“FSB Officers Always Get Their Way!”

filinkova-torture

If you have been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case on this website, you should now make your way over to oDR (openDemocracy Russia), where coverage of the case continues with these frightening accounts by Viktor Filinkov and his wife Alexandra of Viktor’s abduction and torture by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), and Alexandra’s attempts to find out what happened to her husband, who had been scheduled to join her in Kyiv when he was disappeared by the FSB.

Meanwhile, as Mediazona correspondent Yegor Skovoroda writes, the FSB has, allegedly, tortured two anarchists in Chelyabinsk for the crime of protesting its barbaric actions in Penza and Petersburg.

Drawing by Alexandra Filinkova. Courtesy of oDR

The Russian Police State Asks for Your Help in Cracking Down on You

“Should I delete this post? Should I delete this post? Yes!” Graffiti at the Street Art Museum in Petersburg. Photo by the Russian Reader

Yelizaveta Alexandrova-Zorina
Facebook
26 February 2018

The neighborhood police inspector rang. He said that, after the March 17 rally, I had been “put on file” for a year, like everyone else who went. He even has a whole dossier on me. Only he doesn’t have enough photos. There was an audit of the neighborhood police inspectors. The auditors asked for the files of the people detained at the rally, but the files didn’t contain their photos. Everyone got chewed out. The neighborhood police inspector was nearly crying as he asked me to give him two 3 cm x 4 cm photographs and a written statement (the third already), explaining what the hell I was doing at the rally.

Does this have something to do with the presidential election campaign? Or is this basically the new lay of the land in Russia? All dissenters, even rank-and-file dissenters, will be “put on file”?

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Vladimir Akimenkov for the heads-up

A Brief Note on Comments

Since I just received a comment on my previous post in which the commenter, who, by the looks of it, was otherwise completely illiterate, identified me as a “lover of Putin,” I thought I should explain my policy on comments.

I am not interested in debating out-and-out deadbeats and people otherwise hostile to my work on this website, which consists, broadly speakly, in giving the Russian grassroots a voice in English, highlighting important stories ignored by the press in Russia and abroad, and creating a coherent narrative and, thus, an archive on issues such as immigration, poverty, housing, labor rights and trade unionism, free speech and assembly, the economy, nationalism, environmentalism, healthcare, and grassroots resistance to the current regime through my own translations of texts from blogs and social media, as well as articles published in the quality independent liberal, anti-authoritarian, and regional press (e.g., Novaya Gazeta, Mediazona, OVD Info, Takie Dela, RBC, Vedomosti, Fontanka.ru, 7X7, Grani.ru, etc.).

I also occasionally permit myself to comment on these issues in editorial posts and wander off into subjects near and dear to my heart, such as Russian underground art and music, architecture and urban planning, Russian poetry, Soviet cinema, and Petersburg’s history and “psychogeography.”

Since the Russian Reader is produced by me alone in my free time and receives no funding from any outside sources whatsoever, I think I can allow myself to pursue this perhaps bewildering agenda as I see fit. The growing numbers of readers over the past five years confirm what I do here is interesting and useful to a fair number of people all over the world.

However, I do not believe in free speech to the extent of letting my website be trolled by angry illiterates who cannot be bothered to read carefully what I have written or translated. I have no compunction about identifying their comments as spam and trashing them immediately.

On the other hand, I happily approve comments that question the texts on this website if they are written in polite, literate English and evince no hostility towards me personally. TRR

P.S. As regards the hostile anonymous entity who slandered me by calling me a “lover of Putin,” you would know, entity, if you actually knew anything about the subject and the lay of the land, which you obviously do not, that the Carnegie Moscow Center is not an “American think thank,” but a Russian think thank funded by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. If you actually followed their work closely, as I have followed it, you would know their researchers and fellows sometimes take stances and publish articles on the center’s website that are anything but pro-American and might even be interpreted as pro-Putin, for example, this article, published in March 2017, arguing that western sanctions against the Putin regime have been helping Putin rather than harming him.

On the other hand, they are equally capable of publishing an article like this one, criticizing the Russian judiciary. It was written by Olga Romanova, a fierce Russian judicial and penitentiary reforms activist now in exile in the west. So, the Carnegie Moscow Center is a quite broad church, indeed.

