OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 325: ‘Things will get even tougher’

30 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.

Baburin / Photo: Solidarity Zone


Hello! Aleksei Navalny has been moved to a cell-type prison for a year, a Russian woman, prosecuted for extremism, has already been held on remand in Kazakhstan for two months, and the defendant in a case of planning to set fire to a military recruitment centre was beaten by escorting officers.

Aleksei Navalny has been transferred to a single cell-type facility in the penal colony for a year. This decision was taken by the penal colony administration for his ‘incorrigibility,’ as Navalny himself has said. The formal reason for the transfer was the convict’s refusal to go to work on 25 September. The defence notes that this happened even before the appeal against his last sentence had been heard. That is, formally Navalny was in custody and could work only if he so wished.

  • Why this matters. Navalny is regularly pressured in the colony, and twenty times he was sent to a punishment cell. But even with the transfer to the cell-type detention, where there are various prohibitions and restrictions, the deterioration of his detention conditions may not end. After a prisoner is placed in a cell, the penal colony’s administration has the opportunity to appeal to the court and propose to send the ‘persistent offender’ to a prison for up to three years. Serving a sentence there is much harder than in a penal colony: prisoners are kept in cells and forbidden to move around the territory of the institution, convicts are not allowed to work, which deprives them of the opportunity to get at least some money by their labour.

A Russian criminal defendant has been held in a pre-trial detention centre in Kazakhstan for two months. Natalia Narskaya, a singing teacher, is being prosecuted in her home country for extremism. An extradition request was made to Kazakhstan; Narskaya is being held on remand on the basis of the extradition request and she faces deportation. Narskaya is in a serious psychiatric condition, because of which she has been placed in a punishment cell. ‘The whole detention centre, because of the incessant screaming and mutilation she inflicts on herself, thinks she is being tortured,’ journalist Evgenia Baltatarova has said.

  • Why do I need to know this? A detainee abroad can be extradited only if the article under which a criminal case has been opened against them in their home country is in the local criminal code. This rule helps many people who are victims of politically motivated prosecutions avoid deportation, for example, those who are charged with discrediting the army or spreading ‘fake news’ about it. But it does not save everyone: those in the political opposition are often charged with other crimes, including ‘extremism’, which is found in the legislation of many countries. The details of Natalia Narskaya’s criminal case are not known, but because of her views, we can assume the prosecution is politically motivated. In November 2022, Narskaya girl expressed an anti-war views in an interview in which she called herself a Russophobe and criticized the passivity of Russian society.

Officers responsible for escorting a defendant charged with planning to set fire to a military recruitment centre committed assault. Ilya Baburin, a Novosibirsk resident, said that in a police car law enforcement officers threw him on the floor, started dragging him about and hitting him with their hands, including on his eyes, and jumped on him, calling him a ‘traitor to the motherland.’ One of the escorts told Baburin that ‘things will get even tougher.’ All this happened on the way from the Investigative Committee on 22 September. Because of what happened, Baburin’s lawyer demanded the recusal of the investigator and sent a complaint to the prosecutor’s office. After that, the home of Baburin’s girlfriend was searched, she and two other women were taken for questioning, and then she was detained while the others were released.

  • Why is this important? We often write about the use of violence against those prosecuted because of protests against the war, including those involved in cases of arson of military recruitment centres or preparation for such acts. It is likely that the beating and torture of such people is approved by their superiors, so the law enforcement officers act on their own initiative. This is not the first time Ilya Baburin has faced such treatment: earlier it was reported that the management of the remand prison where the young man is kept is bullying him.

Two men convicted in ‘anti-war’ prosecutions have been placed in punishment cells. Aleksei Moskalev, sentenced to two years in a penal colony for repeated discrediting of the army, has been put in a punishment cell for the fifth time. He was sentenced for 14 days. For Aleksei Gorinov, convicted in a case of ‘fake news’ about the military, this is the third punishment – he was placed there for 15 days because he did not do morning exercise.

  • Why do I need to know this? Putting political prisoners in punishment cells time after time has become a traditional practice to exert pressure on political prisoners. It is not so difficult for the management of the penal colony to come up with a reason for punishment. This can be, for example, an undone button or getting out of bed a minute later than usual. And after several placements in a punishment cell, convicts can be placed in cell or in a separate ‘prison’ consisting only of such cells on the territory of the penal colony, as has happened now with Navalny, and then transferred out of the penal colony altogether to a prison.


You don’t have to howl like a wolf just because you live with wolves’: Ilya Yashin speaks from the remand prison where he is being held about prison, politics and freedom. OVD-Info and Memorial have filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee against Article 20.3.3 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences – the group appeal unites the interests of ten people prosecuted for discrediting the armed forces. Among them is politician and political prisoner Ilya Yashin, sentenced to eight years and six months on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the army. We decided to write to Ilya in the pre-trial detention center and ask him whether it makes sense to stand up for his rights in Russia now. We are publishing his answers – read the interview on our website or excerpts from the letter on cards in our Telegram channel.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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