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Human Rights Council asks Minister of Interior to investigate attack on Navalny and his colleagues from the Anti-Corruption Foundation

posted 22 May 2016, 08:11 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2016, 08:20 ]

19 May 2016

Source: (info)
The Presidential Human Rights Council has formally asked the Minister of the Interior, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, to take personal control of the investigation into the attack on staff of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and its director, Aleksei Navalny. 

The attack took place on 17th May 2016 on the square outside Anapa airport. Aleksei Navalny wrote about the incident in his blog: ‘About 35 – 40 people ran forward from different directions, started throwing milk, then began fighting us. Although to call it a fight is a bit difficult. We were carrying rucksacks and had children with us. More than half of the group were young women. At one point they just pulled me back by the rucksack, but it was big, tied at the waist, I just fell on my back and that was it. This is part of what the “Cossack strategy” consisted of: pushing people to the ground and beating them up. The person who suffered most was Artem Torchinsky, a volunteer with the Anti-Corruption Foundation who is also a presented on Dozhd TV. They kicked him several times in the head. 

Consequently, judging by the accounts of victims and eye-witnesses, as well as video footage from the incident published on the Net, members of the Presidential Human Rights Council consider that the actions of the attackers contain clear signs of a crime under Article 213, part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Hooliganism carried out by a group of people in a conspiracy or organised group’). 

“The fact that the attack in question was carried out by people whose duties oblige them to maintain public order is cause for particular concern,’ the Human Rights Council says in its statement. 

The letter from the head of the Human Rights Council to Vladimir Kolokoltsev specifically points out that the given incident is one more instance of politically-motivated hooliganism that is becoming a huge problem nowadays. 

The Human Rights Council quite recently issued a statement that political hooliganism is becoming an everyday event and its impunity is undermining the political culture of our society, which is weak enough in any case. 

Human rights activists have called on law enforcement and oversight organisations to begn a battle against the phenomenon of political hooliganism, which is threatening to become even more widespread and to assume even uglier forms in the time leading up to the 2016 elections. 

Translated by Frances Robson 

Police officer fired for refusing to make arrests at 'illegal rally'

posted 22 May 2016, 08:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2016, 08:10 ]

19 May 2016

Source: (info
According to Kommersant, as cited by, Moscow police major Fedor Obedkov has been dismissed after he refused to follow orders to shut down an illegal rally in Moscow’s Druzhba park. The decision was taken by the city's police department. However, major Obedkov decided to appeal this decision and fight for his rights. 

According to Obedkov no rally took place; his bosses ordered to detain ‘bystanders and women with prams.’ 

On 26th August he was ordered to report to the park with local beat officers at 6 o'clock in the morning ‘to protect public order.’ However the statements presented in to the court by the Moscow police authorities state that ‘on 27th August at 6:05 the local police station received information that a potential explosive device had been discovered in Druzhba Park. By the time Obedkov arrived on location, the construction site had been cordoned off. ‘People out walking, local residents, women with prams’ approached the police officers to enquire why the place was out of bounds. 

Obedkov said: ‘Around noon the head of the local police district in Levoberezhny Colonel Sergei Stepanov arrived with traffic police officers arrived in a police van. He ordered me to fill it up with detainees.’ However, according to Obedkov, the commander refused to give him legal grounds for the arrests. 

At this point he refused to follow the illegal order. 

‘The people weren’t drinking, weren’t publicly urinating or shouting slogans, and they didn’t have any placards. It was obvious there was no bomb. There was no attempt to inspect the area,’ Obedkov reported. 

The next day, Colonel Stepanov filed a report on Obedkov stating that he ‘violated a direct order to detain persons whose actions were deemed illegal.’ 

Major Fedor Obedkov was fired on 28th October 2015 "in connection with repeated violations of service discipline.’ 

However, Obedkov took the case to the Golovin district court in Moscow. On 22nd March 2016 the district court ruled that his dismissal was ‘justified.’ 

Following this decision Obedkov lodged an appeal with Moscow City Court. He is continuing his battle for justice and believes that it is illegal to detain people on the whim of a police commander. 

The police ministry constantly likes to talk about the need to improve the image of police officers. It is officers like Fedor Obedkov that save the reputation of the police force. 

Human Rights Activist Oleg Orlov: “A basis for mass repressions is being created”

posted 22 May 2016, 08:05 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2016, 08:10 ]

17 May 2016 

Source: (info

The well known Russian human rights activist Oleg Orlov, board member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre has said that the new package of so-called “anti-terrorist” amendments to Russian law is the basis for mass repressions. 

Oleg Orlov told the ABN news agency Oleg Orlov said: “A basis is being built for mass repressions and they will inevitably follow. Because people in law enforcement bodies have to deliver results. It’s not a question of whether deputies in parliament and the top leadership of the country want mass repressions or not, but when a mechanism such as this is introduced into the legal sphere (in our country this is already a pseudo-legal sphere) they are inevitably going to start. The pressure is being cranked up.” 

The rights activist remarked that the package of new “anti-terrorist” amendments is founded on a mistaken premise. For example, it has lumped together the notions of extremism and terrorism, which is intrinsically wrong, Oleg Orlov is convinced of this. 

The package of amendments was drafted by State Duma deputy Irina Yarovaya and senator Viktor Ozerov. Among the proposals are that those citizens of Russia suspected extremist activity whould be banned from leaving the country who deprived of their citizenship. Human rights activists have spoken out strongly against such initiatives. A number of individual proposals they have called “unconstitutional”. 

Translated by Frances Robson 

Soldiers' Mothers of St Petersburg introduce mobile app "Draftee Online"

posted 22 May 2016, 08:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2016, 08:10 ]

12 May 2016

Source: (info)
The Android application "Draftee Online" is an aid to any draftee, whether he intends to do army service or has the right to an exemption.

The app provides advice based on the rich experience of the lawyers at the human rights organization Soldiers' Mothers of St Petersburg, who help draftees to figure out the most pressing and complex questions of the military draft, and to defend their rights independently.

"Draftee Online" is set up so that a young person who suffers a violation of the law can find a case related to his own situation and receive concrete recommendations as to the actions he can undertake to protect his rights.

The application describes the most frequent situations that draftees encounter, as well as giving templates of the necessary declarations and complaints.

The application unites a large number of useful functions, which every draftee should have at the ready:

Contact information for supervisory bodies in the event of a violation of your rights, as well as a human rights hotline;

Access to the lawyers at Soldiers' Mothers of St Petersburg through a special contact form;

An "emergency button" - a special feature that allows a young person inconspicuously to send an urgent text message to his family in the event that he is illegally detained and an attempt is made to send him to the army within a day.

Translated by Alissa Leigh-Valles

International Memorial Society: Commentary on the ‘pseudo-patriots and RenTV’

posted 9 May 2016, 04:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 May 2016, 05:04 ]

29 April 2016

Source: (info)
"... But there is absolutely nothing, and certainly not green disinfectant, that will help keep alive the kind of history that the Stalinist propagandists created, and in which the NOD and RenTV believe...." 
* * * 
On 28th April 2016 at the House of Cinema in Moscow, the traditional awards ceremony took place for the winners of the annual competition – already in its 17th year – of historical research by senior high school students, “The Person in History. 20th Century Russia”.

This ceremony always attracts attention, and students and teachers from many regions of Russia travel to Moscow to take part. The main organiser of the competition and award ceremony all these years has been the International Memorial Society.

Unfortunately, this year the joyful event was marred by the hooliganism of ‘activists’ of the so-called National Liberation Movement [known as NOD in its Russian abbreviations – ed]. The incident was not restricted to insults to children, teachers and members of the jury. A few people (among them the president of the jury, Lyudmila Ulitskaya) had green disinfectant and ammonium chloride thrown at them.

Many people coming to the award ceremony observed this disgusting spectacle, including the organisers of similar competitions for students from 16 European countries. Such a spectacle will hardly facilitate an improved image for Russia in these countries.

An added absurdity to what happened at the entrance to the House of Cinema was that those people who were shouting out insults, including anti-semitic slogans, had adorned themselves with St George ribbons and stood under a banner imitating the banner of one of the units of the Red Army.

