OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 165: A new low for Russian justice.

8 August 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: Adelina Kulmakhanova for OVD-Info

Greetings! Things reach bottom with the verdict in the New Greatness trial, protesters in Khabarovsk won’t give up, provocateurs are looking for books, and the police are again beating someone up.

Verdict in the New Greatness trial. Moscow’s Liublin district court announced the verdict in the trial of members of the New Greatness so-called extremist group. Ruslan Kostylenkov, Petr Karamzin and Vyacheslav Kriukov were sentenced to seven years, six and a half years, and six years in prison respectively. The other defendants were given suspended sentences. Several hundred people gathered outside the courtroom expressing their support for the defendants and they even put on performances. We broadcast all this live online. Shortly before the trial, the organizers of the March of Mothers issued a statement condemning the repression.

Why does it matter? The New Greatness trial is one of the most resonant politically motivated prosecutions of recent times. It has become especially important for OVD-Info because almost from the very beginning we were following very closely the defence of the accused. This is the story of a thought crime, provoked by intelligence agents and their voluntary assistant, who in every possible way pushed the defendants to make questionable statements, wrote the charter of the organization and persuaded them to continue holding meetings.

Protests in support of Sergei Furgal. Last week, there were more protests in support of the former governor of the Khabarovsk region, arrested on charges of murder. For weeks in a row, demonstrations have been held in many Russian cities demanding a fair trial for the Furgal in Khabarovsk, not in Moscow. On 1 August, 77 people were detained in 14 cities, we provided online coverage, counted the numbers arrested and summed up the results. The police, meanwhile, are going after participants in the protests in support of.

Why does it matter?  Because the protests over the Furgal case are the first numerous protests outside the capital in Russia in a long time. Khabarovsk region suddenly decided to stand up for its governor. Although the police have not yet broken up the many thousand strong demonstrations in Khabarovsk, in other cities the solidarity rallies have ended in arrests. And in Khabarovsk, law enforcement agencies have begun to detain activists after the event.

Journalist beaten during arrest. RosDerzhava correspondent Aleksandr Dorogov was beaten at the time of his arrest on criminal charges of extortion. Now Dorogov is in a temporary detention facility, while a second defendant in the case, Yan Katelevsky, is in a remand prison. According to Dorogov’s lawyer, his client was beaten in such a way – on the joints – that there would be no visual traces of the assault. An ambulance was called to the temporary detention facility when the journalist felt extremely unwell after he had been beaten.

Why does it matter? Police violence against arrested or jailed persons is unfortunately quite common. It is difficult to hold a police officer accountable if he hits you at a rally in front of a video camera. And in such cases, there can be no video evidence. The more important it is to draw attention to such cases.

Investigators make complaint against Ivan Safronov’s lawyers. . The Ministry of Justice has demanded that the Moscow Bar Association bring disciplinary proceedings against the journalist’s lawyers. The Ministry, and the lead investigator in the case, did not like the fact that the lawyers refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Ivan Pavlov, the leader of the team of lawyers working on the case, considers this a way to pressure the defence.

Why does it matter? Former Kommersant journalist Ivan Safronov has been charged with handing state secrets to Czech intelligence. The investigation still has not provided the public with any information to enable any conclusion about whether the alleged offence actually took place. Despite initial claims that Safronov’s journalistic work was irrelevant to the case, subsequently the investigators offered to soften the charge in exchange for the journalist’s surrendering his sources in the Russian defence industry. Colleagues and friends of the journalist link his prosecution to his investigative journalism into the military industrial complex.


The case of city councillor Galiamina. City councillor Yulia Galiamina has been charged with multiple violdations of the law on rallies – when an administrative offence is magically transformed into criminal charges. Mikhail Shubin explains what is most important in the prosecution of the city councillor.

Media coverage of politically motivated prosecutions. Russian authorities have long sought to organise supportive media coverage of their prosecutions of political activists by outlets loyal to government, be they federal media broadcasters or anonymous telegram channels. While the investigator is fabricating the case and preparing to hand it over to the court, social media opinion leaders and TV editors already knows that the future defendant is guilty – it remains to tell subscribers and viewers about it. Matvei Pukhov has been looking into how pro-government media cover political prosecutions in a light favourable to the authorities.

The jailing of a transgender activist. Having totally defeated the problems of poverty, domestic violence and police impunity, members of the Russian Parliament finally turned to the problem of transgender people. Senator Elena Mizulina proposed that they be prohibited from marrying and adopting children. On 18 July, protests against this initiative were held in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Transgender activist Polina Simonenko was jailed for 14 days for taking part in the event. OVD-Info has published her story about what happened – her detention, trial and jailing.

Provocateurs in a bookstore.  Provocateurs from the pro-Kremlin movement SERB suddenly appeared in the Khodasevich bookstore and said that they had ‘discovered an anti-Russian cancerous liberal tumour directed against traditional Russian values’ there. After the visit from SERB, police and the officers from the Counter-Extremism Centre came to the store and seized a feminist calendar and a Marlboro poster. Khodasevich staff member Nastia told the OVD-Info how it all happened.


Every day we receive calls to our hotline, we write news items and articles about political prosecutions in Russia, we issue advice, reports and podcasts. Our lawyers deal with criminal cases and prepare complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, and the IT team works every day to make our services more convenient to use. All this happens thanks to your support. Sign up to make a monthly OVD-Info donation so we can carry on our work and you will be able to receive your favourite newsletter in the future.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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