Last summer in Moscow, thousands came out to protest. Then they were prosecuted for it
The 2019 summer of protest in Moscow may be a distant memory for Russia’s fast-moving political scene. But dozens of people who protested against the removal of city election candidates have found themselves under investigation - or behind bars.
In July 2019, thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the dismissal of independent candidates running in the Moscow city elections.
The media was filled with images of arbitrary and brutal arrests by city police. In the aftermath, the focus switched to the city’s courtrooms, where protesters were charged with offences that human rights organisations did not recognise.
Earlier that month, the Moscow election commission decided to invalidate signatures collected in support of opposition candidates, disqualifying nearly 30 of them from running in the 9 September election. In response, opposition supporters organised weeks of protests - from single pickets to larger actions - in the city. For many people, the exclusion of the independent candidates was a step too far.
Particularly shocking were the events of 27 July, when a protest was called outside the Moscow Mayor’s office. Thousands of people chose to demonstrate amid an increasingly violent reaction by police.
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Police detained 1,373 people that day according to OVD-Info, an organisation that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Two days later, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal investigation into “mass unrest” on 27 July - what has become known as the “Moscow Case” in Russia. This move drew parallels with a previous high-profile investigation (the “Bolotnaya Square Case”) into a 2012 protest against Putin’s third inauguration as president, in which over 30 people were prosecuted on charges of “mass unrest”.
Here, OVD-Info profiles the dozens of people who have been investigated and sentenced as part of the “Moscow Case”.
Outstanding arrest warrants
Aidar Gubaidullin, 26, programmer
Prior to an arrest warrant being issued, Aidar Gubaidullin worked for an Russian IT company, Sberbank-Technologies. As a student at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Gubaidullin participated in a debate club and “was interested in politics”.
Gubaidullin is charged with attempted use of violence that did not endanger health against a law enforcement officer. Investigators believe that he threw a plastic bottle at law enforcement officers, but did not hit any of them.
On 18 September 2019, a court sent Gubaidullin’s case back to the public prosecutor’s office to clarify the accusations against him. Gubaidullin signed a recognisance not to leave the country.
On 15 October 2019, a new accusation was brought against Gubaidullin: threatening to use violence against a state representative. Earlier, the same actions were qualified by investigators as an “attempted use of violence”. On 17 October, it was reported that Gubaidullin had left Russia. On 29 October, he was put on an international wanted list, and the next day an arrest warrant was issued.
Sergey Medenkov, 28, works in IT
On 3 December, it was reported that Moscow’s Basmanny court had detained Sergey Medenkov in absentia. He was charged with use of violence against a representative of the authorities. The prosecution claims that Medenkov pulled on the bulletproof vest of a riot police officer, Maxim Saliyev, who was trying to detain a participant of the 27 July protest. This particular officer was also a victim in the case of another defendant in the “Moscow case”, Evgeny Kovalenko, who was sentenced to three and a half years in a penal colony.
In a 26 December interview with Mediazona, Medenkov said that he had left Russia at the beginning of September and has not returned since then. An international search warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Medenkov explained that he was trying to pull back “one of the assailants” as he “tried to protect people from then unidentified attackers, who did not state their authority, and caught one of them by their body armour.”
Mikhail Kvasov, 34, cook
Mikhail Kvasov, who works as a cook in the city of Voronezh, was convicted of threatening to publish the personal address of a Moscow judge, Stanislav Minin. Charges were brought against Kvasov because of a comment on Instagram concerning another defendant in the “Moscow case”, Konstantin Kotov, who was sentenced to four years in prison in September 2019.
According to Kvasov’s legal counsel Olga Pelshe, who acted on behalf of OVD-Info, Kvasov’s comment on Instagram did not mention Judge Minin.
On 10 December 2019, Kvasov was arrested in Voronezh and brought to Moscow. On 12 December, he was sent for psychological and psychiatric forensic examination. He signed a recognisance not to leave.
On 5 March 2020, a Moscow district court imposed a 270,000 rouble (£2,800) fine on Kvasov, who did not plead guilty. Judge Minin was recognised as a victim in the case.
