Brief Report on Inappropriate Use of Anti-Extremist Legislation in January–August 2020
The following brief review covers the most important legislative innovations and the law enforcement statistics in the period from January to August 2020. Our review is limited only to the part of the legislation and law enforcement practice that we see as leading to an excessive restriction of civil liberties.
In March, Vladimir Putin signed a law amending Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (public display of Nazi symbols or symbols of extremist organizations). The disposition and sanctions of Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses have remained unchanged – only a note was added to clarify that the provisions of the article “do not apply to cases, in which Nazi attributes or symbols, or attributes or symbols similar to Nazi attributes or symbols to the point of confusion, or attributes or symbols of extremist organizations are used to form a negative attitude towards the ideology of Nazism and extremism, and there are no signs of propaganda or justification of Nazi or extremist ideology.” Similar amendments to the laws “On Immortalization of the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945,” and “On Combating Extremist Activity” were adopted in late 2019. As we expected, this clause failed to cover all the cases, in which banned symbols were displayed without the purpose of advocating the relevant ideology; the courts invoke it only in some of the cases. In our opinion, explicitly stating in federal laws and in Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses that the display of forbidden symbols is punishable only if intended as propaganda of the corresponding ideology would have been more effective and would have led to a more significant reduction in the cases of inappropriate enforcement.
A law intended to prevent the demolition of Soviet monuments abroad was signed in April. It introduced a new criminal article, Article 243.4 of the Criminal Code (destruction or damage to military graves, as well as monuments, stelae, obelisks, other memorial structures or objects, which immortalize the memory of those who died defending their Fatherland or its interests, or are dedicated to the days of Russia’s military glory), which stipulated the punishment in the form of multi-million fines or imprisonment. It should be noted that, although the introduction of this article has been motivated primarily by foreign policy considerations, it can also be applied to Russian citizens. Moreover, the actions described in the proposed norm, can be prosecuted under the already existing articles of the Criminal Code; therefore, there were no grounds for its introduction. Additionally, we view the sanctions stipulated in the new article, especially the large fines, as disproportionately harsh.
Also in April, the president signed the amendments, which included expanded and more severe punishments for distributing fake news. Article 13.15 of the Code of Administrative Offenses has been supplemented by a new Part 10.1 that punishes dissemination of “deliberately unreliable information under the guise of reliable messages” as it pertains to emergency situations and measures to counter them. This part of the article stipulates heavy fines and applies only to legal entities. Part 10.2 of the same article also applies to legal entities and provides for a punishment for distribution of false information resulting in death, damage to health, violation of public order or security, and so on. The new version of Part 11 covers repeated offenses under Parts 10, 10.1 and 10.2 also increasing the severity of sanctions for legal entities. Individuals can be criminally liable under the new Articles 207.1 and 207.2 of the Criminal Code, the dispositions of which correspond to Parts 10.1 and 10.2 of Article 13.15 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, except for the fact that the new articles punished public dissemination of “knowingly false” rather than “knowingly unreliable” information (we do not yet understand how the courts should distinguish between these two concepts in practice). The maximum punishment under Article 207.2 of the Criminal Code is a five-year prison term. These amendments increased the severity of the norms related to fake news in the Code of Administrative Offenses, but failed to correct their shortcomings. We believe that criminal prosecution for disseminating false information about emergencies is unnecessary, and the proposed sanctions are excessively severe.
In May, Putin signed a law that bans people convicted under certain anti-extremist and related articles of the Criminal Code (Article 205.2 Part 1, Article 207.2 Parts 1 and 2, Article 212.1, Article 239 Part 1, Article 243.4 Part 2, Article 244 Part 1, Article 280 Part 2, Article 280.1 Part 2, Article 282 Part 1, and Article 354.1 Part 2) from running for elected office for five years after clearing of their criminal record. Previously, offenders convicted for “crimes of extremism” could not run until their criminal record has been cleared (with the exception of those convicted for grave and especially grave crimes, who continue to be restricted from running for 10 and 15 years respectively after clearing of their criminal record). We see no valid reasons for additional restrictions on the right to stand for election, including for those convicted under any of the Criminal Code articles listed above. We also believe that prosecutions under many of these articles are frequently inappropriate.
