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Activists Face Violence, Torture and Threat of Imprisonment for Six Years for Poetry Recitation. The Case of Poets Nikolai Daineko, Artyom Kamardin and Yegor Shtovba

Dec 15 2022

On September 26, 2022, police raided the apartment of a 31-year-old Moscow poet Artyom Kamardin. They beat and tortured everyone in the apartment. Mr. Kamardin was raped with a dumbbell. Consequently, Nikolai Daineko, Artyom Kamardin and Yegor Shtovba were prosecuted under part 2 of Article 282 (“Degrading social cohesion with threat of violence with the use of the Internet,” up to 6 years in prison), because of writing anti-war poetry. Here is the story of three poets.

Who are Nikolai Daineko, Artyom Kamardin and Yegor Shtovba?

Nikolai Dmitrievich Daineko, born June 2, 1996, is a resident of Moscow. He is a poet, participant of Mayakovsky Readings event, civil activist, and a rock-musician. Accused under paragraph “a” of part 2 of article 282 of the Criminal Code (“Degrading social cohesion with threat of violence with the use of the Internet”, up to 6 years in prison). He has been imprisoned since September 25, 2022.

Artyom Yuryevich Kamardin, born on October 10, 1990, is a resident of Moscow. He is a poet, participant of Mayakovsky Readings event, and a civic activist. After graduating college, Artyom worked as an engineer. Accused under item “a,” part 2, article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Degrading social cohesion with threat of violence with the use of the Internet,” up to 6 years in prison). He has been imprisoned since September 26, 2022.

Yegor Olegovich Shtovba, born on December 26, 2000, is a resident of Moscow. He is a poet, participant of the Mayakovsky Readings event, and a civic activist. He is a student of Russian philology at the Institute of History and Philology specializing in pedagogical education. He is charged under item “a” of part 2 of article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Degrading social cohesion with threat of violence with the use of the Internet,” up to 6 years in prison). He has been imprisoned since September 25, 2022.

Case Background

On September 25, 2022, the Mayakovsky Readings, a traditional monthly poetry recitation, took place on the Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow. This tradition was established in Moscow in 1958, as a tribute to poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and after a break was revived in 2009. The last installment of the Mayakovsky Readings had been conceptualized by organizers as  “anti-mobilization,” protesting forced mobilization of Russian citizens for the war with Ukraine. On September 25, 2022, about three dozen people attended the readings.

That same evening, videos of the event were published on the Internet. Poet Artyom Kamardin, addressed the audience: “Do you remember how the Luhansk and Donetsk terrorists were called eight years ago? Militia!” He then moved to read his 2015 poem “Kill me, militiaman!” Then, Mr. Kamardin recited what he called “a folk couplet about referendums” (referring to the so-called referenda on the annexation of Ukraine’s regions to Russia: “Glory to Kievan Rus’! Novorossiya — suck it!”.

The police arrived forty minutes after the start of the event and began detaining participants and even members of the audience. Nikolai Daineko, Yegor Shtovba and several other people were taken to the police station, accused of participating in an unauthorized rally and issued protocols.

The Arrest and the Criminal Case

The next day, on September 26, 2022, Ilya Myalkin, the prosecutor of the Investigative Committee’s Tverskoi district department of Moscow, opened a criminal case under paragraph “a” of part 2 Article 282 of the Criminal Code against “unidentified persons.” According to his ruling, during readings of literary works, an unidentified person made statements “regarding members of the volunteer armed formations of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” that “allegedly contain signs of inciting hatred or hostility, and also called for the use of violence against them and members of their families.”

On the same day, around 2 p.m., the apartment where Artyom Kamardin, his girlfriend Alexandra Popova, and their roommate Alexander Menyukov lived, was stormed by the police offers yelling  “Get down! On the floor!”. All three of them were beaten. Their injuries can be seen in the photographs and police footage, and are confirmed by medical records and testimonies of the victims. Under the pretext of a search, the law enforcers, judging by the photos and Ms. Popova’s testimony, ransacked the apartment.

Artyom Kamardin then reported through his lawyer that during the “search” he was severely beaten and had the bar of a dumbbell forced up his anus, and was compelled to apologize for writing his poems. Alexandra Popova, who, as she says, was aggressed in the adjacent room, heard the sounds of violence towards Artyom Kamardin, and the law enforcers showed her a video of his rape. Alexander Menyukov also heard Mr. Kamardin’s screams.

During the search, Mr. Kamardin was forced to apologize on camera because of his words. The video shows the activist kneeling in an apartment with handcuffs behind his back, his face showing signs of beatings. In the footage, he apologizes for what he said at the Mayakovsky Readings. “I apologize, ask for forgiveness and repent in front of the Russian multinational people for what I said yesterday at theTriumfalnaya Square.” In the recording, Mr. Kamardin promises “never again to read” the poem “Kill me, militiaman!” which he delivered at the Mayakovsky Readings, nor to engage in political activities.

Ms. Popova reported that she was also tortured in the meantime: she was threatened with gang rape, her hair was pulled out, and her face and mouth were covered with superglue. In addition, she discovered that $600 was missing from her apartment after the search.

Mr. Kamardin’s lawyer Leonid Solovyov was not allowed into the apartment, saying that it was not a search, but an operational and investigative measure (ORM), which, allegedly, does not provide for the presence of a lawyer.

Then the detainees were taken to the Investigative Committee’s Tverskoi district office in Moscow and formally interrogated. The ambulance team there did not find any bleeding in Mr. Kamardin, but preliminarily diagnosed concussion of the brain, closed cranial trauma, bruised chest and numerous facial abrasions. The activist was taken to the hospital, where he was examined.

Alexandra Popova and Alexander Menyukov were released as witnesses in the criminal case, and Artyom Kamardin was detained as a suspect and sent to the temporary detention center (IVS).

Nikolai Daineko and Yegor Shtovba were arrested in connection with this case and held for two days as suspects.

