OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 87: The Year's Roundup

posted 29 Dec 2018, 23:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Dec 2018, 23:28 ]
28 December 2018

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

New Year is approaching. But not everyone will be choosing where to spend it. We have prepared a story for you about how political prisoners cope with New Year behind bars.

We have also published a few other features this week:

  • The police have taken offence: a collection of stories about people being forbidden from photographing law enforcement officers.

  • The story of a man fined 300,000 roubles for reading the Constitution.

  • The story of a woman, arrested for protesting on 5th May, who is seeking compensation for the conditions in the detention centre where she was held.

Thank you for being with us in 2018! With your help, we were able to:

  • Write over 3700 news articles.

  • Help no less than 69 people with cases in 63 courts of first instance, and no less than 124 people with cases in appellate courts.

  • Help no less than 681 people in 62 police departments.

  • Support 39 people undergoing criminal investigations.

We also released a podcast about events from seven years ago - the arrests on 5th December 2011 in Moscow which led to the creation of OVD-Info. Our lawyers have also prepared instructions on what to do in seven different situations relating to your rights.

The most important events of the year were, in our opinion:

  • The New Greatness case

Ten people have been charged with organising an extremist group which, in all likeliness, was created with the participation of undercover agents planted from the special forces. Among the defendants were two very young girls - Anna Pavlikova, who was not yet 18 at the time of her arrest, and Maria Dubovik. The case made waves: an unauthorised march was held in Moscow to show support for the defendants, and (amazingly!) no arrests were made at the march. Afterwards, the girls were released from custody and put under house arrest instead. Four defendants are still being held in remand facilities. Lawyers provided by OVD-Info are working on the case.

  • Navalny’s rallies

All over the country, just as in 2017, several large-scale rallies were organised by supporters of Alexei Navalny. On 28th January, during the Voters’ Strike protests, police arrested 350 people. On 5th May, before Putin’s inauguration, rallies were held across the country using the slogan “He’s not our Tsar”. During these rallies, 1600 arrests were made, of which 729 were in Moscow, and a large number of people were beaten. On 9th September, 1100 people were arrested at protests against pension reforms. Criminal cases have been initiated in several cities. You can also read about the work that OVD-Info did on 5th May and 9th September.

  • The Network case

Eleven young people are being held in custody on charges of involvement in a terrorist organisation - eight in Penza, and three in St Petersburg. Nothing is known at this stage about any of their specific plans to commit acts of terrorism. There are reports that some of the detainees had previously held meetings in a flat in the Leningrad Region and discussed political topics. Some of the defendants enjoyed playing strikeball - a team game played with imitation firearms. Some of the defendants had also complained of being tortured.

  • Prosecutions related to the so-called Maltsev Revolution

In several regions across Russia, criminal cases are ongoing relating to the events of 5th November 2017, when Vyacheslav Maltsev incited revolution. Around 35 people are facing criminal charges of planning acts of terrorism, causing riots, owning weapons, inciting extremism, terrorism and riots, and assaulting police officers. Some have already received prison sentences of several years. In several cases, it is highly likely that the defendants were provoked by the authorities.

  • The Oyub Titiev case

The head of human rights organisation Memorial’s Chechnya branch has been charged with buying and storing marijuana. Human rights activists have discovered a multitude of illegalities and falsifications in the case. The case was opened with the aim of upping the pressure on human rights activists in the North Caucasus.

  • The Sentsov List

Film director Oleg Sentsov, who was serving a prison sentence in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District for planning acts of terrorism in Crimea, went on hunger strike, demanding the release of all “Ukrainian human rights activists” in Russia. OVD-Info has collected information about people with connections to Ukraine who are facing prosecution by the Russian authorities. (The information on the linked page was correct at the time of its publication in mid-June. Further information about the outcomes for these people is available on OVD-Info’s website.)

  • Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The list of groundless cases for membership in extremist organisations grew in 2018 with the addition of a multitude of cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the present time, around 100 people are being prosecuted in approximately 30 regions. OVD-Info has put together pieces about who is facing persecution and how, and about daily life for Jehovah’s Witnesses under the ban.

  • Phantom Liberalisation

Among the myriad of innovations that tighten the law, there are at least two reforms which soften the conditions faced by some victims of political persecution. Firstly, for those given mainstream prison sentences, each day spent in custody before sentencing will count as a day and a half in prison. We attempted to understand how this law will work. Secondly, article 282 of the criminal code on incitement of hatred has been partially relaxed: if the authorities consider the person to be a first-time offender, then they will only be prosecuted under the administrative code. However, there is still a large number of articles in the criminal code limiting freedom of expression (including through the use of prison sentences).

What a year!

Notwithstanding the apparent easing in certain areas, political repression shows no signs of ending. We will continue to help people next year, by writing about persecution and by offering legal support. We still need your help!

Sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info so that we can continue sending you your favourite bulletin and more.

Happy New Year!

Illustration: Anastasia Vikulova for OVD-Info

The OVD-Info team

Translated by Judith Fagelson