13 May 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! A defendant in the ’Mayakovsky readings’ case has been sentenced to prison, the law on ‘foreign agents’ is being tightened again, and a criminal case has been opened because of a torn St George ribbon.
A defendant in the ‘Mayakovsky readings’ case has been sentenced to four years in a prison colony. Nikolai Daineko was found guilty of incitement to hatred and to anti-state activities. There are two other defendants in the case, Artem Kamardin and Yegor Shtovba. In September 2022 the young men were remanded in custody after an ‘anti-mobilisation’ street poetry party. Before this, as we reported, police officers reportedly beat Kamardin during a search and sexually assaulted him and tortured his girlfriend. Daineko’s case was heard separately because he had entered into a pre-trial agreement with the investigation.
- Why do I need to know this? The young men were prosecuted because of Kamardin’s call at the Mayakovsky readings to ‘observe the rules’, specifically ‘not to take’ summonses from the hands of military recruitment officials, ‘not to sign’ documents confirming receipt of the summonses and ‘not to appear’ in response to the summonses. Shtovba and Daineko were considered by investigators to be his ‘accomplices’ because they repeated his words. Simply because of this kind of advice the young men will be deprived of their freedom for years, because in Russia, according to the authorities, every man should go to war.
Two new bills on ‘foreign agents’ have been introduced in the State Duma. Officials are proposing to punish people who help ‘foreign agents’. They intend first to issue warnings to offenders – people, organisations or public authorities – and then impose fines. The fines could vary from 30,000 to 50,000 roubles for citizens, from 70,000 to 100,000 roubles for officials, and from 200,000 to 300,000 roubles for legal entities.
- Why is this important? So far it’s not clear from the wording of the bill what exactly ‘assisting a foreign agent’ and ‘contributing to the violation of the law’ mean. If there are no clear criteria in the text of the law, it will be possible to impose liability for failing to eliminate violations in time. Thus the law on ‘foreign agents’, already aimed at repressing journalists, activists and anti-war activists, could lead to the prosecution of even more Russian citizens considered undesirable by the government.
In Bryansk Oblast a criminal case has been opened regarding the tearing of a St George ribbon. A resident of the village of Netinka is being prosecuted under the article on desecration of symbols of Russia’s military glory. According to police, in March he tore a St George ribbon from the clothing of a fellow villager and “committed desecration of it”. In what way he did this is not specified.
- Why do I need to know this? These days, for many Russians the St George ribbon has turned from a symbol of the memory of fallen forebears into a symbol of military aggression, so actions like those of the Bryansk oblast resident are not surprising. In December 2022, Vladimir Putin signed a law clarifying the legal status of the St George ribbon: from that moment it became formally a ‘symbol of military glory’. The number of such criminal cases will probably increase now – although ‘desecration’ of this symbol has already led to convictions under the article on the rehabilitation of Naziism.
A teacher from Komi has been sentenced to five and a half years in a penal colony for comments on the explosion on the Kerch bridge. Nikita Tushkanov was found guilty of justifying terrorism on the internet and repeatedly discrediting the Russian army. In comments on VKontakte that prompted the prosecution, he called the explosion on the Crimean bridge a ‘birthday present for Putler’. The investigation also alleged that Tushkanov used the phrase ‘annexation of occupied territories’ in his posts. The man has been in pre-trial detention since December 2022.
- Why is this important? Unfortunately, prison sentences for statements made online have long since become commonplace. Tushkanov’s criminal case was heard in one day – obviously the court had no doubt that a person should be deprived of his liberty for such words. The teacher was subjected to pressure while still in custody – it was reported that officers chopped into small pieces the food his family had brought for him, and cut up his jacket. Also, the man has not been allowed to see his relatives or to marry his girlfriend.
A husband says, ‘You have to shut up and keep quiet!’ At the end of April, 70-year-old pensioner Olga was fined 40,000 roubles under the article on discrediting the army. The reason was denunciations written against her because she had complimented the looks of Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky during a conversation at a health spa. Read her story on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
Published and not deleted. 62-year-old Yevgeny Bestuzhev is on trial for spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army – a preliminary hearing was held in St Petersburg on 10 May. The man faces up to ten years in prison because of posts on VKontakte. The pensioner has currently been remanded in custody, although he has a heart condition. Read articles about his prosecution on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
European Court of Human Rights And finally the ECtHR has upheld 26 complaints made by OVD-Info and Memorial Human Rights Centre on behalf of people who had been detained at peaceful rallies over the past years! The applicants were awarded compensation of between 3,000 and 5,000 euros.
Translated by Anna Bowles