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OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 50: Telegram blocked, claims of torture in a prosecution for alleged terrorism, and a school teacher sentenced for a poem

posted 13 Apr 2018, 00:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Apr 2018, 06:57 ]

13 April 2018

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 information on freedom of assembly, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit hereThese English translations of OVD-Info's weekly bulletins are published by openDemocracy and are reposted here by kind permission.


Please note the article 'OVD-Info: Every Day - Navalny' has been moved to this new location.

Moscow’s Taganka district court has ruled in favour of a lawsuit by Roskomnadzor to block the Telegram messenger service. We ourselves have a channel and a legal bot on Telegram. It is very simply to get round the blocking! There are two fantastic links on this from Aleksandr Litreev: this one or, even simpler, this second one. After clicking on the link, Telegram suggests that you set up a web proxy. This is secure, but you must do it on all your devices.


The authorities continue to hype up the case of the so-called “Network” terrorist group. Earlier, a number of those accused in this case alleged they had been tortured.

  • Yuly Boyarshinov, from St. Petersburg, has been named as a new defendant in this case. We tell the story of how Yuly came to be one of the accused in this case, about pressure that was put on him in pre-trial detention, about a single cell with 150 people, and about the anarchist symbol drawn on the dusty glass of a cell window. If you want to share this story with your friends abroad, here is an English translation.

  • “First of all they tortured the son, now they are dealing with the mother”: in Penza the investigator and journalists from NTV are putting pressure on Elena, the mother of Ilya Shakursky, a defendant in the “Network” case. This occurred after Elena got in touch with the parents of other defendants in the case and with human rights defenders.

  • The FSB in St. Petersburg has found no confirmation of the torture to which Viktor Filinkov and Igor Shishkin, detained in the “Network” case, have allegedly been subjected. Moreover, the fact of torture has not in itself been denied. It is merely said that everything was done “in accordance with departmental regulations.”

  • The wife of Viktor Filinkov, Aleksandra, has requested political asylum in Finland. Since her husband was detained, Aleksandra has been in Kiev. However, she has left Ukraine for fear of her safety. You can read what Aleksandra has to say about what happened in the first months after her husband’s arrest here.


The poet and former high school teacher Aleksandr Byvshev has been sentenced by a court to 330 hours of community work for a pro-Ukrainian poem. According to Byvshev, “On Ukrainian Independence” is a “polemical response” to a poem of the same name by Iosif Brodsky. The judge also banned Byvshev from working as a teacher for three years.


Civil society activist Mikhail Savostin in Mineralnye Vody has claimed drugs were planted on him. A court remanded Savostin in custody for two months. He has been charged with possessing drugs in a very large quantity (Article 228, Section 3, of the Russian Criminal Code). This is not the first case in the North Caucasus when authorities have sought to use these methods against activists.


Civil society activist Mikhail Smyslov from Saratov has refused to testify against a defendant in a terrorism investigation. The FSB came to see him at his place of work. According to Smyslov, a man came to his office and asked him about the prosecution of Sergei Ryzhov, coordinator of the Free People political party, who has been charged with preparing an act of terrorism. The FSB officer also had a conversation with Smyslov’s boss. Smyslov thinks it possible that the FSB are seeking to spoil his relations with his employer.


Ilya Romanov, an anarchist from Nizhny Novgorod serving a sentence for preparing an act of terrorism, has been charged with justification of terrorism. According to investigators, in May 2017 Romanov was in prison hospital No. 21 when he published on the Facebook page “Voldemar Putiniana” a video entitled “Invitation to Jihad.” Romanov himself asserts that he did not see this video, and the Facebook page had been created for him by another prisoner by the name of Zhuravlev, who is a witness in the case. Romanov believes that Zhuravlev is cooperating with the investigators and thinks that the video was published either by Zhuravlev himself or by one of the investigators. More information about the case can be read here.


Thank you

As you probably know, we continue to have a great deal of work to do. You can donate to support our work. You can also join us as a volunteer.


OVD-Info analyzes official harassment of Navalny's campaign for president: Every Day - Navalny

posted 8 Apr 2018, 08:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Apr 2018, 07:00 ]

23 March 2018 


Source: OVD-Info 


Here are our results from the presidential election, setting out just what kinds of harassment the opposition candidate - and those who supported him - faced in Russia. 

Aleksei Navalny announced his intention to run for president on 13 December 2016. Over the following 15 months, we reported nearly every day about harassment experienced by Navalny himself and by those involved in his election campaign.

We have analysed the materials we published and relate in what follows how and whom the authorities harassed, and what bodies were involved in this.

How were Navalny’s supporters harassed?

Arrests (26.8%)

The most common type of harassment.

Navalny’s supporters were detained at rallies, pickets, marches and ‘campaigning Saturdays,’ including at those events that had official permission. Sometimes police arrested participants several days or even months after the event – for example in Murmansk seven participants in an action on 28 January were detained only on 14 March. The police took activists from their homes, from schools, from places of work, and from courts, where they had gone to support their comrades - and on one day Navalny himself was detained on the doorstep of a dental clinic. The police also detained people who had no direct relationship to the campaign: for example, in Kovrov, police took the director of a printing house which had printed campaign leaflets to the nearest police station, and in Saratov contractors who had put up a stage were similarly treated. See below for further details about arrests that took place across the country.

Fines (8.9%)

Activists were fined primarily for violating the regulations for holding public events and failing to obey police instructions. For example, in the course of the first month after the 26 March protest, Moscow courts alone issued fines totalling close to 2,960,500 roubles, and in Nizhny Novgorod participants were fined more than 400,000 roubles. Nonetheless, fines were imposed on Navalny supporters not only for taking part in protests, but also, for example, for video tapes, a photograph with Deputy Milonov and painting the facades of a building.

