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THE RUSSIA OF TOMORROW: Antiwar Resistance & Human Rights Defense Digest / Issue # 12-13, Oct. 31 – Nov. 13, 2022

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. REPRISALS AGAINST RESIDENTS OF THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND THE WAR ZONE

II. THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT IN RUSSIA

A. Discontent in the army

B. Nonviolent protesting and reprisals – new cases

C. Nonviolent protesting and reprisals – ongoing cases

D. Actual or alleged antiwar violence

III. POLITICAL REPRISALS DIRECTLY UNRELATED TO THE WAR

IV. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

V. ‘FOREIGN AGENTS’

VI. EXODUS FROM RUSSIA AND TRANSNATIONAL REPRESSION

Welcome to the new issue of our digest covering the events of the past two weeks. Most of the items in our digests are based on the original Russian-language sources and are hyperlinked to them. 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.

I. REPRISALS AGAINST RESIDENTS OF THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND THE WAR ZONE

Nov.1, Rostov-on-Don – Southern military district court extended the pre-trial detention of Marlen Mustafaev, a resident of Belaya Skala village (Crimea, Ukraine) until Feb. 10, 2023. Mustafaev has been behind the bars since February of this year, on charges of participation in Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT), an international Islamic political party that has been banned in Russia, Germany, and about a dozen countries of the Muslim world. Mustafaev insists that HuT books used by the prosecution as evidence in his case were planted on him and do not have his fingerprints on them. The next hearing in his case is scheduled for Nov. 15. (Crimean Solidarity) In 2017, Mustafaev was fined 10,000 RUB for staging a street action in support of other Crimean Tatars. (OVD-Info) It is widely believed that charges involving HuT are used to penalize Crimean Tatars for their loyalty to Ukraine.

Nov. 2, Vlasikha (Moscow region) – Russia’s military appeals court upheld the sentence of 4 years in jail and 13 years in hard-labor colony for Emil Ziyatdinov from Oktyabrskoe village in Crimea. Ziyatdinov was found guilty of participation in HuT. He was also indicted for ‘preparing a violent coup’. He has been in detention since 2020. In his final remarks to the court, Ziyatdinov noted that charges against him were not substantiated by forensic analysis; he also reminded that he and other Crimean Tatars are citizens of Ukraine and should be treated as military captives, in accordance with the Geneva Convention. (Crimean Solidarity) On Nov. 8, the same court upheld the verdicts in the case of Lenur Seidametov and Timur Yalkabov (members of the so-called third Simferopol group of alleged HuT followers) who were sentenced in March by Southern district military court to 13 and 17 years respectively in hard-labor colony. This is in spite of the absence of any evidence in the documents of their case indicating that the defendants possessed any weaponry, planned any terrorist activities or encouraged others to commit them. (Crimean Solidarity)

II. THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT IN RUSSIA

A. Discontent in the army

Nov. 6 – RFE/RL Idel.Realities published additional first-hand report of discontent among volunteer servicemen from Bashkortostan (‘The Shaymuratov Battalion’), the refusal of over 40 of them to remain in Ukraine, and reprisals in response. Many of them apparently enlisted because of financial need yet decided to quit after two weeks on the frontline where they saw the lack of properly functioning equipment, food and clothes, chaos, lack of professionalism and abuse by commanders, and mistaken orders to shoot at their own. As was reported earlier, on Sept. 17, two weeks after being deployed to Ukraine, 43 soldiers of the battalion filed for termination of their contracts; yet the military command prevented them from returning to Russia (which was confirmed by some of their relatives’ posts on social media) and ordered to destroy their documents at the border. According to the latest whistleblower report, they were kept for about two weeks in de facto detention in Novaya Kakhovka (Kherson region); after the publication of the first whistleblower video, they were threatened with criminal charges and the conditions of their detention changed to the worse. Most of them reportedly succumbed to the pressure and agreed to go back to the frontlines; only five were able to return to Russia where they were reportedly threatened with charges for going AWOL, in spite of having documentation about having lawfully terminated their contracts. (RFE/RL)

B. Nonviolent protests and reprisals – new cases

Nov. 7, Moscow – A district court ordered 25 days of arrest for Ilya Povyshev, for ‘repeat violation of the rules of public actions’. Povyshev was detained while wearing a mask with an inscription ‘No to the war’ at Boris Nemtsov’s memorial site. He was also fined 50,000 RUB for ‘disparaging the army’, by standing next to an antiwar poster that was left at the site by another activist. (SOTA Project)

