Rights in Russia week-ending 18 September 2020

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On Saturday, 12 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that Musa Lomaev, a blogger, stated that Finnish law enforcers arrested a suspect of attempting on his life. According to the 1ADAT Telegram Channel, Chechen authorities had promised half a million US dollars for Lomaev’s head. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that Lomaev left Chechnya fearing persecution. Before that, in May 2004, law enforcers kidnapped him from his home in Grozny and tortured, demanding that he self-slandered. On March 30, 2005, the Chechen Supreme Court (SC) found Lomaev innocent.

On Monday, 14 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that the grand mufti of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Salakh Mezhiyev, has approved a sentence of torture and humiliation for a 19-year-old Chechen blogger and warned of consequences for an exiled member of the Chechen separatist government, Akhmed Zakayev, who condemned the penalty. In a video statement posted on Instagram on September 13, Mezhiyev called the teenager “a dirty creature, who received what he deserved.” Video of the torture and humiliation of the young Chechen, who criticized Chechen police and the region’s authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov on the opposition 1ADAT Telegram channel, circulated over the Internet last week and shocked people in Chechnya and beyond.

On Tuesday, 15 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that amid the public outcry around a video depicting the Salman Tepsurkaev’s humiliation, supporters of the Chechen authorities demanded from relatives of the young man not to address the law enforcement bodies and threatened them with problems, one of Salman Tepsurkaev’s relatives told human rights defenders and administrators of the “1ADAT” Telegram channel. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that on September 7-8 in Chechnya, and then beyond its borders, the video, in which a naked man sits on a bottle, explaining that he is doing this as punishment for cooperating with the oppositional 1ADAT Telegram Channel, has caused huge resonance. The channel’s authors are sure that the moderator of their chat, Salman Tepsurkaev, was kidnapped and publicly humiliated by law enforcers.

On Thursday, 17 September 2020, Amnesty International stated that on 5 September, 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkaev was abducted from Krasnodar region in southern Russia. He had moderated 1ADAT, a popular Telegram channel critical of the Chechen authorities. Reports indicate that he was taken to Chechnya and may be held in secret incommunicado detention by law enforcement officials in the Chechen capital Grozny. While Salman Tepsurkaev’s whereabouts remain unknown, a video has appeared on social media where he is seen being sexually violated, “in punishment” for cooperating with 1ADAT.

On Friday, 18 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that Daud Mamilov, a son of an Ingush MP, accused of involvement with the “Islamic State”*, claims that he was forced to confess. A law enforcer threatens to put him into the dungeon (punishment cell), his advocate informs. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that Daud Mamilov was detained on April 29, 2019. According to investigators, five people, including Daud Mamilov, who lives in Dmitrov, had created a secret IS* unit. Mamilov denies his guilt. Zakriy Mamilov, his father, who opposed the Ingush-Chechen border agreement, has linked his son’s criminal prosecution with his own political activities. Daud Mamilov has complained about a law enforcer’s unlawful actions during an inspection of the work of the SIZO (pre-trial prison) No. 5 in Kashira, where he is being kept.

Right of assembly

On Friday, 18 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that police officers detained Bektemir Salikhov, a Kumyk activist who announced, at his solo picket in central Makhachkala, an endless hunger strike, demanding a meeting with the head of Dagestan. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that in October 2019, Kumyk activists, including Bektemir Salikhov, held a hunger strike, demanding the return of historical lands to residents of the Kumyk villages of Alburikent, Kyakhulai and Tarki, lost during the years of Stalin’s deportations. Today, at 9:00 a.m. Moscow time, Bektemir Salikhov, an Alburikent villager, came out to a solo picket in the central square of Makhachkala, demanding a meeting with the head of Dagestan, Vladimir Vasiliev.