Refusal of permission (8.5%)

City authorities regularly refused to permit public events by campaigners: chosen locations were declared occupied, squares were unexpectedly closed for renovation, and the purposes of events were deemed non-compliant with the Constitution. Alternative options, suggested by city halls, were not always suitable for the organisers – for example, in Nizhny Tagil activists were permitted to set up a campaign office 90 kilometres from the city, and in Kazan a rally on 12 June was permitted only at seven o’clock in the morning. Sometimes the authorities rejected applications in bulk: for example, in Saratov, authorities refused to allow 2,018 applications submitted simultaneously for rallies in various locations, and in St. Petersburg 700 applications were rejected.

Administrative offences (7.5%)

Most often, police filed charges against activists for refusing to obey police instructions (Article 19.3 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences) and violating the regulations for holding public events (Article 20.2). During the campaigning period, the authorities began to file charges under Article 5.12 (distributing campaign materials in violation of the law) against Navalny supporters. Charges were also brought for other administrative offences. For example, charges were filed against activists in St Petersburg for wearing raincoats with the inscription “Navalny” that were similar to police uniforms. Sometimes charges were not linked to actions, or were not formally connected to the political campaign. For example, in Adygea a Navalny volunteer was charged with displaying a swastika because of an anti-war post with a picture.

Jailings under administrative law (6.3%)

The courts jailed very large numbers of Navalny supporters after major protests. For example, after the rally in Moscow on 26 March, 64 people were jailed. Activists were jailed for terms of from one to 30 days, but sometimes were taken into custody for much longer. In St. Petersburg a campaign co-ordinator was re-arrested immediately after being released from the detention centre where he had served a 30-day sentence. He was jailed again for a further 25 days. The courts actively jailed people in the run-up to the election. For example, in Leningrad region an election monitoring co-ordinator was jailed two days before the polls.

Seizure of campaign materials (5.2%)

Throughout the campaign, police regularly called on various regional headquarters to seize leaflets. They also took away press walls and banners – for example, because of a “chemical smell” or to conduct checks on extremism. Sometimes police seized campaign materials even before they reached the campaign headquarters – in Vladimir and Kovrov, leaflets were taken from print shops. In several cases, the police considered T-shirts with campaign symbols to constitute campaign materials and seized them directly from activists.

Searches (4.5%)

Police conducted searches of activists’ homes as well as of campaign offices. This often happened before large-scale public events: on 8 July, the day before a “campaigning Saturday,” police visited several regional headquarters, and before the rally on 12 June they conducted searches of the apartments of activists involved in its organisation.

Courts dismiss appeals (4.2%)

Courts of appeal dismissed appeals against fines, arrests and community work sentences, and upheld sentences in criminal cases – for example, with regard to the investigations into the 26 March protest. From time to time, courts in Moscow and St Petersburg heard appeals on a “conveyer belt basis”: after the protest in St. Petersburg on 12 June, 45 appeals were rejected in one day, and after the 26 March rally in Moscow, 23 appeals were rejected.

Police visits (2.8%)

Police visited the homes of Navalny supporters, their workplaces, their places of study, their parents’ apartments, and regional campaign headquarters to conduct searches, hold “conversations”, draw up administrative charges, or simply “for purposes of prevention.” Before large-scale public events, police visited the organisers. For example, in Tula police called on the organiser of a meeting with Navalny; in St Petersburg an official from the prosecutor’s office visited the organiser of the “Voters’ Strike.”

Assaults (2.3%)

In the course of the campaign, assaults were perpetrated against supporters of Aleksei Navalny, and against Navalny himself. In March 2017, green dye mixed with a caustic substance was thrown in Navalny’s face, as a result of which Navalny was diagnosed with a chemical burn to the eye. In Stavropol, on 26 March unknown individuals struck the organiser of a picket on the head and, in Vladivostok, Cossacks attacked a participant in the 12 June demonstration. The campaign headquarters of Navalny in various cities were also attacked. The Ufa headquarters was bombarded with eggs, in Kirov windows were broken, and a few members of an organisation known as “Putin’s Troops” attacked the Krasnodar headquarters a number of times.

Pressure on students and employees (2.2%)

Students in various cities were threatened with expulsion and other measures for participating in actions supporting Navalny or protesting corruption. For example, in Rostov-on-Don college students were forced to sign a document saying they would not go to the rally under threat of expulsion. and in Saratov region a school principal threatened a student they would have problems with the Federal Security Service (FSB). Pressure was applied to the parents of students as well. In Tula class teachers phoned parents and threatened “repressive measures” against their children. Navalny supporters also encountered problems at their places of work. For example, employees of the Ekaterinburg Experimental Design Bureau were reprimanded after a rally.

Threats (2.1%)

Activists received threats both from anonymous sources and from the police – in St. Petersburg police threatened to plant gun cartridges on a campaign volunteer, and in Moscow promised to “poison the lives” of people arrested following the 26 March protest, demanding that they “confess to everything”.

Pressure was also put on Navalny’s campaign offices. In Moscow threats written on paper were pasted on the offices’ walls, and in Nizhny Novgorod unknown persons filled the doorway of the building with insulation foam and threatened the owner.

Courts uphold bans on public events (1.5%)

When city officials refused to permit a public event, their organisers went to court. However, in most cases they met with refusals there too. Organisers' appeals were rejected in Tver, Vladivostok, Nizhny Novgorod and other cities. In Kazan, a court upheld as lawful a series of 18 refusals to permit meetings with Navalny.

Interrogations (1.5%)

In most such cases, Navalny supporters were summoned for interrogation on criminal charges laid after the 26 March protest. In Moscow, adolescents have sometimes been interrogated twice. At times the interrogations have not formally been connected to Navalny’s campaign. For example, in February 2018 a volunteer at the campaign headquarters in Voronezh was interrogated about the arson attacks on cars. According to the activist, he was interrogated about the March protest, about people working at the headquarters and about other volunteers. People were called in for questioning even because of photos posted on VKontakte and collecting money for Navalny’s campaign.

Compulsory work (1.4%)

For the most part, people who participated in campaign events were sentenced to compulsory work. For example, after the “Voters Strike” on 28 January, seven activists were given from 20 to 120 hours’ compulsory work in various cities. In Kostroma a participant in the anticorruption demonstration of 26 March was sentenced to 20 hours of compulsory work for not paying a fine.

