OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 346: Navalny has been buried

2 March 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.

The grave of Aleksei Navalny in Borisovsky cemetery. Photo: SOTA

News

Hello! The funeral of Aleksei Navalny has taken place in Moscow, co-chair of Memorial Oleg Orlov has been sentenced to prison, and the owner of a café in Lyubertsy has been prosecuted for ejecting a ‘fighter in the Special Military Operation’ from the establishment.

Aleksei Navalny has been buried in Borisovsky Cemetery in Moscow. Thousands of people came to bid him farewell. Only relatives and close friends of the politician were allowed to attend the funeral in the Quench My Sorrows church in Maryino, but other people wishing to say goodbye were able to get into the graveyard. That day and the next, more than a hundred people were arrested in different towns.

  • Why is this important? The funeral of Aleksei Navalny in Moscow went off without mass arrests – the authorities probably decided not to spoil their image by putting people into police cars right outside the church and the cemetery.  However, in other towns police officers continued arresting people who decided to bring flowers to memorials to victims of political repression or other memorials. Fines and custody continue to be imposed on Russians who simply wanted to say goodbye to the dead.

The co-chair of Memorial Oleg Orlov has been sentenced to two and a half years in a prison colony. The human rights activist was found guilty of repeatedly discrediting the army and taken from the courtroom into custody. The reason for Orlov’s prosecution was the article ‘They wanted fascism. They got it’, in which he criticised the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is a retrial: initially, in October 2023, Orlov was sentenced to a fine of 150,000 roubles, but the prosecutor’s office appealed the decision.

  • Why do I need to know this? Oleg Orlov is one of the most famous Russian human rights activists. He has dedicated his life to documenting human rights violations and helping victims of arbitrary power. Now he himself has ended up behind bars – the authorities get rid of those who prevent them from committing crimes.

A criminal case has been opened against a resident of Liubertsy who asked a Russian soldier to leave her café. She has been charged with incitement of hatred or hostility: according to police the owner of the establishment did not let soldiers come in, and made a post with ‘extremist’ statements. This is likely about a young woman named Alena Polyakevich – earlier, information had appeared about the fine, which she received for ‘discrediting the army’ because of a post on VKontakte. In it, Polyakevich said that she had had to kick a ‘soldier of the Special Military Operation’ out of the cafe she owned, because he behaved ‘not very well, to put it mildly’.

  • Why is this important? The authorities elevate soldiers who have fought in Ukraine practically to the status of saints – in his address to the Federal Assembly, Vladimir Putin called them ‘the true, real elite’. Because of this, those who have returned from the war are allowed to get away with all kinds of antics, and those who do not show respect for them are persecuted, and quite seriously – the case against the owner of the cafe was initiated by the main investigative department of the Investigative Committee. At the same time, many people who have been in war zones suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses, which could lead to an epidemic of violence in Russia: you can listen to stories about what happens to Russian soldiers who return from war on the Sisters podcast.

In Grozny, a man from Volgograd has been sentenced in a case concerning a video of the burning of the Koran. Nikita Zhuravel was found guilty under the articles on insulting the feelings of believers and hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. According to the investigation, the young man ‘no later than 19 May’ 2023 burned a copy of the Koran near a mosque in Volgograd, filmed it on camera and spread the post on Telegram. His criminal case was heard in Chechnya because of ‘numerous appeals from residents of the Chechen Republic with a request to recognise them as victims’ – the Investigative Committee changed the territorial jurisdiction.

  • Why do I need to know this? In Chechnya the situation regarding the observation of human rights is probably the worst in all Russia. Because of an act which hardly merits criminal prosecution, a young man has been subjected to cruelty that has gone unpunished: in August 2023 a report appeared online of how Adam, the 15-year-old son of regional head Ramzan Kadyrov had beaten Nikita Zhuravel in a pre-trial detention centre, and afterwards a video appeared on social media showing what happened. Chechen politicians and Ramzan Kadyrov himself not only did not deny the act, but also supported Adam, who subsequently received many different medals, the title of Hero of Chechnya and the post of head of the security department of the head of the republic. In October it emerged that the Interior Ministry had not initiated a case because of the beating.

Features

’I’ll cut off your ear and rip your balls off.’ On the night of 18 February, law enforcers broke into a party at the cultural centre Tipografiya in Tula. They beat and humiliated guests, and then drew up charges against some of them for ‘LGBT propaganda’ – for long hair and tattoos. With the help of witnesses and an audio recording of the event OVD-Info has compiled a detailed account of the homophobic raid – read the new article on our website. And you can learn about how the authorities have begun to regularly raid various events – from a birthday party in a country cottage to a ‘safe space’ meeting in a major cultural centre – from cards in our Telegram channel.

‘You can’t say anything at all, do you understand?’ Natalya Dorozhnova, a 73-year-old resident of Volgograd, made a comment to a journalist – and was fined 15,000 roubles for ‘discrediting the Russian army.’ After that, she talked to the journalist again – and they searched her flat and then fined her again for the same ‘offence,’ this time for 30,000 roubles. The pensioner, who has been publishing a feminist newspaper since 1990 and has been going to protest rallies since 2010, told OVD-Info how she liked the first trial and disliked the second. Read her account on our website.


Translation by Anna Bowles

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