Rights in Russia week-ending 6 August 2021

Our round-up of the week’s news

31 July 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia has confirmed 6,265,873 cases of coronavirus and 158,563 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is around 483,000. Russia on Saturday reported 23,807 new coronavirus cases and 792 deaths.

1 August 2021

RFE/RL: Boris Vishnevsky is a known figure in St. Petersburg. An opposition politician who heads the liberal Yabloko party’s committee in the local legislature, he is also a man known locally as a defender of the city’s cultural heritage and as a columnist in the independent newspaper Novaya gazeta. But ahead of elections in September, the number of public figures named Boris Vishnevsky appeared to suspiciously multiply.

International Commission of Jurists: On 29 July 2016, the ICJ and other groups submitted a third-party intervention in the joint cases of Nikolay Alekseyev and Movement for Marriage Equality v. Russia and Nikolay Alekseyev and Others v. Russia before the European Court of Human Rights. The cases concern the Russian authorities’ refusals to register associations defending the rights of homosexuals. In their written submissions to the European Court of Human Rights, the ICJ, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) focused on the extent of legitimate restrictions on the right to freedom of association for the protection of morals having regard, in particular, to the right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

2 August 2021

The Moscow Times: New amendments to Russia’s hunting law will effectively legalize trophy hunting of endangered animals, Greenpeace activists said Monday.  Russia is home to 13 endangered species: the Amur tiger, Central Asian and Far Eastern leopard, snow leopard, bison, saiga, Przewalski’s horse, Altai mountain sheep, gazelle, polar bear, Siberian crane, bowhead whale and gray whale.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Former Kremlin hostage, Oleh Sentsov has posted a letter he just received from 66-year-old Halyna Dovhopola, whom a closed ‘court’ in Russian-occupied Crimea recently sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for supposed ‘treason’.  The letter essentially confirms suspicions that the pensioner was targeted because of her pro-Ukrainian views and that she was held in total isolation, with only a state-appointed lawyer and without being allowed even the briefest visits from the Ukrainian consul.  While the years of Russian occupation have shown that in political cases, no amount of evidence can charge a largely predetermined sentence, a lawyer whom the person can trust and contact with people in Ukraine make it harder for the FSB to conceal the lack of any substance to the charges.  This is precisely why they hide prisoners like Dovhopola, and use all kinds of means to ensure that they only have access to state-appointed ‘lawyers’ who generally put pressure on them to ‘confess’ and certainly do not represent their interests.

The Guardian: The Siberian heatwave of 2020 led to new methane emissions from the permafrost, according to research. Emissions of the potent greenhouse gas are currently small, the scientists said, but further research is urgently needed.

3 August 2021

The Moscow Times: Russian opposition figure Lyubov Sobol has been sentenced to 1.5 years of restricted freedom over her role in this January’s mass protests that called for the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, her lawyer said.

CPJ: Russian authorities should remove The Insider and all other media organizations and journalists from the country’s register of foreign agents and stop harassing the outlet’s editor-in-chief Roman Dobrokhotov, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

RFE/RL: Russian opposition politician Lev Shlosberg of the Yabloko party and his colleague Nikolai Kuzmin have been barred from running in upcoming elections for the Pskov regional parliament.

The Moscow Times: A Russian same-sex family who received death threats after their appearance in an organic retailer’s since-deleted promotional material said they have fled the country.

RFE/RL: A court in the Republic of Chuvashia in Russia’s Volga region has fined an RFE/RL correspondent in a case in which she was previously acquitted.

RFE/RL: Forty percent of Russians consider the country’s controversial “foreign agents” law a tool for authorities to pressure nongovernmental organizations, according to new research by the Levada Center, a Moscow-based pollster. The figure represents a 10 percent rise on last year’s public skepticism of the legislation.

The Moscow Times: Russian women will be able to get jobs servicing aircraft for the first time in decades starting next year, according to a Labor Ministry order published Tuesday. The Soviet Union first introduced the list of banned jobs in the 1970s to protect women’s safety and reproductive health. The list persisted into modern-day Russia despite technological improvements automating many of the physically demanding aspects of these jobs.

4 August 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia’s forest fires spread by a record margin on Monday, making the current wildfire season the country’s third-largest this century as smoke from the blazes wafts over huge expanses of Siberia, experts from Greenpeace Russia reported.

The Moscow Times: International monitors said Wednesday they would not send observers to Russia for next month’s general election because of a limit on numbers imposed by Russian authorities.

RFE/RL: Election officials in Russia’s northwestern city of Murmansk have officially accepted registration documents from the former leader of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s team after she waged a hunger strike over alleged obstruction.

The Moscow Times: Russian opposition figure Lyubov Sobol doesn’t intend to quit politics despite a court-appointed curfew and a ban on running for parliament, she told The Moscow Times on Wednesday.