Summons to the police (1.2%)

Activists were summoned to police stations for administrative charges to be drawn up, to give evidence, or simply to “have a talk.” There were other reasons as well. For example, participants in the Moscow demonstration of 26 March were invited to police stations to have fingerprints and photographs taken. Once the police arrived at a radio station as it was airing the Kaktus (Cactus) radio programme to summon the former head of Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, Nikolai Lyaskin.

"Conversations” with the authorities (1.2%)

In the majority of cases, police conducted “conversations” before and after large campaign events. For example, in Khanty-Mansiisk police, together with the rector and vice- rector of the university, spent three hours persuading a student not to hold a picket on 12 June. The police telephoned one participant in the 26 March protest and asked them about their opinion of corruption. Sometimes the police used threats. The deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Udmurtiya threatened to “swamp” an activist with fines if he did not go to his office. Activists who were detained and searched without official records being drawn up and were given verbal warnings in which, it is assumed, the police explained to the “law breaker” the consequences of their actions.

Criminal prosecutions (.09%)

The criminal prosecutions with the highest profiles were related to the demonstrations of 26 March and 12 June. Several persons were accused of using violence against representatives of the authorities. In one case, a defendant had attended a rally simply because his daughter had decided to participate. But Navalny supporters were not charged only after a demonstration. For example, the coordinator of the Volgograd campaign headquarters was accused of rehabilitating Nazism because of a collage on which a picture of the “Mother Russia” monument had been painted green.

Extension of administrative law jail terms (0.7%)

Primarily, the courts jailed participants in the 26 March demonstration who were accused of violence against the authorities. On one occasion, that of human rights activist Dina Idrisov, a court increased the jail term for an administrative offence on the grounds that Idrisov had spent two days in hospital.

Refusal to allow a search or initiate a prosecution (0.5%)

The authorities were not as keen to open investigations on the basis of complaints made by Navalny’s supporters as they were to open cases against them. For example, in Leningrad region police refused to launch an official investigation when Navalny volunteers were attacked with a spade. Allegedly it “was not possible” to establish the identity of the aggressors. No case was brought against police officers in Petrozavodsk and Samara who assaulted activists and journalists. And the courts repeatedly refused to hear lawsuits brought by Navalny himself against Roskomnadzor [the government media oversight agency] and the Ministry of Justice, as well as his legal challenge against electoral law.

Sacking/dismissal (0.5%)

In some cases, Navalny supporters have been fired from their jobs or expelled from educational institutions after public events or because of their participation in the election campaign. For example, in Krasnodar, a soldier was drummed out of the army because of his participation in the "Voters’ Strike," while in Eisk a secondary school teacher lost their job after attending an anti-corruption action. In Chita, the coordinator of Navalny’s campaign headquarters was expelled from university, and in Kaliningrad the person (a student) who formally applied to hold the anti-corruption action on 12th June was expelled for "disrespect to the law and the courts."

Pre-trial detention (0.5%)

The courts have remanded in custody a number of the defendants in the “Case of 26 March rally” and one of the defendants in the “Case of 12 June rally.” A participant in the Moscow Voters’ Strike protest suspected of using violence against the police was also remanded in custody.

Prison terms (0.4%)

Nine Navalny supporters were sentenced to terms in prison during the campaign. Seven people received sentences ranging from eight months to three years and eight months as a result of prosecutions related to the 26 March protest, and one of the participants in the 12 June rally was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. A Navalny volunteer in Cheboksary was given a prison sentence, unconnected with protest actions, of two years and three months in an open prison colony for posts he made on social networks.

Travel restrictions (0.4%)

The courts imposed travel restrictions as pre-trial measures against certain defendants in prosecutions related to the events of 26 March and 12 June. The same measure of restraint was also imposed on Aleksei Navalny and Petr Ofitserov in relation to the "Kirov Forest” case, when they were banned from leaving Kirov. Travel restrictions were also initially imposed on the coordinator of Navalny’s Volgograd campaign headquarters who was charged with rehabilitation of Nazism. He was later placed under house arrest. A month later this activist was again released under travel restrictions.

Not allowed into premises, or to take part in an event (0.4%)

Activists have been banned from premises they have rented. For example, in Nizhny Novgorod the owner did not allow Navalny into premises let to him for a meeting with campaign volunteers. In Eisk, Navalny’s supporters were not allowed into their offices at their opening. Sometimes participants in an event were not allowed access to the location where it was to take place. In Nizhny Novgorod, for example, the city authorities closed off access to the square where Navalny was to hold a rally.

Refusal to let (0.3%)

In some cities the owners of premises rented by Navalny’s teams prematurely cancelled contracts and evicted his supporters. In Mytishchi, the owner fixed a second lock on the door of the premises. In Moscow, due to an unexpected decision to terminate their contract, the congress of the Party of Progress was not able to take place. Activists believe the authorities put pressure on the owners of premises. The head of the Navalny campaign in Kemerovo claimed that officials had threatened the owners of the building.

Suspended sentences (0.2%)

During Navalny’s campaign, the courts handed down suspended sentences to three participants in the 26 March and the 12 June protests. Activists in Moscow, Petrozavodsk and Volgograd received suspended sentences ranging from 12 to 18 months. Navalny himself and Petr Ofitserov were given suspended sentences of five and four years respectively in relation to the Kirov Forest case.

Others (6.9%)

The authorities did not limit themselves to standard methods of pressure. In Blagoveshchensk activists were asked to write explanatory statements about statements they had made. In St. Petersburg, gas was released into a cell in the police station where detainees were being held after the protest, and in Irkutsk the court ordered the physical removal of the toilet facility in Navalny’s local office. Bank accounts were blocked and unidentified persons stuck up forged leaflets in Navalny’s name calling for the holding of a gay parade. Cossacks who spoke at the Navalny campaign headquarters were excommunicated by the church, while in Krasnodar people turned up at the Navalny headquarters in fancy dress.

