The number of political prisoners in Russia has reached above 230 as President Vladimir Putin's government implements an "ever increasing array of laws specifically designed to criminalize acts of everyday life, " according to a new report created with input from the Moscow based rights group Memorial. The report, released on April 29, says that political opponents of the government, civil society activists, and journalists are at particular risk of being targeted.Also in the crosshairs are Ukrainian activists, religious and ethnic minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists, all of whom face potential prosecution under laws that "allow the authorities to arrest, detain, and imprison anyone they want. " "There has not yet been a sustained effort to sanction the officials responsible for the persecution of political prisoners more broadly. This must change, " it said. "Unless serious consequences are imposed on these officials, the Kremlin will continue to believe it can act with total impunity. " The report, titled The Kremlin s Political Prisoners: Advancing A Political Agenda By Crushing Dissent, was written by Washington based public interest law firm Perseus Strategies with support from the Memorial Human Rights Center, one of Russia s oldest and best known human rights advocacy organizations. The report highlighted how the Kremlin and lawmakers in parliament both houses of which are dominated by the ruling United Russia party have used new legislation, amendments to existing laws, and changes in administrative regulations as a tool to target dissidents and political opponents. Since 2012, the report said, the list of new and updated crimes and violations added to the country's Criminal Code and code of administrative offenses includes:
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has begun his first official visit to neighboring Iran for talks set to focus on strengthening bilateral ties, fighting terrorism, and safeguarding borders, Iranian state media reported. The two day trip started on April 21 with a stopover in the holy city of Mashhad, where Khan was expected to visit the shrine of Imam Reza, who is revered by Shi ite Muslims. Khan was expected to fly to the capital, Tehran, to hold talks with President Hassan Rohani and other top officials, IRNA said. The visit comes a day after Pakistan asked Iran to take action against terrorist groups believed to be behind the killing of 14 Pakistani soldiers earlier this month. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on April 20 that 15 gunmen wearing military uniforms ambushed a bus in southwestern Baluchistan Province on April 18, killing 14 Pakistani Army personnel. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said in a letter to the Iranian government that the assailants came from an alliance of three Baluch terrorist organizations based in Iran.Qureshi told reporters that Khan would take up the matter with Iranian authorities. Qureshi said he spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on April 20 to share the initial findings of a Pakistani probe into the killing of security personnel with him. There was no immediate reaction from Tehran. Earlier this year, Iran called on Pakistan to take action against a militant group behind a deadly attack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Twenty seven IRGC members were killed in a February suicide car bombing near the border with Pakistan. The Sunni Muslim extremist group Jaish al Adl claimed responsibility for the attack in southeastern Iran.
A suspected Israeli air strike on a military site in central Syria early on April 13 wounded six soldiers and destroyed several buildings, Syria s state news agency SANA reported. A military official told SANA that Israeli targeted a military academy near the town of Masyaf in Hama Province. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli air trikes hit three targets, wounding 17 Syrian soldiers. It said there were also deaths, but it was not immediately clear how many were killed and whether they were Iranians or Iran sponsored fighters. The Israeli military declined to comment.Israel does not usually comment on reports concerning its air strikes in neighboring Syria, though it has recently acknowledged striking Iranian targets there. Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and has sent military advisers, as well as thousands of fighters from across the region, to help his forces in the eight year conflict.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russian authorities violated the rights of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny by holding him under house arrest in 2014. Navalny was placed under house arrest in February 2014 and confined to his home for several months while he was being investigated on suspicion of embezzlement in the so called Yves Rocher case, which he and supporters say was politically motivated. "The restrictions on him, including tight limits on his communicating, were out of proportion to the criminal charges he had faced, " the ECHR said in a statement after its ruling on April 9. The ECHR ruled that Russia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights and said it was "apparent that he had been treated in that way in order to curtail his public activities. "The Strasbourg based court ordered Russia to pay Navalny 20,000 euros ($22,480) in damages and 2,665 euros ($3,000) in remuneration for costs and expenses related to the case. Navalny called the ECHR's ruling a "victory, " while President Vladimir Putin's spokesman criticized it. "I congratulate our team of lawyers and all the honest people who have supported us, " Navalny wrote on Instagram. "I am sure that this ruling will have important consequences for those in Russia who have constantly been facing similar lawlessness. "
A U.S. judge says Russian citizen Maria Butina will be sentenced in April after admitting she was a secret agent for the Kremlin who tried to infiltrate U.S. conservative political groups as Donald Trump rose to power in 2016.Butina appeared briefly on March 28 in federal court in Washington where U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan set her sentencing date for April 26.
