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THE RUSSIA OF TOMORROW: Human Rights Defense and Resistance Digest / Issue # 2, Aug. 22-28, 2022

Our team is pleased to share the latest issue of our project for our English-language audience. It is intended as a brief summary of key developments in the past week, with links to the original (in most cases, Russian-language) sources for further exploration by the readers. The digest does not aim to be exhaustive, but to provide materials that are sufficiently representative of major issues and trends in these areas. Our digest’s title – with tongue-in-cheek toward ‘Russia Today’, the powerhouse of the Kremlin’s global propaganda – is our tribute to those Russians, of many ethnicities and faiths, who are sacrificing themselves to bring about a peaceful and less oppressive tomorrow for their country and thereby more safety for the rest of the world.

I. RUSSIANS AGAINST THE INVASION

On Aug. 24, on Ukraine’s Independence Day that also marked six months since its latest invasion by the Putin regime, Russians in several cities expressed their support for Ukraine with street actions – in spite of the growing intimidation of antiwar activists, reprisals against them and the Kremlin’s tacit encouragement of its critics’ emigration. Thus:

  • In Moscow, Andrei Sozonyuk was detained and soon released for protesting, next to the Duma, both the war (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12799) and the arrest of Evgeny Roizman, on which you can read more below; Konstantin Zaruba was also detained while holding his poster with the words “For peace, for freedom of speech, for independent media and courts” (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12825); Vsevolod Pavlov, was detained with his poster ‘No to war’ and the colors of the Ukrainian flag (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12826); Anton Rumyantsev was also detained after unfurling a Ukrainian flag and was later sentenced to 10 days in jail (https://bit.ly/3CEYNrV); and Aleksandr Mityurev was detained when he was placing flowers under Soviet-era monuments to Odesa and Kyiv (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12833).
  • In St. Petersburg, Evgenia Alatyreva was detained while holding a banner with the inscription: “It’s been half a year. Tens of thousands of deaths, millions of lives crippled. No to the war!” (https://bit.ly/3cqh8hB); Vitaly Ioffe was detained with his banner ‘Six months. Enough of deaths’ (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12816)
  • In Kirov, Konstantin Mikhailov was detained across from the headquarters of the regional government for displaying a poster ‘Ukraine is a sovereign country. No to the war!’ (https://bit.ly/3Axe9Mf).
  • In Krasnodar, Marat Grigoryan was detained while protesting at the regional government headquarters with a poster saying, ‘No to war’ (https://bit.ly/3wyfrW7)
  • In Ufa, Nafis Khaertdinov was detained for a banner saying “What do you think when reading this on the 24th? #PeacetotheWorld (https://bit.ly/3e61kkN)

On the same day, OVD-Info published a directory of 227 currently known defendants in criminal cases related to their actual or alleged protesting against the war: https://bit.ly/3AWngI5. 61 of them are currently in pre-trial detention; for another 64, no information about their whereabouts was published in the media or otherwise available. The regional breakdown of cases shows that while based on available information much of the protest is centered in the two largest cities (54 known criminal cases in Moscow and 37 in St. Petersburg), it is also widespread across the country: there are known criminal cases in 53 regions, as well as in Crimea and Sebastopol. The directory covers the entire period since the start of the invasion.

Over the past week, reprisals against those who oppose the invasion have continued. At the same time, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of cases whereby decisions made by local judges were strikingly at odds with those sought by the prosecution.

