We publish a report on political prisoners and political repression in Russia in 2022
Following the start of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, repression of public dissent in Russia has reached unprecedented levels
The *Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project presents an overview of the situation with regard to political prisoners and political repression in Russia in 2022. In this report, we examine why and how the Russian authorities have prosecuted public dissent, both within Russia and in the occupied territories, detailing the most high-profile politically motivated prosecutions and analysing how the practices of repression in Russia have changed over the past year.
Since the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, repression has become more widespread and brutal. While many of the repressive trends were already apparent before the war, when the regime was preparing the invasion, since then new trends have also emerged. Overall, this has led to an increase in the number of victims of politically motivated prosecutions, a broadening of the scope of such prosecutions and more severe punishments.
Our report details how the repression of the past two decades paved the way for the attack on Ukraine and the intimidation of all those within Russia who oppose the war. Today, political opposition has been effectively outlawed in Russia, independent media outlets have been shut down and human rights organisations crushed. In addition, censorship has been institutionalised and all protest activity suppressed.
Since the start of the war, new trends have also emerged:
● Russia effectively introduced military censorship, which is the primary explanation for the explosive growth in the number of political prisoners on our lists. For example, in 2022 we added 74 new names to our main list, whereas in 2021 we added just 32. At the same time, we have either not had time to consider, or have not yet received sufficient information about, dozens, possibly even hundreds of similar cases.
● Physical assaults, degrading treatment and torture, which Russian security forces and pro-government activists resorted to even before the invasion, have become widespread.
● The state now openly carries out political repression without regard to the Russian Constitution or international law.
● Repression is increasingly becoming overtly ideological, aimed at protecting the symbols of the Putin regime and reflects the general trend toward the building of a totalitarian state in Russia.
● The charges used to prosecute active opponents of the war against Ukraine are becoming increasingly severe. In ever more cases, charges for terrorist offences are being brought, while such investigations have little basis in fact and have long since been conducted in a perfunctory manner.
● The state seeks to send Russians to fight in the war at any cost. To this end, the authorities use a growing number of methods, ranging from those with some basis in law to those that do not even try to maintain the appearance of legality, up to and including extrajudicial executions in front-line territories.
● Finally, it is difficult to assess the situation with regard to political repression in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.
Unfortunately, all these trends have seen further development in 2023. It is clear they will also determine the human rights situation in Russia in the future.
«The year 2022 has already gone down in history as a turning point. Not only has it been the year of the terrible catastrophe of large-scale war, but it has also been a turning point in terms of a catastrophic deterioration in the situation within Russia,» says Sergei Davidis, head of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project. “This applies not only to political prisoners, whose number, in our very incomplete lists, reached 513 by the end of 2022, but also, first and foremost, to the nature of the repression we are seeing, its brazen nature, its cruelty and its brutal, unvarnished directness.»
This report was prepared within the framework of the ‘European Human Rights Dialogue’ project with financial support from the programme ‘Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia’ of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany.