Wartime Repressions Summary

March 2023

Русская версия

Українська версія

More than a year ago, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Inside its borders, the Kremlin unleashed country-wide repressions. It detained almost 20 thousand people, charged more than 450 individuals in anti-war cases, and introduced new laws contradicting the Constitution and common sense.

Read more about these statistics in our monthly summary.

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Restriction on the Right to Freedom of Assembly

Since the publication of last month’s summary, we found several dozen cases of alternative forms of "pressure"–not accompanied by arrests. In this summary, we excluded them from statistics. Therefore, the increase in the total number of detentions for the entire period was less than the number of recorded arrests for March. Read more about our methodology here.

Repression at the Legislative Level 

This month, the State Duma passed a law extending the criminal code regarding the spread of “fake news” and discrediting of the Russian Army to include smearing “volunteers'' (i.e. Russian mercenaries) participating in the war in Ukraine. In the previous 13 months of the war, they passed 33 such laws.


Criminal Cases

37 new defendants in “anti-war cases” were reported this month. Eighteen-year-old activist Maxim Lypkan was the youngest accused under the “fake news” article. He faced psychological and physical pressure in jail. 

A preliminary investigation into the paintings of Elena Osipova, a 77-year-old artist from St. Petersburg, was launched, and a criminal case against Vasily Bolshakov for an anecdote in the Ryazan region was initiated.

There was also an “incitement to treason” case. It was based on “the desire to prevent Russia from achieving its goals in the war with Ukraine.” In Khabarovsk, an alleged activist from the “I/We are Furgal” movement was accused of treason for financing the Ukrainian Army. In Sevastopol, a 62-year-old woman was a suspect of vandalism for painting Ukrainian flags on benches.

This month, the length of sentences for defendants in “anti-war cases” continued to surge. A married couple from the Tver Region (Alexander Martynov and Lyudmila Razumova) was sentenced to 6.5 and 7 years in prison, Andrei Balin, a politician, was given 7 years in prison, and Dmitry Ivanov, the founder of the Protest Moscow State University Telegram channel, was sentenced to 8.5 years. All of them were charged with knowingly spreading “fake news” about the Russian Army. The couple from Tver was also accused of vandalism because of anti-war graffiti. Kirill Butylin, a resident of the Moscow region, was sentenced to 13 years in a strict regime penal colony for attempting to set fire to a military enlistment office.

Security forces continued to use violence, threats and other pressure against the persecuted.

Security forces threatened to beat, rape, or send 16-year-old Egor Balazeikin, suspected of burning two enlistment offices, to a psychiatric hospital. Seventy-one-year-old Vladimir Atamanchuk, accused of repeatedly discrediting the Russian Army, said his investigator threatened to lock him in a basement if he refused to sign documents necessary for his investigation (allegedly, an agreement to fraudulent evidence). Politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, whose trial has already begun, lost feeling in his limbs due to inadequate conditions and lack of medical care in his cell at the Vodnik Pre-Trial Detention Center in Moscow. He could not even attend his trial. Ilya Baburin, accused of organizing the failed burning of an enlistment office in Novosibirsk, has been bullied in jail and threatened with a life sentence.

OVD-Info lawyers helped 54 defendants in 44 anti-war criminal cases and aided "the suspected" in two searches and four interrogations.

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Administrative Cases

*According to "Mediazona"

Under the article for discrediting the Russian Army, Mikhail Abdalkin, a Samara deputy from the Communist Party, was fined 150 thousand rubles because he listened to Vladimir Putin's address to the Federal Assembly wearing noodles over his ears. In Russian, “don’t hang noodles on my ears” is an idiom meaning “don’t lie to me”.

OVD-Info civil rights defenders worked on 119 administrative cases this month (112 of them were anti-war cases), visited police departments 28 times (19 of those were anti-war cases) and helped 45 detainees in jail. Also, an OVD-Info lawyer went to "Open Space" (a civil rights coworking project) in Moscow. There, the police disrupted artist Sasha Skochilenko’s book presentation. Police accused her of knowingly spreading "fake news" about the Russian Army (Item "D", Part 2 of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code).

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Extra-Judicial Pressure

This month, child services pressured civilians due to their anti-war positions. In the Tula region (193 km south of Moscow), 13-year-old Masha Moskaleva has been kept in an orphanage for more than three weeks. Her father is under house arrest because of a criminal case alleging he discredited the Russian Army. Masha is prohibited from communicating with her father, the outside world and moving home.

In Ulan-Ude (a city in Eastern Siberia), pensioner and Buryat activist Natalia Filonova’s 15-year-old adopted son was sent to an orphanage. She has been in jail since November.

“Foreign Agents” and “Undesirable Organizations”

Over the past month, the World Wildlife Fund, the Free Buryatia Foundation, journalist Daniil Gubarev, economist Sergey Guriev, ex-head of Yandex.News Lev Gershenzon, politician Gennady Gudkov, blogger and activist Veronika Vodwood, lawyer Pavel Chikov, blogger Ilya Varlamov, Svetlana Lada-Rus (Peunova), political scientist Ruslan Aisin, former Rain journalist Bogdan Bakaleyko, and the association Guys Plus were added to the register of "foreign agents.”

This month, four organizations were deemed "undesirable" including Transparency International, the Institute for Statecraft (UK), Solidarus (Germany) and the Free Nations of Post-Russia Forum. Twenty-seven organizations have been named "undesirable" since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Blocking and Censorship

*According to "Roskosvoboda"

Wikipedia was fined 2 million rubles for refusing to remove information about the war in Ukraine. This is the online encyclopedia’s third fine.

Roskomnadzor even blocked a recipe for cooking lentils because of an anti-war appeal to Russians on the site. Project Go through the Forest’s website, OpenSanctions’ international database, the Ukrainian International Legion’s and the Congress of People's Deputies’ websites were also blocked.

Pressure on Civil Society

This month, authorities escalated their harassment of "Memorial". The homes of volunteers and employees from the Perm branch were raided. A criminal case against co-chairman of Memorial Human Rights Center Oleg Orlov was launched for discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

The authorities also demanded the liquidation of the Information and Analytical Center "Owl" ("Sova"). A police report was filed against Roskomsvoboda due to lack of foreign agency labelling. We cannot confirm that this is anti-war pressure, however, after the outbreak of the war, repression against civil society intensified, so we included these cases in our summary.

Security forces in Moscow also carried out brutal raids. They disrupted artist Sasha Skochilenko’s comic presentation. She is accused in an anti-war “fake news” case. Police also conducted a “raid on bars” because they were allegedly financing the Ukrainian Army. In both cases, the police used violence. At “Open Space” (a civil rights coworking project) where Skochilenko’s presentation was held, the police forced people face down onto the floor and beat Konstantin Novikov for refusing to show his passport. At bars, they made customers sing “patriotic” songs.

Links to other OVD-Info data and reports