The most high-profile case last week was that of Yevgeny Roizman who was detained on Aug. 24 in Yekaterinburg. Roizman, a man of many talents and a continuous presence in national public life for two decades, is a former member of the Duma and former elected mayor of Yekaterinburg. He is also one of the few politicians in Russia who have opposed the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Since February 2022, he has already been fined three times for ‘disparaging the Russian military’. Roizman has significant following in Yekaterinburg, thanks to the work of his charity foundation and other initiatives. Upon his detention, many people spoke in his support, including, surprisingly, the region’s governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev who is generally loyal to the Kremlin and has clashed with Roizman, yet after his arrest expressed his “hope that Roizman will be treated with fairness and respect”. (https://bit.ly/3pWkZpG). At his court appearance on Aug. 25, he was charged with the ‘spreading false information’ about the army (specifically, for using the term ‘invasion’) and declared himself not guilty. The prosecution sought to impose a house arrest for the pre-trial period, to prohibit Roizman from going to public events and from communicating with anyone except his family and lawyers, as well as an unprecedented requirement not to leave his home for more than one minute per day at 11:59pm. One can only guess whether this proposed measure was intended to be turned down by the court, thereby showing its ‘independence’ from the prosecution. In the end, the restrictions imposed upon Roizman by the judge prohibit him from using any correspondence tools, attending public rallies, and communicating with witnesses in his case. In Roizman’s opinion, the results of the hearing reflected the fact that there is no single decision-making center in the country (https://bit.ly/3Tnv9xi). Alexey Venediktov, the former chief editor of the banned Ekho Moskvy Radio, has commented that Putin’s chief of staff Sergey Kirienko has been trying to avoid triggering massive protests in support of Roizman on the eve of gubernatorial elections in Yekaterinburg, scheduled for Sept. 11 (https://bit.ly/3e7YY4Y). The charges against Roizman carry a penalty of up to 3 years in jail. Meanwhile, several city residents have organized individual street actions in his support; the local youth section of the Yabloko Party applied for a permit to hold such an action; the permit was denied but the protest took place nevertheless (https://bit.ly/3AQB1b9). Actions in support of Roizman have also been held in Moscow (https://bit.ly/3AxXtUS), Novosibirsk, and Krasnoyarsk.

In Moscow, on Aug. 23, city court overturned, on appeal, a lower court verdict in the case against Elena Grigoryak, charged with participating in an antiwar rally. The city court ordered a review of this case due to the absence of the photos of her in the materials of the case even though she was charged on the basis of these photos (https://bit.ly/3PXC6lV).

Also in Moscow, on Aug. 24 city court closed the case against Denis Eliseev, a human rights activist and member of a local election commission, who had been charged with ‘disparaging the army’; the case was reportedly closed due to the statute of limitations, even though the street action for which Eliseev was charged was held on May 8 (https://bit.ly/3PRR0K9).

On the same day, a district court in Moscow extended the pre-trial detention of Aleksandr Strukov until Sept. 26. Strukov has been charged for allegedly ‘inciting hatred against ethnic Russians’ and ‘encouraging terrorist acts against members of the police, FSB, and president Putin’. The basis for the charges is Strukov’s online posts in support of Ukraine and against FSB and Putin. Under these charges, Strukov may be sentenced to as much as 10.5 years in penal colony (https://t.me/deptone/3516).

Also in Moscow, on Aug. 25 and 27, three neighborhood council members belonging to Yabloko and running for re-election on Sept. 11 – Anna Shatunovskaya-Byurno, Nikolay Kasyan, and Tatiana Kasimova – and Nikita Arkin, a Yabloko candidate in these elections, were found guilty of ‘displaying extremist symbols’, a charge that is expected to disqualify them from serving as elected officials. This would bring the total number of Yabloko candidates struck from the ballots to seven out of 150. Kasimova is the acting chair of neighborhood council of the Khamovniki district. The ‘extremist symbols’ are those of the Navalny movement, even though Yabloko has been sharply at odds with Navalny on several programmatic issues and none of the four candidates was a Navalny supporter. Yabloko considers the evidence in these cases to be forged. (https://bit.ly/3wAST7g). Kasyan and Arkin have been sentenced to five days in jail, Shatunovskaya-Byurno and Kasimova have been fined.

Also in Moscow, neighborhood council member Konstantin Jankauskas has been charged with ‘disparaging the army’ for his online post of March 14 with quotation from Pope Francis’ prayer for the end to the war. Court hearing scheduled for Aug. 26 has been postponed. Jankauskas has not been allowed to run for reelection because of his ‘involvement with an extremist organization’, the charge that stemmed from his participation in the 2021 protests against Navalny’s arrest and jail sentence.

Also in Moscow, on Aug. 25, neighborhood council member Sergei Vlasov was fined for his online post of Apr. 14 about a mother and her child killed by Russia’s missile strike on Odessa; and Galina Borisova, 72-year-old actress of a major theater, was fined for attaching an antiwar message to the Russian flag located in Moscow’s Roman Catholic Church of St. Louis – an act of defiance that was reported to the police by her priest (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12863).

In St. Petersburg, on Aug. 23, city court rescinded a fine that was previously imposed by a district court upon Alexey Kirilovsky for having an inscription ‘No to the war’ on his handbag. The court ordered a review of his case due to ‘procedural errors’ (https://bit.ly/3e6EObz).

