Amnesty International: 2023 was Russia’s first year without mass protests

A protest calling for fair elections in Moscow, September 2021. Photo: Sergey Korneev, CC BY-SA 4.0

A protest calling for fair elections in Moscow, September 2021. Photo: Sergey Korneev, CC BY-SA 4.0

Amnesty International researcher Oleg Kozlovsky has shown that 2023 was the first year there were no mass protests in Russia in his annual report presentation.

Koslovsky said that 2023 was the first year mass protests in Russia had “petered out”, as people mostly protested alone.

“This is not because problems have been solved and people don’t want to protest, but because freedom of assembly has effectively disappeared,” he added.

The 2023 Amnesty International report barely mentions cases of people being tried for protesting, focusing instead on freedom of expression in Russia, Koslovsky noted, adding that this was due to the fact that the Russian authorities actively suppressed protests.

Kozlovsky’s report also touched on what he saw as two important precedents. In 2023, a Russian court sentenced politician and human rights activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison, which Kozlovsky said was the harshest sentence in a political case in Russia in recent decades.

Last year also saw the first case in recent Russian history of a foreign journalist, Evan Gershkovich of The Wall Street Journal, being arrested on espionage charges, Kozlovsky added.

He said another trend was political prisoners who were already in prison being charged with further offences, such as Moscow politician Alexey Gorinov, convicted of spreading “false information” about the army, being charged with justifying terrorism.

More than 900 people have been taken to court in anti-war cases since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, human rights group OVD-Info reported. Of those 902 people, 261 have already been given a prison sentence. Another 452 are still being investigated.

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