OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 336: An acquittal – after suicide on remand

16 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.

Photo: Morgan Vander Hart/Unsplash

News

Hi! A deceased resident of Kalmykia has been acquitted in a case of repeated demonstration of Nazi symbols, another criminal case has been opened against the singer Charlotte, and the law on liability for statements about the Russian National Guard has been adopted in its third reading.

A deceased resident of Kalmykia has had his conviction for repeated display of Nazi symbols overturned. The Court of Appeal concluded that Sanan Ulanov did not propagandise, but, on the contrary, criticised Nazi ideology. In September, the man had been sentenced to two years in a penal colony because of a post on VKontakte with the title ‘Tear the Vlasov banner from the Golden-Domed Kremlin!’ which contained an image of a swastika. He was waiting for the verdict in a pre-trial detention centre. In November Ulanov died: according to his death certificate, he committed suicide. 

  • Why is this important? Imprisonment in a pre-trial detention centre is an ordeal for many people. Isolation, harassment, poor food and lack of quality medical care are just some of the things defendants in criminal cases face. All this can lead to the most serious consequences, including a person’s death. And, although the court in the case of Saтan Ulanov recognised that it had made a mistake, it was too late.

A fourth criminal case has been opened against the singer Charlotte. This time, the Russian singer was accused of burning his passport. He had recorded this act on video in June, condemned the war and stated his desire to move to Kyiv. Previously the musician had been detained when he flew from Armenia to St. Petersburg, then he was charged under an administrative article on petty hooliganism and jailed for 13 days. After that, Charlotte was placed in a pre-trial detention centre as part of three criminal cases: two for the offence of desecration of symbols of military glory on the Internet and one for insulting the feelings of believers. 

  • Why do I need to know this? The Russian state reacts harshly to public condemnation of the war. The security forces want to send opponents of the regime to jail for as long as possible.  So, evidently it didn’t seem like enough to charge the singer on three counts, and now, because of one video clip, he may be given a heavier sentence.

The State Duma has passed a law on liability for statements about the National Guard of Russia in its third reading. Amendments were made to the criminal articles on military ‘fake news’, on repeatedly discrediting of the army and on assisting in the implementation of decisions made by international organisations in which Russia does not participate. The maximum penalties under these articles are fifteen, seven and five years in prison respectively. The authorities claimed that they drew up the amendments because National Guard officers are involved in the invasion of Ukraine and perform tasks ‘similar to the function of the Ministry of Defence’.

  • Why is this important? Under the conditions of widespread military censorship, criticism of the security forces has become almost impossible; any negative assessment of their actions can result in criminal prosecution. Legislation is constantly becoming harsher: the state is always coming up with new ways to silence dissenters. Now, after the adoption of these amendments, the authorities will be able to prosecute even more people who speak out against the regime.

A resident of the Komi Republic has been sentenced to 12 years in a penal colony because of a one-and-a-half-square-metre fire in an FSB building. Evgeny Zabolotny was found guilty of committing a terrorist act. He will spend the first three years of imprisonment in a cell-type prison, and the rest in a strict regime colony. According to the investigation, on the night of 11 May, an unknown person threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of the FSB building in Usinsk ‘in order to destabilise the activities of the authorities and influence their decision-making’. A fire broke out in the building, causing minor damage. 

  • Why do I need to know this? Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, there have been arson attacks on military recruitment centres and administrative buildings across Russia. The authorities have recently reacted ruthlessly to such acts, for example by charging the defendants with terrorism, which provides for imprisonment for up to twenty years. We believe that at least some of these arson attacks are a reaction to Russian military aggression or other actions taken by the authorities. This was also the case with Yevgeny Zabolotny – in court he stated that he had committed arson in order to ‘draw public attention to the problem’.

Features

‘This is a lecture, everyone on the floor!’ On 1 December police officers burst into an event held by young communists in a Moscow business centre. Some participants were severely beaten and detained on a fabricated charge under administrative law. OVD-Info talked to the victims and we report what happened – read the article on our website. 

‘I’d rather be scared now than ten times as scared later.’ On 2 November in Chelyabinsk, an activist from the Ural Feminist Initiative who mounted a solitary picket at the milestone that marks the city centre was detained. The young woman was standing there with a placard reading ‘Stop violating women’s reproductive rights!’ After her arrest, she was taken to the police station and a few hours later was released with a written warning. We publish the activist’s story – read her account on our website. 


Translated by Anna Bowles

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