No panic observed: “Open Russia” under threat of criminal cases

Russia first applied to criminal charges for participating in activities of organizations recognized as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation. In Rostov-on-don has initiated a criminal case against a member of the Federal Council of the “Open Russia” Anastasia Shevchenko. Earlier, activists of the “Open Russia” several times admitted has committed an administrative offence under the same article of the administrative code 20.33 and pay fines. But now the situation has changed: January 23, Anastasia Shevchenko by March 20, sent under house arrest. The maximum punishment which is stipulated by article 284.1 of the criminal code, to six years imprisonment. About the development of this situation, the RFI said the activists of the movement “Open Russia”.

According to the coordinator of the advocacy of “Open Russia” Alexey Pryanishnikov, despite persecution, members of the movement do not hide their relationship with him.

Alexey Pryanishnikov: I would not say that our activists as very much to hide their affiliation to the movement “Open Russia”. Yes, there are problems associated with the fact that in some regions, prosecutors are attracted activists of the movement “Open Russia” to administrative responsibility under article 20.33 code of administrative offences (“carrying out activities on the territory of the Russian Federation to foreign or international non-governmental organizations in respect of which the decision on the recognition of the undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation of its activities”). The organization must be foreign, non-governmental. That is the most important criterion — a foreign organization. We have a situation that activists of the movement “Open Russia” does not belong to any foreign organizations. They are members of the Russian public movement “Open Russia”.

RFI: What amount have to pay your activists?

Penalties from 5 thousand to 20 (rubles).

Who covers these costs?

It’s money from fundraising. Both internal and external.

And as members of your movement can prove to security officials that they have nothing to do with British namesake organization, recognized as undesirable on the territory of Russia? Identity they have, as I understand it, no, your movement is not registered…

Is a public Association that is not subject to state registration in accordance with the law “On public associations”. With regard to the evidence. Well, first, guilty of committing an administrative offense needs to prove to a government Agency, which accountable — in this case, the Prosecutor’s office than she does. The approach to proving guilt rather primitive and illiterate. Does the mention of the fact that a certain British organization — it is not available in the UK, it doesn’t exist with the same name, however, nobody is paying attention to the Ministry of justice and the Prosecutor General’s office. They just write that on 26 April 2017, the Prosecutor General’s order recognized unwanted this British organization (Otkrytaya Rossia RFI) that such and such a person consists in the movement “Open Russia”, as evidenced by and in 95% of cases they apply certificates of inspection and regional publics “Open Russia” in social networks. Do the screenshots have to present it in the form of acts of inspection, and no evidence of belonging to a foreign organization, they do not.

Mainly prosecuted or the regional coordinators of the movement, or members of the Federal authorities. There have been cases of bringing to administrative responsibility of people that were not even at the event of the movement “Open Russia”, which was confirmed by the decrees of several courts. Despite the fact that other courts have said that the event is no offence in respect of two people who are not even members of the movement, and was just invited to the event as speakers, was ordered, and they came into force.

There is one such nuance. After the Prosecutor General’s office acknowledged unwanted some British organization, the next day after that, April 27, 2017, the first official representative of General Prosecutor’s office stated to media that in connection with the undesirable in the territory of the Russian Federation of a certain British organization issues in the activities of the Russian movement “Open Russia” will not. This is the first statement. The second statement was followed by the justice Ministry, who said that he has not established the presence on the territory of the Russian Federation any branches, structural subdivisions and subsidiaries of this British organization, which is recognized as undesirable. And now, for almost two years, however, the public Prosecutor show completely opposite things.

And where the Prosecutor’s office generally knows who and what positions in your movement?

This is not a secret organization, of course, there is information in the public domain. Is there a site that is blocked, but, nevertheless, the lock has nothing to do with the state bodies and the posted information is absolutely current, who is the coordinator of the movement in a particular region, a member of the Federal Council.

Why criminal charges had not used all the time, starting in 2015?

They had to go through certain formalities. Article 284.1 of the criminal code punishes participation in the activities of the so-called undesirable organization only if the individual had two of the entered into force court orders on bringing to responsibility under article 20.33 Cao. The prosecution, the court had to go through all these stages in order for someone to have accumulated two which entered into force of the decision (within one year RFI).

How much time has passed since then, as against Anastasia came into effect the second year of the court’s decision on an administrative offense under 20.33? And did you understand that a criminal case is likely?

Several months passed, in the region of six months. Of course, all educated people, all is assumed. All conversations with her over the fact that she said I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going to leave, go to the end, what will be will be.

What do you think attracts people in your movement, taking into account the risk of criminal prosecution?

