Andrei Pivovarov, former director of Open Russia, is a political prisoner

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines, considers the former executive director of Open Russia, Andrei Pivovarov, a political prisoner. We believe he is being prosecuted for his political beliefs. He has been remanded in custody in violation of the right to a fair trial.

We demand that Andrei Pivovarov be released immediately, that all charges against him be dropped and that the repressive and unlawful Article 284.1 on cooperation with undesirable organisations be removed from the Russian Criminal Code.

Who is Andrei Pivovarov and what are the charges against him?

Andrei Pivovarov is one of the leaders of the Russian democratic opposition. He became head of the Open Russia movement in 2018 and subsequently executive director of the Open Russia non-profit, which he led until it disbanded on 27 May 2021.

On 31 May at Pulkovo airport Pivovarov was taken off a flight to Warsaw and detained. At the same time, it became known that, on 29 May, a criminal case had been opened against him in Krasnodar for collaboration with an undesirable organisation (Art. 284.1 of the Criminal Code). After a search of Pivovarov’s home in St. Petersburg, he was taken to Krasnodar. On 2 June a court remanded him in custody for two months.

On 8 June the Investigative Committee charged Pivovarov with having reposted on Facebook a publication by the ‘Open Democrats’ project, having already been twice prosecuted under Article 20.33 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences for conducting the activities of an undesirable organisation.

Why does Memorial consider Andrei Pivovarov a political prisoner?

– We consider Andrei Pivovarov a political prisoner because the practice of recognising organisations as ‘undesirable,’ and the legal provisions penalising cooperation with them, involve arbitrary law enforcement and contradict the principle of legal certainty and other fundamental principles of law.

– We believe Open Russia conducted peaceful political and human rights activities, typical for civil society organisations, and has not broken the law. In our view, the criminalisation of involvement in this organisation is itself unlawful.

– The criminal case against Pivovarov fits into a campaign of prosecutions of opposition activists associated with Open Russia (inseparable in the eyes of the authorities from the figure of Mikhail Khodorkovsky). Earlier, Memorial Human Rights Centre found the prosecutions of opposition activists Anastasia Shevchenko (from Rostov), Mikhail Iosilevich (from Nizhny Novgorod) and Yana Antonova (from Krasnodar) to be politically motivated.

– Andrei Pivovarov, who had announced his intention to run in the parliamentary elections, has apparently become a victim of the crackdown on popular opposition politicians ahead of the 2021 State Duma elections.

– The prosecution of Andrei Pivovarov would appear to be unlawful because it was initiated after Open Russia had already announced its dissolution. An explanatory note to Article 284.1 of the Russian Criminal Code states that a person who voluntarily ends their participation in the activities of an organisation, designated as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation, is exempt from criminal prosecution unless they have committed another criminal offence.

– In addition, the criminal case against Pivovarov shows signs of falsification. In particular, investigators claim, without providing any evidence, that Open Russia is a British organisation. However, freely available information confirms that Open Russia is a Russian civil society association.

– The case against Pivovarov clearly seems to have been fabricated, given that there is no evidence of a crime. During the appeal hearing with regard to his pre-trial detention, former Open Russia staff member Maria Kuznetsova pointed out that she had reposted the publication for which Pivovarov had been charged. However, the court ignored her statement.

More information about the case of Andrei Pivovarov and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre is available on 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.

How to help

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Read this statement on Memorial’s web-site