Rights Groups in Russia

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Team 29: Harry Potter and the Wonders of the Justice System

posted 24 Aug 2019, 14:04 by Translation Service   [ updated 24 Aug 2019, 14:07 ]

16 August 2019

Hi, this is Tanya Torocheshnikova, and I feel like I’m writing to you from Azkaban. In case you haven’t read the Harry Potter series, Azkaban is a prison for wizards, which is guarded by dementors, faceless creatures that suck the happiness out of people.

It seems that these creatures live in the Moscow City Court. They were the ones who this week kept in detention all the defendants in the cases of rioting at rallies.  The Moscow City Court did not listen to anyone, did not review any evidence, was not interested in who was vouching for whom did not release anyone on bail (But what is your relationship to the defendant?), and refused to agree bail on the basis of sums offered on behalf of those detained.

Involved in the “Moscow case” are 14 people who have already begun to be compared with the “Bolotnaya prisoners” (by an incredible coincidence, some of them even have the same surnames). This week my colleagues Katya Arenina and Nastia Andreeva recorded a podcast in which they look back on the “Bolotnaya Square Case”, talk about what happened to some of the defendants, and compare it to what is happening now.

iTunes | Soundcloud | Android | ВКонтакте | Яндекс.Музыке.

The MCC extends the detention of those accused of treason this high-handed and merciless way every time. Right now,  there are16 people; we recently reported everything that is known about them. Today another one has appeared: Sergei Lykhmus, but as usually there are no details about him.

Finally, a bit more magic: a man’s total disappearance. During the Second World War, in Hungary, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved several thousand Jews from death. When Soviet troops entered Budapest, they arrested him and transferred him to the Lubyanka prison, after which he vanished. At first, the USSR denied knowing about it, then began to say that he had died of a heart attack in prison – but this version is contradicted by the testimony of other prisoners and some documents from the FSB archive. Kommanda 29 lawyers are helping Wallenberg’s relatives get access to documents which will shed light on his fate, and we talk about his case in detail.

In the world of Harry Potter, to protect yourself against dementors you need to summon a patronus – a magical being which takes the form either of an animal or of a silver cloud.

In the world of mere mortals, one has to rely on oneself alone. But when you see how hundreds of people attend court to support those arrested, how Muscovites continue to go to rallies and pickets, unafraid of police violence, when you readily respond to the request to help elderly scientist Viktor Kudryavtsev, who is in a pre-trial detention centre… then it seems a little magic still exists.

And Voland-de-Mort is not eternal. [Translator’s note: the author is combining the name of  the villain Voldemort from the Harry Potter series with Voland, the devil from Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita]

Translated by Anna Bowles

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 116: I've loved Russia since I was a child

posted 24 Aug 2019, 13:25 by Translation Service   [ updated 24 Aug 2019, 13:46 ]

17 August 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.

Hello, dear readers!

Over the last month at demonstrations in Moscow more people have been arrested than over the whole previous year. Our ОVD-Info colleague Natasha Smirnova has analysed data from the Justice Department and tells us what to expect if you are taken to court under Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

In the breaks between different forms of hell we posted mini-instructions and cartoons up in Instagram Stories [which vanish after 24 hours] about a man in a top hat and with the headlines. Follow us!!

Here we answer the latest questions about police officers, interrogations, detentions, the European Court of Human Rights and all sorts of other things which it’s handy to know in Russia today (our lawyers, who are buried in thousands of administrative cases, will be very grateful to you if you click on this link before you ask for a consultation).

For genuine elections and against political repression. The demonstration in Moscow on 10 August was one of the largest in the last few years. People in many other cities around the country turned out at meetings and on pickets and marches in solidarity with the capital city. In total, 352 people were arrested in connection with demonstrations – 256 of these in Moscow. Here Misha Shubin has collected the day’s main outcomes. As always, it was not without police violence and human rights violations on the part of the security forces.

  • Why do I need to know? The protest, which has lasted over a month, against candidates being prevented from standing for the Moscow City Council has drawn attention to other societal problems — police violence, human rights violations on the part of the security forces, and similar stories at elections in other regions. Alas, as a result of this series of demonstrations the authorities are not starting to work on their own failings, but are instead initiating a criminal case in connection with “mass disorder”, are putting even more pressure on activists and are trying to silence the spread of information about what has happened. For example, Roskomnadzor [the Federal Office for the Supervision of Communications] banned Google from advertising non-approved demonstrations, the Ministry of Internal Affairs – as is traditional –underestimated  attendance at meetings, and the studio of “Navalny LIVE”, which was meant to broadcast coverage of the Moscow demonstration, was stormed by police. Police officers dreamt up a new, illegal way to restrict detainees’ rights — they confiscated people’s phones while they were in police vans. Here Anna Frolova, our tireless coordinator of OVD-Info’s judicial service, explains the way we work during a demonstration, what to do if police officers confiscate your phone, and how modern police vans make it hard for us to help detainees.

  • After the demonstration, during the night, our colleague Liosha Polikhovich was arrested (which is why the author of this newsletter is currently alternating between standing in for him and writing this text). Polikhovich spoke at the demonstration and shouted out from the stage “They’re out of their ******* minds!” — for this he was detained for 13 days under the article about mild hooliganism. He was in prison for 3½ years over the “Bolotnaya Square case”, so another criminal case for disorderly behaviour (which didn’t even take place) is especially traumatic and disturbing for him. Colleagues from Mediazona reported online from Liosha’s court hearing, at which he, as always, was brilliantly ironic and eloquent. Polikhovich’s lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, discusses the case in detail.

