OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 176: Pepper-spray for the FSB, or what do you need ID for?

24 October 2020

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.

Illustration: Evgeniya Makovy for OVD-Info

Hi! A court takes revenge on a citizen from Krasnoyarsk for an FSB officer’s nerves, the public prosecutor takes revenge on an activist for refusing to testify, and everyone takes revenge on anarchists for everything.

Krasnoyarsk resident given five-year sentence for self-defence against officers who did not identify themselves. Artem Zagrebelsky sprayed mace at FSB officers when they attempted to arrest him outside his front door, without identifying themselves or explaining what was happening. The investigative committee pressed criminal charges against him for use of dangerous force against members of the authorities. The court ruled in favour of the prosecution’s arguments.

  • Why does this matter? Because the investigation often takes an unpalatable position in similar cases. To a certain extent, a trend has emerged: any physical act against members of the security forces is punished severely, regardless of the circumstances or the intent. Moreover, the courts are unlikely to look into the fact that the FSB officers did not identify themselves and, on the whole, resembled criminals without any identifying marks.

Anarchist in jail interrogated about a new case. Azat Miftakhov, who is being held on remand, charged with breaking a window at United Russia’s offices, has been interrogated as a witness on a case involving the manufacture of explosives. According to the investigation, Miftakhov may have had connections to an explosive device which was found in a Balashikha police station, having long been hidden there unnoticed. The investigation has further plans to interrogate the anarchist as a suspect in the case.

  • Why do I need to know this? Miftakhov was arrested on 1st February 2019 after which he claims he was tortured with a screwdriver in a police station in Balashikha. For a long time, law enforcement officers could not decide on specific charges to press against the anarchist, and so they initially released him before rearresting him. The charges relating to United Russia’s broken window are probably part of the wave of prosecutions against anarchists which started in late 2017 with the Network case.

Seven-year sentence requested for defendant in New Greatness case. The public prosecutor has requested a seven-year sentence in a medium-security prison for Pavel Rebrovskii, whose case is being heard separately from the main New Greatness case. On top of that, the prosecution wants to order Pavel to undergo forced psychiatric treatment. Previously, he had already been sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment, but after he complained of receiving threats during the investigation, his sentence was overturned and a new hearing was ordered.

  • Why does this matter? The prosecution had promised Rebrovskii a suspended sentence in exchange for the required evidence. However, the court broke its promise and gave him an actual prison sentence. At that point, Pavel made several public statements about the pressure put on him, which displeased the law enforcement authorities. It would seem that individuals in the public prosecutor’s office are now taking revenge on him.


Abduction in Khabarovsk. On 15th October RusNews journalist Sergei Plotnikov, who had covered the Khabarovsk protesters, was abducted by unidentified individuals. According to Plotnikov, he was taken into a forest, threatened, beaten up and shots were fired at his feet. OVD-Info publishes the journalists’ story of his kidnapping.

Statements from defendants in the Network case. The court of appeal has upheld the verdict against defendants in the Penza branch of the Network case. This story started almost three years ago. OVD-Info has summarised the main arguments from each of the defendants’ statements at the appeal hearings.

Prosecuted for hanging rainbow flags on the FSB building. Activists from Pussy Riot wished Vladimir Putin a happy birthday by hanging rainbow flags from several government buildings. This led to the police chasing down the group’s members, arresting them and issuing them with administrative charges. One of the activists, Diana Burkot, told OVD-Info about how Instagram was used to trick her into going to the police station.

And finally, our wonderful data department has released another detailed report analysing the reactions in different regions to the Constitutional Court’s order that legislation on public events be changed. You can read it here.


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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