Rights in Russia week-ending 12 June 2020

Fair Trial

Ensure Transparency of Yuri Dmitriev and Svetlana Prokopyeva’s Trials!

The Solidarity Task Force of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum calls on all those who cares about the right to the fair and transparent court trial to take part in the campaign for publicity of the trials against the Karelian historian Yuri Dmitriev and the journalist from Pskov Svetlana Prokopyeva. Samples of requests to broadcast court proceedings in these cases (in Russian) can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. The samples were prepared by the Citizens’ Watch (Saint Petersburg), Forum member organisation. EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, 12 June 2020

Right of assembly

Russian Journalist, Lawmaker Released After Court Cuts Jail Term

A Russian journalist who also serves on a Moscow district council has been released from jail after serving 10 days in detention for staging a single-person picket. Ilya Azar walked free from the Moscow jail on June 7, two days after a Moscow court ordered his term shortened. RFE/RL, 7 June 2020

Vadim Cheldiev left under arrest

Caucasian Knot” has reported that Vadim Cheldiev was detained even prior to the protest rally in Vladikavkaz. As the alleged initiator of the rally, the activist was charged with publicly disseminating knowingly false information about the coronavirus infection, extremism, and disorderly conduct. Moreover, Vadim Cheldiev was accused of using violence against a public officer during the transportation to the place of detention. Vadim Cheldiev explained clashes at the rally in Vladikavkaz and a clash during his transportation by provocations arranged by law enforcers. Caucasian Knot, 8 June 2020

ECtHR determines amount of compensation to detained Kuban activist Zufar Achilov

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has recognized the repeated detentions of Zufar Achilov at protest actions in Gelendzhik as the violation of freedom of assembly and obliged the Russian authorities to pay the activist 12,700 euros in compensation, advocate Anita Soboleva has reported today. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that in August 2013, the Krasnodar Territorial Court upheld the verdict to Zufar Achilov, a member of the board of the Gelendzhik Human Rights Centre (HRC), and also the verdicts to the head of the HRC and other two activists. All of them were found guilty of extortion money from developers. The defendants pleaded not guilty. Caucasian Knot, 10 June 2020

Law enforcers release detained activist Giyas Ibragimov

Today, Giyas Ibragimov, a member of the movement “Nida”, detained during a protest rally criticizing the police, has returned home after an administrative protocol was drawn up against him. The activist claims that law enforcers unreasonably accused him of disorderly conduct and stated that he allegedly attempted to commit suicide. Caucasian Knot, 10 June 2020

Russian activist Konstantin Kotov awarded ‘Boris Nemtsov Prize’

Russian activist Konstantin Kotov has been awarded the Boris Nemtsov Foundation’s 2020 “Prize for Courage,” the organization’s website announced. Kotov was honored “for courage in upholding democratic values,” the head of the foundation’s board, Vladimir Kara-Murza, wrote on TwitterMeduza, 12 June 2020

Two Dagestani newspapers release identical front pages in support of jailed journalist

On June 12, the Dagestani newspapers “Chernovnik” and “Novoe Delo” published identical front pages in support of jailed journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev.The front pages have the headline “I/We Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev” (in Russian, «Я/Мы Абдулмумин Гаджиев»). Meduza, 12 June 2020

Freedom of expression

Russian State Channel RT Files Lawsuit Against Opposition Figure Navalny

MOSCOW — The Russian state-controlled broadcaster RT has filed a lawsuit against opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny, alleging that he damaged the firm’s business reputation. Navalny posted notice of the lawsuit on his Twitter account on June 7. Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, and the Znak.com news website were also named as defendants in the suit. According to the notice, Moscow’s Arbitration Court found unspecified “errors” in the lawsuit and gave RT additional time to correct them. RFE/RL, 7 June 2020

Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office detects 120 COVID-19 fake news during pandemic

MOSCOW, June 8 (RAPSI) – The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation has brought to light 120 fake news about the coronavirus infection since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the authority’s press-service. Inspections have revealed that the most widespread fake news alleged that the authorities and medical organizations have made secret information on the real scale of the infection outbreaks and the number of victims; on deployment of troops and National Guard across large cities with the aim to strictly limit the rights of citizens, or to organize a putsch, the statement reads. RAPSI, 8 June 2020

