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Week-ending 28 February 2020

posted 1 Mar 2020, 04:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Mar 2020, 04:33 ]

Extremism laws - the Network case

Two Defendants In Russia's High-Profile 'Network' Case On Trial In St. Petersburg 
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Two activists from a group known as "Set'" (Network) have gone on trial in St. Petersburg on terrorism charges that opposition figures and rights defenders have called "fabricated." The Military Court of the 224th Garrison in Russia's second-largest city opened the trial of Viktor Filinkov and Yuly Boyarshinov to the defendants' relatives and several journalists on February 26, a day after the court held a 20-minute closed-door session to start the proceedings. Dozens of other people and journalists were barred from entering the courtroom. The trial started 15 days after a court in another Russian city, Penza, sentenced seven other activists of the group to prison terms of between six years and 18 years after convicting them of terrorismRFE/RL, 26 February 2020 

Defendant in controversial terrorism case says murder allegations reported by ‘Meduza’ are ‘insane’ 
Dmitry Pchelintsev, a defendant in the Penza Network case, has stated in a letter to MBK Media journalist Zoya Svetova that he has no connection to the information presented in a recent investigative report by Meduza about his alleged role in drug dealing and a potential homicide.  “To say that I’m shocked would be an understatement,” Pchelintsev wrote in his letter. “I have absolutely no connections to Ekaterina Levchenko and Artyom Dorofeyev. I’m not even sure that I understand who we’re talking about, because I haven’t seen their photographs. I can only guess that I saw Artyom when I was working as a waiter, but we didn’t speak to each other. I have no information about their disappearance, except for the story that circulated as rumors.” Meduza, 27 February 2020 

Freedom of expression

Tried on drug charge, Ingush reporter testifies he was tortured
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Russian authorities to acquit Rashid Maysigov, a journalist who has testified at his trial on a trumped-up drug possession charge in Magas, the capital of the southwestern republic of Ingushetia, that he was tortured.  Referring to an article in the Russian constitution that says citizens are not obliged to give evidence against themselves, Maysigov drew laughs from the courtroom when he testified on 18 February: “When I explained my rights under article 51, I certainly didn’t ask to be given electric shocks.” Reporters Without Borders, 21 February 2020

Moscow police officer reportedly details how he planted drugs in ‘Meduza’ journalist Ivan Golunov’s possessions
Former police officer Denis Konovalov, who has been jailed to await trial in connection with the fabricated drug case against Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov, has reportedly testified about the logistics of framing Golunov. The anonymous news outlet Baza published what it claims is a summary of and excerpts from Konovalov’s testimony. Meduza, 25 February 2020 

Russian Ex-Police Officer In High-Profile Golunov Case Transferred To House Arrest 
A former Russian police officer who testified against his ex-supervisor in a high-profile case on planting drugs on investigative journalist Ivan Golunov last year has been transferred to house arrest. The Basmanny district court ruled on February 26 that Denis Konovalov, who is charged with forging documents related to the probe against Golunov that sparked public outrage in June, can be transferred to house arrest from his current incarceration at a detention center. RFE/RL, 26 February 2020 

'Assassination Attempt' On Well-Known Chechen Blogger Raises Alarm Bells Among Watchdogs 
Media freedom watchdogs say they are alarmed over the reported assault of a well-known Chechen blogger in an unidentified European country where he lives in hiding. An assailant broke into Tumso Abdurakhmanov’s apartment on February 26 while he was asleep and beat him with a hammer, according to the Sweden-based human rights group Vayfond. RFE/RL, 28 February 2020 

Freedom of conscience

Belarus Arrests Jehovah’s Witness at Russia’s Request
Belarus has for the first time arrested a Jehovah’s Witness at Russia’s request, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia organization said Tuesday amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group across Russia.  More than 300 believers have been charged or convicted since Russia banned the religious group as an “extremist” organization in 2017. Russian authorities have in the past year escalated the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses with raids and other forms of punishment, Human Rights Watch has said. The Moscow Times, 26 February 2020

Freedom of assembly 

On 2 March 2020, the Second Court of Cassation in Moscow will review the case of human rights defender Konstantin Kotov, who has been sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for “repeated violation of rules governing public events” under Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code. On 27 January, Russia’s Constitutional Court ordered a review of the conviction and sentence of Konstantin Kotov noting that criminal punishment for the respective violations should be proportionate to the actual damage or public danger caused by an offence. Furthermore, it obliged courts to check if the person has criminal intent to commit such violations. Amnesty International, 27 February 2020

St. Petersburg government permits Nemtsov march after two refusals
After twice denying permits for a proposed February 29 protest in honor of assassinated opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, the government of St. Petersburg has granted permission for activists to hold a memorial march instead.  Maxim Reznik, a city-level legislator, told Interfax that the march will take place in the Petrogradsky neighborhood, away from the city’s downtown. “Of course, this isn’t the march of our dreams, but the alternative to what we’re suggesting now is mass arrests and, God forbid, violence in the middle of the city. This will essentially be a mass picket and, in many ways, a memorial event,” Reznik said. Meduza, 27 February 2020

Putin Justifies Police Violence During Unsanctioned Protests
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said protesters who took part in unsanctioned rallies last summer were provoking security forces who responded with violence. In an interview with Russian news agency TASS that was published on February 27, Putin said people who complain about being beaten by police at such rallies "must first receive permission to rally, and then express their opinions." RFE/RL, 27 February 2020 

Thousands Rally In Moscow, Other Russian Cities To Mark Anniversary Of Nemtsov Killing 
MOSCOW -- Thousands of people have marched in Moscow and staged protests in other Russian cities, marking the anniversary of the killing of Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic Kremlin critic and former deputy prime minister who was gunned down five years ago near the Kremlin.  The February 29 demonstrations were the biggest political protests in Russia since last summer, when several weeks of anti-government meetings challenged the authorities in Moscow over local city council elections. RFE/RL, 29 February 2020 

Violence against women

Russia Reports Dramatic Rise in Rape Cases 
New rape cases in Russia have shot up by 72%, according to federal prosecutors’ criminal data cited by the state-run TASS news agency Friday.  Authorities opened 296 rape and attempted rape cases in January, 72.1% more than they did in January 2019. Rape made up 0.18% of all crimes committed in January 2020, according to the cited Prosecutor General’s Office data. The Moscow Times, 28 February 2020 

Rights of indigenous peoples

Pipeline problems for indigenous peoples on Russia's Yamal Peninsula 
The Yamal Peninsula contains some of the biggest known reserves of natural gas on the planet. This remote peninsula in the Russian Arctic extends for 700 kilometres into the Kara Sea, and now several pipelines, offshore gas fields, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals have made it their home. Those tens of millions of cubic metres of natural gas have attracted Russia's state-owned gas companies and several international investors; in 2008, Gazprom announced its Yamal Project, to unlock the region's hydrocarbons on a vast scale.  Yamal is also home to 15,000 people, 10,000 of whom are Nenets reindeer herders. 
Indigenous rights activists have also raised concerns about what this large-scale energy extraction could mean for the Nenets and other indigenous peoples of Russia's far north. Dmitry Berezhkov is a member of the Itelmen people from the Kamchatka Peninsula and the former vice-president of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), a Moscow-based NGO. Berezhkov says that he was pressured by the Russian security services in the capital into framing RAIPON as a threat to the state. Berezhkov moved to Norway to continue his activism but was arrested by Norwegian police in 2013 after a meeting of the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples, based on an extradition request from Russia's general prosecutor, which had accused him of fraud. Eventually, a Norwegian court ruled that the request was politically motivated, and Berezhkov received asylum in Norway. The activist lives there to this day, where he runs the Arctic-Consult NGO. Global Voices, 20 February 2020 

Prisoners' rights

Number of convicts’ complaints about convoy conditions rises fourfold – Russian ombudsman 
MOSCOW, February 28 (RAPSI) – Over the year, the number of complaints concerning respect of human rights during convoying of defendants from pretrial detention facilities to courts and to correctional facilities has risen fourfold as compared with figures registered in 2018, according to Russia’s Rights Commissioner Tatiana Moskalkova. Her office, the ombudsman said addressing a meeting held to discuss the problems related to transportation of defendants and convicts, received four times more respective complaints in 2019 than in 2018; in about 18,000 complaints submitted to the European Court of Human Rights from Russia this problem was cited almost just as frequently as that of detention conditions. RAPSI, 28 February 2020 

Boris Nemtsov

'The Magic Of A Free Person': Boris Nemtsov Is Remembered In The City Where He Rose To Prominence 
Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, who was in the crowd that day as a 22-year-old democratic activist, remembers being struck by the contrast between Nemtsov -- a young, witty academic with distinctive black curls and a mischievous smile -- and the staid, stone-faced, middle-aged bureaucrats who ran the city administration. “He embodied this whole generation of young democrats who came to power, with all their flaws and delusions,” Dmitriyevsky, now an opposition activist in a very different Russia, told RFE/RL in an interview in the city, which regained its original name, Nizhny Novgorod, in 1990. “But for all his pluses and minuses, he was alive.” RFE/RL, 25 February 2020 

U.S., European Diplomats In Moscow Mark Fifth Anniversary Of Nemtsov's Killing 
Foreign diplomats have laid flowers on the Moscow bridge where Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was fatally gunned down five years ago.  The deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Bart Gorman, and the ambassadors of several European countries were among those marking the anniversary of Nemtsov's killing on February 27.  Gorman called on the Russian authorities to find those who masterminded and ordered Nemtsov's killing. RFE/RL, 27 February 2020 

Life in emigration

‘Change your name and forget where you came from’ In new portraits of the latest Russian émigré wave, a journalist shares his experience coming out to his Dagestani family and remaking his life in Brooklyn 

Russian photographer Evgeny Feldman, a regular contributor to Meduza, is working to document the lives of the newest wave of Russian émigrés: those who have left the country within the past fifteen years, forming a distinct group from the migrations of the late 20th century. Feldman edits a self-published samizdat magazine whose next issue will tell nine stories from within that rapidly growing community. Meduza is featuring one of those stories, the memories of a Moscow journalist who was raised in a village in Dagestan, one of Russia’s Northern Caucasian republics. After the journalist came out as gay, he faced threats from family members and ultimately moved to New York City to begin a new life. Meduza, 27 February 2020 

