OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 117: Police provocation and arrests at the prison gates

posted 29 Aug 2019, 01:55 by Translation Service   [ updated 29 Aug 2019, 01:58 ]
24 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 to our readers! Here’s the news from this week.

A prosecution for “civil unrest”. The Investigative Committee of Russia has cleared television director Dmitry Vasiliev of suspicion in a case regarding civil unrest on 27th July. Recently, Vasiliev had to be resuscitated because he had no access to insulin while in his prison cell. His lawyer, however, thinks it is still possible that “the investigation could come up with a pretext that will once again change Vasiliev’s status.” Another defendant in the case, Ivan Podkopaev, has been charged with using non-deadly force against a representative of the authorities. Aidar Gubaidulin, Valery Kostenko, Danil Beglets and Sergey Fomin have all been remanded in custody.

  • Why does this matter? This case on “civil unrest” involves 13 defendants. They are all currently remanded in custody. The evidence in the cases against Damil Belgets and Kiril Zhukov, as well as that in the case against Ivan Podkopaev, who has been charged with assaulting members of the National Guard of Russia, has already been presented in court. Yet, the preliminary investigation was still completed in record time. The defendants maintain their innocence, and there is no evidence of any genuine unrest. Over a thousand Russian scientists have signed an open letter demanding an end to the criminal persecution of those arrested in connection with the protests on 27th July and to the “ring of political repression”.

“It makes no financial sense to keep me in detention. Every day I am taken to all these different chambers, to the courts, then back to my cell […] and then we’re all sat around a table and the authorities pay for our breakfast, lunch and dinner. The investigator at the Basman Court said that I could somehow influence the outcome of the investigation by talking to other defendants in the “27th July” case. After the court hearing, I was taken back to my cell, which I was to share with another defendant in the case anyway”. These are the words spoken by the youngest defendant, 20-year-old Valery Kostenok, to the courts.

All for all. Eight Ukrainian political prisoners have been transferred to the Lefortovo remand centre in Moscow. There are speculations that they are being prepared for a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.

  • Why do I need to know this? In May 2018, film director Oleg Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence, began a hunger strike which lasted 145 days. He was demanding the release of Ukrainian political prisoners, including those who have now been transferred to Lefortovo. Russia and Ukraine have long been in negotiation over the exchange, and in late July both countries’ ombudsmen presented their list of prisoners whose release they were seeking. The Ukrainian list contained the names of 150 people being held in Russian remand centres; the content of the Russian list is unknown. According media group RBC’s sources, the two countries have agreed to exchange 33 Russians for 33 Ukrainian citizens. 

Arrested at the prison gates. Yulia Galiamina, an unregistered candidate standing for election as a deputy in the Moscow City Duma, was arrested directly on her release from a special correctional facility and detained for a further 10 days; this follows two consecutive periods of detainment. Another unregistered candidate, Constantin Yankauskas, who has served three sentences in a row, was also arrested at the prison gates, but was subsequently released with a note on his record. Politician Ilya Yashin was arrested in exactly the same way, upon his release, and detained once again. This is his fourth consecutive period of detainment. Meanwhile, Dmitry Gudkov (also an unregistered candidate), was sentenced to a further 10 days while still serving his previous 30-day sentence.

  • Why do I need to know this? Independent candidates are fighting for their right to stand in the Moscow City elections. Many of them had their registrations denied on the grounds that the residents’ signatures that they had collected were invalid. Protests are ongoing in Moscow and, meanwhile, candidates are being made to serve sentence after sentence.

Meet Radu. All the defendants in the New Greatness case have identified a person in a photograph, captioned with the name Radu Zelinsky, as secret witness Ruslan Danilov. Danilov is the person on whose evidence the prosecution’s case was built, and he is named as A. Konstantinov in the case files.

  • Why does this matter? 10 people are implicated in the case. They are all charged with founding an extremist organisation, New Greatness, and with participating in its activities. The defendants themselves maintain that they had simply registered in an online chat forum and met up in a café, until Ruslan Danilov appeared and took money from them to rent an office and drafted the “organisation’s” constitution. The lawyers’ petition claims that these actions constituted police provocation and notes that actions “taken as a result of police provocation do not count as crimes”. Click here to read about the foundations of the case.


“Don’t be afraid; the truth is on your side”. Around three thousand people were arrested during protests for fair elections, resulting in hundreds of administrative and a few criminal cases. Throughout the process, OVD-Info’s lawyers have been working with the defendants. One of our lawyers, Mikhail Biriukov, spoke to Katia Golenkova about the latest trends in court decisions, breaches committed by the Internal Affairs authorities, and what protesters should bear in mind before setting off to attend marches.

A slap with a newspaper, a rude gesture and trolling. Criminal charges have been pressed in Ekaterinburg against anyone who happened to be present during the protests – whether or not they were fighting “for the square” or “for the church”. Aleksandr Litoy reveals what we know so far about these cases.

Abuse of the covert investigation process. Hearings on cases which have caught the public’s attention are often closed, or else participants are required to sign non-disclosure agreements. This means that relative and journalists are not allowed in the courtroom, and it becomes harder to gather information about the case. Sometimes the courts openly say that public interest could affect the investigation. Laura Fish has looked into the legality of this practice and into whether we can combat it.

The Savelev Case. On a single day in late July, law enforcement officers in the Krasnodar Region conducted no less than four searches. It turned out that all of them related to a case on collaboration with an undesirable organisation, which was opened against local journalist Aleksandr Savelev. Misha Shubin and Andrey Kaganskykh explain the case and discuss the potential motives for persecuting this journalist.

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

Illustration by Vlad Milukshin for OVD-Info

Translated by Judith Fagelson