OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 345: Insults and a beating because of flowers

24 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.

Flowers at the ‘Wall of sorrow’ in Moscow. The card reads, ‘We must not give up.’ Photo: Sota

News

Hello! The mother of Aleksei Navalny is being blackmailed by the police, the movement ‘I/We are Sergei Furgal’ has been labelled an extremist organisation, and the Anarchist Black Cross Federation and Radio Liberty have been labelled ‘undesirable’. 

The body of Alexei Navalny is not being released to his mother. They are threatening that they will ‘do something’ with the body if she doesn’t agree to a secret funeral. The police have also laid down several more conditions: the body must be carried on a special board, and after transportation it will be stored in Moscow or Vladimir region, ‘so that the morgue will not be stormed’. Additionally, Navalnaya was forbidden to disclose information about the funeral until she arrived in Moscow, so that people wouldn’t go to the airport to meet the plane. She did not agree to these demands. On 23 February the investigator issued an ultimatum: either the mother agreed to a secret funeral without a public farewell within three hours, or the body would be buried at the penal colony.

  • Why is this important? The actions of the police are illegal: the release of a person’s body cannot be withheld for more than two days from the moment the cause of death is established, Meduza explains. This applies to prisoners too. You can send an appeal to the Investigative Committee demanding the return of Aleksei Navalny’s body to his family via our Woodpecker service. Since the start of our campaign 90,000 people have done so: join us!

The ‘I/We are Sergei Furgal’ has been labelled an extremist organisation. This decision was taken by the Khabarovsk Regional Court on 22 February, after a suit was filed by the regional prosecutor. In his opinion, ‘under cover of notions of protection and support’, and under the leadership of ‘foreign centres’, the ‘movement’ calls for prohibited activities and uses ‘various political technologies’ including the organisation of rallies without permission. ‘This unifying extremist ideology’ the state prosecutor explained, destroys ‘the legal foundations and values of society’, awakening ‘hatred towards representatives of the institutions of power’.

  • Why do I need to know this? From the moment of the arrest of the former governor of the Khabarovsk region, Sergei Furgal, in July 2020, rallies in his support have been going on in Russian cities, and they have not ended even after the official was sentenced. Many people think the prosecution was related to the fact that Furgal won the gubernatorial election against a United Russia candidate, and also that the region produced one of the lowest votes in favour of constitutional amendments. The decision of the Khabarovsk Regional Court threatens the participants in these protests – the authorities now have a chance to bring criminal cases against them under ‘extremist’ articles.

Two organisations have been added to the list of ‘undesirables’. On 19 February, the Anarchist Black Cross Federation, which distributes literature among prisoners and offers them legal help, was added to the list. The next day Radio Liberty was put on the register. Five of its projects, operating in Central Asia, have been blocked on Russian territory.

  • Why do I need to know this? The list of ‘undesirable organisations is regularly updated; for the state it’s an effective instrument of censorship, fighting independent media and opposition projects. By this means the authorities make their work impossible or force them to close down altogether. In addition, the police are able to prosecute their employees, as participation in the activities of an ‘undesirable organisation’ is punishable by administrative and then criminal liability, and its organisation and financing is immediately criminal.

Features

After the death of Aleksei Navalny police have arrested at least 397 people who had gathered all around the country to honour his memory by laying flowers or participating in memorial rallies. We spoke to a few of them.

‘Girls, do you know that today and for the next few days it’s forbidden to walk around the centre with flowers?’ With these words the police prevented a resident of Ekaterinburg from laying flowers in memory of the opposition politician. Read her story on our Telegram channel.

‘They called me a faggot and a prostitute, then put a gun to my head.’ Bakyt Karypbaev from Surgut was arrested while laying flowers at the memorial to victims of political repression. The police humiliated, insulted and beat the man – and now they want him to come to his address so that he can give more information to them about the incident in their car: this is allegedly necessary in order to investigate their abuse of power. Read his story on our site.

He wanted to shoot; he tried to break the door of the car and threatened to take the children to a special reception centre. This was what a plain-clothes police officer in Ryazan did when chasing a mother with young children. Her husband had previously been forced into an unmarked car. They are not the only people to have encountered violence for laying flowers in memory of the murdered Aleksei Navalny. We share the stories of people from Ryazan – see the cards on our Telegram channel.


Translated by Anna Bowles

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