LGBT Activist Charged With Pornography for Body-Positive Vagina Drawings

Authorities in Far East Russia charged an LGBT rights activist with distributing pornography for posting drawings of vaginas on social media, the activist told Russian media Tuesday. Yulia Tsvetkova, 27, had been under house arrest from November to March in the remote city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur before authorities lifted her house arrest. Tsvetkova faces up to six years in jail for posting the images on her page dedicated to body positivity that she said she maintains as a hobby. The Moscow Times, 10 June 2020

Resident of Russia’s Perm to be tried over calls for violation of self-isolation regime

MOSCOW, June 10 (RAPSI) – A district court in the city of Perm in Russia is to hear a criminal case against a local resident who is charged with calling to violate the self-isolation and restricted travel regime introduced to contain coronavirus infection, the press service of Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office informs on Wednesday. The District Prosecutor has approved the indictment; according to the document the defendant is charged with public dissemination of knowingly false information about circumstances threatening lives and safety of citizens, the statement reads. RAPSI, 10 June 2020

Russian investigators want to question radio host Yulia Latynina in a ‘fake news’ probe after she broadcast a complaint from medical workers fighting coronavirus

Moscow state investigators have opened an inquiry into journalist and pundit Yulia Latynina, who is suspected of distributing “false information” about regional officials’ supposed unpreparedness to fight the spread of coronavirus. According to a letter sent to the radio station Ekho Moskvy, as reported by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, investigators are reviewing an episode of Latynina’s radio show that aired on April 11, where she read a statement from medical workers complaining about shortages of personal protective equipment and harsh labor conditions at hospitals in Nizhnekamsk, Tatarstan. The medical workers’ statement also claimed that the city recorded 1,300 cases of double pneumonia in March 2020 without testing any of these patients for COVID-19. Officials have asked Ekho Moskvy to “facilitate [Latynina’s] appearance” for interrogation in the probe. Investigators also asked the radio station to reveal where Latynina resided during quarantine. Meduza, 10 June 2020

Staff at Top Russian Paper Offer Replacement for Controversial Editor

Staff at Russia’s leading business newspaper Vedomosti have put forward a candidate to replace the current editor-in-chief, whose editorial decisions have ignited a censorship scandal at the leading independent publication, the paper reported Thursday. Writers and editors rebelled against acting editor Andrei Shmarov, who was appointed after Vedomosti’s previous owner announced its sale this spring. Shmarov has been accused of banning coverage of negative opinion polls on President Vladimir Putin, threatening to fire those who criticize the president’s controversial constitutional amendments and interfering in coverage of Russian oil giant Rosneft. The Moscow Times, 12 June 2020

Instagram users support man sentenced for reposting videos about battles in Chechnya

Instagram users claim there is no extremism in the actions of Aitakhadji Khalimov, a resident of Kaliningrad, who posted videos about the war in Chechnya. Users of the social network note that the state-run TV Channel also showed similar videos. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that in June, the Second Western District Military Court found 27-year-old Aitakhadji Khalimov from Kaliningrad guilty of public calls for terrorist activities and sentenced him to 3.5 years of imprisonment for posting on the social network the documentary videos about the combat actions in Chechnya. Caucasian Knot, 12 June 2020

Freedom of conscience

Another Jehovah’s Witness Gets Lengthy Prison Term In Russia

PSKOV, Russia — A court in Russia’s northwestern city of Pskov has sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness, Gennady Shpakovsky, to 6 1/2 years in prison. Judge Galina Belik on June 9 found Shpakovsky guilty of being a leading member of a banned extremist religious group and sentenced him the same day. The 61-year-old Shpakovsky refused to accept any guilt, saying that he has the right to follow his religion and share his religious views with others. He came to the trial’s last hearing with a bag filled with personal items, signalling he was ready to be taken into custody. RFE/RL, 9 June 2020

Lawyers’ rights

The Russian Federation: use of physical force and detention of lawyers must be promptly investigated, ICJ says

The ICJ has called on the Russian authorities to institute a prompt, independent and thorough investigation into the recent use of physical force against lawyers Natalia Magova, Diana Sipinova and Liudmila Kochesokova and detention of Diana Sipinova by officers of the Ministry of Interior in the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic. Those responsible should be held accountable, the ICJ stressed. ICJ, 2 June 2020

