29.11.22 Repressions Review

Autumn Repressions: decline of protests and detentions, development of the fight against "foreign agents," and totalitarian practices

As the active phase of mobilisation and protests against it ended in November, the number of arrests and new administrative cases under " discrediting the army" articles used to suppress the anti-war movement has significantly decreased, as follows from the monthly review of the Russian authorities' repressive activity published by OVD-Info. On the other hand, repressions against opponents of war and "traditional values" are spreading far and wide. The number of "discrediting" criminal cases has reached over 350. Not only has the Duma approved legislative initiatives to ban "LGBT propaganda," which now applies to adults too, but it has also created a new censorship agency designed to look for this "propaganda". The various measures for terminating the rights of persons and organizations found to be "foreign agents" have also been expanded. The anti-war hysteria is spreading out: specific songs and references to authors of various pieces of art who have spoken out against the war are banned now.

According to data from the November monthly monitoring by OVD-Info, from October 24 till November 24 132 people were detained for displaying anti-war symbols, another 157 people were arrested for publications online and 81 people were detained at anti-war rallies. This sharp decrease in the number of arrests compared to September and October (1,459 and 1,051 people, respectively) is associated with the end of an active mobilisation phase and the decline in protests against it. 

OVD-Info knows of 352 criminal cases instituted by the end of November for expressing an anti-war position; 147 of them were initiated under the "discrediting" article (Article 207.3 and Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation); 43 more cases — under the article on "vandalism" (Article 214) — this is how the Kremlin fights against visual street agitation. The number of administrative cases under the "discrediting" article has reached 5,159 since March (when it was added to the Administrative Code), having increased by 382 cases over a month (according to "Mediazona").

Criminal prosecutions of anti-war activists in Russia, data by Criminal Code of the Russian Federation 

November turned out to be productive in terms of repressive legislation expansion. New norms were widely discussed and adopted to "combat LGBT propaganda," which is the main anti-Western staple of the new official ideology. Now the "propaganda" of same-sex relationships is completely prohibited (previously it was forbidden only among minors) and punishable by draconian fines. This will, most likely, lead to the withdrawal of a huge layer of artistic production from cultural use in Russia, one way or another relating to this topic. A special agency will be created to fight against "propaganda". This would create not just one but many censorship agencies, which in their struggle for a share of the state budget would strive to maximize their usefulness, which means seeking out more “sedition”.

In addition, the restrictions on "foreign agents" have been expanded, with 56 pages of amendments to the legislation on foreign agents. According to the new amendments, any information from "foreign agents" will be recognized as prohibited for distribution among minors, and any individuals or legal entities can be deprived of bank secrecy if they are suspected of violating the law on "foreign agents". In fact, these amendments further expand the area of arbitrariness both in terms of assigning such status to undesirable individuals and organizations and in terms of the state's attitude toward them.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice continues to systematically replenish the list of foreign agents. In November, the Ministry of Justice added 17 people and one organization to this list. This is slightly less than in September and October, when 25 individuals and 30 legal entities were included in the register, respectively, as OVD-Info monitoring reports. Among those new "foreign agents" are journalist Irina Shikhman, blogger and political activist Mikhail Svetov, Dozhd TV host Anna Mongait, and many others. 

It should be noted that the list now includes 79 organizations ( since the beginning of the war 7 new ones were added to it), 55 media (16 added since the beginning of the war), 147 individuals — foreign agent media, half of which (71 people) were added during the war with Ukraine, 62 "ordinary" individuals — foreign agents (all recognized as such during the war) and another 11 unregistered public associations (four were added during the war). Therefore, out of the 364 positions in the general list of foreign agents, 160 were added during the nine months of the war (44%), while the list has been maintained since 2013. In addition, 4 more organizations were recognized as "undesirable" in November, i.e. "posing a threat to the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation".

It can be assumed that the repressiveness of the legislation on "foreign agents" and "undesirable organizations" will only continue to increase. The Russian authorities need tools to pressure those who have left the country and continue their journalistic or activist work.

According to RoskomSvoboda, cited by OVD-Info, 19,000 more resources have been blocked over the past month, including the "Novaya Gazeta" website and its "Free Space" project, as well as an anti-mobilisation petition at Change.org and a material on how to avoid mobilisation in Russia at Ispovedy.com, which was blocked by three Russian courts and the Prosecutor General's Office.

Anti-war persecution of artists and works of art continues and expands, becoming more and more similar to the practices of totalitarian regimes. For example, there have been calls online to recognize Oksimiron's song "Oida" as extremist. A month earlier, the Moscow Zamoskvoretsky Court declared Oksimiron's song "Last Call" to be extremist. The song "Oy U Luzi Chervona Kalyna", which had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to Russian military aggression, was removed from Russian streaming services. The Russian authorities increasingly exclude references to actors and artists who oppose the war from posters and programs, and the artists themselves — from state cultural institutions. In November, according to OVD-Info, the director Rimas Tumanis and the choreographer Ilya Zhivoy were persecuted for their anti-war stance (they were removed from the posters of the performances they had created), while artist Pokras Lampas, actress Ksenia Rappoport, and Dmitri Ozerkov, former head of the "Hermitage" Contemporary Art Department, were expelled from the St. Petersburg Culture and Art Council.