This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the early morning of November 30, the security forces came to the home of Tomsk musician and teacher Anna Chagina: this was how she found out that she been charged with the criminal offense of “discrediting the army.” Chagina had been detained at an anti-war rally on March 6. In September, the Prosecutor General’s Office blocked Chagina’s page on VK over anti-war posts, which have now served as the grounds for the criminal charges against her under Article 280.3.1 of the Criminal Code. The maximum penalty is up to three years in prison.
On December 1, the court imposed pretrial restrictions on Chagina: she was banned from using the internet and mail, leaving home after ten o’clock in the evening, and attending mass events. On the evening of December 1, after the court hearing, Chagina talked to Sibir.Realii’s correspondent about her criminal case and her scenarios for how and when the war would end.
“Gentlemen, this is my house and my rules”
On the eve of the visit from the security forces, Chagina celebrated her birthday, and her guests had left late. She hadn’t sleep half the night because her nineteen-year-old daughter had a fever, and at six a.m. the doorbell rang. Anna opened it and saw an entire brigade: “There were two witnesses, two field officers from the FSB, an investigator, a special forces soldier, and a lawyer.” Only after returning from the temporary detention center, where she had spent the night, did she discover that the peephole in her door had been prudently sealed with a sticker on the stairwell side. At the time, Chagina had been too busy to notice it: she says that fear had made it hard for her to breathe and she was constantly thirsty. The second feeling she had was indignation.
– As soon as they came, I said, “Gentlemen, this is my house and my rules.” I insisted that they take off their shoes. They rifled through all my books and looked through all the folders. I have a lot of papers — printouts, sheet music, archives. They confiscated computer equipment and a bunch of flash drives and phones, including ones that didn’t work.
To calm her nerves, Anna picked up a guitar and put on a concert. She sang children’s songs and Okudzhava.
– Actually, I rarely give concerts, but then and there I realized that there would be no such opportunity anymore. I was trying not to pay attention to them.
– Did you have a lawyer present?
– They brought a lawyer with them. The court-appointed lawyer was both theirs and mine. At my request, she telephoned my friend Igor, but during the search she didn’t tell me, for example, that I could write in the report that I was against their videotaping during the search. We added that when I was already at the Investigative Committee. My daughter had also wanted to film the search on camera, but her smartphone was taken away. I was scared that I would first be locked up in a temporary detention facility for forty-eight hours, and then immediately sent to a pretrial detention center for two months.
The police search of Anna’s house lasted about three hours, after which she and her daughter were taken to the Investigative Committee.
– My daughter had a temperature of 39 [degrees Centigrade — 36.6 degrees Centigrade is considered normal body temperature]. I asked that she be questioned first as a witness and released, and after that they could talk to me. But first I was interrogated for four hours, and my daughter waited ll that time. The court-appointed lawyer told me that with such a temperature she could have refused to go in for questioning, but for some reason she told me that after the fact. Today, my daughter was taken away by ambulance with pneumonia.
– I verbally said that I did not admit any guilt, but, in my opinion, this was not included in the arrest report. They gave me some document about cooperating with the investigation and asked me to read it carefully. But I refused to cooperate, and I wrote on this document that I did not consider it necessary to read it. Copies of the search and arrest reports were not given to me because, they said, the the court-appointed lawyer had photographed them.
– And then you were taken to the pretrial detention center?
– Yes. To have something to do there, I took a pocket Bible with me from home. I was in solitary confinement. It was cold, and the sink and toilet stank. By law, I could be kept there for forty-eight hours, so I asked for cleaning liquid or power to wash the sink and toilet. They brought it in the morning.
The light does not go off at night. Radio Vanya, a pop station, was playing in the cell until ten p.m. I am a musician, and have other musical preferences. To keep this music from seeping into my mind, I meditated. I read the Bible. I spent the time well.
– How did the court hearing go?
– I had petitioned for a change of counsel, and the attorney I had retained was already at the hearing. We were able to keep the hearing open to the public. The investigator asked the court to impose pretrial restrictions that would prohibit me from using all means of communication. The lawyer asked for a mitigation, and I was still permitted to use the telephone.
Chagina is now forbidden to use the internet and mail, leave home after ten o’clock in the evening, or attend mass events.
– They put a Federal Penitentiary Service tracking bracelet on you. How do you like it?
– When I would see such a bracelet on others, I would think, Those are the fetters of Satan! It’s fine so far. I haven’t tried doing yoga in this bracelet yet. I’ll work out, and it’ll be clear how it feels… I’m talking calmly and even joking, but in fact I’m in shock. Once I saw a man who, after an accident, was standing there with a split skull – his brain was clearly visible, but he was talking calmly. He was in shock from the pain. Something similar is happening to me now.