Treason cases

Russian Court Grants Early Release To Scientist Convicted Of Treason

A Russian court has granted early release to a 79-year-old former space researcher, Vladimir Lapygin, who was sentenced to prison on a treason conviction and recognized as a political prisoner by the rights group Memorial. A court in Tver, a city 180 kilometers northwest of Moscow, ruled on June 11 that Lapygin would be released on parole. It is expected this will happen within 10 days, once the court’s ruling comes into force. RFE/RL, 11 June 2020


As Russia Lifts Lockdowns, Expanded Surveillance Network May Remain

MOSCOW — When Marina Khublarova, a Russian mother of seven, experienced coronavirus symptoms in late April, she called the local health service to report them. After a test for the virus came back positive, Khublarova got a text message instructing her to install a smartphone app called Social Monitoring, used by authorities to enforce stay-at-home rules and other coronavirus-related restrictions on movement. “That’s when the hell began,” she said in an interview. From that moment on, the app sent notifications every two hours — day and night — demanding Khublarova upload a selfie to prove she was home. RFE/RL, 11 June 2020

Moscow’s digital permit system to delete personal data only after conclusion of lawsuits

The personal data of Moscow residents recorded in the city’s digital permit system will not be deleted until after the conclusion of all associated lawsuits, Alexey Nemeryuk, the head of Moscow’s Trade and Services Department, told TASS.  “Residents filed lawsuits against either the digital permit system itself, or for fines that have been issued. Once all of these proceedings are over, we will immediately demonstrate that the data is being deleted from the system,” Nemeryuk said. Meduza, 11 June 2020

Migrant workers

Russia’s latest app will track migrant workers — but who’s next?

On May 29, Russian state media reported that the authorities are considering introducing an app that migrant workers would have to download when they enter the country, once the borders re-open after the COVID-19 lockdown. Little is known about the proposal. But the few details that have been leaked to the media, coupled with Russia’s longstanding record of racial profiling, other racism against migrants, and recent developments in the “surveillance state” are grounds for serious alarm. If this app does actually come into being, it could wreak serious harm. Human Rights Watch, 9 June 2020. By Damelya Aitkhozhina


Zarifa Sautieva’s arrest extended despite guarantees of human rights defenders

In the Stavropol Territory, the court extended the detention of Ingush activist Zarifa Sautieva until June 25. Meanwhile, human rights defenders, including Nikolai Rybakov, the leader of the “Yabloko” Party, Alexander Cherkasov, the head of the Council of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial”, and Svetlana Gannushkina and Oleg Orlov, members of the “Memorial”, requested the court to release Zarifa Sautieva. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that Zarifa Sautieva is under arrest since July 2019. She and four other activists were accused of participating in an extremist community. Zarifa Sautieva is also accused of organizing the use of violence dangerous to the life or health of public officers during protests in Magas on March 26-27, 2019. Today, the Yessentuki City Court has extended the arrest of Zarifa Sautieva for other two weeks, that is, until the completion of the investigative actions. Caucasian Knot, 9 June 2020

Women’s rights

Kadyrov Donates Millions to Help Chechen Grooms ‘Buy’ 200 Brides

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has announced plans to donate 10.3 million rubles ($131,500) to help men cash-strapped by the coronavirus pandemic “buy” brides under Islamic law. The families of 207 grooms in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya would each receive 50,000 rubles ($635) for their sons to get married in accordance with traditional Islamic practices, the region’s Spiritual Board of Muslims told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency Monday.  The Moscow Times, 10 June 2020


Presidential Human Rights Council to monitor voting on amendments to Constitution

MOSCOW, June 9 (RAPSI) – Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council established an ad hoc working group to monitor the process of voting on the amendments to be introduced in the national Constitution, the body’s press service informs on Tuesday. At this stage, among the group’s participants are listed the Council executive secretary, the head of the body’s Commission on Electoral Rights Alexander Tochenov, Council members Andrey Babushkin, Maria Bolshakova, Igor Borisov, Alexander Brod, Eva Merkacheva, and Leonid Polyakov. RAPSI, 9 June 2020

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Russia’s authorities pull out all the stops to mobilize for a delayed plebiscite that could extend Putin’s presidency to 2036

Over the next few weeks, the Russian authorities will have their hands full. The nation is simultaneously withdrawing coronavirus quarantine restrictions and preparing to hold a plebiscite on July 1 to vote on constitutional amendments that could extend Vladimir Putin’s presidency to 2036. Judging by the scale of efforts by election officials, the Kremlin seeks a sweeping victory in the vote. Russians can expect all manner of enticements and inducements to participate: state employees are being compelled to mobilize their friends and family, skeptics are being lured with smartphones and apartments awarded at trivia quizzes, and every voter is being promised a goody bag with coveted sanitary supplies. Meduza, 9 June 2020

