Person of the Week

Person of the Week: Elena Milashina

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

On 15 April 2017 in an interview with The Washington Post Novaya gazeta journalist Elena Milashina said she had left Moscow because of threats made against Novaya gazeta staff following her reports on the persecution of gay men in Chechnya. Adam Taylor, writing in The Washington Post, reported: "This backlash had been sparked by an April 1 story from reporter Elena Milashina and her colleague Irina Gordienko. In March, Milashina had discovered evidence that gay men were being detained, tortured and even killed in an anti-homosexual purge in Chechnya. After spending weeks checking the story with her sources, Milashina says they could confirm that hundreds of people had been detained; at least three are now thought to have died." 

The Committee to Protect Journalists, on 17 April 2017, issued the following a statement calling on the Russian authorities to "immediately and thoroughly investigate threats made against Elena Milashina." Nina Ognianova, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, said: "We call on Russian authorities to act swiftly, decisively, and effectively to rein in all those responsible for threatening Elena Milashina and other Novaya Gazeta journalists for the newspaper's work. No journalist should be compelled to leave her home for doing her job because security forces are not doing theirs."

Elena Milashina is an investigative journalist for the Moscow-based Novaya gazeta newspaper. In October 2009 she was awarded Human Rights Watch's Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism; in she received the International Women of Courage Award.

Photo: Wikipedia [via State Department/Public Domain]

Adam Taylor, 'She broke the story of Chechnya’s anti-gay purge. Now, she says she has to flee Russia,' The Washington Post, 15 April 2017
'Russian journalist flees Moscow following threats,' Committee for the Protection of Journalists, 17 April 2017
'Elena Milashina,' Wikipedia

Person of the Week: Vyacheslav Maltsev

posted 17 Apr 2017, 02:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Apr 2017, 02:58 ]

On 13 April 2017, opposition politician Vyacheslav Maltsev, who lives in Saratov, reportedly suffered a heart attack after police sawed through his apartment door in Saratov and arrested him in front of his family, The Moscow Times reported. Vyacheslav Maltsev, who was a candidate for the State Duma in last year's September elections on the PARNAS party ticket, live-streamed the incident via his phone. Maltsev, who is 52 years-old, reportedly suffered a heart attack when he was taken by police him from his home to Saratov airport, where he was to be put on a plane to Moscow for interrogation. Meduza, citing Leonid Volkov, head of Aleksei Navalny's political campaign, said that, despite the heart attack, Maltsev was nonetheless taken on a stretcher on board the plane. The Moscow Times, citing TASS, reported that, while "officials haven't yet announced any formal charges," Maltsev is "eeportedly suspected of attacking a state employee during an anti-corruption demonstration in Moscow on March 26". 

Photo of Vyacheslav Maltsev: Wikipedia

'Russian Politician Suffers Heart Attack After Police Saw Through His Front Door,' The Moscow Times, 13 April 2017
'У Мальцева случился сердечный приступ после задержания,' Meduza, 13 April 2017
'Оппозиционер Мальцев задержан в рамках дела о применении насилия к представителю власти,' ТАСС, 13 April 2017
'Vyacheslav Maltsev films his arrest at his home in Saratov,' Youtube / RBC / ARTPODGOTOVKA, 13 April 2017

Person of the Week: Leonid Razvozzhayev

posted 10 Apr 2017, 09:43 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Apr 2017, 09:44 ]

On 7 April 2017 Leonid Razvozzhayev was released from a prison in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, after serving a 4 1/2-year sentence for allegedly organizing protest rallies in 2012, RFE/RL reported. RFE/RL notes that a Russian court had found Razvozzhayev "guilty of helping to organize a protest on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square in May 2012 and of attempts to organize similar rallies across Russia." Razvozzhayev has alleged that in 2012 he was abducted by Russian security agents whilst he was in Ukraine and taken to Russia where he was remanded in custody before being put on trial. For the next two years Leonid Razvozzhayev will be on probation, subject to monitoring by the police and will not be allowed to attend public gatherings or events. RFE/RL reports that Razvozzhayev told the publication "he does not yet know what he is going to do now but that he would like to contribute to the democratization of Russia and reforms in the country's corrections system."

Before his arrest, trial and imprisonment, Leonid Razvozzhayev was a member of the Left Front political grouping and an aide to the member of the State Duma Ilya Ponomarev.

