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‘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


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