OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 275: Woman faces a possible five years in prison for a note left on the grave of Putin’s parents

15 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.

Photo: Kenny Orr / Unsplash


Hello! A woman from St Petersburg has been put under house arrest for placing a note on the grave of Vladimir Putin’s parents, the Meta corporation and the Spring movement have been added to the list of terrorists and extremists, and Aleksei Navalny has been placed in a punishment cell again.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled on 88 applications by Russian protestors and found that the state committed violations in detaining the protesters and then prosecuting them under administrative law. Fifty-seven of these applications were prepared and submitted by lawyers from OVD-Info with the help of information from Memorial Human Rights Centre. The applicants were awarded compensation of a total of 222,000 euros. However, they will not receive any payments under the current government – on 11 July Vladimir Putin signed a law that allows the Russian government not to execute ECtHR judgments issued after 15 March 2022.

A criminal case has been brought against an elderly woman from St Petersburg for placing a note on the grave of Putin’s parents. 60-year-old Irina Tsybaneva has been placed under house arrest. She is suspected of desecration of a burial place for political or ideological reasons. According to the investigation, she “left a note with an insulting description” by the grave of the president’s parents at Serafimovsky cemetery. “Parents of a lunatic, take him with you, he has caused so much pain and trouble, the whole world is praying for his death […] Death to Putin, you raised a monster and a murderer” the text read, according to the materials of the case.

  • Why is this important? The pensioner’s goal was hardly to desecrate a grave; her gesture was clearly political. According to Tsybaneva, she had gone to the cemetery after she had “watched the news” and “realised that everything is very bad, everything is very sad, a lot of people have died”. The Sova Information and Analysis centre considers the woman’s actions to have been incorrectly categorised: the object of the crime under this article is a burial place, but in this case it was not harmed. However, Tsybaneva now faces up to five years in prison.

The Spring movement and the Meta corporation – the mother company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – have been added to the list of terrorists and extremists. The latter was also added to the Ministry of Justice’s list of extremist organisations, and Spring was added to the list of “foreign agents”. Soon the prosecutor’s office began issuing warnings to users of Facebook and Instagram about the inadmissibility of extremist activity and to threaten them with administrative and criminal liability for posting on these social networks. Such warnings are not legally binding in themselves; however, they are a good tool for intimidation.

  • Why do I need to know this? In the case of Meta, criminal liability threatens payments to the corporation and its subsidiaries. Ordinary users of social media will not be affected, but bloggers who buy ads might be. It’s entirely possible that this will become a new way of harassing those who speak out against the war or criticise the current government. Members of Spring suggest that the movement was listed as part of interim measures in a lawsuit to declare it an “extremist organisation”. Its supporters cannot yet be prosecuted under the “extremist” articles, but this is more likely just a matter of time – since the start of the war with Ukraine, its activists have been participating in anti-war demonstrations and have announced protest rallies, which has angered the authorities.

Aleksei Navalny has been sent to a punishment cell for the sixth time. The reason was the opposition leaders’ refusal to clean a fence. “Well, I know painting a fence and feeling like Tom Sawyer is fun. But washing a fence is complete nonsense in my opinion,” he said regarding the situation. On 11 August the politician announced that that he had founded the Promzone trade union for prisoners and prison officers. Since then he has been regularly placed in a punishment cell for periods of 3 to 15 days on different occasions.

  • Why is this important? After being incarcerated in a punishment cell for a second time, a prisoner can be declared a persistent offender – this has already happened to Navalny. A conviction as a persistent offender, in turn, provides a basis for transfer to a solitary cell with even stricter conditions for up to one year or for transfer from the penal colony to a prison for up to three years. Lawyer Pavel Chikov said that this is why the opposition leader has been sent to a punishment cell multiple times. The pressure on the politician in the prison colony does not end there: he has been stripped of his right to attorney-client privilege. All the documents he gives or receives from his defence lawyers are now examined by the staff of the penal colony; they have also taped up the window of the meeting room, depriving the prisoner of the chance to show papers through the glass.


The business cards of foreign media, riot police and the use of force. On 5 October, the homes and offices of members of the Golos electoral observers’ movement in various regions were searched in connection with a criminal case for allegedly discrediting the Russian army. Vladimir Egorov, co-ordinator of Golos, told how security forces came to their Moscow office, and what happened next – he lost consciousness after being hit by a riot police officers and was arrested for five days. You can read Egorov’s account on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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