State Duma Calls for ‘Preparing for Worst’ on Trump; Police Search Human Rights Activist Zoya Svetova

February 28, 2017
Russian State Duma. Stock photo.

Live Updates: The Russian State Duma called for “preparing for the worst” regarding the policies of US President Donald Trump. Police searched the home of human rights activist Zoya Svetova in the YUKOS case.

The previous issue is here.

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298 Russians Prosecuted for Social Media Posts in 2016; 29 Handed Prison Terms

Agora, the Kazan-based legal-aid organization has documented that in 2016, 298 Russians were prosecuted for their posts on social media; of these, 29 were handed serious prison terms, Novaya Gazeta reports.
The number of cases of violation of Internet freedom has increased by a factor of 8 compared to 2015 — and by a factor of 230 compared to 6 years ago. The number of criminal cases for free expression on the Internet has gone up 150%.
Agora issued its annual report Freedom of the Internet 2016: Martial Law on February 7.
Lawyers Pavel Chikov and Damir Gaynutdinov,  co-authors of the report say that Agora documented 53,004 cases of “administrative pressure” regarding social media; 35,019 restrictions of access to web sites; and 298 criminal prosecutions of Internet uses. Of these, 29 resulted in terms of imprisonment, as distinct from fines or corrective labor.
Agora has divided Russia up into zones graded by their level of freedom of expression, and say only 13.6 million Russians out of a population of 143.5 million are in a “green zone” with relative freedom on the Internet. Say the authors (translation by The Interpreter):

“Inside the country, residents have gradually found themselves in the rear, fighting in the state’s cyberspace, in which virtually martial law operates, with heavy censorship and a brutal reaction to any disagreement, even the most harmless criticism of the bosses or an attempt to dispute the actions of the leadership is viewed as an armed attack. This all enables us to make the confident conclusion: the Runet has moved to a state of war.”

Gainutdinov gave an interview to Novaya Gazeta last year in which he said the “Yarovaya package” of legislation restricting the Internet ostensibly in the interests of combating terrorism was having an effect. Using the words “annexation” or “occupation” regarding the Crimea was grounds for prosecution, for example, because it could be construed as “propaganda for violating the territorial integrity” of Russia. Several milder articles in the criminal code dealing with “hate speech” have now been toughened up so that a careless blogger could find himself facing five years of imprisonment.

Earlier this month Novaya Gazeta covered the case of Aleksandr Gozenko, age 19, who was charged with “insulting the Russian nation”. He allegedly posted a comment that it was “time to organize a vata Holocaust”, reported. Vata, literally “cotton” or vatnik (literally “cotton jacket” as worn by Russian workers) is a pejorative term that Ukrainians began to use more frequently with the war in Ukraine to depict Russians. 
According to Novaya Gazeta, Gozenko also wrote,
“But you’re a vatnik and katsap [another pejorative word used by Ukrainians to refer to Russians]. How else could you call such cattle? You cite facts, and he doesn’t believe.”
Gozenko faced up to 5 years of prison, but was given a sentence of 160 hours of corrective labor under Art. 282 of the Russian Criminal Code  (“incitement of hatred and enmity against a social group based on ethnicity, with use of the Internet”) after pleading guilty and expressing remorse.
The court also noted that Gozenko was placed on the local psychiatric clinic registry in 2014, but “did not suffer from any mental illness that would prevent him from realizing the consequences of his actions,” Lenta reported.,
Lenta itself used an English transliteration of the term “vatniki” as the URL for the article.
A 16-year-old girl who resides in Tyumen Region created a group on VKontakte which supposedly disparaged government officials, and thus violated the law, according to the Tyumen Region Investigative Committee.
It’s not clear what she said, but investigators claimed that there were “linguistic signs of denigration of human dignity on grounds of ethnicity and affiliation with a group of ‘representatives of the government’ which on the basis of a court decision is recognized as extremist material.”
The Investigative Committee says that stencils and leaflets “with attributes of extremist tendency” were also found in the girl’s home during a search.

Novaya Gazeta has covered the “Internet cases” in a column titled “Who, What, For What” about court cases, many of them politically-motivated. 

In November 2016, VKontakte’s administration blocked a group with the sarcastic title “Rashka Kvadratny Vatnik” which translates as “Russia is a Total Vatnik”.  “Rashka” is a term for “Russia” said to be used by Soviet emigres. While originally a slur, the word began to be picked up ironically by Russian patriots themselves.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

State Duma Calls for ‘Preparing for Worst’ on Trump; Police Search Human Rights Activist Zoya Svetova

Demonstrators hangs a banner over a bridge in Cheboksary with the slogan ‘You Can’t Put Everyone in Jail”. Photo via Meduza.

The ruble is trading for 58.49 to the dollar and 62.11 to the euro. Brent crude is selling for $55.36 per barrel. 

The following news items were taken from 7:40 na perrone, RBC, Interfax, Guardian, Novaya Gazeta, Facebook, Meduza, Svoboda, Om-Saratov, Reuters, and Currenttime TV. 

– Medvedev Claims at Investment Forum that Russia Has ‘Coped’ With Unemployment As Jobless Number Decreases from 4.3 Million to 3.2 Million
What We’re Reading

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick