There are hundreds of political prisoners in Russia.
We want to tell you about them and to show
the faces and destinies of Russians,
who oppose the Putin’s regime
7 years of imprisonment
On March 15, 2022, deputy Alexey Gorinov participated in a completely ordinary meeting of the Council of Deputies of the Krasnoselsky district in the center of Moscow. One of the items on the agenda was the issue of holding a children’s drawing contest. “What kind of competition dedicated to the Children’s Day can we talk about when we have children dying every day? For information there are about a hundred children dead in Ukraine. I believe that all the efforts of civil society should be aimed only at stopping the war and withdrawing Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine,” Gorinov said there. The head of the Council of Deputies Elena Kotenochkina supported her colleague.
The Investigative Committee of Russia drew attention to this short conversation and opened a criminal case against both deputies under the article on “fakes”. Kotenochkina managed to leave Russia, but Gorinov stayed. Not even because he decided to challenge the system, but because he didn’t think he was in any danger.
“I was not harassed, threatened or even hinted at any danger until my arrest. I still wonder why the authorities in the face of law enforcement agencies suddenly came on to me. And even so furiously,” – he said in November 2022.
Alexey Gorinov was a deputy back in Soviet times: a junior researcher at the Moscow Institute of Engineers of Geodesy, Aerial Photography and Cartography was elected to the district Council of the Dzerzhinsk district of Moscow. He remembers those times with nostalgia — it was much freer than it is now. Shortly after Yeltsin crushed the resistance of the parliament with tanks in 1993, Gorinov, outraged by this retreat from democracy, ceased to be a deputy. He became a successful lawyer, starting in the 2000s to help detainees at rallies for free.
At the trial, Gorinov behaved with dignity, even in the cell for the defendants, he held a single picket, holding up a sheet of paper A4 with the text: “Do you still need this war?” The bailiff tried to close Gorinov with his powerful body so that no one would see the poster, and the judge sentenced the deputy to 7 years in prison.
Gorinov became the first person to receive a real sentence under a new article in the Russian criminal code that punishes “fakes” about the Russian army.
8.5 years of imprisonment
The reason for initiating a criminal case against the politician Ilya Yashin was a stream on his popular YouTube channel, in which he talked about the crimes of the Russian army in Bucha. Yashin’s fault was actually that he did not limit himself only to the official version of the Russian Defense Ministry, in which reports of the involvement of the Russian military in the deaths of civilians in Bucha were called “provocation”.
For several months, the security forces hinted to Yashin that he should either leave the country or keep quiet, but he publicly stated that he would never leave his homeland, and continued to tell the truth about the war.
“Putin is a war criminal. In the end, I will give up my place in prison to him. It gives me strength to feel morally superior to the thieves and murderers who have seized power. They know I’m not afraid of them. I did not run from them, nor begged for mercy, and never lowered my eyes in front of them. And it also gives me strength to feel responsible for my country,” – Yashin said at one of the courts.
Ilya Yashin, 40, has been a critic of the Russian government for many years. He entered politics in 2000, has been a member of various opposition movements since his student days, was a friend of Boris Nemtsov, who was killed by the walls of the Kremlin, and was one of Alexey Navalny’s closest associates.
As a young man, he was a fan of flamboyant political performances: in the fall of 2006, he and a colleague leaned out of a bridge near the Kremlin on climbing gear, holding a huge banner: “Give the people back the elections, you bastards!” A year later, together with a fellow member of the Yabloko Youth movement, they put on fire-resistant costumes and set themselves on fire in front of the Kremlin, unfolding a banner: “No successors, or Burn in hell!”.
Later Yashin repeatedly tried to participate in elections of various levels, but usually he was illegally removed from them. Only in 2017, he still managed to win the election and become a municipal deputy of the Krasnoselsky district in the center of Moscow, and then head this municipal district.
At the end of 2022, Ilya Yashin was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison.