Russian Constitution 

Levada Center: 25 percent of Russians favor constitutional changes; 65 percent don’t understand them 
A new survey conducted by the independent Levada Center and published by Open Media indicates that one quarter (25 percent) of Russians are willing to vote for the major constitutional changes proposed by President Vladimir Putin in January. Another 37 percent of respondents said they would participate in the nationwide vote on the measures but were not yet sure whether they would vote in favor.  23 percent of respondents said they would not take part in the vote, and 10 percent said they would vote against the measures. Meduza, 28 February 2020 

Week-ending 21 February 2020

posted 22 Feb 2020, 12:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Feb 2020, 11:26 by Translation Service ]

Right to life
Bellingcat Says FSB Behind 2019 Berlin Killing Of Former Chechen Separatist Commander 
The investigative journalism group Bellingcat says a probe into the 2019 killing of a former Chechen separatist commander in Berlin shows that the attack was planned and organized by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB). Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian national, was shot dead in broad daylight in a Berlin park on August 23 in a case that has prompted political fallout between Berlin and Moscow -- including tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats -- after Germany said evidence suggests either the Russian government or authorities in the Russian North Caucasus region of Chechnya likely ordered the killing. RFE/RL, 17 February 2020 

OSCE Calls For 'New And Full' Investigation Into Nemtsov Murder 
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on February 20 called for "a new and full investigation" into the murder of Boris Nemtsov, the former Russian opposition politician who was killed almost five years ago near the Kremlin. The OSCE said shortcomings in Russia's original investigation left many questions unanswered. RFE/RL, 20 February 2020 

Freedom of expression
Following attack in Chechnya, journalist asks Russia's top investigative official to open criminal case 
On February 18, Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina publicly appealed to Federal Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin, requesting a criminal investigation into an attack against her and attorney Marina Dubrovina in Grozny on February 6. Milashina says the violent incident should be treated as a case of felony obstruction of professional activity by journalists, which is punishable in Russia by up to six years in prison. According to the text of the letter, shared on Novaya Gazeta’s website, she says she believes she was targeted because of her work as a reporter. Meduza, 19 February 2020 

Moscow reporter files complaint about attack in Chechnya, threats 
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the impunity enjoyed by those who attacked Moscow-based Russian journalist Elena Milashina during a visit to Chechnya earlier this month and have continued to threaten her, and calls for a transparent and effective investigation by the federal authorities. A reporter for the independent Moscow tri-weekly Novaya Gazeta, Milashina filed a complaint today with the federal Investigative Committee in Moscow against the people who attacked her in the lobby of her hotel in the Chechen capital of Grozny on 6 February and against those who subsequently threatened her, including the person who sent a threatening letter to the newspaper on 13 February. RSF, 19 February 2020 

Ex-Russian Officer Tells Court He Was Ordered To Plant Drugs On Reporter 
A former Russian police officer told a court his superior ordered him to plant drugs on investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, whose arrest last summer sparked outrage. Denis Konovalov, who was fired in connection with his arrest on fabricating drug charges against Golunov, admitted he framed the journalist but said he did so at the behest of Igor Lyakhovets, who is also on trial. Aleksei Kovrizhkin, Lyazovets’ lawyer, said his client is innocent and that prosecutors are pressuring Konovalov. RFE/RL, 20 February 2020 

Samsung Says Will Comply With Russian Law Forcing Local Apps On Phones, PCs 
Samsung has said it will comply with the requirements of a controversial Russian law, which stipulates that smartphones and other computer devices must have government-approved, pre-installed software on them. "Samsung Electronics will be ready to meet the requirements of the Russian legislation provided by the regulator and adapt the company's activities in accordance with the adopted regulations," The Moscow Times reported on February 18. RFE/RL, 19 February 2020 

‘Extremism’ laws
Public Pressure Mounting On Russian Authorities To Reconsider Harsh 'Network' Case Verdicts
Hardly a day goes by without a new expression of support in Russia for seven men who were given harsh prison sentences last week in a case that many observers in Russia and abroad contend was fabricated by the Federal Security Service (FSB). On February 18, a group of more than 200 animators issued an open letter declaring "we cannot remain indifferent to the fact that young people are being punished for crimes they did not commit." RFE/RL, 18 February 2020 

Russia’s State Duma cancels fines for displaying Nazi symbols in non-propagandistic cases 
The State Duma has voted in favor of an amendment to the Codex of Administrative Violations that cancels some existing fines for displaying Nazi symbolism. The amendment passed its third and final reading, practically guaranteeing that it will become law. Fines that previously reached up to 50,000 rubles ($784) will no longer be applied in cases where Nazi symbols are used to express “a negative view toward Nazi and extremist ideology” and where “there are no indicators of the propagandizing or justification of Nazi or extremist ideology.” Meduza, 18 February 2020 

Freedom of conscience
Eight Jehovah's Witnesses Charged With Extremism In Russia's Jewish Autonomous RegionRussian authorities in the Jewish Autonomous Region in Siberia have charged eight Jehovah's Witnesses with extremism amid what activists say is an escalating campaign of persecution of the religious group. The branch of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia said on February 18 that six women and two men in the regional capital, Birobidzhan, are facing charges of illegally resuming the activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Similar charges have been filed against 11 other Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia since the start of 2020. RFE/RL, 19 February 2020 

Right of assembly 
Last 'Moscow Case' Defendant Handed Suspended Sentence
MOSCOW -- A Moscow court has given an activist arrested over an unsanctioned rally on July 27 a three-year suspended sentence. Andrei Barshai, a student at the Moscow Aviation Institute is the last defendant in what has been dubbed the "Moscow Case." Earlier on February 18, prosecutors had asked the Meshchansky District Court to find the 21-year-old Barshai guilty of assaulting a police officer during the pro-democracy rally, and to sentence him to 3 1/2 years in prison. RFE/RL, 18 February 2020

Moscow court upholds extended detention of student involved in illegal rally case
MOSCOW, February 17 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court has upheld extension of detention of the Moscow Aviation Institute student Andrey Barshay, who had allegedly given a National Guard officer a poke in the back during an unauthorized summer rally on July 27, 2019, the court press-service informs RAPSI on Monday. Earlier, the Basmanny District Court of Moscow has extended Barshay’s detention until February 27, the appeals instance upheld this decision. RAPSI, 17 February 2020

Сourt orders organizers of unauthorised protests to pay $5,000 to Moscow metro
MOSCOW, February 17 (RAPSI) – The Simonovsky District Court of Moscow has ruled in favor of the Moscow Metro state enterprise, which sought to recover over 311,000 rubles (about $5,000) from opposition figures Lyubov Sobol and Georgy Alburov, RAPSI reports from the courtroom on Monday. In January, the enterprise added to its lawsuit against the two activists a list of metro stations where more employees had to work because of an unauthorized rally on August 3. RAPSI, 17 February 2020 

Russia: Quash Conviction of Peaceful Protester 
Clear Konstantin Kotov of All Charges, Repeal Repressive Protest Law 
(Moscow) – Russian authorities should withdraw all charges and immediately free a civic activist imprisoned for involvement in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said today. Russia’s parliament should repeal the 2014 law mandating criminal sanctions for repeated involvement in unsanctioned protests. The activist, Kostantin Kotov, a 34-year-old software engineer, has been behind bars for over 6 months in connection with peaceful political protests in Moscow in the summer of 2019 over the exclusion of opposition candidates from the city council elections. An appeals court hearing on Kotov’s case is scheduled for March 2, 2020. Human Rights Watch, 19 February 2020 

Russia Eyes Amnesty for Imprisoned Moscow Protesters 
Russian lawmakers from the Communist Party have prepared a new amnesty bill to release prisoners jailed after last summer's mass opposition rallies in Moscow, the Kommersant business daily reported Thursday. Twenty people have been convicted on charges of “mass unrest” and assault of law enforcement officers after tens of thousands took to the streets in 2019 in support of fair elections. Their sentences, described by critics as harsh, sparked widespread public outcry. The Moscow Times, 20 February 2020 

Political rights
Any victims out there? Police are questioning Navalny’s contributors across Russia, searching for anyone who thinks he cheated them. ‘Meduza’ spoke to two people who have been interrogated. 
On February 20, journalists learned that police have started questioning individuals who have contributed money to opposition politician Alexey Navalny’s offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). Calls and summons from law enforcement have been reported in different regions across Russia, from St. Petersburg to Omsk. Some people have already been interrogated. Meduza spoke to two of these individuals to find out what the police are asking Navalny’s contributors and how the questioning is related to the criminal case against the Anti-Corruption Foundation. Meduza, 21 February 2020 

‘You’ll Infect Us All’: Russian Clinic Turns Away HIV-Positive Patient
A hospital in Russia's Urals region has refused to treat an HIV-positive patient after a staff physician shouted that he would “infect us all here,” the local news outlet reported Monday. More than 1 million people in Russia live with HIV and a record 37,000 people died from HIV-related illnesses there in 2019. Violating medical confidentiality is a criminal offense in Russia. The Moscow Times, 18 February 2020 

Vlogger Smashes Silence On Russian HIV Epidemic With Hard-Hitting Video 
It’s called HIV In Russia, The Epidemic No One’s Talking About – and it’s gotten people talking. The sobering, nearly two-hour video by the popular video blogger Yury Dud, is credited with sparking an uptick in concern in Russia: from a rise in the number of Russians being tested for HIV since the video was uploaded to a surge in HIV-related Internet searches. RFE/RL, 19 February 2020 

LGBTI rights
In Russia, Students Say A Queen Tribute Band Bit The Dust For 'Promoting Homosexuality' 
MOSCOW -- On Valentine’s Day, School No. 375 in St. Petersburg hosted a battle of tribute bands. For the competition, titled Odin v Odin (which roughly translates as “perfect likeness”), students dressed in gold chains, saris, and flamboyant costumes made famous by Western rock acts of the 1970s and '80s. Zara Larsson’s Lush Life got a new spin, Justin Bieber was honored, and Kiss was embodied by a spirited effort complete with face paint and tinfoil. Last up was a rendition of Queen’s I Want To Break Free. After sitting through 10 performances, the audience was presumably primed for a grand finale. RFE/RL, 17 February 2020

