Russian Federation - August 2023
Record number of treason cases filed
Russia is set to open more treason cases in 2023 than over the past twenty years combined, the independent Russian media outlet Kholod reported on 7 August. Kholod’s calculations were based on media reports, which it says necessarily undercounts ongoing cases as not all are made public, and reports of historical cases compiled by the legal advocacy group Team 29 (which was closed under state pressure in 2021). The overwhelming majority of the 82 current cases are against individuals accused of conspiring to support Ukraine, with the rest suspected of working for China, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Each case carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Civil society organizations argue that suspects charged with espionage are at high risk of torture in custody.
Prighozin dies in plane crash
The Russian oligarch and mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin died along with nine others in a plane crash on 23 August that analysts say was in all likelihood an assassination either organised or authorised by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin had been outside of Russia since leading his Wagner Group mercenaries in a purported rebellious march towards Moscow in June 2023. Prighozhin had decamped to Belarus and Africa, apparently having reached an understanding with Putin, and the circumstances of his return to Russia were unclear. Prigozhin had attempted to build a reputation as a capable populist leader in the months leading up to his death, and had explicitly challenged and threatened high ranking military officials and leaders.