Rights in Russia week-ending 2 July 2021

Our news round-up of the week

Other news:

26 June 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia’s Euro 2020 host Saint Petersburg on Saturday reported the country’s highest daily Covid-19 toll for a city since the start of the pandemic, data showed. Official figures said the city, which has already hosted six Euro 2020 matches and is due to host a quarter-final on Friday, recorded 107 virus deaths over the last 24 hours.  Russian news agencies said this was the highest toll of any Russian city since the start of the pandemic.

27 June 2021

RFE/RL: Friends, colleagues and civil society activists are demanding the reinstatement of a maverick school director in Russia who they say was fired because she refused to give authorities the names of students and staff who joined anti-government protests. Supporters of Yelena Moiseyeva say her dismissal was the latest salvo in a state campaign to stamp out dissent nationwide ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

RFE/RL: More than 100 people in Moscow have died from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, setting a new record, as Russia faces another wave of the pandemic. Moscow registered 114 deaths from COVID-19, RBK reported on June 27, citing the city’s coronavirus task force. Overall, 599 people in Russia died over the past 24 hours from the pandemic as more than 20,000 new cases were registered. More than 100 died in St. Petersburg from COVID-19 a day earlier, also setting a record, RBK reported. St. Petersburg has about half the population of Moscow.

RFE/RL: The family of a wealthy Russian businessman wants an independent, international expert to investigate the cause of his death. Oleg Burlakov, who had a net worth of $650 million, according to Forbes, died on June 21 at the age of 72. His wife and daughter said in a statement to Forbes that they learned of his death from his lawyers.

28 June 2021

The Guardian: Poem of the week: from War of the Beasts and the Animals by Maria Stepanova. Ranging across Russian history, this work brings the cost of war into stark and tragic focus.

RFE/RL: The jailed former executive director of the pro-democracy Open Russia movement, Andrei Pivovarov, has called on a founder of the opposition Yabloko party, Grigory Yavlinsky, to register him as a party candidate for upcoming parliamentary elections. In an open letter addressed to Yavlinsky on June 28, Pivovarov wrote that the elections to parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, on September 19 will “most likely be the last poll at which it will be possible to form a list of independent candidates” that can be supported by the tens of millions of voters “who want freedom in the country.”

RFE/RL: A Russian court has upheld the nine-year prison sentence of U.S. Marine Trevor Reed after being convicted in July 2020 for assaulting two police officer, in what the U.S. ambassador to Moscow called “another absurd miscarriage of justice.” “The verdict of the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow has been left without change, the appeal is without satisfaction,” the Moscow City Court said on June 28 in a statement.

RFE/RL: A Russian stand-up comic of Azerbaijani origin, Idrak Mirzalizade, says he was attacked in Moscow after several pro-government media outlets accused him of insulting ethnic Russians. Mirzalizade wrote on Instagram on June 27 that he was attacked two days earlier after receiving several threats because of the accusations.

RSF: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) knows of at least 22 newspapers throughout the world that were driven to close by governments they annoyed during the past five years – the fate suffered by Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s most popular tabloid, which announced on 23 June that it was shutting down under pressure from the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities.

29 June 2021

RFE/RL:  The Investigative Committee in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Blagoveshchensk has launched a probe into a physical attack on a contributor to RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities. Andrei Afanasyev told RFE/RL that police informed him on June 29 that an investigation was launched into “hooliganism” 12 days ago.

Caucasian Knot: Georgy Guev, a resident of North Ossetia, has been sentenced to six years in prison on charges of financing terrorism in connection with his non-violent exercising of his right to the freedom of religion; the sentence was passed in violation of his right to a fair trial. This was stated by the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial”*.

The Moscow Times: Germany has banned most travel from Russia due to the spread of mutated coronavirus strains there, the German Embassy in Moscow announced Tuesday.  German citizens traveling from Russia, third-country nationals with German residency, passengers in transit and people with close relatives in Germany, are exempt from the ban, as well as those traveling for urgent humanitarian reasons and certain other categories.

