OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 221: Undesirable Extremist Communist Agents

25 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.

Public headquarters for the observation of elections / Photo: Valery Tenevoy

Hello! Jehovah’s Witnesses are jailed, Communists are rounded up, Scientologists are declared “undesirable”.

The detention of participants in rallies against unfair elections. In the few days since the elections in Moscow, two protests against the falsification of results have already been held. On 20 September, disgruntled ex-candidates and their supporters gathered in Pushkin Square – nobody had been detained at the rally itself, but on 23 September police visited the homes of the alleged participants. For two days now they’ve been going from door to door. On 23 September there was also a rally at the Indira Gandhi monument in Ramenki, where seven people were detained. In total, more than 50 people have been detained during their protests and their aftermath.

  • Why do I need to know this? The candidates who lost the Moscow elections believe that results were falsified with the help of electronic voting. Among them are many supporters of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. A number of the candidates say they intended to fight for their own victory, and to represent the votes of their supporters.

A person convicted in the Network case cannot be found, in either the penal colony or the pre-trial detention centre. Maksim Ivankin, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges of associating with terrorists and attempted drug dealing, has gone missing. On 5 September he was conveyed out of the Chuvash penal colony where he is serving his sentence, direction unknown. On 6 September he was in a pre-trial detention facility in Nizhny Novgorod, but then his trail vanishes, and the Federal Penitentary Service is silent as to his current whereabouts.

  • Why is this important? Ivankin is one of the people who may be connected to the murders of Yekaterina Levchenko and Artem Dorofeyev, two young people whose bodies were found in the Ryazan forest. Investigators from Ryazan had already visited him in the colony, trying to get him to confess to the murder. They may currently be torturing him in some pre-trial detention facility, beating a confession out of him. We are against torture and pressure being exerted on anyone, so we hope this is a false alarm and Ivankin will soon be found in good health.

Harassment of religious communities. In Volgograd, four Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sentenced to terms ranging from six to six and a half years in prison. All four were found guilty of organising the activities of an extremist organisation; two were also found guilty of funding it. In addition, on 24 September, the General Prosecutor’s Office declared the World Institute of Scientology an “undesirable organisation”, which also puts many believers at risk of administrative and criminal prosecution.

  • Why do I need to know this? We have stated more than once that we consider the prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be political. As there were communities of these believers in many regions, it is now possible to open criminal cases there, and pad the statistics by uncovering extremist crimes in the form of religious services. Questions over the ideas of “extremism” and “terrorism” and the abuse of this new rule about “undesirability” on the part of the security forces prevents their actions from being seen as fair and adequate. 

The arrest of National Bolsheviks in Moscow. Tver district court has sent five National Bolsheviks, who held a rally outside the Duma on 22 September with firecrackers and a banner, to a special detention centre. Two activists from The Other Russia were given 25 days in jail, another 14, and two others 10 each.

  • Why is this important? Such harsh punishment for an innocuous protest is probably due to the fact that it was election-related. Despite multiple falsifications, irregularities, the persecution of opposition candidates and a general feeling that elections in Russia today change little, the authorities are very sensitive to criticism of the process.


On the elections. About the elections. The elections are over, but we still have to live with their results for a long time. Karina Merkuryeva and the Golos movement sum up the election process, and talk about the scale of the fraud and the detention of observers (there were at least 67 of them).

About mass disorder that didn’t actually happen. At least 10 people across Russia have been detained as part of a case concerning incitement to mass disorder before the election. The security services believe they are linked to the Chto-Delat! Telegram channel, through which they believe the inducement to riots took place. Aleksandr Litoy tried to get to the bottom of what is currently known about the case and its defendants.

On a piercing for a police officer. On 23 January 2021, Saransk-based piercing artist Alexandra Ignatova attended a rally in support of Navalny and in August police detained her at her workplace. The wife of a police officer booked an appointment but a policeman came instead. You can read Aleksandra’s story here.

Translated by Anna Bowles

Leave a Reply