OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 226: ‘No Photos in Front of the Church’

24 October 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.

Olga Bendas / Photo provided by lawyer Tatiana Okushko

Hello! A blogger and his girlfriend have been jailed for imitating a sexual position, a libertarian has been jailed because the police were block all the roads, and lawyer Ivan Pavlov has been put on the wanted list.

Libertarian Gleb Maryasov has been sentenced to ten months in a prison colony. A justice of the peace in Moscow’s Tverskoi district found the activist guilty of blocking roads during a rally in support of Aleksei Navalny on 23 January. In addition, the court granted claims from Mosgortrans [the Moscow Transport Authority] and the Moscow Metro for more than two and a half million roubles – both organisations had demanded compensation from the activist for the fact that the police blocked roads and closed metro stations in the run-up to the rally. Maryasov was taken into custody in the courtroom and is now in the Remand Centre No. 7 in Moscow.

  • Why do I need to know this? First the state systematically makes it impossible to reach an agreement on holding a protest, then it closes off half the city, then it sets records for detentions and violence, and in the end it is the poor libertarian who is to blame. In addition, on the basis of ECtHR and OSCE opinions, the authorities need to strike a balance between the rights of citizens who do not participate in protests and the rights of protesters – but our police and courts proceed from the presumption of activists’ guilt. If there’s a person, they’ll find an article under which to charge them. 

A blogger and his girlfriend have been jailed in Moscow for a photo of them that was taken front of a cathedral. Ruslan Bobiyev and Anastasia Chistova were sentenced to ten months in prison for ‘insulting religious believers’. The reason for the case was a photo taken on Red Square against the background of St Basil’s Cathedral, in which Chistova and Bobiyev imitated an oral sex position. Chistova was wearing a jacket with “Police” printed on it.

  • Why is this important? This is another silly case – the cathedral may have been caught in the photo by accident. Police officers were probably offended by the fact that the video shows a girl in a jacket with “Police” written on it giving a blowjob, which from a patriarchal perspective is humiliating. The problem is that the aim of the responsible authorities to cite some article or other of the Criminal Code as a reason for any action infringes on the very idea of legal regulation by the state. And this increases hatred and a negative attitude towards the law.

A new harsh verdict has been passed in the “Hizb ut-Tahrir” case. In Rostov-on-Don four defendants in the Bakhchysarai region Hizb ut-Tahrir case have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 17 years on charges of organising and participating in the activities of a terrorist organisation and attempting to seize power. According to the investigation, the defendants were preparing “a violent seizure of power through the total Islamisation of the population”. The defendants had no instruments for the seizure of power, apart from discussions of Islam and books.

  • Why do I need to know this? How can we impute the seizure of power if there were no plans for it, no preparations for it, and nothing had been done to that end? How can one accuse people of participation in a terrorist organisation when the organisation labelled terrorist does not wage armed struggle or carry out terrorist acts? Unlike the Taliban, by the way, with whom the Russian state is in active contact. The persecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir is a disgusting example of fabricated terrorism: it exists only in documents drawn up by the FSB and confirmed by other authorities.

The head of the Team 29 has been put on the wanted list. Lawyer Ivan Pavlov is now officially wanted in connection with a criminal case concerning disclosure of pre-trial investigation data. According to the investigation, Pavlov’s guilt lies in the fact that he passed on to journalists a resolution to arraign his client Ivan Safronov as a defendant in a case of treason. Pavlov has left the country, with police officers escorting him to the airport.

  • Why is this important? In fact, Pavlov was first driven out of the country by the authorities when the case was launched, but he was allowed to leave, and now they want guarantees that he will not return. If the lawyer returns, given his wanted status and his departure, he will be put in pre-trial detention – who would return in such a situation, except Navalny? There will soon be no options but prison but emigration for lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and other activists in Russia.


About the OVD-Info lawyers. Maria and Artem Nemov are a married couple of lawyers who work with our project on both administrative and criminal cases. Artem recently retired from the prosecutor’s office, while Maria started out defending victims of domestic violence. Aleksndr Litoi talked to them about the nature of their work on OVD-Info matters.

About a woman and a police baton. Olga Bendas has been behind bars for six months now in a case of violence against a public official: on 23 January 2021 she allegedly hit a police officer several times and then took his baton from him. In June, a court sentenced Olga to two years in a minimum-security penal colony, then she was illegally transported to Perm, although there has been no appeal yet. Karina Merkuryeva has written a piece about this resilient woman.

Put in a good word for Khovansky. Blogger Yury Khovansky was detained in June, his flat was searched, the security forces turned everything upside down, and then the court sent the blogger to a pre-trial detention centre. Khovansky is accused of condoning terrorism in an old comic song about the Nord-Ost terrorists. Natasha Baranova looked into the criminal case against the blogger.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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