Simon Cosgrove: A look back at the past week in Russia [week-ending 28 January 2022]

30 January 2022

By Simon Cosgrove

Simon is chair of Rights in Russia but writes these comments in a personal capacity and they may not necessarily represent the views of the organisation

This week, as a new documentary about the poisoning of prisoner of conscience Aleksei Navalny had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the Russian authorities added Aleksei Navalny and 11 of his associates to the list maintained by Russia’s Federal Financial Monitoring Service of individuals involved in activities that are deemed to support ‘terrorist or extremist’ organizations. The Navalny associates so designated are: Liubov Sobol, Vyacheslav Gimadi, Georgy Alburov, Ruslan Shaveddinov, Pavel Zelensky, Lilia Chanysheva, Zakhar Sarapulov, Ksenia Fadeyeva, Yegor Butakov, Vadim Ostanin, and Andrei Fateev. The move, as RFE/RL noted, puts these individuals in the same ranks as right-wing nationalist groups and foreign terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and Islamic State. Meanwhile an arrest warrant was issued for Aleksei Navalny’s brother Oleg Navalny, without stating the reasons for this move, which is clearly intended to further intimidate Navalny and his supporters.

The official actions of federal authorities in Moscow at this rate would seem to differ little from those of the notorious leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who this week publicly called human rights defender Igor Kalyapin and journalist Elena Milashina ‘terrorists.’ It is perhaps just as well for Kadyrov that there is such congruence between the policies of the federal government and his in Chechnya since, as Kadyrov said this week, the region of Chechnya would not be able to survive a month without Moscow’s multi-billion-dollar subsidies. Kadyrov estimated that Russian handouts in Chechnya total 300 billion roubles ($3.8 billion) a year. It is obvious that if Moscow wanted to influence the behaviour of Ramzan Kadyrov, it has the means to do so.

Last week, Kadyrov made death threats against the family of Zarema Musaeva, mother of human rights defender Abubakar Yangulbaev, a lawyer with the Committee Against Torture, based in Nizhny Novgorod, following her abduction in that city by armed men claiming to be Chechen police officers. She was taken to Chechnya and was there sentenced to 15 days in jail on charges of ‘petty hooliganism.’ Amnesty International called on the Russian federal authorities to ‘urgently intervene’ over the abduction of Zarema Musaeva to ensure her immediate release. Human rights organisations condemning the treatment of Zarema Musaeva last week were joined by, among others, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH) and Front Line Defenders. The latter organisation highlighted the fact that at the time of the detention of Zarema Musaeva, Chechen law enforcement officers physically attacked human rights defenders and lawyers Sergey Babinets, Oleg Khabibrakhmanov and Natalia Dobronravova, who at the time were providing legal assistance to their clients. The husband of Zarema Musaeva, retired federal Judge Saidi Yangulbayev and his daughter have since left Russia. Human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbayev said his father and sister left the country fearing for their safety. This level of lawlessness in the case of Zarema Musaeva is an extraordinary illustration of the lack of the rule of law and the failure to protect basic rights in the Russian Federation.

In other news, the Support Group for Freeing Aleksei Navalny and Other Political Prisoners in the Russian Federation, part of the Parliament of Estonia, nominated Memorial as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize; in St. Petersburg, police detained Ahmet Jumadurdyev, a Turkmen citizen wanted in Ashgabat on controversial ‘extremism’ charges and the European Court of Human Rights held a preliminary hearing to decide whether to hear a case filed by the Netherlands and Ukraine seeking to hold Russia responsible for the shooting down on 17 July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that killed all 298 people on board.

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