Amnesty International has condemned the prosecution and subsequent conviction and imprisonment of participants in the 2012 Bolotnaya Square protest on a number of occasions. In a statement issued on 21 February 2014, John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, said: . “What happened on Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012 was not the quelling of a riot, but the crushing of a protest. The Bolotnaya trial has not exposed orchestrated violence, but rather a criminal justice system that is entirely malleable to the dictates of its political mastersю”

Photo of Leonid Razvozzhayev:

Russian Opposition Activist Released From Prison After Serving Term, RFE/RL, 7 April 2017
'Russia: Guilty verdict in Bolotnaya case - injustice at its most obvious,' Amnesty International, 21 February 2014
'Leonid Razvozzhayev,' Wikipedia

Person of the Week: Maksim Panfilov

posted 4 Apr 2017, 03:26 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Apr 2017, 03:27 ]

On 29 March 2017 Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky district court convicted Bolotnaya Square defendant Maksim Panfilov of offences under Section 2 of Article 212 (“Participation in Civil Unrest”) and Section 1 of Article 318 (“Use of Force against an Official”) of the Russian Criminal Code during the Bolotnaya Square protest on 6 May 2012. The court ruled that Maksim Panfilov should undergo compulsory psychiatric treatment as an in-patient, RAPSI reported. The ruling was in line with the prosecutor's demand; the defence had argued that out-patient treatment at his place of residence was adequate. 

On 7 April 2016 Maksim Panfilov had been detained in Astrakhan, where he lives, and charged with the above offences. On 8 April 2016 he was remanded in custody by the Basmanny district court in Moscow. The prosecution alleged that Maksim Panfilov had pulled a helmet from the head of a riot police officer's head on May 6, 2012. As RAPSI reports, 'Investigators claim that Panfilov suffers from chronic personality disorder.'

As has reported [citing Ка], in court Maksim Panfilov denied the charges. He stated that he had himself been a victim, since his rights were violated at the protest and he was guilty of no wrong-dong: “My rights were violated by the rigging of the elections. Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, on the right to peaceful protest without weapons, was violated during this very protest. Riot police began to constrict the crowd, they used special equipment, beat people with nightsticks, and sprayed some sort of caustic gas.” The prosecution claimed that riot police officer Filippov, whose helmet Panfilov had allegedly ripped off, had been hurt "due to the fact that Panfilov allegedly crushed the helmet forcefully with his hands." Panfilov said in response to the allegation: "I don’t deny that I took off Filippov’s helmet, but it was not fastened. When I took it off, I threw it aside. I did not crush the helmet, it’s steel, shockproof, I physically wouldn’t be able to do that. I acted this way to distract him, because he was twisting someone's arms, but he didn’t even pay attention to me. I took off his helmet and ran off to the side. I didn’t see anything else. I’m not even sure that it was Filippov; he didn’t even turn his head towards me.”  

Panfilov also complained that the police officers used force when detaining him: “They detained me very roughly, tearing my clothes. They tore off a piece of my turtleneck, they tore my coat, they hit my legs with a nightstick. I fell down, after which four riot officers took me by the limbs, another squeezed me around the neck, choked me, and carried me to a police van. There’s a picture of this on the internet. At the police station, they fined me for 'insubordination,’ I paid it, back in Astrakhan.” 

On 12 April 2016 Amnesty International issued a statement about the case of Maksim Panfilov in which it stated that it considers "the charges of participation in mass riot in connection with the Bolotnaya Square demonstration on 6 May 2012 to be politically motivated." Amnesty International expressed concern "that Maksim Panfilov’s right to a fair trial has been violated. He was denied a lawyer during the first crucial interrogation while in detention, and he has been remanded in custody without due consideration of alternative measures despite concerns for his health in violation of Russian law and international human rights law and standards. Furthermore, Maksim Panfilov has been deprived of his regular medication following his arrest, which may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." Amnesty International affirmed its view that "Most of the violence that occurred during the [Bolotnaya Square] protest [of 6 May 2012] was at the hands of the police who used excessive force against mostly peaceful protesters, or resulted from the failure of the police to effectively conduct those wishing to enter the square in accordance with arrangements previously agreed with the organisers. Nonetheless, not a single police officer has been investigated for abusive use of force." 

