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THE RUSSIA OF TOMORROW: Antiwar Resistance & Human Rights Defense Digest / ISSUE # 14-15, Nov. 14-27, 2022

Table of contents

I. RESISTANCE AND REPRISALS IN UKRAINE’S OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

II. MILITARY DISCONTENT AND REFUSALS TO FIGHT

III. THE MOTHERS’ AND WIVES’ COUNCIL: A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT WARPED BY DISINFORMATION AND CONSPIROLOGY

IV. INDIVIDUAL CIVILIAN PROTEST

A. Nonviolent actions and reprisals – new cases

B. Nonviolent actions and reprisals – ongoing cases

C. Actual or alleged violent resistance

V. POLITICAL REPRISALS DIRECTLY UNRELATED TO THE WAR

VI. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

VII. REPRISALS AGAINST LGBTQ+

VIII. REPRISALS AGAINST THE MEDIA

IX. ‘FOREIGN AGENTS’

X. EXODUS FROM RUSSIA AND TRANSNATIONAL REPRESSION

Welcome to the new issue of our digest that covers the past two weeks. Among its contents, we’d like to draw your attention in particular to ASTRA’s report about the mass detentions of Russian soldiers refusing to fight; and to our section about the military wives’ and mothers’ movement.

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 legacy of the Soviet-era Chronicle of Current Events that was bringing international attention not just to the most famous and prominent dissenters but to the everyday resistance to oppression at the grassroots level. Yet with the rapidly increasing number of reports about protests and reprisals, we are bound to be selective and do not attempt to provide comprehensive coverage.

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 our world.

I. RESISTANCE AND REPRISALS IN UKRAINE’S OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

Nov. 14 – In Yalta (Crimea, Ukraine), occupying authorities forced a woman to apologize on video for having turned on a song by a popular Ukrainian singer. And on Nov. 22 in Belogorsk (also in Crimea), Andrey Belozerov spoke to Russian antiwar media about having spent 14 days under ‘administrative arrest’ because of a Ukrainian song that he posted on his page in VKontakte. Belozerov taught at a local trades school for 23 years; he was fired from his job in September for a similar online post for which he also spent 13 days behind the bars.

Nov. 15 – In the township of Kirovskoe (also in Crimea), an unnamed 42-year-old man was sentenced to 5 months of compulsory public works for ‘inciting extremism on the Internet’, allegedly by online posts calling for violence against the Russian army. He will be further prohibited from posting online for another 2 years. Per pro-Kremlin media, the defendant allegedly pleaded guilty and repented at the court hearing.

Nov. 18 – In New Haven (Connecticut, United States), the Yale School of Public Health released its report, ‘Extrajudicial Detentions and Enforced Disappearances in Kherson Oblast’, produced with support of the U.S. State Department. The report documents “allegations of detention and disappearance … consistent with an intentional and targeted campaign” and involving 226 individuals between March and October 2022. About a quarter of them “were allegedly tortured and five are known to have died in custody or shortly thereafter, all allegedly because of torture”. As of the date of this publication, less than half of 226 were known to have been released and could be located.

Nov. 22 – In Kerch (Crimea, Ukraine), city court sentenced an unnamed 36-year old resident of Yevpatoria (Crimea, Ukraine) to one year in penal colony, with probation, for ‘public incitement of extremist activities’. Upon release, he will be also prohibited to work in local government, to teach, and to organize large-scale events for another 2 years. The man is reportedly a sailor who sent video messages from his ship upon its arrival to Kerch, urging Russian soldiers to surrender to Ukrainian forces and calling for violence against Russians. Charges against him were filed in July.

