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One year on from a planned “revolution” in Russia, dozens of people are facing jail time

In November 2017, hundreds of Russian citizens were involved in an apparent attempt to organise a new “revolution” in Russia. Thirty of them are now facing serious charges. 

Russian politician Vyacheslav Maltsev. Source: YouTube.

One year ago, Russian law enforcement began a campaign against opposition politician Vyacheslav Maltsev and his supporters ahead of their planned “revolution” on 5 November 2017. According to Maltsev, members of his Artpodgotovka movement would unleash spontaneous protests across the country before storming the Kremlin. They would then hold a referendum and vote for the overthrow of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The revolution did not happen, and 30 people have found themselves under criminal prosecution as a result — they are accused of extremism, creating terrorist organisations, preparing acts of terrorism and mass unrest.

Russian news organisation MediaZona has collected all the known information about these cases — where we can see signs of FSB agents working undercover, the defendants reveal how they were tortured and where setting a hay bale alight is considered an act of terrorism. We translate their article here.

Sergey Okunev, who is now based in Kyiv, Ukraine, is an active YouTube blogger. Source: YouTube. “Can somebody explain what this organisation is? Who’s the organiser? Who are the members? Where are the offices? The finances? It’s hilarious, to be honest,” this is how Sergey Okunev, an ally of Vyacheslav Maltsev, responded to the news that the Artpodgotovka movement had been banned in late October 2017. “If the information on the ban of Artpodgotovka is confirmed, it’s the Artillery Forces who will suffer the most,” Okunev joked on Twitter.

By that time, Okunev had known Saratov politician Vyacheslav Maltsev for two years and, according to Okunev, had conducted several hundred live broadcasts with him on YouTube.

“We’re not waiting, we’re preparing”

Vyacheslav Maltsev, 54, rose to national prominence in Russian politics in spring 2016 after winning the primaries for the PARNAS opposition party. This victory, which many put down to Maltsev’s populism and nationalism, provoked fierce arguments in the party, but Maltsev still made it into the top three candidates for Russia’s parliamentary elections — though PARNAS still only received 0.73% of the vote, and failed to get into parliament.

Indeed, Maltsev’s “Artpodgotovka” channel on YouTube helped him win in the PARNAS primaries. Before it was banned in Russia, the channel’s videos — which hosted Maltsev’s opinions and current news — regularly received 100,000 views, with some videos reaching up to two million. Back then, Maltsev would repeat on every broadcast that there would be a revolution in Russia on 5 November 2017 — and that people should prepare for it. In several videos, Maltsev spoke with a banner behind him that read: “5/11/17 - we’re not waiting, we’re preparing”. This phrase later became a meme on the Russian internet — and the slogan of Maltsev’s supporters.

Vyacheslav Maltsev and Russian anti-corruption politician Alexey Navalny, April 2017. Source: Vkontakte. All rights reserved.Sergey Okunev, who, like Maltsev, is originally from the Volga city of Saratov, says he met Maltsev just before the PARNAS primaries. At the start of 2o17, they began talking about forming a political party together. Initially, they wanted to take over a small party already registered with Russia’s Ministry of Justice, but these negotiations were unsuccessful. Instead, they came up with the idea of setting up a “Party of Free People” — and they opened a party office in Saratov on 26 May 2017, even before they’d made their first attempt at officially registering the party. Together with the Nationalists’ Party, supporters of Maltsev spent their weekends in towns across Russia, holding “walks for free people”. These actions often ended in arrests. “And there never existed any movement named Artpodgotovka as an organisation,” Okunev insists, adding that Maltsev came up with the date of 5 November 2017 back in 2013. Originally, though, this was supposed to be a “non-stop peaceful protest”.

Okunev believes that the campaign against Maltsev supporters before October 2017, the last month before the “revolution”. He recalls the case of Alexey Politikov, a businessman from the far eastern city of Ussuriysk and a close associate of Maltsev. Politikov was arrested at the beginning of June 2017 on charges of assaulting a police officer during the 26 March anti-corruption protest in Moscow. (Politikov was sentenced to two years in prison in October 2017, his sentence was reduced to 18 months on appeal.)