Dutch Court Reinstates Order For Russia To Pay $50 Billion In Yukos Case 
A Dutch appeals court has reinstated an international arbitration panel’s ruling that Russia must pay $50 billion in compensation to shareholders in the former Russian oil giant Yukos -- a ruling which Moscow said it will appeal. The February 18 decision overturned a 2016 ruling by a Hague district court that canceled the compensation order on the grounds that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) did not have jurisdiction because the case was based on an energy treaty that Russia had signed but not ratified. Russia's Justice Ministry said immediately after the February 18 ruling that it will appeal the Dutch court's decision. RFE/RL, 18 February 2020

Domestic violence
Russian special agents attempt to enter home of domestic violence shelter volunteers where young woman was hiding from family
Officers from the Anti-Extremism Center (Center E), a special division of the Russian police force, attempted to enter an apartment where a 20-year-old woman was hiding under the auspices of, a major organization combatting domestic violence in Russia. Seroye Fioletovoye (Gray Purple), the activist and artist whose home was approached, told about the incident. Meduza, 19 February 2020

Crimea / Ukraine
Crimean Journalist Semena Moves To Mainland Ukraine 'Indefinitely' 
RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena -- a journalist who has been convicted of separatism in Ukraine's Russia-occupied Crimea region before a court there expunged his criminal record -- has arrived in Kyiv following his release from detention in Simferopol. Semena, 69, is seeking medical care in Kyiv for a heart condition and damaged spine. RFE/RL, 19 February 2020 

When thoughts are already a crime: The wife of Crimean Tatar Emir-Usein Kuku speaks about the fight for his freedom
Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea, came under Russian control following the events of February-March 2014. Reports suggest that Russian regular military forces operating without insignia appeared on the peninsula as early as 20 February. In the following days, key administrative buildings across Crimea were occupied by the Russian forces and armed paramilitaries. On 18 March, a “treaty” was signed in the Kremlin in Moscow on the accession to the Russian Federation of Crimea. These events had dramatic repercussions for those in Crimea who opposed its occupation and annexation. All dissenting voices were immediately subjected to persecution and harassment. Amnesty International, 20 February 2020

Ukrainian Political Prisoner Stohniy Freed From Russian-Administered Jail 
A Ukrainian man considered a political prisoner by local rights groups has resurfaced in Kyiv after completing a 3 1/2-year prison sentence in Russian-controlled prisons on charges of making and transporting weapons and explosive devices. The news of Oleksiy Stohniy’s release was announced on February 19 by human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova. RFE/RL, 20 February 2020 

Russia to Consider Making Ex-Presidents Immune from Prosecution 
Russian presidents could be made immune from criminal prosecution once they leave office under proposed constitutional reforms, a senior lawmaker said on Tuesday. The proposal, made by a parliamentary working group, comes after President Vladimir Putin last month announced sweeping reforms to the political system that would shift some powers away from the presidency. Putin's initiatives, which were followed by a government shake-up, are widely seen as a way to allow him to extend his grip on power after his term ends in 2024. The Moscow Times, 18 February 2020 

Week-ending 14 February 2020

posted 11 Feb 2020, 12:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Feb 2020, 06:44 by Translation Service ]

Terrorism cases: Network, Hizb ut-Tahrir
Russia: Harsh Verdicts in Controversial Terrorism Cases 
Allegations of Torture, Unfair Trials, Misuse of Terrorism Law 
(Berlin) – Russian military courts handed down guilty verdicts on February 5 and 10, 2020 in three separate, deeply flawed terrorism cases in which the defendants alleged incommunicado detention, torture, and other ill-treatment to extract confessions, Human Rights Watch said today. A total of 18 defendants in the cases were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to 23 years. Human Rights Watch, 12 February 2020 

Board of the Forum is Dismayed at the Trial for the “Set’” (Network) Group 
The Board of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is dismayed at the trial for the “Set‘” (Network) group, which was labelled by the Russian authorities a terrorist community – without any plausible ground. Besides, the trial was marked with numerous law violations, including torture, and followed by the inhumane verdict, which was delivered on 10 February in the City of Penza, Russia. Seven young men (aged from 23 to 31) were sentenced to jail terms from 6 to 18 years; the court stated that they were planning to carry out attacks inside Russia and to overthrow the government. EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, 12 February 2020 

Russian Intellectuals Express Support For Political Prisoners In Letter 
More than 100 Russian writers, poets, journalists, interpreters, literature experts, publishers, and other cultural figures have issued a letter expressing solidarity with political prisoners. "Every Friday, hundreds of demonstrators in Moscow and St. Petersburg gather at metro stations, demanding justice and freedom for you. The weekly pickets are turning into a tradition in other cities of Russia," says the letter, which was published on February 11 by the website, says., 12 February 2020 

Man Killed in Homophobic Attack in Moscow Deserves Justice
LGBT People Lack Equal Protection Under the Law
Tanya Lokshina: Last week, the vice-speaker of Russia’s lower chamber of the parliament, Piotr Tolstoi demanded that the country’s constitution explicitly state marriage is a “union between a man and a woman.” “This will create a barrier to the efforts to bestow some special additional rights on the persons of non-traditional LGBT orientation,” he said. The reality is that far from getting “additional” rights, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia still struggle to enjoy the same fundamental protection as everyone else. A stark example of this came three days after Tolstoi’s remarks, when a Moscow jury acquitted someone who killed a gay man. Human Rights Watch, 10 February 2020 

Russian activist and artist, Yulia Tsvetkova, is facing prosecution and harassment for defending women’s and LGBTI rights. She has been under house arrest since 22 November, under absurd charges of “production and dissemination of pornography” for her drawings of the female body. She is facing up to six years in prison if convicted. Yulia Tsvetkova is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released. Amnesty International, 13 February 2020

Freedom of conscience
Investigators open case over activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses chapter in Siberia
MOSCOW, February 11 (RAPSI) – Investigative authorities of Russia’s Zabaikalsky Krai region in Siberia have initiated a criminal case over activities of a chapter of banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to a statement of Russia’s Investigative Committee. Investigators believe that a local chapter of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been operating in the town of Chita and several districts of the Zabaikalsky Krai for some years; the case was opened on the grounds that this religious society had been banned by a court decision as an extremist organization. RAPSI, 11 February 2020

Jehovah’s Witness Says Russian Police Used Torture in Siberian Crackdown 
A Jehovah's Witness from the Siberian city of Chita has claimed he was tortured by local police on Monday during a mass crackdown on believers in the region, Russian investigative news site The Insider reported Friday.  Lawyer Artur Ganin told the outlet his client Vadim Kutsenko was taken to a local forest by police, where they beat his face and neck, suffocated him and used a taser on him to force him to admit to practicing the religion. The Moscow Times, 14 February 2020

Russian Court Accepts Case To Try Scientologists In St. Petersburg 
A court in the Russian city of St. Petersburg has accepted a case to try a group of people who follow the Church of Scientology on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, extremism, money laundering, and incitement of hatred. The Neva district court said on February 12 that it had received the case involving five scientologists: Ivan Matsitsky, Sakhib Aliyev, Galina Shurinova, Anastasia Terentyeva, and Konstantsia Yesaulkova. RFE/RL, 12 February 2020 

Right of association
Russia: Court Convicts Journalist for Activism 
(Moscow) – A Russian court on February 11, 2020 found a journalist criminally responsible for involvement in an “undesirable” organization, Human Rights Watch said today. The journalist, Maxim Vernikov, was the first person convicted under a 2015 law that allows the authorities to ban from the country any foreign or international organization that allegedly undermines Russia’s security, defense, or constitutional order. The law also provides for administrative sanctions to organizations and people that engage with “undesirable organizations” and criminal liability for “continued involvement,” that is, more than two administrative penalties in a year. Human Rights Watch, 11 February 2020 

Russia Adds U.S. News Site RFE/RL to ‘Foreign Agent’ Roster 
Russia has added the legal entity of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news organization to its list of “foreign agent” media Wednesday under a controversial law that requires listed outlets to disclose their funding sources. President Vladimir Putin signed the law in November 2017, allowing the “foreign agent” designation to be placed on news outlets that receive funding from abroad. Russian lawmakers said they acted in response to U.S. pressure for Kremlin-funded media to register under anti-propaganda laws, a claim that RFE/RL’s parent company called “severely” misguided. The Moscow Times, 13 February 2020

Alfa-Bank reportedly refuses to release funds controlled by several prominent anti-corruption activists 
Alfa-Bank continues to block the accounts of at least three Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) employees, as well as one staff member at Alexey Navalny’s headquarters, despite the fact that the sequestration of these funds in the criminal case against FBK has expired, according to FBK project manager Leonid Volkov. Meduza, 13 February 2020

Freedom of expression
Russian Police Shut Down Pussy Riot Video Shoot For Second Straight Day
Russian police in St. Petersburg have for the second consecutive day shut down the shooting of a music video by anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot. Thirteen people were detained, including band leader Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, during a photography session in a studio, Pyotr Verzilov, a band member and Tolokonnikova's former spouse, said on February 10 in a social-media post. The group has been trying to record a video of their song Besit, which roughly translates as being irked or vexed by something. Later the same day, Verzilov posted a video of Tolokonnikova at the police station showing her saying the reason for the group's detention was because of an alleged carbon-monoxide leak at the studio. RFE/RL, 11 February 2020

Moscow Court Fines Twitter, Facebook For Refusal To 'Localize' Russian Users' Data 
A court in Moscow has fined Twitter and Facebook for failing to move Russian user data onto servers in Russian territory.  The Tanagka district court on February 13 ordered the two global behemoths to pay 4 million rubles ($63,336) each for violating a law that obliges social-media companies to store their clients' data solely inside the country. RFE/RL, 13 February 2020