But it is not an American church, and it is no more capable than Russia’s infamous troika of pollsters of overcoming the prejudices and faulty methodological assumptions that skew their polls and thus of finding out “what Russians really think.” When the Carnegie Moscow Center has engaged in “public opinion” research, which it has done on several occasions, it has been just as complicit in perpetuating one of the biggest cons in recent history as the troika itself has been.

Photo by the Russian Reader

Just a Smack at the Russian Pollocracy

Russia is the world’s largest country in size and the ninth largest by population, but almost no one is interested in what actual Russians really think, least of all the Russian government, Russia’s leading pollsters, and the domestic and international media that dutifully cite the dubious results of their so-called opinion polls. Photo by the Russian Reader

Waiting for the end, boys, waiting for the end.
What is there to be or do?
What’s become of me or you?
Are we kind or are we true?
Sitting two and two, boys, waiting for the end.
William Empson, “Just a Smack at Auden”

Antifascists and antiracists often advocate the notion of “no platform,” meaning that no decent public institution, be it a university, a newspaper or a city council, should allow white supremacists, neo-Nazis, fascists, racists, and other ultra right-wingers to lecture on campus, publish their opinions in respectable periodicals or march down the streets shouting their vicious slogans.

I have begun to think the practice of “no platform” should be applied to the notorious troika of Russia’s top pollsters: Levada Center, VTsIOM, and FOM. The extremely valuable propaganda work they do for the Putin regime is often hilariously identified as “sociology” in Russian, but this is an insult to the real, tough-minded and rigorous sociologists doing actual research.

Although Levada Center was inexplicably tagged as a “foreign agent” in 2016, everyone who works there deserves a medal or two from the Kremlin, because the so-called pollsters at Levada have been working relentlessly over the years to prove a hypothesis dear to the hearts of a certain kind of Russian liberal or Russian conservative: that Russian society mainly consists of extremely stupid, servile proletarians who still love Stalin, long for a “strong hand” in the Kremlin, and enthusiastically support Vladimir Putin whatever he does and however he does it.

VTsIOM and FOM are up to much the same thing, the only difference being they serve the regime quite frankly and openly, unlike Levada Center, which pretends to engaged in a “scientific” mapping of Russian society on behalf of the opposition.

The problem is none of the polls any member of the troika publishes is worth the paper they are printed on, because, from a logical, discursive, and emotional viewpoint, they are flawed. To put it bluntly, they all ask the same unanswerable question: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

The anthropologist Gregory Bateson called this dilemma a “double bind,” a situation in which no matter how you react, you are screwed, implicating yourself in something you had nothing to do with and might never have even contemplated doing your entire life. That is, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Meaning that the ethical burden is on the so-called pollsters. If they posed pointed, politicized questions to their respondent, such as whether they approve of Putin or think highly of the KGB or Stalin, as people brought up in a society that, historically, was first terrorized by the Romanov dynasty, then by the Bolsheviks, then, briefly, by the Nazis, and now, over the past eighteen years, by the Putinists, you can reasonably assume a very large percentage of them imagine there is a “right” answer to these questions and a “wrong” answer. Although there is no evidence people who give “wrong” answers to the questions in current Russian opinion polls suffer the consequences for their dissidence, it is better to be safe than sorry, especially when it is a complete stranger asking you these odd questions over the phone. Maybe he didn’t call you at random? Maybe his “poll” is a test of your loyalty?

Hence, all these polls are worthless as a measure of so-called Russian public opinion.

There is also what my friend the journalist Sergey Chernov once called the “TV-Levada-TV-Levada-TV (ad infinitum)” factor, meaning that the troika tend, unsurprisingly, to poll Russians about subjects that have just been subjected to a heavy propaganda barrage on the national TV channels. Thus, a good number of respondents have already been primed to respond to questions on these topics in a very specific way, thus generating a closed feedback loop that only benefits the regime, who wants its subjects passive but perpetually on message.

This brings us to the less obvious part of the nefarious work done by the troika in painting an utterly false portrait of Russian society at large, a society allegedly consisting mainly of rampant Putin supporters, racists, homophobes, Stalinists, and lovers of Cheka-NKVD-style rough justice: none of the fake polling they do would make a difference to anyone if the media, both domestic and international, were not there to report on their dubious “findings” every step of the way.