Investigators also carried out house searches in this case and, according to Okunev, including at his apartment in Saratov. “I told the investigators: ‘Respectfully, I don’t have anything against [this search], but I spent the whole day and night on 26 March in a Saratov police station. Forgive me, but what do you want to find here?’ They couldn’t tell me. Of course, this was a made-up reason [to search the flat].” Okunev adds that after the search he was taken to the Investigative Committee’s regional office for interrogation. None of the questions he was asked there “related to events in Moscow”; instead, Okunev was questioned about Maltsev and Artpodgotovka.

In summer 2017, Okunev says, Vyacheslav Maltsev received an “anonymous warning” that he was going to be investigated. “There were reasons to believe that these people were not joking. I remember it well: we were driving along Kutuzov Avenue [in Moscow], we were discussing the situation. There were three of us in the car and we were trying to convince Maltsev to leave the country. It wasn’t that he resisted this idea particularly, but he was weighing up all the pros and cons. We explained to him that it would be much better if he didn’t go to prison. Back then we didn’t realise that the attack on us was going to be so strong.”

Maltsev left Russia on 4 July 2017. On 11 July, Russian law enforcement searched the movement’s apartment in the Moscow suburban town of Lokhino, as part of an extremism investigation. At the end of August 2017, it was reported that Maltsev was accused of making calls to extremist activity during a public meeting on 6 May, and in November, he was accused of creating a terrorist organisation. Maltsev has since requested political asylum in France.

“They planted TNT on Seryozha”

Krasnoyarsk Regional Court banned Artpodgotovka on 26 October 2017. In the days that followed, supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev were arrested in Krasnoyarsk, Volgograd, Saratov, Kazan and Tomsk. On 1 November, four days before the planned “revolution”, Sergey Okunev found out that his friend and comrade Sergey Ryzhov had been arrested — today Ryzhov is under arrest on terrorism charges at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

“The lawyer rang me. I remember the moment well, it was about seven in the evening. He tells me: ‘They planted TNT on Seryozha [Ryzhov], a pistol, they blew opened the windows to his apartment and opened a terrorism case against him,’” Okunev remembers. “It’s hard to describe my reaction. And the lawyer, who was always completely calm, says: ‘Well, you know, you probably should be somewhere else. Do you understand the risks?’”

Sergey Ryzhov. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center.Half an hour later, Okunev received a call from the Saratov branch of Alexey Navalny’s campaign, who told him that the police were looking for him. Fifteen minutes later, Okunev’s landlay rang him: “They’re almost breaking the door down, I don’t know if this is connected to you or not.”

“I was simply lucky that I was in a suburb of Saratov, in a place that’s difficult to get to,” Okunev says. “I had literally an hour, and I decided that I was going to leave the country. I had a shirt, jacket with long sleeves, shoes, keys to the apartment, a press card, a telephone, which I instantly dismantled, and 1,300 roubles [£15] in my pocket. I got to Moscow and then teleported to the place I am now.”

Okunev currently lives in Kyiv, and is waiting for a decision on asylum.

“We’re waiting for the revolution”

Despite the preventative detentions and arrests, many supporters of Maltsev still decided to gather on Manezh Square in Moscow on 5 November 2017.

Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the Sova Center for Information and Analysis, also went to central Moscow to take a look at the “revolution”. “There were some men there, mostly middle-aged, but there were a few young people too, only a few. They were standing close to the wall of the Moscow hotel. Everything was barricaded off. And they stood there, it was full of journalists, it was easy, even with an untrained eye, to see the revolutionaries. Journalists would go up to them and ask why there were standing there. ‘We’re waiting for the revolution’ - ‘What will you do?’ - “Well they told us, we’re waiting for 12 o’clock’. Twelve o’clock came and nothing happened.”

According to Verkhovsky, normal police officers were the first to come to the square, but then were followed by riot police. But none of the protesters tried to resist them. Verkhovsky notes that he didn’t hear any slogans or see any banners, or “even a button of any kind”.

5 November 2017: Echo Moscow journalist Andrey Ezhov is arrested alongside other people in central Moscow. Source: Andrey Ezhov / Twitter. “Of course, this kind of movement inevitably attracts a certain number of inadequate people,” Verkhovsky says. “But Maltsev himself doesn’t look like a marginal, [he] has completely established himself in politics according to Russian standards. But some participants, not all of them, will definitely be marginals. And the main thing is that their behaviour was marginal. I can’t even imagine what these people were thinking when they gathered there. It seems they really thought that the leader knew, that he had some kind of clever plan.” Verkovsky categorically denies that there was any chance of Maltsev’s supporters organising a revolution.

