Criminalisation of the protest continues in Russia: the legislation is moving towards the creation of lists of the undesirable and the unreliable, which, probably, will soon be arrested simply for being in these lists. The so-called “Yarovaya Package”1 is a serious attempt to equate the authorities’ criticism not with extremism, but with terrorism, and at the same time solve the problem of competition of other faiths and practices with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Detentions of single pickets, subsequent fines, and sometimes arrests have become a common practice all over Russia. Prohibitions and revocation of approvals (a method not existing in the law) on holding public events obviously affect either certain social and political groups (LGBT, non-organised opposition) or social protest when it acquires mass forms (truckers’ movement). Attacks against organisers of events, meetings, discussions, being held by both anonymous and so-called non-anonymous “patriots” are estimated in dozens, and few from them are being investigated. Separately it is worth noting the increase in attacks and attempts to disrupt events in closed premises – exhibitions, presentations, and concerts. We are witnessing more cases of using the Criminal Code against freedom of assembly, which leads, among other consequences, to the forced emigration of activists. The accepted course causes the final ousting of the critics of the regime not only from the streets, but also from any sites. The public grounds themselves are placed in a complicated position in one way or another. The population’s reaction to such actions is obvious. The number of uncoordinated actions, including those relatively radical in nature (road blocking), is growing. The territory of the Crimea peninsula is used to rehearse the “final” prohibitive schemes, the application of which should be expected in the next two years, and especially in the year of the election of the president of the Russian Federation.
1. News in legislation and other legal initiatives
In February, State Duma deputies approved immediately in the second and third reading a bill that equates rallies and tent erection to public events that require approval under the law on rallies: 238 deputies supported the initiative, 199 opposed, three abstained. Against the project were the factions of “Just Russia” and the LDPR. As a result, single pickets are threatened with bans – the only remaining forms of action are those that do not require prior approval and are allowed to respond quickly to socially significant events2.
In March, the Ministry of Internal Affairs proposed to ban the departure from the country of persons suspected of extremist activity and those convicted of extremism charges. It has also suggested developing a list of countries in South-East Asia, which are considered dangerous for Russian citizens, due to an uneasy political situation3.
In June, the State Duma adopted immediately in the second and third reading the so-called “anti-terrorist package” of bills by State Duma deputy Irina Yarovaya and Federation Council member Viktor Ozerov. The adopted amendments significantly tighten a number of laws. In particular, the Criminal Code introduced an article for “non-reporting of a crime”. Failure to report suspected cases of terrorism, seizure of power and encroachment on the life of a public official will be punished by a prison sentence of up to one year. In cases of terrorism, the age of criminal responsibility has been reduced to 14 years. The “Yarovaya Package” tightens control over correspondence. Communication operators will be obliged to store user messages for six months, as well as provide government agencies with the means to decrypt encrypted correspondence. The Criminal Code is also supplemented with the article “declination, recruitment or other involvement” in the organisation of mass riots. It provides for punishment in the form of imprisonment for a term of five to ten years.
On June 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law “On the Basics of the Russian Federation’s Offences Prevention System”. In particular, the law introduces the concept of “anti-social behaviour”: this behaviour will be considered to be “violating the generally accepted norms of behaviour and morality.” The law gives the right to employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to collect data on citizens who were not previously brought to justice, but who are prone to offences.
2.Prohibitions of public events
In February, applicants for holding of mourning events in Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg reported on the refusal of the city authorities to agree marches and pickets on the anniversary of the murder of Boris Nemtsov4.
In March, the authorities in Simferopol banned any public events, tightening restrictions on public actions after the introduction of an emergency status in the Crimea, which applies to all public events except those held by state or local authorities.
The authorities of St. Petersburg have banned the gay parade and two LGBT rallies scheduled for April and May, including the “Rainbow flash mob”, held in the northern capital since 2009. Among other things, the authorities said their conduct would lead to a violation of the federal ban on the propagation of non-traditional sexual relations among minors5.
