Dirty Linen

burdenkoBurdenko Neurosurgery Institute in Moscow. Photo courtesy of TASS and  Current Time

Moscow Doctor Summoned to Prosecutor’s Office over Interview on Shortage of Protective Equipment
OVD Info
April 7, 2020

The Agora International Human Rights Group has reported on the Telegram channel Coronavirus Legal Aid Headquarters that the Tverskaya Inter-District Prosecutor’s Office has launched a probe of the Burdenko Neurosurgery Institute.

The probe was prompted by a interview, published on the website Current Time, in which Vsevolod Shurkhay, a neurosurgeon at the institute, said that doctors lacked personal protection equipment. As part of the probe, Shurkhay himself was summoned to the prosecutor’s office for questioning.

Entitled “One Mercury Thermometer for Forty People, and House Calls Without Protection: Russian Doctors Talk About Lack of Protection Against Coronavirus,” the article was published on March 24.  In the interview, Shurkhay discusses the shortage of face respirators for doctors in his department and UV lamps for air purification. In addition, according to Shurkhay, doctors in the department were asked to take their own temperature and issued a single mercury thermometer for forty employees.

According to Current Time, Shurkhay sent a written request to institute management, asking them to solve the problem, but they advised him not to “escalate” the situation. It was then that the doctor contacted supervisory bodies and journalists.

According to Agora’s legal aid headquarters, on March 25, Shurkhay was asked by the institute’s head physician to give a written explanation for the Current Time article. The human rights organization writes that Shurkhay was given to understand he could be dismissed for washing the institute’s “dirty linen” in public and reproached for immediately contacting the media.

Translated by the Russian Reader. You can read all my posts about the coronavirus epidemic in Russia here.

The All-Russia Airsoft Conspiracy

airsoftAirsoft enthusiasts at Playland in Petaluma, California

Sakhalin Airsofters Suspected of Terrorism
Kirill Yasko
Sakhalin.Info
April 6, 2020

Sakhalin.Info has learned that today the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk City Court has remanded in custody three residents of the city. They are accused of organizing and participating in a “terrorist community,” punishable under Article 205.4 of the Criminal Code. According to reports, on April 4, their homes were searched, and at least one person was found with an object that might be an explosive device. It is currently undergoing a forensic examination. All three people were detained the same day.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) is investigating the case.

As relatives of one of the detainees told Sakhalin.Info, all three detainees were airsoft players and quite fond of the game, as well as sports, and were even involved in searches for missing people. The relatives were certain they had no criminal background and no intention of attempting to overthrow the government. The relatives insisted there could be no question of their wanting to threaten society and the state: even suspicious objects could have been planted by the authorities during the searches of their homes.

“I get the sense that things are being done in the same as in such high-profile cases as the Network Case and the New Greatness Case. People were not involved in anything of the sort, and they have no equipment except airsoft equipment, but they are being asked questions like, ‘Did you plan to storm government buildings and police stations?’ by [FSB] interrogators,” said a colleague reporting on the case.

Lawyer Yevgeny Balabas confirmed to us that a criminal case had been launched and three people remanded in custody. He declined at this stage to comment on the merits of the charges, citing the need to study the cases files and obtain the results of the forensic examination.

The Sakhalin Airsoft Federation is an officially registered non-profit organization. The organization has been accredited by the Ministry of Sports and in accordance with Federal Law 329 (“On Physical Education and Sports in the Russian Federation”). It has been developing the rules of the sport and conducting official sporting events, which are included in the Sakhalin Regional Sports Ministry’s calendar.

After the above-mentioned news was published, the federation carried out an internal review. It determined that none of its members, including athletes and airsoft players, had ever been charged with any crimes. Moreover, the arrested persons were not listed among the federation’s members or among those who had attended the federation’s events.

In addition to the Airsoft Federation, there are other associations involved in the sport in the Sakhalin Region.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Jesus and His Dog

Muscovite Detained While Walking Dog, Police Leave Dog on Street Alone
Mediazona
April 4, 2020

Eyewitness Snezhana Mayskaya has told Mediazona that a young man was detained by police while walking a dog at Patriarch Ponds in downtown Moscow. Police officers put the man in a police van and drove away, leaving the dog on the street, Mayskaya added.