After they were released, Ms. Popova and Mr. Menyukov visited doctors. The woman was diagnosed with concussion of brain, contusion of soft tissues of head, hips and shins, crushing of skin of the left hand and closed craniocerebral trauma. The young man sustained multiple contusions to his right auricle, left wrist and back.

On September 28, 2022, a judge of the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow, Anatoly Belyakov, put Yegor Shtovba and Nikolai Daineko in pre-trial detention, and another judge of the same court, Irina Buneeva, put Artyom Kamardin in pre-trial detention for two months as suspects during the preliminary investigation.  On October 6 and 7,  2022, Mr. Savchenko, prosecutor of the Investigative Committee, issued orders to bring them in as suspects. On November 24, 2022, the court extended the defendants’ detention for another month.

All three now face up to six years in prison for reading poetry.

Why Does the Memorial Center Recognize Nikolai Daineko, Artyom Kamardin and Yegor Shtovba as Political Prisoners?

Having examined the documents of the case, the Human Rights Center Memorial concludes that Nikolai Daineko, Artyom Kamardin and Yegor Shtovba are the victims of political persecution.

The expert who examined the statements and the poem “Kill me, militiaman!” by Artyom Kamardin at the request of the prosecutor, concluded that they contained linguistic attributes of degrading the “militia”. The expert did not find any incitement to violence, and the Memorial lawyers would agree with him. The leading expert organization in the field of extremism, the Sova Information and Analytical Center, holds the same opinion.

Thus, the prosecutor, in his decisions to bring the defendants in custody, unreasonably refers to the expert opinion and asserts without evidence that the defendants called for violence against the “militia.” This means that the charges under paragraph “a” of Part 2 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code are unlawful.

Lieutenant Savchenko brought up threats of violence as pretext because he could not otherwise bring charges in principle, the Memorial believes. Since 2019, degrading people without the threat of violence is a crime under part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code only after being brought to administrative responsibility for a similar act (Article 20.3.1 KoAP RF) within one year. None of the three defendants had been brought to such responsibility.

In addition, Memorial agrees with the Sova Center’s earlier position that the undefined, evaluative concept of “social group” should be removed from anti-extremist legislation. Its presence in Russian criminal law is criticized not only by human rights activists, but also in the academic legal community. The concept of a social group is not disclosed in the criminal law, and there are no relevant explanations in the acts of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

If we still analyze Artyom Kamardin’s poem for “degrading the dignity” of the Donbass “militia,” then we can call the work provocative, and his words could possibly be perceived as insulting by the “militia” and their family members. However, Memorial lawyers believe that people, especially poets, have the right to express angry irony, negative emotions, and critical assessments of other people and groups. In the poem the author obviously expresses his negative attitude to the fratricidal war in Ukraine, indicates his rejection of war crimes provoked by Russian state propaganda, which were committed by the “militia” with the explicit support of the Russian state. The author’s rejection of the unprovoked armed aggression of his country against the people of the neighboring state goes as far as “screaming” and “calling” on the “militia” to kill him.

In fact, there is no explicit humiliation of the “militia” in the poem: neither a statement about their inferiority, nor a statement about the superiority of others over them. The poem only expresses, in an artistic, figurative form, the author’s legitimate and justified critical attitude toward this group.

In the Memorial’s opinion, Artyom Kamardin’s harsh rhetoric is permissible within the framework of the exercise of the rights to freedom of speech and expression, guaranteed by Art. 29 of the Russian Constitution and international conventions. Moreover, it is worth taking into account that the validity of his critical position regarding the “militia” is proven by numerous factual data and court decisions, that this is criticism of persons who are members of illegal armed formations, with whose hands the Russian authorities unleashed a war against the people of Ukraine.

Artyom Kamardin’s speech did not contain incitement to any actions against the “militia”, and the probability of harm to them as a result of his speech is practically zero.  In addition to the lack of inherently humiliating dignity of this group in the speech in question, recall that it was made before an audience of only less than three dozen peaceful, non-aggressive Muscovites.

The texts of the investigator’s rulings on arraignment of all three defendants are short and identical. They do not specify what specific criminal act each of them committed. Memorial hypothesizes that the prosecution might claim that Nikolai Daineko and Yegor Shtovba repeated the incriminating statements in the square after Artyom Kamardin. Or were they just nodding? Memoria considers imprisonment and prosecution for such “deeds” to be obviously inhumane, unjust and unlawful.

The independent human rights project “Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial”, which continues the work of the thematic Program of the liquidated by the state HRC Memorial, in accordance with the international guidance on the definition of “political prisoner,” finds that the criminal case against Artyom Kamardin, Nikolai Dayneko and Yegor Shtovba is politically motivated, aimed at involuntary termination of their expression, public activities of critics of the authorities and intimidation of society as a whole, i.e. consolidation and retention of power by subjects of authority. Their imprisonment violated the rights to freedom of speech, fair trial, and other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Russian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Based on the above, Memorial considers Artyom Kamardin, Yegor Shtovba, and Nikolai Daineko political prisoners and calls for his release and for a review of his sentence with respect for the right to a fair trial.

20

Up to 10 Years in Prison for Comments on Social Media on War Crimes in Bucha and Irpen. The Case of Gregory Vinter

Oct 31 2022

A Russian campaigner and human rights activist is facing charges of spreading “knowingly false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” on social networks, for which he could be imprisoned for up to 10 years. Here is the story of Gregory Vinter.

Who is Gregory Vinter?

Gregory Marcus Severin Vinter (Grigoriy Electronovich Vinter before the name change) was born on February 14, 1969.  He is a resident of the city of Cherepovets in Russia’s Vologda Region, an activist and human rights advocate. He is a former chief of the radiation control laboratory. He also used to serve as coordinator of the Vologda branch of the movement For Human Rights. For years, Gregory was involved in protecting forests from logging and the defense of prisoners’ rights. Between 2019-2022, he was convicted under Art. 319 (“Insulting a representative of the authorities”), Art. 207.1 (“Public dissemination of knowingly false information about circumstances that endanger the life and safety of citizens”), parts 1 and 2 of Art. 297 (“Insulting the court”) of the Criminal Code.

