Quote for the Week. “We call on the Russian Federation for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Navalny and of all those unlawfully or arbitrarily detained” – statement to the UN Human Rights Council by 45 states

Week-ending 12 March 2021

“We call on the Russian Federation for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Navalny and of all those unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, including for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of religion or belief. We urge the Russian authorities to respect their obligations under international human rights law, as members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

-a cross regional statement by 45 states to the Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia in the context of the case of Aleksei Navalny.

Source: ‘Cross-regional joint statement of 45 states delivered by Poland,’ Poland in the UN, 12 March 2021


Poland in the UN: On 12 March 2021 in the Human Rights Council during the General Debate on ITEM 4 (Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention), Ambassador Zbigniew Czech, Permanent Representative of Poland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, delivered a cross-regional joint statement on behalf of 45 states concerning the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia in the context of the case of Alexei Navalny.

The Moscow Times, : Dozens of countries took Russia to task at the UN on Friday over its imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and slammed numerous “arbitrary arrests” of his supporters. In a historic joint statement delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council, 45 countries voiced alarm at “the deteriorating situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Russia, “manifested in particular by the unlawful detention, arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Alexei Navalny.” They called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Navalny and all others “unlawfully or arbitrarily detained.”

RFE/RL: Lawyers for Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny say he has been moved from a detention center in the Vladimir region, northeast of the Russian capital, to an undisclosed location amid a call from Western countries for his immediate release. Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, was sent to prison last month to serve 2 1/2 years over alleged parole violations related to an embezzlement case he and rights activists say was trumped up for political reasons, something the authorities deny. Navalny’s lawyers said in a tweet on March 12 that they showed up at Detention Center No. 3 in Kolchugino at the start of the work day, only to be run around and deceived before being informed several hours later “that Aleksei had left.” The TASS news agency quoted on unnamed source in law enforcement as saying he had been moved to a penitentiary in nearby Pokrov, but was in quarantine, which can last as long as 15 days under Russian law. Russian authorities typically do not provide information about the transfer of prisoners until after they reach their destination and by late afternoon Navalny’s lawyers reiterated that they still did know his whereabouts.

Other news related to Aleksei Navalny this week:

Human Rights Watch, 11 March 2021: The Kremlin undoubtedly hopes that by packing Alexei Navalny off to prison, it will keep him out of sight, out of mind. Yet Navalny’s many social-media-savvy followers make that unlikely. A growing movement of people discontented with corruption, economic stagnation, and the Kremlin’s autocratic rule means that a political opposition will persist even without Navalny. It’s not hard to see why Navalny gets under Vladimir Putin’s skin. Navalny’s support was once said to extend no further than the intelligentsia of Moscow and St Petersburg, but he eventually built a movement across the country. Last summer while he was visiting supporters in distant Siberia, the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB’s main successor, apparently tried to kill him.

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.

Human Rights Watch, 12 March 2021: For the second time in two years, a group of members at the Human Rights Council, the United Nations’ top human rights body, came together to denounce rights violations in Russia. Two years ago, they expressed outrage over the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in Chechnya. Now, the arrest and sentencing of opposition activist Alexei Navalny and the detention of thousands of peaceful protesters have triggered concerns. The group also rightly pointed at the shrinking space for civil society in Russia and “recent legislative amendments and constitutional changes which further restrict rights and freedoms.” Navalny’s arrest represents only part of Russia’s deepening crackdown on media, critics, and civil society. In recent years, authorities have used new laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable foreign organizations” to demonize independent groups, ban foreign or international NGOs, and, more recently, to press criminal charges against Russian activists.

RFE/RL, 8 March 2021: A student from Uzbekistan has been ordered to leave Russia for taking part in a January 23 rally in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, in support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Nineteen-year-old Andrei Lagunin said over the weekend that he was ordered to pay 10,000 rubles ($135) for taking part in an unsanctioned rally and ordered to leave Russia before March 9, even though he insists that he did not take part in the pro-Navalny rally but was walking along the street where police dispersed the demonstrators. His lawyer, Viktor Shabanov, told the newspaper Vechernyaya Kazan that the motion to deport his client from Russia will be appealed, as the decision was unlawful.

