Rights in Russia week-ending 3 September 2021

Our round-up of the week’s news

28 August 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Saturday reported 19,492 new coronavirus cases and 799 deaths.

RFE/RL: Andrei Pivovarov is perhaps the most atypical candidate in Russia’s already atypical election. Since his arrest on a Warsaw-bound plane preparing for takeoff on the tarmac of the St. Petersburg airport in May, the opposition activist has been campaigning for September’s parliamentary elections from his cell in a Moscow remand prison as he awaits trial on charges of involvement with an “undesirable organization.”

EHRAC: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, speaks about the upcoming judgment on the case of Natalia Estemirova, a human rights activist murdered in Chechnya in 2009.

29 August 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Sunday reported 19,286 new coronavirus cases and 797 deaths.

The Guardian: The Russian government has silenced opposition voices, approved cash payouts to potential voters, and made it nearly impossible to monitor the polls as it prepares for parliamentary elections next month that the opposition has warned will be marred by fraud.

30 August 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Monday reported 18,325 new coronavirus cases and 792 deaths.

RFE/RL: Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) has warned Apple over what it called the U.S. technology giant’s “abuse of its dominant position” in the distribution of apps.

RFE/RL: Russia’s Interior Ministry has banned a stand-up comic of Azerbaijani origin, Idrak Mirzalizade, from entering and residing in the country for life over his on-stage joke about Russians.

The Moscow Times: Russia has issued an expulsion order against a popular Belarusian comedian after ruling he insulted ethnic Russians in a stand-up routine. Mirzalizade had sparked controversy with a joke on a popular YouTube show this spring, where he told a story about non-Slavs facing discrimination when trying to rent apartments in Moscow.

Human Rights Watch: In an outrageous move, the Russian Interior Ministry announced today it has banned a stand-up comedian, Idrak Mirzalizade, from Russia for life, over a joke he told which Russian authorities consider insulting to ethnic Russians.

The Moscow Times: Russia has blocked the website of independent media outlet Readovka after it published an investigation into the alleged hidden wealth of a parliamentarian.

RFE/RL: A Moscow court has sentenced another supporter of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny to 18 months of so-called “restricted freedom,” a parole-like sentence, for allegedly violating restrictive measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

The Moscow Times: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s spokeswoman, one of his last close associates remaining in the country, has fled Russia, Interfax reported Monday.

RFE/RL: An activist who publicly supports jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Smart Voting system says he was detained and pressed to disclose information on others by police in Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg.

RFE/RL: Prosecutors in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk have asked a court to sentence an anarchist couple to six years in prison each on charges of hooliganism and vandalism motivated by hatred and enmity. Pavel Chikov of the legal defense organization Agora wrote on Telegram that prosecutors asked the Central District court in the Ural’s city to convict Dmitry Tsibukovsky and his wife Anastasia Safonova on August 30. The charges against the couple stem from their placing a large banner in February 2018 near the building of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Chelyabinsk, saying “FSB — Main Terrorist.”

The Moscow Times: A Russian sushi delivery chain has publicly apologized for an advertisement that featured a black man after its owner received death threats from an ultra-nationalist hate group.

Human Rights in Ukraine: One of the five cloned ‘trials’ with which Russia is trying to deflect attention from its  attack on Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists is likely to result in the death of two of the five recognized political prisoners.  There is virtually no movement in the ‘trial’ of 61-year-old Servet Gaziev, Dzhemil Gafarov (59) and three other men due to the number of hearings that have needed to be adjourned because one or both of the men were too unwell to take part. 

Human Rights in Ukraine:  Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree enabling traitors and fugitives from justice to hold public service posts in the Russian Federation or occupied Crimea.  While the vast majority of such individuals are likely to be in hiding from Ukrainian justice, including for murder and torture, there may well be others whose treason and / other crimes to their country of origin demonstrate their value to the current regime in Russia, or are at least not viewed as a hindrance. Certainly Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov has indicated that for the Russian regime, these individuals are viewed as “needed”.

31 August 2021

Amnesty International: In a judgment issued today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Russian authorities have failed to properly investigate the murder of Natalia Estemirova, a prominent human rights defender who was abducted and killed in Chechnya in 2009.

HRW: Today, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the case of Natalia Estemirova, star Chechen human rights defender murdered in July 2009. It found that Russia had violated their obligations to protect her right to life by “fail[ing] to investigate effectively [her] abduction and killing.”

RFE/RL: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that while it had insufficient evidence to conclude there was Russian state involvement in the 2009 abduction and murder of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, Russian authorities failed to properly investigate the killing.

The Moscow Times: Europe’s top human rights court said it has found no evidence of Russian state involvement in the 2009 murder of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova but ruled that authorities failed to properly investigate the case.

HRW: The Russian LGBT Network has reported that in May 2021, Chechen-speaking men abducted Ibragim Selimkhanov in Moscow and forcibly returned him to Chechnya’s capital Grozny, where authorities interrogated him about gay people in the region. This is the latest chapter in Chechnya’s relentless assault on sexual and gender minorities.

The Guardian: The BBC’s Moscow correspondent has used her final dispatch before her expulsion from Russia by the Kremlin to warn that the country was “moving in reverse” when it came to free speech and press freedoms.

