Rights in Russia week-ending 12 February 2021

Our news round up of the week

Other news this week:

6 February 2021

RFE/RL: The head of Telegram has said that the popular messaging app has blocked several channels that posted the telephone numbers and addresses of people working for and against anti-government protests in Russia. Writing on his own Telegram channel on February 5, Pavel Durov said that the channels in question contained information not only about participants in recent nationwide demonstrations, but also “judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, as well as journalists and media managers.” Many of the messages called for attacks against those targeted, which Durov said violated Telegram’s policies prohibiting the incitement of violence.

RFE/RL: EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has completed his three-day trip to Moscow amid criticism of Russia’s response to anti-government protests. The European External Action Service (EEAS) said in a February 6 press release that Borrell addressed a number of issues with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, including the “deteriorating human rights situation in Russia and the deliberate attempts to silence critical voices, NGOs, and civil society.” Borrell reiterated the European Union’s “strong condemnation of the recent sentencing of Aleksei Navalny, which followed his illegal detention and assassination attempt by a chemical nerve agent on Russian soil.” Borrell repeated calls by Brussels for the opposition politician’s “immediate and unconditional release” The EU official also “strongly condemned” Russia’s February 5 decision to expel three diplomats from EU states for allegedly participating in anti-government rallies held after Navalny was jailed upon his return from months of treatment abroad for his nearly fatal poisoning. The opposition politician and anti-corruption activist has accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering the assassination attempt. Borrell rejected the allegations that the diplomats from Sweden, Germany, and Poland had conducted activities incompatible with their status, and called on Moscow to reconsider the decision.

7 February 2021

The Moscow Times: The European Union’s top diplomat Sunday said Russia was rejecting constructive dialogue with the EU and that Europe must draw the consequences, including the possibility of new sanctions. In a blog post, Josep Borrell said the shock expulsion of three EU diplomats during his two-day visit to Moscow, showed that Russia “did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU.” The bloc “will have to draw the consequences” he wrote, insisting that “it will be for member states to decide the next steps, and yes, these could include sanctions.” Borrell’s trip, which ended on Saturday, had been a controversial journey that divided the EU’s 27 member states, with France and Germany backing dialogue with the Kremlin.

The Moscow Times: Russia confirmed 16,048 new coronavirus cases and 432 deaths. All university students in Moscow will return to in-person classes starting Feb. 8, according to Moscow Mayor’s decree cited by the state-run Interfax news agency Friday.  Nicaragua has registered Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, The Russian Direct Investment Fund announced Wednesday. A total of six Latin American states have approved the use of Russia’s jab.  Russia will resume flights with Armenia and Azerbaijan starting Feb. 15, according to a government decree issued Wednesday. Train connections to and from Belarussian capital Minsk will resume from Feb. 8.  Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19, according to final-stage clinical trials results published in the medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday.

9 February 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia has admonished the European Union for discussing potential sanctions with jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s close associates. On Monday, Navalny’s regional network coordinator Leonid Volkov and his Anti-Corruption Foundation executive director Vladimir Ashurkov joined a video call on the EU’s Russia policy, Volkov said on social media. Diplomats from Britain, the United States, Canada and Ukraine were also reportedly involved in the two-hour discussions convened by Poland.

10 February 2021

The Guardian: The wife of the jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has arrived in Germany on a flight from Moscow. Yulia Navalnaya touched down at Frankfurt am Main airport on Wednesday evening on a Lufthansa flight, German magazine Spiegel reported in its online edition. The reasons for her departure are unknown. But associates made clear that her exit from Russia was temporary and did not amount to her leaving the country for exile. Navalny returned to Moscow with his wife on 17 January, after spending nearly five months recuperating in Germany. A team from Russia’s FSB spy agency poisoned Navalny last summer with the nerve agent novichok, while he was travelling in Siberia.

The Moscow Times: The Russian military has turned down an invitation to attend a European security seminar for the first time in 30 years amid deteriorating ties with the West, Moscow’s arms control delegation in Vienna said Tuesday. The delegation’s Twitter account said Russian Defense Ministry officials opted out of the European Security and Cooperation Organization’s (OSCE) Military Doctrine Seminar, held once every five years, “due to unfriendly policies of the West.”

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has ordered mental assessments for former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, who was sentenced to 9 years in prison in Russia for assaulting police, a charge he has rejected. The Moscow City Court began a hearing into Reed’s appeal on February 10 with a ruling that the 29-year-old Texas student must undergo psychological and psychiatric evaluations before the hearing could resume at a later date. A district court in Moscow sentenced Reed in late July after finding him guilty of assaulting two police officers. Reed denies the charge saying he does not remember anything about the incident as he was drunk at the time.

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