30 June 2021

RFE/RL:  A court in Moscow has sentenced an opposition member of the city’s district election commission to two years in prison for hitting a policeman during an unsanctioned rally in January to support jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny. The Meshchansky district court on June 29 found Roman Pichuzhin, a member of the opposition Yabloko party, guilty of punching an officer during a January 23 rally. He was sentenced the same day.

The Moscow Times: Russian band Sansara on Tuesday released a pro-LGBT video for their single “We Will Become Better.”  The video is about “two people who love each other but forbid themselves because of societal judgment around their relationship, and so unfortunately it cannot happen,” its writer Evgeny Primachenko told The Moscow Times. The clip has so far been received with “either absolute love or absolute hate,” Primachenko said.

The Moscow Times: The UN Security Council on Tuesday held its first formal public meeting on cybersecurity, addressing the growing threat of hacks to countries’ key infrastructure — an issue U.S. President Joe Biden recently raised with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. While the U.S. envoy to the world body asked that member states respect a framework already in place, her Russian counterpart called for a new treaty to be drafted.

1 July 2021

RFE/RL: The Moscow City Court on June 30 extended by three months the pretrial detention of prominent former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is accused of treason. The 30-year-old Safronov, a former adviser to the head of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, covered the defense industry for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti. He was arrested on July 7, 2020, on allegations that he had passed secret information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about Russian arms sales in the Middle East. The new court order extends his pretrial detention to October 7.

RFE/RL: U.S. and British security agencies have exposed “brute force” methods they say have been used by the Russian military-intelligence agency known as the GRU to conduct malicious cyberactivities against hundreds of government and private organizations. In an advisory released on July 1, the U.S. National Security Agency described cyberattacks carried out by operatives of the GRU, which has been accused of involvement in attempts to disrupt U.S. presidential elections in 2016 and 2020, the hack in 2015 of the German Bundestag, and attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, and many others. The advisory details how the GRU’s 85th Main Special Services Center “has targeted hundreds of U.S. and foreign organizations using brute force access to penetrate government and private sector victim networks.”

RFE/RL: Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to continue supporting the regime of Belarus’s authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, which is facing increasing international pressure over its brutal crackdown on dissent in the wake of last year’s disputed election. “We will continue to provide comprehensive assistance to the brotherly Belarusian people in the current political situation,” Putin told the eighth Forum of Regions of Russia via video conference on July 1. “Belarus is not just a good neighbor for us — first and foremost, it is our closest ally.”

2 July 2021

The Moscow Times: Russian organic food retailer VkusVill has featured an LGBT family in its new promotional material this week, defying the country’s law against “gay propaganda toward minors.” As part of a series of health-conscious families, VkusVill spotlights a “matriarch” Yuma, her partner Zhenya and two daughters Mila and Alina, who practice ethical veganism, support fair trade and provide shelter to LGBT people struggling to find acceptance in their own families.

RFE/RL: The mayor of the Russian city of Kolomna, Denis Lebedev, has been found dead in his apartment. Investigative Committee spokewoman Olga Vrady said a probe was launched into the case after the 46-year-old Lebedev was found dead on July 2. Media reports, citing sources in law enforcement, said Lebedev’s body was found with a gunshot wound.

Human Rights Watch: […] Human Rights Watch has documented abuses against children, including children with disabilities, in institutions in Armenia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Serbia. In all of these countries, children with disabilities often live in large residential institutions, and can experience segregation, neglect, physical and emotional abuse, physical and chemical restraints, potentially inappropriate medical treatment, lack of access to education, lack of privacy, and denial of legal capacity upon reaching childhood, among other abuses. In Kazakhstan, Human Rights Watch documented how staff in one large institution forced older children to work, including mopping floors or taking care of younger children with high support needs.

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