Also in May, the President approved a new version of the Strategy for Countering Extremism until 2025. Among other considerations, the Strategy clarified certain concepts (including “radicalism”) and defined the concept of “ideology of violence.” The document classifies “destructive activities” of NGOs (including “the use of techniques and scenarios of the so-called ‘color revolutions’”) as extremism, and calls for paying attention to the “informational-psychological influence” of foreign intelligence services aimed at destroying the traditional values. When discussing the migration policy priorities related to countering extremism, the Strategy proposes to focus not on combating “illegal migration,” but on creating adaptation programs, on counteracting formation of ethnic enclaves, social exclusion, and spatial segregation, and on getting civil society institutions involved in this work. For the first time, the Strategy defines quantitative indicators, which include the percentage of violent crimes among “the crimes of extremist nature.” Additional information about the updated Strategy is available here.
In January, and then in May, the Ministry of Justice of Russia submitted for public discussion a draft of the new Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO). The proposals related to changes in anti-extremist or related articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses included the following: reduce the maximum community service term under the article on incitement to hatred; combine two parts of the article on banned symbols (display vs. sale of paraphernalia and symbols) thus mitigating the punishment for the sale of paraphernalia and symbols; exclude from the Code of Administrative Offenses the penalties for “insulting the authorities” more than twice. The proposed version of the Code classifies violations of the norms of the anti-extremist legislation as gross administrative offenses, so cases in this category cannot be discontinued regardless of the trifling nature of the offense. The draft codifies the de-facto existing understanding of the term “continuing offense,” which is often a factor in proceedings related to online publications. The Ministry of Justice insists that, as a rule, the limitation period for administrative responsibility should be one year with an even longer period for a number of articles. In particular, a two-year period has been proposed for gross administrative offenses. On the other hand, the limitation period of two months (or three months for cases that are being tried in court) has been proposed for a number of violations against legislation on media (except the article on the abuse of freedom of the media) or against laws governing information processing, or for offenses that infringe on the governing order and public morality.
In June, Vladimir Putin signed a law that obligates hosting providers to carry out extrajudicial blocking of websites. The amendments, which entered into force on October 1, introduced changes in the extrajudicial blocking mechanism described in Article 15.3 of the Federal Law “On Information.” Previously, upon receiving a request from the Prosecutor General’s Office, Roskomnadzor ordered telecom operators to block the indicated website and notified a hosting provider that the website had been blocked. The hosting provider then had to notify the site owner within 24 hours of the need to delete the problematic information. In accordance with the amendments, a hosting provider has to notify the owner immediately after receiving the Roskomnadzor notification. If the site owner fails to delete the information within 24 hours, the provider has to block the information resource indicated in the notification (the blocking obligations of telecom operators remain unchanged). Earlier, a site owner could delete the information indicated in the notification and inform Roskomnadzor, and then the telecom operators had to unblock the resource. While imposing on hosting providers the obligation to block access to sites, the amendments fail to provide for any obligations to remove the restrictions. We oppose extrajudicial blocking of online materials, since it leads to arbitrary treatment and abuse by law enforcement agencies. The new law’s failure to stipulate the unblocking procedure for hosting providers introduces uncertainty that potentially leads to additional unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech.
New repressive legislative proposals were introduced to the State Duma in July. The first one proposed amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses intended to punish hosting providers and website owners for failure to block or delete unlawful content. The deputies proposed introducing new Article 13.41 into the Code of Administrative Offenses, under which the fines for failure to take measures to restrict access to websites (except for copyright infringement cases) can reach up to 100 thousand rubles for individuals, up to 400 thousand for officials, and up to 4 million for legal entities; fines are doubled for repeated offenses. Fines for failure to block extremist content are also doubled (quadrupled for repeated violations). The second proposal was the bill on amendments to the Federal Law "On Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information," developed by the State Duma’s Commission to Investigate the Facts of Interference of Foreign States in Russia’s Internal Affairs. The amendments will affect Article 15.3 Part 1 of the law – now not only the information containing "calls for mass riots and carrying out extremist activities" (current version), but also the one "containing justification and (or) excuse for extremist activities, including terrorist activities" will be subject to extrajudicial blocking. We believe that the proposed amendments, with their vague wording, will only aggravate the situation, turning both academic research and public discussion into possible targets for prosecution under the law.