“Please do not fall into despair and do not forget that this is our country. It is worth fighting for. Be brave, do not back down before evil and resist. Stand up for your street, for your cities. And most importantly, stand up for each other. There are many more of us than it seems, and we are a huge force,” – he addressed the Russians in his last speech.
19 years of imprisonment
On August 1, 2023, Russian media reported that 11 military enlistment offices were set on fire in Russia in just one day. In many cases, the arsonists were elderly people: for example, in Arkhangelsk, a 76-year-old pensioner attacked the military enlistment office, and in Kaluga – a 78-year-old pensioner. All of them claim that they were forced to do this by phone scammers either by threatening the health of relatives, or by promising to write off loans.
But, of course, there are also ideological arsonists of military enlistment offices in Russia. Such on October 11, 2022, residents of the city of Bakal in the Chelyabinsk region the commander of the department of the fire and rescue unit, 37-year-old Alexey Nuriev and 28-year-old Roman Nasryev tried to set fire to the building of the local military enlistment office. Nothing happened: the fire was extinguished by the guard, and only a fragment of linoleum was damaged.
However, the attackers at the military enlistment office were not only detained, but also tried for committing a terrorist act, which resulted in a huge time frame: the court sent both to prison for 19 years.
Relatives describe both friends from Bakal as family people who liked to spend time with their children. Nuriyev has a young daughter and a 19-year-old stepson. Nasryev raised a 4-year-old daughter, and a small son was born when his father was already in jail. In his testimony, Nasryev says that his attitude to the war in Ukraine began to change in the late spring of 2022 due to the fact that “a lot of the civilian population of Ukraine began to die.” The friends were prompted to arson by the mobilization announced in Russia: Nuriev was very worried about his stepson of military age.
In July 2023, human rights activists from Memorial recognized Nuriyev and Nasryev as political prisoners, although before that it was believed that the violent nature of the action prevented them from obtaining this status. However, this time Memorial decided that “the court did not prove either intent to create a danger to human lives, or that they wanted to destabilize the activities of the authorities,” and “their actions can be qualified under a lighter article on intentional damage to property.”
Nuriyev and Nasryev also do not consider their action to be terrorism. In court Nasryev said: “I knew from social networks that by performing such actions, people express their disagreement with the mobilization and the “special military operation”. From conversations with others, I concluded that such actions do not cause fear among the people, since no one has ever suffered as a result of them. Moreover, people are sympathetic to this position of disagreement.“
25 years of imprisonment
On April 28, 2023, amendments to the Criminal Code came into force in Russia, according to which a treason can be punished by a life term. In a sense, the politician Vladimir Kara-Murza was somehow lucky as he was sentenced for treason, cooperation with an” undesirable”organization (Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia) and” spreading fakes”about the Russian army” only “to 25 years in prison less two weeks before this came into force.
Kara-Murza has been a consistent critic of the Russian government for many years. Together with his friend Boris Nemtsov (under Yeltsin ̶ First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, under Putin ̶ shot by a hitman by the walls of the Kremlin), he fought for the adoption of sanctions against Russian officials, businessmen, security forces and judges after the death in prison of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Later Kara-Murza convinced US congressmen, that the Magnitsky Act should include not only those responsible for the lawyer’s death, but also those responsible for “gross violations of human rights in Russia.”
During the time that Kara-Murza spent under arrest, his health deteriorated sharply, he lost more than 20 kilograms. He was diagnosed with lower limb polyneuropathy, which is included in the list of diseases that prevent serving a sentence. Kara-Murza got this disease most likely due to two poisonings in Russia in 2015 and 2017.
The politician almost died both times. In 2021 journalists found out, that he was followed by the same FSB officers, whom Alexey Navalny accused of poisoning with Novichok in 2020.
Kara-Murza is sure, that they tried to kill him in revenge for his opposition activities and lobbying for the Magnitsky Act. Although the Russian authorities considered the politician a traitor, he himself said that “the act is not anti-Russian, but pro-Russian,” and “when a normal justice system appears in Russia, he himself will be the first to seek its cancellation.”