The hooliganism of the members of the NOD is not new. Though it seems that up till now they have not attacked school students and teachers. And police laxity regarding their actions is also not news.

A relative novelty, however, was the news coverage of the event provided by RenTV channel, which practically took the side of the hooligans, which did all but declare them to be the victims. The coverage by RenTV is full of lies and slander.

The authors of the broadcast maintain the children had been given the message that “the fascists had brought European values to our country which Stalin the tyrant did not want to adopt.” But this is completely and totally the outpourings of the sick imagination of RenTV employees, and they will yet have to answer in court for their attempt to ascribe this madness to the organisers of the competition.

Everything that was said in the report about the essence of the competition is malicious slander, all the more disgraceful in that the information about the competition is in the public domain, as are the annually published collections of the winners’ essays, and the publication of the best works on the Internet.

From the very start of the broadcast the competition was named as “a competition for an alternative history of Russia,” and from this it is clear that it is that does not please the attackers, or the RenTV “journalists”.

They are frightened of the fact that the school students taking part in the competition choose their topics and heroes themselves. They are frightened that the students come into contact with real history, with the participants in and witnesses of historical events, that they themselves analyse the information they have gathered and draw their own conclusions – and are not simply learning by heart the text of one single textbook, which is the dream of those who were brought up on the Short History Course of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks).

It is no surprise that even the style of reporting is reminiscent of that same Short Course – naturally the main emphasis is placed on the support for the competition from a number of German foundations and the foundation of Mikhail Prokhorov.

This is perhaps the only relatively truthful piece of information in the broadcast. But RenTV makes no mention of the fact that the competition was also supported by a grant from the Russian President. This would contradict the image of an enemy which they have created.

Real history does not demand such a hysterical and soapbox type of defence which RenTV “journalists” demonstrate. Still less does history require defending with the help of green disinfectant, as used by the Stalinists outside the House of Cinema.

Real history, in which those who took part in the competition were becoming involved, helps in the development of immunity to historical speculations and falsifications.

But there is absolutely nothing, and certainly not green disinfectant, that will help keep alive the kind of history that the Stalinist propagandists created, and in which the NOD and RenTV believe.

Translated by Frances Robson

Attack on Memorial Society's schools' history competition: “It looks very much like officially sanctioned harassment”

posted 9 May 2016, 02:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 May 2016, 02:30 ]

28 April 2016

Source: (info)
Media sources reported that in the centre of Moscow extremists with red flags and St George ribbons attacked those taking part in an award ceremony for winners of the National Schools competition, The Person in History. They threw chemical substances and eggs at the organisers of the ceremony, and hurled insults at them. The events looked like a pre-planned provocation.

A staff member of International Memorial Society, Sergei Bondarenko, told Meduza what happened. Mediazona has suggested that activists from the National Liberation Movement (NOD) took part in the attack.

Irina Yasina reported that “near the House of Cinema where today they are announcing the results of the competition The Person in History, organized by Memorial, hooligans wearing St George ribbons are completely out of control. They poured some green disinfectant over the face of Lyudmila Ulitskaya. They are shouting to the teachers, ‘not school teachers but prostitutes”. They called my assistant Natasha a liberal slut. The police are standing idly by.”

International Memorial Society said on its Twitter feed that the attackers “are greeting everyone at the entrance with roars of ‘national traitors!’”

The programme manager at the International Memorial Society, Aleksandra Polivanova, told the Dozhd TV channel that “about 20 people in Soviet military uniform with St George ribbons came to the House of Cinema when the ceremony had started and began shouting at the guests, ‘Fascists!’ and ‘National traitors!’ They threw some green disinfectant in the face of the writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya who headed up the competition’s jury. At another participant they threw ammonia fluid. They threw raw eggs at people coming into the ceremony.”

Aleksandra Polivanova does not know whether the attackers are members of some sort of movement. Meanwhile activist Maria Katasonova has published photos from the scene of the attack on the Twitter account of the National Liberation Movement, Dozhd reports.

It is highly significant that, simultaneously with the attack on those taking part in the ceremony of the schools’ competition in Moscow, there was a similar attack on the prominent civic activist, the leader of the Foundation Against Corruption, Aleksei Navalny. According to Dozhd, one of the two who attacked him threw some sort of caustic blue chemical liquid at him.