The organisers of the traditional Moscow RAW-Fest, which was due to take place on July 9-10, announced its cancellation due to the pressure of the authorities6.
3.Conducting of public events
3.1 Problems with ensuring the security of action participants
In February, an attack was launched in Moscow on activist Vadim Korovin, who planned to conduct a rally on Krasnye Vorota, in support of Article 35 of the Constitution, which guarantees the protection of private property.
The chair of the Parnas party, Mikhail Kasyanov, postponed the meeting scheduled for February 13 in Nizhny Novgorod because of attacks on him and his associates the day before. According to Kasyanov, the activists of “Anti-Maidan” and “People’s Liberation Movement” (PLM) participated in the attacks.
In Chelyabinsk on February 26, Vyacheslav Kislitsin, the organiser of the rally in memory of Boris Nemtsov, was beaten. The activist was treated in hospital for a broken rib and a heart attack. In the attackers, Kislitsin identified the staff of the Centre for Combating Extremism.
In March, activist Sergei Mokhnatkin was beaten by six officers of the FSIN in Colony No. 4 of the Arkhangelsk Region after trying to prevent transfer to the Kotlas detention centre.
In April, in the Moscow House of Cinema the winners of the school competition “The Man in History. Russia – the 20th century”, organised by Memorial, were attacked. Activists of the People’s Liberation Movement threw eggs and brilliant green at the children participating in the contest, as well as guests of the ceremony.
On May 17 at the Anapa airport Cossacks beat employees of the Fight against Corruption, Alexei Navalny foundation. Six people were injured in the attack, with one hospitalised.
On the night of September 8-9, eight armed, masked men attacked the firefighters of Greenpeace Russia in the Kuban. Two Greenpeace members were hospitalised with fractures. The attackers cut tents, damaged vehicles, stole parts of machinery7.
In September, unknown persons broke into the Sakharov Centre and demanded the closure of the exhibition of photographer Alexander Vasyukovich, dedicated to the Ukrainian soldiers who died during the fighting in the Donbass.
Victor Kapitonov, who was detained in Moscow on October 7 during a solitary picket in memory of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was handcuffed and detained by police officers8.
In December, Tomsk video blogger Alexander Sidorov, known as SiberianGuyRu, hosted a single picket in Makhachkala with the poster “To hate gays is an anti-science mistake” and was beaten9.
3.2 Violations at the coordinated public events
At the May Day march in St. Petersburg, 11 people were detained – LGBT activists and two people from a convoy of feminists, as well as a public figure Vsevolod Nelaev10.
In May, the Novosibirsk resident Artem Loskutov, one of the organisers of the annual procession “Monstration”, was found guilty of part 1 of Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code (Violation by the organiser of a public event of the established procedure for organising or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picketing) and awarded a fine of 20,000 rubles . The judge did not explain what actions of Loskutov had violated the law.
In August, OMON officers surrounded farmers and truckers who wanted to conduct a “tractor campaign” to Moscow, and loaded them onto a bus for detaining11.
In September, the participants of the protest action in Beslan, detained by the police, drafted administrative protocols on the article on violation of the order of the rally. During the mourning events, five women took off their jackets, under which they wore T-shirts with the inscription “Putin is the executioner of Beslan”12.
3.3 Termination of activities that do not require coordination with the authorities
In January, opposition activist Mark Halperin was detained while holding a picket against the “Platon” system on Manezhnaya Square. In relation to Halperin, a criminal case was instituted under Part 1 of Art. 212 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (repeated violation of the established procedure for organising or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picketing)13.
In Nizhny Novgorod, police prevented a meeting of truckers protesting the tax on travel on federal routes in the “Platon” system14.
In Moscow, several members of the opposition were detained near the presidential administration building. Yabloko party members were detained while trying to conduct a series of single pickets against the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov15.
On March 10, the Syktyvkar police detained human rights activist Igor Sazhin during a solo picket against attacks on journalists and human rights defenders from the “Committee for the Prevention of Torture” on the border of Chechnya and Ingushetia16.
