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RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Opposition activists face escalating crackdown as presidential election nears

17 Mar 2018
[International Secretariat]
Region: RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Topic:

Russian authorities are systematically violating the rights of political activists through arbitrary arrests and detentions in a crackdown ahead of the presidential elections on 18 March, Amnesty International said today.

Using a draconian law on public assemblies, authorities have deliberately targeted activists calling for an election boycott. As well as preventing public gatherings, the crackdown has seen many prominent opposition voices arbitrarily detained and charged with politically motivated offences.

The idea of boycotting the ballot is championed by anti-corruption campaigner and prominent political activist Aleksei Navalny, who is barred from running for president on widely contested grounds. In recent weeks, the authorities have targeted his supporters through a range of punitive means.

Navalny’s campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, was detained in a Moscow airport on 22 February. Later that day, he was sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention for allegedly organizing an “unauthorized gathering”.

The charge referred to the 28 January “voters’ strike” rallies which were held in more than 100 cities across Russia in support of Navalny’s idea of an election boycott.

According to the police, Volkov’s role in the organization of the Moscow rally consisted of two re-tweets indirectly encouraging people to attend. One was of a tweet originally posted by Navalny during his detention at the demonstration in Moscow, while the other was a link to a live webcast of the events.

Navalny’s headquarters’ coordinator in Saint Petersburg, Denis Mikhailov, was detained on 31 January for 30 days for “participating” in the Saint Petersburg event. He was sentenced to 25 days in prison.

At least two more prominent activists were arrested in Saint Petersburg in similar circumstances. The Saint Petersburg coordinator of the Open Russia movement was sentenced to 25 days of administrative detention on 28 February. A few days before his arrest, he wrote on Facebook that he felt that he was under surveillance.

On 26 February, a member of another opposition movement was given 25 days of administrative detention for displaying a giant inflatable duck in his apartment window when the protest rally was passing by. Since last year, yellow ducks have become a widely popular opposition symbol.

“This election campaign has been marred by widespread attacks against President Putin’s critics, and reprisals aimed at intimidating opposition activists into silence are becoming cruder as polling day approaches,” said Denis Krivosheev.

“All protesters and political activists arrested solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

15 March 2018
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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