Person of the Week

Person of the Week: Ilya Novikov

posted 3 Jul 2017, 06:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Jul 2017, 06:11 ]

Photo: RFE/RL

On 29 June 2017 Ilya Novikov, a deputy head of the Open Russia civic movement and head of the organization's office in Tatarstan, announced that he had “temporarily” left Russia to avoid what he called “persecutions.” As 
RFE/RL reported, Novikov described the threat he considers he faces in Russia as “large-scale persecutions against those engaged in any political action” that included “constant attempts by police to conduct searches” at his workplace. RFE/RL reported that Novikov said the authorities were trying to punish him for his political activities and prevent him from criticizing the government. 

On 26 April 2017, the Prosecutor-General's Office declared that three NGOs founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos who now lives in the UK, had been designated as “undesirable foreign organizations.” Amnesty International described the development as "the latest [steps] in a longstanding crackdown on civil society." The three organizations were: Open Russia Civic Movement, Open Russia (UK), OR (Otkrytaya Rossia) (UK) and Institute of Modern Russia (USA). The next day, an estimated 25 riot police raided the Moscow offices of Open Russia. The same day (28 April 2017) Ilya Novikov was sentenced to five days in jail for calling on people to take part in a demonstration on 29 April which did not have official permission, under the slogan 'We've had enough.' 

Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International Russia, commented on the banning of the Open Russia organizations: "These aren’t the first organizations banned in Russia as ‘undesirable’, but it’s the first time the authorities ban a civil society group that was founded by Russians and operates only in Russia. Since its creation, Open Russia has done a lot to support victims of human rights violations in Russia and denounce Russia’s deplorable human rights record, and now itself has fallen victim to the system.” 
'Open Russia Deputy Head Leaves Country, Citing Police Pressure,' RFE/RL, 30 June 2017
'Russian authorities ban Khodorkovsky’s organization Open Russia as "undesirable",' Amnesty International, 26 April 2017
'Police Raid Open Russia Moscow Headquarters,' Khodorkovsky, 27 April 2017
'Head of Open Russia office arrested in Kazan,' Crime Russia, 28 April 2017

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep Rights in Russia alive. To donate, see HERE

Person of the Week: Denis Bakholdin

posted 26 Jun 2017, 10:11 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jun 2017, 11:00 ]

On 21 June 2017, the website Human Rights in Ukraine published an article by Halya Coynash highlighting the plight of the Moscow activist Denis Bakholdin.  As Halya Coynash reports, Denis Bakholdin had been living in Kiyv since the end of 2014. In Moscow he had been a participant in a number of protests against war in Ukraine and in support of political prisoners. He was detained on a number of occasions. He was jailed for 10 days after taking part in an anti-war protest on 4 March, 2014, shortly after Russia invaded Crimea. In October 2014 he was detained in central Moscow wearing a mask similar to President Putin, wearing striped prison clothes and carrying a placard that read 'war criminal’ [for which he was not charged]. 

According to Denis Bakholdin's mother, Nadezhda Bakholdina, she was officially told on 17 March 2017 that her son had been arrested in Russia 'while trying to illegally cross the Russian-Ukrainian border.' He is now being held in a pre-trial detention centre in Bryansk. According to Human Rights in Ukraine, the lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina has said that Denis Bakholdin has been charged with 'involvement in an extremist society (under Article 282.1 § 2 of the Russian criminal code).'  Nadezhda Bakholdina has said that Denis was subjected to torture after he was detained: 'She has only recently, on June 5, been allowed to see her son , who told her that he had been chained with handcuffs to a radiator, beaten and kicked to get him to "confess" to being a member of Right Sector.' Halya Coynash also reports that Nadezhda Bakholdina says her home was searched by FSB agents at the end of May 'and the hard drive from her computer taken away.'
Photo of Denis Bakholdin: Human Rights in Ukraine

Halya Coynash, 'Putin critic living in Ukraine seized, tortured and jailed in Russia,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 21 June 2017

e are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep Rights in Russia alive. To donate, see HERE

Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny

posted 19 Jun 2017, 08:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jun 2017, 09:02 ]

On 12 June 2017 anti-corruption protests took place in cities across Russia that were initiated by opposition activist and politician Aleksei Navalny. That very day, Aleksei Navalny was arrested outside his home in Moscow before the demonstration started. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail for staging rallies that did not have official permission (a term of 'administrative detention' later reduced to 25 days by a court on the grounds Navalny had two children and needed medical treatment for his eye). OVD-Info reported that at least 1720 people were detained at the protests, including at least 866 in Moscow and 658 people in St. Petersburg. The USA, the EU and international human rights organizations condemned the arrests. Amnesty International said protesters were subjected to cruel and degrading treatment. 

Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said: “The Russian authorities have used mass detentions as a tactic to crush peaceful protests. But the reprisals haven’t stopped there. Hundreds of peaceful protesters in Moscow and St Petersburg were locked up in police stations overnight, in plainly degrading conditions, crowded cells with little or no food, bedding or easy access to sanitation. We have received numerous reports of people piled on top of one another in police stations, where police dealing with extreme backlogs in processing cases forced them to stay overnight on the floor or even on the street while in police custody. It is an outrage for anybody to be detained and subjected to these inhumane conditions, let alone detained simply for peacefully expressing their views. It appears the authorities in Russia wanted to send a further message by making these detentions slow, humiliating and painful. The Russian authorities must stop detaining peaceful protesters, whose only ‘crime’ was to irk those in power. If there are any case where protesters are arrested for an internationally recognizable offence, they must be treated in a humane manner,”

Meanwhile, on 15 June, Vladislav Zdolnikov and Aleksandr Brusentsev, two staff members from the Anticorruption Foundation headed by Navalny, fled to Ukraine after Roskomnadzor, the government media regulator, launched investigations against them. In further developments that may well be related given the lack of independence of the courts in Russia, on 14 June a court in Orel region court turned down a request by Oleg Navalny, the brother of Aleksei Navalny, to mitigate his sentence, on the grounds that Oleg Navalny had not shown 'law-abiding behaviour.' In an additional blow to Navalny, who seeks to be a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections, on 15 June Ella Pamfilova, head of the federal Electoral Commission, said Aleksei Navalny was almost certain to be barred from the election on the grounds of his criminal conviction - a conviction Navalny contends was politically motivated.

Photo: Wikipedia

'Russia: Police humiliate and mistreat hundreds of detained peaceful protesters,' Amnesty International, 14 June 2017
'1,700 people detained at Russia’s anti-corruption protests [OVD-Info],' Rights in Russia, 16 June 2017
'Russia Criticized For Detaining More Than 1,500 Anticorruption Protesters,' RFE/RL, 13 June 2017
'Russia protests: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny sentenced,' BBC, 12 June 2017
'Moscow Court Cuts Navalny's 30-Day Jail Term To 25,' RFE/RL, 16 June 2017
Two Russian Opposition Activists Flee To Ukraine, RFE/RL, 16 June 2017
'Russian Court Turns Down Request Of Navalny's Jailed Brother To Mitigate Sentence,' RFE/RL, 14 June 2017
Russian Elections Chief Says 'Practically No Chance' Navalny Can Get On Presidential Ballot,' RFE/RL, 15 June 2017

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep Rights in Russia alive. To donate, see HERE

Person of the Week: Murad Amriev

posted 12 Jun 2017, 09:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Jun 2017, 09:57 ]

On 8 June 2017 Belarusian authorities sent Murad Amriev [Amriyev], wanted in Chechnya with regard to a false documents allegation, to Russia despite concerns he could be tortured or killed. As RFE/RL reported, Amriev's family pleaded desperately for him not to be returned, while human rights activists stated that he could be tortured or killed by Chechen law-enforcement authorities. Amnesty International issued a statement that said: "The Russian authorities must immediately release Chechen torture survivor Murad Amriev, and under no circumstances place his life at further risk by handing him over to the Chechen authorities." Heather McGill, Russia researcher at Amnesty International, said: “The story of Murad Amriev reads like a thriller, but it is real and his life is at stake. He was ‘handed over’ to the Russian authorities early this morning in what amounts to an unlawful rendition after he attempted to seek asylum in Belarus. Under no circumstances should the federal authorities of Russia deliver him into the hands of Chechen law enforcement officers, which could put him at risk of torture or death.” 