Moscow to Hand Out $145M in ‘Prizes’ to Voters for Putin’s Constitutional Reforms

Moscow authorities plan to attract voters for next month’s public vote on constitutional reforms that would allow President Vladimir Putin to rule Russia until 2036 with prizes totaling almost $144 million. The constitutional amendments, in addition to adding social guarantees to Russia’s basic law, reset Putin’s four previous terms as president, allowing him two additional six-year terms from 2024-2036. Public polls have said that close to a majority of Russians plans to vote in favor of the amendments. The Moscow Times, 11 June 2020

Over 500k Russians want to vote on Constitution amendments online – official

MOSCOW, June 11 (RAPSI) – Over 500,000 applications have been filed with from citizens of Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod Region willing to take part in the voting on Russian Constitution amendments online, Chair of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova has stated. Moreover, about 240,000 applications more have been lodged by nationals who want to want at a place of stay through the Mobile Elector System, and more than 19,000 requests for the home voting have been submitted, she has added. RAPSI, 11 June 2020

Putin Says ‘Majority’ Back Plan to Change Russian Constitution

President Vladimir Putin said Friday an “absolute majority” of Russians back his controversial plan to change the Constitution, as he made his first public appearance after weeks of lockdown. Russia, which has the world’s third-largest coronavirus caseload, this week lifted tight restrictions as Putin set the stage for a vote on July 1 that could extend his hold on power until 2036. Putin greeted his compatriots at an open-air flag-raising ceremony in western Moscow to mark the Russia Day public holiday.  He was surrounded by allies, including prominent paediatrician Leonid Roshal. The Moscow Times, 12 June 2020


Arkhangelsk Authorities Halt Unpopular Landfill Project

ARKHANGELSK, Russia — Authorities in Russia’s northwestern region of Arkhangelsk have announced they will halt the construction of a landfill for waste from Moscow, a project that was extremely unpopular locally. The region’s economic development minister, Ivan Kulyavtsev, said on June 9 that the local government had canceled an agreement with the Tekhnopark construction company on building the landfill in the town of Shiyes, near the regional capital, Arkhangelsk. Kulyavtsev said that the agreement was canceled after the project had been removed from the list of the most-important investment projects. RFE/RL, 10 June 2020

Officials in Siberia have warned fuel spill could take years to clean up

Officials in Siberia have warned that it will take years to clean up a massive fuel spill in the Arctic Circle, as investigators detained three employees of a power plant where the disaster originated. More than 21,000 tonnes of fuel was released when a fuel reservoir collapsed last month at a power plant operated by a subsidiary of metals giant Norilsk Nickel in the city of Norilsk. The Guardian, 10 June 2020

Security Services

Opposition Report Labels Russia’s FSB A ‘Second Government’

Russia’s powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) has been transformed into a semicriminal structure that is functioning essentially as a “second government,” according to a new report by the Dossier (Dosye) Center, which is funded by a former oligarch and staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The report, which was issued on June 11, is titled “How The FSB Determines The Politics And Economics Of Russia.” The security agency is described in the report as the main support of Putin’s ruling system, which has gained control over all other government institutions. RFE/RL, 12 June 2020


FSB arrests five people for planning alleged terrorist attack in annexed Crimea

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has reported the arrest of five people, who were allegedly planning to carry out a terrorist attack at a market in the city of Simferopol (located on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014). Meduza, 10 June 2020


The Russian Military Court of Appeal will imminently review the verdict of human rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku and his five co-defendants. The six men were arrested in Russian-occupied Crimea, brought before a Russian military court, convicted under trumped-up charges and handed lengthy prison sentences in November 2019, following unfair trials. They are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released and their sentences quashed. Amnesty International, 11 June 2020


Defense Requests More Time In Dutch MH17 Trial After Virus Delays

Lawyers for a Russian suspect in the trial in absentia of four men accused of downing flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 have requested more time to prepare their case saying that the coronavirus pandemic has severely impeded their efforts to defend their client. As proceedings resumed on June 8 after a coronavirus lockdown was eased in the Netherlands, hearings restarted with extra social-distancing measures in place including plexiglass panels separating the judges and lawyers and family members spread out through the courtroom. RFE/RL, 8 June 2020

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