Maria Chugunova, who took part in a rally in support of Navalny and has been convicted of blocking a road in downtown Moscow, is a political prisoner
The Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international criteria, considers Maria Chugunova a political prisoner. She has been prosecuted in order to intimidate those who disagree with the Russian authorities and to prevent citizens from exercising their right to freedom of assembly.
We demand that Maria Chugunova be immediately released, that all charges against her under Article 267, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code be dropped, and that this article be removed from the Criminal Code.
What are the charges against Chugunova?
On 2 February 2021, the day Aleksei Navalny was convicted, a peaceful protest took place in Moscow. Following the protest, a criminal investigation was opened into ‘intentional blockage of a road’ (Article 267, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code).
The only person convicted, so far as we know, has been Maria Chugunova, a resident of Reutov. On 16 May 2022, she was sentenced to eight months in a minimum-security penal colony and on the same day was taken into custody.
Chugunova was charged with ‘moving along the roadway, accompanying her criminal actions with active gesticulation and chanting insulting slogans against the current authorities,’ as well as ‘blocking the movement of emergency services and other road users.’
Chugunova was also ordered to pay damages of 2,970,093 roubles to the Moscow Transport Authority and 448,928 roubles to the Moscow Metro Authority in civil suits brought by these organisations on account of the additional costs incurred on the day of the protest.
Why do we consider Maria Chugunova a political prisoner?
Article 267 of the Russian Criminal Code, as currently worded, criminalises the blocking of transport links if such actions ‘endanger the life, health or safety of citizens or threaten to destroy or damage the property of individuals and (or) legal entities.’ Amendments to this article were quickly adopted in December 2020, along with a whole package of other repressive legislation. We believe the new wording makes Article 267 excessively vague and unjustifiably repressive.
Police officers are now given the choice between initiating criminal charges under Article 267 of the Russian Criminal Code or administrative charges under Article 20.2, Part 6.1, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (‘participation in a rally that does not have official permission, resulting in the creation of obstacles […] to pedestrians and (or) vehicles’) solely on the basis of their personal view of the degree of danger of any particular traffic delay or, even more absurdly, delay of pedestrians. This choice is not determined by any criteria other than the personal views of police officers or guidance from the Centre for Combating Extremism or the FSB.
This prosecution, as others like it, has been aimed at restricting the right to freedom of assembly enshrined in Article 31 of the Russian Constitution and intimidating those who participate in protests held without official permission. Chugunova was charged with doing nothing more than taking part in a peaceful protest held without official permission and shouting opposition slogans. She was selectively singled out from thousands of people and arbitrarily made a victim of inexplicably harsh punishment.
Judge Ekaterina Kazakova, who sentenced Chugunova to eight months in a penal colony, had previously handed down prison terms in other high-profile cases concerning crimes of little gravity. For example, Gleb Maryasov, convicted under the same Article 267 of the Russian Criminal Code, as well as Ruslan Bobiev and Anastasia Chistova, participants in a photo shoot on Red Square that caused a scandal, have all been designated as political prisoners.
More information about the case of Maria Chugunova and the position of the Human Rightы Project are available on our Telegram channel.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
How can you help?
You can write to Maria Chugunova (all letters must be in Russian) via the electronic system Federal Penitentiary Service – Letter or at the following address:
In Russian: 109383, г. Москва, ул. Шоссейная, д. 92, ФКУ СИЗО-6 УФСИН России по г. Москве, Чугуновой Марии Дмитриевне 2002 г. р.
In English: Maria Dmitrievna Chugunova (born 2002), Remand Centre No. 6, Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for Moscow city, 92 Shosseinaya Street, Moscow 109383 .
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