People and Nature: Labour Protests in Belarus (Rage Against the Machines)

Belarus: labour protest as part of political revolt
People and Nature
November 12, 2020

The popular revolt against the autocratic regime in Belarus and its thuggish security forces is now going into its fourth month. On Sunday, mass anti-government demonstrations were staged for the 13th week in a row – and more than 1000 people were arrested.

A first-class analysis of the relationship between the street demonstrations and the Belarusian workers’ movement was published last week in English, on the Rosa Luxemburg foundation site.

The article, by two researchers of labour movements, Volodymyr Artiukh and Denys Gorbach, compares the labour protests against the Belarussian regime, which they call “state capitalist”, with those in Ukraine, where private capital dominates.

In Belarus, the falsification of results in the presidential election in August first gave rise

Medical students demonstration in Vitebsk on 20 September. Polina Nitchenko is carrying the sign, which reads: “You can’t just wash away blood like that, I can tell you”. Photo: Ales Piletsky, TUT.By

to monster street demonstrations, and then to a wave of strikes, mass meetings and other workplace actions. (I published what information I could find herehere and here.)

This was not only “the most numerous, geographically diverse, and most sustained labour unrest” since 1991, Artiukh and Gorbach write, but also “the first large-scale labour protest to happen within the context of a broader political mobilisation”.

Three months on, the unrest has “gained a more individualised, sporadic and invisible form”, they argue. The workers’ acts of defiance “have been effective, but more on the symbolic level than in material terms”.

Workers “became an inspiration for the broader protesting masses” and were greeted on the streets with banners and chants – “a significant exception in the region, for in no other Eastern European country including Ukraine, have workers gained such symbolic prestige among society at large”.

Workers, Artiukh and Gorbach argue, derive their confidence from the streets, not from their workplaces where they suffer atomisation and strict management control.

Belarusian workers protest as citizens rather than workers. This is, however, an ambivalent process: the very experience of uniting and standing up to the bosses is vital for workers to overcome atomisation and gain organisational experience, but at the same time they have not yet learned to articulate politically their demands within a broader social agenda.

In fact work-related demands have been “only sporadically articulated”. Artiukh and Gorbach see a parallel with Poland and the Soviet Union in the 1980s: “political demands take precedence over bread-and-butter grievances”.

They discuss at length the post-Soviet history of “bureaucratic despotism in the workplace” that is now being challenged. Official unions act as an arm of state control; free and independent unions are small and weak.

In the near future, they expect that the opening-up of Belarus to Russian capital will impact workers.

On the one hand, it will increase the precariousness of workers’ living conditions: wages will not rise, enterprises will slowly be sold off to Russian capitalists, ‘optimised’ or closed. On the other hand, bureaucratic control over workplaces will also increase, while the state-affiliated trade unions will prove incapable of channelling workers’ discontent. This combination of workers’ newly gained politicisation and organisational experience, combined with a deteriorating economic situation, may spark new waves of labour unrest, perhaps more autonomous from larger political protests.

I hope readers will look at the whole article.

Now that Belarus has gone out of mainstream media headlines, it is hard to find insightful reports from the protest movement.

Judging by the Belarussian news site TUT.By, the focus of much anger this week are the Minsk police officers who on Sunday forced detainees to stand for several hours facing a wall in a police station courtyard.

Residents in flats overlooking the courtyard filmed the detainees in the afternoon, and again several hours later as night fell. The videos circulated on line, provoking outrage.

The police tactic of mass arrests and detention has led to a procession of court appearances against demonstrators. One that hit the news this week was Polina

Video, circulated on line, of detainees in a police station courtyard. They were forced to stand in this position for several hours

Nitchenko, who participated in a picket of the state medical university at Vitebsk singing protest songs. She was found guilty of participation in an unsanctioned demonstration and fined; she intends to appeal.

Medical staff and students played a prominent role in the early weeks of the movement by speaking out against the savage injuries inflicted by police thugs on demonstrators. And they have not gone quiet.

The speaker of the upper house of parliament, Natalya Kochanova, said last week that there would be “no dialogue on the streets” with protesting medical staff.

Nikita Solovei, a doctor and adviser to the Minsk health authorities, shot back in a facebook post that health workers had finished with being treated like “slaves” by officials. He denounced the “unlimited violence of the security forces against peaceful citizens”, the “imitation elections”, official “lying” about the coronavirus epidemic and repressive measures against medical staff and students alike.

