OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 180: Terrorism – now in Minecraft.

21 November 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.


The breaking up of a rally in support of Sergei Furgal, 10 October 2020 / Photo: Olga Tsykareva for Sibir.Realii.

Hi! There’s been an explosion at an FSB building – but only in a computer game – while media and consumer rights watchdogs Roscomnadzor and Rospotrebnadzor are defying common sense.

Three teenagers in Krasnoyarsk Region accused of organising terrorist group. The charges were issued on the basis of leaflets supporting Azat Miftakhov and plans to blow up an FSB building in the game Minecraft. According to the Baza portal, two of the teenagers were coerced into giving confessions, while the third refused to confess. The latter was taken into pre-trial detention.

  • Why does this matter? FSB officers clearly have some difficulty understanding the definition of terrorism. This word has become highly speculative and now it covers not only games of Airsoft played in the woods with no plans for real acts of terror, but also even acts and plans carried out in computer games. The line between real crime and what seems to be Orwellian thought-crime is growing ever finer.

Café called “Zoom” temporarily closed after holding online LGBT festival. In St Petersburg, agent-provocateur and LGBT opponent Timur Bulatov lodged a complaint against a café, because he thought the Side By Side festival was due to be held there. However, the conference and film screening dealing with LGBT issues was in fact going to be held online, using the videoconferencing platform Zoom. But the Russian consumer rights watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, didn’t figure that out. Besides this, the festival’s stakeholders are also receiving various threats. 

  • Why do we need to know this? This story can tell us a lot about how Timur Bulatov thinks, as well as about adequacy of those working for Rospotrebnadzor. The most important issue here would seem to be that the authorities are willing to blindly respond to complaints from professional snitches if these complaints are in some way related to the political agenda, without even trying to understand or verify the information.

Russian media regulator orders removal of article on items banned in prison. Team 29 has already deleted from its website an article by Aleksei Polikhovich about mobile phones, drugs and the so-called “road” system of delivering goods to prison. The authorities believe that, since all the aforementioned are illegal, then any description of them is also illegal and could disrupt the work of prison staff.

  • Why does this matter? Regardless of the opinions of the regulator Roskomnadzor, the public prosecutor, the courts or even the author of the deleted article, the forms of interaction between detainees that it describes are relatively common. Whether these techniques make prisoners’ lives easier, or whether they are simply a breach of the conditions of their sentence, their existence is still undeniable. These things happen, which means that they are worthy subjects for an article.

Features

Cleaning up Amur. In Khaborovks, protests in support of the detained governer Sergei Furgal show no sign of abating. The authorities are increasing the pressure in response. Aleksandr Litoi explains what is happening with the protests in the city right now, what the authorities are doing, and which threats activists are facing.

Thanks!

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Translated by Judith Fagelson

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