The Siege

Monument to workers and staff at the Ivan Fyodorov printing plant in Leningrad who gave their lives during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad by the Nazis. Photo by Alexey Chernov

Hello, dear friend!

You may have already run into problems when you tried to visit the OVD Info website, or seen disturbing news headlines about our project. We would lie to ell you what we know about the problem at the current moment.

What happened?

On Saturday morning, our website was blocked by decision of the Lukhovitsy City Court. Later, Roskomnadzor sent a request to social networks to block our accounts. We have not received any official notification.

Later, comments made by a Roskomnadzor official to the media made us aware of the reason Roskomnadzor had ordered our website blocked, and had also sent a request to the administrators of social networks to block our accounts.

It follows from the Roskomnadzor official’s statement that our site has been placed on the registry of sites featuring prohibited information, although it is not on the list yet. It does NOT FOLLOW from this same statement that our project has been deemed “extremist” or “terrorist,” nor does it follow from the court ruling. At most, some of our publications have been deemed prohibited matter. We do not yet know which publications these are.

We still have not received any official notification. Grigory Okhotin, OVD Info co-founder and the website’s proprietor, was not informed about the investigation, the court hearing, or the blocking of the site, although his lawyer responded on December 14 to a summons by traveling to the Lukhovitsy prosecutor’s office, which filed the lawsuit, where he tried to obtain information about the details of the complaint.

We regard this as a continuation of the Russian state’s attack on civil society. There is nothing surprising in the fact that OVD Info has now been targeted, since our project is probably the largest human rights project in Russia. In addition, OVD Info is the driving force behind the campaign to abolish the law on “foreign agents.” After our petition calling on the authorities to abolish the law went public, we were placed on the list of “foreign agents”; after a bill that would abolish the law was submitted to the State Duma, our website was blocked. We can conclude that this is how the authorities consult with the professional human rights community.

We cannot say that we did not anticipate this attack. After the attack on the Memorial Human Rights Center and the lodging of similar claims against it, we realized that we would be next. However, unlike the Memorial case, where formal legal procedures have been followed, at least, our website was blocked in violation of all possible norms.

What’s next?

  1. We will seek to clarify the situation and defend ourselves in a legal manner. Naturally, we do not promote or condone terrorism or extremism. OVD Info is an independent human rights media project and we are confident that all our information is reliable and does not violate laws. We have always operate and will continue to operate in compliance with the law.
  2. We will continue our work. You can still read us on social networks. Even if all our social networks are blocked, we will still provide legal assistance to people who are persecuted for political reasons, receive calls and messages via our bot, and provide legal advice. And we will find a way to convey necessary and important information to you.
  3. We are still counting on your help. The project has existed for over ten years only thanks to public support. No court and no prosecutor’s office can block the help of hundreds of thousands of people. For now, it’s still safe to support us in any way possible. You can subscribe to our social media accounts to follow the news, or you can make a small donation, preferably in cryptocurrency. If something changes and a method of support becomes unsafe, we will immediately tell you about it.

We hope that we will be able to gladden you with good news this year! Thank you for staying with us!

Yours as always,

Grigory Okhotin and the OVD Info team

The indepedent human rights media project OVD Info
https://donate.ovdinfo.orgdonate@ovdinfo.org 

You received this letter because you support OVD Info.

 On 29 September 2021, the Russia Justice Ministry placed OVD Info on its “registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent.” We include this disclaimer, among other things, so that your donations do not go towards paying fines for its absence.

But you can help us get rid of it.

Source: OVD Info email newsletter, 25 December 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader


Five hundred years ago, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that it is best for a ruler to be both loved and feared, but ‘it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both’. The Kremlin seems to share this belief. Since the government’s economic policy is aimed at maintaining ‘stable stagnation’ rather than economic growth, it won’t be able to buy the population’s complacency. On the other hand, although the government’s propaganda is still working, its long-term performance is questionable. The share of Russians who obtain information through television has decreased by 25% in the seven years since March 2014. At the same time, citizens’ trust in information from social media and online publications is growing. Against this backdrop, along with the consolidation of online censorship, the politics of fear is becoming an increasingly attractive tool for controlling public sentiment.

Lauren Young, a professor at the University of California, Davis, demonstrated in her recent study how repression works and what dividends a dictator can reap from it. Citizens are more likely to feel fear when witnessing violence used by the authorities. Fear, in turn, leads to pessimism about the prospects for collective action (‘no one will take to the streets, and I won’t either’) and a lower willingness to take risks. All of this diminishes citizens’ desire to express disloyalty to the authorities. In the case of Russia, the politics of fear is also amplified by the fact that many Russians depend on payments from the state budget. As studies show, state-sector professionals, all other things being equal, are less likely to protest and are also less supportive of democracy.

Yes, repressions undermine the legitimacy of state institutions and can even, albeit with very low probability, lead to the opposite effect when people lose patience and pour into the streets. But the year 2021 showed that the Russian regime will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo.

Source: Mikhail Turchenko, “One year in the life of a consolidated personalist dictatorship,” Riddle, 20 December 2021

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