21 January 2023
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! Hi! The author of the “Protest MSU” channel has been beaten up by his guard escort after a court hearing, the authorities have tightened controls on ‘foreign agents’ and a pensioner has been sent for psychiatric evaluation in an anti-war commentary case.
Dmitrii Ivanov, author of the Protest MSSU [Moscow State University] Telegram channel, was beaten up by his guard escort after a court hearing. Dmitry Ivanov, the author of the Protest MSU TV channel, was beaten by a guard after a court hearing. The security guard reportedly took the defendant to the basement, where he struck him repeatedly in the head and ribs with a truncheon, handcuffed him tightly and threatened to rape him. The reason for this was Ivanov’s refusal to put on handcuffs while his lawyer was still talking with the judge – the activist wanted to hear the date of the next session and talk to his defence lawyer. He was later examined by a doctor in the pre-trial detention centre, but the doctor found only bruises on his wrists and advised to “contact us tomorrow”. Ivanov has been in custody since the summer on charges of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army as a result of his posts about the war with Ukraine on the Protest MSU telegram channel.
- Why do I need to know this? Many people experience violence at the hands of police officers during court proceedings. Those prosecuted for political reasons or speaking out against the war are often beaten and threatened. For example, Dmitry Kamynin, a Siberian human rights defender, reported being beaten in pre-trial detention after an attempt to lodge a complaint; Ingush activist Bagaudin Myakiev also reported being beaten. The defendants in such cases often face prison sentences and further pressure in labour camps. However, even this is not enough for the repressive system, so even before conviction many face cruelty that is likely to go unpunished, as the state actually only supports it.
The government has approved a new regulation on state control over ‘foreign agents.’ According to the document, the Justice Ministry will receive the right to conduct scheduled and unscheduled inspections of the activities of ‘foreign agents.’ Any documentation about those activities will be made available to officials, even if it contains legally protected secrets – for example, commercial secrets. The Ministry of Justice will also be able to send its representatives to activities of ‘foreign agents.’ Based on the results of the inspections, the agency can issue orders to the ‘foreign agent’ to eliminate violations, draw up an administrative protocol, apply to the court to liquidate the organisation, and also pass the decision to ban all or part of any programme announced by a ‘foreign agent.’
- Why is this important? The Russian authorities discriminate more and more against ‘foreign agents’ every year. It started with the reporting of all expenditure and the need to label every publication on social networks, and now those on the register are being deprived of commercial secrecy. All this brings enormous inconvenience to both individuals and ‘foreign agent’ organisations. In this way, the state makes life difficult for anyone who speaks out against it, silencing them.
A court in the Primorsky region has sent a pensioner for a psychiatric examination in an extremism case. This decision was taken following an examination in which a 65-year-old pensioner, Dolita Sinitsina, was found to have ‘psycho-organic syndrome’ and a disorder of ‘a schizophrenic nature.’ The woman was charged with calling for extremist action using the Internet because of comments on the Odnoklassniki social network with the headlines ‘Get out, feral cat!’ and ‘They don’t show Russian fascism on the state channels.’ An expert appointed by the investigation said that these posts incite violence against the Russian military.
- Why do I need to know this? The results of a psychiatric assessment can lead to a defendant being sent for compulsory treatment. The qualifications of the experts who make the decisions are often questionable and the conditions in the hospitals to which defendants are sent are almost torturous. A person may be declared insane in order to deprive them of the opportunity to defend themselves. Punitive psychiatry has thus become yet another way of disposing of those who speak out against the regime.
In the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District some probable followers of the Citizens of the USSR group have been detained in in a case concerning an extremist community. According to the investigation, six local residents aged 43 to 72 created and participated in an ‘extremist community’ and wanted to change the system of government in Russia, committed ‘illegal actions and provocations’ and attracted new supporters. A criminal case for incitement to hatred was also filed against one of the detainees, whom law enforcement officials described as the organiser of the community, over a comment on a social network calling for violence against security forces. Three of the individuals involved in the case have already been placed under house arrest, while the rest have been remanded in custody.
- Why is this important? Citizens of the USSR believe that the Union continues to exist and that the Russian Federation is a trading firm. Some of the members of the movement refuse any ties with Russia as a state, for example they don’t sign any documents, or demand that local authorities resign. In 2022, a court in Samara declared Citizens of the USSR an extremist organisation. Supporters of the movement are sentenced to jail because of their views, although in few cases does the investigation find evidence of preparations to seize power or to commit violent acts.
“Everything I had been building for 15 years burned down in three hours because of my anti-war stance.” In early December, environmental activist Andrei Paniushkin reported that his house in the Krasnodar region had been set on fire. He linked it to his anti-war posts on social media. The official cause of the fire has not yet been established, but the prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal case under the article on deliberate destruction of property. Read Paniushkin’s monologue on our website, on Yandex.ru or Medium.
Translated by Anna Bowles