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Russian Federation

    April 14, 2015

    The Russian authorities must remedy a gross injustice by immediately and unconditionally releasing environmentalist and prisoner of conscience Yevgeniy Vitishko, Amnesty International said ahead of his parole hearing tomorrow.

    Yevgeniy Vitishko of the NGO Environmental Watch on North Caucasus is serving a three-year sentence in a prison colony in Russia’s remote Tambov region. He was sent there in February 2014 after a string of trumped-up charges were brought against him in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

    Amnesty International fears that he will be denied parole, and accordingly refused even conditional release, based on a litany of so-called “violations” he has been accused of committing in the penal colony. These include: giving an item of clothing to another prisoner who was cold; sitting on his bed at an unauthorized time; storing food in an unauthorized place; receiving correspondence from a lawyer without notifying the penal colony’s administration; and even having a “negligent attitude towards weeding tomatoes” as part of his compulsory labour.

    March 11, 2015

    The Russian authorities’ threat to bring criminal charges against Eva Merkacheva and Andrei Babushkin, two human rights activists who published torture allegations from two men accused of the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, raises alarming questions over the fairness of the investigation, said Amnesty International.

    The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation suggested that raising allegations that Zaur Dadaev was tortured into confessing and that Shaghid Gubashev was also ill-treated may amount to “interference with the work of investigator with the purpose of preventing a comprehensive, full and objective investigation of the case”.

    “Threatening legal action against those who report a crime as serious as torture is ludicrous. To ignore serious allegations that torture was used to force confessions would make a complete mockery of Russia’s judicial system. They must be taken seriously, and fully, promptly, independently and effectively investigated,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    February 28, 2015

    The killing of Boris Nemtsov, one of Russia's most prominent political activists, must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated.
    Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed late in the evening of 27 February in central Moscow. His killer, who escaped from the scene, has not been identified.

    The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has stated that he would personally control the progress over the investigation.

    “In the current climate of crackdown on freedoms of expression, assembly and association, this is a cold-blooded murder of one of those free voices whom the authorities have so actively sought to silence” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Regional Deputy Programme Director for Europe and Central Asia. 

    “There is already a list of unsolved political murders and attack in Russia, the investigations of which were under the ‘personal control’ of senior Russian politicians. We cannot allow Boris Nemtsov to become just another name on this list.”

    January 20, 2015

    A draft Russian law banning “undesirable foreign organizations” is another troubling sign of the authorities’ vigorous measures to restrict any public space for criticism, Amnesty International said today after the Duma (Parliament) passed it on a first reading.

    The bill will go through two more readings before being sent to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law, which may be only a formality.

    “This law is another sobering sign of how the Russian authorities are quickly closing in on fundamental freedoms and the work of independent civil society groups in the country,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

    “We’ve seen time and again how ideas which threaten fundamental freedoms get railroaded through the Duma and make their way into draconian laws that snatch away the space for dissenting views and independent civil society activism. Sadly, these freedoms can no longer be taken for granted in Russia.”

    December 23, 2014

    The guilty verdicts and harsh sentences against 57 defendants accused of participating in an armed attack in the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in 2005 are a huge miscarriage of justice, said Amnesty International today. The defendants were detained for nine years in deplorable conditions with testimonies extracted under torture and admitted as evidence.

    Five of the defendants received life sentences and the others received sentences of between four and 23 years in prison.

    “This is a textbook case of criminal injustice, where the authorities manifestly refused to investigate allegations of torture, despite overwhelming evidence, and the defendants languished for nine years in pre-trial detention, all in violation of international law,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director. “This trial should never have been allowed to continue until the allegations of torture were fully and effectively investigated.”

    December 14, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 15 December 2104

    Russian authorities should act to end a campaign of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders in Chechnya, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today after the office of a local human rights group was burned down. They should also offer genuine protection to all activists threatened for doing their work.

    In the evening of December 13 the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) ,a human rights organization that works with non-governmental organizations from other Russian regions, was destroyed in a fire in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in a suspected arson attack.

    “These acts of intimidation are part of an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in the region. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov appears to bewaging a personal campaign against the Joint Mobile Group and its leader Igor Kalyapin,” said Anna Neistat, senior director ofresearch at Amnesty International.

    December 09, 2014

    Authorities in Russia must urgently investigate the burning down of at least five houses believed to belong to the relatives of 11 men blamed by the authorities of carrying out an armed attack in the Chechen capital, Grozny, Amnesty International said after news emerged today of the “collective punishment” against the families.

    The 11 men were killed alongside 14 law enforcement officers during an armed confrontation in Grozny on 4 December. At least one civilian is also believed to have been killed.

    A day after the attack, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, said the families of the armed group members would be expelled from Chechnya and their houses demolished.

    “Punishing the relatives of those suspected of involvement in crimes is a flagrant violation of international law. Nothing can justify acts of collective punishment. The federal authorities must ensure an independent and impartial investigation is conducted into the burning of the houses and bring those responsible to justice in fair trials,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for the Europe and Central Asia Program at Amnesty International.

    October 09, 2014

    Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the world are joining together to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to repeal the “foreign agents” law and to guarantee that NGOs in Russia are able to work without hindrance, harassment, stigmatization or reprisals.

    Under the “foreign agents” law NGOs and their leaders are effectively labelled spies. After lengthy court hearings some have been forced to close, with prohibitive fines imposed on both the organizations and their leaders.

