Punishment for speech
In all the above cases, it was Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Code called “Public Actions Aimed at Discrediting the Russian Armed Forces,” which entered into force a week after Putin announced the SVO in Ukraine. The fine for violating the article is R30-50,000. Meanwhile, criminal charges can be brought for repeated violations of the same offense within one year under Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code.
Someone is charged under that article almost every day. Still, there is no definition of discrediting the Russian army in the relevant articles of the Administrative and Criminal codes. In practice, charges of “discrediting” have been brought for writing something on ballots, pacifist publications, memes, photos and videos, comments on social media, wearing a green ribbon on your clothes, displaying the flag of Ukraine or a poster painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, listening to or singing Ukrainian songs during karaoke or at a wedding, “silent support” of a protest action, the demonstration of posters with any inscriptions that might be seen as “discrediting” to the police or vigilant citizens, etc. etc.
Yuri Shevchuk, the leader of the rock band DDT, one of the most famous Russian musicians, was fined R50,000 under the administrative article about “discrediting” the Russian army for saying from the stage at a concert in Ufa, among other things, that “the motherland isn’t the president's ass that you must kiss all the time." Under the same article, Yevgeny Roizman, the former mayor of Yekaterinburg, has been fined
Judging by data from GAS Pravosudie, since the beginning of March 2022, more than 4,000 administrative cases for “discrediting” the Russian army were sent to Russian courts, with nearly 3,300 of them having already been decided. The height of these cases came in mid-March, when they numbered over 300, while by June they had fallen to 100 a week. Most of the charges for "discrediting" came from Moscow, St Petersburg and Krasnodar Region.
Oftentimes those detained at protests or publishers of pacifist statements on social media are brought to administrative responsibility simultaneously under two articles of the Administrative Code: the abovementioned 20.3.3 and 20.2 – “Violations of the Established Order of Organization or Conduction of a Gathering, Rally, Demonstration, March or Picket."
Besides fines, administrative arrests for periods ranging from 1 to 30 days are widely used, with the average arrest being 10–15 days and sometimes several in a row.
Administrative arrest is used for those accused of disobeying a lawful order of a police officer (Article 19.3 of the Administrative Code), violating restrictions related to COVID-19 (20.6.1 of the Administrative Code and regional analogues), organizing an unapproved event (Part 2 of Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code) and violating the procedure for holding a public event (Part 5 of Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code). In St Petersburg, Article 20.2.2 is popular – concerning the “organization of mass spontaneous assembly and (or) movement of citizens in public places resulting in a violation of public order or sanitary norms and rules.”
that lawyers are often barred from seeing detainees. There are cases when lawyers weren’t permitted even in court.
Since February 24, human rights activists have recorded many cases when police officers took phones from detainees or demanded that they be given access to the phones. There were cases when detainees were threatened when trying to get in touch with lawyers and were forced to refuse professional assistance.