Nationwide Protests

Probably the harassment related to the large, national protests that Navalny's team organized received most public attention. It makes sense to talk about each of these events separately.

Anti-corruption protests - 26 March 2017

There were large-scale protests in 97 cities throughout Russia on this day. More than 1,500 people were detained, 1,043 in Moscow where brutal force was exercised by police who used riot-control weapons and violence. The majority of those detained were charged with various administrative offenses. More than 700 administrative cases were heard at Tver district court, and 64 people were jailed for administrative offences ranging for periods ranging from 2 to 25 days. Police also detained about 70 minors and took them to police stations.

In all regions there was a very great wave of pressure against protest participants. Nine people were prosecuted under criminal law in three cities. They were charged with using violence against public officials. Nine people have already received prison terms ranging from 12 to 44 months in general-regime prison colonies.

Anti-corruption protests - 12 June 2017

Protests took place in 154 Russian cities. Instances of unlawful detention and police brutality were recorded at the protests. 1,769 people were arrested in 31 cities.

At least 109 major violations of the law were committed in 46 police stations. In St. Petersburg police station No. 33, police officers sprayed tear gas in a room with detainees.

Four participants in the protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg have been charged with using violence against a police officer. Two of those accused — Mikhail Galyashkin (Moscow) and Dmitry Myakshin (Petersburg) — were minors at the time of their arrest.

One participant in the Moscow rally was sentenced to 30 months in a general-regime prison colony. He was charged with hooliganism as well as using violence against a police officer.

In St. Petersburg a chess player who, according to the investigators, struck a National Guard soldier in the back, was fined 100,000 roubles.

In Ufa, Rustem Muliukov is being prosecuted for inciting extremism in a speech he made at the June 12 rally in the city.

"Campaigning Saturday" - 8 July 2017

During the summer holidays, Aleksei Navalny's staff held another nationwide protest, this time using a different format. On 8 July a "campaigning Saturday" was held across the country, attended mainly by volunteers and campaign staff. More than 130 people were arrested at these events, 84 of them in Moscow. Arrests were accompanied by the seizure of leaflets and assaults, and in Ufa police stopped participants on the pretext of checking whether the bicycles they were riding had been stolen.

Rallies for Navalny - 7 October 2017

After Moscow’s Simonovsky district court jailed Navalny for 20 days on 2 October 2017, effectively halting his autumn tour of the country, rallies were organized in several Russian cities demanding Navalny be permitted to participate in the election. Across Russia, a total of 321 people were arrested, several before the protests had begun or after they had finished. Two people were arrested in Moscow, where the protest did not have official permission. This presumably marked the beginning of a new strategy by the authorities towards large-scale protests by Navalny supporters. The decision was made not to arrest large numbers of people in order not to attract attention to the protests. The authorities decided instead to focus a campaign of harassment against the protest organizers, and ensure that this did not occur at the same time as the protests so that the police actions would not attract public attention. Some of the arrests related to these protests happened several months after the events themselves.

Presidential nomination - 24 December 2017

Groups supporting Navalny’s nomination as a candidate for president came together in 20 cities on 24 December. Despite some concerns, the meetings took place with practically no arrests. The day after the protest was a turning point in the campaign when Aleksei Navalny was denied registration as a candidate and his presidential election campaign was transformed into a movement for a voters' boycott.

"Voters’ Strike" - 28 January 2018

On 28 January, 371 people were arrested in different cities in connection with the Voters’ Strike. Sixteen people were arrested in Moscow, where an unauthorized protest was held on Pushkin Square and teenagers again, as on 26 March, climbed the streetlamps. On 28 January, in an episode that illustrates the conscious change in strategy on the part of the authorities, a minor who had taken part in the protest called the OVD-Info telephone hotline from Ufa. He reported that the police were preparing to formally charge him with an administrative offence, but when the police learned that the detainee planned to tell OVD-Info about it, they changed their mind.

However, harassment of supporters of an election boycott, both before and after the actual protests, was regular and systematic. Individual instances of harassment of Navalny supporters in various regions can be observed during his “autumn tour,” when the politician traveled around the country to meet with voters. More information about this is provided in our article “Following Navalny.”

Scale of Harassment

OVD-Info does not possess complete information about the pressure to which Navalny supporters have been subjected. However, we can judge the scale of harassment from the reports we received via our telephone hotline and through other media. The data we always have to hand is the OVD-Info news, and here we can confidently state that over the past year there were only 41 days when there was no news about harassment of participants in Navalny’s election campaign or the voters’ strike.

The second obvious indicator is geographical scope. We know of harassment in all but nine of the Russian Federation’s 83 regions. In the other 75 regions and in Crimea, the authorities have put pressure on campaign participants, as we have reported.

On the interactive calendar linked to the map and presented here, we show the campaign as seen through the prism of OVD-Info news reports. The dates shown as the links on the calendar are the dates of the incidents of harassment.

Navalny campaign’s statistics

The scale of harassment is also confirmed by statistics provided by Navalny’s national campaign headquarters to OVD-Info. According to these calulations, regional participants in the Navalny campaign paid fines totalling 17,547,758 roubles, spent a total of about seven and a half years in jail on administrative charges, and, moreover, have been sentenced to enough hours of compulsory work to equal more than a year and a half of unpaid work by one person at eight hours a day without time off.

Subjects, objects and methods of harassment

In order to understand which bodies have been involved in the harassment of various groups, and to follow the connections between them, we have presented all the data in the form of a diagram. For example, you can see the percentage share of pressure on students by educational institutions.

Data

Underpinning the figures presented above are the data obtained from publications on the OVD-Info website. The unit of calculation is an act of harassment, defined in terms of place, time, object, subject, and type of pressure.

By “subject” we mean the body that, at least in a legal sense, took the decision to apply pressure.

By “object,” we mean those people who were subjected to harassment (for example, volunteers, those who took part in various actions, coordinators of campaign headquarters, and so on). The data do not indicate the number of people who suffered harassment (for example, whether five or 10 volunteers were arrested at a particular time and place is not clear from this data). We tried to show the scale of harassment in numerical figures such as the number of people harassed, the sums paid in fines, and so on, with the help of previous OVD-Info special projects and data provided for us by Navalny’s national headquarters.

