At today’s hearing [in Sasha Skochilenko’s criminal trial on charges of disseminating knowingly false information about the Russian army], Sasha’s defense lawyers and Svetlana Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya, a linguist who conducted an independent forensic examination and found no knowingly false information in Sasha’s messages, were able to question one of the authors of the linguistic forensic examination [commissioned by the prosecution].
Olga Safonova, a specialist in political science (!), was enlisted to contribute to the linguistic forensic examination. But, as she was instructed to do by a staff member at the forensics expertise center, she evaluated whether what was written [on the anti-war “price tags” that Ms. Skochilenko is alleged to have posted in a Petersburg supermarket] was in line with the Russian Defense Ministry’s position, not whether it was truthful.
[Safonova] admitted that her analysis of one of the messages was “slightly misleading.” She was “at a loss” when asked to respond to the assertion that Sasha faces up to ten years in prison on the basis of such misleading conclusions, among other things.
After a recess (due to her heart problems, Sasha found it difficult to endure the stuffiness and lack of water), the examination of the witness was continued by Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya. Safonova was forced to admit that among the sources against which she checked Sasha’s messages, only the Defense Ministry’s website corresponded to her own definition of an official source — unlike the website Life.ru and anonymous Telegram channels. She also could not answer a school curriculum-level question about impersonal sentences, although their erroneous definition in the forensic examination is one of the “proofs” of Sasha’s guilt.
In addition to pointing out the errors in the forensic examination and its noncompliance with government standards, Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya recalled that, according to the Justice Ministry’s methodological recommendations, when an expert strays beyond their area of professional competence, it is a procedural error and is inadmissible [as evidence in court]. Safonova was forced to agree. Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya followed this up by asking a direct question: “Can you, as an expert, prove conclusively that Skochilenko knowingly falsified information?”
Safonova replied that she could not.
The new prosecutor abruptly interrupted her and requested that the hearing be postponed.
You can come out and support Sasha at 11:30 a.m on June 13. Many thanks to everyone who continues to attend the trial, shares information about the case, and donates money to pay the lawyers and buy food and medicine care packages! You can help Sasha financially here:
In the late 1990s, St. Petersburg State University, for reasons unknown, gave away one of its dormitories on Vasilievsky Island — 10 Bering Street — with a two-story attic built on. Later, one of the university’s vice-rectors regretfully claimed that if the building had not been given away, the university would have had room to house over 500 students. Today, the building houses apartments (a three-bedroom flat there will run you 20 million rubles) and offices. It is owned by the Bering-10 Condominium Association, whose chair is Olga Diomidovna Safonova. She has the exact same name as an associate professor in the Faculty of Political Science at St. Petersburg State University.
Safonova has been involved as an expert witness in the criminal cases against [Petersburg anti-war protesters]Victoria Petrova, Sasha Skochilenko, and Vsevolod Korolev. They face up to ten years in prison if convicted. These are quotations from the expert analysis in the case against Victoria Petrova:
“Objective facts indicate that the war crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine have not been committed by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, but by the Kiev regime and the armed formations controlled by it.”
“The practical intent and purpose of the statements under examination [i.e., Victoria Petrova’s posts] consists in generating false ideas among readers (listeners) that the actions of the Russian federal leadership are condemned by society, as manifested by the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and against European countries.[…]In the materials submitted for examination, the negative assessment of the policy of Russian federal state bodies vis-a-vis their deployment of Russian federal armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens and maintain international peace and security, is not supported by arguments and evidence.”
Safonova graduated first from St. Petersburg State University’s law faculty, then from its philology faculty. In 2005, she defended her dissertation in political science. Here is a quote from the abstract: “Social deprivation has become a characteristic feature of the lifestyle of a significant portion of the Russian populace. A drop in the level of real monetary income has entailed increased competition for survival, thereby generating an increase in the stratum of people whose intentions have become criminal, i.e., unlawful.”
At least until the mid-2010s, Safonova led an active social life. The Village found the academic’s picture in a dozen photo reportages from different parties, as published by Sobaka.ru and Geometria. Here she is at a presentation by the jewelry house Freywille; here, at the (now-closed) restaurant Gusto’s birthday party; and here, at the opening of XXXX Baltika Brew.
