(Image: Vika Popova. Memorial Society / Facebook)



On February 27, 2024, in Moscow, a court sentenced Oleg Orlov, a human rights activist and co-chair of 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Memorial (Center for the Protection of Human Rights), to two years and six months in prison. This was a repeated trial in the case of the alleged “Discrediting Russia’s Armed Forces” for the anti-war article “Russie: ‘ils voulaient le fascisme, ils l'ont eu’” (Russia: they wanted Fascism, they got it”) Orlov had published in 2022 on the French online newspaper Mediapart. The case against Orlov was initiated in the spring of 2023; in the fall of the same year, the court found him guilty and punished him with a fine. A few months later, the prosecutor’s office appealed to decision, and demanded a tougher sentence.


Oleg Orlov, an outstanding human rights activist, has worked for Memorial since its inception, worked in the military conflict zone in Chechnya, participated in negotiations on the exchange of prisoners, participated in negotiations with the terrorists who captured Budyonnovsk (or Budenovsk)—and offered himself as a voluntary hostage in exchange for the release of women and newborn children in the maternity hospital—dealt with kidnappings and civilian casualties in the Caucasus, wrote a large number of articles on current topics of human rights protection. Also, he was accused by the President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov of slandering him, but won the trial. Since the start of the Russian war against Ukraine, he has repeatedly gone to Red Square, Moscow, and held a one-man picket with a poster against the war.
Prior to the announcement of the current prison sentence, Oleg Orlov made his closing statement. We would like to share an excerpt from this powerful speech with you:

“I refused to take active part in the current trial against me, which thankfully gave me a chance to reread Franz Kafka’s The Trial during the hearings. Our state of affairs really does have a few things in common with the situation Kafka’s protagonist ended up in—absurdity and tyranny dressed up as formal adherence to some pseudo-legal procedures. We’re accused of discreditation, but no one explains how this is any different from legitimate criticism. We’re accused of spreading knowingly false information, but no one bothers to show what’s false about it. When we try to prove why the information is in fact accurate, these efforts become grounds for criminal prosecution. We’re accused of not supporting the system of beliefs and worldview that the authorities have deemed correct, yet Russia is not supposed to have a state ideology. We’re convicted for doubting that the goal of attacking a neighboring state is to maintain international peace and security. Absurd.” (Translated from Russian by Human Rights Watch)

We, members of the Blinken OSA Archivum, express our admiration for Oleg Orlov; for his many years of struggle for human rights, and for his fearlessness in the face of the regime. The Blinken OSA Archivum, a long-time ally of Memorial and a repository of documents related to the histories and aftermaths of grave human rights violations, endorses the statement issued by 33 human rights organizations, and condemns the sentence.