“They tried to call the dog. But it didn’t go up to them—it got scared and ran away. In the end, the young man was driven away, while the dog remained here,” she said.

 

Smartphone video of the incident, shot by Snezhana Mayskaya, as posted on @patriarshi

The Twitter account @patriashi claims the detained man’s wife retrieved the dog.

OVD Info reports that the detained man was delivered to the Presna District police precinct. “The police still refuse to specify what they are charging the detainee with,” it writes. According to OVD Info, the police said that Patriarch Ponds were closed when they detained the man.

The detained man, Jesus Vorobyov, told TV Rain that he was walking the dog within one hundred meters of his home when they were stopped by police. “They didn’t let me take the dog home or contact my wife, and they put me in their van. The dog was running around and barking,” he said. Vorobyov added that, during the arrest, police “twisted” his arm, while he was threatened at the precinct with fifteen days in jail.

A stay at home order has been in effect in Moscow since March 30 due to the coronavirus. People may now leave their homes only to walk their dogs, shop for groceries, seek medical attention, and go to work.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Petersburg Activist Faces Criminal Investigation for Posting “Fake News” About Coronavirus

Criminal Investigation Launched Against Activist in Petersburg for Post About Coronavirus
Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda)
April 3, 2020

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Activist Anna Shushpanova has been placed under criminal investigation for disseminating fake information about the coronavirus. Officers of the Investigative Committee are searching her home, according to activist Krasimir Vransky. His report to Sever.Realii has been corroborated by Shushpanova’s sister Alyona.

Investigative Committee officers arrived at the Shushpanova home around 5 p.m. According to Alyona, her sister was shown the order to open the investigation. The officer are currently searching the home and have confiscated Anna Shushpanova’s telephone and computer. There are five Investigative Committee officers in the apartment. According to Alyona, the criminal investigation was launched due to a post Anna had published on the VK group page Sestroretsk Activist Group [Sestroretskii akvtiv].

According to Vransky, on April 2, Shushpanova posted information that a local outpatient medical clinic had, allegedly, sent home a patient diagnosed with the coronavirus who was exhibiting mild symptoms. The doctor who allegedly let the person with the coronavirus go home could have been asked to resign voluntarily. The incident was reported to Shushpanova by a local resident who witnessed the alleged situation.

“[Shushpanova] is a voting member of the local election commission, so there are special procedures for her. That is probably why the Investigative Committee came to her house. Instead of doctors who may have been negligent, they harass an activist,” said Vransky.

On Tuesday (March 31, 2020), the Federation Council approved the law on criminal liability  for spreading “fake news” about the coronavirus.

For spreading knowingly false information about the infection, the law stipulates a fine of 300,000 to 700,000 rubles [approx. 3,600 to 8,500 euros], one year of community service or three years’ imprisonment. If spreading the fake news caused harm to a person’s health, the stipulated criminal penalties are more severe: a fine of 700,000 to 1.5 million rubles [approx. 18,000 euros], three years of forced labor or three years’ imprisonment. If a person dies, a a fine of 1.5 million to 2 million rubles [approx. 27,000 euros], five years of forced labor or five years’ imprisonment are stipulated.

Thanks to Grigory Mikhnov-Vaytenko for the heads-up. Photo of Shushpanova courtesy of Grani.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

Doctors at Petersburg Hospital Rebel over Coronavirus Unpreparedness

Doctors at Pokrovskaya Hospital in Petersburg Rebel over Lack of Protective Equipment, Oxygen and Drugs
Fontanka.ru
April 3, 2020

Doctors at Pokrovskaya Hospital have recorded a collective video message appealing for help. After their hospital was redesignated to treat patients with pneumonia, they do not have enough protective equipment and medications, and they claim not to have running oxygen in the wards. Management had threatened reprisals if they complained.

