News of the Day: 16 September 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Thursday reported 19,594 new coronavirus cases and 794 deaths.

RFE/RL: The condition of a Russian woman who launched a dry hunger strike to protest against the “anti-sanitary conditions” of her prison cell is deteriorating rapidly. Antonina Zimina’s father, Konstantin Zimin, told RFE/RL on September 15 that his daughter, who was handed a 13-year prison sentence on high treason charges she denies, is refusing both food and water.

Amnesty International: On 23 September, the Supreme Court of Sakha (Yakutia) will consider shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev’s appeal against the decision to confine him to psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile he is in pretrial detention and under investigation for alleged violence against a police officer. The shaman has been long targeted by the authorities after he vowed in 2019 to walk from Siberia to Moscow and use his shamanic powers “to purge” President Vladimir Putin. He has been repeatedly arbitrarily arrested, and subjected to humiliating searches and examinations, and confined in a psychiatric institution, all for criticizing the Russian authorities and his peaceful activism.

Human Rights in Ukraine: It was nine days after armed and masked men burst into the homes of Asan Akhtemov and his cousin, Aziz Akhtemov, that the men were finally able to see independent lawyers.  Both men have retracted their videoed ‘confessions’ and have given details of the torture and threats, including to Asan’s wife, that their Russian FSB captors used to obtain them. The surreal ‘sabotage’ charges which Russia is using to imprison Nariman Dzhelyal, the internationally respected First Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis, or representative assembly, of the Crimean Tatar people, hinge upon the ‘confessions’ of the two Akhtemovs given while the men were held incommunicado. 

The Moscow Times: Alyona Popova fears that if she is not elected to Russia’s lower house of parliament on Sunday, the passing of a law to protect women from domestic violence will be put on the back burner for another five years. 

The Moscow Times: President Vladimir Putin on Thursday urged Russians to vote in parliamentary elections later this week in which most vocal Kremlin critics have been barred from running.

The Moscow Times: Russian mobile network providers have begun blocking Google Docs after jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s team used the platform in its campaign to defeat ruling party incumbents, independent monitors said Wednesday.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has suspended an Interior Ministry decision to ban a stand-up comic of Azerbaijani origin from entering and residing in the country for life over his on-stage joke about Russians. Sergei Badamshin, a lawyer for comedian Idrak Mirzalizade, said on Telegram that the Zamoskvorechye district court had suspended the decision on September 16 until a full court decision on the issue is made. The Interior Ministry said on August 30 that the presence in the Russian Federation of Mirzalizade, a Belarusian citizen who holds permanent residence in Russia, is “undesirable” because of his statements that “incited hatred and enmity towards ethnic Russians.”

RFE/RL: One evening in late August, as most residents of Rostov-on-Don were preparing for bed, a house on a sleepy, unpaved street on the outskirts of the southern Russian city erupted in flames. The house belonged to Sergei Shalygin, a local opposition activist and blogger who had spent four years building and expanding the 100-square-meter property with his son. For Shalygin, the incident — less than three weeks before Russia was due to hold nationwide legislative elections — had clear motives.

RFE/RL: As the old joke goes, the Soviet Union was heralded for producing the world’s largest microchips and the fastest watches. But Russia alone can lay claim to having a “single voting day” over a span of three days.

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