OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 208: Admit your guilt and you can phone your mum.

26 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 Katya Litvinova for OVD-Info

Hello! The FSB’s dehumanisation of prisoners continues. Both those arrested and those convicted are responding by going on hunger strike. 

The arrest of activists in Moscow.
This week in Moscow has been marked by several targeted arrests: Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina, Aleksandr Sofeev, Anna Kuzminykh and Lucy Stein, photographer Dmitri Vorontsov, the head of the Moscow delegation of the Other Russia political party Olga Shalina, along with an associate of Shalina’s and Alyokhina’s. All detainees were jailed for fifteen days by the court. Later on, two more Other Russia supporters, Mikhail Aksel and Timofei Filin, were arrested and fined on a charge of alleged petty hooliganism.

  • Why do I need to know this? To begin with, the police wanted to register the reason for the arrest of some detainees under the article on drinking alcohol, but they changed their minds and drew up new protocols on petty hooliganism. The activists were all arrested separately – it would be hard to buy a story that every one of this group of arrested associates acted up at the same time. The true reason for the arrests remains unannounced and unclear, although members of Pussy Riot were previously taken into custody in the same manner before the police planned out their next move. 

The State Duma’s municipal deputy has been sent to a detention facility.
Ketevan Kharaidze, a deputy in the Tversky District who was planning on running for the Duma, was put under a two-month arrest for fraud. To protest this she has gone on hunger strike, believing that this has happened for political reasons. 

  • Why does this matter? It is important to consider this story in the wider context of persecution faced by members of the opposition who planned to run in elections. Out of the blue criminal cases are opened against them, they are arrested, and then they are forced to leave the country, all before the election takes place. 

A person involved in the “palace case” has gone on hunger strike. 
Evgenii Tugankov, who was sentenced to a year in a penal colony under the article on violence against police officers because of the protests which took place on January 31st, kept on fighting for his rights in prison. Tugankov went on hunger strike, demanding that prisoners be provided with sanitiser and allowed to use the washbasin in the mess hall. The authorities promised to meet these demands, and also gave Tugankov all of the letters and newspapers which they had previously held from him. 

  • Why do I need to know this?
    It is important to stress the point that the toil political prisoners have to deal with does not end with a court ruling; the attention it gathers merely diminishes at that point. That being said, it is necessary and important to keep an eye on what happens to people in penal colonies, where the risk of violence and violation of the law in greater than in the capital’s detention facility. Additionally, this story has a provisional happy ending: Tugankov had his demands met which is a rare occurrence. 

Safronov was offered to cut a deal with the investigation in exchange for contact with his mother.

FSB officer Alexander Chaban, who is heading the treason case against former “Kommersant” journalist Ivan Safronov, gave the accused the option to cut a deal with the investigation, promising him that if he did so he would be allowed to call his mother. Safronov’s mother is listed as a witness in the case and is therefore forbidden from contacting her son – however Chaban was willing to skirt the law if Safronov did what he wanted. 

  • Why is this important? According to Safronov’s lawyer Dmitri Tkachev, who has talked about all of this, Ivan has a very close relationship with his mother and the complete cut-off has been particularly difficult for both of them. However, his captors have proven themselves people willing and capable of doing anything to achieve their procedural goal, yet every time it makes one shudder with disgust. 


On a cracked head and a criminal case. St. Petersburg resident Eldar Garipov was beaten over the head by police when the arrests at the rally in support of Alexei Navalny on the 31st of January 2021 were happening. He was taken to hospital afterwards. However, instead of a criminal case being opened against the police, one was opened against Garipov himself. Eldar is being defended by a lawyer from OVD-info Igor Skachko who told us about how the case is being investigated (spoiler: poorly).  

On potential candidates for the State Duma. In this bulletin we already touched on the topic of persecution faced by those who want to stand for election to the State Duma, and a text has been written about it by Alexander Litoy which you can read here.
On how the Russian authorities are holding the answers. During the action in support of Navalny at the start of the year, human rights activists have taken note of many violations of the law, which prompted UN officials to request a statement from the Russian Authorities in this regard. The Russian government responded, and we analysed their response here (spoiler: we found many inconsistencies)

On the Media – “Foreign Agents”. “Meduza” and “Vtimes” have already been recognised as foreign agents and “Mediazona” is about to be. With every passing month pressure on mass media in Russia is growing. Karina Merkureva has compiled a timeline of amendments to the laws on mass media as “foreign agents”. 

And we also held an online campaign in support of those arrested for the “palace case”. We have asked our readers and figureheads to discuss the defendants. The result is a series of videos about people who are currently in need of your support. You can find all of the links here

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.

Yours truly,

The OVD-info team

Translated by Friedrich Berg

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