Тhe third case this year of the use of the “Dadin” article [article 212.1 of the Criminal Code, commonly named after the activist Ildar Dadin]. A criminal case under the article relating to “repeated misbehaviour at demonstrations” has been initiated against someone else detained in connection with the demonstration: Moscow activist Konstantin Kotov. He was arrested on 10 August and held by the police [the internal affairs agencies, or OVD] for two days, then events unfolded at the speed of light — he was immediately taken into custody, his home was searched during the night (which is only allowed in exceptional cases), the whole investigation was completed in two days, and lawyer Maria Eismont was given just three days to read the evidence.

  • Why does this matter? According to many human rights activists and lawyers, article 212.1 of the Criminal Code contradicts both the Constitution and international norms. Not to mention the fact that the Constitutional Court disagrees with it, and in its recommendations stated the article should only be applied if the accused person’s actions constitute a risk to society. The article had not been used for nearly 4 years until it was applied in the case of the activist Viacheslav Egorov from Kolomenskoe, and then in the case of activist Andrei Borovikov from Arkhangel. Kotov is accused of participating in peaceful demonstrations five times. Here Misha Shubin and Maria Eismont explain what we need to know about the case and its lightning-fast effect. Here colleagues from Mediazona talk about who Konstantin Kotov is and “why him”.

The case of “mass disorder” (which didn’t actually take place). The Moscow City Court confirmed the arrests of eight people in the case of “mass disorder” at the demonstration on 27 July (one,two). Aleksei Miniailo, Ivan Podkopaev, Egor Zhukov and Vladislav Barabanov have already been transferred to pre-trial detention centre (write them letters of support! For example, here). This week, one of those included in the case, Dmitrii Vasil’ev ended up in intensive care because he wasn’t given insulin in the temporary detention facility (he stabilised in hospital and gone home). Investigators have confiscated phones from the friends of another of those arrested. Previously, they wanted to take away their child away on the basis that they took their child to a demonstration. The home of another detainee’s wife was searched, and documents relating to their son’s birth were taken away as evidence.

  • Why does this matter? 14 people are now investigating this case. A couple of weeks ago the number of investigators was doubled. None of the accused have pleaded guilty. Hundreds of people vouched for the accused, and people were ready to pay bail so that some of the detainees could be released. But the court decided they should all be arrested. Here journalists from Mediazona talk about the first, second and third waves of arrests in this case.

“I want to make an honest confession. I’ve loved Russia since I was a child. For a long time, I didn’t see any difference between state agencies and the country. It’s embarrassing to admit that I even supported Putin. I love Russia and don’t stand by idly when I see that it is being abused by an organised criminal group which is in charge together with Putin”, said Aleksei Miniailo, one of the defendants in the case.

“Memorial”, an expedition to a graveyard and two сrimes. In the Perm region, after an expedition by “Memorial” to the graveyard of people who were repressed, a criminal case was initiated for illegal cutting of forest plantations, and subsequently one more — about the fictitious registration of foreign citizens. Before this, “Memorial” staff and volunteers were interrogated until night-time.

  • Why do I need to know? Since the year 2000, “Memorial” staff have been organising expeditions to the Polish/Lithuanian graveyard in the abandoned settlement of Galiashor, where victims of political repression are buried. In 2016, some Lithuanians erected a memorial sign at the graveyard. The security forces decided that their actions constituted illegal occupation of land and fined two residents of Perm region who had helped them. The conflict was resolved by the local Human Rights Ombudsman. The fines were lifted and the memorial was no longer termed illegal.

  • At another graveyard of victims of repression, this one located in Karelia, the Russian Military History Society began excavations this year, putting forward the hypothesis that the people buried there are not in fact victims of Stalin-era repressions but Soviet prisoners of war from Finnish concentration camps. One of the discoverers of the burial site, the head of “Memorial” in Karelia, the historian Iuri Dmitriev, was arrested on the charge of molesting his own adopted daughter. He was fully exonerated in the first case against him, but then they initiated a second case against him.

Searches at “Legal Initiative” and a footprint from the Caucasus in a case in Moscow. Searches have been carried out at the “Legal Initiative” offices in Moscow и Nazran'. In Moscow, law enforcement officers broke into the premises without an order authorising the search, and then said that it was connected with a criminal case about setting up a criminal society (but didn’t provide any documents). In Nazran’ it was even crazier — the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Northern Caucasus stated that among the organisers of the demonstrations on 27 July and 3 August there are “coordinators located in the Northern Caucasus Federal Area”.

In brief: some more typical news. In Kirov, linguists have found extremism in an Old Testament quote. A music festival at an eco-camp in Arkhangel region, organised by opponents of the construction of a dumping ground for rubbish from Moscow, has been banned. FSB and Centre “E” staff asked a female witness in the “Novaia velichiia” case not to say who paid for her office, which was rented by Ruslan Danilov for meetings between the defendants in the case, and on whose testimony the charges are based.


A record investigation speed. In three cases of "demonstrations”, the investigation was completed in too short a time. Lawyer Ilia Novikov tells OVD-Info what’s wrong with this, what the stages are in the investigative process and how long they all take.