Kvasov is married with a daughter.
Alexey Veresov, 46, musician, handyman
Prior to arrest, Alexey Veresov lived in the village of Yakshur-Body, which is 40 kilometres from Izhevsk. After school, he qualified as a bricklayer at a vocational school, working as a carpenter, a labourer at construction sites, and installed fireplaces. He also worked as a DJ in a local nightclub and wrote songs for clients.
Veresov is charged with public calls to extremism concerning a comment made online on 16 September. On that day, Veresov uploaded a photo of Judge Alexey Krivoruchko onto a group in the VKontakte social network. Judge Krivorichko had previously sentenced anotehr defendant in the “Moscow case”, Pavel Ustinov, to three and a half years in prison. Beneath the photo, Veresov called for revenge against the judge. For this comment, he faces up to five years in prison. On 13 November, Veresov was imprisoned in a detention center. Two weeks later, he was included in an official register of extremists and terrorists.
In December, the investigation re-qualified the charge to threats against a judge, and the charge of public calls for extremism was dismissed. The investigation explained this decision by claiming that Veresov had no intent of making extremist statements. The Investigative Committee also decided to change the measure of restraint from arrest to recognisance not to leave.
In January, Veresov was ordered to pay a fine of 160,000 roubles (£1,650) as punishment, and was convicted of threats against Judge Krivoruchko.
Veresov pleaded guilty to all charges, and his case was tried under special procedures, which means that evidence of his guilt was not reviewed during the hearing.
Andrey Barshay, 21, student
Before arrest, Andrey Barshay was a third year student at the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), and also taught at the physics and mathematics school of MAI. Barshai signed an open letter by university students for the release of political prisoners and against the “Moscow case”.
The investigation believes Barshay pushed a Russian National Guard officer in the back during the rally on 27 July. During the initial hearing, he pleaded not guilty. On 16 October, Barshai was sent to pre-trial detention.
On 24 October, Barshay’s lawyer stated that his defendant was being pressured by his cellmates, in an attempt to force him to make a plea bargain. He was also told to get a haircut, as well as joking that he might be raped.
On 27 November, Barshay was sent to Moscow’s Serbsky Institute for psychiatric examination. This decision was based upon the opinion of medical personnel who suspected that the young man could suffer an affective state or not be sane. On 27 December, the young man was transferred back to pre-trial detention.
On 18 February, Barshay was sentenced to a three year suspended sentence. He was found guilty of the alleged crime, though he did not plead guilty to the charges against him. During the trial, Barshay stated that he had pushed a National Guard officer to stop him from beating people at the protest.
Barshai has pyelonephritis, a chronic kidney condition.
Sergey Surovtsev, 30, IT specialist
Sergey Surovtsev is another graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute. He is a co-founder of company Shopster Analytics, which registers the amount of time customers spend in shops and how they move around them. In his spare time, he participated in powerlifting competitions.
According to investigators, during the events of 27 July Surovtsev lifted a section of metal fence and hit a National Guard serviceman with it, and then “tried to block movements of other law enforcement officers”. Surovtsev was detained on 28 November, and charged with using violence against a state official without threatening their health. The next day, Surovtsev was placed in pre-trial detention. The investigation, it turned out, was already finished, having taken a day and a half. On 24 December, Surovtsev was sentenced to 2.5 years in a general regime penal colony.
Samariddin Radjabov, 21, construction worker
Before arrest, Radjabov worked renovating apartments and recorded rap music. Investigators took Radjabov straight from the special detention facility where he was under administrative arrest for participating in the 27 July rally.
According to the investigation, Radjabov threw a plastic bottle at a National Guard serviceman. For this, he was charged with threatening to use violence against a law enforcement officer. After arrest, Radjabov was accused of participating in a riot, but in October this charge was dropped. Radjabov was held in a detention facility from 2 August.
On 24 December, Radjabov was found guilty and sentenced to a fine of 100,000 roubles (£1,070). He was relieved from paying the fine based on time served in pre-trial detention and the financial situation of his family.
