OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 194: Democrats arrested, threats in Chechnya and a bit of good news.

20 March 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.

The ‘Free Navalny’ protest onf 23 January 2021 / Photo: Natalya Budantseva for OVD-Info

Hi! All the participants in the United Democrats’ forum have been arrested, Chechen security officers are going after the relatives of one of their former colleagues, and some good news from the courts.

Arrests at United Democrats forum. Last Saturday, the police raided a local political forum in Moscow and arrested almost 200 delegates. According to the security forces, the forum was organised by Open Russia, a blacklisted organisation. We followed the events, offered legal advice and compiled a list of those arrested. As early as Friday, searches were being conducted at the offices of Open Russia and MBKH Media, as well as at several of the activists’ homes.

Threats against relatives of Chechen police whistle-blower who reported extrajudicial killings. Relatives of a former Chechen police officer, Suleiman Gezmakhmaev, were arrested by the regional security forces after Novaya Gazeta published a testimonial in which he confirmed that residents of the republic had been killed unlawfully in 2016-17. The officers demanded to know the whereabouts of Gezmakhmaev’s closest relatives – his mother, brother and sister – and also tried to pressure Gezmakhmaev himself into publishing a retraction of his statement. If he did not do so, the police warned, then his relatives who are still within the reach of the republic’s authorities would suffer greatly.

Sentencing in cases on 23rd January protests. All over the country, criminal prosecutions are continuing against participants in the protests of 23rd January and 2nd February. In Moscow, Timur Salikhov has been given a two-year prison sentence: according to the prosecution, he assaulted a representative of the authorities during the pro-Navalny protests on 23rd January. Salikhov wrote in a letter that he was shocked by the severity of his sentence, given that he confessed fully and cooperated with the investigation. In Nizhny Novgorod, another protester – Aleksey Zhilin – has been fined 30,000 roubles under article 318 of the Criminal Code (assaulting a representative of the authorities) for his involvement in the 23rd January protests.

In Novosibirsk charges under the ‘Dadin’ article of the Russian Criminal Code have been dropped. A court ruled that charges should be dropped against Yana Drobnokhod who has taken part in the latest protests and was charged with repeated violations of the regulations governing public rallies. The activist was fined 40,000 roubles by the court. However, in the event she fails to pay the fine she will not be considered to have a criminal record.


Dadin’s Law in Khabarovsk. On 19th March, it emerged that Aleksei Vorsin, the head of Navalny’s campaign team in Khaborovsk, is facing criminal charges under the article dubbed Dadin’s Law. OVD-Info lawyer Andrei Bitiutsky is defending protesters in Khabarovsk, who have been charged under Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code. Bitiutsky explains the use of Dadin’s Law in Khaborovsk – although the article was written before this latest news came out, relating to the case against Vorsin.

Finally, we have an announcement! On 10th and 11th April, there will be a charity sale in the Sakharov Centre, in support of all the peaceful protesters who were arrested in January-February 2021. We are co-organising the event, along with volunteers from the Sakharov Centre, the Union for Solidarity with Political Prisoners, and the team from Prisoners-212. Come along!


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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