OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 184: A new year, new joys and new draconian laws.

26 December 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: Pavel Mishkin for OVD-Info

Hi! The State Duma is continuing to add spice to our lives, the courts are passing judgments and we have New Year’s cards for you.

Ex-leader of Moscow Region province sentenced to 15 years in prison. Aleksandr Shestun, the former leader of the Serpukhov District in the Moscow Region, is to serve his sentence in a maximum-security prison. The court found him guilty of fraud, money laundering, unlawful enterprise and bribery. Shestun himself claims that the governor of the Moscow Region threatened to press criminal charges against him for authorising a protest in the Serpukhov District against the state of landfill sites in 2018.

  • Why does this matter? The former head of the Serpukhov Region believes that the criminal charges against him were filed in revenge for the position he took against the transportation of waste from Moscow. In 2018, residents of the Moscow Region and other Russian regions where there were plans to transport waste from the capital protested vehemently. The protests themselves are long forgotten, but one of their sympathisers has now been given an enormous prison sentence.

Navalny calls FSB agent who poisoned him. The politician posed as the Chair of the Security Council and engaged the agent in an open conversation about the details of the operation to poison him and the subsequent cover-up. The following day, Liubov Sobol went to the FSB officer’s flat where she had been detained and then fined. The day after that, Sobol was searched in connection with criminal charges for breaking and entering. Without pause for thought, the State Duma quickly banned the publishing of FSB officers’ personal details.

  • Why do I need to know this? Many have called this a millennial prank. Some find it implausible that an FSB agent would not have recognised Navalny’s voice and that he would have told so many secret details about the poisoning over the phone like that. Previously, the politician had published an investigation with evidence that it was the FSB who poisoned him. This phone call further supports that version of events.

6-year prison sentence requested for mathematician and anarchist Azat Miftakhov. The public prosecutor believes that he has been proven guilty of hooliganism in the case of a broken window at the United Russia Party’s offices. Suspended sentences were requested for the other defendants in the case. Shortly before the hearing begun, members of his support group were arrested at the courthouse. Miftakhov will be sentenced on 11th January.

  • Why does this matter? In cases like this, the severity of the punishment can often depend on the extent to which the case captures the attention of and resonates with the public. For that reason, the more people turn out at the Golovinsky Court to support Miftakhov and the other defendants between now and 11th January, the lighter their sentences will be and the more likely that the sentences will be suspended. Come along!


Sentence for Iulia Galiamina. The Tver District Cout has given local deputy Iulia Galiamina a two-year suspended sentence for supposedly breaching the laws governing public rallies. However, these charges would usually carry a three-year prison sentence – not suspended. As the case draws to a close, Aleksandr Litoi tells all about Galiamina – her life as a politician, a linguist and a court defendant.

State Duma forbids more or less everything. Right before New Year, the state has launched a wide range of different prohibitive initiatives. They include: the power to class an individual as a foreign agent; the reporting of events with more than 500 people in attendance; the requirement that picket lines seek the same formal authorisation as mass events; the banning of journalists from “unlawfully” wearing their press badges; and much more. OVD-Info’s analysts have prepared a short overview of all these Christmas presents – enjoy.

But we wish you a Happy New Year nonetheless! Despite FSB poisonings, terrible new laws, new criminal cases and all the cold in the Russian Federation combined. Maybe next year will be better than this one. Ahead of the holidays, we commissioned greetings cards which you can send to your friends or to a political prisoner. Here, the artists who helped us do this introduce themselves and their work. Happy New Year – and look after one another. Russia will get warmer.


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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