Rights in Russia week-ending 15 January 2021

Our weekly round-up of the news

Other news of the week:

9 January 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia confirmed 23,309 new coronavirus cases and 470 deaths [Russia has confirmed 3,379,103 cases of coronavirus and 61,381 deaths].

10 January 2021

RFE/RL: On December 29, the Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences held its annual New Year’s gathering for researchers and other employees. The institute’s director and his deputy duly greeted the crowd with traditional seasonal speeches and well-wishes. But at one point during the proceedings, an unknown man appeared on the dais. He calmly introduced himself as the institute’s “curator,” or resident agent, from the Federal Security Service (FSB). “We were absolutely petrified,” senior researcher Irina Levinkaya said. “No one expected anything like this, and we were all shocked by his openness. He wasn’t embarrassed at all to say openly that he was monitoring the institute for the FSB. It turns out, he’s been with us since September.” Levinskaya added that no one among the shocked employees had any questions for their resident agent.

11 January 2021

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has postponed handing down its verdict and sentence for Azat Miftakhov, a young mathematician charged with hooliganism who says he was tortured while in custody. The verdict and sentence were expected to be pronounced on January 11, but the Moscow City Court, in a last-minute decision, said it had moved the hearing to January 18. Miftakhov, 25, a postgraduate mathematics student at the Moscow State University, has denied the charges, which his lawyers say stem from his anarchist beliefs and support for political prisoners. Miftakhov’s mother, Gulnur Khusainova, who traveled to Moscow from the Republic of Tatarstan to attend the court session, told RFE/RL that no reason was given for the decision to change the hearing date.

12 January 2021

The Moscow Times, 12 January 2021: Russian artist and LGBT activist Yulia Tsvetkova has been hit with pornography charges a fourth time over artwork aimed at ending stigmas around the female anatomy, the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported Tuesday.  Tsvetkova, 27, was first charged with distributing pornography online in June 2020 after sharing artwork of vulvas on the “Vagina Monologues” social media page she operates. The criminal charges carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison. The Investigative Committee in the Khabarovsk region where Tsvetkova lives brought the latest charges after three prior pornography charges related to investigations by federal police and investigators, her mother Anna Khodyreva told Novaya Gazeta.

RAPSI: The Moscow City Court on Tuesday upheld sentence in a case against the New Greatness (“Novoe Velichie”) extremist movement, a RAPSI correspondent reports from the courtroom. The court also corrected technical errors in the sentence delivered by Moscow’s Lyublinsky District Court as had been requested by prosecutors. On August 6, 2020, Dmitry Poletayev, Maxim Roshchin, Maria Dubovik and Anna Pavlikova received 6, 6.5, 6 and 4 years of suspended sentence respectively. The movement’s alleged leader Ruslan Kostylenkov was ordered to serve 7 years in penal colony, Vyacheslav Kryukov and Petr Karamzin were imprisoned for 6.5 and 6 years in jail respectively.

The Guardian: A Swedish court has sentenced a man and a woman to 10 and eight years in prison respectively for attempted murder and accessory to attempted murder in a hammer attack on a blogger and critic of the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. The pair, who were not named by the Gavle district court, assaulted Tumso Abdurakhmanov on 26 February 2020 in his home in Gavle, 106 miles (170km) north of Stockholm. In a statement, the court said the assault was planned and added that “the victim and the perpetrator had no relationship to each other”. Abdurakhmanov was assaulted with a hammer by a man who told the Chechen he came from Moscow, the Swedish news agency TT said. He survived the attack.

RFE/RL: The Moscow City Court on January 12 slightly reduced prison terms handed to two men convicted in the high-profile case of the so-called New Greatness movement. The court reduced the seven-year prison term of Ruslan Kostylenkov by three months, and the 6 1/2-year prison term of Pyotr Karamzin by two months. The six-year prison term of Ruslan Kostylenkov, as well as suspended prison terms for Anna Pavlikova, Maksim Roshchin, Maria Dubovik, and Dmitry Poletayev were upheld at the hearing. The men and women reiterated their not-guilty pleas saying that the case against them was groundless as there were no victims and no damages inflicted either to individuals or to the state. They were arrested in 2018 and charged with creating an extremist group with the intention of overthrowing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. Critics say the case against them was fabricated by Russia’s security services. The rights group Memorial describes the seven as political prisoners.

