OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 207: You’re undesirable, in Russia

19 June 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 Kseniya Gladikh for OVD-Info

Hello! Russia is on the up: laws against “undesirables” are becoming stricter, artists are being jailed, and pressure on those convicted is mounting.  

St. Petersburg anarchist still at large.
The second Western District Military Court has ruled that LGBTQ activist and outspoken anarchist Aleksandr Merkulov is to pay a fine of 200,000 roubles as a punishment for “justifying terrorism”. The prosecution was looking to sentence him to five years in prison. The cause of all this was a series of posts on Russian social media outlet VKontakte (VK), in which Merkulov allegedly condoned the actions of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who blew himself up in the Arkhanglesk FSB.   

  • Why do I need to know this? Criminal cases relating to comments made about the Arkhangelsk bombing have long been a part of Russia’s history of political repression. In this situation, we can celebrate a small victory in that someone who would have faced an especially difficult time in prison has been released without spending six years in a camp, though this is unprecedented humanity by today’s standards. 

A detainee from the Network group is being threatened with a new criminal case.
An official from the Udmurt penal colony visited Andrei Chernov and swore that he would charge him for a double murder if he failed to frame other members of the Network group. Visits by other investigating officials have previously been paid to Maksim Ivankin, Mikhail Kulkov and Ilya Shakursky

  • Why is this important?
    A year and a half after Meduza published an article on the topic, the degree of the involvement of the defendants, who are members of Network, in the murder of Ekaterina Levchenko and Artem Dorofeev, which happened in the Ryazan region, has still not been ascertained. They deny any involvement, and no official charges have been filed against them. In any case, there is still the danger that the investigation, under supervision from the FSB, will graduate from psychological torture, to physical torture. 

The State Duma passed a law, which toughens the punishment for “undesirable organisations”.
From now on, criminal prosecution awaits those who have donated to said organisations, as well as those who have obtained funding and donations for them. This can carry up to a five-year-sentence, and participants and leaders face up to four and six years in prison respectively. As it stands, two administrative infractions are required to initiate a criminal case, but when the new amendments become law, cases against participants will be initiated after one infraction, and those against leaders will be initiated immediately. 

  • Why do I need to know this?
    The increasing list of acceptable reasons to prosecute those involved in the activities of “undesirable organisations” is worrying as it creates more possiblities for criminal prosecutions. It used to be that the majority risked getting a fine, but nowadays the majority are looking at a prison term. This heaps pressure onto opposition activists who are on the authorities’ radar for one reason or another. 

Activist Pavel Krisevich has been detained.
The authorities want to prosecute the artist who put on a performance in support of political prisoners in Red Square on charges of hooliganism. Using a pistol loaded with blanks, Krisevich mimicked shooting himself in the head. Other than Krisevich, the journalist Nika Samusik who covered Krisevich’s spectacle, is also a suspect in the same case. 

  • Why is this important?
    The Russian authorities here have a longstanding tradition of going after activists for performances; examples of this are what happened with Pussy Riot and Petr Pavlensky. Cases aren’t initiated as a result of any harm that has been caused, of which there is often none, but rather because of the artistic and political message. In a way, this is the state recognising the importance and influence of modern performance art. 


On the homophobic Bulatova’s role in the Tsvetkova case.
It is commonly believed that the case against and LGBT activist Yulia Tsvetkova from Komsomolsk-on-Amur for the distribution of pornography was opened because of a complaint made by St. Petersburg provocateur and homophobe Timur Bulatov. However, according to Tsvetkova’s mother, Anna Khodyreva, Bulatov’s role in her daughter’s trial has been blown way out of proportion. Anna talks about this in an interview with OVD-info. 

On how a lawyer was made out of a GRU officer.
Before he became a lawyer and began working with OVD-Info, Konstantin Markin was part of the intelligence service. He left after not being granted paternal leave – through the ECtHR, he managed to get both a dismissal and compensation. Aleksandr Litoi spoke with Konstantin about his unusual journey and the protection of citizen’s interests.

And last but not least, we managed to release our new brands produced jointly with “Here, wear this!” Not only is it a joint effort, but it’s also very cool! You can view the prints and order something for yourself online

What a week!

Every day we take calls on our hotline, write news about political persecution in Russia, and publish statements, reports and podcasts. Our lawyers deal with criminal cases and write out complaints for the ECtHR, and our IT team is hard at work every day to make sure that our services are as convenient to use as possible. This is all thanks to your support. You can sign up to give a monthly donation to OVD-info, which will help us continue our work and put together the best newsletter for you. 

Translated by Friedrich Berg

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