OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 101: Secret Witnesses, LGBT activists detained, and protesters homes searched

posted 23 Apr 2019, 12:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Apr 2019, 13:24 ]
19 April 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


Dear readers!

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Law enforcement officers have searched the homes of Dmitry Ivanov and Afanasy Afanasiev who took part in the so-called ‘Unending Protest.’ This is all part of the investigation into an October protest when unknown individuals set off a flare outside the FSB building on Lubyanka Square. The door of the apartment belonging to Ivanov was broken down. Both activists were questioned as witnesses. They prevented Afanasiev from calling a lawyer, telling him that if he did so he would be treated not as a witness but as a suspect in the case.

  • Why is this important? The ‘Unending Protest’ is a movement that arose spontaneously after the 9 September protest against the pension reform. Activists in various Russian cities have been holding peaceful protests and calling for the retirement of the ‘ineffective and corrupt president'. They have been harassed continuously by the police because of this.

In St. Petersburg 12 participants in the ‘Day of Silence’ protest were detained. They were protesting over the silence surrounding problems facing LGBT people in Russia. Initially, the activists stood in a line in single-person pickets outside Gostiny Dvor, and then walked towards the Spas na Krovi with mouths taped over but without any placards or banners. Those detained said that the well-known provocateur Timur Bulatov was seen in their midst ‘talking on the phone to someone or other.’

  • Why do I need to know this? In St. Petersburg peaceful protests are regularly broken up. In many instances Bulatov writes complaints about the activists, on the basis of which the police subsequently detain the activists. You can read more about this practice here.


Secret witnesses are a very useful tool for law enforcement. You may have heard about the ‘expressive eyebrows’ which served to identify Moscow State University graduate student Azat Miftakhov, and about ‘Ruslan D.’ who wrote the charter of the New Greatness organisation. On the basis of these and other examples of high profile cases we have investigated how and why the Investigative Committee hides its ‘secret witnesses.’

What caused the death of the detainee? And is it true that a pregnant officer was beaten in the police station? Law enforcement personnel have been obliged to wear bodycams in order to find out the truth about these and other questionable incidents. But the equipment may accidentally ‘get lost’ or ‘fall into the toilet’. You can read about what use is made of the video recordings made by police and prison officers.

They broke down the door and demanded explanations, swearing at neighbours — this is what men in civilian clothes did when they came to the home of Nadezhda Raks. She was a defendant in the case of a small explosion that happened at the FSB’s public office in 1998. The investigation was closed and now Raks works as a translator, she has a young son and plays no part in activism. Nadezhda had no idea why she was being questioned by law enforcement officers.

‘We’ll catch you on the streets and shoot you down’: public defender Aleksandr Mironov describes how he was detained and beaten by the police. On that day he was representing the interests in court of activists arrested for erecting a ‘tombstone for Putin.’

Police tried to recruit Aleksei Ovsienko, secretary of the Libertarian Party, as an informer — police detectives met him outside a bar and walked with him to the subway station. He got in touch with a lawyer and wrote about what had happened to him on social media. In this way Ovsienko discovered he was being harassed by two law enforcement officers, Smile and Trench, well known to activists.


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Illustration by Vlad Milushkin for OVD-Info