Memorial Human Rights Centre: The criminal prosecution of Arkhangelsk city activist Andrei Borovikov is politically motivated and unlawful

25 December 2020

Andrei Borovikov has been charged with unlawful trafficking in pornography for posting on VKontakte a video clip from a Rammstein music video of the song Pussy 

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ considers the criminal case against Arkhangelsk city activist Andrei Borovikov politically motivated. We believe the purpose of the prosecution is to halt the activist’s public activities and consolidate the power of those carrying out repressive measures against supporters of the opposition. Borovikov’s actions do not constitute a criminal offence and his prosecution is selective and disproportionate to the real or perceived public danger of his actions. We demand the charges against Borovikov be dropped immediately. 

Who is Andrei Borovikov and what is he accused of?

Andrei Borovikov is an environmental activist from Arkhangelsk, a member of the movement ‘Pomorye is Not a Rubbish Dump’ and coordinator of Aleksei Navalny’s Arkhangelsk headquarters. In September 2019 Borovikov was sentenced to 400 hours’ compulsory work for repeated violation of public assembly regulations (Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). At that time, Memorial already recognised Borovikov as a victim of a politically motivated prosecution.

Borovikov is accused of illegal trafficking of pornographic materials on the Internet (Article 242, Part 3, Point b of the Russian Criminal Code, punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment). According to the investigation, on 19 January 2014 Borovikov posted on his page on VKontakte a video clip of the group Rammstein singing the song Pussy. The clip was accessible until 13 February 2020 when Borovikov deleted it.

The charges are based on the testimony of Aleksandr Durynin, a former volunteer at Navalny’s headquarters. According to one version, Durynin was recruited by officers of the anti-extremism police under threat of criminal prosecution for justifying terrorism. The security services provided Durynin with a listening device on which he recorded a conversation with Borovikov on 13 February 2020. The recording also included the moment when Borovikov deleted the video clip: Durynin reminded Borovikov that the video could qualify as pornography.

Since 29 September 2020 Andrei Borovikov has been under travel restrictions.

Why does Memorial consider Borovikov’s prosecution politically motivated and unlawful?

We believe the repeated criminal prosecution of Andrei Borovikov – a political, environmental and civic activist well-known in Arkhangelsk – has nothing to do with the declared aim of protecting public morals.

The scheme to recruit and infiltrate an agent of the anti-extremism police into Navalny’s regional headquarters would seem too complex for the criminal prosecution of Borovikov to be considered accidental.

  • The investigation over many months of such a minor and even ridiculous criminal case seems absurd and can only be rationally explained by the political motives of the officers of the Interior Ministry rather than any motivation related to the law.
  • Borovikov’s prosecution is clearly selective in nature.
  • It is difficult to classify the Rammstein music video for the song Pussy as pornographic since this audiovisual work has artistic value and is a legitimate artefact of contemporary popular music culture. There are no grounds to suggest Borovikov perceived the video as some kind of prohibited ‘pornography’ or intended to distribute pornographic material.
  • Even if the investigative authority had concluded the video clip was pornographic, it should not have initiated criminal proceedings against Borovikov. Under Article 14, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code, ‘an act (or omission), even if it formally contains evidence of being an act that falls under this Code, does not constitute a crime if it presents a danger to the public of little significance.’

For more information about this case and Memorial’s position, visit our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

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Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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