OVD-Info’s Weekly Bulletin No. 339: Prosecuted for burning a passport

13 January 2024

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.


Blogger Evgenia Hoffman in the courtroom / Photo: Joint Press Service of the Courts of General Jurisdiction of Bryansk Region

News

Hi! Blogger Evgenia Hoffman was charged with insulting a state symbol for burning a passport on New Year’s Eve, the convicted Igor Baryshnikov began to receive medical care but he is kept in a cold cell and not given medication, and the journalist Ekaterina Fomina was charged with “fake news” about the army because of an interview with a Russian soldier.


A criminal case was opened against a Muscovite woman after she burned her passport at the entrance to a club on New Year’s Eve. The 22-year-old blogger Evgenia Hoffman was charged with the article on abuse of the coat of arms of the Russian Federation. The girl herself explained that she was drunk and burned an old and invalid document “for fun”. She was sent under house arrest. Hoffman was also charged with intentional infliction of moderate harm to health – it was reported that on New Year’s Eve she beat up her friend.

  • Why do I need to know this? Prosecuting people for such drunken antics is a common practice in modern Russia. Most often such cases concern the “desecration” of the Eternal Flame: cases are brought, for example, because of a lit cigarette or scattered wreaths. But, as it turns out, even one’s own burned passport can result in a criminal record, as the authorities are increasingly striving to sacralise state symbols.

Convicted Igor Baryshnikov began to receive medical care. The 64-year-old activist was sent to the prison hospital for the first time, where his epicystostomy – a catheter placed in the bladder and passing through the abdominal wall – was changed. Baryshnikov was then going to be admitted to a civilian hospital for a biopsy. However, not all is so good. It turned out that Baryshnikov has to sleep at 15 degrees Celsius, which makes him permanently shiver, and the medicines prescribed at the end of December for 10 January have not been handed over. In addition, although the epicistostomy was replaced, it was installed in such a way that it continues to cause inconvenience. Last June, Baryshnikov was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison in a case of “fake news” about the army.

  • Why is this important? Igor Baryshnikov’s defence believes that their client began to receive medical care thanks to the publicity. It happened after our campaign and more than six thousand of your appeals to the Federal Penitentiary Service through Dyatel demanding that the prisoner be given medical treatment. Prior to that, the activist’s health condition rapidly deteriorated in detention. His legs and hands turned blue due to poor blood supply, he began to experience pain and constant urges to urinate, which made him unable to sleep, lie down or sit. However, the prison service officers are apparently unable to provide proper conditions of detention, and Baryshnikov’s health is still in danger. It is necessary to continue to fight.

Ekaterina Fomina, a former journalist with Important Stories, was prosecuted for “fakes” about the army. The reason was an interview in which Russian military officer Daniil Frolkin confessed to killing a Ukrainian civilian. According to the investigation, Fomina told Frolkin that she had in her possession compromising materials, and he gave her the interview in exchange for their non-disclosure. Law enforcement officers also claim that the journalist promised to help Frolkin travel to one of the NATO countries, where he could obtain political asylum, but failed to help him do this. Frolkin had himself been previously given a five and a half year suspended sentence for the same offence.

  • Why do I need to know this? According to our data, more than 250 Russians are now being prosecuted under the article on military “fake news”. The authorities continue to destroy freedom of speech in Russia. They seek to intimidate journalists and force them to say only what is favourable to the regime about the war. “People in Russia already have no access to independent media, now the authorities are working to vilify journalists so that even those who have stayed and continue to write about life in Russia are not believed,” Ekaterina Fomina commented.

In Russia, a second criminal case for evasion of the duties of a “foreign agent” was initiated. This is the charge brought against the former coordinator of the Pskov branch of Golos Vladimir Zhilinsky. He was recognised as a “foreign agent” on 29 September 2021. Two months later he left for Georgia with his family. Zhilinsky has been repeatedly fined under administrative law for violating the “foreign agent” law.

  • Why does this matter? The legislation on “foreign agents” is becoming stricter every year, and more and more media outlets, human rights organisations, journalists and activists find themselves on the register. At first, they were prosecuted only under administrative law, with fines for non-compliance with the absurd requirements. Now two people have also been prosecuted under criminal law – the first case was brought against Artem Vazhenkov, a Golos activist from Tver, which became known in February 2023, but the investigation was later suspended. Despite the fact that neither defendant is in Russia, this news is alarming for other “foreign agents” who still remain in the country, as a criminal conviction carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment.

Features

“Don’t cry!” Immediately after the war began, St Petersburg human rights activist Maria Malysheva became one of the defendants in a trumped-up case of telephone terrorism. A collection of Soviet jokes was seized from her as evidence. And then the case was dropped and Maria was awarded 100,000 roubles in moral compensation. She has told OVD-Info how she managed to achieve this and sent her greetings to the police operatives who detained her: “Dima and Artem, you are OK guys”. You can read her monologue on our website!


Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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