8 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.
Hello! Criminal cases have been opened against Vesna [Spring] and Mirnoe soprotivlenie [Peaceful Resistance], the pandemic is still proving convenient for the authorities, and an artist in a pre-trial detention centre reports that she is being put under pressure.
A criminal case has been opened against members of the Vesna [Spring] movement. In St Petersburg, representatives of the Spring movement were searched in connection with a criminal case, the security services came to the parents of federal co-ordinator Bogdan Litvin, and also to the co-ordinators Valentin Khoroshenin and Yevgeny Zateev. The case against Spring was initiated under the article on the creation of an NGO that infringes on the persons and rights of citizens (Article 239 of the Criminal Code). Earlier, the movement had announced anti-war rallies on 9 May in Russian cities.
- Why is this important? Article 239 of the Criminal Code was originally introduced to combat destructive religious groups. Later, a similar case was brought against Navalny and his supporters. With the outbreak of war, Spring took a strongly anti-war stance, advocating an immediate cessation of hostilities and calling on supporters to participate in protests. The criminal case can be regarded as the response of the state to activities of this kind.
Searches at the homes of members of Mirnoe soprotivlenie [Peaceful Resistance]. In addition, searches were conducted of the homes of members of the Peaceful Resistance activist anti-war group Olga Smirnova, Asan Mumdzhi, Tatyana Sichkareva, Vlad Shipitsyn and Ilya Tkachenko. The investigations were carried out as part of a criminal case into “fake news” about the Russian army. The pretext was a post on the Peaceful Resistance page on the VKontakte social network. Four activists were released after being interrogated as witnesses, but Olga Smirnova was remanded in custody until 4 July. The hearing to decide on the preventative measures was held behind closed doors at the request of the investigation.
- Why do I need to know this? The Russian state reacts very harshly against any anti-war protest, and the article of the Russian Criminal Code on “fake news” was introduced especially for this. Now it is important to monitor how the wave of repression is spreading, how categorically and purposefully the investigating authorities are suppressing the protest. To justify the war in Ukraine, state bodies use an anti-fascist narrative, while at the same time demonstrating an entirely fascist intolerance for differing opinions.
An artist who was arrested for attending an anti-war rally has spoken about harassment in a pre-trial detention centre. Sasha Skochilenko, who was placed in a St Petersburg detention centre for substituting anti-war appeals for price tags in a shop, has spoken about the pressure she is subjected to in the detention centre. According to Sasha, in words passed to the outside world by her girlfriend, her cellmates have subjected the artist to harassment: they have allowed her to eat only in accordance with the meal timetable, forbidden her to open the refrigerator, taken food from her parcels and forced her to wash their clothes every day. Later it became known that after the publication of this information Skochilenko was transferred to another cell and the prison authorities also began to provide her with hot gluten-free meals – the artist has gluten intolerance.
- Why is this important? Sending a person to a pre-trial detention centre for acts that harmed nobody is already excessive in itself. Sending a person with fragile health, which is highly likely to worsen on the standard fare in an isolation prison, is not just excessive, but looks like mockery. And finally, placing such a person in a press-hut [translator’s note: a ‘press hut’ is a prison cell where prisoners collaborate with the authorities to make conditions unbearable for a particular inmate] is entirely immoral. One can only hope that further publication of details about the Skochilenko case will help not only improve the conditions of her detention and avoid direct pressure on her, but also lead to her release.
The office of the Mayor of Moscow has refused permission for an anti-war rally. The city authorities rejected Elvira Vikhareva’s application for the protest, citing the epidemic. Vikharev planned to hold a procession under anti-war slogans from Kaluga Square to Bolotnaya Square, or a rally on Sakharov Avenue.
- Why is it important? For more than two years now, the coronavirus pandemic has been used by authorities at various levels as an excuse to ban almost all opposition events. The restrictions continue to apply, although their relevance is now very much under question – it’s just convenient for the state to maintain a special regulatory regime so as not to have to come up with a new reason to refuse approval each time. At the same time, in March, a rally for hundreds of thousands of people was held at the Luzhniki Stadium, at which Putin spoke, and a march of the Immortal Regiment is planned for 9 May. Such events, according to the authorities, do not constitute a risk of spreading coronavirus, apparently because the opposition is more susceptible to the coronavirus, and loyalists are protected by their loyalty.
Denunciations. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian teachers and university professors have come under increased pressure for expressions of any anti-war stance. They have been denounced, fired, fined and even had criminal cases were brought against them for making statements criticizing the war. We have published a piece about it.
The special detention centre in Sakharovo. The war affects the lives of people in Russia in very different ways: some face arrest at anti-war rallies, some become defendants in a criminal case. Since the beginning of the war in Moscow, the authorities have begun to detain migrants and deport them to their homeland much more often. A resident of Kazakhstan, Abdi Zinullin, who was detained on 26 February during a protest and then expelled, told us about life in the Sakharovo special detention centre, and the bullying and beating of Ukrainians. Read his story.
Translated by Anna Bowles