Rights Groups in Russia

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Team 29: ❓❓Two questions and a ‘bonus prize’

posted 20 Jan 2020, 08:54 by Translation Service   [ updated 20 Jan 2020, 09:04 ]


18 January 2020






Hi, Tanya Torocheshnikova here.

The week began fairly quietly, and it didn’t look like there would be much going on. But on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin delivered his address to the Federal Assembly, and it all kicked off…

You already know about maternal benefits for the first child and hot school dinners. But aside from all that, Putin also proposed introducing amendments to the Constitution and giving primacy to national over international law. We asked our lawyer Valery Vetoshkin what this means and what we are to make of this.

“As a lawyer,” says Lera, “two questions spring to mind straight away."

“The first is about Article 15, which sets out the relationship between national and international legislation. It can be found in Chapter One. In accordance with the rules of that very Constitution, one cannot make changes to Chapter One by introducing simple amendments. For that, you have to convene the Constituent Assembly and effectively adopt a new constitution.

The second question is what will happen to appeals to the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR]? Currently, Russia executes ECtHR decisions based not only on the primacy of international law, but also because we have signed up to an international agreement and recognise the jurisdiction of the European Court. But it isn’t clear what will happen once changes are made to the relationship between national and international law.”

Before we’d managed to digest all this, on the next day, the demented roulette wheel was spun again. This time, we got a ‘bonus prize’. Our client Karina Tsurkan was suddenly released from custody. A year and a half ago, the former Inter RAO director and mother of a young son was charged with espionage on behalf of Moldova. Tsurkan has been held in Lefortovo since June 2018, but will now be going home, albeit with multiple restrictions such as not being allowed out after 7pm. Still, she’ll be home.

In another development, the very next day, students at the Higher School of Economics [HSE] were banned from signing open letters and engaging in human rights activity.

“Our first open letter was in support of the European University, in objection to it being shut down,” explains Armen Aramyan, editor of the student magazine DOXA. “People have been joking about how useless open letters are as a form of protest – they’re all about playing it safe. It seems that over the summer, such letters have come to be seen as somehow dangerous in the eyes of the authorities.”

Now, HSE students plan to write an open letter defending their right to write open letters. What’s recursion? See recursion.

Anyway, come on, 2020! Keep it up! Are we going to keep spinning that wheel?

Love, 

Tanya & Teaam 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 136: Separatism, incitement of terrorism and Jehovah’s Witnesses

posted 20 Jan 2020, 00:07 by Translation Service   [ updated 20 Jan 2020, 00:08 ]

18 January 2020

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.


Hi! Memorial has been fined again, Daria Poliudova imprisoned again, and in Tatarstan criminal charges on inciting terrorism have been pressed against the creators of a video showing Putin on trial.

Fresh criminal charges against left-wing activist Daria Poliudova. The activist, who was previously convicted in a case relating to separatism, has been arrested once again on suspicion of justifying terrorism and inciting separatism. On 15th January Poliudova, along with journalist Olga Sapronova, was searched. Sapronova was released, but Poliudova has been placed in solitary confinement until 13th March at the earliest.

Why do I need to know this? Daria Poliudova makes frequent appearances in OVD-Info’s articles, given how often she is arrested. However, all her arrests since she was released from prison have ended up as administrative – not criminal – cases. Now, the activist is potentially facing another prison term because of her words.

Criminal charges for a video showing Putin on trial. The law enforcement authorities in Tatarstan were so displeased with a video mock-up of Putin, Peskov and Sechin on trial that they immediately launched criminal proceedings on two counts: inciting terrorism online and insulting members of the authorities. Several activists were searched, and one of the video’s creators, Karim Iamadaev, was taken into custody.

Why does this matter? The video opens with a disclaimer that the creators do not aim to incite violence or hatred, and that any resemblance to real individuals or names is coincidental. In March 2019, Iamadaev was detained for 28 days because of a protest he staged with a headstone for Putin.

International Memorial continues to receive fines. The courts in Tver have fined International Memorial on two more counts under the law requiring organisations registered as foreign agents to declare their status on all articles they publish. The first fine was issued because of absence of such a declaration on a website listing NKVD workers from the 1930s, and the second related to the organisation’s supposed failure to place the declaration on a VKontakte group called “1968: The Year of Human Rights”. Yet, in actual fact the social media page had declared its status.

