Once again, Russia has failed not only to meet its obligations under international human rights law, but also to abide by its own constitution.  “By jailing these protest leaders, the Russian authorities add their names to a long list of Ingush activists imprisoned simply for practising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The baseless charges levelled against them serve as little more than a tool to punish and intimidate activists, while their sentencing sends a chilling message to civil society leaders in Ingushetia and beyond.”

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has ordered the Memorial Human Rights Center — one of the post-Soviet world’s oldest and most prestigious human rights organizations — to pay a 500,000 ruble ($6,800) fine for allegedly violating Russia’s controversial “foreign agent” legislation. The December 15 ruling comes a day after Russia’s Supreme Court resumed a hearing into a request by federal prosecutors to shut down Memorial International, the umbrella organization for the group.

RFE/RL: A Russian court has rejected a request filed by the father of Ivan Zhdanov, a close associate of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, to be transferred to house arrest, his lawyer says. A court in Russia’s Arctic city of Naryan-Mar ruled that his client must stay in a detention center while his trial is under way, Yury Zhdanov’s lawyer, Vladimir Voronin, wrote on Instagram on December 15. The court said that Zhdanov, 67, may leave the country to escape justice if released.

RFE/RL: The daughter of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has urged European Union governments to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as she collected the Sakharov Prize on his behalf during a ceremony in the French city of Strasbourg.

The Moscow Times: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s daughter on Wednesday urged the EU to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as she collected a rights prize on behalf of her father.  “Although coming here is amazing, it is also probably exactly how mine and my family’s worst nightmare looks like,” Daria Navalnaya told the European Parliament as she picked up its annual Sakharov Prize. Navalny — Putin’s highest-profile domestic opponent — has been behind bars since returning to Moscow in January from Germany, where he was recovering from a poisoning attack with a Novichok nerve agent that both he and the West blame on the Kremlin.  

RFE/RL: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Russia to pay compensation to four victims of domestic violence, including Margarita Grachyova, whose husband used an ax to cut off her hands four years ago.

Meduza: Russia Today’s parent company is suing Feelosophy, a Moscow-based store that recently started selling merchandise branded with the phrase “foreign agent” (inostrannyi agent and inoagent) to raise support for Meduza. Available court records indicate that ANO TV-Novosti’s lawsuit is against Georgy Saribekyan, Feelosophy’s founder. RT’s parent company seeks 500,000 rubles (about $6,775) in damages.

Front Line Defenders: On 8 December 2021, the Kirov District Court of the Republic of Crimea ruled in favour of the sentencing of human rights defender Mustafa Seidaliev to 10 days detention. The Court found the human rights defender guilty of “production and publication of extremist data” (Article 20.29 of the Code of Civic Conduct) and “propaganda of prohibited symbols” (Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Civic Conduct) in relation to his social media posts published in 2012. Representatives of the organisation Crimean Solidarity believe that the charges against the human rights defender result from his peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

European Parliament: The award ceremony of the 2021 edition of the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought took place on December 15th, in Strasbourg. The laureate Alexei Navalny, was represented at the ceremony by his daughter, Daria Navalnaya, and Leonid Volkov, friend and political advisor.

European Parliament: Alexei Navalny, a leading opposition figure in Russian politics, has been awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for his fight for democracy in Russia. Navalny has spent years exposing corruption among Russia’s top officials and leading demonstrations against the regime. His actions struck a chord with millions of people across the country. Since becoming a household name, he has been arrested, harassed and poisoned in an apparent attempt on his life. In February, he was imprisoned in a penal colony. “He once said that corruption flourishes when there is disregard for human rights. And I believe he is right. The fight against corruption is a fight for the respect of universal human rights. It is certainly a fight for human dignity, for good governance and for rule of law.” Navalny’s daughter, Daria collected the prize on behalf of her father, delivering his message to the European Parliament. “When I wrote to my dad and asked: What exactly would you like me to say in the speech from your point? He answered: Say that no one can dare to equate Russia to Putin’s regime. Russia is a part of Europe and we strive to become a part of it.” The European Parliament has condemned the arrest, attempted assassination and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny. It is calling for his immediate release. By awarding him the 2021 Sakharov prize, MEPs recognise his fight for democracy and fundamental freedoms in his native Russia.

Euopean Parliament [Resolution]: Urges Russia to stop the ongoing crackdown on civil society, human rights defenders and independent media by repealing the ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organisations’ laws, ceasing to create special legislation or abuse existing criminal or administrative laws with the aim of targeting dissident voices in the country or abroad, and bringing its legislation in line with the commitments that Russia has voluntarily undertaken under international law and its own Constitution, including by fully reinstating freedom of association and expression, as well as media and internet freedom; calls on the Russian authorities to ensure that restitution and reparation measures are put in place to address the violations committed in the process of implementing the ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organisations’ laws; Expresses its solidarity with the Russian people and urges the Russian authorities to stop persecuting Memorial, its staff, and all other NGOs, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, scholars, historians, women’s rights and LGBTIQ+ rights activists and environmental activists in Russia; reiterates its support to Russia’s civil society and human rights defenders and calls on Russia to establish a clear legal framework and a safe working environment for civil society in line with international human rights standards; stresses the need to guarantee effective and efficient legal recourse procedures for civil society actors whose freedom to work has been compromised;  Reiterates that the free and independent work of civil society organisations and the media is a cornerstone of a democratic society based on the rule of law; calls therefore on the Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Member States to increase support for civil society, independent NGOs, human rights defenders, historians and independent media outlets active in Russia, including sustainable and flexible financial support and emergency assistance, and to encourage greater international support for these actors and their broader inclusion in international civil society networks; appeals to the sense of responsibility of Russian academia to provide those researchers and historians with adequate and safe opportunities to pursue their academic activity; Praises Memorial’s significant contribution to the documentation, research and education about political repression in the Soviet Union and highlights that this work established international standards; applauds its tireless work in defence of human rights in today’s Russia and beyond; commends in particular its initiatives such as the request for initiation of criminal proceedings against members of the Wagner Group on behalf of victims in Syria, and its sustained efforts for the criminal prosecution of crimes and human rights violations in Chechnya; stresses that liquidation of International Memorial and Human Rights Centre Memorial would therefore have significant negative consequences for civil society as a whole and for the protection of human rights in Russia in particular; Underlines that the liquidation of these organisations would also bring an end to Memorial’s unique databases and document collections and believes that these records are a unique heritage of humanity; stresses that it is paramount that they be protected and preserved and continue to be available to anyone interested, including students, researchers and families of victims; invites the Commission and the EEAS therefore to produce a comprehensive report together with civil society and Russian human rights experts on the living memory of the millions of victims of political terror in the Soviet Union, which would be based on the witness statements and databases collected by Memorial;9. Condemns the policy of historical revisionism and glorification of Stalinism promoted by the Russian Government and authorities, used not only in the current attempts to liquidate Memorial Human Rights Centre, but also in numerous other cases, such as the discovery of mass graves in Sandarmokh in the Republic of Karelia and the subsequent politically motivated prison sentence, based on fabricated charges, of Yury Dmitriev, local leader of Memorial, as well as the confiscation of the book by Agnes Haikara on the tragic fate of Norwegian and Finnish colonists of the Kola peninsula; underlines that remembering the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes and recognising and raising awareness of the crimes committed by communist, Nazi and other dictatorships is of vital importance for the unity of Europe and for fostering resilience against modern threats to democracy, particularly among younger generations; […]

RFE/RL: Russia has presented the United States with a set of proposals for binding Western security guarantees during a meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried in Moscow on December 15, the Kremlin said.

Leave a Reply