Evgeny Erzunov, 24, promotions manager
Evgeny Erzunov graduated from Moscow State Technical University (MAMI). Prior to arrest, he worked at a company called M.Video, organising in-store promoters. He is married with an 18-month old daughter.
According to investigators, Erzunov posted a tweet containing threats against Moscow judge Alexey Krivoruchko. The tweet was posted under a photo of the judge, which was posted by another user of the social network.
Erzunov was detained at Vnukovo airport on 13 November - he was travelling with his wife to Rome on holiday. He was charged with threatening to murder a judge, and faced up to three years in prison. On 14 November, Erzunov was placed in a pre-trial detention center.
On 24 December, Erzunov was fined 130,000 roubles (£1,390) as punishment. With time served, the fine was reduced to 110,000 roubles.
Erzunov fully admitted his guilt, the case was heard without examination of evidence. The defendant declined the services of an attorney from Agora International Human Rights Group, he was represented by a court-appointed attorney.
Eduard Malyshevsky, 47, decorator
Eduard Malyshevsky studied to be a cook, in recent years he has worked renovating apartments. Prior to arrest, he used to help his daughter from his first marriage - he currently supports two minor dependents.
Malyshevsky was charged with using violence against a police officer. According to investigators, on 27 July Malyshevsky, while inside a police van, pushed out one of the van’s windows, which then hit a riot police commander. The officer felt “physical pain and dizziness”, but was not injured because he was wearing a helmet.
Malyshevsky was placed in pre-trial detention on 2 September. On 9 December, he was sentenced to three years of general regime penal colony. He pleaded not guilty. At trial, attorney Alexander Aldaev emphasised that Malyshevsky had no intention of harming a police officer.
Yegor Lesnykh, 35, apartment renovator
For the past several years, Yegor Lesnykh lived and worked in Moscow. He moved to the city from Volzhskiy, a town in the Volgograd region, where he graduated from a polytechnic college. Before arrest, Lesnykh was unofficially employed at a mobile store and had a part-time job as an apartment renovation contractor.
Lesnykh is an active member of the anti-fascist movement. He organised several music concerts and “Food not bombs” events. He is also actively involved in animal rights protection activities, and regularly donated blood over a ten-year period.
Lesnykh is charged with kicking a National Guard officer, as well as knocking another officer down together with another defendant, Alexander Mylnikov. This charge carried a tariff of up to five years of imprisonment. During a search of his apartment, police officers threatened to plant bullets among his belongings and amphetamines on his girlfriend. While in temporary detention, Lesnykh says he was pressured by other inmates, who suggested he plead guilty and waive legal counsel.
On 16 October, a court ruled that Lesnykh should be placed in pre-trial detention. During the hearing, Lesnykh stated that he disagreed with the charges and he had not used any violence against law-enforcement officers.
“I impulsively pulled a National Guard officer away. They were beating a man and a woman who were asking for help. Somebody was covered in blood. I did not use any physical violence, I just wanted to stop it,” Lesnykh said.
On 6 December, Lesnykh was convicted to three years in a general regime penal colony. He pleaded not guilty.
Maxim Martintsov, 27, lab technician
Maxim Martintsov received vocational training. Prior to detention, he lived in Moscow and worked for a construction company. While working, he helped his grandparents financially.
Initially Martintsov, along with Yegor Lesnykh and Alexander Mylnikov, was charged with knocking a National Guard officer to the ground. However, at the first hearing, Martintsov’s lawyer said that after reviewing the video of the incident, Martintsov was accused of having hit a law enforcement officer who was lying on the ground. On O16 ctober, Martintsov was sent to pre-trial detention. The charges against him carried up to five years in prison.
On 6 December, Martintsov was sentenced to 2.5 years in a penal colony. He did not plead guilty to the alleged crime.
Alexander Mylnikov, 32, facilities manager
Alexander Mylnikov worked as a facilities manager for a Moscow company. He and his wife have three young children. They also have an outstanding mortgage, and his wife is not currently employed.
Mylnikov was charged with using violence against a National Guard officer. According to investigators, Mylnikov, along with Yegor Lesnykh, began kicking the officer, and then knocked him to the ground. On 16 October, Mylnikov was placed under house arrest.