Freedom of expression

On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that a court found Ingush journalist Rashid Maisigov guilty of drug possession and sentenced him to three years of imprisonment in a common-security penal colony. Caucasian Knot has reported that Rashid Maisigov had collaborated with the “Fortanga” edition that covered the protests in Ingushetia in late March of 2019. The journalist complained about anonymous threats related to his work. Maisigov was detained on July 12 after searches in his house, where law enforcers found a package with some white powder. The journalist was accused of keeping an especially large quantity of narcotic drugs; he refuses to plead guilty. Maisigov said that he was tortured. The Magas Regional Court sentenced Rashid Maisigov to imprisonment in a common-security penal colony and decided to apply the punishment “in the form of three-year imprisonment in a common-security penal colony starting from September 16,” reported the “Caucasian Knot” correspondent who attended the trial.

On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that on 15 September in Sochi, in the feature-length film contest of the 31st “Kinotavr” Open Russian Film Festival, the Russian premiere of Ivan Tverdovsky’s film “Conference” took place. Despite the high opinions and artistic merits, film critics agreed that the film would not be a hit at movie theatres. The “Conference” is dedicated to victims of the terror act at the Theatre Centre in Dubrovka, who were taken hostage during the performance of the “Nord-Ost” musical.


On Monday, 14 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that in Astrakhan, each city resident got 700 roubles under formal pretexts for visiting polling stations on election days, and several complaints were filed to the police in connection with the above violations, members of opposition parties reported. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that yesterday, on a single voting day, elections of various levels were held in the regions of Southern Russia, with the exception of Kabardino-Balkaria.

Freedom of religion

On Thursday, 10 September, Amnesty International issued a statement saying that on 4 September, the Kursk Regional Court quashed the decision of the Lgov District Court to release imprisoned Danish Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen and sent the case back to the lower court for a new hearing. Dennis Christensen may remain in prison until May 2022. He is a prisoner of conscience persecuted solely for his faith and must be released immediately and unconditionally.

On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will hold a virtual hearing on September 16 about what it says is the alarming state of religious freedom in Russia and Central Asia. Russia and various Central Asian countries have undermined religious freedom since the late 1990s, when former Soviet states adopted repressive religion laws that drew upon past precedent, according to the Washington-based commission. “Officials across the region strictly monitor and regulate religious practice, including placing surveillance cameras in places of worship and keeping official databases with the detailed personal information of community members,” the commission said in a notice announcing the hearing. The independent, bipartisan USCIRF was created by Congress to make recommendations about global religious freedom. In its annual report in April, it proposed that the State Department remove Uzbekistan from its “worst of the worst” list of offenders of religious freedom, while reiterating that Russia should be put on that list.

LGBT rights

On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, The Moscow Times reported that Moscow law enforcement authorities shut down a Tuesday night “Vulva 3.0” documentary screening in support of Yulia Tsvetkova, an LGBT activist who is being prosecuted for her drawings of female genitals. Tsvetkova, 27, faces up to six years in jail on charges of distributing pornography for posting drawings of vaginas on her social media page dedicated to body positivity. She has been fined twice under a controversial law banning propaganda of “non-traditional” sexual relationships to minors for her drawings and for running LGBT-themed groups on social media. Around 20 National Guard officers arrived at the “Vulva 3.0” screening on an anonymous tip-off of “homosexual propaganda,” the screening’s organizer Andrei Parshikov told the MBKh Media news website. 

Espionage and secrecy trials

On Tuesday, 15 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that Moscow City Court upheld the extension of pretrial detention for former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, to December 7. The appeal of a September 2 ruling by Moscow’s Lefortovo district court to extend Safronov’s detention was held on September 15 behind closed doors as the case is classified. Safronov took part in the hearing from the Lefortovo detention center via a videolink, the court said in a statement. The 30-year-old Safronov, who has worked since May as an adviser to the head of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, is a prominent journalist who covered the military-industrial complex for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti.

