10 December 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! Politician Ilya Yashin has been sentenced in a case about “fake news” about the army, the Vesna movement has been declared extremist, and a neighbour of a defendant in the Network case has reported that he was tortured in 2018.
Politician Ilya Yashin has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. The former municipal councillor has been found guilty of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army on grounds of political hatred. The criminal case was launched against him in July because of a YouTube channel stream in which he spoke about the tragedy in Bucha. At the time the case was initiated, the man was serving 15 days in a police custody centre for ‘disobeying the police.’ The same month Yashin was put on the “foreign agents” register.
- Why do I need to know this? The criminal article on “fake news” about the Russian army appeared in March 2022 and quickly became a tool of military censorship and repression. At least 121 people have been prosecuted under it, according to OVD-Info’s calculations. In this way the authorities are fiercely cracking down on freedom of speech: for stories about what is happening in the war that do not coincide with information from official Russian sources, residents of the Russian Federation face up to 15 years in prison (although the third part of the article, which carries the longest penalty, has never been applied). The conviction of Ilya Yashin is yet another example of how the authorities seek to silence dissenters.
The Vesna movement has been declared an extremist organisation. This decision was taken by St Petersburg City Court. The relevant lawsuit was filed in September by the prosecutor’s office. Even the activists themselves still do not know the content of the lawsuit: parts of the case were classified. The members of the movement intend to appeal against the court ruling, and are not going to cease their activities. Earlier, the Federal Financial Monitoring Service added Vesna to the list of terrorists and extremists, and then the Ministry of Justice added the movement to the list of “foreign agents”.
- Why is this important? Since the start of the war with Ukraine, members of Vesna have been staging anti-war demonstrations and announcing protests on social media, which quickly attracted the attention of the authorities. In May, a criminal case was opened against supporters of the movement for their involvement in an NGO that infringed on the rights of citizens. Later, the charge of incitement to mass disorder was added to the materials. There are a total of eight defendants in the case, not all of whom are associated with Vesna. It cannot be ruled out that new criminal cases may now be filed against the activists: for example, under the article on establishing an extremist community, which carries the risk of up to ten years’ imprisonment.
A neighbour of one of the defendants in the Network case has reported that he was tortured in 2018. Anti-fascist Aleksei Runov said that at the time he was living in the same flat in St Petersburg as Igor Shishkin, who was later convicted of participation in a terrorist group. According to Runov, in January 2018, law enforcement officers came to his home, conducted a search and then took him to a van, put him face down on the floor, put a black bag over his head and began to electrocute him while asking him questions. The anti-fascist activist was then taken to the city’s FSB office, where he was again interrogated.
- Why do I need to know this? In 2020, the ten defendants in the Network case were sentenced to long jail terms. According to the FSB, young people in Penza and St Petersburg organised a terrorist group called Network and intended to overthrow the government. The defendants in the case have alleged they were subjected to psychological pressure, electrocution and beatings, and had weapons planted on them; some of them have recanted the confessions they gave in the days following their detention. Memorial Human Rights Centre stated that the entire case was built on torture and the resulting testimony of defendants and witnesses, and that the investigation consisted of fitting the real facts to the theories of FSB officers. Igor Shishkin also reported torture – but only after he was released from prison. He had previously pleaded guilty and testified against the other defendants.
“Putin is the Antichrist” and a prayer for unrighteous victory. In October, a court in the Sverdlovsk Region fined priest Yevgeny Pinchuk 100,000 roubles under the article of the Russian Criminal Code on repeated discrediting of the Russian army. The reason for the criminal case was a post on VKontakte in which the priest called the actions of the Russian military an invasion. Read the priest’s story on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
Translated by Anna Bowles