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Posts tagged ‘Injustice of Russia’

Russia’s security agency detains 6 Crimean Tatar activists

October 11, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s domestic security agency said Wednesday it detained six people in Crimea accused of involvement in an extremist organization, a move described by one of the suspects’ lawyer as part of Moscow’s crackdown on the Crimean Tatars.

Emil Kurbedinov, a lawyer for one of the six detainees, said that police also rounded up nine other Crimean Tatars who protested the detentions in the Crimean town of Bakhchisarai. The Federal Security Service or FSB, the main KGB successor agency, said it has stopped the activities of a local cell of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamist group which Russia and several other ex-Soviet nations banned as a “terrorist” organization.

The FSB said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that it has opened a criminal probe against six people suspected of involvement in the group. Kurbedinov, a lawyer for Suleiman Asanov, whom the FSB accused of organizing the cell, described the charges as “absurd.” He said all six detainees were local Crimean Tatar activists who opposed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

Russia has faced criticism for infringing on the ethnic group’s rights since the annexation. “It’s yet another attempt to intimidate people with ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ labels,” Kurbedinov said by phone from Bakhchisarai.

Kurbedinov said nine other Crimean Tatars who were protesting the detentions were taken into custody for holding an unsanctioned demonstration and were set to face court hearings Thursday. Zair Smedlyayev, who heads an association of Crimean Tatars, also said the move was part of a continuing crackdown on the Turkic ethnic group.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was visiting the Ukrainian capital, said Turkey was monitoring the situation of Crimean Tatars and thanked Ukraine for defending their rights.

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Court jails Russian opposition leader Navalny for 20 days

October 02, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — A Moscow court on Monday sent Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to jail for 20 days for calling for an unsanctioned protest, which would keep him away from a major rally this weekend.

Police detained Navalny on Friday, preventing him from traveling to a rally in a major Russian city that had given its official permission to hold the gathering. Charges brought against the Kremlin’s top rival relate to the upcoming rally in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city and President Vladimir Putin’s hometown, which has not been sanctioned.

After he announced his presidential bid last year, Navalny, arguably Russia’s most popular opposition politician, inspired a grassroots campaign in Russian regions to support his nomination. “20 days in jail. Old man Putin got so scared of our rallies in the regions and decided to make himself a little present for himself for his birthday,” Navalny tweeted shortly after the ruling Monday evening.

The rally in St. Petersburg was scheduled for Saturday, which is also Putin’s birthday. Navalny’s campaign late Monday called for rallies to protest his arrest in other Russian cities this Saturday. A Russian law on public gatherings, which was hastily adopted following massive anti-government rallies in 2011-2012, carries 30 days in jail for repeated violations.

In another Moscow courthouse, a judge is expected to hand down a ruling later Monday in the case of Navalny’s campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, who faces similar charges. The Kremlin has dismissed Navalny, who has faced repeated jailings and criminal cases, as an urbanite out of touch with people living in Russia’s 11 time zones where Putin draws his support from.

Yet that began to change earlier this year when Navalny, a 41-year-old lawyer, opened campaign offices in 80 cities and towns. Most of those places had not seen a diverse political life for decades, and Navalny attracted thousands of supporters.

Moscow police keep opposition chief Navalny away from rally

September 29, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Police in Moscow detained Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny for most of the day Friday in an apparent bid to prevent him from joining a rally that he organized in another city, where several people were also detained.

Navalny had planned to travel to the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod where he was to lead a rally, the latest in a series of demonstrations he has organized across Russia, when he was detained early Friday. He was kept at a Moscow police station until late evening.

After he announced his presidential bid last year, Navalny, a top Kremlin foe and arguably Russia’s most popular opposition politician, inspired a grassroots campaign in Russian regions to support his nomination. The crackdown comes after he held rallies in six Russian cities, from Murmansk in the northwest to Khabarovsk on the border with China.

Navalny posted a video on his Instagram account early Friday of what he said were officers outside his home asking him to come to a police station. He said he was held there without charges or any explanation why he had been detained.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement Friday that Navalny was detained because of his calls for unsanctioned rallies. The rally in Nizhny Novgorod, however, had received City Hall approval. When several hundred people gathered for the rally Friday evening, police ordered them to disperse and detained several demonstrators.

After his release, Navalny tweeted that the authorities’ efforts to derail opposition rallies will fail. “A plan to block regional rallies won’t work,” Navalny said, adding that other demonstrations are set to be held in Orenburg in the Urals and Arkhangelsk in northwest.

Navalny has been summoned to attend a court hearing Monday on charges of violating the rules of organizing a rally. His campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, was kept in police custody in Nizhny Novgorod for most of the day Friday until being released and ordered to attend Monday’s court hearing on the same charges.

“The Kremlin views my meetings with voters as a huge threat and even an insult,” Navalny tweeted. “They were saying for so long that opposition has no support in the regions, and it now pains them to even look at our rallies.”