The Village spoke about Safonova with graduates of various faculties at St. Petersburg State University: their assessments of her were contradictory. Journalist Anastasia Romanova, who took Safonova’s lecture course on political science, remembered her as “the toughest teacher, whose pass-fail exam was very hard to pass.” “She honestly read the whole class the riot act,” said Romanova. “It was very scary to go to her.” Emile, a graduate of the political science faculty, where Safonova taught a course on law, recalls, on the contrary, that “the course was a formality,” and “at some point that woman just disappeared.” It was one of the easiest subjects to pass,” he said.
In 2012, commenting to Delovoi Peterburg on the newly adopted law on foreign agents, Safonova said, “There are many organizations that, under plausible pretexts, are engaged in near-subversive activities. We as a state should be concerned about this, and it’s good that this issue has been addressed.”
“I remember that Safonova gave what I thought were absurd descriptions of the political regimes in other countries. She said there was no democracy anywhere. It seems to me that most students found her unpleasant both as a teacher and as an apologist for the regime. A couple of days ago, a classmate sent me an article in Rotunda about her involvement in the expert analysis [in the case of Victoria Petrova]. I wasn’t surprised,” says Emile. Romanova adds, “She didn’t give the impression of being a stupid person. Arrogant, yes. I think she understands perfectly well what is happening now.”
Nikita Tushkanov, 29, a history teacher from the town of Mikun in the Komi Republic, has been sentenced to five and a half years in a medium-security penal colony on charges of “repeatedly discrediting” [the Russian army] and “condoning terrorism” over posts and comments he made on the VKontakte social network. It took the court about nine hours to consider all the evidence in the criminal case and render its verdict. Sever.Realii takes a look at the trial and the basis of the prosecution’s case.
The criminal trial against Nikita Tushkanov, a 29-year-old historian and history and social studies teacher from the Komi Republic, ended with this brief closing statement by the defendant:
“I think we know the verdict in advance. So I cannot influence the decisions you make with my closing statement. I will not change my stance on the events in Ukraine. Moreover, I condemn them and consider them criminal. At the outset of the hearing, I asked for a recusal. It was not granted, of course. In this regard, I would like to say that I don’t want to ask you for justice, but I can’t ask you for mercy.”
The next day, a judge with the Second Western District Military Court sentenced Tushkanov to five and a half years in a medium-security penal colony over a post and several comments published on VKontakte about the war in Ukraine and the explosion on the Crimean Bridge on 8 October 2022, which the Russian authorities have declared a terrorist attack. Essentially, the judge needed only a single working day, 10 May, to review the evidence and testimony and reach a verdict. Nikita’s relatives, who were witnesses in the case, were not allowed to attend the first half of the hearing, at which the findings of a forensic examination were read into the record.
“A birthday gift for Putler”
The criminal case against Nikita Tushkanov was launched in December 2022. He was initially accused only of “condoning terrorism” over a post about the bomb blast on the Crimean Bridge, but subsequently he was also charged with “repeated discrediting” of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, also over posts he made on VKontakte.
The Russian authorities declared the blast on the Crimean Bridge a terrorist attack a day after the incident. The entries on Nikita Tushkanov’s social media page were made on 8 October, the day of the blast, when the incident had not yet been declared a terrorist attack.
Tushkanov was arrested in early December 2022. He later recounted that the police had been monitoring his VKontakte page for several months before the criminal case was launched. He had been written up on administrative charges of “discrediting the army” over social media posts.
The accusations were triggered by a post that read, “A birthday present for Putler. Grandpa turned 70 years old. The last anniversary of the last shithead. P.S. The Crimean Bridge was blown up today. De jure, the Ukrainians have destroyed their own bridge, what psychos…,” and discussions of the events in the comments to this post.
What other phrases were cited in the case against Nikita Tushkanov?
In addition to the post about the blast on the Crimean Bridge, the evidence in the case included comments that Tushkanov made beneath the post. Among the comments that were entered into evidence were the following (the original spelling and punctuation have been preserved — SR):
“Desktop photo for phone”
“Crimea was annexed (if you understand such words at all)”
“It’s delightful that the aggressor is getting f*****”
“My country carries out terrorist attacks by attacking peaceful cities in Ukraine. Any more questions?”
