20 August 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! The jailing of a journalist for reposting five-year-old material, a request for time limits for defendants in the Crimean gas pipeline sabotage case, mass searches of journalists in Kazan and a punishment cell for Navalny after he created a trade union.
In Ekaterinburg, a journalist has been jailed for 14 days for posts made five years ago. Elena Shukaev, who works with the publications Vot Tak and Novaya gazeta, was found guilty of displaying extremist symbols. The reason for this was posts made on VKontakte in 2017, in which she linked to Aleksei Navalny’s YouTube channel; at that time the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s investigation “He’s not Dimon to you” exposing the wealth of Dmitry Medvedev had just been released. In protest, Shukaeva has gone on hunger strike at the detention centre.
- Why do I need to know this? Shukaeva was detained in the canteen of the court that reviewed her two appeals in cases on discrediting the army – the decisions were upheld. In May the court fined her five consecutive times for this offence – in total she was fined 200,000 roubles for posts about the tragedies in Mariupol and Bucha, about anti-war rallies in Ekaterinburg and about Putin’s role in the war with Ukraine. The current jail term is not only absurd, but also looks like revenge on the journalist for her anti-war position, which she expresses while continuing to live and work in Russia.
Prosecutors have asked that defendants in a case of sabotage on a Crimean gas pipeline be sentenced to 15 years in prison. The case involves three Crimean Tatars – former deputy chair of the People’s Majlis Nariman Dzhelyal and brothers Asan and Aziz Akhtemov. They are accused of sabotaging a gas pipeline, smuggling explosive devices (one device allegedly went off in the gas pipeline, cutting off the gas supply to the village of Peveralnove), and Asan Akhmetov is also accused of storing explosives. One of the witnesses in the case has alleged that he was tortured with electric shocks.
- Why is this important? The Crimean gas pipeline sabotage case emerged in September last year, a few months before the invasion of Ukraine. All those accused are Crimean Tatars. Since 2014, Crimean Tatars have been deliberately prosecuted by Russian law enforcement, most often on charges of terrorism for alleged involvement in the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is popular amongst them. Nariman Dzhelyal was a member of the leadership of the Majlis – the executive body of the Crimean Tatar people. According to the Ukrainian president’s office in Crimea, the real reason for Dzhelyal’s detention was not the disruption of gas supplies to a local village but his participation in the Crimean Platform summit, an initiative aimed at restoring Ukrainian control over Crimea.
In Kazan mass searches have been carried out at the apartments of journalists working with Radio Liberty. The searches were carried out of the homes of 9 residents of the city – journalists and their relatives, all of whom are connected with a case of online incitement to terrorism. The majority of them have worked with the media project Idel.Realii. As one of the defendants in the case, the sociologist and columnist for the publication Iskander Yasaveev said afterwards, the reason for the investigation was a YouTube video, “Paint and a Booth for the Russian ambassador to Poland”, which talked about how paint had been thrown over the Russian ambassador to Poland in Warsaw on 9 May. According to the investigation, Radio Liberty was connected to the video about the ambassador, which appeared on the Obiektiv-TV channel.
- Why do I need to know this? In Russia, freedom of speech has become almost a phantom it is so often violated since the start of the war with Ukraine. Working for media outlets outside Russia – such as Radio Liberty – is a good reason for the authorities to view a journalist as an enemy. How Radio Liberty is connected with a video by a third-party channel and why the video, which was published by some writers at Obiektiv-TV became the reason for searching 9 private addresses in Kazan – which is 2,000 kilometres from Warsaw – remains unclear.
Aleksei Navalny has been placed in a punishment cell in a penal colony after setting up a trade union. On 15 August the politician, who is in Vladimir penal colony No. 6, reported on Twitter that he had been placed in a punishment cell. This happened four days after he spoke about the creation of the trade union Promzona, which aims to defend the rights of prisoners working in Federal Penitentiary Service enterprises. Not long before this the politician had been issued a warning ‘about the inadmissibility of actions creating conditions for the commission of an administrative offence.’ Although Navalny was given a three-day sentence in a punishment cell, he has already been threatened: “If I don’t ‘reconsider my attitude then the isolation cell will become my permanent residence,” said the politician.
- Why is this important? Navalny has been in detention since last winter, which is easy to forget, given the context of current events. During that time the opposition leader has been given several more sentences: in all, he has been given 9 years in a strict regime penal colony. And while in detention Navalny has faced yet another charge – that of forming an extremist group. Pressure on the opposition leader, who has already received several prison sentences, and who was poisoned, continues.
‘Prisoners understand what is going on much better.’ At the beginning of August, activist Vyacheslav Egorov, who had protested against a rubbish dump near Moscow and was sentenced to a year and three months in prison under the infamous ‘Dadin article’ of the Russian Criminal Code – regarding repeated violations of the regulations governing public protests – was released from prison. We publish his account of how his life has changed after his sentence, his studies in prison and his cat Liza, who Vyacheslav took with him to freedom. Read the article on our website, Yandex.zen or Medium.
Translated by Anna Bowles