Our round-up of the week’s news
17 April 2021
The Guardian: Russia on Saturday said it would expel a Ukrainian diplomat, prompting an immediate pledge of retaliation from Kyiv, further escalating tensions after Moscow’s troop buildup on Ukraine’s eastern flank. The detention of a Ukrainian consul in the second city, St Petersburg, comes at a time of global concern over a possible repeat of Moscow’s 2014 aggression, when Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea and backed separatists in Ukraine’s east. Moscow claimed that the diplomat had been caught “red-handed” trying to obtain sensitive information. In response, the Ukrainian foreign ministry condemned “the illegal” detention of its diplomat and said Kyiv would expel a senior Russian diplomat in response.
19 April 2021
The Moscow Times: Russia has launched a probe against YouTube for “abusing” its dominant position in the market by making “biased” decisions about comment moderation, a government regulator said on Monday. The move comes as Russia ramps up pressure on foreign tech platforms, with Moscow stepping up its efforts to control the Russian segment of the internet. The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said that YouTube’s rules relating to the suspension or deletion of accounts are “opaque, biased and unpredictable.” “This leads to sudden blocking and deletion of user accounts without warning and justification,” the anti-monopoly regulator said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch: [Tanya Lokshina] Twenty-nine-year-old Ilya Bronsky tested positive for HIV in 2019 and wanted other HIV-positive Russians to understand that the diagnosis is not the end of the world. His tweets about living with HIV in Russia, a country with over a million HIV-positive residents, reached thousands. In March, he gave an interview to TJournal, a popular online media outlet, emphasizing that with his medication and the support from his partner and friends, his HIV status has not really changed his life. Bronsky believed that speaking openly would help dispel bias about HIV. “Owing to those who speak up about the disease, the myths will be dead and buried, and more and more people will have reliable information,” he said.
RFE/RL, 19 April 2021: An outspoken environmental activist who has been looking into illegal gold mining in Russia’s Bashkortostan region says he was viciously beaten by unknown attackers in the town of Baimak. Ildar Yumagulov was hospitalized with two broken legs after three men attacked him 200 meters away from a police station on April 18. He told RFE/RL that two masked men in black clothing beat him with baseball bats and that when he managed to escape the attack, a third masked man appeared and knocked him down to allow the attack to continue.
20 April 2021
RFE/RL: A court in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk has sentenced a supporter of the imprisoned former governor of the Khabarovsk Krai region to one year in a prison settlement for using pepper spray against police at a rally in September 2020. The Zheleznodorozhny district court on April 20 found Denis Posmetyukhin guilty of resisting police during one of the ongoing rallies that demanded the immediate release of the region’s former governor, Sergei Furgal, and sentenced him the same day. A prison settlement is a penitentiary in which convicts live close to a facility where they work.
21 April 2021
CPJ: Authorities in Russian-occupied Crimea should not contest the appeal of journalist Bekir Mamutov, and should refrain from fining members of the press over their coverage, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Yesterday, the magistrates’ court of the Zheleznodorozhny district of Simferopol, the capital of Russian-occupied Crimea, convicted Mamutov, chief editor of the independent newspaper Qirim, of “dissemination of information about a banned organization” without labeling it as such, according to news reports, Mamutov, and his lawyer Hatice Mamut, both of whom spoke with CPJ in a phone interview. The court ordered Mamutov to pay a fine of 4,000 rubles (US$52), the journalist said. Mamutov told CPJ that he maintains his innocence and will appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court of Crimea.
RFE/RL: A court in Russia has upheld lengthy prison sentences handed down to a couple convicted on high treason charges that stemmed from a wedding photo that included an officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Maria Bontsler, a lawyer for Antonina Zimina, told RFE/RL that the Moscow Court of Appeal had rejected the appeals of Zimina and her husband, Konstantin Antonets, on April 20. The couple, from Russia’s Far Western Kaliningrad exclave, was found guilty of spying for Latvia in late December 2020. The couple were charged with treason after state prosecutors accused them of sharing a photograph with Latvia of a counterintelligence officer from the FSB who had attended their wedding. Investigators later additionally charged them with passing classified information to a foreign country.
The Moscow Times: The number of scientists and highly qualified specialists leaving Russia has risen fivefold in nearly a decade, Russia’s Academy of Sciences (RAS) said Monday. Nikolai Dolgushkin, the RAS presidium’s chief scientific secretary, estimated that emigration among Russian researchers increased from 14,000 in 2012 to almost 70,000 last year. He contrasted the figures with China, the United States and other countries bolstering their ranks with tens of thousands of new researchers over the same period. “Objectively speaking, Russia is the only developed country where the number of scientists has been decreasing for several decades in a row,” Dolgushkin said. He noted that in 1990 Russia had 992,000 researchers, the world’s highest number. By 2019, that figure had dwindled by two-thirds to 348,000 researchers.
RFE/RL: A Russian national suspected of spying for Ukraine has been arrested in the Russian-occupied region of Crimea. The Lenin district court in the city of Sevastopol said on April 22 that “a Russian citizen born in 1998” suspected of high treason had been placed under pretrial arrest until at least June 19. Earlier in the day, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said its officers had detained a person who “passed classified information about Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to Ukrainian military intelligence.” No further details of the case were made public.
RFE/RL: The Russian government has designated the Latvia-based independent Meduza news outlet as a foreign agent — a move that will require it to label itself as such and will subject it to increased government scrutiny. The Russian Justice Ministry made the announcement on April 23 on its website. while Meduza confirmed the news in a tweet. “Hi, everyone! We’re Russia’s latest “foreign agent!” the media outlet said. Russia’s so-called foreign agent legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly. It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.