Week-ending 2 April 2021
This week, Grigory Vinter, the head of the branch of the recently dissolved nationwide human rights organisation For Human Rights, was sentenced to two years of “limited freedom” under parole-like conditions on a charge of distributing false information about the coronavirus. He was found guilty of posting “false” information on the VKontakte social network about the purported transfer of a group of convicts with coronavirus-like symptoms from St. Petersburg to the Vologda region. He was also convicted of ‘insulting a police officer. Vinter has said he was tortured while held on remand.
The human rights NGO, For Human Rights, that was closed down at the beginning of March this year was a network organisation with branches thoughout Russia. Deutsche Welle, reporting on an inteview with Lev Ponomarev, director of For Human Rights, the day after Ponomarev annouced the closure on 2 March 2021, reported: ‘Ponomarev says the movement unites about 1,000 activists across Russia. Now he has been declared a “foreign agent,” he says, those activists will no longer officially be united under the umbrella of his organization. “The brand For Human Rights and even my name as a fairly well-known figure used to help them. But now it will get in their way,” he says. On Tuesday, Ponomarev announced that he is dissolving the movement to avoid its being labeled a foreign agent, which would lead to fines for the regional activists. “The authorities have not yet taken the decision that this national public organization is a foreign agent. But I don’t want to wait for that. To me it is obvious that that will happen,” he tells DW. “They are doomed because I am the chairman of this movement and I have the stigma of being an individual foreign agent.” Ponomarev insists his activists across Russia will continue their work and that he will support them. “I am liquidating the organization in order to keep working effectively,” he explains, laughing at the absurdity of the situation.
RFE/RL, 31 March 2021: A noted human rights activist in the northwestern Russian city of Cherepovets has been sentenced to two years of “limited freedom” under parole-like conditions on a charge of distributing false information about the coronavirus. The leader of the For Human Rights movement’s branch in the Vologda region, Grigory Vinter, said on March 31 that the sentence forbids him from changing his permanent address and orders him to report to a parole officer twice a month. Vinter was found guilty of posting “false” information on the VKontakte social network about the purported transfer of a group of convicts with coronavirus-like symptoms from Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg, to the Vologda region in 2020. He was also found guilty of insulting police during a search of his apartment in May. Vinter says he will appeal the court’s ruling. Vinter has said that he was tortured with an electric shock device while in a detention center in Cherepovets in December, a charge that the Federal Penitentiary Service has denied.
Deutsche Welle, 3 March 2021: Veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomarev has announced the dissolution of his For Human Rights movement. He was recently labeled a “foreign agent” himself, as authorities turn up the pressure on perceived enemies.
Radio Svoboda [via Rights in Russia], 2 March 2021, Russian human rights activist Lev Ponomarev announced the definitive liquidation of the For Human Rights civil society organisation due to the tightening of the legislation on foreign agents. Since Russia’s Supreme Court liquidated the all-Russian ‘For Human Rights’ movement in November 2019, the human rights organisation has existed without a legal entity. At the end of 2020, a law was passed enabling individuals to be classified as foreign agents. Five individuals were the first to be entered on the register, one of them being Lev Ponomarev.