OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 314: New repressive laws

15 July 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.

Mikhail Lobanov Photo: Ruslan Terekhov, SOTA


Hello! The State Duma has passed bills strengthening the persecution of “foreign agents””, politician Mikhail Lobanov has been fired from Moscow State University, and mathematician Azat Miftakhov has been sent to an isolation cell.

On their third reading, the State Duma has adopted new amendments to the legislation on “foreign agents”. Once they come into force, the state will be able to conduct unscheduled inspections of people or organisations that interact with “foreign agents” in any way. If they are found to have violated the legislation on “foreign agents”, they will be issued warnings, for failure to comply with which they will be fined: citizens up to 50,000 roubles, officials up to 100,000 and legal entities  up to 300,000. The new rules also stipulate that “foreign agents” are not entitled to receive state property support.

  • Why is this important? Now shops that sell products made by “foreign agents”, or the heads of educational establishments where “foreign agents” work, will be obliged to comply with the restrictions imposed by law, rather than helping to circumvent them. All of this will make life even harder for “foreign agents” in Russia. Various organisations will be more afraid to cooperate with “foreign agents”, which will lead to the latter’s even greater isolation from society.

Politician and academic Mikhail Lobanov has been fired from Moscow State University because of his inclusion on the register of “foreign agents”. He has left Russia. “The security forces have almost exhausted their entire repertoire of warnings and unpleasantness over the last year, and the next step is a criminal case and a pre-trial detention centre,” – thus the academic explained his decision to leave.

Lobanov was an associate professor in the Department of Theory of Functions and Functional Analysis at MSU Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics, and he ran for the State Duma in 2021. His dismissal was based on a “decree” issued by the Ministry of Justice on 23 June, the day the politician was added to the register of “foreign agents”. The persecution of the politician had begun even earlier – in December 2022 and May 2023 he was searched as a witness in the case against former Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev. The first time, the academic reported that police officers had used force against him.

  • Why do I need to know this? The legislation on “foreign agents” is aimed at getting rid of anyone who disagrees with the regime. Organisations on the register stop working and people on the register leave the country. The pressure on “foreign agents” only increases with every passing year: now “foreign agents” have been banned from educational activities. This was why Mikhail Lobanov left Russia. In the wake of his departure the authorities will be able to get rid of other dissenting university professors and school teachers using the laws on “foreign agents”.

Imprisoned mathematician Azat Miftakhov was placed in a punishment cell for three days. Earlier, the penal colony staff recorded two violations of internal regulations: first, the inspector found deodorant in his bedside table, and then found discrepancies between the items in the prisoner’s bag and the declared list of these items. The reason for the disciplinary action was Miftakhov’s refusal to give explanations for the latter offence. This is not the first case of pressure on the mathematician in detention: earlier it had been reported that due to the actions of the FSB he had been transferred to the lowest caste of “the humiliated”. Miftakhov is sentenced to five years and nine months in prison: according to the investigation, he and three other people broke a window in the office of United Russia and threw a smoke bomb there.

  • Why do I need to know this? Imprisonment in an isolation cell is often used in prison colonies as a way to put pressure on convicts sentenced for political reasons. The most famous example is Aleksei Navalny, who has been sent to isolation sixteen times on various far-fetched grounds. In an isolation cell a prisoner is left alone in a cramped cell and is not allowed to receive visits, phone calls, parcels or packages, which can seriously affect his psychological state.

Valentin Khoroshenin, a defendant in a new prosecution of the Vesna group of activists, is under threat in a pre-trial detention centre. The young man has been transferred to a cell where other detainees threaten him with beating and do not let him sleep, sit at a desk or do academic work. Khoroshenin said that he fears for his life. He has health problems: headaches, a cold, fever, chest pain and body aches, but he does not receive medical assistance. Khoroshenin is accused of organising the activities of an extremist community and spreading disrespectful information about the ‘Days of Military Glory’ among a group of people because of the Vesna movement’s publications on social media.

  • Why is this important? Detention in a pre-trial detention centre is becoming an ordeal for anyone who finds themselves in that position. Despite the fact that a person’s guilt has not yet been proven, being there is a real punishment in itself. For example, in most cases people are unable to receive quality medical care, the food is meagre and the conditions of detention are poor. However, police can make life even more unbearable for a person who is in a pre-trial detention centre as part of a political case: for example, by encouraging their cellmates to put pressure on them.


An Orenburg resident has managed to get an apology for his detention by the police. Vladimir Savchenko was illegally detained and beaten during a rally in support of Aleksei Navalny on 31 January 2021. Two years later, he has received an apology from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. How did that happen? Read the material on our website or here without a VPN.

“Trans-persona non grata”. On its third and final reading, the State Duma has passed a bill banning gender transition. Once it comes into force, trans people will not be able to adopt children, and they will be banned from hormone therapy and gender affirmative surgery. If one spouse changes the gender marker on paperwork, those people’s marriage will be annulled. We explain what pressures trans people and those who support them face. Read their stories on our Telegram channel.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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