Rights in Russia week-ending 19 June 2020

Freedom of expression

Russian Court Extends Pretrial Detention Of Prominent Gulag Historian

PETROZAVODSK, Russia — A court in Russia has extended pretrial detention for Yury Dmitriyev, a Russian historian and prominent gulag researcher, who is being tried on charges of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter, which he and his supporters deny. RFE/RL, 16 June 2020

Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva facing trial over terrorism commentary

New York, June 15, 2020 – In advance of tomorrow’s trial of Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva on charges of “justifying terrorism,” the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement: “Russian authorities should drop the absurd charges against journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva, lift the travel ban imposed against her, unfreeze her assets, and allow her to work freely and safely,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. CPJ, 15 June 2020

Russia Commences Bogus Terrorism Trial Against Journalist

Authorities have indicted her for “public incitement to terrorist activity, public justification or propaganda of terrorism.” If convicted, Prokopyeva faces a maximum seven years of imprisonment. Human Rights Watch, 16 June 2020 [Author: Damelya Aitkhozhina]

Russian Journalist Prokopyeva Rejects Charges Of ‘Justifying Terrorism’

PSKOV, Russia — Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva again has rejected charges that she had “justified terrorism” by publishing an online commentary that linked a suicide bombing with the country’s political climate as her trial resumed proceedings. RFE/RL, 16 June 2020

Prominent Russian Newspaper’s Editors Quit, Accuse Newly Appointed Boss Of Censorship

MOSCOW — All five deputy chief editors at one of Russia’s most prominent business newspapers, Vedomosti, have quit in protest at the appointment of Andrei Shmarov as the publication’s editor in chief. RFE/RL, 15 June 2020

Criminal Case Opened Against Russian Opposition Figure Navalny For Suspected Libel

MOSCOW — Russian investigators have opened a criminal investigation against opposition politician Aleksei Navalny for suspected libel over comments he made on social media. RFE/RL, 15 June 2020

Russian authorities launch nearly 200 prosecutions for ‘fake news’ during coronavirus pandemic

The Russian authorities have launched nearly 200 prosecutions for the illegal distribution of “fake news” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, says a new report from the human rights organization “Agora.” Meduza, 15 June 2020

Russia: Health Workers Face Retaliation for Speaking Out

(Moscow) – Health workers in Russia face threats and retaliation from employers and law enforcement for speaking out about unsafe working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch, 15 June 2020

Key Witness in Serebrennikov’s Fraud Trial Claims ‘Severe Pressure’ From Investigators

A key witness in a multimillion-dollar criminal fraud case involving prominent theater director Kirill Serebrennikov has claimed that investigators obtained her testimony under duress, the Kommersant business daily reported Monday. The Moscow Times, 16 June 2020

Russian journalists investigated, fined over COVID-19 reporting

Vilnius, Lithuania, June 16, 2020 — Russian authorities should stop harassing journalists reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and allow them to work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ, 15 June 2020

Russia ‘Unblocks’ Telegram Messenger in Surprise Reversal

Russia has halted its largely unsuccessful two-year efforts to block the popular messaging service Telegram. Russia’s federal media watchdog Roskomnadzor made the surprise announcement Thursday, citing Telegram founder Pavel Durov’s “stated readiness to counter terrorism and extremism.” The Moscow Times, 18 June 2020

Russia Fines Opposition Radio Station for Fake News

MOSCOW — Russian opposition-leaning radio station Echo Moskvy and its website editor have been fined the equivalent of $3,745 for posting the comments of a political analyst who questioned Russia’s coronavirus statistics. The station’s chief editor Alexei Venediktov tweeted Friday that a Moscow court handed a $2,880 fine to the radio station and a $865 fine to its website editor Vitaly Ruvinsky “for publishing the statement of political analyst Valery Solovei,” adding that Echo Moskvy planned to appeal the ruling. The New York Times, 19 June 2020 [Associated Press]

