‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Daniil Stepanov is a political prisoner

31 January 2024

Daniil Stepanov was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment on charges of vandalism and cooperation with foreign organisations

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Daniil Stepanov a political prisoner. Stepanov has been convicted on charges of vandalism for anti-government inscriptions on walls and damage to pro-war Z-banners, as well as on charges of cooperation with representatives of foreign organisations for correspondence with members of the Free Russia Legion. Stepanov’s criminal prosecution violated his rights to freedom of expression and fair trial and was disproportionate in terms of the alleged public danger of his actions.

We demand a review of Daniil Stepanov’s case in a transparent and fair trial.

What were the charges against Daniil Stepanov?

Daniil Stepanov is a 30-year-old construction worker from the town of Aleksin in Tula region.

On 1 December 2022, Stepanov was detained on his way to Georgia. He had allegedly set fire to several pro-war Z-banners in Aleksin and written graffiti on the buildings of the military enlistment office and the city administration ‘the content of which discredits the President of the Russian Federation and the government of the Russian Federation.’ According to the investigative authorities, Stepanov’s actions ‘desecrated the buildings and also offended public morality.’ A criminal case of vandalism motivated by political hatred (Article 214 of the Russian Criminal Code) was opened against him.

The law enforcement authorities also said they found flags of Ukraine and the Free of Russia Legion at Stepanov’s home, as well as correspondence with members of this organisation in his phone. On these grounds, a criminal case was opened against him for ‘cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign organisation’ (Article 275.1 of the Russian Criminal Code).

On 27 July 2023, Tula Regional Court sentenced Daniil Stepanov to four and a half years in a general regime penal colony.

Why do we consider Daniil Stepanov a political prisoner?

The criminal prosecution of Daniil Stepanov for defacing banners and writing graffiti on walls is disproportionate to the public danger of his actions.

The criminal offence of vandalism can be imputed where desecration or harm to property causes significant damage. The graffiti discrediting, in the opinion of the prosecution, the president and government of the Russian Federation constitute political criticism and cannot be qualified as ‘desecration.’ The motive of the crime imputed to Stepanov of ‘political hatred’ is yet more questionable. Moreover, the damage caused by Stepanov cannot be regarded as substantial, and therefore criminal prosecution on these charges is unjustified.

The offence of cooperation with foreign organisations for the purposes of assisting activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation was introduced into the Russian Criminal Code in the summer of 2022. Like other repressive articles of the Russian Criminal Code, Article 275.1 is clearly an instrument of political repression targeting critics of the Russian authorities.

Article 275.1 does not comply with the principle of legal certainty. On its basis, a citizen cannot determine in advance which of their contacts are lawful and which are not. In practice, any online correspondence can be considered ‘confidential.’ Accusations of ‘cooperation for the purposes of assisting activities’ are vague, unconvincing and non-legal in nature.

A detailed description of the case of Daniil Stepanov and the position of the Human Rights Project are available on our website.

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

How can you help?

You can write to Daniil Stepanov at the following address:

In Russian: 300012, г. Тула, ул. Мориса Тореза, 11 «б», СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Тульской области, Степанову Даниилу Владимировичу, 1992 г. р.

English translation: Daniil Vladimirovich Stepanov (born 1992), Remand Prison No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for Tula region, 11 b Maurice Thorez Street, Tula, 300012, Russia.

You can also send an electronic letter via the Zonatelecom services.

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