In April, next to the State Duma, police detained participants of solo pickets, demanding impeachment of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The reason for the pickets was the leakage of the Panama Archive17.
In June 51 bicycle night parade “White Nights”, in which over 1,000 cyclists took part, was dispersed in St. Petersburg. According to organiser Ilya Gurevich, the police detained the co-organiser of the bike ride Mikhail Ivanov. He was taken to the police department of the Admiralty District of the Ministry of Internal Affairs18.
3.4 Litigation and other prosecutions of organisers In January, Preobrazhensky Court of Moscow announced the search for a pensioner Vladimir Ionov. Ionov is accused of repeatedly violating the procedure for picketing (article 212.1 of the Criminal Code). The amount of fines in administrative cases amounted to 320 thousand rubles19.
In March, law enforcement agencies re-qualified article 243 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (destruction or damage to cultural heritage objects) to a criminal case instituted against the artist Petr Pavlensky, who set fire to the door of the FSB building. Punishment under this article provides for a real term of imprisonment20.
In May, activist Dmitry Vorobyevsky was forcibly taken to the hospital, where he was tied by the arms and legs to the bed, injected and given pills. The hospital personnel refused to disclose the names of the drugs used21.
On May 12, the court ruled that there were no grounds for involuntary hospitalisation of Vorobyevsky, who was released in the courtroom22.
In relation to the anarchist Elizabeth Tsvetkova, a criminal case was initiated under Art. 282 part 1 of the Criminal Code (incitement of hatred and enmity to the social group “police officers”). Tsvetkova is accused of having downloaded a leaflet with criticism of law enforcement agencies, printed it and posted it at public transport stops and lampposts23.
Dmitry Boynov, defender of the park “Dubki” in Moscow, in August became a criminal in the case. After the interrogation, Boynov learned that a criminal case had been instituted against him under Art. 213 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism committed by a group of persons by prior conspiracy, or associated with resistance to a representative of power). The maximum punishment under this article is seven years of imprisonment24.
On October 14, the judge of the Tverskoi District Court, Alesya Orekhova, decided to punish Roman Roslovtsev, an activist, with a 20-day administrative arrest on part 8 of Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offences (repeated violation of the procedure by a participant in a public event). Roslovtsev was detained a day earlier on Red Square with a placard “I’m not afraid of 212.1″25.
In November, the members of the Human Rights Council ended their work in the Karelian penal colony, where the opposition leader Ildar Dadin is detained. The facts of violence described by him are confirmed, a member of the Human Rights Council Igor Kalyapin said on Tuesday. Earlier, Dadin’s wife reported that her husband was beaten in the colony, tortured and threatened with being killed26.
4.Protection of the right to freedom of assembly
4.1 In the courts of Russia
In March, the Sverdlovsk District Court of Kostroma awarded activist Nikolai Alekseyev six thousand rubles in compensation for the ban on holding LGBT actions27.
Tagansky court in Moscow decided to pay compensation for moral harm to the four base-jumpers, which were held as defendants in the case of painting the star on Stalin’s high-rise, but were acquitted28. Each of them will receive about 90 thousand rubles.
In November in Ulyanovsk, the Leninsky District Court refused to arrest Daniel Alferyev, an activist of the Left bloc, accused of extremism for speaking at the CPRF rally on November 7, 2014. Now the activist has been released on the condition of house arrest29.
The Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Lebedev, based on the decision of the European Court for Human Rights, raised the issue of recognising as illegal the case of arrest and detention the actions of Ilya Gushchin, Artem Savelov and Leonid Kovyazin after the riots at Bolotnaya Square in Moscow. He introduced to the presidium of the court the idea of the resumption of proceedings30.
4.2 At the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and other structures of the Council of Europe
In January, the ECtHR ruled on the complaint of Russian Evgeny Frumkin, who was held for 15 days after being detained during a rally on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012. Russia will have to pay Frumkin compensation of 25.000 euros31.
The ECtHR found detention of solitary picketers in Russia a violation of the article of the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and awarded them 35,000 euros32.
