OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 337: Save Igor Baryshnikov!

23 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.

Igor Baryshnikov in Kaliningrad / Photo: OVD-Info

News

Hi! Writer Boris Akunin is being prosecuted for military ‘fake news’ and public calls for terrorism, the health of convicted activist Igor Baryshnikov is rapidly deteriorating, and charges against the defendants in the ‘Tiumen case’ have been made more serious.

A criminal case has been initiated against Boris Akunin. The writer is being charged under the articles on military ‘fakes’ and public calls for terrorism. The intention is to declare him ‘wanted’ in the near future – Akunin has been living outside Russia since 2014. After a case against the Zakharov publishing house, which publishes the writer’s works, was initiated in Moscow, police came to search his home. 

  • Why is this important? Despite the fact that the writer himself is safe, the criminal prosecution will affect his readers. It may become impossible to buy his works or watch plays based on his books. Russian stores have already begun removing his books from sale en masse, and the Moscow Gubernsky Theatre has cancelled a production of The Adventures of Fandorin. 

Activist Igor Baryshnikov’s health has deteriorated in a penal colony. The 64-year-old man’s legs and hands turned blue due to poor blood supply. In addition, he began to have pains and constant urges to urinate, because of which the activist cannot sleep, lie down or sit. ‘At night he can’t sleep at all. He gets up twenty times a night. He can’t sleep because of the catheter. Everything is swollen,” said his lawyer from OVD-Info, Maria Bonzler. In July, Baryshnikov was sentenced to seven and a half years in a case of military ‘fakes’ because of his Facebook posts. 

  • Why do I need to know this? Imprisonment is gradually killing the elderly activist: his chronic condition has worsened and it is suspected that he has cancer. ‘Further detention of the patient is tantamount to a death sentence,” his doctor said. Baryshnikov urgently needs an operation to remove the tumour and a full examination in hospital. In order to achieve this, write to the Federal Penitentiary Service and demand that he receive treatment. We urge you to send an appeal and ask your friends to do so – save Igor Baryshnikov!

The charges against the defendants in the ‘Tiumen case’ have been made more serious. Two new offences have been added: the illegal manufacture and illegal possession of explosives as part of an organized criminal group, the reason for which was an improvised explosive device found in the possession of defendants Kirill Brik and Deniz Aydyn. The case against the six anti-fascists from the Urals was brought in September 2022: Nikita Oleinik was accused of creating a terrorist community, and Brik, Aydyn, Yuri Neznamov, Roman Paklin and Daniil Chertykov of participation in it. Brik and Aydyn were also charged with the manufacture of improvised explosive devices. At the end of July, new charges were brought against the defendants – for preparation of a terrorist act.

  • Why is this important? The anti-fascist community believes that the activists are being prosecuted primarily for their anti-authoritarian views. All the defendants in the case have reported the use of torture against them, and the Investigative Committee has refused several times to initiate proceedings on this matter. In September, Kirill Brik, most likely under coercion, signed a pre-trial agreement and testified against Nikita Oleinik. Now all the defendants in the case will be punished because of an explosive device found in the possession of two of them; it is unknown how exactly the investigation explains it.

An activist in Ufa has been sentenced to five years in prison because of a video on YouTube. Ramilya Saitova was found guilty of making public calls for activities aimed at undermining the security of the state. In the video which led to the initiation of the criminal case, the woman appealed to mobilized men to refuse to participate in the hostilities, to desert and to declare their unwillingness to ‘kill’. This is not Saitova’s first criminal prosecution: in the summer of 2022, the activist was released from a penal colony where she was serving a sentence for public calls for extremist activity. 

  • Why do I need to know this? It is impossible to be a pacifist and advocate for peace in modern Russia. To kill has become a duty, and urging people not to do so sends a woman to jail for years. Not to kill is to take action against the security of the state. Not to kill is a crime.

Features

Repressions in 2023: a review by OVD-Info. Across Russia, every day people continue to speak out against war, the regime and injustice. The scale of this dissent is reflected in repressions. Political prisoners are being given ever-longer sentences; under the article on state treason it is now even possible to receive a life sentence. New laws and regulations are strangling more and more people who until recently were far from being activists. The difficulties created for LGBTQ+ people are becoming more and more frightening. We hear more and more about how people whose health is already compromised are being bullied. We report on the new challenges which 2023 presented us with in our summary.

‘I thought this only happens in movies.’ 25-year-old policeman Denis Egerinis got drunk, and together with his friends beat up a resident of a hostel in the town of Pechora, in the Komi Republic. The reason for the beating was a balcony that the sergeant did not like – it was yellow and blue. Read about this story in cards on our Telegram channel.

Mikhail Zharikov, a former employee of the Nizhny Novgorod ice hockey club Torpedo, has been sentenced to six years in prison. The reason was a video on Instagram and two posts on VKontakte. He was charged under three articles of the Russian Criminal Code: ‘fake news’ about the army, justification of terrorism and rehabilitation of Nazism. Witnesses for the prosecution were a former friend of Zharikov, his former boss and a resident of Nizhny Novgorod unknown to him. We asked all three of them what they thought of the verdict – read the new article on our website.

How is the state persecuting young human rights defenders for their work? We explain how the authorities have created conditions in which it is impossible to express an alternative opinion on the issue of war and human rights without negative consequences. See the cards on our Telegram channel and read the report on the OVD-Info website.


Translated by Anna Bowles


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