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OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 38: Arson Attack on Memorial’s Office in Chechnya

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

19 January 2018

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday it sends out a mailing with the latest information on freedom of assembly, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here. These English translations of OVD-Info's weekly bulletins are published by openDemocracy and are republished here by kind permission with due acknowledgement

Russia’s presidential elections are drawing close and the machinery of repression, which is working overtime, has apparently no intention to stop. We continue to cover these events.  

The authorities continue to put pressure on Memorial’s branch office in the North Caucasus

  • In Ingushetia, in the early hours of 17 January, unidentified people in masks set fire to the office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre. Staff of the organisation consider this to be an act of terrorism:

We consider this to be an act of terrorism. In accordance with Article 205 of the Russian Criminal Code, acts of terrorism include acts of arson, explosions or other actions intended to intimidate the public for the purposes of destabilizing the situation or to put pressure on international organizations. We believe that this attack is intended to influence the decisions we take. Behind this attack are the same forces that try to halt the activities of Memorial in Chechnya and to force human rights defenders to leave the North Caucasus altogether."

  • In Chechnya on the morning of 19 January police searched the offices of Memorial in connection with the case of Oyub Titiev, head of the local branch of Memorial, arrested on the morning of 9 January and charged with possession of drugs. The Chechen police are putting pressure on the owner of the premises where the office is located.

    Bekkhan Titiev, Oyub Titiev’s son, has been threatened with the same criminal charges as his father. The Titiev family has left Chechnya.

    A doctor has been denied access to Oyub Titiev in his cell. Titiev has written a letter to President Putin, in which he says: “If in some way or other I admit my guilt regarding the charges brought against me, this will mean that I have been forced to do so...”

On a single day, activists from the Open Russia movement were arrested in eight cities

The arrests took place in Cheboksary, Ulyanovsk, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Tambov, Tver, Great Novgorod and Penza. The activists were charged with murder, robbery setting fire to cars, possession of extremist materials, organizing public events without official permission and damaging campaigning materials. In the upshot, all those detained were released from the police stations where they had been held. In Kazan, according to Open Russia, the activists had been under surveillance and “as a result police officers... .had been digging in a rubbish dump when one of the movement’s activists had thrown away a bag of rubbish.”

Police have seized materials related to the Voters’ Boycott* protest campaign in ten cities

In Pskov. the FSB ordered that leaflets be seized from the local campaign headquarters. In Murmansk, 10,000 leaflets were seized and the campaign coordinator arrested. In St. Petersburg a volunteer was summoned “for a chat" about leaflets that had been sent to Murmansk. Police visited the Navalny campaign headquarters in Penza (where leaflets were also seized), Novgorod and Cheboksary. During the seizure of leaflets in Penza, police taped over two closed-circuit video cameras on the premises. Police also seized Voters’ Boycott leaflets in Kaluga, Smolensk, St Petersburg and Izhevsk. The Navalny campaign’s Samara headquarters was trashed by police, who of course also seized leaflets there.  

* On 25 December the Central Electoral Commission refused to register the politician Aleksei Navalny as a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections because of an unspent conviction. In response, Navalny has urged a boycott of the 2018 presidential elections and announced that on 28 January 2018 there would be nationwide protest in support of  a “Voters’ Boycott.”

Doctors at the Astrakhan Regional Psychiatric Hospital have recommended the release of Bolotnaya case defendant Maxim Panfilov

The doctors’ recommendation will be submitted to the court which is to decide whether Panfilov, who has Tourette’s syndrome, should be released to continue his treatment as an outpatient. Panfilov has been charged with using force against a police officer and with taking part in riots that allegedly took place on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on 6 May 2012. If the court decides on the doctors’ recommendation to release Panfilov, then no one prosecuted in the Bolotnaya Square case will remain in detention.

We have analysed the political prosecutions of 2015 and 2016 and brought together in one place everything that happened of most importance

We recommend reading this report in order to understand what is happening in Russia nowadays. The report includes the murder of Boris Nemtsov, the prosecutions of Dmitry Buchenkov, Ildar Dadin, Svetlana Davydov, Oleg Sentsova and Aleksandr Kolchenko, and the stories of many other people prosecuted over the course of these two years.

Thank you

You can help us continue our work now and in the difficult months of the coming 2018 election campaign here. You can volunteer to work with us here.

Golos: Main News of the Week 8 - 14 January 2018

posted 16 Jan 2018, 12:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Jan 2018, 12:09 ]

12 January 2018 

Source: Golos

Golos on the Elections

We have opened a special section on our website that will hold all information about the presidential elections in Russia to be held on 18 March 2018.

