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THE RUSSIA OF TOMORROW: Antiwar Resistance & Human Rights Defense Digest / ISSUE # 6, SEPT. 19 – 25, 2022

As Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship and the war unleashed by it are entering a critical stage, we are glad to be able to share with you this newest issue of our digest. It does not aim to be exhaustive but provides more granular detail on the antiwar and human rights struggle inside Russia than any other English-language publication. We seek to revive the tradition of the Soviet-era Chronicle of Current Events that was bringing international attention not just to the most famous and prominent dissidents but to the everyday resistance to oppression at the grassroots level of Soviet society. Our title – with tongue-in-cheek toward ‘Russia Today’, the powerhouse of the Kremlin’s global propaganda – reflects our belief in Vaclav Havel’s “power of the powerless”, including the long-term power of those Russian citizens, of many ethnicities and faiths, who are putting themselves in harm’s way to bring about a peaceful and less oppressive tomorrow for their country, for Ukraine, and for the rest of the world.

We invite you to join us on this journey by donating toward this project to our parent organization, Russian-speaking Community Council, Inc., via PayPal: https://bit.ly/3DlUxy1.


On Sept. 21, Vladimir Putin announced the ‘partial mobilization’ of reserves in support of his failing invasion of Ukraine. Coincidentally, Sept. 21 was the 29th anniversary of the announcement by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin of his decree to disband the legislature (the Congress of People’s Deputies), a decree that brought the country to the verge of a civil war, led to a massive bloodshed in Moscow, and was followed with the imposition of the super-presidential system of governance.

The summary of principal developments across the country in the four days since mobilization was announced is below:

  1. Public protests have been taking place across the country every single day, in a total of 54 locations. While the number of protesters in each place on a given date can only be estimated, the number of those detained is a more precise indicator, even though far from every case of police detention is reported to the media. In the table below, we summarized the data on detentions that have been published by OVD-Info, Russia’s most informative monitoring group (https://bit.ly/3LJSPZl). In this table, Russia’s cities are listed by size, in descending order, according to 2020 census data; capitals of ethnic minority republics are bolded. It should be kept in mind that the actual number of those detained is higher than available to OVD-Info, and the total number of those protesting may be twice as large:
 Wed 9/21Thur 9/22Fri 9/23Sat 9/24Sun 9/25TOTAL TO DATE
TOTAL1,3691527836140-190c. 2,400
Moscow (13 mln. residents)5466 399 951
St. Petersburg (5.6 mln.)4983 143 644
Cities with 1-1.6 mln. population, incl.: 
   Novosibirsk15 171 87
   Yekaterinburg522 9 63
   Kazan5  14 19
   Nizhny Novgorod3  5 8
   Chelyabinsk26 12 29
   Krasnoyarsk19  1 20
   Samara4  3 7
   Ufa232 16 41
   Omsk1  2 3
   Krasnodar14  15938
   Voronezh17  8 25
   Perm30  26 56
   Volgograd2  11417
Cities with 100,000-900,000 population, incl.: 
   Saratov9  8 17
   Tyumen1  427
   Barnaul   1 1
   Izhevsk2  17 19
   Makhachkala    100-150100-150
   Khabarovsk  23 5
   Irkutsk9 2120 50
   Tomsk21 19 22
   Ryazan12  3 15
   Kaliningrad11    11
   Tula8    8
   Kirov1    1
   Sochi, Krasnodar region1    1
   Ulan-Ude4  9 13
   Tver13  3 16
   Surgut, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District1    1
   Ivanovo1  3 4
   Yakutsk2   2426
   Vladimir1  1 2
   Belgorod1    1
   Kaluga1    1
   Chita  11 2
   Smolensk1  1 2
   Saransk   1 1
   Vologda2  10 12
   Cherepovets, Vologda region   10 10
   Oryol  1  1
   Arkhangelsk8  2 10
   Petrozavodsk9    9
   Korolyov, Moscow region6    6
   Syktyvkar1    1
   Pskov   8 8
   Kamensk-Uralsky, Sverdlovsk region1    1
   Salavat, Bashkortostan republic2    2
Towns smaller than 100.000 population size, incl.: 
   Zheleznogorsk3    3
   Vyatskie Polyany, Kirov region1    1
   Lobnya, Moscow region 1 1 2
   Gatchina, Leningrad region   1 1
   Reftinsky village, Sverdlovsk region    11

For comparison, on the first day of the invasion on Feb. 24, according to OVD-Info, there were 2,006 protesters detained in 68 cities (https://bit.ly/3DUxQB9).

Many of those detained in recent days reported that police seized their cell phones or forced them to provide passwords for searching them; many were denied access to attorney; and many of the detained men were served orders from the army drafting stations to show up for mobilization right after their release.

2. Since Sept. 21, more than a dozen incidents of arson in military drafting stations and other government building have been reported. According to various sources, this brings the total number of such arsons in the period since the launch of the invasion to between 40 (https://bit.ly/3LHjrtQ) and 54 (https://bit.ly/3xSPJfS). Such arsons have been reported in:

–  St. Petersburg (https://t.me/mashmoyka/10253) as well as in nearby Kirovsk (https://t.me/horizontal_russia/15028) and Syaskelevo (https://47news.ru/articles/219078/);  

– Nizhny Novgorod (https://t.me/shot_shot/44081), where one 19-year-old suspect has been detained.

– Togliatti in Samara region (https://bit.ly/3DTE5VG).

– Gay in Orenburg region (https://gts.tv/news/37784).

– Kyra village in Trans-Baikal region (https://bit.ly/3fh1SEU).

– Kamyshin (https://t.me/horizontal_russia/14903), Bereslavka (https://t.me/news_sirena/4681), and Uryupinsk (https://bit.ly/3SuKLOc), all three in Volgograd region;

– Svobodny in Amur region (https://t.me/bazabazon/13366).

– Khabarovsk (https://t.me/shot_shot/44148).

– Tselinny village in the Altai region (https://t.me/shot_shot/44153).

– Kansk in Krasnoyarsk region (https://t.me/kansklife/12059).

– Chernyakhovsk in Kaliningrad region (https://t.me/horizontal_russia/15022).

– Ruzaevka in Mordovia (https://t.me/horizontal_russia/15016).

– as well as the offices of the ruling United Russia in Salavat, Bashkortostan (https://t.me/myufarb/6736) and of the pro-war Communist Party in Volgograd (https://t.me/activatica/25106).

The map of these incidents is available here: https://t.me/news_sirena/4688. Among opposition groups, Alexey Navalny’s team has openly declared its support for violent protest, including arson: on Sept. 21, Ivan Zhdanov who currently lives outside of Russia announced that they “would support just any forms of protest against mobilization … if you are ready to put drafting stations on fire, we support this too and are ready to provide some assistance”  (https://bit.ly/3DUollA).  

3. The largest protest action outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg took place on Sunday in Makhachkala, where protesters blocked the highway in nearby Endirey and clashed with police. The rally was reportedly dispersed by the National Guard (former interior troops) firing shots at the crowd (https://t.me/utro_dagestan/3041). According to various estimates, between 100 and 150 Dagestanis were detained, including Anvar Aliomarov, Nina Gadzhieva Nazhmutdinova, Salikh Chopalaev and Maria Yuristovskaya (https://t.me/utro_dagestan/3026).  As of the end of the day, only about 10 people were released while the rest were held incommunicado in detention while their families and lawyers were struggling to get access to them. ’Morning Dagestan’, a Telegram channel that was covering these protests close up, announced “the launch of a guerrilla movement in Dagestan” (https://t.me/utro_dagestan/2964) and some as yet unspecified plans of action across Russia to stop mobilization, promising to disclose ‘instructions’ at 3pm local time on Monday (https://t.me/utro_dagestan/3042). Dagestan, which has a relatively large number of young men compared to the rest of the country, also leads all other regions in the number of reported military casualties in Ukraine – 306 out of 6.756 officially confirmed (https://bit.ly/3ShTxzA).   

Meanwhile, Chechen anti-Kadyrov Telegram channels announced a protest to be held in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, on Monday, Sept. 26, also at 3pm (https://t.me/IADAT/14663).

4. The exodus of disaffected Russians from the country has also accelerated. As Russia’s Western neighbors – members of the EU have restricted entry in recent weeks even for Schengen visa holders from Russia, those fleeing from mobilization and the effects of growing crisis in the country are taking routes that would have been inconceivable before the war, including to Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The head of the checkpoint in Mongolian town Altanbulag told AFP that between Wednesday and Sunday over 3,000 Russians, including 2,500 men, crossed this checkpoint on their way to Mongolia. Most of them were single young men with their parents (https://bit.ly/3r5fKon). In the city of Uralsk in Northern Kazakhstan director of a movie theater reportedly provided its space overnight to newcomers from Russia with children who were wandering around the city in search of housing (https://bit.ly/3LK8Le7).   

Meanwhile, FSB and the ministry of defense are reportedly restricting exit from Russia for certain potential draftees, however, it is still on a case-by-case basis as no official decision on that has yet been made in the Kremlin as Putin is currently on vacation in Valdai (https://bit.ly/3Ca0xbZ). In Chechnya, where the number of applications for foreign passports has sharply increased, Ramzan Kadyrov reportedly ordered not to issue these passports (https://t.me/IADAT/14448).

Among other news of the antiwar movement:

  • On the day when mobilization was announced, Russia’s media oversight agency issued a warning stating that any publication about mobilization must “use only the information obtained from federal and regional executive authorities:” (https://bit.ly/3BKCC1s).
  • The military commissioner of Moscow City sent a letter to the president of the Moscow bar association in which he threatened the attorneys assisting those trying to avoid the call-up to the army with criminal cases for ‘abetting draft evasion’ and ‘disparaging the military’ (https://bit.ly/3Swe035).
  • College students in more than a dozen of cities have reported being pressured by their administrations to attend pro-war rallies while also subjected to intimidation intended to dissuade them from joining protests. DOXA has published an extensive list of such reports (https://bit.ly/3SfGazB).
  • On the day when mobilization was announced, the website of the Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg was reportedly hacked: for a while it displayed an anti-mobilization message, which said among other things: “Airports are not needed any more. The loony old man is gambling with our lives! If you get called up to the army, surrender with military equipment. You may obtain a reward and an EU citizenship.” (https://t.me/paperpaper_ru/28791)    


On Sept. 21 in Simferopol, the Kremlin-controlled supreme court of Crimea sentenced three Crimean Tatar community leaders to lengthy jail terms on charges of blowing up a gas pipeline in August 2021 and of an illegal possession of explosives; the charges are widely believed to have been fabricated. 42-year-old Nariman Dzhelyal – political scientist, journalist, and 1st vice chair of the Crimean Tatar Assembly (Mejlis) was sentenced to 700,000-rouble fine and 17 years in high-security colony with subsequent 1.5 years of restricted movement; Asan Akhtemov, also a journalist and assistant editor of a Crimean Tatar newspaper, got 500,000-rouble fine and 15 years of high-security colony, with subsequent 1 year of restricted movement; his brother Aziz Akhtemov was sentenced to the same except his jail term is 13 years  (https://bit.ly/3RfwcwO). All three defendants told the media they had been tortured, including by electric shock, to obtain confessions. The Akhtemov brothers initially pleaded guilty but then retracted their pleas stating they were made under duress. According to the office of representative of President Zelensky in Crimea, the real reason for their persecution was Nariman Dzhelyal’s participation in the summit of the Crimea Platform, a diplomatic initiative that seeks the restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea (https://bit.ly/3Sf7LBa).

