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RUSSIA: OVD-Info, the Russian voice of the voiceless

OVD-Info, the Russian voice of the voiceless

Weekly Bulletin No. 298: Degrading treatment on remand

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news but also a daily update about the repression (https://ovdinfo.org).


OVD-Info (25.03.2023)


The homes of Memorial employees have been searched in connection with an investigation into the ‘rehabilitation of Nazism.’


On 21 March law enforcement officers visited nine apartments, as well as the organisation’s Moscow office on Maly Karetny Pereulok. According to the investigators, Memorial, ‘disregarding historical truth,’ had published the names of three men on its ‘List of Victims of Soviet Political Terror’ who may have participated in Nazi crimes on the territory of the Soviet Union. On these grounds, a criminal investigation has been opened against ‘unidentified employees,’ as part of which the searches were conducted. It later became known that criminal charges had been filed against Oleg Orlov, chair of Memorial’s board of directors, for repeatedly discrediting the army.


  • Why is this important?The Russian state has been trying to eliminate Memorial for a long time. In 2014, the Memorial Human Rights Centre was recognized as a ‘foreign agent,’ and in 2016 the International Memorial Society was added to the registry. In December 2021, the courts ordered the liquidation of both organizations. International Memorial had existed since 1989; its staff had conducted research into political repression in the Soviet Union, and the Human Rights Centre had been working to support political prisoners and providing legal assistance to refugees and migrants. But the security forces did not think it is enough to liquidate the organizations – they continue to prosecute those who are in any way associated with them.


Convicted Crimean activist Irina Danilovich has gone on a dry hunger strike to protest against a lack of medical care. 

Danilovich suffers from otitis and has almost lost her hearing. On 21 March it became known that her health had deteriorated. The disease began to develop after the activist was kept in the basement of the FSB building for more than a week, and then placed in a remand centre without heating. Danilovich was detained in April 2022 and charged with unlawful acts with explosives or explosive devices. The defendant and her defence lawyer argued that the explosives had been planted on her.

  • Why do I need to know this?A hunger strike is one of the few means of protest available to prisoners, and sometimes it proves effective, especially when what is at issue are that conditions in a detention centre or penal colony are involved. In March 2021, Aleksei Navalny went on a hunger strike to protest the lack of medical treatment for back pain and leg problems. He ended his hunger strike after he was transferred to a prison hospital and doctors were allowed to see him. Sergei Komandirov, charged with justification of terrorism, went on hunger strike in June 2022 for the same reason – he was suffering from back pain because of two spinal hernias and had not received treatment for seven months. After ten days Komandirov managed to get his complaints reviewed by the head of the remand prison, after which he stopped his hunger strike.

Staff of a remand prison humiliated a person charged with attempted arson of a military enlistment office.

Solidarity Zone, a human rights project, described how the administration of the Novosibirsk detention centre has put pressure on Ilya Baburin. According to the human rights activists, in January the young man was placed in a ‘psychiatric isolation cell’ without any evidence that this was necessary, undressing him completely and not allowing him to go to the bathroom. In protest, he smashed the video camera, after which he was transferred to ‘another room of unknown purpose’ where Baburin remained for two days, still without clothes. A week later Baburin was placed in a punishment cell for 18 days, although the maximum term of punishment is 15 days. Currently, Baburin is in a punishment cell where he has been sent for 14 days, this time because he allegedly did not hold his hands behind his back when moving inside the remand prison.

  • Why does it matter?Pressure put on a detainee in a remand prison is not always torture, beatings, or threats. Sometimes law enforcement officers find more sophisticated ways to break a person. In that way, they protect themselves, since nobody is likely to punish them for putting the detainee in a punishment or isolation cell, while they may be prosecuted for real violence. At the same time, such pressure can cause serious harm, such as mental health problems.

The request by the adopted son of a defendant in an ‘anti-war’ prosecution to attend her trial has been denied.

Moreover, the teenager Vladimir Alalykin has not been in touch with anyone recently – it can be presumed that the staff of the orphanage in Buryatia where he is has taken away his mobile phone. His adoptive mother, Natalia Filonova, has been held on remand since November 2022, which is why the teenager was sent to the orphanage. Filonova has been charged with violence against the police. According to the investigators, after a demonstration against military mobilization she hit one policeman with her hand, poked another in the face with a pen, and also broke the finger of another law enforcement officer.

  • Why do I need to know this?The children of those who are held on remand can be taken away by children’s welfare authorities if there is no second parent or the second parent is unable to look after the child. At the same time, if the case is political, the child can be put under pressure. In this way, many fathers and mothers are deprived of the opportunity to protest – because in Russia, even peaceful protests are prosecuted, many are afraid to go into the streets, knowing they could end up behind bars and their children in bad conditions. This is what happened to Masha, the daughter of Aleksei Moskalev, charged in an ‘anti-war case’ – she has not been allowed to leave the rehabilitation centre to visit her father, who is under house arrest.


‘Z is for Russia’ with a sledgehammer.

On 17 March, law enforcement officers visited the Moscow bars Underdog and La Virgen with sledgehammers, stun guns, and police dogs. Their aim was to conduct an inspection concerning possible ‘sponsorship of the Ukrainian armed forces.’ At least 40 members of the public and restaurant staff were detained. Two days later, law enforcement officers cut short the presentation of political prisoner Sasha Skochilenko’s book at Open Space. We have written about how the bars and the cultural centre found themselves in the focus of police attention. You can read the story on our website, on Yandex.Zen and on Medium.