Russian Ministry's Controversial Order Restricting Scholars' Contacts With Foreigners Rescinded 
MOSCOW -- A controversial order by Russia's Ministry of Education and Science that restricted interaction between Russian scholars and their foreign counterparts last year has been rescinded. Education and Science Minister Valery Falkov told reporters in Moscow on February 10 that the ministry "is interested in cooperation [with foreign scientists] that will develop on the principles of open science," adding that the order in question is no longer valid. He gave no further explanation as to why the order was annulled. RFE/RL, 10 February 2020

Freedom of assembly
Russian Anti-Surveillance Activists Detained At Moscow Protest 
MOSCOW -- Police in the Russian capital have detained a group of activists protesting against expanded government surveillance on February 9 after the demonstrators gathered outside the presidential administration with their faces demonstratively painted to evade facial-recognition tools. The group, which refers to itself with a Russian-language social-media hashtag that roughly translates as “Follow” (#следуй), launched a campaign last week against the government’s growing use of street-mounted technology to surveil citizens. RFE/RL, 9 February 2020

Russian Police Detain and Pressure Convicted Anti-Fascists’ Supporters – Reports 
Police in the central Russian city of Penza detained and allegedly pressured a group of activists who had come to support jailed members of an anti-fascist group, Russian media reported Tuesday. Seven members of the group Set — Russian for “Network” — were sentenced to up to 18 years on terrorism charges in Penza on Monday in a case that observers have compared to a Soviet-era show trial. Olga Misik, Anna Loyko, Sergei Zapolnov and Nikolai Sokolov had come to Penza from Moscow to join other activists in supporting the seven anti-fascists as their verdicts were being read. The Moscow Times, 12 February 2020 

Protesters Twice as Likely to Be Jailed for Assaulting Police in Russia, Study Says 
Protesters in Russia are twice as likely to receive real prison time for violence against law enforcement authorities than those tried for the same crime under different circumstances, the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported Thursday.  Novaya Gazeta compared nearly 12,000 assault sentences in 2016-2019 with the 57 sentences handed down to protesters over their role in the mass rallies that swept Moscow last summer. The Moscow Times, 13 February 2020

Freedom of movement
More Than 3 Million Russians Can’t Travel Abroad Due To Unpaid Debt 
More than 3 million Russians face foreign travel bans as of the end of 2019 due to unpaid financial debt, Interfax reported, citing data from the Federal Service of Court Bailiffs. Throughout last year, nearly 8 million Russians were placed on the temporary travel ban list, with about two-thirds of them extinguishing their debt by the end of the year, leaving 3.2 million penalized debtors. Their combined debt is the equivalent of $24 million. RFE/RL, 12 February 2020

Justice Comes to Dagestan
Villagers Win Compensation Years After Authorities Nearly Destroyed Their Village
Tanya Lokshina: Justice is finally coming to the small, remote village of Vremenny, located in Dagestan, the largest and arguably the most complex region of Russia’s Northern Caucasus. The residents there are finally being compensated after an abusive 2014 counterterrorism operation practically destroyed the village. We documented the crackdown on Salafi Muslims in Vremenny and elsewhere in Dagestan, detailing the abusive counterinsurgency operations by Russian law enforcement and security officials, and in the summer 2015 published the findings in our report, “Invisible War.” Human Rights Watch, 12 February 2020 

Police Raid Activists Homes, Offices In Daghestan 
The homes and offices of activists who help domestic violence victims in the Russian North Caucasus region of Daghestan have been raided by police, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on February 15. According to HRW, police seized computers and other electronic equipment during the raids on February 13 in Khasavyurt and Makhachkala, the regional capital. RFE/RL, 15 February 2020

Russia: Raids on Rights Defenders in Dagestan 
Stop Assault, Intimidation of Activists 
(Moscow) – Police in southern Russia on February 13, 2020 raided the homes and office of activists who provide legal and psychological assistance to survivors of domestic violence, Human Rights Watch said today. The raids took place in Makhachkala and Khasavyurt, two cities in Dagestan, a republic in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region. Human Rights Watch, 15 February 2020

Swimming Pool in Russia’s North Caucasus Must Overturn Ban on Women 
Court rules the pool's decision to ban women was illegal and a violation of human rights, but not discrimination. 
A swimming pool in southern Russia that banned women has been ordered to reverse its decision, the Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday. The prosecutor's office in the majority Muslim republic of Dagestan ruled that the Anzhi Arena’s actions were illegal and a violation of human rights, although it stopped short of calling the ban discrimination. The Moscow Times, 12 February 2020 

Law enforcement agencies
Report: Russian Couple Faces Charges For Wedding Photos That Include FSB Officer 
A Russian newspaper says that a married couple faces criminal charges for photographs taken at their wedding five years ago and published online that reveal the identity of a counterintelligence officer with Russia’s main security agency. Kommersant reported on February 11 that Konstantin Antonets and Antonina Zimina were detained in July 2018 in the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad. The couple have denied the allegations. According to the newspaper, the Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, has been investigating how details of a Kaliningrad FSB officer had been obtained by the intelligence agency in neighboring Lithuania. RFE/RL, 11 February 2020

Two Russian police officers receive prison sentences for torturing teenager 
Two beat officers in the St. Petersburg police force have been sentenced to prison time on charges of torturing a teenage boy. The human rights organization Zona Prava first reported on the sentencing. Alexander Zabroda was sentenced to one year and eight months in a prison colony, while Yevgeny Auning was sentenced to one year and six months. Both have been barred from future state service. Zona Prava, 11 February 2020

Russian law enforcement officers celebrate promotion with mafia slogans, triggering official investigation
Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened an official investigation following the appearance of a video in which high-ranking law-enforcement officials celebrated their colleague’s promotion using chants associated with organized crime. Meduza, 12 February 2020

Former Top Russian Penitentiary Official Kills Himself In Courtroom 
The former chief of a directorate of Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) has killed himself in a Moscow courtroom after being sentenced to three years in prison for extortion. Viktor Sviridov, who was found guilty on February 12 of a charge of extorting 10 million rubles ($157,000) from the FSIN's former deputy chief, Aleksandr Sapozhnikov, shot himself at the Chertanovo district court right after the judge pronounced his sentence. RFE/RL, 12 February 2020 

Dutch Refused Moscow Request to Try MH17 Russian Suspects There: Minister 
THE HAGUE — The Netherlands refused a request by Moscow to consider allowing Russia to prosecute three Russian nationals identified as suspects in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the Dutch justice minister revealed on Wednesday. The first court hearing in the Dutch case against the three Russian suspects and one Ukrainian is scheduled for March 9. If the case eventually goes to trial, the four may be tried in absentia under Dutch law. The New York Times, 12 February 2020 

Week-ending 7 February 2020

posted 7 Feb 2020, 14:23 by Translation Service   [ updated 16 Feb 2020, 06:42 ]


Russia: Prominent investigative journalist and lawyer attacked during visit to Chechnya 
Reacting to news of a mob attack late last night, in the Chechen capital Grozny, on two visiting human rights activists – one of whom is investigative journalist Elena Milashina, who uncovered a vicious campaign of abduction, torture and killings against gay men in Chechnya two years ago, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director, said: “This brazen attack is appalling. Last year Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov openly warned he would bar human rights defenders from Chechnya and threatened them with violence. Now, such violence is taking place. Amnesty International, 7 February 2020 

Thugs Attack Lawyer, Journalist in Chechnya
Local Authorities’ Pattern of Abuse Suggests their Involvement
Tanya Lokshina: Last night, a group of thugs in Grozny attacked human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina and investigative journalist Elena Milashina – the latest in a long history of attacks on rights defenders which bear the hallmarks of being endorsed by Chechen authorities and tolerated by the Kremlin. Dubrovina arrived in Chechnya on Thursday for a client’s court hearing. She’s representing a blogger who was tortured and jailed on bogus weapon possession charges in retaliation for posting a video about the opulent lifestyle of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his associates. Milashina, who covers the case for Novaya Gazeta, joined Dubrovina in Grozny. Human Rights Watch, 7 February 2020

Noted Russian Investigative Journalist, Rights Lawyer Attacked In Grozny
A well-known Russian investigative journalist, Yelena Milashina, and human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina have been attacked in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Chechnya. The Moscow-based newspaper Novaya gazeta says its reporter and the lawyer were in the Chechen capital, Grozny, to attend the trial of a well-known blogger, when they were attacked by a group of unknown assailants late in the evening on February 6. RFE/RL, 7 February 2020

Russian journalist Elena Milashina attacked in Chechnya
Vilnius, Lithuania, February 7, 2020 -- Russian authorities should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the attack against journalist Elena Milashina and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Committee to Protect Journalists, 7 February 2020

Human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina and journalist Elena Milashina violently attacked
On 6 February 2020, a group of unknown individuals violently attacked lawyer Marina Dubrovina and journalist Elena Milashina in the lobby of the Continent hotel in Grozny, Chechnya. The human rights defenders were in Grozny for the court hearing of Islam Nukhanov. Frontline Defenders, 10 February 2020. See also Frontline Defenders, 10 February 2020

Memorial Human Rights Center Says Four Men Kidnapped In Chechnya
The Moscow-based Memorial human rights center says unknown individuals have abducted four young men in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Chechnya. According to Memorial, residents of the village of Gekhi in Chechnya's central-western Urus-Martan district told the center on February 6 that Movsar Vakhayev, Abdulla Zairayev, Zelimkhan Kulayev, and Akhmed Satayev were taken away the day before at around 10 p.m. local time by unknown individuals in two vehicles. RFE/RL, 7 February 202

Chechen Blogger Known For Criticizing Kadyrov Reportedly Murdered In France 
Chechen blogger Imran Aliyev, known for his criticism of the Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been found dead with multiple stab wounds in a hotel in France, according to reports. RFE/RL, 4 February 2020 

Abuse of anti-terrorism legislation
Russia: Prosecution for membership of a non-existent “terrorist” organization must stop 
Seven young men standing trial in Penza (Central Russia) on absurd “terror” charges must be immediately released and the charges against them dropped, Amnesty International urged ahead of the verdict on 10 February. The defendants, mostly left-wing political activists, are accused of participating in a non-existent “terrorist organization” called “Network” and face up to 18 years in prison if found guilty.  “These terror charges are a figment of the Russian security services’ imagination that was fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists. The trial has been a sham – the men say their confessions were extracted by torture and the so-called evidence is contradicted by the facts,” said Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International Russia’s Researcher. Amnesty International, 7 February 2020 

