OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 321: New convictions

2 September 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.

Illustration: Bella Lein for OVD-Info


Hi there! The Russians charged in the cases of military ‘fake news’ were convicted, the artist Philippenzo was subjected to searches because of his work ‘Izrossilovanye’ [a neologism for ‘Russianisation’ based on the word ‘iznasilovanie’ meaning rape – trans.], and the Free Buryatia Foundation was recognised as an ‘undesirable organisation.’

The defendants in the cases of military ‘fake news’ have been given terms of imprisonment. Priest Ioan Kurmoyarov was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for a video that said that Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine would go to hell, not heaven. Olga Smirnova, a member of the movement Peaceful Resistance, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for seven posts on the movement’s page on VKontakte. In them, she referred to the shelling of Ukrainian cities and the deaths of civilians as a result of the actions of the Russian army. Journalist Michael Nacke and the founder of the Conflict Intelligence Team, Ruslan Leviev, were sentenced in absentia to eleven years imprisonment each for broadcasting on YouTube about the war in Ukraine.

  • Why is this important? Repressions against those who oppose the war or even just talk about it continue. Russians find themselves behind bars for years simply for speaking out: for posts, videos or even personal conversations. Despite this, many people in the country continue to voice their opinions about what is happening. No matter how much the authorities try to intimidate their citizens, their hatred of war is stronger than fear.

The street art artist Philippenzo was subjected to searches in Moscow. The law enforcement officers came to Philipp Kozlov’s home and studio, he was charged with vandalism on grounds of politically motivated hatred because of his work ‘Izrossilovanye.’ After the searches, the artist was released and summoned for questioning. The pressure on Kozlov began even earlier: on the 29th of July he was detained at the airport while returning from Georgia, where he had been staying lately, and jailed for 15 days for disobeying law enforcement officials. On the 11th of August, he was jailed for a second time for 15 days under the same article.

  • Why do I need to know this? Art often becomes a language of struggle against repression and a method of protest against war. Artists find different ways to talk about acute problems, and it does work – as usually such actions attract attention. Unfortunately, not only of ordinary people, but also of the authorities: St. Petersburg artist Sasha Skochilenko is in a pre-trial detention centre as a result of the action to replace shop price tags with leaflets showing the shelling of the Mariupol Drama Theatre and the deaths of civilians.  Ekaterinburg artist Leonid Cherny was given a six months’ sentence because of the graffiti ‘Putin is a dickhead.’

The anti-war Free Buryatia Foundation was recognised as an ‘undesirable organisation.’ The Prosecutor General’s Office explained its decision by stating that the Foundation helps the Russian military to terminate contracts, ‘takes part in preparing sanction lists of the region’s leadership for submission to international authorities,’ organises protests and ‘expands the number of people who support possible separatist sentiments among the republic’s residents.’ In March, Free Buryatiya was declared a ‘foreign agent,’ in July the Foundation’s website was blocked, and a criminal case for military ‘fake news’ was opened against the project’s founder Aleksandra Garmazhapova, who was also designated a ‘foreign agent.’ This week the anti-war ethnic movement New Tyva, which helps residents of the region, was also added to the register of ‘foreign agents.’

  •  Why is it important? Regional human rights organisations are very important: they help local people, taking into account the particularities of certain regions of the country. ‘We were the first to show that it is possible to help our fellow countrymen, natives of Buryatia, evacuate to the territory of Mongolia, and do it in an organised and impactful way,’ said Aleksandra Garmazhapova. The state, on the other hand, seeks to get rid of those who help their opposition-minded compatriots. Designating an organisation as ‘undesirable’ is an effective way, because after that many close down. They cannot safely continue their work, as participation in the activities of an ‘undesirable organisation’ is punishable under administrative and then criminal law.

A resident of Dagestan has been sent for compulsory psychiatric treatment in connection with a case of ‘fake news’ about the Russian army. Shamil Magdiyev is being prosecuted for a post on VKontakte with a video message ‘To imams and preachers of the brotherly peoples of the Caucasus, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.’ In the video, Crimean Mufti Aider Rustemov addresses Russian Muslims, speaking out against the war and urging them to resist the Russian authorities. At the time of the decision to send Magdiyev for treatment, he was already in a psychoneurological dispensary, where he had been placed on another criminal case for alleged illegal acquisition and possession of weapons.

  • Why do I need to know this? Compulsory psychiatric treatment can be a way to put pressure on the defendants in politically motivated prosecutions. According to our data, at least ten people have been subjected to this measure in criminal cases initiated for anti-war statements and speeches. During forced treatment, people often face violence, torture and isolation, and do not receive quality medical care. This is why law enforcers like to use such a measure to punish those who have spoken out against the authorities.


‘As a man of faith, I cannot keep silent‘. Aleksei Galimov, an activist from Vladivostok, has been speaking out against the ongoing events on social media since the beginning of the full-scale war, and has been holding solitary protests since February 2023. In March Galimov’s home was searched, and in June the police came to his mother’s house. After that, the activist with his wife and three children left Russia. Read his story on our website.

‘The world has turned upside down‘. At the end of July, 21-year-old resident of Nizhny Novgorod Aleksei Volsky was charged with distributing ‘fake news’ about the Russian army. He is under house arrest because of his posts on VKontakte. The young man has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Here is a story about his case: read the material on our website.

The anti-war prosecutions: we have collected all the data we know and the stories of the defendants on one site. Here are the people who opposed a full-scale war. Now each of them is being prosecuted by the state, and some of them are facing a range of different charges. See our new infographic.

Translated by Ecaterina Hughes

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