News of the Day: 23 February 2021

The Moscow Times: New video footage claiming to show the brutal torture of Russian inmates, one of whom died shortly after the footage was filmed, has surfaced, the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported on Tuesday. Novaya Gazeta says the two videos came from the same prison colony where gruesome leaked footage of guards torturing inmates sparked a national scandal and arrests of prison officials in 2018. They are the eighth and ninth videos of torture to surface from Yaroslavl region Penal Colony-1, the newspaper said.

The Moscow Times: Ukraine has accused Russia of targeted assassinations of “perceived opponents” in a case lodged at the European Court of Human Rights, the latest salvo by Kiev in a barrage of legal complaints against Moscow. The case, which was filed last week, accuses Russia of carrying out “state-authorized” assassinations “in Russia and on the territory of other states… outside a situation of armed conflict,” the court said Tuesday.

RFE/RL: Residents of the North Caucasus region of Ingushetia are commemorating the victims of the wartime Soviet deportation of Ingush and Chechens from the North Caucasus to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Thousands of people, including the region’s leader, Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, lawmakers, government members, and public organizations, gathered near the memorial called Nine Towers in Ingushetia’s largest city, Nazran, on February 23 to honor the victims of the deportation. Commemoration ceremonies and mass prayers were also held in Ingushetia’s mosques and cemeteries.

RFE/RL: Amnesty International has confirmed the withdrawal of its recent designation of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny as a “prisoner of conscience” over his alleged advocacy of violence and discrimination and comments that included hate speech, but reiterated its determination to keep fighting for his release. “Amnesty International took an internal decision to stop referring to Aleksei Navalny as a prisoner of conscience in relation to comments he made in the past,” Denis Krivosheev, deputy director of Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia office, confirmed to RFE/RL in an e-mailed response.

RFE/RL: “Sign up quickly,” read an announcement that appeared on a closed social-media chat group for university students in this oil-rich Siberian city earlier this month. “11,000 rubles aren’t just lying around on the road. This is a good opportunity to earn references.” Several students studying at Nizhnevartovsk State University, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, have told RFE/RL they have been offered money and academic benefits in exchange for helping to promote the ruling United Russia party through scripted social-media posts and other activities.

The Guardian: Alisa Meissner is paying to this day for the Soviet Union’s decision to exile her whole family from Moscow for their German heritage. She still lives in a town just 30 miles from the gulag village where her family were sent in the 1940s after the outbreak of the second world war. […] Now she and 1,500 other descendants of exiles under Stalin, the “children of the gulag”, are closely following a legislative battle that could decide whether or not they are given some small compensation for the lives that were taken away from them. [… ] There was little hope for the children of gulag prisoners until they won a 2019 constitutional court case in a surprise decision that would help them fast-track housing applications. But that victory could be undermined by new legislation that could put them in decades-long queues for housing and shift the financial burden away from Russia’s federal budget. […] The Memorial NGO, a human rights organisation researching crimes under the Soviet Union, and civil activists have presented alternative legislation that they say will provide relief now. A decision is likely to be made by Russia’s State Duma lower house in the next month. Grigory Vaipan, a lawyer who represented Meissner and other claimants in the constitution court, says many politicians do not want to discuss the problems facing the victims of Soviet repressions.

RFE/RL: New York’s professional ice hockey team says star forward Artemi Panarin has been targeted for his support of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny in what the team called a “fabricated story” in a Russian tabloid alleging he assaulted a woman almost a decade ago. The New York Rangers announced on February 22 that Panarin, 29, one of several Russians playing in the National Hockey League (NHL), is taking a leave of absence because of the report.

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