On Sept. 20, Russia’s Southern military court extended the pre-trial detention of Ernes Ametov, a Crimean Tatar charged with participation in Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamic political party prohibited in Russia, until Jan. 11, 2023. Ametov was first arrested with a group of Crimean Tatars in 2017 and spent 3 years in pre-trial detention. In 2020 the same Southern district military court acquitted him, for lack of evidence in support of the charges; this was the first such acquittal ever in a Kremlin-initiated criminal case involving Hizb ut-Tahrir (the typical outcome of such cases is a jail term of between 15 and 25 years). However, prosecution appealed the verdict, and an appeals court ordered a re-trial. The charges are based on testimonies of anonymous witnesses and intelligence operatives (https://bit.ly/3dD5NM0).


A. New cases

On Sept. 19 in Maikop, Republic of Adygea, hearings began in the case of Elena Sumina, charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the military (https://bit.ly/3fmbb6E). There is little information available about this case.  

On the same day in Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, police detained Sergey Drugov, antiwar activist and administrator of a Telegram channel, and his female friend on their way out of the city. Drugov has been sentenced to a 1,500-rouble fine for showing disrespect to letter ‘Z’, the semi-official symbol of Russia’s invasion and of its invading forces (https://t.me/horizontal_russia/14644).  

Also in Petrozavodsk, on Sept. 23, the authorities conducted a search in the house of Tatiana Savinkina, a 77-year-old native of Sumy, Ukraine, and interrogated her. Savinkina has been flyering against the invasion from its very first days and calling upon Putin to step down. After being fined 4 times, in September Savinkina became a defendant in a criminal case on ‘disparaging’ the army. The charges against her reportedly stem from her flyers in which she said she was ashamed of her country. Savinkina is a former employee of the interior ministry, a former staffer of a local legislator, and a supporter of Memorial and the Yabloko Party (https://t.me/fromkareliawithfreedom/683).    

On Sept. 20, in Blagoveshchensk, a man whose name has not been reported was sentenced to a 30,000-rouble fine for making others listen to the hymn of Ukraine that sounded from his apartment’s window. The man was also forced to apologize on video “to society and to the Russian people” and promised to “stay neutral” in the future. This video was then shared by pro-Kremlin Telegram channels (https://t.me/sotaproject/46366).  

B. Ongoing cases

On Sept. 21, Kamchatka military court sentenced Ilya Karpenko, a military serviceman, to 800,000-rouble (circa $13,740) fine, for ‘spreading false reports’ about the army. This is the first known case of sentencing of a Russian serviceman under this article of the criminal code. Details of this case have not been made public, and it is not known where Karpenko served or what was the basis for the charges against him. Two other such cases against military officers are still in earlier phases (https://bit.ly/3dGU3YN).

On Sept. 19, another military court, in Makhachkala, Dagestan, rejected the lawsuit by Firudin Gadzhibekov, a former serviceman of the Russian Navy who served in the Caspian Fleet and disputed the legality of his firing for his refusal to be dispatched to Ukraine to fight against the Ukrainian army. Gadzhibekov had been a contract soldier for over 10 years and served as platoon commander. In May, Gadzhibekov refused to go to Ukraine without written instructions and was fired (https://bit.ly/3dMFWB1).

On the same day in Moscow, an appeals court essentially reconfirmed the harsh sentence of city councillor Alexey Gorinov – reducing it by one month only, from 7 years to 6 years and 11 months. After that, he will also be prohibited from holding government jobs for another 4 years. The session of the appeals court was closed to the public, the media, and even to Gorinov’s wife and son. The public was only allowed to attend the reading of the verdict. In his final statement, reflecting on the length of his jail term, Gorinov said: “Let’s see whether these seven years will be enough for Russia’s political leadership to become aware of the extent of the catastrophe that it brought upon the country. … I want to plead guilty – before the suffering people of Ukraine and before the entire international community – guilty for not having been able, as a citizen of my country, to do anything to prevent this insanity from happening.” (https://t.me/alexei_gorinov_2022/296) The EU mission in Russia issued a statement of solidarity with Gorinov (https://bit.ly/3Cao8JD).

On Sept. 21, also in Moscow, city court denied the appeal of Marina Ovsyannikova, former employee of the pro-Kremlin First TV Channel, against her house arrest on charges of ‘spreading false reports’ about the army. Since March 14 when she appeared live on TV with her antiwar poster, Ovsyannikova has already been fined twice for ‘disparaging the military’ (https://bit.ly/3R9Kqzn).

On the next day, also in Moscow, a district court extended the pre-trial detention of Dmitry Talantov, attorney and president of the Bar of the Republic of Udmurtia. The charges against Talantov stem from his five Facebook posts about the war; he may be facing a jail term of up to 15 years (https://t.me/deptone/3706).   

In St. Petersburg, on Sept, 20 a district court extended for another six months the pre-trial detention of Viktoria Petrova, 28-year-old company manager who has been charged for ‘spreading false reports’ about the army through her Facebook posts shortly after the start of the invasion. The charges against Petrova carry a penalty of up to 10 years in jail. Petrova has been in detention for four months already, and her detention was extended for the fourth time (https://mr-7.ru/articles/247643/).

Thank you for being with us. We will be happy to hear from you, whether via email to rcc-ara@rcc-amrusrights.org or via our Facebook page. Have a nice week, and see you again soon.

Project Director Dr. Dmitri Daniel Glinski and our project team

‘THE RUSSIA OF TOMORROW’: Antiwar & Human Rights Defense Digest / ISSUE 5, SEPT. 12 – 18, 2022

We are glad to see you opening this newest issue of our digest. It does not aim to be exhaustive but provides more granular detail on the antiwar and human rights struggle inside Russia than any other English-language publication. We seek to revive the tradition of the Soviet-era Chronicle of Current Events that was bringing international attention not just to the most famous and prominent dissidents but to the everyday resistance to oppression at the grassroots level of Soviet society. Our title – with tongue-in-cheek toward ‘Russia Today’, the powerhouse of the Kremlin’s global propaganda – reflects our belief in Vaclav Havel’s “power of the powerless”, including the long-term power of those Russian citizens, of many ethnicities and faiths, who are putting themselves in harm’s way to bring about a peaceful and less oppressive tomorrow for their country, for Ukraine, and for the rest of the world.

We invite you to join us on this journey by donating toward this project to our parent organization, Russian-speaking Community Council, Inc., via PayPal: https://bit.ly/3DlUxy1.

I. Occupied territories and the war zone

According to the latest update from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), between Sept. 1 and Sept. 11 OHCHR recorded 362 civilian casualties in Ukraine. Of these, 96 were killed (including 4 children) and 266 injured (including 20 children). As a result, the total number of civilian casualties in Ukraine since the start of the Kremlin invasion, has reached 14,218 people – 5,827 killed, of which 375 were children; and 8,421 injured, of which 647 were children. 95 % of the casualties were caused by explosive weapons, including artillery shelling, missiles, and air strikes. 5 % by mines and explosive remnants of war. OHCHR “believes that the actual figures are considerably higher”. (https://bit.ly/3eUG2H8).   

The reported discovery of mass graves in the city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region after its liberation by the Ukrainian army reopened the issue of the likely war crimes committed by the invaders. OHCHR announced that “UN investigators already in Ukraine would be looking to see if those buried were soldiers or civilians, and whether they had died in hostilities or from natural causes” (https://bit.ly/3BmGC89). EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sept. 15 that there was “no doubt that war crimes had been committed in Ukraine”: “That is the basis of our international legal system, that we punish these crimes. And ultimately, Putin is responsible.” (https://bit.ly/3xyMQAy). French President Emmanuel Macron condemned “in the strongest possible terms the atrocities committed at Izium in Ukraine under the Russian occupation”, adding: “The perpetrators will be held responsible for their actions. There is no peace without justice.” (https://bit.ly/3LoAXTN). US State Secretary Blinken tweeted that the US stands with Ukraine in pursuing accountability for these crimes (https://bit.ly/3qJTaBF).

Meanwhile in Crimea, on Sept. 14, official sources reported that five “organizers and participants” of a wedding in Bakhchisarai were found guilty by district court of an equivalent of misdemeanor for singing a Ukrainian song which the Kremlin-controlled court found to be ‘one of the symbols of Ukrainian nationalists’ and ‘disparaging’ toward Russian military. Of these five, the bride’s mother was fined 50,000 roubles (c. $830); the owner of the establishment was sentenced to 15 days of arrest, DJ and a dancer – to 10 days of arrest, and the groom’s mother – to 5 days of arrest (https://bit.ly/3RWFWxs). The names of the defendants have not been made public, except for the restaurant owner who posted his apology on video and offered to provide funding in support of the Russian military in Ukraine (https://bit.ly/3LnSdIA). Last month a Crimean DJ was sentenced to 10 days in prison for playing another Ukrainian song at a café.

And on Sept. 16, five Crimean Tatars currently on trial by military district court in Rostov-on-Don where they were moved from Crimea got their pre-trial detention extended until Dec. 20. Servet Gaziev, Dzhemil Gafarov, Alim Karimov, Seiran Murtaza, and Erfan Osmanov, all of them from Simferopol, are charged with involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir (‘the Party of Liberation’), a pan-Islamist organization deemed terrorist by Russia’s authorities and banned there as well as in several other countries, including Germany, whose Interior Ministry determined it to be anti-Semitic. Russia’s human rights advocates note that Muslims in Russia as well as Crimean Tatars are often being charged with alleged participation in Hizb ut-Tahrir simply because of taking part in unrelated religious gatherings.

II. Russia’s antiwar movement and reprisals against it

A. New cases

On Sept. 15, Khabarovsk military court announced a criminal case against serviceman Miroslav Nych, for ‘spreading false information’ about the army. The lawsuit was filed on Sept. 7. No further details have been provided. This is the third such case against a military soldier that has been publicly reported: on Aug. 31, in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, soldier Ilya Karpenko was found guilty of ‘spreading false information’ and sentenced, but the details of his sentence were not made public. Another soldier, Valery Kotovich of Rostov-on-Don, is currently in pre-trial detention (https://bit.ly/3qMprId).

As both silent and explicit discontent with the war is growing among Russia’s military and potential recruits, lawyers who assist them with defending their rights are getting increased attention. One of them is Moscow-based attorney Maksim Grebenyuk who runs the Military Ombudsman channel on Telegram. As reported by RFE/RL on Sept. 12, most of his clients these days are servicemen and their families from the North Caucasus and the Far East; their most common complaints are about government failure to pay promised compensation for their injuries. But many are also asking for advice on how to refuse participating in the operation and Ukraine without suffering consequences. While commanders are often telling such servicemen that they may be criminally liable for violating their contracts, in practice they simply get dismissed and may not be able to receive their payments; but so far, no recruits have been brought to court for violating their contracts. However, once in the field, those who want to leave and not take part in the operation in Ukraine may be subjected to violence and illegal imprisonment in military camps, as was reported in the Russian media. On his Telegram channel, Grebenyuk has posted a ‘Know your rights’ instruction for those recruits who are kept in Ukraine through force and threats by their commanders (https://bit.ly/3RWW1TG).  According to Grebenyuk, he has been receiving anonymous threats for his activities (https://bit.ly/3QUHPJz).

