31 May 2022
Zavyalov was placed under house arrest for putting anti-war price tags in a store; Nozdrinov was remanded in custody for a post on a Telegram channel
The Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international criteria, considers Vladimir Zavyalov from Smolensk and Aleksandr Nozdrinov from Novokubansk political prisoners. Criminal investigations were opened against them for disseminating information about the war against Ukraine. The prosecution of Zavyalov and Nozdrinov undermines the fundamental right to freedom of expression and is part of a full-scale campaign to intimidate opponents in Russia of the war against Ukraine.
We demand the immediate release of Vladimir Zavyalov and Aleksandr Nozdrinov and that all charges against them be dropped.
We stress that Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code is unlawful in nature and was created for purposes of censorship and repression of critics of the authorities and must be rescinded. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and must be stopped.
Who are Nozdrinov and Zavyalov and what are the charges against them?
Aleksandr Nozdrinov, a 36-year-old blogger from Novokubansk in Krasnodar region, and Vladimir Zavyalov, a 37-year-old businessman from Smolensk, do not know each other. What they have in common is that after Russia launched its full-scale war against Ukraine, they were both charged with the criminal offence of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army (Article 207.3, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code).
The reason for the prosecution of Aleksandr Nozdrinov was a post on his Telegram channel in March that contained a photograph of a multi-story building in Kiev that had been destroyed with the caption ‘Ukrainian cities after the arrival of the liberators.’ According to investigators, this was ‘public dissemination of information known to be false about the use of the Russian armed forces’ because the Russian Defence Ministry claimed a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile had hit a high-rise building on Lobanovsky Avenue in Kyiv. On 27 March Aleksandr Nozdrinov’s home was searched and the next day he was remanded in custody.
In early April Vladimir Zavyalov replaced price tags in a supermarket with anti-war leaflets urging an end to the war and containing information about civilian casualties in Ukraine. On 5 April a criminal investigation was opened against Zavyalov and he was placed under house arrest.
Why do we consider Zavyalov and Nozdrinov political prisoners?
Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code criminalising 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, according to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ‘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.’ Similar norms are enshrined in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution. The restrictions on freedom of expression, as established by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, do not serve any of the aforementioned 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 government agencies abroad. In the course of an armed conflict, it is often not possible to establish the accuracy of information disseminated by various sources. It is even less possible to establish whether or not it is known that information is false. These defects 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 created specifically as a means to prosecute critics of the Russian authorities. This applies in full measure to the prosecutions of Aleksandr Nozdrinov and Vladimir Zavyalov.
In addition, in Nozdrinov’s case, we have strong grounds to believe that an additional motive for initiating the unlawful criminal prosecution against him was the desire of the Krasnodar law enforcement agencies to end the blogger’s investigations of their abuses and take revenge on him for criticism he had voiced on Telegram and YouTube.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
How can you help?
You can write to Aleksandr Nozdrinov at:
In Russian: Россия, 352909, Краснодарский край, г. Армавир, ул. Пугачёва, 32, ФКУ СИЗО-2 ГУФСИН России по Краснодарскому краю, Ноздринову Александру Александровичу, 1985 г. Р.
In English: Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Nozdrinov (born 1985), Remand Centre No. 2, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Krasnodar Region, 32 Pugachev Street, Armavir, Krasnodar region, 325909, Russia.
You can also send an electronic letter via Federal Penitentiary Service – Letter.
You can support political prisoners by making a donation to the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via YooMoney.
Translated by Rights in Russia