Responding to the start of a trial in Moscow against Oleg Orlov, a prominent human rights defender, who is charged with the newly instituted “crime” of “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian Armed Forces and risks up to three years in a penal colony, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director, said:
“Oleg Orlov was brought to the dock solely because of an anti-war article he wrote denouncing Putin’s Russia as a totalitarian fascist society. Predictably, the system he described cannot tolerate his need to defend the truth and his refusal to remain silent after Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The price he and others pay for exercising their right to freedom of expression in today’s Russia is very high indeed.
The price [Oleg Orlov] and others pay for exercising their right to freedom of expression in today’s Russia is very high indeed.Natalia Zviagina, Russia Director, Amnesty International
“Oleg Orlov has been fined twice for anti-war pickets deemed to have ‘discredited’ the Russian Armed Forces. The Russian authorities have liquidated Memorial, the human rights organization of which he had been a leading member, and now they are pressing criminal charges against him. Neither Oleg Orlov’s impeccable reputation as a human rights defender nor Memorial’s recent Nobel Peace Prize have deterred them.
“Amnesty International calls on the Russian authorities to immediately drop all charges against Oleg Orlov. Authorities must also end the crackdown on civil society organizations and human rights activists, and respect the right to express opinions freely, even if it includes criticism of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
On 8 June, the Golovinsky District Court in Moscow began to consider the criminal case against Oleg Orlov, deputy chairman of Nobel Peace Prize winning Memorial Human Rights Centre, who is charged with “discreditation of the Russian Armed Forces” (Article 280.3(1) of the Criminal Code). The charges were brought after his article, “They wanted fascism. They got it,” was published by the French edition of Mediapart in November 2022.
Oleg Orlov was previously twice accused of “discreditation of the Russian Armed Forces” and fined a total of 65,000 roubles (US$880) for anti-war pickets he held in Moscow in March and April 2022. These administrative penalties paved the way for his criminal prosecution.
The Memorial Human Rights Centre, of which Orlov is a member, was liquidated by the Supreme Court in February 2022 in contravention of the right to association, and several of its employees have faced criminal charges since then. In December 2022, the human rights group was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside the Centre for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) and human rights defender Ales Bialiatski (Belarus).