– How much will the court-imposed pretrial restrictions, the ban on using the internet and leaving the house in the evening, complicate your life?
– Things couldn’t have been worse even before the criminal case came along. In September, the Prosecutor General’s Office blocked my VK page, which had a very strong impact on me, because I used this page to advertise private lessons and find music students. I have a very low income. I was selling my apartment to buy a smaller dwelling and pay off my debts, but due to the fact that I am now a criminal defendant, I cannot wrap up the deal.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
Chagina recalls how she gave a concert on the eve of the March anti-war rally.
– There were about a hundred people there. Before playing, I openly spoke out against the war. I played one of my favorite Ukrainian carols on the violin. It was very warmly received. After the concert, a woman from the audience approached me: “My son is going to the [anti-war] rally on March 6th. I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid.” There were others. They were surprised: “You say that war is always bad. That it was Russia who attacked.” But even these people did not condemn me, but shared their misgivings with me.
My daughter went to a solo anti-war picket on March 3 and was immediately taken away. This was even before the laws were tightened, which occurred on March 5. I was afraid to go out on March 6, but I couldn’t stay away. My friend, who is seriously ill, went to the rally with her family. I can’t tell you her name, because I’m afraid that they will start pulling in everyone again. Her husband was detained. I thought hat she would be detained next. She had come out with a placard that read, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I took the placard from her and held it up. I stood there holding it for ten minutes before they put me in a traffic police car and took me to the Soviet District police department. I was later fined on administrative charges of “discrediting the army.”
– How long have you been in the protest movement?
– Protest rallies are not the most important thing in my life, but I’m used to openly voicing my opinion. I went out to protest for Navalny and for TV2 [the Tomsk independent TV channel shut down by the authorities in 2014 — SR]. In 2014, when Crimea began, I went to a protest rally carrying a placard that read, “Don’t shoot your brothers.”
– Why are you personally against this war?
– I am against any war. Violence cannot solve any conflict. I sincerely admire the martial arts, if it is an honest one-on-one duel without weapons. But you can achieve only universal death through wholesale slaughter.
I rethought a lot of things after February 24. The war enabled me to separate what I love from what I hate. I had wanted to leave Russia for many years before the war. I hate it when a person endlessly tolerates what cannot be tolerated — humiliation, filth, an unseemly life — and does nothing about it. War is an attempt by such people to resolve the logjam of problems through violence and hysteria.
– What do you like about Russia?
– I love the nature. I love a certain kind of simplicity. Not the the kind of simplicity that is worse than thievery, but the kind of simplicity that can be called openness. The war made it possible to find out that there are many honest and decent people among Russians. Before the war, I was little interested in politics, and I didn’t closely follow the events in Donbas. I was busy with my family, my art, and my work.
When the war began, Tomsk showed a new side to me. I have reached a different level of social connection and communication here. Despite the fact that we don’t agree about everything, we still manage to keep in touch. This is very important to me. It is for the sake of this that it is worth going to protest rallies. Love will save the world.
– You had already been found guilty on administrative charges of “discrediting the army” for your posts on VK, which eventually served as the pretext for the criminal charges. Did you understand what the consequences could be?
– I understood. But it was important for me to convey my position to people. I am mentally ready for the fact that the state will punish me for this. I haven’t yet talked in detail to the lawyer who is defending me. But, as far as I understand, I face either a prison sentence or a huge fine. I’m not afraid of either.
I felt like I was being watched, but I couldn’t quite believe it. I saw some people outside, standing below my apartment. The FSB field officer who escorted me today said that he had personally shadowed me. And the investigator said that all the investigators at the Soviet District police department know me. Apparently, they were all here pulling shifts. By Tomsk standards, I have a rather large social media following — more than a thousand people on VK. And I have a lot of acquaintances from very different circles that do not intersect in any way.
– Which posts on VK did they deem “discrediting”?
– I have only read the arrest reports so far, not the stuff in the criminal case file. As far as I understand, the incriminating posts are the ones featuring texts by the Christian thinker Pavel Levushkan and the philosopher Nikolai Karpitsky, as copied from Facebook and posted on my VK page, with the authorship of the texts indicated. Karpitsky is a philosopher who lived in Tomsk and headed the Tomsk Anti-Fascist Committee, but now lives in Ukraine. He talks about necrophilic imperialism and about why Russians behave this way, both in war and in peacetime. Plus the comment “No war!” which I wrote below someone else’s post on VK.
“I am also to blame”
– Anna, why do you think there is no mass anti-war movement in Russia nine months after the start of the war and even in the wake of the mobilization?