    “NGOs are essential to a healthy functioning society. They provide much needed services to the public and help keep officials accountable. NGOs are instrumental in lobbying and campaigning to improve government policies in the interests of the people. They are anything but ‘foreign agents’, said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow Office.

    More than a dozen leading Russian rights groups have already been branded by the Ministry of Justice as “foreign agents”. Many more face the same fate. 

    October 08, 2014

    A quiet Saturday morning in Moscow: the distant chime of bells at an Orthodox church and the faint hum of traffic traversing a nearby bridge reverberate around a near-empty Bolotnaya Square.

    In the fleeting September warmth, the flowerbeds are blooming, the verges are well kept and a busload of tourists are busily snapping photos on the edge of this pleasant, tree-lined plaza not far from the Kremlin.

    But like much in Russia today, first impressions can be deceptive. Bolotnaya’s seeming tranquillity belies the central role it played in the country’s growing repression of basic freedoms.

    On 6 May 2012, a very different scene played out in this square.

    Hundreds of riot police, kitted out in military-style camouflage and helmets, and wielding truncheons, charged into crowds of mostly peaceful anti-government protesters who had gathered on the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s controversial return to power.

    October 02, 2014

    Amnesty International is launching a Week of Action, from 6 to 12 October 2014, to show solidarity with independent voices in Russia who speak out against the pernicious creep of repression in the country.

    Under slogans of “Speak out for freedom!” and “Speak out for Russia!”, activists in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, UK, Ukraine and Russia itself will demonstrate through actions, flash mobs, letters and petitions against the ongoing clampdown on basic freedoms of people in Russia.

    “The right to protest peacefully; the right to speak freely on the Internet or in public; the right to disagree; the right to express who you are, all these are being smothered by the Russian authorities with the introduction of repressive legislation, smear campaigns and harassment,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

    To mark the start of the Week of Action Amnesty International is publishing a new briefing, Violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Russia, which focuses on four main areas of concern:

    August 29, 2014

    Russia’s official branding of a civil society organization as a “foreign agent”, an expression akin to “spying”, for speaking out on Ukraine is a sign of the country’s determination to suppress any information about its military activities there, Amnesty International said.

    On 28 August, the Russian Ministry of Justice added the NGO “Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg” to its official list of “foreign agents” under the 2012 law.

    The decision came after its leader, Ella Polyakova, spoke publicly about the alleged death of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine against the Ukrainian forces.

    July 21, 2014

    The Russian Ministry of Justice today registered four more Russian human rights organizations and one environmental group as “foreign agents”, a further sign of the authorities’ growing stranglehold on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities’ determination to decimate independent civil society organizations remains steadfast,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for the Europe and Central Asia Program at Amnesty International.

    “This blow has been a long-time coming – but it still hits hard. The five NGOs now being branded as foreign agents include some of the biggest and most influential in the country. The question Russians should be asking themselves is: who will protect their rights when they are gone?”

    Human rights groups Public Verdict, Memorial, Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms (Jurix) and Agora, and environmental group Women’s Council (Ekozazchita! – Zhensovet) have been registered as “foreign NGOs” by the Ministry of Justice for supposedly conducting “political activities” while receiving some foreign funding.

    July 11, 2014

    The conviction against a peaceful Russian activist who was released from a closed psychiatric institution today must be overturned, Amnesty International said.

    Mikhail Kosenko was arrested after he took part in a protest in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in May 2012 and placed in custody a month later.

    “Mikhail Kosenko’s participation in the demonstration at Bolotnaya, and false accusations that he used violence, have been used as evidence against him which led to his incarceration. Kosenko’s only ‘crime’ was publicly expressing his believes. This is reminiscent of the Soviet-era tactics when the authorities used psychiatric treatment to silence dissenting voices,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International's Moscow Office Director.

    “The fact that Mikhail Kosenko’s conviction has not been overturned means he could be locked up again for any transgression, real or fabricated.”

    June 27, 2014

    By upholding a draconian requirement for three more independent organizations to register as “foreign agents”, a Moscow court is rubber stamping the authorities’ witch hunt against peaceful human rights defenders, said Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities’ determination to silence any form of dissent or criticism is astonishing. This week’s decision will further cripple civil society in Russia and have a disastrous impact on thousands of Russians who will see their chances of having their human rights protected greatly diminished,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.  

    On 24, 26 and 27 June, the Zamoskvoretskiy district court in Moscow ruled against appeals by the NGOs Golos, Yurix and Public Verdict not to have to register as “foreign agents”. The registration is required under the repressive “Foreign Agents Law” enacted by the Russian authorities on 21 November 2012.

    June 20, 2014

    The decision of the Moscow City Court to reject an appeal against the conviction of eight Bolotnaya protesters imprisoned after a politically motivated trial is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of assembly and expression in Russia, said Amnesty International.

    “This decision sends a ‘warning signal’ to anyone thinking about taking to the streets in Moscow. The trial was clearly politically motivated and carried out with the specific aim of deterring future protests. There’s no reason to keep them behind bars,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    “Freedom of assembly is fast becoming a crime in Russia with authorities barely hesitating to lock up those whose views or peaceful activism they see as a political threat. Whether for brief detentions or longer periods as in this case, this must stop.”

    Hundreds of peaceful anti-government protesters were arrested after police brutally dispersed a protest in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012.


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