News of the Day: 18 May 2021

RFE/RL: A military court in Moscow has upheld a lower court’s decision to reject a lawsuit filed by jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny against the Main Military Investigative Directorate (GVSU) over its refusal to launch a probe into his poisoning in Siberia with a chemical nerve agent in August. The Second Western District Military Court took only a few minutes to make the ruling on May 18. Neither Navalny nor his lawyers were present at the hearing. In the original case, the 235th Garrison Military Court ruled that “the GVSU’s decision” not to launch a probe into Navalny’s poisoning was “legal and well-grounded,” and that Navalny’s lawsuit was “not worth of considering.” Judge Andrei Tolkachenko said during that hearing that Siberian Transport Police refused to launch an investigation due to the “absence of a criminal act.”

The Moscow Times: Moscow authorities have canceled an exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Soviet Nobel laureate and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov.  The Sakharov Center had planned to exhibit photographs of the dissident nuclear physicist and quotes from his articles and speeches on central Moscow streets on May 17.  “Sakharov’s anniversary is a significant event that was planned and agreed upon with the authorities a year in advance, only to be canceled last minute,” Sergei Lukashevsky, the director of the Sakharov Center told The Moscow Times. “The Moscow Culture Department told us that it was because the contents of the exhibition were not agreed upon internally, without any further explanation,” he added.

RFE/RL: Russian lawmakers gave preliminary backing to new legislation that human rights groups says is part of authorities’ efforts to “annihilate any shred of visible dissent” in the country. The lower house of parliament on May 18 passed three bills that target individuals who have supported civil society and religious organizations declared extremist or terrorist by authorities, and also widen the scope of an existing law on “undesirable” organizations. Under one of the measures, individuals involved in the activities of an organization that has been recognized by a court as extremist or terrorist would be barred from running in parliamentary elections for up to five years. The bill also provides for the restriction to apply retroactively. The effort comes as authorities step up pressure on Aleksei Navalny, the imprisoned anti-corruption lawyer whose foundation Russian authorities are seeking to have declared extremist.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday approved draft legislation that would ban members of “extremist” organizations from being elected as lawmakers. The changes to Russia’s election law would shut out jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s supporters from critical lower-house polls in September. The move also comes ahead of a court ruling to add Navalny’s network of regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) to Russia’s list of banned “terrorist and extremist” organizations.

Amnesty International: Three bills adopted today in the first reading by the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, drastically restrict rights and liberties in the country by imposing new muzzles on individuals who criticize the government and barring them from participating in public life, Amnesty International said today. The bills are intended to target Russians who have supported civil society and religious organizations that were later declared “extremist” or “terrorist” and widen the scope of the law on “undesirable” organizations. “Vladimir Putin’s regime aims to fully purge vocal critics from the civic space. The main target of this latest, particularly brazen attack is the movement led by Aleksei Navalny. Having unjustly imprisoned its archfoe, the Kremlin is now targeting all those who had the nerve to support him,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

RFE/RL: Ukrainian officials have marked the 77th anniversary of the Crimean Tatars’ Stalin-era deportations from Crimea to Central Asia by denouncing what they called their ongoing persecution by Russia. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and backed separatists in two of its eastern provinces, sparking a war that has killed more than 13,000 people. Crimean Tatars, rights activists, and Western governments say Russia has subjected Crimean Tatars and others who opposed annexation to abuse, discrimination, and politically motivated prosecution on false charges.

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