Other news of the week:
Freedom of expression
On Monday, 7 September 2020, RAPSI reported that the Moscow City Court will hear an appeal against extension of detention of ex-newspaper journalist Ivan Safronov charged with treason for three months on September 15, his attorney Ivan Pavlov told RAPSI on Monday. On September 2, Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court extended detention of Safronov until December 7. The hearing was held behind closed doors. Safronov was arrested on July 8. The same day Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court detained him until September 6. According to the Roscosmos press service, his arrest is not connected with the work in the company. On July 13, he was charged with treason.
On Thursday, 10 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that prosecutors in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Ingushetia have asked a court in the regional capital, Magas, to sentence Rashid Maisigov, a former editor of the opposition online media outlet Fortanga, to five years in prison on drug charges that he and his lawyers reject. Maisigov’s lawyer, Magomet Aushev, told RFE/RL on September 10 that a date for pronouncing the verdict and sentence had not been set yet, adding that the trial was adjourned until September 15. Maisigov was arrested in June 2019 and charged with possession of illegal drugs. Maisigov and his lawyers insist that the drugs were planted and the whole case was fabricated by local authorities.
On Thursday, 3 September 2020, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the use of “Russian specialists” to replace employees who resigned from the Belarusian state TV and radio broadcaster BT after a strike in support of nearly month-old protests against fraudulent presidential election results. They are being used to maintain strict control over the state media, RSF said. The Russian TV broadcaster RT (the former Russia Today) was warmly thanked for its help by President Alexander Lukashenko on 1 September. “Russian specialists” began replacing employees at BT the day after the strike began on 17 August. Around 300 BT employees participated in the strike and a hundred or so resigned in support of the protesters. Other state-owned TV channels, Stalitsa, ONT and STV, have also been hit by these departures. The lack of cameramen, editors and IT specialists has paralysed the news channels.
On Monday, 7 September 2020, RAPSI reported that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dismissed a complaint of the Communist Party seeking to challenge a new regulation of the voting hold for three days, the Court’s press service informs RAPSI on Monday. The claimant challenged the voting procedure for the elections to be held on September 13 approved by the Central Election Commission on July 24, according to the information, saying that after the abolishment of the self-isolation regime this procedure became unnecessary; at the same time, according to the Communist Party, it contradicts the Constitution. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case; an appellate instance said this decision was lawful.
On Friday, 11 September 2020, The Moscow Times reported that Russians are heading to the polls through Sunday to elect new regional and city leadership. In a year that has seen a global pandemic, weeks of anti-Kremlin protests in the Far East and historically low approval ratings for President Vladimir Putin, the vote is set to be a key test for the country’s pro-Putin ruling party, United Russia. The Moscow Times spoke to political experts about what to expect from the three-day vote: Regional elections for governors, as well as federal, regional and municipal legislators in 41 out of 85 regions; Twenty-two regions will elect municipal deputies, 18 governors, 11 regional lawmakers and four State Duma deputies; The vote will stretch out across three days between Sept. 11-13 in an effort to prevent crowding and the spread of coronavirus, a system previously used in this summer’s constitutional plebiscite that experts say will make it easier to falsify votes. Election officials have also allowed remote voting for two State Duma seats in the Kursk and Yaroslavl regions; Nearly 35 million people, or just under one-third of all registered voters, are eligible to vote this year.
On Tuesday, 8 September 2020, RAPSI reported that, in a trial at Moscow City Court that was held behind closed doors, military historian Andrei Zhukov was sentenced to 12.5 years in a high-security penal colony for treason. Historian and retired officer Zhukov was arrested in June 2018. According to the prosecution, between November 2010 and January 2012, the Russian citizen transmitted information classified as state secret to a representative of a foreign state.
On Thursday, 10 September 2020, Human Rights in Ukraine reported that Russia is continuing to conceal the whereabouts of Crimean Tatar prisoner of conscience, Muslim Aliev, almost three weeks after he was taken away, with pronounced coronavirus symptoms. The man rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku and the four other political prisoners, sentenced in Russia to huge terms of imprisonment without any crime, have arrived at prison colonies in Bashkortostan. This Russian Federation republic (also known as Bashkiria) is not just thousands of kilometres from the men’s homes and families in occupied Crimea, with this directly flouting the European Court of Human Rights. It is also desperately cold for Ukrainians, accustomed to Crimean temperatures. After over four years in the appalling conditions of Russian or Russian-controlled imprisonment, all six men are suffering from a range of medical issues. 44-year-old Kuku has long complained of kidney problems, and in the first phone call on 4 September that he was able to make to his wife, he said that the cold is exacerbating the problem. He was placed in quarantine immediately after arriving at the prison colony on 18 August and then straight away thrown into a punishment cell [SHIZO] for 15 days. His ‘offence’ – to have asked if it was possible to do the scheduled morning exercises inside, rather than out in the cold, For this entirely reasonable question, he received a note on his file and 15 days in conditions that are especially intolerable, with the cell almost certainly even colder.
On Thursday, 10 September 2020, RAPSI reported that Russian human rights advocates have asked the country’s Ombudsman Tatiana Moskalkova and deputy head of the State Duma Committee for Family, Women and Children Oksana Pushkina to ensure legal protection orders for victims of domestic violence, lawyer Valentina Frolova has told RAPSI. The application filed also contains a request to influence on the adoption o the federal anti-domestic violence law.
On Wednesday, 9 September 2020, Human Rights Watch reported that in Russia, diverting public frustration over domestic economic and political problems to a designated “enemy” is nothing new. In the past decade, politicians and state-friendly media have variously highlighted a revolving carousel of groups – migrants, LGBT people and critics branded as a “fifth column” – as scapegoats to shield the government from criticism over economic hardships or problems in domestic or foreign policy. In the wake of Russia’s Covid-19 economic downturn, we’re witnessing a new spin of the carousel. This time the target is, once again, migrant workers. The sectors of Russia’s economy that employ the largest numbers of migrant workers, such as construction and hospitality, were also hit by lockdowns. Many employers had to lay people off.
On Friday, 11 September 2020, RAPSI reported that the Higher Judges’ Qualifications Board will consider an application filed by the Moscow City Court’s Chairperson Olga Yegorova seeking termination of her powers on September 22, the Board’s press service has told RAPSI. If the application is granted, her authority will be terminated on October 23, 2020. Yegorova has voluntary submitted the application for removal. In August, the Higher Judges’ Qualifications Board recommended Chairman of the South District Military Court Mikhail Ptitsyn for the post of the Moscow City Court’s Chairperson. Yegorova has worked in the Moscow City Court since 1988. In 2000, she was appointed as the court’s Chairwoman.