"Dance Hall Days" Take your baby by the hand And make her do a high hand stand And take your baby by the heel And do the next thing that you feel We were so in phase In our dance hall days We were cool on craze When I, you, and everyone we knew Could believe, do, and share in what was true I said Dance hall days, love Take your baby by the hair And pull her close and there, there, there And take your baby by the ears And play upon her darkest fears We were so in phase In our dance hall days We were cool on craze When I, you, and everyone we knew Could believe, do, and share in what was true I said Dance hall days, love Dance hall days Dance hall days, love Take your baby by the wrist And in her mouth, an amethyst And in her eyes, two sapphires blue And you need her and she needs you And you need her and she needs you And you need her and she needs you And you need her and she needs you And you need her And she needs you We were so in phase In our dance hall days We were cool on craze When I, you, and everyone we knew Could believe, do, and share in what was true I said Dance hall days, love Dance hall days, love Dance hall days Dance hall days, love Dance hall days Dance hall days, love Dance hall days Dance hall days, love. Source: Jerzy Jay, in a comment to the YouTube video, above
A statue of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov was unveiled Monday in St. Petersburg, despite criticism from his widow who said today’s Russia has failed her husband.
The 10 1/2-foot bronze statue depicts the Nobel peace laureate, slightly stooped but with his head held high, standing with hands tied behind his back atop a stone pedestal on a square that was named after him in 1996.
The monument by sculptor Levon Lazarev’s was unveiled a few weeks after a city commission in Moscow gave the green light to a stalled plan for another statue of Sakharov in the capital.
Yelena Bonner was opposed to both statues, saying Russia has failed to live up to Sakharov’s ideals of freedom and democracy since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
“It is out of place to erect a monument to Sakharov in today’s Russia,″ the Interfax news agency quoted Bonner as saying. She said she was not consulted.
“There’s no money to publish his works widely, so that people would finally read them, but they can put up a monument,″ Bonner told Russia’s TVS television by phone from Boston, where she lives.
The unveiling drew about 100 people, among them intellectuals and former dissidents who supported a transition to democracy at the time of the Soviet collapse.
A physicist who helped design the Soviet hydrogen bomb, Sakharov became a staunch promoter of human rights and world peace, and spent seven years in internal exile for speaking out. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
Source: “Monument to Sakharov Unveiled in Russia,” Associated Press, 5 May 2003
A Little Song about the Physicist Sakharov The physicist Sakharov Was one bad dude. Oh, how he made us seethe! Why do we suffer that fool? It later suddenly transpired That he was a real good cat. We felt sorry for the poor man And guiltily ate our hats. Now it’s been ascertained That he was bad news after all. We’re seething once again. Why did we suffer that fool? If again it turns out That he was, in fact, a good egg, Ah, we'll regret it again, And put on guilty mugs. 8 August 2022 Source: German Lukomnikov, “New Poems,” Volga 1 (2023). Thanks to ES for the suggestion. Translated by the Russian Reader
Russian prosecutors on Monday declared as “undesirable” the U.S.-based foundation that preserves the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov as Moscow continues to crack down on dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The activities of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation (ASF) “constitute a threat to the foundation of Russia’s constitutional order and security,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a statement.
Under Russian law, individuals believed to have cooperated with an “undesirable” international NGO face steep fines and jail terms.
ASF, based in Springfield, Virginia outside Washington, says its goal is to promote Sakharov’s works to “support peace efforts and anti-war events.”
The organization chaired by mathematician Alexei Semyonov has not yet commented on Russia’s latest designation.
Russian authorities have declared more than 70 organizations — including media outlets focused on exposing fraud and corruption in Russia — “undesirable” between mid-2015 and early 2023.
Sakharov, once feted as a hero of the Soviet defense industry for his role in developing the Soviet nuclear bomb, became one of the U.S.S.R.’s most prominent dissidents from the late 1960s.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his work against the nuclear arms race he had helped precipitate, though he was not permitted to leave the Soviet Union to accept the award.
Sakharov became one of the most distinctive personalities of the perestroika era, rising to the status of a national moral authority.
Arrested in 1980 after denouncing the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Sakharov was sent into internal exile in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, then closed to foreigners.
After six years in exile, during which he undertook several hunger strikes, Sakharov was released over a telephone call by reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Source: “Russia Labels U.S.-Based Sakharov Foundation ‘Undesirable,’” Moscow Times, 24 January 2023
An unexpected twist in the Vsevolod Korolev case
On January 12, Peterburg’s Vyborg District Court held a hearing on the merits of the criminal case against Petersburg documentary filmmaker Vsevolod Korolev. At today’s hearing, the complainant and prosecution witness Mikhail Baranov was cross-examined. It was Baranov who had requested that law enforcement agencies file criminal charges against Korolev.
Baranov unexpectedly changed his initial testimony, telling the court that he considered the posts by the accused “an expression of free speech,” and that he himself had “liked” Korolev’s posts to give them more publicity. The prosecution witness also said that the police had come to his home, and that he had been questioned at the police department about that very same “like.” It was only after this interaction that Baranov had filed the complaint, asking the authorities to determine whether Korolev’s posts constituted “disseminating fake news about the army.”
However, the interrogation record in the case file paints a different picture: according to it, Baranov had gone to the police himself. Korolev’s posts had, allegedly, angered him. Today, at the trial, Baranov said that he could not remember what his emotions were at the time, and that his opinion could have changed.
Source: Politzek-Info (Telegram), 12 January 2023. Photo by Valentin Nikitchenko. Translated by Hecksinductionhour
29 July 2022
Vsevolod Korolev, a St. Petersburg poet and documentary filmmaker remanded in custody on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army, is a political prisoner. Until his arrest, Vsevolod Korolev supported people subjected to repression for anti-war statements: he made a documentary about those prosecuted and he called the war a war
Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial
The human rights project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ considers Vsevolod Korolev a political prisoner in line with international standards. He is being prosecuted for posts on social networks. Korolev’s criminal prosecution violates his constitutional right to freedom of expression. His prosecution is intended to silence voices in Russia that oppose the war against Ukraine and to intimidate civil society.
We demand the immediate release of Vsevolod Korolev and the termination of all criminal prosecutions under the unconstitutional Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.
Who is Vsevolod Korolev and what are the charges against him?
Vsevolod Korolev, 34, is from St. Petersburg and in recent years he has been active in the city’s volunteer movement and engaged in civic activism. Korolev has worked as a volunteer with the Perspectives Charitable Foundation and the St. Petersburg Observers movement (which organizes independent election observation).
After the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Korolev became very active in the anti-war movement. On his social media pages he wrote about the crimes of the Russian military, attended the trials of those arrested on charges related to the war, collected donations of food and other necessities for those held on remand, and made documentary films about what was happening. For example, he made films about the prosecutions for ‘anti-war’ activities of the artist Sasha Skochilenko and the journalist Maria Ponomarenko.
On 11 July 2022, a criminal case was opened against Vsevolod Korolev on suspicion of disseminating information known to be false about the use of the Russian armed forces. The next day his apartment was searched and he was detained.
Korolev is accused of making posts in March and April 2022 on the VK social media site about the crimes of the Russian military in Bucha and Borodyanka near Kiev and about the shelling of Donetsk. Korolev subsequently confirmed he had made posts about the war in Ukraine, but maintained they contained no lies.
Korolev understood the risks of speaking out freely. ‘I refuse to not say the truth about things,’ he wrote on his social networks.
On 13 July, a St. Petersburg court remanded Korolev in custody, even though he has had his thyroid removed and needs regular medical examinations.
Korolev faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Why do we consider Vsevolod Korolev a political prisoner?
Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code criminalising dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law.
In particular, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.’ Restrictions on the exercise of these rights ‘shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’ Such norms are also contained in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution. The restrictions on freedom of expression introduced by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code serve none of these purposes and are a form of censorship. This is all the more so given that, in the course of an armed conflict, it is not always possible to establish the accuracy of statements made by the parties to the conflict, and the Russian authorities hold simply that official reports by the Russian Ministry of Defence should be considered reliable.
Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code was specifically created as an instrument for the prosecution of critics of the Russian authorities and criminalises any statements about the use of the Russian armed forces abroad. This has already been confirmed in practice. Under this article, people are more often prosecuted not even for statements of fact but for expressing their opinions and personal attitudes. At the same time, the prosecuting authorities ascribe to many of those prosecuted, like Vsevolod Korolev, the subjective motive of ‘political hatred,’ which significantly increases the potential penalty.
A more detailed description of this case and the position of the Human Rights Project can be found on our Telegram channel.
A full list of political prisoners in Russia can be found on our temporary website.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
How can you help?
You can send letters to the following address:
In Russian: 196655, г. Санкт-Петербург, г. Колпино, ул. Колпинская, д. 9, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по СПб и ЛО, Королёву Всеволоду Анатольевичу 1987 г. р.
