OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 153: Fines for congratulations, a ban on standing in elections, and new rights for the police. That was the week.

15 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.

Photograph by David Frenkel

Hi! Police have been breaking up Victory Day parades all over the country, while Duma deputies decided to tighten the rules on voting in elections and broaden police officers’ rights.

Participants in 9th May Victory Day parade facing prosecution. The police in Moscow broke up several rallies held in honour of Victory Day: no less than 17 people were detained in three different locations around the city. A picketer outside the Eternal Flame memorial in Pskov, claiming to have invented a perpetual motion machine, was taken to the police station. Law enforcement officers in Outer Manchuria issued protocols to participants in a festive car race. In the Kaliningrad region, after flowers were laid at a memorial grave for victims of the Second World War, the Investigative Committee launched checks in connection with the article of the criminal code on rehabilitating Nazism.

  • Why do I need to know this? Coronavirus and the associated restrictions give rise to new rules governing public events: some are going completely online and meeting in the ether; some have decided that the lockdown does not apply to outdoor events. Under these conditions, repression against those wishing to exercise their right to freedom of assembly is growing more widespread: the police are armed with legal statutes not only on breaching the rules of mass gatherings, but also on breaching self-isolation requirements.

150,000 fines for celebrating a political prisoner. A court in Moscow has fined a man who recorded a video greeting in honour of Konstantin Kotov, a convict in the Dadin case. On 22nd February, several people took to the streets of central Moscow with balloons in order to record the video message/ All in all, the police arrested seven of them.

  • Why does this matter? Konstantin Kotov is a civic activist who was sentenced to four years in prison for his participation in peaceful protests. The huge public outcry that ensued resulted in Kotov’s case being reviewed and his sentence reduced to one year. The activist still has several months in a correctional facility to serve, which is why it is important to keep showing support for him.

Tighter electoral law. The State Duma has passed an amendment to the law on basic guarantees of electoral rights and rights to participation in citizen referenda in the Russian Federation, on its third reading. Deputies banned people with criminal convictions from standing for election, including those with convictions on justifying terrorism, disseminating fake news, repeated offences at public gatherings, inciting extremism and separatism, inciting hatred or animosity, and assaulting representatives of the authorities. Those affected will be banned for five years after the end of their sentence (whether it was served in full or reduced).

  • Why do I need to know this? The amendments will affect the majority of those convicted in political cases. At a minimum, those involved in the Moscow Case, the BARS case and some of those convicted in the case following protests in Ingushetia will be barred from standing for election, among others.

OVD-Info and Memorial have appealed against the law on protests in Yakutia. Both organisations have complained to the public prosecutor’s office about divergences of the law on public events in Yakutia from federal law. Their lawyers believe that local legislators have illegitimately complicated the procedures for obtaining authorisation for rallies. In particular, two of the documents in force in Yakutia contradict one another.

  • Why does this matter? OVD-Info and Memorial have analysed 150 regional law and more than 60 byelaws which regulate the authorisation process for public events. In most cases, event organisers are coming up against unjustifiably confusing demands which lead to their requests being denied.


Warn and conquer. For several months in a row, law enforcement officers have been issuing warnings en masse to Crimean Tatars. The warnings state that it is illegal to participate in unauthorised actions or “unlawful actions”, and to “forcefully resist the authorities”. Activists have told OVD-Info that they see this as a new form of pressure: the authorities are trying to scare Crimean Tatars out of “gathering as a collective for any reason.”

Authority without responsibility. The State Duma is considering amendments to the law on Policing. The bill would give police officers expanded rights, such as allowing them to force open cars and giving them greater powers when cordoning off areas. Natalya Taubina, director of the Common Verdict foundation, explained why the changes would “untie” the security forces’ hands. 

Decriminalisation of the “Dadin” statute. The presidential human rights council is planning to table a bill that would move the statute on repeat offences at rallies from the criminal code to the administrative code. Human rights activist Andrei Babushkin told OVD-Info how the initiative from civil servants to put protesters behind bars was a “failed experiment” that fuelled distrust in the authorities.

Finally, we have released a new episode of our podcast, Any Questions. Tune in to hear a monologue from a torture survivor, as well as expert opinions on why Russia uses torture and what we can do about it.


Every day we take phone calls on our hotline, publish news and features about political repression in Russia, release guidance, reports and podcasts. Our lawyers handle criminal cases and submit complaints to the ECtHR, while our IT-team works day in, day out to make our services more user-friendly. All of this can happen thanks to your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue work and to send you your favourite mailing and more.

Translated by Judith Fagelson

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