Bolotnaya case defendant Panfilov to undergo compulsory treatment,' RAPSI, 29 March 2017
'Maksim Panfilov: “I physically wouldn’t be able to crush a shockproof helmet”,', 20 March 2017 [for translation, see: Rights in Russia]

Person of the Week: Sofia Rusova

posted 27 Mar 2017, 07:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Mar 2017, 07:09 ]

On 21 March 2017 Sofia Rusova, a board member of the North Caucasus Environmental Watch (also known as EcoWatch), an NGO, was detained during a one-person picket she was holding in Moscow. As Caucasian Knot reported, Sofia Rusova was protesting against the construction of ski resorts in the Caucasian Reserve: "The Caucasian Knot has reported that today the activists Sofia Rusova and Atsamaz Khadikov have held solo pickets at the building hosting the Eighth International Environmental Forum, in protest against the activities of the Electrozink Factory and the construction of a resort in the territory of the Caucasian Reserve. At first, the guards tried to tear up the picketers’ posters. A journalist Maxim Rumyantsev how was at the place of the incident, called the police, stating that Rusova 'had used violence' against him. According to Sofia, he tried to grab the poster [that read] 'No to construction of ski resorts in the territory of the Caucasian Reserve!' "

Caucasian Knot later reported that Sofia Rusova had left the police station in Moscow to which she had been take by police officers. According to Rusova she made a statement about damage to her personal property during the picket.

Photo of Sofia Rusova: Caucasian Knot

The same day the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation ruled that police officers should protect one-person protesters at the sites the protests take place, instead of removing them to a police station. As RAPSI reported, "the ruling was issued by the court after reviewing a part of the federal law 'On Police' in relation to an appeal filed by a Belgorod resident Vladimir Sergiyenko.' According to RAPSI report, Sergiyenko had been arrested by police officers twenty-five minutes after beginning his one-person protest. He was taken to a police station and released an hour later: "The courts, which reviewed this case, ruled that officers were acting in accordance with Russian legislation. Rulings read that the life of the protester was in danger from citizens who disagreed with him and that police officers brought him to the station for his own safety. The protester, on the contrary, insisted that his rights were violated." The Constitutional Court has now ruled that police must uphold order and protect single-person protesters against possible threats, while any police action must be proportionate to the danger faced by the protester. RAPSI noted, "A threat to the life and health of a one-person protester should be real, not presumed, the Constitutional Court explained."

'Sofia Rusova, member of “EcoWatch”, detained in Moscow,' Caucasian Knot, 21 March 2017
'Activist Rusova complains about provocation during her picket,' Caucasian Knot, 21 March 2017
'Solo pickets under the slogan "Stop poisoning Caucasus!" held in Moscow,' Caucasian Knot, 21 March 2017
Mikhail Telekhov, 'Russian Constitutional Court rules police must protect one-person protesters,' RAPSI, 21 March 2017

Person of the Week: Valentina Cherevatenko

posted 20 Mar 2017, 08:29 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Mar 2017, 08:40 ]

On 11 March 2017 Valentina Cherevatenko, founder and head of the Women of the Don, an NGO based in Novocherkassk, Rostov region, received the second Anna Politkovskaya award for 2016, presented by the the RAW in WAR charity, to mark the tenth anniversary of the award by celebrating the achievements of a woman from Russia who has done outstanding work in post-Soviet conflict zones (the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya prize was the late Natalya Estemirova, who was murdered in 2009). The award was presented by Elena Kudimova, Anna Politkovskaya’s sister. The principal winner of the 2016 prize was Jineth Bedoya Lima, a journalist from Colombia.

Valentina Cherevatenko is a veteran of human rights and peace-building initiatives in southern Russia, the Caucasus and, more recently, Ukraine. She is the founder and chair of the Women of the Don NGO, which was set up in 1993 to assist local women left unemployed following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Valentina grew up in Novocherkassk in the Rostov region, a city that witnessed, during her childhood, the 1962 mass shooting of striking workers (see Novocherkassk massacre). 

In 2014, the Union of the Women of the Don was declared a 'foreign agent' under a law introduced in 2012. Two years later that designation was withdrawn, though it still applied to a second NGO also set by Valentina and her colleagues, the Women of the Don Foundation. In late June 2016 Valentina Cherevatenko was the first individual to be charged with 'malicious evasion' of the 'foreign agent' law, and if convicted could pay a heavy fine or be given a two-year sentence in a prison colony. The case, which has aroused concern worldwide, is on-going.