Case Background

Gregory has previously been subjected to numerous administrative and criminal as well as extrajudicial prosecutions in connection with his human rights and advocacy work. In 2018, he was severely injured in an attack by an unknown perpetrator, presumably in connection with his active participation in the defense of the Pulowa Forest. In 2019, he was found guilty of insulting former Cherepovets mayor Elena Avdeeva and current city head Margarita Guseva in a post on his personal VK page condemning deforestation. He was sentenced to 280 hours of mandatory labor under Article 319 of the Criminal Code (“Insulting a representative of authority”) when the case was retried. The original conviction was overturned due to numerous violations.

Another criminal prosecution involved charges of “spreading knowingly false information” about coronavirus. At the peak of the epidemic, in a social media group he administered, Vinter reported that prisoners were being transported to the Cherepovets SIZO in violation of sanitary and epidemiological regulations (some prisoners had obvious symptoms of the coronavirus). On March 31, 2021, he was sentenced under Article 207.1 of the Criminal Code (“Public distribution of deliberately false information about circumstances endangering life and safety of citizens”) and Article 319 (“Insulting a government official”), added during the investigation for his alleged use of obscene language against an officer during a raid, to six months (the appellate court reduced the original sentence to two years) of corrective labor with a 5% monthly deduction of earnings to the state.

The Arrest and the Criminal Case

On August 24, 2022, the prosecutor of the Vologda region Investigative Committee, Senior Lieutenant of Justice A.A. Nesterov initiated a criminal case against Mr. Vinter under the “e” part 2 of article 207.3 of the Criminal Code (“Public distribution of deliberately false information about the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, the execution of their powers by state agencies of the Russian Federation on grounds of political, ideological, racial, national or religious hatred or enmity or on grounds of hate or hostility toward any social groups.”)

On the same day Vinter was detained. He had remained in custody from the moment of his arrest on August 24, 2022, and on October 19, 2022, he was transferred from the pre-trial detention center to house arrest.

According to the indictment, Mr. Vinter, “in order to form a negative attitude towards the actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Ukraine during a special military operation, having a persistent dislike for the state authorities of the Russian Federation, including the head of state, … acting on grounds of political and ideological hatred and hostility, … conducted a dissemination [on the Vkontakte public page] under the guise of reliable messages deliberately false information containing data that the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation raped women and children, killed civilians and tried to burn their corpses in the cities of Bucha and Irpen of Ukraine”.

The “falsity” of the information in the indictment is substantiated by the phrase: “The information disseminated by G. M. S. Vinter according to the official position of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, is false.”

At the time of this writing, the post cited in the charge, made on April 4, 2022, in a group of social network Vkontakte, was still available in the public domain. Mr. Vinter’s imputed text was a comment on another user’s post. The full text of Mr. Vinter’s comment is as follows:

“It breaks my heart to see photos and videos from Bucha and Irpen. Occupiers from Russia raped children, and raped women were killed and abandoned right on the road, corpses were burnt. Everything that we knew about Afghanistan, Chechnya, Syria — everything is repeated in Ukraine — a wild herd of scum without family or tribe has carried out a monstrous massacre — GENOCIDE — of the peaceful Ukrainian population. This is the end of “Russian civilization” — no one will fall for Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky now — everyone will know that this is just a screen for Aleppo, Grozny and Bucha. Lord, take to heaven the tortured from Bucha and other Ukrainian places — may they be angels! Sorrowful tears.”

The defendant faces up to 10 years in prison.

Why the Memorial Center Recognizes Gregory Vinter as a Political Prisoner

Having examined the documents of the case, the Human Rights Center Memorial concludes that Gregory Vinter is a victim of political persecution.

A week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, on March 4, 2022, the Russian State Duma adopted emergency laws (not as separate bills, but by amending others that had already passed first reading) to amend the Code of Administrative Offenses and the Criminal Code. These laws dealt with calls for sanctions, “spreading fakes” about the Russian armed forces, “discrediting” them, as well as calls to obstruct their use. The same day, the Federation Council approved the laws, and in the evening, they were signed by President Putin. The amendments took effect on March 5, 2022, the date of their official publication. The Memorial’s attorneys assert that this article contradicts both the Russian Constitution and Russia’s international obligations, as well as the basic principles of law.

According to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference … shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Similar guarantees are contained in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought and speech.

The restrictions of freedom of expression established by Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code clearly do not serve the purpose for which such restrictions might be established, the Memorial emphasizes.

It is important to note, that legitimate restrictions on freedom of expression cannot be justified by military censorship, as stipulated by par. 15 of Article 7 of the Federal Constitutional Law “On Martial Law.”  Even under martial law, therefore, the law does not impose special restrictions on freedom of speech and opinion. Moreover, there are no grounds for them in a situation where martial law is not imposed.

De facto, the norms of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code allow prosecution for expressing any opinions on the use of the Russian Armed Forces and the activities of its government agencies abroad.

The aforementioned innate defects of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation determine its unlawful nature, which does not even allow its application in good faith. However, the fact of urgent introduction of this article into the Criminal Code immediately after the beginning of the armed aggression against Ukraine, and the rhetoric of officials that accompanied its consideration and adoption, and, most importantly, the context of its application — the ongoing military actions and accompanying state military propaganda exclude such good faith. In a situation where the only truthful information and assessments are those of official Russian sources, which not only justify the war of aggression and deny numerous accounts of civilian deaths as a result of Russian strikes and war crimes committed by Russian forces, but also prohibit calling events that from any perspective constitute war the word “war”, the application of this article of the Criminal Code, which is by its nature illegal, is also extremely unconscientious and unlawful.

Based on the above, the Independent Human Rights Project “Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial” asserts that Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code is unconstitutional, was created to conduct political repressions against critics of the authorities, and must be abolished. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and must be stopped.