Why does this matter? Memorial International preserves the memory of political repression and victims of repression. Its staff considers its work to be apolitical, and therefore not subject to the foreign agent law. At present, International Memorial, its sister organisation, Memorial Human Rights Centre, and their directors have been convicted on 28 counts of breaching the foreign agent law. The associated fines amount to a total of 4.5 million roubles.

The persecution of Jehovah’s Witness continues. In the city of Georgiyevsk, in the Stavropol Region, three individuals have been charged in a case on extremist organisations. In the city of Nevinnomyssk, also in the Stavropol Region, nine supposed Jehovah’s Witnesses have already been placed under suspicion. In Volgograd, a case against five believers has already gone to trial. In Kamchatka, the decision to return the case against three Jehovah’s Witnesses to the prosecutor’s office has been overturned.

Why does this matter? In 2017, the Supreme Court declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian Headquarters an extremist organisation and banned all its activities. All Jehovah’s Witness organisations were also banned. Since then, suspected community members all over the country have been facing criminal prosecutions.

Features

Another echo from the explosion at the FSB’s Archangelsk offices. Ivan Liubshin, from Kaluga, published a post on his social media calling Mikhail Zhlobitski, a suicide bomber who attacked the FSB, the “hero of the week”. Liubshin deleted the post shortly afterwards, but a year later he was nonetheless charged with justifying terrorism. He told us how about the beatings he suffered at the hands of FSB officers, and recalled what they said while they did it.

What to do if your child is an activist or political prisoner: how parents relate to their activist children, and how children relate to their activist parents. This piece includes stories from activists from activists from across the generations, as well as advice from lawyers on what to do if your child is arrested at a protest.

How complaints to the ECtHR are changing Russia. Over the course of the year, the Russian state and Russia pays out over 10 million euros a year in connection with verdicts from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). OVD-Info member Aleksandra Baeva explains some of the cases that have gone to the ECHR and led to changes in Russian legislation.


Thanks!

Each day we publish news reports and provide assistance to people who have been arrested. We very much need your assistance. After all, we depend for all our work on your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue to send you your favourite mailing, our Weekly Bulletin.

Illustration by Evgeniya Dombrovskaya for OVD-Info

Translated by Judith Fagelson

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Sergei Surovtsev, a participant in last summer’s protests, is a political prisoner

posted 13 Jan 2020, 02:55 by Subscription Service   [ updated 13 Jan 2020, 09:03 ]

27 December 2020



Moscow resident Sergei Surovtsev has been sentenced to two and a half years in a prison colony for ‘causing pain’ to a National Guard officer at the protest for free and fair elections on 27 July. 

Memorial Human Rights Centre believes Surovtsev’s prosecution for his non-violent realisation of the right to peaceful assembly is politically motivated. According to international guidelines, Surovtsev is a political prisoner. Memorial demands his immediate release.

The charges: a ‘blow’ with a piece of railing

The criminal investigation into alleged violence against public officials and riot in Moscow began on 30 July. The rioting in question was alleged to have taken place on 27 July 2019 at a protest that did not have official permission but was attended by many thousands of people. More than 20 people were charged.

Thirty-year-old Sergei Surovtsev was arrested on 28 November. He was charged with an offence under Article 318, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (use of non-dangerous force against a public official). According to the investigators, Surovtsev lifted up a section of the metal barrier and with it ‘struck’ the fingers of Warrant Officer Aleksandr Ostroverkhov of the National Guard, causing him physical harm.

On 24 December Surovtsev was sentenced by Moscow’s Tver district court to 30 months in a general regime prison colony.

Why Memorial considers Surovtsev innocent

The video recording of Sergei Surovtsev’s ‘crime’ shows that, in a crowd of demonstrators trying to reach Moscow City Hall, he took hold of a section of the barrier with which law enforcement officers had fenced off the pavement. Surovtsev lifted up this barrier and began to move quickly towards the line of National Guard officers. The officers put their hands out and seized the barrier. After this, Surovtsev ran off. The whole episode lasted for less than 10 seconds.

It is evident that Surovtsev did not intentionally strike Warrant Officer Ostroverkhov on the fingers.

The ‘victim’ received no injuries, even of a minor nature, and, as he told the court, he gave this incident no significance that day. The Warrant Officer did not seek medical aid. His statement that he felt physical pain has no evidence to support it. 