Nov. 24 – In Rostov-on-Don, Russia’s southern district military court sentenced five Crimean Tatars – Enver Ametov (47 years old), Yashar Muedinov (54 years old), Ruslan Suleymanov (39 years old), Rustem Sheykhaliev (43 years old), and Osman Arifmemetov (37 years old) – to imprisonment for ‘terrorist activities and attempt to seize power’, in connection with their alleged involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Hizb ut-Tahrir (hereinafter HuT; translated from Arabic as ‘the Party of Liberation’) is an international Islamic organization which is banned in Russia, China, Germany, and most of the predominantly Muslim countries. Ametov and Muetdinov were sentenced to a total of 13 years of imprisonment, Suleymanov, Sheykhaliev, and Arifmemetov – to 14 years; each of their terms includes 4 years in jail followed with the remainder of the time in hard-labor penal colony. Upon release, they will also have to spend a year under additional restrictions on their movement and participation in public gatherings. All of them are activists of the Crimean Solidarity, an informal group that provides support to victims of political reprisals. They have been in detention since 2019. Arifmemetov worked as a math teacher, Suleymanov as computer programmer, Ametov and Muetdinov as construction workers, and Sheykhaliev as an assistant cook. As noted by their defense, evidence against them was based on testimonies of classified witnesses whose information was not verifiable but which were contradicting themselves. The court refused to listen to Suleymanov’s and Arifmemetov’s closing remarks as they wanted to deliver them in their native language. The closing remarks of all five defendants, telling about their families’ and their people’s struggle under Russia’s rule, are available on the Crimean Solidarity website.

Nov. 26 – In Berdyansk (Zaporizzhe region), the occupying forces detained Ivan Levitsky and Bohdan Geleta, two clerics of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC); they are being charged with storing military equipment on their church premises. UGCC authorities note that the priests never took part in any protests and that accusations against them were levied only after Ukraine’s security service conducted a search at the headquarters of the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

II. MILITARY DISCONTENT AND REFUSALS TO FIGHT

Pro- and anti-Kremlin media have continued to report about numerous flare-ups of discontent among mobilized soldiers; while those occurrences that have become known ostensibly involved only material conditions, questions about the purpose and the legitimacy of the war were often implicit in the protest, lurking beneath its surface and kept under the lid most likely by fear and disorientation.

Over the past two week, ASTRA (Telegram channel founded and led by Anastasia Chumakova after her firing from NYC-based RTVI for her public criticism of this TV station) kept releasing updates to its month-long investigation about Russian soldiers imprisoned on the occupied territories for refusing to fight. On Nov. 17, it reported, citing relatives of detained soldiers, that there were circa 300 of such ‘refuseniks’ held in the basement of a cultural center in the borderline village of Zaitsevo (Luhansk region, occupied part of Ukraine) and that new people were being herded into that basement all the time. (On the same day, RFE/RL posted a video about two of the refuseniks imprisoned in ZaitsevoAleksei Arsyutin and Andrei Marchuk, both from Moscow region.) According to one of the relatives, soldiers were given food only once a day and constantly threatened or otherwise pressured into returning to the frontlines. The relatives who tried to visit them were denied entry to the village and told that they would be required to obtain a special military pass. ASTRA claims to have identified about 70 of those held in Zaitsevo by their names. It also publicized the location of seven more basement jails in Donetsk and Luhansk regions where ‘refuseniks’ are being held. And on Nov. 20, it ran an interview with Mikhail N., a mobilized soldier from Primorye region and one of reportedly 14 soldiers who in early October filed official refusals to fight in Ukraine and were imprisoned without trial in a basement in the village of Zavitne Bazhannya (Donetsk region, occupied part of Ukraine). According to him, at the time of his release on Nov. 13 or 14, there were about 25 more ‘refuseniks’ held at that location; he stated that he now wanted to campaign for the release of other soldiers imprisoned by their commanders for the same. On Nov. 26, ASTRA posted a photo from the basement in Zavitne Bazhannya saying there were still about 20 ‘refuseniks’ there.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 16, Olga Romanova, Russia’s prominent campaigner for the rights of inmates who currently lives in Germany, claimed that operatives of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private army, had committed at least 40 extrajudicial executions of their recruits from Russia’s jails (of which only the murder of Yevgeny Nuzhin has been publicized with online video footage). These recruits get executed by Wagner for desertions and attempts to surrender, among other reasons.

