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Digest of political repressions in Russia, including against clergy, since the start of the war.

For the first time WAW is publishing a digest of acts of political repression in the Russian Federation since the beginning of the war. This information has been gathered from Memorial and Christians Against War. Please see end of the digest for editorial information.

• On the 6th of March Igor Maltsev, who goes by the pseudonym Yegor Skorokhodov, and his friend Sofia Semyonova set fire to an effigy in military uniform on a frozen river in St Petersburg. This was a pacifist performance which coincided with the festival of Maslenitsa, during which effigies are traditionally burned to mark the end of winter. The homes of both parties were searched on the following day and Skorokhodov was sent to a pre-trial detention centre. He was later sentenced with 3 years and 8 months at a prison colony for “hooliganism”. Semyonova managed to flee the country.

• In Petrozavodsk the home of 77-year old pensioner Tatyana Savinkina was searched because she “repeatedly discredited” the Russian military.

• In the Leningrad region, a shop owner called Dimitry Skurikhin was house-searched for writing anti-war slogans on the exterior of his shop.

• Andrei Sorochkin is facing a possible three years in prison because he criticised Russia’s war in Ukraine. He is currently under house arrest.

• In Mahachkala, eight separate cases have been taken against participants of a protest for assaulting police officers.

• A case was brought against Anatoly Novovitsyn, head of the Yakutia branch of the Yabloko Party, for “repeatedly discrediting” the army because of a video he posted against mobilisation.

• In Moscow police beat and raped the activist Artyom Kamardin. Police came to the home of Kamardin and other activists to conduct a search. They would not allow a lawyer to be present and they carried out a “property search” (a procedure which doesn’t exist in Russian law). They badly beat Kamardin and witnesses reported that they inserted a dumbbell into his anus. They then forced him to make a recorded apology for his original words of protest “Glory to Kievan Rus - they New Rusia can blow”.

• In Chelyabinsk the courts recently changed the sentences of two activists, Dmitry Tsibukovsky and Anastasia Safonova. In 2021 they both received sentences of to 2 years and 2.5 years respectively, for an offence committed in 2018 when they hung a banner on the fence of the local FSB [secret police] department with the words “The FSB are the real terrorists”. That sentence was eventually overturned, but in recent weeks their case was reopened: Tsibukovsky received a sentence for one year, and Safonova was sentenced to 9 months in prison.

• In the Rostov region, six Jehovah’s Witnesses were sentenced to terms ranging from 6.5 to 7 years in prison. Their religion is deemed to be extremist - it is forbidden for Jehovah’s Witnesses to openly profess their faith in Russia.

Several Russian priests, who have been persecuted for their anti-war positions, are named by Telegram Channel Christians Against War. The following cases are taken from there.

• A Russian Orthodox priest in the Kostroma region, Father Ioann Burdin, was fined 35,000 roubles [just over 600 euros] for “discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation 'in a sermon.'

• In Moscow, a lay deacon of the Orthodox Church, Andrei Kuraev had his blog posts blocked from viewers in Russia. Kuraev will not reveal the content of his blog posts, but he was fined in the order of 30,000 [around 525 euros] under the statute that outlaws “discrediting the armed forces”. The deacon has since deleted all his blog posts dating from the 23rd of February to the first of August.

• In Moscow, the Orthodox abbott Arseny Sokolov started his own Telegram channel, where he posted quotes from the Bible and personal comments of a pacifist nature. He deleted his channel on the 29th of March, but on the 27th of May he was relieved of his duties as a representative of the Moscow Patriarch to the Patriarch of Antioch.

• In the Samara region, Deacon Sergei Shcherbyuk was fined 30,000 roubles [around 525 euros] for expressing his opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

• St Petersburg Orthodox monk Ioann Kurmoyarov was arrested and searched on the 7th of June. Police confiscated some electronic devices, two icons, a wooden cross and a cassock from his room. Fr. Ioann was arrested under the statute that outlaws “public dissemination of deliberately misleading information about the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation”. He is being held in the pre-trial detention centre at the infamous Kresty prison and his arrest has been extended until February 2023. He has been recognised as a political prisoner.

• On the 30th of June, in the Sverdlovsk region, a criminal case was brought against Abbot Nikandr Pinchuk, again for “discrediting the armed forces” for a post that he published on a Russian social media platform on the 30th of March.

• In the Krasnodar region, Father Maxim Nagibin was reported to the police for a sermon he made during Easter services. The courts have returned the case to the police.

• On the 22nd of August Father Andrey Kordochkin, a priest in Madrid, was removed from his post as secretary of the Spanish and Portuguese archdiocese

Note from WAW editorial team:

The rule of law and the systems that guarantee human rights in Russia have been dismantled almost entirely. After the start of the war in Ukraine, the State Duma, under Putin’s control, adopted a number of anti-constitutional and repressive laws. These laws were hastily introduced into the state’s criminal code. Namely, number 280.3 of the criminal code of the Russian Federation which concerns the “discrediting” of the armed forces; number 270.3 which concerns “public dissemination of deliberately misleading information about the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation''; number 284.2 which outlaws “calls for restrictive measures to be brought against the Russian Federation, citizens of the Russian Federation, or Russian legal entities”. The courts and punitive bodies of Putin’s regime apply these laws arbitrarily to almost all opponents of the war in Ukraine.

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