Observers pointed out that for some reason the police did nothing to stop the hooliganism of the extremists. “Just try shouting out something at the entrance to an event by the ruling party United Russia or the United National Front. Not to even mention hurling chemical liquids. They would arrest you within minutes. But in this case it looks very much like officially sanctioned public harassment. This is why these various groups of Red Guards have been set up, In order to use physical force against dissidents when necessary,” the observers stressed.

Memorial runs a history essay competition for senior high school students, The Person in History. Russia in the 20th century, jointly with the Union of Local Historians of Russia, the Department of Regional History and Local History Studies of the Russian State Humanitarian University and the Likhachev International Charitable Foundation. In the framework of the competition the students investigate archive material, interview eye witnesses, study old newspapers, visit neglected buildings and monuments, discover new and unknown facts, find interesting and valuable documents and reconstruct the fate of those who lived in their local area.

Translated by Frances Robson

Memorial Human Rights Centre recognizes Sergei Akhmetov as a political prisoner

posted 6 May 2016, 13:44 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 May 2016, 14:08 ]

22 April 2016

Source: (info)
On June 18, 2013 in in the area around Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, there was a gathering of people in support of Aleksei Navalny and Petr Ofitzerov, who that day had been sentenced to prison in the politically-motivated Kirovles case.

At the gathering, the police carried out mass arrests, with more than 209 people arrested.

On June 20th, 2013, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation announced the initiation of criminal proceedings under Art. 318 (section 1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (application of violence, not dangerous to life or health, against a public official).

Memorial Human Rights Centre has reported that on November 22, 2015, an architect and designer from St. Petersburg, Sergei Akhmetov, was detained on the Finnish border as he was returning from a business trip to Russia.

On that same day, the Investigative Committee for Tver district in Moscow charged Akhmetov under Article 318 (Section 1) of the Criminal Code. On 23 November 2015, Elena Vladimirovna Ermakova, a judge at Tver district court in Moscow, remanded the accused in custody.

The prosecution of Sergei Akhmetov, obviously, is an extension of the campaign against Aleksei Navalny and his supporters, and in general, is a campaign of pressure on society that has been expanded in order to prevent citizens from participating in mass street events and protests.

In Akhmetov’s case, this campaign has manifested itself in the prosecution of a person for participating in public events (in support of Navalny) that he didn’t even take part in. He merely expressed online his readiness to go to the rally.

The defence presented compelling evidence of Akhmetov’s innocence and of the gross mistake of the investigation in prosecuting an obviously innocent man who was not even in Moscow in July 2013.

A comparison of photographs published by Open Russia on its website of Akhmetov and the man who tore epaulettes from a police officer clearly shows that there are two different people.

The prosecution could not explain how Akhmetov had travelled to Moscow on 18 July 2013 and refused to present details of his telephone conversations that could have proved that he was in St. Petersburg on the day of the Navalny rally.

Putting to one side Sergei Akhmetov’s evident innocence of the crime of which he has been accused, the criminal prosecution and prolonged pre-trial detention are themselves disproportionate to the danger presented to the public by the crime in question, namely the tearing off of a police officer’s epaulettes during a rally.

Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) considers Sergei Akhmetov to be a political prisoner and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Recognition of a person as a political prisoner, or as a victim of a politically-motivated prosecution, does not mean that Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with their views or statements, or approves of their statements or actions.

Translated by Sasha Shapiro

Monitoring Discrimination and Violations Against the LGBTI Community

posted 2 May 2016, 08:30 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 May 2016, 08:33 ]

21 April 2016

Source: (info)
Following one year of monitoring discrimination and violence against the LGBTI community, a presentation was given in St. Petersburg.

The event took place in an open format, with representatives gathered from civil society, consulates, the media, and the office of the Human Rights Ombudsman in St. Petersburg, as well as representatives of the LGBTQ community.

Comingoutspb reports that the program coordinators from the LGBTI group Exit (Vyhod), Johnny Dzhibladze and Kseniya Kirichenko, presented a detailed review of the situation, speaking about the basic types of violations: homophobic attacks, hate speech and insults, violations of the right to the freedom of assembly, discrimination in the workplace, discrimination of transgender people, and violations of family rights.

