OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 250: F for Fake News

16 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.

Illustration: Katya Litvinova for OVD-Info

Hey! The state sees “fake news” everywhere; by contrast, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation does not see crimes against activists; and the editors of DOXA have been sentenced.

Criminal cases connected with the war. In Russia, the practice of bringing various kinds of criminal charges for reporting or commenting on the war, or for speaking out against it continues to spread. The offices of the LIStok newspaper in Altai were searched, along with the apartments of its employees. The editor-in-chief of the publication was detained in Moscow – he was then placed in an Altai pre-trial detention centre. According to law enforcement agencies, the newspaper was spreading “fake news” about the armed forces. In Khakassia a similar case was brought against the editor-in-chief of New Focus who was detained and remanded in custody. In St Petersburg, activist Sasha Kochilenko was also sent to a pre-trial detention centre – she is accused of replacing the price tags in shops with leaflets featuring anti-war messages. Skochilenko is gluten intolerant and will not be able to survive in the remand prison on the food they provide. In addition, over the past week we have learned about criminal prosecutions for anti-war statements or actions in Moscow, Moscow Region, Crimea, Bashkortostan and Kalmykia.

  • Why is this important? The state is actively making it clear that it will not tolerate any opinion other than the official one about the war in Ukraine. Anyone who tries to spread information other than the cheery reports of the Ministry of Defence, and even more so those who dare to criticize this war, will be severely persecuted. Against the backdrop of an economy collapsing from sanctions and a lack of major military successes, law enforcement agencies are readily repressing disloyal citizens. This wave of criminal cases itself, however, already refutes the idea that in Russia the war enjoys the support of the majority.

The court has announced a verdict in the DOXA case. Former editors of the publication Natasha Tyshkevich, Alla Gutnikova, Armen Aramyan and Vladimir Metelkin were sentenced to two years of compulsory labour. All were found guilty of involving minors in illegal and life-threatening activities, and were also banned from administering websites for three years. At the same time, the judge did not take into account in the verdict that before the trial all the accused had been prohibited from certain actions. Taking into account the year of restrictions, the sentence should have been reduced. People who came to court to support the editors of DOXA were detained.

  • Why do I need to know this? Remember that the key point in the DOXA case was a video published on the website’s social media pages, in which the editors urged students not to be afraid of expulsion for participation in rallies. That is, “unlawful and life-threatening” activities are understood to mean protests – the very ones that the police turn into a succession of violence, detentions and criminal incidents.

The Investigative Committee has refused to investigate torture at a Brateevo police station. Moscow investigators have refused to investigate police violence at the Brateevo police station against activist Aleksandra Kaluzhskaya, who was detained on 6 March at an anti-war rally. Moscow City Duma deputy Evgeny Stupin had called on the Investigative Committee to assess the illegal actions of the police – the investigators replied that there were not enough materials to initiate a criminal case.

  • Why is this important? The Investigative Committee of Russia has somehow finally turned from a body for investigating crimes into a body for issuing political statements. Bastrykin declares the need to investigate the activities of Nazi criminals, as well as those whom the Russian state considers their heirs in Ukraine. The Investigative Committee will search day and night for creators of anti-war graffiti, distributors of protest leaflets, and participants in rallies, and it will find them. But the umpteenth incidence of police violence turns out to be of no interest to him. Unfortunately, it has to be acknowledged that here the state places the emphasis in full accordance with its ideas about the rule of law.


About anti-war leaflets. The invasion of Ukraine on February 24 triggered a wave of protests across Russia — people protested en masse against the war, went to protests, distributed anti-war leaflets and pasted stickers calling for an end to the war on their cars. The state responded sharply: pacifists began to be prosecuted, under both administrative and criminal law. Read our article about how law enforcement agencies respond to anti-war appeals.

We also have new guidelines on how to properly make deliveries to a person in a special detention centre, remand prison, labour colony, or wherever he or she may need a delivery! In addition, our analysts have done an overview of the relationship between the new law on fake news and freedom of assembly – read it here.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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