OVD-Info, an NGO which monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia, calculated that more than 400 people were arrested on 5 November 2017 across the country — and not only supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev, but also random passers-by. Most of them, roughly 300, were arrested in Moscow.

In the end, at least 31 people have or are facing criminal charges in connection with this “revolution”. Here’s everything we know about these cases.

Saratov

Defendant: Sergey Ryzhov (34)

Charge: preparing an act of terrorism (Articles 30.1, 205.1)

What happened: Sergey Ryzhov, an activist with the Party of Free People, was arrested on 1 November. The FSB published a video of Ryzhov’s apartment being stormed, where you can see security forces blowing off the windows to the first-floor apartment, running up the stairs and entering the premises. In the following scenes, two men are shown before the camera — one of them is Ryzhov — as well as bottles on the floor, and a pistol. Ryzhov insists that agents planted 200 grammes of TNT and molotov cocktails in the apartment.

FSB storms apartment of Artpodgotovka members, November 2017. Source: Tass. All rights reserved.Ryzhov is charged with preparing an act of terrorism, which was due to be carried out on Theatre Square in Saratov. He was arrested by Frunze district court in the city on 3 November 2017, and was then transferred to Moscow at the end of the month: his case was transferred to the FSB’s main investigation directorate.

Sentence: A sentence has not yet been issued in this case. Ryzhov is currently in Lefortovo Pre-Trial Detention Facility, Moscow.

Moscow

Defendants: Vyacheslav Maltsev (54), Alexander Svishchev (55), Andrey Tolkachev (41), Nadezhda Petrova, Yuri Kornyi (49), Andrey Keptya (42)

Charges: organising a terrorist organisation, participating in it (Parts 1 and 2 of Article 205.4), preparing an act of terrorism (Part 1 of Article 30, Point A, Part 2 of Article 205)

What happened: at the beginning of November 2017, the FSB opened a terrorism investigation into Vyacheslav Maltsev, who had left the country. His associates Alexander Svishchev, Andrey Tolkachev, Nadezhda Petrova, Yuri Kornyi and Andrey Keptya were also accused of participating in Maltsev’s terrorist organisation. Tolkachev, Kornyi and Keptya are also accused of preparing an act of terrorism — they are currently in pre-trial detention, while Svishchev and Petrova managed to leave the country.

According to investigators, Artpodgotovka aimed to “violently change the constitutional order” of Russia, and Maltsev ordered Petrova and Svishchev to plan acts of terrorism, while the rest were to carry them out. On 11 October, Tolkachev gave a canister of petrol to Kornyi and Keptya, which they were to use to set alight some hay and pallets on Manezh Square in Moscow. On 5 November, Svishchev was meant to disrupt some electricity sub-stations in the Moscow area, and Petrova - to carry out arson attacks against state buildings.

One source familiar with the investigation told MediaZona that Andrey Keptya had refused the services of his lawyer and confessed to the crimes he is accused of, including giving evidence against other defendants. Kornyi and Tolkachev have not confessed. According to the source, this case is under control of the same investigators who worked on the case of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov.

Sentence: This case is yet to go trial.

Saratov

Defendants: Fyodor Martynov (23)

Charges: illegal trade in weapons (Part 1, Article 222), illegal preparation of explosive substances (Part 1, Article 223.1), illegal possession of explosives (Part 1, Article 222.1)

What happened: Agents of Saratov FSB detained Martynov on 1 November 2017, the same day as Sergey Ryzhov. According to the FSB, during the search of Martyov’s apartment, they found ammunition for a rifled weapon, improvised explosive devices and explosive substances. A video released by the FSB shows that they found a book called “Russian kitchen: A-Z of home-made terrorism” on Martynov’s computer. Prior to trial, he was held in pre-trial detention in Saratov.

Sentence: On 9 September, Saratov’s Kirov district court sentenced Martynov to 2.5 years and a fine of 100,000 roubles.

Kurgan

Defendants: Evgeny Lesovoy (51).

Charges: Public calls to extremist activity (Part 2, Article 280)

What happened: According to media outlet Oblast 45, Lesovoy was detained on 7 November 2017. Law enforcement found a mobile phone with the Telegram application installed. According to investigators, it was on Telegram that Lesovoy joined the “Artpodgotovka” chat, where, until 5 November, he wrote messages containing calls to mass unrest and extremism. The investigator in this case told journalists that there were more than 20 people in this chat. Lesovoy remained in pre-trial detention during the investigation, and did not admit to the charges against him.