“Maybe you consider yourself a part of this state. I don’t. I didn’t elect this president, the government, and all the rest of it. My homeland has been seized by fascists and I don’t consider myself a part of it”
“How is it a terrorist attack? I don’t understand. Destroying the infrastructure and a symbol of Putin’s Russia, that’s a terrorist attack?”
“For what people? Ukraine did not ask [Russia] to build a bridge on its own land”
“Should we be sad?”
“Putin annexed the occupied territories”
“That’s what the ‘partial’ deadening mobilization does!”
“I *** didn’t get it, but it’s very interesting. What information? They weren’t annexed? Or were there no armed people there while the ‘referendum’ was going on? What’s wrong? Are the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation beating the **** out of the Armed Forces of Ukraine? Then why the mobilization? And what about ‘Z Power of PraVda’?”
The criminal case against Tushkanov was based on a forensic examination conducted by an expert from the Federal Security Service’s Komi Republic office. During the trial, Tushkanov asked the expert to explain how “discrediting” differs from ordinary criticism. The expert replied that discrediting involves creating a negative image, while criticism involves making suggestions to rectify a situation.
In the forensic examination itself, the expert found that there was no evidence in Tushkanov’s posts of his calling for the blast, but there were “signs of acknowledging the ideology and practice of perpetrating the blast that warranted support and imitation” and “discrediting” the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
The expert detected condoning of terrorism in the phrase about the “gift”: the word “gift” and the phrase “the Ukrainians destroyed their own bridge,” constituted, according to the expert, an attempt to condone the blast.
The purpose of the word “Putler,” according to the expert, was to “destabilize the activities of the authorities of the Russian Federation or impact their decision-making.”
The comment “Desktop photo” constituted “a positive assessment of the explosion on the Crimean Bridge, voiced as a desire to save” the picture.
The expert also detected justification for the explosion on the Crimean Bridge in the phrase “my homeland has been seized by fascists”: it was “expressed by the justification for the explosion: ‘My homeland has been seized by fascists’ (exploding the bridge is a response to the fact that the Russian Federation has been seized by fascists).”
The FSB expert also found evidence of discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Tushkanov’s comments about the annexation of the occupied territories, “the deadening mobilization,” and armed people during the “referendums” on annexation of the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.
Tushkanov’s relatives and his close friends were also questioned in court. They described Tushkanov positively and said that they had not touched on political topics in personal conversations.
Testifying in court, Tushkanov again stressed that he had not renounced his comments and did not understand how he could be tried for condoning terrorism if his post had been published a day before the Russian authorities declared the explosion on the Crimean Bridge a terrorist attack. Here is a complete transcript of Tushkanov’s testimony:
I, Nikita Alexeyevich Tushkanov, date of birth 24 April 1994, was born and grew up in the small village of Chuprovo in Komi’s Udora District. My mother was a teacher and, later, the director of the school, while my father was the director of the House of Culture. My grandmother was a home-front worker and the daughter of a frontline soldier who was killed in the fight against Nazism on 1 January 1945 and was awarded the Order of the Red Star. Grandfather was the son of an exiled kulak from Voroshilovgrad (Luhansk), and his mother had been denounced by a neighbor and subjected to political persecution.
I grew up in this environment. From childhood I learned about the horrors of war and the horror of losing parents, through the tears of my grandmother and my grandfather I knew how hard it was for the children of victims of political persecution to live.
With this knowledge and a sense of duty, I joined a search party in 2013 and until 2019 was involved in searching for unburied soldiers and officers of the Winter War of 1939–40 and the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 and reburying them with full military honors.
I loved my homeland and continue to love it, but my love changed due to the way my country, Russia, has behaved towards its own citizens (including veterans, leaving them on the sidelines of life, without assistance) and in the international arena.
I used to see no difference between the concepts of “State” and “Homeland,” but now they are absolutely opposed concepts for me. How did this happen?
It all started in 2014, and not with the annexation of Crimea, which I accepted, as did the majority of the [Russian] populace. It all started with combat involving unidentified military units in which my comrades served. They told me firsthand about what went on there and who did what.