Some would think that leaving an antiwar message on a voting ballot should be a relatively safe option, as voting is supposed to be secret. Yet at least a few Russian voters who showed up on Sept. 11 to take part in their regional and local ‘elections’ found that this was not the case. In Moscow, 21-year-old Lev Karmanov took a ballot to the voting booth, painted a dove on it, wrote “No to the war” across the ballot and was about to drop it into the electronic voting machine. Poll workers did not allow him to do it. They gave him another ballot instead, and he left the ballot with his antiwar message on it on their desk. Later on that same day, a local court sentenced him to a 50,000-rouble (circa $780) fine for ‘disparaging the army’. Karmanov pleaded not guilty (https://bit.ly/3RUcwQx). In Nizhny Novgorod, Anton Bochanov  Nizhny Novgorod was detained and charged for writing “Fuck the war” on his ballot (https://bit.ly/3qT718w); the same happened to 48-year-old Natalia Ryabova in Kirov whose message on her ballot was: “Putin is a dick, glory to Ukraine, Russia will be free” (https://bit.ly/3R1Owty). There were similar but less detailed reports from other regions.

Meanwhile in Lipetsk, Aleksandr Grigoriev, a 60-year-old construction worker, was charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army for his posts on Yandex and a local pro-Kremlin website. On Aug. 29, he was detained at his workplace; his apartment was searched, and equipment seized by the authorities. Grigoriev is openly opposed to the invasion, as he stated to OVD-Info that publicized his case on Sept. 15 (https://bit.ly/3Uk4QIL).

On Sept. 17, it was reported that 51-year-old Aleksandr Skryabnev, a store owner in Novouralsk and a former serviceman, had become a defendant in the latest criminal case on ‘disparaging the military’. Skryabnev advocated against the invasion from its very first days and placed an antiwar poster at the entrance to his store. He was charged three times with ‘administrative violations’, equivalent to a misdemeanor, and was fined 30,000 roubles. After that, he posted in VKontakte that Russia “was moving in the direction of [Hitler’s] Third Reich”. These words led to a criminal case against him; his equipment was seized during search, and he is currently under written obligation to remain in the city (https://bit.ly/3xVIQdV).

And in Vladivostok, on Sept. 14, Aleksandr Kulikov was detained and charged with treason for allegedly having passed a photo of a local electricity station to Ukrainian intelligence agents. He may be facing up to 20 years in jail. His relative told OVD-Info that Kulikov was outspoken in his criticism of the authorities and of the invasion of Ukraine (https://bit.ly/3BngaeF).

B. Ongoing cases

On Sept. 14, additional charges were brought against Dmitry Talantov, attorney and chairman of the Bar of the Republic of Udmurtia. Talantov has been in pre-trial detention since June for ‘spreading false information’ about the military; now he is facing five separate charges (including being ‘motivated by political hatred’ in spreading this information, and ‘utilizing his position to incite hatred’). These charges carry a penalty of up to 15 years in jail (https://t.me/deptone/3650). Talantov was detained in Izhevsk after his post about Russian strike on the supermarket in Kremenchug and was transported to Moscow to face charges there. He was previously an attorney for Ivan Safronov who was sentenced last week to 22 years in jail for allegedly passing information to Czech and German intelligence agents.

In St. Petersburg, on Sept. 12 a court ordered Ioann Kurmoyarov, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), to stay in pre-trial detention until February 28 of next year. Kurmoyarov was charged with ‘spreading false reports’ about the military, allegedly ‘for pecuniary gain’ and at the same time ‘being motivated by hatred’. The charges are based on his video posts with critique of the invasion. Kurmoyarov has pleaded guilty and asked for a release on medical ground. His next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 20. Several years ago, Kurmoyarov moved to Russia from Ukraine where he got in trouble with the authorities for his Russian nationalist views. Kurmoyarov says that in Ukraine he was advocating for peace as he always does (https://bit.ly/3eWsBGE).   

Also in St. Petersburg, on Sept. 12, Professor Iskander Yasaveyev, a sociologist with the Higher School of Economics, was de facto fired from his teaching job there; as he noted in his Facebook post, he remains the school’s senior researcher but this may change as well in the near future (https://bit.ly/3qPLLk4). Yasaveyev was also a columnist for RFE/RL Idel.Realities, its news site covering the Volga region. He was sharply critical of the invasion from the very first days, when he wrote that “we [Russians] became citizens of an aggressor country”. At the time, he was also sentenced to 5 days under arrest for his antiwar protesting. In August, Yasaveyev, along with other reporters and authors of Idel.Realities, was subjected to house search in connection with a case involved alleged ‘justification of terrorism’ (https://bit.ly/3f03WB8).

In Shuya, Ivanovo region, on Sept. 12, 52-year-old Sergey Veselov was charged with ‘disparaging the military’ because of the content of his closing statement in the previous court hearing in the ‘misdemeanor’ case against him on the same charges (https://bit.ly/3S3OCBI). In that previous case, in July, he was sentenced to a fine, which he appealed; he then videorecorded his closing statement at the appeals hearing and posted it on YouTube. In these remarks, he mentioned Bucha, said that “it is impossible to win a war against the entire world” and that “Russia is moving toward a catastrophe”. After that, his profile in VKontakte was blocked, and police conducted a search in his apartment. Beside ‘disparaging the military’, Veselov is also charged with ‘vandalism’ for his ‘No to the war’ graffiti on the wall of the city administration headquarters (https://bit.ly/3DzwnAb).

Meanwhile in Barnaul, regional court denied the appeal of Maria Ponomarenko, reporter of RusNews, against her pre-trial detention where she has been since April of this year: she will now remain behind the bars until at least Sept. 29. Ponomarenko, a mother of two young daughters, was detained after her online post about the Russian shelling of the Mariupol drama theater and was charged with ‘spreading false reports’ about the military. She was recently forced to spend a week in a psychiatric ward, then placed in isolation cell where she reportedly attempted suicide. Ponomarenko’s defense asked for moving her from detention to house arrest. Her trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 27. RusNews has provided contact information for those who would like to write a letter to her or support her family: https://bit.ly/3xyuAr1.

In Blagoveshchensk, Amur region, on Sept. 14, city court extended the detention of human rights activist Vladislav Nikitenko until Oct. 17 – denying his defense request for a release due to his need to take care of his old mother. In response, Nikitenko declared a hunger strike (https://bit.ly/3QMk5Y4). Nikitenko is facing criminal charges of ‘disparaging the military’, even though Russia’s current laws only allow for a criminal case to be initiated only after repeat ‘administrative’ cases (equivalent to a misdemeanor); Nikitenko’s previous administrative sentencing, stemming from his Facebook posts, has not yet come into force, and he has been trying to appeal it, but the court did not accept his appeal because he submitted it electronically and not on paper. On the first day of the invasion, Nikitenko wrote to Russia’s Investigative Committee and to military prosecutors demanding that they file suits against Putin and the members of his security council for “acts of international terrorism and unleashing a war of aggression”. He also filed a complaint with local police against the governor of the Amur region for his support of the ’operation’ in Ukraine; for his complaint, he was sentenced to a fine. After criminal charges against Nikitenko were filed, he was initially placed under house arrest; in July, the court deemed him to be violating its conditions and put him behind the bars. Nikitenko also faces multiple other charges, including 15 criminal charges for alleged offenses against prosecutors and judges in his written complaints. His mother was denied access to court hearings (https://bit.ly/3f3Zq4I).

In Cherepovets, Gregory Marcus Severin Vinter (born Grigory Vinter), a human rights activist currently in pre-trial detention for ‘spreading false reports’ about the military, has complained about the violations in his pre-trial facility, including lack of heat and food, but on Sept. 13 his complaint was denied by district court (https://bit.ly/3xxKsdm). The charges against Vinter stem from his posts in VKontakte about the actions of the Russian military in Bucha and Irpin. Vinter has a previous record of persecution for his statements: in 2020, he was charged with spreading ‘fake news’ about COVID, after he reported the information about inmates from the local pre-trial facility being transported on a train with violations of COVID-related precautions despite the evidence that they had symptoms of COVID. Afterwards, regional court ruled that his detention was illegal; Vinter reported that he was being tortured in detention (https://bit.ly/3Se1Agd).

In Yakutsk, on Sept. 15, as reported by ‘Free Yakutia Foundation’, city court sided with antiwar activist Aikhal Ammosov, denying prosecution’s request to move him to pre-trial detention (https://bit.ly/3xVhKDJ). He is currently serving his third (15-day) arrest sentence for ‘disparaging the military’ and is under sworn obligation to remain in the city until the start of his criminal trial. In April, Ammosov was detained while protesting with an antiwar poster next to a funeral home. Since then, he was found guilty several times of ‘disparaging the army’ under misdemeanor charges, has served three 15-day arrest sentences and has paid several 30,000-rouble fines (https://bit.ly/3BQ3bUf).  

III.     Other political reprisals

Las t week, the regime made another attempt to seize the remaining infrastructure of the International Memorial Society. The Society and its Human Rights Center were disbanded last year but left behind themselves several autonomous entities established over the course of past 30 years. One of them, founded around the same time as the International Memorial, is the Memorial Research and Educational Center {NIPTs Memorial). After the International Memorial was disbanded, its board of directors lawfully donated to NIPTs the building that it purchased in 2005 for its headquarters. However, on Sept. 12, Elena Zhemkova, former executive director of the International Memorial, and Boris Belenkin, executive director of NIPTs, were summoned to court and informed that the building transfer was going to be nullified, and the property was going to be confiscated by the government. On Sept. 14, at the request of the prosecutors, a district court ordered to freeze the property and bank accounts of NIPTs as well as Zhemkova’s and Belenkin’s personal bank accounts (https://bit.ly/3BLPVQl). The defendants have asked the judge to unfreeze their personal accounts and to transfer the case to the arbitration court that handles disputes related to economic activities. The hearing on these and other matters is scheduled for Oct. 7 (https://bit.ly/3QXS3sC).

On Sept. 14, in Nizhny Novgorod, an appeals court reaffirmed the decision of Tatarstan’s supreme court to disband the All-Tatar Public Center (VTOTs). That decision was issued in July and was made effective immediately. The move to liquidate the Center was based on the findings of Tatarstan’s attorney general office that VTOTs was “motivated to pursue Tatarstan’s autonomy” and its activities “were aimed at propagandizing the need for the moves directed toward seceding from Russia” (https://bit.ly/3RS3TWs). The Center’s operations were already suspended since 2021 by Russia’s ministry of justice, on the grounds of alleged ‘extremist activity’ (https://bit.ly/3UkuCfT). It was also charged with inciting hatred toward ethnic Russians and fined 250,000 roubles (over $4,000). VTOTs, like Memorial, is one of the grassroots organizations born in the Gorbachev era. It was advocating for Tatarstan’s sovereignty without necessarily seceding from Russia – a sovereignty that was recognized by Moscow at the time and codified in the 1992 Federation Treaty.