Memorial’s lawyers further assert that Mr. Vinter’s statement is an emotional reaction to the crimes committed by the Russian military in the course of its armed aggression against Ukraine. The facts of shelling of cities, looting, killing of civilians and refugees, violence against women in the occupied territories have been documented and established, in particular, the facts of killing of civilians in Bucha and Irpen. As for the violence against children, this information was voiced by a representative of the official Ukrainian authorities at the time, which may well have been credible. The fact that these data were subsequently questioned by the Ukrainian authorities cannot impose responsibility on Mr. Vinter “retrospectively”. As for the the numerous violations of the rights of the population in Chechnya or Syria during military operations in those territories, these facts have been repeatedly confirmed by international human rights organizations and, in particular, by Memorial.

Human rights activists have not found either calls for violence or direct insults against specific individuals in Mr. Vinter’s statements, which could lead to the application of the exclusionary rule under the Guidelines on the recognition of political prisoners.

The independent human rights project “Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial”, which continues the work of the thematic Program of the liquidated by the state HRC Memorial, according to the international guidance on the definition of “political prisoner”, finds that the criminal case against Gregory Vinter is politically motivated, aimed at involuntary termination or change of the nature of public activities of critics of the authorities, as well as intimidation of society at large, that is, consolidation and retention of power by subjects of authority, while his incarceration was applied to him in violation of the right to freedom of expression. Moreover, the human rights organization believes that the persecution of people for their anti-war stance is related exclusively to their political views and the exercise of their freedom of expression.

Based on the above, Memorial considers Gregory Vinter to to be a political prisoner and calls for his release and for a review of his sentence with respect for the right to a fair trial.

9

“The Fundamental Commandment is ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’, There Shall be No War.” The Case of Priest Ioann Kurmoyarov

Oct 20 2022

Hieromonk of the Russian Orthodox Church Ioann (Dmitry) Kurmoyarov was detained in St. Petersburg and charged under the criminal article for public dissemination of false information about the Russian Armed Forces. Kurmoyarov faces up to 10 years in prison for this charge. The following is his story.

Who is Ioann Kurmoyarov?

Dmitry Kurmoyarov was born in 1968 in the region of Perm. Because Kurmoyarov’s father was a Soviet military officer who was often transferred from one region of the USSR to another, he and his family would later move to Belarus, and then to Ukraine. At the time of Kurmoyarov’s arrest, he was a resident of St. Petersburg. Kurmoyarov is a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), an alternative to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). It was in 2011 that Dmitry Kurmoyarov was tonsured as a monk by the name of Ioann. In the same year, Father Ioann received his PhD in theological studies from the Orthodox Theological Institute in Chernivtsi.

Kurmoyarov was active on his social media, with his earliest posts on Facebook dating back to2014, following Euromaidan and the change of power in Ukraine. Father Ioann wrote extensively about church issues, although political topics remained in a prominent focus. He referred to the war in Donbass “civil”, criticized Euromaidan and some Ukrainian politicians.

Kurmoyarov also denounced the shutdown of Russian television channels in Ukraine.

After moving to Russia in 2017, Father Ioann accepted a position as Associate Professor at the Novosibirsk Theological Seminary, where he taught theology for two years. At the same time, Ioann actively posted on Facebook and in 2017 he created a YouTube channel Orthodox Virtual Parish. On social media, Father Ioann criticized the reality of modern Russia, including the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Father Ioann became notorious for his systematic criticism of the Church of the Armed Forces in Moscow (which he dubbed “pagan temple”) for featuring of NKVD officers, Yuri Gagarin, other secular characters, and Soviet symbols. As direct retribution for this criticism, in the summer of 2020, Kurmoyarov was banned from conducting services, wearing a cassock and cross, teaching, and preaching in church. This ban was imposed due to “inconsistency” within the title of a cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Father Ioann tried to find another place of service since the ban was technically only valid for two months, but he could not secure employment due to derogatory references issued by the Novosibirsk Diocese.

Father Ioann tried to sue the diocese to get reinstated in the service, but so far these attempts have been unsuccessful. He later moved to St. Petersburg, joined the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR), found a secular job at a security company, studied music, and continued to be active on social media. Kurmoyarov did not give up his criticism of the Church of the Armed Forces. In December 2021, he even filed a lawsuit against Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu asking to prosecute him for insulting the feelings of worshippers. The suit was related to this particular church. During this time, independent media outlets such as Snob and Dozhd interviewed Kurmoyarov which boosted his popularity.

Case Background

Father Ioann condemned the “special military operation” in Ukraine two days after it began in a video titled “Why Putin will not win this war”. Father Ioann later released many more videos criticizing the military’s actions, however his video “Who will be in hell and who will be in heaven”, which was posted on March 12, 2022, attracted particular attention from law enforcement. In the video, Kurmoyarov comments on Putin’s statement that “we as martyrs will go to heaven, and they will just croak.” Father Ioann commented that, instead, only peacemakers will go to heaven “and the one who unleashed aggression, well, he won’t be in heaven, no matter how hard he tries”.

The authorities didn’t react to the published video immediately, however, according to Father Ioann’s brother, Alexander Kurmoyarov, some action was anticipated. “We discussed the situation with these videos and so on, in principle, we were ready for the arrest, we expected it, we assumed that some pressure from the authorities would be. We thought that they would summon us, talk to us. He thought that if the persecution were to be very aggressive, he would be pushed out of the country somehow, or he would leave on his own, but we didn’t make any specific plans. He was going to stay in Russia and live here,” said the priest’s brother.

In April, Father Ioann was stripped of his priestly ministry by a decree of Patriarch Kyrill, who stated that the “former hieromonk Ioann (Kurmoyarov) was actively engaged in media activities in support of the nationalist regime in Ukraine, forming false information about the armed forces of the Russian Federation, and the schismatic organization of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR).”

The Arrest and Criminal Case

On June 7, 2022, law enforcement officers searched the home of Ioann Kurmoyarov, known as Father Ioann, and confiscated equipment, two icons, a wooden cross and a cassock. The man was detained and charged under “e” part 2 article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the ruling of the investigating authorities, Kurmoyarov was charged, because of four of his video uploads to the social network VKontakte. In the videos, Father Ioann expressed his views on the war with Ukraine. Linguists, who conducted an assessment of the videos, concluded that Kurmoyarov “expresses ‘knowingly false information’ about the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”.