In July, the ECtHR communicated complaints of 15 detainees at public events in Moscow on February 21 and December 30, 2014.
In October, the ECtHR awarded compensation of 1,300 euros to the mother of Leonid Nikolaev, member of the Voina art group, for his arrest in 201033. Nikolaev, who appealed the detention, died in 2015.
ECtHR ordered compensation payment of 12.500 euros to the activist of the “Bolotnaya case” Yaroslav Belousov for violation of four articles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights against it34.
ECtHR gave priority to the complaints of the persons involved in the Bolotnaya case, Alexey Gaskarov and Ilya Gushchin. Earlier, the ECtHR united seven complaints of Bolotnaya prisoners into a single action. Pavel Chikov (AGORA) notes significant progress in promoting complaints about the Bolotnaya case in the ECtHR. He also does not exclude the possibility of issuing a pilot resolution where ECtHR will express a systemic position on the practice of holding public events in Russia. The court’s interest in such events has grown dramatically over the past couple of years35.
In November, the ECtHR gave priority to the complaint of Ildar Dadin and demanded Russia provide his medical documents and conduct a medical survey of Dadin. Doctors working independently from the FSIN should do the survey36.
In December, the ECtHR ordered Russia to pay compensation of 5.000 euros and pay court costs of 3.000 eurosto Garry Kasparov, Lev Ponomarev, Alexander Averin and four other activists who were detained at the March of Dissent in 200737.
In January, a court in the Ryazan region granted the parole request of the activist of the “Bolotnaya case” Alexander Margolin38.
In March, member of the federal political council of the party PARNAS Natalia Pelevina became a suspect in “Bolotnaya case”. The investigation suspects Pelevina of organising riots. After interrogation as a suspect, the issue of the measure of restraint in respect of her will be decided39.
Maxim Panfilov, a 30-year-old resident of Astrakhan, was detained on Thursday, April 7, and taken to Moscow. Panfilov is charged with participation in mass riots and the use of harm and violence against life and health of government officials40.
In April, the Moscow court, at the request of the investigator, imposed a security arrest on the property of the leader of the movement “Autonomous Action” Dmitry Buchenkov, accused of involvement in mass riots in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow.
In August, the Moscow Basmanny Court extended to Dmitry Buchenkov and Maxim Panfilov the terms of detention until December 2, 2016 and January 7, 2017, respectively. During the hearings it became clear that the investigation term for the Bolotnaya case had been extended until March 6, 201741.
6.The situation with freedom of assembly in Crimea
In January, Mustafa Dzhemilev, Refat Chubarov and Lenur Islyamov, the organisers of the food and energy blockade of the Crimea, were announced as the subjects of police search42.
In February in Simferopol, the court sent four detained Crimean Tatars, Emir-Usain Kuk, Enver Bekirov, Muslim Aliyev and Vadim Siruk, to the pre-trial detention facility. They are charged under part 2 of Art. 250.5 of the Criminal Code (“Organisation of the activities of a terrorist organisation and participation in the activities of such an organisation”). The court elected a preventive measure in the form of detention until April 8, 2016.
On May 18, police officers detained in Bakhchisarai participants of an auto rally timed to the Day of Memory of Victims of Deportation of Crimean Tatars.
June 10, Ukrainian Andrei Kolomiets was found guilty of attempted murder of employees of the Berkut during the events on the Maidan in Kiev in 2014 and of the possession of drugs. Kolomiets was sentenced to ten years in prison in a strict regime colony43.
