News of the Day: 17 December 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Friday confirmed 27,743 Covid-19 infections and 1,080 deaths.

Meduza: Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court has jailed Pussy Riot activists Maria Alyokhina and Lyusya Shtein (a municipal deputy) for 15 days and 14 days, respectively, under the administrative article prohibiting the display of Nazi symbols. On Friday, December 17, Alyokhina told Mediazona that the administrative charge was brought against her over a photo of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko with swastikas, which she posted on Instagram in 2015. 

RFE/RL: A leading member of the Pussy Riot protest group in Russia, Maria Alyokhina, has been detained in Moscow over an online post she made in 2015. Alyokhina wrote on Instagram on December 16 that she was detained for posting a picture six years ago of Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka with Nazi swastikas on it, comparing him with “fascists.”

Meduza: A Moscow court has upheld the decision to prolong the detention of former journalists and Roscosmos communications advisor Ivan Safronov, who is awaiting trial for treason. For the first time in a long time, journalists were allowed to attend the hearing. Before the court announced its ruling, Safronov wished everyone a happy New Year and said that he had begun to receive letters again after several months of being denied the right to correspondence at the request of investigators. The court ruled to extend Safronov’s detention until January 7, 2022. By that time, he will have been in pre-trial custody for 18 months — the maximum period of detention at the preliminary investigation stage. However, since investigators have already handed over the case materials to the defense for review, they can petition to prolong his detention beyond this period. 

RFE/RL: The Supreme Court of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan has rejected an appeal filed by Nakia Sharifullina, a noted teacher and founder of Islamic schools for girls, who was handed a suspended two-year sentence in August after being convicted of organizing the activities of a banned Islamic group. Sharifullina’s lawyer, Ruslan Nagiyev, told RFE/RL that the court handed down its decision on the appeal on December 17.

RFE/RL: A bribery case in southern Russia indicates the country had troops stationed in eastern Ukraine, contradicting a long-held Kremlin position that it has never been a party to the conflict in the region. The verdict in the case against V.H. Zaboluyev, the deputy manager of a food supplier in Rostov-on-Don, a city near eastern Ukraine, states that he oversaw the procurement and delivery of food to “Russian military personnel located in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).”

Meduza: Russia’s censorship agency is threatening to restrict access to YouTube after the video platform shut down yet another German-language channel run by the Russian state-controlled television network RT (Russia Today).

The Moscow Times: Russia’s laws adequately protect victims of domestic violence, the Kremlin said Thursday, a day after Europe’s top rights court ordered Russia to pay damages to four victims for failing to properly investigate their abuse cases. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov defended the status quo after one of the high-profile victims expressed hope that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling would prompt Russia to push through legislative changes. Peskov’s comments also contradict a Russian Constitutional Court ruling in April that ordered stronger laws to punish repeat domestic violence offenders.

RFE/RL: Russia has imposed a travel ban on seven unnamed British citizens in a tit-for-tat response to London’s sanctions connected to the August 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

Meduza: Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya warns that reforms recently adopted by the State Duma to further the centralization of power in Russia’s federal government could endanger the entire political system by pinning too much on the presidency and the Kremlin’s “subjective and closed insider logic.” “Constitutional Putinism” is supposed to weed out remnants of the destabilizing “opportunism” elevated in Russia’s “Yeltsin Constitution,” Stanovaya argues in a recent essay for the Carnegie Moscow Center, but Putinism could prove to be even more prone to opportunism if it is incapable of accommodating the multiple power centers that would emerge in a serious political crisis (for example, the loss of United Russia’s parliamentary monopoly or a severe decline in the president’s popularity).

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