– Because no one wants to go to prison. But when mobilization began, the war affected even those who had hoped to remain observer. I am acquainted with a Tomsk family in which the husband works at Gazprom and the wife teaches at a university. The husband earned good money, and the family traveled a lot around the world. But when the war began, they did not object to its officially stated aims, nor were they surprised by the claims of the propagandists that Putin was fighting NATO and gay parades in the west. But then the husband received a conscription summons, and their point of view changed immediately. The husband fled abroad.
– Speaking of emigration. You’d already had an admin. You saw that you were being followed. Why didn’t you leave?
– I had obligations. I didn’t emigrate due to my family. My daughter has health problems. My mom is here. I have a grandmother and a grandfather who are already ninety years old. Finally, my romantic partner is here.
– And you don’t even consider such a possibility for yourself in the future?
– I consider it, of course. More precisely, I would like to travel around the world, immerse myself for a long while in a different culture, in a different linguistic environment, and live in a different climate. I am a very curious person. Before the war, I had such plans: when the children grow up, I’m off! But I wasn’t thinking about the kind of emigration in which you leave and burn all your bridges.
– In your opinion, who is to blame for the fact that this war began?
– Putin, first of all. He signs off on all the decisions. But he’s not the only one to blame. I am also to blame. I voted for Putin the first time he was elected. It was the only time I voted for him. He seemed like a man who could do something good for the country. I was very naive, and I didn’t know anything about Putin’s past. The epiphany came when I noticed that Russian reality had begun to resemble C.S. Lewis’s science fiction novel That Hideous Strength. There is this character, the Grey Shadow, in the novel. He is nowhere and everywhere. His henchmen on the ground resemble him and poison the atmosphere. And there, as in Putin’s Russia, they endlessly repair what doesn’t need to be repaired and generate the semblance of busyness.
The “castling move” and even the “nullification” seemed mere absurdities. But I didn’t expect the scale of demonism that we see now. Like Stalin or Hitler, Putin is a demon who stole my country.
– How long can this war last, and how will it end?
– I have three scenarios: reasonable, mystical, and punk/optimistic. Which one would you like to hear?
– Let’s hear all three in turn.
– Reason says that this is going to go on for a long time, for many years. Even if the fighting against Ukraine ends in the foreseeable future — within two years — it is unlikely that everything will end quickly in Russia itself. But I don’t want to talk about a civil war.
The mystical point of view says that the war is part of an ongoing struggle between Good and Evil, which just touched us personally now.
And the punk scenario says that “We will leave the zoo,” as Yegor Letov sang. Lately, before the criminal case, I wanted to forget everything, and just believe that sooner or later we would stop being monkeys who piss on each other. That we would exit our individual cages and become human beings.
– Do you see any rudiments that give you hope that an epiphany, a kind of purification, is possible in Russia?
– I see them. Many of my friends say, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to build something here. This is my homeland, and I won’t surrender it to anyone.” Among them are calm optimists who believe that “this too shall pass,” and determined folks who are ready to fight.
An acquaintance of mine supported Navalny and left for California forever to avoid criminal charges. But his friend, an American, on the contrary, moved to Altai from California ten years ago, became a Russian farmer, and has no plans to leave Russia. I love the Russian language and Russian culture, but I’m not a nationalist — I’m a globalist. I am for a world without borders, and I hope Russia will one day become a part of this world.
– You took a Bible with you to the temporary detention center. Do you consider yourself Orthodox? How do you feel about the fact that the ROC has been stumping for the war?
– I practice integral spirituality, but I still seek guidance in the Orthodox Church and consider myself a Christian. The ROC’s official position [on the war] is a disgrace, and all [other] Orthodox churches have condemned it. Real Russian Orthodoxy and what it is associated with today are heaven and earth. What is the Christian conclusion here? God is merciful. And He is merciful to those who labor under delusions, too. Another thing is that everyone suffers for their delusions, including the deluded themselves.
– All the independent media that reported your arrest wrote that you are a musician. What kind of music do you play?
– I graduated from music college as a violist and I play the viola. I teach violin. I’ve had a bunch of musical groups in the past. I’ve played rock, punk, folk, and Celtic. In addition, I’ve played with an ensemble of violinists. I worked in a symphony orchestra for a year.
– Is there a particular kind of music that serves as a lifeline for you nowadays?
– I’ve been listening to very little music lately — I’ve been overloaded. But Bach is always a lifeline. One of my relatively recent discoveries is the Petersburg singer Sasha Sokolova, who, unfortunately, died of cancer. I can say of her music that it’s about our time.
– Do you imagine that the court could acquit you?
– I’m not counting on it… When I was dozing in the cell at the temporary detention center, I thought it would be cool to open my eyes in the morning and see the ocean, clean and transparent. In exactly the same way I believe that the court could hand down a fair verdict — as in a pipe dream, as in a miracle. I believe this war will end. I admit that a miracle is possible.
