OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 257: Remove the witnesses

12 June 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.

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Hello! A defendant in the Network case is to be investigated for murder, the European Court of Human Rights has urged Russia not to prosecute Jehovah’s Witnesses and the FSB have come for a bank manager.

The ECtHR has demanded that Russia cease prosecuting Jehovah’s witnesses. In the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights, the labelling of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre in 2017 as an extremist organisation, and the ensuing mass prosecution of believers, violates the European Convention on Rights and Freedoms. Separately, the ECtHR has declared that the definition of the term “extremism” in Russian law is too wide and “can be applied to entirely peaceful forms of expression.” Meanwhile, on 7 June the State duma adopted in its final third reading a law on the non-enforcement of ECtHR judgments – earlier Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe. Prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses continues across the country: two residents of Primorsky region have been charged with involvement in the activities of a local community, a case against some Jehovah’s Witnesses has gone to court in Amur region, and in Birobidzhan an appeal court upheld the conviction of a previously convicted believer.

  • Why do I need to know this? Of course, the European Court of Human Rights could have hurried up and come out with such a clear statement a little earlier, if only by a couple of months – at the moment when Russia was still in the Council of Europe. The Russian state authorities did not pay much attention to statements from the ECtHR before either, but they paid the compensation properly. Although the decision itself is important, especially in its criticism of the notion of “extremism” and its application in Russian law. Exactly what the ECtHR said was: in Russia, “extremism” is interpreted very broadly, and in fact it can apply to anything you want. Therefore the prosecution of “extremists” cannot be perceived as just.

A bank manager has left Russia because of a money transfer to Ukraine. A manager at one of the Russian banks was forced to leave the country after he tried to transfer money to Ukraine, which attracted the interest of the FSB. At the end of February, the man sent 60,000 roubles for the support and reconstruction of Ukraine, but soon cancelled the transfer for fear of prosecution. Nevertheless, the bank’s security service asked him to resign, and then FSB officers came to him – they inspected his flat, seized technical equipment, and stated that his actions constituted a crime under the article on high treason. The morning after the visit by the FSB officials, the man left the country.

  • Why is this important? If the man who made the transfer is to believed, he did it on purpose through SWIFT – he had read that the actress Liya Akhedzhakova had transferred 10,000 dollars to Ukraine and this made an impression on him. True, it later turned out that Akhedzhakova had not in fact done this. Moreover, the man had transferred the money to “support and restore Ukraine” rather than for the war with Russia, and he immediately cancelled the transfer after the prosecutor’s office claimed that such actions could be considered treason. Nevertheless, the FSB took an interest in him anyway – in practice now, in any unclear situation the security services are more likely to open a criminal case, conduct a search, and intimidate with consequences, than not.

A defendant in the Network case is under investigation for a double murder. Maksim Ivankin, who was sentenced for 13 years on charges of participation in a terrorist association and attempted drug dealing, has now been sent from a prison colony to a remand prison with regard to an investigation in another case. The investigators consider him guilty of the murders of Ekaterina Levchenko and Artem Dorofeyev – information about this murder was published by Meduza. According to Meduza, other individuals involved in the case – Dmitry Pchelintsev, Ilya Shakursky and Andrey Chernov – could also have known about the murder and even made the decision to commit it, in addition to Ivankin and Oleksiy Poltavets, who is hiding in Ukraine. Ivankin had previously said that he was forced under torture to confess to the murders of Levchenko and Dorofeyev.

  • Why do I need to know this? At one point, the Network case stirred up society when the defendants talked about brutal torture by FSB agents. And afterwards many people were outraged by the huge sentences handed out for charges that contained no evidence of violent crime. The Network case is probably the most prominent example of the FSB’s modus operandi, showing how they generally construct cases and what means of pressure they use to coerce confessions out of defendants. Unfortunately, after the Meduza publication interest in the case dropped sharply – supporting people who have been tortured is much harder if you know they might be implicated in a brutal murder.


“I bought tickets on the way to the airport”. A year ago Moscow City Court declared the Anti-Corruption Foundation and Navalny’s HQ to be extremist organisations. Andrei Fateeva, an independent member of the Tomsk city duma and former employee of Navalny’s local headquarters was first added to the list of terrorists and extremists, and then put on the federal wanted list. We publish her story on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.

We have also published a big report on the blocking of internet resources as a tool for limiting access to information, such as the Russian government loves to use so much. You can read it here.

Our analysts also have a separate Telegram channel, ‘According to OVD-Info’, where they talk about the inner workings of our team, the methodologies we use and the data we are working on. Subscribe!

Translated by Anna Bowles

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