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|1.||Eugene Berg, “Yarovaya Package’ has not yet been supplemented with by-laws, but missionaries are already persecuted”, “Legal Dialogue” No. 1 http://legal-dialogue.org/en/category/number-month-year/11-december-2016|
|2.||The draft law on compulsory approval of motor rallies was adopted in the second and third readings, 26.02.2016, https://Ovdinfo.org/express-news/2016/02/26/zakonoproekt-ob-obyazatelnom-soglasovanii-avtoprobegov-prinyat-vo-vtorom-i|
|3.||MVD proposes to restrict exit from the country, 17.03.2016, http://graniru.org/Politics/Russia/m.249642.html|
|4.||Short Memory. The city administration refuses to coordinate actions of Boris Nemtsov’s memory, 17.02.2016, https://Openrussia.org/en/post/view/12814/|
|5.||LGBT activists were first denied “Rainbow flash mob” in St. Petersburg, 16.05.2016, http://www.rosbalt.ru/piter/2016/05/16/1514760.html|
|6.||Organisers of the Moscow hardcore festival cancel the event: “Authorities promise us and you problems”, 09.07.2016, https://zona.media/news/2016/09/07/RAW|
|7.||Greenpeace activists in the Kuban region were attacked by a detachment of unknown people wearing masks. 09.09.2016, http://article20.org/en/news/na-aktivistov-grinpis-na-kubani-napal-otryad-neizvestnykh-v#.WHTJiLFh2kY|
|8.||Activist was hospitalised after being detained with a poster in commemoration of Politkovskaya, 07.10.2016, https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2016/10/07/aktivist-gospitalizirovan-posle-zaderzhaniya-s-plakatom-v-pamyat|
|9.||The organiser of the picket in defence of the rights of gays Sidorov beaten in Makhachkala, 01.12.2016, http://www.kavkazr.com/a/izbit-v-makhachkale/28150852.html|
|10.||11 people were detained at the May Day march in Petersburg, 01.05.2016, http://www.rosbalt.ru/piter/2016/05/01/1511382.html|
|11.||Protesting truckers and farmers were forcibly loaded into the buses of the National Guard, 23.08.2016, http://rosbalt.en/russia/2016/08/23/1543636.html|
|12.||Mothers of hostages will be judged for T-shirts “Putin is the executioner of Beslan”, 01.09.2016, https://meduza.io/news/2016/09/01/materey-zalozhnikov-budut-sudit-za-mayki-putin-palach-beslana|
|13.||Activist Mark Halperin detained in Moscow, for violation of the rules of picketing, 11.01.2016, http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2889439|
|14.||In Nizhny Novgorod, the police prevented the meeting of truckers, 26.01.2016, http://www.newsru.com/russia/25jan2016/dalnoboi.html|
|15.||Yabloko members detained at the presidential administration during pickets for Kadyrov’s resignation, 01.26.2016, http://www.newsru.com/russia/26jan2016/yabloko.html|
|16.||Human rights activist Igor Sazhin was detained for a solitary picket at Stefanovskaya Square in Syktyvkar, 10.03.2016, http://7×7-journal.ru/anewsitem/77494|
|17.||At the entrance to the State Duma, picket participants were detained for impeaching Putin // 04.05.2016, https://meduza.io/news/2016/04/05/u-vhoda-v-gosdumu-zaderzhany-uchastniki-piketov-za-impichment-putina|
|18.||In St. Petersburg, the police dispersed the traditional bicycle “White Nights”,19.06.2016, https://zona.media/news/2016/19/06/velorazgon|
|19.||The court announced the search for pensioner Ionov, accused of violations at rallies, 19.01.2016, http://article20.org/ru/news/voronezhskii-aktivist-bolee-48-chasov-nakhoditsya-v-psikhiat#.WHNe77Fh2kY|
|20.||Pavlensky was accused of causing damage to the cultural heritage site, 29.03.2016, https://meduza.io/news/2016/03/29/hudozhniku-petru-pavlenskomu-perekvalifitsirovali-obvinenie|
|21.||Voronezh activist is in the psychiatric hospital for more than 48 hours, 08.05.2016, http://article20.org/ru/news/voronezhskii-aktivist-bolee-48-chasov-nakhoditsya-v-psikhiat#.WHNe77Fh2kY|
