Forget about Mikhail Kosenko, the “prisoners of May 6,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and other inmates in the country’s wretched penitentiary system, the demolition of the country’s welfare system, the devastating floods in the Far East, the destruction of Russia’s cultural and research institutes, the gutting of labor rights, the demonization of migrant workers, and all that. What really matters to the country’s most progressive class and the handsomely remunerated foreign observers who keenly catalogue its whimsical traipsings atop the corpses and prone bodies of fellow countrymen is the meatball wrap.
On Tuesday, the Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow convicted Mikhail Kosenko, recently declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, of involvement in “mass riots” and use of force against police officers during clashes between police and protesters after a sanctioned opposition march was prevented by police from reaching its end point, on Bolotnaya Square, in Moscow on May 6, 2012, the day before President Putin’s inauguration for his third presidential term. At the request of prosecutors, Kosenko, who suffers from a post-traumatic mental illness that previously required no hospitalization, had been declared mentally incompetent by the court, which has now sentenced him to compulsory psychiatric treatment, thus apparently reviving the state’s punitive use of “psychiatry” against dissidents during the late Soviet period.
During Tuesday’s court hearing, Mr. Kosenko made the following statement, which was recorded by Novaya Gazeta reporter Yulia Polukhina and published in the original Russian on the newspaper’s web site. My translation is illustrated with sketches by artist Victoria Lomasko, who was also present at the hearing. I thank her for permission to reproduce them here.
The most valuable thing in the country is freedom. This is what the majority of our population is deprived of to one degree or another. This applies in particular to prisoners. A huge number of people are in prisons and camps for no reason, and no one will help them. And those who are there for crimes they have committed do not deserve the conditions [in which they are imprisoned]. As the prisoners themselves say, no one [is] able to recover after imprisonment. The plight of the mentally ill in incarceration is hard; the most difficult thing for them is haloperidol, a banned substance. There are side effects from it and many fatalities. It causes muscle cramps, rigidity, and pain.
Mikhail Kosenko: “The hardest thing is halperidol. It causes muscle spasms and pain.”
Our people are used to suffering. An eastern model of society is being built in Russia—lack of freedom in exchange for a sated life. The authorities base their propaganda on material measures—money spent and its results. That happiness doesn’t lie in money is an ancient idea, although one now challenged. Happiness lies in people’s freedom. There are many countries where the material standards are lower than in Russia but the level of satisfaction with life is much greater. Our people are used to living in poverty, and they imagine that a little prosperity is a big achievement.
Prosecutor: “Kosenko is a danger to himself and others.” (Judge Ludmila Moskalenko, who found Kosenko guilty, is seated on the right.)
Freedom is freedom from evil. Real opportunities… Our country has great potential, and different kinds of freedom are needed to realize it, but they either do not exist or are restricted. Freedom of the media… The most important medium is television, but there is censorship on [Russian television], which is prohibited [by law].
The authorities impose their strategy on television reporters. That is why pickets, rallies and marches are so important for the opposition. It was on this ground that the authorities decided to tussle with the opposition. Rallies and marches organized by the authorities are underwhelming, so they took the routе of creating all kinds of obstacles [for the opposition]. The authorities decided it was they who determined the location of rallies, even though the law says otherwise. The opposition wants to hold a rally on one square, and the authorities force a different square on them. Our society, accustomed to laws being violated, was not much bothered by this. Then the authorities have used obstacles, nuisances and coercion to make rallies ineffective and to limit the area where they are held, as happened on May 6, 2012.
Defense lawyer Dmitry Aivazyan: “Kosenko will be in the same condition ten years from now. There is nothing to treat.”
