‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Vladislav Nikitenko, a lawyer from Blagoveshchensk who filed complaints against Putin for unleashing war against Ukraine, is a political prisoner

27 June 2022

Vladislav Nikitenko is being prosecuted under the new article of the Russian Criminal Code that criminalises ‘repeatedly discrediting’ the Russian army

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project, on the basis of international standards,  considers Vladislav Nikitenko, a human rights activist from Blagoveshchensk, a political prisoner. Nikitenko is being prosecuted for filing complaints with the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office against Russia’s top leadership for unleashing the war against Ukraine. The criminal prosecution of Nikitenko violates his right to freedom of expression and is intended to silence the voices of those opposed to the war against Ukraine.

We demand the immediate release of Vladislav Nikitenko and that all criminal charges against him be dropped.

What are the charges against Nikitenko?

From the early 2000s, Vladislav Nikitenko, a resident of Blagoveshchensk, has been engaged in journalism and civil society activism. However, his efforts to combat corruption in the law enforcement system and the courts often turned out badly for him. In 2017 Nikitenko was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on a number of charges, including contempt of court, slandering a judge and using violence against a police officer. He was not released until December 2021.

After 24 February 2022, Nikitenko filed complaints about ‘a crime against peace and human security’ with the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office. In his opinion, members of the Russian Security Council, including President Putin and the country’s military leadership, had committed crimes under six articles of the Russian Criminal Code: unleashing an aggressive war, incitement to unleash an aggressive war, producing weapons of mass destruction, using prohibited methods of warfare, genocide and an act of international terrorism.

Nikitenko spent the whole of April and most of May 2022 in jail for administrative offences of various kinds related to his complaints against officials, including the governor of Amur region. On 18 May it became known that criminal proceedings had been instigated against him for the new offence of ‘repeatedly discrediting’ the Russian army (Article 280.3, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code).

According to the Investigative Committee, Nikitenko posted more than 10 publications on Facebook containing information ‘discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation.’

On 23 May a court in Blagoveshchensk placed Nikitenko under house arrest.

Why do we consider Vladislav Nikitenko a political prisoner?

Article 280.3 on ‘repeatedly discrediting’ the Russian army was hastily added to the Russian Criminal Code a week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine had begun.

An analysis of the wording of Article 280.3 indicates that it does not comply with the principle of legal certainty. The Russian Criminal Code does not contain the concept of ‘discrediting,’ and therefore citizens cannot know in advance whether their actions constitute a criminal offence.

Article 280.3 in practice prohibits criticism of the actions of the Russian authorities and violates the right of citizens to freedom of expression.

In addition, Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code links criminal liability to previous liability under administrative law. In other words, it establishes repeated punishment for one and the same act. 

We believe that Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code on ‘repeatedly discrediting’ the Russian army contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law. It is unlawful in nature and was introduced into the Criminal Code for the purposes of political repression against critics of the authorities. It must be rescinded. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and must be terminated.

A more detailed description of the case of Vladislav Nikitenko and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project are set out on our Telegram channel.

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

What can you do?

You can support all political prisoners by making a donation to the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal or YooMoney.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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