Nov. 14 – A periodical in the Krasnodar region published a complaint of the wife of one of the mobilized soldiers currently stationed in Ukraine’s Donbas region about her husband’s and his fellow soldiers’ lack of basic equipment. An official complaint on behalf of 15 soldiers to their civil and military authorities was filed a month earlier but remained unresolved. In the absence of government support, soldiers’ wives had to buy and send them shoes and hatchets. The publication notes the contradictory statements of federal and regional governments about the distribution of responsibilities between them for providing for soldiers’ everyday needs. On the same day, the governor of Russia’s Lipetsk region admitted to receiving “many worrisome complaints” from soldiers’ relatives about the lack of equipment, training, and even supervision for mobilized soldiers deployed on the frontline; the governor stated that he was going to request the ministry of defense to conduct a review of this situation.

Nov. 16 – In Novosibirsk, wives of soldiers mobilized from this city reported that 12 of the mobilized stationed at an unspecified village on the border filed official refusals to serve on the frontline, allegedly due to the absence of proper training and medical check-ups.

Nov. 17 – In Vladimir region, relatives of mobilized men told a Telegram channel that these soldiers (deployed in an unspecified village of the Luhansk region in the occupied part of Ukraine) abandoned their position and turned their weapons over to the commanders, refusing to fight for lack of proper equipment. In response, they were allegedly threatened with extrajudicial execution, then asked to go back to the frontline. Meanwhile, their relatives addressed the authorities with a demand to “get their issues resolved”.

Nov. 19 – In Yaroslavl, relatives of several mobilized soldiers informed the media that these soldiers had refused to continue their training due to its low quality and their commanders’ alleged misappropriation of the equipment sent to them as humanitarian aid. Prior to that, they complained about the lack of promised payments.

                On the same day, in Belgorod region, two mobilized soldiers were arrested in front of their regiment for refusing to follow the orders to deploy to Ukraine. According to the media, they stated their refusals both verbally and in writing. The footage of their arrest quickly spread through Russian Telegram channels. Criminal charges were filed against them for ‘disobeying orders’, reportedly the first such criminal case since the start of the war; these ‘refuseniks’ are facing a jail term of 2 to 3 years.

Nov. 21 – In Sverdlovsk region, mobilized soldiers and their relatives filed over 125 complaints with a single Duma member over the lack of promised monthly payments or underpayments. Over the next 24 hours, he reported receiving another 537 complaints about the same. Meanwhile, on Nov. 23, In a video footage published on Twitter, soldiers mobilized from Yekaterinburg appealed to their city administration, the ministry of defense, and Putin personally over the lack of promised monthly payments and the inequality in payments to soldiers mobilized from different regions of Russia.

Nov. 22 – In Smolensk, the wife of a volunteer recruit who signed a 3-month contract with the army and was deployed in August to Ukraine told a pro-Kremlin channel that since then they never received any of the promised payments. Her husband is the only breadwinner in a family with four children. She keeps filing complaints with various government offices but has not received a response.

              –  On the same day, Current Time, a joint Russian-language video project of RFE/RL and Voice of America, published a compilation of video recordings by soldiers and their female relatives from across Russia. In these recordings, they complain about their material conditions, about having to fight with rifles against Ukrainian tanks, about fellow soldiers being killed by friendly fire, and the broken helmets they received. Some state that they were “dropped like dogs” “somewhere in a field” in Ukraine, with no proper equipment.

III.      THE MOTHERS’ AND WIVES’ COUNCIL: A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT WARPED BY DISINFORMATION AND CONSPIROLOGY

The self-organizing of women from military families and their vocal demands were arguably the most significant development within Russia’s society in the past few weeks. The All-Russian Mothers’ and Wives’ Council was launched in the end of September after the mobilization announcement. In one of their very first posts on their Telegram channel, the Council’s organizers directly attacked Putin, stating that “he is failing to fulfill his responsibilities”. They demanded that he send FSB, police, investigative committee, and other security and law enforcement agencies’ staff, as well as over 2 million members of his most loyal United Russia party, to the frontlines, to replace the mobilized soldiers. They also pointed to the glaring disparities within Russia in their public address to Putin and Shoigu in which they listed young scions of Moscow’s most powerful families, including Putin’s own sons-in-law, and demanded an official response as to whether these men were being called up to the army on a par with those less privileged, and if not, why. The channel also reported on government officials’ and commanders’ threats to whistleblowers in the army. Local chapters of the Council sprang up quickly across the country. The organization did not officially incorporate (apparently to avoid being immediately sued and liquidated) and does not have an official leadership but is de facto led by Olga Tsukanova, the mother of a draftee from Samara. The Council’s national convention, which was held online, was filled with scathing critique of the regime and the war, calls to resist, and condemnations of Putin’s statements that hinted at his possible use of nuclear weapons. The convention launched a petition to Putin “prohibiting” him from such use, which also included a demand to “restore power to the people”.