Strelkov (Girkin)[…] has himself admitted on numerous occasions that he, a former FSB officer, “pressed the button that launched the war.” This was followed by the downing of Flight MH-17 and the emergence in Russian territory of fresh graves for soldiers and military personnel from the “they aren’t there” echelon. Since 2014, my State has supported the separatists and thrown more and more victims into the furnace of war.
We have had to pay for it all. Sanctions were imposed, and the so-called pension reform was carried out, but they simply confiscated the populace’s hard-earned money. They froze the invested part of pensions, raised the VAT, and much more. In the name of what?
It’s not the sea that drowns people, but the puddle.
I was baffled by the building of the Crimean Bridge. Didn’t we have other places where bridges needed to be built? There were thousands of possible places for this. But [they built the bridge] on territory that Ukraine recognizes as its own, as does the entire international community.
The Russian authorities called construction of the bridge a “historic mission,” one of the key tasks in the “final unification of Crimea and Russia.” Meanwhile, people’s salaries were not paid on time, and roads and bridges fell into disrepair. Why weren’t we building bridges to Sakhalin?
While still engaged in searches [for WWII soldiers still missing in action], I realized that war was pretty only at parades and musters, but in fact it was only DEATH and those whose remains I carried out of forests, fields, and swamps could tell the whole truth about war. Only the dead and the maimed know the truth about war! War is a crime, and unleashing it is a crime for which there is no justification.
The Anschluss of Austria took place in the same way as [Russia’s] “reunification” with Crimea. My state unleashed a war in Ukraine in 2014, and in February 2022, led by the President, it unleashed a full-scale war while simultaneously ensnarling the whole world by unleashing a world war, the third world war. It was my state that doomed tens of thousands of people to death and doomed millions to suffering. And the so-called special military operation has been going on for more than a year.
And now I am charged with violating two articles of the Russian Federal Criminal Code.
I should say that I reject terrorism. I do not approve of acts of terrorism, and I regard them only negatively, no matter who commits them. I have not made calls for terrorist attacks, and I have never sought to condone their goals.
The Russian authorities allegedly declared on 8 October that the damage that had occurred on the Crimean Bridge was a terrorist act, but the media reported this only on the evening of 9 October, and the President of the Russian Federation himself did not refer to the damage to the bridge as a terrorist attack in his initial comments. Information about the terrorist attack also appeared on the [web] page of the Russian Investigative Committee in the late afternoon of 9 October.
The [social media] post in question [in the case against Tushkanov] was published on 8 October at 10:04 a.m. Moscow Time. I could not have foreseen the fact that the damage to the bridge, a military target, would be declared a terrorist attack.
From the very launch of the (auto and rail) bridge, it was used by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, including during preparations for the 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. There were relevant publications on this topic, the use of the bridge (logically) as military infrastructure. The bridge is part of the military logistics chain for supplying the Southern Grouping of Troops in the war with Ukraine.
Thus, the damaging of the bridge as a facility used for military purposes (i.e., the transport of equipment, missiles, personnel, and provisions) cannot be declared a terrorist attack, just as is the case with all military facilities that are fair targets for damage and/or destruction. The sinking of the warship Moskva was thus also a “terrorist attack,” judging by the rationale of the Russian authorities.
Despite the fact that terrorism and acts of terrorism pursue clear goals of generating publicity and pressure [on their targets], no one has claimed responsibility for the incident on the bridge, no terrorist organization has made demands, and there have been no statements [of responsibility].
It was an act of sabotage, targeting a site that is still used for military purposes. So I thought at the time [when I published my social media post] and I still think so to this day. But it was in no way an act of terrorism.
Ukraine considers Crimea its own territory and is in the active phase of hostilities, which also points to the fact that [the attack on the Crimean Bridge] was and is an instance of sabotage.
In any military action, bridges are key targets for disrupting the logistics and supplying of enemy troops, as illustrated by the famous “rail wars” on the Berezina River during the Second World War and in this “special military operation,” which has been going on for over a year. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation blew up and destroyed bridges in the Novomoskovsk District of the Dnipropetrovsk Region (22 April 2022), the Preobrazhensky Bridge in Zaporizzhia, and other bridges even BEFORE the incident on the Crimean Bridge.