Also in July, the President signed a law on amending Article 1 of the Law "On Combating Extremist Activity.” The law replaces the wording "forcible change of the foundations of the constitutional order and violation of the integrity of the Russian Federation" in the definition of extremism with the following: "forcible change of the foundations of the constitutional order and (or) violation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation (including alienation of part of the territory of the Russian Federation) with the exception of delimitation, demarcation or re-demarcation of state borders of the Russian Federation with neighboring states." Thus, the law "On Combating Extremist Activity" will be brought in line with the new edition of the Russian Constitution. The State Duma is also considering amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offenses with regard to punishment for separatism and incitement to separatism. Article 280.1 of the Criminal Code (public calls for carrying out actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation) is to be supplemented with an administrative punishment mechanism – the first violation in the course of the year, will entail liability under the new identically named Article 20.3.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. Part 1 of this article will provide for a fine of up to sixty thousand rubles for citizens, up to one hundred thousand rubles for officials and up to three hundred thousand rubles for legal entities. Part 2 of Article 20.3.2 stipulates a fine of up to one hundred thousand rubles for citizens, up to two hundred thousand rubles for officials and up to five hundred thousand rubles for legal entities as a punishment for actions committed with the use of mass media or the Internet. At the same time, one type of sanctions under Article 280.1 Part 1 of the Criminal Code is increasing in severity – the fine under it will be increased to four hundred thousand rubles. In addition, Article 280.2 (violation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation), punishing for "alienation of part of the territory of the Russian Federation or other actions (with the exception of delimitation, demarcation, re-demarcation of the state border of the Russian Federation) aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation" is introduced to the Criminal Code to be applied in the absence of signs of crimes falling under Article 279 and 280.1 of the Criminal Code. Punishment under Article 280.2 comes only in the form of a real prison term ranging from six to ten years. Thus, the new article is intended to cover an act of separatism that is neither a rebellion nor a call for secession; accordingly, it will target either those who have, in fact, succeeded in separating a territory, or those who somehow organize such an act without resorting to public appeals or preparing an insurrection. (The bill passed its first reading in September.)
The State Duma adopted in the first reading in July a government bill introducing amendments to Articles 9 and 10 of the Law "On Combating Extremist Activity." In accordance with these amendments, courts making decisions to ban or suspend the activities of an organization as extremist must report their decisions to the Ministry of Justice within three days for them to be included in the corresponding list. Adding banned organizations to the list currently takes up to five years.
Also in July, the government introduced to the State Duma a bill to amend the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations." Among other changes, the bill seeks to add to the law an indication that the following types of people are not allowed to lead or participate in religious groups: a foreign citizen or a stateless person, whose residence in the Russian Federation was deemed undesirable; a person included on the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) List of Extremists and Terrorists; a person whose actions were found by a court decision, which has entered into legal force, to contain signs of extremist activity; an individual whose accounts are frozen by the Interagency Committee for Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism. Thus, under this bill, the legal requirements already existing for non-profit organizations (including religious ones) will be extended to leaders and members of religious groups. In our opinion, these new restrictions represent yet another unjustified intrusion into the exercise of the right to freedom of religion.
On March 24, 2020, the European Court of Human Rights published a decision on the complaint by St. Petersburg journalist Nikolay Andruschenko (1943–2017), who received a suspended sentence and a fine in 2009 for insulting a government official (Article 319 of the Criminal Code) and inciting hatred (Article 282 Part 1 of the Criminal Code); he was subsequently released from punishment. He was charged under Article 282 with inciting hatred against the social group “law enforcement officers” for publishing an article about forcible dispersal of a “Dissenters’ March.” The ECHR drew an analogy with the previously reviewed case of Savva Terentyev and refused to recognize the police and FSB officers, negatively characterized by Andruschenko, as a vulnerable social group. The Strasbourg court also emphasized that Andruschenko’s article dealt with the issue of using force at public event, i.e. an issue of legitimate public interest, and found no valid arguments to support the assertion that law enforcement officials could become victims of violence as a result of its publication. Thus, the ECHR found the actions of the Russian authorities to be in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of expression.
