News of the Day: 28 January 2021

The Guardian: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has denounced the criminal proceedings against him, telling a Russian court via a video link from jail that while it had the power now to “keep me in handcuffs … that situation is not going to continue for ever”. As a Moscow appeal hearing has rejected calls to release him from jail and investigators charged Navalny’s top aides in a series of inquiries meant to disrupt the protest movement that has arisen in his support, he told the court he believed the proceedings were part of a campaign to intimidate the opposition. “Right now you have the power,” he told a judge during the hearing. “You can put one guard on one side of me, one on the other and keep me in handcuffs. But that situation is not going to continue for ever.” “You won’t succeed in scaring tens of millions of people who have been robbed by that government,” he told the court.

RFE/RL: Two leading allies of Aleksei Navalny have been detained for 48 hours for alleged violations of sanitary and health regulations hours before a court is due to hear an appeal against the Kremlin critic’s own jailing. Oleg Navalny, the brother of the jailed Russian opposition politician, and Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer at Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), will be held for two days until a court decides on their pretrial restrictions, FBK Director Ivan Zhdanov and Navalny’s associate, Leonid Volkov, said late on January 27. A court will hear an appeal on January 28 on a ruling to detain Navalny for 30 days to allow for a different court to decide in early February on converting a suspended 3 1/2-year sentence into real jail time in relation to an embezzlement case that is widely considered trumped up and politically motivated. Sobol was detained after police searched her apartment.

Amnesty International: Reacting to the mounting reports of searches and arrests in Russia of prominent political and civil activists associated with imprisoned Aleksei Navalny, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: “The crackdown on dissent in Russia has become increasingly brutal – and desperate – even compared to vicious reprisals in recent years. The authorities appear shamelessly bent on violating human rights by silencing their critics. In the last few days, the authorities have detained a young mother, raided the home of a prominent journalist’s elderly parents, and opened criminal prosecutions on dubious grounds, such as the violation of sanitary regulations by demonstrators. This wave of reprisals is obviously aimed at repressing growing popular dissent in Russia. It is a cowardly attempt to prevent further planned peaceful protests against the prosecution of prisoner of conscience Aleksei Navalny, and the allegations of top-level corruption in Russia which he unearthed. The persecution of peaceful protesters must stop immediately, and Russian citizens must be able to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, on 31 January or whenever they choose – these are fundamental rights.”

CPJ: North Ossetia authorities should investigate the attack on journalist Ruslan Totrov and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.  On January 21, two men entered Totrov’s office in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, and attacked the journalist while he was in a studio recording a video blog, according to news reports and Totrov, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview. The men hit Totrov in the face, cutting his lip and breaking two of his teeth, while threatening to kill him if he did not stop writing “nasty things and lies about their ‘brother,’ South Ossetia President Anatoly Bibilov,” according to Totrov and video of the assault uploaded to YouTube.

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