Freedom of expression
Number of extremism cases over Internet posts drops in half in Russia - experts 
MOSCOW, February 4 (RAPSI) – The number of criminal cases opened over Internet publications has decreased by almost twice. Experts come to associate it with the partial decriminalization of the Criminal Code’s article on incitement of hatred and enmity. According to one of the research authors, the head of the International Advocacy Group Agora Pavel Chikov, there were 200 incidents in 2019 as compared to 384 in 2018. 
RAPSI, 4 February 2020 

Court In Russian-Occupied Crimea Extends Pretrial Arrest For Pro-Ukrainian Activist 
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- A court in Crimea has extended the pretrial detention of pro-Ukrainian activist Oleh Prykhodko. Prykhodko's lawyer, Nazim Sheykhmambetov, told RFE/RL that the Kyiv district court in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, on February 5, rejected a motion to transfer his client to house arrest and prolonged his client's pretrial detention to April 10. Sheykhmambetov said that he and his client learned during the hearing that Prykhodko is now additionally charged with plotting a terrorist attack at the Russian Consulate in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. RFE/RL, 6 February 2020 

Russia Proposes Internet Ecosystem to Protect Users From ‘Foreign Influence’ – Report 
Russia’s state-controlled telecommunications provider is proposing a 260-billion-ruble ($4.1 billion) online ecosystem to “protect users from foreign influence,” the Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday.  Rostelecom’s so-called roadmap reportedly envisions the creation of state-run messengers, gaming services, browsers and operating systems. The telecom provider’s ambitious proposal also includes state-controlled content recommendation systems and speech and gesture recognition in addition to virtual and augmented reality technology, the publication reported. The Moscow Times, 6 February 2020 

Freedom of conscience
2 Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Charged With ‘Extremism’ 
Two Jehovah’s Witnesses in northern Russia have been charged with extremism, law enforcement authorities said Thursday amid the crackdown on the Christian denomination that Russia banned in 2017. At least 14 people were detained in the town of Pechora during Tuesday’s raids across 10 addresses, the news website reported. It named Gennady Skutelts, 43, and Gennady Polyakevich, 60, among the four people held in detention for more than 24 hours. The Moscow Times, 31 January 2020 

Right of assembly
Protesters opposed to Russian Constitution changes detained 
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Police in the Russian city of St. Petersburg detained participants in a small Saturday protest of proposed changes to the country’s constitution. No official protest figures or information about possible charges was immediately available. The St. Petersburg news website said 10 people were detained. AP News, 1 February 2020 

Right of association
Bank account seizure of over 100 people in Navalny foundation money washing case extended 
MOSCOW, February 4 (RAPSI) – Moscow’s Basmanny District Court extended attachment of bank accounts of more than 100 people linked to the foundation founded by Alexey Navalny as part of a money laundering case until August, lawyer Tatiana Molokanova told RAPSI on Tuesday. According to the lawyer, accounts of 92 individuals were seized in one bank and of 30-40 persons in another one. RAPSI, 4 February 2020 

LGBTI rights
More Russian LGBT Supporters Injured In Attacks In 2019, Watchdog Says
A prominent Moscow-based watchdog says the number of casualties in attacks on members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Russia increased in 2019, while it also said its research showed that ethnic-based hate crimes declined. The Sova Center, a respected research organization that tracks hate crimes and extremist movements in Russia, also said in its annual report released on February 4 that the number of attacks by pro-government groups against their opponents declined in 2019. RFE/RL, 4 February 2020 

Moscow Jury Acquits Man Of Murdering Gay Despite Confession 
A jury in a Moscow court has acquitted a man charged with murder after stabbing to death a gay man that the accused has admitted to attacking with a knife. Artyom Lapov, a lawyer from the gay rights group Stimul, said on February 7 that jurors at the trial at the Basmanny district court found Anton Berezhnoi not guilty of murder in the beating of Roman Yedalov, instead convicting him of a lesser charge of assault. RFE/RL, 7 February 2020 

Two human rights advocates join Moscow police public council 
MOSCOW, February 3 (RAPSI) – Members of the Presidential Council for Human Rights Andrey Babushkin and Igor Borisov have joined the Public Council of the Interior Ministry’s Moscow Main Directorate for 2020 – 2023, the advisory body’s press service reports. RAPSI, 3 February 2020 

Rights of children
Putin signs bill to protect minors’ housing rights after parents’ divorce into law
MOSCOW, February 7 (RAPSI) – President of Russia Vladimir Putin has signed a bill introducing new safeguards with respect to housing rights of children of divorcing couples into the Russian Family Code into law, according to the official website of legal information.  The initiative envisages that a parent residing separately from a child is to be made to take part in additional obligations relating to the provision of the minor with housing accommodation. RAPSI, 7 February 2020 

Coronavirus Patient In Russia Says Doctors Withheld His Diagnosis 
MOSCOW -- A Chinese national quarantined in Russia's Far East amid reports he's one of the country's first two patients with the highly infectious Wuhan coronavirus has appealed to journalists at a local news outlet to complain of unsanitary conditions and demand confirmation of his diagnosis. RFE/RL 3 February 2020 

Russia Says It May Deport Foreigners Confirmed With Coronavirus 
Russia says it plans to deport foreigners diagnosed with the new coronavirus as an increasingly isolated China blamed the United States for stoking fears over the outbreak instead of providing concrete assistance. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a televised government meeting on February 3 that an annual investment forum later in the month in Sochi had been postponed due to the virus outbreak. RFE/RL 3 February 2020 

Russia Finalizes ‘Revolutionary’ Dual Citizenship Bill – Kommersant 
Russian lawmakers expect to vote on legislation that would allow dual Russian citizenship for foreigners as soon as this month, the Kommersant business daily reported Friday.  Under current Russian law, foreigners wishing to become Russian citizens must first renounce their other citizenships. Authors of the bill expect the new amendments relaxing these rules to help attract between 5 million and 10 million new Russian citizens, primarily from Russian-speaking populations in post-Soviet states. The Moscow Times, 7 February 2020 

A problem-solving Don Quixote Teodor Shanin, who modernized Russia’s higher education system for the humanities, dies at 89
On February 4, the Moscow School for the Social and Economic Sciences (MSSES), more commonly known as “Shaninka,” announced the passing of its founder, sociologist Teodor Shanin. Irina Kravtsova asked Anatoly Kasprzhak, who succeeded Shanin as MSSES rector, how his mentor changed higher education in the humanities in Russia. Meduza, 4 February 2020

Russian Constitution
Putin discloses tentative timeline of preparing amendments to Russian Constitution 
MOSCOW, February 4 (RAPSI) – President Vladimir Putin believes the consideration of amendments to Russia’s Constitution would take a little over 3 months, he said during a public participation meeting on Tuesday. A public opinion is important as to adoption of the amendments, the President also noted. The Russia-wide is to be conducted, he stated. RAPSI, 4 February 2020 

Week-ending 31 January 2020

posted 28 Jan 2020, 12:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Feb 2020, 09:35 by Translation Service ]

Freedom of assembly
On 27 January 2020, Russia’s Constitutional Court ordered a review of the conviction of activist Konstantin Kotov. He is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for “repeated violation of the established procedure of organizing or holding public events” under Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code (popularly known as “Dadin’s Article”, after Ildar Dadin, the first exercise his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Konstantin Kotov is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.  Amnesty International, 28 January 2020 

Russian activist’s sentence for repeated violations at rallies appealed in cassation 
MOSCOW - A 4-year jail sentence given to activist Konstantin Kotov for repeated violations of a rally holding order has been appealed in cassation, his lawyer Maria Eismont has told RAPSI. According to the attorney, Kotov should be released as soon as possible. Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court convicted and sentenced Kotov in September. A month later, the Moscow City Court upheld the verdict. RAPSI, 31 January 2020 

Jail sentence of 27 July riots participant Malyshevsky reduced by 3 months 
MOSCOW, January 29 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Wednesday reduced sentence given to Eduard Malyshevsky for assault on a police officer at the unauthorized rally held in Moscow on July 27 from 3 years to 2 years and 9 months in jail, RAPSI reports from the courtroom.  In December, Malyshevsky was sentenced to 3 years in a penal colony. He was found guilty of using violence against a representative of authority. RAPSI, 29 January 2020

Russia: Intrusive facial recognition technology must not be used to crackdown on protests 
The Russian authorities must halt their plans to broaden the use of widespread facial recognition systems which will pose a real threat to their citizen’s privacy and human rights, Amnesty International said today as a court in Moscow hears a complaint against the use of such technologies to crack down on peaceful protest. On 31 January, the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow will begin consideration of a complaint submitted by the civil rights activist Alyona Popova and the politician Vladimir Milov. They argue that data collection about participants of lawful public gatherings results in the violation of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Through the court case they seek to prohibit the use of facial recognition technology at rallies and delete all stored personal data previously collected. Amnesty International, 31 January 2020 

Right of association
Russia: Judicial harassment of members of "Siberia Without Torture" Mr. Svyatoslav Khromenkov and Ms. Natalya Varshney
URGENT APPEAL RUS 001 / 0120 / OBS 005
Judicial harassment / Seizure of electronic equipment 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your intervention in the following situation in Russia. FIDH, 28 January 2020

Freedom of expression
Blogger denied reversal of sentence for threats against children of law enforcement
MOSCOW, January 29 (RAPSI) – The Second Cassation Court of General Jurisdiction on Wednesday dismissed a cassation appeal filed by blogger Vladislav Sinitsa against his 5-year jail sentence for online calls for violence against children of law enforcement officers, RAPSI reported from the courtroom. In his appeal Sinitsa asked to overturn the sentence as evidence laid in its basis, including results of an examination and witness testimony, were divergent and inadmissible. RAPSI, 29 January 2020

Putin Fires Chuvashia Governor Who Called For Journalists To Be 'Wiped Out' 
President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the governor of the Russian region of Chuvashia, Mikhail Ignatyev, who has faced harsh criticism recently for his public behavior. The Kremlin said on January 29 that Putin relieved Ignatyev of his duties due to a "loss of trust."  Lawmaker Oleg Nikolayev was immediately appointed Chuvashia's acting governor, according to a decree signed by Putin. RFE/RL, 29 January 2020 

