20 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! The Russian branch of Greenpeace has been shut down after the organisation was deemed ‘undesirable’, Moscow and St Petersburg opposition activists have been subjected to searches, and another case of involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir has resulted in harsh sentences.
Greenpeace has been declared an ‘undesirable organisation’. The Prosecutor General’s Office found that efforts of the Russian branch of Greenpeace to protect the environment are undermining the economic foundations of the Russian state and hindering the implementation of profitable projects. Officials also believe that the organisation funds the activities of ‘foreign agents’, holds unauthorised rallies and engages in ‘anti-Russian propaganda’ – in particular, failing to support the war in Ukraine. On the same day, Greenpeace announced the closure of its Russian branch.
- Why do I need to know this? Greenpeace, an international NGO, has been protecting nature all over the world since the 1970s. The Russian branch worked to preserve nature reserves and natural parks, fought forest fires, solved problems related to the rubbish crisis and many other things. Now there will be no such organisation in the country, and it is not known whether anyone will be able to help preserve Russia’s natural heritage as effectively as they do. Greenpeace’s decision is understandable: participation in the activities of ‘undesirable organisations’ in Russia can lead to administrative and criminal liability.
Homes of opposition activists in two capitals have been searched. In Moscow, police officers visited politician and mathematician Mikhail Lobanov, former Duma candidate Galina Filchenko and former municipal depuy Nodari Khananashvili, while in St Petersburg they visited Ladoga editor-in-chief Aleksandr Kalinin and politician Sergei Gulyaev. Investigations are taking place within the framework of a criminal case against politician Ilya Ponomarev who is being prosecuted for disseminating ‘fake news’ about the Russian army and the justification of terrorism.
- Why is this important? Perhaps Ilya Ponomarev’s case is being used to intimidate those opponents of the regime who remain in Russia in Russia – Mikhail Lobanov, for example, stated that he did not know him. Even if the security forces really just wanted to get evidence from witnesses in the case, it is worth noting that the investigative actions involved irregularities. For example, Lobanov’s lawyer Tatyana Okushko was not allowed to be present at his search and questioning. Police also broke down the door to the scientist’s flat and forced him and his wife to lie face down on the floor. In December 2022, Lobanov had already been searched in connection with the Ponomarev case, at which time he said that the officers had beaten him up.
Three defendants in a Hizb ut-Tahrir prosecution in Crimea have been given long sentences. Aleksandr Sizikov, who is blind, was sentenced to 17 years and Alim Sufyanov and Seyran Khairedinov were sentenced to 12 years in strict regime penal colonies. The men were found guilty of preparing to seize power violently. Sufyanov and Khairedinov were also charged with participating in the activities of a terrorist organisation, while Sizikov was charged with co-ordinating the activities of a terrorist organisation. The defendants in the case were arrested in July 2020. Sizikov, as a person with a category one disability, was placed under house arrest, while the others had been remanded in custody.
- Why do I need to know this? We often write about the verdicts in Hizb ut-Tahrir prosecutions in this newsletter – the authorities are mercilessly imposing horrendous sentences on defendants. According to the project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ at least 253 people have been convicted for involvement with this party, 107 of whom have been sentenced to terms of more than fifteen years in prison. However, its members are often prosecuted simply on the grounds that they hold meetings in private homes, read religious literature and recruit new members. Human rights activists also believe the prosecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters in Crimea is a tool to suppress public solidarity and civic activism among local residents.
A criminal case has been opened against the former head of Perm Memorial and the chair person of the Centre for Historical Memory. Robert Latypov and Aleksander Chernyshov have been charged with attempted smuggling of cultural property. The FSB claims that the human rights activists attempted to ‘smuggle out of Russia and into Germany Memorial documents of cultural and historical value’. On 19 May, several local human rights activists were searched in Perm.
- Why does this matter? In March, some ‘unidentified employees’ of Memorial were prosecuted for the offence of ‘rehabilitation of Nazism,’ after which the homes of several of its members were searched in Moscow. Between March 11 and 13, investigations were also carried out in Perm – it is not clear which criminal case. It later transpired that Oleg Orlov, co-chair of Memorial Human Rights Centre, had been charged with repeatedly discrediting the Russian army. In the same month, a fire broke out under the windows of Memorial’s Ekaterinburg office, which a member of the organisation’s board, Anatoly Svechnikov, considered to be arson. On 5 May, Aleksandr Chernyshov, the chair of the Centre for Historical Memory in Perm, was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport in connection with the alleged removal of Memorial’s archive; the man was then sentenced to 15 days in jail on a charge of disorderly conduct. This all looks like an attempt to finally get rid of the human rights activists who, even after Memorial’s dissolution in 2021, continue to research repression and help political prisoners.
Mikhail Krieger has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. Krieger has been a democracy and anti-war activist since the late 1980s. He was given this heavy sentence for posts he made on Facebook almost three years ago. Krieger was found guilty of public justification of terrorism and publicly inciting extremism on the internet. You can read his story on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.
Translated by Anna Bowles