While drastically limiting the area of the rally, as opposed to what had been agreed, the authorities considered its illegal demands the law. Because the authorities think they are the law. When, amidst the crush [on May 6, 2012, on Bolotnaya Square], dozens of people broke through police lines, the authorities decided they now had the right to disperse the tens of thousands of people who had come to the rally. With their tactics and politically motivated actions, the authorities constantly irritated people, who stood up to these illegal actions. The authorities break the law, but when they are rebuffed, they pretend to be legalists themselves, what with their Article 318 [use of violence against authorities – Editor] Riot policemen perceived the demonstrators as their enemies, meaning that they had been coached ahead of time to act so harshly, to react so harshly. The riot police on Bolotnaya Square obviously were not the law. Their superiors had politically encouraged the actions of the riot police on Bolotnaya Square. It was a political confrontation. The demonstrators were protesting against unfair elections. The demand for fair elections is the most just demand. The authorities oppose fair elections, because [if fair elections are held], they will have to resign. The regime consists largely of incompetent people, of the people who break the law. What we need is rotating governments, not the everlasting tenure of a single regime. With the current regime, Russian will be unable to deal the major challenges that will be inevitable in the future.
Defense lawyer Alexei Miroshnichenko: “No one can be held liable for the same crime twice.” Seated to his right is Kosenko’s sister Ksenia.
Combined with low efficiency, the huge exertions the authorities sometimes display lead to significantly poorer results than could be otherwise. In our country’s history, power has never passed to the opposition legally. The current regime has set many anti-records: the highest consumption of heroin in the world, and it is the same thing with alcohol. And such a regime is competent? And should remain in power forever? The people protesting against it are wrong?
Supporters of the government say there is no one else to run the country. This is doubtful. Russia has huge numbers of talented and strong-willed people, and they can get into power only through honest and fair elections. I want to thank everyone who has supported me—my lawyers, my sister, and everyone who has come to these hearings. As for my sanity, I ask the court to consider me sane.
“One Must Serve the Motherland, I Say!”
Basmanny District Court Extends the Arrest of Bolotnaya Case Suspect and Anti-Fascist Alexei Gaskarov
October 3, 2013
On Tuesday, October 1, Moscow’s Basmanny District Court extended until February 6, 2014, the arrest of Alexei Gaskarov, whom police investigators suspect of involvement in the “mass riots” on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012. Gaskarov has been charged with violating Article 212, Section 2 (participation in mass riots) and Article 318, Section 1 (use of violence against authorities) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code.
February 6, 2014, is the date to which the investigation of the events on Bolotnaya Square has now been officially extended. Earlier this week, the court extended the arrests of the other defendants whose cases have not yet been submitted to the court. Ilya Gushchin, Alexander Margolin, Dmitry Rukavishnikov, Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev will also remain in pre-trial custody until February 6.
Another defendant, pensioner Elena Kokhtareva, has been released under her own recognizance. The case of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev, whom investigators have accused of organizing the “mass riots” (a violation of Article 212, Section 1 of the Criminal Code), has been separated from that of the other defendants.
Investigator Alexei Chistyakov asked the Basmanny District Court to extend Gaskarov’s arrest for another four months, as the investigators have established that Gaskarov “used violence” against Igor Ibatulin, an officer with the Second Tactical Regiment of the Moscow Police, and a soldier by the name of Bulychev.
“In defiance of society’s moral norms, Gaskarov committed the crime in the presence of a significant number of people, taking advantage of numerical and physical superiority, and showing a clear disregard for the authorities. Moreover, his role in this case was particularly active and most aggressive,” Chistyakov read aloud to the court.
According to Chistyakov, Gaskarov presented a flight risk, since before his arrest “he did not live at his registered domicile, led a secretive lifestyle, spent the night at different locations and used various conspiratorial techniques.” Gaskarov should, therefore, be kept in a pre-trial detention facility.
During the hearing, Svetlana Sidorkina, Gaskarov’s lawyer, asked the court to enter character references submitted by the newspaper Zhukovskie Vesti and the Zhukovsky People’s Council into the record, as well as screenshots of a video recording from the case file. These stills show a police officer kicking Gaskarov in the face as Gaskarov lies on the ground.