The Moscow Times: Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is convicted of espionage in Russia, has not been in touch with his family for more than a month, one of his lawyers said Tuesday.

RFE/RL:  Few doubt that the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin is worried about the September 17-19 elections to the State Duma, Russia’s lower chamber of parliament.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Sakira Kantimirova was just 10 months old when the Russian FSB came for her father Eldar Kantimirov and seven other Crimean Tatars.  If the current Russia regime has its way, she will be 15 when her father, a recognized political prisoner, returns from the imprisonment in Russia that for all too many Crimean Tatar families has become a second deportation.   

5 August 2021

The Moscow Times: Russian authorities have blocked access to exiled former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s rights group website and news outlets, which have been critical of the Kremlin ahead of next month’s high-stakes elections.

Human Rights Watch: With Russia’s September 19 parliamentary elections fast approaching, every day begins with new reports of arbitrary arrests, interrogations, and other attacks on critical voices. Today there were three new victims of the Kremlin’s war against free expression. Independent news outlets MBKh-Media, Open Media, and Open Rights announced they would shutter after the governmental communications oversight body, Roskomnadzor, blocked their websites.

RFE/RL: Russian opposition politician Lev Shlosberg of the Yabloko party and his colleague Nikolai Kuzmin have been returned to the list of candidates running for deputy in the Pskov regional parliament.

RFE/RL: Liya Akhedzhakova has for years been one of Russia’s most popular stage actresses, and her latest performance at Moscow’s Sovremennik (Contemporary) theater has garnered plaudits from an audience comprising many members of Russia’s intelligentsia and business elite.

RFE/RL: A Moscow court has found U.S. investor Michael Calvey and six co-defendants guilty of embezzlement in a high-profile case followed closely by the international business community.

The Guardian: A lesbian couple and their family, who were featured in an advert for a Russian supermarket chain that led to a national scandal have fled the country after facing online abuse and death threats.

The Moscow Times: Support for erecting a monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has nearly doubled in the past decade, a survey by the independent Levada Center polling agency said Wednesday. According to the results, 48% of Russians said they support a Stalin statue and 20% are against the idea.

6 August 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia has recorded more than half a million excess deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, official figures published Friday show. Nationwide fatalities surged during June — the latest month for which such data is available — as the Delta variant of the coronavirus tore across the capital Moscow and spread out into the regions, sending mortality rates back to levels not seen since winter.

The Moscow Times: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s brother and close ally have been sentenced over their roles in this winter’s mass protests calling for his release, his ally said Friday.

RFE/RL: The brother of imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny was given a one-year suspended prison sentence after a court in Moscow found him guilty on August 6 of publicly calling for the violation of anti-pandemic restrictions.

RFE/RL: A court in St. Petersburg has sentenced a man to 4 1/2 years in prison for what prosecutors say was an attack on two police officers during an unsanctioned rally in January to support jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

RFE/RL: A woman on trial in the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan for allegedly providing financial support to the mother of an opposition activist jailed for extremism has been added to a federal list of extremists despite no ruling yet in her case.

The Guardian: A Russian lesbian family who received death threats after they appeared in an advertisement for the food chain VkusVill say they feel safe in Barcelona and accepted for who they are. The family were targeted in a hate campaign on social media after they appeared in the ad. The company later apologised and replaced the photo with one of a heterosexual family.

The Moscow Times: American investor Michael Calvey has been handed a five-and-a-half year suspended sentence after being found guilty of embezzlement in a highly controversial case that has rocked Russia’s business world.  The star American investor was first detained in February 2019 on charges related to loans issued by a bank owned by his Baring Vostok fund in 2015. 

RFE/RL: A court in Austria has sentenced a Russian man to life in prison after he was convicted of murdering a 43-year-old Chechen in a Vienna suburb last year in a case that drew international attention amid claims the killing had been politically motivated.

RFE/RL: The wife of jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has completed a so-called “long visit” with her husband six months into his most recent imprisonment. Such visits can last up to three days at a special prison facility under the Russian penitentiary system and all inmates are eligible from six months into serving their sentence.

Human Rights in Ukraine: The Russian prison where Yevhen Karakashev is serving a 6-year sentence for civic activism and a social media post is trying to prevent Ukraine’s Consul from visiting the Ukrainian political prisoner from Crimea.  

The Moscow Times: When Olga Misik splashed red paint on the guard’s booth outside the federal prosecutor’s office in Moscow last summer, she didn’t think the minor political act would turn into a criminal offense.  “Two days before I acted I did my research and understood that this wouldn’t even be classified as an administrative offense,” Misik, who is now 19, told The Moscow Times in an interview. 

The Moscow Times: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is investigating two Russian state-run TV channels over talk shows that disparaged the lifestyles of a transgender and a gay athlete as “perversion” and “abomination,” the BBC has reported.

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