CIVICUS

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Russia

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Last updated on 24.09.2020 at 12:00

The Civic Space Developments

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Protesters arrested, journalists beaten and detained

Protesters arrested, journalists beaten and detained

Thousands protest in support of ousted Governor, several arrested and fined; Activists detained for protesting Constitutional reforms; Youtube channel host Dmitri Nizovtsev beaten for filming protests; Journalist Mila Zemtsova detained while covering pickets, pickets follow in support; Public hearing held for draft order on reporting requirements for non-profit organisations; State funded financial support extended to creative NGOs

Peaceful Assembly

Thousands protest in support of ousted Governor

On 11th July2020, up to 12,000 Khabarovsk residents took part in a rally in support of Sergei Furgal, former governor of Khabarovsk Krai, after he was arrested on 9th July 2020. Furgal, who served as governor from September 2018 until he was removed from office in July 2020, was detained on suspicion of organising the murders of two entrepreneurs back in 2000, and is also under investigation for involvement in other crimes in the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories, as well as in the Amur Region. The protests were also generally against the Kremlin's politics in the region, as protesters termed Furgal’s arrest and removal from office by President Vladimir Putin as being politically motivated. The protesters demanded the former governor’s reinstatement and called for objective investigations.

The following day, on 12th July, the protesters gathered at noon on Lenin Square and marched along the carriageway of the central streets. The procession continued that evening with four young people being detained by the police. On 13th July 2020, the protesters held another rally, as the Khabarovsk protests continued in the following days.

Day later, on 18th July 2020, around 50 thousand residents of the Primorsky Territory, in solidarity with the Khabarovsk residents, also held rally in support of Furgal.

Reports indicated that several protesters in Khabarovsk were later fined or arrested, both for participating in unsanctioned protests and for organising the demonstrations.

Activists detained for protesting Constitutional reforms

On 18th July 2020, police officers in St. Petersburg detained activists Yevgeny Musina and Marina Ken for blocking traffic on Nevsky Prospekt while protesting against amendments to the Constitution. Reports indicated that officers from the General Administration for Combating Extremism had been seen near the detainees’ houses the day before. They were charged with administrative offences for stretching a banner across the road with the inscription: "Change the government, not the constitution."

As previously reported on the Monitor, amendments to the Russian Constitution were proposed by President Putin in January 2020. After garnering support of 79% of valid votes in a national referendum held in late June 2020, the amendments took effect on 4th July 2020.

The changes have far-reaching impact, including extending presidential term limits, allowing the president to fire federal judges and effectively banning gay marriage.

Expression

Channel host beaten for filming the protests

On 24th July 2020, it was reported that one of the hosts of the YouTube channel "Navalny.live", Dmitri Nizovtsev, was attacked for filming the protests in support of Sergei Furgal (see above in Peaceful Assembly section). Nizovtsev's report on the YouTube channel on 18th July 2020, when the largest protest took place, gathered over 1.2 million views.

Journalist detained while covering pickets, pickets follow in support

On 19th July 2020, single pickets were held in Moscow and St. Petersburg in support of the journalist Mila Zemtsova, who was detained a day before while covering single pickets against amendments to the Family Code. She was detained despite presenting her journalist identification card, and was accused of organising the single protest actions along with LGBT activists. Eight picketers supporting Zemstova were detained, and four of them were fined for crossing the streets in an illegal place.

The draft amendments to the Family Code could lead to a significant infringement of the rights of transgender people and include proposals to prohibit same-sex couples and transgender people from getting married and adopting children.

Association

Public hearing held for draft order on reporting requirements for non-profit organisations

On 23rd July 2020, a public hearing of the draft order on the reporting requirements on the use of donations received by non-profit organisations (NPOs) was held in the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. The hearings were organised by the Commission for Charity and Social Work, the Commission for the Development of the Non-Profit Sector and Support of Socially Oriented NGOs.

A week later, the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation held an expert discussion on the draft order, where they discussed, among other issues, the reporting frequency by NPOs under the order.

State funded financial support extended to creative NGOs

In July 2020, the Ministry of Culture proposed to amend the rules for granting subsidies to creative NGOs so as to support these organisations in light of COVID-19 restrictions which banned the holding of mass events. Non-profit organisations in the field of musical, theatrical, visual and folk art were slated to benefit from the state-funded subsidy. 

Peaceful Assembly in Russia

Although the right to protest was previously constrained, its scope has been even further restricted in the years since large anti-government protests took place on the streets of Moscow in 2012.

Although the right to protest was previously constrained, its scope has been even further restricted in the years since large anti-government protests took place on the streets of Moscow in 2012. These demonstrations led to new regulations governing peaceful public assemblies and meetings in Russia. Although less well known than the ‘foreign agents’ law, the new assembly rules are potentially as insidious, falling well short of international standards for the management of peaceful assemblies. The law increases fines for violating the rules on gatherings, provides that no gathering can continue past 10pm and establishes ‘specialised locations’, which are often far from the centre of urban areas in which assemblies should ideally take place. Outside of those areas, demonstrators must seek permission to gather. As the number of protests has dwindled in the years since 2012, and spontaneous protest has become virtually impossible, pro-government counter protest groups have been allowed to operate unimpeded, often leading to violent clashes with legitimate protest groups. LGBTI groups are particularly unable to exercise their freedom of peaceful assembly and in 2015 the Moscow Gay Pride March was banned for the tenth year in a row. In 2014, even harsher measures were passed by the Duma, introducing a penalty of up to five years in jail for those repeatedly breaching rules governing assemblies. The law has since been used to target peaceful protestors, including Ilgar Dildin who was jailed for three years in December 2015.