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Russian Federation

    February 21, 2014

    Today’s guilty verdict against defendants in the Bolotnaya Square protest trial is a hideous injustice, said Amnesty International.

    In what was clearly a show trial, a Moscow court found guilty eight defendants in the Bolotnaya case. The sentences are expected to be announced on Monday.

    During the trial nearly 200 of the peaceful supporters and journalists gathered around the Moscow court were reportedly detained by police, including Vladimir Akimenkov, himself a former Bolotnaya defendant and prisoner of conscience. Some of those detained have been released but are expected to face fines of up to RUB 30,000 (around USD 800)  for participating in an “unauthorised gathering”.

    “What happened on Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012 was not the quelling of a riot, but the crushing of a protest. The Bolotnaya trial has not exposed orchestrated violence, but rather a criminal justice system that is entirely malleable to the dictates of its political masters,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    February 18, 2014

    The Russian authorities must immediately release nine people – including activists and journalists – who have been arrested in central Sochi, Amnesty International said.

    Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, former prisoners of conscience jailed for their peaceful activism as part of the punk collective Pussy Riot, complain of having been arrested in Sochi for the third time in as many days. Today the authorities claimed this was related to a theft at a hotel where they stayed. The activists believe it is in connection with a music video they were planning to make.

    “In Putin’s Russia, the authorities have turned the Olympic rings – a worldwide symbol of hope and striving for the best of the human spirit – into handcuffs to shackle freedom of expression,” said John Dalhuisen, Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International.

    “This is outrageous. There are reports of arrests of activists in Sochi and the Olympic Games area almost daily. The International Olympic Committee must roundly condemn these and all arrests of activists near Sochi.

    February 14, 2014

    A court in Krasnodar ruled on 12 February 2014 that environmentalist Yevgeniy Vitishko should serve a three-year sentence in a prison colony. This is the latest step in a sustained campaign by the Russian authorities against environmental activists in Krasnodar Region, which is hosting the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, to prevent them from speaking out about the environmental damage suffered by the region.

    The harassment of the local environmentalists intensified considerably in the months preceding the opening on the Games, and Yevgeniy Vitishko has been particularly targeted in connection with his activism. The decision to send him to serve his sentence in a prison colony is the latest episode in the campaign against him, by the Russian authorities who have sought to prevent protest in Krasnodar Region and specifically to silence one of the most vocal and respected critical voices, in the run-up to the Sochi Games, ultimately by locking him up.

    Amnesty International believes that Yevgeniy Vitishko is a prisoner of conscience, and that he should be immediately and unconditionally released.

    February 10, 2014

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) must not ignore the serious human rights violations associated with the preparation for and staging of the Sochi Olympic Games, Amnesty International said today.

    In a letter to IOC’s President Thomas Bach the organization urges him to raise with the Russian authorities the harassment of environmentalists as well as the denial of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in the context of the Sochi Olympics.

    “The Olympic torch sheds light on human rights violations in Russia. It also sheds light on IOC actions regarding human rights violations in the context of Olympic Games. Its failure to admonish the Russian authorities for their ongoing discrimination and harassment is to a failure to live up to the very principles that form the core of the Olympic Charter,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    February 05, 2014
    Days before the opening of the Sochi Olympics, activists in cities around the world staged protests against homophobia in Russia © PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

    Lene Christensen, Media Advisor at Amnesty International Norway, blog from Sochi, Russia

    At a café in Sochi, 17-year-old “Ivan” quietly talks about his experiences as an openly gay young man in the Olympic city. A city in which there are no gay people, according to the Mayor.

    Ivan has a disturbing story to tell. After someone hacked his social media account about a year ago, news quickly spread about his sexual orientation.

    When he changed schools, the information about his sexuality again spread like wildfire among his new schoolmates. Now, a regular day at school includes being spat on and verbally abused, he tells us. He’s been physically attacked several times and some unknown attackers poured dirty water and urine on him. One time they went as far as attempting to rape him. His voice breaks as he recounts his almost daily ordeal.

    February 05, 2014

    In a brief and blatantly unfair closed trial at which no lawyer was present, Russian authorities this morning sentenced environmental activist Igor Kharchenko to five days in detention for purportedly “resisting legitimate police orders”, Amnesty International said as it named him the country’s second new prisoner of conscience since Monday.

    Kharchenko, of the Russian NGO Environmental Watch for North Caucasus (Ecologicheskaya Vakhta po Severnomu Kavkazu), was arrested on Monday night and then again on Tuesday after his car was vandalized by masked assailants in Krasnodar, the capital city of the Russian region hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics. Amnesty International has reviewed video footage of his arrest, which contradicts the police’s allegations that he resisted orders.

    February 04, 2014
    Yevgeny Vitishko was arrested on 3 Feb 2014 in Tuapse (Sochi area) © Amnesty International

    Emile Affolter, Press Officer at Amnesty International Netherlands, blogs from Sochi

    Just a couple of days before the Winter Olympic Games start in Sochi, an activist was arrested. Sadly, such arrests are not unusual in Russia, but the timing of this particular arrest sent a chilling message across Russian civil society.

    The environmentalist Yevgeny Vitishko was planning on traveling to Sochi today but was stopped by police, convicted of “petty hooliganism” and sentenced to 15 days in administrative detention. His crime? According to Russian authorities he cursed while standing at a bus stop.

