1 October 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! Torture and abuse for reading poetry, prosecutions after anti-mobilisation rallies, and arson at military recruitment offices.
In Moscow, police beat and tortured people who had participated in readings of Mayakovsky’s poetry. Law enforcement officers came to the home of those who had participated in the poetry evenings on 26 September. The pretext was a criminal charge against the activists of incitement of hatred with the threat of violence for reading anti-war poems. During the ‘inspection’, the police beat Artem Kamardin and raped him with a barbell handle, and tortured his girlfriend Aleksandra Popova. Kamardin was later denied hospitalisation, even though ambulance staff diagnosed him with concussion, a closed head injury, a bruised chest and numerous facial lacerations. Kamardin, Egor Shtovba and Mikolai Dainenko face up to six years in jail. All the defendants have been remanded in custody.
- Why do I need to know this? Torture after criminal detention seems to have long since become the norm in Russia – one may recall the Network case, or the recent detentions of anti-fascists in the Urals. Such cases rarely receive the necessary legal assessment by the state. The investigative bodies, who are supposed to investigate such crimes, are too busy trying to protect their colleagues to hold them accountable. It’s likely that a bloody war with a huge number of casualties among the Russian military and the National Guard will only strengthen the tendencies towards violence and collective solidarity against the rule of law.
The prosecutor’s office has demanded that the Spring [Vesna] movement be declared extremist. Details of the lawsuit are unknown. Starting in February, Spring has regularly called for protest rallies against the war; in May a criminal case was opened against supporters of the movement. The six defendants are charged with participation in an NGO infringing the rights of citizens and incitement to mass disorder.
- Why is this important? We have written many times in this newsletter about the vagueness of the concepts of “extremism” and “terrorism” in Russian law enforcement. In fact, the system can label as extremist anyone who is disloyal, regardless of whether that person uses or calls for violent forms of protest. Navalny’s organisations are considered extremist, even though they tried for years to fight the government on various levels in a constitutional, legal way, through elections and campaigning. Now, after the invasion of Ukraine and the path we are swiftly taking towards fascism, the state obviously deems that anyone who dissents is an extremist – especially those who speak out against that invasion.
About 30 criminal cases have been opened in Dagestan after anti-mobilisation rallies. Mass protests were held in the region on 25 and 26 September, during which police arrested around 200 people. OVD-Info is helping defendants in five criminal prosecutions brought after the rallies. Lawyers said that their clients all had bodily injuries: bruises, concussions and, allegedly, even fractures. Several journalists covering the protests are being prosecuted: on 30 September in Dagestan the journalist Vladimir Sevrinovsky was detained for five days; he had been carrying out an editorial assignment for Meduza. And the administrators of Telegram channels which had written about the anti-mobilisation rallies were also detained.
- Why do I need to know this? Since February, there has been discussion in independent media and on social media about the unequal participation of residents of different districts in the war. There is an opinion that the Russian state recruits into the army a larger number of people from republics with a high level of poverty than people from Moscow or St Petersburg. Now, in the regions – not just in Dagestan but also, for example, in Yakutia and Buryatia – quite a few protests against mobilisation are springing up. Of course, the state will try to suppress them harshly, as it needs silent soldiers, not protesters – in both Dagestan and Moscow.
Across Russia, criminal charges are being filed after arson attacks on military recruitment centres. In the Kaliningrad region, a suspect was taken into custody, a resident of Uryupinsk was detained, and a man from Novosibirsk was remanded in custody for two months, although he did not manage to start a fire. In St Petersburg a student who threw a Molotov cocktail at a building with a “military recruitment office” sign was taken into custody – although the office was in fact located in a neighbouring building.
- Why is this important? Russians have been setting fire to military recruitment offices since the start of the war. Mediazona estimates that there have been at least 50 such actions. Of course, actions like this cannot be called peaceful methods of protest. However, in the majority of cases the actions of the arsonists do not result in serious damage. At first such cases were regarded by authorities as hooliganism or the intentional destruction of property; they later began to be treated as terrorism – a charge that provides for much harsher punishment.
“A summons to the wrong place.” In various towns across Russia people arrested at anti-mobilisation rallies were served with summonses at police stations, on the spot. In addition, in some cases men were incorrectly summoned to military recruitment offices other than the ones at which they were registered. OVD-Info spoke with some people who received summonses this way. Read about it on our site, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
Translated by Anna Bowles