State continues to restrict and threaten civic space

Association

In its January 2018 review of the situation for freedom of assembly and association, Article20.org noted several recent issues related to the these two civic freedoms, namely the court-ordered liquidation of a major Russian labour union and the charges leveled against human rights defender Oyub Titiev of Memorial's Grozny branch, whom Memorial has now acknowledged as a political prisoner. 

In a separate incident and recent statement, Memorial denounced the charges against defendants in a case involving members of the international religious organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was labeled a terrorist organisation by the Russian Supreme Court in 2003. Memorial has repeatedly refuted the Court's decision, asserting that members of Hizb ut-Tahrir have been deprived of their civil and political rights. Five members of Hizb ut-Tahrir convicted in Kazan, Russia have been recognised as political prisoners by Memorial. 

Expression

The website Open Russia recently announced a new media project entitled "MBH Media” that is not necessarily connected with the "Open Russia" movement but is rather connected to Russian citizen Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The project will focus on freedom of information and the free expression of opinions, with a special focus on the situation in Russia's regions. The new project came about in response to the state blocking websites of organisations deemed "undesirable". 

Peaceful Assembly

On 20th February 2018, Radio Free Europe reported on the detention of Roman Rubanov, a supporter of Alexei Navalny's anti-corruption campaign. Rubanov was sentenced to ten days for oranising an unauthorised rally in January 2018.

In January and February 2018, Navalny supporters held several protests across the country. The most prominent one took place on 28th January, following which the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of the Russian Federation denied Navalny's candidacy in the 18th March presidential election. In response, protesters gathered in front of the CEC calling on the public to boycott the elections. Navalny was arrested on his way to the protest in Moscow and was later released but awaits a court hearing. In addition, it is estimated that at least 350 other people have been detained nationwide over the two months of protests thus far this year.

On 27th February 2018, it was reported that two members of Pussy Riot, an all-female Russian punk rock band from Moscow, disappeared while traveling from the Crimean Peninsula back to Moscow. Olga Borisova and Sasha Sofeyev traveled to the region to participate in a protest over the detention of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov who has been sentenced to 20 years on terrorism charges. Sentsov is originally from Crimea and was arrested in 2014. Members of Pussy Riot had reported incidents of harassment prior to the disappearance.