“We, employees of Pokrovskaya Hospital, appeal to the media for help. What prompted us to do this is that our hospital has been admitting all the pneumonia cases [in Petersburg], including pneumonia caused by the coronavirus. We have no protective equipment. What you see us wearing is no means of protection against viral infection,” begins the video message, which Fontanka.ru received on April 3.

“We are not refusing to work. We love our patients and want everyone to recover. But it is not possible to work in such unprotected conditions. No one is immune to infection. Nor does the status of doctor protect one: the virus is not selective. It spares no one: neither doctors, nor young people, nor the elderly,” the doctors said.

According to them, oxygen is required for the treatment of viral pneumonia, but there is no running supply of it to the wards at Pokrovskaya Hospital. Either this must be done urgently or oxygen tanks must be provided. The hospital does not have the necessary medications. The doctors say that management has already refused to help them, and has promised to “deal” with anyone who complains.

“But we are not afraid, because our lives and the lives of our loved ones are also dear to us. All of us have families, all of us return home after our shifts. And we want to go back to work healthy, and for the people near and dear to us to be healthy,” said the doctors.

The city’s public health committee has promised to comment on the situation later.

Thanks to Victoria Andreyeva for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

pokrov

Employees at Pokrovskaya Hospital recorded a video message about the lack of protective equipment. Their management says this is not true
Bumaga
April 3, 2020

Employees of the Pokrovskaya Hospital in Petersburg, which has been repurposed to treat patients with pneumonia, recorded a video message complaining about working conditions, as reported by Fontanka.ru.

In the video, employees talk about the lack of personal protective equipment, and also note that oxygen has not been supplied to the wards (to operate ventilators). Marina Bakholdina, head physician at Pokrovskaya Hospital, says that what her staff claimed was “not true.”

The city’s public health committee has commented on the appeal by the employees—they say that Pokrovskaya Hospital does not admit patients with the coronavirus. The committee explained that pneumonia is not an infectious disease, so doctors do not need anti-plague suits [sic] to work with patients.

At the same time, the committee admitted that the hospital does not have enough personal protective equipment.

Public Health Committee Press Service

In Petersburg, as in the rest of the world, there is a shortage of personal protective equipment. However, the city is increasing the volume of personal protective equipment. In the near future, the Ministry of Industry and Trade is planning to supply personal protective equipment to all regions of Russia, including Petersburg.

Earlier, the cardiology department at Pokrovskaya Hospital was closed for quarantine due to a patient with COVID-19.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Bless This Mess

metropolitanMetropolitan Varsofonius and his crew. Photo by Andrei Petrov. Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church and Fontanka.ru

“Above All, We Must Repent Our Sins”: Petersburg Metropolitan Flies over City with Icon and Prayer Against Coronavirus
Fontanka.ru
March 31, 2020

Metropolitan Varsofonius of Saint Petersburg and Ladoga, following the example of his colleague in Leningrad Region, flew over the city in a helicopter. From the air, he prayed for an end to the epidemic.

This was reported on the metropolitan’s website on March 31. Varsofonius took on board an icon [sic] of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan after holding a service in front of it at Kazan Cathedral.

“An aircraft containing the reigning archbishop and clergymen flew over the borders of the Northern Capital, crisscrossing its historical part, while a molieben and the akathist of the Intercession of the Theotokos were sung,” the metropolitan’s press service wrote of the devotional flyover.

metro-2

The metropolitan emerged from the helicopter with the thought that the ubiquitous virus was a signal that “we [were] not living right.” Varsofonius advised us to take the quarantine as a time to reflect on our lives.

“Let’s not despair. All troubles pass—this too shall pass, and life will return to normal. Most importantly, we must repent of our sins and mend our ways, and the Lord will send deliverance,” Varsofonius concluded.

