Left-wing politician and video blogger Nikolai Platoshkin is a political prisoner, Memorial says

Who is Nikolai Platoshkin and what is he accused of?

Nikolai Platoshkin, a former diplomat who has a PhD in history, is an associate professor and head of the department of international relations and diplomacy at the Moscow Humanities University. He is known to the general public as a politician and civil society activist, as well as a popular video blogger of ‘left-wing-patriotic’ views and leader of the movement For A New Socialism.

In 2019 Platoshkin was a candidate for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in elections to the 7th State Duma in the 70th electoral district. He came second in the elections.

On 15 April 2020 Platoshkin published a video on his YouTube channel entitled ‘Coronavirus. The latest news from the regions. Conference call of the movement For New Socialism.’ This video has been the pretext for the start of his criminal prosecution.

According to investigators, Platoshkin publicly distributed information he knew to be false about measures taken to combat the coronavirus infection (Article 207.1 of the Russian Criminal Code): ‘He reported information he knew to be false about illegal measures taken by the federal authorities and the Moscow city authorities to compel people not to leave their homes merely because hospitals were unable to cope with the number of visitors, not only because of the new Coronavirus infection but also because of other illnesses, and also information he knew to be false about locking down the whole city, the innocent and the guilty, the sick and the healthy all where they were…so that his allegations might cause discontent, a message that might lead to misconceived actions by members of the public and violations of public order.’

In addition, Platoshkin allegedly called on citizens ‘to commit and participate in riots under the guise of protest rallies in Moscow and other regions of the Russian Federation’ (Part 1.1 of Article 212 of the Russian Criminal Code).

Since 4 June 2020 Nikolai Platoshkin has been under house arrest.

Why does Memorial consider Platoshkin a political prisoner?

Memorial Human Rights Centre analysed Platoshkin’s video, which is the reason for his criminal prosecution, and found no signs of making preparations for riots or incitement to acts of violence.

Criticism of actions by the authorities is an inalienable right guaranteed under Russian and international law. Therefore we support the position taken by the international human rights organisation Amnesty International that has recognised Platoshkin as a prisoner of conscience.

As Memorial has already noted, ‘in March-April 2020, under the pretext of combating the Coronavirus epidemic, there was an unprecedented onslaught by the federal centre and regional authorities on rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of the Russian Federation, together with the adoption of a whole series of repressive legal norms and the introduction of vague and potentially extremely dangerous innovations in the Criminal Code, the Code of Administrative Offences and regional codes of administrative violations.’ The new Article 207.1 of the Criminal Code, under which one of the charges against Platoshkin has been brought, has already been widely used for repressive purposes. We consider Article 207.1 one of the articles of the Criminal Code that has the least basis in law. It should be immediately annulled.

In fact, the provisions of Article 207.1 of the Criminal Code do not differ from those of Parts 9–11 of Article 13.15 of the Code of Administrative Offences (abusing the freedom of mass media). The very existence of this article creates an extreme degree of legal uncertainty and makes it impossible for a person prosecuted thereunder to predict in advance for what actions they are being prosecuted, which contradicts the objectives of Russian criminal legislation.

The political motive for the prosecution of Nikolai Platoshkin seems obvious to us since he is a well-known politician, leader of an opposition organization and a popular video blogger whose YouTube channel had 476,000 subscribers at the time of his arrest (now the number of subscribers exceeds half a million). In the months preceding the initiation of the criminal case against him Platoshkin voiced with increasing clarity his opposition views and his negative attitude to the government and the President of the Russian Federation. He urged his viewers to vote against the amendments to the Constitution and against giving President Putin the right to serve two more terms in office; he also urged them to attend rallies calling for Vladimir Putin’s resignation. Two days before his arrest, Platoshkin announced his intention to run for the presidency in the 2024 elections. If he is convicted under Part 1.1 of Article 212 of the Criminal Code, he will not be able to stand as a candidate in elections at least until 2030.

In accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ Memorial considers this criminal prosecution politically motivated and intended to force Nikolai Platoshkin to terminate his public activities. We demand that the charges against the politician Nikolai Platoshkin be dropped immediately and that he be released from house arrest. We also call for the removal of the unlawful Article 207.1 from the Criminal Code.

For more information about this case, and the position taken by Memorial Human Rights Centre concerning it, see our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

You can support Nikolai Platoshkin by signing the petition demanding his release.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com.