Countering or Imitation: The state against the promotion of hate and the political activity of nationalists in Russia in 2017

Настоящий материал (информация) произведен и (или) распространен иностранным агентом РОО Центр «Сова» либо касается деятельности иностранного агента РОО Центр «Сова».
Edited by Alexander Verkhovsky

Criminal prosecution : For public statements : For participation in extremist groups and banned organizations
The Federal List of Extremist Materials
Organizations banned for being extremist
Other administrative measures : Prosecution for administrative offenses : Blocking on the internet
Appendix. Crime and punishment statistics






In 2017, according to the monitoring of SOVA Center[1], the number of criminal convictions for public “extremist statements” (the promotion of hate, calls for extremist or terrorist activities, etc.) again exceeded the figure for last year, as did the number of convictions for all other “extremist crimes”. Furthermore, the number of administrative convictions according to the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO) rose. Meanwhile, the number of convictions for violent crimes motivated by hate fell, however this was the subject of another report[2].

It is not so easy to establish what this law enforcement trend owes much: political pressure on nationalist movements and groups, use of repression against extreme/ordinary instances of intolerance or prosecution of random individuals in order to improve law enforcement figures. Our data for this is quite limited, but undoubtedly, all such components are present in practice.

Traditionally the targets of law enforcement have largely been neo-Nazi grass-roots activists and ordinary people who republish xenophobic statements on social networks. However, the prosecution of popular figures and ultra-right leaders continues following its increase in 2014. So, in 2017, Dmitry Bobrov, Nikolai Bondarik, Yury Yekishev, and Dmitry Dyomushkin (the latter remained at large for an inexplicitly long period of time) were convicted, and, finally, another prison term was handed down to Vladimir Kvachkov. Furthermore, last year, participants in the Misanthropic Division movement and the Volya (“Will”) party were convicted, but the majority of nationalist organizations that have not been banned were able to continue their activity, albeit to a lesser extent[3]. Articles of the Criminal Code directed against organized “extremist activity” have been applied even less frequently than before.

The amount of evidence behind the accusations, both in cases against leaders and in cases against ordinary citizens, varies greatly. Of course, the poor quality of investigations is not only seen in the field of counter-extremism. However, when notable, that is, within their own milieu, political leaders are concerned, such as Dyomushkin, the negative impact is extremely significant.

In general, criminal punishments for public statements have become harsher, and prison terms are more often handed down. The number of additional bans on the use of the internet is increasing and the cases of confiscating expensive “instruments of crime” such as laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones have multiplied.

The prosecutor’s office is gradually moving away from injunctions and more often implementing extrajudicial blocking on the internet as the main tool for “preventing extremism”. However, the quality in the choice of subjects of a ban or block remains in question.

In this way, the countering of extremism intensifies namely in areas connected with freedom of speech. The restrictions themselves are often treated too loosely. However, most importantly, the monitoring of the activity of xenophobic groups does not show a need for such intensification.


Criminal prosecution

For public statements


The number of convictions passed down for “extremist statements” (incitement of hatred, calls for extremist or terrorist activity and so on) continued to exceed all other types of convictions for “extremist crimes” combined. In 2017, there were at least 213 convictions against 228 people in 65 regions. For 2016, we learned about 201 such convictions against 220 people in 66 regions.

In this presentation, we are not writing about the convictions that we think are inappropriate, but there were a good deal fewer of them. In 2017 we considered 17 convictions and 17 people unjust: this concerned 10 convictions against 10 people according to Article 282 of the Criminal Code, five convictions against five people according to Part 1 of Article 148, one conviction according to Article 280, and one conviction according to Article 2801 of the Criminal Code[4].

Unfortunately, we can confirm that we found out about far from all of such convictions. According to statistics published on the website of the Supreme Court[5], for statements (Parts 1 and 2 of Article 148, Article 2052, Article 2801, Article 282, and Article 3541 of the Criminal Code) only in the first half of 2017, there were 292 people convicted for whom these articles were main part of the accusation, and 82 people for whom these articles were supplementary, that is, for “extremist statements” between 292 and 374 people were convicted[6].

Of the convictions we know about[7], Article 282 of the Criminal Code (“Incitement of hate and enmity”), as usual, was applied in the majority of cases (in 199 convictions against 210 people). In the overwhelming majority of cases (136) this article was the only article applied in the conviction. In 13 convictions against 13 people, only Article 280 of the Criminal Code (“Pubic calls for extremist activity”) was applied. In another 29 cases, convictions were carried out according to both Articles 280 and 282 of the Criminal Code.

The calculated number of convictions was carried out according to relatively recently adopted articles of the Criminal Code. In two convictions, Article 2801 of the Criminal Code (“Public calls for activity aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation”) was used. In one of these cases, the director of the Samara division of the Community of Indigenous Russian People, Victor Permyakov, was also convicted according to Article 282[8].

