News of the Day: 17 November 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Wednesday confirmed 36,626 Covid-19 infections and 1,247 deaths.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s Supreme Court has banned the criminal prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses for joint worship, potentially putting an end to the law enforcement practice of jailing believers for prayer sessions. The ruling could also affect the 152 convictions that have not yet entered into force or are being appealed, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia organization said in a statement on its website Tuesday.

The Moscow Times: The United States on Monday added Russia to a blacklist of countries singled out for “egregious violations of religious freedom,” a move that comes as ties dip to their lowest ebb since the Cold War. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was designating Russia, as well as China and eight other states, as countries of concern “for having engaged in or tolerated ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.'”

Human Rights in Ukraine: In its latest attempt to crush the Memorial Human Rights Centre, Russia has used a new and very dangerous weapon, with major implications for occupied Crimea.  In its application to the Moscow City Court to have Memorial HRC dissolved, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office claimed that the NGO’s materials contain “elements of the justification of extremism and terrorism”.  The material in question would appear to be Memorial’s list of political prisoners and its reports on individual cases, where Russians, Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians are imprisoned as Jehovah’s Witnesses or for alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.  While at present Russia is using this weapon very selectively, it could become a widespread form of terror against all of those who speak out against mounting religious persecution.

Human Rights Watch [Tanya Lokshina]: Throughout Russia’s contemporary history, Memorial has been the backbone of the country’s human rights community. It has been the epicenter of Russian civil society, the protector of memory about Soviet repression and post-Soviet human rights abuses, and a go-to place for critical thinkers, artists, academics and others concerned about the future of their country. 

The Moscow Times: A Moscow court has fined a music video channel for “gay propaganda” after its awards show featured gender-flipping stars and what viewers said resembled a same-sex wedding, Russia’s independent Dozhd TV broadcaster reported Wednesday.

The Moscow Times: A former U.S. Marine serving a nine-year prison term in Russia ended a hunger strike he launched to protest against alleged violations of his rights, his lawyer told AFP Wednesday. U.S. citizen Trevor Reed is serving his sentence in a penal colony some 500 kilometers southeast of Moscow after being convicted of assaulting police officers while drunk in 2019. 

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