Rights in Russia week-ending 26 November 2021

Our news round-up from the past week

20 November 2021

The Moscow Times: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday warned the shadowy Russian mercenary group Wagner over involvement in Mali as he pressed for a civilian transition in the troubled country. On a visit to Senegal, Blinken said that the United States was “contributing to efforts with Mali and partners in support of stability” in the war-ravaged country.

21 November 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Sunday confirmed 36,970 Covid-19 infections and 1,252 deaths.

The Moscow Times: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Sunday slammed the United States for driving “hysteria” over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, after Western countries accused Moscow of a troop build-up near the ex-Soviet country. His comments come as Western countries this week raised alarm over Russian military activity near Ukraine and Washington said it has “real concerns” over what it called “unusual” activity.

22 November 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Monday confirmed 35,681 Covid-19 infections and 1,241 deaths.

RFE/RL:  The arrested former leader of a regional organization for jailed opposition activist Aleksei Navalny in Russia’s Bashkortostan has been transferred to a detention center in the Moscow region. The lawyer for Lilia Chanysheva told RFE/RL that he was unable to meet with his client in a detention center in Bashkortostan’s capital, Ufa, on November 22 because of the move.

RFE/RL: Russian journalist and human rights activist Viktoria Ivleva has been fined for taking part in single-person protests to support one of the country’s oldest human rights organizations, Memorial, which faces possible closure. A court in Moscow on November 22 found Ivleva guilty of repeatedly violating the law on public gatherings, and ordered her to pay a fine of 150,000 rubles (more than $2,000). Ivleva was among at least seven other activists who were detained over the weekend on Moscow’s Pushkin Square. While other activists were released hours later on November 20, Ivleva remained in custody.

The Moscow Times: International rights groups raised alarm over recent transfers of activists to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan from Russia as top EU diplomat Josep Borrell met foreign ministers from five Central Asian states Monday.

FIDH: We, the undersigned 50 organizations of the International Federation for Human Rights, condemn in the harshest terms the ongoing attempts by the Russian authorities to liquidate two of Russia’s foremost human rights NGOs: International Memorial and its related organization, member of the Federation, Human Rights Center “Memorial”. The politically motivated charges aim to further decimate Russia’s civil society and should be dropped immediately.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Russia’s new attempt to crush the world-renowned International Memorial Society and Memorial Human Rights Centre is backed by an ‘expert assessment’ from a maths teacher and translator.  Neither Natalia Kryukova nor Alexander Tarasov has any expert knowledge, but they most certainly have experience of what Russia’s FSB requires of such ‘assessments’.  Maths teacher Kryukova is co-founder of the Centre for Socio-Cultural Expert Assessments [“Центр социокультурных экспертиз“]  to which translator Tarasov also provides his services.  The Centre is most notorious in connection with the dodgy ‘assessments’ provided for Russia’s politically motivated persecution of the Pussy Riot punk group and historian of the Soviet Terror Yury Dmitriev, as well as for conclusions used for Russia’s extraordinary banning of the Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Moscow Times: The United States has warned European allies that Russia is readying for a possible invasion of Ukraine “on a scale far greater than seven years ago,” Bloomberg reported Monday.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service on Monday dismissed growing Western allegations that Moscow is planning an invasion of Ukraine. “The Americans are painting a frightening picture of hordes of Russian tanks that will start to crush Ukrainian cities, saying they have some ‘reliable information’ of such Russian intentions,” the SVR said in a rare statement to Russian news agencies. 

The Moscow Times: Russia is losing increasing amounts of its Arctic coast each year as climate change accelerates natural erosion processes, a phenomenon that could catalyze new ecological disasters, scientists have warned.

23 November 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Tuesday confirmed 33,996 Covid-19 infections and 1,243 deaths.

The Moscow Times: A Siberian region of Russia has become the first in the country to impose self-isolation rules for residents who haven’t yet been vaccinated against Covid-19.