In another two cases, Part 1 of Article 3541 of the Criminal Code (“Denial of facts established by the decision of the international military tribunal for the trial and punishment of key European war criminals, approval of crimes established by the verdict, as well as the dissemination of knowingly false information about the activity of the Soviet Union during the years of the Second World War”) was applied. In one case, this article was tried along with Article 282 and in another, with Article 282 and Article 280. In both cases, this concerned publications on the internet.

In all of these cases, the “new” articles did not entail harsh sentences. Those sentenced according to Article 2801 received conditional sentences; those convicted according to Article 3541 were fined.

Articles 282 and 280 of the Criminal Code could be tried along with other articles, including for violent activity and vandalism[9].

Very little is known about convictions under Article 2052 of the Criminal Code (“Public calls for terrorist activity”). It is often combined with other “extremist articles” including Articles 282 and 280. This article was applied to radical Islamist statements, including those concerning the military conflict in Syria, to supporters of banned Ukrainian organizations such as Right Sector[10], the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO), and the Misanthropic Division[11]. In addition, it was applied in the conviction against the head of the Union of Young Innovation Leaders in Tatarstan for homophobic statements justifying the mass murder at a gay night club in the United States[12].


The punishments for those convicted for public statements were distributed as follows:

  • 47 people were sentenced to prison;
  • 114 – received suspended prison terms without any additional sanctions;
  • 31 – convicted and fined in various amounts;
  • 8 – sentenced to corrective labor;
  • 22 – sentenced to mandatory labor;
  • 1 – sentenced to restrictions of freedom;
  • 5 – sent for forced treatment;
  • 1 – released due to remorse.


As can be seen from the above data, the number of those sentenced to prison has risen (a year ago we reported 36 people).

Thirteen of the 47 people sentenced to prison received terms in conjunction with other articles of prosecution (violence, arson, robbery, possession of narcotics).

Nine people were already in prison and their terms were extended. The most well-known of such prisoners was the former leader of the People’s Militia in the name of Minin and Pozharsky (NOMP) and the retired colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) Vladimir Kvachkov, who was sentenced to another 18 months in a maximum security penal colony for the video “Kvachkov in IK-5 (Penal Colony #5) Mordovia”[13].

Six people were convicted for “extremist statements” for a second time, which greatly increases the risk of imprisonment. In this group there was the leader of the Parabellum movement and activist in the People’s Militia of Russia (the former NOMP) Yury Yekishev, who received 18 months imprisonment for two anti-Semitic articles[14], and the leader of the banned ultra-right-wing organization, the People’s Social Initiative (NSI), former leader of the Schulz-88 group Dmitry Bobrov, who received two years’ imprisonment for the publication of the article, “The Racial Doctrine”[15].

Another two people were convicted earlier and already served their prison terms under articles on violence. Among them is the former participant in a band of Nazi skinheads from Chelyabinsk, Dmitry Shokhov (Gunther), who was sentenced to six months in prison for putting a xenophobic poster on the internet[16].

With account of the identity of accused, the former leader of the banned organizations, the Russians (Russkie), Slavic Union, and Slavic Force, Dmitry Dyomushkin[17] was sentenced to two and a half years in a minimum security penal colony for two pictures posted on the social network VKontakte[18]. This conviction was perhaps the most resonant for the whole of last year.

Predictably, the punishments were harsher for crimes committed as part of the anti-terrorism article, Article 2052 of the Criminal Code. Three people were sentenced to imprisonment for radical Islamist videos and publications posted on the internet; four people (the aforementioned supporters of the banned Ukrainian organizations Right Sector, UNA-UNSO and Misanthropic Division) were imprisoned for radical publications connected with the events in Ukraine.

However, seven people received prison terms without any of the aforementioned circumstances (or we did not know about them). This concerns convictions made in Bryansk, Krasnodar, Nizhnevartovsk, Saratov, Rostov-on-Don, Perm, and in the Perm territory for publications on the social network VKontakte of various unnamed materials (video and audio clips, commentaries, etc.) including calls for violence. We consider these decisions unreasonably harsh. The situation has considerably deteriorated in comparison with last year (in 2016 we wrote about five of such convictions), but did not reach the peak of 2015, when we counted 16 convictions for “extremist statements”. For 2013 and 2014 we learned about two each of such unjustifiably harsh convictions[19].

At the same time, the share of suspended sentences rose by 8 percentage points in comparison with last year to 49% (114 of 228). A year ago, we wrote about 41% (82 of 198 convictions). The situation seems strange when suspended terms are repeated. After all, this means that the previous sentence did not force the convict to think about his or her actions, and did not stop him or her from committing the same crime. For instance, a conditional term for the publication of a xenophobic post on a social network was received by the well-known St. Petersburg nationalist Nikolai Bondarik[20]. In April 2015, the court already gave him a suspended prison term of one and a half years for complicity in the preparation of a provocation on the holiday Eid al-Adha (then two St. Petersburg residents said that they had been victims of a xenophobic attack, however they then confessed that it had been staged).

