Russia and China: Together Forever!

china russia brothers forever“May the unbreakable friendship and cooperation of the Soviet and Chinese peoples flourish and strengthen!  // Always together!” Images courtesy of quora.com

If you are suffering from a post-National Unity Day hangover, the cure might be a little dose of Sino-Soviet friendship, as provided by Alexei Volin, Russia’s deputy communications minister.

There are lots of funny things in Russian officialdom’s latest rant against the evil west, not the least of which is the revival of the perennial cognitive disorder known as Sino-Russian friendship. I could be wrong, but Russia has as many good reasons not to cooperate with China and slavishly emulate its “success” as it does to turn around and run hard in the other direction.

This is not to mention the withering hatred of the Chinese among a good number of ordinary Russians, a hatred you can witness up close by reading the horrifying things Petersburg tour guides say, and Petersburg magazines and newspapers write about the Chinese tourists on which the city’s tourist economy has become increasingly dependent.

Finally, there is the nonsense, touted by Deputy Minister Volin, about the alleged lack of “alternative” social networks in Russia. Could it be that the good deputy doesn’t know the Russian government stole VK from its founder, Pavel Durov, just so it could have a social network its secret services surveil at will? Is it any coincidence that almost all of the utterly ordinary people the Russian security forces have lately charged with posting or, more often, reposting, “extremist” online have been caught doing it on VK? Hence, Facebook’s stable popularity and Telegram’s growing popularity among social and political activists, and people who merely want a safe space to say to other people what they think. {TRR}

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Communications Ministry Says Creation of Alternative Social Networks and Instant Messaging Services Possible
Novaya Gazeta
November 4, 2018

Due to “unfair competition” faced by Russian and Chinese media, Russia could create alternative social networks and instant messaging services, said Alexei Volin, deputy minister of the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media.

“If Twitter, YouTube or Facebook continue down the path of throwing Russian and Chinese media out of their environment, we will have no choice but to create new distribution channels, and to think about alternative social networks and instant messaging services. Although we really hope it does not come to this, we certainly should be ready for it,” said Volin.

Volin made this statement during the Fourth China-Russia Media Forum, in Shangai. According to Volin, Russia and China should develop means aimed “not at discriminating against mass media from neighboring countries, but aimed at delivering our viewpoint and our content to other regions and other people.”

Earlier, Volin said the authorities would eventually have to give up banning information, since such methods were becoming ineffective.

“Sooner or later, they will have to be abandoned, because more and more people are getting around them without even noticing they are dealing with technology allowing them to bypass [sic] blocked content,” he said.

As examples of ineffective blocking, Volin cited the instant messaging services Telegram and WhatsApp, which operate in China despite being officially banned.

Telegram was banned in Russia in April 2018 by decision of the Tagansky District Court in Moscow. The ruling was based on Telegram’s refusal to hand over the [nonexistent] keys for decrypting correspondence among its users to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Despite the ban, most Russian users have continued to have access to Telegram.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Church and State

vladimir sunset

Nearly Fifty Russian Orthodox Church Affiliates Awarded Presidential Grants
Vedomosti
Yelena Mukhametshina
October 31, 2018

At least 47 organizations affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) have been awarded presidential grants totalling 55.3 million rubles [approx. 734,000 euros] in the latest NGO grants competition, according to the Presidential Grants for Civil Society Development Foundation website. They include lay religious organizations, monasteries, parishes, and dioceses.

Thus, the parish of the Church of the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors in Smolensk has been awarded 2.2 million rubles for a project entitled “The Pearl Necklace of Holy Russia,” meant to encourage youth tourism and cooperation with the Belarusian Orthodox Church. The ROC’s Yakutia Diocese has been awarded 2.5 million rubles for a project entitled “Yakutia’s Churches Are Russia’s Historic Legacy.” The grant winners plan to produce three documentary films, ten videos in a series entitled “Reading the Gospel Together,” and one video about Easter. The largest grant awarded to these NGOS was 10 million rubles. Mercy, an ROC organization that helps homeless people, won this grant.

According to Ilya Chukalin, executive director of the Presidential Grants for Civil Society Development Foundation, it is easy to explain why organizations associated with the ROC have won grants. The Orthodox Initiative Grant Competition has been held in Russia since 2005, so these NGOs have know-how in writing grants and also submit numerous grant applications. As Chukalin explains, the more applications submitted, the better the chances of winning.

“Besides, the grant applications are mainly submitted by church parishes, often in villages. Grants have to be submitted by legal entities, and there are only two types of legal entities in small villages: local governments and church parishes. Usually, they apply for small grants—for example, to build a park or sports facilities in the village,” Chukalin said.

Chukalin, however, underscored the fact that Muslim and Jewish projects have also been awarded grants.