RFE/RL: The Moscow City Court has given prosecutors more time to address defense questions at a pretrial hearing into a move to shut down the Memorial Human Rights Center, one of Russia’s oldest human rights organizations. According to Memorial, the court opened the preliminary hearing on November 23 but quickly adjourned the proceedings until November 29 after prosecutors were unable to answer all of the questions put to them by a defense team led by lawyer Ilya Novikov.

The Moscow Times: A Russian Jehovah’s witness has been acquitted of extremism for the first time since the country banned the religious group in 2017, the organization said Monday. A court in the Far East capital of Vladivostok issued the not-guilty verdict less than a month after Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that joint prayers among members of banned religious organizations “do not contain elements of extremism.”

Amnesty International: On 17 November a court upheld on appeal the pretrial detention of activist Lilia Chanysheva, and she was transferred out of her hometown of Ufa on 21 November. She will be held in Moscow, almost 1,500 km away. Lilia Chanysheva has been detained since 9 November on politically motivated charges of “establishing or leading an extremist association”, for her role as former regional coordinator of “Navalny’s headquarters”. She faces up to 10 years in prison. Lilia Chanysheva has committed no crime and must be released immediately.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Viktoria Ivleva, a tireless defender of Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners, has been fined a huge 150 thousand rouble fine after being held in detention for two days.  She and civic activist Yury Samodurov were among 12 people detained on 20 November while holding legal single-person pickets on Pushkin Square in support of the International Memorial Society and Memorial Human Rights Centre which the regime is seeking to dissolve.  Both were held in custody for two days until the court hearing on 22 November.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Dzhemil Gafarov suffers from a condition that should have prevented Russia from ever imprisoning him.  Instead the 59-year-old Crimean Tatar remains imprisoned in the appalling conditions of a Russian SIZO [remand prison] with no medical examinations or treatment. The procedure required for Gafarov to retain his disability status is also not being carried out, and the SIZO medical unit claim that they have no documents confirming this status.  All of this is very likely deliberate. Put most brutally, the lack of documentation will make it easier to fake the cause if Gafarov dies. 

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has extended the pretrial detention of the chief executive of a leading Russian cybersecurity company who was arrested in September on charges of state treason. The Lefortovo district court on November 23 ruled that Ilya Sachkov must stay in pretrial detention until at least February 28, 2022. Sachkov is the founder of Group-IB, a company known for its work in tracking down hackers and fighting theft and cyberfraud.

24 November 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Wednesday confirmed 33,558 Covid-19 infections and 1,240 deaths.

The Guardian: Russia may dissolve Memorial, the country’s premier human rights group, in an attack on civil society and symbolic reversal of the freedoms won by dissidents at the fall of the Soviet Union.

RFE/RL: A Russian environmental activist who had protested against coal-mining projects in the Siberian region of Kemerovo says he was attacked and beaten by unidentified men in the presence of a former local lawmaker. Sergei Sherementyev said on November 24 that he was assaulted near the town of Apanas by three individuals who were transported to the site by Pyotr Fink, a former deputy in the local legislative assembly.

RFE/RL: A second lawyer for jailed Russian journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, has fled the country. Yevgeny Smirnov told The Insider investigative group on November 23 that he is now in Georgia, adding that he had decided to leave Russia after an internal disciplinary investigation had been initiated against him by the Federal Security Service (FSB).

The Moscow Times: The former head of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s St. Petersburg headquarters said Wednesday she has left Russia, becoming the latest opposition figure to depart the country amid a wide-reaching crackdown on dissent. Irina Fatyanova said she relocated to an unspecified country last week after the jailing of another member of Navalny’s regional political network, Liliya Chanysheva, on retroactive extremism charges.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Russia is turning to open terror against Crimean Tatars with nobody spared.  31 Crimean Tatars were detained on Tuesday evening after arriving at the temporary detention centre in occupied Simferopol for the release of lawyer Edem Semedlyaev who had just spent 12 days in detention for carrying out his work and properly representing people earlier detained.  Among those seized on 23 November were ten women and four civic journalists, reporting on the events for Crimean Solidarity.  In total violation even of Russian legislation, three women have been held in detention overnight, although all three have small children.

