Write to Russia: Richard Rouz – serving an eight-year term of imprisonment for criticizing Russia’s war against Ukraine

On 22 September 2023 a military court in the city of Ekaterinburg sentenced anti-war activist Richard Rouz to eight years in a penal colony on charges of justification of terrorism and distribution of false information about the Russian armed forces. Rouz had been arrested in April 2022. His wife, Maria Rouz, and their eight-year son fled Russia in December 2022. Prosecutors claimed both Richard and Maria Rouz published posts on social media, including photographs and videos, of an ‘insulting and defamatory nature’ about the Russian army, including ‘distributing to an unlimited circle of people’ photographs of murdered Ukrainians from the town of Bucha in Kyiv region. Prosecutors also alleged Rouz had called for President Putin to be ‘liquidated.’ Memorial has designated Richard Rouz a political prisoner on the grounds that Rouz was prosecuted for exercising the right to freedom of expression.

Richard Rouz and his wife Maria Rouz are well-known as political activists in Kirov. Richard Rouz repeatedly took part in local protests. In 2018 he was fined 20,000 roubles for participating in the protest ‘He’s not our tsar!’ In January 2021 he was summoned to the Centre for Combating Extremism and warned about continuing his activism. Both Rihard and Maria wree detained on 14 April 2022 by officers of the Kirov branch of the the Federal Security Service [FSB]. The two were charged with public dissemination of information known to be false about the use of the Russian armed forces motivated by political hatred (Article 207.3, Part 2, Paragraph ‘e’, of the Russian Criminal Code). While Richard Rouz was remanded in custody, Maria Rouz was placed under certain restrictions but remained at liberty. Law enforcement agencies threatened to take their young son away from them and remove their parental rights. Subsequently Richard Rouz was charged with justification of terrorism under Article 205.2 of the Russian Criminal Code. At his trial Rouz said, with regard to the allegations of incitement to acts of terrorism or violence, that he had meant nothing of the sort.

On 29 January 2024, a court convicted Maria Rouz in absentia of extremist activity (Article 280, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code), and spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army (Article 207.3, Part 2 [e]) and sentenced her to five and a half years’ imprisonment, and a ban on using the internet for four more years.

We are certain that Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code concerning dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army, under which Richard and Maria Rouz are being prosecuted, contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international commitments and fundamental principles of law. The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 29 of the Russian Constitution. The restrictions on freedom of expression introduced by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code are essentially a form of censorship. In practice, Article 207.3 enables prosecution for the expression of any opinions about the actions of the Russian armed forces. In the course of an armed conflict, it is often not possible to establish the accuracy of information disseminated by various sources. It is even less possible to establish whether or not it is known that information is false. The timing and context of the introduction of Article 207.3 into the Russian Criminal Code – after the beginning of large-scale Russian military aggression against Ukraine – allow us to assert that this article was created specifically as a means to prosecute critics of the Russian authorities, among whom are Richard and Maria Rouz. 

Memorial, 14 June 2022

I would also like to tell my friends in Russia – we must support each other, only that way can we survive this! For my friends in Ukraine, I wish them victory! Glory to Ukraine!

Richard Rouz after his conviction, Memorial, 8 November 2023

Write to Russia – Write to Richard Rouz

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 Richard Rouz to show your support for him, please send your letters as an email to us at: letters-to-prisoners@protonmail.com. We shall translate the letters into Russian for you and, depending on your request, either mail the translated letters on your behalf to Richard Rouz 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 £2.50 – $3.14; €2.92). To learn more about our letter writing project, click here: Write to Russia.

The address to write to Richard Rouz is:

623850, Свердловская область, г. Ирбит, ул. Кирова, д. 29 а, ФКУ СИЗО-2 ГУФСИН России по Свердловской области,Роузу Ричарду Ричардовичу, 1985 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 – 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/
  17. Grigory Melkonyants – held on remand for his work monitoring elections – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-18/
  18. Daniil Stepanov – imprisoned for anti-war ‘vandalism’ and ‘cooperation with ‘foreign organisations’ – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-19/
  19. Evgenia Berkovich – a theatre director held on remand on charges of ‘justifying terrorism’ in violation of the right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-20/
  20. Svetlana Petriychuk – a playwright held on remand on charges of ‘justifying terrorism’ in violation of the right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-21
  21. Oleg Orlov – prominent human rights defender imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-22
  22. Nariman Dzhelyal – Crimean Tatar activist imprisoned on false charges – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-23/
  23. Eduard Sharlot – a musician remanded in custody for criticising Russia’s war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-24/
  24. Darya Kozyreva – remanded in custody on charges of ‘discrediting’ the Russian army – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-25/
  25. Evgeniya Maiboroda – imprisoned for five and a half years on charges of ‘discrediting the Russian army’ – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-26/
  26. Ukrainian citizens Volodymyr Udovyka, Volodymyr Linnyk, Viktoriia Tkachenko and Nataliia Prydatchenko – imprisoned in violation of the Geneva Conventions – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-27/
  27. Nadezhda Buyanova – remanded in custody on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian military –https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-28/
  28. Bohdan Ziza – sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for protesting against Russia’s war on Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-29/

Leave a Reply