28 February 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.
Hey! It is difficult to write about something other than the war, but nevertheless: in Russia, there are demonstrations against the war, Roskomnadzor is introducing censorship, and Navalny is on trial.
Russia has started a war against Ukraine
Until the last moment there was some hope that such a thing could not happen. At least in the form of overt intervention and fierce battles with the Ukrainian army and volunteer forces. Nevertheless, it has happened.
No matter what words are spoken at the same time, no matter what justifications are given, war is always war. This is violence, deaths, destruction, the cessation of normal life. War entails massive violations of fundamental human rights. War is a disaster.
We, as members of OVD-Info, and as the project as a whole, oppose the war and the aggressive actions of the Russian state, and call for a speedy return to peace.
We remind you that we have the best guidance for how to behave if detained which will help you if you are arrested at a protest rally, as well as guidance on how to behave if you are called to the police station or an Investigative Committee after the rally. There are more useful guidelines of various kind on our special website.
Anti-war rallies. The war began on 24 February, and by the evening thousands of people had already come out to take part in anti-war rallies around the whole country. According to data obtained by OVD-Info, 1,866 people were arrested in 60 cities across Russia. There’s a list of detainees here. Click on the link to read the text about the results of the rallies. On February 25, the protests continued, with at least 585 more people being detained.
Thhe activists detained on 21 February at anti-war pickets were given jail sentences of 10 or 15 days. One of the participants in the rally in Moscow on 24 February was arrested in a criminal case about a Molotov cocktail thrown at some police – though the police were not injured. At the same time, the authorities in Moscow refused to give permission for a march against the war in Ukraine. We’ve created a timeline of state responses to the protests.
- Why is this important? In pandemic conditions, street protests in Russia are de facto banned. People lack the opportunity to express their opposition to the war within the framework of existing norms – any protest rally will be considered to be held without permission, to violate quarantine regulations and will accordingly be dispersed by police. And in general, the state does not accept loud statements against the war – if they talk about a rally through federal channels, then it’s in a sharply negative tone.
Roskomnadzor is trying to censor information about the war. Against the background of the war in Ukraine, the government’s media regulator Roskomnadzor is trying to get independent media in Russia to offer “correct” coverage of the issue. The department wants journalists to write about the events in our neighbour country only with reference to official Russian sources. Which, unlike the Ukrainian ones, have not yet reported either Russian losses or civilian deaths. Later, Roskomnadzor demanded that some media remove materials about the military conflict, including Novaya Gazeta, Dozhd, Ekho Moskvy, and Mediazona. In addition, Facebook is partially blocked in Russia.
- Why do I need to know this? Amongst other things, Roskomdadzor demands that what is happening be called a “special military operation” and never a war. The difference is important ,and apparently only comprehensible to officials of the Russian state. By all indications, what is happening in Ukraine now is a war, with all its consequences. But what Roskomnadzor is doing now is obviously an attempt at military censorship.
The prosecutor’s office has asked for tougher punishment in the case of the Kansk teenagers. Turning to pre-war stories: the prosecution is asking for an increase in the sentence handed out to Nikita Uvarov, who was previously sentenced to five years in prison. According to the prosecutor, Uvarov deserves nine years in prison. The court found him and two other teenagers guilty of training for terrorist activities, as well as making and possessing explosives.
- Why is it important? Does a teenager who has done nothing to harm anyone deserve nine years in prison? We think not. He doesn’t even deserve five. The cruel obstinacy of the prosecutor’s office is difficult to explain.
A witness in the Navalny case has left Russia after speaking in court. Former employee of the Anti-Corruption Foundation Fedor Gorozhanko, who was a witness for the prosecution in the criminal case of fraud against Aleksei Navalny, has left Russia. He did this immediately after speaking in court, where he stated that the investigator had forced him to memorize his testimony against Navalny under threat of criminal prosecution. This trial is also considering an episode of “insulting the judge and other participants in the trial” in connection with Navalny’s statement at another court – in the case of insulting a veteran.
- Why is this important? It seems that no Russian politician has such rich judicial experience. According to the investigation, Navalny spent the money collected as donations from the Anti-Corruption Foundation on his own needs. If we believe Gorozhanko, the investigator is trying to prove this in court by putting pressure on witnesses. But the rest of the evidence is probably better quality, right? Unfortunately, in a Russian court, the case against Navalny can only lead to one result: the judge will most likely recognize them as credible. Despite any briefing of prepared witnesses.
Now we really need defenders in police stations and the courts. Primarily in Moscow and St Petersburg, but also in other regions. If you are a lawyer, or have taken a course to become a public defender, please fill out our questionnaire, as we really need help.
About Lukhovitsky court. At the end of last year, the OVD-Info website was blocked on a decision by the Lukhovitsky City Court in the Moscow Region. We challenged this decision, but the court now states that the complaint was not written correctly – allegedly, it did not name the owner of the domain. But this is not true! We explain why the court’s claim seems rather strange to us.
Translated by Anna Bowles