Yet at the same time, at least some of the organization’s key leadership appeared to have been quickly co-opted by retrograde populist as well as pro-Kremlin entities; they, in turn, seem to have successfully redirected the aim of its protest from the war as such to the material conditions in the army and the treatment of soldiers. Within days of its founding, the Council’s Telegram channel began transmitting messages of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Ramzan Kadyrov, and ‘The Union of Russia’s Revival’ (OSVR), an ultranationalist entity calling for the restoration of the USSR and spreading anti-Semitic concoctions about “the role of Chabad” in pitting Russia and Ukraine against each other; OSVR apparently provided its bank account for donations to the Council, and the Council agreed to join OSVR as a collective member organization. On the other hand, vigorous debates in comments to the channel’s posts appear to show that many of its supporters and followers are completely opposed to the invasion and to the regime itself.

The Council has been quite successful in forcing the authorities to meet and listen to its members’ grievances. On Nov. 15 in St. Petersburg, after two days of picketing of the headquarters of the Western military district by about 20 Council members, which was widely covered by the media, the organization’s representatives virtually stormed the entrance to the headquarters and were allowed to meet with the district’s military authorities. Afterwards, some of the soldiers’ mothers reported that their sons were being pressured by commanders to persuade their mothers to end their activism. On Nov. 16, Tsukanova stated in an interview that their demands included negotiations with Ukraine and renunciation of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia. At the press conference held online on Nov. 20, Tsukanova denounced not only corruption in the military but also political reprisals, intimidation, and alleged torture of one of the critics of the operation in Ukraine (while simultaneously spreading conspiracy theories about Russian law enforcement alleged control by ‘transnational elites’). The organization called upon Shoigu and other senior government officials to meet with its representatives at a roundtable. In its statement on Nov. 21, it denounced the laws criminalizing the ‘disparagement of the army’ and stated that “the real discreditation of the army is caused … by those who issue criminal orders and who let war criminals get away without retribution…”. During its roundtable held on Nov. 23 in Moscow, the Council declared that it had “no confidence in the power system” in the country; denounced the corruption of ‘Putin’s clan’ and of minister Shoigu; and demanded “to put an end to reprisals against human rights defenders and civic activists” – while at the same time calling upon the army “to destroy all those transportation lines that are used to supply equipment and ammunition to Ukraine’s army” and regurgitating conspiracies about Chabad and a ‘secret deal’ between Putin and Zelensky. The roundtable issued an open letter to Putin, charging him with having replaced democracy in Russia with a “totalitarian-authoritarian” order.

On the next day, official media reported about Putin’s plans to meet with mothers of some of the mobilized soldiers; the Council immediately stated that its representatives had not been invited to the meeting and challenged to Putin to a public dialogue. Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, Russia’s oldest military watchdog organization, was also not invited, nor did it seem to be interested in such a meeting. As stated by the organization’s leader Valentina Melnikova, “what can we talk with Putin about? We are a peacemaking organization”. Putin met ‘soldiers’ mothers’ on Nov. 25 in Novo-Ogarevo; an opposition channel reported that most of the invitees at the meeting were either current or past government officials, their relatives, and officers of pro-Kremlin organizations.

On Nov. 24-25, pro-Kremlin channels reported of the Council’s alleged plans to stage a protest on the Red Square on Russia’s Mother Day, Nov. 27; the organization denied having such plans. Official sources have also accused it of being funded by the CIA. On Nov. 26, Russia’s prosecutor general ordered to block access to the Council’s chat group in VKontakte, signaling that this movement was not going to be tolerated any longer. Meanwhile, on Nov. 27 (Russia’s Mothers Day), the website of Vesna, a banned antiwar network, published an unsigned ‘Open letter of Russian Federation’s mothers’ to Russia’s senior legislators sitting on family-related committees, on behalf of “mothers of the Feminist Antiwar Resistance movement and a group of mothers of mobilized soldiers and regular draftees”. The letter stated that “the so-called ‘special military operation’ causes destruction, grief, blood, and tears”. While its critique of the situation in Russia covers a broad range of issues, such as child poverty, the authors emphasize that they are against their men’s participation in hostilities that “were unleashed against the will of many Russian citizens” and they “demand the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine and the return of all soldiers back home”.