In English: Vsevolod Anatolievich Korolev (dob 1987), Remand Prison No. 1 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region, 9 Kolpinskaya Street, Kolpino, St. Petersburg, 196655, Russia.
Translated by Rights in Russia
Source: “‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: St. Petersburg poet and documentary filmmaker Vsevolod Korolev is a political prisoner,” Rights in Russia, 10 October 2022. As I have pointed out in previous posts on Russian anti-war protesters and political prisoners, Russian remand prisons and penal colonies only accept letters written in Russian, and the federal penitentiary service’s FSIN-Pismo service and Zonatelekom are only accessible to residents of the Russian Federation. It’s also almost a certainty that YooMoney, another Russia-based service, will not accept money from non-Russian bank cards. ||| TRR
The trade union Courier called for Yandex food delivery workers to strike from December 20 to December 25.
The workers claim that their situation has deteriorated considerably since Yandex took over Delivery Club and subsequently monopolized the industry. The union said that couriers are constantly discriminated against through a rigid system of fines and a lack of legal guarantees.
Supporters of the strike demand a return to the practice of drawing up regular employment contracts between management and couriers instead of independent contractor and self-employment contracts. They also insist on reinstating the order fee in the amount of 110 rubles, revising the system of fines, and reducing the delivery range for foot couriers to three kilometers.
In addition, they have demanded the release of the head of the trade union, Kirill Ukraintsev, who was arrested in April for violating the law on protest rallies.
The first stage of the strike is planned for Moscow and St. Petersburg; in the capital, about 600 couriers may not go to work. The trade union has called for Yandex Taxi drivers to join the action, as well as blocking the cash desks of restaurants.
Citing the Yandex Eats press service, Kommersant writes that the company is unaware of any dissatisfaction with working conditions. At the same time, the press service emphasizes that the average salary of couriers increased by 30% over the past year.
Late last year, Yandex couriers protested in Kemerovo. In April 2022, dissatisfaction among delivery workers was caused by a 20% reduction in wages, prompting talk of a possible strike. Denying the problems voiced, Yandex has constantly reported about bonuses for its couriers, including life and health insurance and improved working conditions.
Source: Andrei Gorelikov, “Yandex couriers go on strike — so far, for five days in Moscow and Petersburg,” Rabota.ru, 21 December 2022. Photo courtesy of Rabota.ru via iStock. Translated by TRR
During the company’s weekly open video call (these events are dubbed “hurals”) on the morning of Friday, December 23, a Yandex executive informed staffers that its security service had tracked down an employee who had been in contact with editors at The Village for an article about how censorship works at Yandex News. The employee would be fired, he said. Thus, it had taken the company a mere seventeen hours to trace one of our sources. Yandex does not make public comments.
Yesterday, The Village published a major investigation by journalist Andrei Serafimov detailing how, after the start of the war, a group of developers at Yandex made it their mission prove the existence of censorship at Yandex News, the service that, for over a decade, has provided millions of Russians with their “picture of the day.” The service handpicked the “top stories” from the media that would be shown on Yandex’s main page.
Journalists had previously surmised that only news from handpicked, government-approved media outlets made it on the Yandex main page: even the former head of Yandex News had said that there was a “whitelist” of such outlets. Our investigation has shown, for the first time, what these whitelists (both Moscow and national) look like. In conversation with former and current Yandex employees who have been researching the way Yandex News is coded, we found out which news outlets have a chance to be featured in the “picture of the day,” as well as how the “trusted” algorithm works. Presumably, it marks “pre-approved” media that are never “penalized for headlines.” These fifteen outlets contribute the vast majority of the top national news stories featured on Yandex News.
In addition, our sources told us what happened inside the company after the start of the war, after the publication of an investigation by Meduza in the spring, and what the first “hural” looked like in early December after Alexei Kudrin was appointed head of the “Russian” Yandex.
We recommend that you read the full investigation and share it on social media, as well as purchase a subscription —this is the only way we can publish more such stories. The Village receives no grants and does not collaborate with any national government.
Source: “Yandex fired employee who revealed how censorship is practiced at Yandex.News because he had been talking to The Village,” The Village, 23 December 2022. Translated by TRR
Vladimir Rumyantsev, a former factory boiler plant stoker from Vologda, has been sentenced to three years in prison. He was found guilty of violating the article [in the Russian criminal code] on disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army. He had his own underground radio station on which he spoke out against the war.