In any war, bridges are key supply routes for armies, such as the bridges blown up by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and the bridges under the control of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation that have been attacked by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
But while accusing Ukraine of engaging in terrorism by sabotaging the Crimean Bridge, the Russian authorities have continuously launched more than 18,000 missile strikes on Ukraine and, according to the Ukrainian authorities, 97% of those strikes targeted civilian sites, including (just to mention a few) Kyiv thermal power plant no. 5, Zmiivska thermal power plant, Kharkhiv thermal power plant no. 5, Burshtyn thermal power plant, and so on.
In response to the attacks on the Dnieper and the Kremenchuk hydroelectric stations, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the bombing of civilian infrastructure was a response to a strike by Ukrainian drones on ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Fifty of [Ukraine’s] energy infrastructure has been damaged, and attacks continue, rendering cities literally uninhabitable.
These strikes did not affect the supplying of weapons and other materiel to the front. They affected such critical [civilian] infrastructure as heating, water supply, and healthcare.
And all of the above attacks on civilian targets took place before the attack on the Crimean Bridge. Who committed a terrorist attack after that?
When I published my post on the explosion on the Crimean Bridge I regarded it as damage to a military target. And I regarded the country [allegedly responsible for the sabotage], a country which is under direct attack from the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, as involved in a war, as indicated in [my] comments to the text.
According to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, public condoning of terrorism constitutes a crime from the moment it is disseminated. [My] post was published on 8 October at 10:04 a.m., while the media reported the declaration of the incident as an act of terrorism on the evening of 9 October 2023.
The concept of “discrediting” the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is not specified anywhere and is not substantiated. There is no such concept in the case files or the indictment, and it is absent in regulatory acts.
As for the “maintenance of international peace,” after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, Russia was subjected to sanctions that caused great damage to many of its economic structures, and caused many manufacturers to exit the Russian market.
According to the international community, the main purpose of the strikes on Ukraine’s energy grid was the desire to sow fear among the populace and make people’s lives unbearable!
As a result of this “defense of its own interests and its citizens,” Russia has turned into a worse scarecrow than Afghanistan.
On May 22, 2022, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine declared Russia a terrorist state.
On August 2, 2022, the Saeima of Latvia declared Russia a sponsor of terrorism.
On October 13 (after the bombing and destruction of a portion of the Ukrainian power grid), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared the Russian government a terrorist regime.
On October 18, Estonia declared the Russian Federation a state sponsor of terrorism.
On October 26, Poland declared the Russian regime a terrorist regime, and Russia a state that supported and implemented terrorist measures.
On November 13, the Czech Parliament declared the Russian regime a terrorist regime.
On November 21, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution stating that the Russian Federation and its current regime are acting as a terrorist organization.
On November 23, the European Parliament declared that Russia uses the means of terrorism and is a state sponsor of terrorism, due to Russian strikes on civilian targets in Ukraine, energy infrastructure, hospitals, schools, and shelters.
On November 24, the Netherlands declared the Russian Federation a sponsor of terrorism.
In 2022, after Russian strikes on vital infrastructure sites in Ukraine, from the. legal point of view Russia meets the criteria of a “terrorist state,” as adopted in the United States and the EU.
The world is on the verge of a nuclear war, and it all started with the actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and personally their commander-in-chief.
However, [the borders of Ukraine] were recognized by both parties (Ukraine and Russia) back in 1992.
[The borders] of the Russian Federation are fixed in the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which can be changed only by means of a referendum, in which the whole country, its entire multinational people, approves them. Amendments to the Constitution and its articles made arbitrarily by the President or anyone else are illegal and constitute a crime.
According to the laws of the Russian Federation, these are also crimes:
Planning, preparing, unleashing, or waging a war of aggression (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 353)
Publicly calling for war to be waged (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 354)
Genocide (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 357)
Engaging in mercenary activities (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 359)
Engaging in international terrorism (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 361)
Along with all of the aforesaid, I would like to say that no one apart from the authorities of the Russian Federation and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation threatens international security, but the citizens of the Russian Federation, including myself, have no right or possibility to countervail the actions of the authorities and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
The purpose of my posts was to show my disagreement with the horror that has gone on for over a year, a horror in which hundreds of people die every day. In the name of what?
With the start of the special military operation, war broke out not only on the front lines and in the international arena, but also in the soul of every person. The hearts of millions of Russians are in the firing line. We are all now in a state of mental civil war, a civil war that was unleashed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (Vladimir Putin), the Federation Council, the Security Council, and the State Duma of the Russian Federation.