As for there being no dialogue on the streets, he concluded, the dialogue “would be where the people of Belarus want it to be”.

The political strike at the Belaruskalii potash fertiliser plant, which People & Nature reported in August, led to the detention of strike committee members.

Anatoly Bokun, the committee chairman, was released last month after 55 days’ imprisonment. Sergei Cherkasov, a strike committee member and vice president of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union, was released last week along with Yuri Korzun and Pavel Puchenya: they all served 45 days. The union reported that they are all at home and in good spirits.

The federation is hoping to expand its international contacts: if you are in a union, please get in touch. Another support network, Bysol, set up by Belarusians working outside the country, conveys financial support to victims of repression. GL, 12 November 2020.

Belaruskalii strike committee members Yuri Korzun, Sergei Cherkasov and Pavel Puchenya after their release. Photo: BITU

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Gabriel Levy
Facebook
November 11, 2020

Rage against the machines

Plenty of lies on facebook. Donald Trump’s lying page is working fine. And Breitbart News’s. And Fox news presenter Tucker Carlson’s. And Trump’s former press secretary’s Kayleigh McEnany’s. And Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon’s (although, to be fair, facebook has stopped him adding posts, after he called for the execution of Anthony Fauci, the White House medical science adviser).

But facebook has blocked anyone from posting links to peoplenature[dot]org, my humble web site where I write about socialism, ecology, the labour movement in eastern European countries and stuff like that.

It’s certainly a computer that decided to block me (for “breaching community standards”. As if). I’ve complained to the computer. And the computer may eventually notice its mistake. Or not …

So if you usually follow peoplenature[dot]org on facebook – as many of you lovely people do – please let’s use alternatives:

■ Join the whatsapp group to get updates. https://chat.whatsapp.com/FLJtISmn1ew9Bg2ZcR5fDl

■ Follow @peoplenature on twitter. https://twitter.com/peoplenature

■ Drop an email to peoplenature[at]yahoo.com, and get updates that way.

And please circulate this message to friends. Thanks for your support.

Keep raging against the machines!

You Go, Girl! (Reading about the Belarusian Women’s Protests)

Sasha Razor
Facebook
October 10, 2020

In solidarity with the International Women’s March for Belarus, which is taking place today, I am offering this collection of texts about the Belarusian women’s protests. If I overlooked some sources, send me your suggestions.

August 31, 2020
Ousmanova, Almira. “Belarus’s quest for democracy has a female face.”

September 16, 2020
Laputska, Veranika. “From Beauty Queens to Freedom Fighters: Belarusian Women’s Political Evolution.”

September 17, 2020
Moore, Ekaterina. “Despite Women-Led Resistance, There is a Long Road to Gender Equality.”

Solomatina, Irina, and Luba Fein. “Women and Feminism in Belarus: The Truth Behind the Flower Power.” An Interview with Irina Solomatina by Luba Fein.

September 20, 2020
Shparaga, Olga, and Elena Fanailova. “‘Avtoritarizm — ne takaia prostaia shtuka’: Belarus i zhenskii protest.” An Interview with Olga Shparaga by Elena Fanailova.

September 22, 2020
Fürst, Juline, Anika Walke, and Sasha Razor. “On Free Women and Free Belarus. A Look at the Female Force Behind the Protests in Belarus.”

September 23, 2020
Tikhanovskaya, Svetlana. “I was a Stay-at-Home Mom. Now I’m Leading a Revolution.”

October 6, 2020
Solomatina, Irina and Nina Potarskaia. “U protesta ne zhenskoe litso: Interviu s Irinoi Solomatinoi.”

Irina Slavina: “Or Will My Sacrifice Be Meaningless?”

Irina Slavina
Facebook
June 20, 2019

I wonder if if I set myself on fire near the entrance of the local FSB headquarters (or the city prosecutor’s office, I don’t know yet), will it bring our country any closer to a better tomorrow, or will my sacrifice be meaningless? I think it’s better to die like this than like my grandmother from cancer at the age of 52.

Thanks to Alexander Chernykh for the link. Photo courtesy of Irina Slavina’s VK page and the Moscow Times. Translated by the Russian Reader

Irina Slavina: “I Ask You to Blame the Russian Federation for My Death”


Irina Slavina

Baza
Telegram
October 2, 2020

Irina Slavina, editor-in-chief of the online publication Koza Press, set herself on fire near the Interior Ministry headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod [on October 2]. Before that, she wrote [the following] post on her Facebook page: “I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death.”

Slavina died on the spot.

Slavina’s alleged suicide note on Facebook

Yesterday, Slavina’s home was searched as part of the Open Russia case. According to the journalist, all of her electronic devices confiscated.

“Today, at 6:00 a.m., 12 people entered my apartment using a blowtorch and a crowbar: Russian Investigative Committee officers, police, SWAT officers, [official] witnesses. My husband opened the door. I, being naked, got dressed under the supervision of a woman I didn’t know. A search was carried out. We were not allowed to call a lawyer. They were looking for pamphlets, leaflets, Open Russia accounts, perhaps an icon with the face of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. I don’t have any of these things. But they took what they found—all the flash drives, my laptop, my daughter’s laptop, the computer, phones (not only mine, but also my husband’s) a bunch of notebooks that I had scribbled on during press conferences. I was left without the means of production. I’m completely okay. But May [a dog?] suffered a lot. They didn’t let him go outside until 10:30.”

Passersby and Interior Ministry tried to extinguish Slavina. According to eyewitnesses, the flame blazed up very quickly and they were unable to save [her].

*****

This video is not for the faint of heart: it show the self-immolation of Koza Press editor-in-chief Irina Slavina in Nizhny Novgorod. From the very beginning, a bystander tried to help her, but [Slavina] pushed him away.

*****

In the spring of 2019, [Slavina], for example, was fined 20,000 rubles for an “unauthorized” protest march, and in the autumn, a record 70,000 rubles for “disrespecting the authorities.” This summer, the journalist was investigated on suspicion of “disseminating false information” because of a news item [she published] about the coronavirus, and this time she was threatened with a fine of 500,000 rubles [approx. 5,500 euros], which [Slavina] regarded as “financial murder.”

____________________________

Thanks to Alexander Chernykh for the heads-up. Photograph and video courtesy of Baza. Translated by the Russian Reader. The most recent article published on the Koza Press website was posted yesterday (October 1) at 8:27 p.m. local time. It may have some bearing on Ms. Slavina’s death.

Politically Motivated Criminal Investigation Launched Against Businessman in Nizhny Novgorod
Koza Press
October 1, 2020

The investigative directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee’s Nizhny Novgorod regional office has launched a politically motivated criminal investigation against entrepreneur Mikhail Iosilevich, who has been charged with violating Article 284.1 of the criminal code (“activity in the Russian Federation on behalf of a foreign or international non-governmental organization that has been ruled an undesirable organization in the Russian Federation”). A copy of the document confirming this fact has been made available to Koza Press.

In particular, Mr. Iosilevich is accused of the fact that, on September 2 and 3, lectures for election observers from the Yabloko Party were held in his premises (That Very Place, on Gorky Street), lectures that were twice disrupted by the police. According to investigators, activists from the Open Russia movement organized the lectures. Previously, That Very Place was a venue for discussions of current political problems in Russia, for which Mr. Iosilevich was twice charged with and convicted of administrative offenses.

As part of the criminal case against Mr. Iosilevich, the homes of several Nizhny Novgorod residents—Alexei Sadomovsky, deputy chair of the Yabloko Party’s Nizhny Novgorod regional branch; Dmitry Silivonchik, former coordinator of Alexei Navalny’s headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod; Roman Tregubov, current coordinator of Alexey Navalny’s Nizhny Novgorod headquarters; civic activists Yuri Shaiposhnikov and Mikhail Borodin; and Koza Press founder and editor-in-chief Irina Murakhtayeva (Slavina)—have been searched by law enforcement officers, who, among other things, confiscated electronic devices, personal belongings, documents, and notebooks containing notes.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Photographer Vadim Zamirovski: Fifty Days of Protests in Belarus

Minsk, August 12, 2020. A young woman talking to a law enforcement officer as he is trying to close the gates of the Okrestin jail. After street protests took place, hundreds of people went to the jail in hopes of finding their relatives who had disappeared. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

_____________________________________

Photographer Vadim Zamirovski: Fifty Days of Protests in Belarus

“I do not know the exact number of news photographers still working on the ground in Belarus right now,” says Vadim Zamirovski, a photo correspondent for TUT.BY, “but you can count them on the fingers of both hands.”

