Violations of the Rights of Russian Citizens and Compatriots Abroad
Report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of the Russian Federation
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- United Kingdom
- Republic of Cyprus
- United States
- the Czech Republic
The Russian MFA's activities prioritize the issue of protecting the rights of Russian citizens abroad. Several most typical problems Russians face in a number of countries around the world can be singled out. Thus, unfortunately, incidents of their detention and politically motivated persecution, including at the request of third countries, have become frequent over recent years. The US authorities "hunting" our citizens worldwide is a major problem in this regard.
Incidentally, monitoring the situation of the rights of Russians becomes extremely acute in places of detention, where they often face pressure, abuses by prison officers, refusal to provide the necessary medical care or communication with a lawyer; consular access of employees of Russian embassies to them is made difficult or completely prohibited. The most dire situation is witnessed in the United States, as well as in Lithuania and Ukraine.
Compatriots living in foreign countries are also persecuted. In particular, in some countries (primarily in the Baltic states, the USA, Canada and Ukraine), it is not only the position expressed by representatives of the Russian-speaking community in favor of maintaining and developing constructive relations with our country, but also upholding the historical truth about the events of the Great Patriotic War and World War II (which often does not fit into the official interpretation of this historic period in such states) that arouses dissatisfaction, as much as the work on popularizing the Russian language, dissemination of knowledge about our country, involvement in cultural and educational projects with Russian participation, especially when it comes to the "Crimean factor".
Moreover, many cases of obstructing the activities of Russian journalists or representatives of the Russian media by the authorities of foreign countries are recorded. One can also note the trend of public condemnation of and information attacks against foreign politicians and public figures who cooperate with the Russian media, which is clearly visible in the foreign media sphere. The gravest problems in this area are registered in France, the Baltic countries, the United States and Ukraine.
For its part, the Russian MFA is taking all possible diplomatic steps to protect the rights of Russian citizens deprived of their liberty abroad. Such cases are monitored by Russian diplomatic missions and, if necessary, brought up for top- level discussions. Diplomats provide, within their powers, consular support to the arrested Russians, insisting on the unconditional observance of their legitimate rights and interests and working out options to mitigate the measures of restraint for them and transfer them to their homeland.
The issue of observing the rights of Russian citizens is also regularly addressed in the Russian MFA reports on the human rights situation in certain countries (are published on the Ministry's official website). The country sections of this document include information on specific cases of violations of the rights of Russians and compatriots, including high-profile cases of their politically motivated persecution by the authorities of foreign states.
A number of country-specific situations is listed below.
In Belgium, no massive violations of the rights of Russian citizens and compatriots have been recorded. Against this background, the case of discrimination against the Russian citizen E.Tynyanskaya, a former citizen of Ukraine, seems unprecedented. E.Tynyanskaya, a native of the city of Sevastopol, had lived in Belgium since 2007. After she was recognized a citizen of Russia and issued a Russian travelling passport in 2015 in accordance with the Federal Constitutional Law of March 21, 2014 No. 6‑FKZ "On the acceptance of the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation and the formation of new subjects within the Russian Federation – the Republic of Crimea and the Federal City of Sevastopol" she was deported by the Belgian authorities on October 27, 2015. E. Tynyanskaya's personal belongings are still in Belgium, but she is not allowed to apply for a visa to EU countries due to her registration at her place of residence in Sevastopol.
About 70 thousand Russian citizens currently live in the United Kingdom, of whom 20 thousand also have British citizenship acquired in the early 1990s, over 30 thousand have a residence permit in the country, and about 20 thousand more Russians stay in Britain on business or study visas (data from the UK Office for National Statistics).
As far as the UK authorities are concerned, they do not interrupt the activities of the organizations of Russian compatriots. Our nationals are deeply integrated into the local society, they do not face systemic violations of their rights, nor infringement on them on national, ethnic or religious grounds, nor any other vexation. There are many compatriots' organizations and membership clubs in the country, in particular, the main task of the quite dynamic Union for Assistance to Compatriots in Great Britain created in March 2020, is to increase the legal literacy of Russian-speaking diaspora and provide assistance in solving everyday social problems.
Throughout 2020, the Russian Embassy in London was receiving signals from compatriots about various kinds of British prejudices in connection with publications in local media, suggesting that the Russian diaspora had allegedly close ties with the Russian special services. At the same time, after two years have passed since the incident in Salisbury, we can conclude that it did not generally affect the life of the Russian-speaking diaspora. The major part of problems the compatriots most often face is related to their insufficient legal literacy, as well as attempts to extrapolate the Russian way of life to the British soil.
Meanwhile, as to the Russian media activity in the United Kingdom, the official London maintains the now traditional propaganda course aimed at countering "Russian disinformation", discrediting steps by the Russian leadership and political initiatives of our country.
Although there were no cases of open obstruction of the activities of Russian media in the UK in 2020, nevertheless, since December 2018, the RT TV channel has been embroiled in litigation with the British media regulator Ofcom, and RIA Novosti, Channel One and Russia-1 reporters cannot use corporate bank accounts in the UK since 2016. There is a clear tendency of public reprehension and information attacks against British politicians and public figures who collaborate with representatives of the Russian media, in particular RT.
The arrest of Russian citizens in the territorial waters of Greece on charges of facilitating the transportation of illegal migrants is under the control of Russian MFA specialized units and the Russian Embassy in Athens. Russian diplomats are taking measures to establish contacts with the arrested individuals, informing their relatives in Russia, providing consular assistance within their competence, making sure that normal conditions of detention are provided to the Russians and their rights and legitimate interests stipulated by international and Greek law are observed. Also, consular visits are organized to prisons in Athens and Nafplio, if needed, certificates of no criminal record in Russia are issued.
Among the difficulties the detained (17) and convicted (26) Russian sailors come across in Greece, ensuring proper translation from Greek into Russian could be cited, at all stages of the process from detention and indictment to the announcement of sentence to serving punishment. Moreover, Russian foreign missions are not always timely informed about the facts and details of detention, arrest, expectation of deportation or conviction of Russian citizens on the territory of Greece. A similar problem is noted in situations with Russian citizens in the Republic of Cyprus whose authorities promptly notify the competent Russian bodies just about every third case of detention of our citizens.
In Spain, there have been no cases of discrimination against compatriots on the basis of ethnicity and violations of the rights of Russian citizens in prison. Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy is receiving signals about certain difficulties faced by compatriots when opening accounts in Spanish banks and conducting banking operations in connection with the application of Law No. 10/2010 of April 28, 2010 "On the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing." This Spanish law obliges clients of financial institutions to regularly and promptly provide information on the origin of funds and details of transactions on accounts. These norms, aimed at preventing the circulation of money from the "gray zone" falling outside the areas of EU member states' tax and legislative regulation, apply to all residents of the country, regardless of nationality or citizenship. An analysis of the emerging controversial situations shows that there is no purposeful encroachment on the rights of Russians in these cases.
In Canada, there have been cases of infringement of the rights of the Russian-speaking community, including those related to public patriot events held by it. Thus, after a provocation organized by the Canadian Ukrainian Congress (CUC) at a festive event on May 9, 2018 at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, and the subsequent appeal of Russophobes to the director of the museum, in fact, accusing him of "glorification of the Soviet regime", it was decided to prohibit the community from holding Victory Day events in the museum premises. A collective letter from compatriots, including the leaders of veteran movement, addressed to the then Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez (supervisor of national museums) in support of the event symbolizing the alliance between the USSR and Canada in the anti-Hitler coalition, was left unanswered.
The situation with the freedom of speech and operation of the off-mainstream media in Canada is far from ideal. For example, in 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Canada denied accreditation for a "Lima Group" meeting to journalists of the Russian media, including the TASS correspondent Daniel Studnev, who was already accredited in Canada, thus having prevented the coverage of the event by those media that do not share the position of Western countries on Venezuela. It is noteworthy that the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Canada motivated such a decision by the fact that "Russian agencies in the past were not kind to the minister."
The high-profile cases of violations of the rights and discrimination of Russian citizens in penitentiary institutions, when local courts often showed a biased attitude towards our nationals and compatriots, sometimes considering them as "second-class people", also remain in the memory.
