Rights in Russia week-ending 8 October 2021

Our round-up of the week’s news

Other news:

2 October 2021

RFE/RL: An Azerbaijan-born Russian billionaire wanted by Moscow for allegedly ordering contract murders has been detained in Montenegro. Local media in Montenegro reported on October 2 that Telman Ismailov is seeking asylum in the Balkan country, a day after he was arrested in Podgorica on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia.

3 October 2021

RFE/RL: The leaks also link Russian President Vladimir Putin to secret assets in Monaco. The Washington Post, which is part of the investigative consortium, reported on the case of Svetlana Krivonogikh, a Russian woman who it said became the owner of a Monaco apartment through an offshore company incorporated on the Caribbean island of Tortola in April 2003, just weeks after she gave birth to a girl. She was at the time in a secret, years-long relationship with Putin, the U.S. newspaper said, citing Russian investigative outlet Proekt.

4 October 2021

The Guardian: Russia has reported a record number of Covid deaths for four of the past six days, as the country experiences a devastating fourth wave caused by the Delta variant and a low vaccination rate of under 30% of the adult population. On Monday, 883 deaths and 25,781 new coronavirus cases were reported, taking the official death toll to 210,000. 

RFE/RL: A well-known opposition activist in the Siberian city of Barnaul says he has left Russia after the authorities launched criminal investigations into allegations that he repeatedly violated the law on mass gatherings. Viktor Rau wrote on social network VKontakte on October 3 that he and his grandson are currently in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

CPJ: Russian authorities should immediately release journalist Igor Kuznetsov and drop all charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

RFE/RL: A Russian court has extended by three months the pretrial detention of Ivan Safronov, a prominent former journalist accused of high treason in a case widely considered to be politically motivated.

RFE/RL: Authorities in Kazan have allowed activists to gather in the capital of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan next week for a public event commemorating the 1552 siege of Kazan by Russian troops — but only if they remain inside a park.

The Moscow Times: The ICIJ also said that Russian nationals are “disproportionately represented” in the Pandora Papers, with 14% of the more than 27,000 scrutinized companies having Russian beneficiaries and 46 Russian oligarchs found to use offshore companies. Among them are the family of Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Russia’s defense conglomerate Rostec and one of Putin’s oldest friends; German Gref, the CEO of Russia’s state-controlled lender Sberbank; and Konstantin Ernst, the CEO of one of Russia’s most-watched state-run broadcasters Channel One. 

Civil Rights Defenders: After ten days of events and festivities, QueerFest has come to a close in St. Petersburg. For its 13th consecutive year, the festival continues to be a unique gathering for LGBTI+ individuals both in Russia and abroad, bringing together people across genders, ages and ethnic groups to raise awareness of the LGBTI+ community. Civil Rights Defenders spoke to the organisers of QueerFest about drawing strength from within the community – and from yourself.

RFE/RL: Activists in the capital of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan are awaiting a decision by the local authorities on whether to allow them to commemorate next week Tatars fallen during the 1552 siege of Kazan by Russian troops. The then-capital of the Kazan Khanate fell 469 years ago on October 15 — an event marked in the city since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Moscow Times: Belarusian security officers detained a pro-government reporter who covered a deadly shooting incident involving Belarus’ KGB security agency and an IT worker in Moscow before transporting him to Minsk, activists said Saturday.

5 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Tuesday reported 25,110 new coronavirus cases and the new daily death record of 895 deaths.

The Moscow Times: Russian officials highlighted the need to develop the country’s own “sovereign” social media platforms after a massive outage at Facebook’s vast family of apps affected billions of users worldwide late Monday.

The Moscow Times: Prominent migrant rights defender Valentina Chupik has fled to Armenia following a 30-year entry ban to Russia, she told The Moscow Times on Tuesday.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has ordered the Interior Ministry to reconsider a lifetime ban on a stand-up comic of Azerbaijani origin that prohibits him from entering and residing in Russia. Sergei Badamshin, a lawyer for comedian Idrak Mirzalizade, said on Telegram that the Zamoskvorechye district court “partially satisfied” his client’s appeal on October 5 and ordered the ministry to find “a reasonable ban term” for the performer.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Halyna Dovhopola has been able to pass a letter to Graty journalists in which the 66-year-old Crimean pensioner describes how she was seized by FSB officers in November 2019 and the torment she has since endured.  She is now imprisoned in Russia, serving a 12-year sentence on a charge of ‘state treason in the form of spying’ which is almost certainly linked primarily with her pro-Ukrainian views.

The Moscow Times: Russia said Monday it has developed software that monitors social media to help authorities prevent young people from harming themselves and others, but which critics say could be used to silence dissent.