For more articles about Valentina Cherevatenko on Rights in Russia, see HERE

'Valentina Cherevatenko (Russia) 2016: Winner of the Special Anna Politkovskaya Award,' RAW in WAR 
'Valentina Cherevatenko,' Wikipedia
'Cherevatenko fêted in London,' Rights in Russia, 20 March 2017
Valentina Cherevatenko: "They haven’t broken us yet”, BBC Russian Service, 10 March 2017 [translation: Rights in Russia]

Person of the Week: Ildar Dadin

posted 13 Mar 2017, 07:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Mar 2017, 08:52 ]

On 10 March 2017 Ildar Dadin was briefly detained as he held a one-person picket in Moscow outside the Federal Penitentiary Service headquarters. 
The Moscow Times reported, citing Interfax, that Dadin "had been protesting alongside fellow activist Lev Ponomarev for the dismissal of Alexander Terekh, the head of sentence enforcement for the prison service in Russia's northern Karelian Republic. [...] Police officers approached Dadin during the protest and asked to see his documents. [...] Dadin was detained by officers when he refused to show his documents to officers on the scene." In a report, RFE/RL posted a video of the incident. 

The same day (10 March 2017) the Supreme Court disclosed its reasons for acquitting Ildar Dadin, the first person convicted of repeated violations of protest laws. As RAPSI reported, the Supreme Court "explained that the article of the Criminal Code prohibiting violations of protest laws excludes the possibility of criminal prosecution if at the time of the crime there were no active court rulings regarding administrative liability of a defendant. These rulings have to be issued at least three times in a period of 180 days. When Dadin became a defendant in a criminal case back in December 2014 rulings regarding administrative violations had not yet come into full force, meaning that there were no legal grounds to state that Dadin had violated legislation several times."

Earlier, on 7 March 2017 reports said Ildar Dadin had filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction. As RAPSI reported, Dadin's lawyer, Kseniya Kostromina, said the appeal had been filed soon after the ruling of the Presidium of the Supreme Court acquitted Dadin on 22 February 2017, overturning his 2.5-year prison sentence and ordering that he be released. The Supreme Court ruled that the criminal proceedings against Dadin be dismissed on the grounds of the absence of a crime in his actions. On 10 February, the Constitutional Court had held that Dadin’s case should be reviewed, while upholding the constitutionality of the law under which Dadin was convicted. 

'Russian Activist Ildar Dadin Detained Again in Moscow,' The Moscow Times, 10 March 2017
'Activist Ildar Dadin Briefly Detained By Moscow Police,' RFE/RL, 10 March 2017
'Russian Supreme Court discloses reasons for Dadin’s release,' RAPSI, 10 March 2017
'Russian opposition activist Dadin files appeal with ECHR over imprisonment,' RAPSI, 7 March 2017

Person of the Week: Zoya Svetova

posted 5 Mar 2017, 08:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Mar 2017, 08:49 ]

On 28 February 2017 police searched the family home of respected journalist and human rights activist Zoya Svetova. According to Svetova, the law enforcement officers entered the premises on false pretences, saying they were delivering a court summons. They proceeded to search the property for ten hours and seized computer equipment and a phone. As RFE/RL reported, the lawyer Anna Stavitskaya wrote on Facebook on 28 February that an investigator and 10 other people were conducting a search in Svetova's home: "Stavitskaya said the search, which included examination of Svetova's computers, was linked to a continuing investigation into Khodorkovsky and other former officials of Yukos, the oil company he headed." Mikhail Khodorkovsky served ten years in prison and the Yukos oil company was seized and broken up. Zoya Svetova writes regularly for the website of the Open Russia organization, funded by Khodorkovsky, and the New Times magazine. Oliver Carroll, writing in The Moscow Times, reported that Zoya Svetova "has grown famous for aggressive investigations on subjects like corruption, activism, and torture. As an activist, she made her mark as a critic of the penal system and a defender of political prisoners’ rights. But her name is equally synonymous with the dissident movement in general. She is the daughter of persecuted Soviet writer Felix Svetov and has a wide circle of friends in Moscow’s liberal intelligentsia."

