News of the Day: 20 May 2021

RFE/RL: A 73-year-old Jehovah’s Witness in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorye region has been handed a four-year suspended sentence on extremism charges amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group that has been banned in the country since 2017. On May 19, a district court in the town of Volno-Nadezhdinskoye found Lyudmila Shut, an elderly woman who can hardly move due to her medical condition, guilty of taking part in the activities of an “extremist organization.”

The Moscow Times: A Moscow court sentenced a Russian businessman to four years in jail Thursday for attacking a riot police officer during a rally in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny this winter. Yevgeny Yesenov was among the 10,000 people detained across 100 Russian cities in January and February when they took to the streets demanding freedom for the fierce Putin foe and anti-corruption campaigner. Authorities opened 90 criminal investigations in the wake of the unauthorized rallies and charged dozens of protesters with using violence against law enforcement officers.

The Moscow Times: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has recovered after he ended a 24-day hunger strike last month demanding adequate medical treatment, a top aide and the head of Russia’s prison service said Thursday. Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s best known domestic critic, is serving two-and-a-half years in a penal colony outside Moscow on old fraud charges he says are politically motivated.  The 44-year-old opposition figure went on hunger strike at the end of March demanding proper treatment behind bars for severe back pain and numbness in his limbs. He ended the protest on April 23 after receiving treatment at a civilian hospital.

RFE/RL: Members of Russia’s Mari minority have voiced concern over what they see as efforts to restrict the practice of their ancient pagan religion. Mikhail Danilov, the minister for domestic development in the western Russian republic of Mari El, has instructed local authorities not to allow “radically-inclined followers of the Mari traditional religion” to worship on municipal property. The written instructions were issued in April but only became known to the public on May 19.

RFE/RL: Andrei Sakharov is best remembered today as one of the foremost human rights advocates of the 20th century, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his outspoken opposition to the Soviet Union’s darkest totalitarian impulses. But he was also the conflicted “father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb” and helped accelerate an arms race that left humanity on the brink of annihilation. Here is a pictorial look, using photographs from the Sakharov Archives and other sources, at how this brilliant and loyal physicist of the U.S.S.R. ultimately became its strongest and most celebrated voice of moral dissent.

RFE/RL: After Moscow city authorities blocked a planned exhibition about the late Soviet dissident and rights activist Andrei Sakharov, RFE/RL’s Russian Service obtained the materials that were to be used from the Sakharov Center. The photographs and quotes were planned to be put on display ahead of Sakharov’s 100th birth anniversary on May 21. Organizers say they were first told the exhibition was “unacceptable” by local authorities, then that the displays needed were being used for another presentation. An excerpt from the exhibition, titled Alarm And Hope, is published below: […]

The Moscow Times: The Vedomosti business daily announced Wednesday that its editor-in-chief Andrei Shmarov will step down one year after his controversial appointment sparked a mass exodus of senior editors and journalists.  The decision came a week after VTimes, The Moscow Times’ Russian-language partner founded by the editors and journalists who had left Vedomosti, was declared a “foreign agent” in Russia. The designation puts the independent news site’s future in jeopardy as it risks cratering its advertising budget and steep fines for auditing violations.

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