Memorial’s representatives who were at the scene of events on 27 July have also studied in detail the videos taken of the protest and of the ‘clashes’ between demonstrators and the police, as well as other materials in the case. We are convinced that the demonstration was peaceful in nature.

According to Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, the right to peaceful assembly is one of the most important civil rights. The authorities must facilitate the conduct of assemblies and protect their safety. On 27 July the authorities did the opposite: they obstructed the peaceful protest and forcefully dispersed it, arresting about 1,500 participants.  The unlawful obstruction of a rally, demonstration or march is punishable under Article 149 of the Russian Criminal Code by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to three years.

Why Memorial Human Rights Centre believes Surovtsev’s prosecution to be politically motivated

We are convinced the authorities are conducting this criminal prosecution in order to intimidate potential participants in public protests, to frighten them and thus to prevent similar events.

Those expressing opposition to the authorities who were arrested at the protest were virtually declared guilty in advance. Both the Moscow mayor and also, tangentially, the press secretary of the Russian president declared that there had been riots in Moscow, thereby putting pressure on the law enforcement agencies and the courts.

State television and other pro-government media broadcast the lie that there had been ‘riots’, branding the protesters as criminals.

The fact that charges against a number of individuals were dropped as a result of pressure from public opinion confirms the charges were based not on the law but on a political order issued by the authorities.

You can read more about this case here.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

You can donate to help all Russian political prisoners via a PayPal e-wallet: helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com

This news item can be read on our website.

Reprinted by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 135: Novaya Zemlya, a balaclava-clad lawyer, and a dropped criminal case

posted 1 Jan 2020, 09:12 by Translation Service   [ updated 1 Jan 2020, 09:13 ]

28 December 2019

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.





Hi! Prosecutors have set out the sentences they want for defendants in the torturous Network case; several verdicts have been issued in the Moscow Case; and an employee of the Anti-Corruption Foundation has been forcibly sent to serve in the army. On a plane. To the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya. Under guard.

Verdicts in the Moscow Case. Let’s start with the good news: the Investigative Committee has dropped the case against Sergei Polovets, who had been accused of threatening a judge. Evgeny Erzunov, who had been facing similar charges, was fined 110,000 roubles. Samarddin Raddzabov was convicted of assaulting a member of the security forces and issued a fine, but spared further punishment; the courts considered Radzhabov’s time already served in pre-trial detention as time served. Sergei Surovets was similarly convicted of assaulting a member of the National Guard and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Why does this matter? The Moscow Case has been a response to the peaceful protests calling for independent candidates to be allowed to stand in the Moscow City Duma elections. Over 30 people have faced criminal prosecution. 18 of them have already received sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment. We told the stories of each of the defendants.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation has been searched once again. Members of the security forces visited the Foundation’s Moscow office, in the studios of the Navalny LIVE YouTube channel. The reason for their visit was the Foundation’s refusal to delete from YouTube its video investigation into Dmitry Medvedev’s property. Lawyers were not permitted during the four-hour search. One of them was nonetheless admitted when he donned a balaclava, but thrown out again when he revealed his identity as a lawyer.

Why do I need to know this? The authorities are using a wide range of means to put the Anti-Corruption Foundation under constant pressure. The Foundation’s offices are subjected to intermittent searches, its staff have fined and prosecuted, and their bank accounts have been frozen. Moreover, the Foundation itself was recently placed on the foreign agents’ register.

An Anti-Corruption Foundation employee has been sent on army service to Novaya Zemlya. Ruslan Shaveddinov was taken from his apartment and put on a plane to the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya. He was escorted to the army by a convoy and forbidden to use his phone.

Why does this matter? Once again, Anti-Corruption Foundation employees are coming under pressure. Aleksei Navalny has noted that Shaveddinov has a confirmed medical condition preventing him from serving in the armed forces. In the autumn, Shaveddinov was arrested on several occasions without charge. On one of these occasions, he was visited by a representative from the military draft board.

Sentences of up to 18 years have been recommended in the Network case. The prosecution has requested sentences of at least six years for those who were arrested in Penza.

Why is this important? Ten people in Penza and St Petersburg have been accused of forming a terrorist group with a view to overthrowing the government. Almost all of them claim to have confessed under torture.

Features

Moscow’s on the up. Over the summer, thousands of people gathered in protests which led to mass arrests, beatings and criminal charges. We have compiled a concise and comprehensible description of these events, which you can send to anyone who does not know about them. We have also collected photographs, videos and quotations, and put together a timeline of events.