On 8 June the European Court of Human Rights asked Russia about measures it planned to take to prevent violence against Murad Amriev. On 8 June the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, a human rights group based in Nizhny Novgorod that has done a great deal of work in Chechnya, told Caucasian Knot that it had received a second letter from the European Court of Human Rights in which the Court "further requests Russia to answer questions about whether the Russian authorities made a formal request for the extradition of Murad Amriev from Belarus, and if so, on what grounds, and whether the athlete will be detained in Russia, and if so, where he will be kept and on what grounds." In addition, "taking into account the Murad Amriev's complaints about torture and kidnapping, the ECtHR has also requested Russia answer what measures the authorities plan to take in order to prevent a repetition of the risk of torture and kidnapping. The Russian government is to respond to the ECtHR by 5 July." On 9 June, Caucasian Knot reported that family members of Murad Amriev had left Chechnya for security reasons.

However, the Belarus authorities did release Amriev to the Russian authorities. On 9 June the Chechnya branch of the Russian Interior Ministry said Murad Amriev was "being escorted to the region by security forces for questioning in connection with a false-documents allegation," RFE/RL reported. Amnesty International subsequently stated that Murad Amriev had been "handed over to Russian law enforcement officers at 3am on 9 June after having been returned from Belarus where he unsuccessfully attempted to claim asylum. He has been released on bail on condition that he does not leave Chechnya."

Amnesty International describe the background to the case of Murad Amriev as follows: "Murad Amriev, a World Mixed Martial Arts Champion, fled Chechnya for Ukraine in 2013 after being tortured and lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights with the assistance of the Russian NGO Committee for the Prevention of Torture. On 4 June he was travelling to Russia to apply for a Shengen visa when he was taken off a train by transport police in Bryansk region, south west of Moscow. He was detained for 48 hours before being released on 6 June. A group of Chechen police officers had arrived to escort him, but according to a lawyer for the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Murad Amriev was not handed over to them because of missing documentation. Murad Amriev told his lawyer that he recognized one of the police officers who had tortured him among the officers who intended to escort him to Chechnya. On the 6 June after being released, Murad Amriev went to the Prosecutor’s Office in Bryansk to complete some formalities and the Chechen officers followed him and waited outside the building insisting on escorting him. Murad Amriev’s friends arrived in a car and he was able to evade the Chechen police officers and drive off. On 7 June he was detained while crossing the Russian Belarusian border and held in Dobrush police station in Belarus until the morning of 9 June when he was handed back to Russian law enforcement officers. Amnesty International will be monitoring the situation and will take action in future if required." 

'Belarus Sends Chechen Man Back To Russia Despite Fears For His Life,' RFE/RL, 9 June 2017
'Russia: Handover of Chechen torture survivor would put him at further risk of torture or death,' Amnesty International, 9 June 2017
'ECtHR asks Russia to clarify its position in Murad Amriev's case,' Caucasian Knot, 9 June 2017
'Murad Amriev's family members leave Chechnya for security reasons,' Caucasian Knot, 9 June 2017

Person of the Week: Aleksei Moroshkin

posted 5 Jun 2017, 06:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Jun 2017, 06:49 ]

On 1 June 2017 a district court in Chelyabinsk ruled that Aleksei Moroshkin must be released from a psychiatric hospital, where he has been held since 2015 for inciting ‘separatism’ online,
RFE/RL has reported. Aleksei Moroshkin was forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital after a court in Chelyabinsk found him guilty of violations of the territorial integrity of Russia on the Internet on 19 November 2015 (Article 280.1, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). The judge ruled that Moroshkin should be subject to compulsory detention in a psychiatric hospital, despite the factx that Moroshkin’s family and defence said he was in absolutely good health. 

The court found that Moroshkin, creator of an online group in VKontakte titled ‘For a battling Ukraine! For a free Urals!’, had made calls to establish a 'Urals People'e Republic' that were in break of Article 280.1, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code. RFE/RL notes that the statements Moroshkin published online resembled in many ways the calls by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine who supported the creation of the so-called 'people's republics' of Donetsk and Lugansk. However, under the above law, calls for what may be termed 'separatism' are illegal in Russia. RFE/RL quotes Moroshkin's lawyer, Andrei Lepekhin, as saying that on 1 June 2017 a district court in the city of Chelyabinsk ruled that Moroshkin should  be released on the grounds that he did not pose a threat to society. According to Lepekhin, Moroshkin should be released 10 days after the ruling has  been made public.  