And on Sept. 12 in Chelyabinsk, a regional court ruled that ‘People’s Self-Defense’, a self-described anarchist group, was a terrorist organization and banned it. Official media claim that the group had over 400 member and organized about 200 ‘extremist actions. The group was founded in 2015. In 2019, some of its alleged participants were sentenced to actual and suspended terms in penal colony on charges stemming from a broken window in the office of Putin’s United Russia party in a Moscow suburb. One of them was Azat Miftakhov, a graduate student in math, who ended up being sentenced in 2021 to 6 years in colony (later shortened by three months only), despite many public protests, including from international math organizations. (Miftakhov was denied his request of early release on the same day, Sept. 12, that ‘People’s Self-Defense’ was banned.) Several individuals detained in the broken window case, including the alleged leader of the group, Stanislav Rechkalov, reported being tortured. Rechkalov obtained political asylum in France in 2020. Two of the group’s putative associates are currently awaiting sentencing on charges of placing a banner on the FSB regional headquarters that said: “The FSB is the terrorist-in-chief”. (https://bit.ly/3LmvEE4).

In Moscow, on Sept. 14, Leonid Gozman, longtime oppositionist on the right wing of the spectrum, was sentenced for a second 15-day jail term in a row, for essentially the same charge – allegedly ‘equating’ the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany. In both cases, the 72-year-old Gozman was charged retroactively, for his online publications of 2013 and 2020; the law criminalizing such comparisons was passed in 2021. He was detained on new charges on the day when he was leaving jail after serving his first 15-day term (https://bit.ly/3RZ8Z3h). Gozman, an associate of Anatoly Chubais and a former employee of government agencies that were managed by Chubais, has been a vocal opponent of the invasion. At the beginning of it, he initially left Russia but then returned. Gozman was also recently investigated for not reporting his second (Israeli) citizenship. After he was rearrested, his daughter posted a statement on his behalf on Facebook; in that statement, Gozman said that he did not regret any of his writings and was “confident that this darkness will go away” (https://bit.ly/3xygTZ7). On Sept. 15, Gozman’s supporter Nadezhda Orekhova was briefly detained and released for protesting his arrest (https://bit.ly/3UhRTzh). On Sept. 16, his appeal of the sentence was denied (https://bit.ly/3LmclLk). Gozman’s daughter later reported being unable to pass to him the food that he needs due to his medical condition.

Also in Moscow, on Sept. 12, city court extended the pre-trial detention of four administrators of ‘What Is to Be Done!’ Telegram channel. Vyacheslav Abramov, Igor Nagibin, Ildar Sadriev and Dmitry Chebanov have been in detention for a year already and will now stay there until at least Dec. 14, i.e., for a total of 15 months. Russia’s investigative committee charged them with setting up a network of Telegram channels aimed at ‘organizing mass disturbances’ during the elections to the Duma and ‘regional legislatures’ in September 2021. Nagibin is additionally charged with illegal possession of explosives which he alleges were planted on him. Six other defendants in this case – Igor Kuznetsov, Dmitry Lamanov, Alexey Kurlov, Zhanna Chernova, Nikita Kreshchuk, and Alexey Yanochkin – are also in pre-trial detention, while a seventh, Maria Platonova, is under house arrest (https://bit.ly/3QYjdiV).  

Over the weekend, three protesters in three different cities were detained during their street actions in support of political prisoners. On Sept. 17 in Voronezh, Lidiya Yardova went into the street with a poster saying, ‘Freedom for all political prisoners, Navalny, Yashin, Safronov’ and ‘No to the war’; she was briefly detained and released (https://bit.ly/3LqSEli). On the same day in Ufa, Lyaisan Sultangareeva, an activist of the Libertarian Party, was also detained while protesting and released; her poster mentioned Alexey Gorinov, Ilya Yashin and Alexey Navalny as the people who are in jail ‘for standing for truth’ (https://bit.ly/3xyEYPG).  And on Sept. 18, on Moscow’s Pushkin Square – its traditional center of political protesting -police briefly detained and later released Evgeny Aleksandrov who was standing with a poster calling for the release of political prisoners (https://bit.ly/3RSEMml).

IV.      Reprisals against semi-independent media and the media union

On Sept. 14, Moscow City court disbanded the Union of Journalists and Media Workers at the request of the prosecutor’s office. The pretext for disbanding it was that allegedly since 2019 no dues were paid by members to the union. More to the point, prosecution charged that union members were repeatedly found guilty of taking part in unsanctioned protests, including in support of Ivan Safronov; raising money for the media identified by the Kremlin as ‘foreign agents’; and “systematic distribution of publications with unlawful information” (https://bit.ly/3diXaGh). The union has already been suspended by the court for the publication on its website that allegedly ‘disparaged’ the Russian military. The union was founded in 2016 and obtained legal status next year. Its attorneys are planning to appeal the disbanding order (https://bit.ly/3Lmp2FZ).

On the next day, Russia’s supreme court dealt the final blow to Novaya gazeta by ordering to invalidate the registration certificate of its website. The pretext for this decision was Novaya’s failure to mark two of the ‘foreign agent’ organizations mentioned on its website as ‘foreign agents’. Russia’s media oversight agency, Roskomnadzor, issued warnings on these two occasions and immediately sued the paper. Novaya appealed these warnings, but its appeals were still pending review as of Sept. 15.

V.     Religious persecution

The legal department of Jehovah’s Witnesses reported of the following court rulings that were issued this week:

  • On Sept. 14, a court in Vladivostok reaffirmed the sentence of 29-year-old Tatyana Sholner from Birobidzhan. Last year, she was sentenced to 2.5 years of suspended imprisonment for ‘participating in the activities of an extremist organization’, i.e., JW. Sholner was a defendant in a criminal case since 2020, along with six other women from Birobidzhan (https://bit.ly/3Dx8j0L).
  • Meanwhile on Sept. 15, in Chelyabinsk, another higher-level court went against the opinion of the prosecution in reaffirming the acquittal of Aleksandr Pryanikov, Venera Dulova, and Darya Dulova from Karpinsk, Sverdlovsk region. In 2020, all three were sentenced to suspended jail terms, but the sentence was later overturned by an appeals court in Yekaterinburg (https://bit.ly/3S9VSfm).

VI.     Migrant rights and extraditions to dictatorial regimes

On the same day, at the request of the attorney general office, Russia’s supreme court banned the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IPRT), as a ‘terrorist organization’ (https://bit.ly/3UjDwKL). IPRT was an officially recognized political party in Tajikistan and was never officially present in Russia. In 2015, it was banned in Tajikistan, and its leaders and followers subjected to severe reprisals. The ban is most likely aimed at Tajik migrants in Russia who may be also de facto political refugees and IPRT supporters. It may be also viewed as a symbolic gesture intended to strengthen the Kremlin’s ties with the Rakhmonov regime. A week before, Komyor Mirzoev, a Tajik blogger from the restive Gorno-Badakhshan region and a critic of Rakhmonov was reportedly abducted from Moscow to Tajikistan by Tajik security agencies, according to his relatives’ report to RFE/RL. In Tajikistan, he may be sentenced to a jail term of up to 12 years. Over the past month, two other Gorno-Badakhshan natives, Mamadbek Atobekov and Maqsud Ghayosov were arrested in Moscow; their whereabouts are still unknown.

VII.    Environmental rights struggle

On Sept. 13, Russia’s human rights and environmental organizations, including representatives of the Social and Environmental Union (SoES) and of EcoDefense, filed the first-ever lawsuit against the Russian authorities for their anti-environmental policies. According to the plaintiffs who filed the suit with Russia’s supreme court, Russia’s weak response to climate change violates its constitution. The lawsuit seeks to compel the authorities to reduce emissions in line with the goals set by the Paris Accord of 2015 (https://bit.ly/3eWX2fS).

VIII.   New developments on the ‘foreign agents’ law

On Sept. 14, group of Duma deputies led by Vasily Piskaryov of Putin’s United Russia have introduced new amendments to the foreign agents law. Under these amendments, fines could be imposed not just upon currently registered ‘foreign agents’, but also upon those who only ‘intended to act as foreign agent’, i.e., expected to receive foreign funding and did not inform the authorities about it. The amendments do not provide any definition of how the existence of such ‘intentions’ may be identified (https://bit.ly/3BtjFQA).

IX.     Russia’s human rights NGOs and the international community

On Sept. 13, a dozen of Russia’s human rights organizations published their joint updated alternative reports for the UN Human Rights Committee’s 134th, 135th, and 136th sessions. The updates were due to the fact that the Committee postponed the review of the human rights situation in Russia twice, as Russia’s delegation did not attend the 134th and the 135th sessions. Below is a synopsis of some of the key data included in these reports:

  • As of Sept. 12, 176 publications and individuals were included on Russia’s official list of ‘foreign agent media’ (of these, about 75% were put on the list after the start of the invasion in February); the number of people recognized as individual, i.e., not media ‘foreign agents’ was 22 (all of them designated as such since April of this year); in  separate registers, 69 registered and 8 unregistered NGOs were listed as ‘foreign agents’; 65 foreign groups were included in the register of ‘undesirable organizations’.
  • Over the past year, at least 504 employees of 27 Russian media are estimated to have permanently left Russia.
  • There are now over 240 criminal cases initiated against opponents of the invasion, under at least 27 different provisions of Russia’s criminal code; 23 of the defendants in these cases are journalists. In more than 100 cases, defendants have been charged with ‘spreading deliberately false information’ about the Russian military. Over 3,800 Russians have been charged with ‘administrative violations’ (an equivalent of a misdemeanor) – for ‘disparaging’ either the military or government authorities; in Moscow and St. Petersburg only, a total of 616 such cases were reviewed by district courts; 490 of the defendants were found guilty and fined; the average amount of the fine in Moscow was circa $740, in St. Petersburg – circa $570.
  • Since the start of the invasion, there have been at least 16,437 detentions of antiwar protesters (some of them were detained multiple times).
  • In Moscow and St. Petersburg alone, since February 2022, courts heard over 13,700 cases related to public protesting; in more than 12,200 of them (i.e., 89%) defendants were found guilty; nearly 10,900 were sentenced to fines, over 1,150 to arrests, and 163 to compulsory public works.
  • On Russia’s three public holidays, at least 115 protesters and alleged protesters were detained ‘preventively’ in the Moscow subway based on the facial recognition AI system used to track criminals.
  • There have been at least 57 cases of vandalism against the property of the invasion’s opponents and at least 14 physical attacks on them personally.
  • At least 24 artists and musical bands had their performances canceled or disrupted because of their antiwar position.
  • The number of individuals currently recognized by Memorial as political prisoners has reached 478. Since the start of the invasion, their number grew by 10%. About 75% of the total are prosecuted de facto their religious beliefs: most of them are Muslims charged with alleged involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir; the rest are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The NGOs contributing to this report included OVD-Info, Memorial Human Rights Defense Center, No To Violence, Stitching Justice Initiative, International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia, Mass Media Defense Center, Citizens Watch, The Sphere Foundation, Conscientious Objectors’ Movement, and the Public Verdict Foundation (https://bit.ly/3BoHfOC).