In such cases, we feel that more appropriate punishments for such crimes would be fines or community service (mandatory or corrective labor). The share of such convicted people (62 people), who were sentenced to punishments not connected with real or suspended terms of imprisonment has fallen in comparison with 2016. We have observed such a reduction for the second year in a row.

In the last year, in at least five verdicts, a ban on one’s profession was applied. In one conviction in the Vladimir region, there was a ban on work with minors, and in the remaining four, there was a ban on work for mass media. We consider these decisions wholly justified, especially when it comes to work with minors.

We know about at least 12 cases of bans on public statements on the internet and bans on appearances on mass media, including a ban on attending the 2018 FIFA World Cup that was handed down to the leader of the T.O.Y.S. fan group, Yegeny (Gavr) Gavrilov[21].

In addition, we know about seven cases where internet access was taken away for a certain amount of time. This measure seems strange and excessive. It is completely unclear how one might enforce such a ban, and it is difficult to imagine work, study, or daily life without the internet.

Furthermore, the confiscation of the “tools of the crime” such as laptops, mobile telephones, or tablets with which one may have published statements, which are the subject of investigation, seems extreme.


The overwhelming majority of verdicts were made for materials, posted on the internet, including various means of electronic communication – 205 of 213, which is 96%, about 10% more than in 2014-2016.


These materials were distributed via:

  • social networks – 182 (including VKontakte – 138, unnamed social networks – 38, which were likely also VKontakte, Odnoklassniki – 4, and Facebook - 2);
  • blogs (both on Live Journal) – 2;
  • one’s own website – 1;
  • YouTube – 2;
  • internet-based media – 3 (all three were comments on articles);
  • forums – 1;
  • email lists – 2 (both of those convicted were supporters of the Volya (Will) party);
  • local network – 1;
  • internet (not specified) – 11.


This ratio has remained virtually unchanged for the last six years[22]. Materials for convictions for “extremist” statements are drawn by employees of E Centers (police centers for countering of extremism) and the FSB from the most well-known figures in Russia and the most popular media for young people (including ultra-right-wing youth) on the VKontakte social network.

It is characteristic that when reporting about all these convictions, nothing is said about the audience of the alleged statements of the defendant. During the past year, the number of “visitors” and “friends” of the accused was only mentioned occasionally. Of course, VKontakte or Odnoklassniki are very popular in Russia, and theoretically anyone can see what is published there. And this is the main argument of law enforcement when making this type of decision. In the news of prosecutor’s offices about convictions for statements on social networks or blogs, they almost invariably add that the incriminating materials were freely or openly available. However, in practice, law enforcement agencies are most often the first to visit the “seditious” pages save a few friends.

 In this sense the convictions for sending files via email or for posting them on local networks are, at the very least, controversial. It is interesting that in the news, there are no reports on the number of recipients of emailing or participants in these networks. We think that is important and necessary to repeat:[23] nothing is done to determine what size of the audience makes a statement “public”. This aspect, however important for application of articles on propaganda, is still ignored by courts. The Supreme Court, when it prepared the updated resolution on anti-extremism and anti-terrorism law enforcement in 2016[24], also failed to discuss these issues.


This concerns the following types of materials (on a single account and even on a single page, various materials can be posted):

  • video clips – 64;
  • images (drawings, demotivational posters) – 36;
  • photographs – 22;
  • audio (songs) – 37;
  • texts (including republished books) – 59;
  • remarks, commentary (on social networks and in forums) – 17;
  • websites and groups created by convicts – 3;
  • unknown – 31.


This ratio has also been stable over the last six years, the attention of the law enforcement is mainly drawn by the most visible materials – videos, drawings, and photographs.

It is significant that most of the convictions were not for original posts, but for republications. Only in six cases could it be noted that the defendants themselves authored the materials in question, the remainder were simply posted by hitting the “repost” button. It would be more effective, if law enforcement officers found those that actually recorded the video (how they found, for example, activists of the Restrukt movement filming their attacks), or those that wrote the text (as in the case of Dmitry Bobrov, who wrote an article), or at the very least, those who initially posted the materials on the internet, and not bring in someone among the myriad of re-posters of such content.

Of course, one could say that remarks and comments on social networks and in forums are “original texts”, but we think that internet chatter does not merit a criminal investigation in light of its locality and small audience.

Actually, it would be worthwhile to pay more attention to the creation of ultra-right-wing groups on social networks, which systematically propagate hate.


Convictions for statements made offline were almost 75% fewer than a year earlier: 8 against 31 in 2016. They are distributed as follows:

  • public insults on streets – 1;
  • leaflets, posters – 3;
  • graffiti – 2;
  • public performances of songs – 2.


We do not object namely to the criminal prosecution of all such types of activities, and we have no doubts about the appropriateness of the verdicts. We note only that in these cases, it is necessary to take into account not only the content of these statements, but also other factors affecting the danger they pose for society, and in the first place, the real size of the audience. That is, it is important to consider the degree of a statement’s publicity (the number of attendees at a concert, for example)[25].

