News of the Day: 19 May 2021

Amnesty International: Responding to the conviction of former diplomat, renowned opposition activist and prisoner of conscience Nikolai Platoshkin on absurd charges of “incitement to commit mass disorder” and “dissemination of false information”, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director Natalya Zviagina, who attended the trial, said: “Handing Nikolai Platoshkin a fiveyear suspended sentence is another nail in the coffin for the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Russia. The case was clearly fabricated to prevent him from participating in public life and punish him for daring to criticise Putin’s stranglehold on power. His conviction must be quashed. “The absurdity of the charges against Nikolay Platoshkin, the speed of his court hearings and a blatant disregard for some basic fair trial guarantees is extraordinary even for the Kafkaesque Russian justice system. The prosecution’s farcical logic, rubber-stamped by the judge, is simple: to express views critical of government policy equals incitement to riots and is a crime.

The Moscow Times: A Moscow court has handed prominent political scientist and academic Nikolai Platoshkin a five-year suspended sentence on charges of “inciting unrest,” the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Wednesday.  Platoshkin, a former diplomat at the Russian Embassy in Germany who heads the For New Socialism movement, is also a popular YouTube blogger who has openly criticized last year’s constitutional amendments and the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. His allies claim the charges against him were trumped-up in order to keep him from running in this fall’s parliamentary elections. In its verdict, Moscow’s Gagarinsky District Court said Platoshkin spread fake information on his YouTube channel by criticizing the Russian authorities for what he called ineffective measures to protect the public from Covid-19. He then called on people to resist these anti-coronavirus measures.

RFE/RL: A well-known Russian video blogger and political activist has been handed a five-year suspended prison sentence for an online post that criticized the government and urged people to attend unsanctioned anti-government rallies. Nikolai Platoshkin was also fined 700,000 rubles ($9,500) by a Moscow court on May 19 in what human rights defenders denounced as part of the authorities’ “harsher” crackdown aimed at silencing critical views ahead of parliamentary elections in September. A former diplomat, Platoshkin was placed under house arrest in June after investigators charged him with calling for unsanctioned rallies and mass disorder. He pleaded not guilty.

RFE/RL:  Police in Moscow have summoned dozens of staff members of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) as part of an investigation into an alleged fraud case launched against the outspoken Kremlin critic in December 2020. FBK Director Ivan Zhdanov wrote on Telegram that police came to the homes of current and former FBK staff members overnight as they slept, slipping subpoenas under their doors to order them to come to the Investigative Committee for questioning on May 19. According to Zhdanov, some FBK members were able to talk to the police, who told them that 70 FBK staff members were ordered in for questioning as witnesses in the case.

The Moscow Times: An exiled top associate of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has accused Russian authorities of trying to imprison his elderly father for the rest of his life on corruption charges he says are politically motivated.  Yuri Zhdanov, 67, was arrested in March on accusations of abusing his work obligations for personal gain by recommending social housing to a family that turned out to have previously received it. His son Ivan Zhdanov says his arrest is retaliation for his work as director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). A court on Wednesday toughened the charges against Yuri Zhdanov, extending his possible prison term from four years to 10. 

RFE/RL: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has challenged Russia’s “foreign agent” law and the millions of dollars in fines levied on its Russian operations, arguing to the European Court of Human Rights that Moscow was violating its international obligations with the moves. RFE/RL said it filed its complaint with the Strasbourg-based court on May 19 and called for its case to be granted priority status. The company said the designation, and the punishing fines imposed, violate the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Moscow is a signatory.

Leave a Reply