Former Moscow Police Charged With Fabricating Case Against Journalist 
Five former Moscow police officers have been charged for their roles in the attempted framing of Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov by planting drugs in his backpack and apartment last year. The Basmanny district court's press service said on January 30 that the former officers of the Moscow narcotics unit were charged with abuse of service duties, falsification of evidence, and illegal handling of drugs. RFE/RL, 30 January 2020

Students Charged With Terrorism for Anti-Putin Graffiti 
A St. Petersburg court has charged two students with inciting terrorism for painting stencil graffiti of President Vladimir Putin that calls for his murder.  The two young men were detained after spray-painting portraits of Putin with the words “If you see him, kill him” in central St. Petersburg, a local court said. Anti-extremism police detained the suspects, both aged 22, after tracking a car that they had been seen exiting, the Fontanka news website reportedThe Moscow Times, 30 January 2020

25 Detained in Chechnya Over Photoshopped 'Patriarch’ Kadyrov – Reports 
Two dozen men have been detained in Russia’s republic of Chechnya for sharing a doctored image of the region’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov in Orthodox Christian garb, the Kavkaz.Realii news website reported Saturday.  The detentions, which reportedly took place in three Chechen towns and districts, follow Kadyrov’s repeated threats of violence to online critics last year. Kadyrov has ruled the majority-Muslim republic since he was appointed its leader in 2007 after two bloody separatist conflicts in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Moscow Times, 28 January 2020 

Criminal Record Of Crimean Journalist Semena Officially Cleared 
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- An RFE/RL contributor in Ukraine's Russia-controlled Crimea region has received court papers officially confirming the termination of his probation and the expunging of his criminal record. A court in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, on January 14 ruled to prematurely terminate the probation period and expunge the criminal record of Mykola Semena, who had been convicted of separatism on the peninsula. Semena received a copy of the ruling on January 28 and is now considered totally free. RFE/RL, 28 January 2020 

Ukrainian journalist Taras Ibragimov banned from entering Russia for 34 years 
Vilnius, Lithuania, January 30, 2020 -- Russian authorities should immediately lift the ban imposed on journalist Taras Ibragimov and allow him to freely report in Crimea, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On January 18, officers of the Russian Federal Security Service denied Ibragimov, a Ukrainian national and freelance reporter for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, entry to the Crimea peninsula and gave him a written notice saying he was barred from entering Russia until May 31, 2054, according to a report by his employer. Committee for the Protection of Journalists, 30 January 2020 

Facebook, Twitter suspected of breaching Russia’s personal data storage rules 
MOSCOW – Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has instituted administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter over alleged breaching of user data storage requirements. The proceedings were commenced as the companies failed to provide in time information on fulfilment of requirements on the localization of databases of Russian social media users on servers located in Russia, as stipulated by the Law On Personal Data, the watchdog’s statement reads. The companies could face fines ranging from 1 to 6 million rubles ($16,000 - 94,000) each, according to the Code on Administrative Offenses. RAPSI, 31 January 2020 

LGBT rights
Russian LGBT Activist Receives Dutch Asylum After Police Threats
An LGBT activist fled southern Russia for the Netherlands after facing threats of prosecution from law enforcement and retribution from conservative vigilantes, she said in an interview Tuesday.  Anna Dvornichenko has said that authorities in the city of Rostov-on-Don refused to investigate two attacks — one with pepper spray and another with a smoke bomb — against her that took place in the same week last summer. Instead, Dvornichenko said anti-extremism officers had threatened to prosecute her for her activism. The Moscow Times, 30 January 2020

A New Film Brings Chechnya’s Horrific Anti-Gay Purge to the Screen 
Graeme Reid, Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program
I was recently invited to a private prescreening of David France’s new documentary Welcome to Chechnya. The film focuses on activists working day and night under extreme duress to rescue complete strangers from a violent purge of gay men in Chechnya.  I sat with the director after watching the film, notebook in hand, to give him feedback. But instead I found myself quite unable to speak. And despite my best efforts to maintain professional composure, I sobbed. And sobbed. Instead of our planned discussion, the director found himself looking for tissues, bringing me water, giving me comfort. Later, on the sidewalk, I called a friend, himself a filmmaker. “I guess the film is effective,” he said. Human Rights Watch, 28 January 2020

Justice system
Report: Kremlin Rights Official Was Deceived While Probing Deadly Chechen Police Raids 
A Russian newspaper has reported that the Kremlin’s main human rights advocate may have been deliberately deceived as part of her investigation into police raids in Chechnya that allegedly killed more than two dozen men. Novaya Gazeta reported on January 27 that Tatyana Moskalkova held a meeting in Chechnya in September 2017, as part of her investigation into the raids. RFE/RL, 27 January 2020 

Russian Prosecutors Drop Murder Charges Against Sisters Who Stabbed Their Father 
Maria (left) and Angelina Khachaturyan, sisters who admitted killing their father, are shown in court in June. Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office has ordered investigators to drop murder charges against teenage sisters accused of killing their abusive father in a closely watched case that fueled debate on the issue of domestic violence in the country. Prosecutors on January 30 said the case of sisters Maria, Angelina, and Krestina Khachaturyan should be reclassified as self-defense, likely ending the legal case against the three, their lawyer said. RFE/RL, 31 January 2020

U.S. Ambassador Slams Russia's 'Shameful Treatment' Of Jailed Former U.S. Marine 
MOSCOW -- The United States' new ambassador to Russia has urged Moscow to release Paul Whelan and accused the Russian authorities of "shameful treatment" of the former U.S. Marine, who is accused of spying. Ambassador John Sullivan made the comments outside Moscow's Lefortovo detention center on January 30 after visiting Whelan, who is being held in pretrial detention in a case that has ratcheted up already tense relations between Russia and the United States. RFE/RL, 31 January 2020 

Russia’s Share of European Human Rights Cases Hits 7-Year High 
The share of Russian cases in Europe’s top human rights court has reached a seven-year high in 2019, the Vedomosti business daily reported Wednesday, citing the court’s annual report. Russia remains the runaway leader in the number of pending cases among the 47 member states that fall under the court’s jurisdiction, according to European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) data. Russia last year accounted for 15,050 out of a total of 59,800 pending cases in the Strasbourg-based court, or one-quarter of all applications. The Moscow Times, 30 January 2020 

The Constitution
‘Volodya, aren’t you tired?': Russia’s youth on Putin’s 20 years in power
Russians born when Putin first rose to power have come of age. And they're curious about change.
On New Year's Eve, activists from the Vesna Movement, a Russian pro-democracy youth movement, held solitary pickets in the Siberian city of Omsk. These young protesters were marking the twentieth anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s rise to power and they had just one question for the Russian President: “Volodya [diminutive form of Vladimir – ed.], aren’t you tired?” Hoping against hope, the activists put their photos on Facebook, along with a post wondering whether Putin would follow in the footsteps of Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, by announcing his resignation on New Year's Eve: Global Voices, 28 January 2020

Week-ending 24 January 2020

posted 19 Jan 2020, 04:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Jan 2020, 12:11 ]

Right of association
Russia: Persecution of ‘Undesirable’ Activists House Arrests, New Criminal Charges
(Moscow) – A Russian court has extended the house arrest of Anastasiya Shevchenko, a member of the Open Russia Civic Movement, alleging that she is involved in an “undesirable” organization, Human Rights Watch said today. The decision is consistent with Russian authorities’ use of an abusive law on “undesirable organizations” to silence activists, with several other activists on trial or facing prosecution on similar accusations. “That Anastasiya Shevchenko has been confined to her apartment for over a year is absurd,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “No one should spend even a minute in detention for what Open Russia activists are accused of, yet Russian authorities are using criminal prosecutions as a scare tactic against civic activism and critical voices.” Human Rights Watch, 18 January 2020

A Perversion of Justice in Russia
Police Surveil Activist’s Bedroom with Hidden Camera
Last weekend, news broke that Russian police had placed a surveillance camera in the bedroom of Anastasiya Shevchenko, an activist currently facing criminal charges for involvement in an “undesirable” foreign organization. Shevchenko’s daughter, who posted the news on social media, also said Anastasiya’s apartment had been wired for nearly five months in 2018, prior to her initial arrest. Unbeknownst to Anastasiya, the police installed a hidden camera pointing at her bed. It’s unclear what police were trying to catch on film in Shevchenko’s home, but what is certain is they have grossly violated her privacy in an inappropriate and humiliating manner. Human Rights Watch, 23 January 2020

Appeals court upholds marking of Navalny’s foundation as foreign agent
MOSCOW, January 20 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Monday upheld inclusion of a foundation established by opposition figure Alexey Navalny in the list of NGOs acting as foreign agents, RAPSI was told in the court’s press service. On November 1, the Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court refused to overturn the Justice Ministry’s decision to include Navalny’s foundation in the list of NGOs acting as foreign agents, therefore dismissing a lawsuit lodged by the blogger. RAPSI, 20 January 2020

RFE/RL Files Documents To Register As 'Foreign Agent' With Russian Tax Service
PRAGUE -- RFE/RL's Russian Service has filed documents with Russia's Federal Tax Service to register as a "foreign agent" to comply with a law that critics say the Kremlin uses to muzzle dissent, limit news plurality, and discourage the free exchange of ideas. Andrei Shary, the director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, said on January 24 that the papers had been filed in recent days. REF/RL, 24 January 2020

Freedom of conscience
Jehovah's Witness In Russia's Far East Gets Suspended Six-Year Prison Sentence
The Jehovah's Witnesses say a court in Russia's Far East has handed a suspended six-year prison sentence to one of its members amid what activists call an escalating campaign of persecution of the religious group. Judge Natalia Derevyagina of Nadezhdinsky District Court in the region of Primorye on January 21 found Grigory Bubnov guilty of "organizing the activities of a banned group" and handed down the sentence on the same day. RFE/RL, 21 January 2020