The criminal charges against the 61-year-old man were made public on July 14. The next day, the court remanded him in custody to a pretrial detention center. On December 20, in a hearing at the Vologda City Court, the prosecutor requested that Rumyantsev be sentenced to six years in a penal colony.
The grounds for the criminal case were Rumyantsev’s posts on social media, as well as the fact that the man was spreading information about the war in Ukraine via his amateur radio station.
The podcast Hello, You’re A Foreign Agent, produced by journalists Sonya Groysman and Olga Churakova, described Rumyantsev as a music lover, local amateur historian, and creator of the video blog Vovan Media. The man worked for twenty years as a boiler plant stoker at a local machine tool factory, and after its closure, as a municipal trolleybus conductor.
His underground radio station operated on transmitters purchased on AliExpress. Rumyantsev built it eight years ago and regularly went on the air, mostly playing Soviet hits. After the outbreak of the war, he began to pay more attention to political topics. In the summer, he was the first person in Vologda charged with disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army.
Rumyantsev pleaded not guilty to the charges. It is not known whether his radio station had listeners and how many listeners it did have, according to Groysman’s special report on TV Rain [see below].
The article on dissemination of “fake news” about the military, as prompted by political hatred (Article 207.3.2.d of the Russian Federal Criminal Code), which Rumyantsev was accused of violating, stipulates a maximum punishment of ten years in prison.
Previously, long prison sentences for violating this article were handed down to Alexei Gorinov, a deputy of the Krasnoselsky municipal district in Moscow, and opposition politician Ilya Yashin. They were sentenced to seven years and eight and a half years in prison, respectively.
Source: “Stoker from Vologda sentenced to three years for anti-war radio,” BBC News Russian Service, 22 December 2022. Thanks to MV for the heads-up. Translated by TRR
Vologda boiler plant stoker Vladimir Rumyantsev was found guilty of disseminating “fake news” about the army on the pacifist radio station he created. 61-year-old Rumyantsev faces up to six years in a medium security penal colony. According to the investigation, and now the trial court, Rumyantsev published reposts about the SMO in Ukraine on his VK page, and also broadcast audio reports that the Investigative Committee considers “fake news” about the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation at a frequency of 91.7 MHz.
Source: Sotavision (YouTube), 22 December 2022 (in Russian). Annotation translated by TRR
From the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, the Russian authorities have been waging another war — against Russian citizens who do not support the invasion. In the seven months since the laws virtually establishing wartime censorship were adopted, more than four thousand charges have been filed for alleged violations of the law against “discrediting” the army. According to OVD Info, the defendants in these criminal cases are 116 people whose stories usually warrant only a couple of lines in the news. Sonya Groysman’s film is about these people, who despite everything have remained in Russia.
01:36 The story of Vladimir Rumyantsev’s underground radio station in Vologda
08:12 “We have more than 4,000 court rulings: people are being punished for voicing their opinions”
10:23 Vitaly Gotra: 691,000 rubles in fines for anti-war leaflets
15:44 Actress Galina Borisova: “I painted the slogan ‘No war!’ all over the stairwells”
22:26 Who is being persecuted in Russia for “discrediting the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” and how
23:40 Zaurbek Zhambekov: two years probation for removing a Z sticker from a car
28:22 Why are so many resources being wasted on persecuting people for their words?
29:02 Sasha Skochilenko: six months in remand prison for anti-war price tags
33:59 Philippenzo: attacked for anti-war art
37:22 How Vitaly Gotra was left without a job for his anti-war position
39:36 How Vladimir Rumyantsev built an underground radio station and broadcast about the war
45:01 “It seems it is considered bad form to talk about the war”
52:55 “Rumyantsev gets too many letters”: how people on the outside support people accused of “spreading fake news”
55:00 “Now everyone is living in fear that a bomb will be planted”
55:43 Galina Borisova: “I will pay the fine using money I set aside for my funeral”
We thank Caucasian Knot and OVD Info for their assistance in making this report.
Support Sasha Skochilenko: https://skochilenko.ru
Support us by donating to TV Rain: https://tvrain.tv/
Follow the headlines and new episodes of programs on TV Rain’s Telegram channel: https://t.me/tvrain
Source: TV Rain (YouTube), 10 October 2022 (in Russian). Annotation translated by TRR
The State Duma adopted in their third and final reading amendments to the Criminal Code that stipulate life sentences for “subversive activities,” reports the lower house’s website.
There was already an article in the Criminal Code that outlawed sabotage. It stipulated a life sentence only if someone was killed as a result (per Article 281.3).
