OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 258: No art for anyone

18 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.

Illustration: OVD-Info

Hello! The security services came to Open Spaces, Navalny has been transferred to a different prison, they want to sentence Yulia Tsvetkova to prison, and the Committee Against Torture is a ‘foreign agent’ again.

The case against Open Spaces. On 14 June law enforcement authorities came to the Moscow premises of Open Spaces and arrested a project volunteer and her human rights activist friend and then – on 16 June – searched their apartments. In addition, law enforcement. officers also came to the St Petersburg offices of Open Spaces, but ended up leaving empty-handed. The inspection of the Moscow premises was initiated at the request of provocateurs from the pro-Kremlin SERB movement, who turned up at an exhibition of artwork by political prisoners. They called the police, and the police seized works from the exhibition, as well as stickers and handouts. The searches took place within the context of criminal cases coming under the articles of the Criminal Code on hooliganism and vandalism.

  • Why is this important? Open Spaces is an initiative that helps activists of various kinds, where different events are held and where activists can comfortably spend time. The trigger for the police action was the exhibition of drawings by political prisoners, including anti-war slogans – these days, nothing of the kind can be held without police attention and opposition. Even though a few years ago there were large auctions in Moscow in support of prisoners, as well as many other similar events.

The prosecutor’s office has asked for Yulia Tsvetkova to be sentenced to prison. The prosecution wants the LGBT activist and artist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur to spend three years and two months in prison – under the article of the Criminal Code on distribution of pornography for drawings in the ‘vagina monologues’ forum. The case against the activist was initiated in 2019 after a denunciation by Timur Bulatov, a provocateur and opponent of LGBT [rights]. Tsvetkova has spent four months under house arrest and has been forbidden to leave her home since March 2020. Previously, the prosecutor’s office returned the case materials for further investigation a number of times, and the charge was approved only on the fourth occasion.

  • Why do I need to know this? Tsvetkova has been prosecuted for years – according to the activist herself, the criminal case has destroyed her entire life. We can assume that in some sense it has done the same to her mother’s life. Now on top of everything else the state wants to put Tsvetkova behind bars for more than three years. Is this an adequate price for this crime – pictures that didn’t hurt anyone, that were published without ill intent?

Aleksei Navalny has been transferred to a different prison. The politician was transferred from Penal Colony No. 2 in the Vladimir region to Penal Colony No. 6. Penal Colony No. 6 is a high-security prison colony. Navalny is serving his sentence in the Yves Rocher money laundering case; in addition, he is being investigated regarding an extremist organisation, which case was initiated after his return to Russia and is combined with a number of other charges. On March 22 Navalny was sentenced to nine years imprisonment on charges of fraud. According to the politician, in Penal Colony No. 6 a “prison within a prison” is being built for him.

  • Why is this important? We see the prosecution of Navalny and his supporters as politically-motivated and unjust, especially in the context of his attempted murder by the FSB. The wave of criminal cases and ever-lengthening list of charges are obviously a consequence of a political decision by the regime that the politician should not be released. At least as long as the current regime carries on in its accustomed fashion.

The Ministry of Justice included the Committee Against Torture in the list of unregistered associations acting as a ‘foreign agent.’ The Ministry of Justice included the CAT in the register of unregistered associations performing the functions of a ‘foreign agent.’ Two days later, the organization announced its dissolution, considering it impossible to work with the ‘foreign agent’ label. The CAT had already been recognized as a ‘foreign agent’ twice before, and twice the organization disbanded itself in order to revive itself under a new name and registration, as it has done now.

The Committee Against Torture has been included on the list of ‘foreign agents’ and has disbanded. The Ministry of Justice included the CAT in the list of unregistered associations that perform the functions of a ‘foreign agent.’ Two days later, the organisation announced its self-dissolution, having found it impossible to work with the ‘foreign agent’ label. The CAT had already been labelled a ‘foreign agent’ twice before, and twice the organisation disbanded itself in order to return under a new name and registration, and that’s what it has done now.

  • Why do I need to know this? This is a more inspiring story than the kind of bad news we usually report, about yet another good thing has been banned in Russia. Yes, being labelled a ‘foreign agent’ is not an outright ban, but we write a lot about how this practice is discriminatory and wrong. But here is the example of CAT – they work, they help survivors of torture to seek justice, from time to time they are declared a ‘foreign agent,’ and they restructure their activities and organize themselves in a new way.


‘Plausible falsehoods.’ In the three months since the law on ‘fake news’ about the army, according to data gathered by OVD-Info at least 59 criminal cases have been opened in different regions of Russia and two sentences handed down. Reposts on social media, anti-war leaflets and even telephone conversations can be considered ‘fake news.’ We publish our detailed breakdown of the practices that come under this article on our site, Yandex.Zen and Medium.

‘You’ve been caught on camera‘. On Russia day people were detained in the Moscow metro after being identified by a facial recognition system. We decided to speak with one of the people who was arrested in this way – you can read the story of Gayane Sargatyan on our site, Zen и Medium

Translated by Anna Bowles

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