OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 158: Charges against Navalny, amendments and Telegram

20 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.

Illustration: Sasha Marshani for OVD-Info

Hi! Navalny is suspected of slander, Telegram has been unblocked in Russia, and Soviet citizens are being sent to prison.

Criminal case against Aleksei Navalny. The Investigative Committee has brought new criminal charges against the politician. Navalny called those who featured in a video clip urging people to vote on changes to the Constitution “people without conscience” and “traitors”. One of these people turned out to be a World War Two veteran, and Navalny has been charged with slander against him.

  • Why does this matter? Yet another strange case against one of the most famous opposition politicians and bloggers in the country. Radical or even unlawful statements from state actors and loyal journalists rarely lead to criminal charges. But at the same time, the law enforcement officers clamour for any opportunity to latch onto any remark by oppositionists. 

Rain journalist ordered to give an explanation as part of investigation. Anton Baev, a journalist from the online news channel Rain filmed a report on electoral fraud in the vote on amendments to the Constitution. Afterwards, the police went to Baev’s workplace in order to demand an explanation, after which he was called into the counter-extremism centre. A report on Baev’s investigation was shown on state television, calling it fake and a lie, and the president’s press secretary, Peskov, has already managed to issue a reminder about taking responsibility for spreading “false” information.

  • Why does this matter? Mass electronic voting creates many opportunities for fraud. Baev attempted to publicise one example. What do the police, the state media and Peskov find problematic? Baev himself.

Telegram has been unblocked in Russia. Quite out of the blue, the government – in the form of Roskomnadzor and the Prosecutor General’s Office – has decided to unblock the messenger which it has been trying unsuccessfully to block for the last few years. The departments explained the decision on the basis of Telegram founder Pavel Durov’s stated “willingness to tackle terrorism and extremism.” At the same time, nobody has explained what to do with the court ruling which has not yet been overturned.

  • Why do I need to know this? The situation surrounding Telegram is a good reflection of the stagnation and incompetence of the people responsible for the development of the internet and freedom of expression in Russia. In an attempt to restrict access to the messenger, Roskomnadzor blocked, in turn, half of the Russian segment of the internet, including servers for computer games and online shops.

Sentence in the Artillery Preparation case. Three supporters of Viacheslav Maltsev’s movement Artillery Preparation – Andrei Tolkachev, Iurii Kornii and Andrei Keptiu – have been sentenced to 13, 10 and six years imprisonment respectively for arson. Their plans to set fire to hay on Maltsev’s revolution were classed as terrorism. Maltsev himself fled to France shortly before his own revolution and is currently in Europe.

  • Why do I need to know this? The law enforcement agencies have thought up a range of strange charges relating to Artillery Preparation, but the case on hay arson is probably one of the most outlandish. There is some evidence to suggest that agents-provocateurs from the FSB were among the Artillery Preparation members. The revolution, which never came to fruition, allowed the special forces to report plans being carried out under the statutes on terrorism, and the defendants in these cases received lengthy sentences.


The prosecution of Soviet citizens. In several regions of Russia, criminal cases have been brought against people who call themselves citizens of the Soviet Union. They believe that the USSR never stopped existing, but rather, that it was temporarily occupied. Mikhail Shubin explains the prosecution of these “Soviet citizens.”

Three arrests in three days. An activist from St Petersburg, Aleksei Izosimov, was arrested on various pretexts three times in as many days. He believes the arrests are connected with his activism work. We published his story.

Fined for solidarity with lawyers. On lawyers’ day, 31st May, lawyers and other legal professionals were arrested in Moscow for picketing in solidarity with their colleagues facing criminal charges. After the arrests, they were fined for breaching self-isolation rules. One of those who was fined also works as a lawyer with OVD-Info – Dmitri Zakhvatov explains why this illegal.

New Greatness. The New Greatness trial is coming to an end. OVD-Info sets out the important facts that emerged over the course of the investigation and the baselessness of the charges.

Freedom of assembly in other countries. The speed with which the coronavirus is spreading in various countries is gradually slowing. Governments are therefore beginning to ease restrictions on freedom of assembly. Aleksandr Litoi spoke about the matter with residents of the USA, Finland, Germany, France, Israel and the UAE.


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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