“Let’s Fight the Propaganda Together” Anti-war Activities in Russia, 9-16 July 2022
Protests and Demonstrations
Former Channel One editor resumes her protest
Former editor at nationwide TV Channel One, Maria Ovsyannikova has returned to Russia and resumed her protest against the “special military operation”.
On Friday 15 July,Ovsyannikova posted a photo of her new anti-war protest on her Telegram channel: she held a one-woman picket on the Moscow River embankment opposite the Kremlin in memory of the children who have died in the course of military operations in Ukraine. “Putin is a murderer, his soldiers are fascists,” reads the placard she held: “352 children have died. How many more must die before you stop?” To general amazement she was not arrested but left the embankment quietly.
On 14 March this year, as readers may recall, Ovsyannikova appeared during a broadcast of the nightly Vremya news programme behind the presenter, with a placard that read, “NO WAR. Stop the War? Don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here. Russians against war”. On that occasion she was arrested by the police and charged under Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences concerning discrediting the Russian armed forces.
On Saturday 9 July, a local Moscow resident was arrested for saying “No to the War'' as she rode in a city taxi. She was taken to the Zamoskvorechye police station in south central Moscow. The police intend to bring charges against her, she says, under the article (Administrative Offences) that forbids the drinking of alcohol in public places.
Police in South Russia (Rostov-on-Don) are looking for the unidentified person who painted the column in the city of Azov in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag ––reported the “7x7 Horizontal Russia” website on 10 July. The previous day the police came to question local inhabitant Ilya Pognerybko. Earlier he was fined 40,000 roubles for discrediting the Russian army in a comment posted on a social network.
Pognerybko says he knows nothing about the incident. The police demanded he hand over his mobile phone in order to verify his location.When he refused, they arrested him and took him to the police station. He was released without charge 40 minutes later.
Novaya gazeta published a report on Sunday 10 July about Victor Pavlenko, a surgeon from Yelets in the Lipetsk Region (CentralRussia). He was dismissed as department head at the hospital after he shouted, “Glory to Ukraine!” at a staff gathering.
The event occurred on 17 June when Pavlenko and his colleagues were celebrating Medical Worker’s Day at a rest home. His words were heard by the Yelets city mayor and FSB officers nearby. Pavlenko was taken to the police station and charged with discrediting the Russia army, under Article 20.3.3 (Administrative Offences).
On Sunday 10 July, activist Alexander Kapustin conducted a one-man picket in his native Krasnoyarsk (central Siberia). He held two placards.
One depicted the globe and doves of peace with the caption, “Say no to fascism. Do not remain silent: say No to the War!” Kapustin was protesting in support of the journalists Maria Ponomarenko, Alexandra Skochilenko and Victoria Petrova (all in custody for anti-war protests) and Lilya Chanysheva, who formerly worked for opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The second placard depicted a hare with a peace sign behind bars made up of the four women’s names.
On his Telegram channel Kapustin wrote that he was arrested and charged under Article 20.6.1 (Administrative Offences) for “failure to observe rules of conduct during a crisis or the threat of its occurrence”. He was later released from the police station.
Maxim Koshelev was arrested in St Petersburg on Tuesday 12 July after he protested outside an enlistment and recruitment office with a placard reading “Peace will triumph!” He was taken to the police station and charged with discrediting the Russian armed forces. He was released that evening.
Anti-War Declarations Online
The 70th investigation under Article 207.3, pt. 2 (Criminal Code) “circulating fake news about the Russian army”, was opened concerning the activities of St Petersburg protestor Vsevolod Korolyov. According to “online freedoms” the charges were brought because of Korolyov’s posts on the VKontakte social network about the atrocities in Bucha, Borodyanka and Donetsk. A search was made of Korolyov’s apartment on the morning of Tuesday 12 July after which he was arrested.
Korolyov has also made a documentary film about Alexandra Skochilenko from St Petersburg who is on trial, accused of committing the same crime. Korolyov said that he was planning to make films about those investigated for discrediting the Russian army. On his Vkontakte page Korolyov has written a great deal about military operations in Ukraine and expressed his sympathy for people accused of “circulating fake news”. He wrote the following about Maria Ponomarenko, arrested for her post about Mariupol:
“I wish that people in my country would regain an ability to understand for themselves what is going on, independently not from what they are told. Only then will we take pride in people like Maria instead of condemning them for naming things by their true names.”
On 14 July, the Vyborgsky district court in St Petersburg sent Vsevolod Korolyov to the investigation & detention centre (SIZO) for two months. His lawyer’s appeal for his client to be placed under house arrest was rejected. When Korolyov was allowed to address the court, he began his speech with a quotation from Thomas Mann: “War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace” and continued.
“Perhaps one day we shall learn not to interfere in the affairs of other States. As concerns the measure of restraint I have no intention of going into hiding. At one time I thought of emigrating, but I am part of this country, this State. Russia remains my country: today she’s sick and in difficulties but everything will improve, sooner or later.”