Two days earlier, a prayer flight passed over Leningrad Region. Bishop Ignatius of Vyborg and Priozersk took on board an icon of the Mother of God of Konevits and the relics of Saint Arsenius of Konevits.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Parents Demand Release of Network Defendants Due to Coronavirus

networkThe Network defendants in the courtroom in Penza. Photo by Yevgeny Malyshev. Courtesy of 7X7

Parents Demand Release of Network Defendants from Remand Prison Due to Coronavirus
Ekaterina Malysheva
7X7
April 1, 2020

Parents of the young men convicted in the Penza portion of the Network Case have demanded their children be transferred to house arrest due to the coronavirus. They have written appeals to this effect to the president of the Russian Federation, the prosecutor general, the heads of the Investigate Committee and the Federal Penitentiary Service, and the commissioner for human rights, as reported to 7X7 by Svetlana Pchelintseva, the mother of Dmitry Pchelintsev, one of the convicted men.

The parents also demanded that safety measures be put in place at detention facilities. They argue that being in remand prison during the COVID-19 outbreak is life-threatening. Of all the quarantine regulations, the parents say, only the ban on visits from relatives has been enforced at the remand prison since March 16.

“Not only is there no guarantee of protection from infection at the remand prison, but it is simply impossible,” the letter says. “Our sons are denied the right to remain alive during the global coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the issue of safeguarding the health of people confined to detention facilities is not on the agenda today. And, of course, qualified specialized medical care, especially involving the hospitalization of inmates from remand prisons and penal colonies in civilian medical facilities, is not feasible. It is a myth.”

The parents claim that no preventive measures have been enacted at the Penza Remand Prison: disinfection and sanitation procedures have not been carried out, and employees don’t have masks. The greatest danger, according to the authors of the appeal, are the detention facility’s employees themselves, who are potential carriers of the virus. The parents note that reducing the number of inmates in the federal penitentiary system would help prevent disease.

The parents point out that Vladimir Putin said nothing about measures to protect inmates during his address to the Russian people about the coronavirus outbreak. According to the parents, none of the regulations on laboratory testing for COVID-19 defends the rights of people in detention facilities. The authors of the letter claim that inmates will not be tested or treat if they are infected.

Two of the young men convicted in the Network Case, the parents recall, have contracted tuberculosis in remand prison. This puts them at high risk during a pandemic and could be “tantamount to a death sentence.”

On March 30, the Penza regional office of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service reported that in addition to the ban on visits to inmates in the system, visitors and employees with high temperatures and everyone who had been abroad in the last fourteen days were categorically prohibited from entering their facilities.

The office’s press service reported that a set of sanitary and anti-epidemic (preventive) was being organized and implemented at its facilities. It noted that if prisoners were suspected of having the coronavirus disease, the management of the regional office would hospitalize them in health care facilities.

The lawyers of the men convicted in the Network Case continue to visit their clients at Penza Remand Prison No. 1. According to them, conditions at the detention facility make it impossible to ensure the health and safety of prisoners during the epidemic. The lawyers are not allowed to bring certain personal protection gear into the facility. For example, latex medical gloves are not on the list of permitted items.

The lawyers have seen a mask only on the prison employee who inspects people at the entrance to the facility—the other employees were not wearing masks. According to the lawyers, the parents got the runaround in response to their previous complaints and appeals.

The last letter they sent, on February 5, was a request to Russian Federal Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov to investigate all the circumstances in the Network Case and launch a criminal case based on allegations that their children had been tortured by officers in the FSB’s Penza regional office.

In a response dated March 10, the prosecutor general’s office advised the parents to appeal (during the appeals phase of the main verdict in the Network Case) the admissibility of the evidence gathered. All the defendants and their defense lawyers have filed appeals with the Military Appeals Court in Moscow.

The parents organized a solidarity group of relatives against political repression, the Parents Network in spring 2018. In early November 2019, the relatives of defendants in several high-profile cases followed their example by uniting in the movement Mothers Against Political Repression. The movement has its own website, as well as group pages on Telegram and Facebook.

On February 10, the defendants in the Penza portion of the Network Trial were sentenced to terms in prison from six to eighteen years.

Translated by the Russian Reader. If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case aka the Network Case, and other recent cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other arms of the Russian police state, read and share the articles I have posted on these subjects.