OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 33: Authorities act against Open Russia; documentary film festival encounters problems

posted 15 Dec 2017, 05:28 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Dec 2017, 05:45 ]
15 December 2017

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday it sends out a mailing with the latest information on freedom of assembly, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here

This week we look at the problems that have faced Open Russia and the documentary film festival, Artdocfest. We also share our latest articles and useful pieces of advice.

Open Russia - the NGO founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky - has not been lucky this week:
  • On Friday Open Russia activists from Tomsk, Rostov-on-Don, Kaliningrad and Liptesk were summoned to the prosecutor’s office and the FSB for their links with a so-called “undesirable organization.” *
  • On Saturday police arrived at the national Open Russia conference. They questioned conference participants and “gathered material” for “further investigation” regarding the offence of carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization.
  • On Monday night Roskomnadzor added the website of Open Russia to the register of sites containing incitement to mass riots and conducting extremist activities, as well as information from a foreign or international NGO. The websites of Open Elections, Open University, khodorkovsky.ru and Instead of Putin were also blocked.
  • On Tuesday the Open Russia group was blocked on the Russian social media site Odnoklassniki.
  • On Wednesday Roskomnadzor informed the management of Twitter that the accounts of Open Russia should be closed in 24 hours. If not, the whole social network would be blocked on Russian territory. 
  • On Thursday Roskomnadzor sent a similar warning to YouTube, demanding that the Open Russia account be closed.
* In April 2017 the General Prosecutor’s office designated as undesirable a number of organizations: OR Otkrytaya Rossia, Institute of Modern Russia, Inc., and Open Russia Civic Movement, Open Russia. According to Roskomnadzor, these organizations “carry out on the territory of the Russian Federation special programmes and projects for the purposes of discrediting the results of elections in Russia and challenging their illegitimacy.” 

Tuesday was the last day of the independent documentary film festival Artdokfest, held in Moscow. This year the festival encountered serious intimidation:
  • Two films on the programme were not screened: Mustafa*, about the leader of the Crimean Tatars, and War for the Sake of Peace, a Ukrainian documentary filmed on the frontline in eastern Ukraine.
  • Activists from the pro-Kremlin movement SERB twice tried to break up the screening of another film about Ukrainian events: Bullet’s Flight. They then began insulting the audience, some of whom were assaulted. One member of the audience was detained.
  • Anti-Extremism Police requested copies of three of the films mentioned above.
*The film Mustafa can now be viewed free of charge online.

On the night of 12 - 13 December, the head of the Federation of CIS Migrants, Karomat Sharipov, was deported to Tajikistan from Russia. Sharipov has never been a citizen of Tajikistan. After the collapse of the USSR, Sharipov had immediately received Russian citizenship as a military service personnel from one of the countries of the CIS. The activist began to encounter problems with the law in Russia after he spoke out on behalf of migrants in a conflict with security personnel at the Moskva shopping centre in September. At that time, about 90 people were detained.

On 23 November 2017 in Crimea, Vedzhie Kashka, a veteran of the Crimea Tatar movement, died after attempts had been made to arrest her. Historian Aleksei Makarov, a staff member of the International Memorial Society, has prepared for publication by OVD-Info an appeal written by Vedzhie Kashka in 1974 that describes the history of the persecution of her family.

We have drawn up a list of people prosecuted in connection with the so-called “revolution” of Vyacheslav Maltsev. The list includes only those people about whom OVD-Info has information.

We have also discovered that on 26 March on Tverskaya Street, riot police were wearing uniforms with the emblem of the regular police, and not the National Guard. They therefore had about as much right to arrest citizens as people wearing the uniform of court bailiffs would have the right to check travellers’ documents in the underground transport system.

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