Rights in Russia week-ending 16 April 2021

Our news round-up of the week

Other news of the week:

11 April 2021

The Moscow Times: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Saturday for a peaceful resolution of Ukraine’s tensions with Russia based on respect of its territorial integrity. Flanked by his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul that Turkey aims “to ensure the Black Sea remains a sea of peace and cooperation” as U.S. warships were due to sail through Turkey’s Bosphorus. “We don’t want an increase in tensions in our common region,” Erdogan said. “We believe that the current crisis must be settled by peaceful means on the basis of international law and respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” the Turkish leader added.

The Moscow Times: The Kremlin on Sunday said it was not moving toward war with Ukraine as Russia increased its military presence on the border with Ukraine’s eastern breakaway territories. In recent weeks fighting has intensified between Ukraine’s army and pro-Russian separatists controlling two regions in the country’s east, raising concerns of major escalation in the long-running conflict.  “Of course, nobody is planning to move toward war and in general, nobody accepts the possibility of such a war,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a televised interview on Sunday.  President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman added that “nobody also accepts the possibility of civil war in Ukraine.”

12 April 2021

Human Rights in Ukraine: Samira Aliyeva, a fourth-grade student in Russian-occupied Crimea, should have been praised for her homework assignment about her great-grandfather, a WWII veteran and victim of Stalin’s 1944 Deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar people.  Instead, her teacher traumatized Samira and the other Crimean Tatar children in the class by repeating, as fact, the lies used by Stalin’s regime to justify an act of genocide.  The incident has aroused outrage, but no official comment, and there is nothing to suggest that it could not happen again. It was only after a major scandal in 2019 that similar lies were removed from a history textbook for schoolchildren.

13 April 2021

The Moscow Times: A Russian academic who worked in aviation has been arrested for allegedly passing secrets to NATO, state media reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed source. A Moscow court placed Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) professor and Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) employee Valery Golubkin until June 12, according to Interfax. 

RFE/RL: The U.S. State Department has called for the release of an RFE/RL freelance correspondent arrested in Ukraine’s Russia-annexed Crimea region and joined human rights groups in expressing concern over his treatment and a televised “confession” he gave. “Troubled by reports that Russian occupation authorities in Crimea tortured @RFERL freelance journalist [Vladyslav] Yesypenko to coerce his confession. We call for his release, and for Russia to cease its reprisals against independent voices in Crimea,” spokesman Ned Price tweeted on April 13.

14 April 2021

RFE/RL: Aleksandr Vorobyov, who worked as an assistant to President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Urals region, has been sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison on a charge of high treason. The Moscow City Court sentenced Vorobyov on April 14 after a trial that was held behind closed doors due to classified materials in the case. Vorobyov was detained in July 2019 and fired shortly after the arrest.

15 April 2021

The Moscow Times: The U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) news outlet has offered some of its staff the opportunity to leave Russia as it faces crippling “foreign agent” fines, BBC Russia reported Wednesday. The move comes after Russia fined RFE/RL nearly $1 million for violating tagging requirements related to its “foreign agent” designation. Russia’s newly tightened “foreign agents” law could also lead to website closures and prison time for RFE/RL’s employees.

16 April 2021

Amnesty International: The Russian government must immediately stop the deportation of at least 17 Tajikistani nationals detained during a peaceful protest in Moscow on 2 April against the suspected rendition of a fellow countryman, Amnesty International said today. The detained Tajikistani nationals, mostly migrant workers, had taken part in peaceful protests against the forcible return to Tajikistan of Izzat Amon (also known as Izatullo Kholov), a prominent migrants’ rights activist, lawyer and the head of the Moscow-based human rights centre Tojikon. The protest took place in front of the Embassy of Tajikistan. “The Russian authorities must immediately stop helping their counterparts in Tajikistan to facilitate illegal forced returns. In the absence of due process individuals are denied their right to challenge their return, based upon a fear of persecution by the Tajikistani authorities due to their participation in peaceful protests,” said Maisy Weicherding, Amnesty International’s Central Asia Researcher.

The Moscow Times: German prosecutors said Friday they are investigating a Russian man on suspicion that he helped to plan the murder of a Chechen dissident living in Germany on orders of the Chechen regime. Named as Valid D., the suspect is accused of “making a declaration of readiness to commit murder, preparing a serious act of violence endangering the state and violating the weapons act,” prosecutors said. He was arrested in January and is in pre-trial detention.

The Moscow Times: Russia has asked migrants from post-Soviet states living there illegally to leave the country by June 15, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Friday. In mid-December, President Vladimir Putin extended the residence status of foreign citizens living in Russia until June 15, 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic. This covered migrants from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries living in Russia without proper documentation.

RFE/RL: Prosecutors have asked a Moscow military court to sentence a former senior officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service to 11 years in prison after he and two others were caught with millions of dollars worth of cash in 2019. They also asked the Moscow Garrison Court on April 16 to fine Kirill Cherkalin 34 million rubles ($445,000), deprive him of his rank as colonel, and bar him from working in law enforcement structures. Cherkalin was arrested in April 2019, along with two other FSB officers, Dmitry Frolov and Andrei Vasilyev, on charges of bribe-taking and fraud.

The Guardian: Michael Bourdeaux, who has died aged 87, founded Keston College in Bromley, south-east London, in 1969 as a centre for the study and dissemination of reliable information about religion in communist countries. He described the college in his memoirs as “my concept”, and poured into it his “energy and commitment over a period of 30 years”. It was an organisation that rattled the Soviet authorities; indeed Oleg Gordievsky, the Soviet double agent who once worked for the KGB and escaped to the west in the boot of a car, claimed at a Keston AGM that it was No 2 in the hierarchy of KGB hates, the first being Amnesty International. Why was Keston so disliked? It uncovered unpalatable facts about the true situation of religious believers behind the iron curtain, and it demolished the communist propaganda that there was freedom of conscience in its “brave new world”. The fact that religion persisted undermined party teaching as propounded by leaders such as Nikita Khrushchev, whose 1961 party programme promised that communism would be achieved in 20 years and religion would fade away.

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