OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 353: Doused with boiling water

20 April 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.


Sergei Veselov / Photo: Oskar Cherdzhiev

Hello. Anti-war blogger attacked by inmate in pre-trial detention centre; second criminal case opened against DOXA journalist on charges of justifying terrorism; and an English teacher from Orel has been fined 400,000 roubles for donating money to the FBK.

An anti-war blogger being held in a pre-trial detention centre has been scalded with boiling water and beaten by a fellow prison inmate. The blogger, Sergei Veselov, suffered second-degree burns on approximately 5% of his body. The motive for the attack remains unknown. Veselov was remanded in custody in late January in a case related to justifying terrorism. He is also facing charges for vandalism motivated by political hatred and repeatedly undermining the Russian army.

  • Why do I need to know this? Sergei Veselov now fears for his life and health following an attack by a fellow inmate. The inmate, who is being held on charges of suspected murder, has also made death threats to Veselov. At his own request, Veselov has been moved to a temporary cell in a police station. Veselov’s lawyer has demanded that the pre-trial detention centre administration ensure his safety, however Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) officers rarely respond to such requests. In situations like these, public awareness can be pivotal as it prompts law enforcers to provide a certain level of prisoner support.

A second criminal case has been brought against a DOXA journalist for allegedly justifying terrorism. The basis for the prosecution of Maria Menshikova is believed to be an article she published concerning railway resistance and partisans in Russia and Belarus. Menshikova, currently residing outside Russia, is facing arrest in absentia and will be placed on an international wanted list. She was first prosecuted for justifying terrorism in April 2023 in relation to a DOXA publication on anti-war activities. This included an illustration depicting a man throwing a Molotov cocktail at a military recruitment centre and an appeal to readers to write letters to individuals arrested for arson attacks on other military recruitment centres.

  • Why is this important? Media publications often lead to criminal proceedings against their authors. For instance, a SOTA journalist is facing prosecution for justifying terrorism as a result of an article written about the Hizb ut-Tahrir party. Meanwhile, Ekaterina Fomina, a former employee of Important Stories, was prosecuted for ‘fake news’ about the army following an interview with a Russian military officer. Authorities continue to undermine independent journalism in this way by seeking to intimidate those who report on the war and political persecution in Russia.

An English teacher from Orel has been fined 400,000 roubles in relation to a donation to the FBK. Ilya Startsev was found guilty of financing an extremist organisation. He was released from custody in the courtroom, having spent eight months since September 2023 in a pre-trial detention centre. He was prosecuted for transferring 7,000 roubles to the FBK account.

  • Why do I need to know this? In June 2021, Moscow City Court labelled the FBK and other entities associated with Aleksei Navalny as “extremist organisations.” Since then, multiple criminal cases have been launched in connection with donations to these organisations. In September 2023, searches were conducted across various regions leading to several individuals, including Ilya Startsev, being placed in pre-trial detention facilities. In most cases, it is unclear how the authorities came to learn about the donations as the sender details were not publicly available. Many have been heavily fined, facing penalties of hundreds of thousands of roubles for donations of just a few thousand roubles. 

A Moscow resident found in possession of Ukrainian flags was tasered. Law enforcement officers arrived at the married couple’s home on the pretext of inspecting the premises. The couple was forced to the floor, handcuffed, and coerced into making statements on video. Ukrainian flags and other symbols were found in their flat. Both husband and wife were charged with obstruction of police officers during the search and were sentenced to 15 days’ detention each.

  • Why is this important? The charge of “obstruction of a police officer” is frequently applied, even when individuals haven’t actually resisted, but were subjected to police violence. This makes it easy for law enforcement officers to detain anyone of interest. While an individual is serving their sentence, a criminal case can be initiated against them. This tactic is often employed against opposition figures.

Features

“I’m going to fight the Nazis”: Sergei and Anastasia Gordienko are farmers from a village that doesn’t appear on the map. In the neighbouring villages of the Odessa district in the Omsk region, the majority of residents are Ukrainian migrants. The couple has become pariahs among them, partly due to their political views and the criminal charges against them. Read the couple’s story in the latest article on our website.


Translated by Marjolein Thickett