News of the Day: 25 May 2021

RFE/RL: Jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says three new criminal cases have been initiated against him. Navalny said in a May 25 post on Instagram that he learned about the cases from an investigator who visited him in prison the day before. He said one case accused him of “stealing” donations to his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), while a second case “accuses me of encouraging citizens to refuse to perform their civic duties.” The third case against the 44-year-old Kremlin critic is for insulting a judge.

RFE/RL: Russia’s lower house of parliament has approved the second reading of a bill that would ban supporters and members of “extremist” organizations from being elected to any post. Under the draft bill passed on May 25, leaders and founders of organizations declared “extremist” or “terrorist” by Russian courts will be banned from running for elective posts for a period of five years. Other members or employees of such organizations will face a three-year ban. The proposed legislation that was first passed in the State Duma on May 18 barred individuals involved in the activities of an organization that has been recognized as “extremist” or “terrorist” from running in elections for the lower house only.

The Moscow Times: The Kremlin said Tuesday it regrets Europe’s plans to cut air links with ex-Soviet Belarus and avoid its airspace after the diversion of a Ryanair flight carrying an opposition activist. The aircraft traveling from Athens to Vilnius landed in the Belarus capital Minsk after a supposed bomb threat. The incident caused a global outcry, with EU-based carriers cutting air links with Belarus and European leaders warning of fresh sanctions.

RFE/RL: The Moscow City Court has ruled that an extension to July 7 of the pretrial detention of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is accused of treason, is legal. Safronov’s lawyers had challenged the extension in court, but judges on May 25 rejected the defense’s complaint. The 30-year-old Safronov, who has worked since May last year as an adviser to the head of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, is a prominent journalist who covered the military-industrial complex for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti.

The Moscow Times: The Russian government wants to exempt state media from financial scrutiny to avoid being labeled  “foreign agents” because they are not prone to foreign influence. The proposal comes after Russia labeled the independent news sites Meduza and VTimes “foreign agents,” jeopardizing their futures by discouraging advertisers and levying steep fines for auditing violations. Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media submitted a draft bill for discussion Monday requiring only commercial, and not state media, to be subjected to financial audits.

RFE/RL: Russian prosecutors have called a ban on two Instagram advertisements for the Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana that show same-sex couples kissing. The press service for the St. Petersburg courts announced that the Oktyabrsky district court had received a claim from the prosecutor’s office asking for the move against one of the Dolce & Gabbana Instagram ads because two women are shown kissing in it. According to the plaintiff, the video “contains information that rejects family values and propagandizes nontraditional sexual relationships.”

RFE/RL: A Russian court has issued fines against Facebook and Google over their failure to delete content deemed by Moscow as illegal. U.S.-based social-network giant Facebook was fined 26 million rubles ($353,000) by Moscow’s Tagansky District Court on May 25. That case involved eight reports about material posted on Facebook that Russian authorities wanted Facebook to remove. The same court on May 25 also levied three separate fines totaling about $82,000 against the U.S. technology giant Google. The court said Google was found guilty of “administrative offenses” and was ordered to pay 2 million rubles — or about $27,000 — for each offense.

RFE/RL: Russian oil companies are illegally disposing of millions of tons of contaminated drilling waste, a practice that is wreaking environmental havoc by polluting northern rivers that drain into the Arctic Ocean, a new RFE/RL investigation has found. The investigation by RFE/RL’s Russian Service found that regulations overseeing the disposal of drilling waste are routinely flouted, with bribes being paid to inspectors, data being omitted from required paperwork, and major oil companies pressuring regulators to effectively look the other way. “This story repeats itself every year,” said one source in the oil industry in Khanty-Mansi, a western Siberian region that is home to some of Russia’s biggest oil fields. The source spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fears of retribution from officials for discussing the matter.

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