For participation in extremist communities and banned organizations

In 2017, the prosecution of ultra-right-wing groups according to Article 2821 (“Organization of an extremist community”) and Article 2822 («Organization of the activity of an extremist organization”) of the Criminal Code was a good deal less notable than a year earlier. We learned about four such convictions and six individuals in four Russian regions[26] (in 2016, there were seven convictions against 20 people in seven regions). In this report we are not writing about those who were inappropriately convicted under these articles, of whom there were 32 according to Article 2822. We are not comparing our data with that of the Supreme Court for the first six months because almost all the convictions happened in the last six months of the year.

According to our information, Article 2821 of the Criminal Code featured in the cases against the aforementioned leader of the T.O.Y.S. football fan group, Yevgeny (Gavr) Gavrilov from Samara. He, charged in combination with Articles 282 and 280, was sentenced to a suspended prison term of six and a half years with four years of probation. Members of the group, football fans, committed “extremist” crimes and administrative offenses and posted Nazi symbols as well as calls for extremist activity on social networks[27].

 In two cases, Article 2822 of the Criminal Code was applied on the continuation of the activities of an organization that had been banned as extremist.

In Barnaul, a resident of Zmeinogorsky District received a suspended prison term of two years with two years of probation for involvement in the activity of an unnamed extremist organization. The convicted man is “an adherent of nationalist ideas” who “persuaded his acquaintances to become involved in the activity of an extremist organization” and “propagated the ideas of racism, violence, separatist and revolutionary sentiments among youth”[28].

As usual, members of the neopagan organization “Spritual-Ancestral Power of Rus” were tried according to Article 2822 of the Criminal Code. Three activists of this banned organization from Krasnodar and Goryachy Klyuch came to the Starominsky district department of the bailiff service and began to promote the activity of Power of Rus. A criminal case was opened against all three for their activities at the department. The court recognized the defendants as guilty and sentenced two to five months in prison and the third, due to his health, to suspended prison term of five months with one year of probation. This story is typical for the members of Power of Rus, who actively attempt to promote their movement at government and law enforcement agencies. True, they rarely personally come to the government agencies, but instead simply send letters to officials. These same activists had earlier been repeatedly fined according to Article 2822 for such activities[29].

We do not know anything about convictions made against right-wing radicals for organizing the activity of a terrorist organization (Article 2054), and also for the organization of terrorist communities and participation in them (Article 2055), although some nationalist organizations had previously been banned as terrorist organizations.


Federal List of Extremist Materials

In 2017, the Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated 33 times (a year earlier it was updated 54 times), 330 items were added to it (a year ago there were 785 items), and it grew from 4,016 to 4,345 points[30]. However, there are actually more materials: some points may include several materials at once. We should also note that in 2017 item 4,175 was excluded from the list after being added earlier that year, as were items 3,452-3,455, added in 2016.

The Justice Ministry has changed the procedure for announcing changes to the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Since December 2017, the Ministry of Justice has not only added to the list, but also has posted a dated news article about the updates. However, this information is now published with a delay. For instance, certain new items appeared on the list on January 10, while in the news, the respective update was reported on December 29.

The list was less intensively updated than a year earlier – obviously due to the new procedure for banning materials for extremism[31]. The corresponding regulation of the Prosecutor General’s Office adopted in the spring of 2016 only began to impact judicial decisions by 2017.


Additions to the list are distributed across the following topics:

  • xenophobic materials of modern Russian nationalists – 212;
  • materials of other nationalists – 27;
  • materials of Islamic militants and other calls of political Islamists for violence – 30;
  • other Islamic materials – 13;
  • materials of Eastern Orthodox fundamentalists – 2;
  • other religious materials – 7;
  • extremely radical anti-Russian speeches from Ukraine (we distinguish them from “other nationalists”) – 6;
  • other materials from the Ukrainian media and internet – 6;
  • other materials calling for disorder and violence – 3;
  • fiction and historians’ texts – 2;
  • anti-religious materials – 8;
  • peaceful opposition materials – 3;
  • parody materials taken seriously – 5;
  • Christian anti-Islamic materials – 1;
  • materials that were clearly banned by mistake – 2;
  • materials that were created, in our opinion, by people in an altered state of consciousness – 1;
  • unidentifiable materials – 2.

The share of online materials on the list is unsurprisingly growing: at least 304 items of 330 are materials from the internet including those sent through messengers (a year ago it was 711 items of 785). The majority are various xenophobic materials from VKontakte. Offline materials in 2017 included various types of ethno-xenophobic literature, books by Eastern Orthodox fundamentalists, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Yehowist-Ilyinites, as well as leaflets.

Sometimes it is not completely clear where precisely a piece of banned material was posted: so, for example, item 4,028 was only described through its title without any additional publication data.

However, the case is often otherwise: the same material published and posted at different web addresses appears on the list several times. Thus, a drawing “in the form of a pig dressed in jeans, tennis shoes and a jacket, in the hands of which is an object that resembles a knife” with a xenophobic text is repeated with various web addresses from item 4,228 to 4,232. Duplicates posted on different pages, were repeatedly added to the list in 2017. There were at least 186 repetitions on the list as at the end of 2017.

