Quote for the Week. “Russian authorities are systematically using the tools of the state to arbitrarily deprive citizens of liberty and curtail the exercise of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association” – Joint statement by Amnesty International and 84 other human rights organisations

Week-ending 12 February 2021

“We, the undersigned human rights organisations, call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to respond robustly to the recent crackdown by the Russian authorities on independent civil society and dissenting voices in the country. Russian authorities are systematically using the tools of the state to arbitrarily deprive citizens of liberty and curtail the exercise of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.”

-Joint statement by Amnesty International and 84 other human rights organisations.

Source: ‘UN Human Rights Council Should Strongly Denounce Widespread and On-going Actions by Russia to Attack Independent Civil Society, Severely Limit Civic Space, and Silence Dissenting Voices. Open Letter to Member and Observer States of the UNHRC,’ Amnesty International, 9 February 2021


Amnesty International, 10 February 2021: We, the undersigned human rights organisations, call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to respond robustly to the recent crackdown by the Russian authorities on independent civil society and dissenting voices in the country. Russian authorities are systematically using the tools of the state to arbitrarily deprive citizens of liberty and curtail the exercise of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. The alarming trends the international community has observed in Russia for more than a decade have been drastically increasing since the end of 2020 and require urgent international action.

Other sources:

Amnesty International, 12 February 2021: Margarita Yudina was seriously injured by a police officer in front of cameras on 23 January during a peaceful protest in St Petersburg in support of Aleksei Navalny. Instead of investigating, the authorities issued apologies and sought to prevent her complaining formally. They sent child protection services to check on her daughter and signalled that her sons could face military conscription. The authorities must stop harassment of Margarita Yudina and her family, and bring her assailant to justice.

RFE/RL, 8 February 2021: The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized 10 associates and supporters of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny as political prisoners. In a February 8 statement, Memorial said it had recognized as political prisoners the individuals detained on the eve of unsanctioned mass rallies against Navalny’s arrest in late-January and charged with publicly calling for the violation of sanitary and epidemiological safety precautions. The 10 include, Navalny’s brother Oleg Navalny, Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, municipal lawyers Dmitry Baranovsky, Konstantin Yanauskas, and Lyusya Shtein, the chief of the Physicians’ Alliance NGO Anastasia Vasilyeva, a leading member of the Pussy Riot protest group, Maria Alyokhina, a coordinator of Navalny’s team in Moscow, Oleg Stepanov, Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, and an activist Nikolai Lyaskin. The majority of these people were placed under house arrest. If found guilty of the charges, each person faces up to two years in prison.

Human Rights in Ukraine, 8 February 2021: Crimean Tatar journalist Remzi Bekirov and four civic activists were taken from occupied Crimea to Russia last week to face ‘trial’ on charges that have elicited international condemnation.  Russia is already in flagrant violation of international law through its persecution of the Crimean Tatars and their effective deportation to Russia.  It added torture to that list, by transporting four of the men: Rayim Aivazov; Farkhod Bazarov; Riza Izetov and Shaban Umerov ‘in a glass’, – a cell of no more than half a metre in length and width.  Only Bekirov, who is 2 metres tall and in ill health was spared this treatment which the European Court of Human Rights has previously classified as equivalent to torture.  The journey from Simferopol to Krasnodar is long and gruelling even in decent circumstances, and here, in the middle of winter, human rights activist Riza Izeta had no heating at all, while in Bekirov’s case, it stopped working several hours before the end of the journey.  On their arrival at the SIZO [remand prison] in Krasnodar, Raim Aivazov was placed in a cell where the men have to take turns sleeping as there aren’t enough beds.

RFE/RL, 9 February 2021: A Moscow court has rejected an appeal by Kira Yarmysh, spokeswoman of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, against her detention. The press service of Moscow courts said on Telegram that the Moscow City Court on February 9 upheld a lower court’s decision to place Yarmysh under house arrest. Yarmysh, along with nine other associates and supporters of Navalny, have been charged with publicly calling Moscow residents to violate sanitary and epidemiological safety precautions. The group was detained in late January on the eve of unsanctioned mass rallies against Navalny’s arrest. Most of them have since been placed under house arrest. If found guilty of the charges against them, they face up to 2 years in prison. On February 8, the Memorial Human Rights Center in Moscow recognized the group as political prisoners.