We have urged all candidates and parties to provide the necessary documentation to our representatives to enable them to observe the presidential elections. We are ready to work with any political groups that respect our independence and political neutrality.

In addition, Golos has publicly announced that some of its participants have been subjected to open political surveillance. Unlawful psychological pressure has been put on our representatives from the beginning of the presidential election campaign. We insist on our constitutional rights and demand that the law enforcement agencies explain why they are paying so much attention to our participants.

Election news

Throughout the New Year holidays and all of the first week back at work the Central Electoral Commission accepted documents from those aspiring to occupy the highest position in the state. Seventy individuals announced their intention to take part in the election: 24 from parties and 46 as independents. But the Central Electoral Commission did not allow all candidates to take part.

The Central Electoral Commission registered two candidates: Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the LDPR, and Pavel Grudinin, the candidate from the KPRF. Since both these parties have members in the State Duma, they did not need to collect signatures in their support.

Each independent candidate must collect at least 300,000 voters’ signatures, and the candidates from parties that do not have representation in parliament must gather at least 100,000 signatures for registration. These documents must be presented to the Central Electoral Commission by 31 January.

Meanwhile, the Map of Violations is receiving information about numerous violations during the process of collecting signatures and instances of illegal campaigning.

Yabloko has complained to the Central Electoral Commission about the wording of a text put out by those gathering signatures on behalf of Vladimir Putin. - Kommersant

Vladimir Putin is the most wealthy candidate for president. — Vedomosti 

A member of the electoral commission has been fined for electoral fraud in elections in a village in Penza region. — Penzainform.ru

Lawyers have said there were violations in the selection of members of the electoral commission in Chelyabinsk region. — Znak.com

A court has found to be unlawful the refusal to open a criminal investigation into the falsification of signatures for elections in Ivanovo region legislative assembly. — Ivanovo.live


The Kremlin has proposed attracting voters to take part in the elections through selfies and family games. — RBK

Online broadcasting on social media of events at the election headquarters of Vladimir Putin are planned. — Gazeta.ru

Volunteers for a fourth term: who will lead Putin to the presidency and how do these people receive millions from the government budget? — Dozhd

The candidates’ campaigns have begun gathering signatures in their support. — Kommersant

Our bloggers

Golos’ experts continue the discussion about a boycott of the elections. Sergei Shpilkin considers what factors might lead people to ignore the elections, while Andrei Buzin shows how a boycott would look in pictures.

Arkady Liubarev looks at how the first and second weeks of the election campaign have passed.

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Three followers of Said Nursi from Dagestan are political prisoners

posted 14 Jan 2018, 11:40 by Rights in Russia

27 December 2017

Ziyavdin Dapaev and the brothers Sukhrab and Artur Kaltuev have been sentenced to terms in prison for taking part in group readings of works by the Turkish theologian Said Nursi.

The Kaltuev brothers were sentenced to three years in a general-regime prison colony, while Dapaev was sentenced to four years in a general-regime prison colony. All the defendants were convicted under Article 282.2 (Section 1) of the Russian Criminal Code (“organizing the activities of a banned organization”).

This is one of a series of criminal prosecutions brought by Russian law enforcement agencies against the mythical organization “Nurdzhular.” The Russian authorities have consistently persecuted Muslims who study and distribute the books from the Risale-i Nur (Treatises of Light) cycle by the Turkish theologian Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877 — 1960). In 2008 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ruled that the international religious association “Nurdzhular,” of which the followers of Nursi are allegedly members, was extremist. Law enforcement agencies consistently describe Nurdzhular as a “clearly structured” organization disseminating Islamic and Turkish political influence in the world.

However, in reality, all that exists is an non-political community of people who consider themselves followers of the teachings expressed in Risale-i Nur, communicate with one another, and hold joint reading sessions. No evidence of the existence of a structured organization, managed from Turkey, has yet been presented. We consider this notion to be an invention by Russian official bodies.

So far as the books themselves are concerned, in 2007 14 translations of works by Nursi were banned by decision of the Koptevsky district court in Moscow. We consider this ban, along with the subsequent banning of Nurdzhular, to be groundless. A series of arguments put forward in the expert opinion on which the court based its decision, were absurd. For example, the expert opinion argued that the religious literature contained condemnation of sinners (and even self-condemnation by penitents) and intimidation of atheists by threatening punishment after death, and on these grounds concluded that the texts are extremist and propagate religious discord.

However, the works of Nursi contain no incitement to violence or terrorism; they are free of hate speech. The Council of Muftis of Russia, the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia and the Sova Centre for Information and Analysis have all stated that the works of Nursi present no threat to the security of society and do not contain propaganda of violence, while the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has called for the ban to be reconsidered.

