15 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.
Hi! In Moscow, law enforcement officers have stopped solidarity actions with Belarus from proceeding, in Komi someone who was holding a picket was given electric shocks by the police, and the Investigative Committee keeps on bringing new charges against the ‘police ombudsman.’
The case of the ‘Perpetual protest.’ Ivan Vorobievsky, Olga Misik and Igor Bashamirov have been charged with vandalism because of a protest outside the Prosecutor General’s Office. On 8 August, unknown persons doused the building with pink paint and hung up banner. Because of this, law enforcement officers arrived late on the night of 9 August at the home of the civic activists. All three were detained and taken first to the police station, then to a temporary detention centre. At the police station officers threatened to rape the lawyer from OVD-Info, Sergei Telnov, who represents the interests of the supporters of the ‘Perpetual protest.’ In the upshot, the court imposed pre-trial restrictions for the detainees in the form of a ban on certain actions. The activists were forbidden to leave their homes in the evening or at night without the permission of the investigating officer, to come close to the offices of public authorities, to attend public events or to use means of communication.
Why is this important? The Russian authorities are excessively brutal when it comes to actions and performances related to criticism of the state. In the ‘Perpetual Protest’, the imposed restrictions are almost as strict as house arrest. The pink paint can be removed from the walls of the building in less than an hour, but the consequences of criminal prosecution do not disappear so quickly.
Solidarity actions with Belarus. Several Russian cities have seen actions of solidarity with the protesters in Belarus. The participants expressed their sympathy with the protesters in single-person pickets and marches. In Moscow, at least 14 people were detained at the events. Law enforcement officers and utility workers ripped posters and flowers from the fence of the embassy and trampled the inscription ‘Live Belarus’, placed on the ground and surrounded by candles.
Why do I need to know this? On 9 August, presidential elections were held in Belarus. According to the authorities, the incumbent president, Aleksandr Lukashenka, won. Citizens, disagreeing with the official results, took to the streets. Belarus law enforcement officers used tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon against the protesters. Those living in Russia felt it was very important to show solidarity with the protesters.
Electric shocks for a picket. In Syktyvkar, a participant in a single person picket was subjected to electric shocks during his detention. The police cited the local ban on protests on Stefanovskaya Square as a reason for the detention. Back in 2019 the Constitutional Court found this regulation contradicted the Constitution. The picketer informed the police about this fact and refused to end his picket. In response, he was subjected to violence, including electric shocks.
Why are we reporting about this? OVD-Info continues the campaign about picketing #NoBanOnPickets #NaPiketZapretaNet. We are outraged by the harassment of individual picketers. Single-person picketing is an expression of the constitutional right to peaceful protest. Our project calls for an end to police brutality against individual picketers.
Fourteen criminal charges against the ‘ombudsman.’ Vladimir Vorontsov, the founder of the ‘Police Ombudsman’ Internet page, has been charged with seven more offences. All in all we know of fourteen criminal investigations against Vorontsov, most of which were initiated because of publications on the Internet page. Vorontsov is currently being held on remand.
Why is that important? Vladimir Vorontsov, a former employee of the anti-extremism police division (Centre E) and the author of the ‘Police Ombudsman’ Internet page, has been charged with extortion, trafficking in pornography, slander and insulting a government official because of criticism of the Interior Ministry. Vorontsov’s home was searched several times, but he was only placed in a pre-trial detention centre after a publication about the Novosibirsk police department where officers members were required to bring charges against all people who violated the self-isolation regime. Another administrator of the webpage is currently also under investigation.
The consequences of being arrested for picketing. In most cases, going out into the streets with a poster ends with detention, then going to court and then a fine or even days in jail. OVD-Info explains about the rare exceptions to this rule: how charges against detained picketers are dropped, apologies and compensation given.
Prosecution of the ‘Perpetual Protesters.’ We explain in detail how the prosecution of those involved in the protest outside the Prosecutor General’s Office developed, who and how exactly threatened the lawyer from OVD-Info who is defending the interests of the defendants in the case, and why the pre-trial restrictions, applied to the participants in the ‘Perpetual Protest,’ are excessively harsh.
Arrested for laying flowers. OVD-Info publishes a monologue by a socialist from St. Petersburg, who together with 27 others, was arrested while laying flowers at the memorial to those killed in the defence of Leningrad. The police said the event did not have official permission, while those arrested said that they had gathered for the sole purpose of honouring the defenders of the Fatherland.
And we also drew up some guidelines on how to contact the Human Rights Ombudsman if arrested for holding a single-person picket.
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