Rights in Russia week-ending 7 February 2020


Russia: Prominent investigative journalist and lawyer attacked during visit to Chechnya 
Reacting to news of a mob attack late last night, in the Chechen capital Grozny, on two visiting human rights activists – one of whom is investigative journalist Elena Milashina, who uncovered a vicious campaign of abduction, torture and killings against gay men in Chechnya two years ago, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director, said: “This brazen attack is appalling. Last year Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov openly warned he would bar human rights defenders from Chechnya and threatened them with violence. Now, such violence is taking place. Amnesty International, 7 February 2020 

Thugs Attack Lawyer, Journalist in Chechnya
Local Authorities’ Pattern of Abuse Suggests their Involvement
Tanya Lokshina: Last night, a group of thugs in Grozny attacked human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina and investigative journalist Elena Milashina – the latest in a long history of attacks on rights defenders which bear the hallmarks of being endorsed by Chechen authorities and tolerated by the Kremlin. Dubrovina arrived in Chechnya on Thursday for a client’s court hearing. She’s representing a blogger who was tortured and jailed on bogus weapon possession charges in retaliation for posting a video about the opulent lifestyle of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his associates. Milashina, who covers the case for Novaya Gazeta, joined Dubrovina in Grozny. Human Rights Watch, 7 February 2020

Noted Russian Investigative Journalist, Rights Lawyer Attacked In Grozny
A well-known Russian investigative journalist, Yelena Milashina, and human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina have been attacked in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region of Chechnya. The Moscow-based newspaper Novaya gazeta says its reporter and the lawyer were in the Chechen capital, Grozny, to attend the trial of a well-known blogger, when they were attacked by a group of unknown assailants late in the evening on February 6. RFE/RL, 7 February 2020

Russian journalist Elena Milashina attacked in Chechnya
Vilnius, Lithuania, February 7, 2020 — Russian authorities should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the attack against journalist Elena Milashina and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Committee to Protect Journalists, 7 February 2020

Human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina and journalist Elena Milashina violently attacked
On 6 February 2020, a group of unknown individuals violently attacked lawyer Marina Dubrovina and journalist Elena Milashina in the lobby of the Continent hotel in Grozny, Chechnya. The human rights defenders were in Grozny for the court hearing of Islam Nukhanov. Frontline Defenders, 10 February 2020. See also Frontline Defenders, 10 February 2020

Memorial Human Rights Center Says Four Men Kidnapped In Chechnya
The Moscow-based Memorial human rights center says unknown individuals have abducted four young men in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region of Chechnya. According to Memorial, residents of the village of Gekhi in Chechnya’s central-western Urus-Martan district told the center on February 6 that Movsar Vakhayev, Abdulla Zairayev, Zelimkhan Kulayev, and Akhmed Satayev were taken away the day before at around 10 p.m. local time by unknown individuals in two vehicles. RFE/RL, 7 February 2020

Chechen Blogger Known For Criticizing Kadyrov Reportedly Murdered In France 
Chechen blogger Imran Aliyev, known for his criticism of the Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been found dead with multiple stab wounds in a hotel in France, according to reports. RFE/RL, 4 February 2020 

Abuse of anti-terrorism legislationRussia: Prosecution for membership of a non-existent “terrorist” organization must stop 
Seven young men standing trial in Penza (Central Russia) on absurd “terror” charges must be immediately released and the charges against them dropped, Amnesty International urged ahead of the verdict on 10 February. The defendants, mostly left-wing political activists, are accused of participating in a non-existent “terrorist organization” called “Network” and face up to 18 years in prison if found guilty.  “These terror charges are a figment of the Russian security services’ imagination that was fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists. The trial has been a sham – the men say their confessions were extracted by torture and the so-called evidence is contradicted by the facts,” said Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International Russia’s Researcher. Amnesty International, 7 February 2020 

Freedom of expression

Number of extremism cases over Internet posts drops in half in Russia – experts 
MOSCOW, February 4 (RAPSI) – The number of criminal cases opened over Internet publications has decreased by almost twice. Experts come to associate it with the partial decriminalization of the Criminal Code’s article on incitement of hatred and enmity. According to one of the research authors, the head of the International Advocacy Group Agora Pavel Chikov, there were 200 incidents in 2019 as compared to 384 in 2018. 
RAPSI, 4 February 2020 

Court In Russian-Occupied Crimea Extends Pretrial Arrest For Pro-Ukrainian Activist 
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — A court in Crimea has extended the pretrial detention of pro-Ukrainian activist Oleh Prykhodko. Prykhodko’s lawyer, Nazim Sheykhmambetov, told RFE/RL that the Kyiv district court in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol, on February 5, rejected a motion to transfer his client to house arrest and prolonged his client’s pretrial detention to April 10. Sheykhmambetov said that he and his client learned during the hearing that Prykhodko is now additionally charged with plotting a terrorist attack at the Russian Consulate in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. RFE/RL, 6 February 2020 

Russia Proposes Internet Ecosystem to Protect Users From ‘Foreign Influence’ – Report 
Russia’s state-controlled telecommunications provider is proposing a 260-billion-ruble ($4.1 billion) online ecosystem to “protect users from foreign influence,” the Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday.  Rostelecom’s so-called roadmap reportedly envisions the creation of state-run messengers, gaming services, browsers and operating systems. The telecom provider’s ambitious proposal also includes state-controlled content recommendation systems and speech and gesture recognition in addition to virtual and augmented reality technology, the publication reported. The Moscow Times, 6 February 2020 

