OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 309: Vesna on remand

10 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.

One of the defendants in the Vesna case – Evgeny Zateev / Photo: SOTA


Six people have been remanded in custody in the new Vesna [‘Spring’] case, a Crimean activist was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and a human rights activist from Siberia was sentenced to 18 years in a high-security colony.

The authorities continue to put pressure on OVD-Info: Roskomnadzor has blocked our websites ovd.legal and ovd.news, and our co-founders Daniil Beilinson and Grigory Okhotin have been charged with failing to use the ‘foreign agent’ label as required by law. Nevertheless, we are continuing our work!

A criminal case has been opened against six people over online posts by the Vesna [‘Spring’] movement. Evgeny Zateev, Valentin Khoroshenin, Vasily Neustroev, Yan Ksenzhepolsky, Anna Arkhipova and Pavel Sinelnikov were remanded in custody in Moscow. The criminal case is based on publications from last year on social networks. However, not all of the defendants were connected to Vesna. The charges against the young men range from spreading ‘fake news’ about the military and rehabilitating Nazism to inciting acts directed against the security of the state and organizing the activities of an extremist community. Zateev and Khorashenin, moreover, are already under investigation in a previous case against Vesna  in which they are accused of creating an organization that encroaches on the personality and rights of citizens

  • Why is this important? Vesna is a democratic movement founded in 2013 by activists from St Petersburg. Its members have regularly staged various actions and performances, and after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, they organised anti-war protests. The state then began prosecuting Vesna. First, a criminal case was brought against its supporters, then the movement was included in the register of ‘foreign agents,’ and later it was recognized as an extremist organization. However, the law enforcement agencies felt this was not enough, and now the defendants in the new prosecution face long prison terms, although not all of them were even affiliated with the movement.

A Crimean performance artist has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Bogdan Ziza was found guilty of justifying terrorism, committing an act of terrorism and vandalism motivated by political hatred. According to the FSB, on the night of 16 May 2022, he spilled yellow and blue paint on the main local government building in Evpatoria and threw a Molotov cocktail through the window, but the incendiary mixture went out and no fire took place. The artist was detained immediately afterwards, and then law enforcement officials posted a video of his ‘confession of guilt’ online. Ziza later said he had been forced to make the video by being threatened and beaten. The day before the verdict was pronounced, Ziza went on hunger strike: he demanded that he be stripped of the Russian citizenship he had acquired after the annexation of Crimea and also called for the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners.

  • Why do I need to know this? Criminal cases on account of arson attacks on military recruitment offices and administrative buildings are on the rise – there were at least 94 across the country as of 31 March, according to Mediazona. Quite often, there are no victims as a result of such attacks and cause no damage to property; the fire is either quickly extinguished or does not happen at all. Nevertheless, some defendants in such cases have been given harsh sentences under anti-terrorism legislation. Such sentences are getting more and more frequent: last week we wrote about Igor Paskar, sentenced to 8.5 years in prison for throwing a Molotov cocktail at the building of the Krasnodar FSB. At the time, only a doormat caught fire.

Dmitry Kamynin, a human rights activist with the organisation Legal Siberia, has been sentenced to 18 years in strict regime. Kamynin was found guilty of drug trafficking and extortion. Kamynin was remanded in custody in February 2020 on charges of drug trafficking. In January 2022, he was released from pre-trial detention, and then immediately detained and charged with extortion. According to investigators, he extorted 20,000 roubles from a Kemerovo resident. Kamynin also remained a defendant in the drug case.

  • Why is this important? Legal Siberia helps prisoners and project participants publicise hunger strikes, beatings, torture and other cases of ill-treatment in places of detention. It is most likely that the case against project coordinator Kamynin was fabricated because the authorities do not want such uncomfortable truths. This is not the first case of prosecution of those who help convicts: for example, in 2018, the Russia Behind Bars Foundation was designated a ‘foreign agent.’


Looking for ‘Ukrainian traces.’ An anti-war exhibition by Andrei Semkin, an artist from Kursk region, drew the attention of law enforcers to his elderly mother. Police officers frightened the woman and forced her to go to the police station where fingerprints and DNA were taken. The officers also inspected and photographed her flat. The day before, police officers had tried to summon Semkin’s father for a conversation at the station. The artist himself has left Russia. Read his story and see photos from the exhibition on our website, Yandex.Zen and Medium.

And the European Court of Human Rights has again awarded compensation to Russians detained at peaceful protests. The Court ruled, among other things, on four applications filed by the human rights organisations Memorial and OVD-Info.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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