Yuri Zhdanov, father of the director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation* Ivan Zhdanov, is a political prisoner

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international criteria, considers Yuri Zhdanov a political prisoner. He is being prosecuted solely for the political beliefs of his son, Ivan Zhdanov, in connection with the latter’s non-violent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Yuri Zhdanov’s prosecution is intended to stop Ivan Zhdanov’s activities as an opposition politician and critic of the authorities. The demonstrative cruel treatment of senior citizen Yuri Zhdanov is intended to intimidate all political activists who are opponents of the Kremlin. Yuri Zhdanov’s imprisonment is clearly inappropriate, given the nature of the charges laid against him.

Memorial demands the immediate release of Yury Zhdanov!

What are the charges against Yuri Zhdanov

On 26 March Yuri Zhdanov was arrested at his home in Rostov region by a large group of Investigative Committee officers, sent specially for this purpose from Arkhangelsk. His home was searched, he was interrogated and taken into custody. A few days later he was moved to a remand centre in Arkhangelsk.

According to the law enforcement agencies, when Yuri Zhdanov was working for the administration of the village of Iskatelei in the Nenets Autonomous District in 2019 he forged a document in the name of the local housing commission recommending that the head of the village provide local resident Yulia Vetrova with public housing at a low-rent. A court later found that the family was not entitled to such housing since they had previously received a housing subsidy.

Zhdanov has been charged with forgery (Article 292, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and large-scale fraud (Article 159, Part 4, of the Russian Criminal Code). He faces up to ten years’ imprisonment.

Zhdanov maintains his innocence.

Why Memorial considers Zhdanov a political prisoner

We believe there are no grounds to remand Yuri Zhdanov in custody and doing so contradicts the usual practice in relation to charges of this kind.

Zhdanov had no connection with the decision to recognise the Vetrova family as eligible for social housing. There is no evidence in the case file that Zhdanov knew Vetrova was illegally on the waiting list for social housing. Moreover, the court decision on this matter entered into force only in June 2021, i.e. much later than the charges were laid against Yuri Zhdanov.

According to the investigators, Zhdanov did not benefit materially in any way from Vetrova obtaining the apartment. Consequently, it is not possible to qualify his actions as an offence under Article 292 of the Russia Criminal Code.

The decision to allocate the housing was made by the head of the municipal authority, not by Zhdanov. The minutes of the housing commission’s meeting, which Zhdanov signed as chair, were, in relation to the decision concerning Vetrova, advisory in nature. Moreover, not only Zhdanov himself but a number of other members of the commission claim the session actually took place and the recommendation to allocate the apartment was adopted. In other words, they refute the allegation that the minutes were falsified. It seems probable the deputies from the United Russia party stated they did not participate in the meeting under pressure from the authorities and party and law enforcement agencies.

According to Article 159 of the Russian Criminal Code, fraud is defined as theft of property or illegal acquisition of the right to it. We believe there is no evidence of such an offence in the actions imputed to Zhdanov since they provided for no direct acquisition of the right to the apartment.

Yuri Zhdanov is the father of Ivan Zhdanov who has been director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation* since 2018 and a member of the board of the Russia of the Future party, both organisations founded by Aleksei Navalny’s team. The Russian authorities have systematically discredited and attempted to terminate the activities of these organizations. Their leading activists, including Ivan Zhdanov, have constantly been subjected to administrative and criminal prosecution. For example, on 29 June 2021 Moscow’s Nagatinsky district court remanded Ivan Zhdanov in custody (in absentia, since he is abroad) on charges of failing to comply with a court order.

The authorities have already used criminal prosecution of relatives of opposition leaders as a means to force the latter to cease their activities. The most prominent examples are the unlawful conviction of Oleg Navalny and the criminal prosecution of Dmitry Gudkov’s aunt.

After the jailing of Aleksei Navalny, political repression in the country intensified and Ivan Zhdanov’s father has become one more victim of this repression.

More information about the case of Yuri Zhdanov and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre is available on our website.

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

How you can help

The address for letters is: Yuri Pavlovich Zhdanov (dob 1954), Federal Pre-trial Detention Facility No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation for Arkhangelsk region, 22 Popov Street, Arkhangelsk, 163000. [In Russian: 163000, г. Архангельск, ул. Попова, 22, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН РФ по Архангельской области, Жданову Юрию Павловичу 1954 г. р.]

Electronic letters can be sent via FSIN-Letter or Rosuznik.

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.

*The Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) has been declared extremist and banned by a court; the organisation had previously been included in the register of NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent. Memorial considers these decisions unlawful.

Read this statement on Memorial’s web-site