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kara-Murza took a tough anti-war stance and refused to leave the country, despite the risk of arrest. In his last speech at the trial, Kara-Murza said: “I know that the day will come, when the darkness over our country will dissipate. When black is called black and white is called white; when it is officially recognized that two and two are still four; when a war is called a war, and a usurper is called a usurper; and when those, who incited and unleashed this war, are recognized as criminals, and not those who tried to stop it.”
He was severely sentenced by Judge Podoprigorov, who was on the Magnitsky list.
7 years of imprisonment
After the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the song “Chervona Kalina” became one of the symbols of resistance to the Russian invaders. The march of Ukrainian legionnaires during the First World War in February 2022 was performed by the soloist of the hip-hop and rock band “Boombox”, who signed up for the territorial defense of Kiev. Later, Pink Floyd used a fragment of his song in their composition Hey Hey Rise Up, the funds from the sale of which went to humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
It is not surprising that soon in Russia they started to prosecute people for the performance of this song. In Crimea, due to the fact that “Chervona Kalina” was played at a wedding, the restaurant owner received 15 days in prison, a DJ and a dancer – 9 days each, the groom’s mother ̶ 5 days, and the bride’s mother was fined 40 thousand rubles.
Mikhail Krieger, an activist of the Russian anti-Putin movement, sang “Chervona Kalina” while standing in a “cage “in a Russian courtroom, when the prosecutor asked to send him to prison for 9 years” for publicly justifying terrorism and “publicly inciting hatred and hostility.” Krieger’s fault was that he wrote in his Facebook two posts. In the first, he said: “We can state that in our country, monsters from the CheKa have seized power over people. And they eat people with a crunch, smacking their lips,” and called a hero a man who in 2018 blew himself up in the FSB building in Arkhangelsk.
In the second post, Krieger said the following about Putin: “Believe me, when and if I live to see this KGB crum hanged, I will fight as hard as I can for the right to participate in this spirit-raising event.”
Krieger is not the most visible, but very active participant in the democratic and human rights movement since the late 80s of the XX century. He regularly participated in rallies and campaigns in support of political prisoners. Krieger is an excavator operator by profession, and in recent years he has been engaged in renting construction equipment and delivering food in his own car. Although you can’t call Krieger an opposition leader, the security forces really wanted to isolate himc, if they convicted him in 2023 for words written in social networks a few years earlier.
We can say that Krieger voiced what many people in Russia think, but are afraid to say, so as not to end up where the activist ended up. In May 2023, the court sentenced him to 7 years in prison.
7.5 years of imprisonment
Lilia Chanysheva, a graduate of the prestigious Financial Academy in Moscow, worked as an auditor in a branch of Deloitte in Ufa, the capital of Bashkiria. She received a good salary and could achieve a lot in her profession. But in 2017, Chanysheva gave up her career to fight the Putin’s regime.
Having headed Alexey Navalny’s headquarters in Ufa, she became involved in politics: she organized rallies, tried to participate in elections, and helped Bashkiria residents repel an attack on Mount Kushtau ̶ a natural monument that they wanted to give away for the development of a limestone deposit.
After Navalny was sent to prison in 2021, and his headquarters in Russian regions were deemed extremist by the Kremlin, the headquarters in Ufa closed down, and many of their leaders hurried to leave the country, Lilia stayed.
She decided to leave politics to devote herself to her family — six months before her arrest, Lilia got married and tried to get pregnant. Her husband Almaz Gatin is still not used to the fact, that his beloved is not next to him, but in prison. He continues to fight for his happiness. “I was struck by how strong spirit a woman could have and how she could be ready to do here and now not so much for herself, but for her republic, for her city, for her people. I am grateful to God, that such a person has appeared in my life,” – he said.
Lilia was accused of “creating an extremist community” and ” promoting the actions of an organization that infringes on the identity and rights of citizens,” although this organization — Navalny’s headquarters — was engaged only in political struggle.
