24 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.
Hello! Protests against mobilisation have begun in Russia; Crimean Tatar activists have been sentenced to long prison terms; and the former head of Navalny’s Ufa office faces up to 18 years in a prison camp.
Russians have been going out to take part in anti-mobilisation rallies. On 21 September Vladimir Putin announced a ‘partial’ mobilisation, and Sergei Shoigu ordered the conscription of 300,000 people. According to information from Novaya Gazeta.Europe, up to a million people may be called up to the war in this way. After this, people went out onto the streets and within two days no fewer than 1,336 people had been arrested in 39 cities. Some of them were handed summons to the military enlistment office at the police station – this happened in at least 16 police departments. You can read how the protests went, and how things ended up, in our article.
We are also compiling a timeline of arrests arising from anti-mobilisation rallies, and reporting what punishments are being given to participants. A list of those arrested on 21 and 22 September has been published on the OVD-Info website.
Defendants in the Crimean gas pipeline sabotage case have been given long jail sentences. Crimean Tatar activist Nariman Dzhelyal was sentenced to 17 years, and the brothers Asan and Aziz Akhmetov to 15 and 13 years respectively, in a strict regime penal colony. According to investigators, in 2021 the Akhmetovs planted an explosive device on a gas pipeline in the village of Perevalnoye at the request of Ukrainian special services, which led to an explosion and a brief interruption to the gas supply. Dzhelyal was accused of introducing the brothers to one of the alleged organisers of the sabotage.
- Why do I need to know this? After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Crimean Tatars have been regularly harassed by the Russian authorities – many of them speak out openly against the annexation of the peninsula. They are subjected to criminal proceedings, searches and torture. The gas pipeline sabotage case is part of this persecution. According to the Ukrainian president’s office in Crimea, the real reason for the arrest of Dzhelyal was his participation in the Crimean Platform summit, which demands the restoration of Ukrainian control over the peninsula. Asan and Aziz Akhmetov alleged they had been tortured, and later retracted their confessions.
The former head of Navalny’s Ufa office has been charged. Liliya Chanysheva is facing up to 18 years in prison. She is charged with three criminal offences: membership of an extremist organisation, public incitement to extremism and participation in an NGO infringing on the freedom and rights of citizens. The activist was arrested in November 2021 in a case of organising the activities of an extremist organisation, brought against Navalny and his associates.
- Why is this important? Liliya Chanysheva is being prosecuted for running Navalny’s headquarters in Ufa – but she worked there before the organisation was declared extremist. That was in June 2021. Soon after that a criminal case regarding an extremist organisation was opened against Navalny and his supporters. Some of the defendants in the case left the country. Chanysheva stayed in Russia, but changed her field of activity immediately after the closure of the headquarters.
Some Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sentenced to prison for holding meetings and singing songs. In Rostov region, six believers were given from six and a half to seven years in a strict-regime penal colony. They were found guilty of organising the activities of an extremist society. The reason – the men “called meetings of fellow believers, prayed and sang songs to the God Jehovah.”
- Why do I need to know this? The European Court of Human Rights considers the ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation and the ensuing persecution of believers to be illegal. In the ECtHR’s view, the decision to liquidate the organisation and open criminal proceedings against the Jehovah’s Witnesses is based on an overly broad definition of ‘extremism’ which in Russian law ‘can be applied to entirely peaceful forms of expression’. This is what happens: believers are prosecuted for discussing religion, talking about God and reading the Bible.
“The least I can do is to call things by their right names.” Moscow municipal councillor Aleksei Gorinov, who was found guilty in a case regarding ‘fake news’ about the army, has had his sentence reduced by a month. He must now serve six years and eleven months in a prison colony. OVD-Info has published the speech he gave in court at the appeal.
Translated by Anna Bowles