OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 187: 4,033 arrested on 23 January – and counting

30 January 2021

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: Adelina Kulmakhanova for OVD-Info

Hi! 4,033 people in 125 cities around Russia were arrested during the protests on 23rd January. At least, those are the figures that we currently have, but the real number is likely to be even higher. This is the highest number we have recorded since we first started our human rights project.

OVD-Info considers the actions of the authorities in connection with the 23rd January protests to be the largest-scale and harshest violation of the right to freedom of assembly in Russia’s recent history. We set out our position in detail here.

Mikhail Shubin wrote a summary of what happened on that unbelievable day as soon as it was over. A little later, Alla Frolova, coordinator of OVD-Info’s legal service, explained her views on the events.

Meanwhile, here we explain why our figures on the number of arrests continued to grow in the days after the protest.

The protests were marked not only by the number of police arrests and the huge number of cities involved, but also by the high rates of aggression and violence. 70 people in 23 cities reported having been beaten by the police, including by riot police. Mediazone joined with the Committee Against Torture to gather seven testimonials from people who had suffered police brutality. We felt it important to publish their piece on our site.

On the 23rd and throughout the last week, OVD-Info’s staff has been working tirelessly, and we want to thank all the volunteers who helped us as well as all those who have donated money to support the project. Against the backdrop of endless arrests, senseless criminal charges, searches and detentions, this inspires hope.

But it’s not over yet. More protests are planned for 31st January. We are getting ready, the police are getting ready – you should be ready, too.

Read our guide on how to be the ideal detainee (or you can watch our cartoons here and here, if that’s easier). Read our new guide on how to behave if you are summoned to a police station afterwards, or if you or your home are searched. Study our reminder leaflet with advice for detainees, print out a few copies and bring it with you to the protests.

The police are not wasting any more time, and they will all be trying their utmost to stop Aleksey Navalny’s supporters from holding further protests on the 31st. We are covering everything that’s happening on our website.

Criminal cases are mushrooming. We are seeing both classic charges, such assault against a police officer and more unusual ones, such as involving teenagers in illegal activity, for which Navalny’s regional chief of staff Leonid Volkov is already wanted, or breaking sanitary regulations, for which the most notable detainees are Oleg Navalny, Maria Alekhina and Liubov Sobol. This case may end up implicating dozens of Aleksey Navalny’s associates and supporters, as well as journalists, bloggers, activists, actors and writers, all of whom are mentioned in the record of Sobol’s interrogation.

You can read about all the cases in one article, here.

TikTik blogger arrested and beaten. Konstantin Lakeev (also known as Kostia Kievsky), who was detained on suspicion of attacking a car with a number plate denoting that it belonged to the authorities, was beaten during his arrest, interrogated for two days, and not allowed to eat. He is now being held in a pre-trial detention cell and faces charges of property damage and hooliganism. Click here to read our account of the first cases following the events of 23rd January that OVD-Info’s lawyers have been involved in.

Policeman who kicked woman still not punished. There has still been no legal assessment of the incident in St Petersburg. which landed Margarita Iudina in intensive care with a head injury. Officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs took the police officer to the hospital to film him giving Iudina flowers and apologising. Iudina initially accepted the apology, but later said that she had been facing pressure all day to forgive the police officer. Now, she wants to press criminal charges against him. Komanda29 is defending her interests as the victim.

Mediazone’s editor-in-chief arrested in Moscow. Sergei Smirnov was heading out for a walk with his child and a colleague, but police officers and operatives from the Tverskoy District had been waiting for him outside his front door. We know that Sergei was arrested in connection with “unsanctioned protests”, but we do not yet know the precise charges against him. The previous day, his mother’s house ha been searched in connection with a criminal case on the breach of coronavirus laws, or something similar.

Moscow Case convict released on parole. A court in the Volgograd Region has granted early release to Egor Lesny, who was sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting a police officer during the breakup of protest in Moscow on 27 July 2019. This is a rare piece of good news in recent days. Now we have to wait 10 days for Egor to be released and sent home.

Finally, as always – stay calm, and don’t touch police officers. If anything happens, call us


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

Leave a Reply