Open Telegram and keep up with the news.
Rate this year in terms of its nineteenthirtysevenness.
Take a look at it, at its wooden hands,
At its iron cheeks, splotched with new partings.
This is a theater being demolished, a theater in which there is neither audience nor actors.
This is a theater being demolished, a theater in which there are only fishes and corpses.
Take a look at it and set aside your New Year's fun.
Rate the extent of this city's Stalingraditude.
Wave to the harlequins, dragons, and princesses,
And look at it, monitor the process without blinking.
Hang on to it: it will be both lamentation and reward.
Preserve its shadow if you like.
On second thought, forget it.
Many have nearly forgotten the criminal case against the theater director Kirill Serebrennikov and his colleagues, who were tried several years ago. That affair was dubbed the Theater Case. Apparently, there will be another Theater Case in Russia: director Zhenya Berkovich (a former student of Serebrennikov’s, by the way) and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk have been detained in Moscow.
The criminal investigation is centered on the theatrical production Finist the Brave Falcon, which premiered in 2020. The play was staged as part of the theater project SOSO Daughters, which is run by Berkovich. It is based on the criminal trials of [Russian] women who married radical Islamists. They came to know the men online and, having never met them in person, went to live with them in Syria.
The Investigative Committee claims that the production “publicly justified terrorism,” which is a criminal offense per Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code and punishable by up to seven years in prison. The details of the case are still unknown. Berkovich and Petriichuk spent the entire day undergoing interrogation as witnesses in the case, and it had seemed that they might be released, but as of evening both were still in police custody.
Last year, Finist the Brave Falcon won two Golden Mask Awards—for best playwright and for best costumes. Costume designer Ksenia Sorokina handed over her award to Petersburg artist Sasha Skochilenko, who has been in jail since April 2022, charged with disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army. (Skochilenko is alleged to have replace price tags in a grocery store with information about the war.)
Zhenya Berkovich has also not made a secret of her anti-war views, including in her poetry. A collection of her poems was published in Israel earlier this month.
“Open Telegram and keep up with the news. / Rate this year in terms of its nineteen-thirty-seven-ness,” one of them begins.
According to Berkovich, her grandmother, the 88-year-old writer Nina Katerli, was worried about her granddaughter, even going so far as to tell her, “Zhenya, be quiet for a while.” Actually, the director explained that she had decided to stay in Russia, no matter what, because she had to take care of her sick grandmother.
“It is to a large extent a necessity, due to all sorts of family obligations,” Berkovich said in December. “If it were now a question of going to prison or taking care of my grandmother, then of course I would leave, because I wouldn’t be able to take care of my grandmother from prison. But right now this is not the choice I’m facing.”
This morning, the security forces searched Berkovich’s grandmother’s apartment. Berkovich and Petriichuk will spend the night at a temporary detention facility, and tomorrow a court will decide whether to remand them in custody or subject them to other restrictions.
On March 29, Oleg Belousov was the first person in St. Petersburg to be convicted on charges of disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army. Judge Eva Gunter sentenced him to five and a half years in a medium-security penal colony.
Formally, Belousov was charged for comments he made on the community social media page “St. Petersburg Diggers.” The case was launched after Belousov was denounced to the authorities by Sergei Chmyhun, another person involved in the community page. The court handed down a guilty verdict despite the fact that Belousov has a third-class disability and a disabled son as a dependent.
Bumaga wrote to Oleg. We have published his slightly abridged reply below. Oleg writes about his health problems, his love for his son, and his gratitude to the people who supported him.
Thank you so much for informing readers and following my case as it unfolded. As many people as possible should find out about this regime’s mendaciousness, about phrases taken out of context, and the trumped-up case. Before my arrest, I still had some doubts about whether I had been mistaken about something, whether I was wrong. But after seeing all the dirt and lies, my doubts were dispelled!
For health reasons. I received ointment for dermatitis of the eyelids: my sister looked for one [kind?], and a young woman from the support group (unfortunately, I don’t know her name) looked for the other one. The medical worker muttered [my] last name and asked, “Who sent it?” I replied that I was a political prisoner and anyone could have sent it, not only relatives. I get letters from all over Russia, and not only from Russia.
