Rights in Russia week-ending 20 March 2020


Abductions, Torture, ‘Hybrid Deportation’: Crimean Tatar Activist Describes Six Years Under Russian Rule

Six years ago, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Since then, the Crimean Tatars — who almost unanimously opposed and resisted the Russian takeover — have been targeted for repressions. According to a 2015 report by Human Rights Watch, most of the 63 Crimeans held in Russian jails and prisons were Crimean Tatars. RFE/RL, 17 March 2020

Freedom of assembly

Dozens Detained at Russian Opposition Protest

Moscow police detained dozens of people at a protest against “political repressions” near the headquarters of the Russian security service, including a well-known human rights activist. The protest demanding to free political prisoners was called by supporters of men convicted this year on terrorism charges, many of whom said in court they had been tortured by the FSB security service. The Moscow Times, 14 March 2020

Dozens Arrested In Moscow Pickets Against ‘Political Repression’

Dozens of people holding single-person pickets near the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have been detained by Moscow police, including a prominent human rights activist. Mostly young protesters turned up on March 14 in the Russian capital to protest what they say is political repression in the country. RFE/RL, 14 March 2020

Moscow Protesters, Police Clash Over ‘Radioactive Highway’ Construction

Moscow police clashed with dozens of activists protesting the construction of a new highway on top of a former nuclear waste dump, the Mediazona news website reported Thursday. The Moscow Times, 20 March 2020

Freedom of expression

‘A Whole New Ecosystem’: Independent Journalism Learns To Survive In Putin’s Russia

Since Putin was first elected in 2000, the Kremlin has stifled independent national broadcasting, closed down or taken over other commercial media projects, exerted pressure on media owners and advertisers, pushed out foreign investors, and repeatedly blocked access to various nonstate Internet resources. RFE/RL, 15 March 2020

Terrorism Charge Brought Against Russian Journalist Prokopyeva

MOSCOW — Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva has been formally charged with justifying terrorism in a case that has drawn criticism from rights and media watchdogs. Prokopyeva, a freelance contributor for RFE/RL’s Russian Service, said on March 16 she had been handed the indictment document at the prosecutor’s office in Pskov. RFE/RL, 16 March 2020

Russia Urged To Drop Terrorism Charges Against Journalist Prokopyeva

OSCE representative Harlem Desir on March 17 reiterated his call for Russian authorities to drop the terrorism charges brought against Prokopyeva, saying she “had no involvement in any terrorist activity or an intention to condone terrorism.” RFE/RL, 17 March 2020

Vedomosti Owner Kudryavtsev Agrees on Sale Deal

The owners of Vedomosti, one of Russia’s largest newspapers, have agreed on a deal to sell the business daily, the publication has confirmed. Demyan Kudryavtsev and his partners Vladimir Voronov and Martin Pompadour will sell 100% of the assets in BNM, their joint-stock company that owns both Vedomosti and Russia’s Harvard Business Review magazine, Kudryavtsev and Voronov told Vedomosti. The Moscow Times, 18 March 2020

Russia’s Internet knockout punch 

The hacker group “Digital Revolution” has released documents describing a procurement order from a division of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) for the development of “Fronton” software that would enable cyberattacks using infected Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. The BBC’s Russian-language service was the first media outlet to report this story. Meduza, 19 March 2020

Prominent Russians Urge Government to Take Swift Action Against Coronavirus

Russian public figures, doctors and citizens have launched a petition urging the government to take urgent action against the coronavirus as the country’s number of confirmed cases continues to climb. The petition’s authors include acclaimed novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, economist Sergei Guriev, publisher Irina Prokhorova, musician Alexei Kortnev and journalists Leonid Parfyonov, Katerina Gordeeva and Ilya Azar. The Moscow Times, 20 March 2020

LGBTI Rights

Russia Lifts House Arrest of LGBT Activist Facing Pornography Charges

Russia on Monday lifted the house arrest of an LGBT rights activist accused of distributing pornography for posting drawings of vaginas on a body-positive social media page. Yulia Tsvetkova, 26, has been under house arrest since November in the remote Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on Amur, some 6,000 kilometers (3,800 miles) east of Moscow. The Moscow Times, 16 March 2020