Although I have read, over the last five or six years, during which time what I have dubbed the “pollocracy” has gone completely wild, a decent number of articles by smarter people who are just as critical of the worth and reliability of the troika’s so-called public opinion polls as I am, using many of the same arguments I have just made, the media uncritically report the results of the troika’s latest polls as news events in themselves and indisputable evidence of what “Russians really think.”

To make matters worse, the overwhelming number of “Russia experts” see nothing fishy about the troika’s polls and cite their findings as fact in their lectures, scholarly articles, and white papers.

So, I have a modest proposal. If you accept the “anti-pollocratic” argument, as I have laid it out rather crudely here, you should refrain from giving a platform to the mighty troika of Russian pollsters and their demeaning, ultimately Russophobic, ultimately Putinist, incredibly skewed polls. You should not report them as news, because they are fake news. You should not cite them as facts, because they are anything but facts.

What they are is not very clever attempts to manipulate minds both inside and outside Russia. Putin is not wildly popular and thus handily wins free and fair elections. The elections are rigged up and down and sideways from the get-go in the most cynical ways possible, a real fact that has been documented and eyewitnessed several hundred thousand times by hundreds of thousands of Russians. But since the elections are rigged, and since Putin and his satraps can never be allowed to lose an election, it has to be “scientifically” proven he enjoys unwavering “broad support” amongst the unwashed masses.

This is where Russia’s troika of pollsters comes to the rescue. Their main function, funny as it might seem, is to periodically certify Putin’s runaway popularity through “scientific polls.”

All the rest is icing on the cake. As I have written, the pseudo-liberals at Levada Center have made it their pet project to prove to themselves and their pseudo-liberal admirers that the Russian people (russkii narod) are the most ignorant, dark, illiberal, and retrograde losers on the planet.

But the way they have gone about “discovering” this nonfact is as methodologically faulty as the way they have doggedly proven month after month, quarter after quarter, that Putin is astronomically beloved by “the people.” The only difference between Levada and their colleagues at VTsIOM and FOM is the significance they attach to the exact same, absolutely bogus results.

Thus anyone who cites these results as fact is doing a real disservice to the actual Russian people and the democratic cause in Russia.

If those are things you care about, you should no platform Russia’s troika of pollsters, juast as you would cast your local chapter of neo-Nazis or the North American Man-Boy Love Association into the outer darkness.

Because Russian opinion polls are as worthless, damaging, and flat out wrong as the above-named dangerous freaks. TRR

“Young People Gathered to Voice a Silent Reproach”: Dmitry Borisov’s Closing Statement in Court

“Young People Gathered to Voice a Silent Reproach”: Dmitry Borisov’s Closing Statement in Court
OVD Info
February 21, 2018

Dmitry Borisov. Photo by Irina Yatsenko. Courtesy of OVD Info

Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court is scheduled to pass sentence on Dmitry Borisov at twelve noon on February 22. Borisov is a defendant in the so-called March 26 Case, involving various “forceful actions,” allegedly taken by protesters against policemen and Russian National Guardsmen on Pushkin Square during a March 26, 2017, rally inspired by Don’t Call Him Dimon, a video exposé posted on YouTube on March 2, 2017, by anti-corruption activist and would-be presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. The video accused Russian prime minister and former president Dmitry Medvedev of wide-ranging corruption. The prosecution has asked the judge to sentence Borisov to three years in prison.

The court heard the defense’s and prosecution’s closing arguments, as well as Borisov’s closing statement on February 20. According to our count, forty-six people came to the hearing to support Borisov, many of them wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his picture. Prosecutor Larisa Sergunyayeva rattled off her closing argument, a printed text that she read out to the court. During her speech, activist Ildar Dadin called her a few rude names. Dadin was removed from the courtroom, but Sergunyayeva did not slow down her rapid-fire delivery.

