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.
I, RUSSIA RESPONDS TO MOBILIZATION: PROTESTS IN 54 PLACES, A DOZEN OF ARSONS IN DRAFT STATIONS, CLASHES IN DAGESTAN
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:
- 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 9/21||Thur 9/22||Fri 9/23||Sat 9/24||Sun 9/25||TOTAL TO DATE|
|Moscow (13 mln. residents)||546||6||399||951|
|St. Petersburg (5.6 mln.)||498||3||143||644|
|Cities with 1-1.6 mln. population, incl.:|
|Cities with 100,000-900,000 population, incl.:|
|Sochi, Krasnodar region||1||1|
|Surgut, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District||1||1|
|Cherepovets, Vologda region||10||10|
|Korolyov, Moscow region||6||6|
|Kamensk-Uralsky, Sverdlovsk region||1||1|
|Salavat, Bashkortostan republic||2||2|
|Towns smaller than 100.000 population size, incl.:|
|Vyatskie Polyany, Kirov region||1||1|
|Lobnya, Moscow region||1||1||2|
|Gatchina, Leningrad region||1||1|
|Reftinsky village, Sverdlovsk region||1||1|
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:
– 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).
– 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).
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)
II. OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND THE WAR ZONE
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).
III. THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT: NEW AND ONGOING COURT CASES
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/).
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Project Director Dr. Dmitri Daniel Glinski and our project team