The Kremlin has dismissed Navalny, who has faced repeated jailings and criminal cases, as an urbanite out of touch with people living in Russia’s 11 time zones where President Vladimir Putin draws his support from.

That began to change earlier this year when Navalny opened campaign offices in 80 cities and towns, most of which had not seen a political life for decades, attracting thousands of supporters. In Germany, Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, told reporters Friday that the German government “views the arrests of activists including Navalny … with incomprehension and great concern.”

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

Russia’s Navalny detained ahead of rally

September 29, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Police on Friday detained Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny ahead of a rally in a major city. Navalny on posted a video on his Instagram account of what he said were officers outside his home asking him to come to a police station. He tweeted from the station later, saying he had not been told why he had been detained.

Navalny had planned to travel to the city of Nizhny Novgorod where he was to lead a rally later on Friday. After he announced his presidential bid last year, Navalny, a top Kremlin foe and arguably Russia’s most popular opposition politician, inspired a grassroots campaign in Russian regions to support his nomination.

The Tass news agency on Friday quoted police as saying that Navalny was detained because of his calls for unsanctioned rallies. The rally in Nizhny Novgorod, however, had received City Hall approval. Navalny’s associates, in the meantime, reported that police seized their equipment, which was already installed at a city square ahead of the rally.

“The Kremlin views my meetings with voters as a huge threat and even an insult,” Navalny tweeted. “They were saying for so long that opposition has no support in the regions, and it now pains them to even look at our rallies.”

He recorded and posted online a video from the police station, calling on his supporters in Nizhny Novgorod to come to the rally even if he does not make it there. The Kremlin has dismissed Navalny, who has faced repeated jailings and criminal cases, as an urbanite out of touch with people living in Russia’s 11 time zones where President Vladimir Putin draws his support from. That began to change earlier this year when Navalny opened campaign offices in 80 cities and towns, most of which had not seen a political life for decades, attracting thousands of supporters.

5 found guilty in Russian opposition leader’s murder trial

June 29, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — A jury has found five men guilty of involvement in the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov, a top opponent of President Vladimir Putin, was shot late at night in 2015 as he was walking across a bridge just outside the Kremlin.

Russian news agencies say a jury at a Moscow court on Thursday found the suspected triggerman, a former officer in the security forces of Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, guilty of murdering Nemtsov. Four other men were found guilty of involvement in the killing.

The brazen assassination sent shockwaves through the Russian opposition. Nemtsov’s allies have criticized the investigators for stopping short of studying a possible role of top Chechen officers and Kadyrov himself in the killing.

Key moments in Russia’s campaign, involvement in Syrian war

June 16, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s announcement that the Islamic State group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria in late May — if confirmed — would be a huge military coup for Moscow as a key player in Syria’s civil war and strengthen its hand in future peace talks.

It would also mark a climax in Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, in which it has sided with President Bashar Assad’s government, from the first days of the air campaign two years ago to boots on the ground in the city of Aleppo.

The airstrike would also highlight the capabilities of Russia’s modernized military, which has tested new precision weapons in Syria. Here are some key moments in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.

QUICK DEPLOYMENT

A series of major battlefield defeats suffered by Assad’s army in 2015 prompted Moscow to intervene to protect its long-time ally. On August 26, 2015, Russia signed a deal with the Syrian government on deploying an air force contingent and other military assets at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s province of Latakia, the heartland of Assad’s Alawite religious minority.

In a matter of weeks, Russia’s military built up the base so it could host dozens of Russian jets. It delivered thousands of tons of military equipment and supplies by sea and heavy-lift cargo planes in an operation dubbed the “Syrian Express.” On Sept. 30, Moscow declared the launch of its air campaign in Syria — Russia’s first military action outside the former Soviet Union since the federation’s collapse.

TENSIONS WITH TURKEY

The Russian intervention angered Turkey, which has pushed for Assad’s ouster and backed Syrian opposition forces since the start of the conflict in 2011. On Nov. 24, 2015, a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber on the border with Syria. The pilot was killed by Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters as he parachuted from the plane, and a Russian marine was also killed during an operation to rescue the second pilot. Turkey said the Russian plane violated its airspace but Moscow denied that.

Putin described the downing as a “stab in the back” and responded with an array of economic sanctions, including a ban on the sales of tour packages to Turkey and imports of Turkish fruit and vegetables. The Russian military also beefed up its air defenses in Syria with the long-range S-400 missiles to force Turkey to back off.

FIGHTING FOR PALMYRA

In April 2016, Assad’s forces, relying on Russian air support, scored a major symbolic victory by taking the ancient town of Palmyra from the Islamic State group. Russia deployed field engineers to clear mines from the world-famous archaeological site and then celebrated the victory with a concert by the St. Petersburg Mariinsky orchestra, led by renowned Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.

