Crushing the anti-war movement OVD-Info breaks down the six months of unprecedented repressions that turned Russia into a dictatorship
It’s now been six months since Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and internal crackdown that has effectively turned Russia into a dictatorship. In this time, the Russian anti-war movement has been all but crushed: activists and independent politicians are behind bars or in exile; ordinary people are being prosecuted en masse for attempting to speak out against the war (or in support of peace); “unreliable” artists are seeing their concerts and exhibitions canceled; military censorship reigns supreme and the independent press has been driven out of the country. Together with the human rights media project OVD-Info, Meduza presents a breakdown of the Russian authorities’ six-month-long effort to stamp out dissent once and for all.
Restricting the right to freedom of assembly
OVD-Info recorded at least 16,437 arrests in connection with anti-war protests between February 24 and August 17, 2022. In addition to arrests carried out at street protests, this figure includes 138 arrests for anti-war posts on social media, 118 arrests for anti-war symbols, and 62 arrests carried out after anti-war demonstrations.
In addition to the arrests during and after anti-war rallies, the Russian authorities have also carried out “preventive” detentions with the help of facial recognition technology. Moscow’s facial recognition system was used to arrest at least 33 people on Russia’s Flag Day, August 22.
Repressions at the legislative level
There were no new laws introduced in August 2022, likely because Russian lawmakers are on holiday. Since February 24, however, State Duma lawmakers have adopted a total of 16 new repressive laws or amendments to existing legislation.
In 182 days of war, 224 people became defendants in felony “anti-war cases.” The 224th person charged was anti-war politician and former Yekaterinburg Mayor Evgeny Roizman, who was arrested on August 24, exactly six months after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In August alone, OVD-Info lawyers began representing the defendants in five new criminal cases: Alexey Onoshkin, Ilya Gantsevsky, Marina Ovsyannikova, Andrey Pavlov, and Sergey Veselov. In total, OVD-Info lawyers are handling 22 felony “anti-war cases.”
According to Mediazona, since February 24, at least 3,780 cases have been opened under Article 20.3.3 of Russia’s Code of Administrative Offenses (discrediting the army).
OVD-Info has also recorded at least seven cases of extrajudicial persecution of people who publicly opposed the war. These include, among other things, physical attacks, threats, being fired from government agencies, and law enforcement refusing to investigate anti-Ukrainian vandalism.
‘Foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organizations’
The Russian Justice Ministry appears to have taken August off — there have been no new additions to the “foreign agent” registry this month. However, over the summer, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office filed a lawsuit to liquidate the Journalists’ Union for non-compliance with the requirements of “foreign agent” legislation, and the Moscow Arbitration Court began bankruptcy proceedings against RFE/RL’s Russian entity due to the non-payment of fines imposed for failing to label “foreign agent” content.
Since OVD-Info published its July report on anti-war repressions, three more organizations have been declared “undesirable”: The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, The Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada. There are now 65 organizations on Russia’s “undesirable” blacklist.
In addition, the Russian Attorney General’s Office added a nineteenth domain belonging to the investigative outlet The Insider to its registry of banned information.
Internet blocks, censorship, and pressure on independent media outlets
According to the digital rights group Roskomsvoboda, about 7,000 websites have been blocked due to military censorship. But Attorney General Igor Krasnov reported that Russia has removed or blocked roughly 138,000 web resources since the start of the full-scale war against Ukraine.
In August, VKontakte blocked the pages of artist Yulia Tsvetkova, the Belarusian news outlet Zerkalo, and OVD-Info. OVD-Info’s VK page was blocked because it supposedly contained “unreliable socially significant information” about the Russian army’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Moscow’s Lukhovitsky District Court also refused to unblock the OVD-Info website.
In the past month, the Attorney General’s Office also censored a press conference in defense of oppressed Muslims involving human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, as well as Gannushkina’s comments to media outlets such as Culture of Dignity, Tell Gordeeva, and TV Rain. The publication TJournal also announced that it was shutting down due to a serious decline in readership (and revenue) after its website was blocked.
At least five concerts and events were censored after participants publicly expressed anti-war views. The Russian authorities canceled a lecture by journalist Asya Kazantseva, as well as performances by pop singer Dora and the bands AloeVera, Krovostok, and Anacondaz.
You can read OVD-Info’s full report here.