In June, the European Court of Human Rights published its decisions on several complaints with regard to blocking online materials in Russia. The first case, OOO Flavus and Others v. Russia, examined complaints from the publishers of Grani.ru, Kasparov.ru and the Ezhednevny Zhurnal (ej.ru) websites. All three sites were blocked extrajudicially upon request of the Prosecutor General (i.e., under “Lugovoy’s Law“) in 2014 and charged with publishing calls for extremist activity and calls for participation in public actions held without permit. In addition, the ECHR published a decision on the complaint by Yevgeny Bulgakov, the owner of the Worldview of the Russian Civilization (razumei.ru) website, which was completely blocked on the basis of a 2012 court decision, because the prosecutor’s office had found a banned book on one of its pages; the access to the website was not restored after the book’s removal. The ECHR also issued a decision on the complaint by Gregory Engels, a member of the German Pirate Party and the owner of the domain rublacklist.net, who appealed the decision to block the page of the RosKomSvoboda website that provided information on the tools and software for bypassing restrictions. Finally, the court published its review of a complaint by Vladimir Kharitonov, who disputed the restrictions against his website (digital-books.ru). The site was inaccessible from December 2012 to March 22, 2013, due to the fact that it had the same IP address as another website, The Rastaman Tales, which allegedly contained illegal content. Each of these four cases has its own peculiarities examined by the European Court of Justice. However, the shortcomings of the blocking mechanisms described in the Russian law on information and of the decisions made by the Russian courts have led the ECHR to recognize, with respect to all the applicants, a violation of their rights to freedom of expression and to an effective remedy guaranteed by Articles 10 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ECHR also communicated a complaint in June over the Russian authorities’ decision to block the Telegram messenger; this move could be one of the factors that prompted the Russian authorities to urgently unblock the messenger a few days prior to that without even reviewing the relevant court decisions. The authorities didn’t even see the need to pass a special bill on amendments to the law on information introduced to the State Duma by deputies Fedot Tumusov, Dmitry Ionin and Alexander Terentyev in mid-June.
In August, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) published a list of questions addressed to Russia in connection with its eighth periodic report on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Among other things, the UNHRC asked Russia to report on steps taken to revise the Federal Law “On Combating Extremist Activities” (in order to clarify the vague definition of “extremist activities), to prevent arbitrary use of the Law “On Combating Extremist Activities" and to revise the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The Committee expressed its concern about the persecution against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia in the context of exercising freedom of religion. The UNHRC also expressed concern on a number of other issues, including whether Russia was taking steps to combat racist and homophobic rhetoric and racial profiling, as well as manifestations of hatred, violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Committee inquired about the enforcement of the legislation on "promoting non-traditional sexual relations among minors" and the prospects for its repeal, about ensuring the rights of same-sex couples and the right of the LGBT community to peaceful assembly; and about the possible spread of homophobia following the adoption of the constitutional amendments. The UNHRC asked Russia to comment on allegations of the persecution and ill-treatment of political opponents of the government under the pretext of combating terrorism in connection with the prosecutions against members of banned organizations Set’ (Network) and Hizb ut-Tahrir, and allegations of unjustified restrictions on freedom of speech in connection with the case of Svetlana Prokopieva (see below). The committee asked Russia to report on the law enforcement under the articles regulating freedom of expression, such as insulting the feelings of believers, rehabilitation of Nazism, slander, disrespect for the society and the state, and dissemination of fake news. A brief joint report, submitted earlier by 12 Russian NGOs including SOVA Center, was taken into account when compiling the list of questions for the Russian authorities.
In early July 2020, at a visiting session in the Pskov Regional Court, a three- judge panel of the 2nd Western District Military Court found journalist Svetlana Prokopieva guilty of justifying terrorism via mass media (Article 205.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced her to a fine of 500 thousand rubles as well as covering the costs of expert examinations and confiscation of her mobile phone and laptop. The persecution was based on Prokopieva's radio show "A Minute of Enlightenment," aired in the fall of 2018 on the Echo of Moscow in Pskov radio station and dedicated to the causes of the explosion at the FSB office lobby in Arkhangelsk. Analyzing this incident, Prokopieva argued that the actions of a young man, who had committed the explosion, stemmed from the repressive policies of the state, and that young people growing up in the atmosphere of state-sanctioned brutality were at risk of responding to the state in the same manner. In our opinion, the guilty verdict was inappropriate since the journalist’s show contained no statements to indicate that the ideology or practice of terrorism was correct and deserved to be imitated and never claimed it to be attractive or appropriate.