Mothers against political repression. Dozens of relatives of political prisoners have come together in order to protest the prosecution of their loved ones and to help one another. Sergei Kagermazov spoke to Aleksandra Krylenkova, the human rights activist who is coordinating this movement.

A pacifist’s act of terrorism. Sergei Ryzhov, a supporter of the vlogger Vyacheslav Maltsev, has been accused of possession of weapons and planning an act of terrorism. Yet, Ryzhov is well known as an activist who only supports peaceful forms of protest. Aleksandr Litoi explains what’s wrong with this case.

A timeline of the fines against Memorial. Memorial Human Rights Centre and the International Memorial Society have received fines amounting to several million roubles and is still awaiting more. The organisation has come under fire for omitting to publish its status as a “foreign agent” on its websites and social media pages. Mikhail Shubin has put together a timeline of events.

Thanks!

Each day we publish news reports and provide assistance to people who have been arrested. We very much need your assistance. After all, we depend for all our work on your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue to send you your favourite mailing, our Weekly Bulletin.

Illustration by Anastasiya Vikulova for OVD-Info

Translation by Judith Fagelson

Team 29: 🎭 Security theatre

posted 23 Dec 2019, 07:06 by Translation Service   [ updated 23 Dec 2019, 08:23 ]


21 December 2019




Hi, it’s Sofya Volyanova

I’ve been doing podcasts for Team 29 recently.

It was Chekist Day yesterday, but we’re going to talk about it today.

On 9 December, we put out an episode about how things went in the trial of those accused of carrying out a terrorist act on the St Petersburg Metro. We talked about how the case was investigated (there was a number of inconsistencies and weak evidence) and about how the majority of those convicted may well have been random people. Not once during the trial did anyone ask why the FSB hadn’t been able to prevent the terrorist incident. And it’s a good question.

Try to tell your friends, acquaintances or family about this case. You’ll probably hear it said that the FSB and Investigative Committee are doing a good job, that they are professionals, and therefore there can’t possibly have been any mistakes. Anyway, nothing happens without a reason, and if a person has been convicted, then that means they deserved it. What’s more, given the constant reports about terrorists being arrested, can there be any doubt about the smooth and effective working of the FSB?

But what happened on 19 December? An unidentified individual attacked the FSB building in central Moscow, killed one person at the scene, a second died in hospital, and five more were wounded. Also, Meduza reported that one person might have been hit in the indiscriminate shooting by security officers after the attacker had been killed.

This all happened during a concert for FSB Day. During the celebration, the shooting wasn’t mentioned. Putin only emphasised how many acts of terrorism had been prevented.

The head of the FSB, Aleksandr Bortnikov, stayed on at the event with the president.

Incidentally, we should point out the appalling way in which journalists were treated: the Baza journalist Anna Nikitina has described how during her interview with the mother of the ‘Lubyanka shooter’, Evgeniya Manyurova, FSB officers broke into the apartment and one of them struck her in the face. In the morning, at Lubyanka, they roughly apprehended Kommersant journalist Roman Dorofeev – take a look at the video.

Instead of offering neat conclusions, I should remind you of the concept of ‘security theatre’ that we have written about before. Metal detectors in shopping centres and train stations, guards on the metro, security checks and other such measures for show should convince us that we are safe, but this feeling is illusory. In recent years, this concept has been brought up more and more and, increasingly, it feels like we’re happy enough living in this ‘theatre’. But it’s important to keep in mind that we have been lulled into a false sense of security, as is the case with that much lauded professionalism.

Sofya and Team 29


Translated by  Lindsay Munford

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 134: A Putin scarecrow and freedom of assembly

posted 23 Dec 2019, 05:57 by Translation Service   [ updated 23 Dec 2019, 06:03 ]

21 December 2019

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.




Hi!

A libertarian from Perm has been charged with hooliganism; one of the charges has been dropped against a defendant in the Network case; and new sentences have been issued to people found guilty of membership in the Muslim party Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Let’s start with the good news.

Restrictions on where protests can be held have been lifted in five regions. Complaints against the restrictions were issued by lawyers from OVD-Info and Memorial.


Why does this matter? In a number of Russian regions, local laws violate federal legislation. In particular, five regions had laws preventing members of the public from holding pickets in particular locations, although these bans could equally apply to other forms of protests, too. Thanks to our lawyers, this unconstitutional restriction has been lifted. Click here to read how we did it.

