OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 231: Extremists, Pastors and ‘Foreign Agents’

4 December 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.

Illustration by Viktoriya Kim for OVD-Info

Hello! This week the headlines are: a new prosecution for an extremist group, arrest of pastors and threats to jail an ex-coordinator of one of Navalny’s headquarters.

A criminal case has been opened against Left Resistance activists. The FSB suspects Daria Poliudova, previously convicted on charges of justification of terrorism and inciting extremism, as well as other activists of the Left Resistance, of creating an extremist group. In addition to Poliudova, suspects in the case are Sergei Kirsanov, Kirill Kotov, Alena Krylova, Igor Kuznetsov and Andrei Romanov, the first three of whom have been added to Rosfinmonitoring’s list of extremists and terrorists. According to the investigators, Poliudova and other activists used Left Resistance to ‘prepare and commit crimes’ in the form of ‘the public justification of terrorism’ and ‘public incitement of extremist activity.’

  • Why is this important? This is yet another prosecution for extremism of people who are doing no harm. Seriously, does anyone else understand what ‘extremism’ really means? First, the investigators manipulate the law in Poliudova’s prosecution for allegedly justifying terrorism, and now they are doing the same in the case against Left Resistance. Running social networks and participating in protest rallies – is that extremism now? We are concerned that this means the investigators may forget how to investigate real crimes.

A former head of one of Navalny’s regional headquarters has been threatened with a long sentence. The former coordinator of Aleksei Navalny’s Ufa headquarters, Liliya Chanysheva, accused of organizing an extremist group, has been threatened with the prospect of imprisonment until 2030. Chanysheva has been transferred from Ufa to Moscow, but while she was in the Ufa remand centre a police officer from the local Centre for Combating Extremism visited her. He tried to persuade the activist to tell them about the structure and internal hierarchy of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, threatening her with a long prison term if she refused.

  • Why do I need to know this? We consider the designation of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and Aleksei Navalny’s network of headquarters as extremist organizations to be politically motivated. And the prosecution of Navalny himself, his associates and fellow activists in this connection is political persecution. In this context, Chanysheva’s detention and attempts to intimidate her are clearly unjust because she has not done anything that goes beyond the exercise of her constitutional rights.

More than 200 participants in a conference of pastors were detained in the Moscow region. On 2 December 2021 in the town of Ramenskoe in Moscow region law enforcement officers turned up at a conference of New Generation Protestant churches. According to the participants, more than two hundred people were detained, and one person was beaten by the police. According to the law enforcement officers, the conference was attended by representatives of organizations designated as undesirable in Russia. The detainees were released after administrative charges had been drawn up.

  • Why is this important? Using the pretext of the pandemic and combating foreign influence, extremism, terrorism, or anything else, government executive bodies across the country now have the right to close down any event they don’t like. And they won’t like any event that is not related to an expression of love for the State. This means the right to freedom of assembly and association is effectively suspended in Russia.

Memorial supporters jailed. On 26 November, Aleksei Belenkin and Konstantin Kotov, who took part in pickets against the closing down of International Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Centre, were jailed on administrative charges for 25 and 9 days, respectively. Both were detained on 25 November outside the Supreme Court. Belenkin’s sentence was then in a mockery of justice reduced by one hour on appeal, while Kotov’s was reduced by half an hour.

Why do I need to know this?  Kotov was found guilty of organizing a protest action that did not have official permission, although, according to him, he was attending the court hearing as a media representative. At the appeal hearing, the activist’s lawyer provided CCTV video footage showing that there were no large-scale public protests near the Supreme Court building that day – but this did not help either. The judicial practice of hearing administrative cases has been developing for many years in such a way that judges are very uncritical of what police officers write on their charge sheets. Unfortunately, there is no reason to expect changes for the better.


We have published a major report on the discrimination faced by those recognized as ‘foreign agents.’ The last few months have already gone down in history as witnessing a series of ‘Black Fridays’ – days when the Ministry of Justice most often updates its registers of so-called ‘foreign agents.’ Our analysts have examined legislation and law enforcement practices from 2013 to 2021, as well as regulations issued by from various agencies. You can read the report here.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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