OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 229: ‘Foreign Agents,’ ‘Foreign Agents,’ Foreign Agents.’

20 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.

Vladislav Lazarev of the Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) at the picket. The sign reads, “Freedom to political prisoners!”  Photo: “Free People of Voronezh”

Hello! The publisher of MediaZone has been put on the wanted list, draft amendments to the law on “foreign agents” have been submitted to the State Duma, and a blogger who is being held in a pre-trial detention facility is not receiving essential medical care.

Draft amendments to the law on “foreign agents” have been submitted to the State Duma. Representatives of the Union of Journalists of Russia and the Presidential Human Rights Council suggest relaxing the law: allowing individuals not to label their personal information on social networks and messenger services; introducing a “right to error” – warning of possible sanctions and giving those accused three months to correct violations; and no longer considering international awards as grounds for being declared a “foreign agent”. Meanwhile, our petition to repeal the law on “foreign agents” has gathered almost 250,000 signatures. You can sign it too.

  • Why do I need to know this? The law on “foreign agents” has been in the headlines in recent months; it’s in connection with the law that the authorities want to liquidate Memorial and add independent journalists to the register of untrustworthy persons, and MediaZone, OVD-Info, the Golos project and many others have been declared “foreign agents”. Obviously this law was unsatisfactory from the start – although from the government’s view it may be satisfactory. But even Rosbalt, which is linked to some FSB officials, has been added to the register, which might make even a loyalist think something has gone wrong somewhere. Let us hope the law will be relaxed in some way.

Peter Verzilov of MediaZone has been put on the wanted list. Although it later turned out that he was already wanted six months ago because of a criminal case for concealing his second citizenship. In addition to Russian citizenship, Verzilov also has Canadian citizenship. He had previously been put on the registry of “foreign agents”.

  • Why is this important? This move should be seen in the general context of pressure on members of disloyal media outlets. MediaZone has written extensively about the arbitrariness of law enforcement officials, and about various protests. In addition, Verzilov himself personally took part in various performances from time to time – for example, running onto the football field during a match in the 2018 Russian World Cup.

A lawyer is claiming that a jailed blogger is in critical condition. According to Knarik Harutyunyan, the health of blogger Stanislav Andreev, who is being held in Krasnodar’s pre-trial detention centre No. 1, has critically deteriorated and his legs have failed him. A criminal case has been launched against Andreev under articles on theft and insulting bailiffs, but the defence claims the blogger was prosecuted because he criticised the security forces in his videos. Andreev has a group three disability affecting his back, lung and pancreas. He has received no medical attention and medical staff have been pricking his limbs with needles to see if he is faking.

Why is this important? Because it is a question of the life and health of a living man whose guilt has not even been proven yet. And even if it had been proven. Unfortunately, the Federal Penitentiary Service system in Russia often works in such a way that a person is on the receiving end of violence and abuse, and is denied medical care in addition to their sentence – and there are many such stories. Andreev is being tried for posting a story about bloggers removing disabled parking signs, which in their opinion were installed inappropriately, as well as for speaking rudely to a bailiff. How are these “atrocities” so dangerous to the public as to necessitate keeping a sick man in isolation?


About some rescuers. On 13 November in Voronezh, Ministry of Emergency Situations employee Vladislav Lazarev was detained at a solitary picket. He was taking part in a rally in support of political prisoners and after he was detained a police report was drawn up and he was sent for a medical examination. He had previously been detained for another picket in support of those convicted in the “Winter Cherry” case. Karina Merkuryeva recorded what he had to say.

About OVD-Info being labelled a “foreign agent”. On 29 September, we were put on the list of “unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent”. We appealed to Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky Court, demanding that this action by the Ministry of Justice be ruled illegal, but the appeal was denied. At the hearing, the Ministry’s position became clear: we had not been added to the register after an investigation of our finances, but only on the basis of the inspection report on our website and the Wikipedia article about us. You can read more about our position and that of the Ministry of Justice here.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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