The shooters will be found among the police themselves. According to data from the Chamber of Lawyers, at least 12 Moscow law enforcement officers did not give lawyers access for two to six hours after the demonstrations on 27 July and 3 August, and two lawyers were not allowed in at all. In two departments, Investigative Committee staff obstructed the work of the rights defenders. First Vice-President of the Chamber, Genri Reznik, commented on the Chamber of Lawyers’ letter to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutors’ Office and the Investigative Committee on the subject of lawyers not being given access to their clients.

“Illegal agitation” from a car. During the 10 August protests in Saint Petersburg, 80 people were detained. One of them, Nikita Zaretskii, managed not to be put into a police van on the picket line, but was detained once he was in his car, with banners and a flag, by the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate. At the police station, Zaretskii was asked whether opposition activists were really going to stalk police officers’ children. We’ve written about it here.

Four hours on the ground and a kick in the groin. Last week, a search was carried out at the Anti-Corruption Foundation in connection with a case of money forgery, and quick response unit and police officers came into the “Navalny Live” stand-by studio during the demonstration on 10 August. Aleksei Shupliakov, one of those detained, tells us how the search was carried out.

What a week!

Every day we write up the latest news and help people who’ve been arrested.

Now we really need your help, because we can only do all this with your support.

Sign up to give a monthly donation to OVD-Info, so that we can carry on working on your favourite newsletter.

There’s also an English-language version of our newsletters, which you can read on the Rights in Russia website.


The OVD-Info team

Illustration by Anastasiia Vikulova for OVD-Info

Translation by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Team 29: Plenty of bad news; not so much good news

posted 13 Aug 2019, 22:48 by Translation Service   [ updated 13 Aug 2019, 22:55 ]

9 August 2019

Hi! This is Nastya Andreeva. 

Usually you hear me in our podcasts or watch my videos. But today I’m compelled to write a dispatch. A second variant of my non-standard assignment was to receive someone’s parcel at the Ladozhsky railway station at 10 AM, so now you’re reading it.

If you’ve forgotten or never knew the sound of my voice, I have something for you! Namely, a new installation of “Little Terror.” It seems that until this year elections to the Moscow City Duma were never interesting. That’s partly true, of course. But still, something curious happened, and we’ve done a podcast on how the elections went in 2005 and 2009. Spoiler: it’s very similar to 2019. You can hear the podcast on iTunesSoundcloudAndroid«In Contact» and on «Яндекс.Музыке», and you can leave evaluations and write opinions and commentaries (even in response to this letter, but better to do it on iTunes).

To make it more convenient for you to share our podcast with friends, we’ve made a page on our site with links to all sources where you can listen to us.

Meanwhile in Moscow, still, all is hell. On 3 August the Investigative Committee filed money laundering charges against the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). Almost an anniversary celebration: in August 2001, Russia hastily passed a law “On Countering the Legalisation (Laundering) of Criminally Obtained Incomes”. Searches were conducted in FBK’s office and in workers’ homes – you can read a chronicle on our friends’ site, OVD-Info.

On that same 3 August, a former Russian National Guard member, while being arrested, ostensibly injured the shoulder of a current National Guard member. A court remanded the former one in custody for two months on a charge of using violence against a public official. There are new defendants in the case of mass disturbances, which was opened after the demonstration of 27 July. There are already ten accused persons. Mediazone reported on the first six here, and on the most recent ones here.

Colleagues from Novaya Gazeta have drafted a petition and are demanding an end to the prosecution of participants in the peaceful protest of 27 July. Sign the petition, and if you planning on going to tomorrow’s demonstration, which will take place not only in Moscow, but also in other cities (this time it’s approved, true, but at times security forces have stopped them), please read our reminder to protest participants, which has been revised based on the outcome of recent events.

But we’re not just about demonstrations. We’ve had two nice victories.

Russian law prohibits disclosing the secret of adoption without the permission of the adoptive parents. The adoptive family of Olga Ledeshkova was not against the government naming her biological mother, but it could not do so. Team 29 has been fighting together with Ledeshkova for three years to have the information revealed. The Supreme Court initially found that the lower courts were wrong to refuse Ledeshkova, and upon a recent review of her case released the documents. Olga got to know her biological mother – but now she’s seeking her father. We tell her convoluted story here.

We’ve already written about this, but we’re happy to write again. Until recently it was possible to gain access to archival files on one’s relatives only in cases where the family member was a rehabilitated victim of political repressions. Relatives of those who have not been rehabilitated (and it’s no simple procedure at all), have been refused by courts – people could not find out why their relatives had been shot or sent to the Gulag. Since a complaint filed by actor Georgy Shakhet, the Supreme Court has allowed relatives access to such files. We spoke with Shakhet and recorded a short video. It contains the story of a man who has longed his entire life to know what happened to his grandfather and why it was unacceptable to mention his name at home except in a whisper.

Subscribe to us on social media, where you can watch our videos and listen to our podcasts.

Nastya, Team 29

Translated by Mark Nuckols

Team 29: Beat, detain, convict and jail

posted 13 Aug 2019, 22:43 by Translation Service   [ updated 13 Aug 2019, 22:55 ]

2 August 2019

Hello, it’s Katya Arenina. 

