OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 285: Back to the 1980s – Poliudova gets nine years; authorities move to close down Moscow Helsinki Group

24 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.

Vladimir Rumyantsev, who has been convicted in a ‘fake news’ case.


Hello! Activist Darya Poliudova has been sentenced to nine years in prison in the Left Resistance prosecution, an eleventh-grader has prosecuted over a video about Columbine, and the Ministry of Justice has filed a lawsuit to shut down the Moscow Helsinki Group.

The founder of Left Resistance, Daria Poliudova, has been sentenced to nine years in prison. Another activist of the movement, Kirill Kotov, received a three-year suspended sentence. Poliudova was found guilty of creating an extremist group, while Kotov was found guilty of participating in it. In addition, Poliudova was charged with public incitement of terrorism or its justification, because of a post titled ‘Execute the traitor Putler for treason!’; publications on the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea; and pickets in support of members of the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir. The activist’s term includes her previous sentence, which will be counted as having started in January 2020, when the young woman was remanded in custody in connection with her previous trial.

  • Why do I need to know this? According to the FSB, Daria Poliudova created Left Resistance to ‘prepare and carry out crimes’ – the ‘public justification of terrorism and public incitement to extremist activity.’ The investigation considers staging pickets and publishing material on social media to be the activities of an extremist group. However, it should be noted that the right to organise peaceful rallies and disseminate information in the media and on social networks are guaranteed by the Constitution. Also, according to the Memorial Human Rights Centre, there is nothing criminal in either the subjects of the posts or the text of the placards.

A criminal case has been brought against a schoolboy from Yakutia over a video about Columbine. The eleventh-grader has been charged with public incitement of terrorism and its justification or propaganda. In November, the schoolboy allegedly posted a TikTok video on his Telegram chat about the 1999 American school shooting by teenagers Dylan Clebold and Eric Harris, and signed it with the words ‘We could do it again.’ The court remanded the young man in custody.

  • Why is this important? In February, at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Russian Supreme Court declared Columbine a terrorist movement and banned it from the country. The word ‘Columbines’ refers to mass murders in school facilities, and there is no evidence that an organised movement of that name exists. After the court’s decision, participants in Internet communities about school shootings, or users who spread information about such cases, could face criminal liability. They will not be prosecuted for actual violence, but for their statements on social networks, and the punishment could be imprisonment, which is hardly proportionate.

The Ministry of Justice has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the Moscow Helsinki Group. On the human rights organisation’s website, the prosecutor’s office found information about its staff’s attendance of events outside the capital, and felt that as a regional organisation, the Moscow Helsinki Group had no right to participate in any events in other cities. The Ministry of Justice conducted an inspection and found eleven more such ‘events.’ Moscow Helsinki Group itself noted that the list included trial observations, complaints about lack of access to courts and seminars with regional partners – including some conducted online, and also an appeal to the Governor of St Petersburg to lift restrictions on holding public events.

  • Why do I need to know this? The Moscow Helsinki Group was founded in 1976 by Soviet dissidents and is the oldest human rights organisation in the country. Its staff monitors human rights in accordance with the Helsinki Accords which were signed by 35 countries in 1975. In the 1980s, the organisation was dissolved because of state pressure, and now, thirty years later, history is repeating itself. The current authorities are stubbornly trying to get rid of human rights defenders: in 2019, the Supreme Court dissolved the public movement For Human Rights, and at the end of 2021, the same decision was made regarding International Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Centre. The authorities don’t want criticism – they want to play by their own rules.


Between “Disgusting” and “Terrifying”‘. On December 22, a court in Vologda sentenced Vladimir Rumyantsev to three years in prison for ‘fake news’ about the Russian army. Rumyantsev, a 61-year-old stoker and radio ham, was accused of spreading information known to be false on his VKontakte page and through his personal radio station, where he rebroadcast, for example, YouTube broadcasts of Ekho Moskvy, which had by that time been closed. The man told OVD-Info about his life before his imprisonment and his political views. Read his letter on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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