On June 14, 2023 the court sent Chanysheva to prison for 7.5 years.
Human rights defender
15 years of imprisonment
On July 1, 1997, human rights activist and local historian Yuri Dmitriev discovered a mass grave site of victims of the Great Terror near Medvezhegorsk, called Sandarmokh. Later, Dmitriev headed the Karelian branch of Memorial, a society dedicated to the study of political repression in the USSR and modern Russia. After Putin, a native of the KGB, came to power, Memorial was persecuted. In 2014, it was recognized as a “foreign agent”, and in 2021 it was simply liquidated.
Criminal cases against the organization’s leaders and human rights defenders have become one of the methods of intimidation and pressure on Memorial employees. On the night of June 27, 2018 Dmitriev was detained and charged with manufacturing child pornography and illegal possession of weapons. The formal reason was photos of his adopted daughter, which were made for the health diary and reports to the guardianship authorities.
The court sessions lasted 5 years. Dmitriev was initially acquitted, but the prosecutor’s office appealed the verdict. A new criminal case was opened against the human rights defender, this time under the article on sexual violence committed against a minor.
Dmitriev was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, but then — an unprecedented case — the term was increased up to 15 years. “Dmitriev was retaliated for the fact, that the historian called those, whose portraits are now usually hang in power offices next to Putin’s, as murderers. And he proved the crimes of the CheKists of the past, who became idols for the current ones,” – journalist Renat Davletgildeev commented on the verdict.
The Memorial Human Rights Center became one of the three winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. After the outbreak of war, most of its employees were forced to leave Russia. Criminal cases were initiated against several people remaining in the country, and the organization’s website was blocked in Russia.
19 years of imprisonment
“You may now think that I am crazy, and you are all normal, because you can not swim against the current,” Alexey Navalny, Russia’s most famous opposition leader, addressed the judges and bailiffs at his another trial in July 2023. — I think you’re the one who’s gone mad. You have a single, God-given life, and what did you decide to spend it on? To put robes on your shoulders and black masks on your head and protect those who are also robbing you? To help someone, who has ten palaces, build the eleventh?”
A few days later, Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in prison for financing extremism, creating an extremist community and calling for extremism on the Internet. By this time, Navalny was already in prison, where a closed trial of him was held.
In the summer of 2020, Navalny became ill on board of the plane, the politician fell into a coma and was hospitalized in one of the clinics in Omsk. Due to public pressure, Navalny was transferred to the Charite clinic in Germany a few days later. The German government said, that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent of the Novichok group. Independent journalistic investigations later proved, that the FSB tried to kill Navalny, and the same agents tried to poison the politician Vladimir Kara-Murza (twice), the writer Dmitry Bykov and other opposition figures.
Despite the obvious risk of incarceration, Navalny returned to Russia in January 2021. He was arrested right at the airport. First, the politician was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, then the term was increased up to 9 years. As Navalny himself said, during the year and a half he spoke at the courts with the last words seven times, which in his opinion “turns into a comedy.”
The latest sentence is striking not only because of the gigantic length of time, but also because a public politician was sent to a “special regime”, which is usually assigned to real terrorists and serial killers. Such convicts are never allowed to turn off the light in their cell, not allowed to communicate with their cellmates, and neither see their relatives or write letters for the first 10 years of their sentence.
In recent years, Russian authorities have got over not only with Navalny himself: Navalny’s regional headquarters and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) have been recognized as extremist organizations as well. Dozens of criminal cases were initiated against former employees: Lilia Chanysheva received 7.5 years in prison, the coordinator of the Barnaul headquarters Vadim Ostanin – 9 years, the technical director of the Navalny-LIVE YouTube channel Daniel Kholodny – 8 years.
Despite the politician’s arrest, his team continues to work from abroad and produce anti-corruption investigations about Russian officials.