Thus, in 1995 Lyudmila Ilyina, who also has Canadian citizenship, was charged with the murder of her husband Mr. Michkovsky. The courts convicted her in 1997 and 2001, despite the fact that there was a sufficient number of facts in favor of her innocence in the materials of the case. Ilyina's appeal to a higher court was rejected, so she spent the next 10 years, up to parole, in several women's prisons in Canada, despite her advanced age.
For several years, the Russian Embassy in Canada had provided her with the necessary legal, consular and psychological support, expedited her release from prison and return to homeland in October 2015.
While in prison, Ms. Ilyina described her personal impressions of life in Canada in the book "Russian means guilty", critically outlining specific features of the Canadian legal and penitentiary systems and noting the controversial episodes from the human rights point of view. Ilyina's notes are an example of courageous resistance to forces that humiliate a person simultaneously violating their own national legislation just because such a person is from Russia. This is a true story, which goes, alongside with the law enforcement officers, judges and lawyers, united in the desire to sue and imprison, about honest Canadians who suffered for trying to help our compatriot.
The case of Denis Telyakov, who became disabled after being brutally beaten by inmates in a detention facility (whereupon he fell into a coma) in Calgary in August 2012 with the connivance of the penitentiary staff, is also remembered. He found himself in the detention facility under a false slander after a conflict at a student party in July 2012.
The investigation of all the circumstances of the incident by the Canadian side and the punishment of the perpetrators, including the officials of the facility and language school where Telyakov studied, did not receive a proper assessment. The inmates who beat him up were only added short terms, and the prison guards were only removed from their duties.
It was only thanks to the financial support from Russian relatives that he later succeeded in obtaining a short term conviction for one of the attackers. Denis Telyakov received no compensation for the damage to health, as well as loss of ability to work, since his relatives no longer had either the strength or the funds for another civil suit.
In Latvia, the nationally oriented policy of the official authorities is accompanied by numerous violations of the rights of national minorities. This primarily affects the Russian-speaking population, which is still viewed by the authorities as an alien and destabilizing element. The non-citizen status of this significant part of Latvian population continues to be the main issue. "Non-citizens" in the country are deprived of a number of social, economic and electoral rights. Currently, Latvian human rights activists count about 80 differences between citizens and "non-citizens".
In the wake of the forced “de-Russification” policy, the trend to narrow the scope of use of non-state languages actively introduced by the authorities is becoming ever more noticeable. Latvian is the only language permitted for communication with authorities, for use in topographic signs and other inscriptions, as well as in identity documents. The actual elimination of the Russian-language educational space is carried out through a comprehensive reform of education (transfer of schools and kindergartens to the Latvian language of instruction, development and implementation of new educational content, optimization of the school network, a ban on teaching in Russian in private higher educational establishments).
Activists of the Russian-speaking community who criticize the discriminatory policies of Latvian authorities face constant pressure, including demonstrative punitive actions. As a rule, our compatriots are accused of "anti-State activities", "assisting a foreign State in its anti-Latvian activities", "organizing mass riots", or "espionage". For example, on 17 August 2020, a representative of the Russian-speaking diaspora Oleg Burak was convicted by a Latvian court. The defense is currently appealing the conviction.
In August 2020, the 2018 case against activists of the Russian community (including European MP Tatjana Ždanoka) who opposed the latvianization of the education system and advocated the preservation of Russian schools, was dismissed due to a lack of corpus delicti. They were summoned by the Security Police for questioning on the issue of holding the All-Latvian Parent Meeting in March 2018 and charged with inciting national hatred and acts against Latvia's State integrity and security. The case was subsequently re-opened against a famous Latvian public figure Vladimir Linderman. Journalists – Yuri Alekseyev, leader of the Non-Citizens' Congress, and Alexander Filey, member of the board of the Latvian Russian Union – continue to be prosecuted for their comments on social media that deviate from the official interpretation of the Soviet period by Latvian authorities.
On 17 December 2020, human rights defender Aleksandrs Gapoņenko was given a suspended prison sentence of 1 year and 2 years of monitoring by the Latvian probation service for criticizing the glorification of Nazism that is being promoted in Latvia.
The largest organization of military pensioners in the country – the Republican Veteran Community in Latvia – is under significant pressure from Latvian authorities, and was closed by judicial decision using a formal pretext (violation of accounting rules). On 6 October 2020, Latvian authorities revoked the residence permit of the organization's chair, Russian military pensioner Vladimir Norvind, and as soon as on October 10 they deported him, in spite of a sharp decline in his health and the health of his spouse who is a Latvian resident and national.
The country continues its crackdown on Russian-language media. In recent years, Latvia's National Electronic Mass Media Council has, using implausible pretexts, restricted the broadcasting of Russian TV channels, and blocked Baltnews.lv, a web-site owned by Rossiya Segodnya international information agency.
On 4 February 2020, Latvia's National Electronic Mass Media Council searched the premises of Latvian holding company Baltijas Mediju Alianse (BMA) comprising about 25 TV channels (including Pirmais Baltijas kanāls (Baltic Channel One) (re-broadcasts Channel One programmes), Pirmais Baltijas Muzikālais Kanāls (Baltic Channel One Music), REN TV Baltic), Baltic Media Advertising advertising and media agency, Print Media publishing house, MK-Latvija newspaper. Documents and data storages were confiscated. BMA accounts in local banks were frozen. Alleged violations by the holding company of international sanctions served as a pretext. Because of this pressure, in March 2020, the holding company had to close down the Pirmais Baltijas kanāls news service and stop publishing its own content – daily news programme Baltijskoje vremya (Baltic Time), original programmes Za kadrom (Behind the Scenes) and Pyat kopeek (Two cents). Besides, Pirmais Baltijas kanāls, as well as Radio Pik and Baltcom radio stations and some other Russian-speaking media are penalized under the pretext of "illegal re-broadcasting of Russian content" and publication of interviews with Russian politicians. In February 2021, the Latvian media regulator discontinued the rebroadcast in Latvia of 17 Russian TV channels, including Ren TV Baltic, NTV Mir Baltic, and RTR-Planeta.
On 3 December 2020, Latvian State Security Service carried out high-profile searches and questionings of prominent Russian-speaking journalists and activists of the Russian-speaking community who are actively cooperating with Russian news resources Baltnews and Sputnik Latvija as freelance authors (Andrei Yakovlev, Vladimir Linderman, Andrei Solonenko, Alla Berezovskaya). They were accused of violating EU sanctions regime in the context of their cooperation with the RT media group.
Russian journalists experience pressure as well. On 24 February 2020, Andrei Zakharov, an Izvestiya correspondent, was detained in Riga International Airport, and his multiple-entry Schengen visa was revoked upon the request of Estonian authorities.
On 10 June 2020, pursuant to recommendations of Latvian State security authorities, the MFA of Latvia refused to extend the credentials of correspondents of Riga VGTRK bureau Darya Grigorova and A. Chagaev.
High-profile, politically motivated persecution of Russian citizens by the authorities has been recorded in Lithuania. As part of efforts to impose a distorted interpretation of the 1990s (primarily the events of 13 January 1991 near the Vilnius television centre, and the murder on 31 July 1991 of officers of the unauthorized Lithuanian customs post with the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in Medininkai) and rid the public space of points of view that differ from the official version, the authorities use various methods to exert pressure on civil society activists, human rights defenders, and journalists who express views on the past and present situation that diverge from the official position.
Article 170-2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania (CC of Lithuania) that directly restricts the right to the freedom of opinion and expression and criminalizes publicly expressed rejection by individuals of official interpretations of the terms "aggression", "genocide", "occupation" used in Lithuania regarding the USSR, has been in force since June 2010.
In March 2019, Vilnius District Court passed a verdict on the famous 13 January case. The proceedings violated norms of international and Lithuanian criminal law, and the defendants were accused under articles that were non-existent at the time. The outcome of these politicized proceedings was an ungrounded conviction of 67 defendants, former senior government officials and party leaders of the Soviet Union, servicemen, and personnel of special units who were fulfilling their duty in Vilnius, protecting the constitutional order of the USSR. In particular, former Minister of Defence of the USSR Dmitry Yazov (convicted in absentia to 10 years of imprisonment) and KGB agent Mikhail Golovatov (convicted to 12 years) were found guilty of "war crimes and crimes against humanity".
