OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 118: The last of the summer’s political pressure

posted 2 Sep 2019, 05:24 by Translation Service   [ updated 2 Sep 2019, 05:24 ]
1 September 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!

Summer is coming to an end, but protests against political repression (just like, sadly, the repression itself), are continuing. In this report, we take a look at the people who have been persecuted for protesting for fair elections, and we analyse the violations committed by the authorities. The pressure is strong, but we’re stronger!

As always, battle preparations are in full swing at OVD-Info. Even Lesha Polikhovich, who has just served 13 days in prison, is now in our ranks. Here he describes his unplanned holiday in a special detention centre, which came about because he said the words “They fucked up” on stage at a rally. He writes, for instance, that he preferred the Mnevniki prison to others (and he has other experiences to compare); he even tells an anecdote about a dog and some buckwheat.

You can read another diary here – this one from our new volunteer coordinator, Sasha Baeva, who recounts some amusing (and also sad) stories about how and why she ended up as a defender in court.

As a general rule, we are always ready to defend you. You should also be ready. If you are planning on attending a protest, don’t forget to bring:

  • Your passport, or a certified copy

  • A fully charged mobile phone and a power pack

  • Water

Remember to save our 24-hour hotline number – 8 800 707-05-28 – and our legal bot.
Now for this week’s news:

ProtestsNikita Chirtsov, a participant in the 27th July protests, has been arrested by police in Minsk. Human rights activists say he was declared wanted immediately, on charges under two statutes: civil unrest and assaulting representatives of the authorities. Belarus was planning to deport Chirtsov to Russia, whereas he had intended to claim asylum. Chirtsov landed in Russia yesterday, but was not met by any law enforcement officers.


  • Why does this matter? It seems that a new defendant in the case on civil unrest has appeared. There are now 13 defendants, plus one more detainee, television director Dmitry Vasiliev, who was not charged in the end. He had to be resuscitated because the police would not allow him insulin in his cell. The other defendants are still subjected to continued pressure. Evgeny Kovalenko, who is currently in pre-trial detention, was unlawfully denied access to his lawyer. Sergey Abanichev was fired from his job, an act which violated the Labour Code.

  • Chirtsov (who had been arrested in Minsk) had already been fined under the Administrative Code for his participation in the protest. The current charges against him are unclear. But the Investigative Committee has responded to all the various statements from protesters, claiming that they were beaten by the security statements, with the same flat denial, emphasising the lawfulness of law enforcement officers’ actions.

Authorisations. All week, organisers have been trying to get authorisation for two protests on 30th August. At first, the authorities denied permission without proposing alternative locations. The regional courts annulled the ruling, but then the Moscow City Court annulled the annulment.

  • Why do I need to know this? Russian legislation governing public rallies is purely advisory. This means that nobody has the right to forbid rallies – the authorities can only request that they are held in a different location or at a different time. What’s more, applicants can refuse the authorities’ proposals. Besides, a decree from the Constitutional Court states that the authorities are obliged to propose alternative locations in their responses if, for instance, there happens to be another “Shashlik Festival” planned in the requested by the protesters. 

Censorship. Posters reading “Come or lose”, advertising a concert from the rapper Face, have been removed from all twenty Moscow billboards where they had been displayed. The rapper’s concerts in Ulan-Ude and Irkutsk have been cancelled. The musician’s outdoor advertising manager and concert organiser explained that they acted as they did because of pressure “from above”. The authorities had previously threatened to cancel a protest in Moscow on 10th August if Face, among other artists, performed at it; but they performed nonetheless.

Printing companies in St Petersburg have been banned from producing oppositionist placards and are also required to inform the police any time they receive such orders. And something phenomenal from Roskomnadzor, which has once again saved us all from “illegal” information: this time, by banning an interview about STOICISM. 

  • Why do I need to know this? Article 29 of the Constitution “guarantees freedom of information. Censorship is forbidden.” So all we need to do is stoically remind them of the constitution’s existence.

Hunger strikes. Vladimir Ratnikov (Komarnitsky), who is facing charges on a case against the Nationalist Black Bloc movement, and Crimean Tatar activist Bilial Adilov, who is currently detained in relation to the Hizb ut-Tahrir case, have both gone on dry hunger strike. Ratnikov is protesting political repression, including in the case of “civil unrest” from 27th July. Adilov is protesting conditions in pre-trial detention facilities. Adilov has complained about the poor conditions to the detention centre’s management on several occasions, only to be sent back to an even worse cell.

  • Why do I need to know this? Hunger strike is one of relatively few ways available to detainees to fight for their own rights or the rights of others. This radical method of protest has its own history and rules. Click here to read how and why Russian prisoners go on hunger strike, how the USSR reacted to hunger strikes, what force-feeding really means, and how else political prisoners voice their protest.


“If people are willing to go even when they know they will be beaten, that is a turning point.” Grigory Yudin, a professor at the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences, told OVD-Info how the mood of protests has changed and why people are willing risk criminal proceedings and take to the streets.

Inconsistencies and violations. Hearings are continuing in Penza on the Networks case. During the trial, witnesses reported facing physical and psychological pressure while under interrogation. Expert witnesses confirm that weapons may have been planted on the defendants. Tatiana Likhanova explains what happened in in the Penza courts.

Self-censorship and fear. The law on disrespect towards the authorities is one of the most fantastical in the Russian legislature. In six months, the authorities have successfully used it to bring no less than 36 cases and issue fines totalling half a million roubles. Social media posts, comments, images and even dances have been labelled “disrespectful”. I tried to explain who is taking offence and why, why this law was needed and whether it is possible to oppose it.

I will stay in touch

Monitor Laura Fish

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.

Translated by Judith Fagelson