18 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.
Hi! The artist Sasha Skochilenko has been sentenced in a case of ‘fake news’ about the army, the Ministry of Justice has demanded that the ‘LGBT movement’ be recognised as an extremist organisation, and a journalist from Properm.ru has been deported to Kazakhstan.
St Petersburg artist Sasha Skochilenko has been sentenced to seven years in a general regime prison colony. She was found guilty of spreading ‘fake news’ about the army, motivated by political hatred. According to the investigation, the young woman replaced price tags in the shop Perekrestok with at least five leaflets with information about the shelling of the Mariupol Drama Theatre and the death of civilians in Ukraine. Since April 2022, Skochilenko has been in a pre-trial detention centre, where she has faced pressure and harassment; during this time her health has deteriorated significantly.
- Why do I need to know this? It is impossible to legally protest against the war in Russia: large-scale rallies are violently dispersed and solitary pickets turn into arrests. Despite this, the country’s residents continue to protest by posting on social networks, drawing graffiti or reading poetry. However, the authorities persecute dissenters regardless of exactly how they speak out. And now, for an innocuous campaign with price tags in a supermarket, an artist receives a seven-year sentence.
The Ministry of Justice has demanded that the ‘LGBT movement’ be recognised as an extremist organisation. The lawsuit will be considered by the Supreme Court of Russia during a hearing scheduled for 30 November. A Ministry of Justice press release specifies that the activities of the LGBT movement ‘reveal various signs and manifestations of extremist orientation, including incitement of social and religious discord’.
- Why is this important? If the Ministry of Justice lawsuit is granted, the persecution of the LGBTQ community in Russia will become even worse. At the minimum it will now be possible to bring not only administrative, but also criminal cases against activists. And the penalties can be very severe: the article on calls for extremist activity provides for up to five years in prison, and on organising the activities of an extremist organisation – up to ten years. For more information about what threats activists and the LGBTQ community may face, see these cards on our Telegram channel.
A journalist from Properm.ru has been deported to Kazakhstan. This happened despite the fact that the decision to cancel Vladislav Ivanenko’s Russian residence permit was suspended. On the morning of 9 November the police came to the man’s home and took him to the Centre for the Temporary Detention of Foreign Citizens without letting him wait for his lawyer. On 13 November Ivanenko was taken to the airport and put on a flight to Kazakhstan. It is unknown why the journalist’s residence permit was cancelled, as no administrative or criminal charges have been brought against him.
- Why is this important? The editorial board of Properm.ru considers these developments to be a way of putting pressure on the journalist and the publication, calling the reasons for the suspension of the residence permit far-fetched and the actions of the police illegal. This is not the first case in which people who do not have Russian citizenship have been expelled from the country for political reasons. In 2021, the presence in Russia of comedian Idrak Mirzalizadeh, a citizen of Belarus, was declared undesirable because of a joke about Russians – initially for life, but then the term was reduced to 14 years. In the autumn of the same year, Sasha Pechenka (Saidanvar Sulaimonov), a citizen of Tajikistan, was banned from entering Russia and forced to leave the country, allegedly because of his work at Andrei Pivovarov’s election headquarters.
Another defendant in a military ‘fake news’ case has described humiliation and torture in a psychiatric hospital. Viktoria Petrova, from St Petersburg, was forced to undress for examination in front of male staff members, with women nearby at the time; the inpatient staff mocked and laughed at her in response to her request to change her menstrual pad before the examination. The young woman’s hands were tied down, she was tied up and shaken, and told she would be beaten ‘just as a welcome to the new place’, her lawyer reports. In addition, Petrova was tied by her hands and feet to a bed and injected with medication that left her unable to speak for two days.
- Why do I need to know this? People placed in a psychiatric hospital during criminal proceedings are often treated inhumanely. Defendants in such places are even more vulnerable than in pre-trial detention centres: for example, they may be forcibly given unknown drugs that make them feel worse. More often than not, staff who abuse patients go unpunished – and continue to use violent methods.
Very strange events in Ekaterinburg. The publication Vechernye Vedomosti, its editor-in-chief and director, were fined six million roubles under the article on discrediting the Russian army. We tell you how the independent Ekaterinburg editorial board is surviving – read the article on our website.
‘Against the ban on pro-Palestinian protests in Europe! Down with censorship and repression!’ The Urals Maoist Union tried to demonstrate in Chelyabinsk’s Aloe Polye Park with this slogan, among others. But local authorities banned the pro-Palestinian protest. Read the cards on our Telegram channel for more information about the Chelyabinsk confrontation on the Palestinian issue.
Translated by Anna Bowles