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January 2012

On 5/1 Vladimir Churov, head of the Central Election Commission, rejected protesters’ demands to step down. On 12/1 the OSCE in a report said the 4/12 State Duma elections had failed to meet democratic standards. On 12/1 PM Vladimir Putin said he would not take part in presidential election debates because he had no free time. On 23/1 a report by the PACE said Russia is technically capable of organizing fair elections but so far lacks the political will. On 24/1 Liliya Shabanova, director of independent election monitor Golos, said her staff had been forced to leave their offices in central Moscow. Golos said it plans to deploy 2,000 observers during the presidential election and launched its map of election violations on schedule. On 26/1 head of the OSCE observer mission said Putin's promise to equip polling stations with web cameras did not remove the need for election observers. On 27/1 the Central Election Commission disqualified Grigory Yavlinsky of the Yabloko party from running in the presidential election. On 30/1 Golos said Putin had illegally begun campaigning before the official start of the election campaign. On 31/1 the Central Election Commission said articles by Putin in three newspapers were not part of his campaign.

Protest movement 
On 10/1 opposition groups said they would hold a rally on 4/2 against electoral fraud (on 25/1 Moscow City Hall agreed to permit a rally that day for up to 50,000 people). On 16/1 a League of Voters was founded by 16 individuals including journalist Leonid Parfenov, singer Yury Shevchuk and writer Boris Akunin (on 18/1 PM Vladimir Putin suggested Akunin had joined the oppositionist because of his Georgian heritage).

On 4/1 Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front movement (in detention since 4/12) and activist Yaroslav Nikitenko (who served a 10-day sentence for demonstrating in support of Udaltsov) were released from prison. On 7/1 Moscow's Tverskoi court ruled Udaltsov’s imprisonment had been lawful. On 14/1 Moscow police detained two Yabloko party officials after a rally against election fraud. On 19/1 hundreds marched in central Moscow in memory of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, gunned down in Moscow in 2009. On 20/1 police detained all eight members of an all-female singing group, Pussy Riot, who sang an anti-Putin song on Red Square.

North Caucasus 
On 8/1 four Russian security personnel and at least three militants were killed in clashes in Chechnya. On 18/1 Igor Kalyapin, head of the NGO Committee Against Torture, was officially told the head of the Chechen special OMON police units had requested he be investigated for “disclosure of state secrets”. On 20/1 law enforcement officers reportedly shot dead Umar Saidmagomedov, a lawyer, and local resident Rasul Kurbanov, in Makhachkala, Dagestan. On the night of 21/1 Igor Kalyapin’s colleague, the lawyer Anton Ryzhov, was detained for some hours by police on his return to Nizhny Novgorod from Chechnya. On 27/1 officials said a rebel leader, seven militants, four officers and one civilian were killed that day in three separate incidents in the North Caucasus.

Freedom of expression 
On 16/1 Chelyabinsk region Investigative Committee halted the prosecution of blogger Andrei Ermolenko for lack of evidence (experts had found that officials and deputies of legislative assemblies did not constitute social groups). On 19/1 investigators in the Urals Federal District said they had filed extremism charges against Vladimir Efimov, editor of the Vechernyaya Tyumen weekly, accusing him of inciting hatred against police officers. On 20/1 charges were dropped against Oleg Orlov, head of Memorial Rights Centre, for alleged slander of Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya. On 25/1 the international media rights group Reporters Without Borders downgraded Russia in its annual Press Freedom Index to 142nd from 140th place.
Rights in Russia,
11 Feb 2012, 07:45