On 6 December, Mylnikov was sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence; he was also assigned three years of probation. He pleaded not guilty. Mylnikov signed a recognizsance not to leave the country for the period of the sentence.
Nikita Chirtsov, 22, student
Nikita Chirtsov was studying to become a programmer in Moscow. Before arrest, he was self-employed. Soon after the 27 July rally, he went to Belarus on vacation. On 28 August, Chirtsov was detained by police in a hostel in Minsk, as he was on a Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs wanted list. He was included in the database following the 27 July rally. Chirtsov was then deported to Moscow and was prohibited from entering Belarus for ten years. Two days after he returned to Russia, he was detained.
He was charged with violence against a state representative, which does not endanger human health. Allegedly, Chirtsov intentionally pushed a policeman with both hands in the chest during the rally. Chirtsov was placed in pre-trial detention on 3 September.
On 6 December, Chirtsov was sentenced to a year of general regime penal colony. He pleaded not guilty. The policeman who was allegedly assaulted stated during one of the hearings that he did not feel any pain, but “just moved backward.”
Yegor Zhukov, 21, student
Yegor Zhukov was a political science major at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. Prior to arrest, he ran a libertarian video blog with 145,000 subscribers. He was planning to run in elections to the Moscow City Council, but decided to drop out of the race.
Initially, Zhukov was charged with participation in mass riots because he allegedly directed other protesters during the 27 July events. Under these charges, he was held in a pre-trial detention facility from 2 August.
On 3 September, the charges of participation in mass riots were dropped. However, Zhukov was then charged with a public call for extremism via the internet, and was put under house arrest. The investigation claims that Zhukov “has decided to involve the general public in his extremist activities, which were directed at destabilising the socio-political environment in Russia.” These charges were based on videos published on Zhukov’s YouTube channel in 2017.
On 6 December, Zhukov received a three-year suspended sentence and was recognised as guilty of the public call to extremism. He was also sentenced to three years of probation. He has received a two-year ban on administering websites.
Vladimir Emelyanov, 27, merchandiser
Vladimir Emelyanov majored in management at the Moscow Academy for Industry and Finance. Before arrest, he worked as a merchandiser. Emelyanov is diagnosed with asthma, he is an orphan and had been living with his grandmother, 74, and great-grandmother, 91. Before being taken into custody, he was looking after both of them. After his detention he was put in a cell with detainees who smoked, despite his asthma.
According to investigators, during the events of 27 July Emelyanov seized a National Guard officer by their body armour and pulled them towards him, “by which he deprived the said state representative of their freedom of movement and causing physical pain.” Emelyanov is charged with use of violence that does not endanger human life or health against a state representative. This charge carries a sentence of up to five years.
On 16 October, Emelyanov was arrested for two months. In court, Emelyanov said that he had attempted to prevent the illegal actions of National Guard officers who were beating up protesters. A video of events between Emelyanov and law enforcement officers was published by Dozhd TV channel.
Emelyanov reports that he was pressured by his cellmates in detention. The latter urged him to plead guilty, cooperate with the investigation and decline independent legal support.
On 6 December, Emelyanov was sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence. He pleaded not guilty.
Pavel Novikov, 32
Pavel Novikov graduated from Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry, with a specialisation in orthopaedics and dentistry. He is not officially employed. In court, Novikov stated that he gets by with odd jobs.
According to investigators, Novikov hit a policeman with a water bottle on the head. The policeman was wearing a helmet at the time. The prosecution also states that Novikov hit the policeman one more time on the right shoulder. These actions allegedly caused pain to the police officer. Novikov was accused of using violence against a state representative, without endangering their health. He did not plead guilty. On 30 October 2019, Novikov was placed in pre-trial detention.
On 6 December, Novikov was sentenced to a fine of 120,000 roubles (£1,300). He pleaded guilty in court and apologised to the policeman.
Kirill Zhukov, 28
Kirill Zhukov previously served in Russia’s internal military forces, and was involved in providing security at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In 2010, he volunteered to put out wildfires, and previously worked as a train driver for the Moscow Metro.
