OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 308: 8.5 years’ imprisonment for setting fire to a mat

3 June 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.

Igor Paskar in court / Photo: Solidarity Zone


Hello! A defendant in an ‘anti-war’ case has been detained in Armenia, a Volgograd resident has been convicted of throwing a Molotov cocktail at an FSB building, and persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses are not receiving adequate medical care.

Police in Armenia have arrested a woman in an ‘anti-war’ case. On 29 May they came to the home of Maria Rose, took her and her young child to the police station, and released her six hours later. According to the woman, the reason for her detention was that the Russian authorities had put her on a wanted list. At the police station she was threatened with arrest and extradition, and the removal of her child to an orphanage. In her native country, Rose was prosecuted for ‘fake news’ about the army and calling for extremist activities because she spoke out against the war and made posts about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and she left the country in December 2022. Rose’s husband has been in pre-trial detention since spring 2022 – he is also being prosecuted for anti-war posts.

  • Why is this important? Many defendants in political cases hope that they will be safe once they leave Russia. However, this isn’t always the case: in some countries, particularly Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia, they may be persecuted by the local police at the behest of the Russian authorities. The Armenian authorities are doing this more and more often. On 7 May, police tried to detain Andrei Melnikov, a blogger from Anapa, but he managed to hide from them. He is wanted in Russia, presumably in a criminal case about discrediting the Russian army. At the end of February Nikita Kamensky was arrested at Yerevan airport; he has been wanted since December 2022 in a case of anti-war graffiti in Moscow. He managed to leave Armenia in April.

A resident of Volgograd has been sentenced to 8.5 years in prison for throwing a Molotov cocktail at the Krasnodar FSB building. Igor Paskar was also found guilty of setting fire to a banner with the letter Z and the slogan ‘We don’t abandon our own’. He was charged with commission of a terrorist act and vandalism motivated by political hatred. According to investigators, Paskar threw a Molotov cocktail into the entrance to the Krasnodar FSB building, as a result of which a doormat caught fire, and afterwards he painted his face with the colours of the Ukrainian flag and waited for the police without trying to hide. In early January, the Volgograd resident said that after his arrest he had been beaten and tortured.

  • Why do I need to know this? Radical protests against the war in Ukraine are ever increasing, because in contemporary Russia it’s virtually impossible to show your opposition to the war in a legal fashion. Many similar actions, for example attempts to set fire to military recruitment offices or administrative buildings, don’t end up causing significant harm to either property or people. But the state reacts to them with disproportionate harshness: the defendants in such cases are often indicted under the article on the commission of a terrorist act, for which the maximum punishment is 20 years in prison.

Two Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been subject to criminal prosecution are failing to receive medical care. Liubov Galitsyna, a 66-year-old believer from Novocherkassk, has been diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension, and her condition is deteriorating in pre-trial detention. In February, the facility administration refused her a medical examination, saying that her medical conditions would not preclude her detention ‘unless the diabetes leads to gangrene’. It later became apparent that the woman had neurological symptoms. Jehovah’s Witness Viktor Chernov from Primorsky region is also unable to receive medical care because of a criminal case against him. The man has been diagnosed with diabetes and a tumour in his abdominal cavity, in addition to which he has a knee injury. As a preventive measure Chernov has been barred from certain activities: the investigating authority does not always allow the believer to leave the village to receive necessary treatment.

  • Why is this important? The mass persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia began after 2017, when the Supreme Court declared the Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia an extremist organisation, dissolved it along with 300 communities all around the country and banned their activities. Most defendants in such criminal cases are aged between 40 and 60, and for many of them imprisonment in a pre-trial detention centre or prison colony is difficult to endure. This is especially so if they have pre-existing chronic conditions: in such places it is practically impossible to get quality medical care. Even house arrest or more lenient measures of restraint can be an obstacle to treatment.

In Russia, fines have begun to be issued for white-blue-white flags. Penalties are imposed under the article on the public display of symbols of an extremist organisation – allegedly the flag belongs to the Freedom of Russia legion, a unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine which, according to Ukrainian officials, is formed from Russian prisoners of war and volunteers. The legion has been declared an extremist organisation and banned in Russia. In Moscow, teacher Olga Logvinova and pensioner Nina Pashutina were fined because they had such flags on their car licence plates. Both women claimed in court that the red stripes on the flag had probably faded in the sun. Moscow resident Denis Moskalenko was later fined for the same reason. M. Kovalenko was also detained in the capital for 15 days – police officers found two white-blue-white stickers on pavement belonging to him.

  • Why do I need to know this? In fact, the white-blue-white flag had already appeared before the formation of the Freedom of Russia legion. Russians speaking out against the war in Ukraine used it as a symbol of protest. The arrest and fining of these Muscovites is the first known prosecution for use of the white-blue-white flag. Until now, Russian residents have only been prosecuted for an administrative offence, but displaying the symbols of an extremist organisation is also subject to criminal liability for repeated ‘violations’. In this case, defendants may face up to four years in prison.


A court has failed to find abusive the actions of the police officers who detained a fifth-grader over Saint Javelina. In October 2022, police in Moscow visited a school and arrested fifth-grader Varya Galkina – the headmistress had denounced the schoolgirl because she used an avatar with yellow and blue flowers. The girl and her mother Elena Zholiker were detained in a police station for several hours without being given food or water, or access to a toilet. On 29 May a court dismissed the suit to recognise the actions of the police and the agents of the department of juvenile cases as excessive.  You can read an account of the persecution of the family on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium

And finally the ECtHR has once again awarded compensation to Russian citizens who were arrested and fined because of peaceful protests. This included a court ruling on 10 applications by defence lawyers from Memorial Human Rights Centre and OVD-Info. 

Translated by Anna Bowles

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