The deputies decided to add three new articles (281.1, 281.2 and 281.3) to the Criminal Code. They have introduced such crimes as “creating a subversive community” and being involved in such a community, “facilitating subversive activities” and “training” to commit sabotage, and “promoting” and “condoning” sabotage.
As punishment, prison terms of eight to twenty years or life sentences are stipulated in all cases, except for aiding and abetting sabotage.
As in the case of the other articles in the Criminal Code dealing with terrorism and extremism, exemption from criminal liability is stipulated if an individual informs the authorities or “otherwise contributes” to the prevention of sabotage and “subversive activities.”
The deputies also included “promoting,” “condoning,” or “supporting” sabotage in the list of aggravating circumstances in the commission of other crimes (per Article 63 of the Criminal Code).
Other bills in this raft of legislation would allow the authorities to place people suspected or accused of violating the new articles on Rosfinmonitoring’s financial watch list and block their bank accounts, as well as enable the authorities block websites containing instructions for “making ammunition for firearms.”
The set of four bills was introduced on December 8 by a group of more than 380 deputies. [There are 450 seats in the State Duma.] The first reading was held on December 14, and the text of the bills had not been amended as of the second reading on December 20.
Source: “State Duma passes law on life sentences for ‘facilitating’ sabotage,” Mediazona, 21 December 2022. Translated by TRR
I can’t stand it, I know you planned it
I’m gonna set it straight, this Watergate
I can’t stand rocking when I’m in here
‘Cause your crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear
So while you sit back and wonder why
I got this fucking thorn in my side
Oh my God, it’s a mirage
I’m tellin’ y’all, it’s a sabotage
So, so, so, so listen up ’cause you can’t say nothin’
You’ll shut me down with a push of your button?
But you, I’m out and I’m gone
I’ll tell you now, I keep it on and on
‘Cause what you see you might not get
And we can bet, so don’t you get souped yet
You’re scheming on a thing that’s a mirage
I’m trying to tell you now, it’s sabotage
Our backs are now against the wall?
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
I can’t stand it, I know you planned it
I’m gonna set it straight, this Watergate
Lord, I can’t stand rockin’ when I’m in this place
Because I feel disgrace because you’re all in my face
But make no mistakes and switch up my channel
I’m Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle
What could it be? It’s a mirage
You’re scheming on a thing, that’s sabotage
Source: Musixmatch. Song written by Michael Louis Diamond, Adam Nathaniel Yauch and Adam Horovitz
Of course, as a true masochist, I went to Palace Square to look at those hearts, small and large, supposedly symbolizing the sister cities of Petersburg and Mariupol. It is clear whose heart is the small one, and whose the big one, in the imperial capital. My thoughts about this are unprintable, so I’ll omit them.
But I went for curiosity’s sake: how many people would be getting their pictures taken in front of the hearts? As I’d supposed, it was a lot of people.
I saw much more than I’d expected. It was a total trash fest. There were the hearts, people taking fotochki, as they say now, frozen Peter the Greats walking around, carriages circling the square, and a drunk-looking little dude playing the accordion right there.
But no one seemed to be paying attention to the unauthorized inscription on the heart — black and large and truthful. (See the last two photos.)
While I was standing there, however, both citizens and law enforcement agencies finally noticed it. And they will call it vandalism, of course.
Source: Marina Varchenko, Facebook, 18 December 2022. Translated by TRR
A Petersburg woman detained on Palace Square has been charged with “discrediting” the army, the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Petersburg office has informed Bumaga.
Earlier, city media reported that the inscription “Murderers, you bombed it to smithereens. Traitors” had appeared on an installation dedicated to the sister-city relationship between Mariupol and Petersburg, and that a juvenile female had been detained.
When Bumaga asked it whether these reports were true, the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Petersburg office replied that on the afternoon of December 18, the police had detained seventeen-year-old girl on Palace Square “for committing illegal actions.” She was charged with an administrative offense for public actions aimed at “discrediting” the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (per Article 20.3.3 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code).
The installation appeared on Palace Square on December 12. Rotunda reported that the Petersburg authorities ordered it back in September. According to the contract, the city spent 1.05 million rubles on the installation.
On December 18, an inscription appeared on the installation, after which the structure was partially disassembled. Workers told our correspondent that the installation would remain on the square, but would spend the next few days without cladding until the inscription was removed from it.
