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Election season in Russia: violent acts and criminal cases against rights defenders, political activists

This week, the pressure on rights defenders, Open Russia and Navalny activists has turned increasingly violent. 

OVD-Info
19 January 2018
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Memorial's office in Nazran, Ingushetia. Source: Memorial.

This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia.

Russia’s presidential elections are drawing close and the machinery of repression, which is working overtime, has apparently no intention to stop. We continue to cover these events.  

The authorities continue to put pressure on Memorial’s branch office in the North Caucasus

  • - In Ingushetia, in the early hours of 17 January, unidentified people in masks set fire to the office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre. Staff of the organisation consider this to be an act of terrorism:

“We consider this to be an act of terrorism. In accordance with Article 205 of the Russian Criminal Code, acts of terrorism include acts of arson, explosions or other actions intended to intimidate the public for the purposes of destabilizing the situation or to put pressure on international organizations. We believe that this attack is intended to influence the decisions we take. Behind this attack are the same forces that try to halt the activities of Memorial in Chechnya and to force human rights defenders to leave the North Caucasus altogether.

- In Chechnya on the morning of 19 January police searched the offices of Memorial in connection with the case of Oyub Titiev, head of the local branch of Memorial, arrested on the morning of 9 January and charged with possession of drugs. The Chechen police are putting pressure on the owner of the premises where the office is located.

  • - Bekkhan Titiev, Oyub Titiev’s son, has been threatened with the same criminal charges as his father. The Titiev family has left Chechnya.

    - A doctor has been denied access to Oyub Titiev in his cell. Titiev has written a letter to President Putin, in which he says: “If in some way or other I admit my guilt regarding the charges brought against me, this will mean that I have been forced to do so...”

On a single day, activists from the Open Russia movement were arrested in eight cities

The arrests took place in Cheboksary, Ulyanovsk, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Tambov, Tver, Great Novgorod and Penza. The activists were charged with murder, robbery setting fire to cars, possession of extremist materials, organizing public events without official permission and damaging campaigning materials. In the upshot, all those detained were released from the police stations where they had been held. In Kazan, according to Open Russia, the activists had been under surveillance and “as a result police officers... .had been digging in a rubbish dump when one of the movement’s activists had thrown away a bag of rubbish.”

Police have seized materials related to the Voters’ Boycott* protest campaign in ten cities

In Pskov. the FSB ordered that leaflets be seized from the local campaign headquarters. In Murmansk, 10,000 leaflets were seized and the campaign coordinator arrested. In St Petersburg a volunteer was summoned “for a chat" about leaflets that had been sent to Murmansk. Police visited the Navalny campaign headquarters in Penza (where leaflets were also seized), Novgorod and Cheboksary. During the seizure of leaflets in Penza, police taped over two closed-circuit video cameras on the premises. Police also seized Voters’ Boycott leaflets in Kaluga, Smolensk, St Petersburg and Izhevsk. The Navalny campaign’s Samara headquarters was trashed by police, who of course also seized leaflets there.  

*On 25 December, the Central Electoral Commission refused to register the politician Aleksei Navalny as a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections because of an unspent conviction. In response, Navalny has urged a boycott of the 2018 presidential elections and announced that on 28 January 2018 there would be nationwide protest in support of  a “Voters’ Boycott.”

Doctors at the Astrakhan Regional Psychiatric Hospital have recommended the release of Bolotnaya case defendant Maxim Panfilov

The doctors’ recommendation will be submitted to the court which is to decide whether Panfilov, who has Tourette’s syndrome, should be released to continue his treatment as an outpatient. Panfilov has been charged with using force against a police officer and with taking part in riots that allegedly took place on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on 6 May 2012. If the court decides on the doctors’ recommendation to release Panfilov, then no one prosecuted in the Bolotnaya Square case will remain in detention.

We have analysed politically-motivated prosecutions of 2015 and 2016

We recommend reading this report in order to understand what is happening in Russia nowadays. The report includes the murder of Boris Nemtsov, the prosecutions of Dmitry Buchenkov, Ildar Dadin, Svetlana Davydov, Oleg Sentsova and Aleksandr Kolchenko, and the stories of many other people prosecuted over the course of these two years.

Thank you

You can help us continue our work now and in the difficult months of the coming 2018 election campaign here. You can volunteer to work with us here.

 

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