Russian citizens are ratting each other out to authorities in droves for anti-war comments made in bars, beauty salons, and grocery stores in roughly a dozen cities across the country, according to a new report from the independent Russian news outlet Vrestka.
Legal filings obtained by the outlet from Moscow, Bryansk, Novosibirsk, and other cities indicate that citizens have been turned in for “violations” as minor as cracking a joke about the war, listening to Ukrainian music, or even just talking about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion in a public space.
Many of those jailed after being reported by other citizens were charged under Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation, a new law signed by Putin last year criminalizing “public actions aimed at discrediting” Russian Armed Forces.
One Russian man from Bryansk, Mikhail Kolokolnikov, was reportedly fined and jailed for two days after a stranger called authorities on him for saying the phrase “Glory to Ukraine” at a bar on Jan. 15. In an interview with Vrestka, Kolokolniko said that two officers stormed the bar shortly after he said the phrase to another man, demanding to know, “Who said ‘Glory to Ukraine’ here?”
“The other day, a rocket hit a house in Dnipro,” Kolokolnikov, who was born in Ukraine, told the outlet—explaining why he said the slogan in a public place. “And I used to walk past this house every day to the beach, along the Pobeda embankment. In short, I was still a little angry because of this.”
In another case, Chita resident Ivan Sleponogov was jailed after being accused of saying an anti-war slogan during an Easter church service last April, according to a legal complaint. Sleponogov had allegedly claimed that he was actually chanting “Glory to the guys who died in Ukraine!” in reference to Russian soldiers who were killed in combat, and the case was eventually dropped—after Sleponogov had spent 10 days in jail.
Other cases detailed in the Vrestka investigation include complaints made against Russian citizens for playing a Ukrainian song in the car while driving, drunkenly making pro-Ukrainian statements from a balcony, and criticizing the war in private conversations with friends at a coffee shop. The individuals who made the complaints allegedly include eavesdropping neighbors, coworkers, and janitors.
In many of the cases, according to the outlet, little to no evidence was provided by witnesses who reported the alleged violations.
In some court filings, however, the “anti-war” sentiments allegedly expressed by accused citizens are not so subtle. In Serpukhov, a city near Moscow, two Russian army veterans accused Yuri Nemtov of approaching them at a shopping mall last November with some choice words. “Well, invaders! Go there to die like meat!” he allegedly said.