OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 238: Creeping Kadyrovisation

22 January 2022

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: Sasha Filatova for OVD-Info

Hello! The mother of a Chechen human rights activist has been kidnapped from Nizhny Novgorod, a former coordinator of Navalny’s headquarters is not being allowed access to lawyers, and police officers are fighting against antifascists.

The mother of a Chechen human rights activist has been kidnapped from Nizhny Novgorod. Zarema Musayeva, mother of Abubakar Yangulbaev, a lawyer working with the Committee against Torture, was taken to Chechnya from the family flat in Nizhny Novgorod. Persons unknown, one of whom introduced himself as an official from the Chechen interior ministry, also wanted to take Abubakar’s father Saidi, a retired federal judge. But in the end they only took the human rights activist’s mother – a woman suffering from diabetes, who collapsed on the staircase – and her relatives are worried about the state of her health. Her current whereabouts are unknown. The authorities in Nizhny Novgorod decided not to intervene in what was happening, in spite of numerous reports about the crime and appeals from human rights activists and a lawyer. At the end of December around 40 relatives of the Yangulbayevvs ,who were living in Chechnya, were detained by the republic’s police – most of them were then released, but the fate of at least two of them remains unclear.

  • Why does this matter? Even Putin’s press secretary Dmitrii Peskov called this story “fantastical” and refused to believe it without confirmation. Unfortunately for all of us, unlike Peskov we have all the proof – the kidnapping of Zarema Musayeva took place practically live on air. The lawlessness that Chechnya has known for many years now is increasingly spreading to other parts of the country. This example shows that in practice the law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation are unable to oppose the Kadyrovites [supporters of the leader of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov – Ed.]

The former coordinator of Navalny’s Ufa headquarters is not being allowed access to lawyers. Lilia Chanysheva, who is currently detained in Pre-Trial Prison no. 6 in Moscow, under various pretexts, is not being allowed access to lawyers. In addition, the prison administration states that they cannot allow lawyers to visit the accused without the investigator’s permission. Chanysheva was arrested in connection with a case about the establishment of an extremist group, which has been brought against Navalny and his supporters.

  • Why do I need to know this? We believe that the ‘extremist group’ case founded on the activities of Navalny’s staff is unjust and politically motivated. In addition, every prisoner should have the right to a lawyer, but for some reason they have decided to deny this right to Lilia Chanysheva. Which in itself can be seen as a way of exerting pressure.

Police officers have tried to disrupt an anti-fascist concert in Moscow. Representatives of Moscow law enforcement agencies twice pressured venues that wanted to host a concert by the group Arkady Kots scheduled for 19 January, the anniversary of the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. The first time the police and employees of the Centre for Combating Extremism contacted the owners of the venues by telephone and the second time they came in person. On both occasions they used threats to force the clubs to abandon the idea of an anti-fascist concert.

  • Why is this important? 19 January is an important date for contemporary antifascists – on that day they remember not only Markelov and Baburova, but all those killed by Nazi terror in the noughties. Before the pandemic, regular marches and rallies were held on this day in Moscow and St Petersburg, Now that is almost impossible to imagine, as just about all street activities are banned, and musical events are also highly problematic. At the same time, the Russian state officially presents a strict rejection of right-wing ideas, and as struggle for the anti-fascist past and the honour of World War II veterans. It is evident that, for the Russian Federation, antifascism is acceptable only as a black-and-white photograph from the forties.

The continued persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the Chelyabinsk region the prosecutor’s office requested that a seventy-year-old believer be sentenced to six and a half years in jail, but the court gave the woman six years’ probation,  finding her guilty of organising the activities of an extremist group. In the Tomsk region, two Jehovah’s Witnesses were sentenced to seven, four and three years in prison respectively.

  • Why do I need to know this? The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses has become a handy excuse for the Centre for Combating Extremism, the FSB and the Investigative Committee to pad out their statistics on cases of extremism. Thus the authorities prove their importance to the big bosses. It’s hard to claim that any real danger is presented by anyone who has been convicted as a Jehovah’s Witness, or Jehovah’s Witnesses in general: this is a glaring example of how the word “extremism” has finally lost any meaning in Russia.


About your faces at rallies. Participants of the 2021 rallies in Moscow were caught on video and brought to justice after the fact. We have published a long report about this. We also invite you to read our interview with lawyer Ekaterina Ryzhova, who works with OVD-info and often handles such cases in the courts.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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