Freedom of expression
Crimea Bans for Journalists Are Choking the Truth
Russian Authorities Trying to Silence Information Flow from Occupied Crimea
Russian authorities barred an independent Ukrainian journalist, Taras Ibragimov, from entering Crimea last weekend and issued him a 34-year-ban. Ibragimov had traveled regularly to Crimea the past four years, and in May 2019 joined me in Crimea as a videographer, when I interviewed dozens of lawyers and family members of Crimean Tatars jailed on bogus terrorism charges. Human Rights Watch, 21 January 2020

Russian Republic’s Leader Accused Of Inciting Violence Against Critical Journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for the leader of Russia's Republic of Chuvashia in the Volga region to be tried for inciting violence when he said journalists who constantly criticize the government should be "wiped out." Speaking on January 18, which marked Press Day in Russia, Mikhail Ignatyev urged journalists to "wipe out" colleagues who "criticize from morning to night." The word he used for “wipe out" was "mochit" -- a Russian underworld slang term. RFE/RL, 21 January 2020 See also RSF, 21 January 2020

Popular Russian Stand-Up Comic Flees Russia After Police Probe 
Alexander Dolgopolov opened his hour-long routine with a joke about Jesus and his mother Mary. Later, he mocks Putin’s voters and Russia’s presidential elections. Dolgopolov has fled Russia pending further information about the police probe, human rights lawyer Leonid Solovyov told the MBKh news website Thursday. “We can’t say where he went yet,” Solovyov said, citing security reasons.  Dolgopolov warned his Instagram followers that his late Wednesday performance in Moscow was canceled.  Police near Moscow have put out a request for information about a popular comic’s stand-up performance from a year ago, the comic said Tuesday, prompting speculation that he could be targeted for jokes he made about religion and the authorities.  The Moscow Times, 23 January 2020; see also Human Rights Watch, 24 January 2020

Right of assembly
Ruling on extension of detention of Moscow student accused in illegal rally case vacated
MOSCOW, January 22 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Wednesday overturned a lower court’s ruling extending detention of the Moscow Aviation Institute student Andrey Barshay, who had allegedly gave a National Guard officer a poke in the back during an unauthorized July 27 rally, his lawyer Svetlana Bayturina told RAPSI. Until the matter is reconsidered, Barshay is to remain in detention. RAPSI, 22 January 2020

Convicted participant of illegal Moscow rally to stay in detention until June
MOSCOW, January 22 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Wednesday upheld detention of a convicted participant of the unauthorized rally held in Moscow on July 27 Sergey Surovtsev, RAPSI reported from the courtroom.  He will remain in detention until June 10.  RAPSI, 22 January 2020

Journalist Golunov demands apology from authorities for illegal prosecution
MOSCOW, January 22 (RAPSI) - Journalist Ivan Golunov has filed a complaint to a new Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov asking for official apology from the state for illegal prosecution, according to his attorney Sergey Badamshin.  He also demands to recognize failure of the officials of the Prosecutor General’s Office to issue a formal apology on behalf of the state as illegal, Badamshin told RAPSI on Wednesday.  RAPSI, 22 January 2020

Moscow Metro’s dispute with opposition figures over illegal rally to continue in February
MOSCOW, January 22 (RAPSI) – The Moscow Metro state enterprise added to its lawsuit against opposition figures Lyubov Sobol and Georgy Alburov a list of metro stations where more employees had to work because of an unauthorized rally on August 3, RAPSI reported from the Simonovsky District Court of Moscow on Wednesday.  For this reason, the hearing was adjourned until February 17. The court granted time to the defendants to read the documents.  RAPSI, 22 January 2020

Hearing of police claim against illegal Moscow rallies organizers to resume in February
MOSCOW, January 23 (RAPSI) – Moscow’s Simonovsky District Court will continue to hear a 4.3-million-ruble lawsuit filed by the Interior Ministry’s Moscow Main Directorate against organizers of unauthorized summer rallies on February 13, according to a RAPSI correspondent.  The defendants are expected to give their testimony at the next hearing.  RAPSI, 23 January 2020

Detention of Moscow student accused in illegal rally case extended again
MOSCOW, January 23 (RAPSI) – Moscow’s Basmanny District Court on Thursday again extended detention of the Moscow Aviation Institute student Andrey Barshay, who had allegedly given a National Guard officer a poke in the back during an unauthorized summer rally, until January 27, RAPSI reports from the courtroom.  On Wednesday, the Moscow City Court overturned a lower court’s ruling extending detention of Barshay and ordered the matter to be reconsidered.  RAPSI, 23 January 2020

Ingush Activist Sentenced Over Violence At Rallies Against Chechnya Border Deal
A court in Russia has sentenced an Ingush activist to 16 months in a colony-settlement for assaulting police officers during mass rallies against a controversial border deal with neighboring Chechnya last year. A colony-settlement is a penitentiary in which convicts live close to a facility where they work. A court in the city of Zheleznovodsk in the Stavropol region on January 23 found Magomed Ozdoyev guilty and sentenced him the same day. RFE/RL, 24 January 2020

Justice system / Law enforcement
Prisoner population in Russia is on decline – Rights Commissioner Moskalkova 
MOSCOW, January 23 (RAPSI) – The number of individuals held in custody in Russia has decreased by 40,000 in 2019 as compared with the figures registered in the same period of 2018, and makes at the moment 523,900, according to Russia’s ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova.  RAPSI, 23 January 2020 

Russia to Install ‘Spiritual’ Domestic Apps – Vedomosti
Russian authorities will give priority to “spiritual values” when deciding which Russian-made apps should come pre-installed under a controversial law banning smartphone sales without domestic software, the Vedomosti newspaper reported Thursday. The Moscow Times, 24 January 2020 

Lawsuit against face recognition system filed with Moscow court
MOSCOW, January 24 (RAPSI) – A lawsuit against the Moscow Information Technologies Department and the city Directorate of Internal Affairs over illegality of the face recognition system use has been filed with the Tverskoy District Court, lawyer Kirill Koroteyev has told RAPSI. According to the attorney, the face recognition technology is collection of biometric identity information without any legal causes, however, personal data are collected in Russia with an individual’s consent, in accordance with legislation. RAPSI, 24 January 2020

LGBT rights
Young Russian Tries to Sue Over Violent Lesbian ‘Exorcism’ in Chechnya 
The practice of “exorcising” LGBT people is prevalent both in Chechnya and among the Chechen diaspora, activists say. A young woman from Russia’s conservative republic of Chechnya is seeking criminal charges against her parents, one of their acquaintances and a psychiatric clinic for allegedly torturing her based on her sexual orientation, a Russian LGBT support group said Tuesday.  The latest incident comes after widespread reports of anti-gay abuse, including torture and killings, in the majority-Muslim region in recent years. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the existence of gay people in Chechnya, a claim that Russia has also submitted to the UN.  The Moscow Times, 22 January 2020 

Russian LGBT Activist Under House Arrest is Facing New Charges 
Authorities Should Drop Charges, Release Activist, Repeal Propaganda Law 
Russian feminist and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activist Yulia Tsvetkova, already under house arrest for two months on bogus charges of pornography distribution, faces new charges of allegedly violating Russia’s “gay propaganda” law.  In the new charges, police claim Tsvetkova, 26, violated the country’s notorious “gay propaganda” law by posting on social media her drawing, depicting two same-sex couples with children and the caption “Family is where love is. Support LGBT+ families!” Tsvetkova already faces up to six years imprisonment for the pornography charge.  Human Rights Watch, 22 January 2020 

Chechen Minister Says Reading Of Koran Therapeutic For Lesbian 
A minister in Russia's Chechnya region has said it would be "remedial" for an openly gay woman to read the Koran, following beatings she accused her parents of orchestrating over her homosexuality.  "You can express yourself as you like, but reading the Koran in a certain setting, situation, and with certain conversations really is therapeutic in traditional Islamic medicine," Dzambulat Umarov, Chechen minister of national policy, foreign relations, press, and information, told the 360 channel on January 22. RFE/RL, 22 January 2020 

Gender equality
'Men Only': Largest Pool in Russia's North Caucasus Bans Women
A swimming pool in southern Russia has banned women without explanation, according to its announcement published by the popular listings magazine Afisha on Monday. The Anzhi Arena spa in Russia’s republic of Dagestan did not say what prompted the abrupt rule change. Afisha reported that a different public pool in the Dagestani city of Makhachkala had turned away a female visitor in 2011 because other clientele were “embarrassed by the presence of half-naked women.” The Moscow Times, 21 January 2020

Putin Removes Top Russian Prosecutor, Replaces Him With Investigative Official
Yury Chaika will step down after 14 years as prosecutor-general.
Russia's top prosecutor, Yury Chaika, who as one of the most powerful law enforcement figures in the country oversaw a raft of politically charged criminal investigations, will leave his position after nearly 14 years in office. The Kremlin said on January 20 that President Vladimir Putin had nominated Igor Krasnov, who has served as deputy chairman of the Investigative Committee, to replace Chaika as prosecutor-general. RFE/RL, 20 January 2020

Russian Activists Launch 'Public Campaign' Against Putin's 'Constitutional Coup'
A group of more than 30 activists, public figures and local Moscow politicians have created an online "manifesto" urging Russian citizens to resist President Vladimir Putin's proposed constitutional amendments. Novaya Gazeta, which published the document late on January 23, said more than 8,000 have already signed the manifesto, which calls Putin's amendments a "constitutional coup" that is directed at keeping "Putin and his corrupt regime" in power until he dies. RFE/RL, 24 January 2020 See also Novaya gazeta, 23 January 2020

Human rights advocates to discuss amendments to Russian Constitution
MOSCOW, January 24 (RAPSI) – The Presidential Council for Human Rights will discuss amendments proposed by President Vladimir Putin to Russia’s Constitution on January 28, the advisory body’s Chairman Valery Fadeyev told journalists on Friday. The Civic Chamber will discuss the amendments on January 29, according to the body’ s secretary Lidia Mikheyeva. On January 23, the State Duma passed a bill on amendments to the Russian Constitution in the first reading. RAPSI, 24 January 2020

Week-ending 17 January 2020

posted 13 Jan 2020, 10:49 by Subscription Service   [ updated 19 Jan 2020, 03:28 by Rights in Russia ]

