OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 202: In memory of Natasha Sokolova.

15 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.

Photo: from Natasha Sokolova’s Facebook page

On 8 May our colleague and friend Natasha Sokolova passed away. Formerly the CEO of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, she had more recently been a fundraiser for OVD-Info and was one of the founders of the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre. Natasha, a supportive, empathetic person, always ready to lend a hand. Read our memories of Natasha here.

The FSB is killing and prosecuting people for their words.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s account blocked. The Moscow office had a visit from the bailiffs. The office itself was not sealed off, but RFE/RL’s bank account was frozen. This was done in connection with the organisation’s multiple fines for breaching the legislation on foreign agents, issued on a total of 540 counts. On top of this, one other media organisation – VTimes, founded by a team from Vedomosti – has also been classed a foreign agent.

  • Why do I need to know this? We don’t want to spout platitudes about attacks on freedom of expression, but that’s exactly what this is. The state simply has no interest in disloyal and independent journalists.

Man killed during search in Crimea. FSB officers shot an Uzbek citizen, Aiub Rakhimov, when searching his family home in Crimea. The special services maintain that Rakhimov had attempted to attack the security forces with a weapon. It is unclear why the FSB wanted to search the Rakhimov family home in the first place. The murdered man’s wife is facing deportation to Uzbekistan.

  • Why does this matter? The problem is that in Russia, no matter what really happened, the security forces will never be investigated. The FSB will always be in the right, no matter what they do to you – this country simply does not have anything powerful enough to counterbalance the FSB’s authority. With the exception, perhaps, of Kadyrov.

New case on justifying terrorism. Maksim Smolnikov (aka Xadad), a left-wing artist in Khaborovsk, has been remanded in custody. He is facing criminal charges for comments he made about the bomb detonated in the Archangelsk branch of the FSB in 2018 by anarchist Mikhail Zhlobitsky. In 2019, Xadad was interrogated in connection with the explosion.

  • Why do I need to know this? Zhlobitsky’s actions allowed the FSB to launch dozens of criminal cases all over the country, implicating various activists and other people with very little genuine connection to politics. For the state, is important that the word “terrorism” is kept vague and devoid of real meaning, so that it can be applied to anything. The only emotion evidenced here is fear, along with a desire to cling on to the spirit of Dzerzhinsky, seeking protection from evil terrorists. What’s more, there can be no discussion of Zhlobitsky’s motives.


This week, we have two pieces on video surveillance.

Firstly, we have prepared a guide for you on what to do if you are filmed at a protest and identified using video footage. We explain what to do and how legal this is.

Secondly, Sasha Litoy has been speaking with Aleskey Shliapuzhnikov, a technology and security expert from Transparency International, on the use of facial recognition at protests and about the subtleties of how these systems work in Russia. You can read the interview here.


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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