X.      Exodus from Putin’s Russia

On Sept. 12, two antiwar activists from the Oryol regionViktor Zyrianov and Sergey Nosov – announced that they had left Russia and were now in Georgia. A few days earlier, their homes were searched, and they were identified as witnesses in the criminal case on ‘spreading false reports’ about the military in connection with Ilya Ponomaryov’s putative network of reporters across Russia; Zyrianov’s bank accounts were frozen (https://bit.ly/3BshnBb). Nosov is also a defendant in a separate criminal case stemming from his online publication about the murders of civilians by the Russian army in Bucha and Irpin. Zyrianov is administrator of ‘Orlets’, a regional news portal, and Nosov is a blogger. Two of ‘Orlets’ employees have been placed under house arrest (https://bit.ly/3BSgPWZ).

On Sept. 13, Raushan Valiullin, a Tatar schoolteacher from Nabereznye Chelny as well as a union and antiwar activist, announced via social media that he had left Russia with his family and was “in one of the currently free former Soviet republics”. He stated that while the decision to leave was not an easy one, they made it because of their “unwillingness to stay in the atmosphere in which everyone is afraid, there is total control, and free thought is being persecuted … We want to have the opportunity to live in a free country, to express ourselves freely, to feel safe about the future of our children.” In the past, Valiullin headed the Tatarstan branch of Teachers’ Alliance, organized protests (for which he was fined more than once) and ran for office. The administration of his school tried to fire him, he sued back and won; more recently, they allegedly tried to take away some of his key responsibilities and a part of his salary, and after he rejected these conditions, the school fired him on Sept. 1 (https://bit.ly/3Lnuybc).

On Sept. 18, Mikhail Demchenko, an antiwar activist from Saratov, also announced on social media that he and his wife Anna left Russia, via Turkiye, and were already in the United States where they plan to seek political asylum. In June, police searched his home and let him know that they had been informed of his antiwar comments in the workplace. According to Demchenko, police knew that he had relatives in Kharkiv and tried to recruit him to obtain intelligence about Ukraine’s military moves in that region. They also knew of his correspondence with his sister in which he allegedly encouraged her son, an army recruit, to leave the service. Demchenko’s wife was issued a written warning of possible treason charge for having transferred $1 as her donation to Ukraine’s armed forces a few days after the start of the invasion (https://bit.ly/3SiB9WR).

We appreciate your attention to this update. Your feedback (via email to rcc-ara@rcc-amrusrights.org or via our Facebook page), moral and not least material support are always welcome. See you again next week.

Project Director Dr. Dmitri Daniel Glinski and our project team

‘THE RUSSIA OF TOMORROW’: Antiwar & Human Rights Defense Digest / ISSUE 4, SEPT. 5 – 11, 2022

Dear readers, we are happy to offer you this new issue of our digest. It does not aim to be exhaustive but provides more granular detail on the antiwar and human rights struggle inside Russia than any other English-language publication. We seek to revive the tradition of the Soviet-era Chronicle of Current Events that was bringing international attention not just to the most famous and prominent dissidents but to everyday resistance to oppression at the grassroots level of Soviet society. Our title – with tongue-in-cheek toward ‘Russia Today’, the powerhouse of the Kremlin’s global propaganda – reflects our belief in Vaclav Havel’s “power of the powerless”, including the long-term power of those Russian citizens, of many ethnicities and faiths, who are putting themselves in harm’s way to bring about a peaceful and less oppressive tomorrow for their country, for Ukraine, and for the rest of the world.

This publication is currently produced on an entirely volunteer basis and requires serious funding to continue. We invite you to join us on this journey by donating toward this project to our parent organization, Russian-speaking Community Council, Inc., via PayPal: https://bit.ly/3DlUxy1.

I. Regional and local ‘elections’ & the antiwar movement

On Sunday Sept. 11 Russia held its nationwide “elections” to neighborhood (“municipal”) councils as well as gubernatorial “elections” in 14 regions and “elections” to legislative assemblies in 6 regions. According to official sources, the population of these electoral districts includes 43 million of eligible voters which is about 40 percent of Russia’s voters. In eight of the regions – including the most politically sensitive of all, Moscow City – traditional forms of voting are supplemented with online voting; it has been widely criticized by democratic opposition as the least transparent and the most vulnerable to rigging. Over 110,000 voters reportedly applied for electronic ballots. In some of the regions, both online and in-person voting was permitted not only on Sept. 11 but also one or two days prior. In Moscow, elections took place in 125 out of 146 neighborhood councils, with over 5,700 candidates for a total of 1,417 seats to be filled for the next 5-year term. It has been reported that at some of the Moscow precincts voters were turned away because they were allegedly ‘on the electronic voting list’, even though there was no such list in place. Observers have also reported abnormal electronic turnout in the night of Sept. 10, with an identical number of people allegedly voting every hour (https://bit.ly/3d6c6qZ).

Yabloko, the only antiwar party permitted to field candidates, was present on the ballot in 12 regions, including 43 out of 125 neighborhood council elections in Moscow. 47 of Yabloko’s 179 candidates in Moscow were removed from the ballot for various pretexts; in 11 cases, the pretext used was the alleged display of symbols associated with Alexey Navalny – even though Yabloko is highly critical of his politics (https://bit.ly/3B9QB0h). Candidates prohibited from running included Nikolay Kavkazsky, a leading LGBTQ+ rights advocate and former political prisoner in 2012-13; and Andrey Morev, chair of one of the neighborhood districts (each of them spent 1-2 weeks of arrest in the run-up to the voting). Among prominent oppositionists not belonging to any party, Vladimir Kara-Murza endorsed the Yabloko slate from his jail cell.

Navalny’s network – which is illegal in Russia and is coordinated from abroad by Leonid Volkov – issued once again a list of endorsements for its ‘Smart Voting’ ostensibly aimed at taking votes away from Putin’s United Russia; from his isolation cell, Navalny urged to support ‘Smart Voting’ candidates. ‘Smart Voting’ was criticized in the previous years for endorsing candidates from nationalist and ultra-nationalist parties whose views were indistinguishable from United Russia candidates or even to the right of them. This year, ‘Smart Voting’ made endorsements in Moscow City races only; Volkov commented that outside of Moscow ‘Smart Voting’ would have to endorse pro-war candidates which would be ‘morally unacceptable’. Opponents noted that most of the candidates endorsed by ‘Smart Voting’ in Moscow still represent pro-war parties, including Communists, whose candidates comprise 37% of ‘Smart Voting’ latest endorsements (https://bit.ly/3B5npYl).

Even though the overall results of these ‘elections’ were never in doubt, their symbolic significance for both the regime and the antiwar opposition was underscored by the antiwar and anti-Putin statements made in the last few days by members of two of the outgoing neighborhood councils – one in St. Petersburg and one in Moscow. In St. Petersburg, on Sept. 7, seven members of the municipal council of Smolninskoe (several of them elected on the Yabloko slate) issued an appeal to the Kremlin-controlled Duma, urging it to initiate Putin’s impeachment on charges of treason. “President Putin’s decision to launch the special military operation is harming the security of Russia and its citizens,” read the statement (https://bit.ly/3Byb0Oj). On the same day, all 7 councillors were summoned to the police via text messages and charged with ‘disparaging the military’ (https://bit.ly/3QycRGX). The pro-Kremlin head of the district also declared the appeal to be illegitimate on the grounds that a council session could have been called only by him, and that the meeting held to pass this appeal did not have a quorum (https://bit.ly/3RCqlme). On the next day, the council of the Lomonosovsky district in Moscow (adjacent to the Moscow State University) voted, in its final session (https://bit.ly/3RW2HAW), to appeal directly to Putin, urging him to resign and stating that his “views and the model of governance are hopelessly outdated and obstruct the development of Russia” (https://bit.ly/3Ddkgs7). The session was chaired by Yabloko’s Timofey Nikolaev.

In some locations, activists and election observers were being detained in advance of the elections, on trumped-up charges. Thus, on Sept. 9 in Krasnodar, a district court sentenced Vitaly Nemtsev, an independent observer at the elections, to five days of arrest (just enough to keep him in jail throughout the elections). He was detained on his way to the precinct and charged with having ‘extremist’ stickers on his car, one of which said, ‘No to war’ and two others displayed the symbols of the Ukrainian right-wing ‘Azov Battalion’, branded as ‘terrorist organization’ by Russia’s supreme court. Nemtsev denied having placed these stickers on his car and claimed they were planted on him (https://bit.ly/3L78KQX).

II. The week of reprisals against journalists

As news of Russia’s retreat from Ukraine’s Kharkiv region kept pouring in, the regime made crystal clear its intent of escalating the clampdown on the media, first and foremost in Moscow. On Sept. 5, the print version of Novaya gazeta that has been led by Nobel-Prize winning Dmitry Muratov (also a Yabloko member) and co-owned by Mikhail Gorbachev until his death, was de-registered by the infamous Basmanny district court, at the request of Roskomnadzor, the media oversight agency. The pretext was that Novaya gazeta allegedly failed to submit its by-laws within 3 months of changing its incorporators in 2006, even though this requirement was only introduced 11 years later (https://bit.ly/3xfM9fu). Muratov suspended the publication in March rather than complying with the censors’ demands after the start of the war. On the next day after Novaya, the same court de-registered its magazine, Novaya rasskaz-gazeta, that was registered in 2009 but published its first issue two months ago. Its website has already been blocked (https://bit.ly/3qvh9Eo). Both publications plan to appeal these decisions. The website of Novaya gazeta-Europe, published in Riga by some of Novaya’s staff who left Russia after the start of the invasion, has also been blocked; on Sept. 9, Yandex.Music, a part of Russia’s Yandex search engine, removed Novaya gazeta-Europe’s podcast (https://bit.ly/3DhmwyM). The regime is also seeking to block Novaya’s main website https://novayagazeta.ru/. Russia’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on it on Sept. 15.

Also on Sept. 5, Moscow City court sentenced 32-year-old Ivan Safronov, a reporter of Kommersant and former employee of Roskosmos, Russia’s space agency, to 22-year jail term for alleged high treason. Safronov, who specializes in defense industry, worked for Kremlin-loyal institutions and was not an opposition activist. He was charged with passing information to Czech intelligence about Russian arms sales to Middle Eastern countries and unspecified secrets to a German agent. A recent detailed analysis of charges against Safronov showed their flimsiness, including the fact that almost all the so-called classified information had been available in open sources (https://bit.ly/3eJiepH). Safronov has already spent more than two years in pre-trial detention. Many groups of journalists and human rights organizations in Russia have been calling for his release. As noted in our previous issue, shortly before his sentencing Safronov was offered a plea deal by the prosecution but refused to plead guilty. On Sept. 6, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov stated that Safronov could appeal for presidential pardon but admitting his guilt is a necessary requirement; as noted by several commentators, Russia’s laws do not condition pardons on one’s admission of guilt.