In the second half of August, the Central District Military Court in Samara sentenced Airat Dilmukhametov, an activist of the Bashkir national movement, to nine years in a maximum-security penal colony with a three-year ban on administering websites. Earlier, in the period from March 2019 to January 2020, Dilmukhametov was charged under Article 280.1 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (public calls for separatism) for the publication of a video address and for his speech on the Echo of Moscow radio station in Ufa about the concept of the Fourth Bashkir Republic; under Article 205.2 Part 2 (public justification of terrorism committed on the Internet) for the video depicting his reaction to prosecutions of members of the radical Hizb ut-Tahrir party, which is banned in Russia as terrorist; under Article 280 Part 1 (public appeals to extremist activity) for his statement about Chechens; and under Article 282.3 Part 1 (financing of extremist activities) for publishing fundraising appeals in support of his struggle “for the new IV Bashkir Republic.” We are inclined to view all these charges as inappropriate. Previously, Dilmukhametov was sentenced to six years in prison in 2011 for inciting extremist activities and publicly justifying terrorism, and to three years in prison in 2015 – once again, for justifying terrorism.
Starting in May, a series of criminal cases has been initiated under Article 354.1 of the Criminal Code Parts 1 and 3 (denial of the facts established by the verdict of the Nuremberg Tribunal, or endorsement of the Nazi crimes and dissemination of information about the days and symbols of Russia’s military glory expressing obvious disrespect to the society) in connection with the photographs of the leaders of the Third Reich (including Adolf Hitler and Andrei Vlasov under different names) uploaded to the Immortal Regiment website on May 9 and other days. According to the Investigative Committee, the majority of the users involved in these actions turned out to be foreigners, but more than ten people were residents of different regions of Russia. According to our information, at least 11 such criminal cases have been opened (the first two verdicts were issued as late as September). We believe that the actions of the Internet users are qualified incorrectly. An action, such as uploading photos of Nazi leaders to a website, even on the Victory Day of May 9, in and of itself, constitutes neither a public endorsement of the crimes of Nazism, nor dissemination of any information about the day of Russian military glory. Apparently, these photographs were not accompanied by any statements approving or denying Nazi crimes.
We know of two additional cases inappropriately opened under Article 354.1 Part 3 of the Criminal Code in the period under review for the internet publications related to May 9. Blogger Nikolai Gorelov faced such prosecution in Kaliningrad based on the fact that, on May 9, 2018, he published on his VKontakte page a journalistic article about the Red Army crimes during the Second World War. The case against Gorelov was opened in January; the Investigative Committee decided to drop it in June. Blogger Mikhail Alferov from Kemerovo faced charges under the same part of Article 354.1 based on a video he posted on YouTube on May 9, 2020, in which he criticized in harsh terms the opulent Victory Day decorations in Kemerovo.
In August, the Oktyabrsky District Court of Novorossiysk returned to the prosecutor the case of Alexei Dymovsky, an ex-Major of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and a notorious anti-corruption activist, who was charged in January with illegal storage and transportation of explosives (Article 222.1 Part 1 of the Criminal Code) and public calls for extremist activity committed over the Internet (Article 280 Part 2 of the Criminal Code). He was moved from pre-trial detention to house arrest. The charge brought against Dymovsky is related to a video he recorded in 2019. In the video, Dymovsky is riding in a taxi cab across Novorossiysk to a police precinct in order to voluntarily hand over the explosives, which the police had failed to pick up following his report. Along the way, he explains that he stored trinitrotoluol at home for several years, because he “wanted to use this TNT against Vladimir Putin,” but later abandoned these ideas, because he came to the conclusion that Putin was a “mentally ill person.” In the video, Dymovsky also calls on all honest people to unite and invites them to a meeting. After the video recording was completed, the car with Dymovsky in it was stopped by traffic police officers; he decided to voluntarily surrender his TNT to them and was subsequently interrogated in a police office. A few days later, he was arrested on the charges of illegal storage and transportation of explosives. From our point of view, the charge under Article 280 of the Criminal Code is inappropriate, since the video does not contain any calls for violence against the president or other officials, and calls for all honest people to come together constitute a peaceful action.
In the period under review, 20 inappropriate sentences were issued against 42 people for involvement in banned organizations, (vs. 14 sentences against 62 persons in the same period a year earlier).
Seven of these sentences, issued under Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code (organizing or participating in a terrorist organization), related to participation in the Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic religious party banned in Russia as terrorist despite the fact that it was never known to be involved in terrorist activities. 19 people were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment – from seven to 22 years – in Tatarstan, Crimea, and St. Petersburg; seven of those convicted in Tatarstan were also sentenced under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code for party propaganda.
The remaining 13 sentences against 23 people were imposed for involvement in extremist organizations.