Meanwhile, in Volensky village of Voronezh region, Nikita Golovizin, a 21-year-old anti-war protester, is still running for a council seat as a Yabloko candidate, on an environmental platform. An interview with him was published on Aug. 22 by RFE/RL Russian Service. Golovizin had displayed anti-Putin and anti-war posters on his balcony and was arrested twice. In his interview, Golovizin says that in his opinion, all Russians, including those who stayed and those who left the country, bear responsibility for this war (https://bit.ly/3PVtNHg).

In Kovrov (Vladimir region), on Aug. 22, a court fined Aleksandr Kurilkin for his posts in VKontakte in which he was encouraging city residents to sign a petition against the use of Russian army in Ukraine. Kurilkin pleaded not guilty (https://bit.ly/3KvMobQ).

On the same day, in Ivanovo, regional court closed the case against Maksim Reztsov who had been charged for sharing an antiwar post in VKontakte. Reztsov is a juvenile, and his mother had been fined earlier for his actions that ‘disparaged the military’ (https://bit.ly/3R183Ls).

In Kirov, on Aug. 23, regional court rescinded, on appeal, the fine that had been imposed by a district court on Mikhail Semyonov. Semyonov had been charged with repeat violation of the procedure of organizing public action for his call upon city residents to join the antiwar rally on Apr. 2. The district court fined him for 75,000 Rbl (almost $1,250). In his appeal, Semyonov complained that his detention by police exceeded the maximum allowed time (48 hours), which violated his rights, and this argument was taken into account by the regional court in its final ruling (https://t.me/FreedomKirov/2600).

In Kazan, Tatarstan’s supreme court denied Zulfiya Sitdikova’s appeal of the decision by lower-level court to fine her 40,000 Rbl for wearing a jacket with ‘No war’ slogan while attending a musical concert (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12787).

In Syktyvkar (Republic of Komi), on Aug. 24, Vladimir Renzhin also lost his appeal of the fine that had been imposed on him by city court for ‘disparaging the army’ (https://bit.ly/3TnQMgZ).

In Krasnoe village (Nenets autonomous district), Konstantin Ledkov was fined on Aug. 23 for the second time for ‘disparaging the military’ for making a ‘No war’ graffiti (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12753).

In Zheleznovodsk (Stavropol region) Svetlana Zaitseva was fined 30,000 Rbl on Aug. 24 for two online posts critical of the invasion (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12841).  

In Sochi, on Aug. 24, physician Yevgeny Zolotov was sentenced to a record fine of 3 mln. Rbl. (nearly $50,000) for his Facebook post about the number of casualties in Ukraine; he pleaded guilty to “spreading false information about the army” (https://bit.ly/3Ks03As).

In Krasnodar, on Aug. 26, a court fined, for the second time in a row, Vitaly Nemtsev, coordinator of election monitoring group, for ‘disparaging the Russian army’. On his Facebook page, Nemtsev had called upon the parents and relatives of Russian servicemen in Ukraine and of those who had been killed there to speak out against the war. Nemtsev pleaded not guilty and has been raising funds, via his Telegram channel, to pay his 70K Rbl in fines for his political activities (https://bit.ly/3APNKL7).

In Samara, on Aug. 25 a regional court closed the case against Alexey Dydochkin (who had been fined by Togliatti city court for disparaging the army). The court ruled that the police failed to prove the charges against him (https://bit.ly/3QXBjCG).

In Tomsk, on Aug. 24, a court fined Leonid Rybakov for a favorable online comment about Ukrainian military (https://t.me/radiosvoboda/26995); he also remains a defendant in a criminal case where he is charged with ‘extremism’, with a potential jail term of up to 5 years.

In Chita, on Aug. 25, Aleksandr Perevalov was fined for his silent, one-person antiwar street action of Aug. 14 (https://t.me/ovdinfolive/12863).

On Aug. 23, the International Bar Association issued a statement condemning the pre-trial detention of Dmitry Talantov, attorney and president of the Bar of the Republic of Udmurtia, who was detained for his critique of the invasion (https://bit.ly/3AtSYLb).  Talantov has been in detention since June, and it was recently extended to Sept. 23. Over 500 Russian lawyers have already signed a petition for his release (https://bit.ly/3Rm1fI5).