Since the new articles of the Criminal Code and the Administrative Offenses Code on discrediting the Russian army and disseminating “fake news” about it came into force, more than 100 criminal cases have been launched in Russia and around 4,500 reports of administrative offenses have been filed, according to Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, speaking at a session of the State Duma on October 19.
According to OVD Info, a total of 352 people are under suspicion or facing charges in so-called anti-war criminal cases launched in Russia between February 24 and November 24. As of 23 November 2022, 5,159 administrative offenses cases have been instituted in Russia under Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code (i.e., for “discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”).
On March 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law criminalizing “fake news” about the actions of the Russian Armed Forces. Russians can be fined up to 1.5 million rubles or imprisoned for up to three years for violating the new Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code, defined as “Public dissemination of deliberately false information about the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes “discrediting” the Russian army, stipulates a sentence of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to a million rubles.
This is a translated excerpt from Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin’s closing statement, which he delivered at his show trial in Moscow earlier today. Charged with “spreading false information about the Russian military,” Yashin faces up to ten years in prison if convicted, which he almost certainly will be. ||| TRR
Taking advantage of this podium, I would also like to address Russian President Vladimir Putin, the person who is responsible for this massacre, who signed the law on military censorship, and by whose will I am in prison.
Seeing the consequences of this monstrous war, you have probably already understand yourself what a grave mistake you made on February 24. Our army has not been greeted with flowers. We are called executioners and occupiers.
The words “death” and “destruction” are now firmly associated with your name.
You have brought terrible misfortune to the Ukrainian people, who will probably never forgive us. But you are waging war not only against Ukrainians, but also against your compatriots.
You have sent hundreds of thousands of Russians into the inferno of battle. Many of them will never return home, turned into dust. Many will be crippled and go crazy from what they have seen and experienced. For you, they are just casualty statistics, numbers in columns. But many families the face unbearable pain of losing husbands, fathers and sons.
You have deprived Russians of their home.
Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have left their homeland because they do not want to kill and be killed. People are running away from you, Mr. President. Haven’t you noticed that?
You have undermined the foundations of our economic security. By putting industry on a war footing, you have sent our country back in the wrong direction. Tanks and guns are again a priority, and poverty and disenfranchisement are again our realities. Have you forgotten that such a policy has already led our country to collapse before?
Although my words might sound like a voice crying in the wilderness, I urge you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, to stop this madness immediately. You must acknowledge that the policy towards Ukraine has been mistaken, withdraw troops from its territory, and proceed to settle the conflict diplomatically.
Remember that every new day of war means new victims. Enough is enough.
Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 5 December 2022. Photo by Zlata Milyavskaya. Translated by the Russian Reader
Father Death Comes to Berlin — Silence Russian War Propaganda on Our Streets!
On November 29, the “Russian House” Berlin invites to a “festive lighting of the candles” at the Christmas tree in front of the building in Friedrichstraße. In a kitschy video, this event is also advertised by the Russian Embassy.
However, we do not feel “festive” at all! On the contrary. We are angry that such a propaganda action can take place without problems in Berlin. Because while in front of the Russian House “peaceful Christmas” are staged, Russia leads a brutal attack and conquest war in Ukraine, in which whole cities are bombed. The main target is the civilian population, which is exposed to permanent terror by Russian attacks.
The Putin regime is thus continuing a tactic that it has already been testing since 2015 in Syria, where even refugee camps are being attacked by Russian bombers. In Syria, Russian attacks have killed more than 2,000 children in the last eight years, and in Ukraine, nearly 1,000 children have been killed or injured so far as a result of the Russian war. There is no “peaceful Christmas” for these children!
The Russian House has so far refused to take a clear stand against the wars of the Putin regime. It gives itself the outward appearance of a non-political “cultural institute”. In fact, however, it is part of the regime’s propaganda machine and is supposed to convey the image of a peaceful and friendly Russia.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany is also occasionally given the opportunity to hold events in the Russian House. Thus, the Russian House also fulfills a function in the Putin regime’s strategy of promoting right-wing and far-right parties and organizations worldwide.
According to research by Tagesspiegel, the Russian House is “run by the Rossotrudnichestvo organization, whose head, Yevgenii Primakov, is a Putin confidant.” The organization is directly under the jurisdiction of the Russian Foreign Ministry and has been subject to European Union sanctions since July.
We ask ourselves: Why is the Russian House in Berlin allowed to continue to act unchallenged and to spread the “soft propaganda” of the Putin regime?
Join us on 29.11.2022 at the Russian House in Friedrichstraße and show your protest against the unspeakably hypocritical event “Father Frost comes to Berlin”!
