‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Nikita Tushkanov, a teacher from Komi, is a political prisoner

3 March 2023

Nikita Tushkanov has been remanded in custody on charges of ‘discrediting’ the Russian army and justifying terrorism for anti-war posts on the VKontakte social media site

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ an independent human rights project, considers Nikita Tushkanov a political prisoner in accordance with international standards. The criminal case is politically motivated on account of Tushkanov’s political views and is intended to prevent him from continuing his activist activity, as well as his work as a teacher. The criminal proceedings violate his rights to freedom of expression and fair trial. The prosecution of Nikita Tushkanov is yet another attempt by the Russian authorities to suppress the voices of those in Russia opposed to the war against Ukraine.

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

Who is Nikita Tushkanov and what are the charges against him?

Nikita Tushkanov is a historian and school teacher forced to resign in 2021 for holding a picket in defence of freedom of speech. In 2022, four administrative charges were laid against him for speaking out against the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army. Two of the charges were later dropped, but a fine imposed under Article 20.3.3 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences for ‘discrediting the Russian armed forces’ gave the Investigative Committee the opportunity to open a criminal case against him under Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code. 

The Investigative Committee considers Tushkanov’s posts beginning with the words ‘Putin annexed the occupied territories…’ to be evidence of a crime. Later, based on the fact that the Russian authorities declared the explosion on the Crimean bridge on 8 October 2022 an act of terrorism, investigators charged Tushkanov under Article 205.2 of the Russian Criminal Code with justification of terrorism on the grounds of posts he made on social media with the text, ‘A gift for Putler’s birthday…’

Tushkanov was detained on 7 December. His home was searched and all his communications devices were seized. He was then remanded in custody.

Why do we consider Tushkanov a political prisoner?

Analysis of the wording of Article 280.3 of the Russia Criminal Code on ‘repeated discrediting’ of the Russian army shows that it does not comply with the principle of legal certainty. The Russian Criminal Code has no concept of ‘discrediting’ and therefore citizens cannot know in advance what actions are criminally liable.

The article, which was introduced into the Russian Criminal Code a week after the start of the full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, effectively prohibits criticism of the actions of the Russian authorities and violates the rights of citizens to freedom of expression.

In addition, this article makes a previous administrative conviction grounds for a criminal prosecution. In other words, it establishes double jeopardy – repeated punishment for the same act.

We consider that the article on ‘repeated discrediting’ of the Russian army (Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code) contradicts the Russian Constitution and the international obligations of the Russian Federation, as well as basic principles of law. The article is not compliant with the requirements of the rule of law and was  introduced into the Criminal Code for the purpose of political repression of the authorities’ critics. Article 280.3 must be repealed. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and must be terminated.

Taking into account international standards, the general political context and the personality of Nikita Tushkanov, we consider the words for which he was charged with ‘justifying terrorism’ under Article 205.2 of the Russian Criminal Code cannot be considered incitement to commit acts of a terrorist nature. We consider the prosecution of Tushkanov under this article a continuation of the government’s campaign to ‘purge’ dissidents and a reaction to Tushkanov’s statements against the war.

Further information about this case and the position of the human rights project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ is available on our website.

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

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

How can you help?

You can write a letter to Nikita Tushkanov at the following address: 

In Russian: 167028, Республика Коми, г. Сыктывкар, п. Верхний Чов, д. 99. ФКУ Следственный изолятор №1 УФСИН России по Республике Коми, Тушканову Никите Алексеевичу, 1994 г. р.

In English: Nikita Alekseevich Tushkanov (born 1994), Remand Prison No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Republic of Komi, 99 Verkhny Chov settlement, Syktyvkar, Komi Republic, Russia 167028. 

You can also send an electronic letter via the Zonatelekom service or FederalPenitentiaryService-Letter.

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. For more information about donating, see our website.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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