OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 228: A Death Sentence for Civil Society

14 November 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.

Handcuffs on the doors of Memorial during the disruption of the screening of a film about the Holodomor, 14 October 2021 / Photo: The Insider

Hello! The authorities want to disband Memorial, the founder of Gulagu.net is on the wanted list, and the lists of “foreign agents” keep growing.

Attack on Memorial. The Russian state has decided to destroy one of the country’s oldest civic organisations. The General Prosecutor’s Office is demanding the liquidation of Memorial International because it has not been using the “foreign agent” stamp, and the Moscow prosecutor’s office has filed a lawsuit to close the Memorial Human Rights Centre, also because of a violation of the “foreign agents” law, as well as evidence of justification of terrorism and extremism in its published materials.

  • Why is this important? In our opinion, the destruction of both Memorials would be a death sentence [there’s no ‘death’ in the original, but this seems to be implied?] for civil society in Russia. For decades, Memorial International has helped find and preserve information about people subjected to repression in the USSR, while the Human Rights Centre defended the rights of citizens today – political activists and apolitical users of social media, both those administratively and criminally prosecuted, Muslims and Christians. In the absence of an adequate legal system and independent courts, the termination of Memorial’s activity will leave the persecuted without support and all of us without memory of the past. Sign the petition to repeal the  law on “foreign agents” – we must stop this.

Additions to the lists of “foreign agents”. Not everyone has been labelled “foreign agents” yet, so the Ministry of Justice has enough work to do. Lawyer Ivan Pavlov, the founder of Team 29, and four of his former colleagues from that project, have been added to the “foreign agents” list. The Russian LGBT Network has been added to the list of unregistered associations, which has the same effect as becoming a “foreign agent”. Later, Igor Kochetkov, one of the founders of the LGBT Network, was also labelled a “foreign agent”. Meanwhile, a court in Moscow ruled that the decision to add OVD-Info to the register was legal, while Roman Badanin, editor-in-chief of Proekt and Pyotr Verzilov, publisher of Mediazona, were issued writs for failing to comply with the very same law.

  • Why do I need to know this? The “foreign agent”” law is a discriminatory regulation invented to put pressure on journalistic, public and political initiatives, as well as specific individuals. Despite government claims that it is only a label and will not hinder their activities, in practice it leads to serious complications for any work, or even halts it completely. OVD-Info advocates the complete abolition of the “foreign agents” law.

About Gulagu.net. Saratov Region Prosecutor’s Office stopped the criminal prosecution of Sergei Savelyev, a programmer who handed over a video archive showing the torture and abuse of prisoners in Federal Penitentiary Institutions to the human rights project Gulagu.net. Great news, it would seem! But then the Ministry of Internal Affairs put Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of Gulagu.net, on the wanted list. In 2020, a court arrested him in absentia on a fraud case.

  • Why is this important? In an atmosphere of general pessimism, with terrible news daily, the failure to prosecute Savelyev allows just a little breathing space. Of course, in Russia one should never get carried away with optimism about the decency of the state’s actions: with one hand it releases Savelyev, while with the other it tries to grab Osechkin. Given the context, it is hard to shake the feeling that this is because of the publication of the video, and not because of Osechkin himself or the crimes of which he is considered guilty.


About “foreign agents” once again. Sadly, “foreign agent” is probably the buzzword of the year. Sadly. We publish commentaries by the leaders of organisations that have been added to the registry – about how they have to rebuild their work, and how they can carry on.

On the structural subdivision of the extremist community. In Ufa, Liliya Chanysheva, former coordinator of Navalny’s local headquarters, has been detained for two months. Her case is being handled by the central office of the Investigative Committee, so Chanysheva will be transferred to Moscow, to the pre-trial detention centre No. 6. According to the investigators, she headed a subdivision of an extremist community. At her trial, the woman stated that she might be pregnant. Read more about the case in Aleksandr Litoy’s article.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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