News of the Day: 17 May 2021

REF/RL: A Russian court has postponed the hearing into a case against the political network of jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny to determine whether it should be designated “extremist.” The Moscow City Court was expected on May 17 to rule on a motion put forward by prosecutors that would label three organizations tied to Navalny — the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), the Citizens’ Rights Defense Foundation (FZPG), and Navalny’s regional headquarters — “extremist.” However, as the hearing started, prosecutors added six more volumes of materials to the case, meaning lawyers for Navalny’s groups needed time to go over the new materials, the Team 29 group of attorneys representing Navalny’s team said. An hour into the hearing, the court rule to postpone it until June 9.

RFE/RL: City authorities have refused to approve a public exhibition marking the centenary of the late Russian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov. Proposed by the Moscow Sakharov Center, the exhibition was titled Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov: Anxiety and Hope. It was planned to open on May 17, four days ahead of Sakharov’s 100th birthday, as a series of street displays in Moscow. The proposed exhibition was meant to include photographs of Sakharov taken by Soviet and Russian photographers, as well as quotes from his memoirs, articles, and speeches.

CPJ: Russian authorities should unfreeze the accounts of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and cease labeling outlets as “foreign agents,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On May 14, Russian authorities froze the local bank accounts of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for allegedly failing to pay fines issued for noncompliance with the country’s foreign agents law, according to news reports and Kiryl Sukhotski, RFE/RL’s regional director for Europe and TV production, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview. Separately that day, the Russian Justice Ministry added Stichting 2 Oktober, a Dutch journalism nonprofit that administers the independent news website VTimes, to its list of foreign agents, according to news reports and the Justice Ministry’s website. “Russian authorities should cease fining and harassing news outlets for alleged violations of its foreign agents law—an unjust piece of legislation that should be repealed,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty should be able to access its resources freely, and websites such as VTimes should not be forced to jump through hoops and risk large fines due to their ownership structures.”

The Moscow Times: Around 100 Moscow metro employees have been dismissed after they appeared in an email database leak exposing half a million supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the independent Dozhd broadcaster reported Saturday. Vasily Shelyakov, the deputy head of the Moscow metro trade union, told Dozhd that the ex-staffers directly link their termination to last month’s leak containing their emails. Navalny’s team had collected the addresses in an online campaign to organize mass nationwide protests and blamed the breach on a rogue employee it suspects of being a Federal Security Service (FSB) recruit.

RFE/RL: A Moscow court has upheld a fine imposed on Twitter over its refusal to remove posts related to unsanctioned rallies at which demonstrators expressed their support for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Taganka district court on May 17 ruled that a decision last month to fine Twitter 3.2 million rubles ($43,200) for leaving the posts, which urged teenagers to take part in pro-Navalny rallies in January, was correct and that Twitter’s complaint against the ruling “was not satisfied.”

The Moscow Times: Russia will not block access to Twitter but will continue slowing page loading speeds for the social media platform’s mobile app within its borders, state communications regulator Roskomnadzor said Monday. The regulator gave Twitter a May 15 deadline to comply with thousands of requests to remove content which it said violates Russian law — or else face being blocked in Russia. It also started to slow down access to the social network across Russia.

RFE/RL: The European Union has called on Russia to repeal its controversial “foreign agent” law, which has been used to target a growing number of Russian-language media outlets, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The call, made on May 17 by a spokesman for EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell, comes as Russian authorities both expand their targets of the 9-year-old law, as well their enforcement of it. Last week, court bailiffs moved to begin seizing property from RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau, requesting a list of equipment that potentially could be seized. Bailiffs also obtained a court order freezing the Moscow bank accounts used by RFE/RL.

Leave a Reply