8 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! The politician Vladimir Kara-Murza has been charged with state treason, residents of Chechnya were forced to beat their wives over a protest rally, and in Penza a criminal prosecution began for evading mobilisation – but then the decision was found to be unlawful.
Good news first – Russian Memorial has received the Nobel Peace Prize. It was jointly awarded to Memorial, the Ukrainian Centre for Civil Liberties and Ales Bialiatski, the founder of Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna. The prize Memorial was awarded on the following basis: “They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.” The good news ends there: on the same day the Moscow office of the liquidated International Memorial was seized by the state.
A third criminal case is pending against the politician Vladimir Kara-Murza. He was charged with treason because of his speeches at public events abroad in which he criticised the Russian authorities. Kara-Murza is currently in pre-trial detention. In April, a criminal case regarding “fake news” about the Russian army on grounds of political hatred was opened against him, and in July he was also charged with carrying out the activities of an “undesirable organisation”.
- Why is this important? The case against Kara-Murza is the first publicly known case of state treason in a form unrelated to the handing over of state secrets. “Kara-Murza is charged with ‘assisting a foreign state in activities against state security’. This is the first case of this kind. This is a new and quite dangerous precedent, as it expands the already rather flexible Article 275 of the Criminal Code,” said Valeria Vetoshkina, a lawyer from the First Department project. The politician faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted under this article. Very likely it will be used more often against opposition politicians who have actively criticised the Russian authorities – as this way they can be put in prison for a long time.
A criminal case of evading mobilisation has been opened against a resident of Penza. Maksim Moiseev, 32, refused to obey a summons to a military recruitment office. Because of this, he was arrested and taken into custody. However, the prosecutor’s office later ruled that the decision to bring a criminal case was unlawful. The man was entitled to discharge, including compensation for 48 hours of detention. However, the Investigative Committee intends to appeal the decision and insists that the case be reopened.
- Why do I need to know this? According to the Supreme Court’s explanations, Article 328 of the Criminal Code only applies to citizens who evade conscription. Those who refuse to sign a summons or fail to turn up in person after being served with papers, have until now only been faced with an administrative penalty – fines of between 500 and 3,000 roubles. Only cases where they visit the recruitment office themselves can criminal proceedings be opened against those who do not want to go to war. If a person who has been mobilised tries to hide, he may be charged under Article 337 of the Criminal Code. The story of Maksim Moiseev is an example of unlawful pressure on evaders: he spent several days in custody although he should only have received a fine. It’s possible that this incident is not the last, and evaders will continue to be prosecuted despite the existing laws. Or new ones will be passed, toughening the penalties for non-appearance at the military recruitment office.
The apartment of the mother of Aleksander Zykov, former chief of Navalny’s headquarters, has been searched. Investigations were carried out at her home in the Kostroma region. This happened immediately after the announcement of the resumption of work at Navalny’s headquarters in Russia. Zykov himself is abroad; two criminal cases of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army are pending against him. The search was conducted in the context of one of these cases, where his mother is a witness.
- Why is this important? The news that Navalny’s team is will resume operating in the country has undoubtedly angered the Russian authorities. Pressure may increase not only on former employees – many of whom are abroad – but also on their relatives. It’s entirely possible that law enforcement will continue to pay visits to families of the politician’s supporters.
Residents of Chechnya have been forced to beat their wives for participating in a rally against mobilisation. Police officers forced Adam Muradov to beat his wife after she attended a protest rally in Grozny. Then their son was mobilised, and Muradov himself soon died of a heart attack. Afterwards it turned out that other female protestors were also subjected to violence. They were forcibly brought to Grozny city hall together with their husbands. There the police officers told them that either they themselves would beat the women with pipes containing concrete, or their husbands would have to do it.
- Why do I need to know this? In Chechnya protestors are dealt with differently than in other regions. Abductions, violence and torture are becoming commonplace. Atrocities committed by police officers go unpunished even when they are made public. We will never find out about some of them – the victims do not talk about what happened, fearing further persecution. There is no hope of a fair trial. “In Chechnya there is no one to turn to,” said Abubakar Yangulbaev, a former employee of the Committee Against Torture. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is not only failing to resolve the problem, but himself openly threatens human rights activists and journalists.
“No language except that of pain.” In August, a court in Moscow detained Petr Ivko for three days. After a hearing he was taken to a police station where he was tortured – police were trying to find out the whereabouts of his anarchist brother, who had fled the country a month earlier. We publish Petr’s account. You can read it on our site, Yandex.zen or Medium.
OVD-Info also continues to report on human rights issues. Journalists and analysts from the project spoke at the conference on the human dimension held by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. There they discussed violations of the right to freedom of assembly in Russia, including the persecution of participants in recent protests, and the gradual destruction of freedom of speech in the country, and offered recommendations for the international community to deal with the current situation.
Also, OVD-Info and other NGOs have repeatedly called on the UN Human Rights Council to respond to the intensifying repression in Russia and create a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Russia. And it’s happened! The person selected for the job of Special Rapporteur will work with civil society, make recommendations to international organisations and document human rights violations in the country.
Translated by Anna Bowles
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