Freedom of conscience2 Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Charged With ‘Extremism’ 
Two Jehovah’s Witnesses in northern Russia have been charged with extremism, law enforcement authorities said Thursday amid the crackdown on the Christian denomination that Russia banned in 2017. At least 14 people were detained in the town of Pechora during Tuesday’s raids across 10 addresses, the severrealii.org news website reported. It named Gennady Skutelts, 43, and Gennady Polyakevich, 60, among the four people held in detention for more than 24 hours. The Moscow Times, 31 January 2020 

Right of assembly
Protesters opposed to Russian Constitution changes detained 
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Police in the Russian city of St. Petersburg detained participants in a small Saturday protest of proposed changes to the country’s constitution. No official protest figures or information about possible charges was immediately available. The St. Petersburg news website Fontanka.ru said 10 people were detained. AP News, 1 February 2020 

Right of association

Bank account seizure of over 100 people in Navalny foundation money washing case extended 
MOSCOW, February 4 (RAPSI) – Moscow’s Basmanny District Court extended attachment of bank accounts of more than 100 people linked to the foundation founded by Alexey Navalny as part of a money laundering case until August, lawyer Tatiana Molokanova told RAPSI on Tuesday. According to the lawyer, accounts of 92 individuals were seized in one bank and of 30-40 persons in another one. RAPSI, 4 February 2020 

LGBTI rights
More Russian LGBT Supporters Injured In Attacks In 2019, Watchdog Says
A prominent Moscow-based watchdog says the number of casualties in attacks on members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Russia increased in 2019, while it also said its research showed that ethnic-based hate crimes declined. The Sova Center, a respected research organization that tracks hate crimes and extremist movements in Russia, also said in its annual report released on February 4 that the number of attacks by pro-government groups against their opponents declined in 2019. RFE/RL, 4 February 2020

Moscow Jury Acquits Man Of Murdering Gay Despite Confession 
A jury in a Moscow court has acquitted a man charged with murder after stabbing to death a gay man that the accused has admitted to attacking with a knife. Artyom Lapov, a lawyer from the gay rights group Stimul, said on February 7 that jurors at the trial at the Basmanny district court found Anton Berezhnoi not guilty of murder in the beating of Roman Yedalov, instead convicting him of a lesser charge of assault. RFE/RL, 7 February 2020 

PolicingTwo human rights advocates join Moscow police public council 
MOSCOW, February 3 (RAPSI) – Members of the Presidential Council for Human Rights Andrey Babushkin and Igor Borisov have joined the Public Council of the Interior Ministry’s Moscow Main Directorate for 2020 – 2023, the advisory body’s press service reports. RAPSI, 3 February 2020 

Rights of children

Putin signs bill to protect minors’ housing rights after parents’ divorce into law
MOSCOW, February 7 (RAPSI) – President of Russia Vladimir Putin has signed a bill introducing new safeguards with respect to housing rights of children of divorcing couples into the Russian Family Code into law, according to the official website of legal information.  The initiative envisages that a parent residing separately from a child is to be made to take part in additional obligations relating to the provision of the minor with housing accommodation. RAPSI, 7 February 2020 

Coronavirus Patient In Russia Says Doctors Withheld His Diagnosis 
MOSCOW — A Chinese national quarantined in Russia’s Far East amid reports he’s one of the country’s first two patients with the highly infectious Wuhan coronavirus has appealed to journalists at a local news outlet to complain of unsanitary conditions and demand confirmation of his diagnosis. RFE/RL 3 February 2020 

Russia Says It May Deport Foreigners Confirmed With Coronavirus 
Russia says it plans to deport foreigners diagnosed with the new coronavirus as an increasingly isolated China blamed the United States for stoking fears over the outbreak instead of providing concrete assistance. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a televised government meeting on February 3 that an annual investment forum later in the month in Sochi had been postponed due to the virus outbreak. RFE/RL 3 February 2020 

CitizenshipRussia Finalizes ‘Revolutionary’ Dual Citizenship Bill – Kommersant 
Russian lawmakers expect to vote on legislation that would allow dual Russian citizenship for foreigners as soon as this month, the Kommersant business daily reported Friday.  Under current Russian law, foreigners wishing to become Russian citizens must first renounce their other citizenships. Authors of the bill expect the new amendments relaxing these rules to help attract between 5 million and 10 million new Russian citizens, primarily from Russian-speaking populations in post-Soviet states. The Moscow Times, 7 February 2020 

A problem-solving Don Quixote Teodor Shanin, who modernized Russia’s higher education system for the humanities, dies at 89
On February 4, the Moscow School for the Social and Economic Sciences (MSSES), more commonly known as “Shaninka,” announced the passing of its founder, sociologist Teodor Shanin. Irina Kravtsova asked Anatoly Kasprzhak, who succeeded Shanin as MSSES rector, how his mentor changed higher education in the humanities in Russia. Meduza, 4 February 2020

Russian Constitution
Putin discloses tentative timeline of preparing amendments to Russian Constitution 
MOSCOW, February 4 (RAPSI) – President Vladimir Putin believes the consideration of amendments to Russia’s Constitution would take a little over 3 months, he said during a public participation meeting on Tuesday. A public opinion is important as to adoption of the amendments, the President also noted. The Russia-wide is to be conducted, he stated. RAPSI, 4 February 2020 

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