IV.     INDIVIDUAL CIVILIAN PROTEST

A. Nonviolent actions and reprisals – new cases

16 Russian organizations and groups – including ‘Vesna’ [Spring] Youth Democratic Movement, Feminist Antiwar Resistance, Movement of Conscientious Objectors, and others – initiated an online petition demanding that Putin sign a decree announcing the official end of the ‘partial mobilization’. As stated in the appeal, ‘our loved ones, our relatives, sons, husbands, and brothers are still under threat: they may become victims of the mobilization and of the ‘special military operation’. By Nov. 25, the petition was signed by over 42,000 people. Meanwhile, on Nov. 17, a district court in Vladimir ordered to block access to another major petition against mobilization with nearly 500,000 signatures; this order was sought by the military prosecutor’s office.

Nov. 18 – In Gorno-Altaysk (Republic of Altay), a local group called ‘The People’s Council of the Republic of Altay’ visited the acting mayor of the city for a scheduled appointment to inquire about their city readiness for war-related emergency situations, including evacuations, bomb shelters, and strategic reserves of food and drugs. The group started videorecording the meeting, but the acting mayor demanded that they turn off their recorders and after their refusal to do so ordered to kick the visitors out of her office. In response, the group called upon other city residents to “organize to protect themselves and their families”.

Nov. 20 – In Moscow, Maria Volokh, former candidate of the liberal Yabloko party in this year’s neighborhood council elections, along with three other Yabloko activists (Maria Balandina, Viktoria Makeeva, and Irina Rodionova), staged a street action against the threat of nuclear war next to the defense ministry headquarters. On the next day, Volokh was detained and sentenced to 20 days of administrative arrest for ‘repeat violation of the rules of holding public actions’. Other participants of the protest were interrogated and one was sentenced to a 20,000 RUB fine. Volokh was previously fined 60,000 RUB for alleged violation of said rules and for ‘disparaging the army’ (which she did by organizing a protest against censorship and political reprisals). In the run-up to the elections, she was removed from the ballot for allegedly possessing citizenship of the Netherlands, which she in fact did not have.

Nov. 25 – Also in Moscow, antiwar channel Baza reported that several days earlier an unknown person wrote ‘No to war!’ on the Kremlin’s wall. The inscription was deleted; nearly a dozen of additional police and security officers were allegedly dispatched to protect the wall.

B. Nonviolent actions and reprisals – ongoing cases

Nov. 14 – In Barnaul, Maria Ponomarenko, charged with spreading ‘false information’ about the army, was released from pre-trial detention and placed under house arrest. Ponomarenko is a RusNews reporter and mother of two young children. Charges against her are based on her online post about the deaths of civilians in Mariupol’s theater during its shelling by the Russian forces. She was in detention since April and reportedlyattempted suicide in September.

Nov. 17 – In Abakan (Republic of Khakassia), city court ruled to remand the case against Mikhail Afanasyev, chief editor of Novy fokus [New Focus] periodical and Yabloko member, to the prosecutors due to unspecified errors in their filing. The prosecution was given one month to correct the errors; Afanasyev’s pre-trial detention was extended to Jan. 16 of next year. Reprisals against Afanasyev and his publication stem from his article published in April about 11 officers of the local special designation units who refused to be deployed to Ukraine.

– On the same day in Kolpashevo (Tomsk region), a local judge closed the case against 61-year-old Natalia Indukaeva who was charged with ‘vandalism’ in March for allegedly making an inscription about the war in Ukraine on the wall of a cultural center. According to the court statement, the woman repented and compensated the damage. She was previously fined 30,000 RUB for ‘disparaging the army’.