Freedom of religion


On 23 June, Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen will have a parole hearing at the Lgov District Court, in western Russia. Dennis Christensen, a Danish national living in Russia, was arrested in 2017 and prosecuted for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of religion. If the parole is not granted, he will be imprisoned until May 2022. He is a prisoner of conscience persecuted solely for his faith and must be released immediately and unconditionally. Amnesty International, 16 June 2020

Right of assembly

Police beating of St. Petersburg “Dissenters’ March” protestors found to breach European Convention on Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) today ruled that two peaceful protestors suffered inhuman and degrading treatment when they were savagely beaten by riot police at a peaceful rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2007. EHRAC, 16 June 2020

Right of Association

Russia: Prisoner of conscience Anastasia Shevchenko’s trial starts

The trial of Anastasia Shevchenko, a prisoner of conscience who has spent 17 months under house arrest for her work with an opposition movement, begins today in the city of Rostov-on-Don. Amnesty International reiterates its call for Anastasia’s immediate and unconditional release and an end to reprisals against activists in Russia. Amnesty International, 17 June 2020

State Duma to contemplate changes in procedures governing banned organizations list

MOSCOW, June 17 (RAPSI) – Russia’s government has submitted to the State Duma amendments empowering the Justice Ministry to approve the procedures governing the management of the list of civic and religious associations, as well as other organizations, with respect to which courts ruled on their liquidation of termination of their activities. […] The changes are to be introduced in a federal law on combating extremist activities. RAPSI, 17 June 2020

Employment rights

Over 570,000 labor rights violations revealed in 2019 – Russian Prosecutor General

MOSCOW, June 17 (RAPSI) – Prosecutor’s offices revealed over 570,000 violations of labor rights of Russian citizens in 2019, Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov announced Wednesday. RAPSI, 17 June 2020


Russia to Install ‘Orwell’ Facial Recognition Tech in Every School – Vedomosti

More than 43,000 Russian schools will be equipped with facial recognition cameras ominously named “Orwell,” the Vedomosti business daily reported Tuesday. The Moscow Times, 16 June 2020

Russia: Growing Internet Isolation, Control, Censorship

(Moscow) – Russia has significantly expanded laws and regulations tightening control over internet infrastructure, online content, and the privacy of communications, Human Rights Watch said today. If carried out to their full restrictive potential, the new measures will severely undermine the ability of people in Russia to exercise their human rights online, including freedom of expression and freedom of access to information. Human Rights Watch, 18 June 2020

Health care

Russian Official Says 489 Medics Died From Coronavirus

Nearly 500 Russian medics who tested positive for the coronavirus have died, the head of the state health watchdog said Thursday, a far higher figure than given before. The Moscow Times, 18 June 2020

Terrorism legislation

Prosecutor Seeks Lengthy Prison Terms For Two Defendants In Russian ‘Network’ Case

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — The prosecutor at the high-profile trial of two activists from a group known as “Set” (Network) has recommended to a court in St. Petersburg that they be sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The prosecutor on June 17 urged the court in Russia’s second-largest city to find the two defendants guilty of being members of a terrorist organization and to sentence Viktor Filinkov to nine years, and Yury Boyarshinov to six years in prison. RFE/RL, 17 June 2020

‘Nine years is probably a sign of admiration’ Excerpts from the courtroom speeches of the suspects in the St. Petersburg ‘Network’ case

During a hearing in St. Petersburg on June 17, the prosecutor in the high-profile “Network” (“Set”) terrorism case urged the court to find the two suspects on trial — 25-year-old Viktor Filinkov and 28-year-old Julius Boyarshinov — guilty, and sentence them to nine and six years in prison, respectively. Filinikov has denied the charges against him, stating that his initial guilty plea was obtained under torture. Boyarshinov, on the other hand, has pleaded guilty to the charges against him. Here are their final statements from their courtroom speeches. Meduza, 18 June 2020

Activists of extremist movement get up to 13 years in prison for attempted terror attack

MOSCOW, June 18 (RAPSI) – The Second Western District Military Court sentenced activists of extremist movement Artpodgotovka to from 6 to 13 years behind bars in a criminal case over attempted terror attack and participation in a terrorist organization, a RAPSI correspondent reports from the courtroom on Thursday. RAPSI, 18 June 2020