RFE/RL: In the early hours of January 13, 1991, hundreds of Lithuanians headed to the TV tower in Vilnius, where they would make a stand against Soviet troops deployed to crush the Baltic state’s bid to reclaim independence. More than a dozen died, and hundreds were wounded. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of communist satellite regimes in Eastern Europe made it clear that Moscow’s power was waning, and the Soviet Union would in fact dissolve by the end of 1991. Months before that — but only after the Vilnius bloodshed in January — Moscow would recognize the independence of the Baltic nations. Lithuania has designated January 13 as Freedom Defenders Day, paying tribute to the unarmed civilians who stood down Soviet forces in Vilnius.

RAPSI: A bill on the non-pecuniary damage award for illegal detention of a person for up to 48 hours has been submitted to the lower house of Russia’s parliament. The bill’s author is the State Duma lawmaker Natalya Kostenko.  She believes that even brief restriction of liberty is intervention with the freedom and inviolability of person.

13 January 2021

RAPSI: Moscow’s municipal lawmaker Yulia Galyamina has appealed a 2-year suspended sentence given her for repeated violations of rally holding regulations, according to the press service of the Tverskoy District Court. Galyamina was found guilty in December. In early July 2020, Galyamina published on the Internet posts calling to participate in an unauthorized rally in central Moscow on July 15. However, in the last 180 days the woman was repeatedly brought to administrative liability for similar violations, according to the statement.

14 January 2021

RFE/RL: The judges at the trial of a civil rights activist from Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan for mocking President Vladimir Putin and two of his close associates in a YouTube video have banned journalists from attending the proceedings, saying they were adhering to restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Judges of the Central Military District Court in the city of Samara on January 14 refused to allow RFE/RL correspondent Yekaterina Mayakovskaya to attend the ongoing trial of Karim Yamadayev, citing the virus restrictions. Yamadayev’s lawyer Vladimir Krasikov told RFE/RL that, as his trial resumed, his client protested that no journalists were present in the courtroom.

RAPSI: The Moscow City Court on Thursday upheld the detention of blogger Andrey Pyzh, who stands charged with illegal access to the data constituting a state secret, which had been earlier extended until March 5, the court’s press service told RAPSI. Investigators objected to mitigation of the restrictive measure claiming that the defendant had adequate resources for obstruction of justice and escape due to his Ukrainian citizenship.  Pyzh met with people who furnished secret information to him. The accused transferred the data abroad through the Internet and during personal trips, according to the investigation.  The blogger runs Urbanturizm channel where he publishes video about closed and abandoned objects.

RFE/RL: A court in Siberia has extended the pretrial detention of three leaders of an isolated messianic sect who are charged with “creating a religious group, activities of which may impose violence on citizens.” Defense lawyers for Sergei Torop, the founder of the Church of the Last Testament who calls himself Vissarion, and his associates, Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov, wrote on Telegram on January 13 that the Central District Court in the city of Novosibirsk had prolonged their clients’ pretrial detention until April 15. The lawyers added that they will appeal the court ruling. The trio was arrested by security forces in September in a massive raid on the group’s remote settlement in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region.

The Guardian: Anger burns a hole through the screen in this stark monochrome picture from veteran director Andrei Konchalovsky: a gruelling re-enactment of the hushed-up Novocherkassk massacre in western Russia in 1962, when Red Army soldiers and KGB snipers opened fire on unarmed striking workers, killing an estimated 80 people. It was a day of spiritual nausea for the Soviet Union, which had only just entered Khrushchev’s new de-Stalinised era of supposed enlightenment – a postwar civilian bloodbath that was the Soviets’ Sharpeville, or Kent State, or Bloody Sunday, or indeed the Corpus Christi massacre in Mexico City that featured in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.

15 January 2021

Caucasian Knot: Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a blogger from Chechnya, has called on the Swedish authorities to react to the mild, in his opinion, sentence to the figurants in the assassination attempt on him in the same way as European countries reacted to the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The coordinator of the assassination attempt on Tumso is associated with Ramzan Kadyrov’s inner circle, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial” reports. On January 11, a court in Sweden found Russian citizens Ruslan Mamaev and Elmira Shapiaeva as participants in the attack on Abdurakhmanov and sentenced them to ten and eight years in prison, respectively. “While in Europe they punish criminals in such a mild manner, those who wish to commit such crimes will not decrease,” Mr Abdurakhmanov has stated.

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