The charge against Dmitry Pchelintsev, a defendant in the Network case, of planning arson against a military conscription centre has been dropped. The charge was based on Pchelintsev’s confession alone.


Why do I need to know this? In September 2018, Pchelintsev announced that he had confessed under duress. He stated that the investigator threatened him and told him that if he wanted less severe charges, he would have to confess to plotting arson against a military conscription centre in 2011.

Criminal charges for a scarecrow president. Criminal charges of hooliganism have been issued against Aleksandr Kotov, a member of the Perm Libertarian Party, who staged a protest using a mannequin of Vladimir Putin.


Why do I need to know this? In November 2018, a scarecrow of Putin in a prison uniform, with signs reading “Liar” and “War criminal V.V. Pynia” (a derogatory nickname for Putin), was found hanging on a column in Perm. This led to a criminal case against three local activists. Until recently, they were considered suspects; now they have been formally charged.

Hizb ut-Tahrir: the sentences. Two of the defendants in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case in Tatarstan have been convicted of managing and being members of a terrorist organisation, and sentenced to 17 and 11 years respectively in a high-security prison.


Why do I need to know this? The Muslim party Hizb ut-Tahrir is classed in Russia as a terrorist organisation, although none of its members are known to have been involved in the planning or execution of acts of terrorism. At least 197 people have already been given lengthy prison sentences for nothing more than convening in one another’s homes, reading religious literature and recruiting new members.

Features

They were searched, they were charged for their use of the Russian flag, and their anime-party was broken up. The authorities have been paying particular attention to the libertarians this year. Mikhail Svetov, one of the best-known members of the Libertarian party, was criminally charged, while other activists were searched, libertarian events were broken up, and supporters arrested and fined. After the summer’s protests, the pressure only increased. Alina Pinchuk explains everything that has happened to the libertarians this year.

Blood in the bathroom and a note from the FSB. In Tiumen in November, suspected supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir were searched. One of those who was detained, Farrukh Makhamov, claimed – via his lawyer – that he had been tortured and sexually assaulted. His wife, Jamila Magomedov, told OVD-Info what happened during and after his search.

Thanks!

Each day we publish news reports and provide assistance to people who have been arrested. We very much need your assistance. After all, we depend for all our work on your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue to send you your favourite mailing, our Weekly Bulletin.


Illustration by Anastasiya Pozhidaeva for OVD-Info

Translated by Judith Fagelson

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Opposition activist Mark Galperin is once again a political prisoner

posted 20 Dec 2019, 11:13 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Dec 2019, 11:15 ]

Правозащитный центр «Мемориал»16 December 2019





Memorial classifies Galperin as political prisoner after a suspended sentence he received for alleged incitement to extremism was replaced by a term in a prison colony

Memorial Human Rights Centre has once again added opposition activist Mark Galperin to the list of political prisoners. Memorial Human Rights Centre recognised Galperin as a political prisoner in 2018 when he was held under house arrest during a prosecution for incitement to extremism. On 7 March 2018 he was released from house arrest and given a two-year suspended jail sentence with three years’ probation. Memorial then reclassified Galperin as a victim of unlawful, politically-motivated prosecution. On 4 December Reutov town court changed Galperin’s sentence, sentencing him to 18 months in a low-security prison colony. Memorial Human Rights Centre has once again added Galperin to the list of political prisoners. We demand his immediate release.

The grounds on which the court changed the suspended sentence to time in a prison colony were violations of administrative law. In recent months Galperin twice served 30-day jail sentences. The first time in 2019 the opposition activist was jailed for calling for people to take part, on 27 July, in a protest that did not have official permission in support of independent candidates in the Moscow City Assembly elections. The second time the activist was jailed for taking part in a march on 31 August protesting against political repression, an event which also did not have official permission.

It is evident that these jail sentences were unlawful since the events in question were of an absolutely peaceful nature. It should be pointed out that the right to freedom of assembly is provided for by Article 31 of the Russian Constitution. The fact that the authorities refused to reach agreement with the organisers about the place, time and order of the assemblies does not give grounds to consider their organisation, or participation in them, an offence. Still less is it acceptable to deprive individuals of liberty on this basis. However, Galperin was given an 18-month prison term. The court took into account the time the opposition activist had spent under house arrest.

