OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 188: Collapse

6 February 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 by Liza Andreeva for OVD-Info

Hi! The courts have imprisoned Navalny, police and riot forces are beating all the records for numbers of arrests and brutalities, and the system for administrative offences is collapsing.

The record set on 23rd January of 4,033 arrests only lasted a week before it was broken: as soon as 31st January, at least 5,754 people were arrested in 87 cities. Put in this context, Navalny’s arrest following his sentence on 2nd February – a day when 1,463 people were arrested – already seems pedestrian.

Mikhail Shubin has summed up the second Free Navalny protest. Use of tasers by police in Moscow and St Petersburg was widespread, and there was on incident in St Petersburg where a police officer drew his service weapon and aimed it into the crowd. Journalists, in particular, were targeted with arrests: all told, we counted 91 cases in 31 cities. Before the protest in Moscow, the entire city centre was closed off, and 8 metro stations were shut.

We have launched a campaign against the Plan Fortress – a trick used by the police to prevent lawyers from accessing detainees held in police stations. Anything could happen to people during that time. Please sign OVD-Info’s petition against police brutality and the misuse of Plan Fortress on change.org. 34,000 people have already signed – join us in this fight.

Stories of abuse and torture emerging from police stations in Moscow’s Donskoy District demonstrate just how important it is that detainees have access to lawyers. According to detainees, police stations are being staffed by several officers from the Anti-Extremism Unit, including – according to several reports – the infamous Aleksey Okopny. Elena Kitaeva, a volunteer from Liubov Sobol’s team, said that four security officers demanded that she unlock her phone, and put a plastic bag over her head.

However, the system of detention centres for administrative offences was not ready to receive such an influx. In Moscow, detainees are now being taken to an immigration detention centre in Sakharovo, which resulted in a queue of prisoner transport vehicles forming outside the building.  People were forced to spend several hours in the vehicles. Afterwards, the authorities started putting people by the dozen into cells measuring eight square metres. At least it’s better than spending the night in a cold prisoner van, but it’s still a far cry from decent conditions. Now there’s a big problem with transfers: Sakharovo is completely unprepared for such an influx of detainees and for such a large number of transfers, and relatives and friends are having to queue for hours.

Mediazone editor-in-chief arrested on the eve of 31st January protests.  Later, the court ordered him to be detained for 25 days. He was arrested for retweeting a joke about Smirnov being frequently confused for various musicians, including rapper Oxxxymiron and punk rocker Spiryn. The courts saw that as involvement in organising the 23rd January protests. Although they didn’t arrest the person who actually wrote the tweet, nor did they arrest Spiryn himself, whose image was used on a banner calling on people to join the rally. OVD-Info is calling for the release of all journalists who have been arrested and detained (as well as anyone else detained in connection with the protests) and regards what has happened as an infringement on freedom of speech.

Navalny’s probation swapped for prison sentence. That was the outcome of the Simonovsky Court’s deliberation on the Yves Rocher case, which was held in the Moscow City Court. We ran a live feed of the ongoings outside the courthouse and, later, on the streets of Moscow. The arrests of 2nd February were also peppered with brutality on the part of the riot police: people were blockaded in alleyways in central Moscow, beaten with truncheons, and then packed into prisoner transport vehicles. There is video footage of a riot police officer deliberately attacking a journalist who had done nothing threatening, and hitting him twice on the head with a rubber truncheon. We have summarised all the instances of rights abuse in one article.

Arrests and criminal charges are continuing in various cities in connection with the pro-Navalny protests. In Moscow, a man was arrested on suspicion of setting fire to a police car on 31st January. Two more people who had protested on 23rd and 31st January were taken into custody in connection with a case on assault against a police officer. Similar things have been happening in St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Some of these people are being defended by lawyers from OVD-Info.

And that’s the Russia we’re living in today. We are still chronicling everything that’s happening in connection with these recent protests.


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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