We demand the immediate closure of the Russian House! Against the propaganda of the Putin regime in Berlin and everywhere!
Source: Facebook. Thanks to Harald Etzbach for the heads-up. I took the liberty of inserting the YouTube video and the photo, above, as well as incorporating the links to articles in the German press into the text. God knows that if I were still living in Berlin, I would be attending this protest. ||| TRR
We have begun supporting Vladlen Menshikov, accused of anti-war sabotage on the railways.
On September 30, pro-government mediareported the arrest of 29-year-old Vladlen Menshikov by the FSB in the Sverdlovsk Region. Investigators claim that Menshikov installed short-circuiting devices on the railway at the eightieth kilometer of the stretch between Rezh and Striganovo, along which trains carrying Russian military equipment run.
During an interrogation, which FSB field agents recorded on video, Menshikov said that he opposes the war and supports overthrowing the current government. He also discusses methods of sabotaging the Russian army’s railway supply lines.
Solidarity Zone was able to establish Menshikov’s identity and locate the pretrial detention center in which he is detained. When we contacted him and offered our support, he responded positively. He asked for legal assistance, and also said he would be glad to receive letters.
We are currently working to start providing full-fledged legal assistance to Menshikov.
We would note that Vladlen is currently being held in solitary confinement, so letters are especially important for him.
Address for letters and parcels:
Menshikov Vladlen Alexeyevich (born 1993)
4 Repin Street
Pretrial Detention Center No. 1
Ekaterinburg 620019 Russian Federation
(It is possible to send letters through the FSIN-Pismo service and Zonatelecom, as well as throughRosUznik, a volunteer-run resource.)
To support Solidarity Zone financially, so that we can continue to pay lawyers, send parcels to prisoners, and help cover other expenses, you can use the follow payment methods:
Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 21 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service or the privately run Zonatelecom. It is also probably impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can send letters — translated into Russian (if you don’t know a competent translator, you can use a free online translation service such as Google Translate) — to Vladlen Menshikov (and many other Russian political prisoners) via RosUznik. You can also ask me (email@example.com) for assistance and advice in sending letters.
Solidarity Zone supports Kirill Butylin. And you can too!
On February 28, four days after the Russian army’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 21-year-old Kirill Butylin threw Molotov cocktails at the military enlistment office in Lukhovitsy, a town in the Moscow Region.
A video of the attack and the arsonist’s manifesto were posted online on March 8.
Their author said that he had painted the gates of the military enlistment office in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and written the message “I’m not going to kill my brothers!” on them, before climbing the fence, pouring gasoline on the outside wall of the building, breaking the windows, and tossing Molotov cocktails through them. The insurgent saw as his goal the destruction of the archive containing the personal files of conscripts, which according to his information was located in that part of the building. He hoped that his actions would hinder mobilization in his district.
The partisan also stated in his manifesto: “I hope that I will not see my classmates in captivity or the lists of the dead. I think this should be circulated. Ukrainians will know that there are people in Russia who are fighting for them, that not everyone is afraid or indifferent. Our protesters should be inspired and act more decisively. And this should break the spirit of the Russian army and government even more.”
Butylin was detained on the day the manifesto was published. After the arson attack, he got rid of his phone and managed to travel to the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, Vremya MSK and Moskovsky Komsomolets claimed, but he was detained there. Butylin allegedly confessed that he wanted to go fight in Ukraine. The young man was promptly extradited to Russia and taken to the police station in Lukhovitsy.
On March 13, Butylin managed to escape. He took advantage of the moment when he was allowed to go to the toilet: finding himself not in handcuffs, he jumped out of the window. He then climbed over a fence and ran off in the direction of the M5 highway. He was soon detained again, however.
The criminal charges against Butylin have morphed, during the course of this case, from “vandalism” to “terrorist attack.” And if initially he was threatened with no more than three years of community service, he now faces from ten to fifteen years in prison.
In October, Solidarity Zone tracked down Butylin in the Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention center in Moscow and established a connection with him. He accepted our offer of support and said that he would be glad to receive publicity, letters and books. According to him, all his other needs are being taken care of. Butylin’s lawyer is paid for by his relatives.
Solidarity Zone supports Kirill Butylin and will continue to cover his case, as well as provide him with all necessary assistance.
You can also support Kirill by writing him a letter, sending him a book (we recommend that you first find out what kinds of books he likes and how to send them by writing him a letter) or publicizing his case.
Address for letters and parcels:
Butylin Kirill Vladimirovich (born 2001)
18 Matrosskaya Tishina Street
Pretrial Detention Center No. 1
Moscow 107076 Russian Federation
(It is possible to send letters through the FSIN-Pismo service and the RosUznik volunteer resource.)
