Rights in Russia week-ending 22 October 2021

Our round-up of the week’s news

16 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russian investigators on Saturday launched a probe over a riot at a prison involving at least 200 inmates, which a rights monitor said was sparked by abuse.

Human Rights Watch: Thursday night, thugs invaded the offices of Memorial, a leading Russian rights group, and although police eventually arrived, instead of helping them, they harassed the activists and refused to let them leave the building until late in the night. Here’s what happened through the eyes of Memorial activist Yulia Orlova and her colleagues.

17 October 2021

The Guardian: Once used in the hunt for fugitive criminals, the global police agency’s most-wanted ‘red notice’ list now includes political refugees and dissidents.

RFE/RL: “At the request of prosecutors, detainees who refused to ‘cooperate’ with investigators were sent to us,” Golikov said in his video statement. “We were forced to ‘work’ with them so they would give the ‘necessary’ testimony that investigators wanted.People would scream for hours that they were being murdered…. You’d sign anything just to avoid listening to those screams — to say nothing about when they started working on you.” “In exchange, they promised not to touch me,” Golikov added. “And the investigator promised to somehow ‘settle matters’ with the judge to get me parole.”

18 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Monday reported a new record high number of coronavirus cases — 34,325 over the last 24 hours, taking the total toll since the start of the pandemic above 8 million. Officials also reported another 998 Covid-19 deaths.

The Guardian: Russia topped the symbolic figure of 1,000 daily deaths on Saturday for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and hit a new record in infection numbers on Monday with 34,325 cases reported. Officials say the country is quickly running out of hospital beds and Russia’s chief doctor, Denis Protsenko, described the situation on Friday as “near critical”, with vaccinations at a standstill.

RFE/RL: Some personal belongings of a missing opposition activist in Bashkortostan have been found in a forest near the Russian republic’s capital, Ufa.

The Moscow Times: A former inmate who leaked videos depicting alleged torture inside Russian prisons is seeking asylum in France, a prominent NGO that tracks abuses in Russia’s prison system said over the weekend.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s government on Friday declared two more popular media outlets “foreign agents,” pressing ahead with a crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression. The justice ministry added Rosbalt and Republic to its list of “foreign agents.”

RFE/RL: A court in Russia will hold a hearing next month into an appeal by Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who is serving a lengthy prison term in Russia on espionage charges he calls trumped up, over his possible transfer home.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Hearings have taken place at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over the seizure by Russia of three Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 crew members on 25 November 2018.  As in all the international court proceedings brought by Ukraine against Russia since 2014, the Russian Federation first tries to deny the specific court’s jurisdiction, and the oral hearings scheduled from 11-16 October 2021 focused solely on Russia’s attempt to get the case thrown out.

The Moscow Times: Russian liberal party Yabloko announced Monday it will cut ties with members who had backed jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s anti-Kremlin voting initiative, a move that underlines bitter divisions in the country’s fragmented opposition.

The Moscow Times: Russia has banned the “Male State,” an ultra-nationalist hate group that has carried out abuse campaigns against women and minorities, as “extremist,” the Mediazona news website reported Monday.

19 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Tuesday reported 33,740 new coronavirus cases and 1,015 deaths from Covid-19, a new record number of daily fatalities.

RFE/RL: Several men in police uniforms have forcibly entered a shelter in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, taking away two young women from the North Caucasus region of Daghestan.

The Moscow Times: Russian police detained and returned two women Monday who attempted to flee their families in Dagestan, a women’s rights activist told The Moscow Times. Authorities in the central city of Kazan detained two 20-year-old women from a women’s shelter in the city without explanation, the shelter’s program manager Alsu Krivel told The Moscow Times. 

RFE/RL: The French-based founder and leader of the Gulagu.net human rights group, Vladimir Osechkin, has identified the man who handed him part of a video archive of alleged torture and sexual assaults in Russian prisons earlier this month.

The Moscow Times: The former inmate behind a video leak showing alleged rape and torture inside a Russian prison said he could no longer keep the explosive revelations to himself, speaking to AFP from France where he is now seeking asylum.

RFE/RL: The prosecutor in a high-profile trial in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan has asked a court to sentence a noted Islamic scholar to 8 years and 5 months on a charge of creating and running a branch of a banned Islamic group. Gabdrakhman Naumov’s lawyer, Ruslan Nagiyev, told RFE/RL that the prosecutor’s request was made at the Privolzhye district court in Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan, on October 19. Nagiyev added that his client pleaded not guilty and rejected all the charges.