Perhaps people are attracted to those projects that implemented the movement. Educational projects, these are projects in the field of elections. Find yourself at the local authorities at the lowest level. After all, training candidates in those municipal deputies involved in the movement “Open Russia”. In particular, one of the things Anastasia Shevchenko under article 20.33 Cao was associated with the “Open elections”.

Don’t you think attention to your movement connected mainly with the personal attitude of Vladimir Putin to Mikhail Khodorkovsky?

My personal opinion is that this is connected with some personal attitude, but because it is formed by some action of man. That is Vladimir Putin’s not just up and hated Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Vladimir Putin gave him the opportunity to be released. Of course, there is a definite negative, but this negativity is also associated exclusively with the position of the person with his actions, aimed at creating and functioning of free media, systems that would prepare independent candidates for elections.

Your activists are not scared of a criminal case, Anastasia, what do you think?

For the moment, panic is not observed. Oddly enough, on the background of such incidents, which happen from time to time — one way or another, for nearly two years harassment of the movement “Open Russia” — on the contrary, supporters of growing interest. And even moreover, new applications for joining the movement.

Chelyabinsk activist Denis Ibragimov will soon court administrative paper — all the same, for cooperation with the organization recognized unwanted in Russia. But he’s optimistic.

RFI: How did your plans and mood associated with the “Open Russia”, the criminal case Anastasia Shevchenko? It did not scare you?

Denis Ibragimov: No, it is even encouraged. I think that I do everything right, our position is correct. Anything illegal we do not. And, in principle, society also responds that this is complete nonsense. For example, I have the court too, under article 20.33 CAO, for organizing a human rights seminar “How to like memes and not go to jail”. That is, I want to draw for educational activities, you might say. I think that I’m some kind of foreign agent. Well, this is complete nonsense.

You have a first administrative article?

It will be the second.

But you know what then a criminal case can start?

Well, of course, Yes. All things are possible.

And yet, you continue its cooperation with the “Open Russia”. How do you follow?

Their internal beliefs, I don’t think doing something illegal. I, on the contrary, as-that try to help other people. Our activities are productive, in the first place. And she does not bear to society the negative. When adopting this law, the Prosecutor General’s office noted that the prosecution will not affect the Russian movement “Open Russia”. That is, the information entered into the registry, applies to some foreign organizations and does not apply to our movement and its participants. Of course, I, in particular, are guided by it.

But you can see that in reality things are different. Initiated the first criminal case. What do you expect in this situation?

I do not see preconditions for criminal cases, because, in principle, all of these administrative cases are embroidered with white thread, there is evidence as such, no. I think there would be some go-ahead from the top, will reconsider all these things. Today, for example, was a statement from the Council on human rights, they asked to review the Prosecutor’s case against Anastasia Shevchenko, and in principle “Open Russia”. Waiting for some decisions on how events will develop.

The HRC under the President has consistently supported, for example, and the defendants in the case of the “New grandeur”, but the criminal case is not stopped. Alas, this structure is not omnipotent, to rely only on its position, it seems to me, is a little naive…

No, of course not. For example, recently reviewed practice cases under article 282, it is decided to decriminalize, met many people who were involved in this repressive political article. I think in the near future will be the revision of the practice under article 20.33, and any position will appear.

What generally attracted you to the “Open Russia” why are you here?

“Open Russia” — one of the few Russian movements that deals with education. That is, arranges some educational activities for activists, politicians and provides human rights support to the population. It is not only political and civil, support for the disabled, support musicians. This is a productive thing that got me hooked, I decided to help on their own.

Your family, friends know that you are the activist movement created by Khodorkovsky?

Yes, of course they know, they are aware of my pursuit. Support me and believe that this prosecution is absurd and delusional.

What was your first administrative penalty under article 20.33?

Five thousand rubles.

Now, how many will?

I think I can, as a “recidivist”, a little increase -perhaps 10-15 thousand.

Where to take money?

I’m probably going to collect, fundraising, collect the fine on their own. People support me, write words of support. I think that will support me in this way. The most important thing for me.

What do you see as the main purpose of the “Open Russia”?

Nurturing a new generation of politicians. During this time, in Putin’s Russia, the political field was just burnt. And now there is a big meadow, where the regional leaders, in principle, no. This can be seen in the protests against pension reform, on other global issues. Party system that is now so degraded that they’re community leaders. “Open Russia” is just nurturing that this new generation of leaders.

Some potential candidates for this status have already appeared?

We have, in principle, during this time opened a lot of regional offices, including in the far East, we are expanding constantly. On the local level, these people are quite noticeable and important, listen to their opinions.


International human rights organization Amnesty International called rostovite Anastasia Shevchenko a prisoner of conscience, which is deprived of freedom only for personal political views, and demanded her immediate release. In the care of Anastasia’s three young children, whom she raises alone. The eldest daughter, being a disabled person is in a specialty boarding school.
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