Solidarity without borders!
Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 7 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service. It is also probably the case that it is impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can send letters — translated into Russian (if you don’t know a competent translator, you can use a free online translation service such as Google Translate) — via RosUznik. You can also ask me for assistance and advice in sending letters by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On October 28, the trial of Igor Paskar began in the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don. He is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at the FSB’s offices in Krasnodar, and also of setting fire to a [pro-war] “Z” banner. Paskar explains his actions as a protest against the war: after the alleged attempted arson at the FSB, he painted his face in the colors of the Ukrainian flag of Ukraine. The FSB has classified the protest as “terrorism,” and the burning of the banner as “vandalism.” Paskar faces ten to fifteen years in prison if convicted.
To Moscow and Back
Igor Paskar was born and lived until the age of thirty-five in a workers settlement in the Volgograd Region. He came of age in the 1990s, turning eighteen in 1994. After school, he enrolled in the administrative and industrial buildings maintenance program at the Volgograd Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering, but had to quit his studies in his first year after he was drafted into the army. After two years in a construction battalion, Paskar returned to his native village and immediately began working odd jobs — on construction sites, as a loader, and as a courier.
In 1998, when Paskar was twenty-two, he was first sentenced to five years probation on charges related to drug trafficking. In 2001, he received two years of actual prison time for theft and possession of hashish. He was last convicted of a criminal offense — one and a half years probation for possession of marijuana — in 2006. The last ten years, Paskar told Vot Tak, he has been clean — he completely gave up using light drugs.
In 2013, Paskar moved to Moscow. At various times in the capital, he worked as a courier at Samokat, as a loader, and as a furniture assembler. He also sold rare items on Amazon.
He became interested in politics in 2018 — as his case investigator would later write, he became an “adherent of radical liberal opposition ideas.” In 2021, Paskar was detained in Moscow for taking part in a protest rally called by Team Navalny after the politician’s arrest.
In the summer of 2021, the activist returned to Volgograd, where he got a job as a courier. During one of the interrogations about this period, he said: “I was still interested in the work of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and I supported Alexei Navalny. I publicly voiced my opinions among people I know, including at work, and I posted my opinions in messengers and chats.”
The FSB on Fire
In February of this year, before the start of the Russian invasion, Paskar responded to an ad and took in a lost dachshund. According to the activist, stray dogs tried to attack the pooch several times, so he bought a flare gun to scare them away. He soon left his village in the Volgograd Region with his dog for work: he had found an unusual vacancy on the internet — picking strawberries in Adygea. Paskar was unable to start the job, however. There was a conflict in the workers’ accommodations over the dachshund, and he fired the flare gun at the ceiling. Paskar himself called the police, and the court sentenced him to five days in jail. After his release from a special detention center, Paskar left for Krasnodar.
In a letter, he describes this period as follows: “I have had a whole series of failures in life over the last three months. When the special operation began, I was unable to transfer money from abroad after the SWIFT system was switched off. I had an Amazon account on which I traded rare items. After the start of the special operation, I lost my earnings. I could not get a job in Volgograd and decided to go to Krasnodar for seasonal work, but there were a number of failures. I was angry at my plight and decided to sacrifice myself for what I believe in — peace.”
Paskar held his first anti-war protest in downtown Krasnodar on June 12, Russia Day. It was then that he threw a lighted bottle of gasoline at a banner featuring the letter Z and the slogan “We do not abandon our own.” No one paid attention to his actions, the banner quickly went out, and Paskar was not detained.
Paskar then decided to carry out a protest action at the FSB’s Krasnodar offices. He did not plan to go into hiding and prepared for his arrest by selling his phone and packing a bag for the pretrial detention center. “My criminal experience has left its mark on me. When a person has [this experience], they are no longer afraid to go to prison. They already know that you can live there too — not very well, but you can do it. It is not hell. This has an impact not so much on radical decisions as on accepting one’s fate,” Paskar noted in a letter to your correspondent.
On June 14, Paskar went to the FSB’s offices on ulitsa Mira [“Peace Street”] in Krasnodar. A Molotov cocktail flew [sic] onto the building’s stone porch. The activist then painted his cheeks yellow and blue and waited for passersby to react and for the authorities to detain him. He hoped that someone would record the protest on their phone and post the video on the internet. Passersby avoided the scene, however. FSB officers came out of the building after a few minutes and detained the activist.
A Burnt Rug
Paskar calls his protest symbolic, emphasizing that his actions could not have caused serious damage — only a rug was burned on the stone porch. Despite this, a criminal case was immediately launched against Paskar under Article 205 (“Terrorism”) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code, which stipulates a penalty of ten to fifteen years in prison.