TUT.BY is the leading Belarusian independent news website. It is currently under investigation by the country’s Ministry of Information and thus might lose its accreditation as a mass media outlet.

Since the fraudulent presidential elections took place on August 9, 2020, covering the protests in Belarus has been very much like war journalism. Journalists have been shot at and detained by police, while some have been deported, and Belarusian authorities stopped admitting foreign press shortly after the elections.

Zamirovski has already been detained twice. The first time, he was held for seven hours at a militsiya station. (Belarus has retained the old Soviet name for the police, just as it still has a KGB.) The second time, he was detained for only forty minutes. That time, however, he was beaten in a microbus by police, and his flash drives were confiscated.

Vadim Zamirovski

“But that is nothing,” Vadim adds, “compared to how [my] colleagues Alexander Vasiukovich and Uladz Hridin have recently spent eleven days in jail.”

On September 17, the Belarusian independent media produced editions with no photographs to protest these arrests.

After his second detention, Vadim spent two days off with his family at the man-made lake in Minsk known among Belarusians as the Minsk Sea. On his Facebook page, he wrote:

I took a mini vacation this week. An entire two days without riot police, tikhari (the undercover police), busiki (the civilian minivans used to transport the detainees), and all the other things that have recently become a part of our reality. It felt like an impermissible luxury. But you know, when you take a break, your mind finally catches up and you begin to realize the degree to which things are messed up right now. It’s best, perhaps, to keep going.

During the past fifty days, Zamirovski has, in fact, kept going, delivering the most stunning images. It is through these images that millions of people all over the world have learnt about the plight of the Belarusians. One day, these photographs will be published in the history books of the new, free Belarus. Meanwhile, as the country remains a danger zone for the journalists on the ground, we should keep focused on Zamirovski’s clear-eyed lens and courageous voice.

Sasha Razor

_____________________________________

Minsk, September 1, 2020. An elderly woman kneeling in front of a riot police officer pleading with him to release high school students detained on the first day of school. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, September 23, 2020. A young woman screaming in front of a police cordon on the day of Alexander Lukashenko’s secret inauguration. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 15, 2020. A young woman poses for the camera wearing make-up imitating the aftereffects of police brutality. The inscription on her dress reads, “Not enough for me.” Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, September 19, 2020. A young woman during the Women’s March, surrounded by riot police right before she was detained. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 14, 2020. A young woman hugging a soldier and pleading with him to lower his shield. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 13, 2020. The silhouettes of protesters against the evening sky. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 12, 2020. A young woman crying in front of a memorial to slain protester Alexander Tairakovsky. Her placard reads: “Today is my birthday. My birthday wish was for no one else to be killed. We are peaceful people! Enough violence, I beg you.” Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 10, 2020. Doctors and volunteers helping a wounded protester. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 8, 2020. A protester runs up against a cloud of tear gas. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 13, 2020. An elderly man bowing to participants in the Women’s March. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 23, 2020. More than one hundred thousand people converged on Independence Square in the center of Minsk. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 13, 2020. The shadow of a female protester on the historic Belarusian flag. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 10, 2020. A fire was sparked when several Molotov cocktails were thrown at riot police. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

Minsk, August 16, 2020. More than one hundred thousand protesters came to the center of Minsk to voice their disagreement with the fraudulent election results. Photo by Vadim Zamirovski. Courtesy of the photographer and TUT.BY

For many years I have said that solidarity is a two-way street. I cannot begin to thank Vadim Zamirovski and Sasha Razor enough for their generosity in sharing Vadim’s photographs and story with me and my readers. Paraphrasing the words of my favorite song, they have come bearing a gift beyond price, almost free. Please return them the favor by sharing this article wherever you can and doing whatever you can wherever you are to support the Belarusian revolution. || TRR

18 Years in Prison for “Et Cetera” (Penza Network Case Appeals Hearing)

18 Years in Prison for “Et Cetera”
Why the FSB cannot manage any case without resorting to torture: on the appeals hearing in the Penza Network case
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
September 3, 2020

Everything about the Network Case is seemingly clear. All of the defendants have been found guilty and sentenced to six to eighteen years in prison. Public support has subsided due to a fake news hit job against the defendants. The matter is closed, and you can switch with a clear conscience to other news items: Belarus, Khabarovsk, Navalny, and so on.

