A Russian school teacher described by Amnesty International as a possible prisoner of conscience said on Thursday she had been ordered to resign her job as punishment for opposing the Kremlin.
Yekaterina Bunicheva’s head teacher said he had reprimanded her for failing to show up for work after she was jailed for five days. He denied telling her to resign or that the punishment had been for her political beliefs. Bunicheva and three other opposition activists were arrested in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow, last month as they made their way to a pro-government rally where they were planning to protest. All three were given the same jail term after they were found guilty of swearing at police.
The history teacher said soon after her release she was called in to see her headteacher, Vladimir Ushakov, at the city’s School No. 106.
“The head teacher recommended to me that I write a letter of resignation and that if I refuse he would fire me,” Bunicheva told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday.
“The reason he gave was that I was arrested and was in jail for five days,” she said. “The head teacher did not conceal that he had been given an oral instruction … to fire me.”
Asked if her problems at work stemmed from her opposition to the Kremlin, she said: “Clearly they link these two things … I think (the head teacher) will do everything in his power so that I leave.”
Bunicheva’s boss said he had disciplined her but not tried to force her out of her job.
“I am not greatly interested what party she belongs to. That is completely not at issue. But she was given a reprimand for missing a lesson,” Ushakov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.
After the arrest of Bunicheva and the three other activists with the Other Russia opposition coalition, London-based rights group Amnesty said it appeared the charges against them were fabricated and they were possible prisoners of conscience.
The Russian government says it upholds democracy but its opponents say it has curtailed civil freedoms. Some observers say the Kremlin’s fear of popular discontent over the economic slump is making it more intolerant of dissent