Russian Activist Jailed & Could Face 5-year Sentence for Wearing a Putin Mask
Roman Roslovtsev has been jailed for 20 days for taking a walk in a mask depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, but could face a prison sentence of up to 5 years. Since this is the fourth time within half a year, he is now liable for prosecution under the draconian new Article 212.1 of the criminal code. The brave young Russian is in fact challenging the authorities to bring criminal liability for repeatedly violating his right to walk around the centre of Moscow in a Putin mask.
The 20-day administrative arrest sentence was passed on May 16 by the Tverskoy Court in Moscow. Roslovtsev’s ‘offence’ had been to walk out onto Red Square wearing the above rubber mask of Putin and a T-shirt stating “I’m not afraid of Article 212.1. On previous occasions Roslovtsev has held a placard with the same words. The judge chose to agree with the police that this constituted a violation of Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offences, namely the procedure for organizing or holding meetings, demonstrations, marches or pickets. Since the court ordered that the mask be destroyed, it was clearly this that was deemed to constitute an ‘offence’.
The same court in April fined Roslovtsev 30 thousand roubles for two previous walks, and also ordered that the mask be destroyed. Back in April, Grani.ru (which is officially blocked by Russia’s censor Roskomnadzor) reported that the detention was Roslovtsev’s sixth, and second on Red Square. Roslovtsev was detained again on May 14 (see the video), with this already the tenth time.
In breach of Russia’s Constitution, only single-person pickets do not need official approval. This, however, is now proving to not be the case if you’re wearing a Putin mask. Roslovtsev obviously denies any ‘wrongdoing’, and points out that he is simply exercising his constitutional rights and freedoms.
It takes courage to take Roslovtsev’s stand. In December 2015 activist Ildar Dadin was sentenced to 3 years under the new anti-protest law. This was reduced by 6 months at appeal level but the conviction for four entirely peaceful protests, including a single-person picket, was upheld.
The new Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code was introduced in July 2014. As well as allowing for hefty fines or even 30-day terms of imprisonment on administrative charges, it envisages criminal prosecution for totally peaceful protest. A sentence of up to 5 years can be passed if a court has issued three rulings on administrative offences within 180 days.
Article 212.1 breaches Russia’s Constitution and legislation, as well as international law for a number of reasons. It imposes double punishment for the same actions, first via administrative legislation, then criminal. The criminal charges can carry a term of imprisonment of from 3 to 5 years despite the fact that the supposed ‘offences’ are of a formal nature and do not present any danger to the public.
As can be seen with the administrative protocols against Roslovtsev, there are effectively no grounds, yet the Tverskoy Court has imposed huge fines and now jailed him. The next step, according to the measure aimed at crushing peaceful protest altogether, is criminal prosecution.
What can earn a brave activist a prison sentence can be seen here: