‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Togliatti resident Andrei Balin is a political prisoner

30 March 2023

Andrei Balin has been sentenced to seven years in a penal colony on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army for anti-war publications on the VK social network

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Andrei Balin a political prisoner. The criminal prosecution of Andrei Balin violates his rights to freedom of expression and dissemination of information and is intended to silence the voices of opponents in Russia of the war against Ukraine.

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

Who is Andrei Balin and what is the case against him?

Andrei Balin is an opposition political activist from Togliatti and a former co-chair of the Samara branch of the People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS). 

According to the charges against him, in 2022 Balin posted six anti-war posts on his page on the VK social media site, in which, motivated by political hatred, he distributed false information disguised as credible reports that contained information about the use of the Russian armed forces (Article 207.3, Part 2 [d], of the Russian Criminal Code).

It is not known exactly to which publications the charges relate, but on his VK page Balin consistently and strongly criticised the Russian authorities over the invasion of Ukraine. After 24 February 2022, Balin posted photographs of civilians killed in Ukraine and buildings destroyed in Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mariupol and other cities, accompanying them with condemnation of the top Russian leadership for war crimes. Previously, Balin had been convicted of administrative and criminal offences for negative statements on social networks about Vladimir Putin and his entourage, as well as about the activities and employees of the security services.

On 17 March 2023 the Central district court in Togliatti sentenced Balin to seven years in a general regime penal colony. He was taken into custody in the courtroom.

Why do we consider Andrei Balin a political prisoner?

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, which criminalises the dissemination of information known to be false about the use of the Russian army, contradicts the Constitution of Russia, Russia’s international obligations and basic principles of law.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that ‘everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression’ and that restrictions on the exercise of this right ‘shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: for respect of the rights and reputations of others; for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’ It is clear that the restrictions on freedom of expression introduced by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code do not serve any of the above purposes and are a manifestation of censorship.

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code criminalises almost any statements made 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 impossible to establish the accuracy of information disseminated by various sources; it is obviously absurd to declare all reports that contradict official information put out by the Russian government to be false. Still less is it possible to establish whether the defendant intended to spread false information. Taken together, these defects in Article 207.3 establish its illegitimate nature.

The timing and context of the introduction of Article 207.3 into the Russian Criminal Code after the start of the full-scale Russian military aggression against Ukraine indicate that this article was specially created as a tool to persecute those who criticise the actions of the Russian authorities, including Andrei Balin.

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 to Andrei Balin at the following address: 

In Russian: 445023, Самарская обл., г. Тольятти,  Хрящевское ш., д. 3, ФКУ СИЗО-4 ГУФСИН России по Самарской области, Балину Андрею Альбертовичу, 1974 г. р. 

In English: Andrei Albertovich Balin (born 1974), Remand Prison No. 4, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Samara region, 3 Khryashchevskoe Road, Tolyatti, Samara region, 445023, Russia 

You can also send an electronic letter via 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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