In late January, Moscow birdwatcher and guide Anton Mironenko-Marenkov was investigated for holding an illegal mass demonstration. Illustration: Anastasia Vilkul.
This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia.
As Russia’s presidential election draws closer, our weekly bulletin becomes ever more depressing. But this week we conclude with two items of good news.
The case concerning alleged torture of anti-fascist activists during an investigation into terrorism in Penza and St Petersburg continues:
- A defendant in the case in Penza, Ilya Shakursky, has described the torture to which he was subjected to his lawyer. He was tortured by electric shocks:
“They told me to sit on the bench without raising my head. They blindfolded me, tied my hands and pushed a sock into my mouth. I thought they wanted to get my fingerprints on something or other. But they connected wires to my big toes. At the first shock I couldn’t help but groan and shake. They repeated the procedure until I promised to say whatever they told me to say. After that I forgot the word ‘no’ altogether and agreed to say whatever the officers told me to say.”
- Shakursky’s mother was fired from her job as soon as the first publications about the Penza case appeared in the media.
- Military prosecutors in St Petersburg have not investigated the allegation of torture made by computer programmer Viktor Filinkov. The young man told human rights defenders that he was tortured by FSB officers. Prosecutors forwarded the allegation to the FSB.
- Dmitry Pchelintsev, a survival instructor and defendant in the Penza terrorism case, has withdrawn his allegations of torture. There is reason to believe he did this because he was tortured again.
- Ilya Kapustin, a witness in the St. Petersburg case, has submitted a formal complaint about torture to the Investigative Committee.
New details about pressure on Memorial staff come to light:
- 37 houses in the centre of the Chechen village of Kurchalou are to be demolished. They include the house of the head of Memorial’s Grozny office, Oyub Titiev. Residents learned about the planned demolition on 5 February. They were given until 12 February to evacuate their homes.
- Oyub Titiev was arrested on the morning of 9 January. That evening, he was charged with possessing drugs - a packet with banned substances was allegedly found in his car. The next day the police forced Titiev’s relatives out of his home.
- On the road leading from the place where Titiev was arrested to the police station where he was taken are four closed-circuit cameras. Astonishingly, the very day the human rights defender was arrested, all four cameras were оut of order.
- Bakhrom Khamroev, a member of Memorial and leader of the organisation Erdam (“Help”) has been charged in Moscow with assisting in the fictitious residence registration of a foreign citizen.
- According to Vitaly Ponomarev, a member of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre, the charges against Khamroev are “merely a pretext for retribution against a human rights defender known for his work in defending refugees from Central Asia.”
The homes of a number of nationalists in Moscow have been searched:
- Law enforcement officers visited the home of Ivan Beletsky, the co-chair of the Party of Nationalists, who at present is not in Russia. Searches were also conducted at the homes of party members Dmitry Golikov and Konstantin Filippov. The two men, along with Golikov’s wife, were questioned by the FSB and released on condition of non-disclosure.
Two people were arrested as a result of a protest at the offices of United Russia (during the protest, one of the office windows was broken and a smoke bomb thrown in).
- In a first reaction by the authorities, the home of animal rights activist Elena Groban was searched. She was not allowed to see her lawyer for four hours. When her lawyer was allowed in to see her, Gorban had already decided to admit her guilt and testify. Subsequently, a young man, Alexey Kobaidze, was arrested. Both were sent to a detention centre, but were subsequently released under travel restrictions. A criminal investigation into alleged vandalism is underway.
- During the questioning, police officers also asked about the march protesting against the torture of anarchists and anti-fascists in Penza and St Petersburg that had been organized by Moscow anarchists on the capital’s Myasnitskaya Street without official permission.
And finally two items of good news:
- Novaya gazeta journalist Ali Feruz has been able to leave Russia. Hooray! A court permitted the journalist to travel to a third country. The authorities had wanted to deport Feruz to Uzbekistan, where his life would have been in danger. Since August 2017 Feruz had been held in an immigration detention centre.
- Marked money, undercover inspectors and the law on holding public events without official permission. No, this has nothing to do with rallies that don’t have official permission or criminals. In Moscow's Izmailovo park, a birdwatcher, an amateur ornithologist who has been telling people about the birds to be seen there, was arrested. You can read about it here.
As the elections draw closer there is ever more work to do. Help us continue our work now and in the difficult months ahead, before and after the 2018 election campaign, here. You can volunteer to work with us here.
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