Nov. 18 – In Penza, a local court dismissed the charges of ‘disparaging the army’ that were filed in June against antiwar protester Albert Gerasimov. The case against him was based on the allegation that he made a blue-and-yellow-colored graffiti on the fence of a former governor’s mansion which read ‘Peace to the world, no need for a war’. Forensic experts affiliated with a lab of the ministry of justice concluded that this inscription “did not contain indications of disparaging the armed forces and was not encouraging to obstruct their utilization”.

Nov. 23 – In Moscow, district court judge extended the arrest of Ilya Yashin, one of Russia’s leading democratic oppositionists, to May 10, 2023. The extension was sought by the prosecutor on the grounds of Yashin’s ownership of real estate in Bulgaria, even though he had not been there for several years. In the hearing on extending his detention, Yashin stated that he could have left Russia long ago but was a “patriot” and did not believe he was acting against his country’s interests. The trial hearing was postponed to Nov. 29. Yashin is charged with spreading ‘false information’ about the Russian military, via his YouTube stream show in April in which he discussed the Bucha massacre; under the new laws, he may be sentenced to 10 years in jail. He has been imprisoned since June, initially on charges of disobeying police. In his extensive interview published on the same day by Meduza, Yashin expressed his regrets that he and his fellow oppositionists “had believed that the Putin system could be fundamentally changed by civilized means”, such as petitioning, elections, or protest rallies. “On the other hand, what else should we have done? … We are not killers; we are made of a different material.” Yashin believes that after Putin’s exit Russia is likely to go through “a dark time of troubles”, including a possible attempt to install a “military junta”; but there are still chances that the democratic movement will prevail, because “society is tired of aggression and violence”.

C. Actual or alleged violent resistance

Nov. 16 – In Krasnoobsk (Novosibirsk region), Dmitry Karimov, 22-year-old disabled man, told local media that he had falsely confessed, under duress and threats of execution, to setting two pro-war banners on fire. One of these banners was hanging on a building of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and was burned on Sept. 30. Karimov was charged with ‘intentional destruction of property’; he is prohibited by court from going out of town, and may face up to 5 years in jail. According to his revelation, in October he was detained by masked men who drove him to the woods and beat him with electric shocker, demanding his admission of guilt.

Nov. 22 – In Krasnodar, Oleg Vazhdaev was indicted for ‘committing act of terrorism’ with his failed attempt to burn a local conscription station in the night of Sept. 25. Vazhdaev reportedly confessed to attempted arson, saying that he was fearing for his relatives due to mobilization.

Nov. 26 – In Novorossiysk (Krasnodar region), after a month of search, authorities detained a 50-year-old man for allegedly vandalizing cars that were decorated with semi-official pro-war symbols.

V.      POLITICAL REPRISALS DIRECTLY UNRELATED TO THE WAR

Nov. 14 – In Moscow, the ministry of justice outlawed the All-Tatar Public Center (VTOTs) and put it on the list of extremist organizations. VTOTs, whose activities date back to Gorbachev’s perestroika, had already been disbanded in September by Tatarstan’s supreme court, as sought by the prosecution.

              – On the same day, and also in Moscow, police detained Stanislav Ilyin, 40-year-old Belarusian citizen who is on the ‘wanted’ list in Belarus on criminal charges for allegedly ‘offending the president’ of the country. Ilyin is likely to be deported to Belarus where he is facing up to 4 years in jail.

Nov. 22 – In Krasnodar, regional court denied the appeal by Andrey Pivovarov, former executive director of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia that was ruled ‘undesirable’ by the Kremlin. His closing remarks at the appeal hearing are published here. Pivovarov was detained in May 2021, found guilty of managing an undesirable organization, and sentenced in July 2022 to 4 years in penal colony and a prohibition on engaging in public activism for another 8 years.

Nov. 24 – In Moscow, police and officers of the Kremlin’s ‘anti-extremist center’ broke into a coworking space and dispersed a meeting of solidarity with six imprisoned young leftists in Tyumen that have been charged with ‘organizing a terrorist network’. About 30 participants of the meeting, including journalists and minors, were detained for several hours at the precinct without access to attorneys; police reportedly used violence to compel a SOTA journalist to provide access to her phone without a court order, as required by Russian law. This brings additional attention to ‘the Tyumen case’, where all six defendants – Nikita Oleynik (the alleged organizer of the group), Roman Paklin, Yury Neznamov, Daniil Chertykov, Deniz Aidyn, and Kirill Brikhave complained of torture during interrogations; five of them filed these complaints with Russia’s investigative committee. Their friends are raising funds online for their legal expenses.