In essence, Dapaev and the Kaltuev brothers have been charged solely with participation in religious meetings, conversations with other Muslims, and possessing and distributing the books of Nursi. Therefore, we believe, they have been deprived of liberty while there is no evidence of any crime having been committed. Dapaev and the Kaltuev brothers have been deprived of their liberty exclusively on the grounds of their religious beliefs, and in association with the non-violent exercise of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression of opinion and information, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Ziyavdin Dapaev, Sukhrab Kaltuev and Artur Kaltuev are political prisoners and must be immediately released, and the banning of religious literature that does not incite violence must be ended.

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.

More information about the cases of Dapaev and the Kaltuev brothers can be read here.

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 37: Chechnya's repressive machine keeps spinning

posted 12 Jan 2018, 04:42 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Jan 2018, 05:21 ]

12 January 2018

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday it sends out a mailing with the latest information on freedom of assembly, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here. These English translations of OVD-Info's weekly bulletins are published by openDemocracy and are republished here by kind permission with due acknowledgement

This week, Chechen human rights defender Oyub Titiev was arrested on trumped-up possession charges. 

In Chechnya, 60-year-old Oyub Titiev, who heads the regional office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, is being prosecuted. On the morning of 9 January, Titiev was detained by people wearing the uniform of traffic police officers. A friend of the human rights defender who witnessed the arrest from his car, said he had wanted to stop to speak with Titiev, but Titiev indicated he should drive past.  For a time, Titiev’s lawyers were not allowed to see him. That evening Titiev was charged with possessing drugs (Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code). He categorically denies the accusation. On 10 January police arrived at Titiev’s home looking for his son and brother, and when they did not find them they forced all the other family members out of the house, locked the doors and took the keys. The law enforcement officers wanted to use the fact they had the keys to influence Titiev’s relatives, since to gain entrance to the property the family members would need to go to the police station. On 11 January a court in closed session remanded Titiev in custody for two months.

Titiev took up the post of head of the Chechnya office of Memorial after the kidnapping in Grozny and subsequent murder of his predecessor Natalia Estemirova in July 2009. The Chechen public figure Ruslan Kutaev, who heads  the Assembly of Peoples of the Caucasus, was also charged with illegal acquisition and possession of drugs. On 20 December 2017 he was released having served over three years in prison. There is evidence that Kutaev was tortured following his arrest. According to human rights defenders, the charges were trumped up.

The European Court of Human Rights has tired of hearing identical cases concerning torture in Russia, and has therefore asked Russia to pay compensation to Ildar Dadin on the basis of a simplified procedure. The European Court has proposed that Russia admit to violations of the prohibition on torture and inhuman treatment with regard to Ildar Dadin during the latter’s transfer to a prison colony and in the prison colony itself. The Court decided not to ask the Russian government for commentary.

In December 2015 activist Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in a general-regime prison colony for “repeated violation of the rules for holding public events” (Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). In 2014 Dadin had been arrested four times and fined for taking part in public protests. Later, his prison term was reduced to two-and-a-half years. On 22 February 2017 the Presidium of the Supreme Court quashed Dadin’s conviction.

Five members of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) have been banned from visiting Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 1 (Matrosskaya Tishina) and the so-called Kremlin Central, which is on the territory of Matrosskaya Tishina. According to the authorities, this is because the five members of the PMC are witnesses in the criminal prosecution of another member of the PMC, Denis Nabiullin.

In Moscow, police officer Dmitry Morozov from the criminal investigation department visited the home of Nikolai Kavkazsky, prosecuted in the Bolotnaya Square case and a human rights defender. The officer asked Kavkazsky about his political activities. When asked by Kavkazsky for the reason of his visit, officer Morozov replied: “I’m sure you know…” The police officer added that he would be coming to visit Kavkazsky regularly in the future.

Thank you

You can help us continue our work now, and in the difficult months of the coming 2018 election campaign, here. You can volunteer to work with us here.

Vyacheslav Bakhmin: It’s wonderful if your work is your life

posted 9 Jan 2018, 10:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Jan 2018, 11:43 ]

14 December 2017

Vyacheslav Bakhmin: an interview with Cheb.media of Cheboksary, capital of Chuvashia

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Cheb.media]

For the last four years the number of non-profit organizations in Russia has been stable. Approximately a third of them actually function, rather than merely existing on paper. These are mainly strong organisations hardened to Russian realities. These are just a few points from Cheb.media's interview with Vyacheslav Bakhmin, an expert in the field of philanthropy and the development of civil society, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, chairperson of the board of the Sakharov Centre and a member of the organizational committee of the All-Russian Civil Society Forum. Our journalists met up with Vyacheslav Bakhmin at a seminar on developing local communities, held in Cheboksary, to talk about the level of awareness in society, the economics of cooperation and the prospects for non-profits.

