4 November 2023
OVD-Info is a Russian civil society organisation 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.
Hello! A criminal case has been opened against a St Petersburg resident for donating 2,000 roubles to the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a Left Bloc activist kidnapped from Kyrgyzstan has turned up in a Moscow pre-trial detention centre, and a SOTA journalist has been accused of justification of terrorism over an article about Hizb ut-Tahrir.
A criminal case has been opened against a resident of St Petersburg because of a donation to the Anti-Corruption Foundation. 25-year-old Anton Zider stands accused of financing extremist activities. The young man was detained at his home but later released under the obligation to appear in court. Police believe that in August 2021 he transferred 2,000 roubles to an Anti-Corruption Foundation account – the organisation had by that point already been declared extremist.
- Why is this important? Criminal cases have already been initiated over donations to the Anti-Corruption Foundation. In September searches were conducted in various regions, after which several people were remanded in custody; in August two Russians were given fines of 500,000 roubles. One of the first to be prosecuted was Andrei Zayakin, co-founder of ‘Dissident’. Exactly how the authorities find out about donations, in spite of the fact that this data is not public, is in most cases unknown. However, one thing is clear – many Russians are in danger of being sent to jail as the Anti-Corruption Foundation has received a lot of donations.
A Left Bloc activist kidnapped from a shelter in Bishkek has turned up in Moscow’s Butyrka pre-trial detention centre. Lev Skoryakin is being held there without being accorded proper procedural status, and human rights activists say he has been tortured. The activist was taken to Russia after being arrested in Kyrgyzstan on the night of 17 October. Skoryakin had requested asylum in the country, been issued a German passport for stateless persons, received German humanitarian protection, and was ready to travel there. A criminal case has been brought against him in Russia because of the ‘Happy Chekist Day!’ rally.
- Why do I need to know this? Lev Skoryakin’s extradition is absolutely unlawful because he requested asylum in Kyrgyzstan. This is why Kyrgyzstan refused to extradite him this summer. However, the police do not seem to care about this. Human rights activists suspect the Russian authorities are now trying to get the man to say that he returned to Russia of his own free will, which may be connected with the torture he has undergone.
Journalist Anna Loiko is being prosecuted for justification of terrorism. On 31 October, a search was conducted of her Moscow home. Loiko, who works as an editor for SOTA, is not in Russia. Her mother, who at the time of the police visit was in the apartment, was later taken in for questioning. The criminal case was initiated in connection with an article which Loiko published in January 2021about the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir.
- Why is this important? In her article, Anna Loiko explained why it is unlawful to prosecute supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir for terrorism, a view shared by many human rights activists such as the Sova Research Centre and Memorial. However, it seems that in modern Russia it is not permissible to talk publicly about those prosecuted for ‘terrorism’ unless one is condemning them – and publication of an ordinary piece of journalism creates the threat of legal action against the author.
A photographer who previously worked at Navalny’s headquarters has been sentenced to eight years in a penal colony for posts on the Internet. Aleksandr Strukov was also fined 200,000 roubles and found guilty of incitement of terrorism and of hatred on the Internet. He was convicted on account of comments posted on Telegram channel of Znak.com, some of which began with the slogans ‘Glory to Ukraine’, ‘Down with the power of the Chekists’, ‘Good morning to all, down with Putin!’. Strukov man was detained at the end of January 2022, and since then has been held on remand.
- Why do I need to know this? Prosecution for speech in Russia has reached unprecedented levels – every week administrative and criminal cases are initiated for anti-war and opposition statements. Those who are victims of politically motivated prosecutions are often charged with offences such as incitement to terrorism that carry severe penalties. Judges consider statements critical of the authorities in this light, even though in such cases it is often clear that such statements would not lead to any concrete actions.
‘The first thing they asked me was, are you a banderist, or what?’ On 8 October, Moscow resident Irina Zavzyanova held a single-person picket outside the Israeli embassy carrying a placard with the word ‘Terrorism’ on it, crossed out in red. Zavzyanova had been prompted to do this by Hamas’ attack on Israeli territory. She was arrested almost immediately, and then charged, for some reason, with discrediting the Russian army. Read Zavzyanova’s story in our new article!
Translated by Anna Bowles