Grants totalling 41 million rubles [appox. 554,000 euros] were awarded to eleven branches of the Combat Brotherhood, headed by Boris Gromov, former governor of Moscow Region, and Russian MP Dmitry Sablin. The Combat Brotherhood’s head office won the largest grant, worth approximately 20 million rubles, for a project entitled “Memory Is Stronger than Time,” dedicated to the thirtieth anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. The Russian Union of Youth (RSM) has been awarded 63.5 million rubles [approx. 843,000 euros] to involve young people in developing small towns and settlements.

The largest grant in the competition overall was awarded to the Concerts, Festivals, and Master Classes Agency, which will spend nearly 112 million rubles on a project entitled “Yuri Bashmet to Russia’s Young Talents.”

A total of 19,000 applications was submitted to two competitions in 2018. 3,573 projects were awarded grants. The total amount awarded was 7.8 billion rubles [approx. 103.6 million euros].

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The largest presidential grants awarded to NGOs. 1) Concerts, Festivals, and Master Classes Agency, “Yuri Bashmet to Russia’s Young Talents,” 111.97 million rubles; 2) Association of Art and Culture Schools, “Second Tertiary Degrees for Creative Professionals,” 80.64 million rubles; 3) New Names Foundation, “Russia’s New Names,” 68.96 million rubles; 4) Russian Union of Youth, “The Space of Development,” 63.51 million rubles; 5) Golden Mask Festival, National Theatrical Prize, 50 million rubles; 6) Northern Capital Foundation, “A Road through War,” 40.97 million rubles; 7) Elena Obraztsova Foundation, International Competition for Young Opera Singers, 40.72 million rubles; 8) Butterfly Children Foundation, Compiling a Registry of Epidermolysis Bullosa Patients, 35 million rubles; 9) Tyumen Development Foundation, Local Community Development Centers, 27.04 million rubles; Peace Avenue Foundation, “The Country’s Main Law,” 24.92 million rubles; Urals Musicians Association, Urals Music Night International Festival, 23.86 milliion rubles. Source: Presidential Grants for Civil Society Development Foundation, October 2018

Alexei Makarkin argues that this way of awarding grants has its own rational. The ROC has long been an ally of the government, which can help it implement small projects, for example, to encourage an energetic priest.

The Combat Brotherhood has also been working with the government a long time, and this year marks the anniversary of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

The large grant awarded to the RSM, however, may have been triggered by the protest votes cast in many small towns during the recent local and regional elections, argues Makarkin.

“The hinterland is also vital, because in many small towns there is the sense of having reached the edge. There are no more budget cuts that can be made, and reforms will hit them hard. Therefore, the idea is to support local activists, whose projects do not require a lot of money,” Makarkin said.

Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

Mikola Dziadok: When You Are Scared, It Is Better to Remain Silent

vera zasulich street, 46-permVera Zasulich Street, 46, in Perm, hardly seems a fitting monument to the fearless Russian revolutionary, but the street is, apparently, the only Vera Zasulich Street in Russia. Photo courtesy of perm.vsedomarossii.ru

Mikola Dziadok
Facebook
November 3, 2018

When You Are Scared, It Is Better to Remain Silent

Ever since the events in Arkhangelsk, I have been waiting for the decent Russian media to publish a sensible portrait-cum-analysis of the new would-be member of the People’s Will, Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who blew himself up at the local FSB office. My wait is over. Novaya Gazeta has published an article about him. It is a vile, shameful article, which I might have expected from anyone else, but not from Novaya Gazeta. Every quotation you can pull from the article, not to mention the conclusion, is a specimen of feeblemindeness compounded by fear.

“Unfortunately, now many people could come to regard [Zhlobitsky] as an icon, a martyr, a hero.”

That “unfortunately” tipped me off to the fact that nothing good lay ahead.

“Perovskaya and Zasulich: their forgotten names still grace street signs marking alleys.* Strictly speaking, nearly every municipality [in Russia] is thus guilty of excusing terrorism. Their ‘heroic deeds’ have never been duly judged. So, they have returned: a second-year student at a vocational college assembles a bomb at home in the evenings from available materials.”

Thanks to Sophia Perovskaya, Vera Zasulich, and people like them, people whom Novaya Gazeta‘s reporter [Tatyana Britskaya] considers reprehensible, Russia overthrew the tsarist autocracy, a realm in which the reporter’s great-grandfathers were whipped for not doffing their hats in the presence of their masters and were dispatched as cannon fodder to distant lands for the Empire’s glory. That was only a small fraction of the woes visited upon the heads of the common folk. The reporter, however, is still sad that streets are named after these heroines and heroes, and she brackets their heroic deeds in quotation marks.

“However, the three Arkhangelsk Chekists [sic] wounded by shrapnel were unlikely to be directly involved in the torture about which Mikhail Zh. wrote [in his farewell message on Telegram].”