On October 28, the Southern District Military Court began considering the case — according to the amendments to the law adopted in 2014, only four district military courts [in Russia] can try terrorism cases. The court extended Paskar’s term in the pretrial detention center for six months, and ruled that the trial would be open to the public. The first hearing on the merits in the case was scheduled for November 10.
In 2016, for setting fire to the door of the FSB headquarters in Lubyanka Square [in Moscow], the performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky was sentenced to pay a fine of 500 thousand rubles under Article 243 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Destruction or damage to objects of cultural heritage or cultural artefacts”). And yet, at the trial, the artist demanded that his actions be reclassified as terrorism.
Earlier, the [exiled opposition] politician Gennady Gudkov said that Paskar’s actions could be deemed disorderly conduct: “In any civilized country, such a thing is regarded as disorderly conduct and is punished with a warning or a fine.” And gallery owner Marat Guelman called Paskar’s act activism.
Paskar is being aided by the human rights initiative Solidarity Zone, which previously announced a fundraiser to pay for Paskar’s lawyer.
Vot Tak has published an article about Igor Paskar, who is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at the FSB offices in Krasnodar and setting fire to a “Z” banner. He did this to drawn attention to the war and voice support for the people of Ukraine.
On October 28, the Southern District Military Court began trying Paskar’s case.
Solidarity Zone has been providing comprehensive assistance to Paskar.
We are now raising funds to pay for Igor’s lawyer.
A court in St. Petersburg has put sixty-year-old accountant Irina Tsybaneva under house arrest for leaving a note that read “Death to Putin” on the grave of the Russian president’s parents. The woman was able to steal up to the gravestone, which is guarded, but she was unable to leave the cemetery unnoticed. The police and the prosecutor’s office asked the court to send Tsybaneva to a pretrial detention center, calling the crime “audacious,” but the court found that this was too harsh a pretrial restraint. Mediazona has delved into the details of the case and found out what role the news played in the Petersburg woman’s spontaneous actions.
“I just saw a [TV] program, at that time very serious, there was some news, and something just…,” said Tsybaneva, trying to explain her actions, while standing in the defendant’s cage at the Primorsky District Court in Petersburg.
Tsybaneva has been charged with desecrating the burial place of deceased persons due to political or ideological enmity. It is alleged that she went to the grave of the parents of Russian President Vladimir Putin and left a note there that included the following phrase: “You raised a freak and a murderer.”
“And how often do you go and write notes to everyone [sic] while watching the news?” the prosecutor asked her.
“Never. I watched the news and realized that everything is quite scary, everything is very sad, a lot of people have been killed.”
“We had the coronavirus, everyone was depressed. Did you also write something to someone then?”
“What for? No, of course not,” said Tsybanev, smiling.
“Well, I don’t know. You watched the news and decided to write.”
“Yes, under the influence of the news.”
“Are the media to blame for your actions?”
“That’s the upshot.”
Before the war in Ukraine, Tsybaneva, who is employed as an accountant in Petersburg, was not particularly interested in politics. Even after the Russian invasion, she practically never raised the topic of war raised in conversations with relatives, her son Maxim told Mediazona.
“She went to concerts, festivals, theaters, and museums. She traveled a lot both in Russia and abroad,” the man added. “At one time, she was a big fan of bard music. I don’t know how it is now, but it’s probably still the case. She went to the Grushinsky Festival many times. She was a prominent figure in Trofim‘s fan club.”
Tsybaneva spent a lot of time with her six grandchildren. (Her daughter and her son each have three children.) She moved to St. Petersburg in the 1980s from the Tver Region, working as an engineer and then as an accountant in various companies.
On October 6, the eve of the Russian president’s birthday, Tsybaneva went to the Serafimovskoe Cemetery, where Mr. Putin’s parents are buried.
Security had already been beefed up at the cemetery and specifically at the graves of Vladimir and Maria Putin, probably due to the fact that, in late September, a small poster in the guise of a school pupil’s class journal appeared on their headstone. It read as follows: “Dear parents! Your son has been behaving disgracefully! Skipping history lessons, fighting with his desk mates, and threatening to blow up the whole school! Take action!”
A week later, a court in Petersburg jailed the activist Anastasia Filippova for ten days on charges of disobeying a policeman. As reported by Bumaga, Filippova’s relatives linked her arrest with the poster. Yesterday, a court overturned her arrest, and she was released from the special detention center.
Despite the beefed-up security and the police officers on duty at the cemetery, Tsybaneva was able to walk up to the grave of the Putins.
“They got distracted there, and she somehow left the note. It transpired that there are a lot of cameras there,” Maxim Tsybanev said, adding that his mother was able to photograph the note on her phone, which was later seized, however.
