OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 270: Twenty-two years in prison for journalism

10 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.

Ivan Safronov in court / Photo: Evgeny Razumny


Greetings! Safronov has been sentenced to 22 years in a penal colony, lawyer-client privilege for Navalny has been removed, and in the Urals there is a new prosecution in the Network case.

Searches in the case against Ilya Ponomarev. On the morning of 8 September, authorities conducted searches in several regions in connection with an investigation into the alleged spreading of ‘fake news’ about the Russian army by former State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, who now lives in Ukraine. Searches of the homes of journalists and activists were conducted in Moscow, Moscow region, Orel region, Ekaterinburg, Tiumen, Krasnodar, and Rostov-on-Don. As reported by RIA Novosti, a media outlet loyal to the Russian authorities, searches were also conducted in Moscow and Voronezh of alleged moderators of the Telegram channel of the Freedom of Russia Legion, a unit of the Ukrainian armed forces in which Russians serve. The Legion has also been linked to Ponomarev. Later, it became known that the bank accounts of at least some of those acting as witnesses in Ponomarev’s case were blocked.

  • Why it matters. It is not possible to understand how specific people whose homes have been searched are actually connected to Ponomarev’s activities, his legion or the mysterious National Republican Army, which, according to the politician, is an armed guerrilla movement on Russian soil. According to Ponomarev’s claims, it was the National Republican Army that was complicit in the death of Darya Dugina, the daughter of the philosopher of Eurasianism Aleksandr Dugin. Whether or not the National Republic Army really exists remains to be seen, but in any case, the Russian security services will willingly use this as grounds to put pressure on disloyal journalists and activists.

In the Urals region, searches were conducted of the homes of antifascists in connection with a case of terrorism. On 6 September it became known searches had been conducted of the homes of leftist activists from Tiumen, Ekaterinburg and Surgut, after which six people ended up in pre-trial detention on charges under Article 205.4 (terrorist organization) and Article 223.1 (manufacture of explosives) of the Russian Criminal Code. Anarchist and anti-fascist media sources compared this investigation to the Network case. Later, at least two of the defendants said that they had been tortured after arrest. The young men claimed they had been suffocated with a plastic bag, water poured into their mouths and noses and they had been given electric shocks.

  • Why do I need to know that? Unfortunately, torture has long been part of the FSB’s usual toolkit. If an investigation has been opened regarding terrorism, the FSB is very likely to torture the suspects. However, as the experience of the Network case demonstrates, such actions of law enforcement agencies are unlikely to be given the appropriate assessment by the courts. One can hardly hope for a fair trial, either. Nevertheless, disclosure of the facts of torture creates  a chance that the suspects will not be tortured again. However, the Network case provides examples of just such repeated use of torture.

Aleksei Navalny had his lawyer-client privilege lifted. As shown by a post on Navalny’s Instagram account, officials at Vladimir region penal colony No. 6, where the politician is being held, said they were lifting the lawyer-client privilege in his case. According to the penal colony administration, Navalny ‘has not ceased engaging in criminal activity’ while serving his sentence and therefore all documents from Navalny’s lawyers to him and from Navalny to his lawyers will henceforth be subject to additional checks. The reason, according to the Federal Penitentiary Service, was the communication of Navalny with ‘accomplices,’ which he allegedly carried out through his lawyers. However, the penal colony authorities refused to specify exactly how Navalny ‘is continuing his criminal activity’ and communicates with ‘accomplices,’ stating that this is classified information.

  • Why is it important? Perhaps the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s innovations in the Vladimir penal colony are a reaction to Navalny’s desire to set up a prisoners’ trade union; perhaps it is anxiety before the elections; perhaps it is something else. Nonetheless, lawyer-client privilege is protected by federal law, and therefore the penitentiary officials running Vladimir penal colony should temper their ardour.


Safronov sentenced to 22 years. Former Kommersant journalist Ivan Safronov has been sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment on charges of treason. We have analysed the Safronov case (based on the work of our colleagues) and how it has evolved over the past two years and why it looks extremely dubious and unfair here. In addition, we have published a commentary by Ivan Pavlov, Safronov’s lawyer, who was forced to leave Russia under pressure from the FSB.

Here we chronicle repressive measures by the authorities related to the elections.

And on 7 September we released a summary chronicle of politically motivated prosecutions in August. You can read it here.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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