OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 198: We are all DOXA.

17 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.

Illustration by Adelina Kulmakhanova for OVD-Info

Hi! Russia’s handing out criminal charges left, right and centre; Navalny is being threatened with force-feeding; but we at OVD-Info have high hopes for our new Woodpecker.

DOXA searched. Armen Aramian, Alla Gutinkova, Vladimir Metelkin and Natalia Tyshkevich, the editors of student newspaper DOXA, are facing criminal charges for involving minors in dangerous activity. All four of them have been searched and then taken in for interrogation, after which the courts placed restrictions on their activities as a precautionary measure. These restrictions amount to de-facto house arrest, as they are only allowed out of their homes for one minute a day. The charges are based on a video clip in which DOXA calls on university students not to let the fear of expulsion stop them from going to protest rallies. Later, the investigators issued the defendants 100 (!) summonses for interrogation.

  • Why do I need to know this? The reasoning used by the investigative authorities gets harder to follow day by day. How could a video highlighting the pernicious practice of using universities to pressure students possibly get children involved in criminal activity or endanger their health or their lives? Maybe the danger lies in refusing to be afraid of the injustices and hypocrisy of universities, which are only apolitical as long as their students support Putin? This is a blatant example of a ridiculous, fabricated case. Shame on the security forces.

Navalny and his supporters persecuted. The politician, who is on hunger strike, is being threatened with force-feeding. Leonid Volkov, who is in charge of Navalny’s network of regional offices and who is currently in exile, is facing criminal charges for libel at the request of Evgenii Prigozhin, nicknamed “Putin’s chef”. Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) lawyer Liubov Sobol has been given a suspended sentence for breaking and entering into an FSB operative’s home. ACF camera operator Pavel Zelensky has been convicted of inciting extremism and sent to prison for two years because of his emotional commentary on the death of journalist Irina Slavina. And finally, the ACF and Navalny’s entire supporter network risk being deemed extremist organisations.

  • Why does this matter? This is all part of a huge wave of pressure which has been mounting ever since Navalny returned to Russia. Searches, interrogations, criminal charges on any possible pretext – it’s like a Pandora’s box of repression has been opened. Times like these show that there really is no freedom of political activity or speech in our country. The biggest concern is the possibility of the ACF being deemed an extremist organisation, which could give rise to an endless conveyor belt of criminal cases all over Russia, similar to the years and years of prosecutions that Jehovah’s Witnesses have faced.

Charged for a false terrorism report. It looks like the local security forces in Belgorod have sunk to new lows: they have pressed criminal charges for the use of the word “bomb” to describe the 23rd January protests. According to defendant Anton Koviazin, he was asked on Vkontakte what the rally would be like. He answered that it would be “the bomb” – i.e., that it would be great. The investigation has read Koviazin’s comments as intelligence that there would be an explosion at the protest.

  • Why do I need to know this? Even among all the repression that has been going on recently, this story stands out as particularly mad. So senseless, in fact, that it’s too much even for our own security forces. It’s perfectly clear that the word “bomb” can have multiple meanings, depending on the context it’s used in. The people who launched this case need an explanatory dictionary, and a conscience!

Features

Interview with Mikhail Biriukov. Mikhail Biriukov is a lawyer who has been working with OVD-Info for a few years, during which time he has defended Konstantin Kotov, Iulia Galiamina and Viacheslav Egorov. Aleksandr Litoi spoke to Mikhail about the ins and outs of his job.

Register of children who pose political risk. OVD-Info has managed to get hold of an account from an employee of a Moscow school about how the police ordered schools to ban their pupils from attending this winter’s pro-Navalny protests, and then how they demanded information from schools about pupils who were arrested.

And finally – we’ve got a Woodpecker! He’ll peck at any point to get what he needs from it. Woodpecker is the name we’ve given to our complaints’ generator, to help you file complaints about rights abuses or neglect. Let’s fight bureaucracy with bureaucracy! Right now, our woodpecker’s beak is working on Plan Fortress. If you’ve been personally affected by Plan Fortress, the Woodpecker can help you generate a complaint and send it to the ombudsman in just 5 minutes. Or if you’re simply sympathetic to our cause, then it’s even quicker – just two minutes. Our Woodpecker lives here.

Thanks

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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