11 May 2022
Igor Maltsev and Sofia Semenova are being prosecuted for the criminal offence of hooliganism after burning an effigy in camouflage on the ice of the Malaya Neva river.
The Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international criteria, has declared St. Petersburg activist Igor Maltsev a political prisoner and activist Sofia Semenova a victim of a politically motivated prosecution. A criminal case was opened against them over a protest against the war with Ukraine. We believe they are being prosecuted for exercising the right to freedom of expression in order to intimidate those who disagree with the actions of the Russian authorities.
We demand that Igor Maltsev be released from custody immediately and that the criminal charges against Igor Maltsev and Sofia Semenova be dropped.
What are the charges against Maltsev and Semenova?
On 6 March 2022, the last day of Maslenitsa [Russian Orthodox Shrovetide], two activists from St Petersburg, Igor Maltsev and Sofia Semenova, who are partners, burned an effigy in camouflage with a bag over its head and labelled ‘Take it away’ on the ice of the Malaya Neva river. A video of the action was later posted online, accompanied by the comment ‘Take the soldiers and bodies back to Russia!’
The same day, police initiated a criminal investigation and detained Maltsev. Semenova was detained the next day.
On 11 March the activists were charged with ‘hooliganism motivated by political hatred committed by a group of persons by prior collusion’ (Article 213, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). The activists face up to 7 years’ imprisonment.
Igor Maltsev was remanded in custody while pre-trial restrictions were placed on Sofia Semenova, forbidding certain actions. Subsequently, Semenova left the country.
Why do we consider the case politically motivated?
The current wording of Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code – on ‘Hooliganism’ – is extremely vague. In particular, hooliganism is defined as ‘gross violation of public order, expressing a clear disrespect for society,’ but the concepts of ‘public order,’ ‘violation of public order’ and ‘gross violation’ have not been given an unambiguous legal definition.
We believe that Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code clearly contradicts the principle of legal certainty since it does not allow us to understand which acts carry criminal liability and which do not. We call for a fundamental review of the wording of this article of the Russian Criminal Code.
The actions of Maltsev and Semenova did not disturb the work or leisure of members of the public or the work of institutions, etc., that is, they did not lead to a gross violation of public order, as we imagine such to be. The performance should not be regarded as an expression of disrespect for society. On the contrary, the aim of the action was to draw public attention to a very important social and political issue. In our opinion, the anti-war Shrovetide action did not present any danger to the public and cannot be regarded as a crime.
The qualification of the activists’ actions as motivated by political hatred is also groundless. Manifestation of political hatred or hostility is not a criminal act. This motive should be taken into account in a prosecution when the manifestation of political hatred is associated with violence or other actions that have significant public danger, which was not the case in the action in question.
Overall, analysis of the materials of the criminal cases against Igor Maltsev and Sofia Semenova suggests that the prosecution of the activists is related solely to their political views and is intended to suppress the anti-war movement in Russia and also to intimidate all those who disagree with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops.
A more detailed description of these prosecutions and the position of the Human Rights Project are available on our Telegram channel.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply the Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
How you can help
You can donate to support political prisoners via the YooMoney account of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.
Address for letters
In English: : Igor Aleksandrovich Maltsev (born 1999), Remand Centre No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service for St Petersburg and Leningrad region, No. 9 Kolpinskaya Street, Kolpino, 196655.
In Russian: 196655, г. Колпино, Колпинская ул., д. 9, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Санкт-Петербургу и Ленинградской области, Мальцеву Игорю Александровичу 1999 года рождения.
Translated by Rights in Russia