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Crimean Tatar activist Ali Asanov

A court in the Russia-annexed peninsula of Crimea has for the third time postponed a ruling on five Crimean Tatars charged with organizing an illegal demonstration four years ago.

The Central District Court in Simferopol gave no explanation on June 18 for putting off the hearing until the following day.

The five men -- Ali Asanov, Mustafa Degermendzhy, Eskendir Kantemirov, Eskendir Emirvaliev, and Arsen Yunusov -- were among a group who staged a protest outside the regional legislature in February 2014.

The demonstration occurred as Russia moved to seize control of the Black Sea region following street protests in the Ukrainian capital that forced the country’s pro-Russian president to flee.

The five were arrested and charged in late 2015.

Akhtem Chiygoz, the well-known leader in the Crimean Tatars’ local assembly, was also charged for his participation in the protest.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison in September 2017, but weeks later he was taken to Turkey and freed. He later moved to Kyiv.

Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 was vocally opposed by the Crimea Tatar population, who make up a sizable minority of the peninsula.

Russian artist Denis Lopatin

A Russian artist who has faced pressure over works mocking nationalist lawmaker Natalya Poklonskaya says he left Russia earlier this year and plans to seek political asylum in France.

Denis Lopatin told RFE/RL on June 17 that he left Russia in February and will seek asylum because he has received numerous threats.

In one of Lopatin's artworks, Poklonskaya appears as a nun in a Russian Orthodox icon and is holding a bust of Tsar Nicholas II in the shape of a sex toy.

Wording above the caricature reads "Find a man for a foolish woman."

A former chief prosecutor in Russian-controlled Crimea and now a deputy in the State Duma, the lower parliament house, Poklonskaya has voiced monarchist views.

Last month, Poklonskaya filed a lawsuit against the artist, saying his work offends her personally and Orthodox Christians in general. After the federal Investigative Committee declined to open an investigation, Poklonskaya used her right as a lawmaker to ask its chief, Aleksandr Bastrykin, to look into the matter.

Last week, a monarchist group issued a statement on the social network VKontakte calling for a campaign to seek the prosecution of Lopatin on suspicions of "offending" Poklonskaya and the memory of Nicholas, Russia's last tsar, who was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.

President Vladimir Putin signed a law in 2013 criminalizing actions deemed to "insult the religious feelings of believers."

Poklonskaya was one of the most vocal opponents of the 2017 film Matilda, which depicted an affair between a teenage ballerina and Nicholas II before he became tsar.

In March 2017, she raised eyebrows when she claimed that fragrant myrrh was seeping from a bronze bust of Nicholas II.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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