This is really a masterpiece. According to the reporter, only a tiny group of FSB officers, a group that exists only in her head, has been involved in torture. All other FSB officers wear white gloves, compose poems, dance at balls, and have preventive discussions with schoolchildren, urging them not to become “extremists.” They also catch drug barons and ISIS fighters, interrogating them solely by looking at them sternly. Apparently, the reporter has forgotten about “repeat interrogations using an electrical memory aid” and the complaints by cops (!) accused of corruption that they were tortured by FSB officers.  The reporter must think that Zhlobitsky should have first approached [the three FSB officers he wounded] and asked them, “Do you torture people by any chance? No? Well, okay, then, I’ll go blow up somebody else.”

“Apparently, we never were able to assess or correct mistakes, and now history is taking us back for another go-round. This is facilitated quite readily by the fact that adults notice unhappy, confused children only when the latter perish while activating homemade infernal machines.”

What mistakes is she talking about? She is not condemning the butchers of the NKVD or the enslavement of entire nations, first by Imperial Russia, then by the Soviet empire. No, the “mistakes” were the members of the nobility who were among the organizers of the People’s Will and the members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, people who died martyrs’ deaths to liberate their own people from bondage.

Because reading it only provokes disgust, there is not pointing in parsing this libel any further. I would only note that the reporter is Novaya Gazeta‘s [Arctic Circle] correspondent, meaning she is a local reporter. This, apparently, is the reason for her condescending, judgmental tone and her attempt to turn a hero into a “confused child.” If you write too bluntly, you have unexploded FSB officers to deal with, as well as their colleagues and relatives. But she has keep working and get comments from the security service when she needs them. So, she will continuing putting a good face on a bad game, denouncing “violence of any kind.” My ass.

It is true what they say: scratch a Russian liberal and, deep down, you will find a statist and conservative. You want to live in a just society, but you think it can be achieved by pickets and petitions. You want the regime to respect you, but you condemn people who force it to respect them. You want freedom, but you are afraid to take it. You condemn the bravest people, thus projecting an image of victims, not fighters. In today’s stinking Russia, ninety-nine percent of you will end up hightailing it abroad. But not everyone has the opportunity, you know?

So, if you are scared, it is better to remain silent than to yap encouragingly at the butchers, who, for a change, suffered for their crimes.

I would like to emphasize I do not consider individual insurgency an acceptable or proper means of political militancy, nor would I advise anyone to engage in it. I believe everyone has the right to live, even a fucking FSB officer. But not everyone can adhere to the same beliefs I do while living amidst a terrorist dictatorship. I understand such people perfectly well, too.

* Translator’s Note. While there are a couple of dozen Sophia Perovskaya Streets extant in post-Soviet Russia, there seems to be only one Vera Zasulich Street—in Perm.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Special thanks to Mikola Dziadok for his kind permission to translate and publish his comments on this website.

Mac’n’Cheese

macncheeseSign on the front of Daily Delicatessen, a restaurant on Liteiny Prospect, in downtown Petersburg, that purports to serve “autherican american [sic] cuisine.” Photo by the Russian Reader

A Democratic majority will not bring back the eleven Jewish people in Pittsburgh, massacred while they prayed. Or the two Black people gunned down days before at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. It won’t fully stop the relentless attacks against immigrants in America.

But on Sunday evening, Pittsburgh mourners—angry and broken-hearted like us—chanted “Vote! Vote! Vote!” They understand the magnitude of the midterm election six days from today: that it affords us the chance to forge a powerful bulwark against Donald Trump’s hate and hold accountable the Republicans who have been complicit in every step of his toxic, self-serving, and destructive agenda. We must offer a path out of the darkness.
—Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, excerpted from a Moveon.org campaign email

The path that the avowed democratic socialist Ocasio-Cortez offers out of the darkness is a “Democratic majority.” The sad thing is that, given the sluggish staying of the stagnant course and unchange the DNC and, thus, the Democratic Party have represented my entire life (I was born in 1967, one year before the disastrous 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago), I think we would be fools to trust them to hold anyone accountable for anything, much less Don Trump and the Falangists.

They certainly don’t ever hold themselves accountable for anything.

In any case, it’s been clear for two decades, at least, that most Americans don’t want either the now full-blown fascism of the former Republican Party or the so-called centrism of the Democratic Party, whatever face you put on it, even the handsome face of the otherwise utterly likable Barack Obama, a former community organizer who should have know better than to do half the things he did while in the White House, and who should have done many things he didn’t even contemplate doing.

What we need is actual democratic socialism, as fought for by an actual socialist party.

We also need an actual labor party, whose agenda is driven by progressive trade unions and their members.

And a party for small-c conservatives, not fascists.

And a green party that is not run by people who think it’s okay to fly to Moscow and have dinner with Putin.

And a libertarian party whose leaders and rank-and-file are true to actual libertarian principles, instead of being eager to make alliances with the falangists.