Only two Russian nationals appeared in court in person – Yury Mel and Gennady Ivanov. Yury Mel has been detained in Lithuania since March 2014, Gennady Ivanov was under a travel ban until 12 November 2020.
Russian citizen, reserve colonel Yury Mel was arrested on suspicion of committing "crimes against humanity and war crimes" under the CC of Lithuania while serving in the Soviet Army in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic: he was charged with participation in the events of 13 January 1991 near the Vilnius television centre. From the moment he was arrested, he spent 5 years in Lithuanian penitentiary institutions until the judgment was announced. The court extended his detention and on more than one occasion rejected his lawyer's request to mitigate the measure of restraint ignoring the Russian citizen's poor health.
In 2015 and 2019, Yury Mel's representatives filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights regarding lengthy prison detention without judgment.
After Vilnius District Court delivered its judgment on 27 March 2019 on the criminal "case concerning the events of 13 January 1991", sentencing Yury Mel to 7 years of imprisonment, in April 2019, the Russian national was transferred from Vilnius Lukiškės detention centre and prison to Šiauliai detention centre where his living conditions significantly worsened. As a result of measures adopted by the Russian Embassy in Vilnius, in May 2019, Yury Mel was transferred to Vilnius Correction House. He is currently detained in Kybartai Correction House.
Representatives of Yury Mel and the Lithuanian Prosecutor's Office appealed against the decision of Vilnius District Court. In 2020, the Lithuanian Court of Appeal kept postponing the hearing: first, from March to May, then to autumn. When the hearing began in autumn 2020, the Court of Appeal cynically rejected Yury Mel's attempts to change his measure of restraint from imprisonment to house arrest for the duration of the proceedings.
By now, the Lithuanian Court of Appeal has finished consideration of the appeal in this case. The judicial tribunal was planning to announce the procedural decision before 15 March 2021, but than postponed its delivery to 31 March, while Yury Mel's detention was to be over on 12 March 2021.
As a result, on 9 March 2021 in violation of international and Lithuanian legal norms the court ruled to detain the Russian national for 20 days. Such a measure was grounded by absurd and cynical arguments that Yury Mel is a foreign citizen and after being released can leave Lithuania and thus avoid a possible harsher punishment. According to the lawyers of the Russian citizen, such a decision may mean that the court is ready to accept a verdict on increasing the term of imprisonment. Therefore, in order to secure a potential sentence the Russian national was placed in custody despite the fact that according to the Criminal Procedure Code of Lithuania a measure of restraint in the form of arrest or detention cannot be applied to the convicted person.
The most striking evidence of discrimination by Lithuanian authorities against Russian citizens can be seen in the case of a former police officer of Riga Special Purpose Mobile Unit (OMON) of the MIA of USSR Konstantin Nikulin who has been held in Pravieniškės correctional institution since February 2019 (transferred from Lukiškės prison in the capital where he was detained since November 2007). In its judgment of 11 May 2011, Vilnius District Court found him guilty of wilful murder of 7 people and an attempted murder of 1 person at the customs post in Medininkai in July 1991. He was originally accused of "murder of 2 or more persons" (by the date of the trial, the limitation period for this kind of crime had already run out). No clear evidence has been provided that Konstantin Nikulin was involved in the crime attributed to him, however, the Russian citizen was sentenced to life imprisonment. He also had to pay 650,000 euro in favour of Lithuania.
In June 2016, the Lithuanian Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of Konstantin Nikulin, as well as granted the request of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Lithuania to reclassify the case as more serious – "crime against humanity" (this crime has no limitation period).
During the proceedings before the court of cassation in January 2017, representatives of the Russian citizen underlined that by the time Vilnius District Court convicted Konstantin Nikulin under article 129 of the CC of Lithuania ("manslaughter") on 11 May 2011, limitation periods under the CC of Lithuania that was in effect in 1991 had run out. At the same time, article 100 of the CC of Lithuania ("crime against humanity") under which the charges were reclassified by the Lithuanian Court of Appeal in June 2016, was applied retroactively in violation of the international law and previous decisions of Lithuanian courts and the European Court of Human Rights. However, on 28 February 2017, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Lithuania upheld the verdict of the Court of Appeal passed in June 2016.
In July 2017, Nikulin's lawyer filed a relevant complaint with the ECtHR. In October 2020, the Russian side informed the ECtHR of its intention to participate in the proceedings regarding the complaint as a third party.
In 2020, due to being recognized as having a category III disability by the Head Disability Assessment Office in Leningrad Oblast, Konstantin Nikulin requested to be transferred from the strict-regimen unit to a less strict one. However, Pravieniškės correctional institution administration rejected his request.
Officials of the Russian Embassy in Lithuania regularly visit Konstantin Nikulin in the penitentiary institution. Special attention is given to his health. Efforts made by the Embassy resulted in several medical examinations of Konstantin Nikulin that led to a decision to implant a pace-maker. At the same time, in spite of numerous requests by the Embassy, the Russian national is denied medical diagnostic procedures that he asked for due to progressing stomach aches.
In December 2018, Konstantin Nikulin applied to the Prosecutor General's Office of Russia to be transferred to Russia under the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Lithuania on Transfer of Persons Sentenced to Imprisonment of 25 June 2001. However, in March 2020, the Ministry of Justice of Lithuania stated that the "transfer of Konstantin Nikulin is not possible".
Apart from criminal prosecution of Russian citizens, local authorities and special services in Lithuania, as well as other Baltic countries, use various methods of exerting pressure over civil society activists, human rights defenders, and journalists who offer alternative views on their domestic and foreign policy, as well as history. A number of human rights defenders believe that there was devised a whole system of measures and methods to put pressure on dissidents in Lithuania. Among its cornerstones are offences introduced under article 170-2 of the CC of the Republic of Lithuania.
However, repressive measures were used even before this amendment to the Criminal Code was introduced. For example, in 1994, a Russian citizen, historian Valery Ivanov was sentenced by the Supreme Court of Lithuania under article 70 of the CC of the Republic of Lithuania "for the creation of an anti-State organization and anti-State activities" to 2.5 years of imprisonment for creating a pro-Soviet organization Edinstvo (Unity) during the Lithuanian "struggle for independence". In 1997, he was sentenced to 1 year of imprisonment – this time under an article on libel for rejecting in his book the official version of the events of 13 January 1991 and the involvement of Soviet servicemen in the killing of civilians.
In June 2020, Vilnius District Court convicted Valery Ivanov of "illegal possession of firearms" (a search found a broken starting pistol) and sentenced him to not leaving Vilnius for 2 years and staying at his place of residence at night.
In 2020, the apartment of Tatiana Afanasieva-Kolomiets, a Russian citizen and the co-ordinator of the Immortal Regiment in Vilnius, was searched, her personal belongings were confiscated.
One more search targeted another Russian citizen, head of the Forgotten Soldiers association of military history Victor Orlov. The Lithuanian police incriminated him with illegal possession of firearms that were never found. During the search, Orlov's computer, tablet, phone, and notebook were confiscated.
The Russian citizen links this attack on him with the activities of volunteers he co-ordinates, who, in the years past the restoration of Lithuanian independence, have found and reburied the remains of over 130 Soviet soldiers who died liberating Lithuania from the Nazis.
A large number of Lithuanian civil society activists, politicians, and journalists who oppose the glorification of Forest Brothers and the promotion of Russophobia are also persecuted by Lithuanian authorities on the accusations of committing crimes under the abovementioned article of the CC of Lithuania. Among them are opposition politician Algirdas Paleckis; deputy of Klaipeda City Council Vyacheslav Titov; bloggers Simonas Zagurskas and Giedrius Šarkanas; chairman of the Socialist People's Front, anti-fascist Giedrius Grabauskas; director of Juvenis youth association, an expert in history of Klaipeda, and co-ordinator of the Immortal Regiment in Klaipeda, Aleksey Greichus; member of Klaipeda City Council and anti-fascist Ella Andreeva. Former President of Lithuania Rolandas Paksas who advocated the normalization of relations between Russia and Lithuania was prosecuted as well. In 2021, it was made public that a case on espionage against Aleksey Greichus and Mindaugas Tunikaitis, a resident of Pagėgiai who participated in the 2015 elections to the local government council with the Lithuanian List party, was brought before the court.