Nov. 8, St. Petersburg – Aleksandr Makhankov, a district-level leader of the antiwar Yabloko party was charged for the second time with ‘disparaging the army’, on the basis of his antiwar statements during the local councils election campaign in September of this year. At the time, Makhankov faced these charges for the first time and was fined 30,000 RUB. He is now likely facing another fine, between 30,000 to 50,000 RUB. The next court hearing is set for Nov. 15. (Yabloko)

Nov. 9, St. Petersburg – Criminal charges of ‘knowingly spreading false information about the army due to political hatred’ were filed against Yevgeny Bestuzhev. The exact basis for the charges against him has not been reported. On Nov. 10, he was placed in pre-trial detention until Dec. 15. This was sought by the prosecution under the pretext that Bestuzhev was allegedly planning to leave Russia and join his daughter in Estonia. In his statement to the court, Bestuzhev denied spreading ‘knowingly false information’ but admitted that he was ‘guilty of an excessively emotional and politically incorrect statement’. Bestuzhev was actively protesting against the invasion from its first days in his online posts; his ‘VKontakte’ account was blocked already in April. Bestuzhev, 62, is a well-known democratic activist since early 1990s and a member of the political committee of the local branch of the Solidarity movement. (MR7.ru) The organization’s leadership includes Ilya Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza (both in pre-trial detention), and Sergei Davidis, currently based abroad.

Nov. 10, Kstovo (Nizhny Novgorod region) – Andrei Rossiev, a local resident detained in Krasnodar, was transported, and placed in pre-trial detention here. On Nov. 11, he was officially charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army, based on his 10 comments in ‘VKontakte’ about the Bucha massacre and other potential war crimes by the Russian military. He was charged separately, for another 27 comments in ‘VKontakte’, with ‘inciting hatred toward a social group’, that is, Russian military and those Russians who support its actions in Ukraine. Yet on Nov. 12 city court released him from pre-trial confinement, against the will of the prosecution; instead, it imposed restrictions on his activities, including a ban on using communication equipment, a ban on attending public events, and a ban on participating in discussions on political and social issues. In August, Rossiev was already fined 300,000 RUB for allegedly ‘justifying terrorism’ and ‘inciting hatred’ with his online posts, and another 30,000 RUB for ‘disparaging the army’. (OVD-Info)

Nov. 11, Moscow – A district court placed Mikhail Simonov in pre-trial detention on charges of ‘spreading false information’ about the army ‘while being motivated by political hatred’. The exact basis of these charges is not known yet. (OVD-Info) According to Pavel Chikov, this is the 35th such case in Moscow alone. (Chikov’s Telegram channel)

                Kovrov (Vladimir region) – The local investigative committee announced charges against a 32-year-old local resident whose name has not been disclosed. The man is charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army via 7 or more Telegram posts made in July. He may face up to 10 years of imprisonment or a fine of 3 to 5 million RUB. (Vladimir region investigative committee)

C. Nonviolent protests and reprisals – ongoing cases

Oct. 31, Prokopievsk (Kemerovo region) – A district court denied the appeal of Andrey Novashov and extended pre-trial restrictions that have been imposed on him since April, including the prohibition on using internet, mail, and phone except for emergency calls, communicating with his attorney, mother, son, and his colleagues at RFE/RL and other media for which Novashov had worked as a freelance reporter on human rights issues. The court justified these restrictions by claiming that without them he may ‘obstruct justice’. Novashov is charged with ‘knowingly spreading false reports about the Russian army’ via his posts in VKontakte about the destruction of Mariupol by Russian military. (RFE/RL)  

Nov. 7, Moscow – The notorious Basmanny district court extended the pre-trial detention of Ilya Yashin until Nov. 26, as sought by the prosecution. (Kommersant) Yashin has been charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army, on account of his video stream about the Bucha massacre. During the hearing about extending his detention, two of his supporters, Irina Chivozertseva and Andrei Zhvakin, were detained during their solo protests next to the court building. (OVD-Info)

             St. Petersburg – A district court terminated the pre-trial house arrest of Irina Tsybanyova, a 60-year-old local resident charged with the desecration of the grave of Vladimir Putin’s parents; instead of house arrest, she is now prohibited from leaving the Leningrad region, communicating by phone and internet, and interacting with witnesses in her case. On Oct. 6, Tsybanyova reportedly visited the grave of Putin’s parents and left a note asking “the parents of this maniac” to take him from the face of the earth because “he has caused so much pain and disasters that the entire world is praying for his death … you raised a freak and a murderer”. Tsybanyova has admitted to these actions, stating that she did it after watching the news from Ukraine and realizing the extent of the casualties. (Mediazona)

Nov. 8, Moscow – City court denied Vladimir Kara-Murza’s appeal of the filing of criminal charges against him for ‘knowingly spreading false information’ about the Russian army actions in Ukraine. (SOTAvision) Kara-Murza is facing three separate charges, including high treason; his term in pre-trial detention is currently set until Dec. 12.