Many people are talking about community development and the growth in civic self-awareness. Numerous 'foresight sessions' are being held in Chuvashia, and we're sure that our region is not the only one where this is the case. This topic is all around, all the time, but there's a feeling that nobody is taking specific steps and nobody knows where to start.

They feel it’s necessary, but are not sure how to go about it?

Exactly. So these feelings are not deceptive?

Not at all. Bit by bit both citizens and the government, which usually lags behind, are starting to recognize that people are the country's principal wealth and that this wealth is barely used. The fact that a person is a specialist in their sphere of work is only a small part, and not the most effective part, of the resources that are in each of us. We know, of course, that many people go to work just because they have to work to live, but they don't enjoy it. Theoretically, though, it would be better to live in order to work. It’s wonderful if your work is your life.

Many people say the opposite.

The word ‘work’ is not a very good one. It's connected with the fact that you get paid for doing something you've been told to do. But people should do what they like doing and what they are able to do. If everyone started doing what they liked doing, or at least knew what they would like to do (many people don't actually know what they want to do – they just sit and toil away), then the country would change. But people are gradually starting to understand, and the growth in social capital is becoming an important trend in the development of the economy and of the country.

The non-profit sector is built on people's interest in doing something by themselves and their ability to do so, independently of other people's opinions and orders. They have learnt to change their lives for the better – young people, especially. Among them are quite a few successful people who have already been earning their own money, who have been abroad to various countries and who know how things work there. They say, “We want things to be like that here, too – why are things worse here?”

So you connect this shift in understanding with the notion that the generation which didn’t travel to other countries has passed …

It’s connected with generational change, the ability to travel and new technologies. At the forum in Cheboksary I talked about what they call the sharing economy – the economics of shared use and cooperation, which is growing rapidly at the moment. It's all based on the fact that the individual is gaining opportunities the likes of which we've never seen before, and at the same time taking on responsibility. Let's just remember what things used to be like. If you wrote some sort of article and it was printed in a magazine or newspaper, or was put on the internet, perhaps, it meant that you were a professional. You knew how to write an article, you'd probably been learning to be a journalist for years and had studied journalism at university. So you had the right to write a text and publish it.

Nowadays, someone who’s still at school can publish an article that might become a bestseller or a sensation. We know video blogs that are viewed millions of times. Who are these people? Nobody knows where they come from. Who gave them the right to say something? Who authorized them? How did they suddenly become stars? In the old days, you studied, you had superiors. They don't have any superiors, they just wanted to say something. That's how it came about. People have had the feeling that information technology is a new type of economy – it gives people an incredible freedom to do whatever sort of work they like. But at the same time it's an extreme responsibility, because you act at your own risk. If you use Uber or Airbnb, no one guarantees that anyone is going to be there waiting for you, or what sort of a welcome you'll receive. You have a huge freedom of choice that didn't exist before, but you also have this level of responsibility.

Do you think that people are aware of this responsibility?

No, of course not. You can only become aware of it if you get caught out yourself – then you start to think and make a conscious choice, you learn to use information and understand what's fake and what's not fake. Critical thinking is absolutely crucial these days – they should teach it in schools. You can't trick children, mind you – they learn to think critically all by themselves or they don't survive. You used to have to dig to find information – now you have to sift through it. If you haven't learnt to swim in the sea of information, you're a loser and people will wrap you round their little finger.

The most important thing for a non-profit is its mission

How do you estimate the role of non-profits in the Russian regions? From what I understand, they are growing in numbers every year.

Weak. According to official statistics from the Ministry of Justice, around 220,000 organisations are registered. In the last 4-5 years this figure hasn’t changed much. But in reality, no more than a third are actually doing something. That’s nearly 50,000, which I think is still an optimistic number.

Why is it like this?

For example, I am full of enthusiasm and I register an organisation. Then I find out there is no money, people were busy with other things, interest has dissipated because nothing was getting done. And everything was hanging in the air, and I didn’t submit any reports. In principle, only 70% of registered organisations submit reports, although it is required by law. In reality, there are very few working organizations. It is a serious problem; we know absolutely nothing about our non-profit sector.

And does the non-profit sector itself know?

