OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 141: A police officer confesses, Jehovah’s Witnesses are beaten, and the Moscow Case continues

22 February 2020
OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.

Hi! Jehovah’s Witnesses are being harassed and beaten, the Moscow Case continues to unfold, and a police officer has made a confession in the Golunov case.

The Moscow Case. One of the last defendants to be sentenced in the Moscow Case, Andrey Barshai, has been given a three-year suspended sentence. The 21-year-old student was accused of pushing a member of the Russian National Guard in the back. And yet the Federation Council has claimed that the police who beat protesters over the summer have been punished. Nothing concrete is known about this, however.

Why does this matter? The Moscow case has turned into the Russian capital’s largest prosecution against protesters since the case of Bolotnaya Square. 11 people have been sent to prison, five have received suspended sentences, four have been fined, two are on wanted lists and one is barred from leaving the city. Charges have been dropped against eight others.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are continuing to face harassment. Prison wardens in Orenburg beat five Jehovah’s Witnesses inmates. At the same time, in Birobidzhan eight new criminal cases were launched against suspected members of the local religious community. And in Chita, a believer who says he was tortured has been released.

Why does this matter? Ever since Jehovah’s Witnesses were declared an extremist organisation, members of this branch of Christianity have been facing harassment simply for practising their religion.

The Golunov case. One of the police officers who was detained in the case against journalist Ivan Golunov has confessed to planting drugs on him. The police officer claims that he was ordered to do so by his boss, Igor Liakhovets. Liakhovets, for his part, maintains his innocence and says that he was on holiday at the time anyway.

Why does this matter? Investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was detained in June 2019. The police had planted drugs on him and charged him with planning to sell them, but the case caused a public outcry which pressured the investigation into taking a step back. Golunov was released, and the case against him dropped. Those protests marked the beginning of a wave of public actions in 2019.


Cases of terrorism. OVD-Info often writes about those accused of membership in terrorist communities and organisations. These cases – such as the Networks and Hizb ut-Tahrir cases – culminate in lengthy prison sentences for people who have committed no acts of violence. Mikhail Shubin explains the particulars of cases like these.

Siberia Without Torture. Sviatoslav Khromenkov, director of the fund Siberia Without Torture, had his home searched in connection with a fraud case. Khromenkov himself was abroad at the time and has decided not to return to Russia for the time being. Aleksandr Litoi spoke to him about the prosecution he is facing.

14 hours of unfreedom. On 15th February, lone picketers in St Petersburg protesting constitutional changes were arrested. The Municipal Deputy of the nearby town of Pushkin, Sergey Lazarev, spent over 14 hours in police vans and at the police station after he tried to explain to the police that lone pickets do not need authorisation from the authorities. OVD-Info has recorded Lazarev’s story.

New Greatness. The prosecution is soon due to request sentences for defendants in the New Greatness case. OVD-Info has published the arguments put forward by the Maksim Pashkov, who is the lawyer for defendant Maria Dubovik, about why the extremist organisation New Greatness could not have formally existed.


Each day we publish news reports and provide assistance to people who have been arrested. We very much need your assistance. After all, we depend for all our work on your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue to send you your favourite mailing, our Weekly Bulletin.

Illustration by Viktoriya Kim for OVD-Info
Translated by Judith Fagelson

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