Rights in Russia Week-ending 13 March 2020

Right of assembly

Citing coronavirus fears, Moscow bans all mass public events until April 10

Citing public health concerns about the spread of coronavirus, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has banned all mass demonstrations of more than 5,000 people until April 10. According to the news agency RIA Novosti, the mayor issued these orders on March 10. The ban affects “sporting, entertainment, public, and other mass events.” The news outlets RBC and TASS previously reported that Moscow officials had canceled an annual festival to celebrate Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Meduza, 10 March 2020

Russian Constitutional Amendments Spark Protests, Police Detentions

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Police in St. Petersburg and several other Russian cities have detained activists during and ahead of protests against sweeping constitutional amendments that open the possibility for President Vladimir Putin to remain in power for another 16 years. The March 12 demonstrations were held while local lawmakers discussed the amendments, a day after parliament’s two chambers both overwhelmingly approved the changes. RFE/RL, 12 March 2020

Russian Federation: Authorities Suppress Criticism of the Proposed Constitutional Amendments

The Russian authorities are resorting to their tried-and-tested methods of silencing all criticism while preparations are made to enact amendments to the country’s Constitution. The amendments were proposed by President Vladimir Putin in January 2020. If adopted, they will, amongst other things, open the way for him to run for fifth and sixth terms as President, and give him the authority to fire judges. Amnesty International, 13 March 2020

Freedom of expression

Moscow Court Fines BBC World News And Senior Journalist

A Russian court in Moscow has fined BBC World News and its editor in chief in Russia on March 12 for violating two regulations concerning the media. The court ruled that the defendants failed to correctly label content unsuitable for children and failed to submit content to a state archive, the Interfax news agency reported. RFE/RL, 12 March 2020

Russian LGBT Activist Faces Porn Trial for Vagina Drawings

Yulia Tsvetkova posted delicate drawings and embroidered images of vulvas on a social media page called “Vagina Monologues” that she hoped would help lift the taboo on women’s bodies. Instead, the Russian artist and campaigner for women’s and LGBT rights has been put under house arrest for the posts.  Since she was detained in November, the 26-year-old has been waiting to stand trial for distributing pornography online, a charge which carries a jail term of between two and six years. In Russia, distributing pornography is illegal and the law is regularly enforced. The Moscow Times, 13 March 2020


Russia’s Interior Ministry to pay $20,000 to mother of police torture victim

MOSCOW, March 12 (RAPSI) – The Supreme Court of Russia’s Republic of Ingushetia on Thursday ordered the Interior Ministry to pay Lemka Doliyeva, whose son had died after being beaten by police officers, 1.5 million rubles (about $20,000 at the current exchange rate) in compensation, lawyer for the injured party Andrey Sabinin has told RAPSI. In October 2019, a lower court obligated the Finance Ministry to pay the compensation. The injured party demanded to increase the amount to be awarded up to 15 million rubles ($200,000) and to recover the money from the police. RAPSI, 12 March 2020

Narcotics laws

Drug possession case against Russian man closed following ECHR ruling

MOSCOW, March 13 (RAPSI) – The Timiryazevsky District Court of Moscow dropped prosecution of Alexander Borisov, who had been charged with illegal storage of psychotropic substances on a large scale following a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), attorney Leonid Solovyev told RAPSI on Friday. According to the lawyer, a prosecutor petitioned for the case termination and a right to rehabilitation. During  the last hearing, he withdrew all accusations, Solovyev said. RAPSI, 13 March 2020

Legal profession

Moscow court refuses to free attorney accused of obstructing justice from detention

MOSCOW, March 13 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Friday dismissed an appeal filed by attorney Dagir Khasavov detained on charges of obstruction of justice to place him under house arrest, RAPSI was told in the court’s press service. The lawyer will remain in detention, according to the court ‘s decision. The defendant stands charged with obstruction of justice and graft or compulsion of evidence or avoidance of giving testimony. RAPSI, 13 March 2020

Russian Constitution

Russian Lawmakers OK Constitutional Change That Would Allow Putin To Run In 2024

MOSCOW — Russia’s lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma, has approved a constitutional amendment that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for a new term in 2024. Currently, the constitution allows for a president to serve for two consecutive six-year terms. Putin, 67, is set to step down in 2024 when his second sequential presidential term ends. On March 10, 380 lawmakers voted for the amendment, 43 voted against it, and one lawmaker abstained. RFE/RL, 10 March 2020

The constitutionality of six terms: Russia’s high court must decide if Putin can legally serve another two presidential terms. Here’s how the decision is supposed to work.

1 What happened? Russia’s State Duma adopted the second reading of constitutional reform legislation initiated by Vladimir Putin. When Putin introduced the bill, the plan was described as an effort to prohibit one person from serving more than two presidential terms. At the last moment, however, lawmakers introduced a radical amendment to “zero out” the presidential term clocks of Russia’s current and former presidents… Meduza, 10 March 2020

Political opponents

Putin Justifies Khodorkovsky Conviction, Says Russian Laws Should Decide U.S. Investor Case

Russian President Vladimir Putin has justified the 2003 imprisonment of the former oil tycoon and one of his main opponents, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, calling him “a swindler” whose firm, former oil giant Yukos, was involved in fraud and murder. In a video interview with TASS news agency, a portion of which was published on March 12, Putin also said that Russian laws must take priority in the case of U.S. investor Michael Calvey, who is currently under house arrest in Moscow for alleged financial fraud. RFE/RL, 12 March 2020

Navalny, Sobol to pay $1.4 million to school food supplier upheld – court

MOSCOW, March 10 (RAPSI) – Appeals filed by Alexey Navalny and his associate Lyubov Sobol against a ruling ordering them to pay 88 million rubles ($1.4 million) in favor a company supplying food to school have been dismissed, according to the records of the Ninth Commercial Court of Appeals. In late 2019, the Moscow Commercial Court issued its ruling in favor of Moskovsky Shkolnik. Navalny was also ordered to retract and remove certain incorrect information from his YouTube channel. RAPSI, 10 March 2020

Animal rights

Russian Animal Activists Angered Over Killing Of 100 Dogs, Cats In Yakutsk

Russian volunteers and animal rights activists were shocked and angry after finding about 100 dead cats and dogs they had been caring for piled in a container at an animal shelter in the nation’s Far Northeast region of Yakutsk. “A very large number of bodies, very large” a female member of Bely Bim could be heard saying on March 9 in a somber voice as she recorded a video of the discovery of the dead animals. RFE/RL, 10 March 2020

MH17 investigation and trial

MH17 Trial Postponed as Prosecution Slams Russian ‘Misinformation’

SCHIPHOL, The Netherlands — The presiding judge in the MH17 murder trial on Tuesday postponed the hearings until March 23, when the court will decide on how the trial should proceed following judical requests from the defense and relatives of the victims of the plane crash. Monday was the first day of the long awaited trial. Dutch prosecutors allege that the defendants, three Russians and a Ukrainian who are being tried in absentia, were instrumental in the 2014 shooting down of the passenger plane that killed all 298 people on board, most of them Dutch nationals. The Moscow Times, 10 March 2020

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