RFE/RL: Jailed Kremlin-critic Aleksei Navalny has filed another lawsuit against Correctional Colony No. 2 in the Vladimir region where he is serving a prison sentence that he and his supporters consider politically motivated. Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper on November 24 that his client’s lawsuit is against the colony’s decision to label him as “a person inclined to commit crimes of a terrorist or extremist nature.”

The Moscow Times: Popular rapper Morgenshtern has left Russia after the country’s top investigator accused him of drug dealing, the Ura.ru news website reported Wednesday. Alisher Valeyev, who goes by the stage name Morgenshtern, reportedly boarded a train from the western Russian border city of Smolensk to Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus, with his wife and bodyguards.

The Guardian: A judge has ruled that a number of passages in the bestselling book Putin’s People convey a defamatory meaning against Roman Abramovich, including a claim that he bought Chelsea football club on Vladimir Putin’s orders.

25 November 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Thursday confirmed 33,796 Covid-19 infections and 1,238 deaths.

The Guardian: A Russian court has begun hearing arguments on the liquidation of International Memorial, a human rights group founded to research and inform the public about state-sponsored crimes and repression under the Soviet Union. Prosecutors have said the organisation should be shut down for violating Russia’s contentious “foreign agents” law, which the government has increasingly used to punish and close organisations it deems unfriendly.

The Moscow Times: Defenders of Russia’s most prominent rights group Memorial urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to dismiss a case to shut it down, saying the move would mark a dark day for the country. In court for alleged violations of its designation as a “foreign agent,” Memorial is facing its biggest threat since being founded by Soviet dissidents including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov in 1989.

RFE/RL: Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Aleksandr Kalashnikov as director of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), the Kremlin said in a statement, after disturbing videos of torture and rape inside a jail were leaked. Putin replaced Kalashnikov with Arkady Gostev, a former deputy interior minister.

Human Rights in Ukraine: A court in Russian-occupied Crimea has jailed 21 Crimean Tatars, including five civic journalists, for up to 14 days after they were detained on 23 November while trying to report on the release of lawyer Edem Semedlyaev after the latter spent 12 days imprisoned for carrying out his duties as a lawyer.  ‘Administrative arrest’ in the case of the journalists is considerably less savage than the 15-20-year sentences which eleven other journalists in occupied Crimea are either already serving or are facing, but it is nonetheless shocking, not least because the Russian occupiers are quite brazenly arresting journalists as they carry out their professional duties.

Human Rights Watch: This week, the European Court on Human Rights ruled that Luisa Tapayeva, a Chechen woman, should be reunited with her four daughters who were taken from her after their father died. Under local customs, children are “owned” by the father and his family.

The Moscow Times: Russian police will probe Netflix for allegedly streaming content that contains so-called “gay propaganda” without labeling it properly, the Vedomosti business daily reported Thursday.

RFE/RL: At least three rescuers have been reported killed and rescue operations halted after an early-morning explosion killed at least 11 miners and trapped dozens more in a coal mine in the Kemerovo region of Siberia.

26 November 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Friday confirmed 34,690 Covid-19 infections and 1,235 deaths.

RFE/RL: Another associate of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny is going into exile amid an ongoing crackdown against the defunct organizations associated with the Kremlin critic that were labeled extremist earlier this year. Sergei Boyko is a member of the Novosibirsk city council and former head of Navalny’s network of regional campaign groups in the Siberian city until a court labeled it extremist this year, effectively outlawing it.

The Moscow Times: More than 50 people have died Thursday after smoke filled a Siberian coal mine in the latest disaster to hit Russia’s mining industry.

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