OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 356: A refusal to be pardoned

11 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.

The journalist Nadezhda Kevorkova / Photo: SOTA

Hello! A Buryat activist refuses pardon, prosecutors have asked for a 24-year-old Novosibirsk resident to be sentenced to 26 years of imprisonment, and a journalist has been sent to a pre-trial detention centre in relation to two texts.

Natalya Filonova, an activist from Ulan-Ude, has declined a pardon since it would require admitting guilt. In August 2023, Filonova was sentenced to two years and ten months in a penal colony for assaulting police officers. According to the investigation, Filonova struck one officer with her hand and poked another in the face with a pen on the way to court. She was attending court on account of an administrative protest case against her. The convicted woman was placed in a punitive isolation cell in the colony (SHIZO).

  • Why do I need to know this? In March, unconfirmed reports emerged regarding a decree by the President of Russia to pardon 52 women, including those convicted in political cases. The demand to admit guilt in exchange for a pardon is yet another tool exerting pressure on principled and honest individuals who oppose war and dictatorship. The numerous criminal cases that have arisen from anti-war activities should be viewed in this context of a campaign to intimidate society.

A prosecutor has requested a 26-year prison sentence for 24-year-old Novosibirsk resident Ilya Baburin, who is facing charges under six criminal articles. Baburin is accused of setting fire to a music school and involvement in the Azov movement. Baburin denies the charges, and the investigation has not provided convincing evidence of his involvement in the crimes. The defendant opposes the war in Ukraine. The pre-trial detention centre is pressurising Baburin and subjecting him to abuse.

  • Why is this important? Ilya Baburin is facing serious charges under the Criminal Code, including terrorism and treason, without any grounds except his anti-war position. This case is part of a larger campaign to persecute internal enemies of the state who are allegedly acting on the instructions of Ukrainian intelligence.

Roskomnadzor (The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) has blocked five OVD-Info resources within Russia. These are: oi.legal (a website offering legal guidance), a donations page, YouTube channels OVD-Info and “Как теперь” and Telegram channel “OVD-Info LIVE”. The federal service cited non-compliance with “foreign agency” legislation as the reason for these bans.

  • Why do I need to know this? Roskomnadzor is making every effort to restrict access for Russian residents to independent information regarding the war and repression. The federal service is blocking all domain and subdomain resources, limiting access to newly created websites of previously blocked publications, and VPN services. Roskomnadzor has blocked no less than 38 reincarnations of the St. Petersburg publication “Bumaga”. It was also reported last week that Censor Tracker had been blocked, a website offered an extension for bypassing censorship.

The journalist Nadezhda Kevorkova, aged 65, has been sent to a pre-trial detention centre in relation to two texts. Kevorkova has been accused of justifying terrorism on account of texts published on her personal Telegram channel. One of the publications is dedicated to Anzor Astemirov, one of the leaders of the “attack on Nalchik,” and the other to the Taliban movement. A search was conducted of Kevorkova’s home.

  • Why is this important? The Russian authorities often use the charge of justifying terrorism to exert pressure on dissenting voices. Yevgenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriichuk, authors of the play “Финист ясный сокол” (Finist, the brave falcon) depicting women recruited by ISIS fighters, have been held in a pre-trial detention centre for over a year under this provision. Similar charges have been brought against individuals who have spoken out about Vladlen Tatarsky’s murder and the Crimean Bridge explosion. Nadezhda Kevorkova is facing charges for her texts about the Taliban. This is despite statements from Russian diplomats stating that the Taliban is not considered a terrorist entity, and the fact that high-ranking Russian officials maintain diplomatic relations with Taliban representatives and express support for them.

Translated by Marjolein Thickett