OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 354: Convicted for taking part in an opinion poll

27 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.


Yuri Kokhovets / Photo: SOTAvision

News

Hello! A Moscow resident has been sentenced to forced labour for taking part in an opinion poll, a 16-year-old involved in an “anti-war case” has been sentenced to serve time in a penal colony and a Ukrainian student studying at Moscow State University has been jailed for a third time. 

A Moscow resident has been sentenced to five years of forced labour for taking part in an opinion poll conducted by Radio Liberty. Yury Kokhovets was convicted of disseminating misinformation about the Russian military motivated by political hatred.  As part of the poll, journalists spoke to residents of Moscow in July 2022 to try to gauge opinion on the necessity of easing tensions between Russia and NATO countries. A criminal investigation was opened after Yury Kokhovets remarked during his interview with the publication: “Our government claims it’s only targeting nationalists, but it’s bombing shopping centres. In Bucha, innocent civilians have been shot by our military from Buryatia and Dagestan for no reason at all”.

  • Why is this important? Russia is mired in total censorship. It is not possible to talk about freedom of the media when people face prosecution merely for sharing their views during  interviews with journalists. Those in power are seeking to intimidate the inhabitants of Russia. As fewer people dare to speak out, it becomes even easier to manipulate public opinion. If there are no opposing views able to be expressed, it becomes simple to claim unanimous support across the whole country. 

Lubov Lizunova, a tenth-grade student from Chita, has received a three-and-a-half-year sentence in a penal colony for anti-war remarks. Nineteen-year-old Aleksander Snezhkov has also been sentenced and faces six years in prison, while Vladislav Vishnevsky has been sentenced to one and a half years of forced labour. Snezhkov and Vishnevsky have been convicted on charges of vandalism motivated by political hatred, whereas Lizunova, who is a minor, was not prosecuted under this article. All three have also been found guilty of incitement to extremism, and Snezhkov and Lizunova were also convicted of inciting terrorism. Snezhkov and Lizunova were arrested in autumn 2022 in Chita on suspicion of involvement in writing the graffiti, “Death to the regime,” and management of Telegram channels which were disseminating information about anti-war protests, guerrilla activities, and animal rights advocacy.

  • Why is this important? Even anti-war posts on social media and graffiti sprayed by a minor are now perceived by the authorities as a real threat. A 16-year-old schoolgirl would be hard pushed to overthrow a government, yet Lubov Lizunova is being sent to a penal colony as a result of her protests. The Russian authorities are coming down hard on all their opponents, irrespective of gender or age.

A student at Moscow State University, told to leave Russia within three days under threat of criminal prosecution, was immediately jailed for 12 days. Sergei Gulko, a student at the Faculty of Fundamental Medicine and a Ukrainian national has been found guilty of incitement of hatred or hostility and displaying banned symbols on Instagram Stories. According to the judge’s ruling, Gulko allegedly advocated the bombing of Moscow. This is the third time in a month that Gulko has been placed in a special detention centre. On 3 April, he was detained for 10 days for disobeying a police officer following his arrest at home, and on 16 April, he was detained for 12 days for use of extremist symbols after he posted “Glory to Ukraine” on his personal “VKontakte” page.

  • Why do I need to know this? Successive jail terms for administrative offences, often referred to as the “arrest carousel”, frequently indicate that law enforcement authorities are stalling in order to use the time to build a criminal case against an individual. While this may not be the case for Sergei Gulko, the judge’s contradictory rulings are remarkably absurd. It is conceivable that the student has been intentionally ensnared, depriving him of the chance to comply with the rulings.

Features

“Carnations a means of protest”. In Ekaterinburg, the son of conscripted Ivan Bukin, faces a fine for laying flowers at the Black Tulip memorial on February 10th. This took place as part of the “Way Home” movement led by the wives of conscripted men who are advocating for the return of men from the frontlines. Initially, the police said they would not bring charges against the young man out of respect for his father, but later reversed their decision. We bring you a firsthand account from a resident of Ekaterinburg detailing events – you can read it on our website now.

This is the story of a human rights defender from a restricted town where plutonium is produced for nuclear weapons. Nadezhda Kutepova and her organisation Planet of Hopes dedicated 15 years to defending the rights of people affected by radioactive contamination. The NGO has now been labelled a “foreign agent” and has been shut down. OVD-Info shares the story of this woman’s journey – read the latest article on our website.


Translated by Marjolein Thickett