10 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.
Hello! A criminal case has been brought against the editor of Pskovskaya Gubernia under the ‘foreign agents’ law, the I/We are Sergei Furgal movement may be labelled an extremist organisation, and a human rights activist sentenced to 14 years has been beaten up in jail.
The editor-in-chief of Pskovskaya Gubernia has been prosecuted for evading his duties as a ‘foreign agent’. Denis Kamalyagin was arrested in absentia – he left Russia back in March 2022. The reason for the journalist’s prosecution was the lack of labelling on posts in his Telegram channel. Kamalyagin was previously fined several times under the administrative article on ‘foreign agent’ violations. In addition, a criminal case was opened against the journalist for repeated discrediting of the Russian army, and he was put on a wanted list.
- Why do I need to know this? The authorities use the legislation on ‘foreign agents’ to fight people who disagree with them. The law providing for imprisonment for up to two years for ‘foreign agents’ who have been prosecuted twice in one year for violating the procedure for the activities of a ‘foreign agent’ came into force in December 2022. After that, the state became able to hold ‘foreign agents’ criminally liable. The case of Denis Kamalyagin is the third such under this article that we are aware of. On 2 February 2024, the former coordinator of the Golos movement in Pskov, Vladimir Zhilinsky, was arrested in absentia under this article, and before that it was used on a Golos activist from Tver, Artem Vazhenkov, which became known in February 2023.
They want to label the I/We are Sergei Furgal movement an extremist organisation. The corresponding lawsuit was filed by the Khabarovsk region prosecutor. It will be considered by the Khabarovsk regional court on 22 February. It will be in a closed session.
- Why is this important? This is how the authorities intend to fight activists who support the former governor of Khabarovsk region, Sergei Furgal, who was sentenced in February 2023 to 22 years in a strict regime penal colony. Since his detention in July 2020, rallies in support of him have been held in various Russian cities, and they continue to this day. Participation in and organisation of the activities of extremist organisations is a criminal offence – their activities become banned throughout the country. If the lawsuit is upheld, the politician’s supporters who continue to take part in the rallies will face prison sentences.
Human rights activist Bakhrom Khamroev has reported being beaten in prison. According to his wife, on 23 January Khamroev was taken out of his cell under the pretext of an inspection and severely beaten. ‘He was beaten on his legs, groin, kidneys, there were bloody abrasions on his back, and he lost consciousness from a blow to the head,’ she told reporters. In May 2023, Khamroev was sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of terrorist propaganda and participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation. Both charges were related to the human rights activist’s work on the cases of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members: he provided them with legal assistance, including representing their interests in courts, and spoke about their persecution on social media.
- Why do I need to know this? We often talk about how political prisoners face violence in pre-trial detention centres and penal colonies. Not only do they suffer that way, but they are also in danger from other convicts. All this happens because criminal cases concerning beatings by police officers, and torture, are very rarely initiated. Therefore, Federal Penitentiary Service officers, feeling that they will not be punished, continue to abuse prisoners and solve issues by force.
A resident of Syktyvkar has been sentenced to a fine of 300,000 roubles for donating money to the Anti-Corruption Foundation. Vyacheslav Herzberg was found guilty in a case of financing extremist activities. On 6 September 2023, searches were carried out in several regions at the homes of suspects in the cases of donations to the ACF, among whom was Herzberg. The ACF and Aleksei Navalny’s other organisations were declared to be extremist on 9 June 2021.
- Why is this important? Designation as an extremist organisation makes it possible to prosecute not only its members, but also other people, such as those who have since continued to support such organisations with donations. In this way, the authorities intimidate their opponents and supporters of the opposition. For example, Sergei Shiryaev from Moscow and Aleksei Konovalov from Magadan respectively were fined half a million roubles each in December 2022 and January 2023, because of their donations to the ACF
‘Odyssey of a chainsaw and a shovel.’ Oleg Bukin is a historian and citizen activist from Ekaterinburg. For many years he has been fighting for the cultural heritage of the Urals. Bukin created the public organisation Urals Chronotope, which finds architectural monuments and protects them from demolition. Last December he was found guilty of discrediting the Russian army and fined. We tell his story – read the new article on our website!
Russia on the road to freedom of assembly: problems and tools for change. The regime perceives freedom of assembly not as an instrument of dialogue between society and the authorities, but as a threat. That is why large-scale rallies are not authorised, and those who go out on pickets are illegally detained. After almost two years in a state of full-scale war, the restrictions have become even tougher. The OVD-Info report Russia on the way to freedom of assembly: problems and tools for change was first published in 2021, but now we have updated the data and included material in particular about how the war in Ukraine has affected Russian civil society. Read the report on our website, and you can download it as a PDF here.
Translated by Anna Bowles