When I say “we”, I mean “we, the non-profit sector”. This includes government bodies, for example the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, the Support Fund for Monocities or the Voluntary Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Navy [DOSAAF]. These are all non-profits, and they have budgets of billions. They are all practically government run, if you look at their founders, and they are given large sums of money. And then all this money is stacked up and divided among a number of organisations. According to statistics, our non-profits on average have six employees. Do you know any associations where six people regularly work?

It's usually three

Three maximum, more often one or two. But six is shown to be the average. All because the state bodies are also included. The Fund for Monocities received in subsidies as much as all the presidential grants for all non-profits. And that is why we know nothing about ourselves, but we should. Activities should be transparent. This encourages trust, and the possibility of working not just by relying on government funding but with support from people. Because the real non-profit sector should receive money from private donations.

And what’s the reason? Our lack of education or an ineffectively built system?

There are many related reasons. First of all, the non-profit sector in Russia is in its infancy. It is only around 20 years old. Similar organisations in America or Europe have existed for hundreds of years. They are a part of society. The degree of development dictates the level of transparency and professionalism. We are moving forward. Progress in the past ten years has been huge, particularly in the charity sector. But in general, the sector is still nascent. There isn’t much infrastructure, no self-regulation. It shouldn’t be the authorities who say, “you must do this and that”, but we ourselves should understand what is important for us: to be open, to publish reports, to meet people, to learn to attract new supporters, both volunteers and private donors.

It’s not possible to manage a non-profit organization with just enthusiasm- it’s a manager’s job. We need certain skills. Where can you find them?

There are a lot of high-level specialists working in foundations and associations. But the problem of professionalism still exists. Especially in small cities, where the exchange of information and skills are difficult. Today, you can learn a lot online, even earning cryptocurrencies! In many cities there are resource centres that provide training. If you don’t have such a centre in Chuvashia, then one should be set up. The non-profit sector is like a skeleton. If there is no support, it can’t move. And the infrastructure allows you to develop your skills. For example, the Social Information Agency is practically creating an info-pool for all NGOs. We need such organisations in a lot of different areas- to teach management, making great presentations, the ability to talk about themselves.

A good example is Mitya Aleshkovsky with the site Takie dela [Such cases]. He brought together classy professional journalists who are able to speak very well about philanthropy. But there is another side, since the non-profit sector is not business. The main thing for NGOs is a mission.

If you start to work only in a professional way, forgetting about your mission, what will happen is what is happening now with Uber and other sharing companies. They began to make money and forgot that sharing is "sharing." If you concentrate only on management, then the company begins to transform. You will start to do only what brings in money, and not what is important to you.

Non-profits and the law

We live in a huge country, divided into regions, with a vertical system of power. Non-profits largely operate through horizontal connections. How strong do you think these are today?

Making horizontal connections is in principle difficult, first of all because of the size of our country. If you want to do something, you go through the capital. All roads lead to Moscow, all the money flows into Moscow, and Moscow then redistributes it. That’s what having a centralized state structure entails. And the non-profit sector? First of all, it’s only one part of civic activity, the part which is organized and legally constituted. There are many more groups of active citizens now, and their number is growing because people have ceased to expect that everything will be done for them. They want to change the world around them by themselves. But to go back to the question of connections. You need to have a base to operate from, in order to make connections. For example, regional resource centres which then publicize practices. Local community foundations have set up partnerships. Lawyers’ associations for civil society have brought together those who want to develop themselves. They communicate with each other, share experience, meet at conferences and seminars. Saving the drowning – that’s the work of those who are drowning. No one else. It’s the same for NGOs. Making connections yourself – that’s the way to avoid being isolated.

In your opinion how strongly do changes in the law, produced by political events, influence the development of the non-profit sector? I am thinking of the laws on foreign agents, on undesirable organizations. After all, organizations that have no connection to politics fall under these laws too.

Of course, they affect the whole system. No one who holds power is particularly fond of independent activity, it’s seen as a potential threat. It’s one thing when something happens in response to instructions from above, it’s another when people themselves have got together. This always arouses suspicion, distrust. Some organizations are seen as not operating as they should. And that, naturally, affects the reputation of the sector as a whole. People don’t make distinctions. They hear that a particular non-profit has been labelled as a foreign agent – all right, this means any of them may be one. If a particular rally is broken up by the police, it follows that any rally should be. But not all are treated alike. The law works selectively. And that’s a specific feature of our country. We don’t have a law-based state.

So, what is a law-based state? A human rights activist gave a very good example in an article he wrote. India was a colony of England. At one point in time the English decided to introduce a salt monopoly: in order to produce salt, a permit was required. But the Indians had always produced salt. On the next day ten individuals went out regardless to produce salt. They were all arrested. Next day a hundred went out to produce salt. They were all arrested. But when ten thousand went, there simply weren’t enough prisons. The law had to be annulled.

