Dmitry Kalinychev from Nizhny Novgorod has been jailed for 25 days following his single-person picket on June 18 in defense of over 70 Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russia and occupied Crimea, as well as Russian political prisoners. 

Even according to Russia’s repressive legislation, such solitary pickets are legal, however Moscow has clearly ordered a crackdown on protesters during the World Cup, together with the removal of down-and-outs and slaughter of hundreds of stray dogs, according to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.

Kalinychev’s brief single-person picket on June 18 took place while Sweden was playing South Korea in Nizhny Novgorod.  His placard, in English, has one of the stark images drawn by Ukrainian artist Andriy Yermolenko in protest against Russia hosting the World Cup because of the blood on its hand from aggression in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere. The words are about 200 political prisoners, including over 70 Ukrainians.

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The police turned up at his home that evening and arrested him, with a court on June 19 finding him guilty of what is termed "a repeat infringement of the rules for holding a public event".

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The "offence" was breaching a presidential decree purportedly on safety measures during the World Cup. These measures were clearly about "protecting" football fans from the harsh truth about Russia’s political persecution and multiple reasons why many people believe Russia should not have been allowed to host the event and that others should have boycotted it, the human rights watchdog writes.

Kalinychev’s protest was deemed a "repeated offence" because equally legal single-person pickets in support of hunger striking Ukrainian political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Volodymyr Balukh on June 1 and June 3 were also called administrative violations. 

This year Kalinychev has also faced persecution for his participation in a remembrance march honouring slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov which the authorities had refused to "authorize," and 20 days’ imprisonment for a street performance in March, entitled "Funeral of the elections."

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There were other detentions in Moscow on June 19, with all those detained protesting legally about repression in Russian-occupied Crimea and calling for the release of Oleh Sentsov and Russian Memorial activist Oyub Titiev.

The fact that Kalinychev was arrested the evening after his protest makes it likely that the number of detentions for trying to draw attention to Russia’s grave human rights abuses, especially with respect to Ukrainian political prisoners, is actually much higher.

Oleh Sentsov has been on a total hunger strike since May 14 and has vowed to continue “to the end” unless all of Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners are released.