Fascism is here in Russia. Anti-war activities in Russia, 15-22 August
The independent television channel TV2 has begun broadcasting “Eyewitnesses”, a project showing how the Russian invasion affected people’s lives in Ukraine.
“24 February 2022, the day Russia began its war against Ukraine, changed the world – like August 1914 or September 1939. We hope it won’t end in nuclear apocalypse. It’s already led to the largest war in Europe in the 21st century and shaped a new world reality.”
For over three months the stories of Russian and Ukrainian women who are opposed to the war have been published on the “Eyewitnesses” (Ochevidcy) Telegram channel. Journalists have gathered testimony from people about their lives before and after the invasion.
Video interviews were also published on YouTube with those who witnessed events, and with public figures who sharply criticised Russian actions in Ukraine. Each person distressed by what happened then should know that she or he is not alone.
Anti-war protests across the country
At the abandoned hospital in Zelyonaya Roshcha (Yekaterinburg, Urals) someone has hung a long banner from the top storey bearing the word “Mariupol” with splashes of red paint, resembling blood, around each letter.
In Podolsk (Moscow Region) Natalya Gusakova made a one-woman protest, holding a placard that read, “Putin, leave Ukraine alone.” The police arrested her 30 minutes after she began her protest.
On Pushkin Square in central Moscow, Valeria Sanina was arrested for protesting against the war. On one side of her placard was written “No to the War”, on the other side “Wake up! It’s bad to kill people! Liberty is not Slavery – Peace is not War! Hatred is fatal, let’s stop this war!”
The musician Aikhal Ammosov and his girlfriend were arrested in Yakutia (Far East) when they tried to carry a banner into the centre of Yakutsk, reading “Yakutian punk against war”.
Seven officers of the “Extremism” Centre (Centre ‘E’) shadowed them. After Ammosov was arrested he was threatened with criminal charges. The banner was due to appear in Yakutsk, said the musician, in time for the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishutin. Ammosov has already been fined three times for taking part in anti-war protests.
Alexander Aksyonov was arrested in St Petersburg for protesting with a placard reading “I’m for peace” outside the Gostiny Dvor metro station.
In Voronezh at the Black Earth (Chernozem) rock festival Alexander Vasilyev, leader of the Spleen rock group, told the audience at the beginning of their set that he was glad to see so many people“who have retained their feelings of mercy and compassion, and their love for humanity and do not accept cruelty, violence and killing”.
Spleen finished by performing the song “No exit” which Vasilyev dedicated to Time Machine, Aquarium, Teqjilajazz and other bands which have been forced “for various reasons” to leave the country. The festival organisers deleted the set performed by Spleen, and posts announcing the group’s participation, from the “Black Earth” social media page and other media outlets. The official TASS news agency reported that Spleen’s performance had “not been agreed” with the administration.
A work of art entitled “24 February” appeared in Friendship Alley at the Urals MachineryPlant (Uralmash). Within a few hours, municipal workers from Yekaterinburg (Urals) destroyed the work by artist Rita Haak.
“24 February” (Haak), Friendship AlleyCriminal Prosecution of activists
Archaeologist Yevgeny Kruglov was sent to a psychiatric hospital on Tuesday 16 August after a district court in Omsk sent him for a full, in-patient examination. Kruglov was on trial for spreading “fake news” about the Russian army (Article 207.3 part 1, Criminal Code) after he posted comments about the events in Bucha and Mariupol on the “InContact” (Vkontakte) social media.
An international search warrant has been issued for Helga Pirogova, deputy of the Novosibirsk city council. She left Russia after being persecuted for her anti-war stance. The warrant was issued under the terms of the treaty of the Union of Independent States (former Soviet republics). It was earlier reported (see Digest [E], 23-29 July) that Pirogova had moved to Kazakhstan.
Searches were conducted at her home, that of her husband and brother, and at the dacha (summer cottage) of her parents-in-law (Novosibirsk Region, central Siberia). The justification for charging Pirogova with “fake news” (Article207.3, Criminal Code) was a tweet in which she commented on Mediazona reports about Russian volunteers who have died in Ukraine.
