A Russian court will tomorrow deliver its verdict in the case against activist Andrei Borovikov, who faces three years in prison if convicted of “distributing pornography” for sharing a video by the German rock band Rammstein.
Andrei Borovikov was formerly the coordinator of Aleksei Navalny’s regional headquarters in Arkhangelsk, northwestern Russia. In 2014, he shared the music video for Rammstein’s song Pussy on the Russian social network VKontakte. More than six years later in September 2020, the authorities charged him with “production and distribution of pornography”. The prosecution has requested a three-year sentence in a high security penal colony if Andrei Borovikov is found guilty by the Lomonosovsky District Court.
“The case against Andrei Borovikov is utterly absurd. It is blatantly obvious that he is being punished solely for his activism, not his musical taste,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.
The case against Andrei Borovikov is utterly absurd. It is blatantly obvious that he is being punished solely for his activism, not his musical tasteNatalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director
“This is not the first time the Russian authorities have used an overbroad definition of ‘pornography’ as a pretext for locking up their critics. Earlier this month, artist and feminist activist Yulia Tsvetkova stood trial on pornography charges over her drawings of women’s bodies – it is astonishing that cases like this even make it to court.
“The prosecution of Andrei Borovikov is a mockery of justice, and we call for all charges against him to be dropped. The Russian authorities should be focusing on turning around the spiralling human rights crisis they have created, not devising ludicrous new ways of prosecuting and silencing their critics.”
The Pussy music video which Andrei Borikov posted in 2014 came to the authorities’ attention six months ago, when a former volunteer at Borikov’s office informed the police. The volunteer had secretly recorded his conversation with Borovikov about the video, during which Borovikov had deleted it.
Nonetheless, the authorities initiated a criminal investigation, which suggests the volunteer was employed as an agent provocateur to help fabricate the case. The prosecution said the video had been seen by “not fewer than two people” and went on to order “a sexological and cultural examination” of the clip. The experts found it to be of “pornographic nature” and “not containing artistic value”.
“The Russian government surely has better things to do than try its hand as a cultural critic. For example, it should be improving its dire record on freedom of expression, guaranteeing fair trial standards, releasing those detained for peacefully protesting, and putting a stop the politically motivated prosecution of activists,” said Natalia Zviagina.
The Russian authorities should be focusing on turning around the spiralling human rights crisis they have created, not devising ludicrous new ways of prosecuting and silencing their criticsNatalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director
Andrei Borovikov, an environmental activist and former coordinator of Aleksei Navalny’s Arkhangelsk regional headquarters, was charged with “production and distribution of pornography” (Article 242(3)(b) of the Russian Criminal Code) in September 2020. Before that, in September 2019, he had been sentenced to 400 hours of compulsory labour after being found guilty of “repeated violation of the established procedure of organizing or holding public events” (Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code) for holding peaceful protests against a local landfill project.