In December 2016, however, the Syrian army again lost Palmyra to IS. Assad’s forces recaptured it in March, again under the Russian air cover and following fierce fighting. BOOTS ON THE GROUND Though most attention was focused on Russian airstrikes, Russia also became actively involved in ground operations. Senior Russian military officers were deployed alongside Syrian government troops to provide training, plan offensive operations and direct them in combat. Russia also dispatched special forces to conduct intelligence and coordinate air strikes. There were also some indications that Russian artillery units were deployed in key battlefield areas.

Russia’s Defense Ministry never said how many troops it has in Syria, but turnout figures in voting from abroad in the September 2016 parliamentary elections indicated that Russian military personnel in the Arab nation at the time likely exceeded 4,300.

Russia has lost 38 servicemen in Syria so far, according to official data.

BATTLEFIELD TESTS

The Syrian war provided an arena for Russia’s military to test its latest weapons in combat — including state-of-the art Kalibr cruise missiles launched by Russian strategic bombers, navy surface warships and submarines. The long-range precision-strike cruise capability has given a major boost to the Russian military.

In another first, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, sailed to the Eastern Mediterranean last fall to launch the first carrier-borne combat missions in Russia’s navy history, during the months-long battles between Syrian government forces and the rebels for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once its commercial hub.

Other weapons for the first time tested in combat included the Su-34 and the Su-35 warplanes, and the Mi-28 and the Ka-52 helicopter gunships. President Vladimir Putin said in a national call-in show on Thursday that the Syrian campaign provided a “priceless” experience for the Russian military.

BATTLE FOR ALEPPO

In December 2016 the Syrian army won full control of Aleppo, Assad’s greatest victory in the war, now in its seventh year. The fall of the city, which was divided into government- and rebel-controlled parts since 2012, demoralized the rebels, depriving them of the largest urban area under their control. Russian air support helped cut rebels’ communications and supply lines.

Assad’s victory followed ferocious battles, in which thousands died, and left the rebel enclave in ruins. Russia now has deployed hundreds of military police to patrol the city’s former rebel-held eastern part.

RUSSIA-TURKEY RAPPROCHEMENT

Faced with massive damage from Russia’s economic sanctions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to mend ties, offering apologies for downing the Russian warplane in June 2016. Putin responded by strongly backing Erdogan during a failed military coup in Turkey.

Since then, the two leaders have held several meetings and frequent phone talks to narrow their differences on Syria. Turkey is also credited with playing a key role in negotiating the withdrawal of the opposition forces from Aleppo.

Also, earlier this year, Russia, Turkey and Iran brokered several rounds of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana. Those meetings — though separate from the U.N. backed Syria peace talks in Geneva — brought together the Syrian government and its foes. In May, the three powers, which back opposing sides in the war, negotiated in Astana a deal on so-called “safe zones” in Syria, which was welcomed by the U.N. But the parties are still to finalize the boundaries of the zones and work out monitoring details in talks expected to be held in the coming weeks.

Russian rallies urge Putin not to run again; dozens arrested

April 29, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Under the slogan “I’m fed up,” demonstrators urging Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term rallied in cities across Russia on Saturday. Dozens were arrested in St. Petersburg and elsewhere.

The centerpiece rally in Moscow went peacefully, despite being unsanctioned by authorities. Several hundred people rallied in a park then moved to the nearby presidential administration building to present letters telling Putin to stand down from running in 2018.

But in St. Petersburg, Associated Press journalists saw dozens arrested. The OVD-Info group that monitors political repression relayed reports of more arrests in several cities, including 20 in Tula and 14 in Kemerovo.

Putin has not announced whether he plans to run for president again next year. He has dominated Russian politics since becoming president on New Year’s Eve 1999 when Boris Yeltsin resigned. Even when he stepped away from the Kremlin to become prime minister in 2008-2012 because of term limits, he remained effectively Russia’s leader.

Nationwide protests on March 26 appeared to rattle the Kremlin because of the demonstrations’ unusual size and reach. The predominance of young people in those protests challenges the belief that the generation that grew up under Putin’s heavy hand had become apolitical or disheartened.

Saturday’s demonstrations were much smaller, but indicated that marginalized opposition forces will continue to push. The demonstrations were called for by Open Russia, an organization started by Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

As an oil tycoon, Khodorkovsky was once listed as Russia’s richest man, but his political ambitions put him at odds with the Kremlin. He was arrested in 2003 and served 10 years in prison on tax-evasion and fraud convictions that supporters say were political persecution. He was pardoned in 2013, left the country and revived Open Russia as a British-based organization.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Prosecutor-General banned Open Russia as an undesirable foreign organization. But the group’s Moscow branch says it is administratively separate and not subject to the ban.

Irina Titova in St. Petersburg contributed to this story.

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