Source: Bumaga, 19 December 2022. Translated by TRR
Dec 19 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the Federal Security Services to step up surveillance of Russian society and the country’s borders to prevent risks from abroad and traitors at home.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s Security Services Day — widely celebrated in Russia [sic] — Putin said the “emergence of new threats” increases the need for greater intelligence activity.
“Work must be intensified through the border services and the Federal Security Service (FSB),” Putin said.
“Any attempts to violate it (the border) must be thwarted quickly and effectively using whatever forces and means we have at our disposal, including mobile action units and special forces.”
Putin instructed the FSB to maximise their “use of the operational, technical and personnel potential” to tighten control of the society.
The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has already been operating in Russia as an expansive surveillance and censorship apparatus and Moscow’s invasion in Ukraine has involved a large swathe of the security services.
“Maximum composure, concentration of forces is now required from counterintelligence agencies, including military intelligence,” Putin said, according to transcript of his speech provided by the Kremlin and translated by Reuters.
“It is necessary to severely suppress the actions of foreign special services, quickly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs.”
The FSB, headed by Putin ally Alexander Bortnikov, will also increase oversight of mass gatherings, strategic facilities and energy infrastructure.
Since the start of the war, demonstrations and dissent have been swiftly quelled in Russia, with more than 1,300 detained in September at protests denouncing Putin’s military mobilisation of 300,000.
Source: Lidia Kelly and Ronald Popeski, “Putin orders FSB to step up surveillance of Russians and borders,” Reuters, 19 December 2022
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.
During the interrogation at the Investigative Committee, Chagina cited Article 51 [of the Russian Constitution, which gives people the right not to give evidence themselves, their spouses, or close relatives] and refused to testify about the case per se.
– 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.
– 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.
Source: “‘Putin is a demon who stole my country;: an educator accused of ‘discrediting the army’ talks about her criminal case and believing in a miracle,” Sibir.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 3 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader, who in the “real world” would have been paid 275 dollars or euros for this work (as an experienced professional translator) or, at least, 75 dollars for the five hours I spent doing it, per the minimum wage in the US state where I currently live. Please make a donation to this free resource today and thus send me the message that you value the work I do here and want me to continue doing it.
Some schoolchildren thus learned about the existence of Time Machine and DDT.
The Telegram channel Caution, Moscow, citing the parents of students as it sources, writes that a blacklist of artists whose songs are forbidden to play during school disco parties has been distributed in Moscow schools. The list includes artists who have spoken out against the special [military] operation, and some of them have moved abroad.
In the screenshot posted on the Telegram channel, the section is titled “Forbidden music.” In addition to Zemfira and Valery Meladze, it features several dozen artists, including Morgenshtern,* Oxxxymiron, Aquarium, Boris Grebenshchikov, B2, Face, Noize MC,* Little Big, Ivan Dorn, Vera Brezhneva, and Svetlana Loboda. However, the list does not replicate the list of “undesirable” artists that was published in the media this past summer. In any case, Monetochka is not on [the new list].
“Thematic disco parties. We’re going to be holding thematic disco parties quite soon. Every class has a theme. The head boys and head girls of each class should chip in 10 tracks (identifying which class it is). But let’s not forget that the music has to be danceable. Forbidden music: Morgenshtern, Noize MC, Manizha, Oxxxymiron, Nogu Svelo, DDT, Time Machine, Louna, Aquarium, Valery Meladze, B2, Face, Zemfira, Little Big, 2Mashas, Alekseev, Max Barskhikh, Vera Brezhneva, Boris Grebenshchikov, Anacondaz, Nerves, Kasta, Alone in a Canoe, Okean Elzy, Ivan Dorn, Dorofeeva, Svetlana Loboda, Monatik, Potap & Nastya Kamenskikh. There must be no mention of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, narcotics, or adult content [in the songs]!”
According to the parents, the list of banned artists was delivered to the head boys and head girls of classes, who are in charge of the musical program at the New Year’s dance parties. “The children reacted normally. They said, ‘Well, no means no.’ They asked questions about who DDT and Time Machine were and what they sang. But they did want to listen to Morgenshtern,” the parents said.
The [Moscow] Department of Education told Moskvich Mag that they “did not restrict schoolchildren in their choice of music, did not make stop lists, and did not identify performers who were not desirable to feature at events.”
* Has been placed on the Justice Ministry’s list of “foreign agents.”
Source: “Zemfira and Meladze: blacklists of artists for discos issued in Moscow schools,” Moskvich Mag, 15 December 2022. Translated by TRR
It’s the 7X7 team on the line. Today we’re going talk about the environmental movement 42 and why it suddenly became a “foreign agent.”
