OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 119: Weeping Themis and over-sensitive law enforcement officers

posted 9 Sep 2019, 11:51 by Translation Service   [ updated 9 Sep 2019, 11:57 ]
7 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, dear readers!

Together with the ROMB video project we released a new video blog series about political persecution. Lyonya Drabkin talks about the main subject for August – a series of arrests of members of the opposition (this is when they are grabbed at the exit from the special detention centre and they are given a new penalty under administrative law), the prosecutions for taking part in ‘riots’ (that never happened), the New Greatness trial and the yet-to-take-place prisoner exchange with Ukraine.

On 31 August our monitoring HQ was the quietest it’s been all summer – almost nobody was arrested at rallies against political repression. But we didn’t have long to enjoy the quiet.

On Monday evening the police decided to correct that situation with the help of FBK [Anti-Corruption Foundation] employee Nikolai Lyaskin, Novaya gazeta journalist Ilya Azar, and unregistered candidate for the Moscow City Duma Lyubov Sobol. Lyaskin and Sobol had already been fined 20,000 and 300,000 roubles respectively. On Wednesday, three more people were detained because of Saturday’s rally: activist Mark Galperin, head of the Libertarian party Sergei Boyko, and unregistered candidate for the Moscow City Duma Aleksandr Solovyev. Galperin was detained for 30 days, Solovyev for 20 and Boyko for 10.

Four years in a prison colony for four strolls. Moscow activist Konstantin Kotov has been sentenced to four years in a prison colony under the ‘Dadin’ article. The court found that Kotov, “despising the constitutionally protected values”, committed a felony by participating in peaceful protest rallies.

Why is this important? Four peaceful rallies and one post about peaceful protest. For this a man is sent to a prison colony for FOUR YEARS. It took the court two days to consider the case. The investigation went on for two days. Three days were given to the lawyer to familiarise himself with the case file; the file of a case brought under the unconstitutional article 212.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, according to which three quarters of criminal punishment consist of incidents for which the individual has already been punished. The first sentence passed according to this article in 2016 was imposed on Ildar Dadin. It concluded in a major scandal, and the Supreme Court had to cancel the sentence. In its decree, which was adopted after the Dadin case, the Supreme Court declared that the article can only be applied if the actions of the accused constituted a danger to the public.

Five years in a prison colony for a Tweet: Blogger Vladislav Sinits was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for a tweet about the children of members of the security forces, under an article about inciting hatred or hostility with the threat of violence.

Why do I need to know this? In his tweet, Sinits talked about how the children of members of the law enforcement agencies might not come home one day. In court he stressed that his statement did not apply to a wide range of people, and did not contain any incitement of action towards any children. The judicial investigation into the case lasted 10 hours. One of the law enforcement officials questioned as a witness stated that “moral suffering had been inflicted on him”, and he had “begun to fear for the wellbeing of his daughter, who is studying at university”, as soon as he read the tweet. Five years’ imprisonment for the moral suffering of a law enforcement officer. That is too much, even by today’s standards.

And some more about oversensitive law enforcement officers. Evgeny Kovalenko has been sentenced to three and a half years in a prison colony for throwing a rubbish bin at an officer of the riot police at the rally on 27 July. Kirill Zhukov got three years for touching the visor of a security officer’s helmet. Ivan Podkopayev got three years for spraying pepper gas at the Russian Guard. Dalin Beglets got two years for grabbing a policeman by the wrist and “squeezing hard, pulling him aside”.

Why is this important? Initially the case was opened under the article about riots, and most of the defendants were charged with “rioting”. But the accusation did not work out, so it was necessary to think up another way to punish the protestors. The cases of Sergei Abanichev, Danil Konon, Valery Kostenok, Vladislav Barabanov were terminated. Two new defendants in the case – Edward Malyshevskii and Nikita Chirtsov – were charged only under the article about violence against representatives of the authorities. Aydar Gubaidulin was also eventually charged under this article. And Yegor Zhukov is now accused of incitement to extremism. The security forces searched so carefully for something to prosecute him for that they seized Zhukov’s personal files and course work from the Higher School of Economics, and during the search they confiscated two flash drives, an empty disk, a tripod, a shirt, a libertarian flag and a frog figurine. At the detention centre, an unknown person offered to mitigate Zhukhov’s and Sergei Fomin’s punishment in exchange for their cooperation. Zhukov and Fomin were later transferred to house arrest, while Aleksei Minyailo was for some reason left at the centre.

The election race. They prepare for elections in Russia in a very special way – with the help the detention of candidates and political agitators. In Tula, a distributor of Communist Party posters was illegally detained for 9 hours in a police station after agitators from United Russia asked the police to arrest him. In St Petersburg, 18,000 leaflets about “smart voting” were seized from an activist. In Penza, eight candidates for the City Duma were detained after they went on hunger strike in protest against falsification in the preliminary round of voting. In Irkutsk, an opposition candidate had to hire a guard because his political agitators were repeatedly attacked by unknown agents (including one with a gun). The guard’s cars were set on fire.

Why do I need to know this? There will be elections at various levels in many regions on Sunday. In Moscow and Petersburg, preparations for elections have been carried out with numerous legal violations – independent candidates were refused registration on technical grounds, and they were pressured, detained and even attacked. A similar situation has developed in other cities. The actions of the authorities led to mass protests and the arrest of many participants. There remains hope that the elections themselves will pass off peacefully. As ever, we will be online during the events, and you can report violations at polling stations here.

Searches at Navalny’s office. The FBK, the Navalny LIVE studio and Alexei Navalny’s Moscow headquarters were searched on Thursday. Armed security forces in masks cut through the door of the offices, arrested nine people, and seized equipment and leaflets. What this was about is not entirely clear.

Why do I need to know this? In August, searches were conducted at the FBK in the money laundering case. During summer, several lawsuits were filed against Navalny and other politicians for a sum totaling over 13 million rubles, which companies allegedly lost as a result of the rally on 27 July. The security forces conducting the searches this time also referred to the rally, and the criminal case instituted in connection with it. But they did not present any documents. Earlier, Navalny had called on his supporters to participate in  “smart voting”, that is to vote in the forthcoming elections for any candidate not associated with the authorities. During the searches the security forces also mentioned this.


Fabrications about shooters. Training with firearms and weapons is legal for the civilian population. In spite of this, in the cases of Seti, New Greatness and the National Bloc, the prosecution refers to such training sessions as proof of preparation for armed conflict, and in television reports the legally acquired weapons of opposition activists are presented as “a terrorist arsenal”. Aleksandr Litoy talks about such incidents of the manipulation of facts.

Weeping Themis. According to our data, 2,630 people have been detained at three rallies for the admission of independent candidates to elections. Since the beginning of summer the courts have been sitting every day. Natalia Korotonozhkina talked with six public defenders about their motivation, the judges’ attitude to the protestors, and why they got involved in cases with a predetermined negative outcome.

The state against the voice of Beslan. 15 years ago, as a result of the terrorist seizure of School No. 1 in Beslan and the ensuing storming of the building by security forces, 334 people died, among them 186 children. In 2016, five women came to mourning events in identical T-shirts, for which they were roughly arrested. For a joint project with Bookmate I prepared a text about the event and its participants. On the same site you will find a photo gallery and a podcast in which Tatiana Felgenhauer (from Echo of Moscow) and Kirill Koroteev (from Agora) talk about the terrorist attack that claimed hundreds of lives and led to serious political reforms in the country.

Stay in touch,
Monitor Laura Fish.

Illustration by Anya Goremyka for OVD-Info

Translated by Anna Bowles