‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Rostov-on-Don resident Maksim Rachkov, remanded in custody on charges of disseminating ‘fake news’ about the Russian army, is a political prisoner

27 September 2022

Maksim Rachkov has already been held on remand for two months for publishing on his VK social media account a video of the dispersal of a demonstration in Kherson filmed by one of the participants

Source: Telegram

The human rights project ‘ Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Maksim Rachkov a political prisoner. His criminal prosecution violates the constitutional right to freedom of expression. The aims of the prosecution are to silence in Russia the voices of those opposed to the war against Ukraine and to intimidate civil society.

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

What is the basis for the charges against Maksim Rachkov?

Maksim Rachkov, 33, from Rostov-on-Don, has been charged with disseminating ‘fake news’ about the Russian army (Article 207.3, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). According to the investigating officers, on 21 March 2022 Rachkov published a video on his page on the VK social media site which showed Russian soldiers opening fire on unarmed demonstrators in Kherson. The investigators considered publication of this video, as well as criticism of the Russian military and Russian President Putin, to constitute dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army.

After the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Rachkov and his family left Russia. In March, at the time of the publication on his VK page, he was in Turkey. However, he later returned to Russia.

On 21 July Rachkov was detained and remanded in custody. He faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment if convicted.

Why do we consider Maksim Rachkov a political prisoner?

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, criminalising dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army and adopted by the State Duma in an emergency procedure after the start of the war, 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 this right may be such as are provided by law for the prevention of public disorder, the violation of the rights of others, the protection of morals, and so on. 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 was specifically introduced into the Russian Criminal Code as a means to prosecute critics of the Russian authorities and criminalises any statements about the use of the Russian armed forces abroad. This is confirmed by judicial practice. As we see, people are most often prosecuted under this article not even for assertions of certain facts, but for their opinion and expression of a personal attitude.

As in many other similar cases, the prosecution claims Maksim Rachkov was subjectively motivated by ‘political hatred’ in his action, an allegation which significantly aggravates the charges against him.

It is also important to note that the fact that the Ukrainian demonstration in Kherson was dispersed is confirmed by numerous testimonies, including those of Russian pro-government bloggers.

More information about the case of Maksim Rachkov and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project is available on our publishing platform on Telegram.

An up-to-date list of political prisoners in Russia is available on our temporary website.

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 send letters by ordinary mail to the following address:

In Russian: 346408, Ростовская область, г. Новочеркасск, ул. Украинская, д. 1, ФКУ СИЗО-3 ГУФСИН России по Ростовской области, Рачкову Максиму Андреевичу, 1989 г.р.

In English: Maksim Andreevich Rachkov (born 1989), Remand Prison No. 3, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Rostov Region, 1 Ukrainskaya Street, Novocherkassk, Rostov Region, 346408, Russia.

Electronic mail can be sent via the Zonatelekom service.

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 Simon Cosgrove

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