‘Russia is a prison of the lousiest kind’ Vladislav Nikitenko is the first Russian to face charges for ‘discrediting’ the army. He’s been fighting the system for 20 years.
A Blagoveshchensk resident named Vladislav Nikitenko has become the first person charged with “discrediting” the Russian armed forces — a new felony offense that was created after the war began. For years, Nikitenko has been submitting official complaints to Russian courts for a wide variety of reasons; in his own words, he “genuinely loves the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, despite the fact that they were signed by Putin.” He’s been under house arrest since late May.
Mediazona has referred to Nikitenko as a “self-taught lawyer” who is “afraid of exhausting neither his time nor the nerves of officials.” The story of his lawsuits began in 2001, when he was charged with libel after calling a deputy from the Communist Party a “political Judas” in a local newspaper.
A year later, he filed a complaint in which he accused both the judge and the regional court chairman of fraud. In response, Judge Yelena Kusmina sued him — again for libel. The proceedings continued until 2009, and the case was returned to the prosecutor twice — the first time because the statute of limitations had expired, the second time for a lack of evidence.
Nikitenko was eventually put on the wanted list, but by then he had fled to Ukraine by bike. After traveling around the country for a while, he caught the Ukrainian media’s attention when he declared a hunger strike and started camping out in front of the Russian Embassy. Over his tent, he hung a sign that read, “Medvedev! Cut the nonsense! Get the crooks out of Russia’s courts!”
When Nikitenko finally went back to Russia, his libel case was still waiting for him. He requested a jury trial and won the case. The case was later mentioned in an Investigative Committee training manual about “reasons for acquittals” (read: things to avoid). According to Mediazona, the manual’s authors wrote that the prosecutor in Nikitenko’s case was unconvincing.
After his victory, Nikitenko began participating in various trials as a “self-taught” public defender. He faced contempt of court charges multiple times, but in every case they were thrown out for a lack of sufficient evidence.
In 2015, Nikitenko was charged with insulting trial participants — at the time, he was defending three police officers from Krasnodar who stood accused of assaulting a suspect. Nikitenko was released on his own recognizance, which he immediately violated. When he was arrested, according to the investigation, he hit the officer. He was then sentenced to six years in prison.
Nikitenko was released from prison in December 2021. Over the course of his incarceration, he wrote approximately 8,000 complaints to courts, the prosecutor’s office, the Interior Ministry, the Investigative Committee, and the FSB. He took part in almost 1,000 hearings by video call.
In Nikitenko’s first Facebook post after his release, he wrote the following:
After February 24, when Russia launched its full-scale war in Ukraine, Nikitenko reported a “crime against the world and against human safety” to Russian law enforcement. He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin, all of the members of the Russian Security Council, and the country’s military leadership of unleashing an aggressive war, producing weapons of mass destruction, employing prohibited methods of warfare, genocide, and international terrorism.
On May 23, it was reported that Nikitenko had been put under house arrest for “discrediting” the Russian army.