Former coordinator of “Open Russia” sentenced to four years probation

Rostov activist Anastasia Shevchenko was sentenced on February 18 by the Oktyabrsky city court to four years probation under the article on carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization (Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code) with a probation period of four years, Interfax reports. The prosecution asked to appoint her five years in a general regime colony, Shevchenko insisted on her innocence.

According to the investigation, Shevchenko “was a member of the Open Russia organization established in Great Britain”, which was recognized as an undesirable organization in the country, and actively participated in its activities. Allegedly representing this organization, she debated with a member of the “United Russia” Igor Tretyakov and participated in the city rally.

Shevchenko does not deny that she was a member of the federal council of Open Russia, but says that she was not a member of a recognized undesirable organization, but a network movement of the same name, which did not fall into the category of undesirable. She considers her criminal case to be politically motivated and claims that she did not conduct any illegal activity. She left the post of the coordinator of Open Russia in Rostov-on-Don in 2018 and headed the election headquarters of Ksenia Sobchak, who was then running the presidential campaign.

Shevchenko was arrested in January 2019, the basis for initiating a criminal case was two administrative protocols (under Article 20.33 of the Administrative Code) on cooperation with an undesirable organization. Her criminal case was the first under Art. 284.1 of the Criminal Code. At the time of her arrest, Shevchenko had three minor children, the eldest, a disabled person of the 1st group, needed constant care. Despite this, the court decided to choose her house arrest as a preventive measure.

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On January 30, her daughter was hospitalized in serious condition. After numerous appeals from politicians and public figures, the investigator allowed her to go to the hospital, but the girl died on January 31. Shevchenko’s case is the first under this article, but not the first sentence under it. The same charges were brought against Maxim Vernikov, an activist from Yekaterinburg.

On February 11, 2020, the court found him guilty of collaborating with Open Russia and sentenced him to 300 hours of compulsory labor. A case under the same article was also initiated against Yana Antonova, an activist of the same organization, who was sentenced on October 2, 2020 to 240 hours of compulsory labor. A criminal case was also initiated against the ex-coordinator of Open Russia in Tyumen, Anton Mikhalchuk, who has not lived in Russia since 2019, so they could not detain him.

In the spring of 2019, the Open Russia movement announced its liquidation due to the large number of cases brought against its activists in order to help them. Political analyst Konstantin Kalachev believes that Shevchenko’s verdict is part of a campaign of intimidation and has a didactic character. “The verdict explains to the activists what could be wrong with them, but it has nothing to do with the law,” he added.

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