22 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! Artist Pavel Krisevich has been sentenced to five years for a performance in Red Square, a new criminal case has been opened against Aleksei Navalny and the legislation against ‘foreign agents’ is being tightened again.
Artist Pavel Krisevich has been sentenced to five years in prison. He was found guilty of hooliganism for a performance. In June 2021 on Red Square the artist gave a speech and shot himself in the head with a blank cartridge. In so doing, he wanted to draw attention to the problems of political prisoners in Russia. According to the prosecution, by his action Krisevich expressed “an imaginary superiority over those around him, and crudely violated public order”, and allegedly caused a “feeling of fear and anxiety” to passers-by.
- Why do I need to know this? Provocative actions often provoke harsher reactions from the authorities than do traditional kinds of protest – rallies and solo pickets. Back in 2012, the members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in jail for a performance in a cathedral; recently Igor Maltsev of St Petersburg has received three years and eight months in jail for burning an effigy in a military uniform. Krisevich’s prison sentence very much fits into this trend. However, in his final statement, the artist stressed that he deliberately chose the quietest place on the square so as not to scare passers-by – bearing this in mind, the punishment seems disproportionate.
Another criminal charge has been brought against Aleksei Navalny. The politician said in a post on his Instagram account that he is being charged with “propaganda of terrorism, calls to terrorism and extremism, financing extremist activities and the rehabilitation of Nazism.” The charges are allegedly under Articles 205.2, 280, 280.3 and 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. The case was launched because of some episodes of Popular Politics, a YouTube programme hosted by his supporters.
- Why is this important? The opposition leader was jailed in 2021, when his suspended sentence in the Yves Roche case being changed to a real term in prison. However, the authorities continue to bring new charges against him, thus adding to his sentence – he has already been sentenced to nine years in prison for fraud, and has also been accused of setting up an extremist group. The politician’s lawyer has calculated that he could spend up to 30 years in prison because of this new case – the authorities are trying to free themselves from this opponent for a long time.
The State Duma has passed at first reading amendments expanding the law on ‘foreign agents’. Most of the amendments just clarify the existing wording, but some of them widen the effect of the articles of the Code of Administrative Offences. Now not only those who have already been included on the register can be fined for violating the requirements made of ‘foreign agents’, but also those who only ‘intend’ to act as a ‘foreign agent’. It does not specify how such an attention should be expressed.
- Why do I need to know this? The law on ‘foreign agents’ is discriminatory, an instrument of censorship and persecution for political motives. Every year it gets stricter, and more and more people, organisations and media outlets are added to the register, and the wording used to explain the reason for inclusion on the list is often rather vague. After the adoption of the amendments, the state will have new opportunities to prosecute undesirable people of different professions, and there will be even more administrative cases under the ‘foreign agency’ articles.
An activist convicted on charges of violence against a police officer has spoken about torture in a pre-trial detention centre. Roman Taganov remained there even after he was given a suspended sentence. He said that, despite extreme weakness and symptoms of coronavirus, he was denied medical treatment. A doctor was not even brought to the man when he had an epileptic fit. Taganov added that there weren’t enough beds in the cell; some men had to take turns sleeping on the mattress on the floor or swap with those who had slept on the bed.
- Why is this important? Many detainees complain about conditions in pre-trial detention centres: they are denied medical care, forced to sleep on the floor and kept in cold cells. As a result, the health of those who are released often remains poor. The situation is even worse for those who are sent from the pre-trial detention centre to a labour colony or prison; there are plenty of violations there too. Clearly, prisoners should not have to suffer additionally – the court has already sentenced them to be deprived of their freedom.
‘The happiest man in prison.’ On 25 May, Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness from Denmark, was released after a five-year sentence. In 2019 a court found him guilty of organising the activities of an extremist organisation, and prior to that he had already served two years in a pre-trial detention centre. You can read his story on our site, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
‘Bring back my 2017’. OVD-Info has released a study of the pressure exerted by the Moscow authorities on independent district councillors. In September 2022, numerous voting irregularities were recorded, and disloyal candidates were removed from elections at various levels. Using the example of the capital’s districts we have analysed how the government reacts to opposition within bodies of authority. You can read the article on our Site, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
Translated by Anna Bowles