OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No 123: Six years' jail for picketing

posted 9 Oct 2019, 11:49 by Translation Service   [ updated 9 Oct 2019, 11:52 ]
5 October 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.


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Actor Pavel Ustinov has had his sentence changed; it is now a one-year suspended prison sentence with a two-year probation period. He had been previously sentenced to 3.5 years of actual imprisonment, but the Moscow City Court annulled the decision.

Why do I need to know this? In response to the court’s initial decision, other actors launched a major campaign; its initial aim was to support Ustinov himself, but the campaign was later broadened to support other defendants in the Moscow Case as well. Ustinov was arrested at a protest on 3rd July and was found guilty of assaulting members of the National Guard of Russia. However, video footage makes it clear that the soldier fell onto him while trying to arrest him. Ustinov had not even been participating in the protest – he had simply been standing next to the metro and speaking on the phone. It is precisely this phone call, according to the “victim” from the National Guard, that led to his arrest.

“Civil unrest” in Rostov on Don. The courts have sentenced Yan Sidorov to 6.5 years in a high-security prison and Vladislav Mordasov to 6 years and 7 months. The pair were convicted of attempting to orchestrate “civil unrest”. Vyacheslav Shashmin was given a three-year suspended sentence for, supposedly, “planning to take part in civil unrest.”

Why does this matter? Yan Sidorov, 19, Vyacheslav Shashmin, 20, and Vladislav Mordasov, 24, have spent almost two years in pre-trial detention. They were arrested on 5th November 2017. On that day, Sidorov and Mordasov had staged lone protests with placards reading “The government must resign” and “Give the Rostov fire victims their land back”. Shashmin did not even make it to the protest – he was arrested before it began. The men were beaten into confessing.

“Justifying terrorism” in both traditional and social media. Independent experts have found no evidence that Pskov journalist Svetlana Prokoleva was justifying terrorism in one of her articles. Meanwhile, in Karelia a judicial examination did find such evidence “in every word of anarchist Ekaterina Muranova’s social media posts. Both women are now included on Federal Financial Monitoring Service’s watchlist and have had their bank accounts frozen.

Why do I need to know this? The reason behind the criminal cases against Prokoleva and Muranova were their statements about 17-year-old Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who in October 2018 set off a bomb in the FSB’s Archangelsk offices. We know of at least 7 more cases on “justification of terrorism” relating to Zhlobitsky. Prokoleva has written an open letter about (un)freedom of expression and about why the security forces are pursuing these cases.

A new wave of disrespect towards the authorities. Employees from Russia’s Centre for Combatting Extremism in Nizhny Novgorod have issued a journalist with a protocol on disrespecting the authorities for calling the town of Shakhunya “Shitkhunya”. A blogger in Chita was fined for releasing a video entitled “Putin’s Last Warning”. In Smolensk a protocol was filed against a member of the Libertarian Party who had added the caption “I’m ready to become Deputy of your bullshit” onto a photo of the Russian flag. The courts in Chita overruled the police’s decision not to press charges against an individual who called bailiffs “fascists”.

Why do I need to know this? The law on disrespect towards the authorities has now been in force for half a year. During this time, according to The Protest Apologia, 45 cases have been opened in 23 regions and fines have been issued totalliny 845,000 roubles. 78% of the offending statements were aimed at President Vladimir Putin. Click here to read more about how the law works.

Features

The whole range of extrajudicial measures taken over the summer. During the summer’s protests, the authorities did all they could to stop people taking to the streets. They used a huge arsenal of tactics which included, inter alia, riot police with batons, fines, criminal cases and damages claims against the protest organisers. Alexey Polikhovich has collated the whole range in one piece.

An interview with a defence lawyer involved in the Moscow Case. Nikita Chirtsov is facing charges of assaulting a police officer during the protest on 27th July. According to the prosecution, he pushed a police sergeant on the chest and shoulder and hurt him. Chirtsov was arrested in Belarus and extradited to Russia. The courts sent him to pre-trial detention facilities for two months. OVD-Info spoke to Chirtsov’s lawyer, Aleksandr Borkov, about the details of the case.

"He’s demanding compliance with the law? Let’s take him to the police station along with all the others.” The man featured in this story was arrested in the metro while protests were against the exclusion of candidates from local elections were still going on. A protocol was issued against him, saying that he was had taken part in the protest. A member of the Investigative Committee interrogated him as a witness in the case on civil unrest and confiscated his telephone. The man has already been fined for breaching the rules governing protests.

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Illustration by Sasha Marshani for OVD-Info

Translated by Judith Fagelson

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