In the Volga Federal District activist Alexei Podnebesny (Nizhny Novgorod) was fined 30,000 roubles in June for “discrediting the army”. He has now received the court’s official ruling and learned that the fine was imposed because he wrote the words “special operation” in inverted commas.
His post on Vkontakte referred to a lack of hot water in the students’ hostel. Instead of solving the problem, he wrote, the money was spent on the “special operation”. A local resident informed on him to the police. The court ruling says that Podnebesny used the inverted commas in an ironic and demeaning fashion.
An interview with rock musician Yury Shevchuk, leader of DDT, was posted on the YouTube channel “Tell Gordeyeva” on Tuesday 12 July;one of the singer’s phrases, “Come home, Motherland!” was used as a title. Announcing the interview, Katerina Gordeyeva wrote:
“We began recording this video in March 2022, almost immediately after the war began. It was difficult to breathe then; almost impossible to speak. We delayed showing the interview and did not post it immediately.
“In June 2022, however, we decided it was time to speak out. Could we get used to the war? And if we did, how much would that cost us? Why did Russia need to hear concerts by DDT right now? What verses get written when your Motherland has gone to war and why has Shevchuk stayed here when everyone else has left.
“Shevchuk added, ‘All the venues where we performed were totally against the war’. By Saturday 16 July, the interview had been watched more than three million times.
“True Russia”, Another Initiative in Support of Ukraine
In March 2022, writer Boris Akunin, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and the economist Sergei Guriyev launched the “True Russia” project. Its goal was to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees. Among those named as supporting the project were musician Andrei Makarevich, writer Ludmila Ulitskaya, journalist Leonid Parfyonov, and the singer-song writers Tatyana and Sergei Nikitin.
On 24 May 2022, the “True Russia” website was blocked on orders of Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office.
Support for Soldiers Refusing to Fight in Ukraine
Journalist Alexandra Garmazhapova, head of the Free Buryatia foundation, has described a recent success. About one hundred and fifty soldiers who tore up their contract with the Russian armed forces arrived home when their plane landed in the east Siberian republic.
Long ago the soldiers officially requested to end their contracts, but they could not get home.Obstructions were placed in their way: their papers were not accepted, they were ignored and threatened with being confined to barracks and punished for desertion. Their ignorance of the law and their basic rights were exploited. At the time of publication, the foundation has helped more than five hundred soldiers who can’t understand what the war has to do with them to return home to Buryatia.
The foundation, says Garmazhapova, has created a special information sheet explaining to soldiers their rights and how the law can help them break off their contract.
What follows is an excerpt from a declaration by the foundation which was read by a member of the Feminist Ant-War Resistance to activists in France:
“The Free Buryatia foundation is the first ethnic, anti-war movement in Russia, organised by activists in the east Siberian republic. The overwhelming majority are women Buryats.
“From the very beginning of the war our region has suffered more losses than any other and it was important for us to announce that we Buryat women are against the war. We consider the war against Ukraine to be xenophobic.If Russia were a tolerant society the idea of the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine and the assertion that Ukrainians have neither a language nora history of their own would find no support among Russian citizens.
“The native peoples of Russia have been subjected and continue to suffer from ‘denazification’, which in reality means total Russification. We know what it means when your language and culture are banned. The Kalmyk nation and those of the North Caucasus experienced Stalinist repression when they were deported (1943-1944). Inhabitants of Russia’s ethnic republics encounter xenophobia and racism to this day when they visit Moscow or St Petersburg.
“Yet military conscripts from those same regions are being sent to Ukraine to defend the ‘Russian world’. There is a campaign in the media to discredit the Buryats. It makes it appear as though it was Buryatia not Russia which attacked Ukraine. Yes, Buryatia has suffered great losses, but Buryats are a minority wherever they live. In Buryatia we make up 30% of the population, in Russia as a whole we are 0.3% of the total. It’s the same in the country’s military units.
“[…] Our foundation is keeping records of the military losses. We help military conscripts break off their contracts. We are doing everything we can to ensure that conscripts from Buryatia are not sent to Ukraine. We believe that activists in every region should do the same. We are prepared to help and share our experiences. Let’s fight the propaganda together. Let’s do all we can to make sure not another single Russian solider enters Ukraine!”
On Thursday 14 July, BBC Russia reported that the Free Buryatia website had been blocked.
In an interview with the BBC, Garmazhapova said no family in Buryatia had been unaffected by the war against Ukraine. She continued:
“All of Buryatia is involved; everyone is aware of the scale [of the problem]; and many cannot understand why they are fighting there. ‘What has Ukraine got to do with us?’ people say.‘Buryatia does not even share a common border with Ukraine’. No one is keen to fight.