President Vladimir Putin has marked the fifth anniversary of what Moscow considers the day Crimea became part of Russia by visiting Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula, as NATO, the United States, and the European Union again condemned what they called the "illegal " land grab. On March 18, 2014, Putin signed a treaty that Moscow claims made Ukraine's Crimea region part of Russia, after Russian forces seized control of the peninsula and organized a referendum that was not recognized by the international community. Ukraine and the West have slammed Russia's move as an "illegal " annexation, leading to sanctions against Russian individuals and entities. The annexation of Crimea and Russia's role in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been fighting against Russia backed separatists since April 2014, sent ties between Moscow and the West plunging to post Cold War lows. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has left around 13,000 people dead, some 30,000 injured, and uprooted well over 1 million Ukrainian citizens, according to UN and Ukrainian officials. In Washington, Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, called the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea a "sad day. " "This is an illegal occupation, an illegal seizure of territory, and we fundamentally stand behind Ukraine in insisting that its territorial integrity be restored, " Volker told journalists. In a statement, NATO described the annexation of Crimea as "a serious breach of international law and a major challenge to Euro Atlantic security. " The Western military alliance's North Atlantic Council criticized Russia's "ongoing and wide ranging military build up " in Crimea, and raised concerns over its "efforts and stated plans for further military build up " in the Black Sea region. The allies also accused the "Russian de facto authorities in illegally annexed Crimea " of carrying out human rights abuses against "Ukrainians, the Crimean Tatars, and members of other local communities, " including "extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, violence, arbitrary detentions, arrest, and torture. "They said that there would be no return to "business as usual " with Moscow until there was a "a clear, constructive change in Russia's actions. "
BRUSSELS The European Union s foreign policy chief has marked the fifth anniversary of Russia s seizure and "illegal annexation " of Ukraine s Crimean Peninsula with scathing criticism of the Kremlin. In a statement issued on March 17, a day before what in Moscow's eyes is the fifth anniversary of the day Crimea became part of Russia, Federica Mogherini said the EU remains steadfast in its commitment to Ukraine s sovereignty and territorial integrity. " The European Union reiterates that it does not recognize and continues to condemn this violation of international law, Mogherini said. It remains a direct challenge to international security, with grave implications for the international legal order that protects the territorial integrity, unity, and sovereignty of all states. Meanwhile, the Kremlin press service announced on March 17 that Russian President Vladimir Putin will mark the anniversary by visiting Crimea and its Black Sea port city of Sevastopol.
Zuzana Caputova, an anticorruption campaigner with no previous experience in public office, appears to be the leading contender as Slovaks go to the polls to elect their next president.The 45 year old Caputova, a liberal civic lawyer with the Progresivne Slovensko party, could become her country's first female head of state if preelection polls prove correct and she can defeat the 12 other candidates in the March 16 vote and manage to do so with an absolute majority.
The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree suspending Russia's participation in a key Cold War era nuclear arms control agreement with the United States.The Russian move, announced on March 4, mirrored a step by the United States, which accuses Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and launched a six month process of withdrawal from the pact in early February.
Kazakhstan s president has appointed Asqar Mamin as Central Asian nation's new prime minister, days after the government was abruptly sacked. "The head of state has signed an order to appoint Mamin as the Kazakh prime minister, " Nursultan Nazarbaev s press service said in post to Twitter on February 25.
