News of the Week

Week-ending 8 December 2023


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday announced that he will run for re-election in 2024, state media reported. (The Moscow Times, 8/12/23) 

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Thursday that Russians should vote against Vladimir Putin in the 2024 presidential election.  “You can do this by voting for any other candidate,” Navalny said in a statement posted on his website. Russia’s upper house of parliament earlier on Thursday officially set March 17 as the date for next year’s presidential election. (The Moscow Times, 7/12/23 )

Legal Profession

A court in Moscow on December 7 extended the pretrial detention of three lawyers for imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny until at least March 13, 2024. Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin, and Aleksei Lipster were arrested in October for allegedly participating in an extremist community because of their association with Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation. (RFE/RL, 7/12/23) 

Freedom of Expression / Activists

A prosecutor asked a court in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan region, on December 6 to sentence activist Ramila Saitova to five years in prison for her online posts protesting against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 7/12/23) 

A court of appeals in Russia has cancelled the two-year prison term for the father of a teenage girl who drew pictures against Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The court in Saratov on December 6 sent Aleksei Moskalyov’s case for retrial. (RFE/RL, 7/12/23) 

Russia rejected a new proposal to free two detained Americans, the Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich and former marine Paul Whelan, the US government has said. (The Guardian, 5/12/23)  

Russian authorities are paying the wives of Russian soldiers not to protest against their long-running deployment after demonstrations in Moscow, the UK Ministry of Defence said. (The Guardian, 2/12/23 ) 

Russian activist Rafail Shepelev, who disappeared in Georgia in mid-October, has been located in a pretrial detention center in Nizhny Tagil in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region in the Urals, the human rights project First Department reported.  RFE/RL, 5/12/23  

Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who is serving an 8 1/2-year prison term for his criticism of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, has been sent to solitary confinement for five days, his Telegram channel said on December 4. Officially, Yashin was “punished” for refusing to work on the construction of a new prison barrack. (RFE/RL, 4/12/23) 

LGBT Rights

Russia’s recent “extremist” designation of a loosely defined “LGBT movement” has led to a surge in emergency evacuations from the country, independent media reported Tuesday, citing the European human rights group for post-Soviet LGBT people, Equal PostOst. (The Moscow Times, 5/12/23)

The Russian online movie database Kinopoisk has changed its rating for the popular animated series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic to suitable for “18+” adult audiences, Mediazona reported, saying the move appears to be associated with “new legislative restrictions.” Some social-media channels noted that Rainbow Dash, one of the ponies in the animated franchise mainly targeted at young girls, is depicted with a mane and tail in colors that resemble the rainbow colors that symbolize LGBT rights. (RFE/RL 6/12/23)  

Russia’s War on Ukraine

Ukraine is investigating the “execution” by Russian forces of two Ukrainian soldiers who emerged from their trench near the town of Avdiivka and were shot dead as they surrendered. (The Guardian, 3/12/23)  

The US justice department has filed war crime charges against four members of the Russian military accused of abducting and torturing an American during the invasion of Ukraine in a case that’s the first of its kind. (The Guardian, 6/12/23) 

The Russian hacking group Star Blizzard, accused of interfering in UK politics, is part of an aggressive FSB unit that sought to stoke scandal over Brexit, and hamper European NGOs investigating war crimes in Ukraine. It also stole the leaked UK-US trade documents released before the UK general election in 2019. (The Guardian, 7 /12/23) 

Russian soldiers’ requests for help deserting their units in Ukraine have almost doubled in recent months, the Idite Lesom (“Get Lost”) group, which helps Russians evade fighting in the war, told The Moscow Times. (The Moscow Times, 6/12/23)  

Well-known Ukrainian human rights defender Maksym Butkevych, sentenced by a Moscow-installed court in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region to 13 years in prison in March, has been located in the Russian-occupied region after going missing for more than three months. (RFE/RL 6/12/23) 

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