The Russian authorities’ clampdown on activism and freedom of assembly continues

Use of force against a police officer, insulting religious believers' feelings, taking a selfie with an Easter egg — these are just some of the pretexts used against active citizens in Russia. Русский

21 April 2017

26 March: Riot police in Moscow. Image: Boris Pospelov. We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, a Russian NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly in Russia. 

After we reported last week that Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into Moscow’s anti-corruption protests on 26 March, we now have details of the charges against one of the four detainees, Yuri Kuliy. He is being charged on the basis of putting his hand on the shoulder of a riot policeman. Another detainee, Alexander Shpakov, who apparently hit a police lieutenant, reveals how he was beaten during arrest.

There’s signs that local authorities in Petrozavodsk, Karelia will open a criminal case against one of the participants in the anti-corruption protests. And we publish the story of Alexei Minyailo, who was detained on 26 March, but managed to avoid administrative arrest.

Vyacheslav Maltsev, the Russian nationalist politician who suffered a heart attack during transit last week, and Konstantin Zelenin, his aide, have now been detained for a further 15 days on administrative arrest.

In several regions, the authorities have increased restrictions on freedom of assembly. In Tomsk, for example, the authorities moved a space for meetings from the centre into an industrial zone; and in Samara, the authorities excluded a meeting space which had previously hosted anti-corruption protests. In Tatarstan, the rules governing the holding of demonstrations have been made more complicated.

The organisers of the countrywide “I’ve had enough” demonstration, set for 29 April, have come under pressure. In Novosibirsk, the organiser of a local protest (otherwise permitted by the authorities) has been threatened with a criminal case for extremism.

Insulting the believers

On 20 April, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organisation and liquidated it. During the legal process, Ministry of Justice representatives requested that all local Jehovah’s Witness organisations also be liquidated.

We publish the story of Igor Martynenko, an Irkutsk anarchist activist detained as part of an investigation into insulting religious believers’ feelings. This week, Martynenko was sent to administrative detention once again for not carrying out a police officer’s orders. You can also watch the video of the interrogation of Ruslan Sokolovsky, the Ekaterinburg blogger who also accused of offending religious believers’ feelings, as well as spreading hate and possession of a “spy pen”.

Finally, it turns out you’re not allowed to take selfies with Easter eggs. Pavel Lobkov, an employee of Dozhd TV, was detained (and later fined) in Moscow this week for photographing himself in a penis outfit next to a Easter-themed egg.


Activists spell out "Freedom for Maltsev" with easter eggs before they are detained in Cheboskary. Source: Sergei Okunev. In Chuvashia, activists were detained for photographing themselves with easter eggs that spelled out the phrase “Freedom to [Vyacheslav] Maltsev”.

Freedom of assembly

This week, the Petersburg police have been busy: they’ve detained long-distance truck drivers, Other Russia activists for their demonstration “Taking the Smolny” (they were kept at the police station for two days) and people participating in walks of the “New opposition” (who also spent two days in the police station).

In Sochi, participants of an anti-corruption protest were also detained and later sentenced to administrative detention. In Moscow, police tried to disperse the truck drivers’ camp, and in Zabaikalye, a man standing with a picket against the Platon system was arrested for five days.

Criminal cases

In Karelia and Kirov, prison authorities are opening fresh cases against inmates who complain of torture.

Darya Polyudova, the Kuban left-wing activist who received a two-year sentence on separatism charges for posts on social media, has had her request for early release refused. Another “online separatist” Vladimir Khagdaev, from Buryatia, received a three-year suspended sentence.


In December 2015, Darya Polyudova was sentenced to two years in a Krasnodar court for "inciting extremism and separatism". Source: personal page on VKontakte.Alexander Belov, co-chairman of the “Russians” ethnopolitical association, had his sentence reduced from 7.5 years to 3.5 years. Belov was sentenced on financial manipulation charges, spreading hate, creating an extremist organisation and calls for extremism.

What we’re reading

  • - Meduza’s story on how demonstrations against utilities tariff hikes in Novosibirsk worked.

  • - “Are you Semyon?”: the story of Semyon Simonov, a Sochi rights defender, about his detention in Volgograd.

  • - Snob shows how people are going to prison for “use of force against police officers”.

What’s next

On 25 April, Moscow city court will examine a petition against the arrest of Dmitry Bogatov, who’s charged with preparing mass unrest in connection with anonymous calls to demonstrate on Red Square on 2 April.

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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.


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