OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 355: Sent to prison for expressing outrage over the war – aged 72

4 May 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.


Evgeniya Maiboroda, convicted of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army and extremism / Photo: Fedor Zabiran
  • News

Hi! A Ukrainian citizen has been sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment, a 72-year-old pensioner was sent to a penal colony for online posts, and the State Duma is going to ban ‘foreign agents’ from standing as candidates in elections.

Ukrainian citizen Sergei Karmazin was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Karmazin man was found guilty on eight criminal charges. According to the official version, Karmazin, on instructions from the Ukrainian Security Agency, set fire to two sets of signalling equipment on the Moscow railway system. Karmazin will have to spend the first six years of his term in a cell-type prison, a penitentiary institution with the harshest conditions. Since his detention, Karmazin has not been allowed access to a human rights lawyer.

  • Why do I need to know this? Since the start of the full-scale war against Ukraine, the Russian authorities have been paying special attention to Ukrainians. In February, Ukrainian Ilya Gibeskul‘s case went to court. He was charged with justifying terrorism on account of 10 posts on the VKontakte social media site; and last week, Moscow State University student Sergei Gulko was ordered to leave Russia within three days or face criminal prosecution and he was then immediately jailed for 12 days. According to OVD-Info, the number of Ukrainians prosecuted in 2022 has increased by a factor of 10 compared to 2021.

72-year-old pensioner Evgeniya Maiboroda was sentenced to five and a half years in a penal colony for two online posts. Maiboroda had been charged with disseminating ‘fake news’ about the army motivated by political hatred and with inciting extremist activity. The grounds for her prosecution was a repost of information about the number of dead Russian servicemen and an emotional video published on in VKontakte. Maiboroda explained that she posted the materials when she learned that her brother in Dnipro was trapped under the rubble of a building that had been hit by shells.

  • Why is this important? Courts often do not take into account the age and health of the defendants when considering cases of hate-motivated dissemination of ‘fake news’. For example, the artist Sasha Skochilenko, diagnosed with celiac disease, heart disease, bipolar disorder and several other illnesses, has been imprisoned. Last year, 64-year-old Igor Baryshnikov, whose legs and hands turned blue in the pre-trial detention centre, was sentenced to a real term of imprisonment. In addition, the number of women in detention rose sharply in 2022, after the start of a full-scale war.

Amendments have been introduced in the State Duma to ban ‘foreign agents’ from running in elections. According to the bill, ‘foreign agents’ will lose the right to run as candidates for elected office at all levels. The State Duma Committee on State Construction and Legislation has recommended these amendments for adoption.

  • Why do I need to know this? The ‘foreign agent’ legislation is constantly being tightened. By adding people and organisations to the ‘foreign agent’ register, the authorities obtain an additional tool to put pressure on them. ‘Now the “foreign agent” register can be used to prevent candidates the authorities consider inconvenient from running for election,’ Valeria Vetoshkina, a lawyer at OVD-Info, comments.

Angel Nikolaev, an anti-war activist from Khabarovsk, was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment prison in a case involving painted flags. Initially, the reason for Nikolaev’s detention was a protest during which he drew crossed Z letters with red paint on Russian flags on the graves of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine. According to the prosecution, Nikolaev also allegedly tried to set fire to a military recruitment centre in Khabarovsk, something Nikolaev himself denies. In total, he was charged with five criminal offences.

  • Why is this important? One of the charges against Nikolaev was ‘desecration of burial sites’. At the same time, the activist himself calls putting up Russian flags on graves desecration: ‘I believe that placing flags on graves is sacrilege. I had no intention of desecrating the graves, it was the flags that caused all my indignation.’ 

Features

‘You can also understand the Rector’s position.’ Our new feature is about how Dmitry Burakov, an associate professor at St. Petersburg State University of Railway Transport, was fined for ‘discrediting’ the Russian army because of an avatar, lost his job and left Russia. Dmitry told OVD-Info why they might have noticed the trident now, and also recounted a conversation he had with the rector of the St Petersburg State University of Railway Transport, who used to be a drummer and played in a band with Viktor Tsoi.


Translated by Rights in Russia