He was found guilty of violence against a National Guard officer for trying to lift the visor of his helmet, and sentenced to three years in prison.
Evgeny Kovalenko, 48, railway security guard
Evgeny Kovalenko was found guilty of using violence against a state representative without endangering their health. The case against Kovalenko is based on the fact that he threw a garbage can at a National Guard officer, hitting the latter’s leg. Kovalenko does not dispute that he threw the garbage can, but he does argue that the garbage can wasn’t thrown to cause the officer harm.
He was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.
Ivan Podkopayev, 25, technician
Ivan Podkopayev was charged with violence against a state representative without endangering their health. According to the prosecution, Podkopayev used pepper spray against several police and National Guard officers. As Podkopaev pleaded guilty, the case was heard according to special procedure - a trial without examination of evidence.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in a penal colony. On appeal, Podkopayev withdrew his guilty plea and, and his sentence was reduced to two years.
Danil Beglets, 27, self-employed
Danil Beglets was sentenced to two years in a penal colony for pulling a police officer’s hand while the latter attempted to detain protesters. He was convicted of using violence against a state representative without endangering their life or health. Beglets pleaded guilty, and the case was heard according to special procedure - a trial without examination of evidence.
During the court hearing, Beglets stated that he provides for two juvenile children in addition to his wife, who is unable to work due to two caesarean sections and heart issues. He also told the court that he regularly sends money to his mother, who has health problems. During the hearing, Beglets apologided to the officer whose hand he pulled, and said he transferred 10,000 roubles as compensation for emotional distress.
He was sentenced to two years in prison.
Pavel Ustinov, 23, actor
Pavel Ustinov graduated from the Konstantin Raikin Higher School of Performing Arts, and then served in the National Guard. He participated in police cordons during 2018 football World Cup matches in Russia. After the National Guard, he became an actor and starred in a TV series (“Trader”) and a film (“Attraction”)
According to the investigation, Ustinov twisted the shoulder of a National Guard officer while resisting arrest on 3 August. Pavel was found guilty of using violence against a state representative which endangered human life or health.
On 20 September, four days after the verdict was announced, the Moscow city court released Ustinov from pre-trial detention on his recognisance not to leave the country. This happened following a request by the Prosecutor’s Office. At the same time, the Prosecutor’s Office initially asked for a sentence of six years in prison for Ustinov.
The request to change the measure of restraint was filed by the Prosecutor’s Office the day after the verdict, following the start of a public campaign to support the actor.
At the same time, despite the fact that Ustinov was released from detention, he was still convicted. The appeal was planned to take place on 23 September, but the court postponed the appeal in order to watch a video of Ustinov’s arrest, which shows that the man did not resist the police.
During a session of the Moscow city court on 30 September, Ustinov’s verdict was reduced from 3.5 years in prison to a one-year suspended sentence. Ustinov thus remains convicted of using life-threatening violence against a National Guard officer.
Konstantin Kotov, 34, programmer
Konstantin Kotov was sentenced to four years for repeatedly violating Russia’s statute on organising public events. Kotov’s participation in four peaceful protests served as grounds for initiating criminal proceedings. The prosecution argued that he had made calls to protest when independent candidates were not admitted to the Moscow city elections in 2019.
Technically, Kotov was not prosecuted for attending the rally on 27 July, but OVD Info includes him in this list as he was detained after a sanctioned rally on 10 August. Two days later, the authorities launched a criminal case against him. The ensuing investigation was completed in record time - within two and a half days. On 5 September, Kotov was sentenced.
Vladislav Sinitsa, 30, financial manager
Prior to arrest, Vladislav Sinitsa worked as a financial manager.
On 31 July, Sinitsa posted a reply to another Twitter user about the need for police officers to show their badges at public assemblies. In the tweet, he made a statement which suggested that children of “courageous law enforcement officers” might not return home from school one day.
Following the tweet, Sinitsa was detained on 4 August and sent to a pre-trial detention centre.
In court, Sinitsa denied his guilt and claimed that he had not made any calls for unlawful action. He acknowledged that he wrote the tweet.
