News of the Day: 28 September 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Tuesday reported 21,559 new coronavirus cases and 852 deaths — the highest number of daily fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s Investigative Committee on Tuesday opened a criminal case against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and eight of his closest allies, most of whom have already fled the country. 

RFE/RL: Russian investigators have launched a new criminal case against leading Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny and his top allies, accusing them of launching and participating in an extremist group, as the state extends its clampdown on the opposition following parliamentary elections.

Human Rights Watch: Russian authorities have taken punitive action against three local human rights defenders and their organizations in recent days, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities imposed arbitrary, draconian bureaucratic penalties against the groups, including through the “undesirable foreign organizations” law in one case. […] On September 24, 2021, Russian border officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport barred Valentina Chupik from entering Russia. […] On September 23, the prominent human rights group Astreya received a copy of a petition, dated September 14, from the Justice Ministry to a court seeking to dissolve the group. […] On September 17, a court issued a 10,000 ruble (approximately US$137) fine to Igor Kalyapin, chair of the Russian Committee against Torture, claiming he had violated the law on “foreign undesirable organizations.” 

FIDH: The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention, illegal removal of refugee status, and risk of imminent deportation to Uzbekistan of Valentina Chupik, migrants’ rights defender and the head of the human rights organisation ‘Tong Jahoni’, a center providing free legal assistance to migrant individuals in Russia.

Front Line Defenders: On 25 September 2021, woman human rights defender Valentina Chupik was barred from returning to Russia, where she has resided with refugee status since 2006. Upon her arrival from Yerevan, Armenia, the Russian border patrol officers informed Valentina Chupik that she had violated border crossing regulations and informed her that Russian authorities had denied her refugee status which came into effect immediately. The patrol officers took away Valentina Chupik’s travel document and detained her in the “clean zone” of the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, where she currently remains with no access to legal support and is at risk of being deported to Uzbekistan.

The Moscow Times: Moscow authorities attempted to raid the Communist Party’s city headquarters Tuesday, minutes before a group of party lawyers was preparing to file a lawsuit to challenge controversial online voting results from last week’s parliamentary elections.

RFE/RL: Moscow police have blocked the entrance into the building hosting the Communist Party’s legal service, where lawyers were preparing to file a lawsuit against the results of remote electronic voting in general elections held earlier this month, which were won with almost 50 percent of the vote by the Kremlin-backed ruling United Russia party, Russian media reported.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Russia’s FSB have based the ‘terrorism’ charges laid against Oleh (Ali) Fedorov* and Ernest Ibragimov on discussions of religious themes although the conversations were illicitly taped back in 2016 and January 2017.  Even the FSB’s ‘secret witness’ gave testimony five years ago.  A real court would surely want to know how the FSB can call the two Crimean civic activists ‘terrorists’ on the basis of ‘evidence’ that they sat on for almost five years. The ‘trial’ is, however, taking place at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia) and all ‘judges’ involved in the political trials of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners do not ask any inconvenient questions.  The case of Fyodorov and Ibragimov is particularly alarming since the FSB have clearly understood that they can improve their statistics on ‘fighting terrorism’ virtually without lifting a finger by rehashing ‘evidence’ which they used to imprison eight Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists in 2017-18.

The Moscow Times: YouTube considers free speech to be one of its “core values” despite its removal of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s voting strategy videos ahead of Russia’s parliamentary elections, the video streaming site’s CEO told Bloomberg Television on Monday.  

HRW: Joint Statement Delivered at the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, HRC48: Item 4, Video statement, 24 September 2021. Madam President: Human Rights House Foundation makes this joint statement on behalf of ourselves, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Federation for Human Rights. In today’s Russia, one can be held for months in pre-trial detention simply for providing space in a café for a public event, spend two years under house arrest for participating in a public debate and reposting information about peaceful protests, or be taken off a plane, charged and jailed — simply for being associated with groups deemed “undesirable” or “extremist” by the authorities. Russian authorities have used the laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations” and anti-extremism legislation to demonize and stifle independent groups and media, and to punish and intimidate dissenting and independent voices. Russian authorities have put additional legislation and policies in place to make it easier to arbitrarily prosecute virtually any group, activist, media organisation, or blogger. We also note the continued imprisonment of political opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the crackdown against his supporters, and the broader political opposition in Russia. Thousands of Navalny’s supporters and other demonstrators were detained during the wave of protests that followed his arrest, and scores continue to face harassment, intimidation and detention. Special Procedures and the High Commissioner have repeatedly expressed their dismay at the measures taken to silence and intimidate people in Russia. It is time that members of this Council press the Russian authorities to reverse the course of the unprecedented human rights crackdown, and take steps to bring Russia more formally onto the Council’s agenda.

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