Unfortunately, the slowdown in the growth of the list has not improved the quality of the description of items, it is already impossible to work with such a large and incomprehensible database; we have literally reiterated our concerns on the shortcomings of the list from year to year[32]. Without considering the large number of various bibliographic, grammatical, and spelling mistakes and errors, the number of carelessly described materials is growing. Thus, how can we, for example, interpret the material from item 4,299: “leaflet ‘Agent of German espionage rules Russia!’ author and place of publication unknown, on four pages”?! At least a dozen leaflets with such a headline, which were published between 1918 and the 1920s, can be found in major libraries.

Furthermore, it is already regular protocol that some materials continue to inappropriately be deemed extremist. In 2017, at least 38 of such materials were added to the list (materials of Jehovah’s Witnesses, brochures of the Yehowist-Ilyinites, Muslim materials, opposition materials from Ukrainian websites and some others).


Organizations banned for being extremist

In 2017, six organizations were added to the Federal List of Extremist Organizations published on the website of the Ministry of Justice, fewer than a year earlier (10 organizations). However, item 62, which was added in 2017, includes the inappropriately banned Administrative Center of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia[33] and all of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 395 local organizations.

Of the ultra-right-wing organizations on the list, there was the organization “Frontier of the North”, which was recognized as extremist by the decision of the Syktyvkar city court of the Komi Republic on November 23, 2016[34], and the T.O.Y.S. football fan organization (The Opposition Young Supporters), which was recognized as extremist by the decision of the Sovietsky District Court of Samara on April 11, 2017.[35]

Besides the ultra-right-wing organizations, in 2017 the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People[36] and the Naberezhnye Chelny division of the All-Tatar Social Center (VTOTs)[37] were added to the list. Besides the gigantic aforementioned item 62, an already banned local organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was added to the list – the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Birobidzhan[38]. We believe all these decisions were inappropriate[39].

So, the list includes 63 organizations, whose activities were banned by court decision, the continuation of which is punishable according to Article 2822 of the Criminal Code (“Organization of the activity of an extremist organization”).

Besides this, the list of organizations recognized as terrorist, which is published on the website of the Federal Security Service, was updated. For the year, only one organization was added – “Mujahideen of Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad” (item 27).


Other administrative measures

Prosecution for administrative violations


Administrative law enforcement is also gaining momentum: the number of those punished according to administrative “extremist” articles is growing. This is notable despite the fact that our data here is less complete than for criminal cases: on the websites of the prosecutors and courts, the data is released with great delay and far from all is published. The statistics we compiled[40] are put forward without account of the decisions that we consider to be inappropriate[41].

We learned about 136 people who were held responsible in 2017 according to Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (“Propaganda or public demonstration of Nazi attributes or symbols, or attributes or symbols of extremist organizations, or other attributes or symbols, propaganda or public demonstrations of which is banned by federal laws”), of which five were minors (last year we wrote about 128 convicted according to this article).

According to the statistics of the Russian Supreme Court, according to Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO) 910 people were convicted[42] in the first half of 2017, for all of 2016 – 1,786 people[43].

The number of those punished for showing their own tattoos with Nazi symbols rose among the prison population. In 2017, according to our information, at least 46 people were punished (a year earlier – 25).

The majority of offenders were fined between 1,000 and 3,000 rubles. Some, besides the fine, also had their “equipment for committing the crime” (laptops, tablets, phones, etc.) confiscated, which greatly exceeds the sum of paid fines. Eight were sentenced to administrative arrest (from 3 to 10 days). A conversation was held with another offender.

We learned about 203 people, who were punished according to Article 20.29 CAO (“Production and distribution of extremist materials or their storage for the purpose of distribution”), four of them were minors (in 2016, we wrote about 161 convicted under this article).

According to Supreme Court statistics, 911 individuals were convicted under Article 20.29 CAO[44]. For all of 2016, 1,679 were convicted[45].

One of the 203 people we know about was brought to disciplinary responsibility. However, the majority of those convicted paid small fines. Among them was an ultra-right neopagan, Dmitry Melash, who was fined 2,000 rubles for a video recording of a Skype conversation, during which the neopagan was dressed in a t-shirt with the emblem of the Azov battalion[46]. A member of the Artpodgotovka movement[47], Sergei Zinov, was fined for the display of a symbol of another banned Ukrainian organization, the Right Sector[48].

As concerns items on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, which are used in practice according to Article 20.29 CAO, the attention of the prosecutors still remains concentrated upon an extremely small number: certain songs of ultra-right-wing groups, some xenophobic video clips, a number of images, songs of several nationalist bards, some nationalist poetry and some ISIS videos. The number of these items remains incomparable with the size and diversity of materials placed on the list. Actually, the position of prosecutor’s offices employees is quite understandable as it has been years since one could use the whole of this massive document.

