Rights in Russia week-ending 16 July 2021

Our round-up of the week’s news

Other news of the week:

10 July 2021

RFE/RL: The head of Russia’s Central Election Commission has denied reports that the country’s upcoming State Duma elections could be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “There have been no discussions about a possible postponement of the election,” Ella Pamfilova told the state news agency TASS on July 10. “The elections will be held in accordance with the presidential decree and voting will take place on September 17, 18, and 19. There is no doubt that the elections will be held on time.”

RFE/RL: The United Nations said torture and ill-treatment of detainees in territory controlled by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine is happening every day. Deputy UN rights chief Nada al-Nashif said on July 9 that there are “egregious violations” committed in the Izolyatsia prison in Donetsk and other places of detention in separatist-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine.

11 July 2021

The Moscow Times: Moldovan President Maia Sandu pledged an “end to the rule of thieves” Sunday as her pro-European party looked set to win snap parliamentary elections she called to shore up her position against pro-Russia forces. Sandu’s center-right Action and Solidarity (PAS) party was leading with more than 47% of the vote, with 90% of the ballots counted as of 11:45 p.m. (20:45 GMT), according to the electoral commission. The PAS’s main rivals from the coalition of socialists and Communists, led by former Kremlin-backed president Igor Dodon and former president Vladimir Voronin, picked up about 31% of the votes.

13 July 2021

RFE/RL: Russia says 780 people died from coronavirus-related causes over the past 24 hours, the highest number of fatalities confirmed in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of newly registered cases reached 24,702 nationwide for the same period, the anti-coronavirus crisis center reported, bringing the total number of cases to 5.7 million. The overall coronavirus death toll stands at 144,492.

RFE/RL: Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov says he has stopped his campaign to repatriate foreign-based Russian businesspeople over concerns they may face arrest upon arrival. Titov’s report to Russian President Vladimir Putin, parts of which were published by the RIA Novosti news agency on July 12, says that the decision to stop the campaign was made due to a failure by the Prosecutor-General’s Office to guarantee that Russian businessmen from the so-called London List would not be arrested on their return.

RFE/RL: Police in Moscow have detained more than 100 Central Asian labor migrants after a mass brawl erupted between Kyrgyz and Tajik citizens in the Russian capital’s southeastern district of Kuzminki. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry’s representative in Moscow, Nurlan Jabaev, told RFE/RL on July 13 that more than 70 of the detained individuals are Kyrgyz nationals, adding that a probe has been launched into the brawl, which took place overnight.

14 July 2021

The Guardian: Russia’s army has sent water-bombing planes to support thousands of firefighters battling huge wildfires in Siberia, a region known for its frozen tundra that is now sweltering under a heatwave. Flames are tearing across 800,000 hectares of forest, and the hardest-hit region of Yakutia in the north has been in a state of emergency for weeks as climate scientists sound the alarm about the potential long-term impact. On Tuesday, more than 2,600 firefighters were battling blazes in Yakutia, which has borne the brunt of the fires in recent years.

RFE/RL: A Russian court has sentenced 27 suspects to prison terms ranging from two to 10 years for their roles in a deadly 2019 ethnic brawl. The Penza regional court on July 14 also acquitted one defendant in the case of a mass brawl in the village of Chemodanovka, after which dozens of Romany families left the village. Twenty-five of those sentenced were released from custody, as they had already served out their sentences while in pretrial detention. […] Chemodanovka council leader Sergei Fadeyev said that after the brawl, all Romany families in the village and the nearby settlement of Lopatki had “voluntarily” left their homes for an unknown destination. The regional government said the same day that some 130 Roma left their homes. No official reason was given for why they left, while Fadeyev insisted that they left of their own will and were not forced out.

The Moscow Times: Russian athletes competing under a neutral flag have been instructed to avoid answering “provocative” political questions at the Tokyo Olympics that will open to mostly empty stands next week, the Vedomosti business daily reported Wednesday. “No comment” is the most commonly recommended response on issues ranging from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Russian doping scandal to the Black Lives Matter movement.  Other tailor-made responses include “sports should remain out of politics” when asked about Crimea and “the Olympics should not become a platform for any actions and gestures” when discussing BLM.

15 July 2021

RFE/RL, 13 July 2021: The jailed father of Ivan Zhdanov, a close associate of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, has been transferred to a prison hospital for unspecified reasons. Zhdanov tweeted on July 12 that his 67-year-old father, Yury, had been transferred from a detention center in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk to the Federal Penitentiary Service’s regional hospital for inmates “for tests.”

The Moscow Times, 15 July 2021: An ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny who is running for local office has said that she faces a court-approved forced hospitalization in a coronavirus ward despite her negative Covid-19 test, preventing her from submitting election paperwork on time. Violetta Grudina, who had headed Navalny’s political network in the far northern city of Murmansk, had her office attacked several times and staff members detained after she announced plans to run for the Murmansk City Council in April. 

RFE/RL: Police in Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, have removed a wall-sized poster with portraits of slain Russian rights defenders, politicians, and journalists, hours after it appeared on a wall in a park. The poster, drawn as a replica of the 1966 Beatles’ Revolver album cover with portraits of slain lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Anastasia Baburova, human rights defender Natalya Estemirova, and opposition politician Boris Nemtsov among others, appeared on July 15 on the wall of a transformer vault in the Pushkarsky Garden in President Vladimir Putin’s hometown. It came on the 12th anniversary of Estemirova’s murder. Natalya Estemirova, the head of the Memorial human rights center’s office in Chechnya, was abducted near her home in the Chechen capital, Grozny, on July 15, 2009, and shot dead. Nobody has been convicted of her killing.

RFE/RL: A tiny wool-selling company in Russia has applied to the Federal Service of Intellectual property (Rospatent) to register as its trademark the logo of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Smart Voting strategy, which is designed to promote independent candidates at elections. The application by the Woolintertrading company from the southern Stavropol Krai region was placed recently on Rospatent’s website. There was no immediate comment from Navalny or his associates.

The Moscow Times: Russian officials’ plans to restrict live streams from polling stations in upcoming parliamentary elections have been met with accusations of pre-emptive attempts to conceal voter fraud, including ballot stuffing. Russia’s Central Election Committee (CEC) said Wednesday that only members, candidates and political parties will have access to the live feeds when voters go to the polls from Sept. 17-19. The CEC staggered the vote for the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, over three days to limit the spread of coronavirus as Russia battles its deadliest wave of infections yet.

The GuardianKhalimat Taramova, the 22-year-old daughter of a prominent Chechen businessman, sits demurely on a velvet sofa ornately embellished in gold. She is wearing a modest dress and a headscarf. With her on the sofa are three men dressed in suits. They are appearing on Grozny TV, the state television channel of Russia’s Chechen Republic. Only a couple of weeks before the programme was shown on 14 June, Taramova fled her home, where she said she was subjected to violence after going against her family’s wishes. She sought help from a group of women’s rights activists, the Marem project , who let her stay in a flat owned by one of its members in the neighbouring republic of Dagestan. In a video releasedon social media on 6 June, she pleaded for the Chechen authorities not to come looking for her.

16 July 2021

RFE/RL: Jailed former U.S. marine Trevor Reed has been transferred to a penal colony in Mordovia, a region about 350 kilometers east of Moscow historically known as the location of Russia’s toughest prisons, including Soviet-era labor camps for political prisoners. Aleksei Melnikov, the executive secretary of the Public Monitoring Commission human rights group, said on July 16 that “Trevor had been transferred from detention center No. 5 in Moscow to one of the penal colonies in Mordovia.”

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