Chistyakov and the prosecutor, Karasev, did not object to the character references being entered into the record, but they strongly objected to the shot breakdown of the video.
“The actions of law enforcement officers are not at issue in this hearing,” said Chistyakov.
Judge Artur Karpov, a man with a bald skull, agreed with their arguments and refused to enter the images into the record.
“And why is that you were found only partly fit for military service?” Judge Karpov asked, suddenly digressing from the tedious review of the case file.
“For medical reasons, but I can’t remember what exactly,” Gaskarov replied.
“How is it you don’t remember? Everyone remembers the reason they didn’t go into the army, but you don’t?”
“It was ten years ago. It had something to do with my eyesight, with intracranial pressure and something else. But now I just—“
“You just got over all those things? When did that happen? Before you turned twenty-eight?”*
“I wasn’t keeping track.”
“You weren’t keeping track. . . You should have served the Motherland,” the judge muttered.
“I wouldn’t object to serving in the army in exchange for being released from jail,” the defendant laughed.
“In exchange for working as a journalist?” After reading the character reference from the Zhukovskie Vesti newspaper, Judge Karpov had for some reason decided that Gaskarov works there. “One needs to serve in the army. Anyone can be a journalist, but probably not just everyone can serve the Motherland. Why this ‘in exchange for’ right off the bat? One must serve the Motherland, I say!”
Judge Karpov was unrelenting.
“Down in Dagestan, there is a waiting list to get into the army. Being a journalist is easy. You get up when you like, go to sleep when you like, go to work when you like.”
After this emotional outburst, lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina moved that the court change Gaskarov’s measure of restraint to one not involving deprivation of liberty—to house arrest or release on bail.
“Yes, I think this would be possible,” Gaskarov replied, smiling, to the judge’s question about what he thought about the motion.
Karasev and Chistyakov categorically stated that only if Gaskarov were in a pre-trial detention facility could the investigation proceed unhindered. Judge Karpov agreed with the prosecution on this point as well and, after a recess, ordered Gaskarov’s arrest extended until February 6.
When Gaskarov spoke to the court arguing against his arrest, Chistyakov sat motionless, his hands folded in front of him, like a sphinx.
Alexei Gaskarov’s argument in the Basmanny District Court:
I do not agree with the extension of my arrest and wanted to draw attention to the following things. First, I am being charged with violating Articles 212 and 318. Article 318 belongs to the category of moderately severe crimes for which the period of pre-trial detention may not exceed six months. Article 212, which criminalizes “involvement in mass riots,” stipulates more stringent sanctions, up to a year in pre-trial detention. I have a copy of my indictment, dated April 28. As of today, there has been no other indictment. According to this indictment, all the [criminal] actions that the investigator has just listed were then deemed violations of Article 318 by him.
Since the extension the investigator is now requesting means that I will have spent nine months in detention, that is, more than the statutory period of six months, I do not agree with this extension.
With regard to Article 212, I would like to return to the question of the grounds for charging me with violating it. Because even if you go by my indictment in the case file, it turns out I am accused of participation in mass riots. However, if you look at Article 212 itself, it covers mass riots “attended by violence, pogroms, arson, the destruction of property, the use of firearms, explosives, or explosive devices, and also armed resistance to government representatives.”
There is also Article 8 of the Criminal Code, which clearly states that a deed can be deemed criminal if it is fully consistent with “all the elements” of a crime, as described in one or another article in the Code. Accordingly, not all the elements of the crime, as indicated in Article 212, are included in my indictment. The article does not say that only one element or half the elements are enough. “All the elements” must be present.
Furthermore, the investigation finds that there was violence, arsons, and pogroms there [on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012], but I have not been charged with arson and pogroms. I have been charged only with violence against police officers. But Article 318 already covers these actions, and it is unclear how one and the same action can be deemed to constitute now one crime, now another.
On the other hand, if you look at the article dealing with mass riots, it does indeed say that resisting police officers is a constituent element of the crime, but there it stipulates that this must be armed resistance. But there is nothing in the charges brought against me indicating that I used a weapon or objects that could be used as a weapon.
