Week-ending 19 March 2021
On 15 March 2021 it became known that Aleksei Navalny had been moved to Penal Colony No. 2 in Pokrov, Vladimir region. The Russian authorities continued to detain Navalny supporters. The United States announced fresh sanctions against Russia.
RFE/RL, 15 March 2021: Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has confirmed his relocation to a notorious penitentiary in the city of Pokrov, likening the institution to “a friendly concentration camp.” In a sometimes lighthearted post on Instagram on March 15, Navalny said he was fine after his move three days earlier to the IK-2 prison, noting his daily routine, like that of the other prisoners, was guided by the “literal fulfillment of endless rules.”
The Moscow Times, 15 March 2021: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been moved to the IK-2 penal colony in the Vladimir region to serve his two-and-a-half year sentence, he confirmed Monday. Navalny’s whereabouts had been unknown since Friday, when his team said he was moved from a pre-trial detention center outside Moscow where he was being quarantined. Reports citing prison and law enforcement sources said he was transferred to IK-2, a prison camp in the town of Pokrov notorious for psychological isolation and harsh conditions. In an Instagram post, Navalny confirmed that he had been moved to IK-2, calling it “a real concentration camp 100 kilometers from Moscow.”
The Guardian, 15 March 2021: The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is being held in a prison camp in the Vladimir region of Russia north-east of Moscow known for its strict control of inmates, a message posted on the opposition politician’s Instagram account confirmed on Monday. Navalny’s precise location had been unknown after his legal team said last week that he had been moved from the nearby Kolchugino jail and that they had not been told where he was being taken. “I have to admit that the Russian prison system was able to surprise me,” Navalny posted on Instagram along with an old photo of himself with a close-cropped haircut. “I had no idea that it was possible to arrange a real concentration camp 100km from Moscow.” Navalny added that he was in Penal Colony No 2 in the town of Pokrov, Vladimir, with a “freshly shaven head”.
Amnesty International, 15 March 2021: This statement is made on behalf of 8 organisations, who together call on the Human Rights Council to address the human rights situation in the Russian Federation. Our organisations condemn the arbitrary prohibition and violent dispersal of the overwhelmingly peaceful protests demanding the release of opposition activist Aleksei Navalny, and ending corruption. Since Navalny’s return to the Russian Federation and the mass protests that ensued, human rights organisations have documented the arbitrary detention of at least 11,000 individuals in more than 125 Russian cities, at least 150 of whom are journalists. At least 140 protesters were beaten in detention. 90 face criminal charges.
Human Rights Watch, 15 March 2021: The joint statements on Egypt and on Russia, delivered under item 4 by large cross-regional groups of states, bring much-needed attention to the rapidly deteriorating situation in these countries. […] In Russia, the detention of thousands of peaceful protesters following the arrest and sentencing of opposition activist Alexey Navalny constitute only the tip of the iceberg of Russia’s deepening crackdown on media, critics and civil society. In today’s Russia, a wave of new, repressive laws further restricted freedom of expression, assembly and association. They aim to demonize, marginalize, and ultimately penalize independent groups and voices. Several Russian activists have in recent months been criminally charged, fined, sentenced, or faced house-arrest under flawed laws, such as the law on “undesirable foreign organizations.” In December and January, new amendments drastically expanded the scope of the toxic “foreign agents” designation – extending it to almost any independent voice. These new measures risk dealing an especially crushing blow to an already severely restricted civil society. The Council should maintain – and strengthen – its scrutiny of these two countries until these concerns are addressed in full.
RFE/RL, 16 March 2021: The Russian Guild of Film Critics has dropped its prestigious White Elephant cinema prize after its own expert panel awarded jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny for a series of investigative documentaries revealing evidence of corruption among the country’s top officials. Video investigations released by Navalny over the past year have been viewed tens of millions of times on YouTube. They include reports about a Black Sea palace allegedly built for President Vladimir Putin and a probe into Navalny’s poisoning in Siberia last August, which he blames on Putin and the Federal Security Service. But the viral clips have angered the Russian authorities, prompting official requests that the U.S. video-hosting platform take them down and leading Putin and members of his government to dismiss corruption claims advanced by Navalny, who is now serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence on one of several charges he contends were fabricated by the Kremlin to sideline and discredit him.
The Moscow Times, 17 March 2021: The United States has expanded its export restrictions to Russia as part of sanctions over the poisoning of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the Commerce Department announced Wednesday. The department said that, starting Thursday, its Bureau of Industry and Security will review Russia-bound national security items “under a presumption of denial for exports and re-exports.”
RFE/RL, 17 March 2021: The United States has expanded restrictions imposed on Russian experts that were imposed earlier this month as punishment for the poisoning of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. The U.S. Commerce Department said that the new measures which come into effect on March 18 will prevent the sale to Russia of more items controlled for national-security reasons. Such items will include technology, software, and parts. “By deploying illegal nerve agents against dissidents, both inside and outside its borders, the Russian government has acted in flagrant violation of its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention and has directly put its own citizens and those of other countries at mortal risk,” the Commerce Department said in a statement. “The Department of Commerce is committed to preventing Russia from accessing sensitive U.S .technologies that might be diverted to its malign chemical weapons activities,” it said. The statement did not give details of the goods covered by the expansion of the measure, first announced on March 2, when the United States also froze assets in the United States of seven senior Russian officials, including Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Aleksandr Bortnikov.
The Guardian, 18 March 2021: Russia’s media watchdog has told Twitter to delete the account of an opposition news outlet following threats from Moscow to block the social network entirely if it did not remove “banned content” within a month. The moves are part of a wider crackdown on social media and the opposition after protests supporting the jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, which were organised via online platforms. Analysts said the threat to ban Twitter was the first step in a campaign that could lead to other networks being blocked in Russia, where most traditional media are tightly controlled by the state. The watchdog Roskomnadzor had contacted Twitter to demand it removed the account of MBKh Media, an online news outlet founded by Mihkail Khodorkovsky, an exiled oligarch and critic of Putin, the media group said on Wednesday. MBKh media said the watchdog had accused it of “violating the laws of the Russian Federation” by sharing information from “undesirable” groups.
RFE/RL, 18 March 2021: A Moscow court has extended the house arrest of Kira Yarmysh, a spokeswoman of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Basmanny district court on March 18 ruled that the house arrest of Yarmysh and three other Navalny supporters will be prolonged until June 23. No reason was given for the decision. The current house arrest period had been set to end on March 23. Yarmysh, along with nine other associates and supporters of Navalny, have been charged with publicly calling for Moscow residents to violate sanitary and epidemiological safety precautions.
RFE/RL, 19 March 2021: The chief of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s network in Russia says police have swept through the Far East city of Khabarovsk and detained several Navalny activists, local opposition politicians, and journalists. Leonid Volkov wrote on Twitter on March 19 that Aleksei Vorsin, the head of Navalny’s team in Khabarovsk, was arrested and that his pretrial restrictions will be decided by a local court on March 20. Vorsin, Artyom Mozgov, a coordinator of the Libertarian party in Khabarovsk, and Andrei Pastukhov, a candidate for the city council, said earlier in the day via Telegram that police had searched their homes.