Overview of political repression in Russia (June, 2019)

Explanatory note. 

On the principles and methods of working with information on political persecution in Russia in June 2019. Theoretical and methodological settings offered by us earlier and partly corrected over the past 6 months of monitoring still seem quite adequate. 

Political persecution carried out by the authorities of the Russian Federation during June, quite fit into the proposed classification. No fundamentally new forms and methods of repression are observed, only their scope changes. 

The main trends in the repressive policy of the Russian Federation in June 2019

Repressive campaigns, both all-Russian and regional, started in the previous period and continued in June. First of all, it concerns the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is still going on all over Russia, and there is no indication that they will soften or, especially, curtail. Repressions against supporters (real and imaginary) of the Open Russia movement also continue, although their intensity seems to have apparently decreased. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the Russian authorities consider that the main goals in the framework of this repressive campaign have been achieved and perhaps this is the result of switching attention to other areas of protest and opposition activity.

Independent candidates in the municipal elections were a new target for political persecution in June. Almost the whole range of repressive tools is used against them: attacks of “unknown”, illegal detentions and arrests, psychological pressure, etc. Based on the available data, it can be argued that such methods of combating non-systemic opposition are used wherever there is a real possibility of getting its representatives into power, at least only at the municipal level. It is obvious that such actions of the police and special services and pro-government “activists”, from the point of view of the authorities, are normative and even mandatory.

Finally, the loudest event of June was the detention of journalist Ivan Golunov, which caused international resonance, and the subsequent protests, which were extremely harshly dispersed by the police. Thus, only on the  12th of June in Moscow has been detained at least 549 people, with many detainees required medical attention. It can be assumed that such emphasized cruelty was a kind of attempt by the authorities (and, specifically, the Interior Ministry) to “save face” after the case against Golunov was closed. In addition, it was also a clear signal to civil society: any protest activity is still under the actual ban, and we should not expect a “thaw”.

In June, a significant number of administrative cases under the new law on “disrespect of power”were recorded throughout Russia. It is already obvious  now that this repressive tool becomes universal and, it is to say, the most favorite one by the security forces and officials.

It is particularly worth noting that in June were also recorded cases of political terror. The most striking example is the attack on video blogger Vadim Kharchenko in Krasnodar, who was stabbed and shot; in fact, it was an attempt at murder.

Here are some concrete examples of political persecution. Concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses

June 3. The Soviet district court of Makhachkala, on June 3, sent 4 Jehovah’s witnesses to jail for two months: Arsen Abdullayev, Maria Karpova, Anton Dergalev and Marat Abdulgalimov. All four were detained after mass searches that took place on June 1 in Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, Kizlyar and Derbent.

June 7. FSB officers detained members of 15 Jehovah’s witness communities in Dagestan.

June 11. Sergey Melnikov was arrested in Primorsky Krai for two months on suspicion of belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

June 14. Criminal case against 78-year-old Kaleria Fedorovna Mamykina was opened in Arkhangelsk.

The pensioner is accused of “continuation of illegal activity of the forbidden local religious organization of Jehovah’s witnesses of Arkhangelsk”. “Continued activity” was manifested in reading the Bible and talking about faith.

Concerning independent candidates for municipal deputies and their supporters and volunteers

June 7. On Usievich street in Moscow was  detained Alexandra Stelmachova, the signatures collector for Ivan Zhdanov, the candidates in deputies of Moscow city Duma. According to her, the police was called by the inhabitant of the house in which she bypassed apartments, agitating people to sign for Zhdanov. This is the second time a resident of the apartment calls the police.

June 22. Sergey Rumyantsev and Evgenia Fedulova, activists of the Kaliningrad headquarters of Alexei Navalny, were detained in Moscow. Activists were detained while collecting signatures for Vladimir Milov, the candidate for deputies of the Moscow city Duma.

June 25. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the city of Irkutsk refused to initiate criminal proceedings against men who beat up volunteers who distributed newspapers of the opposition candidate to the city Duma.

June 26. St. Petersburg, police officers detained Roman Maksimov, candidate for deputy of the municipal formation “Sampsonievskoye”, on an anonymous complaint.

June 29. Polina Kostyleva was detained in St. Petersburg when she was trying to apply for registration as a candidate for municipal deputies of Ekateringofsky district. The reason for the detention was a statement under article 141 of the criminal code (obstruction of the exercise of electoral rights), written to her by people standing in a queue.

In relation to (conditionally) “Open Russia”

June 6. The apartment of the parents of the former coordinator of the Tyumen branch of “Open Russia” Anton Mikhalchuk was searched. During the search security officers seized electronic information carriers. Mikhalchuk is the defendant in a criminal case under article 284.1 of the criminal code (the implementation of the activities of undesirable organizations on the territory of Russia). Now he is abroad, where he is studying. The Russian authorities announced the activist in the Federal wanted list.

June 8. Saransk, the police did not let on stage, and then detained Sergey Marin, Evgeny Pashutkin and Daria Zolotova, who came to the qualifying match of the European football championship in clothes with portraits of activists of “Open Russia”.

10 June. Saint-Petersburg, Peter Trofimov , an activist of the “Open Russia” and “Spring” and coordinator of the St. Petersburg branch of the “Spring” Alexander Lobovikova were detained. 

June 22. The head of the election headquarters of the candidate in mayors of Komsomolsk-on-Amur Artem Khoroshevsky was fined 5 thousand rubles for the reposts of the publications of the “Open Russia” in “Vkontakte”.

June 27. Court in Saransk on June 27 fined Idris Yusupov, one of the organizers of the film about a member of “Open Russia” Anastasia Shevchenko, 6 thousand rubles under the article on cooperation with an undesirable organization (article 20.33 of the administrative code).

In General, in June we observe the following trends:

– The Federal and regional repressive campaigns launched earlier continue, although with varying degrees of intensity; in any case, none of them has been curtailed.

– After the forced retreat in the case of Ivan Golunov protest actions in his support were harshly dispersed. Thus civil society has been given the signal that there is no “dialogue” or, worse still, “retreat” the authorities do not assume.

– Various repressions against independent candidates in the municipal elections show that there is no relief expected.

– The persecution of not only political organizations, but also religious communities, which are considered “non – traditional” or “undesirable” – Baptists, Adventists, Orthodox, not subject to the ROC MP, etc., continues.