18 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.
We continue to bring you up to date on what is happening with Memorial. Ordinary hearings took place on 14 and 16 December. The Supreme Court examined various pieces of evidence in the liquidation suit against Memorial International and the next hearing is scheduled for 28 December. The Moscow City Court, where the liquidation suit against the Human Rights Centre is pending, held its third and final preliminary hearing, with the first trial on the matter itself scheduled for 23 December.
Masha Alekhina and Lucy Shtein, the defendants in the “sanitation case”, have been arrested again, former employees of blogger Yuri Khovansky have testified against him, and the authorities want to sentence Ivan Zhdanov, the father of one of Navalny’s associates, to life imprisonment.
In addition, two participants in a solitary picket in support of International Memorial were detained outside the Supreme Court, and the Memorial Human Rights Centre was fined 500,000 roubles for not labelling itself as a ‘foreign agent’ on the page regarding arrangements for donating to OVD-Info.
The arrest of Masha Alekhina and Lucy Stein. The Tverskoi District Court in Moscow has arrested Pussy Riot member Masha Alekhina and municipal deputy Lucy Shtein and sentenced them to 15 and 14 days of administrative detention respectively. Both women had previously been convicted in a “sanitary case”. The reason for the charges this time was an article about the display of Nazi symbols: in the case of Alekhina, the operatives found a publication from 2015 featuring Lukashenko and Indian swastikas, while in the case of Stein they found a screenshot of a video in which she was accused of fascism and depicted in a Nazi hat.
Why do I need to know this? Law enforcement officials decided to have a bit of a go at Pussy Riot, who have gotten on their nerves pretty badly in the past. Why they decided to bring up these old publications now is not entirely clear. But in any case, the use of the article on Nazi symbols to persecute Alekhina for the images of Indian swastikas in the case, and the use of a screenshot from a video of other people calling Stein a fascist, seems far-fetched and unfair.
RBC Media Group: former employees of Khovansky have testified against him. Two of the three witnesses in the case against blogger Yury Khovansky have turned out to be former law enforcement officers. Khovansky is accused of justifying terrorism in a song performed on a livestream many years ago, but according to witnesses, the blogger allegedly performed it in 2018 – that is, after the article on the justification of terrorism was introduced. Meanwhile, the text of the testimony of all three people is very similar; two years after listening to Khovansky’s song, all three of them allegedly found it on the internet independently of each other and complained to the police.
Why does this matter? Khovansky’s song about the hostage-taking at Dubrovka in 2002 may be crude and silly, but he was obviously not trying to justify the actions of the terrorists. It’s clear that he did not pursue the aim of justifying the actions of the terrorists, nor did he express any sympathy for them or approve of their methods, ideas or statements. Moreover, the song was recorded before the introduction of punishment for such acts: now here is an investigator trying, very sloppily, with the help of his colleagues or former colleagues, to prop up the prosecution. The practical workings of the articles justifying terrorism have long ceased to be adequate, but unfortunately the courts rarely pay much attention to this fact.
A custodial sentence has been requested for the father of the former director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation. The prosecutor’s office has asked that the father of Navalny’s associate Ivan Zhdanov be sentenced to three years in prison on charges of the abuse of power, forgery and fraud. According to the investigation, Yuri Zhdanov committed a crime when, as a member of the housing commission of the village of Iskateley (Nenets Autonomous District), he recommended that a local resident be allocated a council flat. The contract was terminated and the settlement’s administration reclaimed the flat through the courts.
Why do I need to know this? The case against Zhdanov’s father looks like the authorities taking revenge on a man they failed to reach personally – Zhdanov himself has left the country. The village headman, whose signature is on the document, has not become a defendant in the criminal case. An inspection was carried out earlier and found no wrongdoing. Nevertheless, this elderly man is being held in pre-trial detention, and they want to sentence him to prison.
Last week we published so many features that this week our media department has taken a break. In the meantime you can make a wish and blow out a candle in honour of OVD-Info’s recent birthday or read our colleagues’ accounts of their work on the project.
Translated by Anna Bowles