Espionage cases

Russia sentences ex-US marine to 16 years in prison for spying

A Russian court has convicted the US citizen Paul Whelan, a former marine and corporate security officer, on espionage charges and sentenced him to 16 years in a Russian high-security prison. The Guardian, 15 June 2020

Another Russian Researcher Charged With High Treason

The Russian authorities have charged the president of the St. Petersburg-based Arctic Academy, Valery Mitko, with high treason in an ongoing spate of similar investigations targeting Russian academics. RFE/RL, 15 June 2020

North Caucasus

Week of June 8-14 passed without victims of armed conflict in Northern Caucasus

During the week of June 8-14, 2020, no events related to the armed conflict in Northern Caucasus were recorded, as well as no casualties and victims. Caucasian Knot, 15 June 2020

Social media users compare Kadyrov’s threats to wedding corteges with Russian laws

Cars cannot be seized from violators of wedding rules, there are fines for this, social network users have noted in response to an order of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, to punish participants of long wedding corteges. Caucasian Knot, 15 June 2020

Proceeding on torture of Chechen resident stopped

The Supreme Court (SC) of Chechnya has stopped the proceeding of the torture complaint of Abdul-Khalim Abdulmezhidov, convicted for links with militants. His advocate intends to appeal against this decision. Caucasian Knot, 19 June 2020

The Constitution

EUROPE/RUSSIA: Venice Commission denounces Putin constitutional amendments which avoid execution of ECtHR rulings

The Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, in its Thursday’s opinion called on the Russian Federation to remove or review amendments to its constitution which would allow the Russian authorities to reject binding rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Amnesty International, 19 June 2020

Russian Bookstores Sell New Constitution Ahead of Vote on Putin’s Reforms

Russian bookstores have already started selling copies of the country’s amended Constitution even though a public vote to approve it won’t happen until July 1, the RBC news website reported Tuesday. The Moscow Times, 16 June 2020

Central Election Commission gets 17 complaints of violation of Russian voters’ rights

MOSCOW, June 16 (RAPSI) – Seventeen complaints about alleged violations of rights of participants of All-Russian voting have been filed with Russia’s Central Election Commission, its press service reports. RAPSI, 16 June 2020

‘Taking a big risk’ Moscow residents are being offered money to register fake accounts for online voting

Moscow residents are being offered money to register fake accounts on the government platform mos.ru and vote online in support of amending the constitution, reports the television channel Dozhd (“TV Rain”)Meduza, 17 June 2020


Climate crisis: alarm at record-breaking heatwave in Siberia

A prolonged heatwave in Siberia is “undoubtedly alarming”, climate scientists have said. The freak temperatures have been linked to wildfires, a huge oil spill and a plague of tree-eating moths. On a global scale, the Siberian heat is helping push the world towards its hottest year on record in 2020, despite a temporary dip in carbon emissions owing to the coronavirus pandemic. The Guardian, 17 June 2020

Human Rights Ombudsman

Ombudsman Moskalkova proposes extension of Civic Chamber’s human rights work

MOSCOW, June 19 (RAPSI) – Russia’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Tatiana Moskalkova proposed that the Civic Chamber members extend their work on education in the law at a plenary meeting of the Chamber on Friday. RAPSI, 19 June 2020

Ukraine / Crimea


The Russian Military Court of Appeal will imminently review the verdict of human rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku and his five co-defendants. The six men were arrested in Russian-occupied Crimea, brought before a Russian military court, convicted under trumped-up charges and handed lengthy prison sentences in November 2019, following unfair trials. They are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released and their sentences quashed. Amnesty International, 15 June 2020

Suspected extra-judicial killing in Germany

German Prosecutors Accuse Russia Over ‘Contract Killing’ of Georgian Man

German prosecutors on Thursday accused Russia of ordering the murder of a Georgian man in a central Berlin park, as they charged a suspected contract killer over the crime that has frayed ties. The Moscow Times, 18 June 2020

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