Russian on ‘List of Terrorists & Extremists’ for Online Criticism of War Against Ukraine
46-year-old shop assistant and solo mother, Yekaterina Vologzheninova, is to remain on Russia’s notoriously long ‘List of Extremists and Terrorists’ for reposting or ‘liking’ material on social networks critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and war in Donbas. This is no small thing since inclusion on the list resulted in Vologzheninova’s bank accounts being blocked depriving her of means of existence.
The List in question does not include Russian fascist ideologue Alexander Dugin whose video suggesting killing all Ukrainians can be easily found or recently re-appointed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov despite his recent sniper threat (to name just one) against an opposition leader. It does include poet Alexander Byvshev, convicted in a Russian court over a poem against Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Darya Polyudova over social network posts critical of the regime and Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov.
Vologzheninova had appealed against the decision to add her to the list and has now lost both that appeal, and the appeal on April 13 in the Sverdlovsk Regional Court against the original ruling. Her lawyers are preparing an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
On Feb 20, 2016, a court in Yekaterinburg found Vologzheninova guilty of ‘inciting ethnic enmity’ for reposting or ‘liking’ material critical of Russia’s policy with respect to Ukraine. Judge Yelena Ivanova’s sentence of 320 hours of mandatory labour was harsher than that asked for by the prosecutor. The judge also ordered that Vologzheninova’s laptop should be destroyed.
The charges against Vologzheninova were under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code - inciting ethnically motivated enmity (against Russians). Enforcement officers turned up at her flat on Dec 12, 2014 and, after carrying out a search, took her away for interrogation.
It was reported that the investigators had tried to get colleagues and acquaintances to testify that Vologzheninova had wanted to ‘incite enmity’. They do not appear to have succeeded since the judge used a ‘psycho-linguistic’ assessment of the material on VKontakte which concluded that the illustrations and texts were aimed at inciting hatred and hostility towards Russians. The same judge also chose to believe that there had been ‘propaganda of inferiority’ in relation to a specific national group – Russians and residents of eastern Ukraine who did not support Kyiv’s political course. The verdict states that there were also calls to violence against Russians, though it is entirely unclear where this was found.
One charge, however, was removed, probably to avoid undue publicity. This pertained to a caricature of somebody looking like Russian President Vladimir Putin with a knife in his hand which is raised over the map of Donbas
The conviction was particularly chilling as Vologzheninova had largely ‘liked’ and sometimes reposted, without comment material, including from Ukrainian sources. There were, for example, poems and posts where Russians are described as ‘permanent slaves in body and soul”, and birdbrained. She was accused of sharing links to documentaries and programmes about events in Ukraine, including ‘The Winter that changed us’ and the programme ‘Brave Hearts’.
The message is entirely clear: even reposts and ‘likes’ that go against Kremlin policy can get you into trouble. It was just as obvious that the court was there to rubber-stamp the ruling since Vologzheninova had already been added to the ‘List of Terrorists and Extremists’.
Russia is about to tighten punishment for what, in specific politically defined cases, it deems ‘extremism’ (details here)