OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 163: Transgender people arrested, extremism, terrorism and journalists fined

25 July 2020

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Saturday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.

Illustration: Adelina Kulmakkhanova for OVD-Info

Hi! A trans woman has been detained and held in a men’s special detention centre, journalists have been fined and more on justifying terrorism.

Arrests at pickets against family law. On 18th July opponents of a bill on the family code, developed by Elena Mizulina, were arrested in Moscow and St Petersburg. All in all, over 30 people were arrested. We ran a live feed.

  • Why do I need to know this? If Mizulina’s law is passed, transgender people will be banned from marrying and having children. This is yet another step from the government to infringe the rights of minority groups. Yet at the same time, anyone who voices opposition risks arrest.

Transgender activist detained in a men’s special detention facility. A transgender woman who had been on the picket line protesting the Muzilina law was jailed for 14 days. There are reports that she was beaten during the court recess, and that girls tore her lawyer’s jacket. She is serving an administrative sentence in a special detention facility for men. 

  • Why does this matter? The government’s reticence to recognise transgender and non-binary people does nothing to diminish the problems these groups face. How can a person whose passport says “male” but who has already transitioned or is in the process of transitioning cope in a Russian penitentiary facility? Sadly, there are few members of parliament, police officers or judges looking into this issue.

Charges against a journalist whose arm was broken. The police have brought three simultaneous administrative charges against David Frenkel, a correspondent from Mediazone. On 30th June, Frenkel was detained at a polling station in St Petersburg, and his arm was broken by police officers. He later underwent surgery.

  • Why does this matter? As was the case with Konstantin Konovalov, who had his arm broken by police a year ago, David Frenkel’s story clearly demonstrates that if the police injure you, then it’s your own fault. And although we might be able to understand law enforcement officers’ desire to defend themselves against accusations by making counter-accusations, we cannot make sense of the lack of punishment for their abuse of power.


On justifying terrorism. Following the partial decriminalisation of the statute on extremist speech, Russian law enforcement officers are increasingly choosing to use the article on public justification of terrorism instead. It was recently used to convict journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva for a column she wrote on the state’s repressive policies. Mikhail Shubin explains how this kind of prosecution works.

On food-van Furgamobile. The protests in Kharborovsk against the criminal charges brought against regional governor Sergei Furgal are nowhere near over. They include a food truck, the Furgamobile – a café run from a minibus decorated with slogans. Its driver, Rostislav Buriak, told OVD-Info how the authorities have been trying to confiscate his vehicle.

On extremist symbols. Channel 1 presenter and head of the organisation The Power of the Law, Evgeny Kolesov, has been fined for displaying symbols of extremism. The prosecutor maintained that The Power of the Law’s website was displaying a symbol which bore resemblance to the logo of banned nationalist group Northern Brotherhood. Kolesov disputes this interpretation and has been trying to challenge the court ruling. OVD-Info has published his story.

On The Vagina Monologues and motherhood. OVD-Info recently released a new episode of our podcast, Any Questions, about political prisoners’ parents. In it, Anna Khodyrev, mother of LGBT activist Iulia Tvsetkova, talks about her thoughts on the criminal case against her daughter. Now we have also released a longer version of Anna’s interview.


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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