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.
Hello! OVD-Info has been declared a “foreign agent”, journalists are being forced out of the country, and they want to deport a human rights activist to a place where she will be in danger.
We have been declared a “foreign agent”. The Ministry of Justice has put our project on the list of unregistered organisations “performing the functions of a foreign agent”, straight after the Golos movement. In addition, our ally organisation Mediazona was declared a “foreign agent”, as were its editor-in-chief Sergei Smirnov and its publisher Petr Verzilov, along with 20 other people and several other NGOs.
- Why is this important? Well, it was important for us to inform you that we too are now a “foreign agent”. We weren’t holding out any hopes of being spared from this witch-hunt, but of course, there’s not much good about the situation. We will continue to work as we have been, sending you newsletters, writing newsletters and sending lawyers to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Here we describe what we’re going to do. “Foreign agent” is a repressive and stigmatising term in Russian law that should be abolished.
And yes – we have already collected over 150,000 signatures on a petition to abolish the laws on “foreign agents”. You can sign here.
Another case has been filed against Navalny and his associates. Investigators believe that Aleksei Navalny, Leonid Volkov, Ivan Zhdanov and “other individuals” organised an extremist group while Liubov Sobol, Georgy Alburov and other supporters of Navalny participated in this group. The Investigative Committee reports that the aim of the politician and his associates was allegedly to overthrow the constitutional order, and that they called for extremist and terrorist activities at the rallies they organised.
- Why do I need to know this? Aleksei Navalny is serving a sentence in the Yves Rocher case, most of the activists mentioned have left the country, and some of them are facing other criminal charges. In 18 months the authorities have completely trashed the entire structure of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and Navalny’s headquarters, and now they won’t let up, building new criminal cases against the politician and his supporters. The concept of extremist or terrorist crimes is ever-expanding, and we have to live on the poisoned ground of this legal system for a long while yet. It’s a shame the Investigative Committee isn’t as forward-thinking.
The founder of The Insider has been placed on a wanted list. According to investigators, Roman Dobrokhotov crossed the border into Ukraine bypassing border checkpoints. Police officers conducted searches at the homes of the journalist’s relatives. Dobrokhotov denied crossing the border illegally, although he confirmed that he is not in Russia. In July, his home was searched in a defamation case, and in the same month The Insider was added to the list of “foreign agents”.
- Why is this important? The Insider has been involved in investigations into the poisoning of opposition politicians by Russian security officials, which plainly could not go unnoticed by the security services. The criminal libel case, and now the border crossing case, look like an attempt to drive Dobrokhotov out of the country, and also as part of an intimidation strategy – to make other journalists think twice about whether it’s worth conducting similar investigations.
On the protection of a human rights activist. On the night of 25 September, Valentina Chupik, an Uzbek citizen who heads Tong Jahoni, a human rights organisation helping migrants, was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport. The FSB banned Chupik from entering Russia until 2051; a few days later, police visited her mother, who is seriously ill. The Russian authorities want to expel the human rights activist to Uzbekistan, where she might be in danger, but the European Court of Human Rights has forbidden them to do so. Read more about Valentina’s situation in this article by Karina Merkuryeva.
We have also created Inoteka, a detailed database of those who have been declared “foreign agents”. It has 343 entries –media, non-profit organisations, and individuals – the whole range of those whom the Russian government considers unreliable. Explore it here.
Translated by Anna Bowles