4 years of imprisonment
On May 31, 2021, a plane flying from St. Petersburg to Warsaw was already taxiing to the runway, but suddenly stopped. Andrey Pivovarov, the ex-director of Open Russia (a public organization founded by ex-political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky), called his girlfriend Tatyana Usmanova and said, that an FSB car was approaching the ramp.
Pivovarov was removed from the flight and arrested, accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization.” According to Russian laws, such organizations are foreign or international non-profit organizations, whose activities “may pose a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the country’s defense capability or state security.” They are prohibited from operating on the territory of the Russian Federation, and Russians who cooperate with such organizations face prison.
By the fall of 2023, there are already more than 100 undesirable organizations in Russia: among them are independent media outlets, such as the TVRain channel or Novaya Gazeta Europe, and Greenpeace with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). However, so far only former employees of Open Russia, which announced the termination of its activities in May 2021 (shortly before Pivovarov’s detention), have been brought to criminal responsibility.
On July 15, 2022, the court sentenced Pivovarov to 4 years in prison. His associates believe that the politician was behind bars, because for many years he fought with the Putin’s regime and was going to run for the State Duma elections in 2021. He recorded a video about his candidacy ten days before his arrest. “Of course, I understand the risks I’m taking. But I’m not afraid of pressure and harassment. And I am ready to take on this responsibility. I have a son. He is still very young and does not go to school, but I want him to grow up in a free Russia,” he said. Andrey Pivovarov did become a candidate for deputy, but he conducted his election campaign from a prison cell.
Now the politician is in the Karelian IK-7 and spends most of his time not in a barrack, but in a separate room, isolated from other prisoners. In fact, it is a “prison within a prison”. The bed on which he sleeps is strapped to the wall from 5am to 9pm, Pivovarov receives a pen “on schedule”, he is deprived of access to information: there is only music on a radio.
In July 2023, Pivovarov married Usmanova — the wedding ceremony was held in the colony.
On the evening of March 31, 2022, Sasha Skochilenko went to a supermarket in St. Petersburg and replaced the price tags with stickers with information about the shelling of the Mariupol Drama Theater and the death of Ukrainian civilians. The 72-year-old customer found the price tag and wrote a denunciation to Skochilenko. Since April 2022, the artist has been under arrest, and she faces from five to ten years in prison for anti-war campaigning.
In 2014, Sasha released the comic book “The Book of Depression”, in which she explained what this disease is and how to notice it in her loved ones. After the war began, Skochilenko attended protest actions and organized musical “Peace Jams”, where everyone could come. Sasha drew a series of postcards “Love is stronger than war and death” and “Human life has no price”.
Once in prison, Skochilenko repeatedly complained of poor health, the return of depressive episodes and the lack of proper medical care. Sasha has bipolar affective disorder and gluten intolerance, but the administration of the pre-trial detention center did not allow to pass food to the girl and provide her with medicines.
In a letter from prison, Sasha wrote: “It just so happens, that I represent all the things, that the Putin’s regime is so intolerant of: creativity, pacifism, LGBT, psycho-education, feminism, humanism and a love of everything bright, ambiguous, unusual.”
The campaign in support of Sasha is carried out by her girlfriend Sofia Subbotina. For a whole year, they were not allowed to have dates or calls. In the summer of 2023, Sofia said, that she was diagnosed with cancer.
2 years and 10 months of imprisonment
In Buryatia, where pensioner Natalia Filonova lives, the mobilization was tough: men were grabbed right on the streets and sent to military enlistment offices. Police officers went to their homes and, after giving the person half an hour to pack things, took them away.
Natalia has been fighting for people’s rights all her life. She published a newspaper and collaborated with opposition political movements. After February 24, 2022, she took an anti-war stance. In April, Filonova boarded a city bus, saw the pasted letter Z, which has become a symbol of Russian aggression in Ukraine, and demanded to remove it. The driver called the police instead.
In September of the same year, she was detained at a rally against mobilization. The state prosecutor claimed, that a 60-year-old woman then attacked four police officers, who were with her in a police van. They also insisted, that Natalia had hit one of them in the face with a pen, and had broken a finger to another one.
