OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 156: The Shaman from Yakutsk, lawyers, and arrest after arrest, after arrest

5 June 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.

IllustrationZlata Ulitina for OVD-Info

Hi! A shaman in Yakutsk has been forcibly hospitalised, while Lawyers’ Day was marked in Moscow with lawyers being arrested.

Lawyers’ Day sees lawyers arrested outside the Investigative Committee. On 31st May, people with connections to the lawyering profession decided to support their colleagues from Kabardino-Balkaria, Ratmir Zhilokov and Diana Tsipinova, who have been charged with assaulting a police officer. Meanwhile, the Moscow police decided for their part to support their own colleagues and started arresting all the lawyers. Some were charged with breaching lockdown rules, others for organising a covert mass protest under the guise of a harmless lone picket.

  • Why do I need to know this? Because without strong, independent lawyers, we will not be able to build a great future and a fair judicial system in Russia.

Arrests at the Ministry of Internal Affairs headquarters on 38 Petrovka Street. The day after the lawyers, activists and journalists took shifts holding lone pickets in support of detained journalist and municipal deputy Ilia Azar, and of other protesters who had recently been detained. Unfortunately, the police resorted to their usual tactic of making arrests. All told in Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod 13 people were arrested – read about it in our live feed.

  • Why does this matter? The summer started with a relay race of arrests, kickstarted by a protest in support of Police Ombudsman editor Vladimir Vorontsov, who is facing criminal charges. If in pre-quarantine times lone pickets held in shifts could have gone off peacefully, now the police try to suppress any such events. We are concerned that this practice could continue after the end of the epidemic.

Shaman from Yakutsk forcibly hospitalised. Shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev has been ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment. According to his lawyer, Gabyshev was arrested by 20 special riot police officers, following a phone call with an FSB agent. The medical notes from the neuropsychological facility state that the shaman “overestimates his own personality”, wants to “harm the government and overthrow Putin, who he believes is a demon and the Antichrist” and calls for “a coup against the legally elected government.”

  • Why do I need to know this? The shaman and his supporters crossed several regions on foot to get to Moscow and overthrow Putin; the authorities in these regions have taken a disproportionately harsh stance on Gabyshev’s initiative. He and his supporters were repeatedly arrested, charged with administrative offences, and the authorities tried to restrict their movements. All this gives the impression that those in power are taking his threats seriously.


On self-isolation in the prisoner van. The Russian state is capable of turning any crisis in its favour. So self-isolation rules in Russia, introduced due to the novel coronavirus epidemic, have been used as a universal pretext for arresting political protesters. Anastasia Medvedeva explains how this works.

On legal aid in court. There are plans to amend the Code on Administrative Offences, to give defendants in certain cases access to free legal defence. OVD-Info’s senior lawyer Nadezhda Kuzina explains if this is good or bad.

On correspondence with prisoners. You can write to prison inmates in Russia, including by email. Alexandr Litoi writes about these services and about how some prisons are reluctantly beginning to cooperate with them.


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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