Memorial Human Rights Centre declared Aleksei Moroshkin to be a political prisoner. In a statement, Memorial Human Rights Centre said: 'In our view, Article 280.1 (public incitement to actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of Russia) of the Russian Criminal Code contradicts the Russian Constitution and international human rights treaties. We consider it impermissible to criminalize manifestations of separatism not related to violence or its propaganda, but that only lead to theoretical discussions about whether regions should be allowed to separate from the country. The statements by Aleksei Moroshkin on the creation of a Urals Republic did not contain any calls for the forcible violation of the territorial integrity of Russia. Like similar posts on the Internet in other regions (about the Kuban People’s Republic, Ingria and others), they were to a significant degree a kind of journalistic reaction to the creation of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ (DNR) and the ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ (LNR) in the east of Ukraine. It should be noted that Rafis Kashapov in Tatarstan and Darya Poliudova in Krasnodar region have already been sentenced under the same article to terms in prison, and recognized by Memorial Human Rights Centre as political prisoners. Neither in the materials of the criminal case, nor in the court’s judgment, is there in our view any evidence that Aleksei Moroshkin represents a public danger of the kind that would necessitate him being isolated from society in a clinic of a closed kind. We consider his detention to be unlawful.' 

Memorial went on to say that it believed Aleksei Moroshkin had been prosecuted for his civil society opposition activity and for speaking out against the hybrid war of Russia against Ukraine: 'For example, in the court’s judgment, as evidence of his guilt reference is made to the testimony of the witness V. Smirnov who was "upset" that Moroshkin "urges people to protest against the lawful authorities and is trying to put the blame for events in the east of Ukraine on the current leadership of our country."’ 

Memorial also made the point that 'The fact that opposition views have been found by psychiatrists to be "schizophrenic reformist nonsense" and served as the basis for the decision to subject the civil society activist to forcible treatment, directly returns us to the Soviet regime’s methods of fighting against dissidents.' 

It should be noted that Aleksei Moroshkin has also been charged with painting (in 2015) a bust of Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, in the colours of the Ukrainian flag (vandalism – Article 214, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). On this point, Memorial stated: 'Independently of whatever decision the court takes, we consider a criminal prosecution for painting a memorial to be disproportionate. Such a violation of the law contains no element of violence, and therefore, in our view, should be considered an administrative offence.' 

Photo Of Aleksei Moroshkin: RFE/RL

'Court Orders Release Of Russian Activist From Psychiatric Clinic,' RFE/RL, 1 June 2017
'Memorial recognizes "Urals separatist" Aleksei Moroshkin as a political prisoner,' Memorial Human Rights Centre, 11 July 2016 [see Rights in Russia for an English version]

Person of the Week: Emil Kurbedinov

posted 29 May 2017, 01:17 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 May 2017, 01:23 ]

On 26 May 2017 human rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, who works in Crimea, won Front Line Defenders' 2017 award for human rights defenders at risk. In the announcement, Front Line Defenders, an Irish NGO which works for the security and protection of human rights defenders around the world, stated: "Since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, Emil has defended the persecuted Crimean Tatar minority, civil society activists and journalists. He also provides emergency response and documentation of rights violations during raids and searches of activists’ homes. In January 2017, Emil was on his way to the house of an activist that had been raided, when masked representatives from Crimea's Centre for Counteracting Extremism detained him and took him to a local directorate of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) for interrogation. A district court found him guilty of 'propagandising for extremist organisations' and sentenced him to ten days in detention." 

As Front Line Defenders reports, in his acceptance speech, Emil Kurbedinov said: "When we defend political prisoners and persecuted activists, we are going against a system in which there’s no hope of a fair trial. Winning an acquittal for my clients is almost impossible – but what I can do is show them that despite the risks, I will not abandon them."