I ask the court to take note of this indictment, because it serves as the grounds for the decision to extend or change the measures of restraint.
There are different sorts of evidence in the indictment and the criminal case file, but they only touch on Article 318, not Article 212. There is no clear indication there which of my actions could be deemed a violation of Article 212.
Moreover, why did we want to enter these photographs [of Gaskarov being beaten by riot police on May 6, 2012 — Russkaya Planeta] into the record? They simply indicate that the situation was quite complicated. The way the indictment is worded implies that if you see a uniformed police officer, he is absolutely within the law and cannot do anything illegal. By entering these photographs into the record, we want to show that the situation was complicated.
As for the actions committed there, I don’t even deny that I pulled one officer by the leg, and another by the arm. But only Article 318 covers all these actions. And so I ask the court not to extend [my arrest] for more than six months.
That is all I have to say.
* In Russia, men are subject to military conscription between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven —Translator.
The trade unions of the flood-stricken Russian Far East ask for your help
29 September 2013: The Association of Regional Trade Union Federations of the Far East has issued an appeal to trade unions around the world
Dear sisters and brothers!
Enormous floods continue in the Far East of Russia for the second month. The Khabarovsk Region, Amur Region and the Jewish Autonomous Region have been hit hardest. Several hundred thousand hectares of cultivated land are submerged; tens of thousands of houses are submerged or damaged. Communications and roads have been damaged as well. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes and other belongings. Thousands of people are living in temporary shelters, including elderly people and children. The flood still threatens many communities along the lower reaches of the Amur River. Winter will begin here in the coming weeks, and in November we will face the usual temperatures in Siberia for this time of year—between -25 ºC and -40ºC.
Inhabitants of the flooded areas are doing their best to overcome the disaster: they are building dikes, draining water, and repairing houses. But they need urgent help. They lack the money to buy food, warm clothes and shoes, personal hygiene items, and other staples.
That is why we are asking the international trade union movement to show their solidarity and provide financial assistance to flood victims.
We ask you to send your donations to the bank account of the regional trade union federation of Khabarovsk Region:
Postal Address: 18, Amursky Boulevard, Khabarovsk, Russia 680000
SWIFT: REGK RU 8K
KHABAROVSK KRAI CONSOCIATION OF TRADE UNIONS
Account Number: 40703840108011000004
Khabarovsk, Russia 680000
[NB. Russian banks do not use IBAN numbers.]
For information in Khabarovsk, you may contact Galina Kononenko by e-mail: email@example.com
Photos by Yulia Ryzhenkova
Welfare Chainsaw Massacre
Ivan Ovsyannikov (Russian Socialist Movement)
September 30, 2013
A “welfare chainsaw massacre” is exactly what we might call the government’s actions and statements over the last few months. The ruling class is once again attempting to pay for the latest uptick in the economic crisis from out of the pockets of workers.
On September 1, while speaking to students at the Far East Federal University, Putin announced the transition to a policy of austerity and reduced social spending. “The world economy has slumped a bit, and ours is hunkering down behind it,” the president said in his typical manner by way of explaining the upcoming unpopular measures. And he supported an earlier proposal, voiced by Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov, to replace the “maternity capital” program with “targeted assistance to poor families.”
However, a few days later, Dmitry Medvedev said that the maternity capital program would not be cancelled. “But it will be modified,” Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Maxim Topilin added in a whisper.
The fact that public opinion has been probed on such a sensitive point is quite significant. The maternity capital program is almost the only widely publicized social achievement of the Putin era. Putin has repeatedly stated it was his idea. And now this essential element of Putin’s social populism has been openly questioned.