We believe that the continuous prosecutions of Mark Galperin were related to his pro-active non-violent opposition stance and his criticism of the authorities. We demand his immediate release.

For more information about the case of Mark Galperin, see here.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com

Republished by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Blogger Vladislav Sinitsa is a political prisoner

posted 20 Dec 2019, 11:06 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Dec 2019, 11:16 ]

Правозащитный центр «Мемориал»11 December 2019



Sinitsa has been sentenced to five years in a prison colony for a comment posted on Twitter

Memorial Human Rights Centre has announced that Vladislav Sinitsa, a blogger from Moscow region known by the pseudonym Max Steklov, is a political prisoner. On 3 August 2019 Sinitsa was detained on charges of inciting hatred and hostility and threatening use of force. On 3 September this year he was sentenced to five years in a general regime prison colony for an offence under Article 282, Section 2, Part ‘a’, of the Russian Criminal Code. The reason for Sinitsa’s prosecution was a comment he posted on Twitter. Memorial considers the comment inappropriate and in bad taste, but, however, does not consider it incites hatred or hostility to law enforcement officers.

This summer there were political discussions on the internet about the exclusion of independent candidates from the Moscow city assembly elections. Moreover, the homes of Moscow activists were searched and they were summoned for questioning. Hundreds were arrested and fined while dozens were jailed for administrative offences. The severe, and at times brutal, actions of law enforcement agencies touched off public indignation. In response, there were spontaneous initiatives to identify and make public the names of officers who particularly ‘distinguished themselves.’ We believe the security services have sought to make an example of Vladislav Sinitsa as a means of ending this calling-out of officers. The trial has been intended to make an example of him and has been as repressive as possible.

On 31 July 2019 Vladislav Sinitsa wrote on Twitter: ‘They’ll look at the nice happy family photos, study the location, and then the child of the gallant defender of law and order simply won’t come home from school one day. Instead of the child they will get a packet in the post with a compact disc and a snuff video.’ The comment, in the name of ‘Max Steklov,’ was a response to the anonymous user ‘Golos Mordora’ who had expressed interest in how ‘those who support making public the names of police and riot officers who used unlawful force against protesters’ were planning on taking revenge ‘against the identified police and riot officers.’

Most internet users who discussed the brutal dispersal of the Moscow protests believed the tweet to be morally at fault. Memorial Human Rights Centre also considers the blogger’s statements inappropriate and in bad taste, even taking into account their emotional context. However, from a legal point of view the tweet is not obviously inciting hatred or hostility towards law enforcement officers. Mention of the possibility of kidnapping children and filming a snuff video is not equivalent to incitement to such actions. The comment was in response to the tweet of an anonymous user, in other words was not intended to reach a potentially wide circle of users, as imputed by the investigation.

Having studied the materials of the criminal case, and also the publications related to it, we have concluded that the conviction of Vladislav Sinitsa is unlawful and politically motivated:
  • A large-scale information campaign was initiated in pro-government media.
  • Experts who were consulted in the case issued their report in just a few days. These experts had previously taken part in political trials; their qualifications are extremely dubious in nature.
  • Only one month passed from the day of Sinitsa’s arrest to the handing down of the sentence.
  • The trial itself lasted only one day.
  • Sinitsa was given the maximum sentence possible under this article of the Russian Criminal Code.
All this confirms that actions by law enforcement agencies and the courts were coordinated, and not only supported, but also orchestrated, on the political level.

Taking into account everything said above, Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ finds the criminal case against Vladislav Sinitsa to have been politically motivated and intended to achieve the retention of power by state bodies and the forcible cessation of public activities by Sinitsa. We consider that the deprivation of liberty has been imposed on Sinitsa in violation of his right to a fair trial.

Memorial considers Vladislav Sinitsa to be a political prisoner and demands his immediate release. We also demand that investigations be conducted into the circumstances of the initiation of the case, the possibility that National Guard officers were forced to give false testimony by their senior officers, the activities of the non-profit organisation Centre of Socio-Cultural Expertise, and statements made by the head of the National Guard, Viktor Zolotov.

