OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 253: The blue-and-yellow smoke of the fatherland

14 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.

How Danilo Tkachenko’s rally would have looked. Photomontage from Dalino Tkachenko’s Instagram.

Hello! A criminal case against members of Vesna [Spring], a criminal case over the blue-and-yellow smoke that didn’t actually happen, and the re-arrest of the author of a social media protest channel.

A criminal case has been brought against members of the Vesna [Spring] movement. The Investigative Committee opened proceedings under an article on the creation of an NGO that infringes on the persons and rights of citizens. On 7 May, searches were carried out at the homes of the St Petersburg co-ordinators of Spring, Yevgeny Zateev and Valentin Khoroshenin, as well as in the apartment of the parents of another Spring member, Bogdan Litvin. Zateev and Khoroshenin were taken to Moscow for questioning.

On 8 May, Roman Maksimov, who emphasizes that he is not a member of Spring, was detained in Veliky Novgorod – he was also taken to Moscow. On the night of 9 May, four more searches were carried out in Moscow in connection with this case: at the home of lawyer Timofei Vaskin, ex-Anti-Corruption Foundation employee Ivan Drobotov, Skat Media journalist Angelina Roshchupko, and the mother of activist Daria Pak. All were detained, except for Pak, who is abroad. Later the seven defendants were partially sanctioned in the form of a ban on certain actions.

  • Why do I need to know this? Searches and detentions in the criminal case against members of Spring on the eve of 9 May – this is the state’s response to society requesting discussion of the war. Spring announced protest rallies on 9 May, arguing that the war against Ukraine cannot be justified by the memory of World War II veterans. And ever since 24 February it has sharply opposed the ‘special operation’. So the Russian state responded in the way it could: detain, imprison and threaten people with jail.

A criminal case over blue-and-yellow smoke. In Moscow, the photographer and contemporary visual artist Danila Tkachenko was charged over a performance that had failed. Tkachenko planted 140 blue-and-yellow smoke bombs near Red Square, planning to activate them remotely during the 9 May parade, thus painting tanks and other Russian military equipment in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. However, the action failed, as it was prevented by the FSB. Five addresses of Tkachenko’s friends and relatives were searched. The artist himself is outside Russia and fears that one of his relatives or close friends will become a defendant in the case, although he insisted that he planned everything himself. A criminal case has been opened under the article on hooliganism committed by a group of people.

  • Why is this important? Why is it important? Since the days of Pussy Riot, the article of the Russian Criminal Code about hooliganism has been a convenient flexible tool for the repression of activists and contemporary artists who expressed their political position with their actions. The article is formulated in the Criminal Code in such a way that it can be considered to cover anything you want. And you can hardly expect a critical attitude towards such broad formulations from the Russian authorities. In addition, it is typical that, not being able to reach Tkachenko himself, the security forces intimidate his relatives, break into apartments and put pressure on those people whom they themselves declared as witnesses in the case.

The author of the Protest Moscow State University channel was arrested immediately after leaving a detention centre. Dmitry Ivanov, who was jailed for an administrative offence under the eighth part of Article 20.2 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (repeated violation of the law on rallies), was detained immediately at the exit from the special detention centre and jailed again for 25 days under the same article. The reason for the new administrative case was a repost from the channel of Alexei Navalny, dedicated to the war in Ukraine. Prior to this, Ivanov had been jailed for 10 days – the police considered him the author of anonymous posts on several Telegram channels about upcoming rallies. At the same time, before the court session, there was discussion of starting a criminal investigation into the activist under the ‘Dadin article’ that concerns repeated violations of the procedures for holding public events.

  • Why do I need to know this? Due to his new jail term, Ivanov will be forced to miss his finals and receiving his diploma. In addition, the risk of a criminal case being brought under the ‘Dadin article’ – which is unfair and should be repealed – remains. Moreover, even the Constitutional Court explained that such a prosecution based on the ‘Dadin article’ could be opened only if the actions of the accused created a special danger to society. And the security forces have never yet proved this special danger to society. Unfortunately, the biased claims of the security forces in Russia are often treated uncritically by the courts, which leads to bad law enforcement practice.


We didn’t publish any features this week, but there will definitely be some next week!

Translated by Anna Bowles

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