News of the Day: 31 December 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Friday confirmed 20,638 Covid-19 infections and 912 deaths.

RFE/RL: The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe has repeated its “very strong criticism” of Russia’s laws on so-called “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations” in the wake of a December 28 Russian Supreme Court decision ordering the closure of the venerable Memorial International nongovernmental organization. The commission’s statement on December 30 criticized the “vague and overly broad terminology” of the laws, adding that “the penalty of liquidation of an NGO should be reserved as a last resort measure for extreme cases of serious violations threatening democracy.”

Human Rights in Ukraine: Prominent US political scientist Francis Fukuyama has written a powerful letter* expressing admiration and support for imprisoned Crimean Tatar journalist Osman Arifmemetov.  Such statements are particularly important since Russia is not only using grotesque ‘terrorism’ charges as a weapon against Crimean Tatar journalists and civic activists, but is also claiming that those who speak out in their defence are ‘justifying terrorism’.  Fukuyama’s letter makes it abundantly clear that he is speaking out in support of courageous journalists who have refused to remain silent about repression in occupied Crimea, and have paid a terrible price for their bravery.

RFE/RL: The head of the North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, long accused of grave human rights abuses, has been named “distinguished human rights defenders” by the regional human rights ombudsman.

RFE/RL: The Russian government has extended a decree to allow a domestic pharmaceutical company to produce a generic version of a U.S. biotech company’s COVID-19 drug without consent. The government on December 30 approved the extension for one year of a decree originally issued last year to grant Russian drugmaker Pharmasyntez permission to produce and sell the antiviral drug remdesivir, citing the need to protect its citizens. Pharmasyntez asked the Kremlin to allow it to produce a generic version of remdesivir in November 2020 without consent from Gilead Sciences, which holds the patent. Russia granted the license a month later. The U.S. company filed suit challenging the decision, but the Russia’s Supreme Court in May rejected its claim.

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