Russian government continues to prevent protests and suppress dissent
On 26th March 2017, anti-corruption protests took place in at least 100 Russian cities. In Moscow, protesters marched without official authorisation to do so, and numbers reached between eight thousand - according to police - to 30,000 demonstrators - according to the opposition's estimates.
Video and pictures taken of the protests show police forcefully removing and detaining demonstrators. According to official figures, more than 600 people were detained, and according to the opposition, at least 1,000 were arrested, including prominent opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who was later released from prison in April.
The opposition had organised the rallies throughout the country in response to a documentary film by Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation on how Russia's current Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has used corrupt means to accumulate and grow his wealth.
"Proud of those who came out on the streets today....you are Russia's hope for a normal future"- Alexey Navalny, arrested today https://t.co/vXJaH6Ybl5— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) March 26, 2017
Also in April, a protester who was jailed during the March 2017 anti-government protests filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). As reported by Radio Free Europe and Agora human rights group, Vitaly Nibiyeridze's complaint was the first one submitted to the ECHR in connection with the crackdown on protesters. Nibiyeridze had been detained for eight days trying to organise an anti-government march in Russia's Black Sea resort town of Sochi.
In April 2017, three organizations were added to the list of undesirable organisations under Russia's 2015 Foreign Agents Law, namely Open Russia (registered in the UK) and its sister organization in Russia, as well as the Institute of Modern Russia (registered in the USA). According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the three above-mentioned organisations founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his son, Pavel Khodorkovsky, threaten "the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation and the security of the state".
Open Russia is a nonprofit organisation founded in 2001 by shareholders of the oil company Yukos and other individuals aiming to implementing charitable and educational projects. According to its members, the organisation only carries out its activities on Russian territory and should therefore not be considered a "foreign agent".
Open Russia was declared "undesirable" just a few days prior to planned protests for 29th April. According to Pavel Khodorkovsky, one of the organisation's leaders, the ban aimed to preemptively prevent the protests:
"I see only one reason—the upcoming #ENOUGH protests as part of the campaign launched by Open Russia and planned to take place on April 29. It calls for individual citizens of Russia to come to the offices of the Presidential Administration and deliver letters [asking Vladimir Putin] not to run for the fourth term. What happened… is, no doubt, a demonstration of fear and concern that a lot of people will show up for the protest on the 29th".
Пришли в штаб Открытой России. Авторитаризм в фас и в профиль. pic.twitter.com/CSJ2hvgrcn— Ходорковский Михаил (@mich261213) April 27, 2017
In late April 2017, Ruslan Zeytullayev, a Crimean Tatar, was sentenced by a Russian court to 12 years in prison for establishing a cell of the Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea. The Ukrainian authorities responded, stating that the court decision was politically motivated. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Russia, but not in Ukraine. However, Russia's seizure of Crimea has led to serious persecution of and human rights violations against the Muslim Crimean Tatar community.
According to Hizb ut-Tahrir representatives, the accusations against the organisation are unfounded, and are used by Russia to suppress any movement of Crimean Tatars fighting for their rights. This is not the first case of ethnic Tatars from Crimea being accused of being a threat to Russia's security.
Андрущенко писал о бывшем замглавы ФСКН, связи авторитета Барсукова-Кумарина с Путиным. Напали по дороге на встречуhttps://t.co/EKmWLxf0xX— Открытая Россия (@openrussia_org) April 19, 2017
Russian journalist Nikolai Andruschenko passed away in St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Hospital as a result of injuries sustained when he was attacked on the street by strangers demanding documents from him. The 73 year-old co-founder of the New Petersburg newspaper was hospitalised and remained in a coma a month before he died. New Petersburg's Editor-in-Chief Dennis Usov linked Andrushenko's attack to his writings on corruption issues and the recent anti-corruption protests. The journalist had covered human rights issues, police brutality and organised crime, and had repeatedly written about President Putin's nefarious past. He had gained notoriety after appearing in the 2015 documentary film Who is Mr. Putin?.