And a centrist party for people whose cup of tea is Obama and Hillary Clinton, warts and all.

We could also use a few regional parties, for folks who think the South, the Midwest, etc., are essences in themselves and need special representation in Congress.

And an agricultural party, to protect our farmers all over our great land.

In short, we need a parliamentary democracy. To that end, we need a presidency whose powers are much reduced, and a president who is elected by a straightline popular vote, not by an electoral college.

This would be an actual path out of the darkness, because a multi-party democracy and a weakened presidency would make it nearly impossible for what we have been witnessing lately—a lying, vicious clown, who is probably a Kremlin stooge, smashing our country to bits on behalf of his sponsors and a increasingly rabid white nationalist minority—to happen again.

So, go and vote a straight Democratic ticket on Tuesday. It won’t save us from the darkness, because with our absurdly outmoded political system, rigged to protect the tiny ruling class and its interests, our faith in leaderism and lesser evilism, our nearly perennial committment to racism, savagery, and barbarism at home and abroad, and our preference for policing over politics, we are the darkness.

P.S. We also need to ditch the Supreme Court in its present untenable form: political appointees disguised as nine wise mandarins of justice, seated for life, making a mockery of the law. In a real democracy, we would elect Supreme Court justices to one-time eight-year terms by popular vote, and the vetting they would get before being put on the ballot—conducted by a panel of lawyers, journalists, and ordinary citizens, and broadcast live on TV and the internet—would ensure we actually knew what they stood for before we voted them up or down, end of story. {TRR}

Convoyed

convoyedHow is the all-too-common Russian verb etapirovat’ translated into English? Screenshot of the relevant page from the website dic.academic.ru

Yekaterina Kosarevskaya
Facebook
October 30, 2018

Viktor Filinkov has arrived in Petersburg. He’s now in Remand Prison No. 4 on Lebedev Street, but apparently he will be transferred from there to Remand Prison No. 3 on Shpalernaya Street. Yana Teplitskaya and I chatted with him for two hours until lights out.

And yesterday Roma and I chatted with Yuli Boyarshinov.

Viktor’s in a very sad state healthwise.

He took ill at every stop along the way during his convoy without having recovered from the previous stop. In Yaroslavl on Friday, before the last leg of his journey, Viktor was suddenly unable to walk. He doesn’t understand what it could have been, and he has never had anything like it before. His cellmates summoned the doctor. Viktor was taken to the dispensary. He was brought to his senses with smelling salts, given a injection of something, and left there until it was time to go.

It took three days for Viktor to get to Petersburg. They were on the road from Saturday to Tuesday, traveling only at night. During the day, the train car in which he was convoyed stood unheated and idle on the tracks.

He says he was really glad to go to Penza and hang out with [all the other prisoners in the Network case], although he did not enjoy the trip itself. The Penza Remand Prison was at such pains to show that none of the suspects in the Network case was being tortured anymore that every evening all ten suspects were inspected. They were forced to strip and undergo a full look-over, after which they were told to sign their names in a notebook. Viktor got tired of signing his name, so he took to drawing smileys, but no one followed his lead.

I wonder what it will mean when the wardens stop keeping this notebook.

Viktor told us about other remand prisons as well. He told us about Larissa the rat. He thought one inmate had made friends with her, but then he woke up and, finding the rat at the foot of his bed, he moved to a top bunk.

It transpired that the censor at the Nizhny Novgorod Remand Prison expunged not only the phrase “Public Monitoring Commission” from Yana’s letters but everything else he found unfamiliar, including “vegan,” “Homo sapiens,” and “transhumanism.”

Viktor also told us Yegor Skovoroda had written to him in a postcard that he was a nudnik. Viktor wrote a three-page letter proving it wasn’t the case, but then he thought better of it and didn’t mail the latter.

Yana and I tried to recall the latest news. We told Viktor about Saturday’s protest rallies, about our latest report, about who had successfully defended their dissertation (it wasn’t me), and who still hadn’t defended their dissertation and could thus invite Viktor to their defense (that would be me).

Yuli is in Remand Prison No. 3 on Shpalernaya Street and is fine. The only thing is that the prison’s censor has again gone on holiday, so Yuli doesn’t get any letters. So far he hasn’t received a single letter on Shpalernaya.

The censor at Remand Prison No. 4 has also gone on holiday.

UPDATE. I forgot to write that when we were traveling to Remand Prison No. 3 yesterday, Yana and I agreed that if I found out Viktor was there, I would exit the prison and telephone her so that she could travel there, too. I was worried I would waste a lot of time getting my telephone out of the box at the entrance to the prison, turning it on, and entering all the passwords. It transpired that Viktor was not there, but someone had made sure I didn’t waste any time. My telephone was turned on, and the password entry window was on the screen.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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What can you do to support the Penza and Petersburg antifascists and anarchists tortured and imprisoned by the FSB?