Amnesty International: Yulia Tsvetkova released from House Arrest

The Komsomolsk-on-Amur District Court ruled to release women rights and LGBT rights activist Yulia Tsvetkova from house arrest on 16 March. She remains under travel restrictions, and criminal and administrative proceeding instigated against her for promoting women’s rights and LGBTI rights are still ongoing. Amnesty International, 20 March 2020

Judicial system

Journalists, audience denied admittance to Moscow courts due to coronavirus

Starting March 19, Moscow courts restricted presence of journalists and audience at hearings because of the coronavirus epidemic, the Moscow City Court’s press service told RAPSI on Thursday. RAPSI, 19 March 2020

Russian Courts Put Most Work on Pause Over Coronavirus

Russian courts will stop considering all except the most urgent cases from Thursday onwards until April 10 to contain the spread of coronavirus, a decision by the Supreme Court on Wednesday showed. Urgent cases, which will continue to go up before the courts, include pre-trial decisions on whether to remand suspects in custody, as well as decisions relating to the protection of minors, the document said. The Moscow Times, 19 March 2020

Prisoners’ rights

Russian Prisoners, Students and Military Will Be Commandeered to Produce Masks

Russian prisoners, students and military personnel will produce medical masks and other equipment as the country faces down the coronavirus pandemic, the RBC news website reported Tuesday. The Federal Penitentiary Service has been ordered to have its inmates produce masks, RBC reported, citing an order from Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin that it has seen. The Moscow Times, 18 March 2020

Bill permitting convicts serve sentences near home passed by State Duma

The State Duma passed a bill allowing transfer of convicts to penitentiary facilities located near places of residence of their close relatives in a final third reading on Thursday. RAPSI, 19 March 2020

Regional human rights ombudsman

Putin signs bill on activities of Russia’s regional ombudsmen into law

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill regulating the activities of human rights commissioners in the country’s regions, which aims to extend their powers and set uniform rules and approaches governing the formation of this institution, into law, according to an official website of legal information. RAPSI, 19 March 2020


Controversial Head Of Moscow Election Authority Resigns

The longtime head of the Moscow Election Commission, Valentin Gorbunov, has resigned due to health reasons, local media reported. Activists protesting the exclusion of opposition and independent candidates on the ballot of last year’s city council election in the Russian capital had demanded his ouster. “I leave my post over the state of my [current] health,” Gorbunov said on March 16, as cited by state news agency TASS. RFE/RL, 18 March 2020


Russian Defense Ministry proceeds with semi-annual national draft despite coronavirus pandemic

Russia’s Defense Ministry has refused to delay its spring draft amid the global pandemic of COVID-19. The draft, which applies to all young men who do not meet certain conditions such as university study, will begin as usual on April 1 and last until July 15, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. Meduza, 20 March 2020


Russia’s Top Court Approves Putin Reform Plan to Stay President Until 2036

Russia’s Constitutional Court on Monday approved amendments proposed by President Vladimir Putin to the country’s basic law, giving him the option of serving two further terms in office. The Moscow Times, 16 March 2020

Russian Scholars, Legal Experts Sign Up Against ‘Constitutional Coup’

In the lead-up to the Russian Constitutional Court’s approval of a raft of amendments to the basic law that could, among other things, allow President Vladimir Putin to run for two additional terms, hundreds of scholars, journalists, and legal experts warned that a “constitutional crisis and a pseudo-legal, unconstitutional coup” loomed over the country. RFE/RL, 16 March 2020

Russia’s Constitutional Court Approves Amendments Allowing Putin To Rule Until 2036

Russia’s Constitutional Court has approved constitutional amendments that could enable President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for another 16 years. The court’s March 16 announcement comes three days after all Russian regions approved the controversial bill on amendments to the constitution. RFE/RL, 16 March 2020


Dutch MH17 Trial to Continue Behind Closed Doors Due to Coronavirus

The trial in the Netherlands of four men accused of murder over the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 will continue behind closed doors later this month due to the coronavirus outbreak, the court said on Tuesday.

Pre-trial hearings in the case against three Russians and one Ukrainian began in Amsterdam last week. Prosecutors allege that the defendants helped to arrange the Russian missile system used to shoot down the civilian aircraft, killing all onboard. Of the 298 victims, most were Dutch. The Moscow Times, 17 March 2020

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