The Guardian, 9 February 2021: An ally of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has urged Russians to gather near their homes for a brief Valentine’s Day protest on Sunday, shining their mobile phone torches and lighting candles in heart shapes to flood social media. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the incarceration of Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin. Police detained more than 11,000 people who took part in what they said were unsanctioned protests that the Kremlin condemned as illegal and dangerous. Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally based outside Russia, called on people to gather in the residential courtyards near their homes at 5pm GMT on Sunday and stand there for several minutes shining their mobile phone torches.

FIDH, 9 February 2021: La FIDH condamne avec vigueur la répression qui a frappé les manifestations organisées en soutien à Alexeï Navalny qui vient d’être condamné à une peine de trois ans et demi de prison pour avoir violé son contrôle judiciaire pendant qu’il était en convalescence en Allemagne. Plus de 1 400 personnes ont étaient interpellées et des dizaines d’autres ont été frappées par la police lors de manifestations improvisées qui se sont organisées spontanément à l’annonce du verdict. « Ce jugement est une nouvelle démonstration honteuse de la nature arbitraire et absurde du système judiciaire russe. Navalny a été puni pour avoir survécu à son empoisonnement et être retourné en Russie. Heureusement, son sort a suscité un soutien populaire et une vague de protestations pacifiques sans précédent » , estime Ilya Nuzov, responsable du bureau Europe de l’ Est et Asie Centrale à la FIDH. La condamnation d’Alexeï Navalny à 3 ans de prison concerne l’affaire Yves Rocher dont le verdict a été rendu le 30 décembre 2014 contre la société de logistique des frères Navalny accusés – à tort – d’avoir escroqué 26 millions de roubles (370 000 euros) à la compagnie de cosmétiques en lui surfacturant ses services entre 2008 et 2012, une surfacturation obtenue grâce au poste de cadre que le frère d’Alexei Navalny occupait à la Poste russe.

FIDH, 10 February 2021: The Observatory has been informed about the administrative detention and judicial harassment of Konstantin Gusev and Magomed Alamov in Pyatigorsk, as well as of the arbitrary detention and subsequent release of Evgeniy ChilikovSergey ShuninEkaterina Vanslova and Igor Kalyapin in Nijni Novogorod and Timur Rakhmatulin in Orenburg. The seven human rights defenders are members of the NGO Committee Against Torture, a member of the OMCT SOS-Torture Network.

FIDH: On January 23, 2021, Evgeniy Chilikov was arbitrarily detained on charges of “violation by a participant of a public event of the established procedure for holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, march or picket” (Part 5 of Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation) while monitoring the protests in support of Alexei Navalny in Nijni Novogorod. He was released from the local police station two hours after his arrest under the obligation to report to the police upon request. On January 31, 2021, Konstantin Gusev, Magomed Alamov, Ekaterina Vanslova, Sergey Shunin, Igor Kalyapin and Timur Rakhmatulin were arbitrarily arrested while monitoring the protest in support of Alexei Navalny in Pyatigorsk, Nijni Novogorod and Orenburg.

CPJ, 10 February 2021: Russian authorities should immediately release journalist Dmitry Bairov, drop all charges against him, and allow him to work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On January 28, plain-clothed law enforcement officers detained Bairov near his home in Ulan-Ude, a city in the eastern Russian Republic of Buryatia, according to news reports and Bairov’s wife, Yekaterina Bartayeva, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview. During his detention, approximately five officers ran up to Bairov, pushed him to the ground, and forcefully twisted his arms, dislocating his left arm, according to Bartayeva, who witnessed the raid, and those reports. Later that day, the Sovetskiy District Court found Bairov guilty of “repeated violation of the law on mass events,” and sentenced him to 25 days of detention for his alleged participation in a January 23 rally in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Ulan-Ude, according to those reports.

RFE/RL, 10 February 2021: Moscow’s Basmanny court has placed two municipal lawmakers under house arrest on charges of breaking coronavirus restrictions by publicly calling on Moscow residents to take part in unsanctioned rallies to protest the arrest of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The court made the ruling on Konstantin Yankauskas and Dmitry Baranovsky on February 9 after earlier using the same charge against a third municipal lawmaker, Lyusya Shtein. The lawmakers did not immediately comment on the situation, but Mikhail Timonov, an opposition deputy in the Moscow City Duma, called the move “an attack against [civil] rights and freedoms.” The lawmakers are three of 10 supporters and associates of Navalny who were detained in January on the eve of unsanctioned mass rallies against the Kremlin critic’s arrest.