Evgeny Lesovoy is detained in Kurgan: Source: Investigative Committee / NTV. Sentence: On 7 August 2018, Kurgan city court sentenced Lesovoy to two years of prison colony and banned him from administering websites for the same period. On 26 October, Lesovoy’s legal counsel told MediaZona that his client would be released “in a month”.

Saratov

Defendants: Dmitry Kostin (33)

Charges: recruitment for an extremist organisation (Part 1.1, Article 282.1)

What happened: On 28 March, Dmitry Kostin, a captain in Russia’s Rocket Forces, was, according to his statement, summoned to Saratov FSB, where he was put into a car and was presented with a warrant to search his home. Previously, Kostin had posted online a video-address by Vyacheslav Maltsev to Russia’s army and police (this video is not listed on Russia’s Federal Register of Extremist Materials), and this was used as the reason for the search. During the search, FSB officers found a banned book (Restrukt) by Russian neo-nazi Maxim Martsinkevich. After the search, this book and Kostin’s electronic devices were confiscated.

According to Kostin’s interview to Free News: “The recruitment charge is down to the fact that two people (out of roughly 10 who were questioned) gave evidence that I had invited them to take part in an ‘opposition walk’, that is, in a completely peaceful event that doesn’t bother anyone.” After the case was opened, Kostin was fired from the army.

Sentence: A sentence is yet to be issued in this case. Although the case was opened on 10 may, Kostin is yet to face charges, and the method of restraint has not been chosen.

Novosibirsk

Defendants: Vyacheslav Dobrynin (39), Alexander Komarov (56), Anatoly Plotnikov (51)

Charges: attempt to organise mass unrest, participation in mass unrest and assisting organisation (Part 1, Article 30; Part 5, Article 33; Parts 1 and 2, Article 212), illegal possession of firearms (Part 1, Article 222)

What happened: On the evening of 5 November, the defendants and several dozen other supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev gathered on 1 May Square in Novosibirsk. They had neither firearms, nor banners. After this, the defendants’ homes were searched — according to the investigators, the defendants tried to organise a riot before the protest. The Investigative Committee reported that law enforcement had found more than 20 Molotov cocktails, radios, knives and a smoothbore weapon with ammunition during searches. Taiga.info reported that the main aim of this protest was apparently to seize the Novosibirsk State Television Studio.  

The prosecution believes that the organiser of these crimes was Alexander Komarov, a former police investigator, and alleges that he planned to broadcast Maltsev’s appeals on television. As part of this, Komarov had found a map of the television studio complex and a key to an unguarded door in the perimetre fence.

According to Taiga.info, investigators found Molotov cocktails at Vyacheslav Dobrynin’s apartment. He was arrested on 9 November, while Komarov was arrested only on 22 March 2018. Both of them deny the charges against them and have declared hunger strikes in pre-trial detention. Anatoly Plotnikov, the regional leader of the Party of Nationalists, has admitted the charges against him, and is on travel restrictions.

Sentence: a sentence in this case has not yet been issued. The case will be heard in camera in Novosibirsk Regional Court, “in the interests of guaranteeing the safety of participants of the trial.”

Moscow

Defendants: Oleg Dmitriev (39), Oleg Ivanov (41), Sergey Ozerov (46)

Charges: preparing a terrorist act (Part 1, Article 30; Point A, Part 2, Article 205), participating in a terrorist organisation (Part 2, Article 205.4)

What happened: On 2 November, Moscow Newspaper reported that four supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev had been detained in New Moscow — allegedly, these men had been planning to start a riot on 5 November. This same media reported that law enforcement had found 13 Molotov cocktails, three canisters of flammable liquids and equipment for making Molotov cocktails at the apartment rented by Oleg Dmitriev, Oleg Ivanov, Sergey Ozerov and Vadim Mayorov.

Initially, Ozerov, Ivanov and Dmitriev were arrested for 15 days for failure to comply with police orders — apparently, they refused to present their ID documents when asked. These three men were then sent to pre-trial detention as part of an FSB investigation into alleged preparations for an act of terrorism and membership of a terrorist organisation.

