The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Vladimir Domnin
The Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized a Russian citizen Vladimir Domnin as a political prisoner. He was accused of having fought in Donbass region on Ukrainian side. We believe that Vladimir was in the war zone for a short time, but did not directly participate in war actions and does not pose danger to the society.
Vladimir Domnin is a resident of Moscow with nationalistic views. He was charged in participating in the activities of an extremist organization (Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), undergoing training for participation in an illegal armed formation (Article 205.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), and participation in such a formation (Part 2 of Article 208 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), as well as in the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition (Part 1 of Article 222 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). The charges against him are related to the fact that Vladimir allegedly joined the ranks of the Right Sector (which is banned in Russia), underwent military training, and then participated in the activities of the militarized structures of this organization in the anti-terrorist operation zone in eastern Ukraine, and also illegally kept a gun at home.
A political motive for the persecution of Domnin, in our opinion, is directly related to the official position of the Russian government on the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. On one hand, the Kremlin publicly denies its involvement in the conflict, on the other hand, the Russian authorities obviously take an anti-Ukrainian position. This has been expressed not only in statements by Russian officials and anti-Ukrainian propaganda in the media, but also in assisting pro-Russian armed groups in eastern Ukraine and in political persecution of Ukrainian citizens in Russia (Alexander Shumkov, Andrey Kolomiets, Alexander Marchenko, etc.) and Russian citizens who disagree with the ongoing Kremlin’s activities in Ukraine (cases of Denis Bakholdin, Daria Polyudova, Andrei Bubeev, etc.).
Vladimir Domnin pleaded guilty to keeping the gun. In the meantime, there is no indication in the documents of the criminal case that Domnin used weapons or was planning to use it for criminal purposes. Therefore, we believe that this accusation should not impede his recognition as a political prisoner in the remaining episodes.
- We consider Domnin’s guilt for other crimes imputed to him unproven. In fact, the three separate episodes in legal charges constitute the same crime, which is a flagrant violation of the basic legal principle, according to which “no one can be held criminally liable twice for the same crime” (Part 2 of Article 6 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
- Domnin’s actions do not constitute public danger, since they occurred on the territory of Ukraine and do not affect interests of Russia. The accused did not pose danger to the society after returning to Russian Federation, did not plan terrorist attacks or other criminal activities. On the territory of Ukraine, Domnin did not take direct part in hostilities: even according to investigators, while in the village of Maryinka, Donetsk Region, he “repeatedly went on guard … participated in the construction of fortifications, was engaged in recreational and economic activities … ensuring delivery of food and water supplies.”
- Domnin’s accusation of participation in the Right Sector is illegal, as this organization was recognized as extremist in Russia on the basis of extremely weak arguments amid gross violations of basic legal procedures.
The Memorial Human Rights Center, according to the International Guidelines for the Definition of a “Political Prisoner,” considers Vladimir Domnin a political prisoner. We call for an end to his prosecution under Article 205.3, Part 2 of Article 208, and Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code, as well as conduct a thorough qualified investigation under Part 1 of Article 222 of the Criminal Code. We demand to investigate reports of violence against Domnin during his detention and violation of his rights in prison.