RFE/RL, 10 February 2021: Well-known Tatar writer and activist Fauzia Bairamova has been found guilty of a charge of calling for the violation of the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity in a speech that she says was distorted because of translation errors. A court in Tatarstan’s second-largest city, Naberezhnye Chelny, on February 9 found Bairamova guilty of the charge and ordered her to pay a 30,000-ruble ($400) fine. Bairamova pleaded not guilty, insisting that the translation of her speech from Tatar into Russian contained errors that distorted the essence of what she told a conference organized by the All-Tatar Public Center (TIU) almost a year ago. In her speech, Bairamova quoted a poem by a prominent 20th century Tatar activist, Khadi Atlasi, that called for Tatars to have their own statehood.

The Guardian, 10 February 2021: The celebrated Russian stage and screen director Kirill Serebrennikov, convicted last year in an embezzlement case seen as retribution for his politically charged work, has been forced out of the Moscow theatre he led for eight years. Serebrennikov transformed Moscow’s Gogol Center from a small, overlooked theatre into one of the capital’s most vibrant cultural venues with experimental updates of Russian classics and plays that indirectly addressed official corruption. In the process, he earned the ire of the state even as he found success abroad, working on opera in Europe and directing a film that featured in competition at Cannes. Moscow authorities this month announced they would not extend his contract to lead the Gogol Center, which receives public funding. Associates of the 51-year-old director said they believed the order to sack him had come from the security services.

RFE/RL, 10 February 2021: Early on the morning of February 8, Nikolai Bondarenko, a legislator in Russia’s Saratov Oblast, got a phone call asking him to move his car. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he noticed that the light that had been burning the previous evening was now dark. “When I entered the dark entranceway that morning, I heard some rustling and saw three large men standing there,” the Communist Party lawmaker told RFE/RL’s Russian Service. “I thought that they had come to deal with me in some other way. After I heard that they were from the police, I even sighed with relief. Better to end up in prison than in a cemetery.” Bondarenko’s anxiety continued, however, in the first hours of his detention at a local police precinct as he waited to find out the charges against him. Just days earlier, on February 4, Saratov Oblast Deputy Governor Igor Pivovarov called on prosecutors to investigate Bondarenko, accusing him at a session of the regional legislature of participating in the takeover of a police station at which weapons were held. The accusation stemmed from events at a local demonstration on January 31 in support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Bondarenko, however, is convinced that the police attention and other pressure on him in recent days is the result of his February 5 announcement that he intends to run for the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, in the single-mandate district in which powerful Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin is considering running. The elections are expected to be held in September.

The Moscow Times, 11 February 2021: A St. Petersburg court has jailed Russian rapper Vyacheslav Mashnov, known as “Gnoyny” (“Rotten”), for using profanity at demonstrations in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Mashnov, who also goes by “Slava KPSS” (“Glory to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”), was among the 1,500 people detained in Russia following Navalny’s Feb. 2 sentencing. Footage showed Mashnov ironically chanting “lick, don’t bite; a clitoris is a sensitive thing” at a march in Navalny’s support. St. Petersburg’s Kuybyshev District Court found Mashnov guilty of petty hooliganism and handed him seven days of administrative arrest.

RFE/RL, 11 February 2021: It was with “pain in my heart,” rector Konstantin Markelov said on January 29, that he announced the expulsion of three Astrakhan State University students for attending opposition protests. But “the law is the law,” he said in an open letter posted to social media. “Think a hundred times when they urge you to join unsanctioned demonstrations.” The university in southern Russia prompted an uproar with its decision, a case still rare in Russia despite an increasingly harsh crackdown on dissent following nationwide rallies in support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny on January 23. Now two of the students — Vera Inozemtseva and Aleksandr Mochalov — are suing the university and demanding their reinstatement. “I see my expulsion as a case of political repression,” Inozemtseva told RFE/RL in an interview.

RFE/RL, 11 February 2021: Russian security agents — including one allegedly linked to the poisoning of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny — tailed another Kremlin critic in the days and weeks before his two near-fatal poisoning illnesses, the investigative group Bellingcat said in a new report. The Bellingcat investigation, published on February 11, focuses on two incidents in Moscow in which Vladimir Kara-Murza, a veteran opposition activist who has lobbied Western governments for sanctions against Russian officials, nearly died after suffering what his doctors described as toxicity from an “unidentified substance.”

