Reuters: The Russian state prosecutor’s office banned three German non-governmental organisations on Wednesday after labelling them “undesirable”, the TASS news agency reported. The groups were identified as the Forum Russischsprachiger Europäer, the Zentrum für die Liberale Moderne and the Deutsch-Russischer Austausch, the report said.
The Moscow Times: Yulia Galyamina knew she might be arrested on Saturday for organizing a meeting of independent municipal deputies in Veliky Novgorod, Russia’s ancient seat of self-government. She just didn’t expect it to happen so fast. Within 30 minutes of the start of the two-day Zemsky Syezd, or Congress, a name chosen in a nod to a conference that helped kick start the 1905 Russian Revolution, police showed up and escorted 48-year-old Galyamina and three of her colleagues out of the building. “Municipal deputies are supported by the entire country and I am confident that we will win,” Galyamina shouted as she was led away by officers, her red dress standing out against the navy blue uniforms. As the police car door slammed, her supporters shouted “Yulia, Yulia, Yulia!”
RFE/RL: A wedding reception was scheduled for the Hotel Rossia in central Novgorod on the evening of May 22, but guests arrived to find police blocking the door. The young couple’s first step into the future had become collateral damage in the Russian government’s increasingly ruthless war on dissent ahead of elections to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, later this year. In two neighboring banquet rooms at the hotel, a gathering of independent local lawmakers from 30 Russian regions was just getting under way, with the aim of coordinating tactics for the ballot. Organizers were still welcoming participants when officers entered the venue and declared the event in violation of local pandemic restrictions that, among other things, restricted gatherings to 30 people.
The Moscow Times: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appeared in court via video link Wednesday for the start of hearings into complaints against conditions at his penal colony. Navalny, 44, was jailed in February and is serving two-and-a-half years at a facility outside Moscow on old fraud charges he says are politically motivated. His detention, which came months after he survived a near-fatal poisoning attack, was met with sharp condemnation from Western countries which slapped fresh sanctions on the Kremlin in response. The complaints heard Wednesday center around Navalny’s claims that prison authorities are refusing to provide him with books sent to him by relatives, including the Quran, and that they are censoring newspapers he receives.
Amnesty International: Responding to news that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has rejected the appeal by the imprisoned Crimean Tatar human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Emir-Usein Kuku, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director who attended the court hearing, said: “The decision to keep Emir-Usein Kuku behind bars demonstrates the Russian state’s disdain for the rule of law and its international human rights obligations, and speaks volumes about its desire to eradicate dissent in annexed Crimea.” “Emir-Usein Kuku and his co-defendants were convicted and sentenced to lengthy imprisonment on the basis of trumped-up charges and in overt disregard of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the application of an occupying power’s legislation in an occupied territory. They have been accused of membership of an organization prohibited in Russia, but not in Ukraine. What is more, this purported membership has not even been proven, nor have other crimes of which they stand accused. “Today’s ruling needs to be called what it is, a mockery of international law and justice. We will not be silent and we will continue calling for Emir-Usein Kuku’s immediate and unconditional release. So should the rest of the world.”
The Moscow Times: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday that he had acted “legally” in diverting a Ryanair flight with a dissident on board and slammed the West for “crossing red lines.” The Athens-to-Vilnius flight carrying a wanted opposition activist Roman Protasevich was forced to make a landing in Minsk on Sunday over a supposed bomb scare, prompting several EU carriers to stop flights over Belarus. “Don’t blame me. I was acting legally to protect my people. That’s how it will continue to be,” Lukashenko said in an address to parliament, according to the state-run Belta news agency. The Kremlin said it saw no reason not to trust his statements, in which he claimed the flight was ordered to be grounded following a bomb threat that was sent from Switzerland. “If this is not the case, then, probably, someone will refute it. There are no refutations yet,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters after Lukashenko’s speech.
The Moscow Times: Russia has confirmed 5,026,168 cases of coronavirus and 119,600 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is above 460,000.