  • Donate money to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal (abc-msk@riseup.net). Make sure to specify your donation is earmarked for “Rupression.”
  • Spread the word about the Network Case aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case. You can find more information about the case and in-depth articles translated into English on this website (see below), rupression.com, and openDemocracyRussia.
  • Organize solidarity events where you live to raise money and publicize the plight of the tortured Penza and Petersburg antifascists. Go to the website It’s Going Down to find printable posters and flyers you can download. You can also read more about the case there.
  • If you have the time and means to design, produce, and sell solidarity merchandise, please write to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters and postcards to the prisoners. Letters and postcards must be written in Russian or translated into Russian. You can find the addresses of the prisoners here.
  • Design a solidarity postcard that can be printed and used by others to send messages of support to the prisoners. Send your ideas to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters of support to the prisoners’ loved ones via rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Translate the articles and information at rupression.com and this website into languages other than Russian and English, and publish your translations on social media and your own websites and blogs.
  • If you know someone famous, ask them to record a solidarity video, write an op-ed piece for a mainstream newspaper or write letters to the prisoners.
  • If you know someone who is a print, internet, TV or radio journalist, encourage them to write an article or broadcast a report about the case. Write to rupression@protonmail.com or the email listed on this website, and we will be happy to arrange interviews and provide additional information.
  • It is extremely important this case break into the mainstream media both in Russia and abroad. Despite their apparent brashness, the FSB and their ilk do not like publicity. The more publicity the case receives, the safer our comrades will be in remand prison from violence at the hands of prison stooges and torture at the hands of the FSB, and the more likely the Russian authorities will be to drop the case altogether or release the defendants for time served if the case ever does go to trial.
  • Why? Because the case is a complete frame-up, based on testimony obtained under torture and mental duress. When the complaints filed by the accused reach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and are examined by actual judges, the Russian government will again be forced to pay heavy fines for its cruel mockery of justice.

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If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” 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 disseminate recent articles the Russian Reader has posted on these subjects.

Yevgenia Litvinova: October 28, 2018

october 28Petersburg democracy activist Pavel Chuprunov, holding a placard that reads, “‘Yes, we tasered them, but it wasn’t torture. We were doing our jobs!’ Admission by the Soviet NKVD Russian FSB, 1938 2018.” Nevsky Prospect, Petersburg, 28 October 2018. Photo by Yevgenia Litvinova

Yevgenia Litvinova
Facebook
October 29, 2018

October 28 was the day chosen for publicly supporting people accused of extremism and locked up in jail, i.e., the suspects in the Network and the New Greatness cases. Petersburgers had no choice but to be involved in this international event, since some of the suspects in the Network case are from Petersburg.

The day before, I had listened to Yekaterina Kosarevskaya and Yana Teplitskaya’s brilliant but very heavy report about the use of torture in the FSB’s St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Directorate. In particular, the report recounts how the young men accused in the Network case were tortured. All we can do is constantly talk about these people publicly, about what happened to them over the last year (they were arrested nearly a year ago), and what is happening to them now.

The rally in support of the young folks locked up in remand prisons on trumped-up charges was not approved by the authorities, although the organizers—Open Russia, Vesna, and Bessrochka (Endless Protest)—suggested a variety of venues in the downtown area. Everywhere was off limits.

You can protest in Udelny Park, in the far north of Petersburg, that is, in the woods. It’s a great place to have a stroll and get some fresh air, but who would be there to see your protest? The squirrels? This proposal is better than the garbage dump in Novosyolki, which the authorities always used to suggest as an alternative venue, but it’s not a suitable place for a political rally.

All that remained was the only form of political protest that doesn’t require prior approval from the authorities: solo pickets.

The protesters had different placards, but all of them were quite persuasive. They got to the heart of these frame-ups, which crush and maim people in order to earn promotions for the policemen and security services officers who dream them up.

Solo pickets had always been safe in Petersburg, unlike in Moscow, Krasnodar, and so on. That was why many people found them monotonous and boring.

“Oh, solo pickets again,” people would complain.

The plan was to take it in turns to stand holding placards on the corner of Nevsky and Malaya Sadovaya. But the folks from NOD (National Liberation Movement) read announcements for the upcoming protests and got there early. We had to move away from Malaya Sadovaya and closer to the pedestrian underpass to the subway. It’s an uncomfortable, narrow spot.

NOD has been a little sluggish lately. What happened to their weekly vigils? When there’s no money, there’s no NOD. But suddenly they had reappeared, which meant they had been asked to take to the streets by people whose offer you can’t refuse.

Recently, solo pickets have ceased to be “boring,” but there’s no reason for rejoicing. Solo pickets started becoming a staple of news reports around a month ago, when Alexander Beglov was appointed Petersburg’s acting governor. Since then, police have made a habit of detaining people at solo pickets. They make up excuses for their actions on the fly.