As for the most high-profile cases of impediments to the activities of Russian journalists and representatives of Russian media in Lithuania, the following should be noted.
In August 2012, the MFA of Lithuania withdrew accreditation from RIA Novosti correspondent Irina Pavlova with no explanation.
Russian citizen Galina Sapozhnikova, a journalist of Komsomolskaya Pravda living in Estonia, was declared persona non grata in Lithuania in August 2015. In the 2014 report by the State Security Department of Lithuania, she was called the founder of Format – A3 international media club that disseminates "Russian political directives and ideologies". Moreover, her book Who Betrayed Who? The Murder of the USSR and the Fate of Those Who Wanted to Save It is banned in Lithuania. All the copies were confiscated in the publishing house.
In March 2016, VGTRK journalist Pavel Zarubin and his crew were deported from Lithuania as a "threat to national security". The Russian journalist had come to Vilnius to cover the opposition Free Russia Forum.
In March 2019, journalists of several Russian outlets (RIA Novosti, RT, Channel One, and Channel Five) were prevented from entering the Vilnius District Court to hear the verdict in the high profile case in connection with the 13 January 1991 incidents.
On 28 May 2019, Marat Kasem, editor-in-chief of Sputnik Lithuania, was detained at Vilnius Airport and banned from entering the country for five years.
In January 2020, Yuliya Shatilova, a correspondent for the Zvezda TV Channel (her Schengen visa was cancelled by Latvia), who was going to cover news on how Lithuania fought against monuments to Soviet liberators and did not allow the reburial of remains of Red Army soldiers, was deported from the country.
Russian citizens in Moldova face certain difficulties. Thus, for example, Russian citizens Vladimir Berdzenishvili, Sabir Agaev, and Nodar Adzhami (detained on 15 November 2017) convicted of large-scale fraud, as well as their relatives, have repeatedly filed complaints to the President of the Russian Federation and the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, claiming torture, violation of the criminal procedure legislation, unacceptable detention conditions and "total corruption" in the Moldovan competent authorities. As a result of legal and consular assistance provided by the Russian Embassy in Chisinau in cooperation with a lawyer authorized to protect the rights of Russian citizens, progress has been made in reviewing the case and releasing compatriots on 30 November 2020.
While crossing the State border of the Republic of Moldova, Russian citizen Andrei Ermolaev was subjected to additional inspection twice (on 6 and 10 February 2020). According to him, the Moldovan border guards did not provide him with notification of additional inspection and border control protocol, as well as refused to invite a representative of the consular department of the Russian Embassy. Moreover, on 10 February, Andrei Ermolaev was interrogated using "measures of moral and psychological pressure," including the threat of force and damage to the Russian passport.
On 12 February 2020, the Deschide.Md news website published an article titled "Exclusive: an Employee of the Transnistrian Intelligence Services Rat Out his Colleagues" which discredited Andrei Ermolaev. Following the complaint of this citizen, the Russian Embassy applied to the Border Police leadership of the Republic of Moldova to initiate proceedings. In response, the Moldovan side informed of inspection and no violations of the law by the border guards.
There is information available on the refusal of the competent authorities of Moldova to issue E.Koval a residence permit in the Republic due to the presence of civil registry documents issued in the Republic of Crimea. The reason for refusing included references to the Moldovan regulatory framework governing "support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine," as well as to Ukrainian legislation" on temporarily occupied territories." Lawyers providing legal services to the Russian Embassy were engaged in the case.
As for the employees of the Russian media outlets in Moldova, it is worth mentioning the incident in October 2020, when Veniamin Demidetsky, Head of the TASS office in the country, received threats of prosecution from the Action and Solidarity Party (Maia Sandu) for “interference in the electoral campaign on the side of pro-Russian forces”.
Russian citizens made several statements on "political persecution" by Transnistrian authorities. Gennady Kuzmichev, former Ministry of Internal Affairs of Transnistria, has been imprisoned in the Transnistrian region since 2018 on charges of smuggling in the amount of USD140 million. This caused a noticeable resonance in the Moldovan media that published data on the acts of torture to which he was subjected and inhuman treatment against him. The representatives of Mr. Kuzmichev filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. Taking into account the traditional approaches of the ECtHR to the Transnistrian direction, it can be assumed that this case can also be used to make other claims against the Russian authorities with accusations of "responsibility for the state of affairs in the field of human rights protection in Transnistria."
At the same time, when an official of the Russian Embassy visited Gennady Kuzmichev in July 2020, the prisoner described his solitary confinement in the cell as torture, while the head of the penitentiary institution said that his transfer to the general cell could cause risk to the life and health of the convict given his service in the MIA.
Yevgeny Shevchuk (former president of Transnistria), Sergiu Mantaluta, and Yuri Kuzmenko complained of politically motivated prosecution. According to the Transnistrian side, the guilt of the persons mentioned above is proved by the evidence collected by the law enforcement bodies. Court proceedings are continuing. In connection with the complaint of Yuri Kuzmenko in June 2020 that the Transnistrian authorities carried out "a raider seizure" of the land in his use and "fabricated a criminal case against him" of "fraud", the Transnistrian side reported an inspection, at the request of the Russian Embassy, which revealed no grounds for a prosecutorial response.
Local authorities are also investigating Russian citizens Boris Babaian (in custody) and Svetlana Tuboltoc (under the pledge not to leave the country) accused of political extremism.
In the case of Mr. Koval accused of blowing up a car, a criminal case was opened against the law enforcement officers, who interrogated him, for abuse of power and violence following a request from the Russian Embassy.
In Norway, there is no deliberate discrimination against our citizens. However, there is a biased and rather common attitude towards immigrants from Russia in the society due to anti-Russian sentiment incited by authorities and intelligence services.
Removing children by Norwegian guardianship authorities is one of the issues of concern among Russians residing permanently in Norway. As of the end of December 2020, there were 26 cases under the supervision of Russian foreign missions in Norway concerning 56 Russian minors, many of whom also had Norwegian citizenship. The main reason leading to the removal of children is information about the use of allegedly violent methods of raising children, including corporal punishment, by parents. Showing even little interest on the part of guardianship officials in a family in which children are Russian citizens or have a Russian parent is often perceived with an excessive concern or as a "prerequisite" for removing children and prompts many fellow citizens to seek help from lawyers and, as a last resort and if possible, to leave the country. To help our compatriots, a list of family law firms and lawyers in Norway is posted on the website of the Russian Embassy in Oslo.
Most of the Russians in detention in Norway come from the North Caucasus region who had been convicted of violent crimes (as of 1 July 2020, 11 people were serving court sentences, and six had been taken into custody). It is extremely difficult for the Russian Embassy to obtain information on convicted and detained Russians due to the position of Norwegian law enforcement agencies, which explicitly state that providing information to the Embassy on the detention of a Russian citizen in the Norwegian territory and its reasons is possible only with the consent of the detainee. In most cases, the category of citizens mentioned above is not interested in being in contact with Russian diplomatic and consular missions.
Given the constant fuelling of anti-Russian sentiment, Russian natives and their relatives experience suspicion in the country.
The Embassy periodically receives complaints from Russian nationals who face offensive treatment at the airports, are subject to boorish search, unreasonable seizure, and deportation, discrimination in work relations and domestic Russophobia.
The Norwegian intelligence services urge fellow citizens to be vigilant in making “contacts with Russians” and to report all suspicious circumstances concerning co-workers, neighbours, family members, and others to the competent authorities.