In his videos about the war with Ukraine, Father Ioann criticizes Russian aggression from the standpoint of the Christian doctrine. A popular segment of his was a video where Father Ioann stated that Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine will go to hell, not heaven. “In heaven turn out to be ‘blessed peacemakers’, ‘peacemakers’ you know what the problem is? And those who unleashed aggression — they will not be in heaven,” the priest says in the video.

Kurmoyarov’s YouTube channel features not only his own videos, but also videos by other authors, such as reposts of the Popular Politics channel, which was created by associates of Alexei Navalny, as well as Ilya Varlamov and Maxim Katz. Here are just some of the titles: “Putin and Repression in Russia: Who is the Real Traitor of the Motherland?”, “Why Does the Kremlin Propaganda Make Russians Hate Ukrainians?”, “About 40,000 Residents Dead in Mariupol!”, “The Patriarch Blessed Aggression Against Ukraine!”, “Why Did Putin Start This War?”

On June 8, 2022, Judge Tatyana Alkhazova of the Kalininsky District Court of St. Petersburg ordered Father Ioann was to be held in jail. The session was held without the participation of Kurmoyarov’s defender, lawyer Leonid Krikun, despite the fact that he had been notified of the investigation during his entry into the case the same morning. The prosecutor, on the contrary, assured the lawyer that the trial would take place only on June 9, 2022.

Kurmoyarov pleaded not guilty in the “military fakes” case, noting only that “he may have seemed harsh in his statements to some,” but they were “only evaluative, with reliance on the Gospel.” “I am a Christian pacifist. In my videos I insist that the basic commandment is ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ there should be no war. I’m not talking about extremism. I’m for peace! — Ioann Kurmoyarov said at the trial. — I didn’t blame everything on Russia. I was talking about the two sides where people were dying. The accusations are far-fetched. My position is that everyone should stop the war and everyone should sit down at the negotiating table.”

The clergyman also assured the court that he posed no threat to society and had no intention of going into hiding. However, the court granted the petition of the prosecution and sent Kurmoyarov to custody until August 6, 2022.

Under a new Russian law, Kurmoyarov faces up to 10 years in prison for “knowingly spreading false information about the Russian Armed Forces”.

On June 10, 2022, attorney Krikun was not able to locate his client in pre-trial detention center-1 (Kresty-2) where he was supposed to be held after the June 8, 2022 trial. Father Ioann was also not located in pre-detention center-6 (Gorelovo), nor at the temporary detention center, where they reported that he “had already departed.”

It was not until June 14, 2022, that Leonid Krikun found his client in SIZO-1. The lawyer fears that his client may have been subjected to torture: “I have a strong conviction that the behavior of the prosecutor Luzhetsky on the first day of ‘work’ with Father Ioann, his hints to me that he would continue exercising pressure against the accused, as well as the absence of Father Ioann for his defense counsel in all institutions of the SPbFU, point to the use of unauthorized investigation methods and attempts to cover the tracks of this crime”. According to the lawyer, the prosecutor previously said that “despite all his efforts Father John does not want to admit guilt,” and asked the lawyer to “work” with him, promising to add mitigating circumstances to the case.

Why Does the Memorial Center Recognize Ioann Kurmoyarov as a Political Prisoner?

Having examined the documents of the case, the Human Rights Center Memorial came to the conclusion that Ioann Kurmoyarov is a victim of political persecution.

A week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, on March 4, 2022, the Russian State Duma adopted emergency laws (not as separate bills, but as riders, by amending others that had already passed their first readings) to amend the Code of Administrative Offenses and the Criminal Code. These laws penalize calls for sanctions, “spreading fakes” about the Russian armed forces, “discrediting” them, as calls to obstruct their usage. These laws were approved by the Duma and signed by President Putin on the same day. The amendments took effect on March 5, 2022, the date of their official publication. Memorial attorneys firmly believe that this article contradicts both the Russian Constitution and Russia’s international obligations, as well as the basic principles of law.

According to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference … shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Similar guarantees are contained in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought and speech.

The Memorial emphasizes that the restrictions on freedom of expression established by Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code hold no ground.

Restrictions on freedom of expression cannot be justified by military censorship, as stipulated by par. 15 of Article 7 of the Federal Constitutional Law “On Martial Law.” Even under martial law, the law cannot impose special restrictions on freedom of speech and opinion. Moreover, there are no grounds for them in a situation where martial law is not imposed.

De facto, the norms of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code allow prosecution for expressing any opinions on the use of the Russian Armed Forces and the activities of its government agencies abroad.

The aforementioned features of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation establish its unlawful nature and cannot be applied in good faith. For instance, the circumstances surrounding the adoption of this article into the Criminal Code—immediately following the start of the armed aggression against Ukraine—along with the rhetoric of officials who encouraged its adoption and, more importantly, the circumstances surrounding its application alongside state military propaganda—exclude such good faith. In an environment where only official Kremlin-affiliated sources are deemed as those purveying truthful information and assessments—justifying the war of aggression, denying facts of civilian deaths as a result of Russian strikes and war crimes committed by Russian forces and even prohibiting calling events that from any perspective constitute war “war”, the application of this article of the Criminal Code, which is by its nature illegal, is also extremely unconscientious and unlawful.

Based upon the provided information, the Independent Human Rights Project “Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial” asserts that Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code is illegal, was created to conduct political repressions against critics of the authorities, and must be abolished. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and must be stopped.

Memorial also notes that this is not the first time Father Ioann (Kurmoyarov) has been persecuted for expressing an opinion. In the summer of 2020, after criticizing the Church of the Armed Forces, he was suspended by the Archbishop from the ministry for two months due to “non-compliance with the title of clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church”. Father Ioann was also stripped of his position as Associate Professor of Church Theology in the Novosibirsk Seminary.