The same thing is on all our minds – there are protests in Moscow and St Petersburg again today; we still haven’t escaped the past but possibly, will in the coming next few months and years. Something very worrying is happening: the authorities have chucked out all attempts of giving the appearance that any kind of democracy exists here, and have begun to beat, detain, take to court and lock up.

Yesterday the Moscow courts were choosing (and chose) pre-trial restrictions for the accused, according to the article on civil disorder at the Moscow protests on 27 July. You probably know, but it is worth a reminder all the same for those, who, for instance, were on holiday: last Sunday in Moscow there were protests for free and fair elections to the Moscow City Parliament. Many people came out: it is said around 15,000. But the protest won’t be remembered for that; of these supposed fifteen thousand people, 1373 were detained, 265 were kept overnight and 25 were beaten.

At the beginning of the week we tried to make some kind of predictions (well, not even predictions – just a discussion, what and how), but, it seems, nobody that we spoke with predicted anything so violent. The legal cases started to appear after the protest – about violent conduct towards police and civil disorder. They were later combined into one case, to be investigated by 84 investigators, and the information agency sources have already begun to be afraid, that before the end of the week the number of suspects in the case will increase to thirty people.

Here is what is written in the decision to initiate proceedings: “unidentified persons pursuing the goal of encroaching on the foundations of security and destabilising the socio-political situation in the Russian Federation […] decided to organise mass unrest in Moscow, accompanied by the presence of armed resistance to government officials. For the same purpose […] they developed a plan of illegal activity, discussing the time, place and staging of the unrest they had planned.”

In short, some unidentified persons, this means, developed a plan for those people, whom the court arrested yesterday, to “point to the right”, throw a plastic bottle, causing unbelievable physical harm to the police, and list the helmet’s visor. And this will be considered armed resistance to the authorities. So it goes.

If you are preparing right now to go to the protest, read our new memo. We have gathered all the important advice and analysed some of the behaviour of the law enforcement officers and the authorities at and after the recent protests. In addition, in July they released a participant from the last rally that the authorities suppressed: Stanislav Zimovets – he spent some two and a bit years in prison and a colony. We asked him how he served his sentence, what he plans to do now and what he thinks about the recent protests.

Here we are all trying to understand how it all happened: the wording “the campaign for the Moscow City Duma, which promised to be extremely boring” has become tired but this hasn’t stopped it being true. We tried to get a better understanding a spoke to the regional co-ordinator of Navalny’s headquarters, Leonid Volkov. It was interesting: “Either this is some kind of protest generation that has nothing to lose, or the fearless Bolotnaya people, or perhaps it’s both at the same time, but I don’t see that the standard scare tactics would work. It’s very similar to the film “V for Vendetta”: at the beginning they are scared, everyone is afraid, then everyone laughs and then they simply stop being scared.”

This newsletter turned out to be long, so read it as well as the texts, don’t get in trouble, and take care.

Katya, Team 29

Translated by Mercedes Malcomson

Golos: Main news of the week: 5th - 11th August 2019.

posted 13 Aug 2019, 12:01 by Translation Service   [ updated 13 Aug 2019, 12:08 ]

11 August 2019

Everything you need to know about last week’s elections

Political crisis in Moscow worsened by the Central Election Commission

Our hopes did not materialise: the Central Election Commission sided with the Moscow City Electoral Commission, refusing to recognise the complaints of unregistered candidates for deputies of the Moscow City Duma. You can read more about this on the "Zakon" news agency page.

Golos was forced to make an urgent statement, stressing that the CEC had shown bias and violated the principles of candidate equality, which has led to a complete devaluation of the election institution.

Golos experts have also expressed their personal points of view:

The head of the Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, admitted that a vote of no confidence will be passed on Valentin Gorbunov, the chairman of the Moscow City Commission. Can the CEC force the head of the commission to resign? Vitaliy Averin explains.


  • Golos calls for election observation in the Ramensky district of Moscow- Golos

  • City Duma candidates from the Communist Party demand the resignation of the head of the Gorbunov election commission and a recount of signatures - Znak.com

  • The head of the Moscow City Electoral Commission responded to allegations of legal violations of the law - RIA

  • Mikhail Fedotov: Signatures and Votes - Website of the Presidential Council on Human Rights

  • Candidate for governor of St. Petersburg, Vladimir Bortko, threatened with registration cancellation- Znak.com

  • Suspicions arise surrounding documents filled in by a group of mayoral candidates in Novosibirsk - Taiga.Info

  • A political Autumn is coming - Novaya Gazeta

  • The Public Chamber of Tatarstan will deal with election scandals - Kommersant

You can donate to support Golos’ work here.

Translated by James Lofthouse

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 115: Election protests; offices of Anti-Corruption Foundation searched; theft in a police station

posted 13 Aug 2019, 11:43 by Translation Service   [ updated 13 Aug 2019, 11:53 ]

9 August 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.

Greetings, dear readers!

Thanks to the sheer volume of insane news and the scale of recent events, in our last newsletter we completely forgot to tell you about our new podcast. In it, Ksenia Sonnaya and guests talk on air about the need for fair elections, why the gathering at the Moscow City Election Commission led to a criminal offence and why the authorities are cultivating apathy towards the election process.

You know what, among ourselves, our team calls the footing on which we put the main page of our website during large protests? War mode. Not in the sense of an armed confrontation, of course, but in the sense of mobilising all our forces, employees and volunteers. Once again during summer we are switching to war mode, so that you can quickly find the most important things: instructions, lists of detainees, and guidance. We hope that you have already long since noted and saved our 24-hour hotline number: 8 800 707-05-28 and the lawyer-bot OVD-Info, and also completed all the points on the checklist. 

