OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 248: Today’s lesson: Denouncing your teacher.

3 April 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.

Anti-war stickers in Moscow / Photo: Natalya Budantseva

Hello! The authorities want to sentence the editors of DOXA to compulsory labour, Nemtsov was under surveillance by the FSB before his murder, school pupils are making denunciations, and the making threats of terrorism by telephone all over Russia.

The authorities have asked for the editors of the student magazine DOXA to each be sentenced to two years of corrective labour. The prosecutor’s office considers Natalya Tyshkevich, Alla Gutnikova, Armen Aramyan and Vladimir Metelkin guilty of involving minors in life-threatening activities. That’s their assessment of the publication by the DOXA editors of a video appealing to students not to be afraid of being expelled from universities for participation in protest rallies related to the jailing of Aleksei Navalny. These young people have spent about a year banned from certain activities: they can only leave home for questioning, or otherwise for two hours every day. On 2 April, Tyshkevich was jailed for 15 days on charges of displaying extremist symbols, for, according to DOXA, publishing the official coat of arms of Ukraine. In addition, if the judge agrees with the prosecution, all defendants will be banned from administering websites.

  • Why is this important? The case against the DOXA editors is a remnant of pre-war times and protests for the release of Alexei Navalny. With the actual introduction of military censorship, the destruction of almost all independent media and the use of criminal cases for anti-war statements, the DOXA case has begun to look a little more familiar. It doesn’t seem so crazy any more – against the backdrop of all the madness that’s going on. It can be assumed that the labelling of Navalny’s structures as extremist and the cases related to protests against his imprisonment were only the initial chord of the state’s attack on Russian society.

In Penza, a criminal case has been opened against a teacher because of a denunciation by eighth-graders. Investigators opened a case of “fake news” about the armed forces of the Russian Federation against English teacher Irina Gen. In one lesson, answering a question from students on why they would not go to international competitions in Europe, she expressed a negative attitude towards the war in Ukraine. The students recorded the teacher’s words on a Dictaphone, then handed it over to the investigating authorities.

  • Why do I need to know this? It’s very sad news, of course, and in some ways even frightening. We have somehow become accustomed to the fact that teachers in Russia meekly accept the position of the state and even persuade students not to participate in protests, or instil in them the official view of events. And here it’s the other way around: the schoolchildren not only turned out to be more loyal to the state than the teacher, but also initiated a criminal case against her. Although here, of course, we should bear in mind that this would hardly have happened without some decision on the part of the parents.

Searches in cases of ‘telephone terrorism’ in Novosibirsk and St Petersburg. New searches were carried out at the homes of three activists in Novosibirsk and another in St Petersburg. As it turned out, all three are considered witnesses in cases of a false report of the making of terrorist threats by telephone in which searches were carried out in different cities of Russia on March 5, 6, 12, 13, 18 and 20. In St. Petersburg, 12 people were detained as suspects, while in the remaining cases people got off with interrogations and searches.

  • Why is this important? A criminal case is just a convenient excuse to search the homes of activists and human rights defenders, to seize equipment in order to intimidate people and their relatives. This is not the first time that the formal status of a witness in a case has given security forces a free hand to act against those who arouse their distrust, but, of course, the scope and frequency are striking: searches have occurred seven times over the past month, in seven cities. It is hardly worth hoping that the validity of the actions of the investigating authorities in each specific case will be thoroughly checked and confirmed.

The FSB officers who poisoned Navalny had previously followed Nemtsov. According to a new investigation by The Insider, the BBC and Bellingcat, Nemtsov was under surveillance by the same FSB agents who were involved in the poisoning of Aleksei Navalny, poet Dmitry Bykov and activist Vladimir Kara-Murza. According to the journalists, the surveilance of Nemtsov began in 2014 when he started to actively publicly speak out in favour of sanctions against Putin’s entourage. And they stopped the surveillance of the politician a few days before his murder.

  • Why do I need to know this? Several people from Chechnya were imprisoned in the case of Nemtsov’s murder. According to the investigation, they killed Nemtsov because of his statement about the Islamist terrorist attack on the office of French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo. The trail led to the person alleged to have ordered the murder: Ruslan Geremeev, a close associate of Ramzan Kadyrov. However, Geremeev was not interrogated because in actual practice the jurisdiction of Russian law enforcement does not extend to Chechnya. The theory that Nemtsov could not have been killed without the participation or at least the consent of the Russian security services has now been bolstered by important new evidence.


We haven’t published any features this week. ☹

Translated by Anna Bowles

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