Some legal entities have also been declared guilty according to this article. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the owner of a shopping center was fined for the sale of CDs with some banned songs. Furthermore, in Kaliningrad, the director of an online bookstore was fined for selling a banned book.

Fifteen people were held responsible according to Articles 20.3 and 20.29 CAO simultaneously. They were all fined.

Two parents of minors who distributed extremist materials were held administratively responsible according to Article 5.35 CAO (“Failure of parents to meet their responsibilities to support and raise minors”).

Here we reported the decisions that we consider more or less appropriate. However, we know of at least 46 cases of inappropriate punishments according to Article 20.3 CAO and 26 cases according to Article 20.29. So, for 339 justified decisions, there were 72 dubious ones. The share of inappropriate decisions remains at about the same level as a year earlier (21%). In 2016, we wrote about 62 inappropriate decisions against 289 justified decisions.


Blocking on the internet

In the last four years, the scope of the fight of the prosecutors with extremist content on the internet has markedly increased, this fight has been carried out by blocking access to banned (or other supposedly dangerous) materials.

A system of internet filtering is operating on the basis of a Unified Register of Banned Websites, which has been functioning since November 1, 2012. Based on the data of Roskomsvoboda website[49] (only Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications, Roskomnadzor, has the complete information), we believe that 297 resources have ended up on the register “for extremism” following a court decision versus 486 a year earlier[50]. As at January 1, 2018, according to preliminary calculations, the number of resources blocked in this way for the lifetime of the register itself amounts to at least 1,205[51].


The following types of resources were on the Unified Register during the year:

  • materials of Russian nationalists – 180;
  • Nazi symbols independent of ties with Russian nationalists – 3;
  • materials of radical Islamic militants and other calls by political Islamists for violence – 31;
  • peaceful Muslim materials – 40;
  • banned Islamic symbols on their own, apart from connections with radical Islamists – 1;
  • anti-Islamic materials – 1;
  • materials of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – 2;
  • inflammatory anti-government materials (including Boris Stomakhin’s article) – 2;
  • extremely radical statements from Ukraine and symbols of banned organizations – 9;
  • other materials from Ukrainian media and internet – 6;
  • materials by Fascist ideologists – 9;
  • large, varied masses of texts that were blocked as a whole – 1;
  • peaceful materials criticizing the Russian Orthodox Church – 5;
  • peaceful opposition materials – 3;
  • materials that were clearly banned by mistake – 1;
  • unknown – 3.


Besides this, we learned about at least another 62 appeals of the prosecutor’s offices to the courts with the demand to recognize a number of internet pages as containing information “banned for distribution on the territory of Russia”, and to place these resources on the register. It is likely that the number of appeals is much greater, which means that posts on the register will not stop.

The number of resources blocked through the court decreased in comparison with 2016, but the quality of such decisions to block access remains doubtful. For example, sometimes the block is placed not on concrete websites or pages, but on the results of a search based on keywords (“Page with links to downloadable audio files found by using a search for the keywords “blood and honor”, etc.”[52]), and these decisions are clearly inappropriate: a keyword search finds quite different resources.

The Unified Register is supplemented with the separate register according to the Lugovoy law[53], which envisages the extrajudicial blocking of websites with calls for extremist action and mass disorder at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office, but without court proceedings. If the Unified Register was expanded more slowly last year than earlier, then the Lugovoy register is growing rapidly: in 2017, 1,247 resources were added to it (in 2016, 923 were added)[54]. In total, according to our calculations, 2,495 resources blocked “for extremism” have been added to the Lugovoy register.

The following types of resources were added to the Lugovoy register:

  • materials of radical Islamic militants and other calls by political Islamists for violence (including ISIS videos, calls to go to Syria) – 488;
  • materials of Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamist party – 442;
  • materials of Ukrainian nationalist organizations and the websites of Ukrainian organizations banned in Russia – 141;
  • other materials of Ukrainian media – 61;
  • materials of Russian nationalists – 35;
  • calls to participate in the rallies of Russian nationalists (including the calls of Vyacheslav Maltsev for revolution on November 5) – 14;
  • calls to attend opposition rallies – 4;
  • calls for violence (real and parodies), unrelated to the above categories – 25;
  • materials of Russian separatists and about them – 7;
  • other calls to participate in local demonstrations – 3;
  • anti-religious materials – 11;
  • websites of undesirable organizations – 8;
  • anti-Ukrainian websites – 1;
  • resources with compromising materials – 1 (the website of UtroNews);
  • various religious materials – 1 (the video where Takeshi Kitano listens to Shoko Asahara in an old Japanese TV show[55]);
  • fiction – 1 (the book of Muslim Dmitry Akhtyamov, “Islamic Breakthrough”);
  • parody Russophobic materials – 1;
  • online games – 1 (the game “Russian Terrorists”);
  • websites on Armenian-Azerbaijani themes – 1 (the article of Nadzhmudin Aliev “Grey wolves in Derbent. From whence do the roots of a mass shooting of tourists grow?”, which was published on Kavkaz-Press);
  • unidentifiable materials - 1.


Alas, this rapidly expanding register does not stand up to any criticism. First, most often it is unclear why there needs to be an extrajudicial, that is, an immediate, blocking of materials (for example, the different type of Muslim literature, xenophobic songs, or even videos with decapitation), which have long been on the internet. Pages, which were created for the mobilization of mass demonstrations (resources with calls for revolution by Vyacheslav Maltsev), that is, precisely those which might explain the adoption of the Lugovoy law, despite multiple blockings, remain freely accessible until now. Many materials, which are the same (or practically the same) as those that were blocked are now completely available, and during the preparation for a demonstration, all information on the internet reaches the intended recipients almost instantaneously. Experience shows that it is impossible to block everything and thus to stop mass mobilization: in fact, in such cases, too many distribution channels are used at once.

On the list there are also links to banned Ukrainian websites and to pages of organizations considered undesirable, and this is a clear example of political bias. Besides this, the number of links to blocked opposition websites and calls to attend opposition rallies on the list is rising. These examples show that extrajudicial blocking carried out only on the basis of suspicion inevitably leads to arbitrariness and abuse by the authorities.

The number of inappropriate sanctions is rising. There are resources put on the register explicitly by mistake or those put on due to a lack of understanding. No wonder, given this broad sweep by the authorities.

Formally, these two registers are placed separately on the website of Roskomnadzor, however, the procedure for using them is practically the same. According to a decision of Roskomnadzor, the blocking of a resource can happen for a concrete webpage address (URL), or, more widely, by a subdomain name, or by a physical address (IP)[56].

Earlier, we repeatedly expounded upon our claims about the effectiveness and legitimacy of these mechanisms[57]. The situation is changing only for the worse. Like the Federal List of Extremist Materials, the registers are swelling, and the quality of updates is not improving. As a result, the current systems for blocking resources are not winning the public’s support, and in no way are they helping to strengthen security, and furthermore they do not prevent possible radicalization, but rather cause distrust in law enforcement and prevent the realization of free speech on the internet.

[1] Our work in 2017 on this subject was supported by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the International Partnership for Human Rights, and the Federal Republic of Germany.

On December 30, 2016 SOVA Center was forcibly placed by the Justice Ministry on the register for “non-commercial organizations acting as a foreign agent”. We do not agree with this decision and filed an appeal against it.

[2] Yudina, N. Xenophobia in Figures: Hate Crime in Russia and Efforts to Counteract It in 2017 // SOVA Center. 2018. 12 February (

[3] Alperovich, Vera. A fiasco, gentlemen. The movement of Russian nationalists in the summer and autumn of 2017 // SOVA Center. 2017. 26 December (xenophobia/publications/2017/12/d38558/).

[4] See another SOVA report published at the same time as the present paper: Kravchenko, Maria. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2017.

The cases considered in the above report are not reviewed in this paper and are not taken into account in the calculations.

[5] Total statistical figures about the activity of federal courts of general jurisdiction and magistrates’ courts for the first six months of 2017 // Official website of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation (

[6] According to data posted on the Supreme Court’s website, Parts 1 and 2 of Article 148 were the main article of accusation for three people, two had additional article; Article 2052 – respectively, 33 and 6; Article 280 – 49 and 26; Article 2801 – had by 1 and 2; Article 282 – had by 205 and 45; Article 3541 – had by 1 and 1. These articles may be combined both with one another and with other articles (see below in this presentation), so the real number of those convicted for statements remains between the sum of the first figures and the sum of the first and second.

[7] Furthermore, all calculations are made namely based on convictions we know about, despite the fact that judging by Supreme Court data, there are at least 2.5 times more, perhaps even three times more, convictions. However, according to the amount of data we possess, it is possible to suppose that the observed regularities and proportions will be accurate for the entire volume of convictions.

[8] Togliatti: conviction made in the case of the leader of the Community of Indigenous Russian People // SOVA Center. 2017. 21 December (

[9] For more, see: Yudina, N. Xenophobia in Figures…

[10] Magnitogorsk: conviction made for publications on social networks // SOVA Center. 2017. 27 April (

[11] In Moscow, participants of the Misanthropic Division movement were convicted // SOVA Center. 2017. 20 June (

[12] Kazan: director of the Union of Young Innovation Leaders convicted // SOVA Center. 2017. 1 February (

[13] Leader of NOMP, colonel Kvachkov, receives another 18 months in strict-regime prison // SOVA Center. 2017. 23 August (

[14] Moscow: conviction made in case against Yury Yekishev // SOVA Center. 2017. 3 May (

[15] For the announcement of the verdict, D. Bobrov did not appear and fled from the investigation. For more details see: Leader of the NSI receives two years in prison // SOVA Center. 2017. 12 September (

[16] Chelyabinsk: Conviction according Article 282 made against former member of skinhead group // SOVA Center. 2017. 12 May (

[17] Dmitry Dyomushkin has repeatedly become a figure in criminal and administrative cases and has violated his travel restrictions. However, he had never been convicted before.