As Oliver Carroll reported, Svetova told journalists it was not the first time authorities had searched her family home: "The previous occasion, she said, was in early 1985, when the Soviet police state was at its peak. They arrested her father that day. 'Just imagine: Thirty years pass, and once again you get the knock on your door,' Svetova said. 'When they were looking through the apartment, they even found the original search protocol and recognized the colleagues who had signed it — I’d thought they were long dead.' "

Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International Russia, said the search of Zoya Svetova’s flat was "deeply alarming." He said: "This search seems like a blatant attempt by the authorities to interfere with her legitimate work as a journalist and perhaps a warning for her and others of the risks of human rights work and independent journalism in Russia.”

Front Line Defenders called the search "an act of intimidation in retaliation to her coverage of human rights violations in the Russian Federation." The organization urged the Russian authorities to immediately cease all further harassment of Zoya Svetova and return all items confiscated during the search. More generally, the organization urged the Russian authorities to "cease targeting all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment."

Photo of Zoya Svetova: Front Line Defenders

'Russian Police Search Home Of Prominent Russian Journalist, Activist.' RFE/RL, 28 February 2017
Oliver Carroll, 'Then They Came for Svetova,' The Moscow Times, 1 March 2017
'Russia: "Deeply alarming" raid targets human rights activist and journalist Zoya Svetova,' Amnesty International, 28 February 2017
'Authorities search Zoya Svetova's apartment,' Front Line Defenders, 2 March 2017

Person of the Week: Oleg Melnikov

posted 26 Feb 2017, 06:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Feb 2017, 07:00 ]

On 22 February 2017, Oleg Melnikov, founder of the NGO ‘Against Slavery’, was detained in the town of Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, on suspicion of organizing illegal immigration. As RFE/RL reported, Oleg Melnikov told the Mediazona news portal he was detained along with another activist and four migrant workers from the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan who were temporarily living in makeshift housing in Krasnogorsk organized by the activists. Melnikov told Mediazona that the four migrant workers were living at the facility 'while their papers were being taken care of by the activists.' As RFE/RL points out, the Russian Criminal Code provides for a punishment of up to five years in jail for assisting illegal immigration. Melnikov, the news outlet notes, 'formerly headed another antislavery group called Alernativa, which made headlines in 2012 when it helped release 11 people from de facto slavery.'

Photo: RFE/RL

'Russian Activist Detained For Alleged Illegal Immigration Organization,' RFE/RL, 23 February 2017
Oleg Melnikov, Facebook

Person of the Week: Roman Sushchenko

posted 20 Feb 2017, 06:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Feb 2017, 06:14 ]

On 14 February 2017 Moscow City Court upheld a ruling by Moscow's Lefortovsky district court to extend the pre-trial detention of Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko until 30 April 2017. As RAPSI reported, the case was heard behind closed doors. Roman Sushchenko was charged with espionage on 7 October 2016. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. RAPSI stated: 'According to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the Ukrainian citizen [Roman Sushchenko] "purposively collected classified information about the Armed Forces and National Guard of Russia." Leak of data abroad could cause damage to the national defense capability, the FSB claimed.' 

Roman Sushchenko was arrested immediately he arrived in Moscow on 30 September 2016 on private business. According to Sushchenko's employer, Ukrinform, Sushchenko was on vacation at the time. Halya Coynash, writing in Human Rights in Ukraine, pointed out that Sushchenko's cousin and other relatives live in Moscow. Since 2010, Sushchenko has been Ukrinform’s correspondent in France. Ukrinform has rejected the accusations levelled at Sushchenko, describing him as 'a journalist with years of unblemished professional reputation', RAPSI reports. RFE/RL reported that Ukrinform called Sushchenko's arrest, 'yet another flagrant and unlawful [Russian] act against Ukrainian nationals.' According to RFE/RL, the 'FSB claims Sushchenko is a colonel with Ukrainian military intelligence who has been collecting classified data about Russia's Armed Forces and National Guard.' Sushchenko's lawyer, Mark Feigin, said his client had no links to any spy agency, RFE/RL reported, adding that 'Ukraine's Foreign Ministry demanded Sushchenko’s "immediate release and unhampered return home," and called on Russia to respect the Ukrainian citizen's rights.'

Photo: RFE/RL

Evgeniya Sokolova, 'Russian court upholds detention of Ukrainian journalist charged with spying,' RAPSI, 14 February 2017
'Ukrainian Journalist In Russian Custody On Espionage Charges,' RFE/RL, 3 October 2016
Halya Coynash, 'Ukrainian journalist’s arrest a chilling warning to stay away from Russia,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 7 October 2017

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