The Moscow Times: Russia on Tuesday stepped up the pressure on Facebook, threatening to hit the company with its largest fine yet for repeatedly ignoring requests to remove banned content.

6 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia broke its daily coronavirus deaths record Wednesday, passing 900 fatalities as officials warn that new case numbers have tripled since last fall and are on course to pass the 30,000 mark.

RFE/RL: A Russian nongovernmental organization that has defended the rights of conscripts in the Russian Army for more than two decades says it has ceased its activities because it faces possible persecution from the authorities.

RFE/RL: An opposition activist in Siberia says he has left Russia to avoid possible detention amid an ongoing crackdown on people and organizations linked to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Lev Gyammer, the former coordinator of the Protesting Kuzbass opposition movement in the city of Novokuznetsk, wrote on the VKontakte social network on October 5 that he is now “safe” in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.

RFE/RL: Natasha Zotova was in ninth grade when Anna Politkovskaya, a pathbreaking investigative journalist at the independent newspaper Novaya gazeta, was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006.

The Moscow Times: A group of 45 Western countries demanded at the global toxic arms watchdog on Tuesday that Russia provide urgent answers about the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Moscow now has 10 days to respond to the questions posed by the EU and countries including the United States, Canada and Australia, under the rules of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The Moscow Times: Three female politicians who failed to gain seats in Russian parliamentary elections critics say were marred by fraud are launching a project that aims to prepare the next generation of women lawmakers. 

Human Rights in Ukraine: The trial is drawing to an end in Russia of Seitumer and Osman Seitumerov, the two sons of a renowned Crimean Tatar historian, their uncle Rustem Seitmemetov, as well as of Amet Suleimanov, a Crimean Solidarity civic journalist with a grave heart condition.  The four recognized political prisoners are facing 15-year sentences although they are not charged with any recognizable crime, and the defence has, during each hearing, demonstrated the falsified nature of the ‘evidence’ presented.  The hearing on 1 October was no exception, but nor was the behaviour of the presiding judge Igor Kostin in effectively siding with the prosecution.

RFE/RL: Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, known for his ruthless rule and threatening to kill his critics, has vowed to “protect human rights” at his inauguration for a fourth term leading the Caucasus region.

7 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Thursday reported 27,550 new coronavirus cases and 924 fatalities from Covid-19.

RFE/RL: A Moscow court has ordered an investigative journalist to pay 156,000 rubles ($2,155) in compensation to a Dutch blogger who he alleged had ties to Russia’s military intelligence agency.

The Moscow Times: A German prize for democracy and freedom of expression was on Wednesday awarded to imprisoned Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and his FBK anti-corruption foundation.

The Moscow Times: Russians commemorated Thursday the killing of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya 15 years ago on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, while her newspaper warned time had run out to punish the masterminds of the murder.

RFE/RL: The United States and the European Union have marked the 15th anniversary of the murder of prominent investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya in central Moscow by renewing their calls for all those responsible to be brought to justice, amid an intensifying crackdown on independent media and the opposition.

RSF: Today (7 October) is not only Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 69th birthday but also the 15th anniversary of the murder of the well-known Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is marking this sad occasion by releasing a thousand black balloons to remind President Putin about the climate of impunity in his country.

Human Rights in Ukraine: Russia’s case against Ukrainian journalist Vladislav Yesypenko, is full of bloopers; the FSB’s story is teeming with discrepancies and the attempt to link the journalist with Ukraine’s SBU [Security Service] has collapsed.  This is the message from Yesypenko’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze, who has previously represented several Ukrainian political prisoners, including film director Oleg Sentsov. 

8 October 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Friday reported 27,246 new coronavirus cases and a new record high of 936 daily deaths from Covid-19.

RFE/RL: A court in western Russia ordered the arrest of an opposition activist for posting a video that depicts President Vladimir Putin and two other figures being sentenced to death in a mock trial.

The Moscow Times: A new Russian drag competition has sparked controversy among the country’s LGBT community, with activists saying the YouTube show ignores issues LGBT people face in Russia. 

Human Rights in Ukraine: The traditional OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw did not take place this year with the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken laying the blame squarely on Russian obstruction.  While Russia has formally denied this, it does appear that a major sticking point was that Moscow was prevented from once again sending fake NGOs to push Russian disinformation about occupied Crimea.

The GuardianThe third of October 1993 was a beautiful day in Moscow. The sky was blue, the streets were busy and the air was chilly. I was a US paralegal living my best 23-year-old life, with a head full of dreams and a job at an international law firm.

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