A day after accusing Russia of trying to "goad the West, " British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson has been labeled the "minister of war " by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.Lavrov's comments at the Munich Security Conference on February 16 come a day after Williamson said that Russia "was trying to goad the West into a new arms race it simply is not interested in and does not want. "
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Kyiv must join the European Union and NATO to protect itself from Russia as he officially launched his reelection campaign. Poroshenko, who is seeking a second five year term in the March 31 vote, accused Moscow of planning to interfere in the election. Poroshenko also charged that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to destroy Ukrainian independence and described the nation's presidential election as a "general battle for Ukraine. " "Only full fledged membership in the European Union and NATO can decisively and irrevocably guarantee our independence, national security, freedom, and well being, " Poroshenko told supporters in the capital on February 9. The 53 year old Poroshenko, one of Ukraine s richest men, came to power in the aftermath of the pro European Maidan protests that pushed Moscow friendly President Viktor Yanukovych out in February 2014. He has vocally advocated closer integration with the West and criticized Russia following Moscow's seizure of Ukraine s Crimea region and amid a continuing war against Russia backed separatists in the eastern region known as the Donbas. Recent polls indicate former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be Poroshenko's closest rivals in the March 31 election. Ukrainian election officials said a record 44 candidates have registered to run in the election.
Police in two Russian regions have detained more members of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a day after a Russian court sentenced a Danish adherent of the religious group to six years in prison.
MOSCOW Google has begun censoring websites blacklisted by the Russian government after Russia s communications watchdog threatened to block the search engine giant for not following its increasingly stringent rules, the Russian daily Vedomosti reported.An unnamed source at Roskomnadzor, the watchdog, told the paper on February 6 that Google has in recent weeks begun to comply with requests to block certain websites, and is now censoring around 70 percent of those included on a list provided by Russian authorities.
A fire at the Iranian Space Research Center has killed three scientists, a top Iranian official has announced.Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi on February 3 said the scientists died as a result "of a fire in one of the buildings of the Space Research Center. "
A lawyer for Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia on an espionage charge, says his client did not know that a USB stick he was given in his hotel room moments before his arrest contained state secrets. Speaking to reporters on January 22, after a Moscow court refused to release Whelan on bail, attorney Vladimir Zherebenkov suggested that the foreigner was the victim of a setup. Whelan believed he was being given a memory stick that contained photos and other material from his own previous trips to Russia, Zherebenkov said. He thought "these were cultural things, a trip to a cathedral, Paul's holiday...photographs, " the lawyer said. "Why it turned out that information containing state secrets was on there is still unknown. " Whelan, who also holds citizenship in Ireland, Canada, and Britain, was arrested in Moscow by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents on December 28. Russian authorities allege he was caught "red handed " in an act of espionage, and he faces 10 to 20 years in prison if tried and convicted.
Deadpool Max, a comic book installment of the superhero saga that stormed the U.S. box office, includes a chapter about the bungling superhero's face off with Zemo, a white supremacist hellbent on repeating the Holocaust. Deadpool's adversary spouts radical anti Semitic conspiracy theories on his way to the grave.David Lapham, the author, follows the chapter up with a note of caution to his readers, explaining that the historical figures and events praised by Zemo the Holocaust, Hitler, and the KKK are deplorable. "I know you're all savvy readers who get sarcasm and satire, " Lapham writes.
A lawyer acting for a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia on espionage charges has filed an appeal with a Moscow court seeking to have his client released on bail, Russian news agencies report.Paul Whelan, who also holds British, Irish, and Canadian citizenship, was detained by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) on December 28.
WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump urged other countries, specifically Russia, Pakistan, and India, to become more involved in the fighting in Afghanistan as he argued against continued long term presence of U.S. troops in the war torn country.In televised comments to reporters during a cabinet meeting on January 2, Trump also asserted that Moscow s involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s led to the bankruptcy and breakup of the Soviet Union.