Vyacheslav Gorbaty, a retiree from Chernogolovka, the Moscow Region, received a two-year suspended sentence under Article 282.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code for participating in the activities of the banned Initiative Group of the Referendum “For Responsible Power” (IGPR “ZOV”). He was found guilty of leading an IGPR “ZOV” cell in the Moscow Region and collecting money for its activities. We view the ban against IGPR “ZOV” – an organization of the Stalinist-nationalist kind – as insufficiently justified, so we consider prosecutions for affiliation with this organization inappropriate.
In our opinion, there were no sufficient reasons for banning the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) as an extremist organization, therefore we view prosecutions against activists of the Other Russia party for continuing the activities of the NBP as unjustified. The Other Russia activist Alexander Kryshka was found guilty under Article 282.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code and received a suspended sentence of two and a half years.
One verdict under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organizing the activities of an extremist organization or participation in such organization) was issued against followers of Tablighi Jamaat, a peaceful movement of Islamic preachers recognized in Russia as extremist. Six people received sentences ranging from one to three years in prison in the Saratov Region.
In the first eight months of 2020, 10 sentences under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code were issued against 15 Jehovah's Witnesses in different regions of Russia. One person, Sergey Filatov from Crimea, received a real prison term of six years; eight people received suspended sentences; six people were sentenced to fines. Based on the data collected by Jehovah's Witnesses as of mid-August, we can say that, by the end of the summer, the number of their fellow believers prosecuted in Russia for continuing the activities of and financing their banned organizations after the total ban of 2017 (Articles 282.2 and 282.3 of the Criminal Code) reached the total of 385 people.
Our data on the use of the articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses aimed at combating extremism is so incomplete as to differ from the real one by an order of magnitude, but, to some extent, it still allows us to observe the general trends.
We know of 41 cases of sanctions imposed under Article 20.29 of the Administrative Code for mass distribution (or for possession with intent to distribute) of extremist materials that, in our opinion, were banned without proper justification.
Fines were imposed in 36 cases; two cases were dropped, and the outcome of two more is unknown. It should be noted that 27 of these 41 cases of inappropriate prosecution are associated with sharing of the video "Let’s Remind Crooks and Thieves about Their Manifesto-2002,” created by supporters of Alexei Navalny. This video, created in 2011, merely lists a number of unrealized campaign promises made by United Russia in its 2002 manifesto and calls to vote for any other party; it contains no signs of extremism, but was, nevertheless, recognized as extremist in 2013 and subsequently has become one of the few materials from the Federal List to receive particular attention from the law enforcement agencies that monitor social networks. There are also a few inappropriate sanctions related to the video "Miracles of the Koran" – a moderate Islamic material, which is also a popular target for the law enforcement.
30 individuals and one legal entity faced responsibility under Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (propaganda or public display of Nazi symbols or symbols of extremist organizations) without due justifications. We view sanctions for the display of symbols not aimed at advocating extremist ideology as inappropriate. In the period under review, most cases pertained to the posts that utilized Nazi symbols without any intent to advocate Nazism. In more than half of these cases, the individuals, who faced responsibility, were activists of the opposition. Sanctions were imposed on 22 people, 15 of whom were fined and seven faced administrative arrests. Six cases were dismissed, but the fact that the number of inappropriate penalties identified by our monitoring did not decrease compared to the same period in 2019 demonstrates that the note, recently added to Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code, which states that the display of prohibited symbols should not be punished if it takes place in the context of forming a negative attitude towards Nazism, had no significant impact on the situation.
From January through August, we recorded about ten cases of inappropriate prosecution under Article 20.3.1 of the Administrative Code (incitement to hatred) – seven people were fined; one person was placed under an administrative arrest; one person was sentenced to community service; one case was closed. Questionable charges included inciting hatred toward Russians, Christians, Muslims, public officials and law enforcement officers.
In addition, we recorded about twenty cases of imposing sanctions under Article 20.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (petty hooliganism) on users of social networks for disseminating information expressing disrespect for the authorities or the society in an indecent form. We believe that Parts 3–5 of Article 20.1 are aimed at suppressing criticism of the authorities, who had been adequately protected by other legal norms prior to the introduction of these amendments.
The growth rate of the Federal List of Extremist Materials continues to decline. While the List added 138 entries in the corresponding period in 2019, it only increased by 88 entries (from 5005 to 5092) during our period under review in 2020. While the inappropriately banned materials added in January–August 2019 comprised 5 entries, we recorded 23 such entries in 2020, with 21 of them pertaining to the brochures by preacher William Branham from the United States.