OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 281: Ever more restrictions

26 November 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.

Illustration: OVD-Info


Hello! The State Duma has passed a law banning “LGBTQ propaganda”, artist Yulia Tsvetkova has finally been acquitted, and defendants in the latest Hizb ut-Tahrir trial have been given harsh sentences.

The State Duma has finally passed a law on “LGBTQ propaganda”. Its dissemination is now banned online, in the media, in films and in ads. Films showing queer experience will not be given distribution certificates and books containing “propaganda” will be banned from sale. Legal entities will face fines up to five million roubles for violating the law, individuals up to 400,000 roubles and foreign nationals will be expelled from the country. The authorities have also introduced culpability for the dissemination of “information showing non-traditional sexual relations” to minors – previously only “propaganda” was prohibited.

  • Why is this important? The new law practically forbids people from talking about queer experience and highlighting LGBTQ issues. Almost anything can be considered “propaganda” – even photographs of same-sex couples. For most Russians, such large fines are almost impossible to pay, and the only way out is to keep quiet and hide. In addition, the lack of representation of the LGBTQ community in the media leads to increasing intolerance – and homophobic hate crimes have not decreased in the country in recent years anyway.

Artist Yulia Tsvetkova has finally been acquitted of distributing pornography. The prosecutor’s appeal was rejected, upholding the decision taken by the court in summer to find the activist not guilty. After the hearing, Tsvetkova left Russia. The case was brought in 2019 because of the publication of some drawings on the Vagina Monologues forum. The prominent enemy of the LGBTQ community Timur Bulatov had made a statement against her.

  • Why do I need to know this? Yulia Tsvetkova’s case was ludicrous from the beginning: it was brought because of anatomical representations of female bodies and abstract drawings of vulvas. The pictures were accompanied by body-positive slogans – the artist wanted to teach women to love themselves and accept their bodies in any form. Although the court acquitted her in the end, the artist was subjected to significant pressure. The young woman spent four months under house arrest, was refused medical treatment, received administrative fines because of her other work, and in June of this year she was entered on the register of “foreign agents”. 

In Crimea, five defendants in a Hizb ut-Tahrir trial have been given sentences of between 13 and 14 years in jail. Rustem Sheikhaliev, Ruslan Suleimanov, Osman Arifmemetov, Enver Ametov and Yashar Muedinov were found guilty of participation in the activities of a terrorist organization and preparation for the violent seizure of power. According to the prosecution, the men were engaged in militant Islamic propaganda and were planning a constitutional coup in Crimea. Three of them worked as journalists for Crimean Solidarity before their arrest. 

  • Why is this important? This newsletter has covered the sentences handed down to defendants in connection with involvement in the Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir many times. Heavy sentences are regularly imposed on those charged with involvement – often those convicted are given over ten years in prison. In the opinion of the Sova Information and Analysis Centre, the party has been improperly recognized as a terrorist party. Moreover, its supporters have not yet been found guilty of actual conspiratorial activity, and they are only accused of preparing a violent takeover of power on the basis of party activity, Sova notes.

Politician Andrei Pivovarov has had his sentence upheld in an “undesirable organisation” case. His sentence was left unchanged – four years in prison and a ban on social and political activities for eight years. The prosecution of the opposition activist began in the spring of 2021 because of 30 Facebook posts and one repost of a post by Open Russia, which had previously been deemed undesirable. A few days before Pivovarov was detained, the Open Russia board liquidated the organisation in order to safeguard its supporters.

  • Why do I need to know this? The case against Pivovarov was probably brought to prevent him from standing in the 2021 State Duma elections. “There was nothing criminal about my activities. The case against me is straightforward revenge for my views and political activities,” he said in his closing statement. The authorities increasingly often try to get rid of disloyal candidates by any means they can find: administrative prosecutions to prevent them from running, and sometimes, as in Pivovarov’s case, criminal charges are brought against them. And so it is practically impossible for opposition candidates to participate in Russian politics.


“Sometimes there are moments when you simply can’t remain silent.” Moscow municipal councillor Aleksei Gorinov has been sentenced to six years and eleven months in prison for his anti-war speech at a municipal council meeting. At OVD-Info’s request, journalist Ilya Azar entered into correspondence with Aleksei. We have published their conversation – you can read the article on our site, on Yandex.Zen and Medium

Translated by Anna Bowles

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