On April 1, 2022, by decision of Novosibirsk diocese and decree of Patriarch Kirill, Father Ioann was stripped of his rank for his public position against the war with Ukraine. Father Ioann is currently ordained in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia under the omophorion of Metropolitan Agafangel. This is a non-canonical Orthodox association that broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 2007. The residence of the head of this church is in Odessa.

The independent human rights project Support for Political Prisoners and Memorial continue work of the liquidated HRC Memorial. According to the international guidance on the definition of “political prisoner”, Memorial finds that the criminal case against Ioann Kurmoyarov is politically motivated and aimed at involuntary termination for his critiques on the changes of the nature of public activities, of authorities, and of his thoughts about society at large, most particularly the consolidation and retention of power by subjects of authority. Father Ioann’s incarceration is in violation of his right to freedom of expression. Moreover, the human rights organization believes that the persecution of individuals for their anti-war stance is related exclusively to their political views and the exercise of their freedom of expression.

Because of these circumstances, Memorial recognizes Ioann Kurmoyarov as a political prisoner and calls for his release and for a review of his sentence with respect for the right to a fair trial.

10

Up to 10 Years in Prison for Having a Personal Opinion: The Case of Journalist Sergei Mikhailov

Jul 21 2022

In Altai, the Gorno-Altaisk City Court put columnist and founder of the weekly newspaper Listok, Sergei Mikhailov in pre-trial detention. A criminal case was opened against Mikhailov for spreading fake news about the Russian military after investigators received a complaint about his articles about the “special military operation” of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine. These articles had been published in Listok and on the mirror site of the newspaper’s website. 

Who is Sergei Mikhailov?

Sergey Mikhailov was born on August 1, 1976. He has a young child and currently resides in the city of Gorno-Altaisk in the Altai Republic of Russia. Mikhailov is the founder and a columnist of the opposition weekly newspaper Listok and is a member of the federal political council of the democratic party Parnas. He is charged under Article 207.3(2)(e) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Public spreading of deliberately false information about the use of the Russian Armed Forces and containing data about the exercise of their authority by Russian government agencies outside the Russian Federation for reasons of political hatred” — up to 10 years in prison). He has been in custody since April 13, 2022. 

Case Background

Russian authorities have accused Sergei Mikhailov of publishing false information on the destruction of a maternity hospital and drama theater in Mariupol by Russian troops, which resulted in the death of civilians, in Listok’s Telegram channel from March 9 to April 4, 2022. 

In addition, between March 20 and April 8, 2022, according to the case investigator, Mikhailov published false information on the killing of civilians by the Russian Army in the town of Bucha, Kyiv region, on the Telegram channel and newspaper website and in print issue No. 13(14)/1183 on April 6, 2022.

“By his actions, Sergei Mikhailov committed a crime under Article 207.3(e) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation — public dissemination under the guise of reliable reports of knowingly false information that contains data on the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation in order to protect the interests of Russia and its citizens, maintaining international peace and security, as well as containing data on the performance of their powers by state agencies of Russia outside the territory of Russia for such purposes, committed on grounds of political hatred and hostility,” concluded the above decision dated April 14, 2022 by V. Ageyev, the prosecutor for high-profile cases of the Department of Investigation,

The Arrest and the Criminal Case

On April 13, 2022, Sergei Mikhailov was detained in the town of Lyubertsy near Moscow where he had recently been living (hiding, according to prosecutors). 

“On April 13, 22 at 6:00 a.m. I wake up to a sharp knock on the door of a room in a dormitory near Moscow. There is a shout from the door — open up, police! Immediately the flimsy plywood door flew open with a good kick. A crowd of people rushes into the room. A little later I counted 15 people, led by two SWAT officers in bulletproof vests, with assault rifles and faces covered with balaclavas. There was a cry of ‘Face down!’ I lay face down, handcuffs snapped on my hands. ‘Stand up, face the wall!’” Sergei Mikhailov describes his detention.

On the same day, law enforcement officers searched the Listokoffice in Gorno-Altaisk and confiscated documentation and office equipment. Searches were also conducted in the apartments of the news outlet’s employees. 

On April 14, 2022, Mikhailov was taken under convoy to Gorno-Altaisk and placed in the temporary detention facility of the Department of Internal Affairs. Judge Elena Kuznetsova of the Gorno-Altaisk City Court placed him in the pre-trial detention center until June 7, 2022, on the recommendation of the investigation.

It should be noted that the criminal prosecution of Sergei Mikhailov was preceded by actions against him and his media outlet. At the end of March 2022, hackers tried to infiltrate Mikhailov’s Telegram channel, and in early April, VKontaktesocial media blocked Listok’s community group. On April 6, 2022, Olga Komarova, director of Publishing House Listok LLC, was summoned to the prosecutor’s office for drawing up a protocol under the administrative article on appeals to sanctions against Russia (Article 20.3.4 of the Administrative Code). In April 2022, the Gorno-Altaisk City Court fined Listok founder Mikhailov, director Komarova, and the media legal entity several times for publishing several articles allegedly discrediting the army, totaling over a million rubles.

On April 25, 2022, two criminal cases were opened against Mikhailov under the article on spreading “knowingly false information” about the Russian army (Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code). The first case was initiated due to reposts of entries about the war with Ukraine in the newspaper’s Telegram channel, and the second due to the publication of a summary of an article about the atrocities in Bucha from Wikipedia. 

“S. Figulin, the head of the Republican Center “E” and his subordinates talked to me without any lawyer. They said — the investigator allowed it… The Telegram channel of Listok was insistently demanded to be eliminated. After hinting at some mitigation, Mr. Figulin demanded that I record a video of me apologizing… I refused … Figulin voiced aloud his desire to consider the criminal case “in a special order” …Figulin: “You are ruining Listok with your own hands.” 

Sergei Mikhailov categorically refuses to admit to the charges and considers the criminal prosecution as obstruction of his professional journalistic activities.

Why Does the Memorial Center Recognize Sergei Mikhailov as a Political Prisoner?