On Sept. 8, police conducted simultaneous searches at the homes of a dozen of journalists across the country. Among the journalists searched were Ruslan Sukhushin in Moscow; Viktor Zyryanov, co-founder and administrator of ‘Orlets’ channel, in Reutov (Moscow region); Vladislav Khodakovsky in Voronezh; Sergey Nosov in the village of Baklanovo (Oryol region); Bella Nasibyan in Rostov-on-Don; blogger and urban planning expert Miroslav Valkovich in Krasnodar; Vladislav Postnikov, chief editor of Vechernie vedomosti in Yekaterinburg; and Yulia Glazova in Tyumen (https://bit.ly/3RLu6FQ; https://t.me/orlec/1598; https://bit.ly/3ByLad1).  Police seized their electronic devices and interrogated them as witnesses in the criminal case against Ponomaryov. Khodakovsky, Nasibyan and Valkovich also had their bank accounts frozen. Official sources claimed that these journalists were managing online channels of the so-called Freedom for Russia Legion, a putative underground militant group promoted online by Ilya Ponomaryov, a former Duma member who in 2014 cast the sole vote against sanctioning Putin’s annexation of Crimea and has since resided in Ukraine. RIA-Novosti claimed that the ‘Legion’ was formed by Ukrainian authorities for Russians willing to take up arms against the regime, and that Ponomaryov was “advising” the Legion (https://bit.ly/3RU0hmr). Others reported that these journalists were collaborating with Ponomaryov’s online media, ‘Utro Fevralya’ [‘February Morning’]; ‘Utro Fevralya’ officially denied these reports while denouncing the reprisals against independent media (https://t.me/rosanticenter/34170). Postnikov, who is reportedly former head of the branch of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia in the Urals, has denied his connection to Ponomaryov or support for his tactics. Postnikov’s Vechernie vedomosti have repeatedly been fined for ‘disparaging Russia’s military’ since the start of the invasion (https://bit.ly/3d2AEkP). Nasibyan said that, in her opinion, it was a signal for her to leave Russia, but that she did not want to emigrate and had nowhere to go (https://bit.ly/3DdrmNq). On the same day in Krasnodar, police searched the house of Miroslav Valkovich, not a journalist but an urban planner, reportedly also in connection with Ponomaryov’s case. Valkovich, who denied to the media having anything to do with Ponomaryov, was summoned for interrogation.

And on Sept. 9, in Elista, Badma Byurchiev, reporter for the Caucasian Knot, was beaten by unknown assailants. He believes this attack was in retaliation for his critique of the local authorities in his Telegram channel (https://bit.ly/3d7ebmC).

III. Opponents of the invasion

A. New reprisals

On Sept. 7, the Kremlin’s investigative committee announced a criminal case against an unnamed 60-year-old resident of Lipetsk, on charges of ‘spreading false information’ about the military via his media channel. The defendant is facing up to 3 years in jail (https://bit.ly/3RA28wV). This is the second such criminal case in the politically quiet Lipetsk: last month, same charges were brought against Ilya Danilov, former coordinator of the local office of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation – FBK (https://bit.ly/3ev5Pp1).

On Sept. 9, it was reported that blogger Askhabali Alibekov, also known as the ‘Wild Paratrooper’, was detained in his home in Novorossiysk (https://bit.ly/3qseiMH).  Alibekov gained recognition in 2018 for his video appeal to Putin accusing him of concealing the real number of Russia’s casualties in the then- ‘hybrid’ war in East Ukraine that the Kremlin waged via its proxies since 2014. After the publication of this video Alibekov was dismissed from the navy; his prior suspended term of imprisonment (for alleged act violence in the military) was converted into a real one, and he spent over a year in a high-security penal colony (https://bit.ly/3DdoIqY).

On the same day in Volgograd, 34-year-old Vitaly Gotra was fined 360,000 roubles – nearly $6,000 – for 12 instances of ‘disparaging armed forces. Last month, Gotra posted 12 antiwar stickers around his neighborhood. Gotra, who pleaded guilty to the charges, is a native of Ukraine where his parents still live (https://bit.ly/3B5Azos).

And in Kostroma, on Sept. 8, the staff of the investigative committee allegedly showed up at the workplace of the mother of Aleksandr Zykov who lives in The Netherlands, hinting that she would be fired for her son’s ‘misdeeds’ (https://t.me/Zykov_Aleks/12). Zykov is former head of the local branch of Navalny’s FBK; he has also been charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the military (https://t.me/sotaproject/45781).

B. Ongoing reprisals

Last week, the following pre-trial detentions related to antiwar activities were extended:

  • Ilya Yashin’s, on Sept. 9, by a court in Moscow, until Nov. 12; 39-year-old Yashin is a leading democratic politician and a neighborhood councillor in Moscow; according to Yashin, he was told by the prosecutor that if he pleads guilty or agrees to collaborate with the authorities, he could count on a house arrest (https://t.me/yashin_russia/522).
  • Vsevolod Korolev’s, on Sept. 8, by a St. Petersburg district court, until Oct. 11; Korolev’s appeal of his pre-trial detention, whereby he asked to replace it with house arrest due to his medical needs, was denied by city court. Korolev is a poet and a journalist, with prior conviction for taking part in ‘unsanctioned’ protest; he is charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the military because of his posts in VKontakte (https://mr-7.ru/articles/247282/).
  • Vladimir Rumyantsev’s, on Sept. 7, by Vologda city court, until Oct. 12; Rumyantsev is a 61-year-old fireman charged for his online posts about civilian casualties in Ukraine (https://bit.ly/3TZzjM1).
  • Sergey Mikhaylov’s, on Sept. 9, by Gorno-Altaysk city court, until Oct. 12 (https://bit.ly/3xbKd7x); Mikhaylov is the founding editor of the local paper Listok.

IV. Reprisals not directly related to the war

On Sept. 7, Alexey Navalny was ordered, for the fourth time, to spend another 15 days in isolation cell, immediately upon leaving it (https://bit.ly/3L7ShvP). And on the next day he announced on Twitter that the administration of his colony informed him that his attorney-client privilege with regard to his lawyers was being revoked. The reason was that Navalny was allegedly ‘committing crimes’ from jail and communicating with his ‘accomplices’ through lawyers. In his own words, “this leaves nothing of my right to a defense, which was already quite illusory” (https://bit.ly/3BzgzMq).

Also on Sept. 8, in Vladivostok, Yakut shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev won his appeal of an extension of his forced psychiatric treatment. The regional court returned his case to the lower district court for additional review for inconsistencies in his medical diagnosis (https://bit.ly/3QBWZ6q). Gabyshev became known in 2019 when he repeatedly marched from Yakutia to Moscow with the goal to ‘exorcise’ Putin from the Kremlin. Since then, he was detained several times, prosecuted for ‘extremism’, and his alleged psychiatric condition was reviewed by several commissions. The Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized him as a political prisoner. In July, Gabyshev’s supporters in Chita held a rally protesting his forced treatment.

On Sept. 7, in Grozny, a district court extended the pre-trial detention of Zarema Musaeva until Dec. 12. Musaeva is the mother of Ibragim and Abubakar Yangulbaevs, Chechen human rights activists. In January, she was forcibly transported from Nizhny Novgorod to Chechnya, allegedly for an interrogation as a witness in a fraud case. In the following months, she was charged with several more crimes. She was also denied her request to transfer her case to a court in another region for the sake of impartiality. Her sons and other activists say that reprisals against her are actually aimed at them, because they had exposed torture by Chechen law enforcement and had been critical of Ramzan Kadyrov’s rule (https://bit.ly/3RWWYLe).

On the same day, a district court in Yekaterinburg issued a guilty verdict against two men who staged protests next to the court’s building during the hearing on the case against Yevgeny Royzman on Aug. 25. One of the protesters, Andrey Deba, was sentenced to 30 hours of compulsory public works; another, Stanislav Kuryshov, to 20,000 roubles (circa $320) fine (https://t.me/ve4ved/63291). Royzman is awaiting trial on charges of ‘disparaging armed forces’ and has been banned from using internet and taking part in public meetings until Sept. 29.

On Sept. 5, in Moscow, Sergey Mitrokhin, Moscow City council member, a veteran of the democratic movement and one of the leaders of Yabloko, was denied his appeal in city court of his 200,000 roubles – over $3,200 – fine for ‘repeated violation of the rules of holding public protests’. Mitrokhin was fined in May after being detained during a meeting with his district residents (https://bit.ly/3TZDW8R).

V. Religious reprisals

On Sept. 5, Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that two of its followers in Vologda, Nikolay Stepanov, and Yury Baranov, were found guilty of ‘setting up an extremist organization’ (Jehovah’s Witnesses were branded as ‘extremist’ by Russia’s supreme court in 2017). Stepanov was sentenced to 4 years in penal colony; Baranov got a suspended 4-year jail term (https://bit.ly/3S01XuV). A few days earlier, four other JW believers – Vladimir Myakushin, Konstantin Matrashov, Ilkham Karimov and Aydar Yulmetyev – lost their appeals of suspended jail terms with Tatarstan’s supreme court. In December 2021, they were sentenced to between 2.5 years and 3 years 1 month of suspended imprisonment with 2 years of probation. Since 2018, they were subjected to searches, arrests, and pre-trial detention (https://bit.ly/3DhN56I). Defendants both in the Vologda and in the Tatarstan cases pleaded not guilty. It is noteworthy that after religious rights defenders approached Putin, a plenum of Russia’s supreme court ruled, in October 2021, that JW’s meetings for religious services do not constitute a crime, and that courts hearing cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to determine “what specific actions that would be dangerous for society were committed by the defendant”. In spite of this ruling, courts continue to equate religious services with organizational activities on behalf of the banned JW organization (https://bit.ly/3QvTkqx).

VI.      LGBTQ+ reprisals

On Sept. 7 in St. Petersburg, city court turned down the appeal against the decision to disband the Sfera [Sphere] Foundation. For 11 years, Sfera has provided legal and psychological support to LGBTQ+ persons. In 2016, it was added to the list of ‘foreign agents. In April, Sfera was disbanded at the request of the Ministry of Justice as its activities were allegedly “not compliant with the basic traditional and family values enshrined in the Constitution” (https://bit.ly/3xfaDpe).

VII. Occupied territories

On Sept. 7, the Russian-controlled supreme court of Crimea turned down the appeal of Irina Danilovich against her pre-trial detention. Danilovich is a nurse, a journalist, and an advocate for the labor rights of health care workers. As detailed in the previous issue of our digest, in April Danilovich was reportedly abducted by FSB operatives, was held for a week in the basement of a local FSB office without access to a lawyer, was threatened, and only after a week the FSB reportedly ‘found’ explosive in her handbag, which she says was planted on her. After the arrest, she was placed on the ‘foreign agents’ list by Russia’s ministry of justice. Last month, her detention was extended until February 2023. The next court hearing in her case will take place in Feodosia in October (https://bit.ly/3Uez00f).