The initial data can be downloaded here.

Working on this project were:

Snezhana Aleinikova, Irina Bashkirova, Boris Beilinson, Daniil Beilinson, Matvei Borun, Grigory Zhilenkov, Dmitry Zaborin, Yulia Ivanova, Diana Karimova, Elena Kriven, Nikolai Markov, Elena Mulyarova, Ivan Mukhin, Olga Nikolaenko, Roman Petrishchev, Dmitry Privoznov, Aleksandra Pushkar, Olga Rozanova, Yana Sakhipova, Aleksandra Urman, Tatyana Fedorova, Daria Filimonova, Maria Shapiro and Irina Yatsenko, along with two other volunteers who wish to remain anonymous.

Translated by Anna Bowles, Marian Schwartz, Mercedes Malcomson, Nina de Palma and Rose Glickman

For interactive charts and diagrams, please see the original text here

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 49: Government seeks to block Telegram, protests against landfill sites, and historian Yury Dmitriev convicted - of possessing a firearm

posted 6 Apr 2018, 05:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Apr 2018, 06:51 ]

6 April 2018


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 information on freedom of assembly, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit hereThese English translations of OVD-Info's weekly bulletins are published by openDemocracy and are reposted here by kind permission.


The government media watchdog Roskomnadzor has brought a lawsuit against Telegram, where our useful bot has its home. There will now follow a court case and an appeal, after which, if the court takes the side of the government agency, the Telegram messenger will be blocked. There is still time to hook up to a VPN, but you had better not wait too long. And, by the way, people are also being prosecuted for reposts on Telegram.


In Moscow region, campaigners against a landfill site are being arrested. Over the past week in Volokolamsk 16 people protesting against the Yadrovo waste dump were arrested. One of those arrested and subsequently jailed for 15 days has gone on hunger strike. At a car rally protest against the Yadrovo landfill, between 12 and 18 people were arrested according to initial information. One of those arrested was jailed for 14 days. Later, the places of work of two of those arrested in Volokolamsk were searched. Two women protesting against a landfill in Volovichi were both fined 5,000 roubles each. An activist protesting against a landfill at Nepeino was also arrested.


Moscow city authorities have refused for a fourth time to permit the holding of a picket against sexual harassment in the State Duma. Three women who took part in single-person pickets against State Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky were arrested, one of them twice (together with a cardboard cut out of Slutsky). Earlier, three women journalists had publicly accused Slutsky of sexual harassment.

Judgment has been handed down in the case of Memorial employee and historian Yury Dmitriev.  Charges of depravity in relation to a minor and the making of child pornography were dismissed. He was sentenced to 30 months’ probation for illegal possession of a firearm.


A lawyer representing an activist from the “National Revolutionary Vanguard” has reported her client was tortured.  “They beat him on the back of the neck and on the head, pointed a pistol at him, tried to find out information from him about other participants in the National Revolutionary Vanguard. In addition, they took a statement from him that subsequently they did not even add to the materials of the case,” the lawyer said.

This week four people have told us about their experience of dealings with public officials:


  • The journalist Sofiko Arifdzhanova told us about her questioning by the FSB a year ago. She believes that this interrogation was one of the first investigative measures in the high profile investigation into the alleged terrorist group in Penza and St. Petersburg.

  • Activist Svyatoslav Rechkalov told us he was tortured by means of an electricshocker in Moscow by officers from the anti-extremism police department. He was forced to confess that he was “the main anarchist.” They tortured him in connection with the investigation into the broken window in a district office of the United Russia party.

  • Navalny supporter Sergei Lopatin told us about his observation of elections in Grozny. According to Lopatin, even when Magomed “Lord” Daudov personally threatens you, it does not yet mean that something will actually happen to you.

  • A student, Aleksandr, talked to us about threats of expulsion and psychological pressure he experienced after distributing leaflets in support of a boycott of the elections. Police officers broke into his room in a student dormitory at 6:30 am, seized his telephone and made copies of his contacts.


If you would like to share your own story with us, write to us at info@ovdinfo.org. You can also read more accounts here.


Thank you

As you probably know, we continue to have much work to do. You can donate to support our

work. You can also join us as a volunteer.


Golos: Main News of the Week: 26 March — 1 April 2018

posted 2 Apr 2018, 09:23 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Apr 2018, 09:30 ]


30 March 2018

Source: Golos 



Golos on the elections

We are launching a search for ballot papers which were not included in the final counts! If you spoiled your ballot paper or took it away with you and this is not apparent from the final results — let us know. We will compile the statistics and ensure that your voice is heard.

Andrei Buzin analysed how CCTV cameras at polling stations influenced voting outcomes, and whether there was a difference in turn-out and the percentage of votes in favour of Putin.

Removing observers from polling stations is prohibited by law, but electoral commissions are coming up with new ways of getting rid of unwanted witnesses. We have identified 27 cases in which observers, commission members, media representatives and voters were subject to pressure or removed, across 13 different regions. Please let us know if you have experienced something similar and it does not appear on this list.

Observers have long reported ongoing problems with mobile signals at polling stations in Balashikha and Reutov. Our colleagues from Reutov4life have discovered the answer to this question, which is hard to believe – jammers at the polling stations!

A new incident at Stavropol has been reported, in which an observer was attacked. Unknown persons calling themselves “FSB employees” told the victim to “calm down”. Aleksei filmed the assault and has lodged a complaint with the Investigative Committee; we will monitor the investigations into this incident.

We are continuing to publish long reports on the presidential elections in the regions. The latest selection includes: 

Karelia: low turn-out despite the “voting drive”
Kurgan: large-scale campaign by the administration and refusals to carry out a recount
Ivanovo: large-scale campaign to increase turn-out
Ryazan: organised transportation of voters and irregularities during the counting of votes
Tomsk: members of polling station commissions need further training

The most alarming voting results are those from the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Karachai-Cherkessia Republic and the Republic of Ingushetia. Statistical analysis shows that these results may be fictitious. However the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation has ignored our conclusions so far, and has failed to muster the courage to verify these results.

