As part of an all-out assault on public protests, police arbitrarily detain peaceful protesters while courts dutifully slap them with short-term jail sentences and fines. Last month around 1,600 people, including 158 children, were detained in 27 cities during the “He’s Not Our Tsar” political protests. Authorities pressure universities and parents to discourage students from participating in protests. Last summer, a law student in Kaliningrad, one of the World Cup host cities, was expelled over his role in anti-corruption demonstrations.
Members of the LGBT community are second-class citizens in Russia by virtue of the infamous “gay propaganda” ban. And there has been zero accountability for last year’s anti-gay purge in Chechnya, when local security officials unlawfully rounded up and tortured dozens of presumably gay men.
As Chechnya welcomes the Egyptian national team to its capital for World Cup training, the Chechen director of Russia’s leading rights group Memorial, Oyub Titiev, is in jail pending trial on bogus marijuana possession charges. The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his associates retaliate against even the mildest dissent with brutal repression and Kadyrov has repeatedly threatened and smeared human rights defenders. The case against Titiev is clearly aimed at pushing Memorial out of the region.