Sinitsa was found guilty of inciting hatred and enmity towards law enforcement officers and their family members.
He was sentenced to five years in a penal colony.
Sergey Polovets, 41, promoter
Sergey Polovets, from the town of Noginsk, Moscow region, was employed as a promoter at the same company as another defendant, Evgeny Erzunov. Polovets was charged with threatening harm to physical health because of a repost on Twitter.
Attorney Gregory Chervonnyi, who originally planned to represent Polovets, wrote the following:
“A certain page on Twitter posted information that Judge [Alexey] Krivoruchko sentenced Pavel Ustinov to 3.5 years of prison. Under this photo was a comment of another user [...]. Sergey Polovets retweeted the original post containing information about Ustinov’s sentence. This appeared in his profile together with the comment of another user, because this user was in Sergey’s friends list. Later the retweet was deleted, but they used the screenshot in the case.”
Polovets refused Chervonniy’s services and was protected by a court-appointed attorney. Polovets testified against Evgeny Erzunov, who was the author of the original comment, after which Erzunov was arrested. Polovets himself was under oath not to leave the country at that time.
On 24 December, Russia’s Investigative Committee dropped the case against Polovets “for the absence of facts and circumstances of a crime”
Sergey Fomin, 36, entrepreneur
During the 2019 election campaign to the Moscow City Duma, Sergey Fomin collected signatures in support of Lyubov Sobol, an independent candidate. After Sobol was removed from the candidate list, Fomin held single-person protests outside the building of Moscow Mayor’s office. Prior to arrest, he was engaged in entrepreneurship, and planned to get a second degree in IT - he was supposed to start classes at university on 1 September.
According to the investigators, Fomin coordinated the actions of protesters on 27 July. He was accused of participating in a mass riot, which carried up to five years imprisonment. On 9 August, Fomin was transferred to pre-trial detention. On 3 September, he was placed under house arrest.
On 31 July, police searched the apartment of Fomin's parents and his place of residence. Then Fomin was interrogated as a witness of mass rioting and subsequently, released. He went on vacation for several days. On 5 August, a warrant was issued for Fomin’s arrest.
On the same day, police searched the house of some of Fomin’s friends. Two criminal cases were opened the next day. According to Russian law enforcement, Fomin’s friends, the Prokazov family, put their child in danger by handing their son to Fomin during the protest. Federal media portrayed Fomin as if he used the Prokazovs’ child in order to get out of the police cordon. The Prokazovs were suspected of leaving their child in danger, and failing to discharge the duties of bringing up a minor.
On 8 August, Sergey Fomin handed himself over to the police. No charges were brought against the Prokazovs. The court refused to terminate their parental rights.
On 6 December, Russia’s Investigative Committee dropped all charges against Fomin and stopped the criminal prosecution.
Alexey Minyailo, 34
Before arrest, Alexey Minyailo participated in the electoral campaign of Lyubov Sobol, an independent candidate, to the Moscow City Duma. He was an employee at her campaign headquarters, where he trained volunteers to collect signatures in support of her candidacy. According to the Mediazona outlet, ahead of the protests on 27 July, he started “A Team”, an initiative whose purpose was “to persuade as many people as possible to join the protest”.
Minaylo was accused of participation in mass riots, under which he faced a prison sentence of between three and eight years. He did not admit to participating in “mass riots” on 27 July. On that day, Minaylo was in Khamovnichesky Court where Lyubov Sobol had been detained before the protests started. Later that evening,he went to Trubnaya square, where he was arrested.
On 26 September, Minyailo was released from custody. The charges against him were dropped. The judge said that the case “does not contain any evidence of organising mass riots and, subsequently, participation of the accused person in them.”
This article was translated by Alexander Shpilkin, Daria Nefedova, Ekaterina Sosnina, Irina Fadina, Ivan Kasyanenko, Kristina Pilskaia, Lyubov Korolyeva, Marina Alieva, Masha Zenina, Polina Ermilova, Revekka Gershovich, Snezhana Aleynikova and three more volunteers who wished to remain anonymous.
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