OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 269: When They Came for the ‘Dead’

3 September 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.

Party of the Dead activist during an Easter rally: “Russia will arise a free country” / Photo: Party of the Dead Telegram Channel


Greetings! A criminal case has been opened against the co-founder of Dissernet, a 24-year sentence has been requested for Ivan Safronov who is charged with treason, there have been searches conducted of the Party of the Dead, and 15 days in jail has been handed down as the sentence for a Facebook post about Hitler and Stalin.

We’ll begin with the announcement of new ‘foreign agents’ – yesterday 12 people and one organization were added to the list. The individuals added to the ‘foreign agent’ list are: Katerina Gordeeva, presenter of the YouTube channel Say Gordeeva, the Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon, Navalny’s associate Ivan Zhdanov, the entrepreneur and educator Boris Zimin, the singer Andrei Makarevich and the political scientist Fyodor Krashennikov. Those added to the more popular registry of ‘foreign agent’ media are: the politician Yulia Galyamina, the war photographer Sergei Loiko, and the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta. Europe, Kirill Martynov, political analyst Sergei Medvedev, human rights activist Kirill Fedorov, TV presenter and humourist Mikhail Shats and the legal entity of the Krasnoyarsk TV channel TVK. These are a truly ‘star cast’ after weeks of silence.

Criminal proceedings have been instituted against Andrei Zayakin, co-founder of dissernet and Novaya gazeta journalist. Grounds for the charges were the transfer of thousands of roubles to the Anti-Corruption Foundation which Zayakin allegedly made in August last year. Now the journalist is accused of financing extremist activities. On the night of 28-29 August his home was searched and he was detained. The next day pre-trial restrictions were imposed on him – he was banned from certain activities. Last June, the Anti-Corruption Foundation and Navalny’s headquarters were declared extremist organizations. Two months later, the former heads of the organizations, Ivan Zhdanov and Leonid Volkov, were charged with the same offence as Zayakin, for calling for donations to Navalny’s organisations.

  • Why is this important? Three days after the charges were laid it became known from the materials of Zayakin’s case that law enforcement officials might have initiated the investigation as a result of a technical glitch in the system used by the Anti-Corruption Foundation to collect donations. The glitch, which occurred on 5 August 2021, probably allowed law enforcement agencies to identify the names of some of the donors. An official report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs attached to Zayakin’s case file mentions five other names. OVD-Info is aware of one other prosecution on the same charges, where the data of the defendant coincide with that in the official report. The technical glitch occurred the day after the decision to recognize the Anti-Corruption Foundation and Navalny’s headquarters as extremist came into force, and although the leaders of the organisations maintain that this did not happen again, it is unclear how many names are known to the law enforcement agencies and whether there will be new prosecutions for donations made to Navalny’s organisations.

Prosecutors have requested a 24-year prison term for journalist Ivan Safronov, charged with treason. Prosecutors also asked for the former Kommersant correspondent, Ivan Safronov, to be fined 500,000 roubles and to be subject to restricted freedom for two years after his release. During a break in the hearing, one of the prosecutors offered Safronov a deal: that he should plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence of 12 years in prison. The journalist refused the deal. He has been held on remand for more than two years and while in custody has been repeatedly put under pressure by the authorities.

  • Why do I need to know this? The investigators claim Safronov allegedly cooperated with Czech special services and in 2017 passed them secret information about arms supplies to the Middle East and Africa, and also told political scientist Demuri Voronin about the activities of Russian armed forces in Syria. But on 29 August other journalists published a detailed analysis of the indictment against Safronov. Practically all the charges against him relate to information available in open sources, and where such sources could not be found, similar information was found on Wikipedia. The Safronov case is an important example of how treason trials take place in our country. The public attention paid to the case of Ivan Safronov means that light has been shed on how such prosecutions are constructed.

The politician Leonid Gozman has been jailed for 15 days for a Facebook post about Hitler and Stalin. Gozman was arrested on 29 August as he was leaving hospital after an appointment. He was met by police officers and initially refused to go with them. However, he then contacted his lawyer and went with her to the police station. There he was charged with equating actions of the USSR and Nazi Germany. He was arrested and kept in overnight pending trial. The next day he was jailed. The reason was a Facebook post by Gozman. The text read: ‘Hitler is absolute evil, but Stalin is even worse. The SS are criminals, but the NKVD is worse still because the Chekists killed their own people. Hitler unleashed a war on humanity. The Communists declared total war on their own people.’

  • Why is this important? A new article criminalising equating the actions of the USSR and Nazi Germany was introduced into the Russian Criminal Code this April. Although there were discussions about this law before, in its current form – with penalties of up to 15 days in jail – it only came into force after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. And, it seems, it can now also be used in this context. After all, it was Nazi Germany that started the largest and bloodiest war in human history. And certain historical interpretations and analogies are forbidden during this time of war.

The homes of activists of the Party of the Dead have been searched in an investigation into alleged insult of the feelings of believers. Law-enforcement officers searched at least five addresses and four people – Kristina Bubentsova, two leaders of the Roza House of Culture and a woman who wished to remain anonymous – were interrogated afterwards and released, most of them as witnesses. The investigators believe that participants in the Party of the Dead hold protests at military graves and city cemeteries. Later it turned out that the reason for the initiation of the criminal investigation was a post published to mark Easter. It tells about a protest that took place at a cemetery, with photos showing a hooded man holding anti-war posters. The Party of the Dead is an artistic and political project, whose participants hold protests and performances, hiding their faces with masks in the form of skulls. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the group has, among other things, held pickets against the military action.

  • Why do I need to know this? The Party of the Dead is a project that engages in nonviolent and peaceful artistic protests, but their anti-war performances apparently still scare the authorities. After all, although the group has been in existence since 2017, it has not previously aroused serious interest among law enforcement agencies. But the number of actual and potential defendants in the ‘anti-war case’ is only growing, and now even the ‘Dead’ are among those for whom the authorities have come after a protest against the war.


‘There is no one to appeal to in Chechnya.’ On 31 August the trial began in Grozny of Zarema Musaeva, wife of former federal judge Saidi Yangulbaev and mother of Ibrahim and Abubakar Yangulbaev, both of whom have publicly criticised Ramzan Kadyrov. Back last winter she was forcibly detained in Nizhny Novgorod and taken to Grozny where she was charged with bizarre charges of fraud and assaulting a policeman. We tell you what’s happening to the mother of the two Chechen opposition activists on our website, Yandex.Dzen and Medium.

And we keep bringing applications to the European Court of Human Rights! And we advise you to do the same. We will tell you why it is necessary, using the example of Igor Gorlanov, an activist from Novokuznetsk, who was first detained at an anti-war rally and then jailed twice – for talking about it on social media. You can read on our Instagram account why, despite Russia’s refusal to recognize rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, OVD-Info is working on Gorlanov’s application.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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