OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 342: Five days’ jail for rainbow frogs

3 February 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.

Earrings in the shape of rainbow frogs. Photo: Egida

News

Hi! A law on the confiscation of property for offences under repressive articles of the Russian Criminal Code has passed its final reading, a number of organisations have been declared ‘undesirable’, and a volunteer from the organisation Army of Beauties has been placed in pre-trial detention.

A law on the confiscation of property for offences under repressive articles of the Russian Criminal Code has passed its final reading at the State Duma. As soon as it comes into force the state will be able to seize property obtained ‘from selfish motives’ as a result of committing such ‘crimes’ as calling for anti-state activity or spreading ‘fake news’ about the army. For example, this could include payments to journalists convicted under the latter article. According to the document, confiscation may also apply to ‘property intended to finance activities against the state’, which includes state treason, espionage, sabotage and participation in the activities of ‘undesirable organisations’. 

  • Why do I need to know this? Until now it is not known how the new law will be applied in practice. There is little benefit for law enforcement agencies in confiscating property, and in order to do it they need to prove the presence of ‘selfish motives’. It’s entirely possible that these amendments are just one more instrument of intimidation. We have answered more questions related to the upcoming changes on the cards in our Telegram channel.

Several more organisations have been labelled ‘undesirable’. On 29 January two German organisations, going by the name Freies Russland, and the American GlobalGiving Foundation were entered on the register. On 31 January Russie-Libertés and La Asociación de Rusos Libre were added to the list. On the next day, 1 February, the Russian Election Monitor project, which provides expert analysis on questions related to elections in Russia, was added.

  • Why is this important? The authorities use the laws on ‘undesirable organisations’ to combat independent media, human rights and political opposition projects. The register is regularly expanded as it’s a useful tool for the authorities: various organisations included on it cease their activities as a result of the threat of criminal liability. Additionally, the ban on distributing material from ‘undesirable organisations’ makes the work of publishing and media projects practically impossible.

A volunteer from the organisation Army of Beauties has been sent to pre-trial detention. Nadezhda Rossinskaya, also known as Nadin Geisler, is suspected of public incitement of activities against the security of the state. According to police, the activist posted online appeals for donations to the Ukrainian Azov battalion, which is designated a terrorist organisation in Russia. The young woman was remanded in custody on 1 February, when she was returning from Georgia.

  • Why do I need to know this? When the war in Ukraine started, Nadezhda Rossinskaya founded a women’s volunteer movement under the name Army of Beauties. The organisation collects humanitarian aid which it delivers to civilians in Ukraine, and also evacuates Ukrainians under fire. It’s possible that this activity was the reason for the young woman’s criminal prosecution: the activist and her defence claim that they do not know who owns the Instagram account that published the post asking for donations to Azov.

A Nizhny Novgorod resident has been jailed for five days because of earrings in the shape of rainbow-coloured frogs. The young woman was found guilty under administrative law of the offence of displaying extremist symbols. At the same time, none of the officers who drew up the charge could say what extremist symbols were depicted on the jewellery. According to the girl’s lawyer, the frogs were seven-coloured, while the LGBTQ+ flag has only six colours.

  • Why is this important? This incident is the first administrative-law punishment since the decision to recognise the ‘international LGBT movement’ as an extremist organisation. The application of repressive laws sometimes reaches the level of absurdity. Even random coincidences can attract the attention of law enforcers: for example, in May 2022, a man wearing a blue jumper and yellow trousers was detained in Moscow. And even if the prosecution of the Nizhny Novgorod resident is halted on appeal, it will not spare her from punishment.

Features

‘Cut off the oxygen.’ OVD-Info examines the law on ‘foreign agents’ as an instrument of pressure on civil society and provides legal assistance to those who find themselves on the register. We know first-hand that it is discriminatory. This law harms not only the ‘foreign agents’ themselves, but also society as a whole: people have become afraid to seek help from organisations that have received such toxic status. We have published a report on how the prosecution of ‘foreign agents’ has changed in the course of two years. 

‘And people don’t care, because they don’t care about protesting here.’ In December 2023, a court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Denis Gubitsky from Altai Krai: the activist had filed a complaint against local police. After a solitary picket on 15 June, officers had detained him in the police station for more than three hours, read his personal correspondence on his phone and forced him to be fingerprinted, under threat. Olga Nechaeva, a lawyer working with OVD-Info, assisted Gubitsky in drafting his complaint. We publish the activist’s story – read his account on our website!


Translated by Anna Bowles

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