OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 338: Year’s end in Putin’s Russia


30 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! All this year we’ve kept you informed about political persecution in Russia, but good things also happened during this last year! In about one in ten of the prosecutions under administrative law that we took on in 2023 charges were dropped. Criminal cases against seven of our defendants were dropped, six defendants received fines instead of jail terms, and four were given lighter, suspended sentences. All this year we have continued to fight for human rights not only in this country but also on the international stage; the European Court of Human Rights awarded 2,595,500 euros in compensation for our complaints. In 2022, for the first time in our country’s history, along with other human rights activists we succeeded in establishing the mandate of a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Russia, and in 2023 we were able to extend her work for a further year. Thank you for staying with us all this year, as we couldn’t have achieved it all without you. Thank you for reading!

Two defendants in the Mayakovsky case have been sentenced this week. Artem Kamardin was sentenced to seven years in prison, and Yegor Shtovba to five and a half. The reason for the prosecution was Kamardin’s speech at the Mayakovsky statue on 25 September 2022 during the ‘anti-mobilisation’ ‘Mayakovsky readings’. The next day police came to search the young man’s home, and it was reported that the police beat him and subjected him to sexual violence, as well as torturing his girlfriend. The case of another defendant, Nikolai Dainenko, was assigned separate proceedings, as he had entered into a pre-trial agreement with the investigation. In May, he was sentenced to four years in a prison colony.

  • Why is this important? The reason for the initiation of criminal proceedings was the call heard during the poetry evening ‘not to accept’ summonses from the hands of representatives of military enlistment offices, ‘not to sign’ documents confirming receipt of summonses, and ‘not to appear’ in response to them and also the poem, ‘Kill me, militiaman’, which Artem Kamardin read out. The court considered these public calls to be action against the security of the state and incitement to hatred, respectively – these were the articles of the Russian Criminal Code under which the young men were convicted. In modern Russia there is no way to avoid participation in the war – for advice like that, young men will be sent to jail for years.

The ex-co-ordinator of Navalny’s Tomsk headquarters has been sentenced to nine years in a prison colony. Ksenia Fadeyeva was found guilty on charges of creating an extremist society using her official position, and of participation in an NGO which infringes the rights of citizens. The criminal case was brought against her in 2021. Other defendants had also been sentenced by the courts previously: Lilia Chanysheva, Vadim Ostanin, Daniel Kholodny, Rustem Mulyukov and Aleksei Navalny himself received prison sentences, while Egor Butakov and Elizaveta Bychkova were sentenced to terms of ‘restricted freedom’, and Zakhar Sarapulov received a suspended sentence of one year.

  • Why do I need to know this? After Navalny’s organisations were labelled extremist in 2021, a criminal case was brought against him and his colleagues for creating an extremist group, after which several more cases were added. The defendants were accused of activities they had been engaged in even before the organisations were banned. The authorities seek to eliminate all political competitors, and people are imprisoned for political activities they were lawfully engaged in.

A defendant from St Petersburg in a case of military ‘fake news’ has been sentenced to compulsory psychiatric treatment. Viktoria Petrova has to spend at least six months in a psychiatric hospital. After this, doctors will decide whether to keep her in hospital, assign her to outpatient treatment or release her from compulsory medical measures.  The case against Petrova was brought in May 2022 – the reason was a video on VKontakte concerning the war in Ukraine.

  • Why is this important? According to lawyer Anastasia Pilipenko, Viktoria Petrova would have preferred to be sent to a prison colony: in that case she would have known for how long she was to be deprived of freedom. The convict considers herself to be sane. Earlier the defendant had reported being humiliated and tortured in a psychiatric hospital – even if she had been suffering from some kind of illness, such conditions would hardly contribute to her recovery.

Aleksei Navalny has been found. The opposition politician had been transferred to a prison colony in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District – Penal Colony No. 3 in the settlement of Kharp. Nothing had been known about the politician’s condition and whereabouts since 7 December. Then he ceased to be connected to court hearings via video link, and representatives of Penal Colony No. 6 in the Vladmir region said he had left the prison. 

  • Why do I need to know this? This transfer to a penal colony is probably part of pressure being brought to bear on the convict. His colleague Ivan Zhdanov said that it is difficult to get there, and letters cannot be sent to this penal colony via the online ‘Federal Penitentiary Service letter’ or ‘Zonatelekom’ services. ‘Conditions there are tough, with a special regime in the permafrost zone,’ he added. Given that the opposition politician’s meetings with his lawyers have already been previously obstructed by prison officers, and letters to him are being seized, it is likely that his isolation will only worsen.

Features

‘The relatives of dead soldiers themselves turn to us’. A regional project from Volgograd called Watch keeps a count of the region’s residents who died in the war. Two criminal cases have been brought against the creator of Watch, Yevgeny Kochegin, in Russia: one for evading alternative civilian service and the other for ‘fake news’ about the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine. The man was put on a federal and international wanted list and arrested in absentia. We tell the story of the project, which has been harassed since its launch – read the new article on our website.


Translated by Anna Bowles

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