In September 2018, due to the excessive suspiciousness of the Storting (the Parliament) administration, Mikhail Bochkaryov, an employee of the Executive Office of the Federation Council, was arrested in Oslo on an unsubstantiated charge of espionage. He was released in October 2018. In April 2019, his case was closed "for lack of evidence"; however, no apologies were made by the Norwegian authorities. There is also information available on a number of economic restrictions imposed against Russian nationals. According to Dmitri Pavlov, an immigrant from Russia (who changed his name to Victor Paulsen in 2017), he was not invited to job interviews because of his Russian name (NRC data, 30 October 2019). In 2018, the National Security Agency refused to confirm a "security clearance" (first time, he successfully obtained it in 2012) to a Norwegian scientist who worked at the Research Institute of the Ministry of Defence because his wife had Russian citizenship in addition to her Norwegian one. The Norwegian national was forced to leave the Research Institute (data available at www.tu.no).
According to surveys, women of Russian origin who work in hospitals and social welfare institutions in Troms and Finnmark county feel marginalized (Nordlys data, 2 June 2020).
Moreover, in recent years, there have been several cases of denial of admission to military service to Norwegian citizens of Russian origin that had been called up for duty. When defending their rights, the "victims", as a rule, emphasize their "loyalty to the Norwegian State" by "denying" their Russian origin. Thus, for example, in 2020, recruit Mr. Jacobsen was not granted "security clearance" after five months of service because of his "too strong ties with the other country and possible pressure on him to the detriment of national interests." His mother emigrated from Russia more than 20 years ago and has dual citizenship; the relatives he visited still reside in our country (NRC data, 23 November 2020).
In recent years, there have been cases of political persecution of Russian journalists, scientists, and public figures in Poland. For instance, in December 2015, Leonid Sviridov, correspondent of RIA Novosti, was forced to leave the country as the Polish authorities accused him of unauthorized activities (without specifying their nature or presenting evidence) and deprived him of journalistic accreditation and residence permit in Poland.
In October 2017, the Russian historian Dmitri Karnaukhov accused of "activities contrary to Polish interests" was expelled from Poland, also with no explanation given as to what kind of activities those were and no evidence provided. Besides, at the initiative of the Polish authorities, two Russian political scientists Oleg Bondarenko and Alexei Martynov, were banned entry into Schengen zone countries in late 2017 – early 2018.
In May 2018, Russian citizens Ekaterina Tsivilskaya and Anna Smirnova were detained in Poland and expelled from the country on charges of participation in the "hybrid war against Poland" and certain two "network organizations." Both Russian women were activists opposed to the elimination of the Soviet/Russian military and memorial heritage. In October 2018, it became known that two more Russian women, Ms. Stolyarchik and Ms. Rotkhstein, were expelled from Poland for similar activities, allegedly because they posed a "threat to the security" of the country.
The situation with the observance of human rights of Russian nationals in the United States remains extremely depressing.
The unacceptable practice of arresting Russian citizens in third countries at the request of US law enforcement agencies continues. More than 50 such cases were registered since 2008. This actually refers to an illegal extraterritorial application of US legislation against our citizens. In 2020, A. Pakhtusov and A. Grichishkin were extradited to the United States from Spain and Estonia, respectively.
Currently, about a hundred of our citizens are held in US prisons and detention centres. Most of them are serving sentences for non-violent crimes (immigration violations, fraud, theft, etc.). The lack of accurate data on the number of Russian prisoners is due to the fact that the US side does not always notify us of their release from custody. An appeal made by the Russian Embassy in Washington DC to the US Department of State requesting information on the number of Russian citizens in custody was left unanswered by the US side.
US investigation bodies and courts usually take a biased approach towards Russian citizens, including psychological impacts, once they are in the hands of US justice. By different methods, including direct threats, they are coerced to plead guilty and make a plea bargain, despite the contrived charges, and are given long prison terms in case they do not agree.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the dire situation of Russian compatriots held in penitentiary institutions. Despite the sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, qualified medical care is not regularly provided to Russian prisoners. Testing for COVID-19 is made in exceptional cases.
An illustrative example is a situation with Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was arrested in Liberia in May 2010 by agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, tortured, illegally transferred to the United States, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. For ten years now, Konstantin Yaroshenko has faced neglect of his health by US authorities. The prison administration refuses to provide him with dental treatment and necessary medications. Despite his serious health problems, even minimal medical assistance can be achieved only after multiple appeals from the Russian Embassy in the United States, with most requests for complex examinations or complicated medical procedures go unanswered.
The situation around Russian citizen Roman Seleznev is a matter of concern. Despite his serious health problems, prison authorities do not provide him with the necessary medical care and refuse to transfer him to another penitentiary facility where a comprehensive examination could be carried out.
Another example is Viktor Bout who was given a 25-year jail term on the dubious charge in the United States. He is periodically placed in prison special units with additional security restrictions for no reason at all. Russians also face difficulties in receiving access to medical assistance.
Russian citizen Mira Terada (convicted on charges of money laundering) unsuccessfully tried to get prison authorities to perform the surgery she needed to remove a metal pin temporarily implanted in her leg.
The US authorities put pressure on Russian citizen Bogdana Osipova (who has dual Russian and US citizenship) who was accused of kidnapping for moving her children from the United States to Russia. Her claim for support for her children from her ex-husband (US citizen) was considered extortion. Since 2017, Ms. Osipova has been imprisoned and separated from her children (now living in Russia; the Russian Court prohibits taking children abroad until they reach the age of majority). In 2019, she was sentenced to seven years in prison. In the autumn of 2020, the Court of Appeals overturned the extortion conviction, upholding the parental kidnapping charge, and ordered to send the case back to a lower court for resentencing the Russian citizen only on one charge, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison, which she had already served. Bogdana Osipova was released from prison in November 2020. In early January 2021, following a retrial, the court resentenced the Russian citizen to her already served prison term and ordered her to demand that Russian authorities revoke custody of her children and allow them to travel to the United States. Although Ms. Osipova is not obliged to serve a prison sentence, she will be under the supervision of US authorities for a year.
In recent years, US authorities have increased pressure on members of the Russian media outlets in the United States. In 2020, they were repeatedly targeted for violence and abuse. On 30 May, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, police sprayed tear gas in the face of Mikhail Turgiev, a journalist for the Rossiya Segodnya international information agency, while dispersing protesters, even though he was showing his press card to law enforcement officials. As was evident from the video taken at the scene of the incident, the Russian national identified himself loudly and clearly, offered no resistance, and had the necessary markings on his clothing.
Another incident occurred on the night of 22 July, in Portland (Oregon state). Yuliya Olkhovskaya and Viacheslav Arkhipov, a correspondent and a cameraman of Channel One, were assaulted by the US federal agents while covering protests caused by the police violence against the black population. The federal agents caused harm to health of the Russian citizens and damaged professional equipment, broke a video camera and a mobile phone. And all this happened after our compatriots had said they were press.
Channel One bureau crew was assaulted in Philadelphia on 29 October. Correspondent Georgy Olisashvili was injured, cameraman Maxim Kataev had a concussion, numerous bruises and abrasions. The robbers broke into the car of the Russian citizens, stole a bag with cash and personal belongings and a video camera. The journalists said that local law-enforcement authorities seemed absolutely indifferent and unconcerned in investigating what had happened.
It is worth mentioning that provocations by the US intelligence services have become more and more frequent. On 15 October 2020, Konstantin Rozhkov, a reporter with the RT channel, was subdued to an interrogation at the New York airport by US customs and border officers that lasted for several hours. The Russian national came to the United States to shoot a documentary about America in the run-up to the presidential elections. The security services were unhappy with his intention to cover current events in the country for the RT channel included in the list of "foreign agents". The reporter was requested to open all electronic media, as well as explain publicly available information, including about him receiving the Sputnik V vaccine, and his correspondence related to journalistic activities. This interrogation clearly went beyond the usual public safety procedures.
On 23 October 2020, Dmitry Zlodorev, representative of Rossiya Segodnya, international information agency was interrogated over the phone by the Baltimore FBI office for quite a long time.
The Russian Embassy sent to the US State Department notes of protest on these matters claiming to conduct a thorough investigation into each of these incidents and inform about the results. Yet, no response has been received on the relevant official appeals.
Media giants have also been found to violate the rights of the Russian press. In July 2020, the video-hosting site Youtube blocked the accounts of Tsargrad TV channel and Double-headed Eagle society. "Violation of legislation on sanctions and trade rules" was named as an official pretext.
