Russia blocks web site of group that tracks political arrests


MOSCOW — A Russian group that tracks political arrests and supplies authorized support to detainees mentioned Saturday that authorities regulators blocked its web site, the newest transfer in a months-long crackdown on unbiased media and human rights organizations.
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OVD-Information reported that Russia’s web and communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, blocked the group’s web site. The group mentioned in a tweet that it wasn’t formally notified concerning the resolution and would not know the rationale for the motion past that it was ordered by a court docket outdoors Moscow on Monday.

The web site was unavailable to Russian web customers on Saturday and was listed on the federal government’s registry of banned net pages. In mild of the transfer, OVD-Information urged supporters to comply with its pages on numerous social media platforms, corresponding to Fb, Twitter, Instagram, Russian social community VK and messaging app Telegram.

In feedback to the Interfax information company, Roskomnadzor mentioned the web site was blocked as a result of, in accordance with the court docket ruling, it was concerned in “propaganda of terrorism and extremism” by containing supplies that “justify actions of extremist and terrorist teams.”

The company mentioned social media platforms have been advised to take away the group’s accounts.

OVD-Information co-founder Grigory Okhotin rejected the accusations in an interview with The Related Press on Saturday.

“Naturally, we’re certain that we aren’t justifying extremism or terrorism,” he mentioned. “After all we write about such instances, that is our job, however it isn’t justifying (extremism or terrorism).”

Okhotin mentioned the ruling to dam the web site got here as a shock, regardless that the group knew the prosecutor’s workplace in Lukhovitsy, a city 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Moscow, had opened an investigation of some form.

“Our lawyer went there, however they refused to offer paperwork or to elucidate something concerning the substance of the case, regardless that they summoned him themselves,” Okhotin mentioned. “We, in fact, did not know that it could get to court docket so shortly — which we have not been invited to, by the best way — and to blocking of the web site over accusations of justifying terrorism and extremism.”

OVD-Information gained prominence for its meticulous monitoring and counting of arrests at road protests in Russia. Activists first began the apply throughout mass protests triggered by a 2011 Russian parliamentary election tainted by quite a few reviews of voter fraud after which fashioned a gaggle that has continued the work through the years.

The info has been indispensable to information shops through the years as Russian authorities largely stored quiet or underplayed the size of mass arrests at protests and demonstrations.

OVD-Information operates as a authorized support group as effectively, dispatching attorneys to assist detained protesters at police stations and in courts. In September, a Sweden-based worldwide human rights group awarded OVD-Information its Civil Rights Defender of the Yr award.

That very same month Russian authorities designated the group as a “overseas agent” — a label that comes with extreme authorities scrutiny and robust pejorative connotations that may discredit recipients. OVD-Information’s founders vowed to proceed the group’s work regardless of the designation.

Russian authorities have mounted stress on rights teams, media shops and particular person journalists in current months, naming dozens as overseas brokers. Some had been declared as “undesirable” — a label that outlaws organizations in Russia — or accused of hyperlinks to “undesirable” teams.

On Friday, Russia’s Justice Ministry added two extra rights teams to the registry of overseas brokers: Coming Out and Revers, which advocate for LGBT rights and supply help to Russia’s embattled LGBT neighborhood.

Russian legislation mandates a non-governmental group, a media outlet, an off-the-cuff motion or a person to be listed as a overseas agent for having obtained overseas funding — even a small donation from a overseas nationwide counts — and interesting in loosely outlined political exercise.

OVD-Information, along with different rights teams, launched a marketing campaign in September to abolish the “overseas brokers” legislation. As of late December, greater than 240 organizations and over 260,000 people had signed a petition that describes the legislation as “discriminatory and illegal.”

OVD-Information submitted the signatures to Russia’s decrease parliament home, the State Duma.

Okhotin referred to as the web site’s obstruction “a brand new spherical of stress on us and on the civic society.” He mentioned he thinks OVD-Information was focused due to its prominence and its marketing campaign in opposition to the “overseas brokers” laws.

“We’re very massive, we’re very seen, we’re supported by an enormous quantity of individuals in Russia,” Okhotin mentioned, including that greater than 100,000 Russians assist OVD-Information with donations.

He mentioned the group would proceed to tell Russians about political repression regardless of the web site being unavailable to viewers.

“We will certainly discover some type or one other to maintain the general public knowledgeable,” he advised the AP.


Daniel Kozin contributed to this report.

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