On Sept. 7, a military court in Rostov-on-Don extended the pre-trial detention of five Crimean Tatars – Enver Ametov, Osman Arifmemetov, Yashar Muedinov, Ruslan Suleymanov, and Rustem Sheykhaliev – who were forcibly removed from Crimea and are being charged with ‘terrorism’ and affiliation with Hizb ut-Tahrir. They will stay in detention until at least Dec. 20. The prosecution is seeking jail terms between 15 and 17 years for each of them(https://bit.ly/3DhPdeI). Hizb ut-Tahrir, a UK-based Islamic organization, is banned in only a handful of countries, including Russia, where it is labeled as ‘terrorist’. All the defendants pleaded not guilty, asserting that they were persecuted for their beliefs and activism. Two days later, on Sept. 9, the same military court sentenced Yashar Shikhametov, a Crimean Tatar who worked as a cook in a café, to 11 years of imprisonment, including 7 years of high-security penal colony, on charges of ‘terrorism’, specifically, of affiliation with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Shikhametov had been in pre-trial detention since February 2021. Due to his health problems, he could not speak in court, and instead communicated with the judge and the prosecution in writing. In these writings, he proudly noted his Ukrainian citizenship along with his Muslim faith: “We are Crimean Tatars by ethnicity; Islam is our religion and our culture; Ukraine is our citizenship. Is this the proof of my guilt? We are not hiding this…” (https://bit.ly/3QJb8Pm) According to Memorial Human Rights Center (which was disbanded by court but has reorganized under a slightly different name), as of March 2022, at least 340 individuals were being prosecuted by Russian authorities for their actual or alleged affiliation with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Out of this number, at least 231 were sentenced by courts, including 176 to 10 years or more in penal colony. The largest number of defendants in these cases – 94 people – were Crimean residents (https://bit.ly/3DlHgVZ).

VIII.  Exodus from Putin’s Russia

On Sept. 5, Yury Scherbachyov, formerly the head of the Arkhangelsk branch of the PARNAS Party (Party of People’s Freedom) that was co-founded by the late Boris Nemtsov, announced on social media that he asked for political asylum in Norway and was currently in a refugee camp there (https://bit.ly/3RTzdnf). In Russia, Scherbachyov was repeatedly detained while protesting and prosecuted in 2019-20 for ‘offending a government official’ (https://bit.ly/3RzAoJ5).

This is all for today. Thank you for reading.  We always appreciate your feedback and collaboration proposals. You are most welcome to send them to rcc-ara@rcc-amrusrights.org.  

Project Director Dr. Dmitri Daniel Glinski and the project team

THE RUSSIA OF TOMORROW: Human Rights Defense and Resistance Digest

ISSUE # 3, AUG. 29 – SEPT. 4, 2022

Welcome to the newest issue of our digest. 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. The digest does not aim to be exhaustive but seeks to provide more granular detail on Russians’ antiwar and human rights advocacy than other publications. Our title – with tongue-in-cheek toward ‘Russia Today’, the powerhouse of the Kremlin’s global propaganda – reflects our belief in the long-term power of those Russians, of many ethnicities and faiths, who are currently 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.        Mikhail Gorbachev’s legacy in the areas of human rights and peace

On Sept. 3 in Moscow, no less than 2,000 people, according to Vedomosti, showed up to pay their final respects to Mikhail Gorbachev during about 4 hours of the official ceremony (https://bit.ly/3q9Fn6T); it had to be extended beyond the initial two hours due to the number of visitors (https://bit.ly/3BdOlX7). While all international media have reminisced about Gorbachev’s role in lifting the Iron Curtain and ending the Cold War, we would like to briefly draw your attention to some of the momentous decisions that he made on ending Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan and nearly ending all political reprisals against dissenters in the Soviet Union:

Afghanistan: Gorbachev started pulling Soviet troops from this country in the first months after his coming to power in 1985 and completed it in February 1989. In December 1989, the USSR’s Congress of People’s Deputies, under his chairmanship, adopted a resolution that condemned the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan ‘on moral and political grounds’.

End to political reprisals: In 1986, Gorbachev started to release some of the political prisoners, initially one by one and as part of deals with the US on individual cases (Natan Sharansky, Yury Orlov). In December 1986, he called Andrey Sakharov who was in internal exile and allowed him and his wife Yelena Bonner to come back to Moscow. In the course of 1987, about 300 political prisoners were released from jails, penal colonies, and internal exile; at the same time, all pending politically motivated criminal cases were closed. By the end of Gorbachev’s rule, there were about 10 individuals in the country recognized by human rights advocates as political prisoners (in today’s Russia, their number exceeds 420).

Media freedom: In September 1986, a few months after declaring glasnost, Gorbachev passed through the CPSU Central Committee the resolution to stop jamming Voice of America and BBC. In 1988, all jamming of foreign radio stations ended. In 1989, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was published for the first time in official Soviet press. In 1990, Gorbachev signed the new Soviet law on media freedom which proclaimed that censorship of mass media was not allowed.

Freedom of association and political pluralism: In January 1990, Gorbachev chaired the Politburo session that voted to remove the statement about the Communist Party’ leading role from the constitution (Article 6). In March 1990, the Congress of People’s Deputies chaired by Gorbachev implemented this decision and included a reference to other political parties in Article 6.

Freedom of religion: In 1990, Gorbachev signed the law on the freedom of conscience and religious organizations. The law provided them with the status of legal entities. No religion was deemed ‘extremist’ let alone banned under Gorbachev.

Freedom of emigration: In 1986, restrictions on temporary stay abroad were significantly relaxed. In 1991, Gorbachev signed the new law that abolished the requirement of exit visa. (However, those moving abroad for permanent residency were still being forcibly stripped of their Soviet citizenship until the end of Gorbachev’s rule.)

To what extent these Gorbachev’s actions reflected his actual beliefs and intentions, as opposed to resulting from international and domestic pressures, is secondary and cannot be addressed here. There can hardly ever be a definitive answer to these questions. Gorbachev’s half-hearted attempts to suppress the independence movements in the Baltics in January 1991 led to tragic loss of lives but were abandoned within several days and never attempted again. In September 1991, the State Council of the USSR under Gorbachev’s chairmanship recognized the independence of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

Mikhail Gorbachev and the period of his rule remain a reminder to Russians and others around the world of the tremendous opportunities he provided for a thorough, long-term transformation of Russia and the international system – the opportunities that were either missed or misused.

II. Russians against the invasion

According to attorney Pavel Chikov of Agora International Human Rights Group, as of Sept. 1, the number of defendants in criminal cases on ‘spreading false information’ about the military has reached 100 people. In the final week of August, seven new such cases were reported in the media. Of these 100 people, 57 are being charged with aggravated felony carrying 5 to 10 years in jail; in 24 cases, there are lesser charges used, with maximum penalty being a 3-year term in penal colony. Yet 32 out of these 100 have, fortunately for them, left Russia, so all the reprisals against them are in absentia, but the confiscation of their property is for real. Of the remaining 68, nine have already been sentenced. The harshest verdict – 7 years in penal colony – was issued in the case of Alexey Gorinov, a neighborhood councillor in Moscow. Eduard Shcherbakov in Tyumen was sentenced to six months in penal colony. Two individuals have received suspended jail sentences; two others have been sentenced to compulsory public works; a two more have been imposed fines (1 mln. and 3 mln. roubles). Of the 59 that are still awaiting trial, 28 are currently in detention; 3 people are under house arrest; and 6 had certain activities (typically, participation in public events and communicating with anyone outside their family and lawyers) prohibited by the court. Agora has been providing legal representation to 34 of the defendants facing these charges (https://t.me/pchikov/5018).

   A) New reprisals

In two of the new criminal cases mentioned by Pavel Chikov (see above), the defendants are military servicemen: Ilya Karpenko in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Valery Kotovich in Rostov-on-Don. Kotovich is in detention. These are the first criminal cases against soldiers on charges of ‘spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces. Proceedings against both are held by military courts located in army units.

In Moscow on Sept. 3, at least four people were briefly detained for antiwar protesting while standing in the line to the Hall of Pillars to pay tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev. One of them was Polina Barinova who carried the ‘No war’ pin of the Yabloko Party. The names of other detainees have not been reported. Barinova and two other women were slapped with misdemeanor charges of ‘disparaging the army’ (https://bit.ly/3Ri7U6m).

In Petrozavodsk (Republic of Karelia), on Aug. 30, Ruben Pogosyan was searched, briefly detained, and charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army. Based on the charges against him, he may face up to 3 years in jail. The charges stem from his sharing of posts about Russian military actions in Bucha, Mariupol, and Kramatorsk. Pogosyan pleaded not guilty, declaring that the information he had shared was true. The court ordered to restrict his use of communication tools and some of his interactions with others; he is also prohibited from attending public events and from leaving Petrozavodsk (https://bit.ly/3CXs8xO). Pogosyan previously went public about the abuses that he and others experienced in penal colony during his prior incarceration; officers at the colony unsuccessfully tried to sue him and other witnesses for libel but eventually ended up as defendants in a case involving the beating of inmates in their colony (https://bit.ly/3BdXJdp).   

On Sept. 3, it became known that Grigory Vinter, a human rights activist in Cherepovets (Vologda region) is in pre-trial detention on charges of ‘spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces. In the past, Vinter was an environmental activist and led the regional branch of Lev Ponomaryov’s For Human Rights Movement which was recently disbanded by the authorities. In 2021, he was sentenced to 6 months of public works for his online reporting of violations of anti-COVID precautions during a transfer of inmates into a local pre-trial facility. (https://t.me/sotaproject/45535). In 2019, Vinter was forcibly put by the authorities into a psychiatric clinic for a compulsory assessment. He was also unsuccessfully sued for ‘offending government officials in social media’ (https://bit.ly/3q98JT0).

On Sept. 1, it was reported that Andrey Balin, former co-chair of the Samara branch of the PARNAS party (co-founded by the late Boris Nemtsov), had been charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army, aggravated by ‘motivations of political hatred’ (which carries a jail term of up to 10 years). The charges stem from his six posts on social media. Since July, Balin has been prohibited by a court in the city of Togliatti from leaving the city. He was previously sentenced to fines on charges equivalent to a misdemeanor, including 35,000 Roubles for ‘disparaging the army’ and 30,000 Roubles for his posts in support of sanctions against Russia’s officials (https://bit.ly/3RjI5Tl).

    B) Ongoing cases

In St. Petersburg, on Aug. 29 a district court extended the pre-trial detention of former priest Ioann Kurmoyarov to Oct. 1. He pleaded guilty of spreading ‘false information’ about the army and asked for a release (https://bit.ly/3QgNVna). 53-year-old Kurmoyarov is a native of Ukraine and allegedly had to move in Russia in 2018 because of sharing online a picture with Russia’s military symbol, the band of St.George. Yet already in 2020, the pro-Kremlin leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate banned him from conducting religious services and teaching theology. The reason for this ban was his criticism of the recently opened church for the military: at the time, he wrote on Facebook that this was “yet another example of Christian Orthodoxy transformation into paganism” (https://bit.ly/3qdQOKQ).