We have also collected statistics on local elections. These show that over the 22 weeks since the start of the electoral cycle (the Single Election Day), United Russia has won 60% of governor positions.

Our bloggers

Dmitry Kuznetsov, member of the district electoral commission for the Nagorny district of Moscow, provides further details about one of the major scandals of the presidential elections – the fact that the district unashamedly rewrote its final results.

Arkady Liubarev, a member of the Golos board, streamed his activities as an observer live to the Internet, and uncovered electoral fraud. 

Translated by Joanne Reynolds 

Golos: Main News of the Week: 19 — 25 March 2018

posted 2 Apr 2018, 09:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Apr 2018, 09:22 ]


23 March 2018

Source: Golos 



Golos on the pressure to which observers are subjected

David Kankiya, Golos coordinator for Krasnodar region, was arrested again this week. He was detained upon leaving a press conference at which he had told journalists about widespread violations during voting in Kuban. In Apsheronsk, for example, members of the electoral committee stuffed ballots 12 times per hour, and that is not even the record!

David’s arrest will not cover up these facts. In support of our colleague, we have set ourselves a marathon task; we will publish videos of ballot stuffing during the presidential elections on 18 March on a 24-hour basis. Follow our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, VKontakte and elsewhere.

If you uncover any new evidence of electoral fraud, please forward it to our “Map of Violations”, and your video too will appear in our marathon.

A second Golos activist, board member Roman Udot, was attacked by journalists from the NTV television channel. This is not the first time that they have followed Roman and interfered in his private life.

Golos demands that independent observers should no longer be subjected to pressure, and that the guilty parties should be held accountable.

Golos on the elections


“99.2% of soldiers voted, and 90% voted for Putin,” said Russia’s Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu. This is a strange statement to make, whatever he meant by it. Golos is asking for an investigation, all the more so because a video has been supplied by witnesses of forced voting by soldiers.

Golos submitted requests to the Secretary of the Civic Chamber and the Human Rights Ombudsperson, who responded that the reported violations had been verified, and that the majority of the information on the “Map of Violations” was unsubstantiated. We are curious as to who checked the activities of human rights activists and how, and what the outcomes were.

We summarised the preliminary conclusions from observations of the presidential elections at a press conference, but we continue to receive reports from the regions. These can be found under “Information from Golos coordinators”.

We are also publishing long reports from the regions:

2018 elections. Novgorod: voter turn-out lower than in 2012.

2018 elections. Krasnodar: unprecedented pressure on observers and widespread violations.

2018 elections. Lipetsk: over 90% of votes for Putin in five regions.

Our bloggers

Grigory Melkonyats, who watched the first wave of video recordings from the polling stations, discusses the many cases of ballot stuffing on voting day. 

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 48: 26 March, one year on

posted 30 Mar 2018, 04:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Mar 2018, 05:05 ]

30 March 2018


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 information on freedom of assembly, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here


One year ago, on 26 March 2017, protests against corruption were held in many cities across Russia. More than 1,500 people were arrested.


The anniversary of the mass street protests coincided with the tragic events in Kemerovo. The death of children as a result of the fire in a shopping mall, the terrible details and the outrageous behaviour of officials, brought people on to the streets in a number of Russian cities. On this occasion the authorities had the sense not to arrest anyone. Only in Izhevsk and St. Petersburg did police inspect placards that protesters were holding. But when people joined a protest against a waste dump in Kolomna outside Moscow no such restraint was shown. Police arrested at least 20 people.


In the past year a number of large scale protests have been held in Russia that were marked by the large number of arrests. Most of those convicted in connection with the events of 26 March remain in prison. Last week the sentence handed down in the case of Dmitry Krepkin (18 months in a prison colony) was upheld on appeal, while a few days ago Aleksandr Shpakov (18 months in a prison colony) was moved to solitary confinement.


In addition to the criminal prosecutions, following the 26 March protest in Moscow police took many people to court on charges brought under administrative law: dozens of people were jailed and hundreds fined for administrative offences. We have analysed some of the materials drawn up by the police on the basis of which these administrative penalties were enforced. We found evidence that signatures on these documents had been forged.


In the great majority of cases, opposition protests in Russia are peaceful in nature. But for the authorities it is important to show that they are opposed by terrible internal enemies who are none other than extremists and terrorists. In order to present activists as terrorists, the authorities resort to torture. Viktor Filinkov, a resident of St. Petersburg, is one of these so-called “terrorists” who has reported that he was subjected to torture. We have published his version of how FSB officers behaved towards him after he had been tortured.


Meanwhile, it appears that police officers can themselves create an “extremist group.” We analysed materials relating to the prosecution of the organisation “New Greatness” and discovered that a police captain and his agent, in the course of an operation to infiltrate the group, brought about the arrest of ordinary activists.


The authorities in the North Caucasus have their own internal enemy: human rights defenders. Just recently the head of the local office of Memorial Human Rights Centre, Sirazhutdin Datsiev, was beaten up in Makhachkala.


Thank you


As you probably know, we continue to have much work to do. You can donate to support our work. You can also join us as a volunteer.



Photo: Protest in Izhevsk in support of Kemerovo residents (c) by Brian Elfman for Dozhd


Memorial Human Rights Centre: Roman Maryan, charged with attempted participation in the “Revolution 5/11/17”, is a political prisoner

posted 26 Mar 2018, 11:27 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Mar 2018, 11:29 ]

17 March 2018





Roman Maryan [Роман Марьян], a political activist from Krasnoyarsk opposed to the government, has been charged with “preparing to take part in riots” under Article 30 (Section 1) and Article 212 (Section 2) of the Russian Criminal Code. FSB officers detained him on a train as he travelled to Moscow at the end of October 2017 where he was going to take part in the “Russian March” and the “Revolution 5/11/17.”

According to investigators working on the case, Roman Maryan received a letter urging him to take part in an armed uprising on 5 November 2017 in Moscow, and he made preparations to do so.