RFE/RL: A noted young mathematician from Russia’s Tatarstan who was sentenced to six years in prison on hooliganism charges that he and his supporters have rejected, says he would not be surprised if he is turned down for early release on parole for resisting attempts by prison officials to “correct” his pleas of innocence.

RFE/RL: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says the Russian state is “tightening its grip” on the Internet, “drastically” restricting freedom of the press and of expression ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections.

RSF: A few weeks before parliamentary elections in Russia on 19 September, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is publishing a country report showing how massively the state leadership under President Vladimir Putin has restricted freedom of the press and freedom of expression in recent months.

The Moscow Times: A Russian sushi restaurant has stood up to racist attacks by a far-right hate group after another sushi chain was forced to take down its ad featuring a black model.

The Moscow Times: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered law enforcement officers and army staff receive $200, as he seeks support for his unpopular United Russia party ahead of parliamentary elections next month.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Four men have gone on trial in Russia on charges linked with a terrorist attack that never happened in occupied Crimea. Virtually nothing is known about the men and the charges, however certain details, especially the alleged link with “radical Ukrainian formations” fighting in Donbas, arouse scepticism.  The only terrorist attack in Crimea since Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea was a mass shooting in Kerch which Russia stopped calling ‘terrorist’ as soon as it became clear that no link with Ukraine could be established. There have, however, been a huge number of ‘trials’ for terrorism, most without any recognizable crime, and the others where it is claimed, without any convincing evidence, that there were plans which Russia’s FSB thwarted.

The Guardian: Alone among Soviet dissidents of the Leonid Brezhnev years, Sergei Kovalev, who has died aged 91, went on to play a major role in the eras of Mikhail GorbachevBoris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, only to find that his outspoken support for human rights put him once again in opposition to the Russian government.

1 September 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Wednesday reported 18,368 new coronavirus cases and 790 deaths.

RFE/RL: Nakia Sharifullina, a noted teacher and founder of Islamic schools for girls in Russia’s Tatarstan region, has been handed a suspended two-year sentence for organizing the activities of a banned Islamic group.

RFE/RL: A Moscow court has handed a suspended sentence to a participant of the January 23 rally to support opposition politician Aleksei Navalny after convicting him of attacking an officer and damaging a police car during the dispersal of demonstrators.

The Moscow Times: Russian police have detained Anastasia Vasilyeva, the doctor-turned-activist linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, near her Moscow office, her lawyer said Wednesday. 

Human Rights in Ukraine: Russia’s Supreme Court is to review the case file and rulings in the prosecution of Yury Dmitriev, world-renowned historian of Stalin’s Terror and head of the Karelia branch of the Memorial Society.  The Court’s request for the case file was reported on 31 August 2021 by the Memorial Society which notes that this review is “Yury Dmitriev’s last chance for a just examination of the charges against him within the Russian court system.”  As reported, an application was filed in March this year with the European Court of Human Rights. 

2 September 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Thursday reported 18,985 new coronavirus cases and 798 deaths.

RFE/RL: The walls of the apartment block in Moscow where prominent Russian human rights defender Lev Ponomaryov lives have been vandalized with hate messages on his 80th birthday.

The Moscow Times: Russia said Thursday that Google and Apple’s refusal to remove jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s app ahead of elections could be seen as interference in the country’s domestic affairs.

The Moscow Times: Independent Russian news website The Bell said it was hacked after its newsletter subscribers received an email that urged them to boycott the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections. 

RFE/RL: The Russian Supreme Court has barred Dmitry Potapenko, a candidate for the center-left Russian Party for Freedom and Justice, from running in upcoming legislative elections because he allegedly held shares in Russian companies listed on foreign exchanges.

RFE/RL: Teenagers garbed in camouflage fatigues and military cadet attire took to the stage at a local theater northeast of Moscow, showing off their martial skills as part of an anniversary celebration for a local patriotic military club. But that wasn’t all. As an unsuspecting audience looked on, the men hoisted a shirtless colleague above their heads, placed a concrete block on his stomach that suggested gay people should be killed, and proceeded to smash the symbolic object with what appeared to be a sledgehammer.

RFE/RL: Russia has refused to extend the mandate of international observers to monitor two border crossing points with Ukraine, a U.S. official said.

3 September 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Friday reported 18,856 new coronavirus cases and 799 deaths.

RFE/RL: The prosecution has asked a court in the Russian city of Ufa to sentence a woman to four years in prison because she sent a small amount of money to the elderly mother of a jailed opposition activist.

The Moscow Times: With less than three weeks to go before much-hyped elections to Russia’s national parliament, the State Duma, there is virtually no campaigning to be seen. 

The Moscow Times: A leaked audio recording published by the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper on Thursday has revealed alleged efforts to coordinate “falsification” of votes in Russia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

The Moscow Times: Russia has blocked access to six VPN services which authorities say allow access to illegal online content in violation of Russian law.

RFE/RL: A court in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria has given a suspended two-year prison sentence to an activist who has no hands after finding him guilty of attacking police.

RFE/RL: Jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says he has distributed the financial part of the Boris Nemtsov Prize, 10,000 euros ($11,850), he received in February, among the families of four political prisoners.

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