The Russian citizens coming to Ukraine from the Crimea are being criminally prosecuted without a legitimate reason. Criminal proceedings are being instituted against them on such charges as "treason", "violation of territorial integrity and inviolability", "creation of paramilitary and armed formations", "assistance to terrorists and separatists", etc. Ivan Antonov, a hearing impaired man with category III disabilities who was returning from pilgrimage to Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, was detained in January 2020. In early November 2020, Nikolay Fedoryan, head of the Crimean State enterprise Chernomorneftegaz, former deputy head of the Main Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Crimea, was detained and accused by the Ukrainian authorities of "assisting the occupation authorities in carrying out searches and illegal detentions of citizens".
The situation with our compatriots remains difficult in this country, they face violations of their rights and freedoms, such as the right to life, inviolability of person and the home. Activists are intimidated and pressured by law enforcement agencies and intelligence services.
Numerous violations of procedural rights of our citizens during criminal proceedings against them have been fixed. In 2020, an incident was documented when G.Odanets was tortured by Ukrainian law-enforcement officers who forced him to confess.
In December 2018, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) carried out searches in the premises of the Russian-speaking community members in Poltava. Pushkin medal was taken from the coordinator of the All-Ukrainian Coordination Council of the Organizations of Russian compatriots Sergey Provatorov (he also heads the Russian Commonwealth association).
Investigative measures against the historian Y.Pogoda (a well-known researcher of the Northern War period) and the poet and publicist Victor Shestakov (the leader of the Russian community of the Poltava region) were also carried out. Criminal proceedings against them under Article 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ("infringement upon the territorial sovereignty") were initiated.
In May 2019, the SSU carried out searches in the house of Vladimir Saltykov, head of Transcarpathian Regional Society Rus. Mobile devices and personal computer equipment were seized.
The incident when the SSU officers detained in August 2020 on suspicion of treason Tatyana Kuzmich, teacher of the Russian language and literature, head of the public organization Russian national community Rusich, honored teacher with years of experience, famous for her intense work in popularizing the Russian language in Ukraine, has become a high-profile case. The Ukrainian intelligence services accuse her of allegedly "being involved by the FSB of Russia in espionage activities while in Crimea, transmitting materials to carry out subversive work in the Kherson region and throughout Ukraine", as well as "creating the informants network". It should be mentioned that Tatyana Kuzmich has been coming to the peninsula regularly since 2008 to participate in Velikoe Russkoe Slovo (Great Russian Word) festival as part of her professional duties. She was taken to custody as a measure of restraint, but in early October 2020 was released on bail. Tatyana Kuzmich may face imprisonment from 12 to 15 years with confiscation of property.
An integral part of the official Kiev's policy towards national minorities – forced Ukrainization – is discrimination against a significant part of the population on the basis of language, including major violations of the rights of the Russian-speaking community.
Since 2017, the country's legislation has consistently been amended to ban the use of any language other than Ukrainian in the public sector, education, and the media. The adoption of a number of laws, including the laws On Education, On Supporting the Functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the State Language, leads to discrimination of the Russian language in the Ukrainian State both in relation to the Ukrainian language and to the official EU and indigenous peoples' languages.
In addition, Ukraine adopted laws aimed at Ukrainization of public life, press and television, and the service sector.
Ukrainian radicals regularly organize various acts of aggression against teachers who continue to use the Russian language. In March 2020, nationalists subjected to harassment the teachers from a Lvov Lyceum. They were accused of "propaganda of the Russian world" and "Russification of Ukrainian children". Similar accusations were made against Honoured Teacher of Ukraine Pavel Viktor. In April 2020, nationalists launched an aggressive campaign against him in connection to his educational videos on Physics in Russian.
In November 2020, Professor Valery Gromov from Dnepropetrovsk Polytechnic University was forced to submit resignation after an official complaint of a student who was outraged by lectures given by professor in the Russian language.
Evgeniya Bilchenko, lecturer at the Department of Cultural Studies and Philosophical Anthropology from the National Pedagogical Dragomanov University (Kiev), who had previously supported the Maidan, but then reconsidered her views, was fired in January 2021 after publishing on social networks a post criticizing the Law on Supporting the Functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the State Language.
Russian citizens in Ukraine face significant problems too, because of provocations by the Ukrainian intelligence services, as well as far-fetched accusations of espionage, infringement on sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, involvement in the events in Crimea and Donbass. Earlier, it became possible to return a part of such citizens who were persecuted by the Ukrainian authorities on political grounds back to Russia through various channels. However, the threat of detention of the Russian citizens is still true today.
The Ukrainian authorities also do not abandon the practice of deporting foreign reporters, primarily Russian reporters. In 2018, a number of Russian journalists, including RT correspondent P.Slier and television presenter and member of the Russian Union of Journalists E.Primakov, who were traveling to Kiev to participate in the OSCE conference "Strengthening media freedom and pluralism in Ukraine during times of conflict in and around the country", were banned from entering Ukraine.
In 2020, upon the initiative of Ukrainian intelligence services, journalist from NTV TV channel Alexey Petrushko was prohibited to enter Ukraine (in March 2020), as well as CEO of Spas TV channel, TV presenter of Russia 1 TV channel Boris Korchevnikov (in November 2020), TV presenter from RBK TV channel Svetlana Cheban, the citizen of Moldova (in November 2020). Internet bloggers Natalia Krasnova and O.Kachaeva were also banned from entering Ukraine, in January and December, respectively, because of visiting Crimea.
In Germany, the respect of the rights of diaspora representatives is constantly monitored by All-German Coordination Council of the Organizations of Russian compatriots. Their rights are being violated mainly in employment, admission to secondary and higher educational institutions and social matters. In practice, there have been complaints from the Russian citizens residing in Germany who also often have German citizenship. They were mostly related to family disputes, domestic conflicts and were solved, as a rule, in court. There have been no official violations on the part of local authorities in resolving such situations.
In case a Russian citizen or members of his or her family have German citizenship, the German judicial authorities (however admittedly, as many other foreign States) consider them exclusively as citizens of their country, they fall under the jurisdiction of local laws, which significantly complicates consular assistance to them as Russian citizens.
Insults against persons of Jewish nationalities, including of Russian origin, have become more frequent. These incidents are seen mainly among youngsters, in schools with children from Muslim families, street conflicts and rarely have legal continuation, because the influential Muslim lobby manages to silence them. There are instances where children are being mobbed or have to put up with the school system education in the spirit of "super-tolerance", excessive liberalism.
Despite all these facts, no serious signs of discrimination against Russian compatriots by German authorities have been seen recently. The most recent high-profile case of the federal level dates back to 2015-2017 (the Lisa case).
In 2019-2020, Russophobia and sanctions against Russia, the topic that the German media continued to heat up in terms of policy, affected the situation with the rights of Russian citizens and compatriots. This context is being used not only as a tool to restrain Russian-German relationships, but also to form the relevant sentiments in the German society.
At the Land level, there have been isolated cases of biased treatment towards representatives of the Russian-speaking population. The Russian compatriots with the relevant educational certificates and experience are often offered low-paying positions in the employment services. Family law court decisions, when international couples divorce and, as a rule, the children are placed in the care of the parent with the German citizenship, is rather sensitive to representatives of the Russian diaspora. In this case, it is almost impossible to prove any violation of the civil rights of the spouse of the German national in court.
In 2020, there were evident cases of biased treatment of Russian citizens by law-enforcement and judicial authorities. One of the examples is the trial in Hamburg of the Russian citizen V.Dekanov, who was accused of smuggling dual-use goods into Russia, forging accompanying documents, misleading the customs authorities and being involved in collusion with the Russian companies purchasing military goods and technologies. The lawyer of the Russian citizen believes that the process may have been subjected to politically motivated pressure because this issue is quite sensitive and attracts increased public attention. As a result, the Russian citizen was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to seven years in prison.
