13 March 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.
Hello! In Russia, anti-war protestors are facing criminal prosecution, masses of people are fleeing the country, and the General Prosecutor wants to declare Facebook an extremist organisation.
Criminal cases in the wake of anti-war protests. In the two weeks since the start of the war, we have heard of criminal cases being brought against several people in relation to anti-war rallies. In Moscow, Vladivostok and St Petersburg suspects were remanded in custody under various articles of the Criminal Code; in St Petersburg at least two new cases were opened – about the burning of an effigy in camouflage dress and an assault on a police officer. Two cases were also opened regarding violence against a representative of the authorities in Yekaterinburg. There are criminal cases in Crimea and the Tula region over graffiti ‘insulting’ the Russian military.
- Why do I need to know this? After the various mass protests and multiple arrests, we should of course expect a response from the state to society’s attempts to speak out against the war. The recent laws are highly repressive even by Russian standards, allowing prosecution for any statement about the war, and leaving no doubt that the authorities want to firmly suppress any discontent in society. And that the manifestation of such discontent is viewed very dimly: if you do not agree with the ‘special military operation’ that means you are Nazi accomplice and an enemy of the people. The numerous criminal cases in the wake of anti-war rallies should be viewed in this context as campaign to scare society.
The exodus from Russia. Against the background of war and increased censorship, Russia is experiencing a veritable exodus of people of the most varied professions, although in the public domain we mostly hear about the exodus of journalists, human rights activists and representatives of the charity sector. Agenstvo has estimated that since the start of the war 150 journalists have emigrated from Russia. In addition, film critic Anton Dolin, political analyst Kirill Rogov, poet Vera Polozkova, film director Kantemir Balagov and Grigory Sverdlin, the director of the homelessness charity Nochlezhka, have all left Russia. There is also information about human rights defenders and activists leaving the country.
- Why is this important? It’s unlikely this latest evidence is considered a cause for concern by the Russian authorities, but one has to sympathise with those who remain in Russia. All people, not just those who are now actively protesting against the war. This is because many of those who are now leaving were simply involved in projects that helped Russian citizens in one way or another, trying to correct social injustice and solve other problems that affect ordinary people. The thin layer of fertile soil constituting an active civil society is being blown away into oblivion. Nobody in Russia is going to be better off because of this, though it’s clear that many do not understand this yet.
The Prosecutor General’s office is demanding that Meta be declared an extremist organisation. The Prosecutor General’s Office has asked a Russian court to declare Meta, the parent company of Facebook, extremist, and block Instagram in Russia. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Facebook and Instagram are used to spread calls for the murder of Russian military personnel, and for calls for mass unrest in Russia. Meta executives had earlier said that they did not intend to block material calling for violence against the Russian military in Ukraine, for the time being.
- Why do I need to know this? The Russian authorities’ repressive dance of insanity continues! Yes, the decision by the Meta board to refuse to block calls to violence against certain groups of citizens is unprecedented. But so is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Additionally, it’s useful to use this example to demonstrate Russian officials’ detachment from reality: Meta itself is not calling for violence, the company is only determining the degree of moderation of material posted by users. Nevertheless, after the a court has ruled on the Prosecutor’s request, Meta employees in Russia may face the threat of criminal prosecution.
About the 6 March protests. On 6 March, around 5,000 people in 69 towns in Russia were arrested at anti-war protests. The total since the start of the war is around 14,000 in more than 140 towns. We summarise here the main events that took place on our streets on 6 March.
The single unified register of ‘foreign agents.’ The state Duma has approved a bill to create a unified list of individuals who act as ‘foreign agents’ in its second reading. We publish a text in which a lawyer, a human rights activist and a political scientist discuss how the forthcoming law will change the lives of “foreign agents”.
Every day we receive calls on our hotline, write news and articles about politically motivated prosecutions in Russia, and produce guides, reports, and podcasts. Our lawyers handle criminal cases and prepare complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, and our IT team works 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 preparing your favourite newsletter.
Translated by Anna Bowles