Here’s a reminder of what to bring with you:

  • fully charged phone;

  • power bank and charger;

  • your passport or a copy of it;

  • water.

The authorities prepared for today's protests as follows. The Moscow Mayor’s Office prohibited the rapper Face, and the groups Krovostok and IC3PEAK from appearing at a rally on 10 August, under threat of withdrawing permission for the event. In Murmansk, Tomsk and Rostov-on-Don, the police required potential participants in solidarity rallies with Moscow to sign advance declarations of the unacceptability of their actions. In Belgorod, the mayor’s office refused to agree to protests on all three sites proposed by organisers, citing a pre-planned rally in support of security forces who dispersed the protestors in Moscow. In St Petersburg, the Ministry of Internal Affairs prohibited printers from producing opposition materials. Finally, the organisers of the Moscow rally were invited to an unplanned meeting with the police; and employees of Navalny’s headquarters were detained while distributing materials about today’s protests, and posters were seized from them.

* Why is this important? Muscovites have already been protesting for a month against the prohibition of independent candidates from the elections to the Moscow City Duma. During these protests, the security forces detained people with unjustified force, and beat them. The protest being held today in the capital was authorised by the mayor’s office, but the authorities continue to hinder it from going ahead. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunya Miyatovich has also turned her attention to the violation of the right to peaceful meetings. In her letter to Minister for Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev she strongly urges the Russian government to observe this fundamental right.

The preceding protest turned out (and continued) this way. The security forces used prohibited methods against peaceful protesters again: they were beaten, they were detained for longer than expected, they were fingerprinted, lawyers were not allowed into the police station, and so on. Amongst other things, telephones were seized from most of the detainees, and the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) investigators questioned themselves as witnesses in the case of “mass rioting” (which did not happen). Because of this, we even had to refuse to publish our traditional list of the names of the detained – on this day at least 1,001 people were detained in total. After the rally, the ICR immediately instituted two criminal cases. In the case of the use of force on employees of the National Guard of Russia, two former Russian Guard soldiers were arrested, to be held for two months, during which crude process one National Guard supposedly dislocated his shoulder. Another participant in the rally was accused of inciting hatred or hostility, after publishing a tweet about the children of members of the security forces. Alongside this, people who had been beaten during the protests began to file statements about the actions of law enforcement officers (the same cyclist from the video, a libertarian with a head injury). Participants in the rallies on 27 July and 3 August talk about their summonses to the military prosecutor’s office and the military recruitment office.

  • Why do I need to know this? The security forces who are attracted in large numbers to peaceful protests as if to protect citizens are protected and anonymous, while the citizens themselves are not. Videos of crude detentions and severe beatings spread around social media and the majority of the mass media, which cannot be said for at least some of the materials that confirm the use of violence on people in uniform. People are increasingly reporting violence on the part of the security forces to us, but so far nobody has been held accountable. On the contrary, the number of criminal cases against detainees from the rally is growing. The organisers of the public campaign “Law and Order Number” [Translator’s note: a campaign to ensure that police officers and members of the Russian Guard have an easy-to-read personal identification number on their uniform or protective equipment while working at rallies] told OVD-Info about how the problem of impunity for police and Russian Guards who use unjustified force could be solved. As for the search for military conscription ‘dodgers’, the authorities are demonstrating their viewn of the army as a mechanism for intimidating citizens. If you or your loved ones are called to the military prosecutor’s office after participation in protests, follow these guidelines.

New defendants have appeared in the criminal case of “mass rioting” at the 27 July protest. The day before, Dmitry Vasilev was detained – the thirteenth person involved in this case. On the same day, the court arrested Aydar Gubaidulin and Sergei Fomin, who had previously been detained. They even managed to put the latter on a wanted list; a few days later he voluntarily gave himself up to the police. Nevertheless, he pleaded not guilty and refused to testify. Other defendants in the case – Kirill Zhukov, Alexei Minyailo and Samarridin Radjabov – have gone on hunger strike in protest at the arrests.

  • Why is this important? The number of defendants in this case is growing rapidly. Also of concern is the practice of the forcible interrogation of those who have been detained during a protest as witnesses in a criminal case, as used on 3 August. In addition, pressure is being put on the relatives and acquaintances of the accused. The homes of some of Fomin's friends were were subjected to a search, after which the prosecutor’s office announced that it was going to deprive them of their parental rights because Fomin allegedly left the rally with their child in his arms. For some reason, employees of the temporary detention centre told the father of the accused Sergei Abanichev that he had already been taken to a detention centre, so he could not be transferred now. The younger brother of Vladislav Baranov, another person involved in the case, was threatened by an unknown person who presented himself as an investigator. here, Barabanov’s mother talks about what her son was doing before his arrest and why he went to the rally. And here and here you can read about the first ten people accused in this case.

At the office of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, searches were carried out in a money-laundering case. The case was opened on 3 August. According to investigators, persons unknown transferred money (about a billion roubles) to accomplices, including ACF employees. Searches in this case were also carried out in Izhevsk.

  • Why do I need to know this? This is not the first case of organisations associated with Alexei Navalny being investigated for money laundering. We will be patient and monitor the development of the situation.