[18] Dyomushkin receives two and a half years in a minimum security penal colony // SOVA Center. 2017. 25 April (

[19] Who has been imprisoned solely for extremist offenses // SOVA Center. 2013. 24 December (

[20] Nationalist Nikolai Bondarik sentenced in St. Petersburg // SOVA Center. 2017. 9 January (

[21] Leader of T.O.Y.S. convicted in Samara // SOVA Center. 2017. 24 November (

[22] See, for example, Yudina, N. Anti-Extremism in Virtual Russia in 2014-2015 // SOVA Center. 2016. 24 August (

[23]See: Alperovich, V., Verkhovsky A., Yudina, N. Between Manezhnaya and Bolotnaya: Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Russia, and Efforts to Counteract Them in 2011 // SOVA Center. 2012. 5 April (

[24] Resolution of the Plenary Meeting of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation No. 41 on issues of judicial practice in criminal cases of terrorist and extremist nature // SOVA Center. 2016. 28 November (

[25] About approaches to law enforcement in this field, see: Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence // Office of the United Nations High Comissioner for Human Rights. 2013 (

[26] In this report we do not look into convictions that were clearly unjustified, the present paper also does not go into the convictions against members of Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami.

[27] In the city of Samara, a resident was ruled to be guilty of terrorist crimes // Official website of the Russian Investigative Committee Department for the Samara region. 2017. 21 November (

[28] A suspended term of two years handed down for involvement in the activity of an extremist organization // SOVA Center. 2017. 29 September (

[29] For more details, see: In the Krasnodar territory, conviction made in case against members of the Spiritual-Ancestral Power of Rus // SOVA Center. 2017. 27 December (

[30] As at February 15, 2018, this list consists of 4,382 items.

The author thanks her colleague, Mikhail Akhmetyev for his help in classifying this list and the registers of Roskomnadzor.

[31] For more information, see: Kravchenko, M. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2016 // SOVA Center. 2016. 21 April (

[32] See, for example, the relevant chapter in: Alperovich, V., Yudina, N. Old Problems and New Alliances: Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Russia, and Efforts to Counteract Them in 2016 // SOVA Center. 2017. 8 May (

[33] Supreme Court makes decision on the liquidation of the Administrative Center of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia // SOVA Center. 2017. 20 April (

[34] Nationalist movement “Frontier of the North” liquidated in Syktyvkar // SOVA Center. 2017. 25 November (

[35] T.O.Y.S. group banned in Samara // SOVA Center. 2017. 26 April (

[36] Recognized as extremist by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea on April 2, 2016. For more information, see: Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People recognized as an extremist organization // SOVA Center. 2016. 26 April (

[37] City Court of Naberezhnye Chelny liquidates Rafis Kashapov’s organization // SOVA Center. 2017. 11 May (

[38] Recognized as extremist by the Court of Jewish Autonomous Region on October 3, 2016.

[39] For more, see the report on misuse of anti-extremism that was published simultaneously with the present paper: Kravchenko, M. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2017.

[40] The author thanks her colleague, Maria Muradova, for her help in classifying the application of articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses.

[41] For more, see: Kravchenko, M. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2017.

[42] Report on the work of general jurisdiction courts on the review of cases against administrative offenders in the first half of 2017 // Official website of the Supreme Court (

[43] Report on the work of general jurisdiction courts on the review of cases against administrative offenders in 2016 // Official website of the Supreme Court (

[44] Report on the work of general jurisdiction courts on the review of cases against administrative offenders in the first half of 2017…

[45] Report on the work of general jurisdiction courts on the review of cases against administrative offenders in 2016…

[46] Dmitry Melash fined for a t-shift with the emblem of the Azov battalion // SOVA Center. 2017. 21 January (

[47] See more on Artpodgotovka activities and related mass detentions in: Alperovich, Vera. A fiasco, gentlemen. The movement of Russian nationalists in the summer and autumn of 2017 // SOVA Center. 2017. 26 December (xenophobia/publications/2017/12/d38558/).

[48] Artpodgotovka activist fined for video posted on a social network // SOVA Center. 2017. 10 July (

[49] See: The Unified Register of Banned Websites // Roskomsvoboda (

[50] See the updated list: “Extremist resources” on the Unified Register of Banned Websites // SOVA Center (

[51] Extremism plays only a small role on this register; according to Roskomsvoboda, as at February 20, 2018, there were 67,543 entries.

[52] “Blood and Honor” is a song by Russian neo-Nazi band “Kolovrat”.

[53] The full name is “On the amendments to the Federal Law ‘On information, information technologies, and on the protection of information”.

[54] See the updated list: Resources on the register of websites blocked according to the Lugovoy law // SOVA Center (

[55] Only the first part of this show is banned, the second part is not.

[56] This leads to the blocking of many obviously innocent websites that simply happen to be on the same server.

[57] See, for example: Yudina, N. Anti-Extremism in Virtual Russia…