Russian blogger jailed for social media repost of clip criticizing Russia’s war against Ukraine
"War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength" (Screenshot from the video)
34-year-old Russian blogger Roman Grishin is to serve a 40-day prison sentence for reposting a musical clip in 2014 which in satirical form strongly condemns Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. The court concluded that the video incited hatred to the supposed ‘social groups’ of “the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia”; “Russians” and “citizens of DPR and LPR” [the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’]. The jail-term, in a very low-security prison, is in fact because Grishin refused to do the 320 hours’ community service initially imposed in protest at the sentence. He told Sota.vision, that he had said immediately that he would not comply with the initial sentence and that he didn’t understand why a person with an alternative point of view should have to labour without any remuneration for an insane state.
As reported earlier, FSB officers in masks and special gear first turned up at Grishin’s work in Kaluga in November 2016. He was grilled then about his regular visits to Ukraine and about why he had taken photographs of himself on Maidan [Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square in Kyiv]., as well as about the video clip he had reposted back in 2014 and entitled ‘This, baby, is Rushism’. There was silence for almost a month after this visitation, then on December 16, he was formally charged with ‘incitement to enmity’ under Article 282 § 1 over the video he had reposted on VKontakte.
The Russian investigators claimed that the clip, a biting attack on Russia’s excuses for its aggression against Ukraine, contained utterances that fell under Russia’s anti-extremism law. On June 10, 2017, the Kaluga District Court accepted this, ignoring an alternative assessment of the video which demolished the position taken in the official ‘expert assessment’. It was typical that the ruling was taken almost verbatim from the indictment.
Grishin’s lawyer Alexander Gavrikov worked on the appeal in cooperation with a lawyer from the Memorial Human Rights Centre.
The video in question was produced by Boris Sevastyanov from Kharkiv. The term ‘Rushism’ in the title merges ‘Russian’ and ‘fascism’ and refers to Russian ideas about their ‘special mission’, the ‘Russian world’ which they claim includes Ukraine, and the use of the Russian Orthodox Church to claim moral authority for acts of aggression. The refrain, in fact, says: “That, baby, is rashism, Orthodox fascism. We’ll seize and appropriate, and hold a referendum”
The lyrics note, for example, that “fascists shout about fascists louder than anybody else” and says that Putin’s favourite occupation is looking for enemies, that they hate Americans, Ukrainians and Jews (offensive terms are used for all three of the latter, but in context that is clearly criticism of those who look for ‘enemies’).
Both the images and the lyrics are a devastating attack on Russia’s claims that Ukraine is a ‘brother nation’ (If we’re brothers, then you are Cain, we are Abel), and on Russian propaganda. “Journalists don’t know how to lie more monstrously, and are willing to kiss Putin’s arse for honours”.
The absurd claim that this constituted ‘incitement to enmity’ against supposed ‘social groups’ is just one of many examples of the current Russian authorities’ abuse of extremism and other legislation.