OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 357: Charged with discrediting the Russian army for dyed hair

18 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.

Illustration: Arina Istomina for OVD-Info

News

Hi! A defendant in the “Tiumen case” Kirill Brik was sentenced to eight years in a strict regime penal colony, the SOTA media outlet was recognized as “undesirable”, and the health of the high school student convicted in the case of arson of military recruitment centres is deteriorating in the remand prison.

A first verdict in the “Tiumen case” has been handed down. Kirill Brik was sentenced to eight years in a strict regime penal colony and fined 800,000 roubles. His case was separated into a separate proceeding; the sentences in the cases of four other anti-fascists – Nikita Oleinik, Yuri Neznamov, Deniz Aidin and Daniil Chertykov – should be passed later. Oleinik is charged with creating a terrorist group, while the others are charged with participating in it. After the initiation of the criminal case, new charges were brought against the young people for preparation of an act of terrorism and then for manufacture of explosives as part of an organized criminal group and possession of explosives or explosive devices as part of such a group. The grounds for theses charges were allegedly an explosive device found in the possession of Brik and Aidyn – earlier both had been charged with manufacturing explosives.

  • Why do I need to know this? In September 2023, Kirill Brik signed a pre-trial agreement and testified that he was guilty of the charges, before which he had refused the services of a lawyer. His associates suggest that Brik may have been put under pressure: he and other defendants had said that torture had been used against them. The anti-fascist community believes the case is fabricated and that the young men are being prosecuted primarily for their anti-authoritarian views.

SOTA was declared an “undesirable organization”. The legal entity SOTA media has been added to the list of ‘undesirable organisations’. “The materials published by SOTA media represent nothing but blatant attempts to destabilize the socio-political situation in Russia, distort the developments that have taken place in the life of our country, and create tension and discontent in society.  Such activities, obviously encouraged by the so-called Western inspirers, are aimed at undermining the spiritual and moral foundations of Russian society,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said.

  • Why is this important? Designation as an “undesirable organization” makes it virtually impossible for media to operate in Russia. Publications by “undesirable organizations” cannot be referenced, reposted or quoted. In addition, participation in the activities of an “undesirable organization” is punishable under administrative law, and in the event of a repeated “violation” under criminal law; organization and financing of an “undesirable organization” is immediately subject to criminal liability. All this puts the staff of the outlet in danger.

In the pre-trial detention centre, the health of a high school student convicted on chargesin a case of arson of military committees is deteriorating. 17-year-old Egor Balazeikin has autoimmune hepatitis. Recently, his blood tests revealed a very high level of alkaline phosphatase – 436, while the norm for his age is 149. Such tests may indicate the onset of liver cell necrosis, his associates argue. In November 2023, Yegor Balazeikin was sentenced to six years in a penal colony for minors. According to the investigative authorities, he tried to set fire to two military recruitment offices in St. Petersburg.

  • Why do I need to know this? Even during the court hearings, Egor Balazeikin’s lawyers said that this illness is very insidious and must be carefully watched, while medical support in the system of penal colonies for minors with autoimmune hepatitis is completely absent. “Imprisonment is tantamount to a death sentence,” said his mother. However, the authorities do not care about the lives of their own citizens – and the young man was put behind bars anyway.

The Constitutional Court approved the legality of prosecution for old publications. The Court refused to take into consideration the complaint of former Moscow municipal deputy Elena Selkova, who challenged the constitutionality of the practice of applying the law banning symbols of prohibited organizations to posts published before the ban was introduced. In 2022, Selkova was fined for a post with the logo, “Smart Voting,” published back in 2019, although the Smart Voting project was banned only in June 2021. “The moment of posting the symbolism in question in a way that ensures access to it by an unlimited number of people is of no legal significance, because after the courts designate an organization as extremist, the public demonstration of its symbols is prohibited and must be stopped,” the Constitutional Court ruled.

  • Why is this important? In this way, the Constitutional Court confirmed the already existing practice of Russian courts. “This means that all users should check their publicly available social networks from the moment they create an account – after all, ten years ago you could have posted something banned much later,” Network Freedoms advises. You can find out whether an organization is banned on the website of the Ministry of Justice by checking the registers of “undesirable” and “extremist” organizations. Sometimes the courts fine and jail persons even on the grounds of symbols that do not formally belong to an organization, but are simply associated with it – for example, the logo of Smart Voting, which is not the logo of any of the banned structures of Aleksei Navalny.

Features

“Why do you have a Ukrainian flag on your head?!” On the night of 28 April an unknown man attacked twenty-five-year-old Stas Netesov at a bus stop in Moscow, took away his phone and knocked out one of his teeth. Netesov went to the police, but at the police station  he was charged with discrediting the Russian army because of his blue and yellow hair, issued him a summons to appear at the military enlistment office and threatened to send him to the front. Read his story in our new material!


Translated by Rights in Russia