Russian citizens are turning in en masse to authorities for anti-war comments made in bars, beauty salons and grocery stores in a dozen cities across the country, according to a new report by independent Russian media Vrestka.
Legal documents obtained by the outlet from Moscow, Bryansk, Novosibirsk and other cities indicate that citizens have been reported for ‘violations’ as minor as making a joke about the war, listening to Ukrainian music or even simply talking about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion in a public space.
Many people imprisoned after being reported by other citizens have been charged under Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Violations of the Russian Federation, a new law signed by Putin last year criminalizing “actions aimed at discrediting” the Russian armed forces.
A Russian from Bryansk, Mikhail Kolokolnikov, was reportedly fined and jailed for two days after an unknown person called authorities against him for saying the phrase “Glory to Ukraine” at a bar on January 15. In an interview with Vrestka, Kolokolniko said two officers stormed the bar shortly after he said the phrase to another man, demanding to know: “Who said ‘Glory to Ukraine’ here?”
“The other day a rocket hit a house in Dnipro,” Ukraine-born Kolokolnikov told the outlet, explaining why he said the slogan in a public place. “And I walked past this house every day on my way to the beach, along the Pobeda seawall. Anyway, I was still a little angry about it.
In another case, Ivan Sleponogov, a resident of Chita, was jailed after being accused of speaking an anti-war slogan during an Easter church service last April, according to a legal complaint. Sleponogov allegedly claimed that he was actually chanting “Glory to the guys who died in Ukraine!” in reference to Russian soldiers killed in action, and the case was eventually dropped – after Sleponogov had spent 10 days in prison.
Other cases detailed in the Vrestka investigation includes complaints against Russian citizens for playing a Ukrainian song in the car while driving, making pro-Ukrainian statements while intoxicated from a balcony and criticizing the war in private conversations with friends in a coffee. The people who filed the complaints are said to be listening neighbors, co-workers and janitors.
In many cases, according to the outlet, little or no evidence was provided by witnesses who reported the alleged violations.
In some court cases, however, the “anti-war” sentiments allegedly expressed by accused citizens are not so subtle. In Serpukhov, a town near Moscow, two Russian army veterans accused Yuri Nemtov of approaching them at a shopping mall last November with well-chosen words. “Well, invaders! Go there to die like meat! he would have said.