OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 149: Police Ombudsman, the Moscow Case, and Police, Not Bombs

11 April 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: Alina Kugusheva for OVD-Info

Hi! A former police officer has been searched, more on the coronavirus, and prison releases.

Verdict in the BARS case. The military court has sentenced monarchists implicated in the case against the Baltic Vanguard of the Russian Resistance (BARS). The longest sentence – eight years in a medium-security prison – was handed down to Alesandr Orshulevich. Alekandr Mamaev and Igor Ivanov were each given six years. Nikolai Sentsov was released from the courtroom with a 3-year sentence to be served in an open prison; the court counted Sentsov’s time in remand towards his sentence.

Why do I need to know this? The Kaliningrad branch of the FSB tried to brand the group of local activists as terrorists, but the court did not uphold the charges and used statutes on extremism, rather than terrorism, to sentence the defendants for their actions. According to the prosecution, BARS members were seeking to force the Kaliningrad Region to join the European Union. To this end, they allegedly planned to use stencils to draw extremist graffiti. The defence maintains that the aforementioned stencils were planted on them. 

The Moscow Case. The courts have reduced the sentence given to Nikita Chirtsov, a defendant in the Moscow Case, but the remand centre in Kursk is refusing to release him until they receive a written decree from the court by post. Meanwhile, Sergei Surovtsev has been transferred to the Tver Region. We still do not know the whereabouts of Egor Lesny.

Why does this matter? The Moscow Case is the largest criminal case brought against citizen activists for taking to the capital’s streets during since the case of Bolotnaya Square. Many of the associated trials have already been concluded, but many more are still ongoing.

Ilia Romanov has been released. The paralysed anarchist, convicted under the statutes on planning an act of terror and inciting terrorism, has been released from jail. The courts deemed that it would be impossible to give the stroke survivor, who lost one arm, the medical treatment he needed from within the penitentiary system.

Why does this matter? Romanov, 52, lives with severe health problems and needs care and rehabilitation. His release shows real humanity.

Police ombudsman searched. Vladimir Vorontsov, who moderates a social media group called Police Ombudsman, has been searched in connection with a criminal case on dissemination of disinformation about the coronavirus epidemic. The case was initiated after a post was published claiming that cadets and officers were forced to complete their morning exercise drills in a military training facility which has supposedly suffered an outbreak of coronavirus. Vorontsov’s parents were also searched.

Why do I need to know this? Police Ombudsman publicises criticisms of the Ministry for Internal Affairs. Former police officer Vladimir Vorontsov helps law enforcement officers to defend their professional and labour rights, including before the European Court of Human Rights. It is possible that he and his parents were searched as part of an attempt to intimidate him by his former colleagues who are unhappy with the project’s human rights work.


A guide to the Ingush Case. March 2019 saw clashes in the Ingush capital, Magas, between police and protesters against changes to the border with Chechnya. Afterwards, the Ingushetian authorities pressed criminal charges against the activists involved. OVD-Info has put together a guide to those involved in the large-scale “Ingush Case”.

Masons and the coronavirus. Where would we be going without the coronavirus? The authorities all over the country have rushed to prosecute people for their careless words about the epidemic – words which might be deemed “fake news”. OVD-Info member Matvei Pukhov explains the cases initiated under the new article of the criminal code, which governs “knowingly spreading false information”.

Arrested for food. On 12th April, members of the initiative Food, Not Bombs were arrested in Moscow. The global initiative brings left-wing activists together to provide food for homeless people. The police deemed its gathering to be “in breach of self-isolations”. One of the people who took part has shared her story of how events unfolded on the day.


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

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