OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 333: A high school student gets six years

25 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.

Balazeikin. Photo from social media

News

Hi. Russian singer Sharlot is being prosecuted under articles on the rehabilitation of Nazism and insulting the feelings of believers, seventeen-year-old Yegor Balazeikin has been sentenced in a case of arson at military recruitment centres, and the ex-head of Navalny’s Dagestan headquarters has been given more than six years in a prison colony.

Three criminal charges have been brought against the singer Sharlot. The musician is being charged under the article on the rehabilitation of Nazism and insulting the feelings of believers. The reason was some videos of the artist that appeared on Instagram: in one of them he tears up a St George ribbon which is hanging in the shape of a letter Z, and in another he nails his military card, a photograph of Patriarch Kirill and a crucifix made of branches to a tree. On 22 November, Sharlot was detained for thirteen days for disorderly conduct. prior to which the musician had been arrested at Pulkovo airport – he had flown into Russia from Armenia. In mid-November the head of the Safe Internet League, Ekaterina Mizulina, had appealed to the Investigative Committee and the Interior Ministry with a request for legal assessment of the artist’s actions.

  • Why is this important? The Russian authorities continue to react harshly to any criticism and dissent – especially from public figures. The practice of initiating administrative proceedings under articles that provide for short jail terms before initiating criminal proceedings has become widespread: in this way the police try to buy time. It is not difficult for them to find a reason to draw up charges. Sharlot, for example, was accused of ‘expressing crude profanity in a public place, waving his hands, harassing citizens, shouting, not responding to repeated remarks, and thus demonstrably violating public order and the peace of citizens’.

Secondary schoolboy Yegor Balazeikin has been sentenced to six years in an educational prison colony. The seventeen-year-old was found guilty in a case of arson. Balazeikin was detained on the evening of 28 February. Initially, he was prosecuted for intentional destruction or damage to property, but later the case was reclassified as an attempt to commit a terrorist act. Then another criminal case was brought against the teenager for arson at another military recruitment centre. The schoolboy had been awaiting the verdict in a pre-trial detention centre, during which time his health deteriorated significantly – he has autoimmune hepatitis.

  • Why do I need to know this? Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, arson attacks on military enlistment offices or other administrative buildings have been taking place in various Russian cities. According to Mediazone, there have been at least 113 such cases. We believe that at least some of these actions were a response to Russian aggression: in conditions of widespread censorship and lack of freedom of assembly, the country’s residents go to extreme lengths. This is what happened in the case of Yegor Balazeikin – he explained his action by his desire to stop the war and also stated that he did not want to harm people.

The former head of Navalny’s Dagestan headquarters has been sentenced to six years and five months in a penal colony. Eduard Ataev was found guilty of possession of weapons, explosives and drugs. He has been in pre-trial detention centre since March 2022. The man has reported torture during detention: he claimed that a bag was put over his head, wrapped around with tape, and then objects similar to a pistol handle and a grenade were forced into his hands.

  • Why is this important? The authorities are treating Aleksei Navalny’s associates harshly after declaring his organisations extremist. It seems that the security forces have set themselves the goal of sending all the leaders of these organisations who have not gone abroad to jail. Eduard Ataev linked the prosecution with his political activity, and his lawyer pointed to signs of fabrication of the case. During one of the court sessions Ataev pointed out that he had never used or possessed drugs.

A criminal case of justifying terrorism has been brought against a resident of Vladivostok. The reason was a comment in which Andrei Volkov called a resident of Primorsky Region, who was sentenced to seven years in a penal colony for setting fire to a military recruitment centre, a ‘hero’. Volkov was detained, but other details of the case are still unknown. ‘I fully repent of what I have done. I pledge not to commit such acts from now on, and I also warn everyone against committing such acts,’ he says in a video published by the police.

  • Why do I need to know this? Arsonists who set fire to military enlistment centres are often charged with terrorism, despite the fact that in most cases their actions do not cause real harm to people or property. Because of this, it becomes possible to prosecute those who approve of their actions under the article on justification of terrorism. The maximum penalty under this article is seven years’ imprisonment: the same term as the one imposed for the Vladivostok arson attack itself.

Features

‘Some people feel hatred for this, but for me it’s more like fear.’ Twenty-year-old city defence lawyer Kirill Kaverin studied at the politics faculty of St. Petersburg State University, believed in the possibility of engaging with the system and took a compromising view of the war in Ukraine. Everything changed when the young man was arrested for defending a historic building and expelled from the university. He told OVD-Info about his clashes with the police and how his views have changed – read the new article on our website.


Translated by Anna Bowles

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