OVD-Weekly Bulletin No. 213: When they came for the journalists and National Bolsheviks

1 August 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 Maria Afonina for OVD-Info

Hello! National-Bolshevists were arrested prior to planned demonstrations on 31 July, while criminal investigations are being opened against journalists who are being effectively pushed out of the country. 

The directors of the media outlet Proekt have fled Russia. Proekt’s chief editor, Roman Badanin, and his deputy, Mikhail Rubin, left for the USA for fear of a criminal case and government pressure. Badanin stated that he intends to help a number of journalists working for the publication escape abroad. Recently the legal entity Proekt was classified as an undesirable organisation and its journalists added to the list of foreign agents. 

  • Why does this matter? If the authorities used to combat media outlets that were not to their liking by putting pressure on their owners or by firing staff, they are now resorting to criminal charges and the “foreign agent” classification. The scope for free speech is rapidly narrowing and by and large it is unclear what to do about this. 

Editor-in-chief of The Insider faces criminal charges and searches. The home of chief editor of investigative media outlet The Insider, Roman Dobrokhotov, who was involved in the investigation of Navalny’s poisoning, has been searched. Dobrokhotov was questioned as a witness as part of a case concerning the alleged libelling of Dutch journalist van der Werff on the grounds of a tweet stating that the latter worked for Russian Military Intelligence. 

  • Why do I need to know this? The next day, Dobrokhotov was to have flown out to take part in an international conference, but during a search, his passport and tickets were seized. van der Werff is known for promoting the version of the Malaysian Boeing story according to which the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. Recently, The Insider was also added to the list of “foreign agents.” However, Dobrokhotov publicly stated, that this would not hinder the work of the publication. It is possible that the search is a punishment of sorts for a lack of fear of the authorities. 

Crackdown on the National-Bolsheviks Members of the party ‘The Other Russia of E. B. Limonov’ have been arrested after the party declared its intention to carry out demonstrations across all of Russia on 31 July “in support of free and fair elections”. Three days prior to this, the head of the Moscow branch of The Other Russia, Olga Shalina, was detained and then jailed for fifteen days. The day before yesterday in St. Petersburg, participants in the National-Bolshevik demonstrations were detained outside the Ministry of Justice, as well as an activist who was on his way to take part in a picket in Perm. Several more party members were detained yesterday in Moscow. 

  • Why do I need to know this? The demonstrations scheduled for 31 July were a tribute to the tradition of rallies in defence of Article 31 of the constitution, the article which provides for freedom of assembly in Russia. The police were never particularly pleased by these protests in Moscow, but now, in these Covid times, authorities try to nip any opposition action in the bud. It seems that the targeted arrests of National-Bolsheviks could be explained not by the law, but by the fact that the authorities are afraid of what the scheduled demonstrations could cause. 


On assistance in the provinces. In Moscow there is OVD-info as well as Apologia Protesta, but the list of initiatives to help detainees in Russia does not end there. In many regions projects have appeared to help participants in rallies. In this article we explain who to contact if you were detained at a protest in Khabarovsk, Voronezh, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod or Yekaterinburg. 

On the coordination of lawyers. There are lawyers and human rights defenders uniting to protect the rights of citizens not only in Russia, but in many other countries including in well-off, democratic states. You can read about how projects similar to OVD-info work abroad in this article by Karina Merkuryeva. 

And lastly, we have released our annual report for 2020! We believe that information itself provides protection and that media attention can prevent violations. News media allows us to quickly spread information, and with the help of longer articles we promote discussion of systemic problems without a solution to which it is impossible to help specific individuals at the present time or bring about changes in the future. 

The work we have done this past year and what we have achieved is all thanks to your help – you can read about that here

Thanks for reading!

Every day we take calls on our hotline, write news about politically motivated prosecutions in Russia, and publish statements, reports and podcasts. Our lawyers deal with criminal cases and write out applications to 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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