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Harassment, detention and torture: Russia’s presidential election is marred by repression

Russian law enforcement and the security services have been given carte blanche to beat, intimidate, torture and fabricate cases before the elections.

OVD-Info
16 March 2018
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Nizhny Novgorod branch of the Alexey Navalny campaign. Source: Twitter.

A version of this text originally appeared on OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated detentions and freedom of assembly in Russia.

On 18 March, Russia will elect a new president. The campaign has not been particularly inspiring or interesting. On the other hand, politically-motivated harassment and persecution by law enforcement agencies — the arrests of activists, jailings, searches, and also torture by electric shock — have recently all become more common.

Law enforcement agencies searched the homes of members of Left Bloc and anarchists following a protest outside the United Russia offices on the night of 30-31 January, during which a window in the building was broken and a smoke-bomb was thrown in. The police have begun an investigation into alleged “vandalism” and at least nine people have been arrested. One person, anarchist Svyatoslav Rechkalov, was held in a police cell. He managed to tell his girlfriend that he had been tortured (a plastic bag was put over his head and he was beaten on the legs). Later Rechkalov confirmed this information to human rights defenders and a lawyer, who had been refused access to him for a long time. The human rights defenders recorded red marks on Rechkalov’s body and a paramedic confirmed physical injuries.

A witness in the investigation into an alleged terrorist group in St Petersburg, Ilya Kapustin, who reported that he had been tortured by FSB officers, has left Russia. He has asked for political asylum in Finland. The defendants in this case, Viktor Filinkov and Igor Shishkin, have apparently also been tortured.

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Ilya Kapustin, who is being treated as a witness in the Petersburg "terrorism" case, is now seeking political asylum in Finland. In February, Chelyabinsk young people were arrested on suspicion of taking part in a protest in support of left-wing activists who are under investigation. On the night of 14-15 February, a smoke bomb was thrown onto the territory of the local FSB building. We publish the account of the anarchist Dmitry Tsibukovsky about how he was tortured with a taser.

In Moscow, police have searched the homes of members of the Novoe Velichie (New Greatness) movement. Few details are available. At present, neither the number of those detained nor the nature of the charges brought against them are known. A video has been published on a Telegram-channel posting police video footage in which a person who calls himself leader of the movement testifies they planned to “hold a tribunal to judge members of the ruling elite” and the “abolition of the current repressive laws and Constitution.”

In St Petersburg, anti-extremism police have drawn up a list of 20 people who are supposed organisers of, and participants in, the “Voters’ Strike.” Many of them have been arrested and some of them jailed for ten days.

In Nizhny Novgorod, a number of people were jailed for 20 days for taking part in a march in memory of Boris Nemtsov and the “Funeral for the Elections” protest. True, the judge dated the court ruling sentencing one of them “2017.”

Residents of the region outside Moscow are protesting against waste incinerators. People have been arrested for taking part in single-person pickets, attempts to enter the premises of the waste dump, and other forms of protest in the towns of Volokolamsk (twice), Klin and Naro-Fominsk.

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A leaflet accusing Sergey Belogorokhov, a Stop GOK activist, of paedophilia. Source: Our Chelyabinsk. In Chelyabinsk, leaflets calling for the murder of an environmental activist have been distributed. The anonymous leaflets accused the activist of being a pedophile. The target for the attack is Sergei Belorokhov, an activist of the Stop GOK movement who campaigns to stop the construction of a mining and processing plant [GOK]. We discovered that this is only part of a continuing war against environmental activists in Chelyabinsk.

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