8 April 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.
Bloggers Khaoyan Suy and Gela Gogishvili / Photo: couple’s Telegram channel
Hi! A blogger is being deported from Russia because of videos about a relationship with his boyfriend, a defendant in a prosecution for ‘fake news’ about the Russian army has been remanded in custody despite heart problems, and prosecutors have asked for the politician Vladimir Kara-Murza to be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Bloggers Khaoyan Suy and Gela Gogishvili are being prosecuted for LGBTQ propaganda. Suy was jailed for seven days and ordered to be expelled from Russia – the young man has Chinese citizenship. The judge decided that by means of his videos the blogger had ‘spread a desire to change their sex among minors,’ despite the fact that Suy’s and Gogishvili’s YouTube channel is labeled ‘18+.’ The two were detained on 5 April in Kazan; administrative cases were drawn up against them, Suy was held overnight at a police station until the trial and Gogishvili was released on condition he appear in court.
- Why is this important? Suy, 21, and Gogishvili, 23, make romantic videos: in the clips they sleep in each others’ arms, kiss and talk about their relationship. Many bloggers record such content, but it is same-sex love that is illegal in Russia. Because of the article of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences on ‘LGBTQ propaganda,’ homosexual couples cannot show their lives on social media the way millions of heterosexual people do. In this way they find themselves in socially isolated because they face administrative liability for ordinary photos or videos of themselves with their partners.
A defendant in an ‘anti-war’ prosecution has been held in custody for six months, despite his heart condition. Evgeny Bestuzhev, 62, is accused of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army, and his condition in pre-trial detention centre is getting worse every day. Bestuzhev has severe hypertension and has recently had several heart attacks. He needs an operation, but such an operation is impossible in the conditions of imprisonment.
- Why do I need to know this? Imprisonment on remand is a terrible ordeal for people with poor health. It is practically impossible to receive quality medical care there, while poor nutrition, damp and musty conditions, stress and lack of movement only contribute to the development of illnesses. Publicity often helps in such cases – for example, Aleksei Gorinov, convicted under of ‘fake news,’ was hospitalized after being initially refused treatment in the penal colony. A petition we launched in support of Evgeny Bestuzhev has been signed so far by almost 35,000 people.
A Moscow photographer has been sentenced in the case of a failed protest on Victory Day. Grigory Mumrikov was sentenced to one and a half years of compulsory work. He was found guilty of complicity in attempted hooliganism. According to investigators, he had intended to film the protest in which artist Danila Tkachenko had planned to set off smoke bombs of blue and yellow colours during the 2022 parade on Red Square. However, the protest did not take place. Tkachenko left Russia, and in July a court remanded him in custody in absentia. The artist asserted that Mumrikov had nothing to do with the protest. This was also confirmed by the arguments of the defence: while the prosecution claimed that Mumrikov’s fingerprint was on the spray can that could have been used for the protest, the photographer’s defenders emphasized that this fingerprint was different from the other four on the spray can, and the forensic fingerprint examinations had been conducted with violations.
- Why is this important? Compulsory work is served in correctional centres, where the convicted person has to be almost all the time, it is not possible to just leave them. Technically, Internet and phone calls are allowed there, as are trips to a store or to the doctor, and you can go home on holidays and weekends. However, there are searches in correctional centres, and convicted persons must clean the premises and greet prison officers according to certain rules, otherwise they can be punished. It is difficult to call compulsory work of this kind a mild punishment: convicts complain that the working conditions are similar to slavery and in practice there is no let-up in the strict regime.
Prosecutors have asked for politician Vladimir Kara-Murza to be sentence to 25 years’ imprisonment. This is the term they have demanded on charges of ‘fake news’ about the Russian army, involvement in the activities of an ‘undesirable organization’ and high treason. Kara-Murza has been in custody since April 2022. During this time his health condition has markedly deteriorated. Kara-Murza began to lose sensation in his extremities, and soon doctors diagnosed him with polyneuropathy – a disease included in the list of diseases under which it is prohibited to serve a sentence. According to doctors, these are all consequences of the poisonings the politician suffered in 2015 and 2017.
- Why do I need to know this? It is unlikely that the sentence Kara-Murza will eventually receive will be much less than that requested – in prosecutions for such offences the state is not usually inclined to show mercy. It appears that two previous attempts have been made on the opposition politician’s life. In 2021, investigators from Bellingcat, The Insider and Der Spiegel established that before he was poisoned, he had been followed by the FSB. All this causes alarm for the politician’s life, because possibly even Kara-Murza’s serious illness will not be an obstacle to his imprisonment.
The Case of Aleksei and Masha Moskalev. Aleksei Moskalev, a resident of Efremov, Tula region, has raised his daughter Masha alone. After she drew an anti-war picture in her art class, the family faced harassment. Masha was first taken to the police, then her father was put on trial for making anti-war comments on social networks. On 28 March he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. The day before sentencing, Aleksei had escaped from house arrest, but two days later he was detained in Minsk. At that time Masha was in a rehabilitation centre but on 5 April she was taken from there by her mother, with whom she had had no contact for seven years. We are chronicling their persecution on our website.
European Court of Human Rights Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled on 62 applications made by Memorial Human Rights Centre and OVD-Info! Those detained at protest rallies in 2017 and 2019 were awarded compensation ranging from €3,500 to €5,000.
Translated by Rights in Russia