OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 200: Criminal charges for everyone.

1 May 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 Pavel Mishkin for OVD-Info

Hi! The head of Team 29 has been arrested, a former coordinator of Navalny’s Archangelsk campaign headquarters has been jailed, the campaign team itself has been deemed an extremist organisation, and OVD-Info has a new petition.

Criminal charges against head of Team 29. Lawyer Ivan Pavlov, who had travelled to Moscow to attend a hearing with for his client, former journalist Ivan Safronov, was arrested in a Moscow hotel. The investigation has accused Pavlov of disclosing data from the preliminary investigation, after Vedomosti published the indictment in high treason case against Safronov. As a preventative measure, the court banned Pavlov from communicating with witnesses in the case, and from using his mobile phone or the internet. What’s more, searches were conducted in connection with the same case at the home of Team 29’s IT specialist Igor Dorfman, in the organisation’s offices, and at Pavlov’s wife’s home.

  • Why does this matter? Pavlov had been involved in treason cases which may, obviously, have irritated the FSB bosses who were coordinating and overseeing these cases. The case against Safronov was high profile, and his colleagues did not believe that the former Kommersant journalist would have been able to cooperate with foreign intelligence. In addition, Team 29 had recently decided to offer legal support to Navalny’s team when the politician’s network of supporters was deemed an extremist organisation. The trial has already started.

Meanwhile, Navalny’s HQ deemed extremist and terrorist according to the listings on the Rosfinmonitoring website. The register of extremists and terrorists is a list of individuals and organisations who are deemed by the state to be involved in extremist activity. Organisations or people can be added to the list even before the court has ruled them extremist, and it entails significant restrictions on financial activity.

  • Why do I need to know this? As we have already explained, the classing of Navalny’s team as an extremist organisation is extremely concerning, in that it could give rise to an enormous wave of criminal charges for effectively nothing, much like what is already happening to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The security forces will no longer need to find pretexts for arresting coordinators or volunteers – now, simply being a member of a regional Navalny campaign team is grounds enough for issuing charges.

Police using video cameras to identify protesters. In the week following 21st April, the police have been calling in people who, according to the security forces, took part in pro-Navalny protests on that day. Many journalists in Moscow have been summoned to police stations to prove that they have an editorial assignment to cover the protests. 183 cases against protesters have already been listed on the websites of Moscow’s courts. Some people have been identified using CCTV footage, and others have been charged with inciting protest on social media. 

  • Why does this matter? For many, it was a surprise that the police did not simply break up all the protests in Moscow on 21st April. Some were even celebrating this. It’s not clear whether this will be the new normal, but evidently the police can now identify protesters without detaining them. At least, if their faces have been caught on camera.

Former head of Navalny’s Archangelsk team given 2.5-year prison sentence. Andrei Borovikov, who had previously been prosecuted under Dadin’s law for multiple offences at public events, has been convicted of distributing pornography because he shared the music video for a Rammstein song, Pussy. To this end, the police recruited a volunteer from the campaign team to approach Borovikov with a hidden Dictaphone and record their conversation. The volunteer wrote a statement, saying that he was deeply offended by the video.

  • Why does this matter? The aforementioned video may not be a piece of high-class artistry – that’s not for us (or the investigators) to judge – but it is certainly not pornographic. The sex scenes which it contains are blurred, meaning that you cannot clearly see what’s going on. Plus, it’s worth remembering that this is a music video by a very famous band who have millions of fans all over the world – and neither the musicians nor the video directors have faced pornography charges. The case against Borovikov really looks like the local police officers’ revenge against a tireless activist who they didn’t manage to jail under Dadin’s law (he was sentenced to community service).


OVD-Info’s statement on the prosecution of Ivan Pavlov. OVD-Info believes that the case against the head of Team 29, with whom we are close, is politically motivated and we are calling for it to be dropped immediately. We see this prosecution as part of a wave of pressure on civil society, and we regard it as an obstruction of a lawyer’s work.

Pressure and violations on and around 21st April. At the last pro-Navalny protest, around 2,000 people were arrested all over the country, at least 839 of whom were in St Petersburg. We have put together a summary of everything that characterised the state’s response to these peaceful protests – police violence and administrative charges, denied access to lawyers and courts, and much more. Read it here.

What is forced labour? Our team of lawyers has produced a guide which will help you get to grips with compulsory labour as a form of punishment: what it is, how it works, when it’s used. Everything you wanted to know about this sanction, but were afraid to ask – it’s all here.

One in the palace, a hundred in the dungeon. After Navalny’s return subsequent arrest, the publication of a film about Putin’s palace, and the subsequent protests, thousands of people have fallen prey to a retaliatory wave of repression. Over a hundred are facing criminal charges which are now being collectively known as the Palace Case. OVD-Info calls on the Ministry for Internal Affairs and the Investigative Committee for the immediate release of all these prisoners. We have launched a petition and are asking anyone who agrees with us to sign it. On 6th May – the anniversary of the Bolotnaya Square protests which led to the Bolotnaya Case – we are joining forces with Novaya Gazeta to host a livestream dedicated to the current wave of prosecution and the struggle to secure the detainees’ fates. You can watch it here; we’ll be joined by Mediazone’s editor-in-chief Sergei Smirnov, former political prisoners, OVD-Info employees and many more (14.00-20.00 Moscow time).


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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