OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 361: Death in a penal colony

15 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.

Igor Pokusin / Photo: Radio Svoboda


Igor Pokusin, prosecuted for state treason, has died in a Krasnoyarsk penal colony, Aleksandr Neustroev from Ekaterinburg, who scolded a schoolboy wearing a Z-hat, was given a term of imprisonment, and Zarema Musaeva from Chechnya was denied parole.

A civic activist in Abakan convicted of ‘preparing to commit state treason’ has died in the penal colony where he was held. The cause of death of 61-year-old Igor Pokusin is not yet known. Earlier, the project ‘Political prisoners. Memorial’ reported that he had serious health problems: ‘His hip and knee joints were replaced, there was a metal structure in his ankle and a stent in his heart.’ In January, he was sentenced to eight years and one month in a strict regime colony on charges of trying to join the Ukrainian army. Pokusin’s wife said that law enforcement officers took her husband to a forest where they forced him to make a filmed confession that he was planning to join the Ukrainian armed forces.

  • Why is this important? It is almost impossible to obtain adequate medical care in penal colonies. Inmates regularly face pressure from the authorities and detention conditions only contribute to the deterioration of their health. All this can lead to the most serious consequences, including death. In this way, the regime unfairly takes not only the freedom of political prisoners, but also their lives.

An Ekaterinburg resident who swore at a school child wearing a hat decorated with a ‘Z’ has been sentenced to three years in a penal colony. Aleksandr Neustroev was found guilty of ‘hooliganism with threat of violence motivated by hate.’ In the spring of 2023, Neustroev man swore at an 11-year-old boy, whose father is fighting against Ukraine, saying ‘shove that hat up your arse.’ At first, Neustroev was charged under administrative law with petty hooliganism. However, after an intervention by the head of the Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, a criminal case was opened. In the summer the prosecution was stopped on account of Neustroev’s ‘active repentance’ and Neustroev was merely fined 7,000 roubles. However, as a result of a complaint by the Prosecutor General’s Office the criminal investigation was renewed.

  • Why do I need to know this? The authorities dictate that Russians who took part in the invasion of Ukraine should be considered heroes and that the letters V and Z should be considered almost sacred symbols. They do all they can to protect these symbols. And now expressing dissatisfaction with such symbols in the street can be grounds for actual imprisonment. In this way the security forces are trying to consolidate these dogmas.

Zarema Musaeva, mother of Chechen activist, has been denied parole. Lawyers acting for Zarema Musaeva requested parole on her behalf of account of her deteriorating health. Musaeva suffers from diabetes and other health issues. In April, the health commission at the penal colony changed the previously assigned diagnosis, ruling that Musaeva does not suffer from complications of diabetes. In July 2023, Musaeva was sentenced to five and a half years in a penal colony. The investigative authorities claimed she and an ‘accomplice’ in 2017 implemented a fraudulent scheme related to consumer loans. After she was kidnapped in Nizhny Novgorod by the Chechen authorities and taken to Grozny for questioning, she scratched a policeman’s cheek.

  • Why is it important? Zarema Musaeva is married to retired federal judge Saidi Yangulbaev. Their eldest son Abubakar Yangulbaev worked as a lawyer for the Committee Against Torture; he and other sons are also suspected by the authorities of involvement with the Chechen opposition channel 1ADAT. Family members have been persecuted for years. Musaeva’s imprisonment can only be explained as retribution for the opposition activities of her family members. She is now being forced to suffer and her health is deteriorating.


‘We still live here’: Urals artist Alisa Gorshenina talks about harassment, support, and why she chooses not to leave the country.

Alisa Gorshenina with her work ‘Pain’ from the series ‘I hear the voices of Russia’ / Collage: OVD-Info / Photo: Alisa Gorshenina’s Instagram

Alisa Gorshenina is an artist from Nizhny Tagil. In her art she deals with the themes of Urals mythology and explores local identity. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the theme of war has found a place in all her work, something that Z-activists noticed. A number of denunciations were written against Gorshenina, her master class at the Yeltsin Centre was cancelled, and pro-government bloggers organised harassment of her. We talked to the artist. You can read the new material on our website.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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