On 29 May 2020, the Russian citizen Dmitry Kaznacheev, a musician and DJ permanently residing in Germany, was detained in Berlin upon the request of the United States and accused by the US authorities of cyberfraud. The Russian national categorically denies the guilt. The German judicial bodies are considering the request of the United States for extradition of the Russian citizen. The Embassy of Russia is in constant contact with Dmitry Kaznacheev and his lawyer.
On 12 November 2020, RIA Novosti informed that Dmitry Kaznacheev appealed to the Russian office of the International Committee for Human Rights complaining that in Germany he was forced to testify without a lawyer. The Russian citizen also said that the German police, having seized his computer and musical equipment, deprived him of the opportunity to earn money and, consequently, of the financial means to pay for the lawyer.
Vice President for Russian office of the International Committee for Human Rights Ivan Melnikov said that on 11 November 2020, the situation with Dmitry Kaznacheev was being discussed during on-line session of the working group of the Russian-German forum of civil societies St. Petersburg Dialogue.
Despite claims that Germany respects the fundamental principle of freedom of expression, campaigns aimed at discrediting the Russian information resources have recently become more systematic. The tone of the content they produce differs a lot from that of the German mainstream, which makes it rather popular with the local audience. In this context, the German media has set a course aimed at discrediting the Russian opponents and positioning them as "Kremlin's propaganda tool". They deliberately implant the fiction about their unscrupulous and toxic behavior, biased and one-sided coverage of the events in Germany, their attempts to deliberately spread disinformation in order to destabilize the situation in Germany and the EU as a whole. However, German politicians, businessmen, academia and public figures who were seen having contacts with the Russian mass media, are often marginalized or stigmatized. The Russian mass media, the most popular with the local audience, such as RT Deutschland and SNA, are monitored by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution of Germany (counterintelligence). In addition, RT Deutschland is still denied a license to broadcast in German cable networks pursuant to the norms of the national legislation.
In France, the violation of the rights of the Russian citizens are not systematic and politically motivated, however, there are individual cases of biased treatment towards Russian compatriots by French law-enforcement and judicial bodies, including baseless accusations, harsh detention conditions and violation of the established procedural norms. In this context, we can highlight a number of high-profile cases of violations of their rights.
On 25 July 2017, the Russian citizen Aleksandr Vinnik was detained in Greece on a warrant issued by the Greek prosecutor's office upon the request of the US authorities. The US authorities accuse him of organizing since 2011 a financial business without an appropriate license in the United States and participating in criminal conspiracy to launder grand criminal proceeds (more than USD 4 billion) using a cryptocurrency and bitcoin platform.
Since 23 January 2020, Aleksandr Vinnik is in France, where he was extradited in accordance with the decision of the Greek Minister of Justice Konstantinos Tsiaras of 19 December, 2019.
On May 12, 2020, the French court rejected yet another petition of Vinnik's lawyers to have their client transferred to house arrest and on May 27, 2020, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs informed the Russian Embassy that the French Ministry of Justice refused to satisfy the requests of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation dated July 24, 2018, and January 24, 2020, to extradite Aleksandr Vinnik to Russia.
The Russian Embassy in France keeps in touch with the Russian citizen, his family and lawyers and closely monitors the French competent authorities' observance of the Russian citizen's rights and legitimate interests. On October 14, 2020, Alexey Meshkov, Russian Ambassador to France, paid a visit to Aleksandr Vinnik. On December 7, 2020, the court sentenced the Russian national to five years' imprisonment. Aleksandr Vinnik has filed an appeal against the court decision (there is a four-month deadline for the appeal hearing).
In 2018, the French side initiated an investigation against Russian citizens Mikhail Ivkin and Pavel Kosov, accusing them of assaulting English football fans and participating in Marseille riots during the 2016 European Football Championship. There was indeed a mutual confrontation between them and some Englishmen, however, the Russians were then charged with much more serious crimes than their opponents and under the French law these crimes carry substantial prison sentences (up to 15 years).
Officials of Russian diplomatic missions in France have arranged regular visits to the Russian citizens in places of detention and maintain contacts with their relatives and lawyers. We closely monitor the French authorities' observance of the rights of Russian citizens, record and report violations to the French side and demand prompt response to address the situation. This helped to ensure that lawyers and consular officers currently encounter no problems when visiting the Russian citizens. The Russian Embassy in Paris has also repeatedly expressed its concerns to the French authorities regarding the protracted investigations and regarding M. Ivkin's and P. Kosov's conditions at places of detention.
On December 14, 2020, Mikhail Ivkin and Pavel Kosov were sentenced to three and ten years in prison, respectively, by jury trial at the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal. On December 25, 2020, taking into account the time spent in pre-trial detention, Mikhail Ivkin was released and returned to his home country on January 1, 2021.
On November 14, 2020, Igor Zhirnov, a Russian citizen traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Moscow via Paris was arrested by customs service officials at the Charles de Gaulle airport on the basis of an American extradition request on charges of fraud and money laundering.
The French authorities failed to notify the Russian Embassy about the detention of a Russian citizen in due time and did not allow a consular officer to visit him.
It was not until November 30, 2020, that I.Zhirnov's lawyer was able to visit his client in Fresnes prison. Initially, neither I.Zhirnov nor his lawyer were provided with the files on the case initiated by the US justice system.
On December 30, 2020, the Paris Court of Appeal held a hearing regarding Igor Zhirnov. The defenсe's petition to alter the method of detention to house arrest was dismissed by the court. In addition, on January 13, 2021, the court rejected the appeal filed by the Russian citizen's lawyers ignoring their arguments about poor living conditions in Fresnes prison and the rights of their client being violated by the French justice system. All of these violations were committed despite the fact that France itself has no claims towards I.Zhirnov.
Another telling example of bias in the French judicial system is the trial for corruption in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which ended in Paris in September 2020. The judgment (including against two Russian nationals – Valentin Balakhnichev, former President of the Russian Athletics Federation, and Alexei Melnikov, former head coach of the Russian national athletics team) was issued in absentia. The court heard neither the defendants' lawyers nor any testimony in their favor during the trial.
There had also been cases of forced removal of children from families of Russian citizens. Unreasonable complaints from neighbours or school teachers are often the de facto basis for intervention by French authorities. For example, in 2018, two daughters, aged 6 and 14, were taken from a married couple living in France. The children were returned to their parents only after six months of court proceedings. Farfetchedness of the French authorities' accusations is evidenced by the fact that, among other things, the social services blamed the parents for the family's "maniac" obsession with cleanliness when actually it was just not common among the family members to wear their street shoes inside the apartment. At the same time, it should be noted that all persons living in France may become targets to similar actions of the social services.
Russian journalists' activities have been repeatedly obstructed in France. The French authorities continue to oppose the work of RT-France and the Paris office of the Sputnik agency. Sputnik employees have not been accredited as "foreign correspondents" for three years now (the accreditation is issued by the French MFA and is to be renewed annually). Technically, representatives of the Russian mass media are not denied accreditation, but in fact applications processing is dragged on until the end of the calendar year (requests are being sent to clarify information in applications, etc.) and after that the journalists are told to apply for accreditation over again. Russian journalists deal with this problem by applying for a membership card of the International Union of Journalists, which is not an option for the French employees of the news agency.
Correspondents of the RT French office are systematically denied access to media events at the Elysee Palace, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and other agencies (including online events) with the exception of high-level Russian-French meetings. The denials are justified by the alleged "technical failures".
Sometimes, when leaving France, journalists of the Paris offices of TASS and RIA Novosti face prolonged documents verification.
No mass violations of the rights of Russian citizens have been reported in the Czech Republic. At the same time, there have been a number of separate high-profile incidents.
In 2016, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to renew the accreditation of Aleksandr Kuranov, correspondent of RIA Novosti, and Vladimir Snegiryov, correspondent of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, citing alleged ties with Russian secret services as the reason.
In 2018, Yevgeny Nikulin, a Russian national, was extradited to the United States following the Czech Minister of Justice's decision. The Czech Constitutional Court subsequently ruled that these actions were illegal.