And what would have happened here in Russia? Two people would have been arrested, three let go, and five beaten up. And it would be quite unclear what would happen next time round, so no one would go to produce salt. A law-based state – that’s when you know what you can expect from a law.

But our country is not unique. And there are those who abuse the law in the West.

Of course. Human rights are infringed in every country. But in normal countries there are mechanisms with which one can defend one’s rights.

This sounds as though, with our political system, Non-profits don’t stand a chance.

Why so? The dynamics are very positive. The number of  non-profits is not increasing for the sole reason that the newcomers are replacing those disappearing in equal numbers. Yes, it’s true, conditions for their development are not very favourable. But, at the same time, those who have learnt to live in today’s conditions have learnt not only to put up a fight but also to develop, and to become more professional. There’s a well-known phenomenon – people who survive a prison camp or the front line live longer. A stressful situation either breaks you or strengthens you. If you didn’t crack, didn’t die at the front, if you survived all the horrors, your organism can survive anything. In fact, Russia is producing non-profit-survivors. So I look with optimism on our sector.

Translated by Chloe Tennant, Mary McAuley and Suzanne Eade Roberts

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 35: Review of the Year

posted 29 Dec 2017, 05:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Dec 2017, 06:25 ]

29 December 2017

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

In two days’ time it will be New Year. If you wish to send New Year greetings to people who are currently in detention, we have drawn up some guidelines to help you write a letter to a prison colony or a pre-trial detention centre.

The past year has not been an easy one for us. We have met new challenges and, unfortunately, the demand for our work has increased. For example, since last year the number of calls to our helpline has increased fourfold.

Thank you very much for your support. With your help in 2017 we have:
  • received 6,431 phone calls, amounting to 282 hours
  • provided at least 1,591 people with legal advice
  • provided lawyers in more than 450 court cases
  • drawn up 25 applications to the European Court of Human Rights
  • written 4,587 news items that were used by other media 6031 times
This year we have started a Telegram-channel and a bot that gives advice on what to do if you have been detained. We have also provided an online system for assistance with drafting court documents and instructions on how to defendoneself in court, with a memo for adolescents who have been detained.

The most important events for us this year have been:
  • The protest “Don’t Call Him Dimon” that took place in 97 Russian cities on 26 March
On that day, according to various estimates, between 36,000 and 88,000 people took part in the protest. In Moscow, 1043 people were detained — more than at the rally on Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012. After the disperal of the 26 March protests, nine people in three cities were prosecuted under criminal law. Eight people have already been sentenced, the sentences ranging from a one-year suspended sentence to three years and eight months in a prison colony. One person has already served their term and has been released.
  • The anti-corruption protest, “We Demand Answers”, that took place on 12 June in 154 Russian cities
At the protests unlawful detentions and beating of participants by police officers were recorded. More than 1,769 people ended up in police stations. In 46 police stations, officers committed at least 109 serious violations of the law. In police station No. 33 in St. Petersburg, police officers sprayed tear gas into premises holding detainees. Four participants in the 12 June protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg are under investigation for allegedly using force against police officers. Two people have already been convicted. One was sentenced to a fine of 100,000 roubles, the other to two-and-a-half years in a general-regime prison colony. Two of the defendants were minors at the time of their arrest. In Ufa an activist has been prosecuted under Article 280 of the Criminal Code for public incitement to extremism on the grounds of a speech they made at a rally on 12 June.
  • The Bolotnaya Square case
Dmitry Ishevsky and Ivan Nepomnyashchikh have been released from prison. Dmitry Buchenkov, prosecuted for the actions of another person, absconded while under house arrest and has gone to Europe. Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, who has been put on probation following his release, has travelled to the United States to study. At the present time only Maksim Panfilov remains in detention. On 29 March 2017 Panfilov was committed to a psychiatric hospital for compulsory psychiatric treatment.
  • Prosecution of people in connection with the “revolution” of 5 November 2017
The “revolution” announced by Vyacheslav Maltsev on 5 November has served as grounds, throughout the country, for the detention of both his supporters and activists who had no connection with Maltsev. In total, according to our data, at least 35 people in ten cities have been prosecuted for various criminal offences, including terrorism.

Those questioned as witnesses in these investigations have included people who have openly spoken out against the "revolution,"or were in detention several months before the action in question took place. Maltsev himself is currently abroad.

Thank you

You can help us continue our work now, and in the difficult months of the coming 2018 election campaign, here.

We wish our readers a Happy New Year.