After studying the documents of the case, the Human Rights Center Memorial came to the conclusion that Sergei Mikhailov is a victim of political persecution.

A week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on March 4, 2022, the Russian State Duma adopted emergency laws (not as separate bills but by amending others that had already passed the first reading) to amend the Code of Administrative Offenses and the Criminal Code. These laws deal with calls for sanctions, “spreading fakes” about the Russian armed forces, and “discrediting” them, as well as calls to obstruct their use. The same day, the Federation Council approved the laws, and in the evening, they were signed by the president. The amendments took effect on March 5, 2022, the date of their official publication. Memorial attorneys strongly believe that these articles contradict both the Russian Constitution and Russia’s international obligations, as well as basic principles of law.

According to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference … shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Similar guarantees are included in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought and speech. 

The restrictions on freedom of expression established by Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code clearly do not serve the purpose for which such restrictions might be established, Memorial emphasizes.

It is important to note that legitimate restrictions on freedom of expression cannot be justified by military censorship, as stipulated by paragraph 15 of Article 7 of the Federal Constitutional Law “On Martial Law.”  Even under martial law, the law does not impose special restrictions on freedom of speech and opinion. Moreover, there are no grounds for them in a situation where martial law is not imposed. 

The norms of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code allow prosecution for expressing any opinions on the use of the Russian Armed Forces and the activities of its government agencies abroad.

The aforementioned defects of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation determine its unlawful nature, which does not allow its application in good faith. The immediate introduction of this article into the Criminal Code after the beginning of the armed aggression against Ukraine, the rhetoric of officials that accompanied its consideration and adoption, and the context of its application — the ongoing military actions and accompanying state military propaganda — exclude such good faith. In a situation where the only accepted information and assessments are those of official Russian sources, which justify the war of aggression, deny Russian war crimes and accounts of civilian deaths, and prohibit the labeling of the events as “war,” the application of this article of the Criminal Code is extremely unconscientious and unlawful.

Based on the above, the Independent Human Rights Project “Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial” believes that Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code is anti-legal—that it was created to conduct political repressions against critics of the authorities and must be abolished. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and must be stopped. 

When considering the prosecution of Sergei Mikhailov, it should be noted that he has been an opposition politician and journalist for many years, was elected deputy in Altai, and criticized the work of the authorities and law enforcement agencies both at the republic and federal levels. Thus, there is reason to believe that an additional motive for the unlawful criminal prosecution was the desire on the part of the Altai law enforcement to stop his outspoken criticism.

Memorial considers Sergei Mikhailov to be a political prisoner and calls for his release and for a review of his sentence with respect for the right to a fair trial.

Five to Ten Years in Prison for Anti-War Price Tags: The Surreal Case of Aleksandra Skochilenko

Jun 30 2022

This is the story of a St. Petersburg-based artist Aleksandra “Sasha” Skochilenko, who tried to help Russians cope with depression and is now arrested for “war fakes.”

Who is Aleksandra Skochilenko?

Sasha Skochilenko was born on September 13, 1990. She is a resident of St. Petersburg, a journalist, feminist, artist, and musician. When Sasha was diagnosed with cyclothymia, a form of bipolar affective disorder, she created The Book of Depression to support people with similar health problems. The book has been translated into English and Ukrainian.She was active socially and politically and has repeatedly participated in protests against the war in Ukraine.

She was charged under paragraph “e” of Part 2 of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code:”Public dissemination under the guise of reliable reports of knowingly false information containing data about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, committed on grounds of political, ideological, racial, national or religious hatred or enmity or on grounds of hatred or enmity toward a social group,” up to 10 years in prison.” She was charged for replacing price tags in a grocery store with anti-war placards. She has been in custody since April 11, 2022.

Case Background

On the evening of March 31, 2022, anti-war flyers appeared in a Perekrestok supermarket on the first floor of Shkiperskii Mall on Vasilyevsky Island of St. Petersburg. Attention was drawn to these flyers by a customer — a 75-year-old retiree. The woman filed a police report.

As the Bumaga newspaper discovered, supposedly for more than 10 days the law enforcement officers questioned the employees of Perekrestok, and reviewed video surveillance cameras. Eventually, they established who had put the flyer in the price tag and where this person went.

The Arrest and the Criminal Case

On the morning of Monday, April 11, law enforcement officers conducted a special operation. They went to the apartment of the alleged suspect — his house was 900 meters away from Perekrestok. What exactly occurred in the apartment is unknown. The man living there turned out to be a friend of 31-year-old Sasha Skochilenko.

That morning, the Skochilenko received a message from the friend saying they were “looking for a body” in his apartment, asking her to come over. When she was on her way, the young man texted her that “everything was fine.” Skochilenko’s friends believe that the law enforcers could have texted Sasha from her friend’s phone.

When Skochilenko arrived at the apartment, she was detained. It was around 11 am. There was no news from Skochilenko for more than four hours, and law enforcement agencies did not comment on the situation.

During the search, the computer and the clothes on which Skochilenko allegedly replaced price tags with flyers were seized.

After the search, Skochilenko was taken for questioning to the Vasileostrovsky District Investigative Department of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for St. Petersburg, where her detention as a suspect was formalized.

According to the media outlet Setevye Svobodi, the interrogation continued until 3 a.m. During this time the charges against Skochilenko became more serious, with an added motive of political hatred or enmity: “d” part 2, article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, providing for 5 to 10 years in prison. How the information on the anti-war leaflets could be “knowingly false” and where the “motive of political hatred” came from is not mentioned in the documents provided by the investigation.

On April 12, 2022, Mr. Proskuryakov, an investigator from the investigative department of the Vasileostrovsky district of St. Petersburg petitioned for the court to apply a measure of restraint in the form of detention to Skochilenko.

The following day, April 13, 2022, the judge of the Vasileostrovsky District Court of St. Petersburg E.V. Leonovagranted the petition for restraint, issuing an order for the detention of Aleksandra Skochilenko until May 31.