Nov. 9, Voronezh – A military court sentenced local resident Andrei Biryukov to 3.5 years in penal colony on charges of ‘public justification of terrorism’ and ‘inciting extremism’. Biryukov will be also prohibited from administering websites for two years. The court also ordered to confiscate his computer that was seized during search and to destroy Ukrainian flag ribbons that were found in his possession. Charges against him stem from his posts in ‘VKontakte’ social media network. Biryukov’s mother stated to OVD-Info that the actual reason for reprisals against him were his posts about Ukraine. (OVD-Info)

            Maikop (Republic of Adygea) – OVD-Info reported the sentencing of Elena Sumina who was charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the Russian military: according to the court ruling issued in September but published evidently later, Sumina was fined in the amount of her annual pension – 209,811.26 RUB (close to $3,500). Charges against her stemmed from her comment under an Instagram post in support of the invasion; according to the verdict, the ‘false’ information that she shared was related to the Russian military actions toward children in Ukraine. Sumina reportedly pleaded guilty and apparently did not appeal. As noted in court documents, Sumina is both a pensioner and a single mother of two minor children. (OVD-Info citing city court website)

             St. Petersburg – A district court extended the pre-trial detention of Oleg Belousov for another six months, until May 2, 2023. Belousov is charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the army and ‘inciting extremism’, via his posts in ‘VKontakte’. (OVD-Info)

Nov. 11, Kazan (Republic of Tatarstan) – District court extended, by request of the prosecutors, the pre-trial detention of Andrei Boyarshinov until Feb. 17 of next year. Boyarshinov is charged with ‘incitement of terrorism’ and ‘justification of terrorism’. As reported in our previous issues, charges against him stem from the posts he made under an alias in a Telegram channel during antiwar protests in Kazan on March 4 and 9; the content of these specific posts has not been made public. A district court initially placed him under house arrest yet the prosecution appealed and Tatarstan’s supreme court moved him to pre-trial detention at the end of March. Hence by the end of the current extension he will have stayed behind the bars for a total of 11 months. Boyarshinov considers the case against him to be political and has affirmed his opposition to the war. (RFE/RL)

               Belgorod – Antiwar media reported the verdict in the case of Vasily Devyatov who was sentenced on Oct. 27 to two years of restriction of movement. Devyatov was found guilty, per Russia’s criminal code, of ‘vandalism motivated by political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hostility or hatred’. The day after the start of the invasion, he was detained while drawing antiwar slogans with a spray paint at a bus stop; one of the inscriptions reportedly spoke of fascism in Russia. (OVD-Info) His attorney has appealed the sentence. (Mediazona)

D. Actual or alleged antiwar violence

Nov. 9, Izhevsk (Republic of Udmurtia) – Local court sentenced Ilya Farber to 3 years and 2 months in hard-labor penal colony and a fine of 2,600,000 RUB (circa $44,000) on two counts of arson – at a local defense ministry office and an army conscription station in Igra village. Both were reportedly set on fire in late May. Farber is a 48-year-old artist and a former teacher at a rural school; he is also a former director of a cultural center in Tver region. Farber allegedly committed this arson while visiting his relatives in the village. According to the court system press office, Farber pleaded guilty but refused to testify. He had a previous conviction from 2013, for an alleged bribe and misuse of his office; the court case against him at the time was widely criticized by the media as biased. (RFE/RL)

Nov. 10, Tomsk – According to official media, 36-year-old Mikhail Stepanishchev was detained here around 5am local time when he reportedly tried to set the local conscription office on fire. (SHOT Telegram channel)

                Yekaterinburg – On the same day, a 47-year-old man was detained here in the course of a ‘joint operation of regional FSB directorate and military counterintelligence’. (Interfax). According to the authorities, he was allegedly planning a ‘terrorist act at an administrative facility’. (TASS) Another opposition source revealed his name to be Mikhail Nikitin and that he was previously charged in 2020 with ‘disrespecting government authorities’ via his online posts that were deemed offensive toward Putin. (Avtozak LIVE)

