Wednesday 22.3.2017 in Latest Developments in Russia Country Page
The case of Russian opposition activist, Ildar Dadin, drew wide public attention in February 2017 when the Prosecutor General’s office decided that Dadin’s actions did not constitute a crime and petitioned for his release. In December 2016, Dadin was accused of violating the rules for organising street events and protests. He was sentenced to three years in prison, though the period was eventually decreased to two and a half years. The Supreme Court of Russia subsequently repealed Dadin's conviction and ordered his release from prison on 26th February 2017. The Court also recognised his right to rehabilitation. Dadin had been taken to a penal colony to serve his sentence, where he was reportedly tortured for going on a hunger strike. On 10th March 2017, Dadin was detained again by police while protesting outside the prison headquarters in Moscow and then later released that same day.
On 28th February 2015, Boris Nemtsov, one of the most famous Russian opposition leaders, was killed in Moscow. This year, thousands of Russians gathered in the streets of Moscow on the second anniversary of Boris Nemtsov's death. It was the third march commemorating Nemtsov. The organisers of the march included representatives of almost all key democratic organisations in Russia. Prior to the march, one of the leaders was warned by Moscow prosecutors of the possible consequences should there be public disorder.
An analysis of the most recent protests in the Russian Federation showed that overall, the number of protests has increased, and the issues and participants are becoming more diverse. The Gukovsk miners’ protest in the Rostov region is an example of this, as the miners have been protesting for nine months over two-years of unpaid salaries.
According to the analysis, however, protests are still not widespread throughout the country due to few organisers being present outside major cities and there is a sense that the society has become more apathetic and reluctant to protest.
On 8th December 2016, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, held a meeting with representatives from the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights in the Kremlin. Participants discussed several problems facing Russian civil society. According to news outlets, Putin requested an analysis of the regulatory framework for non-governmental organisations operating as "foreign agents" and those financed from the state budget.
On 23rd January 2017, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) reported on a new law establishing the status of NGO–Provider of Public Benefit Services (PBS), which entered into force on 1st January 2017. From that date onward, organisations providing public services have the opportunity to access resources from the state budget for social projects. The law details how the status of NGO-PBS will be decided, approved, and if relevant, revoked. ICNL's analysis is that the law could benefit civil society, depending on how it is implemented in the coming months.
The international human rights group Agora released its 2016 annual report on freedom of expression in the Russian Federation, referring to the situation in the country as one under "martial law with strong censorship and harsh response to any disagreement". The report showed that freedom of speech on the internet has become more and more restricted, evidenced by numerous cases of violence against journalists and bloggers; criminal cases related to re-posting; and legislative initiatives to regulate the internet. At least 50 cases of violence were documented, and in almost all cases, the violence was directed towards journalists and bloggers.
Thus far in 2017, the situation for freedom of expression remains worrisome. The Russian Legal Information Agency reported that the State Duma adopted a bill in February 2017 introducing fines for internet service providers that fail to restrict the public's access to websites containing banned information in the country.