The Moscow Times, 8 March 2021: When Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was arrested upon his January return to Russia, his supporters and enemies alike turned their attention toward his wife Yulia Navalnaya. They prophesied that she was poised to replace her husband as Russia’s main opposition politician in a move that would mirror the political rise of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in neighboring Belarus.  While Navalnaya herself would dismiss the calls to enter politics, that has not stopped women from emerging as a dominant force within Russia’s opposition. Navalny’s absence from the political landscape amid his recovery from Novichok poisoning and subsequent imprisonment turned the spotlight on his top female aides, including spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh and Anti-Corruption Foundation lawyer Lyubov Sobol.  This spotlight has been a double-edged sword: Both Yarmysh and Sobol were put under house arrest after they called on Russians to take to the streets for Navalny’s release on Jan. 23. They now face criminal charges of violating coronavirus-related bans on mass gatherings.

RFE/RL, 9 March 2021: A prominent liberal lawmaker has called on Russian authorities to properly investigate the two sudden near-fatal illnesses suffered by opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza while traveling in Russia. The call by Lev Shlosberg, made in an interview with RFE/RL, wasn’t expected to yield an immediate U-turn from Russian law enforcement, which has ignored at least two requests from Kara-Murza to open an investigation into the circumstances of his illnesses, in 2015 and 2017. But it does keep the spotlight on the question of whether Russian security agencies have been utilizing toxins — possibly created as part of a secret chemical-weapons program — to target dissidents, activists, journalists, or even former intelligence agents.

The Moscow Times, 9 March 2021: The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB)’s internal estimates for recent marches in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny placed the protester count at much higher numbers than officially acknowledged, the Meduza news website reported Tuesday. The data is reportedly part of the highly secretive FSB military counterintelligence unit’s first known comprehensive review of public support for Navalny.

RFE/RL, 9 March 2021: Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s team has announced plans to open offices in 10 cities where it believes the ruling United Russia party is most vulnerable in elections that must be held by September 19. Leonid Volkov, the coordinator of Navalny’s network of teams, said in a statement on March 9 that expanding into the cities “is most likely to help take away mandates” from United Russia in the vote. “A friendly young team, an opportunity to make Russia better, parcels [with food and other items] to preliminary detention centers [in case of incarceration] are included in the social package – in short, we have a dream job for you,” he wryly added in the statement. The 10 cities are Ulyanovsk, Orenburg, Astrakhan, Kirov, Vladimir, Ulan-Ude, Kursk, Chita, Petrozavodsk, Abakan.

RFE/RL, 10 March 2021: The trial of Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation who is charged with trespassing, has been adjourned just minutes after it started due to technical issues. The Perovsky district court of the Russian capital started the trial on March 10 but quickly noted that there were “technical shortcomings in the materials of the case” and adjourned the hearing until March 23. Sobol is charged with illegally forcing her way into the apartment of a relative of Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Konstantin Kudryavtsev. If convicted, Sobol faces up to two years in prison.

RFE/RL, 10 March 2021: A court in Moscow has fined well-known Russian actress Aglaya Tarasova for taking part in a rally protesting the arrest of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Timiriyazev district court said on March 10 that Tarasova was found guilty of taking part in an unsanctioned public event and fined 10,000 rubles ($135). Tarasova was among protesters detained at a pro-Navalny rally in Moscow on February 2.

RFE/RL, 10 March 2021: A 34-year-old Moscow resident has been handed a suspended sentence for attacking a police officer during January 23 rallies in support of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Presnensky district court on March 10 said Aleksandr Muchayev pleaded guilty and was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence. No details of the case were revealed. Earlier reports said that Muchayev was driving a car with Maria Alyokhina, a member of the Pussy Riot protest group, and opposition municipal lawmaker Lyusya Shtein inside. When police tried to detain the two women, Muchayev drove the car into making contact with a police officer.

RFE/RL, 10 March 2021: Moscow’s top police official has rejected accusations that law enforcement used inappropriate force against supporters at rallies for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in January and February. Speaking at a Moscow City council session on March 10, Oleg Baranov, the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s main directorate in the Russian capital, said that “Moscow police acted in accordance with the current law.” On January 23 and January 31, tens of thousands of supporters of Navalny held mass protests across Russia, protesting the jailing of the outspoken Kremlin critic. Police violently dispersed the protests.

The Moscow Times, 10 March 2021: Russia’s National Guard will train journalism students to safely cover mass protests, a senior lawmaker said Wednesday. The lessons will be organized after the detentions of and use of force against dozens of journalists at mass nationwide rallies in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny earlier this year. Moscow’s police chief earlier Wednesday defended his subordinates as acting legally “against offenders who committed crimes at unauthorized rallies.”

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