‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Cherepovets resident Vitaly Torochkov is a political prisoner

16 March 2023

Vitaly Torochkov was remanded in custody on charges of inciting terrorist activities for reposting a video on the VK social media site

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Vitaly Torochkov a political prisoner. The criminal prosecution of Vitaly Torochkov violates his right to freedom of expression, including the right to evaluate and criticise actions of the authorities and individual state bodies. 

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

Who is Vitaly Torochkov and what is the case against him?

Vitaly Torochkov is accused of publishing in February 2022 a video on both the VK social media site and the Telegram channel he administered entitled ‘A Passport of the Russian Federation is a Shame and Stigma!.’ In the video, a young man burns his passport and utters, among other things, the words ‘Death to Putin.’ According to the Investigative Committee, in this way Torochkov ‘committed public incitement of terrorist activity.’ 

In September 2022 Torochkov was remanded in custody. His case is being investigated by the FSB. His wife Polina Roots is also being held on remand on similar charges, but there is currently no reliable information about the criminal case against her.

Vitaly Torochkov and Polina Roots have five children who have been removed from their care by Russian social services. The couple runs a blog called ‘How and Why Children Are Taken Away in Russia.’ It cannot be entirely ruled out that one of the reasons for their criminal prosecution may be their prolonged and bitter confrontation with the child welfare authorities. 

Moreover, judging by their publications on social networks, the spouses have repeatedly criticised the current government and, since the start of the war, have consistently maintained an anti-war stance in texts and appeals they have posted on social networks. 

Why do we consider Vitaly Torochkov a political prisoner?

The words ‘Death to Putin’ do not express the main idea of the video clip in connection with which Torochkov has been charged. Torochkov did not add any of his own comments to the video when he reposted it.

The video contains no direct call to take the life of a public servant. In the context of the video’s content, the phrase ‘Death to Putin’ is more evaluative in nature than a call to any kind of action. The phrase expresses an extreme degree of dislike and condemnation, and the opinion that the individual in question is a criminal who deserves death. In itself, such a wish for death does not constitute a call to action but, even if it is interpreted as an appeal to people rather than to higher authorities, it implies the carrying out of a sentence handed down by a court, rather than an extrajudicial killing.

While the combination of the words ‘death to [someone]’ may be an incorrect form of expression, it does not constitute a call to murder. Doubts related to the interpretation of their meaning should be interpreted in favour of the defendant.

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 Vitaly Torochkov at the following address: 

In Russian: 160019 г. Вологда, ул. Трудовая, 2, ФКУ СИЗО-2 УФСИН России по Вологодской области, Торочкову Виталию Владимировичу, 1984 г. р. 

In English: Vitaly Vladimirovich Torochkov (born 1984), Remand Prison No. 2, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Vologda region, 2 Trudovaya Street, Vologda 160019, 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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