“Crimean saboteur” Vladimir Prisich, convicted of possessing marijuana, is a political prisoner [Memorial Human Rights Centre]

posted 28 Dec 2017, 06:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Dec 2017, 06:37 ]

28 December 2017

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Prisich stated at his trial: “After each question I was given an electric shock and told I should think about the answer”

In August 2016 Russian TV stations broadcast film showing Kharkov truck driver Vladimir Prisich confessing to having collected, on the instructions of Ukrainian intelligence services, information about military equipment, vehicles at military units, and such like, that he had seen in Russia. Similar videos were made of confessions by Evgeny Panov, Andrei Zakhtei and Redvan Suleimanov. From the official reports of Russian media, citing Russian intelligence services, it followed that all these individuals were participants in a single diversionary group.

However, the judgments handed down in the cases of Prisich and Suleimanov show no link between the two and the defendants Panov and Zakhtei, who were charged with diversionary activities. On 18 May 2017 Gagarinsky district court in Sevastopol sentenced Vladimir Prisich to three years in a prison colony for possessing 500 grams of marijuana under Article 228 (Section 2) of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal possession of drugs in large quantities).

At his trial Prisich stated he had been tortured: “After each question I was given an electric shock and told I should think about the answer.”

FSB personnel beat and detained Vladimir Prisich on the night of 12-13 August 2016 in the cabin of his truck at a parking place in Sevastopol during a “transport vehicle inspection.” Thereafter, according to Prisich, he was tortured in an attempt to force him to confess to espionage. When he refused, the investigating officers “found” cannabis in his truck. After further torture, he “confessed” in front of a video camera to working for the intelligence service of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. Since the FSB could not find any evidence of espionage by Vladimir Prisich, Memorial Human Rights Centre, on the basis of the materials of the case, considers that the charges brought against him of possessing drugs were fabricated.

We believe that Vladimir Prisich has been deprived of his liberty without having committed any crime. The seeking out of “Ukrainian spies” is a form of “witch hunt” in today’s Russia. It is part of a political campaign, directly related to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

We demand the release of Ukrainian citizen Vladimir Prisich.

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 read more about this case here.

PayPal – an e-wallet for giving help to all Russian political prisoners helpmemorial2016@gmail.com.

Golos: Main News of the Week 18-24 December 2017

posted 24 Dec 2017, 13:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 13:32 ]

22 December 2017 

Source: Golos 

Golos on the elections

Golos is giving away special T-shirts! To show our thanks for donations in excess of 1,500 roubles, we shall make a gift in return. We hope that the serious look of our logo on the T-shirt will stop people wanting to falsify elections.

In the elections that took place last Sunday there was an extraordinary situation in Nenets autonomous district where it was ruled that the winner of the elections was the person who had registered first as a candidate, because two candidates each had exactly the same number of votes.

Elections in the News

The Central Electoral Commission announced the start of the 2018 presidential election campaign - Golos

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights will send 500 observers to the Russian presidential elections — Golos

In Rostov-on-Don a United Centre for Public Election Monitoring has been opened - Golos

Members of the Presidential Human Rights Council visited the United Centre for Election Monitoring in Rostov region — Golos

The authorities in Kostroma decided to combine the presidential elections with voting on the maintenance of city parks— 7х7

The Central Electoral Commission sent head of the Investigative Committee Bastrykin a declaration on the falsification of the State Duma election results in Mytishchy — Interfax


Six parties support the candidacy of Putin for a new term as president — Dozhd

Can blockchain technology be used in the presidential elections? — Kommersant

Navalny has decided to put forward his candidacy for president in 20 cities — Vedomosti

Our bloggers

IT expert Andrei Nesterov has analyzed the membership of the Moscow territorial electoral commissions and reached very interesting conclusions.

Golos’ experts share their impressions about the session of the Central Electoral Commission. Grigory Melkonyants points out the pros and cons of the system of video monitoring that will be used in the presidential elections.

Arkady Liubarev has examined how residents of an old people’s home voted in an election in Klin, Moscow region, and how officials reacted to news of obvious violations.

The elections in Klin were also monitored by Dmitry Zvorykin, an activist from the Sonar movement. In his opinion, the work of the electoral commission in his voting district can be considered a complete failure.

Anna Bochilo explains why the investigation into the unusual early voting in Barnaul is taking place so slowly.

Open Russia: Weekly Human Rights Newsletter

posted 22 Dec 2017, 10:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Dec 2017, 10:37 ]

22 December 2017

"Open Russia’s Human Rights project was set up to provide legal support to people whom the government is persecuting for their opinions, as well as their social and political activity. The initiative offers emergency legal support in cases where there is clearly a political motive. In such cases where our resources are insufficient for legal support, we take part in information campaigns in support of the victims and their families." Source: Open Russia

Season’s greetings! 

