OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 155: Long live the Moscow summer, or the epidemic and the police.

30 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.

Ilya Azar on a picket, 26 May 2020 / Photo: ‘Avtozak Live’

Hi! Journalists have been detained in Moscow, a human rights activist has been declared wanted in North Ossetia, while in St Petersburg the Network trial has resumed.

Lone picketers arrested outside the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ headquarters. The Moscow summer has once again started with arrests of journalists. Novaya Gazeta correspondent Ilya Azar and activist Viktor Nemytov decided to show support for the administrators of the Vkontakte group Police Ombudsmen by holding lone pickets. They were arrested and jailed for 15 days each. Later, journalists from various publications also began picketing the Ministry for Internal Affairs – this time in support of Azar, Nemytov and other detainees. All told, over 30 people were detained, which we documented in a live feed.

  • Why does this matter? People have been arrested for allegedly breaking the rules governing protests, although they technically committed no offences. But the police are persistently arresting anyone holding an inoffensive lone picket. Administrative charges are being handed out under article 20.2 of the Administrative Code (on offences at protests) even though the courts found that they were more likely breaches of lockdown rules.

The case against doctors who spoke of a shortage of PPE has been dropped. The police have closed an administrative case against two doctors in the Ivanovo Region, Sergei Veselkov and Daria Vinogradov. They were prosecuted under the article on disseminating fake news because of a video they filmed for Open Russia, in which they spoke of a shortage of personal protective equipment in the region. The head of Open Russia, Andrei Pivovarov, received a call from a criminal investigator from Ivanovo, who enquired whether the organisation was involved in a fundraising initiative to buy PPE.

  • Why does this matter? Authorities all over the country are reacting nervously to criticisms of the healthcare system. Doctors who dared to speak about their problems have been fired or called into police stations, and cases have been launched on dissemination of fake news. At the same time, in St Petersburg alone on 19th May there were 2,500 new coronavirus cases among doctors and the death rate from the epidemic among healthcare workers is 16 times higher in Russia than in other countries.

After 13 years, the European Court of Human Rights has recognised that activists were arrested unlawfully. The ECHR ordered an activist from Nizhny Novgorod to be paid €5,000 in compensation. She was arrested before the Dissenters’ March in 2007 in Nizhny Novgorod; the police behaved harshly and held her in a basement for five hours. Complaints to the Russian courts about their actions yielded no results.

  • Why does this matter? Against the backdrop of Russia’s poorly functioning judicial system, the ECHR is the only opportunity left for political activists to achieve some kind of justice. Unfortunately, it can take years for a case to be heard at the European Court, and the ECHR’s decision rarely influences those of the Russian courts. And yet financial compensation for the activists’ suffering and rights abuses can never go amiss.

Human rights activist declared wanted in North Ossetia. Human rights defender Svetlana Plieva, who claims to have been beaten by bailiffs, has been declared wanted. On 19th February, Pileva was knocked to the courthouse floor and kicked when she tried to get into the court and see her client. Plieva herself was then charged with assaulting representatives of the authorities: allegedly, it was her who attacked the bailiffs. She is currently on sick leave and she says she has informed the investigation.

  • Why does this matter? After an unjustified use of force on the part of law enforcement officers, victims of this violence often find themselves accused. Law enforcement officers most likely want to be the first to initiate criminal proceedings in the hope of avoiding facing charges themselves.


Prosecuting Police Ombudsman. Police rights champion Vladimir Vorontsov was placed on remand. He is facing several criminal charges, including extortion and disseminating pornography. Police officers all over the country are expressing their support of him, publishing photographs of their badges or epaulettes. Mikhail Shubin explains how and why the state is prosecuting Vorontsov and other members of Police Ombudsman.

We continue to work with other media outlets in order to shed light on political prosecutions in Russia. This time, we are hosting an article from Mediazone, looking at the prosecution’s evidence in the St Petersburg branch of the Network case.


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 ECHR, 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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