No less provocative looking are the experiment with introducing social norms for electricity consumption (see Andrei Zavodskoi, “Cruel Economy”) and the de facto raising of the retirement age, which has long been discussed and is today closer than ever to realization. According to Deputy Primer Minister Olga Golodets, “We are not discussing raising the [retirement] age for any category of workers. We’ve gone another direction by promoting voluntary postponement of retirement. That is our principled position, and the government’s position.” However, such tricks are unlikely to mislead anyone.
The most scandalous revelations, however, are the statements made by government officials concerning labor relations. If, until recently, Mr. Topilin based his ministry’s decision not to index Russia’s penny-ante unemployment benefits on the fact that “at present there remains a high probability of finding employment in the labor market,” Mr. Medvedev has now said the exact opposite. He argues it is time to get away from the policy of preserving employment at all costs and not be afraid of cutting inefficient jobs: “The times all of us now face are not the easiest. […] Some people—perhaps a significant portion of the population—will have to change not only their jobs but also their professions and place of residence.” There is no doubt we have fallen on hard times, but the Prime Minister is clearly disingenuous when he talks about “all of us.” Russia’s ruling elite has no intention of depriving itself of jobs and handsome profits. So, in a conversation with François Fillon, Mr. Putin elegantly hinted that he would “not exclude” the possibility of seeking a fourth term as president.
But has the Russian economy “hunkered down” badly enough to warrant such painful experiments on the population? Isn’t “stagnation” only a plausible excuse for implementing the longstanding plans of the gentlemen from the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs?
As was reported in late August, the Ministry of Finance planned to save 1.1 trillion rubles [approx. 25 billion euros] over three years by eliminating the maternal capital program and reducing expenditures on pensions. At the same time, federal and regional budget expenditures on preparations for the 2018 World Cup should amount to 438 billion rubles, that is, almost half a trillion. The mass protests and riots in Brazil, sparked by excessive government spending on the 2014 World Cup, are still fresh in everyone’s minds. Russians could learn a lesson or two from Brazilians.
But maybe massive sports venue construction projects will generate many new jobs and return the taxpayer money spent on them? No, they will not. Unlike the great construction projects of the Soviet era, when funds were invested primarily in developing production, Olympiads, Universiades, and World Cups are, by definition, loss makers for national governments. Many analysts trace the current economic disaster in Greece to the 2004 Summer Olympics, which enriched transnational corporations while depleting public finances. The London Olympics have also been declared unprofitable. As for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, its unprofitability has been recognized by nearly all serious experts, including Vnesheconombank chair Vladimir Dmitriev, who said in an interview with Vedomosti newspaper that “a serious percentage of [Olympics-related construction] projects are calculated to make a loss.” According to Dmitriev, “Given the current model and market trends, there are big problems with returns on investments. For example, one million square meters of hotel space are being built in the Imereti Lowland. When this space goes onto the market after the Olympics, a sixty percent occupancy rate will be hard to achieve. The costs of many projects have seriously risen as they have been implemented. […] For many sites, there is no complete project documentation or confirmed cost estimates. All this confirms our doubts.”
As for jobs, they really will be generated—for thousands of migrant workers. Federal Law No. FZ-108, adopted specifically for the World Cup, leaves no doubt about that. First, the law establishes special lightweight entry requirements for foreign workers involved in preparations for the World Cup. Second, it limits the applicability of a number of existing labor laws, effectively legalizing slavery. As the Confederation of Labor of Russia (KTR) declared in their statement on the subject, “The potential for runaway importation and recruitment of cheap labor, undermining the national labor market, and leading to a decrease in wages and legal guarantees in the area of labor relations, and an increase in the level of unemployment among the population, has been legally enshrined in the Russian Federation.”
The government could not care less about the fortunes of workers during the crisis, and it does almost nothing to hide it. How else can we account (to cite just one example) for Mr. Topilin’s proposal to deny free health care to all informally employed and unemployed people not registered with an employment bureau?
