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The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: New Sentences in The Moscow Case

Dec 06 2019

Today, on December 6, courts in Moscow sentenced 7 activists and participants of the summer protests against the denial of opposition candidates to run in the Moscow City parliament’s election. A few dozens of people have been charged in mass-rioting or police assault in connection with the Moscow protests.

Here is the summary of their cases and the sentences as well as the reasons why the man are recognized as political prisoners:

Yegor Zhukov, 21, charged for “calls for extremism via the internet”. Zhukov is an opposition activist and vlogger. He is a student of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He was charged under Part Two of Article 280 (‘Public appeals for extremist activities, using the Internet’) as a protester who took part in the manifestation in central Moscow on July 27, 2019. Yegor Zhukov was sentenced to three years of probation. Also, Zhukov was barred from managing websites for two years. Prosecutors asked the court to hand Zhukov a four-year prison sentence.

Nikita Chirtsov, 22, accused of pushing a police sergeant, causing him pain. Chirtsov is a programmer. He was charged under Part One of Article 318 (‘Use of force against a public official’) of the Russian Criminal Code as a protester who took part in the manifestation in central Moscow on July 27, 2019. Nikita Chirtsov was sentenced to one year in prison. Prosecutors requested the court to sentence Chirtsov to three years and six months in prison.

Pavel Novikov, 32, charged with throwing a plastic bottle at a police officer. He was charged under Part One of Article 318 (‘Use of force against a public official’) of the Russian Criminal Code as a protester who took part in the manifestation in central Moscow on July 27, 2019. Pavel Novikov was fined 120,000 rubles ($1,880). Prosecutors requested the court to sentence Novikov to three years in prison.

Vladimir Emelyanov, 27, accused of grabbing a police officer’s uniform. Emelyanov is an orphan who works as a merchandiser and lives with his 74-year-old grandmother and 94-year-old great-grandmother. He was charged under Part One of Article 318 (‘Use of force against a public official’) of the Russian Criminal Code as a protester who took part in the manifestation in central Moscow on July 27, 2019. Vladimir Emelyanov was sentenced to two years of probation. Prosecutors requested the court to sentence Yemelyanov to four years in prison.

Yegor Lesnykh, 34, charged with police assault as part of an organized group over pushing an officer down together with Martintsov and Mylnikov as well as kicking another officer. Lesnykh is an interior decorator, straight-edger and antifascist. He was charged under Part One of Article 318 (‘Use of force against a public official’) of the Russian Criminal Code as a protester who took part in the manifestation in central Moscow on July 27, 2019. Yegor Lesnykh was sentenced to three years in prison. Prosecutors requested the court to sentence Lesnykh to four years in prison.

Maxim Martintsov, 27, charged with police assault as part of an organized group over pushing an officer down together with Lesnykh and Mylnikov. Martintsov works in a laboratory and lives in Moscow. He was charged under Part One of Article 318 (‘Use of force against a public official’) of the Russian Criminal Code as a protester who took part in the manifestation in central Moscow on July 27, 2019. Maxim Martintsov was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. Prosecutors requested the court to sentence Martintsov to three years and six months in prison.

Aleksandr Mylnikov, 32, accused of knocking National Guard officer down and together with Martintsov kicked him. He was charged under Part One of Article 318 (‘Use of force against a public official’) of the Russian Criminal Code as a protester who took part in the manifestation in central Moscow on July 27, 2019. Aleksandr Mylnikov was sentenced to two years of probation. Prosecutors requested the court to sentence Mylnikov to three years in prison.

The video footages show that Emelyanov, Lesnykh, Martintsov and Mylnikov without weapons or improvised objects tried to stop the violence that the security forces used on a woman and a man lying on a ground. In response, they were beaten with rubber batons.

Pavel Novikov punched a riot police officer twice with a filled bottle on a helmet and armored shoulder pad. The video published by the Investigative Committee of Russia shows that the police officer did not fall, did not step back, did not bend.

According to the materials of the case, “injured” security officials did not have any injuries, even minimal scratches. The fact that they experienced “physical pain” for an instant is unprovable. Prison sentences for such a “pain” is clearly contrary to law and common sense.

Also, we cannot consider the pushing of a police sergeant by Nikita Chirtsov an act of violence. Moreover, we must acknowledge that these incidents occurred spontaneously, and in response to the unlawful and disproportionate violence exercised by the security forces against the demonstrators.

Representatives of the Memorial Human Rights Center were at the scene of the July 27 events. They have documented and examined in detail all available records of protests and “clashes” between the demonstrators and security forces. They have also analyzed available criminal case materials. Based on this expert assessment, the Memorial Human Rights Center has determined that the demonstrations on July 27, 2019 were peaceful and non-violent. There were no riots in Moscow.

According to Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, freedom of peaceful assembly is one of the most important civil rights; and it is the duty of authorities to facilitate organization of such functions to ensure public safety. On July 27, 2019, Russian government authorities did the opposite: they attempted to prevent a peaceful action, worked to disperse it, and in the course, detained about 1,500 participants, using disproportionate violence. Unlawful obstruction of a rally, demonstration or assembly is punishable under Article 149 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation with imprisonment for a term of up to three years.
The Memorial Human Rights Center, further declares that the persecution of the July 27 protesters is politically motivated and seeks to intimidate protestors and discourage further expression of political opinion.

It is also clear that the sentences against these individuals had been determined in advance of their actual arrests. It was public statements by the Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Putin’s Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov who claimed that “mass riots” had occurred in Moscow, that served as calls to action. These statements were an implicit order to the Russian law enforcement and judiciary.

State television and other pro-government media outlets dutifully complied and started producing reports of the alleged “riots.” They claimed simultaneously that protesters were criminals, sponsored by the West, “nonresidents” (implying that they were not Muscovites and therefore their rights were not violated by the exclusion of independent candidates for the Moscow City Assembly elections).

The Memorial Human Rights Center asserts that these unlawful and immoral actions are carried out by the authorities with the aim of depriving the political opposition of public support, intimidating citizens and dissuading them from participation in the protest movement, and further encroaching on the freedom of assembly and freedom of expression of the Russian citizens.

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Activatica.org (Estonia)Activatica.org (Estonia) Article 20 (Russia)Article 20 (Russia) Euromaidan SOS (Ukraine)Euromaidan SOS (Ukraine) Free Russia Foundation (U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Georgia)Free Russia Foundation (U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Georgia) Human Rights Foundation (United States)Human Rights Foundation (United States) Action for Post-Soviet Jewry (United States)Action for Post-Soviet Jewry (United States) Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice (United States)Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice (United States) Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University (United States)McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University (United States) Solidarus (Germany)Solidarus (Germany) Union of Council for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (United States)Union of Council for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (United States) Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (Canada)Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (Canada) NEP Prague (Czech Republic)NEP Prague (Czech Republic)