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Finally, a voice of reason in Russia’s legal system on the Pussy Riot case.

Today Russia’s Supreme Court ordered the Pussy Riot verdict to be re-examined by the Moscow City Court. The legal representatives for one of the two still-imprisoned Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, have not yet seen the Supreme Court’s ruling, so the court’s line of reasoning is not yet known. Of course it is impossible to know how the Moscow City Court will eventually rule.

But this could be the first step towards correcting the terrible miscarriage of justice that was set in motion in March 2012, when three members of the feminist punk collective were arrested on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. They were sentenced in August 2012 to two years in a penal colony, and one was paroled last year.

It’s a rare piece of good news for human rights in Russia and it comes, fittingly, on Human Rights Day. But like Lenin said, “One step forward, two steps back”

Just yesterday Russian President Vladamir Putin unexpectedly decreed the reorganization of state-owned media, shuttering the respected and reliable wire service RIA Novosti, and creating a new state media colossus under the brand Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today). It will be headed by Dmitri Kiselyov, the deputy director of the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, the broadcaster of such shows as Special Correspondent, whose programs often hurl abuse at human rights activists, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, migrants, and others. Last summer Kiselyov stated on a talk show that Russia’s antigay “propaganda” law did not go far enough, and that in order to prevent them from becoming donors, should gay people die in car crashes, “their hearts should be buried in the ground and burned.”

And today, in a move no news outlet covered, the Duma adopted in first reading legislative amendments introducing new grounds for denying accreditation to foreign organizations’ representative offices in Russia, a coda to last year’s “foreign agents” law. Under the bill, a branch could be denied accreditation if its goals and activities “constitute a threat to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity, and national interests of the Russian Federation.”  

If it’s adopted, this amendment will, like many of the crackdown laws adopted in 2012, serve as yet another warning to foreign organizations. I can’t help thinking that by holding its first reading on International Human Rights Day, legislators wanted to remind us just which kinds of organizations they most want to warn. 

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