Rights in Russia week-ending 17 April 2020


Growth in surveillance may be hard to scale back after pandemic, experts say

The coronavirus pandemic has led to an unprecedented global surge in digital surveillance, researchers and privacy advocates around the world have said, with billions of people facing enhanced monitoring that may prove difficult to roll back. The Guardian, 14 April 2020

COVID-19: New Moscow Permit System Sparks Crowds

A new permit system introduced in Moscow to help authorities in their bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus sputtered at the beginning as lines snaked around some metro stations and filled some streets with traffic. As of April 15, Moscow residents were required to obtain electronic permission online to use private or public transport in the Russian capital, with police checks creating the type of crowds authorities were looking to eliminate as the pandemic grows across the country, and especially in Moscow. RFE/RL, 15 April 2020


For Russia’s HIV-Positive Population, The Coronavirus Crisis Is Making Things Much Worse

MOSCOW — Just because Russia is struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic does not mean that anyone has canceled the country’s other epidemics, HIV-AIDS activists are warning. “HIV infection hasn’t gone away,” says Marina Nikolayeva, a nonmedical consultant with SPID.Tsentr (AIDS.Center), a nongovernmental organization that provides assistance to those infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and raises awareness about related issues. “All the things that are happening now have done nothing to reduce the number of people who need our help.” RFE/RL, 14 April 2020

Liberty of person

213 Moscow COVID-19 patients involuntarily hospitalized for violating quarantine in the last 24 hours

Over the course of a single day, 213 Moscow residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were found to have violated quarantine regulations. According to the city’s task force for the pandemic, those individuals were involuntarily transported to observational facilities in Moscow and its suburbs, where they will remain until their treatment process is complete. Meduza, 15 April 2020

Russia: As Pandemic Grows, Migration Detention Deadlock

(Moscow) – Thousands are stuck in migration detention indefinitely in Russia because the travel restrictions under the Covid-19 epidemic mean that their removal is not imminent, Human Rights Watch said today. Russian authorities should provide safe and dignified alternatives to migration detention for people facing deportation or court-mandated expulsion. They should also improve access to healthcare and ensure social distancing and other measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Russia’s migration detention centers. Human Rights Watch, 16 April 2020

Punishing People for Saving Lives in Moscow

While “Safe at Home” becomes a global motto, those without a home find themselves particularly vulnerable. In Moscow,  which now has  14,776 of Russia’s 24,490 officially registered Covid-19 cases, the homeless population, numbering around 80,000, largely depends on local activists who distribute food and antiseptics to try to prevent the spread of the virus. But on April 12, police detained two volunteers with the activist group “Food Not Bombs,” as they were handing out food, clothes, and personal hygiene products near the Kursky train station in Moscow’s center. Human Rights Watch, 15 April 2020 [by Tanya Lokshina]

Journalist and Pussy Riot member Pyotr Verzilov arrested walking around Moscow in a police uniform

Moscow police have arrested Pyotr Verzilov — again. Verzilov is a member of the punk protest group Pussy Riot and the publisher of the independent legal news website Mediazona. This time, police caught him wearing one of their own uniforms. Meduza, 17 April 2020

Attorney of notorious Russian defendants put under house arrest in fraud attempt case

Moscow’s Presnensky District Court on Friday placed lawyer Alexander Vershinin defending several defendants in notorious cases under house arrest on attempted fraud allegations until June 16, the court’s press service told RAPSI. Vershinin earlier pleaded partially guilty. Details of the prosecution are not disclosed. RAPSI, 17 April 2020

Freedom of expression

No laughing matter Russian police have started prosecuting Internet users for spreading fake information about the coronavirus pandemic, even when it’s satire

A video lampooning conspiracy theorists — featuring freemasonry, Flat Earthism, Bill Gates, and microchips — prompted one of the first investigations. Meduza, 10 April 2020

Chechen Leader Threatens Journalist Who Investigated Region’s Harsh Virus Quarantine

