News of the Day: 15 July 2021

The Guardian: The Kremlin’s war on independent journalism in Russia has escalated after the Proekt investigative media outlet was outlawed in an act of revenge for a series of deeply embarrassing revelations about Vladimir Putin and top Kremlin officials. The rare decision to ban a critical media outlet by fiat is a bellwether for Russia’s new wave of investigative news outlets, which compete to publish damaging scoops about top officials and are now bracing for the Kremlin to employ similar pressure on them to shut down. State media on Thursday announced that Russia’s justice ministry had added Proekt to a list of “undesirable organisations”, meaning its journalists must stop working for the site or face criminal prosecution, and added eight journalists, including Proekt’s editor-in-chief, Roman Badanin, to a register of “foreign agents”. Several reporters for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Open Media were also declared foreign agents.

The Moscow Times: Russia has added independent investigative outlet Proekt to its registry of “undesirable” organizations, a designation that bans the outlet’s activities and puts its staff at risk of jail time, and labeled several of its journalists “foreign agents.” Founded in 2018, Proekt, one of the country’s last independent news outlets, has been behind several high-profile investigations into hidden wealth and corruption among Russia’s elites. Police raided the homes of its chief editor Roman Badanin and journalist Maria Zholobova last month while deputy editor-in-chief Mikhail Rubin was detained after they announced a new report into Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev’s alleged hidden wealth.

RFE/RL: Authorities in Russia have effectively banned investigative news outlet The Project after declaring it an “undesirable” organization in a major escalation of the Kremlin’s clampdown on independent media. The July 15 move, part of a wider crackdown ahead of parliamentary elections in September on media that authorities view as hostile and foreign-backed, targets a media outlet that has published a series of well-researched, unflattering, and sometimes embarrassing investigations into Russia’s ruling elite. “The reason for this decision was the fact that its activities pose a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation,” the Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement on July 15, mirroring the wording it has used in similar announcements against other independent media outlets.

The Moscow Times: An ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny who is running for local office has said that she faces a court-approved forced hospitalization in a coronavirus ward despite her negative Covid-19 test, preventing her from submitting election paperwork on time. Violetta Grudina, who had headed Navalny’s political network in the far northern city of Murmansk, had her office attacked several times and staff members detained after she announced plans to run for the Murmansk City Council in April. 

RFE/RL: Police in Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, have removed a wall-sized poster with portraits of slain Russian rights defenders, politicians, and journalists, hours after it appeared on a wall in a park. The poster, drawn as a replica of the 1966 Beatles’ Revolver album cover with portraits of slain lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Anastasia Baburova, human rights defender Natalya Estemirova, and opposition politician Boris Nemtsov among others, appeared on July 15 on the wall of a transformer vault in the Pushkarsky Garden in President Vladimir Putin’s hometown. It came on the 12th anniversary of Estemirova’s murder. Natalya Estemirova, the head of the Memorial human rights center’s office in Chechnya, was abducted near her home in the Chechen capital, Grozny, on July 15, 2009, and shot dead. Nobody has been convicted of her killing.

RFE/RL: A tiny wool-selling company in Russia has applied to the Federal Service of Intellectual property (Rospatent) to register as its trademark the logo of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Smart Voting strategy, which is designed to promote independent candidates at elections. The application by the Woolintertrading company from the southern Stavropol Krai region was placed recently on Rospatent’s website. There was no immediate comment from Navalny or his associates.

The Moscow Times: Russian officials’ plans to restrict live streams from polling stations in upcoming parliamentary elections have been met with accusations of pre-emptive attempts to conceal voter fraud, including ballot stuffing. Russia’s Central Election Committee (CEC) said Wednesday that only members, candidates and political parties will have access to the live feeds when voters go to the polls from Sept. 17-19. The CEC staggered the vote for the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, over three days to limit the spread of coronavirus as Russia battles its deadliest wave of infections yet.

The Guardian: Khalimat Taramova, the 22-year-old daughter of a prominent Chechen businessman, sits demurely on a velvet sofa ornately embellished in gold. She is wearing a modest dress and a headscarf. With her on the sofa are three men dressed in suits. They are appearing on Grozny TV, the state television channel of Russia’s Chechen Republic. Only a couple of weeks before the programme was shown on 14 June, Taramova fled her home, where she said she was subjected to violence after going against her family’s wishes. She sought help from a group of women’s rights activists, the Marem project , who let her stay in a flat owned by one of its members in the neighbouring republic of Dagestan. In a video releasedon social media on 6 June, she pleaded for the Chechen authorities not to come looking for her.

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