‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Viktoria Petrova, a resident of St. Petersburg remanded in custody for anti-war posts on the VK social media site, is a political prisoner

5 July 2022

Victoria Petrova is being prosecuted on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian military

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ based on international standards, considers Victoria Petrova a political prisoner. Her prosecution is in violation of the right to freedom of expression and is intended to silence the voices of opponents of the war against Ukraine.

We demand the immediate release of Victoria Petrova and that all criminal cases initiated under the unconstitutional Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code be closed.

 Who is Victoria Petrova and what are the charges against her?

Viktoria Petrova is a 28-year-old graduate of the Higher School of Management at St. Petersburg State University. She used to work in St. Petersburg as a marketing specialist. She does not consider herself an activist, but she has been following political developments with interest for several years. Since the start of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, Petrova has been a regular participant in anti-war protests in St. Petersburg.

Viktoria Petrova has been charged, under Article 207.3 (Part 2, Paragraph e) of the Russian Criminal Code, with spreading information ‘known to be false’ about the actions of the Russian army, motivated by political hatred and hostility 

The grounds for the charges were publications on Petrova’s personal page on the VK social media site. As follows from the materials of the case, in her posts Petrova severely condemned the military actions of Russia in Ukraine and accused Vladimir Putin and his closest advisers of causing civilian deaths and ‘genocide’ of the Ukrainian people. She accused the federal media of ‘lies and psychological manipulation.’

Early on the morning of 6 May 2022 law enforcement authorities searched Viktoria Petrova’s rented apartment in St. Petersburg and detained her. The next day, Kalininsky district court in St. Petersburg remanded Petrova in custody, although the investigative authorities had not objected to the choice of a milder form of pre-trial restriction. 

Why do we consider Petrova’s case politically motivated?

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code concerning dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law.

In particular, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.’ Restrictions on the exercise of these rights ‘shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’ Such norms are also included in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution. The restrictions on freedom of expression introduced by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code serve none of these purposes and are a form of censorship.

Article 207.3 criminalises any statements about the use of the Russian armed forces and the activities of Russian state bodies abroad. In the course of an armed conflict, it is not always possible to establish the accuracy of information disseminated by various sources. Still less is it possible to establish whether the person who disseminated a given piece of information knew it was false. Taken together, these deficiencies determine the unlawful nature of Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.

The timing and context of the introduction of Article 207.3 into the Russian Criminal Code – after the beginning of large-scale Russian military aggression against Ukraine – allow us to assert that this article was specifically intended as a means to prosecute critics of the Russian authorities. This fully applies in the case of Viktoria Petrova.

More information about the case of Victoria  Petrova and the position of the human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ are available 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.

How can you help?

You can write to Viktoria Petrova at the following address:

In Russian: 195009, г. Санкт-Петербург, ул. Арсенальная, д. 11, ФКУ СИЗО-5 УФСИН России по г. Санкт-Петербургу и Ленинградской области, Петровой Виктории Руслановне, 1994 г. р.

In English: Viktoria Ruslanovna Petrova (born 1994), Remand Prison No. 5 of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for St. Petersburg and Leningrad region, 11 Arsenalnaya Street, St. Petersburg, 195009. 

The latest information about the case can be found on the Telegram channel ‘Freedom for Vika Petrova!

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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