OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 316: Searches, provocations and repression

29 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.

Boris Kagarlitsky. Photo: SOTA


The Dozhd TV channel has been added to the list of “undesirable organisations”, the left-wing socialist Boris Kagarlitsy has been remanded in custody because of his publications about the explosion on the Crimean bridge, and a taxi driver has been sentenced to 18 years in a strict regime prison in a case of arson at the Rosgvardiya building.

Dozhd has been declared an “undesirable organisation”. The Prosecutor General’s Office explained its decision by the fact that the channel disseminates the materials of “foreign agents”, extremist and terrorist organisations, and also “undesirable organisations”. The office also emphasised that Dozhd posts “a large number of videos” that are blocked in Russia. The TV channel began broadcasting in 2010, and in August 2021 the Ministry of Justice recognised it as a “foreign agent”. In March 2022, the channel was stripped of its licence and its staff left Russia en masse. A few months later, Dozhd started broadcasting again, from abroad.

  • Why is this important? Apart from Dozhd, at least seven independent media outlets – Meduza, Novaya Gazeta Europa, Project, Important Stories, The Insider, Bellingcat and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project – have already been recognised as “undesirable organisations”. In this way, the authorities are fighting those who openly highlight repressions and write about what is happening in Ukraine. Administrative and then criminal liability is stipulated for participation in the activities of an “undesirable organisation”. All this makes it  practically impossible for journalists to work, because even those who post material by these media outlets on social networks or support their projects with donations, as well as those who provide them with comments or interviews, can be prosecuted.

Sociologist and left-wing publicist Boris Kagarlitsky has been remanded in custody because of his publications about the explosion on the Crimean bridge. A criminal case was opened against him for ‘justification of terrorism.’ Searches have been carried out in Moscow, Ekaterinberg and Penza in relation to this case – at the flat of Kagarlitsky’s family, at the home of the administrator of the internet journal Rabkor, Artem Erofonov, and at that of the former candidate for governor of Penza region Anna Ochkina. Later, Kagarlitsky himself was transferred from Moscow to Syktyvkar, where he was placed in custody. The sociologist was entered on the register of media “foreign agents” in May 2022, and in August of the same year he was fined 10,000 roubles for ‘failure to fulfil the duties of a “foreign agent”.’

  • Why do I need to know this? Kagarlitsky faces up to seven years in prison under the article of the Russian Criminal Code on justification of terrorism. The case was probably brought against him because of a publication in which he speculated about the economic and political consequences of the explosion on the bridge and its meaning from a “military point of view”. “In his activities, Professor Boris Yurievich Kagarlitsky has never supported or justified terrorism. The purpose of all his representations is an attempt to show the real problems facing the Russian state,” his lawyer said. However, the authorities have no need for detailed arguments – they are prepared to send a person to prison for years for any kind of criticism.

A taxi driver from Komsomolsk-on-Amur has been sentenced to 18 years in a strict regime prison colony in a case of arson at a Rosgvardiya building. Vladimir Zolotarev was found guilty of committing a terrorist act, preparation for it and use of violence against a representative of the authorities. According to the investigation, he headbutted in the face one of the traffic police officers who stopped his car. At the same time, the accused said that he was arrested because of his emotional comments about the war in Ukraine and because of the pain he “leaned back and accidentally hit the officer in the nose with the back of his head”. Zolotarev was then placed under house arrest, from which he escaped and set fire to the entrance of the local Rosgvardiya branch in protest against the war in Ukraine. This prompted the initiation of a second case. The charge of preparation of a terrorist attack was added to the accusations against Zolotarev because he allegedly told the traffic police officers who detained him that he was going to open the windows of police and FSB buildings with a tyre iron and set them on fire with petrol. Zolotarev himself denies this.

  • Why does this matter? The full-scale war with Ukraine has been going on for a year and a half, and, according to Mediazona, since its beginning, there have been at least 113 arson attacks on military recruitment centres and administrative buildings in Russia. Some of these actions are a response to Russia’s military aggression – when peaceful protest is impossible, such actions sometimes seem to be the only way to fight back. The state responds to them as harshly as possible, applying anti-terrorism laws, under which monstrous sentences can be imposed. Fabrication of criminal cases against those who have spoken out against the war is also not uncommon: in this way it is possible to add new charges and make the sentence even longer.

Valeriya Zotova, resident of a Yaroslavl sentenced to six years in prison, may have been encouraged to attempt arson by FSB officers. According to a friend of hers, an internet acquaintance suggested that she  attack an aid collection point for the Russian army. He urged the young woman to help the Ukrainian army in this way for several months until she agreed. Zotova wanted to deceive the “Ukrainians” by photographing bottles of dyed water near the building, reporting back and receiving money. However, another friend of hers from social networks persuaded the young woman to buy real petrol. After that, Zotova was detained, and the “friend” admitted that she had participated in an “operational experiment”.

  • Why do I need to know this? News reports about arson attacks on military recruitment centres and administrative buildings, as well as the sabotage of railway lines, often mention that these actions were carried out at the behest of Ukrainian “handlers” in exchange for money. It is likely that in some cases the “handlers” turn out to be Russian security personnel – one can imagine that in this way they hope to increase the number of solved cases. Reports that such attacks are carried out for a fee may be spread by the security services in order to discredit those who organise such actions to protest against the war – propagandists are trying to prove that they all just want to make easy money.


Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine has been going on for more than 500 days. Seventeen months ago, immediately after the anti-war protests of the first days of the invasion, an unprecedented wave of repression also began within Russia. We continue to collect and analyse data on prosecutions for anti-war stances, and defend those who have run into conflict with the system. Read the new summary on our website or look at the cards in our Telegram channel.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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