At the heart of the report were 122 instances in St. Petersburg in 2015, which the advocacy group documented.

The publication also contained a variety of recommendations to the Human Rights Ombudsman in St. Petersburg; the Committee on Matters of Law, Order, and Safety of St. Petersburg’s government; law-enforcement agencies; courts; educational authorities; the Committee on Registry; medical specialists; those who work with transgender people; NGOs; and labour unions.

“The monitoring and the resulting analysis from the information gathered, which characterizes the position of LGBTQ community in St. Petersburg, suggests that the members of this social group are extremely unprotected--both in terms of current legislation and also from the point of view of law enforcement,” the authors of the report conclude.

See the full text of the report in Russian 

Liudmila Alekseeva: General Tatiana Moskalkova's career makes her 'entirely unsuitable' for human rights work

posted 30 Apr 2016, 08:43 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Apr 2016, 08:50 ]

25 April 2016

Source: (info)
Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, comments on the decision of the State Duma to appoint Tatiana Moskalkova, parliamentary deputy and Major General in the Interior Ministry, as the Federal Ombudsperson for Human Rights.

According to Alekseeva, Interior Ministry General Moskalkova will not be able to work effectively as Human Rights Ombudsperson since the post demands someone with a completely different background.

'Moskalkova’s career trajectory shows that she has worked only for the security services, where she was apparently successful. She was made a Major General when she was still young. Her experience is valuable in those structures, but it is entirely unsuitable for human rights work. It contradicts the duties of a human rights ombudsperson,' explained Alekseeva.

Alekseeva believes that the best candidate would have been Vladimir Lukin, who has already held the post.

Tatiana Moskalkova’s candidacy for the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson of the Russian Federation was supported by the State Duma.

At the end of March 2016, President Putin relieved Human Rights Ombudsperson Ella Pamfilova of her post ahead of schedule. On 28th March she was elected as chairperson of the Central Election Commission by majority vote.

The television channel Dozhd reminds us that in 2012, when the Pussy Riot affair was unfolding, Moskalkova suggested adding an article to the Criminal Code on 'offending morality.' 

And in April last year she suggested renaming the Interior Ministry the Cheka [the name of the former Soviet security service – trans.].

She also suggested giving police the “appropriate powers for restoring order and preserving peace and security” in times of crisis.

It is entirely likely that the appointment of such a person as Human Rights Ombudsperson is intended as an unambiguous message to human rights activists and the democratic part of society.

Moskalkova has already declared that “there are no political prisoners in Russia”.

List of persons recognized as political prisoners by Memorial Human Rights Centre 

Translated by Beatrice Blythe

In memory of Semen Vilensky

posted 28 Apr 2016, 10:43 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Apr 2016, 10:53 ]

25 April 2016

Source: (info)
Semen Samuilovich Vilensky, poet, memoirist, publisher, founder and head of the Vozvrashchenie Historical and Literary Society and of Volya, a journal about prisoners in totalitarian systems, has died in Moscow.

Semen Vilensky was born in Moscow in 1928. In 1945 he became a student in the philological faculty of Moscow State University, and later went on to study at Lvov university.

In 1948 he was arrested on charges of anti-Soviet agitation and intended terrorism, based on verses he wrote critical of Stalin.

In 1949 he was convicted under Article 58 of ‘counter-revolutionary activity’ and sent to the camps for ten years. The greater part of his sentence he served in Kolyma.

In 1955 Semen Vilensky was released, Radio Svoboda reports, citing his son, the human rights defender Lev Levinson.

After his time in the camps, Semen Vilensky took up literary work. From the second half of the 1950s he gathered together an archive of recollections of GULAG prisoners.

In 1963 together with fellow ex-inmates of the camps, Semen Vilensky set up the Kolyma Collective, bringing together writers who had served time in the camps, an association that subsequently became the Moscow Vozvrashchenie Historical and Literary Society.

The archive that Semen Vilensky collected for over more than 50 years was donated by its creator to the Museum of the History of the GULAG.

Photos of Semen Vilensky:

1-10 of 1976