29 May 2020
Single pickets in support of jailed journalist resume outside Russia's Interior Ministry, leading to multiple arrests

Single pickets in support of jailed journalist resume outside Russia's Interior Ministry, leading to multiple arrests

Sergey Savostyanov / TASS

On May 29, a series of single pickets in support of recently jailed journalist Ilya Azar resumed outside Russia's police headquarters on Petrovka street, leading to multiple arrests.

Update: A total of 35 people have been arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg after picketing in support of Ilya Azar, according to website OVD-Info. Tatiana Felgengauer and Aleksandr Plushchev have been released.

Update: Journalists Tatiana Felgengauer and Aleksdandr Plushchev have been arrested once again after monitoring today's protests in a professional capacity. They were unable to present an 'editorial assignment' to the police, after which they were detained. A total of 25 people have been arrested so far.

The police have detained at least 25 people so far, including the activist Konstantin Fokin, municipal deputies Yulia Galyamina, Yelena Filina and Yelena Rusakova, and Yabloko party member Kirill Goncharov.

Moscow City Duma deputy Sergey Mitrokhin was arrested earlier in the day, along with assistant Maria Chuprina and activist Vadim Samukin. The politician held up a poster reading "No to police repressions! Freedom to Ilya Azar!", and was detained shortly after. Mitrokhin, Chuprina and Samukin have since been released.

A group of prominent Russian journalists protested in support of colleague Ilya Azar outside the Interior Ministry building in Moscow the day prior. All protesters were detained and released later in the day, having been charged with violating a statute on mass gatherings and not complying with Moscow's self-isolation regime. A series of similar pickets was also held in St. Petersburg, leading to the arrest of multiple activists. editor-in-chief staged a single picket in Russia’s fourth-largest city of Yekaterinburg without being detained earlier on Friday.

OSCE Media Freedom Representative Harlem Desir and Amnesty International Russia Director Natalia Zvyagina have called for the immediate release of Ilya Azar and all those detained.

Journalist Ilya Azar was detained on May 26 for picketing in support of jailed 'Police Ombudsman' founder Vladimir Vorontsov. Azar protested outside the Interior Ministry building in Moscow by holding up two posters – "Free Vladimir Voronstov" and "Free Viktor Nemytov" – after which he was arrested by the police and taken to a temporary detention center. Moscow's Tverskoy District Court sentenced Azar to 15 days in jail for "repeatedly violating" Russia's law on mass gatherings and protests.

Activist Viktor Nemytov was arrested prior to Azar for an identical picket, and was handed down a similar 15-day sentence on May 27. He has since been released.

Vladimir Vorontsov, founder of 'Police Ombudsman', an online community dedicated to exposing issues in Russia's law enforcement agencies, was arrested by a Moscow court on May 8 on charges of extortion. He will remain in a pre-trial detention center until July 6. Vorontsov has denied any wrongdoing, and believes that the case is "revenge for his public activities in defending the labor rights of ordinary police officers."

Authorities opened a second case against Vorontsov on May 23, alleging that he had "proliferated pornographic images" along with associate Igor Khudyakov and other "unidentified persons." Khudyakov was arrested by Moscow's Tverskoy District Court on May 25 – he will remain in custody until July 22.

Three more cases have been brought against Vorontsov as of May 29. He is being investigated due to "insulting a government representative," in addition to two more charges of extortion and proliferation of pornography.