News of the Day: 30 April 2021

The Guardian: Russia’s state financial watchdog has added Alexei Navalny’s network of regional headquarters to a terrorism watchlist as the Kremlin appears poised to outlaw the opposition leader’s nationwide political movement. “Navalny headquarters” appeared on Friday on a searchable database of terrorist and extremist groups published by the state watchdog Rosfinmonitoring, which allows the government to close its bank accounts. Separately, a Russian court may soon pronounce that the political offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation are extremist organisations, threatening his staff, supporters, and even crowdfunding donors with jail terms. A top adviser, Leonid Volkov, earlier this week announced that he would be disbanding the regional headquarters in order to protect the staff and the supporters who worked there.

RFE/RL: The regional campaign offices of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny have been placed on the Russian financial regulator’s list of organizations involved in “terrorism and extremism.” The network appeared on an updated list maintained by Russia’s financial monitoring service, Rosfinmonitoring, on April 30, a day after the network of Navalny’s regional offices was disbanded.

The Moscow Times: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s political network has been blacklisted as a “terrorist-linked” organization, Russia’s state financial watchdog Rosfinmonitoring said Friday. “Navalny Networks” now appears on Rosfinmonitoring’s searchable database of groups and persons with links to terrorist activities, which includes al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State. The designation means that authorities can block the organization’s bank accounts. A Moscow court ruling banning the network’s crowdfunded work, as well as Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), as “extremist” organizations is expected next month. The ruling would ban the nationwide network of some 50 regional headquarters from operating and put members and supporters at risk of lengthy jail terms. The network, which was founded in 2017 during Navalny’s quashed attempt to run for president and had since made its main work instigating protests and investigating corruption, formally disbanded Thursday in anticipation of the Moscow court ruling.

Amnesty International: Responding to news that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers have detained Ivan Pavlov, a human rights lawyer defending the Anti-Corruption Foundation founded by Aleksei Navalny, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: “Lawyers are the last line of defence against the government’s growing crackdown on human rights, and now the authorities are going after one of the country’s most courageous lawyers. They accused him of disclosing information about cases they are arbitrarily treating as a state secret. This is a travesty of justice. The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Ivan Pavlov from arbitrary detention.“Targeting lawyers who defend victims of politically motivated prosecutions has become a dangerous trend in Russia, especially in the North Caucasus. Rarely has it being done in such a brazen manner, with open FSB involvement, as with Ivan Pavlov. If the international community was waiting for a signal to sound the alarm, then that time has come. Ivan Pavlov and his brave Team 29 have helped countless people. Now they themselves need our solidarity and support.” “Lawyers should never be arrested simply for peacefully exercising their human rights and discharging their professional duties. Russian authorities must end the crackdown on the legal profession, and respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone.” 

Human Rights Watch: Russian authorities have been on a rampage of repression in recent months, imprisoning a top political opposition figure, arresting record numbers of protesters, and sustaining a month of heightened persecution of independent media. This morning they crossed another Rubicon when Federal Security Service (FSB) agents in Moscow apprehended prominent human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov. In St. Petersburg, law enforcement officers searched Pavlov’s home and the office of Team 29, a group of human rights lawyers he leads. They also searched his summer cottage and broke down the door at the home of another Team 29 staffer.

RFE/RL: Ivan Pavlov, one of Russia’s top human rights lawyers who is representing jailed Kremlin-critic Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), has been detained for allegedly disclosing classified information relating to an ongoing investigation. The 50-year-old Pavlov told reporters that he was briefly detained early on April 30 by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents while his hotel room in Moscow was searched. “I was interrogated as a suspect,” he said before he was brought back in for further questioning with Russia’s Investigative Committee. According to the press service from a Moscow court, the authorities are seeking to bar Pavlov from using the Internet and communicating with witnesses in his criminal case. Pavlov has made a name for himself in Russia for taking on often politically sensitive cases ranging from treason to espionage.

The Moscow Times: One of Russia’s leading defense lawyers has been detained on criminal charges of disclosing details of an investigation hours before he was due in court to represent a prominent former journalist accused of treason, his colleagues said early Friday. “Ivan Pavlov, the leader of Team 29, was arrested on April 30 in Moscow after a search in his hotel room,” the organization said on its website.  Team 29 describes itself as an association of lawyers and journalists that stands for Russian citizens’ rights to access and distribute information.  “Mr. Pavlov was getting ready for a 9 a.m. court hearing for his defendant, journalist Ivan Safronov, accused of treason,” Team 29 said in the statement. The Moscow court extended Safronov’s pre-trial detention later Friday. Pavlov told the independent Dozhd broadcaster that investigators suspect him of sharing information from Safronov’s treason case. Safronov faces up to 20 years in prison on suspicion of passing state secrets to the Czech Republic as a defense reporter in 2017.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has extended the pretrial detention of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, an accusation he and his supporters have rejected. The Lefortovo district court on April 30 ruled that Safronov can be held at least until July 7. The hearing was held behind closed doors as the case has been designated as classified. The 30-year-old Safronov, who has worked since May 2020 as an adviser to Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos, was previously a prominent journalist who covered the military-industrial complex for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti.

RFE/RL: A court hearing has started in Russia’s Siberian region of Yakutia to decide on the forced “treatment” in a closed psychiatric institution of a shaman who has been stopped by authorities several times in his attempts to march to Moscow by foot “to drive President Vladimir Putin out of the Kremlin.” Aleksandr Gabyshev’s sister, Kyaiyylana Zakharova, told RFE/RL that the hearing started on April 30. Gabyshev’s lawyer, Olga Timofeyeva, said that the hearing may last several days. Timofeyeva added that state experts said at the hearing that her client poses an “extreme danger” to society and “needs to be forcibly treated in a specialized hospital under permanent supervision.” About two dozen supporters of Gabyshev gathered in front of the courthouse in the regional capital, Yakutia. They were not allowed to attend the hearing as it is being held behind closed doors.

RFE/RL: Richard Kruspe, the guitarist for the German rock group Rammstein, has expressed his support for a former associate of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny after he was handed a prison sentence for sharing the band’s video online in 2014. Kruspe wrote on Instagram late on April 29 that he is aware of the case of Andrei Borovikov from Russia’s northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, who was sentenced earlier that day to 2 1/2 years in prison for reposting the music video to Rammstein’s song Pussy on VKontakte, a popular Russian social network similar to Facebook.. “I very much regret that Borovikov has been sentenced to imprisonment for this. The harshness of this sentence is shocking. Rammstein have always stood up for freedom as a guaranteed basic right of all people,” Kruspe’s Instagram statement said.

RFE/RL: The U.S. State Department says press freedom in Russia is under growing threat as authorities slap RFE/RL and other media organizations with restrictive “foreign agent” labels and fines. Speaking at a press briefing on April 29, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the Russian government is increasingly “intolerant of outside perspectives” as it moves to quash any dissent in the country. The comments come as Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor has hit RFE/RL’s Russian-language services with fines of nearly $1 million in recent months for hundreds of violations of the “foreign agent” law.

RFE/RL: Russia has barred eight officials from EU countries from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by Brussels. The Russian Foreign Ministry said those banned included European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova, and David Sassoli, the president of the European parliament. The EU imposed sanctions last month on two Russians accused of persecuting gay and lesbian people in the southern Russian region of Chechnya. The EU also imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin the same month.

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