News of the Day: 23 March 2021

RFE/RL: The team of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny is making a new push to free the anti-corruption campaigner with plans for the largest anti-Kremlin protest in Russia’s modern history. In an announcement on Navalny’s website on March 23, the team said the date and site of the rally will be announced once at least 500,000 people express their willingness to participate. The group also launched a special website to register those who would like to take part in the event as part of the push to get Navalny released from prison.

RFE/RL: A Moscow book fair has prompted accusations of censorship after it canceled an appearance by a debut author who is a top aide to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s longtime spokeswoman and a prominent activist in her own right, was set to present her novel Incredible Incidents In Women’s Cell No. 3 at the Non/Fiction book festival, which will be held at an exhibition space near the Kremlin from March 24 to 28. But the book’s publisher, Corpus, revealed that its parent company had given in to pressure by the event’s organizers to withdraw Yarmysh’s appearance from the event.

RFE/RL: Ivan Tumanov was born three days before Vladimir Putin first became Russia’s president at the turn of the millennium. Now the 21-year-old who lives with his mother is the newest coordinator of an opposition movement that Putin, still president, is accused of using brutal tactics to dismantle. Since Putin’s biggest critic, Aleksei Navalny, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on February 2, his acolytes throughout Russia have been systematically targeted with raids, criminal charges, and police beatings amid a sweeping crackdown ahead of parliamentary elections expected in September.

The Guardian: Amnesty International itself has faced questions about a recent decision to strip Navalny, the critic of Vladimir Putin who was poisoned and then imprisoned in Russia, of his “conscientious objector” status. The decision followed pressure to condemn anti-migrant statements he made in the 2000s as hate speech. Employees of Amnesty International said the group had received messages about Navalny’s past remarks that they felt “were part of a coordinated campaign to discredit him abroad”, but nonetheless felt compelled to change his designation. Asked whether she would revisit the decision, Callamard told the Guardian that such designations – including marking differences between prisoners of conscience and political prisoners – had not been relevant to her work as a special rapporteur. Navalny’s right to not be poisoned, arbitrarily detained and silenced had been violated, no matter what his designation was, she said. “What he uttered in 2011 has no bearing on the fact that he should not be detained where he is, he should not have been charged, and certainly not have been [poisoned],” she said. “So, for my work and my standpoint, Amnesty’s position has no impact [and] had no influence on the way I think of Alexei or how I think about his work. When I start at Amnesty I intend to read through the report that has been done and to take it from there. And, you know, work with them to decide how we’re going to address the next step.”

The Moscow Times: Russian billionaire and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has launched a defamation lawsuit against author Catherine Belton over claims that he had bought the club at President Vladimir Putin’s orders. According to Belton’s critically acclaimed 2020 book “Putin’s People,” Abramovich allegedly bought Chelsea in 2003 at Putin’s direction as part of an effort to raise Russia’s profile in Britain and the wider West. 

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