OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 320: “The pain will pass when you go deaf”

26 August 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.

Crimean activist Iryna Danilovych / Photo: Grati


Hello! A Crimean activist is being abused in a Russian penal colony, a Kadyrov critic was detained in Kyrgyzstan, a Krasnodar citizen was sentenced to six years in maximum security for the arson of a military recruitment office, and a Mari El human rights organization was shut down.

Crimean activist and nurse Iryna Danilovych is being abused in a Stavropol penal colony. The woman’s medications were taken away, and when she complained of pain in her ears, a medical worker told her that the pain would pass when she was finally deaf. At this point the woman had already lost hearing in her left ear. In addition, the activist is being extorted money for a uniform that was previously worn by other prisoners. In March, Danilovych declared a hunger strike, demanding treatment. Later, detention center employees tricked her into stopping the hunger strike without providing her with proper assistance. Iryna Danilovych was sentenced to seven years in prison for possession of explosives in December 2022. In July she was moved out of Crimea.

  • Why is this important? Russian authorities pursue, and, in violation of the Geneva Convention, remove Crimeans from the annexed territory. In December 2022, Ukrainian citizen and Crimean Tatar Lenia Umerova was arrested on the Russo-Georgian border while she was traveling to Crimea to visit her ailing father. Since May she has been held in pre-trial detention under charges of espionage: according to investigators, she “gathered information on Russian military facilities and the equipment of the ‘Vostok’ group.” After the annexation of Crimea Umerova moved to Kyiv and did not receive a Russian passport.

Chechen activist Mansur Movlaev was detained in Kyrgyzstan. He is threatened with extradition. Previously the young man was convicted in Chechnya for distribution of drugs, and after his release he ended up in an “illegal prison,” where he faced torture. According to his associates, charges of financing extremist activity were fabricated against Movlaev. The activist is on the federal wanted list, and crossed the border with Kyrgyzstan without the necessary documents.

  • Why do I need to know? Oppositionists cannot be safe even outside of Russia. In March, FSO Major Mikhail Zhilin, who opposed the war and fled mobilization, was sentenced to six years in a penal colony. He was able to escape to Kazakhstan, but was extradited from there to Russia. And Aleksei Rozhkov, prosecuted for involvement in the arson of a military recruitment office, was taken from Kyrgyzstan to Russia and placed in pre-trial detention at the end of May.

The oldest human rights organization in Mari El, Man and Law, has been shut down. This decision was made by the court at the suit of the Ministry of Justice. An unscheduled inspection of the organization was carried out in December 2022: inspectors then came to the conclusion of the political nature of its activity. The fact that the Ministry of Justice sent a suit for liquidation of Man and Law became known at the end of January. The organization has been in operation since 1999. In 2014, Man and Law was entered into the registry of “foreign agents.”

  • Why is this important? The Ministry of Justice regularly demands the shutdown of human rights organizations. In 2019, the Supreme Court shut down the human rights organization For Human Rights at the request of the department. In January 2023, Moscow City Court granted a claim for the shutdown of the Moscow Helsinki Group. And in April, this same court decided to shut down the Sova Center. OVD-Info’s statement on the pressure on civil society and independent media can be read here.

Krasnodar citizen Oleg Vazhdaev was sentenced to six years in a strict-regime penal colony for the arson of a military recruitment office. He tried to set fire to a military recruitment office at night. One Molotov cocktail caught fire in front of the building, and the second did not break at all. At the same time, Vazhdaev was found guilty of committing a terrorist act. After his arrest he was tortured with electric current, forcing him to confess that the arson was financed by Ukraine. The convict himself explains his actions as the result of fear for his relatives after the start of mobilization.

  • Why do I need to know? From the start of the full-scale war with Ukraine, arson of military recruitment offices and administrative buildings has taken place in various cities across Russia. After the announcement of the “partial” mobilization such arson attacks have become more frequent – more than one hundred cases of arson of military recruitment offices are known. Often the defendants in such cases are at first charged with intentional destruction of property, and then the charge is reclassified to a more serious one – of committing a terrorist act.


“Treating the witness as a particularly dangerous terrorist.” In his Moscow apartment, Golos movement member Vladimir Zhilkin was searched as a witness in the case against movement cochair Grigory Melkonyants, for management of an “undesirable” organization. Security forces broke down the neighbors’ door, and Vladimir himself was beaten and trodden on. OVD-Info spoke with the rights advocate.

18 months of war. OVD-Info continues to gather and analyze data on prosecutions of those who take an anti-war position in Russia and the territory of annexed Crimea.

Translated by Alyssa Rider

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