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has threatened an investigative journalist Monday for a “provocative” story on the Russian region’s strict anti-coronavirus measures, the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported. The story, authored by Novaya Gazeta journalist Yelena Milashina, cited quarantined Chechens as saying Sunday that they stopped reporting coronavirus symptoms for fear of being labeled “terrorists.” Kadyrov reportedly accused “that woman, if you can call her that,” of writing “nonsense.” The Moscow Times, 14 April 2020

Officials order ‘Novaya Gazeta’ to delete article on COVID-19 in Chechnya following Kadyrov’s threats to have the author attacked

The major Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta has deleted an article that described a chaotic and harsh COVID-19 response in Chechnya. An archived version of the article can still be found in Russian here. The newspaper complied with an order from the national media and censorship agency Roskomnadzor to have the article removed within 24 hours. Meduza, 15 April 2020

Chechen leader threatens journalist Elena Milashina over COVID-19 reporting

Vilnius, Lithuania, April 15, 2020 — Russian authorities should condemn Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s threats to journalist Elena Milashina and ensure her safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. In an April 13 speech, Kadyrov accused Milashinaa correspondent for independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, of writing “nonsense” and blamed the Federal Security Service for not silencing her, according to a transcript of his remarks published by Novaya Gazeta. CPJ, 15 April 2020

Russia’s Novaya Gazeta Deletes Chechnya Lockdown Article After Kadyrov Threat

The independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper has deleted its investigation into the republic of Chechnya’s strict anti-coronavirus measures after Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov issued a threat to the journalist who wrote it. The Moscow Times, 16 April 2020

‘Nothing unusual here’ The Kremlin dismisses Ramzan Kadyrov’s latest threats against independent journalists

Earlier this week, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov lashed out at a report by Novaya Gazeta about the republic’s struggles to curb the spread of coronavirus. On Instagram and then Telegram, Kadyrov accused the FSB of “aiding and abetting” the newspaper and demanded that the intelligence community “stop these monsters,” adding, “If you want us to commit a crime and become criminals, just say so! One [of us] will take on this responsibility and serve his time, as required by law. He’ll do his time and then he’ll be released!” On Thursday, April 16, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov finally weighed in on the conflict. Meduza, 16 April 2020

Waiting on Chechnya’s justice system ‘Novaya Gazeta’ chief editor Dmitry Muratov responds to Ramzan Kadyrov’s latest threats

On April 13, during a live stream on Instagram and then later on his Telegram channel, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov condemned a recent report written by Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina about the spread of coronavirus inside the Chechen Republic. Meduza, 16 April 2020


On 13 April, Chechnya’s Head Ramzan Kadyrov posted a video on Instagram in which he issued a death threat aimed at Russian journalist Elena Milashina. The threat followed the publication of her article about the spread of COVID-19 in Chechnya. She is in grave danger and Russian authorities must take urgent steps to ensure her safety. Amnesty International, 17 April 2020

Russia censors Novaya Gazeta at Chechen leader’s behest

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Russian media control agency Roskomnadzor’s “unacceptable” censorship of an article in the leading Moscow investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta about Chechnya’s chaotic and authoritarian management of the coronavirus crisis. It seems that the Russian authorities will stop at nothing to support Ramzan Kadyrov, who has ruled the autonomous southwestern republic of Chechnya with an iron hand for years and is on RSF’s list of Predators of Press Freedom. RSF, 17 April 2020

On leadership and hard times Read the column about Rosneft head Igor Sechin that one of Russia’s major newspapers deleted from its website

Konstantin Sonin, an economics professor at the University of Chicago and Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, is a regular contributor to the opinion page at the well-known Russian business newspaper Vedomosti. Meduza, 13 April 2020

Russian authorities bring new charges against jailed journalist Abdulmumin

Vilnius, Lithuania, April 14, 2020 — Authorities in the Russian republic of Dagestan should immediately release journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiev and drop all the charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ, 14 April 2020

CPJ Calls For Release Of Editor Held In Daghestan On ‘Terrorism’ Charges

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in the Russian republic of Daghestan to release journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiev and drop all charges against him. Gadzhiev, the religious affairs editor of the independent weekly Chernovik, was detained on June 14 on charges of financing terrorism. He has been held since in pre-trial detention, the CPJ said in a statement on April 14. RFE/RL, 15 April 2020