Halya Coynash, writing on the website Human Rights in Ukraine, commenting on the award, wrote: "The honour is truly well-deserved, although Emil himself considers it recognition of the work done by all lawyers and human rights defenders in Crimea. [...] It would be hard to over-state the vital role Emil Kurbedinov has played since Russia’s invasion of Crimea. He is acting for defendants in virtually all of the ever-increasing number of politically motivated prosecutions in Crimea [...]. On January 26 this year, Kurbedinov was detained while he and fellow rights lawyer Edem Semedlyaev were driving to the home of a Crimean Tatar activist, Seiran Saliev, where a search was underway. The actions that followed were of breath-taking lawlessness. Armed and masked spetsnaz officers turned up at Kurbedinov’s home. They refused at first to allow a lawyer in and also tried to prevent Kurbedinov’s mother from taking his small son and daughter away. A search was also carried out of the offices that Kurbedinov and Semedlyaev share, and computers containing confidential documents about their clients were removed. Kurbedinov was first taken to the so-called Centre for Countering Extremism, and then to a ‘court hearing’ where judge Tatyana Belnichuk sentenced him to 10 days’ imprisonment for a video clip (of a peaceful meeting of an organization which is legal in Ukraine) posted on a social network page on June 6, 2013, almost a year before Russia’s invasion. The wife of one political prisoner wrote that it was Emil they all turn to in the first instance, and by imprisoning him, the occupation regime were depriving many of defence. [...] Writing from Dublin on Friday, Emil once against stressed“This is an award for those who have come out in defence of persecuted Crimean Tatars, Crimean Muslims, civic activists and the political prisoners themselves. How much work there is ahead of us, yet how happy I am that I am not alone…Thank you.”

Photo: Front Line Defenders

Halya Coynash, 'Crimean Tatar rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov wins major human rights award,'
 Human Rights in Ukraine, 26 May 2017
'Crimean Tatar Activist Wins 2017 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk,' Front Line Defenders, 26 May 2017
'Emil Kurbedinov, HRD and Lawyer,' Front Line Defenders, 26 January 2017
'Person of the Week: Emil Kurbedinov,' Rights in Russia, 30 January 2017

Person of the Week: Yevhen Hrytsyak

posted 22 May 2017, 08:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2017, 08:04 ]

On 14 May 2017 Yevhen Hrytsyak, a leader of the 1953 Norilsk Gulag uprising, died in the region of Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine aged 90. As RFE/RL reported, Yevhen Hrytsyak was one of the leaders of the major protests by thousands of inmates of the Soviet Gulag prison-camp system that took place at labour camps near the city of Norilsk, 400 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, in 1953. The uprising began on 26 May 1953 and lasted until 4 August 1953. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called Hrytsyak "one of fearless leaders of political prisoners, who stood against Gulag system."

Photo: Human Rights in Ukraine

Halya Coynash, in a contribution to the website Human Rights in Ukraine, writes: 

"Yevhen Hrytsyak was born in the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast in 1926. During the period of Nazi occupation, as a student at a trade college, he joined a youth section of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists [OUN] which was training young men to fight the Nazis. He was mobilized into the Soviet Army in 1944, and served in the Fourth Ukrainian Front, for which he received several military awards.

"He was, nonetheless, arrested in 1949 because of his brief involvement at the age of 16 and 17 in OUN, and sentenced to 25 years’ labour camp. He was held in various political labour camps, including Norilsk, where some 70% of the prisoners were from Ukraine.

"It was at the Norilsk Labour Camp in May 1953 that one of the main uprisings in the GULAG began. Hrytsyak led the revolt in one of the blocks against the brutality and appalling conditions. The prisoners demanded an end to summary executions; a shortening of the working day to 8 hours; the right to correspond with their families; the transfer of disabled prisoners; and numerous other similar demands. Hrytsyak was one of the people who presented the demands to a commission which arrived from Moscow after the prisoners held firm and refused to give in. Only a very small number of demands were met, while the prison authorities also resorted to provocation, and the uprising continued. It was finally brutally crushed, but only in August 1953, after the prisoners had held out for 69 days.

"Hrytsyak himself was sent first to the Norilsk and then Vladimir prison, where conditions were even worse.

"He was released in 1956, following a decision of the Supreme Soviet Presidium, but was then arrested again in January 1958, with the same Supreme Soviet having decided that he should not have been released “due to the seriousness of the crime”.

"Hrytsyak demanded to know what this supposed crime had consisted of, but was simply told that he had been arrested on good grounds. In 1961, he wrote a letter of protest to the Communist Central Committee over the repressive measures he was being subjected to because of his role as one of the leaders of the Norilsk Uprising. He explained the conditions and treatment prisoners had received.

