OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 251: It’s not a war, it’s not an occupation, it’s not truth.

1 May 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: Alina Kugush

Hello! New anti-war criminals, pressure on a trade union, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a fine for extremists from Meta.

Criminal cases in the context of war. The state continues to initiate criminal cases for “fake news” about the Russian armed forces. Such a case has been initiated against the head of the Krasnoselsky municipal district of Moscow, Elena Kotenochkina, and a deputy of the local council, Aleksei Gorinov. Kotenochkina is outside Russia – she was put on the international wanted list and arrested in absentia, while Gorinov has been sent to a pre-trial detention centre. According to the investigation, the deputies are guilty of several instances of spreading “fake news”: they called the “special operation” a war and an invasion, they said children are dying in Ukraine every day and that Russia’s actions are the actions of a “fascist state”. In addition, cases under the article on “fake news” were brought against a RusNews journalist – she was sent to a pre-trial detention centre despite being the mother of two young children; a Voronezh district deputy; and also, for the second time, an Ingush journalist. We are collecting all cases of criminal prosecutions relating to the war in our guide.

  • Why is this important? A lot of totally out-there criminal cases are brought every week, across the country, so we have to write about it in every newsletter. People are being prosecuted literally for calling black black and not wanting to call it grey or white. Russia is at war with Ukraine, parts of Ukraine are occupied and there are thousands of victims. This is the real way of looking at things. However, with these prosecutions it’s as if the law enforcement agencies of our state don’t want to allow reality into their imaginary world with its “Nazis” and anti-fascist mission, its “liberation” of Ukraine and “provocations by the West”.

Harassment of the head of the сouriers’ trade union. In Moscow, Kirill Ukraintsev, a left-wing activist and chair of the Moscow couriers’ trade union, has been detained and sent to pre-trial detention on a criminal charge of “repeated violations at rallies” (Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, known as Dadin’s article after the first person convicted under it). His home has been searched. Previously Ukraintsev had more than once been detained and prosecuted under the “rallies” article of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences for which he has been fined and jailed. The criminal case came to light after Delivery Club couriers were detained in the Khoroshevo-Mnevniki district after protesting against a pay cut.

  • Why do I need to know this? We need to remember that there aren’t just anti-war protests going on in Russia now. However, they are still linked with the war: the economic situation is deteriorating, companies who coordinate courier deliveries want to minimise costs – at the expense of the couriers themselves. We have written more than once that we consider “Dadin’s article” an unconstitutional measure aimed at persecuting active participants in protests in particular. Peaceful protest is a right guaranteed by the Constitution: in the case of Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, biased law enforcement practice under the administrative articles related to rallies is aggravated by criminal prosecution based on those articles.

Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The countrywide crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses continues. Last week, a believer from the Tomsk region was sentenced to two years and two months in prison, a criminal investigation against local believers in Krasnodar Krai concluded, and mass searches took place in Adygea. Cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses are being filed under the article on extremist organisation – in 2017, the “management centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia” and some 400 local communities of believers were included in the list of such organisations.

  • Why is this important? After the leadership body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia was recognized as extremist, believers began to be persecuted just for confessing this faith. Investigating authorities analyse with great attention not the actual actions of a person, but the decisions of various law enforcement bodies. By this logic, if Jehovah’s witnesses are included on the list of extremist organisations, that means they are all extremists. So security forces countrywide have a handy excuse to improve their statistics on extremism cases in a simple way.

Meta has been fined for OVD-Info posts. The magistrate of the Tagansky district of Moscow fined Meta four million roubles for (Meta is the parent company of Facebook and Instagram). The reason for this was that Facebook and Instagram did not remove posts that Roskomnadzor considered to be “propaganda of the LGBT community” which also “insulted” the flag and coat of arms of Russia. We are talking about posts by OVD-Info and several other publications.

  • Why do I need to know this? Since the beginning of the war, censorship in Russia has grown to a remarkable scale. Still, sometimes you can laugh at it: first Russian labels Meta an extremist organisation, then fines it for not taking down banned posts. Perhaps the responsible authorities should agree on a position among themselves?


On “discrediting” the armed forces. After the start of the war with Ukraine, Russia introduced an article into the Code of Administrative Offences on “discrediting” the armed forces. People who disagree with the war are persecuted en masse under this article: we know of at least 1,258 such cases throughout the country. We examine how this article is used and how far it complies with legal rules.

On the detention centre in Sakharovo. In the last two months, migrants have often been detained in Moscow and then deported to their home countries. We publish the story of a Kazakh national who was detained on the day of a protest in the capital, then placed in a temporary detention centre for foreign nationals in Sakharovo and deported to his home country. According to the man, he endured very bad conditions, rudeness and bullying.

On “foreign agents”. A new draft law has been submitted to the State Duma, which will consolidate all the rules on “foreign agents”. Lawyers from the Media Rights Defence Centre have analysed the initiatives – in this article we talk about the life of “foreign agents” will change after the adoption of the law under discussion.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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