Some other important news items from outside Moscow. At the Shies station in the Archangelsk region, agents of private security forces once again beat eco-activists. The activists were taken away by ambulance, but nobody took the private security agents anywhere. The authorities in the Archangelsk region consider Andrei Borovikov to be the organiser of the protests. He is charged under Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation with repeated violations of established procedure at protests, and preliminary hearings began this week. In Yekaterinburg, a new criminal case – the fifth so far – has been opened after the protests against the construction of a church in a city park. You can read about the previous four cases here.


“They created an organisation and carried on correspondence”. This week two meetings were held on the “New Greatness” case [Translator’s note: New Greatness is a protest organisation accused of extremism and planning to seize power through a coup]. During the first meeting an employee of the Main Directorate for Combating Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – also known as the E Centre – talked about receiving information about New Greatness and the beginning of its development.  At the second, a woman who rented an office to “the organisation” was questioned. The premises were rented by alleged provocateur Ruslan Danilov. We have published excerpts from the interrogations.

Investigative operation a success Among those detained on 3 August was Igor Kalyapin, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council and head of the Committee against Torture. By mistake he was transported in a police van with protest participants and detainees, and tried to remain unrecognised for as long as possible. They were at the Marino police station by the time the security forces realised they had detained the president of the committee, and released him. The human rights activist told OVD-Info what happened.

Robbed in the police station. A person detained on 3 August tells how he is trying to get back the phone that investigators seized from him during interrogation in the case of “mass rioting” on 27 July. At every level, the Investigative Committee of Russia acknowledges that the actions of its employees were unlawful, but nobody replies as to how to get the phone back. A law firm has even offered to help get the phone back from the ICR, for a fee.

“They were forced to kneel and keep their heads down”. An underage detainee tells how he was first struck by riot police, and then at the police station an investigator began to interrogate him about the “mass rioting” case. In order to get away from the station faster, the detainees were given the option of refusing a lawyer.


Every day we post news and help detainees. 

Now we really need your help; it’s thanks to your support that we can do all this.

Sign up here to make a monthly donation to OVD-info, so we can keep producing your favourite newsletter.

Photo of the protest for free and fair elections by Evgeny Feldman / Meduza

Translated by Anna Bowles

Aleksandr Cherkasov on events to mark the murder of Natalya Estemirova (Memorial Human Rights Centre)

posted 10 Aug 2019, 08:16 by Translation Service   [ updated 10 Aug 2019, 08:18 ]

22 July 2019

Greetings. I am Aleksandr Cherkasov, head of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre.  Ten years ago our colleague in human rights work Natalya Estemirova was kidnapped and then murdered. We have decided not only to honour Natasha’s memory but to talk about various aspects of her work and about what is happening in those areas now.

On July 15 we held a memorial evening dedicated to Natalya Estemirova.

  • Friends and colleagues remember her (a video; five quotations from the commemorative evening; photos by Anna Artemeva (Novaya Gazeta); 
  • Actress Chulpan Khamatova  reading from the book by Natalya Estemirova’s daughter Lana (video).

On 15 and 16 July there were presentations and discusssions on the following topics: 
  • Russian refugees in Europe, presentations by human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina and Novaya gazeta correspondent Elena Milashina (video and text);
  • Federal relations in Russia on the basis of materials from contemporary Dagestan and Tatarstan (text); d and Dagestan. A paper by the director of the Center for Analysis and Prevention of Conflicts Yekaterina Sokiranskaya, sociologist Ekaterina Khodzhayeva and political scientist Denis Sokolov
  • Idlib on the edge of humanitarian catastrophe: discussion of the situation in the Syrian provinces where three million people are in danger from strikes by government and Russian troops (text).
And more: Memorial has prepared a special project: we relate exactly what Natalya Estemirova did and whom Natalya Estemirova helped in Chechnya.

Materials from the media:

  • "It does not hold up to criticism."  - on the investigation into the assassination of Natalya Estemirova (RFI)
  • "She was completely unstoppable (Meduza)
  • "She was  kidnapped while I slept" (Nastoyashchee vremya)
  • "We do not reminisce, but we remember every day"  (Ekho Kavkaza).

Read, circulate, discuss!

Yours sincerely

Aleksandr Cherkasov

Translated by Rose Glickman

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 114: At least 1,373 arrested, 77 injured during Moscow protest on 27 July 2019

posted 9 Aug 2019, 20:30 by Translation Service   [ updated 9 Aug 2019, 20:52 ]

2 August 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.

Hello to all our dear readers! To be honest, l
ast week was one of the most difficult and intense weeks we’ve ever had here. We know that it is not easy for many of you, either.

A great deal has changed since the events of July 27th, our lives included. During the demonstration in support of unregistered candidates to the Moscow City Duma, a record number of people were detained in Moscow. The brutality of law enforcement officers and violations committed by both them and the courts, were unprecedented. We will have to live with the consequences of this for a long time.

If you were detained on July 27 and need help in court:

  • Fill out the application form. The sooner we learn about the court, the more chance we have of finding a lawyer in time to help you.

  • Read the instructions about how to best protect yourself in court. This will help you to understand how the trial works.

If you are charged with an article that involves administrative arrest (for example, part 6.1 of article 20.2 of the Administrative Code), then we advise you not to go to court. There are more useful instructions here, where you will learn what to do if your report contains an arrest article. In general, we recommend that you have a read through the section entitled "Your Rights" on our website — now is a good time to improve your legal literacy.

