OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 301: 19 years’ imprisonment for a failed arson attempt

15 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.

Illustration: Asa Sokolova for OVD-Info


Hello! The defendants in a case of a failed arson attempt at a military recruitment office have been given a harsh sentence, Aleksei Moskalev has been extradited to Russia, and men convicted in a Hizb ut-Tahrir case have been kept in a punishment cell for almost two months.

Rock musicians from Bakal have been sentenced to 19 years in jail for attempting to burn down a military recruitment office. Aleksei Nurayev and Roman Nasryev were found guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts as a group, and of training in terrorist activities. According to the investigation, in October 2022 the men threw Molotov cocktails through the window of a city local government building. As a result, the linoleum caught fire but nobody was hurt. Nurayev explained that his action was a protest against the war and mobilisation.

  • Why do I need to know this? Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, there have been arson attacks on military recruitment and government offices all around Russia. According to Mediazone, as of 31 March there had been at least 94 such attacks. Many can be considered as protests against Russian aggression, as expressing opposition to the war when under conditions of censorship and repression it has become virtually impossible – people are sent to jail for attending peaceful rallies and making posts on social media. The authorities react harshly to such attacks – 19 years in jail for an arson attack which did not result in any injuries or significant property damage seems a totally disproportionate punishment. 

Aleksei Moskalev has been extradited from Belarus. He was handed over to Russian police on 13 April; before that the father of Masha Moskaleva had been kept in jail in Zhodino. On 28 March he had been sentenced to two years in jail for posts about the war in Ukraine published on the website Odnoklassniki. On the eve of his sentencing Moskalev escaped from house arrest, but was detained in Minsk two days later.

  • Why is this important? It’s possible Moskalev’s punishment will be made harsher. This could happen as a result of a complaint from the prosecutor about the verdict – the prosecutor could refer to the escape, amongst other things. There is no point in hoping for leniency as Russian justice does not look kindly on those who speak out against the war. The maximum sentence Moskalev could receive under the article for repeated discrediting of the army is five years in jail. He will now be separated from his daughter, who has been sent back to her mother who has had no contact with the child for seven years.

Two of the men convicted in a Hizb ut-Tahrir case have been held in punishment cells since February. Eldar Kantimirov and Timur Yalkabov are suffering from health problems. The former suffers from lower back pain and the latter has regular attacks of bronchial asthma – he has a Class 3 disability. The Crimean Tatars were placed in punishment cells after a cell search when prison officers confiscated their personal belongings without conducting an inventory and also violently removed their prayer mats. 

  • Why do I need to know this? The maximum length of stay in a punishment cell is 15 days, but political prisoners are often given one punishment after another, on a variety of pretexts. For example, Aleksei Navalny has already been sent there 13 times – because of an undone button or the word ‘whore’ spoken in conversation with a cellmate. Imprisonment in a punishment cell can seriously damage the health of a prisoner, especially if they have chronic ailments already, and a ban on visits and phone calls can also significantly undermine their morale.

Russian citizens who speak out against the war are being deported from Vietnam. 52-year-old Serkhio Kuan was expelled from the country because of an anti-war email he sent to the Russian embassy. Sergei Kuporov used to teach English in Vietnam, but after he had lived in the country for nine years local police told him they wanted to extradite him because of statements he made on YouTube. The same fate also awaited Sergei Pavlov, who condemned the invasion of Ukraine on social media. However, the man managed to leave the country on his own.

  • Why is this important? In 2022 many Russians left the country because of the risk of mobilisation or the growth of repression against those who disagreed with the actions of the authorities. However, they are not safe everywhere. Detentions of Russian opposition activists in Belarus and Kazakhstan have long been talked about – but now it seems Vietnam is in the news for the first time.


Fined for an argument in a café. A woman from Moscow has been fined 30,000 roubles for discrediting the Russian army because she got involved in an argument in a café with a man who was speaking aggressively about Ukrainians. He recorded part of the conversation on his telephone and then called the police. Read the woman’s report about the incident on our site, Yandex.Zen and Medium.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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