According to activist Inna Kholodtsova, who is involved in the support campaign for people arrested in connection with the 5 November protests, 27-year-old Vadim Mayorov may have cooperated with the investigation. She notes that Vadim Mayorov may have been introduced to Ivanov and Dmitriev in Almetyevsk by Nadezhda Petrova, another defendant in the Artpodgotovka terrorism case in Moscow. Petrova visited the city in July 2017. According to Kholodtsova, it was Mayorov who proposed that the activists travel to Moscow for 5 November.

“He [Mayorov] suggested blowing something up several times, they refused, of course. They didn’t know that there were bottles in the bag, it wasn’t theirs. When they left the apartment, it seems he [Mayorov] prepared those concoctions,” Kholodtsova says. She makes reference to several acquaintances who were told by other Artpodgotovka supporters in detention that Mayorov had escaped the police van after being arrested. It is unknown where Mayorov is currently located, there’s no information that he has been arrested.

During a hearing on extending detention, Ozerov, Ivanov and Dmitriev all reported that they had been tortured with electric shocks, says Kholodtsova. The defendants are yet to receive a lawyer of their choosing — their relatives cannot afford their services, and the support group hasn’t managed to collect the necessary amount.

Sentence: a sentence is yet to be issued in this case. The investigation is complete, and the defendants are reading the case materials in pre-trial detention. They refused to give evidence, citing Article 51 of the Russian Constitution.

Kaliningrad

Defendants: Alexander Petrovsky (35)

Charges: public calls to terrorism (Article 205.2)

What happened: Alexander Petrovsky, a taxi driver from the town of Baltiysk, was detained on 5 November 2017. According to investigators, Petrovsky uploaded two audio files to the Telegram chat “Revolution Kaliningrad” on 31 October 2017. The New Kaliningrad media outlet reported that forensic experts judged Petrovsky’s comments to be “speech acts [calling for] the complete transformation of the whole socio-economic structure of society, leading to a change of the social order in Kaliningrad oblast and Russia.” Petrovsky did not deny that he made these audio files, but denies his guilt in committing a crime. During the investigation, Petrovsky was held in pre-trial detention.

Sentence: On 21 May, Moscow Regional Military Court sentenced Petrovsky to two years of general prison colony.

Krasnoyarsk

Defendants: Roman Maryan (40), Pyotr Isayev (19), Alexander Zaitsev (44)

Charges: preparing to participate in mass unrest (Part 1, Article 30; Part 2, Article 212), recruiting others to participate in mass unrest (Part 1.1, Article 212), illegal possession and preparation of explosive devices (Part 1, Article 222.1, Part 1, Article 223.1)

What happened: Roman Maryan and Pyor Isayev were detained on 30 October 2017 at Achinsk railway station, Krasnoyarsk region, as they prepared to travel to Moscow to join the “Russian March” event. At the same time, Alexander Zaitsev, 44, was detained in Krasnoyarsk. According to investigators, Zaitsev was responsible for encouraging Isayev and Maryan to participate in an “armed uprising” in Moscow on 5 November.

Isayev admitted to preparing to participate in mass unrest, as well as illegal possession and preparation of explosive devices, which were found on him when he was detained. Zaitsev admitted to recruiting the other defendants to participate in mass unrest.

Roman Maryan. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center. Maryan, who was accused of preparing to participate in mass unrest, did not admit to the charges against him. His legal counsel Natalya Mons says that the charges against him were based on information gained by agents who infiltrated Artpodgotovka. “They were infiltrated back in December 2016. That is, agents were present at all meetings, they were equipped with recording devices, or reported to FSB officers every week what happened at these meetings. And all actions connected to buying tickets, special clothing, devices — all of this was carried out by individuals cooperating with the FSB.” The Memorial Human Rights Assocation has recognised Maryan as a political prisoner.

Sentence: On 28 April 2018, Achinsk City Court sentenced Isayev to two years of general prison colony; in July, Zaitsev was sentenced to 2.5 years. In August 2018, Maryan was sentenced to three years and three months.

Volgograd

Defendants: Vladislav Bondarenko (22), Stanislav Babanov (26), Mikhail Turchenko (26), Oleg Kostik (33), Kirill Litvinenko (17).

Charges: Calls to extremism (Part 2, Article 280), calls to mass unrest (Part 3, Article 212), incitement and preparation to participate in mass unrest (Part 4, Article 33; Part 1, Article 30; Part 2, Article 212).