For more information about the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre regarding the case of Vladislav Sinitsa, see here

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com

Republished by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Defendants from Penza and St. Petersburg in the case of the banned anti-fascist organisation Network are political prisoners

posted 20 Dec 2019, 10:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Dec 2019, 11:17 ]

Правозащитный центр «Мемориал»9 December 2019


Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre



The defendants have not been involved in terrorist activities; the criminal case against them has been fabricated and is based on testimony given under cruel torture

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ recognises Maksim Ivankin, Vasily Kuksov, Mikhail Kulkov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, Arman Sagynbaev, Andrei Chernov, Ilya Shakursky and Igor Shishkin as political prisoners. We demand their immediate release and that all charges against them for alleged involvement in a terrorist group be dropped.

Charges against the Penza anti-fascists

Penza anti-fascist activists Dmitry Pchelintsev and Ilya Shkursky have been charged under Article 205.4, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Creation of a terrorist group’) for setting up the Network organisation, banned in Russia, which in the view of the investigators is a terrorist and anarchist association, and Maksim Ivankin, Vasily Kuksov, Mikhail Kulkov, Arman Sagynbaev and Andrei Chernov have been charged under Article 205.4, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Participation in a terrorist group’) for membership of this organisation.

In addition, Pchelintsev, Shakursky and Kuksov have been charged under Article 222, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Illegal possession of weapons and ammunition’), while Ivankin, Kulkov and Chernov have been charged under Article 30, Section 3, in association with Article 228.1, Section 4, Part d, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Attempt to commit large-scale illegal dealing in drugs’). Shakursky has also been charged under Article 222.1, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Illegal possession of explosives’), while Pchelintsev has been charged under Article 30, Section 3, in association with Article 167, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Attempt to commit intentional destruction of property belonging to others motivated by hooliganism’) respectively. The defendants have been held on remand since the autumn of 2017, except for Maksim Ivankin and Mikhail Kulkov who were arrested on 4 July 2018. None of the defendants has a criminal record.

Why we believe the charges related to the banned Network organisation to be fabricated and politically motivated

There is much testimony that all the defendants and at least four witnesses in the Penza case of the banned Network organisation were subjected to torture. The use of torture in the work of the investigators was not exceptional but a general rule and one of the main instruments used during the investigation in the criminal case. The torture of defendants Viktor Filinkov, Yulia Boyarshinova and Igor Shishkin in the St. Petersburg case of the banned Network organisation has also been documented by the Public Oversight Commission. The Network case, both in Penza and St. Petersburg, has been wholly built on the testimony of defendants and witnesses obtained by the use of torture. All the ‘self-incriminatory statements’ obtained by this means are inadmissible in court and cannot even theoretically be used as evidence for the guilt of the defendants.

This case is an example of reality being fitted to the conspiracy theories of operational and investigative officers from the Penza FSB. The description of training, division of responsibilities and the structure of Network, set out at the trials in Penza and St. Petersburg, was much more like information about a group of strike ball players, divided into teams, and their friends, than a terrorist organisation intending to use force or having serious plans to otherthrow the current government. The version according to which a small group of young people with left-wing views, living in Penza, seriously decided to violently overthrow the current political regime in Russia is extremely unrealistic and fantastical.

Evidence gathered by the investigation, presented at the trial that began on 14 May 2019 in the Volga District Military Court, is extremely unconvincing and consists of the classified testimonies of witnesses who are either hostile to the defendants or who wish to avoid prison, two planted pistols, one improvised explosive device, the doctored recordings of telephone conversations and anarchistic views contained in documents of the ‘terrorist group,’ very crudely fabricated from the correspondence of the young women.

The defendants are in fact not accused of having committed any real actions or attempts to commit such actions. All the offences they allegedly were going to commit, even according to the investigators, are concerned with an indeterminate, distant future. Moreover, initially the FSB asserted that the participants in Network had prepared to carry out acts of terrorism during the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2018. However, the final charges contained no mention of this. Even those defendants who pleaded guilty stated that the purpose of the training and joint activities in Network was nothing other than self-defence in case of attack by radical nationalists during possible disturbances, and not preparation to seize some buildings or other, or the commission of terrorist acts.

The episodes of drug trafficking with which Maksim Ivankin and Mikhail Kulkov have been charged, and to which they pleaded guilty in court, cannot prevent them being recognised as political prisoners on groundless charges of terrorism. At the same time we believe that these episodes must also be objectively investigated because of the violation of the defendants’ rights during the preliminary investigation. There is a strong likelihood that the charges against Chernov under Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code were fabricated given that he was charged almost a year after his detention and the investigatory authorities gained access to the smart phone found on him at the time of arrest. Neither his fingerprints nor other biological traces were found on the packets containing drugs.