|22.||Voronezh activist Dmitry Vorobyevsky released to freedom // 05/12/2016, http://article20.org/ru/news/voronezhskii-aktivist-dmitrii-vorobevskii-otpushchen-na-svob#.WHNgaLFh2kY|
|23.||The prosecutor asked the colony-settlement year for an activist for the distribution of leaflets, 16.05.2016, https://ovdinfo.org/Express-new/2016/05/16/prokuror-poprosil-god-kolonii-poseleniya-dlya-aktivistki-za-rasprostranenie|
|24.||Defender Dubkov announced a criminal case against him on the eve of the rally, 30.08.2016, http://activatica.org/blogs/view/id/2558/title/protiv-zashchitnika-moskovskogo-parka-dubki-vozbudili-ugolovnoe-delo|
|25.||Activist Roman Roslovtsev arrested for 20 days, 14.10.2016, https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2016/10/14/aktivista-Romana-roslovceva-arestovali-na-20-sutok|
|26.||<Russian> Human Rights Council found confirmation of Ildar Dadin’s complaints about torture in the colony, 08.11.2016, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/536199|
|27.||The court sought six thousand rubles from the Kostroma authorities to ban LGBT actions, 14.03.2016, http://hro.Org/node/24024|
|28.||Figures of the case of painting the star on Stalin’s high-rise were awarded compensation, 06.07.2016, https://meduza.io/news/2016/07/06/figurantam-dela-o-pokraske-zvezdy-na-stalinskoy-vysotke-prisudili-kompensatsiyu|
|29.||The Ulyanovsk court refused to arrest the activist accused of extremism for speaking at the CPRF rally on November 7,23.08.2016, https://zona.media/news/2016/23/08/sud_7november|
|30.||The Russian Armed Forces will verify the legality of the arrest of three figurants of the “Bolotnaya case”, 08.29.2016, https://ria.ru/incidents/20160829/1475563787.html|
|31.||ECtHR obliged Russia to pay 25.000 euros to a demonstrator detained on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, 05.01.2016, https://zona.media/news/2016/05/01/25-evro-bolotka|
|32.||The ECtHR found violation of the detention of Russians on single pickets, 26.04.2016, https://republic.ru/posts/67227|
|33.||Russia has been convicted of compensation for the arrest of the member of the art group “Voina”,24.10.2016, https://meduza.io/news/2016/10/24/u-rossii-otsudili-kompensatsiyu-za-arest-uchastnika-art-gruppy-voyna|
|34.||ECHR obliged Russia to pay 12.500 euros to the person involved in the “Bolotnaya business”, 04.10 .2016, https://zona.media/news/2016/04/10/belousov|
|35.||Two more Bolotnaya prisoners received priority in Strasbourg Court, 14.10. 2016, http://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2016/10/14/660918-dela-bolotnih-uznikov|
|36.||The ECtHR assigned Dadin’s complaint of torture to the colony, 03.11.2016, http://theins.ru/news/35287|
|37.||ECtHR awarded compensation to the detainees on the “March of Dissent” in Moscow in 2007, 13.12.2016, http://www.rosbalt.ru/moscow/2016/12/13/1575380.html|
|38.||Activist of “Bolotnaya case” Alexander Margolin was released ahead of schedule, 29.01.2016, https://meduza.io/news/2016/01/29/figuranta-bolotnogo-dela-aleksandra-margolina-osvobodili-dosrochno|
|39.||Pelevina is suspected of organising riots on Bolotnaya Square, 10.03.2016, http://www.svoboda.org/a/27602416.html|
|40.||Panfilov was charged with “Bolotnoe delo”, 08.04.2016, http://www.svoboda.org/a/27662025.html|
|41.||The Court prolonged the arrests of Buchenkov and Panfilov, 29.08.2016, http://theins.ru/news/28936|
|42.||Poklonskaya announced the search for organisers of the blockade of Crimea, 22.01.2016, http://article20.org/en/news/poklonskaya-Obyavila-v-rozysk-organizatorov-blokady-kryma|
|43.||A participant of the Maidan was sentenced to 10 years in a colony of strict regime, 10.06.2016, https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2016/06/10/uchastnika-maydana-prigovorili-k-10-godam-kolonii-strogogo-rezhima|