OVD-Info report makes it to the top of Yandex's news aggregator, Russia's most popular search engine.
We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly.
This week we report on how OVD-Info found its way to the top of the Yandex search engine, what’s wrong with the charges against a defendant in the 26 March case, and how Russian police gather information from people who have been arrested.
We begin with the news
The FSB has opened a criminal investigation against Vyacheslav Maltsev, the leader of the Artpodgotovka movement, for organising a terrorist group. Despite this, Maltsev apparently has “no problems at all.” He recently stated that he has been given political asylum in an EU country.
Vyacheslav Maltsev. Source: Youtube. Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for preparing (non-existent) acts of terrorism in Crimea, has spent the past two weeks in solitary confinement. Sentsov had been moved to the White Bear prison colony in the Labytnangi settlement (in Yamalo-Nenetsky autonomous district) where he was immediately placed in solitary confinement. This is how the prison carried out a decision by the pre-trial detention centre in Irkutsk, where Sentsov had formerly been held, who had decided the prisoner had been in serious violation of regulations, but had not had time to punish him.
In Chelyabinsk, environmental activist Irina Mochanova is under criminal investigation for using violence against a representative of the authorities while holding a one-person protest in front of president Putin’s car as it drove past. The activist was protesting against the construction of the Tomino copper mining plant.
A picket against a new copper plant outside the city during president Putin's recent visit to Chelyabinsk. Source: Chelyabinsk74.ru.Russian law enforcement haven’t forgotten about the dangerous criminals who exploit the internet for their nefarious purposes. Krasnodar blogger Leonid Kudinov has again been jailed for posting a video containing a swastika. In the video, Kudinov urges the police to stop using Article 20.3 of the Administrative Law Code against activists, and to take into account the context in which Nazi symbols may be used.
In Kaluga, a business manager, Ivan Lyubshin, has been found guilty of extremism and of rehabilitation of Nazism on account of posts he made on the VKontakte social media site. Lyubshin was fined 400,000 roubles; prosecutors had asked for him to be jailed for four years. The prosecution was brought on the basis of posts on social media which included film of the joint military parade of the forces of the Third Reich and the Red Army in Brest in 1939, and a song from the Soviet-Polish war of 1920.
Meanwhile, in Crimea an activist has been charged with “embracing the ideas of intolerance towards the social group of the Terek Cossacks and defaming the given social group.” In this case, the investigators also established the alleged crime by reviewing social media. During a police search of the activist’s apartment, he was beaten.
In the regions the authorities are gradually moving to ban rallies in cities (especially in downtown areas). In Murmansk, during an inspection by prosecutors, a document dating from 2011 was discovered stating that the local “Hyde Park” (the name given to areas where protests of less than 100 people are permitted without special authorisation by the authorities) had the status of an “object of cultural heritage” and therefore events could be held there only with the permission of the Committee for Culture and Art. The first decision the Committee took was to ban a rally against corruption. In Petrozavodsk a more straightforward approach was adopted: the main street was simply removed from the list of local “Hyde Parks.”
We have written about how during the “revolution” on 5 November we suddenly became one of the top ten resources cited on Yandex-News (where in fact we don’t belong at all, since we are not licensed as a media outlet). It is interesting that the figures we published relating to the detentions that took place at that time were in contest with figures provided by the police: sometimes the police figures had the most citations, sometimes ours were predominant. But the main thing is that in our article we explain why we (and, in fact, you) need this information.
In Russia the notion of a “criminal misdemeanour” may be introduced. We explain what this is, and the different views as to whether it is necessary.
7 November: Presnensky district court, Moscow. Source: Protest Moscow.If you have been arrested, it is worth being cautious in what you say to other people in the police van, despite a natural sense of solidarity you may have with them. We relate how police gather information among detainees.
Dmitry Borisov, a defendant in the 26 March Case, has been charged with kicking the helmet of one of the five police officers who were carrying him to the police van. As a result, Borisov faces a prison term of up to five years. Three police officers, who are witnesses in Borisov’s case, have said they did not see the accused strike the police officer. We have investigated the video of Borisov’s arrest in an attempt to understand whether it might indeed have been possible for Borisov to kick the officer on the helmet. Our conclusion is very unexpected, but men will probably understand.
OVD-Info needs volunteers. We need volunteers to staff our telephone hotline, we need young lawyers, people to work with databases, IT experts, illustrators, and many others. Persecution on political grounds is very widespread in Russia at present, so we have much work to do. We cannot manage without volunteers. Join our team, we’ll be delighted!
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For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.