25 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.
Hello! Left-wing activists have been charged for holding up a banner and flares, police officers all over the country are being fired for subscribing to media supporting Navalny, and they won’t leave the DOXA guys alone.
But we start with Saturday’s urgent news: Roskomnadzor has blocked OVD-Info’s website! By decision of the Lukhovitsky district court in Moscow Region. On 13 December we received an email with a demand to turn up the next morning at the Lukhovitsky prosecutor’s office, but once there our lawyer was told nothing specific. On 15 December the case was sent to court. On 20 December the court issued a ruling without our participation, and on 25 December we were already blocked. We do not yet know why our site has been blocked. We shall find out and seek to get the decision quashed. In the meantime you can subscribe to us via our social networks (they have not been blocked yet!): Telegram, Vkontakte, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Now for other news.
Criminal case against members of the Left Bloc in Moscow. On 23 December left-wing activists Lev Skoryakin and Ruslan Abasov were detained in the capital; both are now defendants in a prosecution for hooliganism using violence. The reason for the prosecution was a protest on the professional holiday of the employees of state security agencies: 20 December. During the protest, the Left Bloc activists held up a banner outside the FSB building with the words ‘Happy Chkist’s Day’ and lit flares. Skoryakin has already been charged – according to the investigators, the activists used the flares as a weapon during commission of the crime, throwing them over the fence.
- Why should I know that? You can see the flexible article of the Criminal Code on hooliganism in action: no matter what kind of protest you hold, no matter what you do, your actions can always be qualified as hooliganism and you can face criminal charges. Especially if you are a political activist.
Police officers are fired for subscribing to online resources linked to Navalny. According to the Dozhd TV channel, in many regions police officers who have shown an interest in the activities of Aleksei Navalny and organisations connected to his work are being fired or asked to resign voluntarily. Fourteen law enforcement officials have anonymously told journalists about this. According to the officers, information about unreliable officers comes down from their superiors, and some have been interviewed by representatives of regional internal security departments.
- Why is this important? It turns out that police chiefs would like their rank-and-file officers to have no political views, let alone opposition ones. It looks as if the state is consciously making a bet on the polarization of society and is fuellling a witch-hunt. Previously you had to be an activist at a protest, now it is enough to have subscribed to the wrong blogs on the VKontakte social media plataform.
Ivan Zhdanov’s father has been given a suspended sentence. The first conditionally good news is that the court’s sentence has left the father of Aleksei Navalny’s associate at liberty. He was given a suspended sentence. Yury Zhdanov was charged in a criminal case of fraud, abuse of authority and forgery. According to investigators, he had committed the crime when as a member of the housing commission in the village of Iskatelei (in the Nenets autonomous district) he recommended that a local resident be given a social housing. The prosecutor’s office has appealed against the court’s decision.
- Why do I need to know that? We have closely followed the prosecution of Ivan Zhdanov’s father because from the beginning it looked like a blatant case of government retribution against the relative of an opposition activist. An inspection, which took place a year before the case was filed, at first did not find any violations. Moreover, the chair of the housing commission was not prosecuted along with Yury Zhdanov, despite the fact that he had signed the document. Such a selective approach to a prosecution, indeed, raises even more questions about this criminal case.
Почему это важно? Дело DOXA в принципе абсурдно, но в этот раз ФСИН, конечно, постаралась пробить дно. Хорошо, что в этот раз судья оказался адекватнее инспекторов.
They wanted to lock the DOXA editors up because of their wedding. On 21 December in Dorogomilovskiy court the was a hearing at the request of the Federal Penitentiary Service to tighten the pre-trial restrictions imposed on Alla Gutnikova and Vladimir Metelkin, defendants in the DOXA prosecution. On 13 December both of them were celebrating their wedding and were 18 minutes late in getting home. The Federal Penitentiary Service viewed this as a serious violation. Gutnikova and Metelkin, along with two colleagues, have been charged with involving minors in dangerous activities. The investigators consider that a DOXA video urging students not to fear expulsion for taking part in rallies may have harmed students.
- Why is this important? The DOXA case is absurd in principle, but on this occasion the Federal Penitentiary Service plumbed the depths. It is a good thing that this time round the judge proved to have more common sense than the investigators.
On the lawyers’ cases. Alexander Litoy talked wtih the lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov, who for several years now has been defending those prosecuted in criminal and administrative cases where political motives are discernible. You can read the interview here. Moreover, Dmitry also separately told us how, in the DOXA case, the court is trying to impose government lawyers on the defendants against their will.
Every day we receive calls on our hotline, write about sthe news and publish articles about politically motivated prosecutions in Russia. We also produce guidelines, reports and podcasts. Our lawyers deal with criminal cases and prepare applications to the European Court of Human Rights. And our team of IT specialists is working every day to make our services more user-friendly. All of this happens because of your support. Sign up for a monthly donation to OVD-Info so we can keep working and bringing out your favourite newsletter.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove