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ACTIVIST IS RELEASED BUT WILL STAND TRIAL

Russian Federation: Activist released but will stand trial

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The “undesirable organizations” law was adopted in May 2015 as part of the Russian authorities’ ongoing crackdown on freedom of association and expression (see details here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur46/2223/2015/en/ ) and introduced amendments to several Russian laws. According to the law, the Office of the Prosecutor General can designate a foreign or international non-governmental organization “undesirable” if it deems that the organisation poses a threat to the country’s “constitutional order, defence potential or state security”. An “undesirable” organization must immediately stop all activities in Russia from which point any cooperation or association with it is deemed unlawful and an offense. Until recently, a person could be prosecuted for cooperation with an “undesirable” organisation under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code following two penalties within a year’s period under Article 20.33 of the Code of Administrative Offences. In June and July 2021, President Putin signed laws introducing further grounds of administrative and criminal prosecution and harsher punishments for cooperation with “undesirable” organisations. Under the amended law, the criminal prosecution could follow after a single administrative penalty. While the maximum sentence for “participation” in the activities of an “undesirable” organization has been reduced to four years imprisonment, the maximum sentence for “organization” of those activities remains six years. The law has been used arbitrarily to ban from Russia a number of foreign organisations, mostly those providing funding and other support for civil society. Currently, the “undesirable organizations” register includes 42 organizations with 11 of them added in May-August 2021. 

On 26 April 2017, the Prosecutor General’s Office declared “undesirable” the UK-registered organisations Otkrytaya Rossia and Open Russia Civic Movement (both founded by an exiled critic of President Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky). There is a Russian movement Otkrytaya Rossia (Open Russia) - an initiative that brought together activists in Russia - which is neither a registered “organisation”, nor is a foreign one. Nonetheless, activists who are associated with Otkrytaya Rossia are regarded by the Russian authorities as members of a banned foreign organisation and face prosecution. Dozens of activists have been fined for their activities under the Code of Administrative Offences. Three people have so far been convicted for alleged cooperation with an “undesirable” organization. In February 2020, a court in Yekaterinburg (the Urals) sentenced Otkrytaya Rossia’s ex-coordinator Maksim Vernikov to 300 hours of community service. In October 2020, a court in Krasnodar (southern Russia) sentenced another former Otkrytaya Rossia coordinator and activist Yana Antonova to 240 hours of community service. Finally, on 18 February 2021, a court in Rostov-on-Don (southern Russia) sentenced Anastasia Shevchenko - also a former co-ordinator of Otkrytaya Rossia and the first person to face criminal prosecution under this law - to four-year suspended imprisonment and four years on probation.

Mikhail Iosilevich is a civil society and political activist and the local leader of Pastafarians (or followers of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). He supported and organized a number of local events, including an anti-corruption rally, a “Monstration” (a march under absurd slogans in protest against restrictions of freedom of expression) and other events. He was fined twice in July 2019 and June 2020 under Article 20.33 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (“Carrying out activities of an undesirable organization”) for providing the premises (his café, which also houses the local Pastafarian church) for civic initiative Free People forum attended by opposition activists, including those from Otrkytaya Rossia. The criminal case against Mikhail Iosilevich was initiated on 29 September 2020. The investigation alleges that between 2 and 9 September 2020 Mikhail Iosilevich provided his café to an opposition group associated with Otkrytaya Rossia, for the training of election monitors. On 1 October, law enforcement officials conducted searches in Mikhail Iosilevich’s flat, his café and homes of five other Nizhnii Novgorod activists, including prominent independent journalist and editor of online media Koza Press Irina Slavina. The day after the search, Irina Slavina committed suicide by self-immolation in front of the local Ministry of Interior. She had left a message on her Facebook page saying; “Russian Federation is to blame for my death”. For months, the authorities had targeted her with prosecution and fines. 

In January 2021, a second criminal case was initiated against Mikhail Iosilevich for his alleged failure to report his second (Israeli) citizenship to the Russian authorities. The activist maintains that he had duly informed the authorities as prescribed by law. On 30 January, the Nizhnii Novgorod Moscow District Court ruled that he must be detained on remand in connection with alleged threats to a witness in a case. In April, the investigation opened the third criminal case against the activist under Article 119 (2) of the Criminal Code in relation to the threats despite experts’ reports confirming that the voice in the recording was not of Iosilevich. 
 

