happening in russia
April 21, 2021

Rallies were held in dozens of cities across Russia on Wednesday in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is now in his third week of a hunger strike.

OVD-Info, a monitoring group, said 1,496 protesters were arrested, including 662 in St. Petersburg. The rallies coincided with Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual address to the country, and while he did not mention Navalny, Putin did warn "whomever organizes any provocations that threaten our core security will regret this like they've never regretted anything before."

Navalny, who survived a nerve agent attack last year, was arrested in January after returning to Russia from Germany. The 44-year-old began his hunger strike over what he said was the prison's failure to properly treat him for back and leg pain. Navalny's allies say he is in declining health and at risk of cardiac arrest and kidney failure, and they want him to be able to see his own doctors. Russia's human rights commissioner on Tuesday said four doctors have visited Navalny, and he has no serious health problems.

Navalny's wife, Yulia, attended the Moscow rally, where supporters chanted, "Freedom to Navalny!" and "Let the doctors in!" Before the rally began, Navalny's spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, and ally Lyubov Sobol were detained at their homes, and Yarmysh has been jailed for 10 days after being accused of inciting protesters. "This is repression," Navalny aide Ruslan Shaveddinov tweeted. "This cannot be accepted. We need to fight this darkness." Catherine Garcia

May 2, 2017

Over the past two weeks, several prominent Russian opposition activists and journalists have been attacked with "zelyonka" (Russian for "brilliant green"), an inexpensive astringent used for medical purposes that stains the skin green. Zelyonka attacks have been used fairly commonly in protests and against critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, because "it stains the skin and is hard to wash off, which can be a problem if you want to take the media spotlight," BBC News reports, and "also, it doesn't do any lasting damage, which means attackers will not be facing charges of grave bodily harm." Except two recent attacks have left the victim with burned eyes and possibly permanent partial blindness.

In the case of leading Putin critic Alexei Navalny, who was doused with green stain outside his Anti-Corruption Foundation office in Moscow on April 27, doctors diagnosed him with a "chemical burn in his right eye," suggesting that the liquid was "mixed with something else" because "simple zelyonka would not burn the eyes seriously," The Moscow Times reports. "It looks funny but it hurts like hell," Navalny tweeted. Earlier this year, Navalny was hit with a less caustic zelyonika solution.

On April 28, Natalya Fyodorova, an activist for the Yabloko opposition party, was hit with a "chemical solution" that has left her at least temporarily blind in one eye and feeling ill. Most of the eight or more other zelyonka attacks on liberal politicians, Putin critics, and independent journalists since February have apparently been with normal zelyonka. Activists say police have seemed uninterested in finding the perpetrators, but Navalny supporters say they have identified his attackers as members of the radical pro-Kremlin group "SERB." On Sunday, the pro-Putin TV channel REN TV, which has ties to the security services, released a video of the attack on Navalny, with the face of the apparent attacker blurred out.

On Twitter, Navalny said the person shooting the video appears to have known he was going to be attacked beforehand, and combined with the blurred-out faces, "this is the best proof that the FSB and the [Presidential Administration] were also involved. Trademark style." Peter Weber

April 4, 2017

On Tuesday, Russia and Kyrgyzstan's security services identified a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen as a suspect in Monday's deadly bombing of a train car in the St. Petersburg metro. The death toll from the attack rose to 14 on Tuesday, as three people died in the hospital; more than 40 other people were wounded. Kyrgyzstan's security service said they got the information about Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, 21 or 22, from Russian authorities. St. Petersburg is home to a large diaspora from Central Asia.

St. Petersburg officials declared three days of mourning, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a St. Petersburg native, laid flowers at a makeshift memorial on Monday night. World leaders also extended their condolences, with U.S. President Trump calling to offer his "full support," the White House said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack a "barbaric act." Russian authorities have not yet said if they believe the attack was a suicide bombing or if the suspect is at large, or if there is more than one suspect. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Peter Weber

February 8, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a law decriminalizing some forms of domestic violence. The legislation, known as the "slapping law," downgrades a first offense of domestic violence that does not cause serious injury, making it just an administrative offense with a fine of up to about $500, up to 15 days in jail, or up to 120 hours of community service. Conservatives said the bill reinforced traditional values by respecting the authority of family heads, and brought family law in line with 2016 reforms easing punishment for other minor assaults. One of the bill's sponsors was conservative senator Yelena Mizulina, who wrote Russia's controversial law against "gay propaganda." Human Rights Watch called the law "dangerous." Harold Maass

March 3, 2016

A Russian man is facing a jail sentence of up to one year for suggesting in an internet exchange that "there is no God."

A Russian law — put on the books in 2013 after Pussy Riot's blasphemous performance in a Moscow cathedral — makes Viktor Krasnov's remarks subject to prosecution because they're offensive to Orthodox believers. "If I say that the collection of Jewish fairytales entitled the Bible is complete bulls--t, that is that. At least for me," Krasnov wrote, later adding that "there is no God!"

Krasnov's comments initially subjected him to a month in a psychiatric ward and numerous psychiatric examinations. However, the tests revealed that Krasnov, 38, is sane. His lawyer insists that he is "simply an atheist." Becca Stanek

March 16, 2015

The bell tower at the Novodevichy Convent, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Moscow, caught on fire Sunday night.

The convent was built in the 16th and 17th centuries, and its cemetery is the resting place for Anton Chekhov, Nikita Khrushchev, and Boris Yeltsin. Law enforcement officials told Russian media that the fire started 30 meters above the ground, and went all the way up to 70 meters high, The Guardian reports. Alexander Gavrilov at the Moscow branch of the emergency situations ministry told journalists that no one was injured and that the interior of the bell tower was not damaged. The convent is undergoing renovations, and earlier in the day, workers had been gold-plating the tower's cupola, according a spokesperson for the contractor, Stroikomplekt.

The Interfax news agency reports that the city's cultural heritage department said the renovations were being conducted in violation of safety regulations, and that likely the caused fire. Because the convent is under federal control, the department said it could not take the construction company off the job, despite noted violations. —Catherine Garcia

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