I knew this, of course, but I naively counted on logic and common sense winning the day. I compiled and printed out a number of laws proving that I and other “favorites” of Lieutenant Ruslan Sentemov, a senior police inspector in the public order enforcement department of Petersburg’s Central District, had to the right to speak out via solo pickets. I was planning to hand these papers to Sentemov on camera. But I didn’t see him at the rally. I thought he hadn’t come at all. Nor did he see me.

I got lucky. Because what logic had I imagined? What common sense? What laws? What right to hold solo pickets?

Sentemov did see another of his “favorites,” Dmitry Gusev. He pointed at him and said, “Detain him.”

Dmitry was not holding anything at all, much less a placard. He had no plans to be involved in the picketing. But that was that, and now he is detained at a police precinct, like dozens of other people. I counted over thirty detainees. But Alexander Shislov, Petersburg’s human rights ombudsman, writes that around fifty people were detained. Around one hundred people were at the protest.

Several detainees were released without charges, while others were charged with violating Article 20.2 Part 5 of the Administrative Offenses Code, but most of the detainees will spend the night in police stations. They have been charged with violating Article 20.2 Part 2, which is punishable by jail time.*

The detainees were dispersed to different police stations, some of them quite far away. They needed food, water, and toiletries. Police stations usually don’t have any of these things, although they are obliged to provide them if they detain someone for more than three hours.

Over ten people who were present with me at the protest traveled the police stations to check on the detainees. The rest came from the Observers HQ at Open Space. We constantly called and wrote each other, makingsure no one had been left without assistance. I hope that was how it worked out. The detainees should have everything they need for this evening, overnight, and tomorrow morning.

Natalia Voznesenskaya and I had planned to go to the 28th Police Precinct, but all the detainees there had been released.

We went instead to the 7th Precinct. The internet told us it was near the Kirovsky Zavod subway station. We wandered for a long time amidst the nice little houses built after the war, supposedly by German POWs. We arrived at the police station only to find that its number had recently changed. It was no longer the 7th Precinct, but the 31st Precinct.

We went to the real 7th Precinct, on Balkanskaya Street. Elena Grigoryeva, Dmitry Dorokhin, and two other men were detained there. (One of the men had been taken away by ambulance.) Unexpectedly, the 7th Precinct was a decent place. It was no comparison with the 76th and 78th Precincts, in the Central District. The police officers on duty there accepted our food packages and spoke politely with us.

We ran into Alexander Khmelyov at the station. Wielding a power of attorney as a social defender, he had come to see what kind of mattresses and linens had been issued to the detainees. There were no bedbugs. What was more, the police officers brought the detainees supper from a nearby cafe. They were obliged to do it, but their colleagues at other precincts never do it, and detainees usually don’t even get breakfast.

So, now the stomachs of the detainees were full, and they could take the food we had brought with them to court. Court hearings can last eight hours or more, although it happens that fifteen minutes is all the time a judge needs. There is usually no difference. The court’s rulings have been written in advance.

Before leaving the house to go the protest in support of the suspects in the New Greatness and Network cases, I listened to a program on Echo of Moscow about the case of Elena Kerenskaya, sister of Alexander Kerensky, chair of the Provisional Government in 1917. Kerenskaya was executed by the NKVD in Orenburg on February 2, 1938.

I don’t want to blow things out of proportion, but it has become easier and easier to under how the trials of the 1930s happened the way they did.

* Article 20.2 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code covers “violation[s] of the established procedure for organizing and holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets.” Part 2 stipulates punishments for people who organize or hold rallies without notifying the authorities in advance. They can be jailed for up to ten days or fined up to 30,000 rubles (400 euros).

Translated by the Russian Reader

How the FSB Tortures Detainees: Stories of the Victims

How the FSB Tortures: The St. Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission’s Report and the Stories of the Victims
Team 29
October 25, 2018

Torture victims and activists say violence has become a common practice in the security services. Anyone whosoever can become their victim: Muslims and atheists, anarchists and entrepreneurs, industrial climbers and police officers. The victims are afraid to talk about what happened to them, while family members, physicians, and eyewitnesses are threatened into staying silent. Members of the St. Petersburg Public Commission for Monitoring Conditions in Places of Detention (hereafter, PMC) have written a report on how the FSB tortures detainees and witnesses in FSB offices, remand prisons, vehicles, forests, and garages. We have excerpted the highlights of their report in what follows, as well as publishing a video (above) in which the victims and their relatives tell their own stories.

“Writhing from the Electrical Current, He Lifted the FSB Officer and Himself into the Air”
In December 2017, the FSB’s Saint Petersburg office announced it had prevented a terrorist attack on Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral, in downtown Petersburg. Seven people were detained on suspicion of involvement in planning the attack. Five of them were remanded in custody. What happened to the other two suspects is still not known.

