‘A little human rights buggy’. The rise of ‘OVD-Info,’ Russia’s lifeline for arrested protesters

On December 5, 2011, Russians demonstrated against vote rigging in the State Duma elections. Throughout the winter, Moscow witnessed the largest protests of the Putin era, as tens of thousands of people turned out to chant slogans and listen to speeches criticizing the political system’s lack of power turnover between the country’s different factions. Before dawn on December 6, activists had formed what would become OVD-Info — an independent human rights media project that helps the victims of political persecution. OVD-Info makes it easy for anyone to find out who’s been arrested at a rally, the police station where they’ve been booked, and whether they need any assistance or legal aid. Detainees can call the project’s hotline and get psychological or legal counseling. OVD-Info has been a vital resource for activists during the summer of 2019, as Moscow’s City Duma elections have sparked another round of major protests. Meduza looks back at the project’s origins, and explains how OVD-Info became full-time work for the activists who run it.