On the next day, also in St. Petesburg, the pre-trial detention of Aleksandra Skochilenko was likewise extended to Oct. 1 (https://bit.ly/3AN1kh1). Skochilenko is a young artists charged for attaching stickers with information about the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and war crimes committed by Russian military to price tags at a local supermarket. Skochilenko has been in detention since April; the maximum penalty for the crime that she allegedly committed is 10 years in jail. Skochilenko has special health-related dietary needs – she can only eat gluten-free food – and has repeatedly complained that they are not being met in her detention.

Yet another antiwar prisoner in St. Petersburg is Vsevolod Korolyov, a 35-year-old documentary filmmaker. He has been in pre-trial since July on an aggravated version of the charges of ‘spreading false information’ about the military and will remain there at least until Sept. 11. The charges stem from his work as a filmmaker shooting videos about the people charged with the same ‘crime’ of which he is accused now. One of the materials for which he is being charged was his video coverage of a performance in support of Skochilenko. On Sept. 1, city judge denied his appeal of the lower-level decision to place him in detention pending trial (https://bit.ly/3CYHv9s).

Viktoria Petrova is another St. Petersburger in pre-trial detention on similar charges. Her detention was recently extended until Sept. 23. On Aug. 31, her appeal of this extension was likewise denied (https://bit.ly/3BfKOHK). In total, in St. Petersburg there are already 9 defendants charged with ‘spreading false information’ about Russia’s armed forces.

In Kazan, Tatarstan’s supreme court denied the appeal filed by Andrey Boyarshinov against the decision to extend his pre-trial detention to Nov. 17. Boyarshinov was detained in March and charged with ‘encouraging terrorism’ and ‘justification of terrorism’. The charges are based on unspecified online posts that he allegedly made in antiwar channels under a penname and that are still undergoing forensic analysis (https://bit.ly/3QpCM3K).

Meanwhile in Kopeysk (Chelyabinsk region), Pyotr Borovinskikh, who has already been charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army, is now facing additional charges – of ‘spreading online information about memorial dates that is demonstrably disrespectful to society’. Specifically, prosecutors argue that in his posts Borovinskikh disparaged the annual Victory Day parade of May 9th on the Red Square. While this new case was initiated in July, Borovinskikh was informed about it only on Aug. 30. The relevant article of Russia’s criminal code pre-dates the current invasion; the maximum penalty for these actions is a five-year imprisonment (https://bit.ly/3Bff4CX).

In Tyumen, 22-year-old Kirill Martyushev, who has been in pre-trial facility since March, got his detention extended to Nov. 12 (https://bit.ly/3cQlFKE). On the first day of the invasion, Martyushev was briefly detained for protesting it; upon release with charges equivalent to a misdemeanor, he allegedly filmed and posted a video that, according to forensic experts commissioned by the prosecution, ‘contained linguistic and psychological indicators of encouragement of violence against the police’. These charges carry a penalty of up to 5 years in jail. In July, Russia’s government agency placed Martyushev on the roster of terrorists and extremists that includes Alexey Navalny among others (https://bit.ly/3qb7pix).

On a brighter note, in at least two cases this week, courts ruled in favor of antiwar defendants. One is the case against Konstantin Jankauskas, an elected neighborhood councillor in Moscow, who was charged with ‘disparaging the army’ for posting online in March a quote from Pope Francis’ prayer for peace in Ukraine. In a separate case, Jankauskas was prohibited from running for reelection because of his involvement with Navalny’s organization that is labeled ‘extremist’ by the authorities. On Sept. 1, at the end of the hearing, the judge dismissed the case due to the absence of criminal activity, concluding that literal interpretation of Pope Francis quote did not lead to any conclusion that would disparage Russia’s armed forces (https://bit.ly/3Rg8PE9).

And in Arkhangelsk, a court dismissed the case against Aleksandr Peskov, a journalist also charged with disparaging Russia’s military. The charge is based, predictably, on his online post stating that “in our country, de facto censorship has been instituted since the start of the military aggression against Ukraine”. Peskov is also involved as a witness (so far) in another criminal case, related to Navalny’s “extremist organizations”; in March, police conducted a search in his apartment. Luckily for him, Peskov is no longer in Russia (https://bit.ly/3cN86LK).

The same is true of Ilya Ponomaryov, former member of the Duma from a pro-Kremlin ‘Just Russia’ Party and, before that, from the Communist Party, former employee of YUKos and a grandson of Soviet ambassador to Poland. In 2014, Ponomaryov was the only Duma member to vote against the annexation of Crimea. In 2015, he was charged with embezzlement, stripped of his Duma mandate, and issued an arrest order – in absentia, since by that time he was no longer living in Russia. By now, he is permanently based in Kyiv where he runs his own media channel. Nevertheless, on Aug. 30, another Moscow court decided to issue another order for his arrest – this time on aggravated charges of ‘spreading false information’ about the Russian army with a ‘hateful’ motivation, a felony carries up to 10 years in jail (https://bit.ly/3RCsCxv).

III. Political reprisals directly unrelated to Ukraine

On Aug. 28 in Moscow police detained Andrey Zayakin, a physicist, investigative reporter of Novaya gazeta, and co-founder of Dissernet, a project that investigated and exposed the shoddy and at times fraudulent content of dissertations defended by members of Russia’s ruling elites. Zayakin is charged with financing ‘extremist organizations’ on the basis of his transfer of 1,000 Roubles to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. On Aug. 29, court placed Zayakin on a curfew regime and prohibited him from using any means of communication (https://bit.ly/3qebRx8). In Khabarovsk, on Sept. 4, another supporter of Navalny and a former coordinator of his local branch, Alexey Vorsin, was placed on the national ‘wanted’ list, on charges of ‘creating an extremist community’ (https://bit.ly/3TGjZDT).

On Aug. 30, in Moscow, at the hearings on the case against Ivan Safronov, former reporter of Kommersant paper charged with disclosing state secrets to Czech intelligence agencies, prosecution requested the court to sentence him to 24 years in jail with subsequent two years of restriction of movement, as well as a fine of 500,000 Roubles. Safronov used to cover the arms industry and worked in the press office of RosKosmos, Russia’s space agency. The charges are based on his memos to a Czech journalist and a Czech political scientist, in which, according to reports, Safronov essentially restated open-source information on Russia’s military cooperation with several countries. It has also been reported that the prosecution offered Safronov a deal whereby it would only ask for a 12-year jail term in exchange for his guilty plea (https://bit.ly/3KOKfrz).

On the same day, Hotline, a human rights project of assistance to inmates that has investigated reports of torture in collaboration with the UN Committee Against Torture, has been liquidated by Moscow city court after 24 years in operation (https://bit.ly/3BerYAZ). Hotline is one of the organizations created by Lev Ponomaryov, a member of Russia’s legislature and political leadership around the time of Soviet collapse. In recent years, Ponomaryov and his organizations have been placed on the list of ‘foreign agents’. On the eve of the current invasion, Ponomaryov launched an antiwar appeal which gathered over a million signatures. After extensive harassment by the authorities and their agents, Ponomaryov left Russia and is reportedly in France.

On the same day and also in Moscow, Leonid Gozman, a rightwing public figure and former manager of Anatoly Chubais’ political projects, was found guilty of equating Soviet Union with Nazi Germany and sentenced to 15 days under arrest – the maximum penalty under this article of Russia’s criminal code (https://t.me/activatica/24096). The charges stem from Gozman’s two-year-old Facebook post. Earlier this year, Gozman was already detained for another reason, i.e., for failing to inform the authorities of his second (Israeli) citizenship as required by law and is currently under criminal investigation on these charges.

IV. Religious reprisals

On Aug. 31, a district court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced four people to jail terms of between 2.5 and 7.5 years for alleged participation in Islamist organization ‘Taqfir wal-Hijra’. Of these four, Igor Galperin was declared to be the organizer of the cell, charged with ‘public incitement of extremist activity’, and sentenced to 7.5 years in a high-security colony. The other three include Natalia Galperina (apparently his wife), Egishe Makaryan, and Amit Shirzad (https://bit.ly/3cHh8u1). Prosecutors claimed that defendants were spreading ‘radical ideas based on the ideology of Takfirism’ in their meetings with local Muslims and via social media. ‘Taqfir wal-Hijra’ (meaning in Arabic ‘Excommunication and exile’) is the name given by its detractors to Jama’at al-Muslimin (Muslim Community), a group that was created in Egypt in the 1960s and was mostly active there and in a few of the neighboring countries. In 2010, as a number of other Islamic organizations, it was declared ‘extremist’ and banned by Russia’s supreme court. As noted by OVD-Info, some experts have doubts about the organization’s existence, as no documentary evidence from multiple court cases against its alleged activists in Russia was ever made public. The fact that the last names of two of the defendants are recognizably Jewish and the third name is Armenian provides additional reason for skepticism about the official reports about this case.

V.   Occupied territories

On Aug. 29, city court in Feodosia, Crimea, held hearings in the case against Irina Danilovich, a nurse, and a local activist on behalf of health care workers. Danilovich is charged with alleged possession of an explosive which, prosecution claims, she kept inside her eyeglass case; she says that the evidence was planted on her by the police. In April, she was placed in detention unlawfully, a week before official court order to detain her was issued; during this week, she was kept in the basement of an FSB facility for eight days, without access to a lawyer. Finally, the alleged explosive was found in her possession, giving pretext to the court to order her pre-trial detention. In July, she went public about the physical violence and threats that she experienced at the hands of FSB agents (https://bit.ly/3ecBMCm).

On Aug. 31, Crimea’s supreme court denied the appeal of Ilya Gantsevsky, an antiwar protester who sought to overturn his house arrest order. He is charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army via his antiwar Instagram post in connection with Russia’s shelling of the Kramatorsk train station. Gantsevsky was reportedly already sentenced in April for the same to 14 days in jail yet in August he was detained again. He is allegedly a former participant of several pro-Kremlin political projects who became an ardent antiwar blogger since the start of the current invasion (https://bit.ly/3TFjzh8).

On Sept. 1, Human Rights Watch issued its 71-page report, “‘We Had No Choice’: ‘Filtration’ and the Crime of Forcibly Transferring Ukrainian Civilians to Russia”. The report is based on interviews with 54 Ukrainians, some of whom were forcibly transferred to Russia and went through ‘filtration’ screening, and some had relatives or friends in this situation or trying to escape from Russia. As noted in the report, such transfers “constitute war crimes and potential crimes against humanity”. According to HRW, it submitted a summary of its findings to Russia’s authorities, but they did not respond (https://bit.ly/3wWOXOs).

VI.   International human rights advocacy

On Aug. 29, over two dozen of human rights organizations in Russia published an appeal to EU member states. Russian NGOs urge them” to lead a core group of states at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council to establish a mandate of a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Russian Federation”. The authors of the appeal note the gruesome statistics: over 16,000 people detained since February for actual or alleged antiwar protesting; and over 450 individuals and organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’ (https://bit.ly/3RwYjIu).

Thank you for reading.  We always appreciate your feedback. Wishing you a happy Labor Day!

Project Director Dr. Dmitri Daniel Glinski and the project team

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