VI.     RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

Nov. 14 – In Georgievsk (Stavropol region), city court convicted Viktor Zimovsky and Anatoly and Irina Gezik (husband and wife) of ‘extremism’ for their alleged involvement in Jehovah’s Witnesses organizational structure. Zimovsky was sentenced to 6 years and 2 months in penal colony; Anatoly Gezik to 4 years and 2 months of compulsory public works; and Irina Gezik to 4 years of suspended imprisonment. The defendants pleaded not guilty. Zimovsky is reportedly a disabled man with 3 minor children. Currently in Stavropol region, 8 other JW followers, 5 of them elderly women, are standing trial in similar court cases.

Nov. 21 – In Kislovodsk (Krasnodar region), a court sentenced eight local men – Imanali Khadzhiev, Issa Bogatyrev, Komil Kholbaev, Amil Gaziev, Murat Apsov, Dmitry Ledenev, Aleksandr Bazhenov, and Abumuslim Fatullaev – each of them to 2.5 years in penal colony, for alleged participation in At-Takfir wal-Hijra, a putative Islamic organization that is banned as ‘extremist’ in Russia since 2010. According to local FSB, these men were “trying to recruit residents into the organization by propaganda on behalf of foreign emissaries” and by holding meetings in which they “propagandized” Islam as superior to other religions; the indictment did not mention any political activities or violent intentions whatsoever on the part of the defendants. Takfir wal-Hijra (meaning ‘Excommunication and Exodus’ in Arabic) is known to have existed almost exclusively in North Africa and Lebanon where it was involved in local political and religious struggles; experts have expressed doubts as to its actual presence and purpose in Russia.

VII.      REPRISALS AGAINST LGBTQ+

          Nov. 24 – In Moscow, Russia’s state Duma unanimously passed the law that threatens fines of up to 5 million RUB (over $80,000) for the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sex relations’ and gender change, regardless of the age of the target audience. Foreigners found guilty of such transgressions may be deported. Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin stated triumphantly that this law “will enable to protect our children and the future of the country from the darkness spread by the US and European states”.

Nov. 25 – In Kazan (Republic of Tatarstan), Acceptance.Queer, local LGBTQ+ support center announced the suspension of its activities and the shutting down of its social media channels in response to the new law against LGBTQ+ “propaganda”. The group can still be contacted at accept.center@gmail.com.

VIII.   REPRISALS AGAINST THE MEDIA

Nov. 17 – In Moscow, Russian media oversight agency ordered to block access to the website of the Nobel Prize-winning Novaya gazeta, which suspended its publication back in March.

Nov. 22 – In Kazan (Republic of Tatarstan), a court issued arrest order, in absentia, for a term of 2 months, for Andrey Grigoryev, a reporter of RFE/RL Idel.Realities, and placed him on a ‘wanted’ list. Grigoryev, who is already on the list of ‘foreign agents’, is charged with “public incitement to terrorist activities, justification or propaganda of terrorism in mass media”. Charges are reportedly based on his YouTube video footage covering the assault on Russia’s ambassador in Poland.

IX. ‘FOREIGN AGENTS’

Nov. 23 – In Moscow, the State Duma (the lower house of Russia’s legislature) passed afar-reaching bill on regulating ‘foreign agents’ activities. The bill prohibits ‘foreign agents’ from: working in civil service; teaching in public schools and universities; teaching minors in any, public or private, setting; contracting with government agencies; donating to political parties or transacting business with them; organizing or co-sponsoring any public events; taking part in election campaigns; and serving on the boards of elections, except as non-voting members. Any information produced by ‘foreign agents’ is banned from distribution to minors. Any print materials produced by them can be sold in non-transparent packaging only. The ministry of justice will be entitled to obtain their bank records and even information about their marriage and divorce acts “for oversight purposes”. In a major restriction on their property rights, the bank accounts of organizations branded as ‘foreign agents’ will no longer be insured by the government. Further, the definition of a ‘foreign agent’ will no longer be limited to those who receive actual foreign funding and will include anyone considered to be under ‘foreign influence’. These regulations are set to be enacted from Dec. 1.

