OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 334: Love is extremism

2 December 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.

Illustration: OVD-Info

News

Hello! The Russian Supreme Court has declared the ‘LGBT movement’ an extremist organisation, a new criminal case of vandalism has been brought against Aleksei Navalny, and a Muscovite woman who wanted to make a video of a red caviar sandwich has been arrested on red Square.

“The LGBT movement” has been designated an extremist organisation in Russia. This decision was taken by the Supreme Court, ruling in favour of the Ministry of Justice. None of the activists were allowed to be present at the trial, only representatives of the Ministry of Justice, and journalists could only get the announcement of the decision; the judge read it in a medical mask, allegedly because of coronavirus restrictions that had been brought in. The ban on the ‘movement’ will take effect immediately, but liability for violations may only come into force after 10 January. The case became public knowledge on 17 November: the department found in the activities of the ‘LGBT movement’ ‘various signs and manifestations of extremist orientation, including incitement of social and religious discord’; at the same time, human rights activists noted that there is no ‘international LGBT social movement’, and a group of people with shared characteristics cannot be called a movement.

  • Why is this important? The LGBT community in Russia is now in even greater danger than before. The authorities have been given the opportunity to prosecute activists not only under the administrative law article on ‘propaganda’, but also under the criminal one on ‘extremism’. If, after the ban, police find that the ‘organisers’ and ‘participants’ continue the activities of an extremist organisation, the former face up to ten years in prison and the latter up to six years. In addition, the symbols of the LGBT community now also become ‘extremist – you can get up to 15 days’ jail for displaying one, and criminal prosecution in the case of repeated violations. We provide more details of why the authorities need queerphobia, and what it has to do with the war, in our new article.

Another criminal case has been opened against Aleksei Navalny. The politician is charged with vandalism committed by a group of persons or on the grounds of political, ideological or other hatred or enmity. The grounds for the charges are unknown. ‘Well, they actually bring a new criminal case against me every three months. Never before has a convict stuck in solitary confinement for over a year lived such a rich social and political life,’ wrote the opposition politician

  • Why do I need to know this? In August, Aleksei Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in a general regime penal colony. At this time he was already in detention. In September this year, he was given the strictest punishment possible in the colony – he was transferred to a solitary cell for a year. But even this was not enough for the authorities, and they continue to put pressure on the prisoner, who has been deprived of his liberty because of his fight against the regime.

In Russia, prosecutions continue for ‘rehabilitation of Nazism‘. In Nizhnevartovsk, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan was prosecuted for manoeuvring a car near a monument to those who died in the Second World War. The man was also found guilty of overstaying in Russia as a foreign citizen, fined 2,000 roubles and ordered to be expelled from the country. In Kurgan, foreigner Khalid Paigir was fined 2m roubles for lighting his cigarette from the Eternal Flame. According to the police account of events, he also, being drunk, walked around the monument of military glory, rearranged wreaths and drank alcohol.

  • Why is this important? The maximum penalty under this article is three years’ imprisonment. Criminal prosecution under this article for drunken antics or hooliganism seems unlawful – according to the Sova Research Centre, many such cases should either come under other articles or be resolved through civil rather than criminal proceedings. However, Russia continues to impute rehabilitation of Nazism to such cases, because the Great Patriotic War has become sacred, especially since the invasion of Ukraine, and residents of the country find themselves in prison because of, for example, a cigarette butt thrown into the Eternal Flame.

A Muscovite woman has been detained on Red Square for filming a video clip of a large red caviar sandwich. Gulina Naumann, 41, and her friend were taken to the police and then released three hours later without any charges being drawn up. The girls planned to hold a photo shoot in the Russian style with fur coats, traditional bread rings and a sandwich with imitation red caviar. However, they were stopped by police officers who explained that ‘it is illegal to take photos with red caviar on Red Square’.

  • Why do I need to know this? On Red Square, participants in rallies on various themes, such as against repression and torture or in defence of the environment, are regularly detained. However, it is not only political activists who face harassment – police attention has also been attracted by people standing with posters showing a smiley, a blank sheet of paper or a declaration of love. According to the federal law on rallies, the procedure for holding public events on Red Square is determined by the president of the Russian Federation personally. However, the police evidently consider anything and everything to be a public event, even shooting a video for Instagram.

Features

‘I sleep and roar.’ Jan Dvorkin, head and founder of the T Centre, which helps transgender people in Russia, stayed in his beloved Moscow to the last. But after learning that on 30 November the ‘LGBT movement’ might be recognised as extremist, he and his husband gave away their cats, packed a small suitcase and left. Jan fears that with the introduction of the new queerphobic initiative, his work could land him a prison sentence of up to ten years. We recorded the story of their forced departure – read the activist’s account on our website. 


Translated by Anna Bowles

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