The contents of the note were made public today during Tsybaneva’s pretrial restraints hearing. “Parents of the maniac, move him in with you. He has caused so much pain and trouble, the whole world is begging for his death [illegible]. Death to Putin, you raised a freak and a murderer,” Tsybaneva’s message read.
In a linguistic analysis, a copy of which was submitted as part of the written request for pretrial restraints in court today, experts concluded that the note contains a “negative assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin” addressed to his parents. But how exactly the police identified the person who left the note is unknown. In court, the prosecutor cited an “ongoing investigation.”
The leaflet containing the appeal to Putin’s late parents was found the same day by a cemetery guard, who immediately informed the police. On Monday, October 10, they were already knocking on Tsybaneva’s door.
“She wouldn’t open it for a long time, but eventually a policeman promised to pry it open, and she opened it. At three p.m. yesterday she was taken to the 35th police precinct. For some reason, they kept her waiting there for a long time. Finally, around nightfall, she telephoned and said that there would be a search. We immediately went to her house, but she wasn’t there,” Maxim Tsybanev told Mediazona.
The accountant was placed in the temporary detention center and a criminal case was opened against her for abusing the burial place of deceased persons due to political or ideological enmity. If she is convicted, Tsybaneva could face up to five years in prison.
During the couple of days that Tsybaneva was in custody, the police were able to conduct a DNA examination, which confirmed that the traces of skin found on the note were hers. Handwriting analysis also indicated that it was Tsybaneva who wrote it. In addition, a picture of the note was found on her phone.
“I immediately admitted that I had written [the note], and that there was no need to do these analyses,” Tsybaneva said in court.
Police investigators and the prosecutor’s office asked that Tsybaneva be sent to a pretrial detention center.
“She is suspected of a crime whose danger to public consists in insulting the memory of the dead, the deceased, and the feelings of the living towards the dead,” the prosecutor argued.
She called the crime committed by the accountant “audacious” and, given Tsybaneva’s impressionability and the impact the news has on her, she argued that it was better for the woman to be in custody.
The defense lawyers were able to convince the court that the restraint measure requested by the state was too harsh. Consequently Judge Dmitry Lozovoy put Tsybaneva under house arrest for twenty-eight days, forbidding her to use the internet, telephone and mail.
“Given the actions committed, this is too harsh, but given current situation in the country, it is quite good,” said her son Maxim, commenting on the judge’s decision.
I read the following two passages just now in quick succession, quite by chance, while eating lunch:
1) “I would try to kill anyone who harmed or spoke ill of you. You would try to kill anyone who harmed or spoke ill of me. But neither of us would ever, under any circumstance, be honest about yesterday. This is how we are taught to love in America. Our dishonesty, cowardice, and misplaced self-righteousness, far more than how much, or how little we weigh is part of why we are suffering. In this way, and far too many others, we are studious children of this nation. We do not have to be this way.”
2) “In 2014, a U.S.-driven Maidan coup in Ukraine overthrew the elected government and burned down the trade union headquarters building in Odessa, killing 48 people. In opposition to the coup two Russian-speaking provinces of Eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, seceded. The democratic right to self-determination from the nationalist Kiev government which banned the Russian language must be recognized for the Eastern and Southern provinces. The neo-fascist Azov Brigade opened fire on the two newly-founded republics of the Donbas region, killing over 15,000 civilians. African immigrants in Ukraine attempting to flee the war were subjected to racial discrimination by the Zelensky government.”
Yesterday morning, while drinking coffee, I read the following two passages hard on each other’s heels:
3) “As a child, one of my grandmothers wandered Siberia with her mother (in the thirties). She told me many times about a crazy old woman they met. The old woman went around pointing her finger at passersby and saying, ‘The blood of the murdered innocents will fall on everyone. On everyone! On everyone! On everyone!’ I remembered this today. She was right.”
4) “This spiky looking object is an anti-suckling device. The artifact is made up of a nose ring with seven long (and sharp) spikes welded onto it. When the farmer decided that it was time for a calf to be weaned from its mother, they would use this item. The ring would be placed in the nose of a young calf—when the calf would try to nurse from its mother, the spikes would poke the mother causing her pain. The mother would then kick the calf away or avoid the calf to escape the discomfort of being poked.”
Sources: 1) Kiese Laymon, Heavy; 2) Various alleged ILWU members (including Angela Davis), “Stop the Ukraine War—refuse to handle military cargo,” MR Online (thanks to Marxmail for the heads-up); 3) Natalia Vvedenskya, Facebook, 11 October 2022 (translated by the Russian Reader); 4) Murray County Historical Museum, Facebook, 11 October 22. Photo, above, also courtesy of the Murray County Historical Museum.