Rights in Russia week-ending 7 May 2021

Our round-up of the past week’s news

Other news of the week:

1 May 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia has confirmed 4,814,558 cases of coronavirus and 110,520 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is above 422,000.

2 May 2021

RFE/RL: A Russian LGBT activist and artist has declared a hunger strike to protest the proceedings of her closed-door trial on pornography charges. Yulia Tsvetkova’s trial began on April 12 after a nearly 1 1/2-year investigation, during which time she has been fined for spreading LGBT “propaganda” and put under house arrest in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Russia’s Far East. Tsvetkova, 27, is charged with producing and distributing pornographic material for administering a page on social media called The Vagina Monologues showing abstract art of female genitalia. The artist, an activist who draws women’s bodies, is known for her advocacy of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues.

3 May 2021

The Moscow Times: Three Russian tycoons and the Rosneft oil giant have filed libel and data protection lawsuits in Britain against the publisher of journalist Catherine Belton’s acclaimed 2020 book “Putin’s People,” the Financial Times has reported. The billionaires — Mikhail Fridman, his longtime business partner Peter Aven and real estate tycoon Shalva Chigirinsky — and Rosneft filed the flurry of suits in March and April, around the one-year deadline for libel actions in British law, FT reported Saturday. HarperCollins defended “Putin’s People,” which centers on the rise of President Vladimir Putin and his relationship with wealthy oligarchs, as “authoritative, important and conscientiously sourced work.”

4 May 2021

The Moscow Times: A Russian astrologer and yoga instructor said she has been accused of illegal missionary work for organizing celebrations of a major Hindu festival. Yekaterina Kalinkina, 47, faces a fine of 50,000 rubles ($650) for organizing and promoting events marking the festival of Maha Shivratri on social media in March, according to documents she posted Friday. Maha Shivratri, also known as “the great night of Shiva” — the patron god of yoga, meditation and arts — is a widely recognized festival in Hinduism that celebrates “overcoming darkness and ignorance.”

RFE/RL: From the time Eduard Shmonin was a young man, he always wanted to be a gangster. But disillusionment with Russia’s criminal world came quickly for the Sverdlovsk region native after he served two years in prison for burglary in the 1990s. Shmonin, now 50, instead decided to get into journalism — a profession that he quickly determined was inextricable from local battles over money, resources, and influence. The business model he adopted involved digging up dirt on officials and industry players — and then publishing it or withholding it, depending on the bidder. “I understood at the time that the job of a journalist is to get paid for what he doesn’t write,” Shmonin told RFE/RL’s Russian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, last year. Now prosecutors have asked a court to sentence Shmonin to 11 years in prison on charges of blackmail and distributing pornography — allegations linked to media operations he ran in Russia’s oil-rich Khanti-Mansi Autonomous District in western Siberia.

5 May 2021

The Moscow Times: The Central African Republic described UN information about abuse by CAR troops and Russian forces as “denunciations,” but promised to investigate them. Government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui, in a statement late Monday, said President Faustin Archange Touadera had received a report from the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA. In it, the mission detailed abuses committed between December 2020 and April 2021 “that seriously accuse national and bilateral forces,” he said, referring to CAR troops and their Russian military supporters. The allegations include “arbitrary/extrajudicial executions, torture, sexual violence, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment (and) arbitrary arrest,” his statement said.

7 May 2021

RFE/RL: Police in Moscow have detained Veronika Nikulshina, a member of the Pussy Riot protest group, without explanation. Nikulshina wrote on Instagram on May 7 that four police officers apprehended her near her apartment block without saying why they were taking her into custody. A video of the incident was distributed by the Open Media group on Telegram. Nikulshina’s lawyer, Mansur Gilmanov, told Open Media that his client was detained on suspicion of being disobedient toward the police.

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