OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 335: Political prisoners in distress

9 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.

Aleksei Navalny. Photo: Georgy Malets

News

Hello! Aleksei Gorinov is suffering from worsening bronchitis, Aleksei Navalny’s associates don’t know what’s happening to him, and Ilya Yashin has been put in an isolation cell and then transferred to a strict-regime barracks. 

The health of former municipal councillor Aleksei Gorinov is worsening in prison. His lawyer visited him there: according to the lawyer, the prisoner was feeling very ill, almost completely lacked the strength to sit and talk, and almost fell oаf his chair several times. The inmate said that he had bronchitis, which was at an active stage, with a temperature and constant chills, he had difficulty breathing, and the premises were very cold. In July 2022 Gorinov was sentenced to seven years in a general-regime prison colony in a case of ‘fake news’ about the military, a sentence which was later reduced by a month on appeal.

  • Why is this important? Aleksei Gorinov’s condition has worsened after regular spells in an isolation cell at the prison, because of which he was sent to the prison hospital for some time. Years in jail are likely to worsen the situation still further: it’s almost impossible to get good-quality medical care in prison and the conditions of detention are not conducive to recovery. In this way, the state takes both health and freedom from those who speak out against it.

Aleksei Navalny’s associates don’t know where the politician is. First, the opposition leader was not allowed to attend the court hearing via video link, and later his lawyers were refused permission to visit him at the prison, although they waited all day. ‘The fact that we can’t find Aleksei is particularly alarming because last week he became ill in his cell: he became dizzy and lay down on the floor. The prison staff immediately came running, lowered the bed, put Aleksei down and inserted an IV tube. We don’t know what the issue was, but considering that he is deprived of food, kept in a punishment cell without ventilation and his time for walks has been minimised, it looks like he fainted from hunger,” said the politician’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh.

  • Why do I need to know this? No one knows why Aleksei Navalny is not allowed to take part in consultations or have meetings with his lawyers. Perhaps the officers of the Federal Penitentiary Service are trying to hide the politician’s condition from his associates. The police are trying by any and all means to make the oppositionist’s stay in the penal colony unbearable, putting pressure on him, and there is no telling what might have happened this time.

Ilya Yashin has been transferred to a strict-regime barracks. Now, together with four other ‘rule violators’,  the politician is being kept separately from other prisoners, and there are restrictions on calls to his family, visits and receiving parcels. Earlier, he was sent to an isolation cell for five days because of his refusal to participate in the construction of some barracks. In December 2022, the opposition activist was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army on grounds of political hatred.

  • Why does this matter? We often talk in this newsletter about political prisoners being put in isolation cells. It is not difficult to come up with a reason for this punishment: a swearword, or an undone button on a prisoner’s uniform is enough. After that, other punishments can be imposed that provide for numerous restrictions: transfer to strict conditions of detention or placement in a cell or a prison where there are only cells. 

Features

We want to live. On 4 November, Ekaterina Yadykova was returning home with her youngest son. Seven people were waiting for her in the stairwell. The reason for their visit was a photograph taken in front of the district administration building in the village of Kitovo, in the Ivanovo region. The woman and her two daughters were photographed with posters saying ‘Kitovo against the landfill’, ‘We want to live’ and ‘Article 42 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Everyone has the right to a favourable environment’. We publish the activist’s account of what happened – read her story on our website.

‘In Russia, saying we were wrong amounts to suicide.’ Activist and artist Daniil Tkachenko had been preparing an anti-war action for Victory Day on 9 May 2022, with yellow-and-blue smoke on Red Square, but it was disrupted by the police. They later detained a friend of the artist, Grigory Mumrikov, believing him to be an accomplice. Mumrikov was sentenced to eighteen months of forced labour on a charge of gross hooliganism. He spent four months in a correctional centre and was able to get out on parole. We tell you how it was – read the new article on our website.


Translated by Anna Bowles

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