What happened: At the beginning of November 2017, five young men who were traveling to Moscow were detained in Volgograd. The first to be detained was Vladislav Bondarenko, a student of Volgograd State University, who had created several open Telegram chats in the lead up to 5 November — roughly 30 people in total were subscribed. According to case materials, Bondarenko called on subscribers to arm themselves in order to attack law enforcement officials and seize state buildings in Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar and Moscow.

FSB agents detained the student on 1 November. On the same day, Bondarenko agreed in writing to participate in an experiment of the investigation, during which he, under the control of FSB agents, continued to write messages in Telegram chats and organised a meeting on the outskirts of Volgograd with several people who had agreed to travel to Moscow with him — Stanislav Babanov, Mikhail Turchenko , Oleg Kostik and Kirill Litvinenko. They were arrested at the meeting place. During the search, FSB agents found two safety helmets on Babanov, a crowbar on Turchenko, a stick on Kostik, and a hunting rifle and air pistol on Litvinenko, which belonged to his father. Babanov and Kostik are still in pre-trial detention, the rest are under travel restrictions.

Sentence: a sentence has yet to be issued in this case. In September, a Volgograd district court began examining the case. Babanov denies the charges. According to Babanov’s family, Turchenko and Litvinenko confessed to the charges, but Turchenko withdrew his testimony in court.

Moscow

Defendant: Vyacheslav Shatrovsky (49)

Charge: use of force against a police officer (Part 1, Article 318)

What happened: On 5 November 2017, Shatrovsky was arrested in Moscow together with his son. The next day, Tverskoy district court arrested him on suspicion of using a force against a police officer. The Investigative Committee claim that Shatrovsky, on being stopped for a document check, hit the police officer in question several times in the head. Shatrovsky says that he himself received a trauma to the head when the police officer threw him over his shoulder.

Vyacheslav Shatrovsky. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center. According to the activist, this took place after he tried to protect his son, who had attracted the attention of the police. A medical report states that, aside from a head trauma, Shatrovsky was also diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. 

A criminal case into his assault was not opened. Memorial has recognised Shatrovsky as a political prisoner.

Sentence: In May 2018, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court sentenced Shatrovsky to three years of prison colony, but this sentence was then reduced by three months.

Oryol

Defendant: Denis Stepanov

Charge: calls to extremism (Part 2, Article 280)

What happened: On 3 November 2017, Denis Stepanov, a resident of Oryol, was arrested for his comments (which “called for revolution”) in an online group connected to newspaper Oryol News. On the same day, the media outlet released a video which shows Stepanov retracting his words: “I called on people to come out onto the streets on 5 November, to overthrow the government and also insulted police officers, FSB officers… I wanted the people to punish them on 5 November, on the day of revolution. I made a mistake. And I regret this. And I believe that police officers carry out their duties and service. And I believe that changes in power should only happen via legal and constitutional means.”

Sentence: On 4 June 2018, Stepanov was sentenced to two years of penal labour, the case was examined according to special procedures.

Tomsk

Defendant: Name unknown (26)

Charge: calls for extremism (Part 2, Article 280)

What happened: On 3 November 2017, the FSB reported that it had detained Tomsk activists who had allegedly “planned to organise mass unrest in public places”. Artpodgotovka was not mentioned in the press release, but the detainees were called “representatives of a civic destructive movement”. The press release only mentioned that a criminal case had been opened into calls to extremism.

Sentence: At the beginning of February, a Tomsk city court sentenced this local resident to a 1.5 suspended sentence, according to an FSB press release. According to investigators, the Tomsk resident, who admitted to the charges against him, distributed calls on the internet to “carry out actions on 5 November 2017 that would stir up social tension, prevent the lawful activities of state institutions” and the violent seizure of power.

Rostov-on-Don

Defendants: Yan Sidorov (18), Vladislav Mordasov (22), Vyacheslav Shamin (18).

Charge: attempting to organise mass unrest and participation (Part 3, Article 30; Parts 1 and 2, Article 212)

What happened: On 5 November 2017, during a picket outside Rostov regional government building, student Yan Sidorov and metal caster Vladislav Mordasov were arrested. Both of them were sentenced to seven days in prison for carrying out a public action without informing the authorities. A week later, they were both sent to pre-trial detention in connection with a riot investigation. The third defendant, Vyacheslav Shashmin, was sentenced to house arrest — he is accused of attempting to participate in the alleged riot, which never took place.