On 5 November 2017 there was no armed uprising in Moscow. From the information widely available about the “revolution” announced by opposition politician Vyacheslav Maltsev, to take place on this date, it is known that no armed uprising was planned, and there is no evidence for its preparation.

Maltsev himself, so far as we know, did not publicly call for violence. On the contrary, he and his colleagues stressed that the “Revolution 5/11/17” would, in his words, be peaceful in nature. In Maltsev’s opinion, letters urging an armed uprising could only have been distributed by provocateurs linked to the security services.

Nonetheless, in practice, the announcement of the “revolution” made it easier for the security services to carry out provocative actions of this kind. The announcement was used as justification for repressive measures to which hundreds of activists fell victim, including dozens who were subjected to criminal prosecutions. Part of the responsibility for these developments lies with the authors of the idea of “Revolution 5/11/17.”

In our opinion, there is no evidence in the case materials to prove that Roman Maryan was preparing for riots in the terms of Article 212 (Section 2) of the Russian Criminal Code, in other words, preparing for actions to be committed by a large group of people (a crowd) that threaten public safety, accompanied by violence against people, pogroms, arson, destruction of property, use of firearms, explosive materials or devices, and giving armed resistance to public authorities.

The suspect had no firearm and did not attempt to acquire any. Maryan did not study methods of carrying out armed activities in the streets, or the skills of shooting, knife fighting or others necessary for an armed uprising. The fact that, among the items Maryan packed for a long journey, were high boots and camouflage trousers cannot be considered, in our view, to be preparation for a crime.

The oppositionist group of which Maryan was a member was under pressure from the authorities throughout 2017. In particular, Oksana Pokhodun was prosecuted under Article 282 (Section 1) of the Russian Criminal Code for pictures on her social media page (Putin with swastikas, and others) that were considered extremist. At the beginning of June 2017, the FSB searched the apartments of a number of the group’s activists.

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers that Roman Maryan is being prosecuted for his active, non-violent opposition activity in order to intimidate the Russian opposition. Maryan is a political prisoner.

We demand his immediate release.

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.

For more information about this case, see here.

OVD-Info Weekly Update No. 47: Six More Years of Repression

posted 23 Mar 2018, 05:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Mar 2018, 05:47 ]

9 March 2018
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 information on freedom of assembly, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit hereThese English translations of OVD-Info's weekly bulletins are published by openDemocracy and are reposted here by kind permission.


On 18 March 2018 the citizens of Russia “elected” to have six more years of no freedom of assembly, impunity for torture, pressure on the internet and unfair trials. The list could go on for ever. And this means we have to do a great deal of work to make the situation better. You can help us in this by making a monthly donation to OVD-Info.


Before the election

  • From Monday until Saturday police conducted searches of Aleksei Navalny’s campaign headquarters in 12 cities

  • Two days before the election, 23 people were arrested in 15 cities

  • On 14 March in Moscow police arrested at least nine activists as part of an investigation into alleged vandalism. The investigation was related to a protest outside United Russia offices during which a window was broken and a smoke bomb thrown inside. Almost all those detained were released the same day. The anarchist Svyatoslav Rechkalov, who later reported that he had been tortured, was held in custody. On 16 March he was released. This week we published an article by Rechkalov’s girlfriend about his detention and torture.

The election

  • We reported on the election live online. We witnessed people being removed from polling stations, people being forced to vote, and arrests and assaults on activists and election observers. At least 30 people were arrested.

  • Although some people apparently enjoyed themselves.


After the election

  • The FSB admitted that an electroshock device had been used against the anti-fascist activist Viktor Filinkov. However, the FSB said that this was not torture but a “requirement in the course of duty.” Allegedly, Filinkov resisted those detaining him and decided to escape. More than 30 marks caused by an electroshock device remained on Filinkov’s body even nine days after the event. Filinkov himself reported earlier that FSB officers had tortured him over the course of five hours with electric shocks as they sought to make him testify to alleged offences. A court has extended Filinkov’s pre-trial detention until 22 June.

  • Two correspondents from Mediazona, David Frenkel and Sasha Bogino, were forcibly removed from the court hearing in the case of anti-fascist activist Igor Shishkin, who is also under investigation as part of the “Network” case. Bogino has been charged with an administrative offence under Article 17.3 (Section 2) of the Administrative Law Code (failing to carry out the lawful instruction of a court bailiff). The court remanded Shishkin in custody until 22 June.

  • The prosecutor in the city of Petrozavodsk has asked for a sentence of nine years in a strict regime prison colony for Yury Dmitriev, head of the Karelian branch of the Memorial Society. Dmitriev is on trial for allegedly making pornographic photographs involving his adoptive daughter. The results of a medical evaluation  confirmed that Dmitriev is healthy and is not a paedophile.

  • An activist arrested during a protest, “Our Candidate is the Russian Revolt,” has reported he was beaten by officers from the anti-extremism police department. He has been jailed for 10 days.


Thank you


As you probably know, we continue to have more and more work to do. You can donate to support our work. You can also join us as a volunteer.


Photo from the project “Mysteries” by Aleksandr Liubin, taken during the 2012 presidential election


Open Russia: The latest human rights news from all corners of the country

posted 19 Mar 2018, 10:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Mar 2018, 10:16 ]

15 March 2018

"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


Hello and welcome to Open Russia’s human rights headquarters! Read on for a compilation of the latest news from all corners of the country:


Court Acquits Navalny Supporters Campaigning For A “Voter Strike”

21st February, Tver

Police initially arrested two activists for leafleting. They were then convicted and fined in court, only to have the decision overturned after a successful appeal from their lawyer, Victor Lurye. 

Student Added To Terrorism and Extremism List For Posting Memes On “Vkontakte”

22nd Feb, Krasnoyarsk

Alexey Sverdlovsk has been added to the extremism register and has had all his accounts blocked. All this despite the fact that the experts did not bother sending us the results of the examination.