"He was finally released in 1964 and returned to his home village. He married and had one daughter."

'Leader Of 1953 Soviet Gulag Uprising Dies In Ukraine At 90,' RFE/RL, 15 May 2017
Halya Coynash, 'In Memoriam: Yevhen Hrytsyak, Leader of the Norilsk Uprising,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 15 May 2017

Person of the Week: Ildar Dadin

posted 15 May 2017, 07:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 May 2017, 07:19 ]

On 12 May 2017 at least 11 activists, including Ildar Dadin, were detained on Moscow's Red Square as they read aloud from the Russian constitution. As RFE/RL reported, citing the website of OVD-Info, the activists were taken to a nearby police station. As of the time of the report, it was unclear whether those detained would face charges. Ildar Dadin, whom RFE/RL notes is the 'only person in Russia to have served prison time for contravening a tough law clamping down on protests in the country,' was reported by TASS as saying: "A police officer approached us and warned us that if we don't leave, they will detain us. Ten minutes later police detained us." The incident highlights not only the repressive nature of Russian law and law enforcement in relation to the right of public assembly, but also the outstanding courage of those, such as Ildar Dadin and his colleagues, who time and again are prepared to contest these restrictions by peaceful means. 

Ildar Dadin was convicted and sentenced to prison in December 2015 under a controversial law that criminalizes repeat violations of Russia's draconian laws on public assembly. He was released on 26 February 2017. While in prison, Ildar Dadin alleged that he had been subjected to torture at the prison colony in Karelia where he was held.

'At Least 11 Russian Activists Said Detained On Moscow's Red Square,' RFE/RL, 12 May 2017

Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny

posted 8 May 2017, 07:46 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 May 2017, 08:06 ]

On 29 April 2017 REN-TV released footage of the attack that had taken place on 27 April on Aleksei Navalny, a prominent leader of the political opposition and anti-corruption activist, outside the office of the Anti-Corruption Foundation which he heads. As The Moscow Times reported, the video had evidently been "filmed by someone who may have known about it in advance." The paper noted that on 1 May 2017, "Navalny supporter Eugene Bryzgalin revealed that Ren-TV’s website actually contained another three versions of the same video clip, including one version that revealed the face of the second man in the footage. Bloggers later identified the second man as Alexei Kulakov, a member of the radical pro-Kremlin movement 'SERB'." 

On 2 May, Halya Coynash, writing on the website Human Rights in Ukraine noted that a man reportedly responsible for the attack on Navalny was said to be Aleksandr Petrunko, who had led pro-Russian activists in an attempt to seize control in Kharkiv, Ukraine in 2014. That day Aleksei Navalny announced he was filing an official complaint against police for failing to investigate the attack on him. As RFE/RL reports, Navalny wrote that he had lost 80% of the vision in his right eye as a result of the green antiseptic thrown in his face - a liquid which possibly also contained other harmful chemicals. Navalny also alleged that the attacker was Aleksandr Petrunko who was helped, Navalny alleged, by one Aleksei Kulakov, a police officer in civilian clothes. On 5 May, reports said Igor Beketov, leader of the radical pro-Kremlin South East Radical Block (SERB), said police plan to question him and his colleagues over the attack on Navalny.

On 3 May Kirov Regional Court upheld an embezzlement verdict against Aleksei Navalny and his co-defendant, Petr Ofitserov. The ruling means that Navalny will not be able to stand as a candidate in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections. As RFE/RL reports, Navalny and Ofitserov were convicted in 2013 of large-scale embezzlement from a state timber company, Kirovles. They both received suspended sentences of five and four years respectively and both were fined 500,000 roubles each. The retrial came about after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2016 that the 2013 legal proceedings had not been a fair trial. The ECtHR called the actions of the two men 'indistinguishable from regular commercial activity.' However, in the retrial the two were again convicted.

On 4 May, as The New York Times reported, Navalny said the authorities were preventing him from travelling abroad for medical care for his damaged eye. However, on 7 May it was reported that Navalny had left Russia for treatment in Barcelona.