We are now on constant high alert, as you should be. If you are going to the demonstration tomorrow, or there is a chance that you will be nearby, you MUST install our legal bot and write down the number of the 24-hour hotline OVD-info — 8 800 707-05-28. Stay in touch, take care, share any useful information with friends, and do not panic. We will not abandon you!

If you are a lawyer with an interest in human rights, and you want to help detainees — tell us about yourself at advokat@ovdinfo.org. We need your help now more than ever.

And now, onwards to this week’s news.

The most important and disturbing news is that of the criminal case opened by the Investigative Committee following Saturday’s demonstrations. The case cited parts of Article 212 of the Criminal Code, six have been accused, some of whom face up to 15 years in prison. Five more people were detained the day before.

  • Why is this important? According to our data, on July 27th officers detained more than 1373 people. At least 265 of them spent two days in police custody. Detentions were accompanied by violence from security officers — 77 people were injured to varying degrees. Among them — injured journalists, the author of a logo of the Moscow Metro logo (whose leg was broken), and a municipal deputy who received head injuries. The authorities did not apply any sanctions to these "law enforcement officers". One of the protesters was arrested on the suspicion that he threw a garbage can, another was arrested for this gesture. Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin considered the demonstration to be a "riot". As part of the decision to initiate a criminal case, the demonstration was referred to as an "armed resistance". Interrogations and searches continued throughout the week, and the coordinator of the "Left bloc", Vasily Kuzmin, was interviewed twice for some reason. It is clear that the authorities will try to find and punish the "guilty" by any means necessary.

Alexander Savelyev is accused of cooperation with the "undesirable organisation". On Tuesday, searches took place in the office of "Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus". During the search, security forces used tear gas, leaving the coordinator Andrey Rudomakha with chemical burns.

  • Why do I need to know this? Apparently, the case Savelyev is connected with the activities of the "Open Russia" movement. Ever since the Prosecutor General's office recognised the movement as "undesirable" in 2017, its participants, activists and even sympathisers have been persecuted. Savelyev's case is the fifth in Russia, initiated under the article relating to cooperation with an "undesirable organisation". All five are connected with the work of "Open Russia", which was disassembled in March of this year.

18 Crimean Tatars who supported the defendants in the "Hizb ut-Tahrir" case in early July, have been fined 20 thousand rubles each. 

  • Why do I need to know this? On July 11th, 44 Crimean Tatar activists who came to the Supreme court building to support the defendants in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case were detained in Moscow. In December 2018, they were sentenced to 16 years and 9 months in prison on charges of organising or participating in the activities of a terrorist organisation. The party "Hizb ut-Tahrir" is recognized in Russia as a terrorist organisation, and because of this, hundreds of peaceful Muslims have become involved in criminal cases. Experts consider the ban to be illegal. Here you can read what human rights activists say about the situation.

Crimean Tatar activist Eden Bekirov is forced to say that the leaders of the Mejlis were preparing a terrorist attack in Crimea. The activist survived a heart attack, he has a disability, and lost his leg due to diabetes. According to investigators, in Crimea Bekirov gave the taxi driver a bag with almost 12 kg of TNT and almost 200 rounds of ammunition and asked them to hide it.

  • Why is this important? There are many questions to ask in Bekirov's case. There is a classified witness, the defendant himself was denied medical care, and now has been subjected to pressure. The head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, Refat Chubarov, believes that for Bekirov such a requirement is an ultimatum, "the price of which is human life." On June 11th, the European Court of Human Rights decided to immediately place Bekirov in a non-prison hospital. According to Chubarov, Russia has not implemented any of the ECHR recommendations.

But there is some good news (alas, only one bit).

Kolomensky activist Vyacheslav Egorov was released from house arrest. The court has instead banned him from communicating with the participants in the case, participating in rallies, using the internet or disseminating information about his criminal case. But can leave his house!

  • Why do I need to know this? Egorov stands accused of repeated legal violations during the rallies. This article contradicts the international norms and the Russian Constitution. Here we talk about why the case against Egorov is illegal.


This time, all our texts are relating to the events of July 27th. Here, Misha Shubin talks about the results of the demonstrations and the actions of law enforcement. Here Sasha Litoy writes about how the detainees spent the night in police custody (spoilers: it was very bad).

We have compiled a summary of the violations committed by the authorities during and after the protests. We have virtually never seen such blatant disregard for the rights of peaceful protesters.

The cherry on top of this most unpleasant cake was, of course, a criminal case. The last time events like this took place in Moscow was May 6th, 2012. With the permission of "MediaZona", we have republished their story.

Scooters, cards, "majors" and DNA. Vladimir Gelmel was detained on July 27th, when he was driving from work past Trubnaya square on his scooter. He was found guilty of participation in the demonstration, arrested, and then interrogated. Gelmel's friend Maria told OVD-info his story.

"The main thing is, a person should never be left alone in the system." I would like to finish this newsletter with something that does not cause anger in its author. Our beautiful and irreplaceable legal service coordinator Alla Frolova gave an inspiring interview to "Afisha", where she talked about how OVD-info works and how much we’ve (not) slept this week. "I rarely watch OVD-info because no normal person can read it every day," Alla says. So, to avoid going crazy, read our newsletter. Luckily, it only comes out once a week.