But why is it, then, that every time I come to Penza, inconspicuous-looking tough guys follow me around town? Why do the court bailiffs try their darnedest to close the formally open court hearings in the case to the public? Why, finally, was testimony given under torture removed from the case file? Are the authorities afraid?

Yes, they are afraid. Six months have passed, but the case is still a bugbear for the FSB.

Photo courtesy of Sota.Vision and Novaya Gazeta

There are five pairs of handcuffs on the railing that separates us from the prisoners. They look like broken Olympic rings. They are for defendants Pchelintsev, Shakursky, Chernov, Kulkov, and Ivankin. The two other defendants, Kuksov and Sagynbayev, are sitting separately: they have tuberculosis.

The appeals hearing begins on a terribly dark note: the guys are told about the death of the Alexei “Socrates” Sutuga. Kuksov says, “That is beyond awful.” In the three years since they’ve been in police custody, a lot has happened, including the New Greatness case, the Ivan Golunov case, the Moscow case, the presidential “reset,” and, finally, the coronavirus. The context has changed completely. There is a photo in the case file of the defendants wearing black masks. It looks really scary. It would suffice to show it to laypeople for them to conclude the defendants were terrorists, of course. The court also thought so.

But now half the country goes around in masks, and it frightens no one.

In the 1930s, there were associations of former political prisoners in the USSR. Amid the turbulent events at the turn of the century, the old-style political prisoners appeared anachronistic. One war, two revolutions, another war, and rivers of blood had flowed since they had served time under the tsars for impertinence to their superiors, involvement in student political groups, and other nonsense. That government, just like this one, did not like students and those who were impertinent to their superiors. They put them in jail and beat them at demos. We remember how that whole story ended.

Pchelintsev says it outright: “We have been sacrificed.” Yes, they are classic victims of history.

Dmitry Pchelintsev. Photo by Alexei Obukhov. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

The first few hours of the hearing are spent on technical issues that, however, are not so technical. The numerous complaints filed by the defense lawyers boil down to the fact that the convicts were not given a good look at the case files and other documents from their trial nor allowed to voice their complaints. The court turns down all the defense’s motions and requests.

It’s as if court is saying, You don’t need to need what you’re in prison for. If you’re in prison it means that is how it has to be.

The defense’s complaints against the verdict can be divided into three parts.

1. The Witnesses

At the trial, the prosecution’s witnesses (!) did not confirm the veracity of their pretrial testimony. Some of the witnesses even disavowed it. Some admitted they had been pressured during the investigation. Some, it transpired, testified to what other people had told them. But the court was not in the least troubled by this fact: for some reason nothing bothers it at all.

That leaves the secret witnesses: there are six of them in the case. One of them, identified as “Kabanov,” is an experienced provocateur (Novaya Gazeta has written about him): this is not his first job for the security services. Another of them could not really explain what he had witnessed. Three of the witnesses claimed that the defendants had told them about their criminal plans after they had been arrested and remanded in custody, that is, in the remand prison in Penza.

Could this have happened? It’s unlikely, but let’s assume it is true. And yet these same “witnesses” could not even correctly describe the defendants’ physical appearance and the setting in which the conversation allegedly took place. Not to mention the fact that prisoners are always dependent. It is an easy matter for the authorities to put pressure on them, to frighten them, to force them to give the “right” testimony in court in exchange for better conditions.

Investigators put testimony obtained from the defendants under torture in the mouths of these witnesses. You get the feeling that they carried the transcripts of the interrogations around them and read them aloud to the first people they met.

Finally, there is the small matter that the transcripts of the interrogations do not match the videos of the interrogations. A person would literally say one thing in the transcript and another thing in the video recordings. The court looked at the videos, compared them with the transcripts, nodded, and everything was left as it was. There is no mention of these discrepancies in the verdict.

2. The Forensic Examinations

Almost all the investigation’s forensic examinations have been refuted by independent experts and specialists. Among the reasons cited by them are incompetence, bias, non-compliance with established standards, and even falsification. It is for falsifications in the Network Case that the Military Investigative Committee is now reviewing FSB Investigator Valery Tokarev. It is so obvious that even their own people don’t believe it.

Although the court claims that defense’s forensic examinations do not contradict the FSB’s forensic examinations, they actually do. None of the FSB’s forensic examinations passed the test, neither the computer examination, the linguistic examination nor the psychological examination.