On Tuesday, 15 September 2020, RAPSI reported the Moscow City Court on Tuesday adjourned the beginning of trial of former board member of Inter RAO energy holding Karina Tsurkan charged with espionage until September 21, according to the court’s press service.  Investigators believe that in August 2004 Tsurkan became an agent involved in confidential and unofficial cooperation with a Moldovan secret service. In April 2015, while staying in Moscow she allegedly received a digital version of a document on project prepared by the Ministry of Energy. The project was allegedly related to the actions of Russian energy companies in the sphere of international cooperation. In September of the same year, she allegedly transferred the document to a secret service. Tsurkan could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

On Thursday, 17 September 2020, RAPSI reported that Moscow City Court on Thursday upheld detention of blogger Andrey Pyzh charged with illegal access to the data constituting a state secret until October 5, the court’s press service told RAPSI. The blogger runs Urbanturizm channel where he publishes video about closed and abandoned objects. The case is classified. If convicted, Pyzh could face up to 8 years behind bars.

Charges of extremism and terrorism

On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, Meduza reported how a recent story from the Russian legal news outlet “Mediazona” dives into the case of a woman living in the far-eastern city of Chita, who was charged with justifying terrorism because of a social media post. The woman claims that after searching her home, investigators from the regional Anti-Extremism Center (Center E) offered to help her get a lighter sentence: all she had to do in return was infiltrate the Chita branch of “Union SSR” — a trade union organization that denies the collapse of the Soviet Union and doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the Russian Federation. “Meduza” summarizes this ongoing story, which, in the words of “Mediazona” editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov, offers an inside look at the work of Russia’s secretive Center E.

On Tuesday, 15 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that Alan Zoloev drove through Vladikavkaz in a car with a poster reading: “I am / We are Giorgi Guev.” The activist made stops in front of buildings of the regional FSB Department, the Palace of Justice and the government of North Ossetia. Instagram users approved the idea of the motor rally in support of Giorgi Guev, accused of financing terrorism. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that on May 16, 2019, Giorgi Guev was detained in Moscow and arrested. On August 3, 2020, the Second Western District Military Court of Moscow began the consideration of a case on terrorism financing instituted against him. A prosecution witness declared Giorgi Guev was guilty, but after clarifying questions, she said that she knew nothing about him before his criminal prosecution.

Places of detention

On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that the Court of Cassation in the Stavropol Territory has recognized that the Ingush activist Zarifa Sautieva was kept in custody from September 12 to December 11, 2019, for no good reason. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that Zarifa Sautieva has been under arrest since July 2019. On July 8, 2020, the Stavropol Territorial Court granted the investigators’ motion and extended her detention until September 25. Her arrest was extended under the pretext of her need to study the case materials, but the investigators have failed to provide her with new materials for two months already, her advocate has stated. The Fifth Cassation Court has ruled that Sautieva’s detention from September 12 to December 11, 2019, was illegal, her advocate, Bilan Dzugaev, told the “Caucasian Knot” correspondent.

On Wednesday, 16 September, The Moscow Times reported that a convicted Russian neo-Nazi was found dead in what appears to be a suicide inside his jail cell in the Urals region of western Siberia, prison authorities confirmed Wednesday. Maxim Martsinkevich, who went by the nickname Tesak (Russian for machete), was serving a 10-year sentence for a violent attack on synthetic cannabinoids dealers. Martsinkevich, 36, had three prior convictions relating to extremism and inciting hatred. Martsinkevich was found dead in a pre-trial detention center in the Chelyabinsk region, where he was due to be transferred to Moscow for questioning as part of a criminal case opened in 1999, Interfax reported. Investigators have launched a preliminary inquiry into Martsinkevich’s apparent suicide. Martsinkevich’s lawyer Ivan Sidorov told Interfax that his client had “no reason” to commit suicide and alleged that “someone may have helped him.”

On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, RAPSI reported that annually about 200,000 convicts are being released from penitentiary facilities; the major question in the penitentiary practice is what they are to do after that, how they are to live, Deputy Head of the Department for Organizational and Analytical Support of the Directorate for Educational, Social, and Psychological Work of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) Sergey Gudin said addressing participants of the All-Russian Conference on Resocialization and Adaptation of Convicted Citizens hosted by Russia’s Civic Chamber on Wednesday. It is necessary to create in Russia conditions facilitating resocialization and adaptation of former convicts in order to prevent cases where they get behind bars again,the officer believes.

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