Human Rights Watch, 11 February 2021: Today, Russian authorities threatened to file charges against people who take part in protests scheduled for February 14. Prosecutors also threatened prosecution of social media and website owners if they continue to promote the St. Valentine’s Day protests. But this isn’t about street protests. It’s an absurd reaction to people lighting flashlights and candles on St. Valentine’s Day. The past few weeks have seen more than 10,000 peaceful protesters detained across Russia, intense police brutality, baseless criminal charges against organizers, and allegations of unfair trials and inhumane treatment. The protests have been organized by supporters of imprisoned political opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who announced they would suspend further protests until spring given authorities’ violent response. But earlier this week, Navalny’s team called for an organized flashmob on February 14, suggesting people go to their yards for 15 minutes, light a flashlight or candle, and post it on social media. The flashmob slogan is, “Love can defeat fear.” But even this entirely peaceful action isn’t safe for protesters in Russia.

FIDH: The Observatory has been informed about the acts of intimidation and judicial harassment against Darya Apakhonchich and Lolja Nordic, women’s and LGBT+ rights activists, Evgeniya Litvinova, member of the Human Rights Council of St. Petersburg and Sofia UlyashevaBogdan Litvin and Alexei Bezrukov, three activists of “Vesna” movement [1], in St. Petersburg in connection with mass protests held on January 23 and 31, 2021 in support of Alexei Navalny. On January 23, 2021, the Main Investigative Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in St. Petersburg initiated criminal proceedings against dozens of activists. They are accused of blocking traffic during the January 23, 2021 protest march in St. Petersburg under Article 267 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“rendering means of transport or means of communication unusable”). According to preliminary information, Darya Apakhonchich, Lolja Nordic, Evgeniya Litvinova, Sofia Ulyasheva, Bogdan Litvin and Alexei Bezrukov figure as witnesses or accused in this criminal case. Orders to search the apartments of the six activists were issued by an investigator and not by a court as required under Article 165 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation. The searches were designated as urgent to circumvent this rule.

CPJ, 11 February 2021: Of the more than 100 Russian journalists who have been arrested or fined covering rallies in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Mediazona chief editor Sergey Smirnov has become a symbol of the absurd lengths to which Russian authorities are willing to go to quash coverage of the events.  On January 20, Smirnov retweeted another person’s tweet saying the editor looked like a punk musician from the band Tarakany, or Cockroaches, in an advertisement for a January 23 pro-Navalny rally. The tweet was an inside joke — a reference to a past incident in which a pro-state Telegram channel misidentified a photo of a Russian rapper as Smirnov, Smirnov’s colleague Yegor Skovoroda told CPJ.  Ten days later, on January 30, Russian police arrested Smirnov; on February 3, he was sentenced to 25 days in prison on charges of “repeatedly violating the rules for holding public events” because of the retweet. At his first court hearing, Smirnov wore a T-shirt with the name of the punk band from the offending tweet – Cockroaches. On February 8 the sentence was reduced to 15 days.

RFE/RL, 12 February 2021: Jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny will appear in court again on February 12 in a slander case involving a World War II veteran after the trial was interrupted last week. The anti-corruption campaigner has described the slander case as a fabricated Kremlin public-relations campaign meant to harass and discredit him. Navalny is accused of slandering a World War II veteran who took part in the promotional video in support of last year’s constitutional amendments that cleared the way for President Vladimir Putin to run for two more terms in office after 2024, if he wants. The trial centers on a social-media post from June in which Navalny, one of Putin’s most vocal critics, described those in the video as “traitors,” “people with no conscience,” and “corrupt lackeys.”

RFE/RL, 12 February 2021: Lyubov Sobol, a prominent lawyer for jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), has been indicted on fresh charges she labeled political “revenge” for daring to speak to an alleged security officer behind the assassination attempt against the Kremlin critic. The case against Sobol, who is under house arrest for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions during recent anti-government protests, comes amid a widening crackdown on Navalny’s allies and supporters. Using her Facebookaccount,Sobol’s team wrote on February 11 that the Investigative Committee case against the lawyer related to her December detention, when she and journalists attempted to speak to a security agent at his home.

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