One of the detainees, Aliskhan Esmurziyev, says his torture began in a minivan, in which FSB officers, their faces covered, kicked and tasered him. He was then taken to an FSB office, where he could hear the other detainees screaming. After he was interrogated by an investigator, he was taken to a separate room, where, according to Esmurziyev, he was handcuffed, a sack was pulled over his head, and crocodile clips were attached to his feet. Esmurziyev was electrocuted while an FSB officer sat astride him. His body writhing from the electrical current, Esmurziyev lifted the FSB officer and himself into the air.

Another detainee, Shamil Omargadzhiyev, was beaten in front of his pregnant wife. According to the PMC’s information, FSB officers broke into his home, which they searched while beating and kicking him, knocking out one of his teeth and demanding he confess to planning the terrorist attack. When he was delivered to court, he fainted several times. In the compartment of the paddy wagon in which he had been transported, it had been difficult for him to breath. Six feet five inches tall, Omargadzhiyev had had his hands tied back in a way that made it impossible for him to sit down and thus breathe.

Both detainees are accused of illegal possession of weapons (punishable under Article 222 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). Esmurziyev filed a complaint with the Russian Investigative Committee about the crimes committed against him, but later rescinded the complaint for “procedural” reasons. Omargadzhiyev’s defense counsel also filed a complaint with the Investigative Committee, but it refused to open a criminal investigation while also not allowing him to see the written judgment that explained the reasons for the refusal.

“If I Didn’t Know the Answer, I Was Electrocuted”
Eleven young men in St. Petersburg and Penza were accused of involvement in a “terrorist community” and arrested. Most of them are antifascists and anarchists. The FSB claims they were members of an underground organization known as the Network, which planned “to incite the popular masses in order to subsequently destabilize the political circumstances” in Russia during the March 2018 presidential election and this summer’s 2018 FIFA Football World Cup, held in Russia. The case is currently under investigation. Most of the suspects have been in remand prisons since October 2017 and January 2018, respectively, and several of them have reported being tortured.

Novosibirsk native Arman Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg in November 2017. He would later recount that he had been put in a minivan and had a sack pulled over his head. Two wires were attached to his hands, and he was electrocuted while being beaten over the head with something resembling a day planner.

“The torture lasted approximately four hours, but I cannot say for certain, because I had no way of telling the time and I was in a lot of pain,” Sagynbayev recounts.

Petersburg resident Yuli Boyarshinov was jailed in an overcrowded cell at Remand Prison No. 6 in Gorelovo, located just beyond the Petersburg city lines in neighboring Leningrad Region. In the cell, which had 110 cots for 150 prisoners, the “senior” inmates, who cooperated with the wardens, routinely beat up the other prisoners. Boyarshinov was also beaten. He was called to the kitchen, which is not outfitted with CCTV cameras, and quizzed about the circumstances of his arrest. He was beaten in such a way that no traces of the assault were left on his body. He was also threatened with rape.

FSB officers detained Viktor Filinkov at Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport in January 2018. He was taken to an unknown location, where the FSB officers commenced interrogating, beating, and electrocuting him right in the vehicle.

Subsequently, members of the Petersburg PMC noted numerous wounds on his thigh in the shape of paired, evenly spaced dots, such as a taser would have left behind.

“If I didn’t know the answer,” says Filinkov, “I was electrocuted. If my answer was not what they expected, I was electrocuted. If I thought for too long or took to long to give an answer, I was electrocuted. If I forgot what I had been told, I was electrocuted.”

Filinkov’s defense counsel filed an official request for a criminal investigation, but his request was rejected. In September 2018, he filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Members of the Petersburg PMC visited Igor Shishkin, another suspect in the Network case, on January 27, 2018. Since he was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and trousers, they noted only the injuries they could see, including

  • a large bruise around his left eye all the way to the bone;
  • blood in the corner of his left eye;
  • an abrasion in the middle of his left cheek;
  • marks from handcuffs on both hands;
  • a split lower lip;
  • a bruise around his right eye;
  • scratches on his left cheek;
  • a burn on the back of his left hand.

Later, similar burns were noted on Shiskin’s back and the back of his thigh.

Ilya Kapustin was not a suspect in the Network case. Nevertheless, he was interrogated as a witness and tasered for four hours in a car before being taken to FSB headquarters, where the interrogation was resumed.

The Malvina Taser
Major Ilya Shchukin, head of the property crimes desk at the Tosno District Police Precinct, and Field Investigator Sergei Laslov are suspected of official misconduct and falsifying evidence. They allegedly replaced Suprastin with amphetamines in a pack of cigarettes confiscated from a detainee. Prior to this, they had allegedly been involved in planting drugs on people to bolster clearance rates.