According to Sergunyayeva, the testimony given by policemen was believable, while the testimony of protesters could not be trusted because they had a stake in the case’s outcome. Borisov’s malicious intent was allegedly proven by the discovery of a chat session on Telegram chat on his elephone in which he had written about planning to go to the rally with friends. Many positive character references were made on Borisov’s behalf, and he had no criminal record, but if the prosecutor has her way, he will spend three years behind bars for violating Article 318 Part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code, which stipulates a maximum punishment of five years in prison.*

Borisov’s attorneys, Ilya Novikov and Nikolai Fomin, spoke for about an hour and a half. They explained Borisov had been standing calmly at the rally when, for no apparent reason, police seized his friend and dragged him to the paddy wagon. Borisov grabbed his friend. The police knocked Borisov to the ground and beat him. Four of them dragged him to the paddy wagon. The lawyers explained the prosecution’s claim Borisov had wrested a leg free from one of the policemen carrying him and kicked him in the helmet was untenable, since the policeman who had testified he had seen this was located somewhere where he could not have seen the incident. They also argued the policemen who were witnesses in the case had perjured themselves when discussing the administrative charges also filed in connection with the events of March 26, 2017. They argued that if Borisov really had kicked the policeman’s helmet, he probably would have broken his visor, because Moscow police are currently outfitted with extremely poor-quality helmets. Finally, the defense pointed out the alleged victim did not immediately file charges. He did so two months later, apparently under pressure from Investigative Committee detectives Alexander Uranov and Rustam Gabdulin, notorious for their involvement in the Bolotnaya Square case. They handled the investigation of the March 26, 2017, case in exactly the same manner.

The defense attorneys predicted the court would hand down the worst sentence possible.

OVD Info has published Dmitry Borisov’s closing statement in court, below. The transcript may contain a few mistakes, because the accused spoke softly.

Dmitry Borisov: Closing Statement in Court
Your honor, the lawyers spoke very professionally, for which I am quite grateful. I did not use violence against police officers, nor did I intend to do so, because, at very least, it would have been senseless to do so. I had been captured by four policemen and was in a vertical position. All I could see was the sky.

I honestly do not understand why for nine months running I have been traveling to interrogations and court hearings not from home, but in trucks in which fifteen people sit in a three meter square cage. After sitting in this cage for seven hours, they faint and have to urinate in bottles, because the truck is parked in the garage of the Moscow City Court.

I also do not understand why I have spent many hours in the so-called assembly cells at the remand prison, that is, halfway between my cell and the trip to court. These cells are sixteen meters square, and fifty men, all of them smoking, are crammed into them. That is more than three persons per square meter. Try and imagine three men smoking in a one square meter space. Try and imagine how they feel. These cells are so filthy many people would not believe such a thing was possible in the capital of our mighty country. I do not want that to sound too sarcastic. I love my country, and that is a partial explanation of why I was in Pushkin Square on March 26. There are people who say you can judge a city by the cleanliness of its toilets. If you saw the toilet in the assembly cell you would think you were in a village on the outskirts of a godforsaken banana republic.

As for the cells in Butyrka Prison, they are scruffy, filthy dungeons with a view, for example, of an unimaginably dirty brick wall. That is the view in my cell. There is no heat. We have a single radiator in our cell, but it does not work. The ventilation consists of nine tiny holes, although the cell houses twenty-eight smokers.

My lawyers have spoken about how the case was politically motivated from the get-go. The actions of the investigators and their assistants were aimed from the very outset at proving my guilt. Although Ilya Novikov has spoken about it, I would like to mention the photograph of eight defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case that proudly hangs above Investigator Uranov’s desk, with the sentences they received written below each defendant in increasing order. If I am not mistaken, the longest sentence was four years. Apparently, Mr. Uranov is especially proud of this picture. I personally witnessed him getting on the internet and searching for news about how he had apprehended “enemies of the people.” He was upset when he discovered his name spelled incorrectly in one article. I cannot remember whether his first name is Alexei or Alexander, but it was written incorrectly in the internet. He was quite adamant on this point.

As for the case itself, my guilt consists only in the fact I tried to prevent my friend from being abducted. In the opinion of some people, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time on March 26 in Pushkin Square. I am convinced it is wrong to grab people in the center of our country’s capital as if they were animals and drag them to a paddy wagon without identifying yourself and explaining the charges, even if you are wearing a security services uniform.

And that day more than a thousand people were detained.

They were detained not for holding an unauthorized rally, but for making a silent reproach. It took me a long time to find the right word to express what happened there. Young people gathered there to voice a silent reproach, to force the authorities to think a little.