Roskomnadzor (the Russian communications watchdog) has now blocked all websites connected with Open Russia. Nevertheless, we’re still here and we’ll continue to work as usual. This month: court cases, more detentions and appeals — just another day in the life of Open Russia’s Human Rights team.

Open Russia Lawyer Sergei Badamshin Appeals to ECHR For Police Inaction Over Assaulted Sociologist - 12 December,  Moscow
A year ago, a group of unidentified men attacked and injected Sergey Mokhov, a writer for the magazine “The Archaeology of Russian Death”, with an unknown substance due to which he lost consciousness. No criminal proceedings have been opened against the attackers, and all appeals to the law enforcement agencies have been flatly ignored. Mokhov has associated his attack with his research into the funeral business.

Court Overturns Case On People Detained For Laying Flowers On Political Repression Memorial - 15 December, Ulyanovsk
On October 7 Alena Shtykina went with her supporters to lay flowers on a memorial to victims of political repression. The police viewed what was happening as an ‘unsanctioned event’ due to the presence of a number of Alexey Navalny supporters. They were later fined as a result. An Open Russia lawyer managed to successfully get the case overturned.

Three Questioned At Moscow Court Over Mikhail Galyashkin Case - 18 December, Moscow
Mikhail Galyashkin stands accused of throwing a can of gas in the face of an officer of the National Guard while crowds were being dispersed at a peaceful anti-corruption demonstration on June 12. In court the officers admitted to using physical force against activists, and that they did not witness the moment that the gas was deployed.

Pussy Riot’s Maria Alekhina Detained Outside FSB Headquarters Along With Photographer And Journalist - 20 December, Moscow
Police officers detained Alekhina as she held up a banner saying “Happy Birthday Executioners!” to mark the birthday of the Russian Secret Police. Two photographers who were present on the scene were also detained. A journalist was also later detained outside the FSB headquarters for covering a demonstration by the “Decommunisation” movement. They were later released from the police station, while Alekhina and one photographer were forced to stay the night until a court appearance was arranged.

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 34: Restrictions on the right of assembly dog Aleksei Navalny's election campaign

posted 22 Dec 2017, 04:41 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Dec 2017, 04:55 ]

22 December 2017

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

If this Sunday you plan to go out walking, then you really must sign up to our legal bot, read the detailed guide on what to do if you are arrested, and make a note of our telephone number: 8 800 707 05 28. You can also watch our cartoon

We have started two major mapping projects:

"Where Things Are Forbidden" — in which we show the map of Russian cities where it is not allowed to assemble “peacefully and without weapons."
"In the Wake of Navalny" — in which we show the thousands of refusals of permission for rallies, and the mere 27 rallies that have taken place in the most awkward locations. We describe how the authorities do not allow the public to meet with Aleksei Navalny, and how they persecute those working on his election campaign. 

And now for the news:

Human rights defender Igor Nagavkin and two other defendants in the case were stripped naked, beaten and threatened with rape by means of a rubber truncheon before the court hearing. The judge responded by saying: “Never mind, it happens.” Nagavkin's pre-trial detention was extended into the spring. Nagavkin is charged with theft of jewelry. Human rights defenders believe he was prosecuted on account of his professional work. Nagavkin himself thinks he attracted the authorities' attention when he attempted to expose a drug mafia within the law enforcement agencies.

The nationalist Igor Stenin has been sent back to a low security prison on the demand of the General Prosecutor’s Office. Stenin spent nine months in prison, after which the charges against him were dropped and he was released. However, the case was returned to the court that upheld the conviction. He had been convicted on the grounds of someone else’s commentary published on the Vkontakte social media network beneath an article about the war on the territory of Ukraine.

A jailed volunteer who had been working on Navalny’s election campaign in Cheboksary has been sent to solitary confinement for five days in a punishment cell for having woollen socks in a bedside cupboard. He was sentenced to two years and three months in a low-security prison for posts he made on the Vkontakte social media site. He has been in prison for only one month, but in that time the prison administration has issued three warnings against him for allegedly breaking regulations, including one warning for taking a shower three times a week, instead of the two permitted. 

Pussy Riot, activists from the "Decommunisation" movement and the Orthodox activist Dmitry Enteo each in their own way congratulated the FSB on Chekist’s Day. At the first event, Maria Alekhina and two photographers were arrested; at the second, journalists from Dozhd TV were detained. Subsequently, Alekhina was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, and a photographer was given 60.

Thank you

You can help us continue our work now, and in the difficult months of the coming 2018 election campaign, here.

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