‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Oleg Pankov is a political prisoner

5 March 2024

Oleg Pankov, an opposition politician and activist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur, has been remanded in custody on charges of ‘discrediting’ the army

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Oleg Pankov a political prisoner. Pankov is being prosecuted on charges of ‘discrediting’ the use of the Russian armed forces for anti-war views he published on the Internet. Oleg Pankov’s criminal case violates his rights to freedom of expression and fair trial. Pankov’s prosecution is intended to silence within Russia the voices of those who criticise the authorities and oppose the war of aggression. 

We demand the immediate release of Oleg Pankov and an end to his criminal prosecution.

Who is Oleg Pankov and what are the charges against him?

Oleg Pankov is a well-known and consistent opposition politician and activist in his region. At different times he has been a candidate in various elections representing a number of opposition parties, as well as standing as an independent; he has served as a member of the Komsomolsk-on-Amur city Duma, representing the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Also at one time, Pankov worked as a manager at the local headquarters of Aleksei Navalny’s political organisation. Oleg Pankov has been subjected to pressure from the authorities on various occasions for his consistent oppositionist activity.

On 24 May 2022, Pankov was convicted under administrative law on charges of ‘discrediting’ the use of the Russian armed forces (Article 20.3.3, Part 1, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences) for anti-war publications he posted on the VK social media website and on his Telegram channel, with the titles ‘Supporters of peace are in the majority! Warmongers are losing,’ ‘Russian occupiers have crossed the border of Ukraine, and ‘Long live the Russian occupiers, the best occupiers of the 21st century’ (the latter written under a poster entitled ‘Did you sign up to join the Russian occupiers!?’), ‘The collapse of empire. Ukrainian patriots broke the backbone of Putin’s empire,’ ‘Putin’s victims,’ ‘No to war,’ ‘Who sent them to their death with an unshaking hand?’ and ‘What did I do for eight years?’

Although we do not know the exact grounds for the initiation of criminal proceedings against Pankov on charges of repeated ‘discrediting’ of the army (Article 280.3, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code), it is clear that the charge is related to his online anti-war publications.

On 15 February 2024, Oleg Pankov’s home was searched in connection with this criminal case, and on 17 February 2024 he was remanded in custody.

Why do we consider Pankov a political prisoner?

Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code was created as a means to suppress dissent after Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine. In violation of the right of citizens to freedom of expression, Article 280.3 effectively prohibits any criticism of the war or of the Russian authorities. The article contradicts fundamental principles of law, in particular the principle of legal certainty. Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code should be rescinded, all related criminal convictions quashed and all ongoing prosecutions terminated.

As a consistent opposition activist, Pankov has previously been prosecuted for his activities. After the outbreak of the war, Pankov openly expressed his strong anti-war views, for which he was first penalised under administrative law and now is subject to unlawful criminal prosecution.

A detailed description of the case of Oleg Pankov 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 donate to support all political prisoners via our website. 

Translated by Rights in Russia