OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 327: They’ve come for the lawyers

14 October 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.

Several men in a jail
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Aleksei Navalny’s lawyers / Photo: Aleksandra Astakhova, Mediazona


Hello! Aleksei Navalny’s lawyers were taken into custody, a new criminal case was opened against convicted former municipal deputy Aleksei Gorinov, and a Yakut activist was sent to a pre-trial detention center in Kazakhstan “due to an extradition concern.”

Aleksei Navalny’s lawyers were detained in a case of extremist organization. Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin, and Aleksei Liptser were searched. All three were detained and sent to pre-trial detention center. They were accused of passing along letters from the politician to his associates. Law enforcement also searched the office of the Dalet Bar Association, which involved Liptser and Sergunin, as well as another Navalny lawyer, Olga Mikhailova. Mikhailova is not currently in Russia. 

  • Why do I need to know this? The real reason for prosecuting Aleksei Navalny’s lawyers is likely to deprive him of his ability to defend his rights. The authorities want to demonstrate to other lawyers that it’s dangerous to be associated with the politician. “Undoubtedly, these are all steps to isolate Navalny completely,” said Ivan Zhdanov, an associate of the opposition activist. At the same time, Navalny’s defense is crucial to him, as he is still under great pressure: he was transferred for a year to a solitary “cell-type” regime in the prison colony, and he has already been sent to solitary confinement 20 times. 

A new criminal case has been opened against Aleksei Gorinov, convicted under the article on military ‘fake news’. The former municipal deputy is suspected of justifying terrorism. This was reported earlier as having been based on a phrase the opposition activist used in the presence of other prisoners. Gorinov also said that he was put in an isolation cell in a Vladimir pre-trial detention center. This was a result of him not having served his time in the punitive isolation cell while in the penal colony.

  • Why does this matter? It has become increasingly common practice to open new criminal cases against those already serving a sentence in a political case. The authorities do this to keep anti-regime protesters behind bars for as long as possible. This also happened to the mathematician Azat Miftakhov. Just before his release from the penal colony where he was being held in a case involving a broken window at the United Russia office, a new criminal case was brought against him for justifying terrorism; as soon as he was released, he was detained and put back into custody. The reason in this case is also words Miftakhov allegedly spoke in the presence of other convicts.

Yakut activist Aikhal Ammosov was sent to a pre-trial detention center in Kazakhstan. Law enforcement made this decision “due to an extradition concern.” In August 2022, Ammosov was prosecuted for repeatedly discrediting the army after his attempt to hang an anti-war banner that read “Yakututian punk against war” in downtown Yakutsk. He was placed under travel restrictions but later left for Kazakhstan. In the spring of 2023, Ammosov was added to Rosfinmonitoring’s register of terrorists and extremists, and it is now emerging that the activist is being charged based on the article on justifying of terrorism. In May, the Ministry of Internal Affairs placed him on a wanted list, and in October he was detained in Kazakhstan. 

  • Why do I need to know this? Aikhal Ammosov could not have been extradited in the case regarding repeated discrediting of the army — Kazakhstan’s Criminal Code contains no such article, meaning Ammosov could not have been detained there. Now, however, it is possible, due to the new criminal case; under the “terrorist” article he could indeed be deported to his home country. These articles are increasingly being used to charge political activists, because they allow for harsher sentences — and it is becoming much more difficult for activists to escape prosecution abroad.

Convicted Crimean activist Iryna Danylovych may have suffered a stroke in a pre-trial detention center. Independent experts have reached this conclusion after analyzing Danylovych’s medical records and the results of an examination. The records mention injury to the brain. Human rights activists also believe that an acute ear infection, which was not detected or treated in a timely manner, turned into a chronic ear infection. In December, Danylovych was sentenced to seven years in prison as part of a case involving the possession of explosives. Danylovych and her lawyers said that explosives were planted on her and that FSB officers used physical violence against her. 

  • Why does this matter? In this newsletter, we often discuss how the health of political defendants deteriorates in detention. Not many people have an easy time in pre-trial detention centers and colonies; low-quality food, cold, and dampness make sure of that. The case of Iryna Danylovych shows once again the low level of medical care faced by prisoners. The activist lost hearing in her left ear, but she did not receive treatment; doctors did not inform her of her test results, and the detention center’s management refused to give her medication. 


“All people, except the very bad ones, want to live in peace.” Until recently, Olga Nazarenko was a teacher at the Ivanovo Medical Academy. She worked continuously at the Department of Pharmacology for 22 years. In 2022, she was suspended from her job because of two criminal cases, which emerged due to her actions against the war and in support of political prisoners. Read her story on our website!

How did September go? The posting of a video showing Nikita Zhuravel’s beating, new defendants in the Anti-Corruption Foundation funding cases, and pressure surrounding the election — we explore news highlights from the past month in our new chronicle. Read it on our website! 

Translated by Nina dePalma

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