Russian Court Arrests Activist For YouTube Show Mocking Putin, Close Associates

A court in the Russian republic of Tatarstan has arrested a local civil rights activist on suspicion of promoting terrorism after he mocked President Vladimir Putin and two of his close associates in a YouTube video. Karim Yamadayev, a former police officer, was arrested on January 11 for a video he posted last month on his YouTube channel, Interfax reported. If found guilty, Yamadayev faces up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of 1 million rubles ($16,390).  RFE/RL, 12 
January 2020 

Russian penitentiary officials next to police may be authorized to issue cautions
A bill authorizing penitentiary officials to hand down official warnings has been submitted to the lower house of Russian parliament, according to the State Duma database.  Amendments are proposed to the Law On the Detention of Persons Suspected and Accused of Committing Crimes and the Penitentiary Code of the Russian Federation.  The bill was drafted as existing legislation does not include provisions concerning such powers of penitentiary officials.
RAPSI, 13 January 2020

Half a year later, police officers who arrested Meduza’s Ivan Golunov face criminal charges
Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against the police officers who arrested Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov. Golunov was arrested on June 6, 2019, when he said police planted drugs on him and framed him for intent to distribute. Though he was released on June 11 following a major solidarity campaign, efforts on the part of Golunov’s legal team to apprehend the police officers involved in his arrest met with stagnation for several months. Meduza 13 January 2020

Russian Opposition Party Head Says Supreme Court Has Suspended Its Activities
The head of the Russian opposition political party Civic Initiative says the country's Supreme Court has suspended its operations for politically motivated reasons and is looking to wipe the party out altogether. Dmitry Gudkov said on Facebook that on January 14 the court suspended the party’s activities for three months in what he said was the first step towards its full "liquidation." RFE/RL, 14 January 2020

European Court Rules Russia's Khodorkovsky Denied Fair Trial
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and business partner Platon Lebedev were denied their right to a fair trial in the case of their conviction by a Russian court for embezzlement and money laundering. The Strasbourg-based court said on January 14 that it did not find any political motives in the criminal prosecution of Lebedev or Khodorkovsky, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's main opponents, and that no compensation would be ordered. RFE/RL, 14 January 2010

Court In Russia-Occupied Crimea Expunges Journalist Semena’s Criminal Record
A court in Ukraine’s Russia-controlled Crimea region has ruled to prematurely terminate the probation period and expunge the criminal record of Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributor who was convicted of separatism on the peninsula. The court in Simferopol, the region’s capital, on January 14 upheld the motion filed by the lawyer of Semena, who has contributed to the Crimea Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service. The ruling is supposed to take effect in 10 calendar days. RFE/RL, 15 January 2020 

Moscow court vacates fine imposed on designer as part of illegal summer rally case
MOSCOW, January 16 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court has overturned imposition of a 10,000-ruble ($160) fine on designer Konstantin Konovalov for rally violations before an unauthorized action held in central Moscow on July 27, his lawyer Fedor Sirosh has told RAPSI. The case has been returned to a lower court for reconsideration, he added. The desi
gner was arrested on July 27 two hours before the illegal rally. Konovalov claimed that he was arrested during a morning running insisting that he did not take part in the event. However, according to him, police used force and broke his leg. RAPSI, 16 January 2020

Top Russian University Moves to Ban Political Speech
One of Russia’s elite universities is considering banning its students and faculty from exercising political speech in the wake of high-profile scandals involving free speech last year, according to its newly proposed rules. Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) became embroiled in several controversies in 2019, including the cancellation of its student talk show after it invited an opposition activist and revoking a student newspaper’s student-body status over a critical article. HSE political science student Yegor Zhukov also became a de-facto face of last summer’s election protest movement, splitting university leadership and students into opposing camps. The Moscow Times, 17 January 2020

Russian Cameraman Who Spoke Of Censorship On TV Savagely Beaten
MOSCOW -- A former cameraman for a Russian state TV broadcaster who has spoken out and given interviews about political censorship and corruption at his former employer has been severely beaten by two men in Moscow, he told RFE/RL in an interview on January 15. Leonid Krivenkov, 61, who shot political shows on Channel One for 10 years, said the beating took place as he was leaving Kuzminsky Park in the capital on January 11. The two assailants "were athletically built, tall, and aged approximately 25-30 years, with a dog in tow," he said. RFE/RL, 15 January 2020

Second Russian Prison Guard Sentenced In High-Profile Torture Case
The second of at least 17 Russian prison guards charged in a high-profile inmate torture case has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. A court in Yaroslavl, some 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow, on January 17 convicted Maksim Yablokov of abuse of authority for beating three inmates. The court handed down the sentence the same day. 
Two days earlier, former prison guard Sergei Yefremov, who made a deal with investigators, was sentenced to four years in prison. RFE/RL, 17 January 2020 

Russia’s President proposes to bolster Constitutional Court’s role
MOSCOW, January 15 (RAPSI) – In his address to the Federal Assembly on Wednesday Russia’s President Vladimir Putin proposed to enhance the role played by the Constitutional Court in order to improve the quality of the national legislation and to secure the interests of the country’s citizens. For this, the President said, the Court needs to be empowered to verify, on Presidential requests, the constitutionality of legislation approved by the Federal Assembly before it is signed by the Head of the State. RAPSI, 15 January 2020

Why Legal ‘Innovation’ Might be Bad News for Rights in Russia
Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans for constitutional reform that, among other things, seem to clear a path for him to remain in power – albeit not as president – after his term expires in 2024. But the reforms have implications beyond Putin’s political future. Some, like me, are pondering the impact on the rights of millions of Russians if Putin’s call “to directly guarantee the priority of the Russian Constitution in our legal framework” becomes law. This is the third time in four years that Russia’s authorities have pushed for the primacy of Russian law over international law. In July 2015, Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled that judgments of the European Court of Human Rights cannot be implemented if they contradict Russia’s constitution. Human Rights Watch, 16 January 2020

Russia: Race to the Bottom on Rights
Repressive Laws, Charges Against Critics, Impunity for Abuse
(Moscow) – Repression escalated in Russia during 2019 as the government answered rising civic and political activism with bans, repressive laws, and showcase prosecutions, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2020.  The authorities carried out large-scale smear campaigns against independent nongovernmental groups, using fines against groups and their leaders to impede and even end their work. The government took this campaign to a new level with criminal investigations targeting activists of the pro-democracy Open Russia civic movement and the opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s Foundation Against Corruption. The authorities forcibly shut down two human rights organization, including one specializing in minority rights. Human Rights Watch, 14 January 2020

Week-ending 10 January 2020

posted 6 Jan 2020, 10:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Jan 2020, 03:54 ]

Russia: Escalating Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses Arrests, Prison, Harassment for Peaceful Religious Practice (Moscow) 
Law enforcement authorities across Russia have dramatically escalated the nationwide persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past 12 months, Human Rights Watch said today. One year after President Vladimir Putin said that the crackdown against them should be “looked into,” the numbers of house raids and people under criminal investigation have more than doubled, and 32 Jehovah’s Witnesses worshipers are behind bars for peacefully practicing their faith. Human Rights Watch, 9 January 2020

Russian Orthodox Leader Rails Against ‘Foreign’ Domestic Violence Law
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has accused lawmakers who seek to re-criminalize domestic abuse of “borrowing” the draft law, as well as the concept of domestic violence, from abroad. Russia scrapped criminal punishments for first-time domestic abuse offenses in 2017.  The Moscow Times, 7 January 2020

Moscow House Arrest Of American Investor Calvey Extended Into Mid-February
A Russian court has extended the house arrest of U.S. investor Michael Calvey and his partner, French national Philippe Delpal, until February 13. [...] The court also prolonged the house arrest of two Russian citizens [...]. Calvey and several other executives and employees of the Russian-based private-equity group Baring Vostok were detained in Moscow in February last year and charged with financial fraud. [...] The arrests stunned many Western investors and drew complaints from high-level Russian business leaders and government officials, who questioned the motivation of the courts and prosecutors. RFE/RL, 9 January 2020

Russian Conscript Blames Fatal Shooting Spree on Army Hazing 'Hell'
A Russian conscript who shot dead eight fellow soldiers at his army base last year said on Thursday he had been left with no other course of action after conscripts turned his life into a living "hell." The Moscow Times, 9 January 2019

Russian Court Rules to Demolish Controversial Landfill
A Russian court has ruled to demolish the landfill at the heart of a year-long battle over Moscow’s waste, marking a major victory for regional activists who actively opposed its construction, news outlets reported Thursday. Local authorities in northern Russia’s Arkhangelsk region sued the company constructing the landfill at the Shiyes train station in February 2019 following months of sustained protests. The Moscow Times, 9 January 2019

Human rights center Memorial again fined $5,000 under foreign agent law
The Tverskoy District Court of Moscow on Friday fined Memorial human rights center 300,000 rubles (about $5,000) for violation of the foreign agent law, RAPSI was told in the court’s press service. The NGO was penalized for the absence of a “foreign agent” marking on social media platforms. Problems with the Russian communications agency Roskomnadzor have been caused by a publication on the VKontakte page of the organization. In October, the court fined Memorial 300,000 rubles for failure to label its publications on the Facebook page of the NGO’s representative office in the Republic of Ingushetia. RAPSI, 10 January 2020

Uzbek citizen gets 5.5 years in Russian prison for online justification of terrorism 
The Second West District Military Court has sentenced Uzbek citizen Shermukhammad Shamsiddinov to 5.5 years in prison for public justification of terrorism on the Internet, the website of Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office informs. The court has also banned him from creating and running websites for 3 years. RAPSI, 10 January 2020

Week-ending 27 July 2018

posted 30 Jul 2018, 05:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Jul 2018, 05:35 ]

Human rights defenders,  activists  / Torture  /  Freedom of religion  /  Freedom of expression / Crimea,  Ukraine

Week-ending 20 July 2018

posted 23 Jul 2018, 05:18 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Jul 2018, 05:19 ]

Human rights defenders / Torture /  Freedom of expression /  Right of assembly /  ECtHR  /  Crimea; Ukraine

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