10 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.
Hello! The editor-in-chief of Novaya gazeta has been attacked, human rights organisations in Russia are being liquidated and there are more and more “fake news” cases.
Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya gazeta, has been attacked. Unknown assailants poured red paint and acetone on Muratov in a compartment of the train in which the journalist was due to travel from Moscow to Samara. One attacker shouted: “Muratov, this one’s for our lads”. The journalist was diagnosed at hospital with burns to the mucus membranes of his eyes, and the eyes themselves. Later, the Telegram channel Union Z of Paratroopers reported that the attack was due to Novaya gazeta‘s distribution of texts about atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian town of Bucha – although the post was later deleted. By the way, Novaya gazeta did not write specifically about Bucha because by that time it had already stopped publishing such material. Muratov is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. According to law enforcement agencies, one of the attackers has been detained. In addition, two other attacks that can be linked to the war occurred in the past week – a local activist in Kaluga was beaten and his details published on social media, and sewage was poured onto the door of Lev Ponomarev’s organisation For Human Rights.
- Why is this important? What distinguishes full-fledged fascism from ordinary autocracy is grassroots mass initiative. Autocracy benefits from keeping the masses apolitical; fascism needs their complete loyalty and participation in the hysteria. Throughout Putin’s reign the state has acted more like an autocracy, although various “tit-for-tat” attacks have happened before. Now there is a sense that there are more citizens fired up by hateful propaganda and ready to turn this hatred into violent action. What will the Russian state do now? We do not need to explain how full-fledged fascism is more dangerous than autocracy.
The liquidation of human rights organisations continues. The appeal against the decision to liquidate the Memorial Human Rights Centre was rejected, so the liquidation came into force. And International Memorial has been excluded from the register of legal entities – in violation of the law – and the organisation’s accounts have been blocked. Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights called on Russia to delay the implementation of the decisions on both Memorial organisations. On 8 April the Russian authorities simply closed the offices of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Carnegie Endowment and 12 other foreign and international organisations.
- Why do I need to know this? Basically the Russian state is no longer ashamed of anything, but we try to record every milestone in this epic. Of course, a country that has started an aggressive war with its neighbour and imprisons people for anti-war graffiti cannot allow international human rights, analytical and educational organisations to operate on its territory. And still less its own domestic and home-grown Memorial. In the context of reports of war crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine and Memorial’s experience investigating similar cases during the Chechen wars, one would think that, having eliminated the oldest human rights project, the Russian state will feel freer.
“Fake news” cases. Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora human rights group, said that 21 cases regarding “fake news” about the Russian armed forces have already been filed since the start of the war. At least, those are the ones human rights activists know about. Of that number, two cases were unknown to us: one against an Alushta activist for posting anti-war leaflets and another against a minor from Novosibirsk for a comment in a social network.
- Why is this important? A new article was added to the Russian Criminal Code in March 2022, against the backdrop of mass anti-war protests. Under this article, one can get up to 15 years for disseminating information about the war from sources other than official Russian sources. The article is now being used to harass pacifists and intimidate society – it is important for the state to create the perception that the majority support this war.
Lucy Shtein, a defendant in the “sanitary case”, has left Russia. Municipal deputy and Pussy Riot activist Lucy Shtein has left the country. “I was fed up with the repression against me and my loved ones, but I was ready to endure it. However, 24 February changed everything,” Shtein told the Telegram channel We Can Do It Again regarding her departure. Earlier, the prosecutor’s office had demanded that the sentence handed down to Maria Alekhina, another defendant in the same case and also a member of Pussy Riot, be changed to actual imprisonment.
- Why is this important? It’s likely that hundreds of activists, journalists and human rights defenders have left Russia since the war began, disagreeing with the official position on the ‘special military operation’ and fearing for their freedom and health. But the members of Pussy Riot were a pain in the neck for the Moscow bureaucrats long before 24 February 2022: Shtein and Alekhina were both arrested and detained multiple times and last year were charged in trumped-up criminal cases. Now, with military censorship, it is obvious that the state’s pressure on all activists and activists will only increase.
About the DOXA case. On 12 April four former DOXA editors – Armen Aramyan, Natasha Tyshkevich, Vladimir Metelkin and Alla Gutnikova – are to be sentenced by a court in Moscow. We decided to look back at how DOXA magazine came into being, what it wrote about and why criminal proceedings were launched against its members and participants . Read about it in our article.
Translated by Anna Bowles