RFE/RL: One of the first bills to be submitted to Russia’s newly elected State Duma, even before the lower house of parliament convened for its first session on October 12, is a measure that would unify the titles of the executive-branch heads of all Russia’s regions. Instead of presidents, governors, mayors, and the like, all of Russia’s 83 regions — plus the Russian-occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea and city of Sevastopol — will be run by a “regional head” if the measure passes.

RFE/RL: A Russian court has sentenced a member of an outlawed nationalist opposition group from the city of Saratov to six years in prison after finding him guilty of plotting a terrorist act and the illegal possession of explosives in a case linked to rallies ahead of the centennial of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Front Line Defenders: On 14 October 2021, a group of between 20 and 25 unknown individuals broke into the office of the International Historical and Human Rights Society Memorial (International Memorial) in Moscow, interrupting a movie screening. When police officers arrived at the scene, they claimed that the screening was “unsanctioned” and blocked the office, leaving dozens of people unlawfully detained inside the building for hours.

Amnesty International: Attacks on freedom of expression by governments, combined with a flood of misinformation across the world during the Covid-19 pandemic, have had a devastating impact on peoples’ ability to access accurate and timely information to help them cope with the burgeoning global health crisis, said Amnesty International today in a new report. […] In April 2020, Russia expanded its existing anti-“fake news” legislation and introduced criminal penalties for “public dissemination of knowingly false information” in the context of emergencies. Although the amendments have been described as part of the authorities’ response to Covid-19, these measures will remain in force beyond the pandemic.

RFE/RL: Rather than a physical organization with a dedicated headquarters and volunteer base, Male State is essentially a loose network of social-media profiles, most of them on Russia’s Facebook equivalent, VK, and the messenger app Telegram. They function as virtual forums for proponents of an ideology that adherents describe as “national-patriarchy” — a worldview aimed at reinstating the allegedly suppressed status of men who have been shunted to the sidelines by women taking leading roles in society at their expense.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Russia’s illegal construction plans for the ancient ruins of Tauric Chersonese in occupied Crimea will cause enormous damage and are very likely to lead to Chersonese being removed from UNESCO’s World Heritage List.  Experts believe that Ukraine does have levers at its disposal and must use them before it is too late.

The Moscow Times: More Russians say they don’t hold democratic values than those that do, according to a poll by the independent Levada Center polling agency published Tuesday.

20 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Wednesday reported 34,073 new coronavirus cases and 1,028 deaths from Covid-19, another record number of daily fatalities.

European Parliament: The European Parliament’s 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

The Moscow Times: The European Parliament on Wednesday awarded jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The award, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, recognizes individuals who have made an “outstanding contribution to protecting freedom of thought,” and is “the highest tribute paid by the EU to human rights work.”

RFE/RL: Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has been chosen as the winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Parliament’s annual human rights prize, for his work to expose corruption and efforts to restrict freedoms in Russia.

RFE/RL: A group of 45 countries is pushing Russia to provide a full explanation of the circumstances behind Navalny’s illness, which occurred in August 2020 as he was traveling in Siberia. He was evacuated to Berlin, where doctors saved his life and later identified the poison that nearly killed him.

CPJ: After years of waiting, this week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Russian authorities failed to conduct an effective investigation into the disappearance and alleged murder of investigative journalist Maksim Maksimov in 2004.

RFE/RL: An opposition activist in Russia’s Republic of Bashkortostan has been found alive after going missing for days. Ilham Yanberdin went missing on October 11. He issued a video statement overnight after he left a police station in Bashkortostan’s capital, Ufa, on October 19, thanking all those who were concerned about his fate.

FIDH: The Observatory strongly condemns the above-mentioned attack on International Memorial and calls on the Russian authorities to carry out an immediate, fair, impartial and independent investigation in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal and sanction them as provided by the law.

The Moscow Times: Almost six in 10 Russians say they do not feel protected by the law, a new survey published Wednesday by the independent Levada Center has shown.

21 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Thursday reported a record high number of both new coronavirus cases and deaths. Officials reported 36,339 new coronavirus cases and 1,036 fatalities from Covid-19 over the last 24 hours.

The Guardian: Moscow authorities have announced a weeklong closure of most non-essential services from 28 October, as Russia registered its highest daily number of coronavirus deaths and infections since the start of the pandemic.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has sentenced a man to three years and three months in prison for setting the wheel of a police car on fire during the January 31 rally in support of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. The Presnensky district court on October 20 found 26-year-old Sergei Vasilenko guilty of damaging police property, and sentenced him the same day.

