OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 348: Before the Elections

16 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.


Illustration: OVD-Info

News

Hello!  The homes of artists and activists in various cities have been searched in connection with the case against Pyotr Verzilov, politician Leonid Volkov has been attacked in Vilnius, and Aleksei Gorinov is being deprived of sleep in a prison colony.

In several towns in Russia the homes of artists and activists have been searched in the treason case against Pyotr Verzilov. Police officers visited at least eighteen people, questioned them as witnesses and then released them. Verzilov himself left Russia after he was prosecuted in 2020 under the article on failure to declare possession of foreign citizenship. In 2021, the activist and former publisher of Mediazona was included on the register of ‘foreign agents’, and in 2023 he was sentenced in absentia to eight and a half years in prison in the case of ‘fake news’ about the Russian army. We have collected the works of artists who were searched in this case for you in our Telegram channel – check them out in these cards.

  • Why is this important? It is common practice to search the homes of witnesses in criminal cases. Often the searches are accompanied by numerous violations, and sometimes law enforcers even use violence. You can read about what to do if you are searched in these cards in our Telegram channel.

Former head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation Leonid Volkov has been attacked near his home in Vilnius. An unknown person broke the window of the oppositionist’s car with a hammer, sprayed tear gas in his eyes and beat him with a hammer. After that, Volkov was taken to hospital. He later reported that his arm was broken and added that it was painful for him to walk. 

  • Why do I need to know this? The Lithuanian State Security Department said the attack on Leonid Volkov could have been organised by Russia. The department suggested that its aim was ‘to stop the implementation of Russian opposition projects related to the upcoming undemocratic presidential election in Russia’. This is not the first time that Russian security services have been suspected of trying to harm opposition activists abroad: in August 2023, several female journalists and activists reported incidents of poisoning.

Aleksei Gorinov, who was jailed in a case of military ‘fake news’, has told of being tortured by interruptions to his sleep.  The staff of the prison colony in Vladimir region check the prisoner every two hours, as he is registered as ‘inclined to escape’. At the same time, the inspectors make a lot of noise and yank the blanket, which he uses to cover himself from bright light, off his head. This is not the first time the former municipal deputy has faced such abuse: he reported similar torture in a letter back in the summer of 2023.

  • Why is this important? Aleksei Gorinov is regularly subjected to pressure in the prison colony. He has been placed in an isolation cell, where he is kept in conditions of damp and cold that amount to torture, without access to the medicine he needs. You can help and support the politician– write him a letter! The address can be found here.

In the run-up to, and during, the elections, law enforcers are continuing to put pressure on activists. In the Stavropol region over the course of several days searches were carried out at the homes of supporters of Boris Nadezhdin, who were collecting signatures in support of his nomination. On 13 and 14 March in Vladivostok four members of the politician’s headquarters were sentenced to administrative jail terms. On 15 March, in Khanty-Mansiysk, volunteer Polina Zmanovskaya was detained for conducting an exit poll for Civil Initiative at the exit of a polling station, and in Kazan, a member of that party was attacked by observers from the Public Chamber.

  • Why do I need to know this? The main task of the authorities now is to ensure that Vladimir Putin wins the election. To do this, they are trying to get rid of those who can prevent falsifications – observers and other activists. We have explained how and whom OVD-Info is helping in connection with the elections in cards in our Telegram channel. In addition, together with Meduza, we issued instructions for those who are going to go to vote.

Features

‘I have absolutely no faith in my future in Russia.’ Our heroine was a student in college and taught animation to children. A few days before the war started, she was given a grant to study with French filmmakers, but instead of participating in the programme, she now has two charges logged under the article on discrediting the Russian army. One ruling was cancelled with the support of OVD-Info. The artist herself tells her story – read her monologue in the cards in our Telegram channel.  


Translated by Anna Bowles

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