Photo: RFE/RL

'Navalny's Supporters Track Down His Attackers, as Police Dawdle,' The Moscow Times, 1 May 2017
Halya Coynash, 'Navalny attacker led 2014 attempt to repeat Donbas seizure of power in Kharkiv,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 2 May 2017
'Navalny Accuses Police Of Failing To Investigate Attack,' RFE/RL, 2 May 2017
'Russian Court Upholds Navalny's Latest Embezzlement Verdict,' RFE/RL, 3 May 2017
Reuters, 'Kremlin Critic Navalny Says Russia Stops Him Traveling Abroad,' The New York Times, 4 May 2017
Carl Schreck, 'Russian Police Probe Radical Pro-Kremlin Group Over Navalny Attack,' RFE/RL, 5 May 2017
'Russian Activist Navalny Reportedly On Plane To Barcelona For Eye Treatment,' RFE/RL, 7 May 2017

Person of the Week: Ilya Varlamov

posted 1 May 2017, 09:39 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 May 2017, 11:13 ]

On 26 April 2017 the well-known photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov was attacked shortly after arriving in Stavropol  by unidentified people with green antiseptic. Caucasian Knot has reported that Varlamov, who is one of the organizers of the "City Projects", an NGO that works on urban issues, wrote in his blog about the attack: "I left the airport. Outside, there was a group of people with flowers and some other guys. I did not even understand what happened. Some people immediately attacked me, poured brilliant green, iodine and something else incomprehensible into my eyes... They did not say anything, they just once shouted: 'Go to your America!', and then they ran away." Varlamov recounted that the incident occurred in front of police officers: "The policemen were very surprised and said that they had such an incident for the first time and that they announced the plan for 'interception' of the criminals... I am going to the OVD (Interior Division) now, and I will file a complaint, since they have spoiled my equipment." A video of the attack can be seen on Varlamov's blogCaucasian Knot also reports that later Varlamov said the same people again poured green antiseptic on him and rammed his car: "The man to whom I talked near the housing complex 'Perspektyvny' (just before the attack) was identified as a deputy of the Stavropol City Duma." 

A number of civil society activists have recently fallen victim to similar attacks. On 27 April 2017, and for the second time in recent months, opposition leader Aleksei Navalny was victim of an almost identical attack in Moscow as he got into his car. There are concerns his eyesight may be permanently damaged. On 28 April 2017 Natalya Fedorova, a Yabloko activist who has campaigned against the Moscow government's housing policy, was hospitalized, The Moscow Times reported, after an attacker threw a chemical in her eyes. On the morning of 26 April, Galina Sidorova, a staff member of the School for Investigative Journalism, had had a jar of green antiseptic thrown at her back in Yoshkar-Ola, where her organization was about to conduct one of its regular training seminars. Reflecting on the attack on her, Galina Sidorova said:

"I think our intelligence agencies have been keeping a close eye on us for a few years now. In any case, after the aggression began in Ukraine, this kind of pressure was clearly stepped up in various ways. So all these incidents, these forms of intimidation that are going on, they’re all happening with the full knowledge of the Moscow authorities, primarily Russia’s intelligence agencies. Because judging by the fact that these people know where to find us, our telephones are being tapped and we are evidently under surveillance. And this comes as absolutely no surprise to us. It just proves, yet again, what is happening in our country right now to our independent press, to civil society and to the opposition. It’s all just links in the same chain.”

Photo of Ilya Varlamov: Caucasian Knot

Ilya Varlamov, 'Как на меня в Ставрополе бандиты напали: все подробности и лица!,' LiveJournal, 27 April 2017
'In Stavropol, unidentified peoples attack blogger Ilya Varlamov,' Caucasian Knot, 27 April 2017
'Ilya Varlamov identifies deputy of Stavropol City Duma among attackers,' Caucasian Knot, 27 April 2017
Shaun Walker, 'Alexei Navalny on Putin's Russia: "All autocratic regimes come to an end",' The Guardian, 29 April 2017
'В Йошкар-Оле напали на журналиста "Школы расследований",' Radio Svoboda, 27 April 2017
'Staff member from School of Investigative Journalism attacked in Yoshkar-Ola. "The situation is becoming ever more insane and the level of repression ever harsher" [Radio Svoboda],' Rights in Russia, 27 April 2017
Matthew Kupfer, 'Someone Is Blinding Russian Opposition Activists With Chemicals,' The Moscow Times, 1 May 2017]

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