OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 271: The Criminal Prosecution of Prisoners

17 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.

Collage by OVD-Info

Hello! The property and accounts of Memorial have been seized, lawyer Dmitry Talantov has been charged under yet another article of the criminal code, some prisoners have been charged with membership of the AUE [a teenage prisoners’ subculture], and a journalist has been placed in a punishment cell after slashing her wrists.

A court has seized the accounts and property of Memorial. After the liquidation of International Memorial, the building in which its office was located was transferred to the Memorial Research & Education Centre (NIPTs). However, in September, the heads of both organisations received a summons for a case about the “invalidation of deals”. The court then seized the personal accounts of the directors, as well as the accounts and property of the Memorial Research & Education Centre.

  • Why is this important? Memorial described this decision as a “political and corporate raid” – “an attempt to seize premises for use by state”. Representatives of the organisation noted that there are no legal grounds for declaring the deal invalid. International Memorial has been researching political repression in the USSR and the problem of historical memory since 1989. In 2016, the organization was included in the register of NGOs considered to be “foreign agents”, and at the end of 2021, the court liquidated it at the behest of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Increased charges have been brought against lawyer Dmitry Talantov. The lawyer has been in jail since June: he was charged with spreading “fake news” about the Russian army (Article 207.3, Part 2 [e], of the Russian Criminal Code) for posts he made on Facebook. Now four new episodes have been added to his case and he has been charged with incitement to hatred (Article 282, Part 2 [b] of the Russian Criminal Code). The lawyer faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

  • Why do I need to know this? The prosecution of Dmitry Talantov is not only a manifestation of military censorship, but also an example of pressure on lawyers. Dmitry Talantov defended journalist Ivan Safronov, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for treason. A criminal case was also filed against his other lawyer, Ivan Pavlov. Other defendants in the case were also subjected to pressure.

A defendant in an “anti-war case” has been sent to a punishment cell. According to the administration of the detention centre, Maria Ponomarenko broke the window in the cell and slashed her wrists. The journalist of the Telegram channel RusNews has already spent a week in the punishment cell, now she is going to be placed there again – for a different violation. She has been in custody in a case of “fake news” about the Russian army (Article 207.3, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) since April. Imprisonment has taken a heavy toll on the woman’s mental health: she was diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder.

  • Why is this important? Maria Ponomarenko was put in pre-trial detention because of a post about the destruction of the drama theatre in Mariupol – this is another case of prosecution for statements about the war and pressure on journalists. The woman has two underage daughters at home, who, according to her, are under pressure from their father. Maria needs psychotherapeutic help, which she cannot get in the detention centre. In spite of this, the court refused to transfer her to house arrest, and being held in solitary confinement may worsen her already precarious mental health.

In the Novgorod region, a criminal case regarding the AUE has been opened against four convicts. They are accused of being members of an extremist organisation and co-ordinating its activities. According to investigators, the prisoners promoted a criminal ideology and collected funds for “representatives of the criminal world who are in prison”. Searches were conducted of their cells, mobile phones, notes and documents containing “the rules of life and behaviour of AUE supporters”, items for gambling and bank cards were confiscated.

  • Why do I need to know this? In 2020, the Supreme Court banned the AUE, labelling it an “extremist youth movement”. At the same time, AUE – most often rendered as “the Prisoner’s Way of Life is One” – is more of a teenage prisoners’ subculture. The Sova Centre for Information and Analysis believes that the AUE ideology is not political and is not aimed at changing the constitutional order, and therefore should not be the subject of anti-extremist legal regulation.


On attacks and threats for adopting an anti-war stance. Pro-peace activists in Russia face not only arrests, trials, and dismissals, but also non-state pressure. Their apartment doors are sprayed with the letters Z and V, they receive threats on social media, and some are even beaten on the street or have green paint thrown at them. We have written an article about this phenomenon, with examples and numbers.

OVD-Info and nine other Russian NGOs have sent a report to the United Nations about the human rights situation in Russia. Human rights activists have collected information on violations of freedom of speech and assembly, and provided data on torture, political prisoners, domestic violence, and much more. In addition, the authors of the report described what can be done to solve these problems.

Translated by Anna Bowles

Leave a Reply