In light of the foregoing, the Kremlin’s actions aimed at reconciliation with the liberal opposition also become intelligible, as do unexpected initiatives to put the “against all” option back on voting ballots. The authorities fear that public discontent will grow and want to channel it in a direction that presents no danger to the ruling elite. Whether this political maneuver succeeds depends in part on the willingness of leftist political forces and trade unions to win over public opinion and make the fight against austerity measures as much of a mobilizing factor as it has been in Greece, Spain, and other countries facing the consequences of the capitalist system’s crisis.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of deviantart.net
Expert witness psychiatrist Inna Ushakova: “Kosenko exhibited lethargy, flaccidity, mood changes and fear of people wanting to harm him…”
Psychiatrist Inna Ushakova, an expert witness, lists for the court the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia exhibited, allegedly, by Bolotnaya Square defendant Mikhail Kosenko. I am sure that anyone else caught up in this situation would present the exact same “symptoms.”
Mikhail Kosenko had asked that the court hearing be held in closed chambers.
Ushakova was part of a panel of doctors who changed Kosenko’s diagnosis from “sluggish schizophrenia”* to paranoid schizophrenia. Ushakova says openly that the diagnosis was changed, among other things, on the basis of documents sent to the doctors by a major case squad investigator. Kosenko faces a sentence of compulsory medical treatment if convicted.
On September 10, the court refused to grant Mikhail Kosenko a temporary release to attend his mother’s funeral. Letters sent to inform Kosenko about her illness were not handed over to this “prisoner of May 6”: the prison censor failed to pass them.
September 24, 2013
* Sluggishly progressing schizophrenia or sluggish schizophrenia (Russian: вялотеку́щая шизофрени́я, vyalotekushchaya shizofreniya) is an independent diagnostic category that is characterized by a slowly progressive course and included in the systematics of schizophrenia developed by Soviet psychiatrist Andrei Snezhnevsky and his Soviet colleagues. This diagnostic concept was limited to the USSR and some other East European countries.
Sluggish schizophrenia is not included in the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) used in western countries; however, its Russian version adds sluggish schizophrenia to schizotypal personality disorder in section F21 of chapter V.
Psychiatric diagnoses (such as the diagnosis of “sluggish schizophrenia” in political dissidents) in the USSR were used for political purposes; the diagnosis of sluggish schizophrenia was most frequently used for Soviet dissidents. Critics implied that Andrei Snezhnevsky designed the Soviet model of schizophrenia (and this diagnosis) to make political dissent a mental illness. According to American psychiatrist Peter Breggin, the term “sluggish schizophrenia” was created to justify involuntary treatment of political dissidents with drugs normally used for psychiatric patients.
According to Robert van Voren, the political abuse of psychiatry in the USSR arose from the concept that people who opposed the Soviet regime were mentally ill (since there was no logical reason to oppose the sociopolitical system considered the best in the world). The diagnosis of sluggish schizophrenia (a concept developed by the Moscow School of Psychiatry and its chief, Andrei Snezhnevsky) furnished a framework for explaining this behavior.
Although a majority of experts agree that the psychiatrists who developed this concept did so under instructions from the Soviet secret service KGB and the Communist Party (and understood what they were doing), this seemed to many Soviet psychiatrists a logical explanation why someone would be willing to abandon his happiness, family, and career for a conviction so different from what most individuals believed (or made themselves believe). Professor Snezhnevsky, the most prominent theorist of Soviet psychiatry and director of the Institute of Psychiatry of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences, developed a novel classification of mental disorders postulating an original set of diagnostic criteria.
October 2, 2013
Compulsory Psychiatric Treatment Requested for Bolotnaya Square Case Defendant
Mikhail Kosenko (Photo: Pyotr Kassin / Kommersant)
During oral arguments in the Bolotnaya Square case, the federal prosecutor requested that Mikhail Kosenko be subjected to compulsory psychiatric treatment, reports RAPSI Legal News Agency.
The prosecutor asked that the defendant be found guilty of violating Article 212 (involvement in mass riots) and Article 318 (use of violence against a representative of the authorities) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code and sentenced to compulsory psychiatric treatment. According to the prosecution, Kosenko “heeded appeals [sic] and took part in mass riots,” thus slightly injuring a riot police officer.