It is obvious that the prosecution of the anti-fascist activists in Penza, part of on-going repressive measures against anarchists and anti-fascists that sharply increased in 2017-18, is politically motivated. Government bodies cultivate the image of anarchists as people who are participants in terrorism and who are seeking to destabilise society and the political system. Detained anarchists are, moreover, routinely and blatantly tortured. At the same time, all extra-systemic, informal self-organisation in society, especially of young people, is closed down.

Others prosecuted for participation in the banned Network organisation are also political prisoners

The charges against participants in the branch of the organisation allegedly set up in St. Petersburg, who have been recognised by Memorial as political prisoners, also would appear to have been fabricated. In studying the case files of the St. Petersburg anti-fascist activists, charged wtih taking part in Network, which is banned in Russia, we found no evidence that their actions constituted any danger to the public. Memorial initially could not take a decision whether to recognise a third defendant in the St. Petersburg case, Igor Shishkin, as a political prisoner because he had pleaded guilty to all charges and it had not been possible to examine his case file. However, since the law enforcement agencies’ assertion that the Penza anti-fascist activists allegedly founded a terrorist organisation is a complete fabrication, we consider that Shishkin, convicted only of participating in Network, must also be recognised as a political prisoner since there is no evidence that he committed any crime.

More information about the case of the Penza anti-fascist activists is available here.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

Address for letters:
440039, Penza,
Karakozova Street,
Building No. 30,
Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 1 of the Federal Penitentiary Service for Penza region,
Maksim Sergeevich Ivankin, born 1995,
Vasily Alekseevich Kuksov, born 1998,
Mikhail Alekseevich Kulkov, born 1994,
Dmitry Dmitrievich Pchelintsev, born 1992,
Arman Dauletovich Sagynbaev, born 1992 (NB before entering into correspondence with A. Sagynbaev, Memorial strongly recommends reading the material here),
Andrei Sergeevich Chernov, born 1989,
Ilya Aleksandrovich Shakursky, born 1996.

It is also possible to send an e-mail using the system ‘FSIN-pismo’ [Federal Penitentiary Service - Letter] (http://fsin-pismo.ru/client/app/letter/create) for which there is a charge, or for free via the Rosuznik website (http://rosuznik.org).

Donations to support the defendants can be made to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal at abc-msk@riseup.net (please indicate currency in euros and note the donation is for the Network case).

A petition to stop the prosecution in the Network case can be found at: http://change.org/p/delo-seti-stopfsb

Donations to provide assistance to all Russian political prisoners can be made via PayPal at helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com

Republished by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Team 29: 🕵️‍♀️ Are you sure you aren't a foreign agent?

posted 19 Dec 2019, 05:59 by Translation Service   [ updated 19 Dec 2019, 06:37 ]


14 December 2019




Hi, Dima Okrest here, Team 29 Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, the Justice Initiative foundation was entered in the Register of Foreign Agents. It had been preparing a case at the European Court of Human Rights on extrajudicial killings in Chechnya and had defended Ingush activists following protests over the redrawing of the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. Anonymous individuals put together and published a fake interview with the foundation’s leader, and the Ministry of Justice promptly saw something criminal in it.

On Thursday, MPs proposed making it an offence to study on the courses of ‘undesirable NGOs’ overseas. I’m now worried about the fact I’ve studied in the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. Who else might be affected?

Vitaly Milonov studied at the Budapest Schuman Institute. Mikhail Leontev founded the Delo newspaper with the support of Khodorkovsky. Irina Yarovaya graduated from the Moscow School of Political Studies (in 2014, it was named a foreign agent and dismantled). Vladimir Solovev taught in a university in Alabama. Margarita Simonyan did an internship in the neighbouring state, and later studied on Internews courses (abolished in 2007). The programme they were a part of, incidentally, was organised by Dmitry Kiselev. In fact, with European Commission funding, he created the ‘Window on Europe’ programme to support democratic institutions in Russia.

These events took place not long ago and yet are now almost forgotten. As part of the educational project ‘Russia is Shutting Down’, we reflect on recent history and look into what has changed, and in what way:

‘Russia is Shutting Down’ VKontakte

‘Russia is Shutting Down’ on Telegram

Subscribe and stay tuned!

Dima & Team 29


Translated by Lindsay Munford

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