OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 218: Don’t joke like that with Russia.

4 September 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 Zhenya Kishmaria for OVD-Info. Caption: “The court ruled that I’m guilty.”

Hello! Comedian Irdak Mirzalizade made one joke, and now the Interior Ministry has banned him from Russia for life, and a pensioner is to be jailed for four years for doing nothing at all.

The Interior Ministry has declared a comedian a permanent undesirable in the country. The ministry believes that the presence in Russia of Belarussian stand-up comic Irdak Mirzalidze is a threat to public order. This means that if Mirzalizade is spotted on Russian territory, he will be deported. Previously the comedian, who joked about Russians, mattresses and shit, was arrested and detained for 10 days. He was also subjected to threats, attacks by propagandists and a beating.

Why is this important? The upshot of the rather absurd epic surrounding Mirzalizade is sad for all of us. It turns out that the Russian state does listen to its citizen: to the most spiteful and unpleasant of them. That is to say, if it listened to them and to others that would be fine, but it turns out that only Pozdnyakov and Male State are able to influence what is happening in the country.

They want to jail a pensioner for four years for transferring money to the mother of a convict.

Prosecutors in Ufa have demanded a jail sentence for local resident Ilmira Bikbayeva, who is accused of financing extremist activities. The case against her is that she sent money to the mother of Ayrat Dilmukhametov, who was sentenced to nine years in a prison colony under legal articles concerning terrorism and extremism. Bikbayeva herself states that she was not financing extremism but simply helping a woman in need.

Why do I need to know this? Until now, material assistance to the relatives of prisoners has not usually drawn the attention of the all-seeing eye of anti-extremist legislation. Clearly support for a prisoner’s relatives, regardless of under which article he is imprisoned, is not tantamount to endorsing all his words and actions, let alone financing his activities, (whatever they may be). This is a wake-up call for future campaigns in support of political prisoners.

Police are interviewing supporters of Navalny at the behest of the presidential administration

According to a BBC source, the rounding up of people listed in a leaked database of Alexei Navalny’s supporters is happening at the behest of the presidential administration’s internal policy department. The authorities’ aim is to scare opposition media activists preventing them from taking to the streets after the 19 September election. If the activists stay home, officials reckon, there will be no mass protests.

Why is this important? It’s really not clear how the presidential administration fine-tuning the work of the police so precisely fits into the proper process of state functioning. Does this happen in other countries? We think that if it does, the post-mortem examination of such data leads to scandals, resignations and eventually a change in election results. It would be too optimistic to expect such a thing here, of course. Although a certain perverse optimism can be inspired by the great fear of elections and their consequences which the authorities are manifesting ever more clearly.


On reporting by “foreign agent” NGOs: The Ministry of Justice wants NGOs who are recognised as “foreign agents” to report on all their activities and the participants in those activities. Karina Merkuryeva spoke with lawyers about the upcoming changes in the law and asked how life could change for NGOs – read our article here.

On artists and cops: St Petersburg artist Ilya Pershin is accused of kicking a policeman and elbowing him in the chest at the 31 January rally in support of Navalny. Ilya has been in pre-trial detention for six months now. However, Pershin’s girlfriend, who witnessed the incident, maintains that the policeman fell over and hurt himself. Ksenia Sonnaya talks about the Pershin case.

On Rammstein and Russia: Recently a planned concert by the lead singer of the group Rammstein was disrupted in Tver. Local entrepreneur, monarchist and supporter of the Rodina party Maxim Larin wanted to hold a music festival for his birthday, and invited the superstar from Germany. However, local authorities did everything they could to prevent Till Lindemann from performing at the event. Larin told our writer Aleksandr Litom about the incident.

We also have a new report – a submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Peaceful Assembly and Association in Times of Crisis. The report analyses the response of the Russian authorities to protests related to such crises. Read it here.

Thanks for reading!

Translated by Anna Bowles

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