Approximate reading time: 4 minutes.
Some people look forward to Friday to go drinking after the work week, but we look forward to Friday to learn the names of the new “foreign agents,” as designated by the Russian Justice Ministry. Their updates to the registry of “foreign agents” are like a new episode of a TV series, the release of a long-awaited game, or a new song by a favorite artist. Russian officials know how to put on a show, you can’t take that away from them.
This week, The Bell, ex-What? Where? When? contestant Rovshan Askerov, TV Rain journalist Mikhail Fishman, philosopher Ruben Apresyan, and the Environmental Movement 42 were added to the registry. We’re going to tell you about 42, an eco-movement based in Arkhangelsk.
What does 42 do?
Article 42 of the Russian Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to a favorable environment.” The movement named itself after this article. 42’s activists run online seminars on eco-education, talk on social media about the Arkhangelsk Region’s unique sites, and organize subbotniks.
Everyone can lead an eco-friendly lifestyle. You can start by sorting and recycling garbage. So, the 42 team, together with the Ecomobile project, accepts glass, plastic, metal, and paper for recycling. And for convenience, once a month a real ecomobile drives around Arkhangelsk, staffed with activists to whom residents can hand over their recyclables.
42 is this environmental organization’s second incarnation. They used to be called Aetas, but in 2017 the Justice Ministry designated the organization a “foreign agent.” The reason they were put on the registry was their cooperation with the Norwegian activist group Natur og Ungdom, which financed some of Aetas’s events, including free children’s camps, expeditions, and Ecobattle, an annual championship for collecting recyclables.
After they were put on the foreign agents registry, the activists founded a new movement, 42, in February 2018. But it was also designated a “foreign agent” this past Friday, December 9. Will there be a third incarnation and a second reincarnation? We’ll see.
Organizations and individuals are place on the “foreign agents” registry for a reason. You have to consistently and vigorously mess with the state’s attempts to generate tyranny and speak out against it. But how did people trying to organized segregated waste collection deserve the new designation? One can never say for sure, but there is speculation that the reason they were placed on the registry is that they have called for locals to participate in public discussions about the construction of a new waste sorting complex in the village of Kholmogory.
Friends in misery
Someone may think that the title of “foreign agent” is a seal of excellence. Perhaps this is partly true, but it is also a heavy burden for any organization, especially if it is located in Russia. Foreign agents have to submit additional reports, indicate their foreign agent status on any public platforms, and cannot receive state grants.
In 2022, the Russian government has been pressuring activists from environmental protest groups more vigorously than usual, but most often not for environmentalism, but for anti-war statements. On December 9, Elena Kalinina, one of the participants of the protests in Shiyes, was ordered by a court to refrain from certain activities due to her alleged “repeated discrediting of the army.” Ivan Ivanov, chairman of the Pechora Rescue Committee, was fined by a court in June for appealing to Putin to stop the war. And Arshak Makichyan of Fridays for Future and his family members were stripped of their Russian passports altogether: officials claimed that they had suppled false information when they applied for them in the early noughties after moving from Armenia.
Life goes on
Fines, bans, and denaturalization. But is there any good news? Of course there is! And we at 7×7 are just the people to find it for you.
Greenpeace opened its first branch in the USSR in 1992 [sic: the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991]. The money for opening this branch was raised from the sales of a charity album called Greenpeace Breakthrough. Songs for the album were recorded by U2, Sting, Talking Heads, Dire Straits, and others.
Thirty years later, a collection called Greenpeace Breakthrough 3.0 has been released in Russian. The songs on it were recorded by Samsara, Electrophoresis, Neschatsnyi Sluchai, Nogu Svelo, and other Russian-speaking artists. The artists will transfer the money received from the auditions to environmental organizations in Russia.
In its group description on VK, 42 writes: “We are safeguarding nature in Russia until better times.” Indeed, garbage recycling and subbotniks may seem unimportant now, but this is not the case. The war will end, and the country and its nature will still be a concern for inhabitants of the regions.
Take care of yourself. Thank you for sticking with us.
Source: “Focus” email newsletter, 7X7, 12 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
THIS IS THE LAST POST
Today, the Russian Justice Ministry placed the Environmental Movement 42 on its registry of foreign agents. It should be noted that the persons listed as members of an association are not deemed “individual foreign agents.” This bit of misinformation has been widely repeated.