    When I heard the news about Vitishko's arrest I was in the middle of a conversation with Semyon Simonov. A lawyer for the human rights organization Memorial in Sochi, he defends the rights of migrant workers.

    February 04, 2014

    The re-arrest today of yet another environmental activist in Russia’s Krasnodar region where the Sochi Winter Olympic Games will open on 7 February, as well as his brief detention along with five colleagues last night, are more evidence of growing efforts to clamp down on civil society ahead of the Games, Amnesty International said.

    Igor Kharchenko of the Russian NGO Environmental Watch for North Caucasus (Ecologicheskaya Vakhta po Severnomu Kavkazu) is currently being held by police in Krasnodar, the regional capital, where they had arrived ahead of the Olympic torch relay. He was arrested today under the pretext that his car had been “involved in a crime”, shortly after three masked men had smashed in the front and back windows of the vehicle.

    “Just days away from the official opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian authorities are using every trick in the book to muzzle freedom of expression and silence dissenting voices,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow Office.

    February 03, 2014

    As the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics comes closer, harassment against civil society activists has intensified, Amnesty International said today after the arrest of an environmentalist for allegedly swearing in public.

    Evgeny Vitishko was arrested today in Tuapse, part of the Sochi area where the Games will take place. He has been reportedly charged with “petty hooliganism”, allegedly for swearing previously at a bus stop.

    At a court hearing today he was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention.

    “Vitishko's name has now become synonymous with harassment of civil society activists in the run-up to Sochi Games. Vitishko and his friends have been trying to expose environmental violations during the preparation of the Sochi Olympics. For this they are being punished. By trying to lock him up as a "petty hooligan" the authorities are trying to gag him,” said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    “The concern is what will happen to civil society after the closure of the Olympics after the international focus moves away.”

    January 30, 2014

     

    FACTSHEET

    What:  336,412 people from 112 countries have signed an Amnesty International’s petition in the course of three months calling on the Russian President Vladimir Putin to repeal repressive legislation aiming to emasculate civil society, restrict legitimate protest and silence criticism.

    Amnesty International members and supporters from Australia, Japan and New Zealand to Canada, Puerto Rico and USA signed the petition, with Holland alone collecting more than 100,000 signatures.

    January 23, 2014

    As the start of the Sochi Olympics approaches, the Russian authorities have decided to release another prisoner of conscience (POC) in a move that can be seen as politically expedient, Amnesty International said today.

    The Russian Supreme Court took a decision with immediate effect today to reduce the sentence of businessman Platon Lebedev to the time already spent in prison. His sentence was due to expire in May 2014.

    “Platon Lebedev was confined to prison as a result of a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial. Russia’s Supreme Court’s decision gives freedom to Platon Lebedev three months early, however it does not quash his conviction or remedy the injustice done to him” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    December 23, 2013

    It's great news that the two remaining member of Pussy Riot behind bars, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, have been freed by Russian authorities. They spent nearly two years in prison, and throughout that time tens of thousands of you have taken action. 

    See more Good News stories

    But more still needs to be done, and Russia’s Amnesty Law, under which they and others were released, is no substitute for an effective, independent justice system.

    For more information on how Amnesty International is working in Russia, follow this link to our 2014 Sochi Olympic Campaign.

    December 23, 2013

    The harassment of civil society in Russia will continue unabated despite the release of prisoners of conscience said Amnesty International today.

    The organization has long campaigned for the immediate and unconditional release of a number of prisoners of conscience (POCs) freed recently under President Putin’s amnesty. Several others being tried in connection with the 2012 Bolotnaya Square protest remain behind bars.

    “The release of businessman Mikhail Kh0dorkovski, the Pussy riot singers Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and a handful of Bolotnaya case detainees should not been seen as a benign act of clemency, but a politically expedient move in the run up to the Sochi Olympics,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “The move is further proof of the politicisation of justice in Russia. It should not obscure the bigger truth that the last year has seen a significant contraction in the space allowed to critical and independent voices.

    December 19, 2013

    GREAT NEWS! Vladimir Akimenkov, one of the "Bolotnaya Three" detainees featured in Amnesty International's global campaign Write for Rights has been set free. 

    Amnesty members welcome this news, following a tremendous letter-writing campaign that extended across 80 countries. Also released as part of this general amnesty in Russia are two people who Amnesty had declared as "prisoners of conscience" (people held solely for their political beliefs): Leonid Koviazin and  Nikolay Kavkazskii.

    Background

    Vladimir is referred to as one of the "Bolotnaya Three" because it was in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square that he along with Artiom Saviolov and Mikhail Kosenko were detained during an authorized protest on 6 May 2012.

    December 18, 2013

    The Russian authorities must release immediately and unconditionally all prisoners of conscience (POCs), Amnesty International said today as the Russian parliament passed an amnesty bill that may see the imprisoned Pussy Riot singers and some detainees in the Bolotnaya case freed. The foreign activists amongst Greenpeace’s “Arctic 30”may also be allowed to leave Russia.

    “It is difficult to welcome the Amnesty law adopted by the Russian Duma today.  While it will no doubt benefit many victims of injustice, it will not erase the criminal records of those wrongfully convicted.  Also it will not extend to all those Amnesty International considers prisoners of conscience, including many currently standing trial in connection with the 2012 Bolotnaya Square protest,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director.

    “This Amnesty Law is no substitute for an effective, independent justice system.  Indeed, it is further proof of the politicization of justice in Russia.”

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