14.09.2019

Monitoring of political persecution in August 2019

In total, the August monitoring contains 121 reports on events recorded in 43 points of 33 regions of Russia and on the occupied territory of Crimea. Leaders of the rating of repression by region are Moscow (43% of the total number of reports), St. Petersburg (9%), Arkhangelsk (4%), Sverdlovsk (3%) and Moscow regions (3%).

August is the last month before the so-called “single day of voting” on September 8, when elections of various authorities are held in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities. This has left its mark both on civil activity and on the reaction of the authorities, who are trying by any means to prevent the election of opposition or independent candidates.

The most high-profile event of August was the so-called “Moscow case” or “case of Action on July 27” — the criminal case of the Russian Investigation Committee on fact of “mass riots” (part 2 of article 212 of the criminal code) that allegedly happened during not approved by the authorities peaceful demonstrations in downtown Moscow, which were attended by tens of thousands of citizens protesting against unfair elections in Moscow and the illegal refusal in registration of candidates. On that day, we recall, the police and rossgvardia showed unjustified demonstrative cruelty, preventing the realization of the right of citizens to gather peacefully . More than 1,370 citizens were detained. Within a month, 13 people were involved in the criminal case “about the riots”, and the fact of the investigation of the case became the reason for other mass repressive practices, including detentions of activists, searches in offices and residential premises, etc.

Such behavior of the authorities provoked a new wave of protest: on August 3 and 10 in Moscow and other cities of Russia there were mass actions of solidarity, where to the requirement of “fair elections” demands, were also added demands to stop political repressions. As a result, a significant proportion of the reports in August in one way or another, connected with administrative and criminal prosecution for violations of the organization, conduct or participation in public events, disobeying orders of police officers or using violence against them.

Trying to knock down the protest, the authorities use a wide range of illegal or formally legal methods, including mass attempts to, illegal detention and searches, execution of template protocols, multiple fines and administrative arrests of the leaders (up to five in a row), publication of personal data, the threat of deprivation of parental rights, filing absurd multi million-ruble claims of damage to public and private companies, targeted pressure on the structure, staff and supporters of Alexei Navalny (headquarters of anti corruption fund , FBK) and Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Open Russia), as well as the failures in the investigation of unjustified violence by police against participants of mass actions.

The leitmotif of August was the multiple arrests of civil protest leaders in Moscow. The forced champion in this nomination was the head of the municipal district “Krasnoselsky” and unregistered candidate for Deputy of the Moscow city Duma, the famous opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who in August was arrested five times in a row. The leaders of the “December 5″ Konstantin Jankauskas and Julia Galiamina, who were also denied admission to the election, have served, respectively, four and three administrative detentions. All of them were accused by the authorities of publicly calling for participation in” uncoordinated actions ” by posting on social networks, including during the periods when they were under arrest.

Struggling with civil activity, the authorities prohibit even single picketing — the only form of public action that does not require coordination under the current law in Russia. Single picketers are detained under false pretexts or accused of violating the rules of single picketing in connection with the transfer of posters to each other or simply the presence of common features in several picketers. In August this repressive practice recorded in Tyumen (against the participants of “fire” pickets), in Moscow (against the members of the campaign for the release of Yegor Zhukov), in Krasnodar (against the picket next to a building of FSB), Samara (against the coordinator of a series of pickets), in Irkutsk (against the activist, calling to take part in a series of pickets) in Mytishchi (against a member of the electoral commission).

Of particular concern to human rights defenders was the initiation of the third criminal case this year under the so called “Dadin article” – about repeated violations of the procedure for holding public events (article 212.1 of the criminal code). On August 14 Presnensky district court of Moscow arrested for two months a civil activist Konstantin Kotov, imputing to him the participation in the gathering “in defense of the new generation” in front of the FSB on May 13, 2019, participation in the rally in support of Ivan Golunov June 12, call to go to Trubnaya square on July 19 in connection with the non-admission of opposition candidates to the Moscow city Duma and participation in a mass walk after the rally “for fair elections”. The first accused under this article in 2019 was Kolomna activist Vyacheslav Egorov, the second, Arkhangelsk activist Andrei Borovikov. Thus Kotov became the first whom the court sent into custody for the period of the investigation.

Of the other important stories we should note the preservation of the conflict situation in Shiyes settlement, the appearance of new cases against participants of protests against the destruction of the park in Yekaterinburg, and another activation of the “anti-extremist” campaigns and the increasing number of cases in connection with “abuse of power”.

There is a continuing trend of active involvement in repressive practices of informal actors operating outside the legal framework, including:

  • employees of security structures, that were beating of peaceful protesters (Shiyes settlement);
  • private printing houses censoring printed materials (Moscow and St. Petersburg);
  • anonymous telegram-channels that publish the personal data of the detained activists;
  • private and municipal companies making absurd claims for damage to the organizers of mass events (Moscow);
  • anonymous performers (“titushky”,” gopniks”) orders on threats physical violence or its actual use, like attacks, beatings, arson (Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Novokuznetsk, Stavropol and others.).

Summary

  • sharp aggravation of the tightening of repressive policy due to electoral risks is noticed;
  • the main emphasis of the government is on the restriction of basic civil rights and freedoms, like freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and public associations;
  • most of the previously launched all-Russian repressive campaigns and high-profile criminal cases continue;
  • the practice of applying the recently adopted law on “disrespect for power” as an effective tool of political pressure on activists, human rights defenders and dissidents is expanding;
  • there is a growing tendency to involve unofficial actors acting outside the legal field in repressive practices.