Meanwhile, cultural venues have been canceling events and performances of artists critical of the invasion. Public demands to cancel them have been issued by the newly formed group of hardline pro-war Duma deputies, named ‘working group on investigating anti-Russian activities in culture’ and known under the abbreviation GRAD. On Aug. 25, in response to GRAD’s inquiry, Bolshoi Theater director Vladimir Urin announced the exclusion of Aleksandr Molochnikov, an opera director critical of the invasion, from the staging on two operas in which Molochnikov was previously involved (https://tinyurl.com/2p8eknfj). St. Petersburg-based rock band Splean had three of its performances canceled – in Moscow, Svetlagorsk, and Volgograd; this is widely attributed to its frontman Aleksandr Vasilyev’s remarks at a festival in Voronezh on Aug. 21 where he rather indirectly criticized the war, without mentioning it, and praised some of the bands that had to leave Russia because of their anti-war stances (https://bit.ly/3ATSakd). Splean performance in Voronezh was subsequently removed from the online broadcast of the festival. And in Moscow, Russian Institute of Theater Arts (GITIS) did not extend their contract with Natalia Pivovarova, chair of its theater studies department, after 48 years of her employment there – according to Pivovarova, because of her antiwar position (https://bit.ly/3PVWILd).

II. POLITICAL PERSECUTION DIRECTLY UNRELATED TO UKRAINE

On Aug. 24, Igor Kalyapin, the founder and former chairman of Russia’s Committee Against Torture, and a member of the Human Rights and Civil Society Council under Putin, was assaulted and beaten in his home in the Nizhny Novgorod region. His assailant, who turned out to be a police officer, was detained, while Kalyapin had to be hospitalized with broken nose and rib. As of today, it is not yet clear whether the assault was politically motivated. Earlier this year, Kalyapin left his post with the committee due to anonymous threats against him and his mother that, according to him, were a message from the authorities. The Committee itself was put by the Kremlin on the list of ‘foreign agents’ and had to re-organize itself under a different name (‘The Anti-Torture Team’). Kalyapin gained prominence with his investigations of kidnappings and torture in Chechnya after the Second Chechen War and publically branded as ‘terrorist’ by Ramzan Kadyrov.

Last week, it also became known that Salman Tepsurkayev, a young Chechen opponent of Kadyrov’s rule and a Telegram blogger who had previously been treated as a victim of ‘disappearance’ and a prisoner of the Kadyrov regime, was savagely murdered by Kadyrov’s security services in Chechnya in 2020. Tepsurkaev was previous recognized by the Memorial Human Rights Center as a political prisoner. The news of his murder was shared by Olga Sadovskaya, a lawyer of the Anti-Torture Team, and was confirmed (https://bit.ly/3RdlJmJ) by ‘Adat’, a group that describes itself as “a people’s movement against the genocide of the Chechen people, for its reunification, and de-occupation of Chechnya”.

On Aug. 24, Alexey Navalny announced that he had been placed in isolation cell for the second time in a month, this time for not putting his hands behind his back on time (https://t.me/navalny/3276).

III. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

On Aug. 25, in Saransk (Republic of Mordovia), a district court sentenced six Jehovah’s Witnesses to various jail terms. 34-year-old Vladimir Atryakhin was sentenced to six years in penal colony on charges of ‘organizing the activities of an extremist organization’’; 58-year-old Georgy Nikulin and his 55-year-old wife Natalia Nikulina got 4-year-2-months terms for alleged ‘recruitment into an extremist organization’; 46-year-old Denis Antonov, 44-year-old Aleksandr Korolev, and 32-year-old Aleksandr Shevchuk – two-year terms for mere ‘participation’. Official media report that during the searches of the defendants’ homes in 2019 police found identification of a ‘counselor of the public committee on prosecuting acts of genocide against the Russian people’ and passports of a clandestine self-governing community, ‘the Rus Republic’ (https://bit.ly/3Rgtsjf). If these reports are true, they provide additional insights into the states of mind and modes of self-organizing of underground, meta-political networks of everyday resistance against the ruling regime.

Thank you for reading. Our team appreciates your attention to our work. We invite you to join us on our journey by donating to our parent organization, Russian-speaking Community Council, Inc. You can do this via PayPal here – https://bit.ly/3CDgI29 – or by mail (P.O. Box 360, New York NY 10033). We are also always interested in your feedback, including your suggestions on the materials to include in our next week’s issue. See you again soon!

Project Director Dmitri Daniel Glinski and the team

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