The defendants have been accused of trying to organise an armed assault of the regional government building and law enforcement officials. This alleged attack was apparently organised by Mordasov in an open Telegram chat called “Revolution 5/11/2017 Rostov-on-Don”.

Yan Sidorov. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center. Sidorov and Mordasov insist that they only planned a peaceful protest, organising a picket for 5 November via Telegram. Novaya Gazeta writes that, in contrast to other subscribers to the chat, Sidorov and Mordasov proposed beating up police officers and organising pogroms. Sidorov wrote: “We are gathering for a peaceful protest at 12.00 [...] Don’t discredit yourself.” Forensic analysis has not revealed any calls to violence in their messages.

Vyacheslav Shashmin was not a member of this open Telegram chat and was detained while he walked past the protest. He nevertheless admitted the charges.

Sentence: A sentence has yet to be issued. 

Krasnodar and Samara

In a 2017 press release, the FSB stated that it had stopped the activities of Artpodgotovka not only in Moscow, Krasnoyarsk, Kazan and Saratov, but also in Krasnodar and Samara. There is, however, no open source record of any relevant criminal investigations in these two cities.

We filed information requests with the Investigative Committee in Krasnodar and Samara. They responded that no investigations into Artpodgotovka had been opened in the past 12 months. In June 2018, Samara FSB reported that it had opened a criminal investigation into calls for extremism into an Artpodgotovka activist. When we filed further requests for criminal cases against Maltsev supporters across the country, neither the Investigative Committee, nor the FSB responded.

Glory at any cost

Alexander Verkhovsky calls Artpodgotovka “a very strange phenomenon, which arose at a time of complete decline both in Russia’s protest movement generally and among Russian nationalists in particular.”

“The Artpodgotovka movement is just a weakly organised network of people who like Maltsev, You can’t even call it an ‘organisation’ really, they did nothing in an organised way. The most organised event they did was these ‘walks’, which were co-organised with the nationalists,” says Verkhovsky, who calls Maltsev himself a “right-wing populist”. After the unsuccessful revolution, Maltsev returned to blogging — he currently broadcasts live videos on his “Narodovlastie” (“People power”) YouTube channel. At the time of writing, the channel had 34,500 subscribers.

"The lack of justice leads directly to revolution": Vyacheslav Ryabkov, an Artpodgotovka member from Chuvashia, has faced criminal prosecution for repeatedly breaking regulations on public meetings. Source: Facebook.Igor Gukovsky, who works for the Memorial Human Rights Association, points to the “social demographic profile” of Maltsev’s supporters. Indeed, Gukovsky believes there is a connection between the lack of public interest in this case and Artpodgotovka’s demographics. “Take, for instance, the Rostov case of Sidorov and Mordasov. It became more well-known because Yan Sidorov has a grandfather with a legal education, a former army colonel and active person who began to visit various institutions, human rights organisations, journalists to try and raise this issue [publicly]. And if someone is without a university education or any social connections in Moscow, friendly lawyers or rights defenders, then their situation deteriorates sharply.”

Gukovsky is concerned that the majority of cases will be examined in camera. “Perhaps society will never find out about the prosecution’s evidence, whether something really was going on or not, and whether the FSB interpreted the activities, which people carried out as part of Artpodgotovka, correctly.” Gukovsky calls the situation of many of those arrested in connection with Artpodgotovka “tragic”. On the request of investigators, courts are examining appeals to extend the arrests of defendants in Moscow terrorism cases in closed sessions.

Alexander Verkhovsky believes that the prosecution of Maltsev’s supporters led Russian law enforcement to investigate similar cases, such as the “Network” anti-fascist and anarchist case, and “New Greatness” activism case.

“There would be no ‘Network’ case, no ‘New Greatness’ case without Artpodgotovka. This is the case on both sides. It’s clear that there are always some groups of people who like to dream of revolution. But previously our security services used to dissipate these groups, they didn’t try and turn them into anything bigger. And after this huge [Artpodgotovka] case, everyone is hungry for glory. This is why you can take any group, which on the surface looks like a mini-Artpodgotovka, and make a big new investigation out of it. It’s good that we only have had two of these cases so far. To be honest, there could have been 20 of them.”

 


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