A 2014 incident when the owner (a man of Ukrainian descend) of the Brioni Hotel in Ostrava banned the stay of the Russian Federation citizens expressing his unacceptability of Crimea's reunification with Russia received a wide response. Later, the hotel management started demanding Russian clients to sign a statement condemning the "annexation" of the peninsula as a condition for their accommodation. The hotelier was fined by the court, the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic ruled that the refusal of accommodation was illegal. However, on April 17, 2019, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic reviewing the appeal of the hotel owner decided to overturn the country's Supreme Court's ruling, stressing that entrepreneurs are not required to be politically neutral. Czech experts criticized the decision calling it legally incorrect.
The Russian community also finds itself in a difficult situation. The Czech authorities have focused on denigrating compatriots with a balanced position towards Russia in the media. Generally, this matter is raised in the annual reports of the Security Information Service and the reports of the Government Council for National Minorities of the Government of the Czech Republic.
There were no cases of politically motivated persecution against Russians in Switzerland in 2020. Reportedly, nine Russians are currently detained in Switzerland. There have been no complaints regarding violations of their rights or discrimination, including nationality-based discrimination.
The most striking incident involving Russians in Switzerland was the case of Russian citizen Elena Giussani (Panova) who was sentenced to life in prison for being accessory to murder of her husband's ex-wife, committed in 2016. At the initial stage of the trial, there have been a large number of procedural violations which led to a harsh sentence. For example, the Russian citizen was not provided with a qualified interpreter, some of the interrogations were conducted when she was sick, and the key charges were based on indirect evidence. Moreover, the authorities of the Ticino canton (where the case was being considered) did not inform the Russian Embassy in a timely manner about Elena Giussani's arrest and the fact that she had two daughters, one being a minor at the time. On October 1, 2020, upon reviewing the appeal, the Ticino High Court acquitted the Russian citizen of all charges and released her. The Swiss authorities are currently investigating irregularities of this process.
One of the main human rights problems in Estonia is the preservation of mass statelessness aimed at ensuring the "ethnic purity" of the Estonian passport. The Republic of Estonia ranks among the first ten countries in the world with the highest number of "non-citizens" (as of August 1, 2020 – 69,000 people, about 6 per cent of population, most of them being Russian compatriots and their descendants.) Compatriots holding Russian citizenship and "non-citizens" do not have the right to vote or to stand for elections to the Estonian Parliament or the European Parliament, to be elected into local government positions, to participate in referendums, or to join political parties. "Non-citizens" are limited in their right to free movement, since the "gray" passport is not recognized by a number of States.
The rights of the Russian-speaking population to be educated in their native language are severely curtailed due to the state policy of "estonianization" of public space which automatically limits access to quality education in general. Despite the fact that Russian is the native language for about 30 per cent of the population in Estonia and, de-facto, continues to play the role of interethnic communication language, it has a status of neither state, official nor minority language, even when it comes to localities. At the initial stage, the Russian language was forced out of higher education institutions, including private ones, and after that it was forced out of the system of vocational education system. It is currently being forced out of secondary and pre-school education, although the Estonian constitution provides that when it comes to municipal kindergartens and schools, choosing the instruction language is the prerogative of local government.
The Estonian authorities are also actively pursuing a policy of glorifying Nazi accomplices and imposing nationalist ideologies. All of this contributes to increased Russophobia and restrictions on the rights of the Russian-speaking population in many areas. The law enforcement authorities use a variety of means to pressure the civil society activists, human rights defenders, and journalists who express views on domestic and foreign policies, as well as the history of these countries that differ from the official ones.
One of the methods used by the Estonian Security Police to put pressure on pro-Russian civic activists is to open criminal cases against them under far-fetched pretexts. In June 2018, a criminal case opened back in 2015 against Aleksandr Kornilov, editor-in-chief of Baltia compatriot information portal, over alleged tax evasion was finally closed after a large fine had been paid. February 2019 saw the entry into force of a court verdict convicting Andrei Krasnoglazov, a prominent Estonian specialist in Russian philology and Director of Tallinn Pushkin Institute NGO, on charges of funds embezzlement and document forgery (he was initially acquitted by the court of first instance, but the acquittal was overturned at the initiative of the Estonian Prosecutor's Office). At the beginning of March 2020, the Põhja District Prosecutor's Office terminated criminal proceedings against Mstislav Rusakov, Chairman of the Board of Russian School of Estonia NGO and Director of Kitezh Human Rights Center, those proceedings had been dragging on since mid-2019. The criminal case was terminated on the basis of Article 199, Part 1, paragraph 1 of the Estonian Code of Criminal Procedure, according to which criminal proceedings shall not be initiated if there is no reason for such proceedings.
Estonia routinely abuses the right to deny entry into the Schengen countries to "undesirable" third-country nationals usually using it against undesirable Russian politicians, journalists, historians, publicists, and public figures. Visas are revoked and lengthy bans are imposed. If victims try to protect their violated rights, Estonian courts rule against them citing "national security interests."
For example, in March 2018, the Estonian Ministry of the Interior issued an entry ban until 2023 for Konstantin Zatulin, Russian State Duma deputy, who was planning to meet with his constituents living in northeastern Estonia. In February 2019, similar sanctions were imposed on journalists of the Russia-1 TV channel Pavel Kostrikov and Elena Erofeeva for filming a report on the activities Jehovah's Witnesses sect in Tallinn which was considered by the Estonian police as "discrimination on religious grounds." In August 2019, Anastasia Koveza, Sergey Khristenko, Mikhail Pirogov, and Aleksandr Malikov, activists of the St. Petersburg branch of the Young Guard of United Russia Russian public organization, were banned entry into the Schengen countries for 10 years as a punishment for their participation in the Immortal Regiment march in Tallinn and their contacts with younger compatriots from Estonia. In March 2020, Andrei Zakharov, a journalist from the Russian multimedia information center Izvestia, was denied entry.
Russian citizens who are permanently residing in the country and have criminal records are still being deported to Russia by the Estonian courts on formal grounds of them having a "country of nationality". They do not take into account these people's lack of strong ties with Russia (a place to live, a job, relatives, etc.), putting them in disadvantaged economic conditions.
The Russian Embassy regularly receives complaints from Russian citizens serving prison sentences in Estonian prisons about subtle discriminatory actions like biased treatment and common chauvinism on the part of prison officials who are predominantly ethnic Estonians. Our compatriots also often complain about the fact that public defenders perform their duties both at the investigation stage and in the courts only nominally.
The Estonian authorities often detain and extradite Russian citizens to the United States at the request of the US law enforcement authorities. For example, A.Skvortsov, a Russian citizen, was detained there in November 2019 at the request of the US Department of Justice (accused of committing economic crimes as a member of an organized corrupt entity, cyber fraud and blackmail) and is now awaiting extradition to the US. His extradition is only delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian media are forced to work in Estonia under harsh opposition from the authorities who see them as "hostile propaganda" agents.
Since January 1, 2020, the Estonian office of the Russian news agency Sputnik was closed down under the threat of criminal prosecution against the staff to be conducted by the Money Laundering Reporting Office of the Estonian Ministry of the Interior. Labour relations with this media were declared a violation of EU sanctions against Dmitry Kiselev, Director General of the Rossiya Segodnya news agency. Due to these restrictions, 35 employees (three of them being Russian citizens) lost their jobs. Since March 20, 2020, under pressure from the state and law-enforcement bodies the Novosti Estonii daily informational TV show aired on the Pirmais Baltijas Kanāls (a franchise of the Channel One) stopped broadcasting.
The Estonian authorities defiantly ignore requests and appeals from representatives of the Russian media accredited in the country: Interfax, RIA Novosti, TASS, and VGTRK. Journalists do not receive newsletters and press releases from the Estonian government agencies, they are denied both access to government institutions and accreditation to official events. Under pressure from the special services, banking institutions refuse to provide services to them (accounts are closed, contractual obligations are terminated on unilateral basis with no explanations, etc.).
 Lithuanian authorities interpret the "attempted assault" on the Vilnius television centre by Soviet troops and special forces, including the Alpha group, as "Soviet aggression".
 As with the events near the Vilnius television centre on 13 January 1991, the version of the incident in Medininkai presented by Lithuanian authorities became an unquestionable ideological dogma, and is currently viewed not as a wilful murder, but as a "crime against humanity".