“Back in March when we filmed ‘Buryats oppose the war’ –before that everyone had been saying in the official media that Buryats to a man supported the war– we thought we’d get a lot of hate-mail: we’re all in favour of the war, so to speak, everything’s fine here, don’t bring shame on us! Instead, we almost immediately received the reverse of that propaganda. ‘Thank you for what you said,’ people began to write to us, ‘I was beginning to think I was the only one who opposed the war’.”
Throughout the recent conscription campaign, lawyers and experts of the “Conscious refusal of military service” project have been providing consultation and other legal help to those who want to refuse to perform military service: conscripts, serving soldiers and those currently in the reserves. The total amounts to more than one thousand three hundred and fifty consultations.
They were consulted by those who had encountered obstacles in asserting their right to alternative service; those who wanted to defer military service or to write a master’s or doctoral thesis and not learn how to fight; those who wanted to break off their contract to do military service; or who were conscientious objectors.
In recent time six pleas have been submitted to the courts with the participation of the coalition’s lawyers, disputing decisions of the conscription commission not to permit alternative civil service; several court hearings have been held; some appeals had been made to supervisory agencies about violation of the right to alternative service.
One of the pleas concerns a conscription commission which justified its refusal to permit a citizen to do alternative service in the following words:
“Mention of the Ukrainian conflict in the context of the formation of any convictions by the conscript concerning the expediency or moral component of military actions demonstrates that the conscript lacks a realistic view of the world. To quote the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin ‘the contemporary world is complex and many-sided’ […] Evidently the idealistic approach of the conscript or certain other circumstances in the shaping of his view of contemporary problems have not enabled him to make a sober assessment of his rights and duties.”
Members of the coalition of lawyers and experts helped to draft an article for the Dokha student magazine: “How not to become a killer. Alternative service is the way to express your right to hold anti-war views”.
A post about a “total refusal to do military service” has appeared on the Telegram channel “A call to conscience” together with statistics on how many have been prosecuted for evading conscription, 98% got away with fine over the last five years; Mediazona has also written about this.
Members of the coalition of lawyers and experts, working with the Cherta media project, have once again explained how to refuse to take part in military operations and stop doing military service ahead of time.
A collection of all the legal instructions and information sheets prepared by the “Call to conscience” team since the project began now runs to 12 separate items.
Criminal Prosecution for Anti-War Activities
On Wednesday 13 July, Ilya Yashin was charged under Article 207.3, pt. 2(Criminal Code: “circulating fake news about the Russian army”).
Following his arrest and fortnight’s detention for an alleged minor offence, the deputy for the Krasnoselsky district in Moscow was due to be released on the night of 12-13 July. (For his arrest, see Digest, 25 June-2 July). He did not walk free, however. His comments about the Bucha Atrocity were used as a pretext for the criminal charges, explained his lawyer Vadim Prokhorov (the remarks were made in a video later posted on YouTube).
On 13 July, the Basmanny district court met to choose a measure of restraint for Yashin: it was a working day and events were unfolding very quickly but no less than one hundred supporters came to the courthouse. A large number of police and several paddy wagons were deployed there. Several people were arrested.
The hearing started late, and the investigator immediately asked that it be conducted behind closed doors. Yashin and his lawyers objected but the court accepted the request. The hearing of cases in camera, later commented defence lawyer Maria Eismont, was becoming widespread in political cases. The court decided to remand Yashin in custody until 12 September. When the media were allowed into the courtroom to take pictures a court bailiff stood on a chair to block their view of Ilya Yashin. “Don’t fear these scoundrels!” Yashin said on the courtroom, Russia will be free!”
Yashin has openly and sharply expressed his anti-war views, on social networks and elsewhere. On his Facebook page Yashin issued a statement:
“Ever since 24 February this year I’ve been well aware that I would be arrested. Everyone knew that. In a private conversation yesterday the detectives asked several times: ‘Why didn’t you leave the country? You’ve had four months of freedom: it would have been easier for everyone if you’d run away.’ Well, I don’t want to make things easier for THEM. I’ve no desire to run and hide from those I despise. I’ve no wish to demean myself in front of war criminals and lower my gaze before them.”
The latest hearing about the anti-war price tags in a shop in Smolensk (Central Russia) was also held on Wednesday 13 July. Supporters of the accused were not admitted to the last hearing and wrote a collective appeal to the court chairman. This time they were allowed in and the court secretary who excluded them was replaced.
Vladimir Zavyalov stands accused of spreading “knowingly false information” about the Russian army for reasons of political hate. According to the investigators, Zavyalov replaced the price tags in the Carousel supermarket with anti-war statements that were similar in design.
Sources: in Russian unless indicated [E]
This digest was compiled by Memorial volunteers using Telegram channels: OVD-Info; Horizontal Russia; the Feminist Anti-War Resistance; Mediazona and other sources.
Translation, John Crowfoot