III. POLITICAL REPRISALS DIRECTLY UNRELATED TO THE WAR

Nov. 1, Melekhovo (Vladimir region) – Alexey Navalny reported being placed yet again into the punishment cell, for 11 days – in his own words, for “sweeping the exercise yard poorly and insulting Сriminal Investigator Lieutenant Neimovich by calling him “Lieutenant Neimovich” instead of addressing him by his first name and patronymic”. (Alexey Navalny’s Twitter) On Nov. 10, a judge of the Kovrov city court denied Navalny’s appeal of his fifth placement in the punishment cell, on Sept. 23, but also ruled in his favor on the other part of his appeal, stating that the administration of the colony should provide Navalny with an opportunity to prepare for his court hearings. Russia’s investigative committee was not present at the hearing whose continuation was postponed until Nov. 24. (Mediazona)

Nov. 3, Potma (Republic of Mordovia) – Yury Dmitriev, the former head of Memorial branch in Karelia and a community historian of the Stalin-era political terror who is widely recognized as a political prisoner, was placed in a punishment isolation cell for the fourth time in two months. He will spend there another 10 days for allegedly not properly greeting a colony official. In Memorial’s assessment, this is a worrisome indication of an increasing pressure on Dmitriev. (Memorial Society) In 2016, Dmitriev became a defendant in a criminal case for allegedly indecent photographs of his foster daughter; he was initially acquitted, then rearrested after a successful appeal by the prosecution, and eventually sentenced in 2020 to a total of 13 years in penal colony.

Nov. 7, Kaliningrad – Regional court denied the appeal of Vadim Khairullin against his conviction for alleged ‘repeat violations of the rules for holding public actions’. In August, Khairullin was sentenced to one year in penal colony for his participation in several protests against the jailing of Navalny in January 2021. According to Khairullin’s attorney, the case against him had multiple procedural violations and his guilt was not proven. Memorial has recognized Khairullin as a political prisoner. (RFE/RL)

Nov. 8, Moscow – Police detained five environmental activists – Maksim Lubenets, Vitaly Kolesnikov, Dmitry Privalov, Egor Baranov, and Sergey Sinebryukhov – after they called police to prevent access of construction workers without permits to the Bitsa forest that the activists had been protecting against developers. On Nov. 9, three environmentalists were charged with ‘petty hooliganism’; Sinebryukhov was sentenced to 10 days or arrest; Privalov and Kolesnikov were fined 1,000 RUB each. (Activatica)

Nov. 9, Voronezh – A military court sentenced Dmitry Chalov to 300,000 RUB fine, to be paid in installments over the course of 5 years; this penalty is for allegedly ‘justifying terrorism’ via his posts in ‘VKontakte’. Reportedly the subject of one of his posts was about the need to blow up the Kremlin. (OVD-Info)

             Moscow – City court extended, until Dec. 14, the house arrest of Maria Platonova, a student at the Moscow Higher School of Economics, who is one of eleven defendants in the case charged with ‘inciting mass disturbances and hatred’ around the time of the Duma elections in Sept. 2021. The author of the report notes that there is no evidence of Platonova’s authorship of any of the Telegram posts that are used as the basis for the charges. (SOTA Project)

Nov. 11, Naberezhnye Chelny (Republic of Tatarstan) – Four local residents whose names have not been made public have been reportedly found guilty of “abetting terrorist activities” and belonging to an underground cell of an international organization that the official reports call ‘Islamic State’. They allegedly planned to commit several terrorist acts in Russia and then go to Syria. They have been sentenced to between 8 and 18 years in penal colony. (RFE/RL)

IV.     RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

Nov. 10, Vologda – Regional court satisfied the appeal of Nikolai Stepanov, a local follower of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and amended his sentence from 4 years of penal colony to suspended imprisonment. The court did not change the 4-year suspended sentence of Yury Baranov, another JW believer who was a defendant in the same case. The initial verdict was issued by city court judge in September of this year. Stepanov has already spent 8 months in pre-trial detention, while Baranov was under house arrest for 3 months and is currently prohibited from leaving town. (JW’s Russian-language website on the legal situation in Russia)

Nov. 11, Volgograd – Regional court reviewed the appeal of the prosecution against the sentencing of five local residents convicted of alleged participation in ‘Tablighi Jamaat’, an international Islamic organization, and imposed harsher penalties on three of them as compared to the lower district court ruling: specifically, it replaced two years of a suspended imprisonment with two more years of probation for defendants Amanat Lukpanov, Batr Urazov, and Gilman Nitaliev with actual imprisonment in penal colony. All five defendants in the case, including Aslan Vakuev and Aleksandr Kolesnikov, were additionally sentenced to 10 months of restriction of movement upon release. (Volgograd regional court system press office) The initial six defendants in the case had been in detention since 2020 (one of them, Mikhail Kolotilin, was tried separately and sentenced in 2021 to three years in penal colony). ‘Tablighi Jamaat’ is a missionary Islamic organization that was banned in Russia in 2009 for allegedly ‘seeking global hegemony via the establishment of a worldwide Islamic state’. (Sova Center)

V.       ‘FOREIGN AGENTS’

Nov. 10, Moscow – The Kremlin has officially stripped the individuals deemed to be ‘foreign agents’ of privacy protection: by government order, as of Dec. 1 the register of ‘foreign agents’ published online by the ministry of justice shall include their personal data, including their dates of birth, individual taxpayer numbers, and other identifying information. (Russian government website)

VI.      EXODUS FROM RUSSIA AND TRANSNATIONAL REPRESSION

Oct. 31, MoscowArshak Makichyan, environmental activist with Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future and antiwar protester who was a naturalized Russian citizen born in Armenia, was officially informed that a week earlier he was stripped of his Russian citizenship, along with his father and two brothers, allegedly due to missing documentation in their application for it. Makichyan lived in Russia since the age of 1, has no other citizenship, and is now stateless. After the start of the war, he and his wife left Russia. (RFE/RL) In response to the court ruling, he posted an online statement in Russian and English, which says:

“The Russian state deprived me of my only citizenship. Many would say that I should be happy because I am no longer formally part of a state that rapes and kills women and children in Ukraine, occupies 20% of Georgia, tortures its own citizens. But Russia is something bigger than the Russian state. And I will always be part of the country I love. The indifference and fear of Russian people allowed Putin to start this criminal war. … He wants us to fear and hate each other. He is dividing us, stirring up ethnic and ideological discord. … It is a case against the entire multinational Russia we have been living in for the last 30 years. And we can’t keep silent about it. … Let’s fight together for a country that will be a place for all of us, not just for bloodthirsty murderers who belong in prison.” (Arshak Makichyan’s Facebook page)

Makichyan’s attorney has also stated to RFE/RL that the case against him looks to be politically motivated.

Nov. 9, Moscow – The ministry of interior has put a ‘wanted’ notice on Dmitry Kolezev, journalist and editor of ‘Republic’, an online publication critical of the regime and the war, without specifying the charges against him. (Mediazona) According to Kolezev, he has no idea of the criminal case against him and found out about it from the media, but was recently warned by his friends that the FSB had been ordering a forensic analysis of his publications. (Dmitry Kolezev’s Telegram channel) Official media has reported that Kolezev would be charged with ‘spreading false information’ about the military while ‘taking advantage of his professional position’; this subset of the corresponding article of Russia’s criminal code carries up to 10 years in jail. (RIA Novosti) The charges stem from his Instagram post made in April about the Bucha massacre. (Kommersant) ‘Republic’ (founded as Slon.ru in 2009) was placed on the list of ‘foreign agents’ and its website was blocked by Russia’s authorities in March of this year. Kolezev left Russia after the start of the war and is currently based in Luthuania. (RFE/RL)

Nov. 10, SerbiaIgor Azarov, Krasnodar city councilman, announced that after arriving to Serbia on a job-related trip he resigned from city council and decided to not go back to Russia: “The main reason for this is that I do not support Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.” Had he stayed in Russia, he felt he would soon be mobilized into the army. Azarov, who had been elected in 2020, stated that he felt compelled to resign because he would be unable to address his district needs from abroad. (Igor Azarov’s Telegram channel)

Thank you for reading. As always, we like it when we hear back from you (via email to rcc-ara@rcc-amrusrights.org). You are also more than welcome to join us on this journey by donating toward this project to our parent organization, RCC (a 501c tax-exempt NGO incorporated in New York in 2011), via PayPal – https://bit.ly/3DlUxy1, Facebook – www.facebook.com/RCC.org, or by check – Russian-speaking Community Council, Inc., P.O.Box 578, New York NY 10040.

Project Director Dr. Dmitri Daniel Glinski and our project team

(This bulletin is a successor to ‘In Their Own Voices: Eurasian Human Rights Digest’ that was produced in 2005-06 at Columbia University)

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