The Moscow Times: A Russian comedic actress has been jailed in the Far East after appearing in a video where she satirized the country’s Interior Ministry spokeswoman, local media reported Thursday. Larisa Krivonosova was fined and jailed for 10 days in September for illegally wearing an official uniform after she portrayed Interior Ministry spokeswoman Irina Volk on a satirical YouTube series to make fun of Russian bureaucracy, local media reports said. […] The Ussuriysk district court in the Primorye region has found Krivonosova, 43, guilty of repeatedly evading administrative supervision and sentenced her to three months in jail, the local Interior Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. 

RFE/RL; Russian opposition politician Lyubov Sobol, a close associate of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, has been added to Russia’s wanted list after she fled the country days after being found guilty of breaking coronavirus measures.

RFE/RL: The Kremlin says is has no “respect” for the decision by European lawmakers to award jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny with the Sakharov Prize, the European Union’s highest human rights honor.

RFE/RL: For months, the Kremlin has been trying to convince its citizens and others that opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is just a criminal who ran an extremist organization.

Human Rights in Ukraine: A ‘court’ in Russian-occupied Crimea has sentenced a man who tried to set his partner alight in a drunken row to two years’ imprisonment.  The following day, on 20 October, a Russian prosecutor demanded a 20-year sentence against Crimean Tatar historian Seitumer Seitumerov for discussing religious subjects in a mosque.  The prosecutor also asked for a 17-year sentence against Seitumer’s brother Osman Seitumerov, and 16 years in the case of their uncle Rustem Seitmemetov.  A fourth Crimean Tatar, Crimean Solidarity civic journalist Amet Suleimanov could face a sentence of 13 years, although he has a life-threatening heart condition, and would probably be dead within days.  The four Crimean Tatars are all charged under ‘serious’ articles of Russia’s criminal code, but with no recognizable crime, and the ‘evidence’ against them was from illicitly taped conversations about, for example, Judgement Day and ‘anonymous witnesses’ whose identity and reason for collaborating with the Russian FSB is, in fact, known.

RFE/RL: Turkish authorities have arrested four Russian citizens, one Ukrainian citizen, and one Uzbek national on charges of “military and political espionage” linked to alleged plans to attack Chechen opposition activists residing in Turkey.

The Moscow Times: Four Russians, one Ukrainian and one Uzbek citizen were allegedly detained in Turkey on suspicion of preparing armed attacks against Chechen dissidents, Reuters reported, citing Turkish broadcaster TRT Haber on Thursday.

RFE/RL: A reactor at a nuclear power plant in Russia’s southwestern Rostov region was taken offline after the detection of a steam leak, but the operator said radiation levels were normal.

The Guardian: A new Russian film tackles one of the country’s great taboos: the role of Russian mercenaries in trouble spots around the world and the toll this takes on the family members of the often unacknowledged soldiers who die in combat.

22 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Friday reported another record high number of both new coronavirus cases and deaths. Officials reported 37,141 new coronavirus cases and 1,064 fatalities from Covid-19 over the last 24 hours.

RFE/RL: Six officials at the Moscow regional prosecutor’s office have reportedly been fired for liking social media posts by jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which is banned in the country as extremist.

RFE/RL: Russian opposition politician Lyubov Sobol says she doesn’t feel “fully safe” after recently fleeing Russia in the summer, but she insists she will continue to fight against President Vladimir Putin’s “criminal regime” and widespread corruption in her country.

The Moscow Times: Golos, an independent vote-monitoring movement, was named a “foreign agent” by Russia’s Justice Ministry in August after receiving a $3 contribution from an Armenian citizen, the movement’s co-chairman Grigory Melkonyants said on Facebook.  A Russian court denied Golos’ challenge against being designated a “foreign agent,” explaining that the grounds for the vote-monitoring organization being added to list was two transfers of “about 200 rubles” ($2.80) from a citizen of ex-Soviet republic Armenia, Melkonyants said. The Russian Justice Ministry included Golos, a local organization that observes elections, in its list of “foreign agents” just weeks before September’s parliamentary elections in a move widely decried as a ploy to frustrate their efforts to monitor and report on election fraud.

RFE/RL: If a report is deemed erroneous, a designated “foreign agent” could face a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($4,250) or a prison term from two to five years.

RFE/RL: А former Russian inmate who leaked a massive cache of videos showing evidence of rampant torture in Russian prisons said he believes prison guards were prone to using sexual assault against their victims “because it is the cruelest.”

Human Rights in Ukraine: Asan Akhtemov has been held prisoner in a ‘quarantine cell’ in occupied Simferopol for 44 days without any medical grounds, yet with no end in sight.

The Moscow Times: The European Commissioner for Climate Action Frans Timmermans will not travel to Moscow to discuss climate action ahead of the crucial COP summit in Glasgow next month, an EU Commission spokesperson told The Moscow Times.

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