Journalists and critics face increasing threats and attacks
A former TV Cameraman beaten in Moscow
On 11th January 2020, former TV cameraman of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Leonid Krivenkov, was brutally beaten. Two young men who had a dog accosted him at the exit of Kuzminsky Park, attacked him from behind, threw him to the ground and started kicking him as they shouted: "We will teach you to love your homeland”, "the fifth column, we will kill you."
Krivenkov managed to grab one of the attackers by the legs and topple him to the ground as passers-by arrived to help him. The attackers fled, with one of them shouting that this was the last warning. Krivenkov had previously given several interviews to foreign journalists about political censorship and corruption in the Russian media industry.
Chechen blogger found dead in a hotel room in Lille, France
On 5th February 2020, the CNN television station reported that Chechen-born blogger Imran Aliev was found dead in a hotel room in France. Aliev, the author of a YouTube channel that criticised Vladimir Putin, as well as other high-ranking officials in Chechnya, was found with his throat cut in the hotel room in the city of Lille. Although no arrests have yet been made, preliminary investigations by the police indicated that the murder may have been politically motivated. This was not the first killing of a critic of the current regime in Chechnya or the Russian authorities. In August 2019 another Chechen dissident, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, was shot and killed in Berlin. Rights groups warned that the killings were a warning from Moscow.
Journalist and human rights defender assaulted in Grozny
On 6th February 2020, journalist Elena Milashina and lawyer Marina Dubrovina were attacked by unknown men and women in Grozny, Chechnya, where they were attending the trial of Islam Nuhanov. Dubrovina is Nuhanov’s lawyer and the author of a video about the expensive properties of people close to the leadership of Chechnya.
Russian Memorial Centre launches programme to support political dissidents
In February 2020, the Memorial Centre, a well-known NGO in Russia, launched a new programme to support political prisoners. The new programme was initiated in cognizance of the violations endured by convicts and detainees in detention centres, including beatings, torture, forced labour, refusal to provide medical care, mockery and illegal actions.
A statement from the Russian Memorial Centre stated that while the organisation cannot completely change the judicial system in the country, they considered it important to protect the rights of those convicted or detained.
Under this programme, the Memorial Centre will provide assistance to political detainees and convicts who are victims of errors by the judicial system and who are detained illegally. The Memorial Centre aims to provide support by sending letters to the prosecutor's office, the management of detention institutions, other state institutions and other important international and national forums. The Centre also hopes to draw media attention to some of the cases and provide legal services for those who need them, especially in complicated situations.
Statement by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum highlights deteriorating conditions for CSOs
On 20th December 2019, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum published a statement on the situation of CSOs in 2019, where they expressed concern about the deterioration of fundamental rights including freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom from arbitrary detention, freedom from torture and the right to a fair trial. In particular, the statement noted violations that continued in 2019 such as the unlawful persecution of LGBTIQ people and human rights defenders, use of fabricated charges to frustrate and intimidate NGOs and activists, shutting down of NGOs and imposing heavy financial penalties on NGOs for not marking their online publications with the “foreign agent” label.
Nemtsov Fund report on main violations of freedoms in Russia
On 21st January 2020, the Nemtsov Fund published a report on the main violations of fundamental freedoms and rights in Russia between July and December 2019. The report highlights violations against activists or representatives of the opposition who were politically motivated. According to the report, most violations registered during the six months related to restrictions on the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and political repression. Most of these violations took place during periods of (especially local) election campaigns when several protesters were detained in major Russian cities.
March in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova
On 19th January 2020, marches were organised in Moscow and St. Petersburg in memory of slain lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova of the Novaya Gazeta, who were killed 11 years ago, in 2009. Stanislav died instantly from a shot to the back of his head and Anastasia was shot and later died from her injuries. Russian media reported that they were killed by radical nationalists because of “intolerance and ideological hatred." Markelov was involved in the investigation of cases of human rights violations by security forces in Chechnya. He also defended anti-fascists. Anastasia Baburova wrote about informal youth movements, including neo-Nazi ones.
Local activist detained by police
On 26th January 2020, police in St. Petersburg detained local activist Yevgeny Kozlov, who participated in a solitary picket against the Constitutional reforms proposed in January 2020 by president Vladimir Putin. Kozlov was holding a photograph of President Putin with the caption "Kashchei irreplaceable". (Kashchei is a Russian story character whose name means “immortal”).
Several more activists were also detained. Dmitry Gusev had no photograph on him, but was charged with smoking in the wrong place. Vlad Baranov and Alexander Tonkonogov were also detained. In total, according to Radio Svoboda, about 30 people held single pickets in St. Petersburg on the same day.