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OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 60: Torture, a hunger strike and Russia's rising retirement age

Don't worry, it's only going to get worse. 

"This one knows a lot, but isn't speaking. Re-interrogate with an electro-recaller." Notes found on an FSB investigation file into a Church of Scientology in St Petersburg. Source: Team 29.

This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia.

This week’s Bulletin is not the happiest, but despite that we manage to conclude with two bits of good news. 

Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov is now on Day 40 of his hunger strike. He is demanding the release of Ukrainian political prisoners.

- We have studied the cases of 88 people linked with Ukraine who have been prosecuted by the Russian authorities. To make it easier to understand what is happening, we can see our interactive project that provides information about each case. At least 26 of those prosecuted have stated that they were tortured. Thirty-one have experienced serious health problems.

- Four people were detained in Moscow for handing out leaflets about the case of Oleg Sentsov case, while in Kazan a student was sentenced to 20 hours compulsory work for holding a single-person picket in support of Sentsov.

- Oleg Sentsov’s lawyer has said that Sentsov’s problems with his heart and kidneys have worsened, and his kidneys are becoming obstructed. Doctors consider that Sentsov’s condition will become critical over the next few days.

The investigation into the so-called “Network” case continues. Nine young people in Penza and St Petersburg have been charged with taking part in Network, an alleged terrorist group. The suspects have allegedly made preparations for disturbances in the country. A number of the suspects stated that FSB officers tortured them with electric shocks.

- Three more individuals are being investigated for involvement in the terrorist group - two for drugs-related offences, one for arson. 

- Dmitry Pchelintsev has said that as a result of torture he only has two molars left, and he has difficulty eating.

- Pre-trial detention has been extended until 18 September for Dmitry Pchelintsev, Vasily Kuksov, Ilya Shakursky, Andrei Chernov and Arman Sagynbaev.

- Pre-trial detention has been extended until 22 October for Viktor Filinkov, Yuly Boyarshinov and Igor Shishkin. Members of the public were not admitted to the court hearing at which judgment in the cases of Filinkov and Boyarshinov was announced; a journalist from Mediazona was detained. Filinkov has said that both “physical and psychological” pressure were applied to Boyarshinov while he was in detention. 

- “I answered: ‘Stop torturing me. You are twice my age, I am in handcuffs, how can you even do this?’ To which he answered: ‘You can’t be treated any other way,’ - and again put a plastic bag over my head. I experienced an unbearable sense of a lack of air, panic and terror.”

This is how FSB officers obtained testimony from 16-year old anti-fascist activist Alexey Poltavets. Тhe young man confirms he is referred to in the materials of the Network case under the name of Boris. This account will be available in English soon.

Moscow city authorities have refused permission for a demonstration against a planned increase in retirement age because of the FIFA World Cup. In Chelyabinsk, parents of students at School No. 152 have been threatened with being arrested if take part in events of that kind.

In St Petersburg, lawyers of followers of the Church of Scientology were given materials of the criminal investigation that included comments by the FSB investigator. The comments included: “He knows a lot, but keeps quiet - reinterrogate with an electric aid to memory,” An idiot, but knows for sure that there is no extremism or paid-for services,” “No link with the Church of Scientology Moscow - question him again.” The investigation into the members of the Church of Scientology is being conducted by the same FSB officers as conducted the investigation into the Network terrorist group, in which the suspects were repeatedly tortured with electric shocks. 

Alexey Kungurov, a blogger from Tyumen convicted in connection with a blogpost, was released on 15 June. Kungurov was sentenced to two years in an open prison colony on charges of justification of terrorism (Article 205. 2, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) for a publication entitled ‘Who are Putin’s hawks actually bombing?’ in which he described the situation in Syria. The blogger intends to leave Russia.

The Presidential Human Rights Council has concluded that Oyub Titiev’s complaint that the drugs were planted on him has not been investigated appropriately. Oyub Titiev is head of the Chechnya branch of Memorial Human Rights Centre. He has been charged with possessing marijuana and held on remand since January.

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