OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 220: Against the ‘foreign agent’ law

18 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: Tanya Safonova for OVD-Info

Hello! A new prosecution for incitement to rioting, the comedian Mirzalizade may be pardoned in the sight of the country and the people, and we have drafted an important petition against the hunt for “foreign agents”.

A prosecution for incitement to rioting. The Basmanny district court in Moscow has imposed pre-trial restrictions on the defendants in a new case of “incitement to mass disorder”. Maria Platonova, who designed the headquarters of Duma candidate Anastasia Brukhanova, was placed under house arrest, and Dmitry Chebanov, Zhanna Chernova, Nikita Kreshchuk and Aleksei Kurlov were remanded in custody for two months. According to the investigation, the suspects “created a network of channels on Telegram, on which they posted publications and carried out canvassing aimed at organizing mass rioting” during the election. Earlier, Dmitry Chebanov and four others were detained while trying to hang a banner at the Detsky Mir store in Moscow. Detentions related to the case have also reportedly taken place in the regions.

  • Why do I need to know this? Because it could become a new case like the “New Greatness” or “Artpodgotovka” cases – little-known activists who have organized a political movement, because they allegedly wanted to start mass rioting. And, of course, there were no such riots. It’s sad that such stories happen time after time, and it’s not clear what to do to prevent them.

Online with the elections. We’re maintaining an online feed covering the irregularities, here. We’ll keep it going through every day of the voting. What has already happened: in Noginsk, eight athletic men prevented observers from entering the polling station; in Berdsk, the door of the headquarters of some independent candidates was welded shut; in Anapa, unknown people beat up a Communist Party representative after he complained about how polling stations were operating. There may be more creepiness and absurdity to come – we’ll see.

  • Why is this important? Firstly, because we’ve seen the skittish reaction of the authorities to everything related to the elections, as well as a wave of harassment of journalists and human rights activists This wave may intensify during and after the elections. Secondly, there are recommendations to use “smart voting”, which many trust, and the authorities are once again trying to entirely spoil and forbid this – which means that, again we can expect insufficient action from officials at various levels. And these days in Russia probably only public attention can defend against such things (and unfortunately that doesn’t always work).

The fate of a comedian. The court suspended an order from the Ministry of Internal Affairs declaring comedian Idrak Mirzalizade, a citizen of Belarus, as a permanent undesirable in Russia. Mirzalizade had filed a lawsuit against the agency, demanding that the decision be ruled unlawful. Previously, the comedian had been harassed by  Male State and then arrested over a joke about Russians, shit and mattresses, related to xenophobia in property rentals in Moscow.

  • Why do I need to know this? We have written about this story before and couldn’t just walk away from this news. While it is not at all clear what the final decision will be, there is hope for a better outcome. No one should be prosecuted for a joke unless they cause real harm to someone. Besides, one should take into account the fact that Mirzalizade’s entire life has been linked to Russia, despite his roots and citizenship – he is a Russian comedian.

Solitary confinement for Viktor Filinkov. In a penal colony in the Orenburg region, Viktor Filinkov, a defendant in the “Network” case, has been placed in a punishment cell for the fourth time in a short period. It’s not known what the reason was this time around, but in the past Filiknkov has been placed in isolation for not saying hello to a prison officer.

  • Why is this important? In case anyone has forgotten, the “Network” case is a case against anti-fascists and anarchists who are accused of terrorism. Many of them have said that they were tortured by FSB officers after being detained. No cases were filed against the officers, of course. But the arrival of such a media personality always creates a disturbance at a prison colony, disrupting the established routine and order, whatever they may be. It’s possible they want to transfer Filinkov from the camp to stricter conditions of detention, for example to a closed prison, so he won’t draw too much attention to the camp.


We have a petition against the “foreign agents” law! Since the beginning of 2021, the Russian Ministry of Justice has listed 6 media outlets, 20 journalists and 7 NGOs as “foreign agents”. This brings the number of organisations and people considered by the Russian authorities as “foreign agents” to 175. Both the legislation itself and the existing law enforcement practice are aimed at weakening the institutions of civil society. If you are as fed up as we are with this hunt for so-called “foreign agents” – sign the petition! At the time of writing, 115,000 people have already signed it,

As of this posting, 115,000 people have already signed it, along with 213 NGOs, media, civic and educational projects.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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