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Russia: journalist arrested for advocating 'smart voting' in forthcoming elections

Igor Khoroshilov, from Rostov-on-Don, arrested this morning for Facebook post Jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has called for widespread smart voting ‘This is a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression’ - Natalia Zviagina Amnesty International has condemned today’s arrest of a Russian journalist who advocated “smart voting” against the ruling United Russia party, a tactic that the high-profile Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has also advocated. Igor Khoroshilov, editor-in-chief of the independent online news outlet Golos, from Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, was detained

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RUSSIAN FEDERATION: VICTIM OF VIDEOD TORTURE IS STILL MISSING: SALMAN TEPSURKAEV

Russian Federation: Victim Of Videod Torture Is Still Missing

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Telegram channel (chat) 1ADAT was set up in early March 2020. The number of its subscribers rapidly grew and has now reached over 18,000 people. It publishes information about human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture in Chechnya, as well as harsh criticism of and satirical sketches about Chechen officials. The channel has several administrators who remain anonymous. 

According to the independent Russian Novaya Gazeta newspaper, the Chechen authorities have been attempting to identify the channel’s creators, administrators and contributing authors since May 2020. Due to the security measures taken by the channel administrators, the authorities’ attempts were unsuccessful until one of the channel’s moderators, 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkaev compromised his anonymity by disclosing his personal details to a likely undercover law enforcement official. On 6 September, he was abducted from Gelendzhik, a city in Krasnodar region in southern Russia. According to Russian NGO Committee Against Torture (CAT) who took up this case, the eyewitnesses claimed that the abductors showed them IDs of the officers of the Ministry of the Interior. On 7 September 2020, Salman Tepsurkayev’s family members established the geolocation of his mobile phone. It was switched on in the Chechen capital Grozny, at the location where the Police Patrol Regiment named after Akhmat Kadyrov is stationed. On numerous occasions, the regiment has been alleged to have been involved in human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions. In particular, in 2017-2021, Russian independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper published investigations into the regiment’s involvement in mass extrajudicial execution of 27 Chechen men in January 2017. 

In the evening of 7 September, a video appeared on social media where Salman Tepsurkaev was seen being sexually violated, “in punishment” for cooperating with 1ADAT. At least three more videos featuring Salman Tepsurkaev were published on Instagram in the next few days. Since then, there has been no information of Salman Tepsurkaev’s fate and whereabouts. On 14 September, human rights defenders from CAT submitted a report of a crime to the Krasnodar Region and Chechen Republic Investigation Committees. They also conducted their own investigation. In particular, they found CCTV recordings with clear images of Salman Tepsurkaev’s abductors, which could have been useful for their identification; established the number plates of the cars used by the abductors and ascertained that one of the cars belonged to a Chechen police officer. They also found out that not long before the abduction a police officer from Grozny police station No 1 had called Salman Tepsurkaev. This information was passed on to the investigators. However, no meaningful steps followed and a criminal investigation into Salman Tepsurkaev’s abduction was opened only on 27 November 2020 by the Gelendzhik Investigative Department. On 28 May 2021, the case file materials were passed on to the Chechen Republic for further investigation on the grounds that “majority of witnesses and people who might have been involved in this crime are on the territory of the Chechen Republic”.        

Under the leadership of Kremlin-appointed Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya is the place where numerous human rights violations are being committed, with virtually total impunity for their perpetrators, and free speech has been brutally suppressed for years. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have documented multiple instances when critics of the regime, including human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers, have been prosecuted and imprisoned under fabricated criminal charges, or abducted and killed. Members of the general public who dare to criticise Ramzan Kadyrov, members of his administration, his relatives or associates, or complain about local problems such as the closure of a hospital, or even ask for help in ways which reflect negatively on Chechnya (for instance, ask for help to provide for a large family), are often being forced to humiliate themselves in front of a camera and publicly “apologise” for their actions, which is recorded and then broadcast on the local television or via social media. This practice has been widely used since 2015. 

Ramzan Kadyrov’s critics are not safe abroad either, and numerous suspicious attacks and assassinations which appear to have been instigated from Chechnya, have been reported. For instance, on 13 January 2009, former Ramzan Kadyrov’s bodyguard and later public critic, Umar Israilov, whose testimony directly implicated the Chechen leader in torture and other human rights violations, was shot and killed in Vienna, Austria. On 1 February 2020, the body of Chechen blogger Imran Aliev (alias “Mansur the Old”), was found in Lille, France. On 4 July 2020, blogger Mamikhan Umarov was shot dead in the suburbs of Vienna. Both bloggers were ardent critics of Kadyrov and his regime. On 26 February 2020, another popular blogger and critic of Kadyrov’s regime, Tumso Abdurakhmanov who lives in exile in one of the European countries, was attacked with a hammer by an intruder while sleeping in his flat. He managed to overpower his attacker and survived.  
 

