News of the Day: 22 March 2021

Amnesty International: Elena Milashina is a prominent Russian investigative journalist and human rights defender who has been targeted on numerous occasions because of her work exposing human rights violations in Chechnya. Elena is facing death threats, intimidation, and physical attacks and there are serious concerns over her safety. We must stand in solidarity with Elena and demand that the Russian authorities protect her and investigate threats made against Elena and newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

The Moscow Times: Russia has confirmed 4,456,869 cases of coronavirus and 95,030 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. According to figures published by state statistics agency Rosstat, Russia’s real coronavirus death toll stands at 131,118, with the virus present in another 69,314 deaths. Russia on Sunday confirmed 9,299 new coronavirus cases and 371 deaths.

RFE/RL: A military court in Moscow has rejected a lawsuit filed by jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny against the Main Military Investigative Directorate (GVSU) over its refusal to launch an investigation into his poisoning in Siberia with a nerve agent last August. Judge Andrei Tolkachenko of the 235th Garrison Military Court, ruled on March 22 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 considering.” Navalny’s attorney Vyacheslav Gimadi, who is representing him at the hearing, said the ruling will be appealed.

Human Rights in Ukraine: A cassation court in Russia has overturned the previous court ruling in Russia’s persecution of  Yunus Masharipov and ordered a new appeal hearing, under different judges, in the ‘trial’ of the imprisoned 56-year-old rights activist.  This court saga will soon extend beyond the original four-year prison sentence passed on Masharipov, but this is only part of the Russian FSB’s revenge against a man who dared to retract the ‘confession’ they used torture to extract.  Masharipov has also become a victim of the punitive psychiatry which Russia is reinstating and could end up incarcerated in a psychiatric institution indefinitely.

Human Rights in Ukraine: A Russian-controlled Crimean TV channel has broadcast an ‘interview’ with Vladislav Yesypenko a week after the Ukrainian journalist was seized in occupied Crimea.  Yesypenko has very clearly been beaten and is almost certainly giving the answers demanded of him. This staged event on 18 March is tellingly similar to the ‘interview’ for Russian state TV which Stanislav Aseyev, the Donetsk journalist and writer, held and tortured by the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ for two and a half years, has confirmed that he gave under duress. Yesypenko was detained together with a friend on 10 May a day after they had laid flowers at the monument in Simferopol to the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.  His companion, Yelizaveta Pavlenko, was subjected to an eight-hour search, but was not detained. 

The Moscow Times: On a frosty March morning, a group of anti-Putin opposition activists gathered in a Soviet-era hotel on Moscow’s outskirts to plan their strategy for September elections to the country’s national parliament. Ten minutes later, the police arrived. Herded into police vans and shipped off to jail, around 200 attendees were charged en masse with participating in the activities of an undesirable organization, an offence that could see them banned from contesting elections. “I don’t think they really knew what they were doing,” Yevgeny Roizman, a former Yekaterinburg mayor and ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny who was among those arrested, told The Moscow Times.  “I think they were just lashing out at whoever they could find” For analysts, however, the arrests — which according to the RBC news site were supervised by the FSB — were the latest chapter in an ongoing campaign to exclude opposition candidates from September’s parliamentary vote as the ruling party defends its supermajority amid dismal polling and the threat of tactical voting by Navalny supporters.

The Moscow Times: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who is serving a two-and-a-half-year jail term in a penal colony outside Moscow, on Monday compared his daily routine in prison to that of a stormtrooper in Star Wars. In a post on Instagram, the 44-year-old opposition politician described two parts of his early morning routine that he said he “adores”. The first, he wrote, comes shortly after prisoners are awakened at 6:00 am.  The convicts are immediately taken to the prison yard, Navalny said, where they prepare for morning exercises by listening to the Russian national anthem over loudspeakers and a voice that yells: “All hail our free Fatherland!” Then the prisoners begin marching in place, a part of the routine Navalny wrote that, at his suggestion, “everyone in my squadron is calling ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”.

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