‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Vyacheslav Polkanov is a political prisoner

24 October 2023

Vyacheslav Polkanov has been remanded in custody on charges of repeated ‘discrediting’ of the Russian army

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’, in accordance with international standards, considers Vyacheslav Polkanov a political prisoner. He is being prosecuted for repeated ‘discrediting’ of the Russian military in posts on social media. The criminal case against Polkanov violates his rights to freedom of expression and fair trial.

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

What are the charges against Vyacheslav Polkanov?

In the summer of 2022 Tomsk resident Vyacheslav Polkanov held a single-person picket on one of the city squares. At that time, for the poster he was holding, he was prosecuted under administrative law for the offence of ‘discrediting’ the Russian army (Article 20.3.3, Part 1, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences) and fined 35,000 rubles.

On 10 October 2023 it became known that a criminal case had already been opened against Polkanov for repeated ‘discrediting’ of the Russian military (Article 280.3, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). So far as is known, Polkanov has been charged in connection with posts dating from February 2023, presumed to be on the VK social media site, ‘about the actions of the armed forces of the Russian Federation‘.

At the same time, the security forces reported that Polkanov had been detained. In a video, masked officers from a special forces unit can be seen brutally detaining Polkanov on the street, although he puts up no resistance. Lying face down on the ground, Polkanov confirms he has previously been convicted under administrative law for ‘discrediting’ the Russian army.

After his arrest, Polkanov’s home was searched, and he was remanded in custody.

Why do we consider Vyacheslav Polkanov a political prisoner?

Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code was adopted soon after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and has become an important tool for the suppression of dissent. In effect, it prohibits any criticism of the war or of the Russian authorities, in violation of the right of citizens to freedom of expression.

Article 280.3 contradicts fundamental principles of law, in particular, the principle of legal certainty.

Article 280.3 should be rescinded, all related criminal convictions quashed and ongoing prosecutions closed.

We do not know for which online posts Vyacheslav Polkanov is being prosecuted. Nevertheless, the very fact that he is being prosecuted under this article of the Russian Criminal Code means that he expressed disagreement with the war. Criticising the actions of the authorities and condemning the war is the inalienable right of every Russian citizen.

The unjustified use of force in Polkanov’s detention and the posting of the video of the event in an official press release shows that the authorities want to intimidate society and all those who oppose the criminal war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine.

A detailed description of the case of Vyacheslav Polkanov and the position of the Human Rights Project are set out 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 Vyacheslav Polikanov at the following presumed address: 

In Russian: 634003, г. Томск, ул. Пушкина, д. 48, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Томской области, Полканову Вячеславу Александровичу, 1984 г. р.  

In English: Vyacheslav Aleksandrovich Polkanov (born 1984), Remand Prison No. 1, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Tomsk region, 48 Pushkin Street, Tomsk, 634003, Russia.

You can also send an electronic letter via the Zonatelekom service.  

Information about making donations to support all political prisoners can be found on our website.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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