The European Court of Human Rights has awarded compensation to 41 defendants represented by Memorial Human Rights Centre and OVD-Info!

Each applicant was awarded 4,000 euros. The applications concerned detention of the applicants during the Moscow protests of the summer of 2019.

Photo credits: SOTA

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RUSSIA: Anti-war protests and repression in Russia are going on unabated

Anti-war protests and repression in Russia


Newsletter from OVD-News translated by HRWF


OVD (25.02.2023) – One year ago a full-scale war began in Ukraine. Tens of thousands of dead, destroyed cities and millions of refugees, aggressive misanthropic propaganda from TV screens, military censorship and the forced emigration of hundreds of thousands from Russia – without exaggeration a real disaster. Shortly after the invasion began, a wave of protests swept through Russia. The state responded with an unprecedented intensification of repression: hundreds of citizens became subjects of criminal cases, and thousands more became administrative cases. But that did not silence the Russians: citizens continue to take to the streets and talk about the war and its tragedies on social networks, despite the risk of imprisonment. And we continue to talk about it.


54 arrests in anti-war rallies on 24 February


Yesterday, at least 54 people were detained in anti-war rallies in various Russian cities – for pickets, laying flowers and even writing on the snow. In St. Petersburg we had 18 people in police custody, in Yekaterinburg – 11, in Moscow – 7, and in Nizhny Novgorod and Barnaul – 4 people in each. In total, we recorded anti-war detentions in 14 cities.


Detention conditions in Russia


Alexei Gorinov, convicted in an “anti-war case,” was placed on a preventive registry in a colony. The administration characterized the former municipal deputy as prone to escape, citing some operational information, but did not disclose its details. Now every two hours the inmate is visited by the staff of the institution, this also happens at night. In June 2022, Gorinov was sentenced to seven years in prison for speaking out about the war at the council of deputies, later his sentence was reduced by a month.


Preventive detention is one of the ways to put pressure on political prisoners in pre-trial detention centers and colonies. Quite often employees of the institutions do not explain in any way why they made such a decision; so it is almost impossible to challenge it. In February 2021, Alexei Navalny was placed on a preventive detention registry, also as prone to escape. They came to him every hour to check, and woke him up at night to film him owith a camera. “Such actions deprive me of sleep, that is in fact torture which is applied to me,” the politician noted.


The defendant in a case of justification of terrorism was placed on indefinite compulsory treatment. The court decided that Maksim Voronouski was not aware of the nature and public danger of his actions and could not therefore be punished. Now every six months a medical commission will determine whether or not the young man should continue his treatment. In March 2022 Voronovsky was sent to the detention center – a criminal case was opened against him for the posting of an alleged comment about Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who had committed a suicide bombing in the building of the Federal Security Service in the Arkhangelsk region. The young man claims that he didn’t write that message.


There is no hope that a person placed in forced treatment will actually be able to receive quality medical care. Violence, torture conditions, and isolation are far more likely to be encountered. Punitive psychiatry is often applied to defendants in political cases. For example, since 2021, Yakut shaman Alexander Gabyshev, prosecuted under the article on violence against a representative of authority, has been under compulsory treatment.


Staying in the hospital clearly didn’t do him any good. “His appearance is very painful: pale, heavily reddened eyes and lost weight,” was how his lawyer Alexei Pryanishnikov described him.


Protests against the war and repression in Russia go on unabated


In Russia, protests against the war with Ukraine did not stop throughout the year. During this time, we counted almost 20,000 detentions because of an anti-war stance. On at least 413 occasions, police used force against detainees, such as by beating them or using tasers. We documented 18,183 administrative cases under “rally” articles and 5,846 cases under the article on discrediting the Russian military.


But even this was not enough for the Russian authorities – they set the goal of silencing all those who advocate peace. According to our data, at least 447 people were prosecuted for “anti-war” cases, 128 of whom are in custody. Some of them reported violence, threats, pressure and ill-treatment by security forces, and at least 15 people were subjected to torture.


Since the beginning of the war, military censorship has actually been declared in the country. More than 10,000 Internet sites have been blocked. The state continued its fight against independent media even more fiercely: the sites of at least 265 publications were added to the registers of banned publications, and 34 journalists became subjects of “anti-war cases.


We published a summary in which we analyzed the main trends of repressions against opponents of the war in Russia and on the territory of annexed Crimea. Read the material on our website.


OVD’s legal assistance


Since the summer of 2022, we have been helping those who have been prosecuted for anti-war statements. In total, IAB-Info attorneys have defended 61 people in criminal cases. In administrative cases related to anti-war speech, we have been able to help even more people. During the year of the war, attorneys from IAB-Info went to police stations to visit detainees 1,157 times, where they helped 5,893 detainees. Our attorneys participated in 9133 administrative cases in court: they were able to completely dismiss 226 cases and return another 183 cases for reconsideration.


And we also want to remind you that it is especially important now to support political prisoners persecuted for their anti-war stance. Writing a letter is one of the easiest ways to do this. For many of those who have been imprisoned because of their views, it is important to understand that they are not alone and that like-minded people care about their fate. Read what to write about in a letter and how to send it in our instructions


Every day we take calls to our hotline, write news stories and texts about political persecution in Russia, and issue instructions, reports, and podcasts. Our lawyers handle criminal cases and prepare complaints to the ECHR, and our IT team works every day to make our services more user-friendly.

On September 29, 2021, the Ministry of Justice included OVD-Info in the “register of foreign agents”.

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