Criminal charges of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army have been brought against Ilya Gantsevsky, a resident of Kerch (south Russia), who is now under arrest.The investigation opened after an April post on Instagram in which the young man condemned the Russian army for shelling the rail station in Kramatorsk. Gantsevsky was then arrested for the first time and sentenced to 14 days in jail. After that he took down all his posts.
Earlier Gantsevsky took part in projects of the pro-regime Molodaya gvardiya (Young Guard), United Russia movement and the Liberal Democratic Party. Once the war began, however, he started writing on social media about events in Ukraine where he had friends and acquaintances.
A court in Nizhny Novgorod (Volga) has sentenced activist and blogger Alexei Onoshkin to two months in the Investigation & Detention Centre for an anti-war post on the “InContact” (Vkontakte) social media (see Digest [E] 7-14 August 2022 ). Earlier a search was conducted in his apartment.
On his “InContact” page Onoshkin has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, and on 2 March he was arrested for protesting against the war. In April he was subjected to a compulsory psychiatric examination. Before that he was sentenced to a fine of 2.6 times the Minimum Wage  for “discrediting” the Russian army (Article 20.3.3, Administrative Offences).
Nine people in the city of Kazan (Tatarstan, Volga) were subjected to searches and /or interrogation because they or their relatives work for Idel Realities, a regional branch of Radio Liberty. Reports about the charges differ: some say they are being incriminated with spreading “fake news” about the Russian army (Article 207.3, Criminal Code), others that they have been charged with “justifying terrorism” (Article 205.2).
An inmate of a penal colony in the Penza Region (Central Russia) has been charged with circulating “fake news” about the Russian army. Investigators claim that the man (b. 1992) “tried to create a negative image of Russian soldiers among the prisoners”. It is not stated what “negative image” he had created.
A small victorious prickArrests and Fines
Fines for “discrediting” the Russian army (Article 20.3.3, Administrative Offences) were imposed this week in Northwest Russia (Petrozavodsk, Arkhangelsk, Severodvinsk and Novorzhev), in South Russia (Sochi, Elista, Krasnodar, Novorossiysk and Crimea) and in Pyatigorsk (North Caucasus), Kaluga (Central Russia), Kovrov (Vladimir Region), Chita (east Siberia) and Moscow.
There were many pretexts for convicting offenders: posts on “InContact” (VKontakte), Facebook and “Classmates” (Odnoklassniki); ripping down paper letters Z hanging over the entrance to a church and to a district community centre; a Biblical quotation; statements made in public places and from the stage; an entry in the visitors book of the Museum of Cosmonautics; one-person protests, stickers on automobiles and a request in a bar to play a song by a Ukrainian performer.
Fines ranged in size from one to six months Minimum Wage. Among those fined were Ilya Azar, a journalist with Novaya Gazeta and Yury Shevchuk, lead singer with DDT.
New investigations into acts “discrediting” the Russian army were opened in Elista (Kalmykia, South Russia), in Buinaksk (Dagestan) and Ingushetia in the North Caucasus, and in Petrozavodsk (Karelia), St Petersburg and Krasnodar (South Russia).
Protestors were arrested in Podolsk (Moscow Region), Moscow, and in Tomsk and Chita (Siberia). They were charged with “discrediting” the army and all rereleased, one being told to appear again at the police station.
Journalist Yelena Shukayeva, who works with the Novaya Gazeta and Vot Tak periodicals was arrested by the police in Yekaterinburg (Urals) as she left the Sverdlovsk Region Court. The court is hearing two appeals against the fines imposed on her for “discrediting” the Russian army. She was detained for a fortnight and went on hunger strike in response.
On Wednesday 10 August, 22 charges of “discrediting” the Russian army against Vitaly Gotra were received by the Voroshilovsky district court in Volgograd (South Russia).
