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«The Russian Federation has a centralized political system, with power concentrated in a president and a prime minister, a weak multiparty political ...»

-- [ Page 8 ] --

In May 2009 Sverdlovsk authorities brought a criminal libel case against a LiveJournal blogger with the pen name "Father Christmas," who was critical of the Sverdlovsk police and the security cadre of the mayor. In June 2009 a court in Ufa, Bashkortostan, ordered local Internet service providers to block access to the revinform blog on LiveJournal because of its allegedly extremist content. The court cited as an example of extremist content an article from a local opposition newspaper posted on the blog, which reported on top-level corruption in the local government.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The government generally did not restrict academic freedom; however, human rights and academic organizations believed that the continued imprisonment of physicist Valentin Danilov and others inhibited academic freedom and contact with foreigners on subjects that authorities might deem sensitive.

There were reports of pressure on teachers, academics, and scholars.

On December 29, Kabardin ethnographer Aslan Tsipinov was shot and killed outside his home near Nalchik, Kabardino Balkaria. North Caucasian insurgents later claimed responsibility for the killing, explaining that they killed Tsipinov because he sought to corrupt young Muslims by reviving ancient pagan rituals.

On July 12, according to press reports, Yuriy Samadurov, former director of the Sakharov Center, was fined 200,000 rubles ($6,500) on charges of inciting ethnic and racial hatred in a 2007 exhibit held at the center that displayed works banned by Russian museums. The curator of the exhibition, Andrei Yerofevev, was fined 150,000 rubles ($4,800). The prosecution had originally asked for prison sentences.

On March 16, according to NGO and media reports, authorities arrested Svyatoslav Bobyshev and Yevgeny Afanasyev, two professors at Baltic State Technical University in St. Petersburg, and accused them of spying and passing state secrets

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to Chinese citizens. The two professors reportedly remained in detention at the Lefortovo maximum-security prison in Moscow. A court agreed in September to extend their detention for a further four months.

On November 13, historian Igor Pykhalov was attacked outside his home by unknown assailants. Reports suggest that Pykhalov was targeted because of his controversial pro-Stalinist views and his writings on Stalin's deportation of persons indigenous to the North Caucasus.

In May 2009 President Medvedev announced the formation of a Committee against the Falsification of History, which was dedicated to countering statements denigrating the role of the Soviet Union in the victory over Nazism. In connection with this initiative, a small number of professors in Moscow universities reported receiving instructions to submit their teaching materials to the university administration for examination as to whether they were violating the proposed law.

At year's end, no further pressure on teachers was reported.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

–  –  –

The law provides for freedom of assembly, but local authorities continued to restrict this right in practice. According to the human rights NGO AGORA, more than 3,160 civil activists were arrested following public events during the year.

In December 2009 the Duma passed a law increasing the severity of punishment for anyone found guilty of illegally interfering with the flow of traffic. The law increased the fine from 2,500 rubles ($83) to 100,000 rubles ($3,300) or two years in prison. Human rights activists viewed this as a move to restrict freedom of assembly. However, human rights advocates generally welcomed President Medvedev's veto of the proposed legislation "On Amendments to the Federal Law On Gatherings, Meetings, Demonstrations, Marches, and Pickets" that would have prevented those who received minor administrative fines from registering and participating in rallies. The president declared that the provisions would infringe on the right of assembly provided in the constitution.

On November 10, President Medvedev signed into law a modified bill, which requires that requests for permission to demonstrate be filed no less than three days before the proposed event. Such types of protest actions involve a smaller group of

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activists voicing disapproval of one specific issue and picketing in the vicinity of the offices of the government authority with which the activists take issue. The law also regulates the use of major streets, highways, and railroads as venues for public protests.

The law requires notification for public meetings, demonstrations, or marches by more than one person, but in practice municipal government treated this as a permitting process which must be requested between five and 10 days before the event. During this type of protest, many speakers take part and the size of the protest group is much larger than that for a picket. Local elected and administrative officials selectively denied some groups permission to assemble or offered alternate venues that were inconveniently located.

Demonstrations that took place without official permission were often broken up by police, who frequently detained demonstrators. In an August interview, Prime Minister Putin called these unsanctioned demonstrations "provocations" and stated that those who participate in them should expect to "take a cudgel to the head."





On January 15, members of the Moscow Oblast Duma rejected an amendment to legislation on demonstrations and public gatherings that would have required government permission to hold a solitary protest. Representatives of the Yabloko Party conducted pickets in front of the Moscow Oblast Duma against this initiative.

In July and August, police dispersed several demonstrations in connection with the movement to protect the Khimki forest near Moscow from destruction to make way for a proposed highway. On July 28, police detained nine environmental activists who had been camping in the forest after construction began on the project. On August 2, police detained 50 persons at an unsanctioned protest in the forest, including Yabloko Party leader Sergey Mitrokhin. Another protest was dispersed on August 10 outside of the Moscow Oblast administration building.

Authorities granted permission to hold a much larger protest on August 22.

In connection with these rallies, Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin expressed disagreement with the government's position that the authorities have the legal right to deny groups permission to demonstrate, countering that, in his view of the constitution, activists should only have to notify the authorities of their activities beforehand. Sergey Mironov, the speaker of the upper house of the State Duma and leader of minority party Just Russia, supported the right of activists to demonstrate peacefully and called the police actions toward participants "cruel."

