OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 199: New Protests.

25 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: Vera Koss for OVD-Info

Hi! This week: more protests, more arrests and more torture.

Pro-Navalny protests. On 21st April, people took to the streets all over Russia to demand Aleksei Navalny’s release. The politician has been on hunger strike for the past few days to try and gain access to doctors from outside the prison. His supporters in various regions came under pressure leading up to the protests. According to our data, no less than 1,958 people were arrested on the day of the protests, with the largest contingent – over 800 people – in St Petersburg. We listed all the detainees, ran a live feed and wrote a two-part precis of the events, the second part of which is, in effect, a live feed documenting the prosecutions that followed the protests all over the country.

  • Why does this matter? Because it is important to draw attention to the problems facing Navalny, who has been convicted in a politicised case and denied medical, not to mention the problem of political repression as a whole. What’s more, it is important to shine a light on violations committed by the police and on unprovoked violence towards protesters.

Coordinator of Navalny’s Rostov branch reports torture. Ksenia Seredkina has said that she was kidnapped by unidentified strangers who tried to force her to swallow a rubber truncheon and then scratched a line into her arm for each time she refused, until they had drawn the Cyrillic letter «Н» (“N”), for Navalny. This is, of course, an act of sheer brutality. Another report of abuse comes from Moscow, where a member of Navalny’s staff, Aleksandr Shepelev, was searched and beaten, while officers demanded that he unlock his password-protected phone. Shepelev recounted his experiences to Mediazone.

  • Why do I need to know this? These stories beggar belief, and they demonstrate what can happen not only to people facing criminal charges, but even to people who have simply been detained or abducted by anonymous loyalists. We may not like thinking about it, but these reports do give the impression that Russia is inching closer towards the Belarusian model where the authorities’ powers are unchecked and their acts of violence go unpunished.

Meduza classed as a foreign agent. From now on, the large Russian media agency, which is based in Riga, will have to put a notice on all its publications. According to general director Galina Timchenko, this turn of events was unsurprising, but nonetheless unpleasant.

  • Why do I need to know this? The scope for freedom of expression in Russia is growing ever narrower. Accordingly, opportunities for journalists to be independent are shrinking. For that reason, Russian citizens’ access to independent sources of information is shrinking, too.


The past week has kept us busy – first with preparations for the protests, and then with trying to deal with the fallout. For that reason, we haven’t published any new features as such. However, we have released two new sets of guidelines!

The first is sadly very timely – it tells you what to do if you are a victim of police brutality. The second one explains how to protect yourself from the Guardianship authorities, which have been going after parents whose children have been protesting. Read it carefully – to be informed is to be protected.


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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