Right of association

U.S. Foundation Says Russia’s ‘Undesirable’ Label Will Have No Impact On Its Operations

The Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based global research and analysis group, says its operations will not be affected by Russia’s decision to add it to its list of “undesirable organizations.” The foundation also said in a statement on April 9 that the decision will not have an impact on its reporting about the North Caucasus region. RFE/RL, 10 April 2020

Right of assembly

Europe: Mass protests provide hope as rights and judicial independence eroded

People’s rights are being violated by governments in Europe and Central Asia, who are cracking down on protests and seeking to erode the independence of the judiciary to avoid accountability, Amnesty International said today as it published its annual review of human rights in the region. The organization praised those brave people who took to the streets to defend their own and others’ rights but warned that governments continue to perpetrate human rights violations with impunity across the region. Amnesty International, 16 April 2020

Amnesty Slams ‘Offensive’ Against Human Rights In Eastern Europe, Central Asia

Many governments across Eastern Europe and Central Asia have pursued an “extensive offensive” against human rights, deploying draconian tactics and tools of the state to suppress protests, freedom of expression, and civil society, Amnesty International says in its annual regional review. RFE/RL, 16 April 2020

Rally order breaches case of Russian activist postponed until April 16

The Moscow City Court has postponed the hearing of an appeal against a 4-year sentence of activist Konstantin Kotov for repeated violations of a rally holding order until April 16, according to a statement of the court’s press service. At the next hearing the court will consider motions to watch some videos and question witnesses, the statement reads. In early March, the Second Cassation Court of General Jurisdiction returned the case of Kotov to a lower court. The Moscow City Court’s ruling against Kotov was overturned, the court was orderd ordered to reconsider the matter by another bench. Kotov is to stay in detention until May 2. RAPSI, 14 April 2020

Russian activist’s rally order breach sentence appeal hearing to resume on April 20

The Moscow City Court on Thursday again adjourned an appeal against a 4-year sentence of activist Konstantin Kotov for repeated violations of a rally holding order, the court’s press service told RAPSI. During the next hearing on April 20 the court will hear oral arguments. In early March, the Second Cassation Court of General Jurisdiction returned the case of Kotov to a lower court. The Moscow City Court’s ruling against Kotov was overturned, the court was orderd ordered to reconsider the matter by another bench. Kotov is to stay in detention until May 2. RAPSI, 16 April 2020

Last summer in Moscow, thousands came out to protest. Then they were prosecuted for it

The 2019 summer of protest in Moscow may be a distant memory for Russia’s fast-moving political scene. But dozens of people who protested against the removal of city election candidates have found themselves under investigation – or behind bars. […] Police detained 1,373 people that day according to OVD-Info, an organisation that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Two days later, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal investigation into “mass unrest” on 27 July – what has become known as the “Moscow Case” in Russia. […] Here, OVD-Info profiles the dozens of people who have been investigated and sentenced as part of the “Moscow Case”. Open Democracy, 13 April 2020

Freedom of conscience

Six members of Jehovah’s Witnesses banned in Russia face trial

A court in the city of Ulyanovsk will consider a criminal case against six members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious organization banned in Russia, the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office reports Wednesday. Depending on their alleged role, the defendants are charged with orgzanizing and participating in a religious community prohibited in Russia by court as extremist. RAPSI, 15 April 2020

Prisoners’ rights

Russian Authorities Say Siberian Prison ‘Under Control’ After Riot, Fire

Russian prison officials say the situation at a maximum-security prison in the Irkutsk region is under control following a riot by prisoners that was put down by special-operations forces. The body of one inmate was found in the ruins of a burned-out prison building on April 11, according to Russian state media. The cause of death was not given, but independent local media with contacts among the inmates said the victim committed suicide as security officers stormed the building. RFE/RL, 11 April 2020

Russian rights advocates urge measures preventing riots in prisons and detention centers

Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council has voiced its opinion that courts need to resume hearings on paroles, mitigating of punishments and transfers to corrective labor in order to bar riots in detention facilities, the body’s press-service informs on Monday. Earlier, the Council’s standing commission on assistance to the Public Monitoring Commission, reform of the penitentiary system and crime prevention has held a working meeting to discuss the causes and circumstances of a riot in a penal colony situated in the Irkutsk Region, and the activities of public monitoring commissions at the time of the pandemic. RAPSI, 13 April 2020

Pandemic Justice: How COVID-19 and coronavirus containment measures have exacerbated problems in Russia’s courts and prisons

In regions and cities across Russia, state officials are taking extraordinary measures to limit people’s movements and curb the spread of coronavirus. On March 18, Russia’s Supreme Court even imposed a moratorium on all hearings across the nation’s judicial system except for particularly “urgent cases,” though judges have enormous leeway here to decide what meets this threshold. Meanwhile, Russia’s prison system has effectively locked down, and observers warn that we now even less know about what happens at these facilities than we did before. Meduza, 17 April 2020

Locked Up During Lockdown: Russia’s Prison Inmates Anxious As Coronavirus Crisis Unfolds

In February, Irina’s son — who is serving a term in a prison in Novosibirsk Oblast — fell seriously ill. Despite a persistent cough and a steady fever, he was unable to see a doctor for days. And when he did, the prison pharmacy was empty and the doctor was unable to give him anything. “I went through a circle of hell to get him some medicine,” Irina — who asked that her real name not be used — told RFE/RL. RFE/RL, 17 April 2020


Arsonists Attack Synagogue In Russia’s Northwestern City Of Arkhangelsk

ARKHANGELSK, Russia — Arsonists have attacked a synagogue in Russia’s northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, the latest attack on the property since 2015. Anatoly Obermeister, the leader of the local Jewish community, told RFE/RL that the culprits used car tires and a combustible substance in the attack, which took place during the early hours of April 13. RFE/RL, 14 April 2020

Domestic violence

With Families Under Lockdown, Domestic Violence Surges

As millions of people shelter at home during the coronavirus pandemic, cases of domestic violence are rising rapidly in Russia, the United States, and elsewhere. Activists say victims face an untenable situation as they are forced into self-isolation with their abusers. RFE/RL, 14 April 2020


New Russian Governors Oppose Controversial Shiyes Landfill in Their Backyard

Two newly appointed leaders in northern Russia have said they oppose a controversial landfill whose construction set off nationwide protests against shipping Moscow’s waste to poorer regions over a year ago. Opposition to construction of the Shiyes landfill in the Arkhangelsk region as a destination for Moscow’s trash grew from a local issue in 2018 to a mass movement a year later. A court ruled to demolish Shiyes in January 2020, though the landfill’s investor has since appealed the decision. The Moscow Times, 17 April 2020


Russia Passes Dual Citizenship Law, Hoping to Add 10M Citizens

Russian lawmakers from both houses of parliament have passed legislation Friday allowing dual Russian citizenship for foreigners, sending it to President Vladimir Putin’s desk less than two weeks after introducing it. Lawmakers have described the amendments to Russia’s citizenship law, which among other steps strike down a requirement to renounce one’s existing citizenship, as “revolutionary.” Their authors expect up to 10 million people, primarily from Russian-speaking populations in the former Soviet republics, to obtain Russian passports as the country tries to fix its demographic crisis. The Moscow Times, 17 April 2020

Presidential Human Rights Council

Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council Against Marking End Of WWII On September 3

Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights (SPCh) has challenged a move by lawmakers to mark the end of World War II on September 3 instead of the internationally recognized date — September 2. SPCh chief Valery Fadeyev has asked Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council, to reject a bill adopted by the lower chamber, the State Duma. Fadayev said that September 3 was already marked in the country as the Day of Solidarity in the Fight against Terrorism to honor hundreds of victims of 2004 Beslan school siege. In its statement, the SPCh called the bill “a mistake.” RFE/RL, 16 April 2020

Leave a Reply