Write to Russia: Grigory Melkonyants – in custody for his work monitoring elections in Russia

Grigory Melkonyants has been held on remand since his arrest on 17 August 2023. He is co-chair of the civil society organisation Golos, an independent election watchdog, founded in 2000. He has been charged with ‘organising the activity of a foreign or international non-governmental organisation whose activities have been designated as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation’ (Article 284.1, Part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code). If convicted, he faces up to six years’ imprisonment. He has been designated a political prisoner by Memorial. Front Line Defenders condemned his arrest and called for his release.

Grigory Melkonyants was arrested three weeks before nation-wide elections were due to be held in Russia. The charges against him allege that Golos cooperated with the European Network of Election Monitoring Organisations (ENEMO), an organisation designated ‘undesirable’ by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office in September 2021. Grigory Melkonyants maintains his innocence. As Front Line Defenders report, he insists that his movement ceased their cooperation with ENEMO as soon as the work of the organisation was restricted in Russia.

Grigory Mekonyants was one of the founders of Golos in 2000. The organisation has monitored elections in Russia since then, as well as training election observers and providing legal assistance to voters. In 2013, Golos was designated as a ‘foreign agent’. In 2016 the organisation was refounded as a ‘movement’. However, that was also designated as a ‘foreign agent’ in 2021. Thereafter, the group ended its registration as an NGO and began to function as an unregistered civil society movement.

Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned by the systemic attack against current and former members of the human rights movement Golos and condemns the detention of three human rights defenders associated with the movement on criminal and administrative charges. Equally concerning is the targeting of Golos through the legislative framework that bans the activities of so-called “undesirable organisations,” that has been disproportionately used by the Russian authorities to target human rights defenders for their legitimate and peaceful human rights work. Front Line Defenders believes that the attack against Golos aims to intimidate and delegitimise the human rights organisation’s work to promote good governance and fair election practices.

Front Line Defenders

Write to Russia – Write to Grigory Melkonyants

Illustration: Memorial

The Russian penal system does not allow any messages to prisoners that are written in foreign languages, but Write to Russia is here to help you. To write to Grigory Melkonyants to show your support for him, please send your letter as an email to us at: letters-to-prisoners@protonmail.com. We shall translate the letter into Russian for you and, depending on your request, either mail the translated letter on your behalf to Grigory or return the letter to you by email for posting in an envelope with an address written in Russian. If we send the letter on your behalf, we ask that you compensate us for the cost of postage from the UK (currently £2.20 – $2.73; €2.52). To learn more about our letter writing project, click here: Write to Russia.

The address to write to Grigory Melkonyants is:

125130, г. Москва, ул. Выборгская, д. 20, ФКУ СИЗО-5 УФСИН России по г. Москве, Мельконьянцу Григорию Аркадьевичу 1981 г. р. 


If you would like to write to another person unjustly deprived of liberty in Russia, the project Write to Russia has so far highlighted the following cases:

  1. Sasha (Aleksandra) Skochilenko – imprisoned for peaceful anti-war protest – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-2/
  2. Mikhail Zhilin – imprisoned for refusing to fight against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-3/
  3. Aleksei Arbuzenko – imprisoned for protesting the war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-4/
  4. Aleksei Navalny – imprisoned for peaceful participation in electoral politics – died in custody – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-5/
  5. Evgeny Zinich- imprisoned for his faith – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-6/
  6. Alsu Kurmasheva – held on remand for her work as a journalist – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-7/
  7. Bakhrom Khamroev – imprisoned for his political and religious beliefs and human rights work – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-8
  8. Andrei Kapatsyna – imprisoned for his religious beliefs and refusing to fight in Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-9
  9. Gregory Vinter – imprisoned for speaking out about the killings in Bucha and Irpen – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-10
  10. Aleksei Gorinov – imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-11/
  11. Vladimir Kara-Murza – imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-12/
  12. Darya Poliudova – imprisoned for exercising her right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-13/
  13. Ilya Yashin – imprisoned for speaking out about Russian war crimes in Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-14/
  14. Appaz Kurtamet – imprisoned on fabricated charges of ‘financing an illegal armed group’ by a Russian-controlled court in occupied Crimea – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-15/
  15. Vyacheslav Malakhov – remanded in custody for criticising Putin for launching the war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-16/
  16. Maria Ponomarenko – imprisoned for sharing information about the Russian attack on the Mariupol theatre – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-17/

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