OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 255: Discredit!

28 May 2022

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO 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.

Courier of the food delivery service Delivery Club in Moscow. Photo: Tatiana El-Bakri, CC BY-SA 2.0


Hello! An activist who made a formal complaint about Putin has been put under house arrest, defence lawyers who represent defence lawyers are being arrested Crimea, and the State Duma has come up with another game.

A criminal case has been opened against a man who made a formal complaints about Putin. Blagoveshchensk resident Vladislav Nikitenko was placed under house arrest on charges of discrediting the Russian army (Article 280.3, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). The investigation found evidence of a crime in 10 posts published by Nikitenko in his social media. The man had previously been fined for discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (Article 20.3.3 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences) and jailed for displaying extremist symbols (Article 20.2, Part 1, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences). Nikitenko had submitted a complaint to the police demanding that the Governor of the Amur Region be held accountable for his support of the war with Ukraine, as well as statements to different bodies with a demand to institute criminal proceedings against President Putin and members of the country’s security council for launching a war of aggression.

  • Why is this important? Administrative and criminal articles on discrediting the army, as well as a criminal article on fake news about the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, were introduced after the start of mass protests against the war, obviously to suppress these protests. The war allowed the state to deal with many objectionable media, and de facto military censorship came in. Considering these facts, it becomes clear that the issue of the war and criticism of the war are now probably the most sensitive topics of all for the Russian government. They could not leave an anti-war action as cheeky, from the point of view of officials and police officers, as a call to prosecute the president, without attention and punishment.

In Crimea, lawyers who defended their colleagues have been arrested. First, lawyer Nazim Sheikhmambetov was arrested after he came to court to defend his colleague Edem Semedlyaev, who was being tried under the administrative article on discrediting the army by commenting on another person’s anti-war post. Sheikhmambetov was charged over something that happened six months ago – on exiting the police station to which his clients had been taken he made comments to journalists that the police considered a violation of law and order (Article 20.2.2 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offenses – on the organisation of public gatherings). Later, the lawyers who came to defend Sheikhmambetov – Aider Azamatov and Emin Avamilev – were also detained and taken to a police station to “clarify the circumstances of the administrative offence” under the same article of the Administrative Code, under which Sheikhmambetov was also brought in.

  • Why do I need to know this? After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Crimean Tatar community on the peninsula, who did not show special loyalty to the new authorities, began to face all kinds of pressure – detentions, administrative and criminal cases. The case of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist party, which is prohibited in Russia as a terrorist organisation but operates freely in Ukraine, became a convenient tool for repression. In response to this persecution, the Crimean Tatars rallied and organized various initiatives and mechanisms of mutual assistance. The escalating detention of lawyers who have been protecting the Crimean Tatars in the courts should be considered as one of the cases of repression against the active part of their community.

The State Duma has introduced a bill on incitement ‘to actions against the security of Russia.’ Deputies from United Russia propose to introduce criminal liability not only for such incitement, but also for ‘confidential cooperation with special services of foreign states.’ They plan to introduce two corresponding articles into the Criminal Code for this purpose. In addition to cooperation with special services, the proposal is to also punish cooperation with organisations acting in their interests, as well as with foreign private military companies and intelligence companies. The proposed sentence for is up to eight years in jail, and for incitement to ‘actions against security’ – up to seven years. In addition, the initiative plans to expand the articles on state treason, espionage, illegal armed groups and undesirable organisations.

  • Why is this important? Years of observation of repressive legislation and practice in Russia have accustomed us to the most gloomy and crazy initiatives from Russian deputies. During the months of war, they’ve already managed to bring in crazy laws that de facto prohibit any expression of anti-war sentiment. So this new bill from members of United Russia is just another step towards expanding the possibilities for repression. At the same time, all such laws are likely to be deliberately contrived to be as vague as possible so that if necessary, they can be applied to as many disloyal people as possible.


Contrary to the desire of an employee of the Centre for Combatting Extremism. On 25 April, a search was carried out at the home of the head of the Courier trade union, Kirill Ukraintsev, after which he was arrested and sent to a pre-trial detention centre on charges of repeated violations of the laws on rallies (Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). This happened shortly after protests by the couriers of Delivery Club, and also a few days after the publication on the trade union’s VKontakte group of a piece which spoke about the special operation. Surprisingly but true –  an employee of the Centre for Combating Extremism opposed the arrest of Ukraintsev. You can read our text about the case against the trade union leader on our website, on Yandex.Zen or on Medium.

It was 24 February, and we’d all woken up and found out the war had started. Kirill Aleksin, an attendee at an anti-war rally in Kazan, was arrested and detained for 10 days, then his home was searched, and he was summoned to the FSB and suspected of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army. The activist decided to leave Russia for a while, and we publish his story – on our site, Yandex.Zen and Medium, to make sure it doesn’t get lost.

And we have also released a new series of the podcast “Two Words” – about Andrei Novashov, a journalist from the Kemerevo region who is facing criminal charges regarding “fake news” about the army. Listen to our podcast on Podcast.ru, Castbox, Apple Podcasts, Yandex.Music, Spotify and YouTube.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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