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Russia: latest 'foreign agent' raid targets leading investigative journalist

Roman Dobrokhotov’s Moscow apartment was raided this morning © Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS/Getty

Roman Dobrokhotov’s Moscow apartment raided this morning, along with his parents’ home Dobrokhotov’s publication The Insider recently labelled ‘foreign agent’ ‘This morning’s police raids are a blatant attempt to intimidate a journalist’ - Marie Struthers Following a raid this morning on the Moscow apartment of the investigative journalist and editor, Roman Dobrokhotov, as well as the home of his parents, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said: “This morning’s police raids are a blatant attempt to intimidate a journalist who has made clear his

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Syria: cross-border aid resolution weakened by 'shameful' Russia and China tactics

Several million people in north-west Syria are reliant on humanitarian aid © Amnesty International

Compromise UN Security Council resolution falls seriously short of humanitarian needs Russia and China opposed opening other crossing points, and limited vital Bab al-Hawa crossing to six months ‘Russia and China have displayed an utterly shameful disregard for the lives of those who are reliant on humanitarian aid to survive’ - Sherine Tadros Amnesty International has condemned the actions of Russia and China as “shameful” after the two countries succeeded in watering down a UN Security Council resolution on cross-border aid to Syria. Earlier today, the Security Council voted to approve a

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Russia: raids on Proekt are 'another brazen attack' on independent media

Editorial staff at Proekt.Media © Proekt.Media

Outlet had announced publication of investigation into alleged unlawful enrichment by interior minister’s family Editor-in-chief Roman Badanin investigated over four-year-old libel case Raids ‘part of a systematic cleansing of any critical voices’ - Natalia Zviagina Amnesty International has condemned “brazen” house raids carried out today on journalists at the Russian investigative media outlet Proekt.Media. In early morning raids, police officers and officials from the Investigative Committee searched the home of Proekt.Media’s editor-in-chief Roman Badanin, the home of the parents of his

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Russia: human rights and pro-democracy leader detained after being pulled off plane

Andrei Pivovarov was detained overnight and earlier today transported to Krasnodar in the south of the country © Private

Andrei Pivovarov, executive director of Open Russia, removed from flight about to depart for Poland Pivovarov’s home searched, while others have homes raided by special forces ‘The witch-hunt against Open Russia continues’ - Natalia Zviagina Reacting to news that Andrei Pivovarov, executive director of the recently-disbanded Russian pro-democracy and human rights movement Open Russia was taken off a flight in Saint Petersburg last night and arbitrarily detained, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: “The witch-hunt against Open Russia continues. “Andrei

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Russia: statement on Aleksei Navalny's prisoner of conscience status

Aleksei Navalny has not been imprisoned for any recognisable crime © 2018 Anadolu Agency

Following careful evaluation, Amnesty International has decided to re-designate Aleksei Navalny as a “prisoner of conscience”. In February, Amnesty took an internal decision to stop using the prisoner of conscience term for Navalny due to concerns relating to discriminatory statements he made in 2007 and 2008 which may have constituted advocacy of hatred. The Russian government and its supporters used that internal decision, which we had not intended to make public, to further violate Navalny’s rights. That was the height of hypocrisy, coming from a Government that not only attempted to kill

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Russia: lawyer defending Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation should be released

Ivan Pavlov is one of Russia's leading human rights lawyers © Komanda 29

Human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov detained after early-morning FSB raid on his hotel in Moscow Faces possible two-year jail sentence on charges apparently related to his legal work ‘The authorities are going after one of the country’s most courageous lawyers’ - Natalia Zviagina Responding to news that Ivan Pavlov - the human rights lawyer defending the Anti-Corruption Foundation, founded by Aleksei Navalny - has been detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, Natalia Zviagina, said: “Lawyers are the last line of defence against the government’s

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Russia: Navalny supporter faces three years in jail over Rammstein video

Rammstein at the Gods Of Metal concert in Monza, Italy in 2016 © Elena Di Vincenzo/Archivio Elena di Vincenzo/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Environmentalist Andrei Borovikov reported to authorities six years after sharing video Prosecution says German band’s Pussy video is ‘pornographic’ and of no artistic value ‘It is astonishing that cases like this even make it to court’ - Natalia Zviagina A Russian court will tomorrow (29 April) deliver its verdict in the case against an environmental activist and former Navalny campaign coordinator Andrei Borovikov, who faces three years in jail if convicted of “distributing pornography” for sharing a video by the German rock band Rammstein. Seven years ago, Borovikov, formerly the

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