April 12, 2023

Screws are Tightening


Screws are Tightening
Moscow, 2019. Valery Tenevoy

In the nine months in 2022 following the start of Russia's War on Ukraine, Russian courts handed down 69 sentences under new “anti-war” articles, and defendants were sentenced to real prison terms in 20 cases. Those numbers have been met and exceeded in just the four months from December 2022 to March 2023: 65 sentences have been handed down, 27 of them with real prison terms.

Thus, we are seeing a doubling of the intensity of political repression against Russian citizens.

The length of prison sentences themselves have also increased, and new arrests are on the rise, revealing the regime's inability to cope with the continued murmur of antiwar protests. In March alone, according to OVD-Info, more than 800 persons were subjected to various forms of repression or harrassment by authorities for taking an anti-war stance, and 37 new cases were opened.

Some 40 percent of the state's cases have to do with “dissemination of deliberately false information” (Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code) and “discrediting” (Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code of the Criminal Code) the armed forces. But there is a new wrinkle. In March, in Khabarovsk, an activist of the “I/We Furgal” movement was charged under the article “incitement to treason” (Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Criminal Code).

Victimizing Children

Another new development has put children at risk. In two cases in March, children whose parents are defendants in anti-war cases were sent to an orphanage.

In the Tula region, 13-year-old Masha Moskaleva was held in a boarding school for over three weeks, and her father is being deprived of parental rights.

In Buryatia, the 15-year-old adopted son of activist Natalya Filonova son was sent to an orphanage, and she herself has been in a pre-trial detention center since November of last year.

And then there is extrajudicial pressure, e.g. threatening or harassing individuals without starting a court case. On March 19, a presentation of books by the artist Sasha Skochilenko, who is accused of spreading fake news about the Russian Armed Forces, was disrupted at the Open Space civil club.

Sixteen-year-old Yegor Balazeykin, suspected of setting fire to two military registration and enlistment offices, was threatened by local security forces, who said they would beat and rape him, then send him to a psychiatric hospital.

On March 21, it became known that a criminal case had been opened for “repeat discrediting” against Oleg Orlov, co-chairman of the Memorial Human Rights Center.

More Repressive Laws

In addition to the 33 repressive laws enacted since the invasion began, amendments to Articles 207.3 and 280.3 of the Criminal Code came into force in March. It is now possible to prosecute persons for “discrediting” volunteers participating in the war in Ukraine, specifically, for talking about criminals recruited for the war from prisons. The maximum term of punishment under these articles was increased from three to five years, and it allows the accused to be immediately taken into custody; the statute of limitations has been increased to six years.

More Foreign Agents

In March, 13 persons and organizations were added to the register of “foreign agents” (23 were added in February), including economist Sergei Guriev, blogger Ilya Varlamov, feminist Nika Vodwood (NixelPixel), the World Wide Fund for Nature, and others. Four organizations were added to the list: Transparency International, the British Institute of Public Administration, the German organization Solidarus and the Forum of Free Peoples of Post-Russia.

Since the beginning of Russia's War on Ukraine, 27 organizations have received the status of "undesirable."

The Extremism Feint

In addition to the “anti-war” line of attack, the state has also been vigorously pursuing critics with its "anti-extremist” line. According to the Sova analytical center, Russian courts issued 48 sentences against 53 people for “aggressive public statements” in first three months of 2023, of which 21 were sentenced in March against 22 people. The reasons were calls in social networks to attack government officials and overthrow the regime, publication of photographs of Hitler, the rehabilitation of Nazism, and the demonstration of Nazi symbols.

In March, four people were convicted of “participation in extremist communities and organizations” (in total, since the beginning of 2023, 17 people have been charged with such a charge). In connection with the “rehabilitation of Nazism” case, on March 21, searches were carried out in Moscow against employees of International Memorial and at its offices (also in mid-March, volunteers and employees of the Perm Memorial were searched).

Source: RE:Russia

 

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