What a week!

Every day we write about the news and help detainees.

We rely on your support. You can sign up for a monthly OVD-info donation to allow us to continue preparing your favorite newsletter and more.

Illustration by Anastasiya Vikulova

Translated by James Lofthouse

Golos: Main news for the week 29 July – 4 August 2019

posted 5 Aug 2019, 21:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Aug 2019, 21:53 ]

4 August 2019

Everything you need to know about the elections for the past week


Moscow: refusals and arrests

“The City Hall List” was a real thing, and the Moscow authorities began to promote their candidates in the Moscow City Duma elections long before the start of the election campaign. Our experts discovered this after analysing references to candidates in district newspapers. Read our extensive reportwith illustrative graphs.

This week the working group at the Central Election Commission began to consider refusals to register independent candidates for election to the Moscow City Duma. A decision will be made after a meeting, but so far the working group has recommended refusing unregistered candidates Konstantin Lisits and Yulia Serebryanskaya. Grigory Melkonyants explains how the work of such groups is arranged.

Meanwhile law enforcement agencies have opened a case concerning riots at protests on 27 July, which broke out in response to the refusals to register opposition candidates. A court has ordered four defendants to be detained for two months: they include our colleague Alexei Minyailo, a member of the SONAR movement of volunteer election monitors. Alexei himself claims that he was in court on 27 July and attended the rally towards the end of the day – at which point he was detained.

News about Roman Udot

The Moscow Regional Court agreed with Khimki City and dismissed the appeal made by the defence in the case of Roman Udot. Roman, a board member at Golos, is still forbidden to leave his flat at night, and to use the internet or telephone. He still cannot fully join our team.

It is notable that last time the Moscow Regional Court mitigated the restrictions placed on Roman Udot. However, this time the appeal was considered by a different judge.

Additionally, Roman was given a compulsory psychiatric examination. The results will be known in a month’s time.


  • Golos has launched a hotline relating to the 8 September elections – Golos
  • Pamfilova: In all cases of ambiguity, the candidates will be given the benefit of the doubt – Golos
  • How observation influences the results of a vote: the example of the Kemerevo Region – Golos
  • Residents of Transbaikalia are complaining about the illegal registration of the governor in the elections – Siberia. Realia

Translated by Anna Bowles

Team 29: Elections without Love

posted 5 Aug 2019, 21:39 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Aug 2019, 21:45 ]

26 July 2019

Hi, this is Tanya Torocheshnikova.

All week I’ve been following independent candidates for the Moscow City Duma as they fight for their rights and demand to be registered. Every one of them is beautiful in their own way, but my personal hero is Lyuba Sobol, a lawyer for the Anti-Corruption Foundation, who first declared a hunger strike as a sign of protest, then went into the election commission office and stayed there the whole night, refusing to leave without a meeting with Ella Pamfilova. The denouement of the story rivals the drama of classic plays.

LYUBOV SOBOL, Independent candidate for deputy of the Moscow City Duma

ELLA PAMFILOVA, Chair of the Central Elections Commission



Russia, 2019. One week before a demonstration advocating the registration of independent candidates.

Act One
Sobol, along with other independent candidates, arrives for a meeting with Ella Pamfilova.

ELLA PAMFILOVA: No one is going to provide you with comfortable arrangements—this is a political fight. And besides, the demonstration’s effect on the decision to be made will be… ZERO!

Act Two
Four people, including Alexei Navalny, are arrested for calling on supporters to protest. Night-time searches are carried out at the homes of independent candidates. Sobol conducts a hunger strike at the center for signature collection. In the morning she is delivered a summons for interrogation.

SOBOL: I have an appellate hearing with the elections commission at 11. I’ll go to that first, and then to the interrogation.

SOURCES CLOSE TO THE KREMLIN: On the question of whether it is possible to permit the registration of opposition candidates, the town hall and the internal-political block of the Kremlin are united – the officials are convinced that it is not possible.

Act Three
Sobol brings an independent handwriting expert’s examination of signatures supporting her candidacy to the election commission’s office and demands that she be registered. She is refused.

SOBOL: I will continue my hunger strike in the Moscow Elections Commission building and demand a meeting with Central Elections Chair Ella Pamfilova. I’m not the least bit naïve about this – the refusal to register me was a political decision.

ELECTIONS COMMISSION: Come now, why are you being such a pessimist?

PAMFILOVA: remains silent.

Act Four
Sobol sits on the sofa. Evening comes on. The lights in the elections commission are turned off and the doors are closed. Sobol gives an interview from a ground-floor lavatory window.

Act Five
Night. Police enter the building and carry out Sobol along with the sofa.

ELECTIONS COMMISSION: Our security removed the sofa to shake off the parasites, bugs and such. They didn’t lay a finger on her. She was sitting on the sofa, and they removed it. And where the police sent her from there, we don’t know.

All that remains is for me to remind you to bring water, a charger, and some food when you go to a demonstration. If they arrest you – don’t panic, don’t resist, and don’t provoke police officers. You can find full instructions on how to conduct yourself—from the patrol wagon to signing protocols in the police department—here.

Support us, in order to enable us to write more memos and inform you about how to defend yourselves.

You can also support out friends at OVD-Info, which assists all those detained at demonstrations, and Mediazona, which will tell you about on-going court cases.

Translated by Mark Nuckols

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