We must give the court its due: it more often than not did enter findings and testimony that were unpleasant to the prosecution into evidence. But it did not evaluate them in any way and did not take them into account when rendering its verdict. There they are. Sure, qualified specialists have proven that the FSB’s forensic examinations are bullshit, and they can say so if they like. But this has no bearing whatsoever on the verdict.

3. Bias and Presumption of Guilt

Each letter of the verdict indicates that the court was biased in favor of the prosecution. The trial need not have taken place. The investigative case file and the court’s published findings are nearly identical. In fact, it was the FSB who tried the Network defendants, not the court. The court only signed off on their pre-ordained verdict.

As many people have heard, Russia has an independent judiciary.

And here is the icing on the cake, the culmination of this theater of the absurd: the Volga District Military Court that handed down the guilty verdict in the Network Case did not officially exist when the verdict was rendered. So, it is not clear exactly who tried the case.

The Penza Network Case defendants during the trial. Photo by Alexei Obukhov. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

Let’s leave aside for a moment the FSB’s use of torture, the injustice of the case, and the court’s bias. Even if everything had been objective and impartial, from a legal point of view this is not a verdict, but the delirium of a madman. What does a sentence like the following tell us?

“The participants took clandestine security measures, as evidenced by the presence of aliases, communication on the internet using secure protocols, trips to other cities in passing vehicles, et cetera.”

A huge number of questions immediately come to mind.

Half of the people on the internet uses aliases (aka usernames). Are all of them involved in “clandestine security measures”?

Secure protocols are a feature, for example, of Telegram, which is used by half of the country, including government agencies. So, does this mean we should only use insecure protocols? Then the authorities should put an end to it, they should criminalize secure protocols and warn us not to use them.

No one has ever accused hitchhikers of using “clandestine security measures.” This is a game changer for criminology.

Finally, the “et cetera.” This was written by adults. How could “et cetera” be grounds for sentencing someone to eighteen years in prison?  How could anyone write such nonsense in a verdict at all?

The defendants communicate with their relatives. Photo by Alexei Obukhov. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

Konstantin Kartashov, Maxim Ivankin’s lawyer: “I cannot call this document a verdict.”

Oxana Markeyeva, Dmitry Pchelintsev’s lawyer: “The verdict does not meet the procedural requirements.”

Translated into plain language, this means the judges did a poor job, a shabby job. If they had been building a house instead of writing a verdict, the house would have collapsed.

The reason for all these inconsistencies is simple: the guilt of the defendants was proved not in the course of the investigation, but in the course of torturing them. The FSB, however, were afraid to use this testimony, obtained under duress, although they would not admit to torturing the defendants. But without it, nothing sticks. Without it, the verdict is just a random pile of dubious evidence vouched for by the authority of Russian state security. The main thing you need to know about the case is that seven young men were sentenced to terms in prison from six to eighteen years, and their guilt was not proven in court. And this unproven guilt is a threat to all of us—not just to opposition activists, but to anyone walking down the street who catches the eye of FSB field agents.

There are so many problems with the verdict that it is impossible even to state all of them in one or two appeals hearings. There is little hope that the court will heed the arguments of the defense. There is an aura of hopelessness about the case. But it has to be brought to a close because a lot of things hang in its balance. After all, the verdict is based mainly on suspicion—on the fact that, hypothetically, the defendants could have “organized a terrorist community.” In theory, any of us could organize one. We are all under suspicion.

The lawyers in this case are not only defending Pchelintsev, Shakursky, Chernov, Kulkov, Ivankin, Kuksov, and Sagynbayev. They are also defending society, the right of each of us to be protected from the FSB. When they lose their appeal, they will keep going—to the European Court of Human Rights, to the Court of Cassation, to the Russian Supreme Court. Everyone involved in engineering this verdict should realize that they will inevitably have to account for their actions, and at the highest level. I don’t know about criminal responsibility, but universal disgrace is inevitable. They must answer for what they have done, and sooner or later they will answer for it.

