Rights in Russia week-ending 5 February 2021

Our round up of the week’s news.

Some other news of the week:

30 January 2021

Human Rights Watch: Attacks, detention and prosecution of lawyers – including while performing their professional duties – is not unusual in Russia, but what happened ahead of the January 23 protests  takes this harassment to a new level. I spoke with two lawyers –one in Moscow and one in Krasnodar– who had previously represented other lawyers, themselves detained for representing peaceful protesters. Both are also actively involved in human rights work.  By detaining them, the authorities sought not only to interfere with their work, but to send a clear warning to their colleagues and fellow human rights defenders. In the evening of January 21, Moscow-based human rights lawyer Mansur Gilmanov arrived at a police station to defend his client, Vladlen Los. Los is a lawyer with the Foundation Against Corruption, affiliated with Alexey Navalny, whom police had detained earlier that day. Gilmanov presented all required documents at the precinct’s checkpoint. An officer told him to wait for somebody to take him to his client. After 40 minutes watching other people allowed in and repeated inquiries, Gilmanov told police he wanted to file a complaint that they were interfering with his client’s right to legal representation. An officer eventually buzzed him into the station to submit the complaint. As he reached the duty officer’s window, the officer ran up to him, knocked him to the floor, kicked him several times, and shouted obscenities.

The Guardian: The Russian businessman Arkady Rotenberg said on Saturday he owns a palace in southern Russia which jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has linked to Vladimir Putin. Navalny and his anti-corruption foundation have published a video in which they allege the opulent mansion belongs to the Russian president. The video has been viewed more than 103m times. Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo sparring partner who sold his stake in the gas pipeline construction firm Stroygazmontazh in 2019 for a sum which RBC business daily puts at some 75bn roubles (£72m), said he bought the palace two years ago. “Now it will no longer be a secret, I am the beneficiary,” Rotenberg said in a video published by Mash channel in Telegram. “There was a rather complicated facility, there were a lot of creditors, and I managed to become the beneficiary.” He gave no further financial details of the purchase or how it had been funded. Putin has denied ownership of the palace.

1 February 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia is “legally and technologically” ready to disconnect from the global internet if needed, former President Dmitry Medvedev told Interfax Monday. Russian authorities have long flirted with the notion of tougher restrictions and control over the internet on Russian territory. While the country’s “sovereign internet” law passed in 2019 gives Russia the ability to cut itself off from the rest of the World Wide Web, experts have expressed doubts that Russia was capable of implementing such technology.

CPJ: Tomorrow, the Military Court of Appeals in Vlasikha, a Russian town near Moscow, will hear journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva’s appeal of her July 2020 conviction for “justifying terrorism” in her commentary, the journalist told CPJ via messaging app. “The absurd case against journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva, who did nothing but practice her right to free speech, should end with her full acquittal,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “Russian authorities should not contest Prokopyeva’s appeal at tomorrow’s hearing – instead they should return her electronic equipment, unfreeze her assets, and allow her to work and travel freely and safely.” Prokopyeva is a correspondent for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and is based in the northwestern city of Pskov; in 2020, she received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award for her work amid government repression.

5 February 2021

RFE/RL: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc. (RFE/RL) has appealed a string of Russian court decisions to fine several of the broadcaster’s Russian-language endeavours and the general director of its operations in Russia for allegedly failing to comply with new restrictions under the country’s controversial “foreign-agent” law. RFE/RL’s lawyers on February 5 filed the appeals against the decisions by the Tverskoi District Court in Moscow to approve several administrative protocols submitted by Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor “for noncompliance by the media performing the functions of a foreign agent with the requirements of the law on labeling information disseminated by them.” Among other things, the law on foreign agents requires certain news organizations that receive foreign funding to label content within Russia as being produced by a “foreign agent.” RFE/RL’s lawyers stated in their appeals that Roskomnadzor’s moves prevent journalists from performing professional activities and contradict the Russian Constitution and laws on media by restricting competition.

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