OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 350: We can send anyone we like to prison

30 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.

Azat Miftakhov in court / Photo: OVD-Info

News

Hello! Azat Miftakhov has again been convicted – on new charges – and sent to prison, the blogger Nikolai Farafonov has been sentenced to six years in jail for online posts, and two female journalists are being prosecuted for involvement in the Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Anarchist and mathematician Azat Miftakhov has been sentenced to four years of strict incarceration on charges of justification of terrorism. The young man will spend the first two and a half years of his sentence in a cell-type prison. Miftakhov was arrested in September 2023 as he left prison after completing a sentence for breaking the window of a United Russia office. The next day he was placed in a pre-trial detention centre. According to investigators, Miftakhov had endorsed the action of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who set off an explosion in the Arkhangelsk FSB building, while watching TV with other prisoners.

  • Why do I need to know this? Miftakhov’s wife Elena Gorban believes that police have brought this criminal case wanting to ‘extend Azat’s prison sentence for his previous  political activity’. In her statement to the court, she said that her husband knew the risks of the colony’s wiretapping, which make him avoid discussing political topics with his fellow prisoners. ‘They are totally unembarrassed by the obviousness and brazenness of such a falsification, and it even plays into their hands,’ the anarchist himself said of his sentence.

An anti-war blogger from Komi has been sentenced for online posts about arson at military recruitment offices. Nikolai Farafonov was sentenced to six years in a penal colony for online incitement to terrorism. The reason for the prison sentence was given as a publication which, in the opinion of the court, incited people to set fire to military recruitment offices, and also justified a man who had done so. The blogger was in a pre-trial detention centre awaiting his sentence – he had been sent there in September 2023.

  • Why is this important? Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, arson has been committed against military recruitment offices and administrative buildings across Russia; some of the defendants in criminal cases initiated because of this have said that they decided to commit such acts in protest against Russian military aggression. The project Support for Political Prisoners, Memorial found several reposts on a Telegram channel allegedly made by Nikolai Farafanov, containing the phrases, ‘Burn the military recruitment office – save your son’ and ‘A very commendable incident’. Human rights activists have concluded that these words do not justify terrorism, as the burning of military recruitment offices in order to prevent mobilisation and stop the war are not terrorist acts. 

Criminal cases have been brought against two female journalists in a case over involvement in the Anti-Corruption Foundation, an ‘extremist organisation’. In Ufa, Olga Komleva, an employee of RusNews was sent to a pre-trial detention centre on 28 March. The woman has diabetes, but the judge decided not to allow her insulin, which she needs to take regularly. On the same day in Moscow, SOTAvision journalist Antonina Favorskaya was charged in Moscow, and the next day she was also remanded in custody. The reason for the prosecution was a publication about the involvement of employees of Corrective Colony Number 6 in the death of Aleksei Navalny.

  • Why do I need to know this? The Anti-Corruption Foundation and other structures of Aleksei Navalny were designated ‘extremist organisations’ on 9 June 2021. Since then, the politician’s supporters have been prosecuted. And not only them – it’s not just his closest associates who have been declared members of an ‘extremist society’, but also, as in the case of Olga Komleva and Antonina Favorskaya, journalists.This has become a convenient tool for the police to fight oppositionists and members of the independent media – the maximum penalty under the article on participation in an ‘extremist community’ is six years’ imprisonment.

Features

‘Power should create, not be a threat.’ Timofey Radzikhovsky, a 23-year-old activist from the Kaluga region, used to run a civic media project in his native Obninsk. Radzikhovsky was forced to emigrate to the Netherlands after pressure from the authorities on him and his entourage began to mount. The Obninsk City Court in Kaluga Region found the activist guilty of the administrative-law offence of discrediting the Russian army because of posting anti-war stickers in the summer of 2022. OVD-Info publishes Radzikhovsky’s story – read the new article on our website.


Translated by Anna Bowles

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