According to Dmitry Gerasimov, Skochilenko’s lawyer confirms that she posted anti-war leaflets with information about the Russian Federation’s use of military force in Ukraine and its consequences. However, she does not believe that the information in them was false, as follows from the article of the Criminal Code imputed to her.

The Judge Sent Skochilenko to the Detention Center. She Has a Critical Health Condition: Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease 

Sasha Skochilenko spent the night of April 12, 2022 in jail. As she said later in court, she slept there, but was not given any of the water or food that her friends had brought to her. The first hearing on Skochilenko’s case was postponed to the next day — and shespent another day in the temporary detention center.

The hearing on Skochilenko’s restraint began at 9 a.m. on 13 April in the Vasileostrovsky District Court. More than 40 people gathered in the hall — friends, journalists, as well as human rights activists. Skochilenko was taken to the court hall in handcuffs and put in a caged cell. She looked exhausted and begged for water — but there was no water in court and visitors were screened for food or drink. Despite her depressed state, she thanked the crowd.

Judge Elena Leonova did not consider the fact that Skochilenkowas diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder and celiac disease — a genetic intolerance to gluten, which requires a strict diet — to be a legitimate reason to refuse to send her to the detention center.

The judge specifically noted that Skochilenko “has no serious illnesses diagnosed” and that “there is no data that [the girl] needs emergency medical care.” In response to the fact that Skochilenko’s lawyer gave her a medical report, the judge said that the document “is not taken into account, because the source of information is not mentioned.”

Later it became known that Skochilenko faced psychological pressure and bullying in the detention center by her cellmates. The inmates forced Sasha to wash all her clothes every day, including bulky sweaters and a robe. It took her half of the day, wastingtime she could have spent writing letters to friends and statements about her case.

On April 20, after her meeting with Skochilenko in jail, herlawyer Yana Nepovinnova said that she felt “very sick” and vomited because of the poor diet. By April 25 (by that time the artist was still transferred to the pre-trial detention center), according to Nepovinnova, Skochilenko’s health had further deteriorated.

Public Reaction

Affidavit of guarantee for Skochilenko were signed by deputies of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg, Boris Vishnevsky and Mikhail Amosov; politician Lev Shlosberg; and municipal deputy Sergei Troshin. The court also received a positive reference from Kirill Artemenko, the general director of Bumaga media outlet. Hundreds of posts appeared in social networks about her case, calling it absurd. The case has been covered by the independent media. An action in support of Skochilenko was held in London.

Amnesty International and the American PEN Center issued statements in Skochilenko’s defense. Costume designer Ksenia Sorokina, who won this year’s Golden Mask Award for her work on the play Finist the Clear Falcon, decided to give Skochilenkoher award “in gratitude for all that she does.”

What’s more infuriating in its injustice is not only the prosecution for anti-war stance (that too), but rather the possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and the fact that she was sent to adetention center despite her illness.

“I remind you that none of the men who threatened to ‘cut off their heads’ ever got anything,” wrote Legislative Assembly deputy Boris Vishnevsky. “And nothing for the two attempts to kill my friend Vladimir Kara-Murza. But for the anti-war speeches — jail and then prison for 10 years. Notice the difference.”

At the same time, many of those in favor of Skochilenko’sfreedom are pessimistic. For example, Vishnevsky himself tells the Bumaga media outlet that he “would be glad to be wrong” if the outcome of the case is still positive. Journalist Arseniy Vesninrecalled how he knew they would send Skochilenko to jail, even though he didn’t believe it.

A petition demanding the artist’s release also appeared on Change.org. At the time of writing, it has already been signed by over 130 thousand people.

A separate petition in support of Skochilenko was created by mental health activists and journalists. “Aleksandra is a person who has made a tremendous contribution to the fight against prejudice about mental disorders. In her Book of Depression, she explained and showed in simple language where the disease, which affects millions of Russians, comes from and how it is treated. It was one of the first Russian-language works to draw attention to an illness that affects more than 300 million people worldwide,” they stated.

Why Does the Memorial Center Recognize Aleksandra Skochilenko as a Political Prisoner?

Having reviewed documents of the case, the Human Rights Center Memorial has concluded that Aleksandra Skochilenko is a victim of political persecution.

The center asserts that the article about spreading knowingly false information about the actions of the Russian army (Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code) contradicts the Constitution of Russia, Russia’s international obligations, and the basic principles of law.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression,” and restrictions on the exercise of these rights “shall be provided by law and shall be necessary: for respect of the rights and reputations of others; for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.” The restrictions on freedom of expression established by Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code do not serve any of the above purposes and are a manifestation of censorship.

This article criminalizes any statements about the use of the Russian Armed Forces and the activities of its government agencies abroad. During an armed conflict, it is impossible to establish the truthfulness of information disseminated by various sources. It is also impossible to establish whether or not the information is known to be false. These defects determine the unlawful nature of Art. 207.3 of the RF Criminal Code.

The timing and context of the appearance of Art. 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code — after the beginning of large-scale Russian military aggression against Ukraine — allow Memorial to argue that this article was specifically created as a tool for persecuting critics of the Russian authorities, of which Aleksandra Skochilenko is an example.

Finally, it is important to note the particularly cynical nature of the court’s decision to place Skochilenko in pretrial detention despite her vulnerable state of health. As a result, her friends and relatives are now trying to secure a special diet for her in the pretrial detention center. The denial of a gluten-free options directly threatens Skochilenko’s health, which could lead to serious complications for her, including cancer.

The independent human rights project Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial, which continues the work of the thematic Program of the liquidated by the state HRC Memorial, finds that the criminal case against Aleksandra Skochilenko is politically motivated, aimed at involuntary termination or change of character and intimidation of society as a whole. The government’s punitive efforts were carried out solely because of her non-violent exercise of freedom of expression and information, by which she intended to protect human rights and her beliefs.

Based on the above, Memorial considers Aleksandra Skochilenkoto be a political prisoner and calls for her release and for a review of her sentence with respect for the right to a fair trial.