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

#NetworkCase 

Reverse Charges

Instead of filing charges against the police officer who broke Mediazona journalist David Frenkel’s arm at Polling Station No. 318 in Petersburg during the recent sham “referendum,” the police have decided to charge David Frenkel with “disobeying a police officer” (Article 19.3 of the administrative offenses code), “interfering with an election commission’s work” (Article 5.69), and “violating the self-isolation regime [coronavirus shelter-in-place rules]” (Article 20.6.1). || TRR

charges
Varya Mikhailova
Facebook
July 17, 2020

Speaking of how we are doing and what has been happening with us. When I found out that David’s arm had been broken, the first thing I was worried about was not his arm or his health, but the possibility of criminal proceedings against him. Not because he did anything wrong or broke the law, but because if you encounter violence from the police, expect to be charged under Article 318 of the criminal code.* And while everyone was calling me and asking about his health, I was thinking only one thing: maybe this is not the worst yet. And today, instead of apologies and criminal proceedings against the officer [who broke Frenkel’s arm], we received this letter of happiness. Well heck, thanks for not charging him with a criminal offense!

* “Life- or health-threatening violence against a government official or their relatives in connection with the performance of their official duties is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to ten years.”

Beat the Press

agoras day

While looking for an original Telegram post (cited and translated, below) by Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora group of human rights lawyers, I found these more recent entries. The latest (at the bottom of the screenshot, above) informed Chikov’s readers that Agora attorney Leonid Solovyov was on his way to the apartment of activist, artist and Mediazona publisher Pyotr Verzilov, which was being searched by police and security forces for the sixth (!) time in recent weeks. Meanwhile, according to the entry above it, Agora lawyers would be representing three people at three different court hearings today: reporter Mikhail Benyash, convicted and fined for, allegedly, “assaulting a police officer” (Benyash is appealing his conviction); Lyubov Kudryashova, a 55-year-old environmentalist indicted on charges of “inciting terrorism”; and Azat Miftakhov, a young mathematician charged with breaking the window at a United Russia party office in Moscow. It’s all in a day’s work.

Andrey Loshak
Facebook
July 7, 2020

Firs they grabbed the activists, now they’re jailing the journalists. When they come for you, there won’t be anyone to defend you.

Pavel Chikov wrote this on Telegram:

Attacks on the media in the summer of 2020 (disturbing)

1. Pyotr  Verzilov, publisher of Mediazona, has home raided by police, is jailed for an administrative offense, and charged with a crime.

2. Svetlahna Prokopyeva, a journalist with Echo of Moscow in Pskov, is convicted of “condoning terrorism.”

3. Ivan Safronov, a former reporter for Kommersant and Vedomosti, is detained on charges of “treason.”

4. Police search the home of Taisiya Bekbulatova, editor-in-chief of Kholod Media.

5. Ilya Azar, a journalist for Novaya Gazeta, is jailed for an administrative offense.

6. Journalists (including Tatyana Felgengauer, Alexander Plyushchev, Sergei Smirnov, Anna Zibrova, Alexander Chernykh, Olga Churakova, Elena Chernenko, Kira Dyuryagina, and Nikita Gorin) detained for holding solo pickets in solidarity with Azar.

7. Management at the [liberal business] newspaper Vedomosti is reshuffled.

8. Policemen assault David Frenkel, a correspondent for Mediazona.

Thanks to Anna Tereshkina for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

 

Mardikor

“Every Day We Go Out on the Road”: A Documentary About the Lives of Female Mardikors Has Been Made in Tajikistan
Fergana
July 2, 2020

Tajik journalists have made the documentary film Mardikor [“Day Laborer” or “Handywoman,” as the filmmakers themselves have translated the term], which details the plight of female day laborers in the city of Bokhtar, 100 kilometres from Dushanbe. The picture was created as part of MediaCAMP (Central Asia Media Program), implemented by Internews with financial support from USAID, writes Asia-Plus.

Pop-up mardikor markets exist in all the cities and major towns of Tajikistan. But whereas earlier only men offered their services there, women’s markets have also recently appeared. Women who are divorced or left without the support of husbands who have gone to work abroad are willing to undertake any hard work for the sake of two or three dollars a day.

“The short film Mardikor tells the story of these women, most of whom are the abandoned wives of migrant workers. Their husbands do not return from the Russian Federation for years on end and do not send money to support their families. The majority of unemployed women at this labor market do not even have a school-leaving certificate. More than half are mothers with many children,” says the film’s director Mahpora Kiromova.

Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up. Film poster (below) courtesy of Mahpora Kiromova’s Facebook page. Translated by the Russian Reader

mardikor

Our Power Doesn’t Run on Nothing

Norilsk Nickel Dumping Toxic Waste into Lake Pyasino Right Now
Elena Kostyuchenko
Novaya Gazeta
June 27-28, 2020

Vasily Ryabinin, a former employee of the Norilsk office of Rosprirodnadzor (Russia’s federal environmental watchdog), Greenpeace activists, and Novaya Gazeta reporters have discovered that Norilsk Nickel has continued to dump industrial waste into the Kharayelakh River and Lake Pyasino.