X.      EXODUS FROM RUSSIA AND TRANSNATIONAL REPRESSION

Nov. 17 – In Madrid, Nikita Chibrin, who until recently was reportedly a soldier of unit 51460 of the Russian army’s 64th motorized rifle brigade that was deployed in Bucha during its short-lived occupation, requested asylum upon arriving to Spain. Chibrin is a 27-year-old native of Yakutsk. He has declared his willingness to testify about the war crimes that were ordered by his commander. Vladimir Osechkin, producer of Gulagu.net, a multimedia antiwar project with over 500,000 followers that is based in Paris, claims that his team arranged Chibrin’s departure from Russia. On the same day in Paris, Roman Rugevich, producer of an anti-torture Telegram channel, was allowed to enter France and apply for asylum there, with assistance from Gulagu.net and ‘New dissidents foundation’.

Nov. 22 – In Khabarovsk, regional court rejected prosecution’s appeal and upheld the prior acquittal of Yulia Tsvetkova, 29-year-old artist and LGBTQ+ activist. Tsvetkova was charged in 2019 with producing and distributing pornography because of her nude drawings that she posted online. In July of this year, she was found not guilty by local court. By Russian law, she is entitled to full exoneration; yet at the same time she remains on the list of ‘foreign agents’ of Russia’s ministry of justice. On the next day, an exhibit of her paintings opened in Marseille, France. On Nov. 25, it became known that Tsvetkova had left abroad. Her mother, who resides in France, stated to RFE/RL that two new criminal cases had been initiated against Tsvetkova in Russia .

Nov. 23 – In Kirov, district court held the initial hearing in the case of Prokhor Protasoff, 34-year-old composer, orchestra conductor, and the author of Kirov’s anthem who has lived in Toronto since last year and is being tried in absentia. Protasoff is charged with ‘disparaging the army’ with his online comments in VKontakte. Some of these posts were about the Bucha massacre and about Russia’s missile strike on the Kremenchug mall. Soon after Protasoff made these post, his parents’ apartment was searched, he was placed on the ‘wanted’ list, and his VKontakte account was blocked by order of the prosecutor general. The court questioned several witnesses including his former teachers, colleagues, and even his mother. The charges against Protasoff carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail with subsequent prohibition on certain types of activities. The next hearing is set for Dec. 21. Protasoff is a Fulbright scholar and a recent graduate of Bard College.

Nov. 24 – Antiwar channel SOTA reported that Ilya Danilov, former coordinator of the local chapter of Navalny’s movement in Lipetsk (2017-21), was placed on the ‘wanted’ list by Russia’s police ministry. Danilov left Russia last year. On the same day, according to OVD-Info, two more Navalny associates – Stas Kalinichenko, his movement’s coordinator in Kemerovo; and Sergey Bespalov, his movement’s coordinator in Irkutsk – were also put on the interior ministry’s ‘wanted’ list. Bespalov had left Russia after another criminal verdict against him was issued, while Kalinichenko’s whereabouts have not been reported. Charges against them have not been made public, yet both are listed as ‘terrorists’ and ‘extremists’ by Russia’s financial monitoring agency.

Nov. 26 – As reported by Pavel Chikov, Russia’s justice ministry launched the first criminal proceedings against those designated by it as ‘individual foreign agents’, charging them with alleged violations of foreign agent requirements that have been enacted since the start of the war. The first three cases are against international celebrities living in exile who used to belong to Russia’s establishment. Hearings in these cases will be held in three different Moscow district courts in the first half of December: the case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Dec. 2; against Yevgeny Kiselyov on Dec. 8; and against Garry Kasparov on Dec. 12. The justice ministry’s list of ‘individual foreign agents’ currently contains 62 names.

Thank you for reading. On the Giving Tuesday, or any other day, we will appreciate your donation toward this work, which can be given 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 – to Russian-speaking Community Council, Inc., P.O.Box 578, New York NY 10040. Have a nice day, and see you again soon.

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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