Russia Claims Video of Syrian School Strike ‘Fake’; Memorial Reports Political Prisoners Have Doubled

October 28, 2016
Defendants in the trial of the Bolotnaya Square demonstrators of May 12, 2012; prosecutions continue to date. Photo via Institute for Modern Russia

LIVE UPDATES: Russia has claimed that a video of air strikes of a Syrian school implicating either Russia or Syria is fake. Memorial announces the number of political prisoners has doubled.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Recent Analysis and Translations:

Anna Politkovskaya’s Last Interview to the Regional Russian Press On Day of Her Murder
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– What Has Ramzan Kadyrov Been Up To? Quietly Cultivating Regional and Kremlin Officials, Now He Meets with Putin
– RBC Publishes Report Sourced in FSB and Military on Wagner Private Military Contractor with 2,500 Fighters in Syria


Russia Loses Seat on UN Human Rights Council After Close Vote

Russia has lost its seat on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), a body that assesses human rights violations and progress in UN members, RT reported.

Last week, a coalition of more than 80 human rights groups called for Russia not to be re-elected to the HRC due to allegations of war crimes in Russia’s and Syria’s  bombing of civilians in Syria.

RT reported:

For the first time since its inception in 2006, Russia will not be a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after being narrowly beaten by Croatia in a vote. Saudi Arabia was successfully re-elected, despite criticism from human rights organizations.

The 47 places on the council are distributed on a regional basis, with staggered ballots seeing a third of the body re-elected each year. Russia had finished its three-year term, and was running against Hungary and Croatia for the two available seats from Eastern Europe.

With Hungary far ahead, Croatia received the votes of 114 of the 193 member countries, and Russia was selected on 112 ballots.

Saudi Arabia sailed through the Asian ballot with 152 votes, and will represent the region on the UNHRC alongside China, Japan and Iraq for the next three years.

The elections took place against a backdrop of criticism from non-governmental human rights organizations, who say that the body has been hijacked by oppressive regimes looking to deflect criticism and drive their own agendas.

The US was voted off the HRC in 2001 in favor of Austria even as Vienna was headed to “pariah” status with the election of far-right politician Jorg Heider. Sudan and Pakistan, both massive violators of human rights were elected.

This prompted Human Rights Watch to dub the HRC “a rogue’s gallery” rather than an effective body for addressing the massive crimes against humanity that the UN Security Council can’t or won’t handle due, largely due to the permanent members’ vetoes. 

It took some years for the US first to be persuaded to rejoin the HRC amidst domestic opposition to the UN and then get re-elected. 

In this latest election, the US was re-elected. 

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russia Claims Video of Syrian School Strike ‘Fake’; Memorial Reports Political Prisoners Have Doubled

The ruble is trading at 63.00 to the US dollar and 68.83 to the euro. Brent crude is selling for $50.04.

The following headlines have been drawn from 7:40 na perrone, Gazeta, RBC, Fox News, Business Insider, Crimerussia, Kommersant.

– Liquor Imports to Russia Collapse Due to Change in Excise Stamps

What We’re Reading
– Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club with Vladimir Putin [Russian] [English

– Peskov First Reproaches Pro-Kremlin Biker ‘Surgeon’  for Insulting Raikin, Then Dismisses Issue [Russian]

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick