‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: A photographer who worked for Navalny’s headquarters in Arkhangelsk, remanded in custody on charges of rehabilitating Nazism,  is a political prisoner

4 July 2022

Ruslan Akhmetshin has been remanded in custody for comments he published on the VK social media site about WWII and Victory Day

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project, in accordance with international standards, considers Arkhangelsk activist Ruslan Akhmetshin a political prisoner. The criminal prosecution of Akhmetshin is in violation of his right to freedom of expression and is manifestly disproportionate to his alleged offences. The prosecution is intended to intimidate independent activists and critics of the government.

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

Who is Ruslan Akhmetshin and what are the charges against him?

Ruslan Akhmetshin is a well-known civil society activist in Arkhangelsk. He often worked as a photographer in courts and at opposition events and as a cameraman for Navalny’s headquarters in Arkhangelsk.

On 11 May 2021, Akhmetshin posted an article by Viktor Shenderovich on his VK page which argues that celebrating Victory Day in Putin’s Russia distorts the meaning of this historic date. Akhmetshin expressed agreement with Shenderovich, criticising the regional authorities for organising a ‘vulgar carnival’ and the Russian State for wanting to ‘forbid us to talk’ about the Second World War.

In December 2021 criminal proceedings were initiated against Akhmetshin under Article 354.1 (Parts 2 & 4) of the Russian Criminal Code on the rehabilitation of Nazism. He stands accused of spreading information known to be false about the activities of the USSR during the Second World War and of disrespect for society, which he expressed by ‘spreading information about the days of military glory and memorable dates of Russia.’

In March 2022 Akhmetshin’s home was searched, and he was banned by a court from undertaking certain actions until the conclusion of his trial. However, on 9 May 2022 Akhmetshin was detained at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport while trying to leave Russia to travel to Armenia for medical treatment. He was then remanded in custody.

Why do we consider Ruslan Akhmetshin a political prisoner?

We believe that the wording of Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code does not comply with the principle of legal certainty. Such formulations as: ‘denial of facts established by the verdict of the International Tribunal,’ ‘approval of crimes,’ ‘information known to be false about the activities of the USSR during the Second World War’ or ‘about veterans of the Great Patriotic War,’ ‘insulting the memory of defenders of the Fatherland,’ ‘distribution of information clearly disrespectful to society about the days of military glory and memorable dates of Russia related to the defence of the Fatherland’ make it impossible to know clearly in advance which specific actions or statements are legitimate and which are prohibited.

The Sova Centre has pointed out that the law, including Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, is ‘actually aimed at banning historical discussion and its adoption means a significant restriction on freedom of speech.’ We concur with this assessment.

In its present form, Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code is inconsistent with the Russian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In particular, we note that the prosecution of Akhmetshin, a well-known activist in Arkhangelsk, appears to be primarily related to his civil society activity and his criticism of the Russian authorities.

A more detailed description of Ruslan Akhmetshin’s case and the position of the human rights project 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 Ruslan Akhmetshin at the following address:

In Russian: 163000, г. Архангельск, ул. Попова, д. 22, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Архангельской области, Ахметшину Руслану Шамильевичу, 1974 г. р.

In English: Ruslan Shamilievich Akhmetshin (born 1974), Remand Prison No. 1 of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Arkhangelsk region, 22 Popov Street, Arkhangelsk, 163000, Russia.

You can also send an electronic letter to him via ‘FederalPenitentiaryService-Letter’ or ‘ZonaTelekom’.

To help all political prisoners you can donate to the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via Yoomoney or PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com).

Translated by Rights in Russia

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