About the law
The Law on Foreign Agents has been in force in Russia since 2012. At that time, you to had to engage in political activity and receive foreign funding to earn a spot on the registry. Despite the fact that “activities for the protection of flora and fauna” are excluded from the law as forms of political activity, thirty-four environmental organizations have been placed on the registry to date. Ten years later, on December 1, a new law on foreign influence went into force. Its implications are unclear. You are probably reading this post on a smartphone manufactured somewhere other than Russia. You listen to foreign music, watch foreign movies, and go on holiday to Turkey. Under the new law all these things can be deemed “foreign influences.”
Naturally, we do not agree with our inclusion on this registry. If we are “agents,” we are only agents of nature. Our families have lived in the Arkhangelsk Region for several generations. We are rooted to this land, and so our principal mission is safeguarding nature and the well-being of future generations. This is reflected in our name: 42 is the number of the article in the Russian Constitution that states that everyone has the right to a favorable environment. We doubt that the people who put us on this registry have the same love for our region and our people as we do, that they understand the connection between environmental mistakes and people’s health and safety.
We are not surprised by this turn of events. Unfortunately, this is the trend — to drown out the public’s voice. Why do you think we were included in the registry? Just a few days ago, we published information about public hearings on the proposed construction in Kholmogory of a municipal solid waste processing facility with a capacity of 275 thousand tons. There was clearly an attempt by the authorities to hold the hearings quietly and unnoticed; even local council members didn’t know about them. Due to the attention they attracted, the administration has had to hold a second round of hearings, which now will be going on until January 7. But again, the project documentation has not been made available, although it is topic of discussion. Why all these secrets? Why the pressure on us?
We do not know what we’ll do next, because the law is quite harsh and imposes numerous burdens, including financial ones, which we simply cannot afford. We are consulting with lawyers about this. It is very easy to break the “rules,” the fines are large, and there is a risk of criminal liability for us. The safety of the people who selflessly protect nature under 42’s auspices is important to us.
We will be glad of any support on your part. You can also like, comment, and share information here as before (the lawyers explained that it is safe). This is our last post without the ugly boilerplate [indicating “foreign agent” status], which from tomorrow we will be obliged to put in all our informational materials.
* The photo, above, shows members of 42 after they arrived in Shiyes for a week-long vigil on the eve of 8 March 2019.
Source: Environmental Movement 42, VK, 9 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
The Arkhangelsk-based Ecological Movement “42” is one of the first to be listed after Russia on December 1 drastically expanded the oppressive foreign agent legislation. The eco-group was started after Aetas environmental organization in 2017 was declared foreign agents and shut down.
“The only agents we are, are agents of nature,” the group wrote at its site on VKontakte when it became known that the Ministry of Justice in Moscow declared them so-called foreign agents.
“Naturally, we do not agree with the inclusion of us in the register.”
The foreign agent law itself was adopted in 2012 and said that registered organizations could be listed if they conducted political activities and got funding from abroad.
Later, successive amendments in 2017 and 2019 expanded the law to include media, individuals and non-registered associations.
The latest expansion of the law, adopted in July and entering force on December 1, says individuals, organizations, legal entities, or groups without official registration, receiving foreign support, or are “under foreign influence” and conduct activities that authorities would deem to be political would be listed as foreign agents.
The definition of “foreign influence” and “political” could be endlessly broad.
In Arkhangelsk, the Ecological Movement “42” says they don’t know for what reasons it is included on the list.
“Preservation of nature, and hence the preservation of the well-being of future generations, is our main goal and task.”
42 points to the article in the Russian Constitution stating that everyone has the right to a favorable environment.
“We doubt that those people who included us in the register have the same love for our region, for our people, understand the connection of errors with the health and safety of people,” the group says.
The eco-group has over the last years worked actively worked to stop the plans to establish a huge dump field for household waste from Moscow in Shiyes, far north in the taiga forest in the borderland between Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic.
The group is only for members under the age of 30. It is member of the Russian Social Ecological Union, the Climate Action Network and the Stop Shiyes Coalition.
Since 2012, 34 environmental organizations in Russia have been included in the foreign agent register.
The “foreign agents” designation, which carries negative Soviet-era connotations, burdens subjects with strict labeling and auditing requirements.
Many independent journalists, activists and civil society figures have been added to the registry in recent years amid a sweeping crackdown on non-Kremlin-aligned voices.
Source: Thomas Nilsen, “Rebranded ecological youth group declared foreign agent,” Barents Observer, 12 December 2022