News of the Day: 30 November 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Tuesday confirmed 32,648 Covid-19 infections, the lowest number since Oct. 15, as well as 1,229 deaths.

The Moscow Times: Russia has deported an American professor at a prestigious St. Petersburg university who was associated with a U.S. college that was blacklisted by the authorities earlier this year, media reported Monday. Michael Freese, a professor in St. Petersburg State University’s Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty, was banned from returning to Russia until 2026, according to the St. Petersburg-based news website. 

Human Rights in Ukraine: Russia’s attempt to ban the Memorial Human Rights Centre is based on an ‘opinion’ by two individuals without any expert knowledge and with either no academic publications at all, or just three, and none in the relevant field.  Despite lack of qualification, clear evidence of plagiarism and much more, judge Mikhail Yurievich Kazakov from the Moscow City Court has refused to summon Natalia Kryukova and Alexander Tarasov to answer questions from Memorial’s lawyers. The second preliminary hearing was heard on 29 November, with Kazakov deciding that there should be at least one more preliminary hearing, on 16 December, before substantive examination of the application lodged in early November 2021 by the Moscow prosecutor to have the Memorial Human Rights Centre dissolved.

RFE/RL: Amnesty International has turned to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples regarding the situation faced by a Yakut shaman who is being held in a psychiatric clinic in Siberia against his will because of his attempts to march to Moscow with the stated goal to “drive Russian President Vladimir Putin out of the Kremlin.” The rights watchdog said in a November 29 statement that Aleksandr Gabyshev has been held “illegally” in a specialized psychiatric clinic under intense supervision in the city of Novosibirsk, some 5,000 kilometers away from his native city of Yakutsk, the capital of the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has sentenced an ultraconservative, coronavirus-denying Russian priest who was stripped of his religious rank to 3 1/2 years in prison on charges of vigilantism, violating the right to religious freedom, and encouraging suicide. The Izmailovo district court pronounced the verdict and sentence of Father Sergiy (Nikolai Romanov) on November 30.

The Moscow Times: Russia is developing special AI-powered software that will be able to detect and prevent mass unrest as soon as next year, the Kommersant business daily reported Tuesday, citing the Emergency Situations Ministry. The futuristic technology uses machine learning to carry out a “multi-factor, comprehensive analysis of the likelihood of riots and unauthorized public events,” according to a draft methodology cited by Kommersant. 

The Moscow Times: Russia’s leading media conglomerate has launched a domestic rival to the hugely popular video-sharing app TikTok as Russia’s campaign to reduce the influence of foreign websites and technology advances. Gazprom Media, a subsidiary of state-owned gas giant Gazprom, launched the service, named “Yappy,” on Monday. It is currently available to download from both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Yappy was developed with the support of the Innopraktika foundation, an organization run by Katerina Tikhonova, one of President Vladimir Putin’s alleged daughters, the Kommersant business paper reported last year.

The Moscow Times: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that his recently attained constitutional right to get re-elected in 2024 gives the country automatic “stability.” Putin reiterated that he is still undecided about running for his fifth overall presidential term during Tuesday’s appearance at an investment forum by video link. Constitutional amendments passed last year granted him the ability to stay in power until 2036 by resetting his number of terms served.

Human Rights in Ukraine: 63-year-old Oleh Prykhodko is suffering from painful swelling of the legs due to the appalling treatment the recognized political prisoner is receiving in a Russian prison ‘for particularly dangerous criminals’.  The Ukrainian, who never concealed his vehement opposition to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, is being kept in a total information vacuum, and is not being passed the important medication that his family sends.

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