Kosenko suffers from sluggish schizophrenia [sic], but his relatives argue that he does not require compulsory treatment. They have asked that he undergo another psychiatric examination. Previously, he was found mentally incompetent.
Earlier, two riot police officers summoned by the court to testify in the Kosenko case were unable to identify him. One of them, complainant Alexander Kazmin, testified that during the clashes on Bolotnaya Square, he had been thrown to the ground and could not remember his attackers. Kazmin added that even if Kosenko had injured him during the riots, he would not want the accused to go to prison. Kazmin’s testimony was corroborated by his colleague Roman Puzikov. However, Kosenko was identified by two other complainants, riot police officers Maxim Sanayev and Sergei Lukyanov.
In early September, the court refused to grant Kosenko a temporary release to attend his mother’s funeral, arguing that he suffers from a mental disorder and could present a danger to society.
Mikhail Kosenko’s case was separated from that of the other defendants in the case of the May 6, 2012, riots on Bolotnaya Square, because he was declared mentally incompetent. Along with him in the dock are twelve other defendants, who face hefty prison terms. Two defendants in the case have already been sentenced to prison after making deals with investigators. Around thirty people have been detained or charged in the Bolotnaya Square case, and most of them are still under investigation.
Our thanks to Victoria Lomasko for permission to reproduce her sketch here.
UPDATE. Amnesty International has just declared Mikhail Kosenko a prisoner of conscience, along with two other Bolotnaya Square defendants, Vladimir Akimenkov and Artyom Savyolov. More details here.
Relatives of the Bolotnaya Square Prisoners Write to Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin
May 6 Committee
October 1, 2013
Dear Sergey Semyonovich:
We are friends and relatives of the defendants in the so-called case of the riots of May 6, 2012, currently being tried in the capital’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court.
Nearly all of us are Muscovites, and many of us received a personally addressed election campaign letter from you containing many warm words. “Moscow is the city to which you’ve given your strength, talent and soul,” you wrote. And it is true: we have years of work on behalf of our city’s and our country’s welfare, safety and defense under our belts.
And we really would like, as you rightly noted, “to feel secure in Moscow and confident in the future.” Unfortunately, however, no one can feel “safe and confident in the future” in Moscow nowadays. No matter how Moscow is modernized and prettified, this has no effect on the security of Muscovites if civil rights are not respected.
It has become apparent to us during the court hearings that the main cause of the events of May 6, 2012, on Bolotnaya Square was the Moscow police’s sudden alteration of the arrangements [for the planned opposition march and rally], which had earlier been approved at a meeting with the Moscow Department of Regional Security. This change provoked confusion among the crowd and led to riot police pushing people back, thus exacerbating an already unbearable crush. Police brutally beat protesters in an attempt to clear the streets. But no criminal proceedings were instituted in connection with these incidents. Our relatives ended up in police custody instead of the real culprits of the clash. The trial against most of them began in June 2013 and is likely to take a very long time.
On trial days, our relatives get up early (at five or six in the morning), return to their cells late (around midnight or later), spend long hours waiting in a cramped holding cell, eat poorly soluble dry rations for lunch and endure lengthy court proceedings. These conditions would cause even healthy people to experience a significant deterioration of health. Among the defendants, however, is the Class 2 disabled person Mikhail Kosenko (whose mother recently died, although he was not informed about her illness or death, and was not released to attend her funeral) and Vladimir Akimenkov, who is threatened with blindness.
Sergey Semyonovich, we hope that we, Muscovites, are not a faceless mass to you, but individuals with their own lives and needs. And we want an answer: why, for over a year, have our relatives suffered without any proof of their guilt, while police officers who beat people are at large and serving as complainants in the case, although they often do not remember the accused and have no relation to them? Some of these police officers had a finger cut by persons unknown, making them “experience severe physical suffering,” while others had their clothes pulled or were bruised.
