22 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.
A twenty-year prison sentence has been requested for Aleksei Navalny in a prosecution for running an extremist group, the State Duma is considering new repressive bills, and a former military officer who claimed he was tortured has been sent to a pre-trial detention centre over a comment.
A sentence of twenty years in a special regime colony in a criminal case over an extremist group has been requested for Aleksei Navalny. A sentence of ten years in a general regime colony has been requested for a second defendant, Daniel Kholodny, the former technical director of Navalny Live. Navalny is charged under six articles: creation of an extremist group, calls to extremism, financing of extremism, involvement of minors in the commission of dangerous acts, creation of an NGO that infringes on the rights of citizens, and rehabilitation of Nazism. His associate is accused of participation in extremist activity and its financing. Their case came to court on 25 May, and in June the judge agreed to hold the trial in camera at the request of the prosecutor. Navalny will await the verdict in a punishment cell: the opposition activist was placed there for 13 days because he “misrepresented himself” when communicating with the colony administration. The case is being considered by the Moscow City Court at mobile sessions in the penal colony No. 6 in Vladimir region, where the politician is serving his sentence in the previous case.
- Why do I need to know this? For many years, Aleksei Navalny was the main figure in the Russian opposition – a leader who brought people onto the streets, a politician whom many were prepared to vote for. The authorities quickly sensed the danger and decided to get rid of their rival. First the politician survived a poisoning attempt, and on his return to Russia after treatment in Germany he was detained and then sent to a prison colony. Now, after a series of trials in various criminal cases, the politician is serving a nine-year sentence. But even this was not enough for the authorities: they will do everything to ensure that Navalny is never released.
Russia wants to deprive people of their liberty for “justification” and “propaganda” of extremism. A corresponding bill has been submitted to the State Duma. At present criminal liability only applies to calls for extremist activity, but if the amendments are adopted, up to five years in prison will be imposed for “justification” and “propaganda” of extremism in the media. Officials propose that dissemination of information “aimed at forming in a person the ideology of extremism and conviction of its attractiveness” should be considered propaganda, while justification – “public statement of recognition of the ideology and practice of extremism as correct and in need of support and imitation”.
- Why is this important? The wording of the text of the amendments is very vague: the concept of “extremist ideology”, which the deputies propose to use, is not spelled out in the laws, and the definition of extremist activity is broad and imprecise. Officially, the authorities intended to use the new law to combat propaganda for “school-shootings” – mass murders in schools and other educational institutions. However, the law could potentially mark positive statements about various politically persecuted individuals as justification of extremism – it is likely to become yet another tool to put pressure on dissenters. For example, people could be prosecuted for statements about the Anti-Corruption Foundation and those other of Aleksei Navalny’s organisations that were recognised as extremist back in 2021.
In Moscow, a former military psychologist has been prosecuted for a terrorism offence. Timofei Rudenko is charged with public calls to carry out terrorist activities and the public justification of terrorism because of comments he made about Chechen separatists on Telegram. Rudenko has been remanded in custody. Before that, he was detained for more than a year on far-fetched charges of petty hooliganism. According to Rudenko, he has been repeatedly tortured, including beatings with a stun gun – on one occasion he was forced in this way to confess to planning terrorist attacks on 9 May.
- Why do I need to know this? Under this article of the Criminal Code, Timofei Rudenko faces imprisonment for up to seven years. It is not known what exactly the authorities did not like about the man, but they were clearly looking for a reason to send him to jail. His mother speculated that the persecution might be related to her son’s anti-war statements. The actions of the police in this case seem familiar: brutal torture to extract confessions and fabricate a criminal case, a series of arrests on spurious grounds, and, finally, detention for [online] comments.
The State Duma has adopted amendments on foreign non-governmental organisations in a third and final reading. Once in force, the law will be supplemented with wording on the prohibition of participation in the activities of foreign or international non-profit non-governmental organisations if the subdivisions of these organisations are not entered in the relevant register or registered with the Ministry of Justice. In case of violation, administrative or criminal liability is threatened – up to three years’ imprisonment. The latter can occur in case of a repeated offence or in case of a criminal record under articles on evasion of the obligations of a “foreign agent” and carrying out activities of an “undesirable organisation”.
- Why is this important? The amendments criminalise any cooperation with non-governmental organisations that are not included in a special register. Anything can be considered participation in the activities of such organisations: the authorities like to interpret such laws in a way that is favourable to them. All this expands the tools of repression and makes it impossible for foreign non-governmental organisations, including human rights organisations, to work in Russia, while many people in the country need their activities.
The stalker state: How the authorities are using a facial recognition system against dissenters and what the ECtHR thinks about it. Muscovite Nikolai Glukhin was detained after being recognised by cameras. The authorities became interested in the activist after he travelled in the Metro with a life-size cut-out of political prisoner Konstantin Kotov. His surveillance and detention were illegal: they would only have been legal if Glukhin had been charged with a criminal offence rather than an administrative offence. Russian courts did not agree with this fact, but the ECtHR did. We tell Nikolai’s story and explain how the judgment of the European Court will help to fight against surveillance of dissenters. Read the material on our website or here without a VPN.
“An intimidating effect”: the decisions that are made by Russian courts in “anti-war” cases. Is speaking out against the war becoming more dangerous every day? Are sentences for anti-war protest getting tougher? Will everyone go to jail for fifteen years for [online] posts? We examine whether it is so in a new article which you can read on our website. Or look it on our Telegram channel.
Human rights are being violated in the Vesna [Spring] prosecution. OVD-Info has filed an appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur. The criminal case against the Vesna youth movement has been dragging on almost since the beginning of the full-scale war. The case is not just fabricated – some of the defendants are not even connected to the movement. OVD-Info lawyers have filed an appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on the state of human rights in Russia: we are asking her to intervene in the situation and facilitate the release of the defendants in this case. on our Telegram channel we tell you about the Vesna movement, the criminal case against it, and what we want the UN to do.
And the ECtHR has also ruled on four applications by Memorial and OVD-Info! Russians illegally detained at protests in various years have been awarded compensation of 4,000 euros each.
Translated by Anna Bowles