We did not gather to engage in bloody revolution, but to remind the authorities it is worth giving things some thought. Otherwise, their actions really will lead to hungry bloody riots. Therefore, I ask you to exonerate me. I am not guilty of anything. I have been in jail for nearly eight and a half months for no reason at all.

*Use of violence that does not endanger human life or health, or threats to use violence against a representative of the authorit[ies], or his relatives, in connection with the discharge [of] his official duties, shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 200 to 500 minimum wages, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of two to five months, or by arrest for a term of three to six months, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to five years.” Source: The Criminal Code of the Russian Federation

••••••••••

OVD Info reported that on February 22, 2018, the Tverskoy District Court found Dmitry Borisov guilty as charged and sentenced him to one year in a medium-security penal colony.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“This Is a Form of Genocide”

As the bombs rain down on Eastern Ghouta, we learn what at least one Russian sports expert deems “genocide”: the disqualification of Russian athletes from international competitions for violating international anti-doping rules. Unfortunately, I am sure he is not alone in his cruel, rampantly nationalistic views. TRR

Russian Doping

“Помните, что творилось во время Олимпиады в Бразилии? Клишину, которая живет в США, пустили, а не пускали только тех, кто живет в России. Или Исинбаева в Рио – на дату начала соревнований к ней персонально нет никаких претензий, а ее не пускают. Как и других, которые даже по правилам ВАДА были чистые. Это же форма геноцида. Реагировать следовало по линии МИДа. По международной правовой линии, а не только в спортивные и гражданские суды обращаться”.

“Do you remember what went on at the Olympics in Brazil? [Russian long jumper Darya] Klishina, who lives in the US, was allowed to compete. Only those who live in Russia were not allowed to compete. Or what about [Russian pole vaulter Yelena] Isinbayeva in Rio? On the date when the competition started there were no grievances against her personally, but she was disqualifed, like others who were clean even under WADA’s rules. This is a form of genocide. The [Russian] Foreign Ministry should have reacted. We should have reacted in terms of international law instead of just appealing to sports and civil courts.”

Nikolai Kryachkov, an expert on doping with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN), as quoted in Sergei Lopatenok, “The Sports Ministry Did a Bad Job of Defending the Rights of Our Athletes,” Gorod 812, December 27, 2012. The emphasis is mine.

Предложения Николая Крячкова по нормализации ситуации с допингом в спорте

— Предложить ЮНЕСКО новую редакцию Международной конвенции по борьбе с допингом в спорте.

— Поручить Минспорту РФ и РАН предложить научно обоснованную терминологию допинга в спорте для включения ее в новую редакцию Международной конвенции по борьбе с допингом в спорте.

— Осуществить стандартизацию новой терминологии допинга в спорте в Международной организации по стандартизации (ISO).

— Обратиться в Международный уголовный суд с исками по фактам преследования группы невиновных российских спортсменов по политическим, национальным и культурным мотивам.

— Обратиться с исками о возмещении морального и материального вреда невиновным российским спортсменам к лицам, нарушившим права российских спортсменов.”

Nikolai Kryachkov’s proposals for normalizing [sic] the doping situation in sport

— Offer UNESCO a new version of the International Convention against Doping in Sport

— Instruct the Russian Federal Sport Ministry and the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) to propose scientifically sound terminology for doping in sport for inclusion in a new edition of the International Convention against Doping in Sport.

— Standardize the new terminology for doping in sport with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

— File lawsuits with the International Criminal Court in response to the persecution of innocent Russian athletes for political, national and cultural reasons.

— Sue people who have violated the rights of innocent Russian athletes for emotional injury and economic loss.

— Identify our country as Россия [Rossiya] on the uniforms of the Russian national team, not as Russia.”

As quoted in Sergei Lopatenok, “The Sports Ministry Did a Bad Job of Defending the Rights of Our Athletes,” Gorod 812, December 27, 2012. Nikolai Kryachkov is identified in the article’s lede as a former senior researcher at the St. Petersburg Research Institute for Physical Culture. Mr. Kryachkov supposedly worked at the institute from 2015 to 2012, specializing in anti-doping issues. Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Gorod 812