‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Vasily Melnikov is a political prisoner

4 December 2023

Vasily Melnikov, a blogger from Volgograd region, has been remanded in custody on charges of spreading military ‘fake news’

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’, in accordance with international standards, considers Vasily Melnikov a political prisoner. Vasily Melnikov is being prosecuted for knowingly spreading false information about the Russian army for his publications on social media. Melnikov’s prosecution violates his rights to freedom of speech and fair trial.

We demand the release of Vasily Melnikov and the termination of his criminal prosecution!

What are the charges against Vasily Melnikov?

Vasily Melnikov, a 40-year-old resident of Kotelniki in Volgograd region, was detained on 27 July 2023 on suspicion of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army on the Internet (Article 207.3, Part 2 [e], of the Russian Criminal Code).

We do not know in connection with which publications Melnikov has been charged. According to the investigative authorities, however, Melnikov made negative statements about the Russian leadership and its political direction, as well as being a member of ‘a number of thematic groups and forums.’

Melnikov faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Why do we consider Melnikov a political prisoner?

We believe that Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, under which the blogger has been charged, contradicts not only the Russian Constitution and Russia’s international obligations, but also fundamental principles of law.

Article 207.3 was created as a tool to suppress dissent after the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. In practice, Article 207.3 prohibits any criticism of the war or of the Russian authorities, which violates the right of citizens to freedom of expression. Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code should be repealed and all those charged under this law should be released.

Irrespective of what kind of publication Vasily Melnikov is accused of, the fact that the criminal case against him was brought under this article shows that his prosecution is political in nature.

Previously, Vasily Melnikov had already been subject to a politically motivated criminal prosecution. In 2017, he was sentenced to compulsory labour for inciting violation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation (Article 280.1, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). The charges were based on statements he had made about the need to create a Republic of Kotelniki with its own authorities, banking system and currency and calling on people not to pay taxes to the state treasury. At that time the Sova Research Centre called the verdict in this case unlawful.

A detailed description of the case of Vasily Melnikov and the position of the Human Rights Project are set out on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can write a letter to Vasily Melnikov at the following address:

In Russian: 400066, г. Волгоград, ул. Голубинская, д. 3, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Волгоградской области, Мельникову Василию Юрьевичу, 1983 г. р.

English Translation: Vasily Yurevich Melnikov (born 1983), Remand Prison No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for Volgograd region,  3 Golubinskaya Street, Volgograd, 400066, Russia.

You can also send an electronic letter via the Zonatelekom service.

Please note that letters in languages other than Russian are highly unlikely to reach the recipient.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via our website.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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