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On August 22, political activist Lev Ponomaryov and Solidarity opposition coalition leaders Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Shneyder were detained for more than 12 hours in Moscow on the charge that they conducted an unsanctioned march. Local authorities had agreed to permit the opposition to hold a "rally" to mark National Flag Day, but refused to permit a "march." When the participants began to move down the street with a Russian flag, police arrested them. On August 26, Ponomaryov and Shneyder were sentenced to three days of administrative arrest.

On September 7, a Moscow court convicted Lev Ponomaryov of "insubordination" to a police officer and sentenced him to four days of administrative arrest in connection with his participation in an unsanctioned protest on August 12 at which demonstrators demanded the resignation of Moscow's then mayor, Yuriy Luzhkov.

On October 31, authorities in Moscow for the first time allowed human rights proponents to hold a "Strategy 31" rally on Triumfalnaya Square to demonstrate support for Article 31 of the constitution, which provides for freedom of assembly.

This was the first time the Strategy 31 opposition movement's protests were allowed. More than 1,500 persons attended, nearly double the number authorized by authorities; security forces were generally restrained. For most of the year and throughout 2009, authorities in Moscow employed various pretexts to deny human rights activists permission to hold Strategy 31 demonstrations on the last day of each 31-day month. On several occasions, police detained persons who gathered to protest the denials. According to a Vedomosti press report, the deputy head of the Moscow Interior Office stated that the mere presence of a sign displaying the number "31" was grounds for arrest. After detaining dozens of individuals at January and March rallies, state security forces were especially violent in their suppression of the May 31 peaceful protest, arresting at least 152 persons and reportedly beating many in jail. In response to the police actions, Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin characterized the actions of the security personnel as "disproportionate" and "unreasonably brutal" and the detention of the protesters as "illegal."

Many observers noted a selective and consistent pattern of encouraging rallies friendly to the government--while preventing politically sensitive demonstrations.

On the same day as the January Strategy 31 rally, United Russia organized progovernment rallies, which were the only demonstrations to receive coverage on state-run television news channels. Some demonstrators at the progovernment

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rallies told news media that they had been pressured to attend, and one student stated that he would receive class credit for his attendance.

Freedom of Association The law provides for freedom of association, and the government respected this right with a number of significant exceptions.

Public organizations must register their bylaws and the names of their leaders with the Ministry of Justice. Several organizations have been forced in the past to suspend activities while registration was pending. Restrictions were applied in a discriminatory and selective manner to some NGOs, particularly those receiving foreign funding or involved in issues of political opposition or in human rights monitoring.

The finances of registered organizations are subject to investigation by the tax authorities, and foreign grants must be registered. A 2008 prime ministerial decree reduced the number of foreign organizations whose grants were exempt from taxation from 101 to 12 and imposed an annual registration process on those that met the proposed requirements. Many NGOs interpreted the decree as a further step to restrict foreign funding of NGOs. Authorities subjected some NGOs with foreign funding to lengthy financial audits or delayed the registration of their foreign-financed programs. The financial investigations were particularly burdensome, and some NGOs, particularly smaller NGOs with limited organizational capacity, stated that it restricted their activities.

Between September 13 and 16, prosecutors conducted an extensive inspection campaign of approximately 40 NGOs, in what many observers called an attempt to intimidate and disrupt these groups (see section 5). Just as suddenly as the inspections began, they ended, with no further action.

The law provides a basis for government oversight of NGO activities, including ensuring their compliance with stringent registration requirements, a particular problem for the branch offices of foreign NGOs. The law also provides a basis for the oversight of extensive reporting requirements for NGOs concerning their programs and activities, as well as for government enforcement of limitations on the participation of foreign citizens. Authorities selectively used the regulations to harass certain NGOs.

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In July 2009 following complaints by NGOs about the burdensome nature of requirements imposed upon them, the law was amended to revoke the Justice Ministry's authority to arbitrarily demand documents from domestic NGOs; it further provides that flaws in documentation would not be grounds to annul, but only to suspend, a domestic organization's registration and removes "threats to national unity and identity" from the list of reasons for denying registration. The amendment also simplified reporting forms for domestic NGOs and required them to be inspected by the government once every three years, rather than annually.

None of these amendments applied to foreign NGOs.

There were no reports during the year that political parties had their registration revoked or denied.

–  –  –

For a complete description of religious freedom, please see the Department of State's 2010 International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/g/drl/irf/rpt.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons The law provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; however, the government placed restrictions on freedom of movement within the country and on migration. The government generally cooperated, with some exceptions, with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

All adult citizens must carry government-issued internal passports while traveling domestically and must register with the local authorities within a specified time of their arrival at a new location. Authorities often refused to provide governmental services to individuals without internal passports or proper registration. The official grace period for registration given to an individual arriving in a new location is 90 days. Darker-skinned persons from the Caucasus or of African or Asian origin were often singled out for document checks. There were credible reports that police arbitrarily imposed fines on unregistered persons in excess of legal requirements or demanded bribes from them.

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