News of the Day: 20 December 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Sunday confirmed 27,967 Covid-19 infections and 1,024 deaths.

RFE/RL: A retired Moscow police officer has been detained after holding a picket in the Russian capital’s Red Square to demand the release of imprisoned opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer.” Former police Major Oleg Kashintsev was holding a poster saying “Free Navalny. Putin Is A Killer” when police detained him near the Kremlin on December 19.

RFE/RL: The Prague-based MEDIUM-ORIENT news agency has been fined in Russia for failing to follow the requirements of Russia’s controversial “foreign agent” law. Islam Tekushev, the editor in chief of the online Caucasus Times journal founded by MEDIUM-ORIENT, told RFE/RL that he was informed on December 20 of a ruling a week earlier by the Taganka district court to fine the journal 500,000 rubles ($6,730) for violating the law on “foreign agents.”

The Moscow Times: Russian authorities have forced several news organizations to delete their coverage of a blacklisted outlet’s investigative reports on President Vladimir Putin’s alleged extramarital daughter and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s alleged second wife. State media watchdog Roskomnadzor notified the independent Dozhd broadcaster that it must delete 30 articles and videos based on the Proekt investigative outlet’s reporting. “The notifications say that there is one day to inform the website owner about the blocked materials, after which they must be immediately deleted,” Dozhd said.

Meduza: Exiled human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov has launched a new legal group that specializes in defending those accused of treason and espionage in Russia. Pavlov, who fled abroad to escape criminal charges in September, previously led Team 29 — a similar human rights initiative that tackled some of Russia’s most challenging political prosecutions. The group disbanded in July 2021, to protect its members and supporters from persecution. Pavlov’s new project, dubbed “Pervy Otdel” (which translates as “First Department” or “Department One”) also aims to take on cases that are handled “behind closed doors” and will function in cooperation with colleagues working “on the ground” in Russia.

Meduza: Activists from (No to the Gulag) have obtained and released new footage further evidencing the torture and abuse of inmates in Russian prisons.  On Monday, December 20, the human rights group published a new video on YouTube that allegedly shows incidents of torture in a prison colony in Krasnoyarsk. activists said that this “footage is from a new component of the secret FSB/FSIN video archive.”

Human Rights in Ukraine: At least two Crimean Tatars were seized by the FSB in Russian-occupied Crimea last week after early morning armed ‘searches’ of their homes.  Both Kurtumer Chalgozov and Nariman Ametov were, purportedly, interrogated as witnesses or over possible involvement in the alleged act of sabotage that Russia is using to imprison renowned Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Nariman Dzhelyal.  The only grounds would appear to be that they too are Crimean Tatars and Ametov has shown support for political prisoners.  It is, however, increasingly the case in Russian-occupied Crimea that no more is required, with the FSB using such methods either to torture out false testimony or as a form of terror, reminding Crimean Tatars that nobody is safe.

The Moscow Times: Dutch prosecutors said Monday that four suspects accused of downing a Malaysia Airlines flight with a surface-to-air missile were seeking to serve “their own military interests,” as they launched closing arguments in the closely-watched trial.  Four suspects are being tried in absentia for launching a BUK missile that hit flight MH17 over war-torn eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board. 

RFE/RL: Dutch prosecutors said on December 20 that the 298 victims of the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine “didn’t stand a chance” once a rocket hit the aircraft, as they began their closing arguments in the closely watched trial. MH17 was shot down on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine, killing all passengers and crew. The four suspects — Russians Sergei Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov, and Igor Girkin, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko — are being tried in absentia for involvement in the tragedy. Only one of the suspects, Pulatov, is represented by lawyers at the trial.

FIDH: On the eve of the next hearing in the the Memorial Human Rights Centre on 16 December 2021, the International Federation for Human Rights has filed an extra-procedural appeal to Moscow City Court in support of the Memorial Human Rights Centre. In its appeal, the Federation asks the Court to dismiss the suit filed by the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office to liquidate the Memorial Human Rights Centre.

FIDH: On the eve of the next hearing in the case against International Memorial on 14 December 2021, the International Federation for Human Rights has filed an extra-procedural appeal to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in support of the organization International Memorial. In its appeal, the Federation asks the Court to dismiss the suit filed by the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office to liquidate International Memorial. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation received a total of 26 appeals in support of the organization.

The Moscow Times: Kickbacks in Russia’s public procurement system amount to one-third of Russia’s budget revenue, according to a survey published by the RBC news website Monday.

RFE/RL: Russia says it is expelling two German diplomats from Moscow in a tit-for-tat move following Germany’s expulsion of two Russian diplomats after a court in Berlin convicted a Russian man of fatally shooting a former Chechen militant in Berlin on the Kremlin’s orders in 2019.

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