Overview of political repression in Russia (February, 2019)

Explanatory note

The principles and methods of work with information about political persecution in the RUSSIAN FEDERATION IN FEBRUARY 2019

In the process of creating this monitoring it has been used the same principles and methods, on the basis of which the information of the political persecution was gathered and processed At the moment, the available data do not give any significant additions to the theoretical part. However, there is a precedent, if any other similar cases appear after, it can be the basis for the allocation of a new type of the political repression, it  is the persecution of LGBT activists from Pyatigorsk, Artem Shitukhin. According to his words, he filed a complaint on imagery threats in his address from the prosecutor’s office. And as a result, his personal data were transferred to the MINISTRY of internal affairs of the Chechen Republic. Then the threat not only has not ceased, but it turned out that the foes got an access to Shitukhin personal data, and now they promise to bring him in Chechnya.

If confirmed that behind these threats are persons, who in one way or another, involved in the activities of the power structures of the Chechen Republic, you can talk about the new form of political persecution: due to regional political agenda, but extending beyond the region, within the framework of a kind of “zones of influence”.

The main trends in the repressive policy in February 2019

In February, there were at least two large-scale repressive campaigns, which took place in the All-Russian scale; there was the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and continuing attacks on the foundation of the “Open Russia”. The magnitude of the repression carried out from the Baltic to the Kurils Islands, the work was coordinated by the various law enforcement agencies what allow confidently assume that the leadership of the Russian Federation do not only authorize it, but it actively supports the implementation of the persecution. Here are some examples:

February 5 – Syktyvkar City the local court confiscated property of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

On 6 February – the Denmark citizen, Christensen was sentenced to six years in prison for being a Jehovah’s Witness.

On 6 and 7 February – in Tyumen Oblast and the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug (KhMAO) the group of Jehovah’s Witnesses was detained.

15 February – new searches and seizures than detention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in various places of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District.

February 18 – The court of Surgut arrested three alleged Jehovah’s Witnesses for three months: Eugenia Fedina, Sergey Loginov and Arthur Severinchik

February,19 – it was chosen a restraint form as a ban on certain actions for the Jehovah’s Witness from Arkhangelsk.

25 February – the FSB officials came home to two followers the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Kurilske and Reydo village on the Kuril island of Etorofu and seized the part of things, including their means of communication.

The most important worth to say, there are some information about using tortures to the detainees, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Surgut. It is also very important and troubling precedent is the verdict against Dennis Christensen – the first representative of his religious group, in respect of which it was initiated a criminal case under Part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of extremist organizations), and he was sentenced.

The repression of the supporters – real and imaginary – “Open Russia” it is also very ambitious and varied:

February 7 – the Court approved the house arrest of activists “Open Russia” Anastasia Shevchenko.

February 12 – in Krasnodar’s court on February, the coordinator of the local branch of “Open Russia” Yan Antonov was fined     15 000 rubles. She was found guilty in the implementation of the unwanted organization (article 20.33 of the Administrative Offenses Code).

February,13 – for the municipal deputy of Bassman region of Moscow and the coordinator of the movement “Open Russia” Victor Kotov defendant started checking on article on public justification of terrorism (article 205.2 of the Criminal Code).

February 14 – the court in Kazan has appointed 30 hours of mandatory works to the female activist “Open Russia”.

In February,18 – the coordinator of the “Open Russia was fined for conducting lectures in Chelyabinsk 

In February 22 an activist of the “Open Russia”, Dmitry Skurikhin was detained in police in the Leningrad oblast.

In February 27 – the participant of the Conference with Mikhail Khodorkovsky Fatima Alliyeva was detained in Moscow.

In addition, there are reports of attempts to provide psychological pressure, informal and illegal efforts of power structures, aimed at creating a personal, professional and household easy for supporters of the “Open Russia”, purposely by the authorities in the work of the media to remove “undesirable” news and materials on this motion from many regions. 

There is also the prosecution of individuals involved in the activities of the “Hizb ut-Tahrir” or suspected of his involvement. There are some fixed new criminal cases, new indictments. So, for example, on February 15, the Moscow District Military Court sentenced the defendants of the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir. to terms 11 to 16 years of general regime colony. They were found guilty under Part 1 or Part 2 of article 205.5 of the Criminal Code (Organization of the activities of the organization, recognized as terrorist).

Also, in February clearly appeared the tendency of campaign against “illegal” missionary, which, apparently, covers all religious groups, which seems to be for the local authorities not enough “traditional” or loyal. Here are some examples:

February 12 – in Sochi court fined for five thousand rubles a local resident for missionary activities on behalf of the Russian Association of Buddhists of rough road tradition of the Karma Kagyu tradition”. Guilty for Part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code (violation of the requirements of the legislation on freedom of conscience, religion, and religious associations).

February 13 – in Novosibirsk lecturers’ seminar for Jewish youth fined for “illegal missionary work.” Welwel Belinsky from the USA and Asher Alytshul from Israel arrived at the invitation of the Jewish community cultural center “Beit Menachem” were fined 2 thousand rubles each.

In addition, on February 15 the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science forbade the admission of the Moscow Theological Seminary of Evangelical Christians Baptist (ECB).

Especially worth to emphasize on the persecution of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine in Simferopol (previously part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate). The cathedral is the only church of Orthodox Church of Ukraine, can be closed soon. It is logical to assume that this reflects the total for the Russian Federation trends of intensification in the fight with the “wrong” religious groups and the reaction to developments in the life of the Church of Ukraine events, particularly acute in specific conditions of Crimea.

Finally, the alarming increase comparing with January, the number of messages about the tortures – in a variety of situations and to different persons persecuted on religious and political grounds. There are reports of tortures:

– to arrested anarchist Azat Miftakhov in Moscow;

– To the arrested Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut;

– To detained in custody Peter Мiloserdov in Moscow (he was beaten);

– Alexander Shestun, former head of the Serpukhov’s district.

In view of all these facts, one can confidently say that the political repression in Russia continued to grow, and the methods by which they are becoming more stringent.

For more information, see the monitoring for February. (availible in Russian)