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The place where waste from a Norilsk Nickel facility is being discharged into the tundra and thence, via streams, into the Kharayelakh River. Photo courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

Water contaminated with heavy metals, sulfurous acid, and surfactants is currently being pumped from the tailings storage facility at the Talnakh processing plant, owned by Norilsk Nickel, and drained into the tundra. The waste flows via streams into the Kharayelakh River, which empties into Lake Pyasino.

“Norilsk Nickel discharging toxic waste right now into the river.”

Witnesses have called the police, the Emergencies Ministry, Rosprirodnadzor, and the prosecutor’s office to the drainage site.

“This is a complete breakdown of law and order, and a crime against nature and our children. The clean-up must start immediately,” says Vasily Ryabinin.

UPDATE

The Norilsk Nickel security service has arrived at the scene. The pumping station that has been discharging waste into the river has been shut down.

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Employees of Norilsk Nickel’s security service. Photo by Elena Kostyuchenko for Novaya Gazeta 

Almost immediately after that, the Norilsk rescue service arrived at the scene.

Vladimir Zhenikhov, senior duty officer of the rescue service: “Now the brass will decide what to do. It’s a good thing everything has been documented. I had heard before that something was being discharged into the tundra here.”

Vladislav Shatura: “It’s amazing that they let us in here at all. Norilsk Nickel can decide not to let anyone in. Norilsk Nickel can do anything it wants.”

And now the police have arrived.

UPDATE 2

The workers who arrived are hurrying to dismantle the pipes!

“Workers called to the scene are hurriedly dismantling the pipes! Novaya Gazeta and Greenpeace today discovered and documented how Norilsk Nickel has been dsicharging toxic waste into the river, and thence into Lake Pyasino. Less than a month has passed since the diesel spill at Power Plant No. 3.”

UPDATE 3

People from the prosecutor’s office have arrived at the scene. The police car in which the prosecutors got here has been crushed by the Norilsk Nickel tractor removing the pipes.

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Photo by Elena Kostyuchenko for Novaya Gazeta

Prosecutor Vladimir Bolshunov: “We have called the Investigative Committee, and Rosprirodnadzor is now waiting for a car and is also on the way. They will be taking samples. We have ordered a copter and will be trying to lift [what?] up, despite the wind. It’s all we needed, of course, but we’re going to go to work and do a comprehensive job with the whole thing.”

The Emergencies Ministry officers thank the journalists and activists: “Well done.” Officer Denis Makarov says of Norilsk Nickel: “They aren’t afraid of anything.”

A month ago, Lake Pyasino was contaminated by 21,000 tons of diesel fuel from Power Plant No. 3, also owned by Norilsk Nickel.

All photos courtesy of Novaya Gazeta. Translated by the Russian Reader

power doesn’t run on nothing

we are just a child
we are just a child
we are wide awake
but our legs are shaky

we’re unaware
we’re hyper and we stare into space
with grins on our faces

so give us what we’re asking for
cause either way we’re gonna take it
our power doesn’t run on nothing
we need the land you’re standing on
so let’s go, move it

we are old as hell
we are old and tell the children
when to kill, when to sit still

everyone doing what we say
til our dying day
til our breath is empty

they’ll give us what we’re asking for
cause either way we’re gonna take it
our power doesn’t run on nothing
we need the land you’re standing on
so let’s go, move it

you need to let go, move it
we’re more equal
we’ll move you people off the planet
cause goddamn, we need the fuel

so let the beat roll over
let the beat roll over everyone in line
everyone in line
let the beat roll over
let the beat roll over everyone in line
one at a time

they’ll give us what we’re asking for
cause god is with us
and our god is the richest
our power doesn’t run on nothing
it runs on blood
and blood is easy to obtain
when you have no shame

when you have no shame

so let the sun fade, let the sun fade
we’ll still have light
we’ll burn even brighter

we’ll drain the well
we’ll tunnel to hell
and leave the earth’s surface
for the worthless and dirty

let the beat roll over
the beat roll over everyone in line
everyone in line

do you think we’ll cease?
do you see a reason?
do you think it’s fair?
do you think it’s fair?
do you think we care?

Source: The Thermals