27 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! Navalny gets another nine years, Meta is declared an extremist organisation, Lev Ponomarev’s office has been attacked, and the relatives of Russian soldiers have been charged for protesting.
Nine years have been added to Navalny’s sentence. At a trial held in the Pokrovsky penal colony, Lefortovo regional court has sentenced politician Aleksei Navalny to nine years in a strict-regime prison colony on charges of fraud, and also fined hiim 1.2m roubles on charges of insulting the court. According to investigators and the court, Navalny spent money that was collected as donations to the Anti-Corruption Foundation on his own needs. He also insulted the judge and participants during his trial for defamation of a veteran.
- Why is this important? In general, every prosecution of Navalny is more absurd than the previous one. One of the victims in the fraud trial said in court that an investigator had threatened to open a criminal case against him if he didn’t testify against Navalny. Two other victims were themselves defendants in other criminal cases and most likely gave the “required” testimony because they had been intimidated by the law enforcement agencies. The politician and his associates are currently being investigated for belonging to an extremist group0, involving minors in dangerous activities, endangering the life and health of citizens, money laundering and financing extremist activities. This regime will not allow Navalny to go free.
A Russian court has declared Meta to be an extremist organisation. Meta – the mother company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – is being sued for extremist activities by the Prosecutor General’s Office. In the lawsuit, the agency pointed out that extremist material is being distributed on social media sites owned by Meta. For example, in 2016 someone posted a picture of Adolf Hitler on Instagram. In addition, the prosecutor’s office found calls to attend protest rallies that had not been approved by the authorities, and also calls for violence against Russian soldiers. Evidently the Russian authorities also took into account the information that Meta had decided not to block posts with calls to violence in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The prosecutors clarified that the claims did not apply to WhatsApp or to ordinary users of Meta’s products.
- Why do I need to know this? Well, this is plain insanity! We’ve already written about the claims against Meta. On the whole, we didn’t think that common sense would prevail even at the trial stage. Now Meta employees, including Russian citizens, can be criminally prosecuted because someone once posted a photo of Hitler. Someone else, not the official accounts of the social media sites. An excellent illustration of the level of common sense of Russian anti-extremist legislation.
Persons unknown have attacked the office of the For Human Rights movement. On 23 March, the office of Lev Ponomarev’s human rights organisation For Human Rights was attacked by persons unknown. Four men stormed into the office and sprayed pepper spray on the premises. In addition, they insulted attendees at a human rights conference that was taking place there at the time. One of the attackers had previously harassed Ponomarev himself, and two days before the office door had been daubed with the Roman letters Z and V, which are symbols of the war in Ukraine.
- Why is this important? Lev Ponomarev is a famous human rights activist who has repeatedly faced various forms of pressure from the authorities and various initiatives by fringe groups loyal to the regime. When the invasion of Ukraine began, he published a petition demanding an end to the war on change.org, which gathered over a million signatures. The Russian authorities have long been allowing various levels and kinds of violence against citizens who are inclined to opposition views. Now, with the outbreak of war, such actions are only likely to increase. In addition to the harassment of Ponomarev, we know of several such cases: for example, the editor-in-chief of the liquidated radio station Ekho Moskvy had a pig’s head left outside his door, while a sticker with the Ukrainian coat of arms and an anti-Semitic insult was stuck on the door itself.
In Karachay-Cherkessia, reports have been drawn up against soldiers’ mothers. On 20 March several local residents blocked traffic on the road bridge across the Khusa river in the village of Zelenchuskaya, demanding news of their relatives who had been sent to Ukraine. According to the women, their relatives had stopped contacting them after the invasion happened. Police charged the detainees with participation in a rally that was not approved by the authorities, causing interference with traffic.
- Why do I need to know this? This is just one more proof that the Russian state could not care less about ordinary soldiers and their mothers. The state took away the soldiers’ phones before the invasion of Ukraine, it fails to report casualty figures honestly, and it has shut itself off from relatives of soldiers by means of detentions and reports.
About denunciations. We increasingly hear the word ‘denunciation’ in the context of anti-war protests. A Just Russia has launched a website about ‘saboteurs’ and its denunciation bots are appearing in many regions. Neighbours are already complaining about people who use anti-war symbols. Read about how the institution of denunciations is returning to the country in our report.
Translated by Anna Bowles