OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 144: Amendments to the Constitution, freedom of assembly and the omnipresence of Coronavirus

14 March 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.

Illustration: Olga Terekhova for OVD-Info

Hi! Coronavirus is the dictatorship’s new tool, there is a new Hizb ut-Tahrir case in Crimea, and an anarchist has been released from prison.

Amendments to the Constitution. On 12th March, single person pickets were held in several Russian cities to protest the introduction of changes to the Constitution. In some places they led to arrests; OVD-Info has put together a timeline of events. At the same time, Roskomnadzor has blocked the campaign website, “No!”, which opposes the constitutional changes, and Moscow City Hall has rejected two different applications for protests against allowing President Putin to serve additional terms in office.

  • Why does this matter? The Constitution is the basis for the country’s laws, and for many people it symbolises democratic progress in Russia. Political oppositionists and public figures claim that changes to the Constitution will allow Putin to effectively usurp power. Once the changes are introduced, Putin will be able to serve another two terms.

A new Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Following searches on 11th March, four Crimean Tatars were arrested in Bakhchisarai. Two days later, they were remanded in custody on suspicion of involvement in the activities of the Hizb ut-Tahrir party.

  • Why does this matter? Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir is classed in Russia as a terrorist organisation – for no good reason, according to human rights activists. It is commonplace in Crimea for criminal charges of membership in the party to be laid against active members of the human rights volunteer network of Crimean Tatars, Crimean Solidarity. 

Ilia Romanov is due to be released. The medical commission has recognised that paralysed anarchist Ilia Romanov must be exempted from his punishment in view of his health condition. He is now due to be released from prison.

  • Why does this matter? The anarchist lost the use of the right side of his body following a stroke. He lost his left arm after a device he made exploded. It is this device that led to him facing terrorism charges. Romanov would not be able to serve the rest of his sentence in the conditions of the prison hospital.


Torture in the Network case. Lawyer Eldar Garoz has challenged the court’s decision not to consider a complaint that it had not completed a full investigation into the torture of Ilia Shakrusky, one of the defendants in the Network case. OVD-Info has published the lawyer’s account of the torture investigation – or, rather, how the State did not want to conduct it properly.

Rallies and Coronavirus. The authorities in Moscow have restricted public events to a maximum of five thousand people. Mayor Sergei Sobianin gave the Coronavirus epidemic as the reason for this decision. OVD-Info asked lawyers and medics whether this new restriction is justified and legal.

We have also released a new report on regional authorities’ meddling in protests. Have a read!


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. 

Translated by Judith Fagelson

Leave a Reply