More news from the past week:
On Monday, 31 August 2020, The Moscow Times reported that bailiffs that day seized $460,000 from bank accounts belonging to Russian opposition activist Lyubov Sobol, nearly a year after a court-ordered damages from her and opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Sobol is a lawyer for the Anti-Corruption Foundation set up by Navalny, who is in a coma with suspected poisoning in hospital in Germany. She tweeted that the full sum had been debited from her account, leaving her deep in the red.
On Monday, 31 August 2020, Meduza reported that a court in Yekaterinburg has fined a local woman 20,000 rubles ($270) for trying to organize an unpermitted protest through the video-sharing social network TikTok. According to the newspaper Kommersant, Kristina Altshuler shared a message on TikTok on July 29, calling on city residents to gather outside the Sverdlovsky Drama Theater to support protesters in Khabarovsk. The video attracted almost 190,000 views and 31,000 likes, says the news website Znak.com.
On Tuesday, 1 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that prominent Russian blogger and activist known for his open criticism of the government, Yegor Zhukov, said a physical attack on him earlier this week was politically motivated. In a post on Telegram on August 31, Zhukov, who was severely beaten by unknown assailants on August 30, said he had escaped a similar attack near his home on July 24, adding that he believes both were “linked to my political activities.” “My professional activities frustrate many scoundrels and the same number of thieves…. This is about politics for sure. [It is] an example of real Russian politics in the year of 2020,” Zhukov wrote.
On Wednesday, 2 September 2020, Alexei Sutuga, an anarchist activist, has died in Moscow after being hospitalized with grave traumas, Caucasian Knot reported. According to the police, he was beaten up by four natives of Chechnya. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial” has recognized the anti-fascist, Alexei Sutuga, as a political prisoner. In his case “investigators, the prosecution and the court are distorting the factual circumstances of the incident; while in Alexei’s actions there were no hooligan motives,” human rights defenders are sure. The HRC “Memorial” finds the Sutuga’s case similar to that of another political prisoner, Ivan Barylyak, a resident of Stavropol.
On Wednesday, 2 September 2020, Amnesty International in a statement said Dr. Tatyana Revva, employed in a hospital in Kalach-on-Don, southern Russia, continues to face reprisals for exposing personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages and other issues within the COVID-19 pandemic. She is appealing a court decision of 23 July that rejected her civil claim against the hospital for imposing disciplinary reprimands on her. She also learned in July that she is at risk of criminal prosecution: the district prosecutor’s office overturned a decision not to initiate proceedings against her, specifically libel charges connected to her complaints.
On Friday, 4 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that prominent Russian activist Andrei Pivovarov has been sentenced to 14 days in detention after being found guilty of breaking protest legislation. Pivovarov’s sentence was announced by the Tver District Court in Moscow on September 4. Pivovarov, the executive director of the human rights group Open Russia, was detained over an incident in Moscow on July 15 in which he had sought – via a Facebook post — to gather signatures to petition against sweeping constitutional reforms passed later in the summer.
Freedom of conscience
On Monday, 31 August 2020, a Russian prosecutor demanded sentences of between 15 and 21 years against eight Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists, including Crimean Solidarity Coordinator and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Server Mustafayev, Human Rights in Ukraine reported. The arrests and ‘trial’ of the eight men were already a ‘record-breaker’ in being the first time that Russia had so brazenly targeted civic activists and journalists in occupied Crimea. It now looks set to bring the most horrific sentences to date imposed by an illegal occupation regime against men who have committed no crime at all.
On Friday, 4 September 2020, Human Rights in Ukraine reported that Russia’s FSB has split up a group of 25 Crimean Tatar political prisoners into five absolutely identical ‘trials’. The report says it may be logistically difficult to hold one trial with 25 defendants and their lawyers, but the primary aim of the five clones is almost certainly to deflect attention from Russia’s most brazen to date attack on Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists informing the world about violations in occupied Crimea and helping the victims of persecution. The FSB armed searches and arrests on 27 March 2019 provoked international condemnation in particular because of the obvious targeting of civic journalists and activists. There was strong protest from, among others, the US State Department, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Civil Rights Defenders. The Memorial Human Rights Centre almost immediately declared the 23 men arrested on that day, and Rayim Aivazov, seized and tortured a little later, political prisoners and stated unequivocally that the FSB was using mass arrests to try to crush the Crimean Tatar human rights movement. The arrests were both a continuation and sharp escalation in the offensive against Crimean Solidarity, the civic initiative that arose to help political prisoners and their families and to ensure that information was circulated and streamed onto the Internet about repression in occupied Crimea. Four of the men– Osman Arifmemetov ; Remzi Bekirov; Rustem Sheikhaliev; and Ruslan Suleymanov were all civic journalists, with Bekirov having also recently become an accredited journalist for Grani.ru, one of the few Russian Internet publications that reports on human rights violations in Russia and occupied Crimea.