After her arrest, Natalia was initially placed under house arrest, because she had a disabled foster child in her care. But tragedy struck. Her husband, with whom they live in different villages, was hospitalized with a heart attack. The son, who was staying with his father at the time, was left alone. Natalia warned the inspector, that she would leave her apartment and went to rescue her relatives.
As a punishment, the court sent the pensioner to a pre-trial detention center, and her son to an orphanage. Later, he was able to send a message from there, that other children were bullying him on the direct instructions of the director of the institution.
Filonova went on a hunger strike, but this did not lead to anything. On August 31, 2023, Filonova was sentenced to 2 years and 10 months in prison.
8.5 years of imprisonment
On June 1, 2022, Dmitry Ivanov was supposed to defend his diploma at the Faculty of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics of Moscow State University — the main university in Russia. Ivanov missed this important event, because he was in a special detention center, where he was sent for 25 days for repeated violation of the rules of holding a rally. Upon the last day of his arrest, the security officials detained Ivanov on a criminal case. In July he was expelled from the university, as not having passed the state final certification.
People who know Ivanov claim, that he has a talent for exact sciences, but the quiet life of a programmer was not to his liking. Ivanov attended his first rally in 2017: then in Moscow, people took to the streets because of the investigation of Alexey Navalny about the corruption of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. As he was a minor, his mother took him away from the police station that time and asked him not to attend any more rallies. But Ivanov has already decided, that he must fight for justice: in 2018, when dozens of MSU students and teachers opposed the creation of a fan zone for the World Cup under the windows of the main building of the university, he created an anonymous Telegram channel “Protest MSU”.
Ivanov supported all political prisoners, both on the Internet and at court sessions, and went to almost all public actions. The police were very annoyed by him, and they responded to his activity with constant arrests: in 2020-2022, he spent more than 100 days in special detention centers.
When the war broke out in Ukraine, the security forces had the opportunity to get rid of the annoying activist. Ivanov was accused of spreading “fakes” about the Russian army, holding 11 posts in his Telegram channel: mostly other people’s posts about the events in Bucha, Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities against him. “All the accusations against me look absurd, and the article on which I am being tried, in principle, should not exist. It is easy and pleasant for me to take a consistent position and tell the truth,” – Ivanov said at the trial.
The materials of the Ivanov’s case state: “By his criminal actions, Ivanov D. A. misled an unlimited circle of people regarding the legality of the actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation during a special military operation, undermined the authority and discredited the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to society, causing citizens, who read the above statement to feel anxiety, fear, trepidation and insecurity from the authorities”.
In March 2023, 23-year-old Ivanov was sentenced for this “terrible” crime to 8.5 years in prison. To recover at the university and defend the diploma without re-completing all studies is possible only within 5 years.
6 years of imprisonment
Maria Ponomarenko became involved in political activism when she was over 40 years old. In 2020, she became interested in the problems of former pupils of orphanages who, due to corruption, did not receive their proper housing. At the same time, she got a job in the online project Rusnews, known for its streams from protest actions in Russia.
The activist managed to get criminal cases opened against the officials. “She stirred up such a hornet’s nest. There was everything: threats to the family, calls. Apart from fines and security forces. I even told her sometimes: “Mash, maybe you will calm down? I’m worried about you.” And she said to me: “No, I will go all the way,” said her friend and activist Yana Drobnohod.
After that, Ponomarenko was detained several times at various protest actions. For the video “Putin resign! Khabarovsk, I’m with you” in TikTok, in which she called the president a “cunt” for not fulfilling his promises, she was fined 50 thousand rubles (then about 500 euros).
Ponomarenko spoke out against the war in Ukraine. Already in April 2022, she was detained in St. Petersburg for a Telegram post where she wrote that the Russian military had bombed a drama theater in Mariupol. Since the Russian Federation denies its involvement in this crime, Ponomarenko was charged under the article about “fakes” about the Russian army. The journalist herself is sure that this is how she got revenge for the fight against corruption in Barnaul.