Court Arrests Activist Artem Goncharenko (The “Spring” Movement) Because Of Yellow Duck

26th Feb, St. Petersburg

Goncharenko was sent to a special detention centre for twenty five days for sticking a yellow inflatable duck out of his window on the day of the strike rally. Our lawyer Anastasia Burakova has contested the decision.

Pussy Riot Members Arrested By FSB In Crimea

26th Feb, Simferopol

Masha Alekhina, Olya Borisova and Sasha Sofeeva were detained as they were walking round the city and were taken down to the FSB headquarters. They were then interrogated, their equipment seized bar one that was already broken. The lawyer Kurbedinov helped us appeal against the state security officials’ actions.

Court Places Navalny Activist Kostya Saltikov Under Arrest For Two Months

28th Feb, Moscow

According to the investigation, on 28th January during the election boycott rally, Kostya “did not wish for Navalny to be sent” to the police department. During an altercation, he inflicted so-called “physical harm” on a policeman. Together with Navalny’s lawyer we are representing the activist’s interests.

Mikhail Glayashkin Given Year Suspended Sentence During Case On 12th July Protest

1st March, Moscow

Mikhail was only accused of “violence towards a policeman” at the spring and summer rallies in Moscow. He received a suspended sentence, and was defended by our treasured lawyer, Sergei Badamshin. We have re-enacted the events in writing. Read along and celebrate with us!

ECHR Registers Sociologist Sergei Mokhov’s Complaint About Police Inaction

2nd March, Moscow

Mokhov was attacked in 2016 and injected with an unknown substance just two days after an investigation into the funeral market. The Minister of the Interior refused to initiate a criminal case five times, but the European Court has accepted his appeal.  

European Court Processes Complaints Of Detainees During Protests in Moscow On 26th March

The court has sent questions to the Russian judiciary. In particular, it asks whether two members of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund broadcasting the event were justly arrested for seven days. 


Golos' ‘Map of Violations’: Five Days Before the Presidential Election

posted 19 Mar 2018, 09:40 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Mar 2018, 09:40 ]


13 March 2018 



Source: Golos 



Golos - the movement for the protection of the voters’ rights - has, in the run-up to presidential elections, traditionally launched the crowdsourcing service ‘Map of Violations.’ This service collects reports from candidates, voters and observers, of incidents that can be classed as a violation of electoral legislation. Messages are posted on the ‘Map of Violations’ without a preliminary check. Although messages are not anonymous, information about their sources is kept secure by moderators of the ‘Maps’ and is not published. Here are the most noteworthy messages from five days before the election.

Golos’ ‘Map of Violations’ has received more than eight hundred reports. The most common violations in the first week of March were people being forced to participate in the elections and people participating in campaigning when they were prohibited from doing so.

Campaigning and compulsion to vote in universities

The management of the St. Petersburg University of Civil Aviation compiled lists of students wishing and not wishing to participate in elections. At the Northern Trans-Ural Region State Agrarian University (Tyumen), students were forced to watch Vladimir Putin's address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. The order was issued above the signature of the rector Elena Boiko. Students from the Chapaevsky Chemical Technology College will have to take a selfie of themselves at polling stations and then send them to the director and to teachers by 14:00 on March 18. At the Cheboksary Institute of Culture, students have been threatened that they will not receive their degrees. Both the vice-principal for education and pastoral case and the head of the department of acting and directing have forced students to write applications to vote at polling station No.2057, located at the Institute. In Moscow, the director of school No. 1409, Irina Ilychieva, has promised to give out bonuses to those who vote at the polling station at her school. The director denies this information. March 18 has been declared a school day for students at Kudymkar Pedagogical College.

Coercion at Work

March 18 has been declared a working day for library workers in St. Petersburg. They must vote at their workplace. A similar requirement has been made by the management of school No. 23 in the Republic of Adygea. The management is insisting that all teachers vote at the school and not at their place of residence. A head of department at Togliatti State University decided to remind employees about the elections, she sent a text reminding them they must go to polling stations. Gazprom employees in Orel are required to report on their voting. Shift workers at the Luginetsky oil and gas field (Tomsk region) have been threatened that they will lose their bonuses if they do not register at a certain polling station.

The management at the preschool Child Development Centre No. 2 in Volgograd have asked parents to bring copies of their passports to complete applications to vote at a certain polling station.

At the champagne factory ‘Abrau-Diurso’ (Novorossiisk), employees have been forced to campaign for presidential candidate Boris Titov during their working hours.

Illegal Actions of Officials

The head of the city of Dobryanka in Perm region summoned organisations and ‘asked’ them to provide lists of their employees and relatives, and to oversee their participation in elections.

Lecturers and teachers at technical schools, children's art schools and library workers in Lipetsk have been forced to participate in election campaigning. Active election campaigning on social networks has been led by G.L. Sbitnev, the voting member of the North Butovo district electoral commission.

Heads of municipalities, such as the head of Cherepovets Margarita Guseva and her deputy Roman Maslov, have been spreading and posting campaigning materials on social networks.

Access to Resources

A deputy of the St Petersburg Legislative Assembly, Boris Vishnevsky, has complained to Governor G. Poltavchenko about restrictions on street campaigning in support of Yavlinsky. A minor was involved in a 3 March rally in Moscow in support of the current president – this is against the law.

Furthermore, the ‘Map of Violations’ received reports that employees of some municipal institutions have been forced to participate in rallies in support of Vladimir Putin. Such information was received from the management of the Sport and Leisure Centre ‘Atlant’ in Yasenevo and the Timiryazev Academy.

In Borisoglebsk, Voronezh region, on the night of 6 March, the car of the head of the local headquarters of candidate Pavel Grudinin was set on fire along with campaign materials.

In total, on the morning of 13 March, the ‘Map of Violations’ had published reports from 77 regions. The leaders in terms of violations were Moscow and St. Petersburg (47 and 42 reports respectively), Samara (42), Podmoskovye (38), Altai (31) and Chuvashia (26). More and more instances are being reported each day.

Golos continues to conduct long-term observation and examine the reports coming in from different parts of the country.

Translated by Matthew Quigley

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