News of the Day: 24 December 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Friday confirmed 24,703 Covid-19 infections and 998 deaths.

The Guardian: A Moscow court has said it is fining Alphabet’s Google 7.2bn roubles (£73m) for what it says is a repeated failure to delete content Russia deems illegal, the first revenue-based fine of its kind in Russia. Moscow has increased pressure on big tech this year in a campaign that critics characterise as an attempt by Russian authorities to exert tighter control over the internet, something they say threatens individual and corporate freedom. Google said in an email it would study the court ruling before deciding on further steps.

The Moscow Times: Russia has in recent weeks deployed mercenaries to eastern Ukraine to help pro-Moscow separatists defend against Ukrainian government forces, Reuters reported Thursday, citing four unnamed fighters who had been recruited.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Four days after Nariman Ametov was taken from his home in handcuffs and with a bag over his head, the young Crimean Tatar father has publicly spoken of the torture he endured during the following hours.  While impossible to independently verify the allegations, they correspond to those of others seized in similar circumstances, as well as to the methods already demonstrated by the FSB in fabricating a ‘terrorism plot’ to imprison renowned Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Nariman Dzhelyal

The Moscow Times: By the end of the year, little had changed for Russian women as the country’s increasingly conservative leadership and the pandemic relegated feminist concerns to the backburner.

Human Rights Watch: Russian authorities redoubled their efforts in 2021 to repress internet freedoms, Human Rights Watch said today. The government blocked popular censorship circumvention tools, experimented with novel censorship technologies, expanded oppressive internet legislation, and pressured tech companies to comply with the increasingly stifling regulations. “The Russian government is using its growing technological capacity to engage in nontransparent, unlawful, and extrajudicial restriction of digital rights in Russia,” said Anastasiia Kruope, assistant Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This past year’s dramatic crackdown on internet freedoms is the culmination of many years’ efforts by the authorities to restrict the rights and freedoms of Russians online.”

Meduza: The Presidential Administrative Directorate spent a grand total of 117 million rubles (about $1.6 million) on organizing Putin’s press event — of which about 1.4 million rubles, or $19,000, went toward spraying journalists with silver particles, according to public procurement records. (This includes the cost of renting six disinfection booths for a period of two days and purchasing the disinfectant spray).

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