News of the Day: 29 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Friday confirmed 39,849 Covid-19 infections as well as a new record of 1,163 deaths.

The Moscow Times: An annual commemoration of victims of Stalinist repressions has resumed live in person Friday after going online due to the coronavirus pandemic last year.

The Moscow Times: A St. Petersburg blogger known for exploring abandoned urban and industrial sites has been sentenced to prison for spreading state secrets abroad. Investigators say Andrei Pyzh, 37, illegally obtained information relating to the design and technical features of classified facilities in the Moscow region from December 2018 until the time of his August 2020 detention. 

RFE/RL: A Russian court has handed lengthy prison terms to four Crimean Tatars for being members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group and “plotting to seize power by force.” Defense lawyers said on October 29 that the Southern District Military Court in the city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced Seytumer Seytumerov to 17 years in prison, Osman Seytumerov to 14 years, Rustem Seytmemetov to 13 years, and Amet Suleymanov to 12 years. The lawyers said they would appeal the sentences.

Human Rights in Ukraine: A Russian court has passed appalling sentences against two sons of a renowned Crimean Tatar historian and their uncle, as well as against a civic journalist with a life-threatening heart condition.  The four recognized political prisoners received terms of imprisonment from 12 to 17 years on charges that are eerily similar to that used during Stalin’s Terror against the two brothers’ great-grandfather.  The latter was executed in 1938 for what the NKVD called ‘counter-revolutionary terrorist propaganda’ (and posthumously ‘rehabilitated’ in 1990)  Seitumer Seitumerov; Osman Seitumerov; their uncle Rustem Seitmemetov and journalist Amet Suleimanov are charged with ‘terrorism’, although none is accused of a recognizable crime and the enforcement officers who burst into their homes on 11 March 2020 never pretended to be looking for anything except ‘prohibited literature’. 

The Moscow Times: A Moscow court has sentenced two bloggers to nearly a year in prison for staging an X-rated photoshoot across from St. Basil’s Cathedral near the Kremlin. They are the first people to receive real prison time for “insulting religious feelings.”

RFE/RL: A court in Russia-annexed Crimea has extended the detention of Crimean Tatar leader Nariman Dzhelyal until January 23, his lawyer Mykola Polozova said. Dzhelyal was arrested with four colleagues in early September on suspicion of involvement in an attack on a gas pipeline and initially ordered held for two months.

The Moscow Times: A prominent Russian human rights lawyer who fled Russia to escape criminal charges has been placed on the country’s wanted list, he said Thursday. Ivan Pavlov left Russia for the Caucasus republic of Georgia in early September after authorities charged him with disclosing details of an investigation into his former client, jailed journalist Ivan Safronov. Russian law enforcement briefly detained Pavlov in April and confiscated a number of documents during searches of his apartment.

RFE/RL: A well-known human rights lawyer who fled Russia last month after defending members of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s team said he has been added to the nation’s wanted list.

The Moscow Times: The United States and its allies on Thursday urged Russia to protect media freedom, condemning what they called a crackdown on independent outlets.

RFE/RL: An 18-member group of nations, including the United States and United Kingdom, has expressed “deep concern” over what it calls the Russian government’s “intensifying harassment of independent journalists and media outlets” in the country. The statement, issued on October 28 under the name of the Media Freedom Coalition, was also signed by Ukraine and North Macedonia, along with Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Aleksander Borodai, newly elected Russian MP from the ruling United Russia party, has stated that the fighters of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’ [LDPR] were “Russian forces”.  Borodai has every reason to know as he was one of the leaders of ‘DPR’ from its creation, the so-called ‘prime minister’ of this unrecognized ‘republic’.  He has also confirmed that he and others left Donbas in early August 2014 for propaganda reasons since it looked bad that they were all from Russia.  While he does not mention MH17, the urgent change in leadership came just two weeks after a Russian BUK missile, transported to Donbas from a military base in Russia, downed the Malaysian passenger airliner over occupied Donbas on 17 July 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

CPJ: Rimma Maksimova spent the final decade of her life fighting two battles: one against the bone cancer that would eventually kill her and another for justice in her son’s murder. A few years before her death in 2014, she filed a case against Russia with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). She would not live to see its judgment released this month or know of her contribution to the global fight against impunity in the murders of journalists.

RFE/RL: The Moscow City Court has cancelled the acquittal of a son of the former prime minister of the North Caucasus region of Daghestan in the high-profile 2018 death of a Moscow student that sparked an outcry in her native Kazakhstan.

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