Her daughter Ekaterina describes her mother as: “A strong woman, she is confident in herself, she will break through everything.” Thus, in the pre-trial detention center, Ponomarenko continued to fight: she told other prisoners the truth about the war, spoke out against pressure from the prison administration, and in early September 2022 even cut her wrists.
Ponomarenko had problems not only with the authorities. When she was unexpectedly released from the pre-trial detention center to house arrest, she found herself in the same apartment with her ex-husband, a supporter of Putin and the war in Ukraine. One day he almost strangled her, and Ponomarenko voluntarily returned to prison, not wanting to be in the same room with such a person (the address for house arrest is assigned by the court and it is almost impossible to change it).
In February 2023, Ponomarenko was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Ponomarenko’s two daughters were virtually left without parents: the mother is in prison for her anti-war stance, and the father went to fight with Ukraine.
2 years of imprisonment
On April 24, 2022, a sixth-grader from the small town of Efremov in the Tula region, Masha Moskaleva, drew an anti-war drawing in an art lesson. It showed a Russian flag with the inscription “No to war” and a Ukrainian flag with the inscription “Glory to Ukraine”, and between them — a woman protecting a child from missiles flying from Russia. Masha’s teacher reported the seditious drawing to the principal.
When Masha’s father Alexey Moskalev, who raised his daughter alone, brought her to school the next day, the police were already waiting for them. Both were taken to the police station. By this time, the police had already investigated the father’s social networks and found there his comment: “The Russian Army. The rapists are right next to us.” On the same day, Moskalev was sent to court, where he was fined 32 000 rubles (about 320 euros).
Then the main Russian special service ̶ the FSB got interested in Moskalev. On December 27, 2022, a criminal case was opened against Alexey Moskalev for “publicly discrediting the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” On December 30, 2022, the Moskalevs ‘ apartment was searched, equipment and all cash were seized, and Moskalev was taken for questioning, where, according to him, “they beat his head against the wall and floor.”
On March 2, 2023, father and daughter were separated: The Yefremovsky court placed Moskalev under house arrest, and his daughter Masha was transferred to a social rehabilitation center for minors. Separation was very difficult for them. On March 29, Masha wrote to her father from the shelter: “I love you very much, and know that you are not to blame for anything, I always support you, and everything you do is right. Please don’t give up. One day we will sit down at the table and remember it all. We are strong, we can do it, and I will pray for you and for us, Dad.”
The Memorial human rights Center, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022, claims that never before in the history of the Russian Federation a court has separated a child from a parent for political reasons, and in the Soviet Union, children were taken from political prisoners to an orphanage for the last time in the mid-1970s.
On March 28, 2023, Moskalev was sent to prison for 2 years, but he did not appear at the verdict announcement. He escaped from house arrest, apparently hoping that he would be able to reunite with Masha abroad. Soon Moskalev was detained in Minsk. On appeal on July 3, his sentence was toughened, for some reason adding to the punishment a two-year ban on the administration of Internet resources.
In his last word on July 3, 2023, Alexey Moskalev asked to be sentenced to capital punishment (meaning the death penalty, which is still subject to a moratorium in Russia), and to do it as quickly as possible, because he can no longer tolerate the separation from his daughter.
7.5 years of imprisonment
On February 23, 1944, Joseph Stalin began forcibly evicting more than 500,000 Chechens and Ingush people from their homes in Central Asia. When Operation Lentil, which was being prepared in secret — people were given about half an hour to get ready — ended, the authorities explained: “Many Chechens and Ingush people betrayed their homeland, went over to the side of the fascist invaders, joined the saboteurs and intelligence groups.”
Using his favorite principle of collective responsibility, Stalin punished everyone: women, children, and the elderly were loaded into freight cars heading east. Those who resisted were killed. Thousands of people did not survive the long journey, tens of thousands died in the new place: there was no shelter, no food, no medical care. Only after Stalin’s death Chechens and Ingush were allowed to return to their homeland.
