OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 359: Provocateurs and fabricated testimony

1 June 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: Polina Timofeeva for OVD-Info

Hello! A Samara resident is being held in a pre-trial detention centre on six criminal charges, an investigator writes the testimony for the accused in a case of arson of a military recruitment centre, while a fifth criminal case has been filed against the singer, Sharlot.

News

A criminal case against Polina Yevtushenko, a resident of Samara, was launched following a report by a provocateur she met six months before her arrest. Nikolai Komarov initially struck up conversation with Yevtushenko on VKontake, then later the two met up in person on multiple occasions. Yevtushenko stated that Komarov asked her many questions about the Free Russia Legion when they met up, and that he recorded the conversations on a Dictaphone. Yevtushenko’s criminal prosecution began in the summer of 2023, when she was remanded in custody on suspicion of high treason for allegedly persuading another Samara resident to join the Free Russia Legion. The additional charge of financing terrorism was added later. She faces extra charges related to her posts on VKontakte and Instagram, which include inciting terrorism and extremism, public dissemination of ‘fake news’ about the Russian army motivated by hatred, and the rehabilitation of Nazism.

  • Why do I need to know this? Provocateurs often play a role in criminal cases by befriending people on social networks, facilitating incriminating conversations, and then passing on their recordings to law enforcement agencies. This helps authorities gather evidence to initiate criminal cases, and provocateurs often face no consequences for using these methods, sometimes even gaining promotions.

In the case of the arson of a military recruitment centre, the defendant has claimed that an investigator actually wrote his testimony. Bogdan Abdurakhmanov has stated that he merely signed this testimony, initially indifferent as long as he faced property damage charges rather than terrorism. After the charges were reclassified, he changed his stance, however. Abdurakhmanov and co-defendant Boris Goncharenko were detained in Krasnodar in autumn 2022. The investigation alleges they threw four Molotov cocktails at the door of the military enlistment office in Goryachy Klyuch on the night of 6 October.

  • Why is this important? Bogdan Abdurakhmanov’s case once again sheds light on law enforcers using unlawful methods to their own ends. Incidences such as this are now neither surprising nor shocking; what is shocking is how widespread and routine these fabrications have become.

A fifth criminal case has been opened against the singer Sharlot, this time for allegedly insulting the dignity of others on the basis of nationality, as well as using the internet to threaten violence in relation to an Instagram story stating “Russian-speaking little bastards, even if you breathe, you’re dead.” The musician was detained in November 2023 at Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg upon returning from Armenia. He was initially charged with petty hooliganism and arrested for 13 days. Two days later, it emerged that he also faced charges for the rehabilitation of Nazism and for insulting the feelings of believers. In December 2023, another case was opened against him for burning a Russian passport.

  • Why do I need to know this? Five criminal cases have been initiated against the musician solely based on his online posts. In these posts, Sharlot has voiced his opposition to the war; in one video he ripped a St. George’s ribbon in the shape of the letter Z, while in another he burned his Russian passport and declared his desire to move to Kyiv. The authorities respond harshly to statements like this, and the singer is now likely to spend years in prison.

A minor in Kuban is facing prosecution in a criminal case for allegedly crumbling chalk on an icon. The girl is accused of insulting the feelings of believers. The investigation states that she placed an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker on a table, crumbled chalk on it, and pretended to take drugs, while her friend (who is not legally culpable due to their age) recorded the incident on a mobile phone camera. The teenagers then posted the video on their Telegram channel.

  • Why is this important? The SOVA research centre argues that the concept of “insulting the religious feelings of believers” lacks a clear legal definition and therefore cannot be legally precise. Experts highlight that even applying the administrative article for the desecration of objects of religious veneration would be unlawful in relation to the girl’s actions, as she did not cause any damage to the icon, and the term “desecration” is undefined in legislation.

Features

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“Only criminals are fighting for the grove.” Ekaterinburg is increasingly making headlines in relation to protests against tree felling within the city limits. In mid-May, residents of the Uralmash district were outraged by the cutting down of a pine and birch grove on Mashinostroiteli Street one night. Since last year, in another neighbourhood – Shirokaya Rechka – a pine forest, called the “Round Forest” or “Krasnaya Gorka” by locals, was felled, while residents of the Yugo-Zapadny neighbourhood have also protested against a park development. In the Akademichesky neighbourhood, people have been defending the Berezovaya Grove for several years now. Despite residents’ protests, law enforcers seem to prioritize developers’ interests over those of the community – read more in our latest text.


Translated by Marjolein Thickett

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