Earlier, on Monday, the same court sentenced Gotra to 15 days in jail for the public display of Nazi symbols (Article 20, Administrative Offences). On Wednesday, the court examined 20 more charges against Gotra under the same Article and sentenced him to 10 days in jail.
Vitaly Gotra was condemned to spend 25 days in the special detention centre. The charges of displaying Nazi symbols were based on certain flyers that Gotra had pasted about the city.
Harassment and Intimidation
In Ufa, capital of Bashkortostan (Volga) unidentified assailants attacked Amrita Rakhmatullina, sister of the anti-war activist Elmira Rakhmatullina (see Digest [E] 7-14 August). Her attackers ambushed her during her morning run. Two men grabbed her and began to threaten and beat her. “You’ve said quite enough,” they told her, “your sister’s next. One squeak out of you and you’ll get worse than this. That’s what it means to betray your country.”
Rakhmatullina went to the trauma specialist for treatment of her bruises and contusions.
On the Flag of Russia Day, Monday 22 August, FSB and police arrested no less than 33 people in the Moscow metro using facial recognition technology. All had supposedly taken part in anti-war protests.
Similar operations were carried out on 9 May (Victory Day) and on 12 June (Russia Day).
In Moscow, an unidentified assailant threw green antiseptic at anti-war protestor Mikhail Baranov. The latter was going to his car, parked outside the apartment building, when his attacker ran from a hiding place in the bushes and poured green dye over him. Baranov reported the incident to the police. In early July someone wrote the word “traitor” on the door of his apartment. Baranov links these attacks to his participation in an anti-war protest on 2 March on Manege Square in the city centre when the police arrested him.
FSB agents came to the square where the Aloe Vera band were holding a secret performance. Their show was due to take place on 6 August at the Summer Stage venue in Moscow, but it was cancelled that day. The musicians then organised a secret show to which people were invited by email. The FSB tried to identify members of the audience by questioning the organisers, showing photographs of individuals, and filming the event. Aloe Vera’s vocalist Vera Musaelian has repeatedly spoken out against the war.
Police checked the ID documents of young people who came to the Timiryazev district court building in Moscow to support Dmitry Ivanov, who runs the “Protesting Moscow University” Telegram channel. Ivanov has been held since June in an Interrogation & Detention Centre, charged with circulating “fake news” about the Russian (Article 207.3, Criminal Code) on grounds of political hatred.
The Lenin district court in occupied Crimea has sentenced a DJ to ten days in jail after he played “Wild fields” by Ukrainian rapper Yarmak at a café where he was performing. The convicted man was found guilty of displaying extremist symbols (Article 20, Administrative Offences) because the video clip of the song including the emblems of the Azov battalion.
The ”means of law-breaking” was also confiscated from the DJ. Partially admitting his guilt, he said that he was asked to play the song by café customers and did not know what the clip or the song were about.
School teacher Daniil Nesmelov, who is standing as a left-democratic candidate in Moscow’s Basmanny district, has been fired from his job for his anti-war stance and participation in the coming elections as a Yabloko candidate. Not long before he was sacked, Nesmelov gave an interview on Radio Liberty in which he openly stated his anti-war views.
Closure and harassment of the media
The “InContact” (Vkontakte) social media has blocked the “Free Speech in Russia” group and the page of the Belorussian publication Zerkalo (Mirror). Anti-war materials were being published on both pages.
The police have charged Novaya Rasskaz-Gazeta, a new project of Novaya Gazeta, with “discrediting” the Russian army because of publications in the first issue of the newspaper.
 As of June 2022 the Minimum Wage in Russia (after tax) is 13,293 roubles. See note in Digest [E] 7-14 August.
This digest was compiled by Memorial volunteers from websites, encrypted Telegram channels and other sources: 24 liveblog, 7x7 – Horizontal Russia, “It’s my city” Yekaterinburg (Telegram) and Latvia-based Meduza news. From several OVD-Info sources – News, OVD-Info, and OVD-Info live (Telegram). And from Siberian Realities (Radio Liberty), and Yabloko in the Basmanny district (Telegram).
Translation, John Crowfoot