Article 31 of the Russian Constitution states that citizens of the Russian Federation “shall have the right to assemble peacefully.” However, when protests are not approved by local authorities, those who join them can face arrest, professional consequences, and even criminal charges. The anti-corruption protests that swept Russia on March 26 and June 12, 2017, as well as the Voters’ Boycott marches of January 28, 2018, largely fell into this category of “unsanctioned” demonstrations, and hundreds of people were detained by police during each event. According to the media project OVD-Info, which reports on and combats political persecution in Russia, the process by which local governments approve or reject public gatherings remained until very recently an almost total secret—one that allowed authorities to maintain control over “how a public event proceeds, how the media covers different gatherings, and sometimes even the fates of those who participate in protests.” Natalya Smirnova and Denis Shedov of OVD-Info recently released a 75-page investigative report in Russian detailing the inconsistent norms and frequent pitfalls that await protest organizers at every stage of that process. We at Meduza read the report so you don’t have to.

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