On April 12, 2017, FSB officers detained Shchukin and two of his colleagues in the town of Kirishi. Shchukin was dragged from his car and immobilized. The hood of his jacket was pulled over his head, and he was taken to a van. In the van, he was asked what he was doing there. When he replied, officers of the FSB’s special weapons and tactics division Grad (“Hail”) told him he was lying and tasered his fingers several times. He was asked more questions and electrocuted several times. Shchukin was tortured for approximately an hour and a half. He was electrocuted in the groin and anus. The Grad officers told Shchukin he would have no more children.

“The door of the van would open from time to time. I would hear a man saying I was talking shit and the Grad officers should keep working me over,” Shchukin recounts.

Shchukin was then taken to another van and forced to kneel with his hands cuffed behind his back for approximately an hour. Only then was Shchukin driven to an FSB office. He refused to plead guilty. During interrogations, Shchukin told his interrogators on several occasions that he had been tortured. His burns were examined by a specialist, but the specialist was, supposedly, unable to establish whether the wounds were typical of a taser, since he did not the taser’s model. Shchukin knew it was a Malvina brand taser, but his appeal for a second forensic examination was rejected.

Sergei Laslov was detained on July 6, 2017, in his police precinct. He was driven in a bus to nearby garages. It was there, Laslov recounts, that an FSB officer demanded he confess to the crime, and a Grad officer tasered him. Laslov refused to confess his guilt, and so he was driven to a forest on the outskirts of Tosno. There, says Laslov, a senior FSB officer ordered he be bent forward head towards the floor, and a Grad officer beat him, delivering taser blows to his crotch and groin.

A short propaganda film about the Petersburg FSB Grad unit, broadcast on Russian television and posted on YouTube in 2014. This video is not part of the Petersburg PMC and Team 29’s report, but it nicely characterizes the extreme militarization of policing under the Putin regime.

Laslov was tortured for over two hours. The first taser went dead, so the Grad officer was given another, larger taser. Ultimately, Laslov agreed to tell how, allegedly, he had committed the crime so they would stop torturing him. He was driven to an FSB office, where he signed a typewritten statement.

Laslov told his defense counsel about the torture. A medical forensics expert noted the injuries from the tasers on Laslov’s body. Laslov filed a criminal complaint. In October 2017, an investigator with the Military Investigative Committee issued a decision refusing to initiate criminal proceedings. A military prosecutor overruled the refusal, but the investigator reissued it.

“I Felt Unbearable Pain”
Igor Salikov is accused of sexual assault. He believes his ex-wife paid the security services to charge him with the crime.

Salikov says that on the early morning of May 7, 2018, police investigators, an FSB officer, and a masked man came to the home he shares with his common-law wife Olga Smirnova in the village of Ogonki, Leningrad Region, for the latest in a series of searches. Later, Salnikov would identify the masked man as the officer with the FSB’s economic security service in Petersburg’s Petrograd District who searched his house in October in connection with a weapons possession investigation.

It was the masked man, Salikov says, who handcuffed him and repeatedly struck Olga Smirnova with a truncheon. She was then driven away by plainclothes FSB officers, while Salikov was interrogated. When the FSB officer did not like his answers, he hit Salikov with a truncheon and tasered him. Salikov’s female housekeeper called the police, but when they arrived, the FSB officer and one of the investigators went outside to talk with them, and they soon left.

After Salikov again refused to incriminate himself, he was pushed in the back and fell face first on the floor. Salikov recalls that the FSB officers took one of the rifles Salikov kept in the house and used it to strike Salikov in the anus.

“The blow was so strong the rifle barrel penetrated me, ripping through my trousers, and nearly nailing me to the floor. I felt unbearable pain.”

An ambulance was summoned. Salikov was first taken to the district hospital, and then to Petersburg, where he was able to get the medical attention he needed. He was diagnosed as having suffered a ruptured bladder, ruptured anus, ruptured colon, and other injuries.

Salikov’s request to have a criminal torture investigation opened was turned down, since it was, allegedly, impossible to establish the involvement of specific officers in the Petrograd District office of the FSB’s St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Directorate.

The members of the St. Petersburg PMC argue torture has become an integral part of the investigations and inquiries carried out by officers of the FSB’s St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Directorate. As the PMC members point out, however, local FSB officers enjoy absolute impunity, since neither the Military Investigative Committee nor the military courts do their jobs. The PMC members suggest disbanding the FSB’s St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Directorate and prosecuting all FSB officers involved in torture without transferring the directorate’s functions to another organization.

Authors: Yana Teplitskaya and Yekaterina Kosarevskaya, Members of the St. Petersburg Public Commission for Monitoring Conditions in Places of Detention 
Legal Consultant: Daryana Gryaznova
Video: Anastasia Andreyeva
Editors: Nikolai Ovchinnikov and Tatyana Torocheshnikova

Translated by the Russian Reader