Zarifa Sautieva worked as a deputy director of the Memorial Complex for Victims of Repression in Ingushetia. This museum is dedicated primarily to the terrible history of the Ingush deportation. Sautiyeva led the project “I am an eyewitness”, for which she recorded the memories of deportees on video.
In 2018, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his Ingush counterpart Yunus-Bek Yevkurov agreed to exchange territories of their republics. After learning about the signing of the document, the Ingushs were outraged not only by the fact, that the republic was losing its land (including family cemeteries), but also by the fact, that the head of the region did not ask their opinion. Preparations for the exchange were made in secret, just as Operation Lentil.
Almost the entire republic rose up to protest against the agreement with Kadyrov: several tens of thousands of people came to rallies in the capital of Ingushetia. For a region with half a million people in the North Caucasus, where it is not very common to rally, these are crazy numbers.
It is also not customary in the North Caucasus for women to exercise independence in principle, and even more so to take political actions, that are not coordinated with the authorities. Patriarchy still reigns here. Nevertheless, Zarifa Sautieva became an active participant in the protests. She was not married, and despite the dissatisfaction of her male relatives, she conducted live broadcasts from the rallies and called for people to go out on the streets in her social networks. “Even if she was a smartass, it would be a useless option to make a leader out of a woman,” Sautieva’s brother Khazir said later, but the security forces decided otherwise.
At first, the authorities tried to act carefully, but in March 2019, when the protest rallies resumed with renewed vigil after a break, the protesters were dispersed by special forces. People resisted, and several policemen were injured.
Zarifa Sautieva was arrested after the rally: out of 8 defendants in the “Ingush case” initiated soon after, she is the only woman. Her lawyer said that in Sautieva’s case they wrote: “By her presence, she obliged the male population of the republic to ensure her safety as a woman in any way.” In Ingushetia, they say that the authorities “specifically decided to humiliate the entire nation, to make it as painful as possible.”
All those involved in the” Ingush case “were found guilty of “organizing violence that threatens the life or health of government officials” and “participating in an extremist community” — the authorities claim that the organizers of the rally were going to overthrow the head of the region Yevkurov.
In December 2021, Zarifa was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison. In October 2022, she married another convict in the Ingush case, Ismail Nalgiev.
Documentary filmmaker, poet
It all started, as it is usually in modern Russia, at 6 am — with a search and a broken door to the apartment. FSB officers broke in and charged Vsevolod Korolev with spreading “fakes” because of several posts on social networks about crimes committed by the Russian army, including in Bucha. This was in July 2022.
Since the beginning of the war, Vsevolod Korolev has not only written about what is happening in social networks, he managed to make several documentaries about activists opposing the war in Ukraine. His works are dedicated to the artist Sasha Skochilenko and journalist Maria Ponomarenko, who were arrested for spreading “fakes” about the Russian army.
Korolev also went out to anti-war protests, at one of which he met a girl named Lida. They recently moved in together, but only managed to live together for a month.
The case against Korolev began to fall apart in court. Mikhail Baranov, who, according to the investigation, wrote a denunciation against Korolev, changed his testimony and spoke out in his defense: “Everyone can write whatever they want. This is an expression of freedom of speech to which everyone has the right.”
Prior to his arrest, Vsevolod Korolev organized water excursions along rivers and canals, and in his spare time, as a volunteer, he helped people with mental disabilities. “Seva doesn’t regret anything. For me personally, Seva’s fortitude was a revelation. I always knew about his unconditional, independent kindness, justice, honesty, but only this situation fully revealed all his qualities,” – said Korolev’s girlfriend Lida.
Since they are not married, they are not allowed to meet, and Korolev can be sent to prison for up to 5 years. “The purpose of the persecution is to drown out the voices of opponents of the war with Ukraine in Russia and intimidate civil society,” – said the statement of the Memorial human rights society, which recognized Korolev as a political prisoner.