Russia: vicious government campaign to crush political opposition ahead of Sunday protests
Reacting to growing reports of searches and arrests in Russia of prominent political and civilian activists associated with imprisoned Alexei Navalny, Natalia Zviagina, director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office, said:
“The crackdown on dissent in Russia has become increasingly brutal – and desperate – even in light of the vicious retaliation of recent years. The authorities seem unabashedly determined to violate human rights by silencing their critics. In recent days, authorities have arrested a young mother, raided the homes of the elderly relatives of a prominent journalist and initiated criminal proceedings on questionable grounds, such as the violation of health rules by protesters.
In recent days, authorities have arrested a young mother, raided the homes of the elderly parents of a prominent journalist and opened criminal proceedings on questionable grounds, such as the violation of sanitary rules by protesters.
“This wave of retaliation is obviously aimed at suppressing growing popular dissent in Russia. This is a cowardly attempt to prevent further planned peaceful protests against the prosecution of prisoner of conscience Alexei Navalny and the allegations of the highest level corruption in Russia that he has uncovered.
“The persecution of peaceful protesters must end immediately, and Russian citizens must be able to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression on or when they choose on January 31 – these are fundamental rights. “
The persecution of peaceful protesters must end immediately, and Russian citizens must be able to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, on or when they choose on January 31 – these are fundamental rights
On the afternoon of January 27, at least 18 searches were carried out of the homes and offices of leading opposition activists, journalists and government critics in Moscow. The security forces stormed the apartments where the wife of prisoner of conscience Alexei Navalny, Yulia Navalnaya, and her brother Oleg live. Simultaneously, they raided the office and studio of the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Navalny Live, the opposition activist’s popular YouTube channel.
At the same time, several searches were carried out at the home of Anastasia Vasilyeva, head of the Alliance of Doctors union, Maria Alyokhina of the punk group Pussy Riot, the parents of Sergei Smirnov, editor-in-chief of Mediazona, an independent media outlet, among others .
These measures were taken under the pretext of investigating a criminal case based on Article 236 of the Russian Criminal Code (violation of sanitary and epidemiological standards, which inadvertently led or threatened to lead to mass illness or poisoning of people). Those targeted include organizers and participants in protests that were violently dispersed by the authorities on Saturday 23 January. If found guilty, they face up to two years in prison.
This is just one of dozens of criminal cases that have already been opened in Russia against political activists, for contentious reasons – such as road blockades, violation of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, damage to state property and the use of violence against police officers. As recently as today, a new criminal case under Article 151.2 (involvement of minors in life-threatening acts) was opened against Leonid Volkov, head of the regional offices of the Aleksei Navalny supporters network.