OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 219: In one country between the FSB and Kadyrov’s men

11 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: Masha Dmitrova for OVD-Info

Hello! Alekhina has been prosecuted again, anarchists in Chelyabinsk have been given jail time for a banner, the Chechens have nothing to hope for, and the lawyer Pavlov has gone to Georgia.

A court has sentenced Maria Alekhina in a “health case”. The Preobrazhensky District Court in Moscow found the Pussy Riot singer guilty of inciting a violation of pandemic safety standards because of her tweets calling for people to attend the 23 January rally, and sentenced her to a year under house arrest. Alekhina is banned from leaving her flat at night, travelling outside Moscow and attending public events. Earlier, the prosecutor’s office had asked for two years of restricted freedom for Ale khina.

  • Why is this important? We have said more than once that this “health case” is far-fetched and absurd, and that in the view of the state services, the risk of contracting coronavirus exists only at opposition events, and therefore calls to participate in them are incitement to violate safety standards. Despite the silliness of the charges, the case was approved by the prosecutor’s office and the court considered it sufficient to pass sentences. Fortunately, these sentences do not involve imprisonment – one has to be content with that.

Anarchists in Chelyabinsk have been given jail time over a banner: The Central District Court in Chelyabinsk sentenced Dmitry Tsibukovsky and Anastasia Safonova to two and a half and two years in prison respectively. The married couple were found guilty of hooliganism, in the form of hanging a banner with the inscription “The FSB is the biggest terrorist” on the fence of the Chelyabinsk FSB building. The action was in support of those involved in the “Network” case.

  • Why do I need to know this? If we accept that Tsibukovsky and Safonova were really involved in putting up the banner, then it could have been, say, an administrative case. However, as we have said more than once, the article of the Criminal Code on hooliganism allows just about anything to be seen as a criminal offence. Courts and investigators are very jittery about anything with the acronym FSB on it, even if it is just a fence. Besides, no one has ever properly investigated Tsibukovsky’s allegations of torture. 

Lawyer Ivan Pavlov has left Russia. Ivan Pavlov, former head of Team 29, lawyer of journalist Ivan Safronov, who was previously prosecuted for treason, has emigrated to Georgia. Earlier Pavlov had been prosecuted for disclosing preliminary investigation data – in connection with that very case of Ivan Safronov. In addition, on 18 July, Team 29 declared its closure after Roskomnadzor found materials from a Czech “undesirable organisation” on its website, on the basis of which the prosecutor’s office identified the organisation with Team 29.

  • Why is this important? According to Pavlov himself, he was surveilled on his way to the airport, and the bans imposed in this case made it very hard for him to work as a lawyer but did not prohibit him from leaving the country. So those who initiated the case against him were inducing him to leave the country, rather than seeking to prosecute him. To a person far removed from political repression, it may seem that the people concerned are being persecuted simply because they have broken the law. Pavlov’s case firstly shows the vulnerability of lawyers in Russia and secondly the fact that that domestic security forces can twist the law as they please if they need to.

Blood feuds have been declared on the families of Chechen political migrants. Last week relatives of Khasan Khalitov and Ilman Mamakayev, both of whom have criticised the republic’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, were kidnapped in Moscow and Chechnya and are now outside the country. Khasanov’s twin brother was taken from Moscow to Chechnya. It later became known that the captives had been released, some of them were beaten up, and Mamakayev’s father had his moustache shaved off as a form of humiliation. Pro-government Chechen sources reported that blood feuds have been declared on both families.

  • Why is this important? Because this is medieval, and the Middle Ages are never-ending in our country. The action against the relatives of Khalitov and Mamakaev is reportedly connected with the fact that someone beat up a supporter of Kadyrov in Istanbul. That’s how Kadyrov’s law works, and judging by the fact that it is no longer operating only in Chechnya, it pervades all of Russia. So far it has been more often hidden than visible.


On a Khabarovsk artist. On 6 September, a court reduced the level of restraint under which Maksim “Khadad” Smolnikov, a Khabarovsk anarchist and artist who is accused of justifying terrorism in a post about an explosion in the Arkhangelsk FSB, is being held. Smolnikov had been in pre-trial detention since May, but has now been released, with a court banning him from certain activities. Alexander Litoy spoke to the artist’s wife Svetlana Gordienko about the FSB’s new claims against her husband and her experience of fighting for a loved one who is behind bars.

On a Moscow IT guy, love and petitions. In August, Alexander Federyakov was sentenced to 18 months in prison on charges of squirting pepper spray in the direction of a riot policeman at a rally in support of Navalny on 23 January. Federyakov himself denies this, and his wife Anastasia is sure that her husband did not have a can of pepper spray. She brought a notarised petition from OVD-Info to the court demanding the release of those involved in the “palace case”. Anastasia believes it helped reduce the sentence for Alexander – she told Karina Mercuryeva exactly how this worked..

On roadblocks in Chelyabinsk. After the winter protests in Chelyabinsk, a criminal case has been opened regarding roadblocks by protesters. Investigations have long been suspended, but the protesters have been asked to turn themselves in. Read about what is happening with the case in another text by Karina Merkuryeva.

On a citizen of Tajikistan who loved Russia – but Russia did not love him. Saidanvar Sulaimonov, known on Twitter as Sasha Pechenka, has lived in Russia since childhood and when he grew up, he participated in the election campaign of Andrei Pivovarov, former director of Open Russia. It seems he has been banned from entering our country for 40 years. Read about how this happened in our interview with Saidanvar.

Ta-da! Our analysts are working tirelessly. We have a new report, called “Sanitising Protest” – about how the authorities are taking advantage of the pandemic by filing criminal cases for health code violations, banning rallies and scaring everyone with the threat of mass infection at protests. Find out more here.

Translated by Anna Bowles

Leave a Reply