Memorial Human Rights Centre: Novosibirsk activist Yana Drobnokhod is a political prisoner

9 March 2021

Yana Drobnokhod is being held on remand charged under the so-called ‘Dadin’ article of the Russian Criminal Code with taking part in peaceful protests in support of Sergei Furgal

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre


Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines,  considers Novosibirsk activist Yana Drobnokhod a political prisoner. We believe she is being prosecuted solely for her political convictions in connection with the non-violent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, information and peaceful assembly. We consider the criminal case against Drobnokhod politically motivated and intended to force her to end her civic activities as an opposition activist and critic of the current authorities.

We demand the immediate release of Yana Drobnokhod from custody and the dropping of all charges against her under the so-called ‘Dadin’ article (Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). In addition, we demand the repeal of Article 20.2, Part 8, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (repeated violation of the procedures for participation in a public event) and of Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (repeated violation of the procedures for organising or holding a public event), both of which are unlawful.

Who is Yana Drobnokhod and what is she charged with?

Civic activist Yana Drobnokhod, a mother of three children (two of whom are minors), recently moved to Novosibirsk from Khabarovsk. She voted for Sergei Furgal as governor of Khabarovsk and considers him her candidate. This explains her active involvement, since the summer of 2020, in the campaign to support Khabarovsk residents campaigning for his release.

Drobnokhod repeatedly went on solitary pickets and participated in so-called ‘pigeon feeding’ protests in Novosibirsk (as protests in support of Khabarovsk are called in many regions). For this, she was repeatedly detained and subjected to administrative penalties.

On 26 September 2020 a court fined Drobnokhod 15,000 roubles for participating in a ‘group picket.’ According to journalists, Drobnokhod stood holding the Novosibirsk flag not far from a single-person picket, an act which police deemed to be a ‘double picket on a single issue.’

In late October the activist was charged with ‘organising a public event’ on 23 October 2020 by posting material about a planned ‘pigeon feeding’ protest on her VKontakte page. This time, the court fined her 25,000 roubles.

On 29 October, according to law enforcement officers, Drobnokhod again ‘organised’ a group picket that did not have official permission in support of Khabarovsk residents that took place on 31 October. The police drew up an official charge only on 26 November, but the next day the court fined her 150,000 roubles for repeated violation of the procedures for participation in a public event (Article 20.2, Part 8, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences).
A day later, the court again imposed the same fine on the activist for participation in another protest. As a result, the total sum of all fines imposed on her was close to 400,000 roubles. On 23 January Drobnokhod took part in a protest in support of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in Novosibirsk, the only really mass action in connection with which she was charged (several thousand people took part in the protest).

How the other protests for which she was penalised passed off is well demonstrated by the last that took place on 30 January 2021. At first Drobnokhod held a solitary picket. Later, activists began to gather in the square. A video taken as the police arrived shows the protesters standing peacefully in the empty square with placards and the Novosibirsk flag, singing songs with a guitar.

After this protest, Drobnokhod was prosecuted under the so-called Dadin article of the Russian Criminal Code for repeated violation of the procedures for organising or holding a public event (Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). Despite the investigators’ application to the court that Drobnokhod be remanded in custody, the court imposed ‘only’ house arrest. But after her appeal against the pre-trial restrictions was dismissed, Drobnokhod again demonstratively went on a solitary picket in violation of the terms of her house arrest. The next day, the Central district court of Novosibirsk remanded the activist in custody.

Why we consider Drobnokhod a political prisoner

Yana Drobnokhod violated the conditions of her house arrest and this served as grounds to remand her in custody. 

However, placing the activist under house arrest on the basis of Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code of itself makes her prosecution unlawful and politically motivated.

Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, as well as Article 20.2, Part 8, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (repeated violation of the procedures for participation in a public event), are in contradiction with the fundamental principles of law. Both articles have been repeatedly and severely criticised by Memorial Human Rights Centre, Amnesty International, the head of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council and the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman.

The Constitutional Court, in considering an application by Ildar Dadin, the first person convicted under Article 212.1, limited the applicability of Article 212.1 to cases where violations of the procedures for organising or holding a public event ‘resulted in harm to the health of citizens, the property of natural or legal persons, the environment, public order, public security or other constitutionally protected values, or contained a real threat of such harm.’

The charges laid against the activist make merely formal reference to such threats: ‘Drobnokhod’s organisation of, and participation in, illegal public events create a threat of harm to the health of citizens, the property of natural and legal persons, the environment, public order, public security and other constitutionally protected values.’
The social media of Novosibirsk activists contain many videos of Drobnokhod’s participation in protests. The protests are all of the same kind, in the form of pickets. We have not seen any aggressive actions or calls to violence on the part of the activist.

Drobnokhod is being prosecuted under an article of the Russian Criminal Code that flouts fundamental principles of law. Moreover, in her case, the application of that article directly contradicts the instructions of the Constitutional Court.

Novosibirsk activist Yana Drobnokhod is a political prisoner

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.

More information about this case and Memorial’s position can be found on our website.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at [email protected].

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