OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 196: Navalny declares a hunger strike

3 April 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.

Aleksei Navalny in court / Photo: press service of Moscow City Court

Hi! Aleksei Navalny has gone on hunger strike, the father of the Anti-Corruption Foundation has been remanded in custody, and members of Chechnya’s LGBTQ community are being threatened with reprisals.

Aleksei Navalny declares hunger strike. The politician who is being held in a prison camp in Pokrov (Vladimir Region) has been demanding medical help for pain in his back and numbness in both his legs. According to Navalny’s lawyer, the prison administration has not been providing him with the treatment he needs and is refusing to allow an independent doctor in to see him. On top of that, the prison has declared Navalny a potential flight risk and placed him under special measures, he is frequently given extra penalties, and he is woken up hourly throughout the night “just to check”.

Why does this matter? Prison is certainly not the place you’d want to be to receive medical treatment: we are aware of many instances of negligence on the part of prison officers towards inmates. In Navalny’s case, it is doubly concerning that he is in the hands of the authorities who had previously tried to poison him with chemical weapons. Under these circumstances, the only way the politician stands a chance of saving his health and his life is through publicity.

ACF director’s father arrested. Ivan Zhdanov has reported that his father is facing criminal charges for abuse of office. The prosecution centres on his participation in a housing committee which recommended providing accommodation who had already been offered housing in the past. However, the head of the community which granted the subsidy has not been charged. Later, Zhdanov Senior complained of poor conditions in the jail where he is being held.

Why do I need to know this? In recent months, the law enforcement structures have been pressurising Navalny supporters – by means fair and foul. The case against the father of the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s director is clearly part of this wave of pressure and political intimidation. Zhdanov himself is in exile abroad, as he is facing prosecution in Russia for involving minors in illegal activity.

Relatives of LGBTQ Chechens encouraged to commit “honour killings”. The police have been holding conversations since 25th March with distant relatives of Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev, putting pressure on them to take reprisal. Magamadov and Isaev are currently in custody on charges of gang membership – they were taken from Nizhny Novgorod, where they had fled, fearing for their lives because of their LGBTQ status.

Why does this matter? Russian federal law takes on a different meaning in the Chechen Republic, where only the laws of Ramzan Kadyrov’s government matters. People are arbitrarily killed, intimidated, forced to apologise for supporting the opposition, or prosecuted and forced out of the region. Moscow rarely pays attention to these crimes.


Interview with lawyers. OVD-Info is growing, and new people are becoming involved in our activities all the time – including more lawyers! Once upon a time, Alla Frolova, who coordinates our legal service, got hold of a phone number for Dmitry Shatov, a lawyer from Novosibirsk. Now, Dmitry defends people who have been arrested at protests in both administrative and criminal cases. Dmitry spoke to Aleksandr Litoi about his work, the Russian judicial system and the European Court of Human Rights.

Friends! We are still running our campaign against Plan Fortress! We’ve been collaborating with the one and only Kultrab to produce a video where people talk about their experiences of isolation and abuse inside police stations. It’s great, so watch it. And – if you haven’t already done so – sign our petition.


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Translated by Judith Fagelson

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