OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 151: Journalists under threat, a footballer’s punishment and a hernia

2 May 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: Pavel Mishkin for OVD-Info

Hi! Kadyrov’s using scare tactics, even FC Krylia Sovetov players are criticising the authorities, and a defendant in the Network case is in need of medical care.

A journalist from Novaya gazeta has written a statement against Kadyrov. Journalist Elena Milashina has called for the head of the Chechen Republic to be prosecuted under the criminal law for obstructing journalistic work and issuing death threats. In a recent address, Kadyrov insinuated that Milashina is provoking crimes against her person, an offence which can carry a prison sentence.

Why does this matter? Milashina authored a critical exposé on the Chechen authorities’ actions during the pandemic. Kadyrov and his clan are known for their strong rejection of any criticism from journalists, activists and residents of the republic. There are regular reports from within Chechnya of violence from Kadyrov’s security forces, disloyal people going missing, torture and killings.

Footballer punished for criticising the authorities. The football club Krylia Sovetov decided to take disciplinary action against its goalkeeper, Evgenii Frolov. Frolov gave an “unauthorised” interview, in which he said that Putin’s measures to control the pandemic were “lip service”. The club’s management and coaching team rushed to thank the authorities in the Samara Region and the country as a whole for their support in the development of football in the region.

Why do I need to know this? On numerous occasions, dozens of Russian footballers have expressed their support of Putin personally and of his policies. At the same time, football often serves as a mirror for what is going on in the country as a whole: against a backdrop of pomposity, corruption and the money-making machines that are Gazprom and Zenit, many football clubs and academies are withering away. Vasily Utkin and Vitya Kravchenko have made a film about the death of football in small towns, called Churches, Dziuba and Hogweed, which you can watch here

One of the defendants in the Network case in St Petersburg is experiencing severe health problems. Viktor Filinkov, who accused the FSB of torture, has been found to have a large intervertebral hernia. Filinkov began experiencing pain so severe that he was reduced to rolling around on the floor and screaming. The pain only subsided with the help of an emergency doctor who was called into the remand centre.

Why does this matter? Filinkov’s defence team have been trying for a year to get the Federal Penitentiary Service to authorise a decent medical examination into the cause of his back pain. The hernia is big enough to require treatment and maybe even surgery.  


They came for citizens of the USSR. In Togliatti no less than five criminal cases have been initiated against Vyacheslav Shepelev, the former leader of an independent workers’ union who supports the reinstatement of the USSR. Shepelev had previously been charged under the statutes on extremism and assaulting police officers; the new charges were issued because of a video he posted on social media. OVD-Info has published the activist’s story.

Our data department has been working flat out to produce another great report. This one looks at curbs to freedom of assembly during the pandemic and lockdown. 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

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