There were no riots—meaning massive destruction, arson and use of weapons—on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012. The matter could simply be put to a rest right there, but the “riots” are, in fact, the cause of the whole trial. It is clear that the level of such legal proceedings does not stand up to scrutiny.
In your letter, you invited us to vote in the [mayoral] election, implying, of course, that it should be an honest election. It was fair elections that our children, brothers and husbands demanded: that is why they are in custody, and why they face hefty prison sentences. Judging by your letter, you want to make our city a better place, and Muscovites happier. But what can be said if here, in Moscow, in plain view, innocent people—young people, academics, and journalists—are on trial, if the country’s future is on trial?
If you are really worried about Moscow’s image, then you will certainly pay attention to the ugly spectacle being played out in the Moscow City Court, which is a disgrace to the city and the country. We appeal to you to come to the trial, which convenes every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the Appeals Wing of the Moscow City Court, Room 635. (As of October 1, the trial will be held at the Nikulinsky District Court, Room 303 – Editors.) You yourself will be convinced that the judge is working with the prosecution, that the evidence presented by the prosecution does not withstand scrutiny, and that the prosecution witnesses—police officers—are forced to lie under oath. Come and see for yourself that the presumption of innocence does not apply at this trial and that to impartial observers the court looks like a total circus. Or rather, it would look that way to us if our children were not behind the glass cage in this court.
We ask you to get to the bottom of this “court case” and help to ensure that in the future not a single Muscovite or visitor to the capital will be beaten with police batons at a peaceful, sanctioned rally, charged with “rioting” and thrown into prison.
We ask you, Sergey Semyonovich, to do everything to save our relatives.
We look forward to your reply.
Natalya Kavkazkaya (mother of Nikolai Kavkazsky)
Yuri Kavkazsky (father of Nikolai Kavkazsky)
Viktor Savyolov (father of Artyom Savyolov)
Alexei Polikhovich (father of Alexei Polikhovich)
Tamara Likhanova (wife of Yaroslav Belousov)
Stella Anton (mother of Denis Lutskevich)
Artyom Naumov (husband of Alexandra Dukhanina-Naumova)
Ekaterina Tarasova (mother-in-law of Leonid Kovyazin)
Vasily Kovyazin (brother of Leonid Kovyazin)
Olga Ignatovich (mother of Ilya Gushchin)
Ksenia Kosenko (sister of Mikhail Kosenko)
Maria Baronova (defendant)
Tatyana Barabanova (mother of Andrei Barabanov)
Alexandra Kunko (fiancée of Stepan Zimin)
Strasburg [sic], October 1 (Interfax) – Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said he invited European MPs, concerned about the rights of sexual minorities in Russia, to come to Russia and to make sure that their rights were not violated.
“Unfortunately, I will not be able to visit [gay clubs] with you,” Naryshkin told deputies, members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) when answering question of the European parliamentarians in the framework of the autumn meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasburg [sic].
The rights of sexual minorities are same as the rights of other citizens “practicing traditional sexual relations,” Naryshkin said.
Sexual minorities work successfully in various spheres, including culture, they relax freely and go to their clubs, Naryshkin said. “I have never been but witnesses say that it is very nice there, people spend time there nicely,” Naryshkin said, having received applause.
Here’s what Having Received Applause really said (yes, this is in translation, too, but we’ve tried to reinsert the audible sneer that Interfax or the PACE interpreters airbrushed out):
We have a lot of successful people with a non-traditional sexual orientation. They are successful in business, in art, in all creative fields. […] They have the right to rest and relax comfortably […] in Moscow and other Russian cities. There are a lot of so-called gay clubs. I haven’t been, but witnesses say it is quite nice and comfortable there; those people have a good time. If anyone wants to receive confirmation of this, please, I invite you to Moscow. Unfortunately, I myself will not be able to visit the club, but I will take care of you.
Source: RIA Novosti
Thanks to Alexis for the inspiration.