News of the Day: 15 January 2021

The Moscow Times: Public figures and ordinary Russians have appealed to President Vladimir Putin to expedite  housing promised to 1,500 elderly people whose parents were deported to the gulags under Stalin’s repressions. “They still can’t come back,” 107 prominent artists, academics and executives said in an open letter published in the Kommersant newspaper.  Nearly 83,000 people signed a petition in support of the pensioners, demanding priority housing and an end to queues that could last up to 30 years. “By the time their turn comes, they will be more than 100 years old,” the petition reads, referring to the so-called “Children of the Gulag.”  “In 10-15 years there will be no one to return.”

The Moscow Times: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s defiant pledge to return to Moscow from Germany after surviving a poisoning attack puts the Kremlin in a major bind. President Vladimir Putin, observers say, is caught between a rock and a hard place: allow his most outspoken critic to freely return to Russia and risk looking weak, or hand Navalny a lengthy prison term and potentially turn him into a global cause celebre. “There is not a good decision here but some sort of decision will have to be made,” political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya told AFP. The 44-year-old’s announcement that he was returning to Moscow on Sunday aboard Pobeda — Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary whose name means “Victory” in Russian — drew gasps from admirers and critics alike.

Meduza: Moscow prosecutors have issued a warning on their website urging people not to take part in an “unauthorized mass event” at Vnukovo International Airport on the day opposition figure Alexey Navalny is set to return to Russia from Germany. This event hasn’t been coordinated with the city of Moscow’s executive authorities in the manner prescribed by the law. […] Both the organization of an unauthorized public event and participation in it will incur liability under the law of the Russian Federation.  The department also said that on Friday, January 15, “persons calling for participation in a mass event” were warned against violating the law. Who these warnings were issued to was not specified. 

Meduza: Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport, where opposition figure Alexey Navalny is set to land on Sunday, January 17, will not be allowing journalists on its property to cover his arrival. In an email to the news portal Sota Vision, spokespeople for the airport attributed this decision to anti-coronavirus measures. In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection, as well as to ensure the safety of the arrival of passengers and guests of Vnukovo International Airport, mass events, including the organization of media activities on the territory of the airport complex are temporarily suspended. At the same time, the Vnukovo Airport’s spokespeople assured that a video of the passengers on the flight from Berlin “will be provided.” Sota Vision announced that it intends to broadcast from Vnukovo Airport “regardless of its press service’s readiness to cooperate with journalists.”

RFE/RL: Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says a member of his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) has been detained on a charge of inciting extremism. According to a tweet by Navalny on January 15, Pavel Zelensky was detained over a tweet he sent last year following the self-immolation of journalist Irina Slavina in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. In his tweet on October 2, Zelensky condemned the Russian authorities, saying they were responsible for the journalist’s death. Slavina died after setting herself on fire in front of Nizhny Novgorod’s city police department on October 2 following a police raid on her apartment in an apparent search for evidence linking her to an opposition group.

RAPSI: Opposition figure Lyubov Sobol has been charged as part of a criminal case over forcible violation of inviolability of dwelling, attorney Vladimir Voronin has told RAPSI. Investigators allege that on December 21 a group of persons, among them Lyubov Sobol, repeatedly attempted to entry into an apartment, where an old woman resided, of a house situated in the Eastern District of Moscow. Those involved illegally used uniforms of Russia’s consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor. After two attempts to enter the house had failed, Sobol deceived a delivery man saying she was a “abandoned wife with a baby,” could enter the building and as the old woman opened the door of her apartment Sobol pushed her back, entered the apartment, took a video of the premises on her phone, and left the place, according to the Investigative Committee.

Human Rights Watch: On January 14, the European Court of Human Rights issued a significant decision accepting Ukraine’s complaint alleging that Russia is responsible for multiple human rights violations in Crimea. This decision is very important. While the Court did not consider the legality of Russia’s seizure of Crimea, in finding Ukraine’s complaint partially admissible, the Court recognized that Russia has “exercised effective control” over the peninsula since February 2014. Such recognition of Russia’s occupation is a crucial step towards justice and accountability for human rights abuses by authorities in Crimea. In March 2014, as Russia moved to consolidate control in Crimea, Human Rights Watch was on the ground, documenting abuses by the so-called “self-defense units”, paramilitary groups without insignia or a clear command structure, which ran amok and acted with complete impunity. These groups were implicated in attacks on reporters and activistsenforced disappearances, and abductions and torture of pro-Ukraine activists, while the authorities made no attempts to reign them in.

Human Rights in Ukraine: It took frustratingly long to get there, but the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] has finally paved the way for multiple judgements over Russia’s violations of human rights in occupied Crimea.  The Grand Chamber decision on 14 January 2021 found Ukraine’s complaints against Russia over violations in Crimea partly admissible and essentially determined that Russia has occupied Crimea since 27 February 2014.   The only reason it was deemed partly, not wholly, admissible, was because ECHR considered that Ukraine had not provided sufficient proof to back a very small part of the huge number of complaints. 

RFE/RL: At the end of last year, Russia adopted a number of new legal measures that many observers say are intended to further restrict the country’s already state-dominated media sphere. Among other things, the government has begun placing individuals on its list of “foreign-agent” media, subjecting them to potential fines or prison sentences. The government has also criminalized online defamation. Russia’s state media monitor, Roskomnadzor, this week drew up its first eight administrative protocols — all of them targeting Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty — for allegedly violating the “foreign agents” law. The protocols target four of RFE/RL’s Russian-language projects — its main service for Russia, Radio Svoboda; the Current Time television and digital network; and Siberia.Reality and Idel.Reality, two regional sites delivering local news and information to audiences in Siberia and the Volga-Urals region. The Siberia Desk of RFE/RL’s Russian Service spoke with lawyer Galina Arapova, head of the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defense Center, about the government’s latest moves and what impact they could have on Russian civil society.

Caucasian Knot: Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a blogger from Chechnya, has called on the Swedish authorities to react to the mild, in his opinion, sentence to the figurants in the assassination attempt on him in the same way as European countries reacted to the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The coordinator of the assassination attempt on Tumso is associated with Ramzan Kadyrov’s inner circle, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial” reports. On January 11, a court in Sweden found Russian citizens Ruslan Mamaev and Elmira Shapiaeva as participants in the attack on Abdurakhmanov and sentenced them to ten and eight years in prison, respectively. “While in Europe they punish criminals in such a mild manner, those who wish to commit such crimes will not decrease,” Mr Abdurakhmanov has stated.

Leave a Reply