Political Prisoner Dmitry Pchelintsev: “Please Tell Mom That I’m Well”

“Please Tell Mom That I’m Well”: An Antifascist in the Vyatka Prison Castle
Ekaterina Loushnikova
Idel.Realii (Radio Svoboda)
January 7, 2021

Dmitry Pchelintsev. Archive photo courtesy of RFE/RL

In December 2020, Dmitry Pchelintsev was transferred to the Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1 in Kirov aka the Vyatka Prison Castle, where he met with members of the Kirov Public Monitoring Commission.

Pchelintsev was detained in October 2017 in Penza by the FSB. Before his arrest, he worked as a shooting instructor for the Union of Paratroopers of Russia, a veterans organization, and played airsoft (a team sport involving the use of pneumatic weapons). Among young people in Penza, Dmitry was known as an antifascist, campaigning against neo-Nazism, chauvinism and social inequality.

According to FSB investigators, Pchelintsev and his comrades from Penza, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Belarus organized a “network” of “combat groups,” planning an armed seizure of power via attacks on military enlistment offices, police stations, armories, and United Russia party offices. Pchelintsev was charged with organizing a “terrorist community” and illegal possession of weapons. During interrogations at the Penza Pre-Trial Detention Center, the antifascist confessed that he was the “leader of a terrorist organization.” Later, Pchelintsev told lawyer Oleg Zaitsev that his “confessions” had been obtained under torture.

“They pulled off my underpants. I was lying down on my stomach, and they tried to attach the wires to my genitals. I shouted and asked them to stop tormenting me. They started saying, ‘You’re the leader.’ So that they would stop the torture, I would say, ‘Yes, I’m the leader.’ ‘You were going to commit terrorist acts.’ I would answer, ‘Yes, we were going to organize terrorist attacks.'”

Despite complaints from Pchelintsev and other defendants in the so-called Network Case about being tortured during the investigation, no criminal case on the matter was opened.

On February 10, 2020, the Volga District Military Court found Pchelintsev guilty of “creating a terrorist community” and sentenced him to eighteen years in prison in a high-security penal colony. The Memorial Human Rights Center said that the testimony in the Network Case had been obtained under torture, and recognized Pchelintsev and his comrades as political prisoners. The lawyers of the defendants in the Network Case have filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg.

The meeting at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1 in Kirov was held via video link: during the coronavirus pandemic , all visits, including with members of the PMC, have been prohibited at the prison. During the conversation with Pchelintsev, two employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service were present: Pchelintsev did not insist on “privacy.” He unexpectedly praised the Vyatka Prison Castle for obeying the law.

“The conditions of detention are excellent!” said the political prisoner. “Especially in comparison with the Penza Pre-Trial Detention Center. There is no pressure on me: they do not beat me, they do not intimidate me, they treat me politely.

“And how are they feeding you?” the human rights activists asked.

“The food is good, too, the food is delicious. But the problem is that I’m a vegetarian, and in keeping with my beliefs I don’t eat meat dishes. So, I’m looking forward to having money transferred to my account from Penza to Kirov so that I can buy my own food in the prison store. Also, I still have things and medicines in Penza. I was taking drugs to treat my joints, but none of this has been sent yet.”

“How is your health?”

“I’m an asthmatic. I got the condition during my imprisonment in the Penza Pre-Trial Detention Center, and now I constantly need a Seretide inhaler. I have a prescription from a doctor. By law, I should get Seretide at public expense. But when I submitted a request for an inhaler to he Kirov Pre-Trial Detention Center, I was told that all funds were going to fight covid, that there was no money for other drugs.”

“Are you being held in solitary confinement?”

“No, there are four people in my cell. I have good relations with everyone, there are no conflicts. Recently, I was transferred to the ‘quarantine’ wing, where I will stay for twenty-one days, after which I will be sent to the penal colony. However, I have already been told that when I arrive at the camp, I will most likely be placed in the ‘strict conditions’ wing since I have a terrorism conviction, and from the viewpoint of my jailers, I am an ‘extremist.’ No, I have not been charged with any rules violations in the Kirov Pre-Trial Detention Center. But I suspect that the ground is being prepared for putting the squeeze on me. For some reason, many people believe that I was convicted not only for terrorism, but also for murder. I think this bias toward me is based on hearsay.”

“You mean the article in Meduza about the murder of two young people, your comrades?”

“Yes, in the Kirov detention center, as it turned out, everyone had read this article or heard something. I really don’t want to be seen as a murderer when I arrive at the camp. I had no dealings with those guys (Ekaterina Levchenko and Artyom Dorofeyev), and I don’t know anything about their murder. I have deep sympathy for their relatives, but I’m not to blame for this tragedy. I think that it’s another provocation on the part of the FSB, which, nevertheless, many people believe is true.”

“Are you a believer? Do you have any religious problems?”

“Yes, I believe in God. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the Kirov detention center, I wasn’t allowed to read the Torah in the cell. Before that, I tried to devote the entire Sabbath to studying Holy Scriptures. But in the Kirov detention center, I have not had the opportunity, because I was told that prisoners, according to internal regulations, have the right to read only books from the prison library in their cells, books that have been vetted.

“In keeping with my complaint, they can commission a religious expert examination of the text, but I was told by the staff at the Federal Penitentiary Service that this would take a long time. I was advised to resolve the issue with the Torah when I got to the penal colony. But this is not some homemade book, it is a book from a synagogue!”

“Have you written complaints?”

“It is my impression that, in Russian prisons, complaints and even letters to and from relatives very often do not reach the addressee.”

“For example, when I was in the Penza Pre-Trial Detention Center, my complaints didn’t go anywhere, they were simply not sent. And even a letter from my grandmother, who congratulated me on my birthday, was destroyed by the staff at the detention center, because, according to my jailers, the letter contained a coded passage . . . The last letter I sent, from the Kirov detention center, I sent to my wife, who is both my public defender and representative at the ECtHR. I hope this letter is received. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, my wife cannot visit me, despite her status as my defender. In the Kirov detention center, there is basically no way to call relatives by phone, there is no FSIN-Pismo system for online correspondence, and when relatives and human rights defenders make inquiries by phone, prison officials usually tell them that they don’t have the right to disclose the ‘personal data’ of prisoners. Consequently, you are completely cut off from the world: no one knows where you are or what is happening to you. Please tell Mom that I’m well, and I will call her as soon as I am sent to the penal colony!”

Political prisoner Dmitry Pchelintsev will be transferred to a high-security colony in Kirov Region immediately after completing a twenty-one-day quarantine. In Kirov Region, there are five high-security penal colonies, and two of them are earmarked for first-time serious offenders. One of them is Correctional Colony No. 11 in Kirovo-Chepetsk, and the other is Correctional Colony No. 27 in the Verkhnekamsk District. This colony already has one political prisoner, Sergei Ozerov, who was convicted on charges of terrorism and sentenced to eight years in prison for involvement in Vyacheslav Maltsev’s “revolution” of 5 November 2017. The penal colony is located on the site of the former Stalinist prison camp Vyatlag.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the Network Case (see the list, below), and go to Rupression.com to find out how you can show your solidarity with the defendants in the case.

#NetworkCase 

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