A court in Moscow has extended the pretrial detention of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, RFE/RL reported. The Lefortovo district court on September 2 ruled that Safronov must be held at least until December 7. The hearing took place behind closed doors as the case is classified. The 30-year-old Safronov, who has worked since May as an adviser to the head of Russia’s Space Agency (Roskosmos) Dmitry Rogozin, is a prominent journalist who covered the military-industrial complex for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti. He was arrested on July 7 amid allegations that he had passed secret information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about Russian arms sales in the Middle East.
Freedom of expression
On Monday, 31 August 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Russian authorities must conduct a full and thorough investigation into the vandalizing of journalist David Frenkel’s car, and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Between the night of August 26 and the early hours of August 27, unidentified attackers slashed all four tires of Frenkel’s car and smashed two of its windows while the car was parked near the journalist’s apartment in St. Petersburg, according to news reports and Frenkel, a correspondent for the independent human rights news website Mediazona, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview. The journalist reported the damage to the police, and was told that authorities were investigating the matter, he told CPJ.
On Tuesday, 25 August 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists said the Russian authorities must immediately release journalists Aleksandr Dorogov and Yan Katelevskiy, drop all charges against them, and ensure that members of the press can work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. In the early hours of July 29, police in the village of Mosrentgen, near Moscow, beat and arrested Dorogov and Katelevskiy, deputy chief editors of the independent investigative website Rosderzhava, according to Katelevskiy’s lawyer Olga Balabanova and Dorogov’s lawyer Konstantin Barkovskiy, both of whom spoke with CPJ in phone interviews.
On Wednesday, 2 September 2020, seventeen cases of violations of the rights of employees of mass media outlets were registered in Russia over July and August by a center monitoring how the rights of journalists are respected, RAPSI reported. According to the center’s documents, violations were recorded in the Khabarovsk, Astrakhan, Saratov, Tomsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Kemerovo, and Krasnoyarsk regions, as well as in the Republic of Bashkiria.
On Tuesday, 1 September 2020, a resident of Perm Daniil Simanov was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for publishing a photo of Andrey Vlasov, a Russian Red Army General, who had defected to Nazi Germany after being captured during World War II, on the website of the Immortal Regiment movement, RAPSI reported. The man was found guilty of rehabilitation of Nazism. Investigators and the court found that on May 4, Simanov using a social network application posted a photo of betrayer of the nation Vlasov. He pleaded guilty.
On Tuesday, 1 September 2020, the Russian FSB finally released Crimean Solidarity and Grani.ru journalist Aider Kadyrov in the early hours of 1 September, almost 18 hours after they first took him and three other Crimean Tatars from their homes, Human Rights in Ukraine has reported. After events that looked much more like an abduction than an FSB ‘investigation’, all four men were finally freed, but face charges of ‘failing to inform of a crime’, under Article 205.6 of Russia’s criminal code (on ‘terrorism’). The problem here is not only that Russia, as occupying state has no right to impose its legislation in Crimea, but that this article of the criminal code was introduced in July 2016, meaning that the 2015 correspondence on the social network VKontakte which the FSB have spotted predates the law. Where there is the will to prosecute Crimean Solidarity journalists or Crimean Tatar leaders, that is, however, unlikely to be viewed as an obstacle.
On Thrusday, 3 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that , in the capital of Ingushetia, law enforcers were beating and torturing with electric current Bagaudin Yevloev, suspected of involvement in the ranks of militants. The complaint has been voiced today by an advocate of Bagaudin Yevloev. According to the defender, the law enforcers demanded from the arrested man to confess to plotting the seizure of a school. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that at night on August 7, Bagaudin Yevloev was detained on suspicion of involvement in the ranks of militants. On August 27, his mother Lyubov Yaryzheva claimed that law enforcers planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to her son and tortured him to force him to sign a confession.
On Thursday, 3 September 2020, The Moscow Times published an article telling how Irma Veller, a 44-year-old transgender woman, found out about a new Russian law that would bar transgender people from changing their gender on their birth certificates. When she did so, she decided it was finally time to leave the country. “I understood that my life is of no value here anymore,” Veller told The Moscow Times last week prior to her departure to seek political asylum in a destination she asked not to be named. In a country that classifies them as mentally ill, Russian transgender people, who are not even allowed to drive, have long faced discrimination. But proposed amendments to Russia’s Family Code on “strengthening the institution of the family” will make their lives even more difficult, activists and rights groups say. Commonly referred to as “Mizulina’s law” after Yelena Mizulina, the conservative lawmaker who spearheaded its development, the legislation will be considered by the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, later this month.
On Thursday, 3 September 2020, RAPSI reported that staff members of Russia’s Children Ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova have revealed certain problems as to the protection of rights of minors living in Crimea orphan homes. In particular, there were registered violations of the minors’ rights as to medical assistance, health care, as well as numerous cases where their property rights were not respected, the statement reads. The inspection was launched in cooperation with medics from Moscow, prosecutors, officials of the regional ministries of Health Care, Education, and Social Protection.