14 August 2020
A look back at the week by Simon Cosgrove. Simon is chair of trustees of Rights in Russia, but writes this blog in a personal capacity.
This week a great deal of attention has been focused on Belarus, not least, one might assume, by the Russian authorities. After all, it is not so very far fetched to think that current events in Belarus represent at least one possible scenario for the future of Russia, and our Quote for the Week (in which protesters in Khabarovsk voiced their support for protesters in Belarus) is a salient reminder of this. The fact that human rights violations can be a direct result of interventions by political authorities in Russia (as demonstrated by Memorial’s designation of Yana Antonova a political prisoner, for example) may also be in some way a partial explanation of why, in terms of human rights, this past week has been relatively quiet: the authorities have been otherwise engaged watching developments in Belarus. And indeed if it is the case that President Putin and his team have not yet decided what to do, lower level authorities may also be waiting to see what line the administration will take on Belarus – a line that would almost certainly also be reflected in domestic affairs.
That productive cooperation is possible between the authorities and civil society is shown by the work during the Covid-19 pandemic of our CSO of the Week, Memorial Human Rights Centre’s Migration and Law Network, headed by Svetana Gannushkina. Yet the case of Ivan Safronov continues to weigh heavily on the domestic atmosphere this week, and to that end we highlight Article 275, the treason article of the criminal code with which he has been charged. But this is not the only article concerning state secrets to give cause for concern. This week it became known to a wider public that the remarkable and adventurous YouTuber Andrei Pyzh was remanded in custody on 6 August on charges relating to an offence under Article 283.1 of the Russian Criminal Code: illegally obtaining access to state secrets. And in this case we may also catch the authorities’ concerns, mentioned last week, about maintaining control of the younger generation. As the work of Russia’s human rights organisations and human rights defenders so often reminds us, in Russia specific political motivations can often be seen to lie behind and motivate on-going human rights violations.