Rights in Russia week-ending 9 July 2021

Our round-up of the week’s news

Other news of the week:

4 July 2021

RFE/RL: Russia on July 4 announced 25,142 new Covid-19 infections, the highest figure since early January as the country battles the surging Delta variant of the virus. This week Russia reported record numbers of coronavirus deaths for five days in a row, registering 697 Covid-19 fatalities on July 3. On July 4, the official tally showed 663 people dying of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 137,925.

RFE/RL: Crimea’s identity as a point of conflict among regional powers has been recognized since at least the 5th century BC, when Herodotus described the Scythians who lived there as barbarians who drank wine from gilded skulls, burned lots of cannabis, and feted Greeks who arrived on their territory with pomp and sacrifice. What the Greek historian could not have foreseen is that an invader from the east would seize the Black Sea peninsula 2,400 years later, dig everything up, and claim for itself the historical legacies of all who came before.

6 July 2021

The Moscow Times: Russian security forces said on Tuesday they had detained Estonia’s consul to St. Petersburg for allegedly receiving classified documents, the latest in a series of espionage cases between Moscow and the West. The FSB security service said consul Mart Latte was “caught red-handed while receiving classified documents from a Russian national” and detained for activities “incompatible with the status of a diplomatic worker” and “openly hostile” to Russia. “Measures will be taken against the foreign diplomat in accordance with the rules of international law,” said the statement.

RFE/RL: Estonia says Russia’s detention of its consul in St. Petersburg was a “setup” and “provocation.” Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on July 6 that it had detained the consul after allegedly catching him receiving classified documents. The FSB claimed the activities of Consul Mart Latte were “incompatible with the status of a diplomatic worker and are openly hostile to Russia.”

The Moscow Times: Russian doctors are refusing to vaccinate people living with HIV against the coronavirus despite data showing them to be safe for immunocompromised people, a Russian AIDS NGO said Tuesday. Thirty out of 700 people with HIV at a Moscow AIDS prevention and control center were refused Covid-19 vaccination by a single doctor in June, according to AIDS.Center nonprofit director Sergei Abdurakhmanov’s estimates.

The Moscow Times: It’s an overcast Sunday morning in July, and on the fortieth floor of a plush Moscow skyscraper Russia’s last liberal party is gathering for its annual congress. Beside the stage, a string quartet is playing, but the Yabloko party delegates — some ageing and well-heeled, some younger and edgier — have one thing on their minds: September’s high-stakes elections to the State Duma, Russia’s national parliament. “These elections will determine the course of Russia’s future for decades,” said Kirill Goncharov, the twenty-six-year-old deputy head of Yabloko’s Moscow branch, and candidate for an opposition-leaning district in the Russian capital.

7 July 2021

The Moscow Times: A U.S. passport holder was detained in Moscow alongside a veteran Belarusian opposition leader three months ago and spirited away to Minsk to face charges of attempting a coup, CNN reported Tuesday. Belarusian-American lawyer Yuras Zyankovich was detained by Russia’s FSB security agency in April while having lunch at a Moscow restaurant with Alexander Feduta, the former spokesman-turned-critic of Belarus’s leader. 

RFE/RL: Local media say former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan’s legal team will request his transfer from a Russian prison to the U.S. to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Whelan, 50, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in May 2020 following a trial that was condemned by the United States as a “mockery of justice.”

RFE/RL: An Estonian-based website about the Mari and Finno-Ugric peoples says it has been blocked by Russia’s telecommunications watchdog for its content on a scholar who lit himself on fire to protest a government move to cancel mandatory Udmurt language classes. MariUver said on its Facebook page on July 7 that Roskomnadzor had blocked its website because Mari activists “honored” Albert Razin, saying postings contained information about how to commit suicide.

8 July 2021

The Moscow Times: A Russian court has banned the distribution of adult cartoon “Happy Tree Friends” and several other animated films within the country, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Thursday.  Court-appointed experts determined that “Happy Tree Friends,” which is about three cartoon forest animals that die in graphically violent ways every episode, “contains elements of cruelty” and “is designed in a style common for American animation,” RIA Novosti reported.

The Moscow Times: Russia must prepare for major revenue losses brought by a global push toward renewable energy and subsequent fall in demand for fossil fuels, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov warned in an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday. The rising share of renewables in the global energy market and carbon pricing measures could lead to “radical changes in the global energy balance,” Siluanov said, citing Finance Ministry models. 

9 July 2021

The Moscow Times: Wildfires ravaging northeastern Siberia have spread by nearly 70,000 hectares in the past day, marking a 17.5% increase in a single day, the Kommersant business daily reported Friday, citing the regional emergencies ministry. Some 400,000 hectares of forest are now burning in Russia’s republic of Sakha.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s Interior Ministry has prepared a bill calling for major changes in how residence permits are issued to migrant workers. The bill, which is still in development, would replace the existing system of three-year temporary residence permits with a three-tier scheme. It would allow foreign citizens to receive permits for short-term (less than 90 days in one calendar year), long-term (over 90 days in one calendar year without the right to permanent residency), or permanent residency. 

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