Would that I [had received the ointment] right away, but I had to suffer for three months—you won’t get medical help in here. My sister also sent two bottles of [eye]drops, but to get them, you have to go through a whole quest. To begin with, you get an appointment with a doctor, then the doctor has to make a note in your medical record and file an application to be allowed to send it, and then there’s the sending and receiving…
Due to numbness in my right arm and left leg, I do exercises for the cervical spine and the joints. It’s all based on the body’s internal forces, there is no osteopath in her.
Everything is alright, I can’t be broken. I’m more worried about my son. There were a lot of things that I hadn’t done for him yet, that I didn’t teach him to do. He is a disabled child: he suffers from a residual organic lesion of the central nervous system. He certainly lacks my help. He has problems with work too: it’s no so easy for him to find a job. My sister, my niece, and her husband also have health problems. So I’m more worried about them. But me, I’ll get stronger, I’ll toughen up. I’m not afraid of challenges. They won’t shut my mouth, I have a right to my own opinion.
Since I’ve been behind bars, I’ve seen my son only at the court hearings. He worries, of course. When I was arrested, he hugged me and said, “How am I going to live without you?” I will never leave him, of course, and when I get out, I will help him as long as I live.
I now see how many good, honest, decent people there are in Russia who are not afraid to express their opinions. I feel their support, and it gives me strength.
As for the verdict, it was expected, so I took it calmly. How else [could the case have ended]? You can’t expect anything else from liars. It would be smarter for them not to instigate such cases, not to disgrace themselves before the whole world, but they think with a different part of their bodies.
About the provocateur/informer. I had thought earlier that he was a fool, a narrow-minded man. After his denunciation — well, the bastard turned out to be a repeat of 1937. But for every scoundrel, there are thousands of people in Russia who are responsive and ready to help. So what can I say about my feelings for this [person]? It’s like stepping in shit. It’s better not to meet such “people.”
Thanks so much to everyone who writes letters, sends food parcels, and worries about me, my son, and my loved ones! Don’t be afraid to speak the truth, to voice your stance publicly! What kind of freedom is it if you are forced to remain silent? All my cellmates and all the prison employees see and understand the whole situation and what is happening.
Nothing’s gone to change me. I have been an honest, decent person, and I will come out one too! Be kind! May the skies above your head be peaceful!
The latest hearing in the case against Sasha Skochilenko took place. I think the group of her supporters has only grown more numerous. In any case, I didn’t make it into the courtroom: right as I was about to go in, we were told that there were no more seats, although there were still a fair number of people left waiting in the hallway.
And so a campaign was born to file complaints about the fact that people who want to attend the hearings are not being let into the courtroom. The complaints were submitted and stamped at the front desk.
“What you do mean, where? In courts, in support groups [for political prisoners]. It’s good people who’ve convened here…”
A young woman handed out small handmade paper cranes. Representatives from four [foreign] consulates and [Petersburg municipal district councillor] Sergei Troshin were in attendance.
The hearing itself was brief, less than two hours long. An expert witness testified that, after a detailed examination, she had been unable to find any evidence of the alleged crimes in the [anti-war] price tags [that Ms. Skochilenko supposedly attached to shelves in a Petersburg supermarket].
Sasha is holding up well, but is coughing a little. They say her cellmate tested positive for coronavirus.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 24.
Source: Alexei Sergeyev (Facebook), 2 May 2023. The original post contains two short videos shot by Mr. Sergeyev, one of which shows Ms. Skochilenko being led into the courtroom by guards and being cheered by her supporters. I’ve inserted a still from the video, above. Translated by the Russian Reader
The Central District Military Court at Yekaterinburg, in Russia, yesterday (10 April) handed down 19-year prison sentences to Roman Nasryev and Aleksei Nuriev, for firebombing an administrative office building where a military registration office is based.
Roman and Aleksei will have to spend the first four years in prison, and the rest in a maximum-security penal colony.
This is the most severe sentence handed down so far for anti-war arson.
Roman and Aleksei received this long term of imprisonment because their actions were defined as a “terrorist act” (Article 205.2 of the criminal code of the Russian Federation) and “undergoing training for the purpose of undertaking terrorist activity” (Article 205.3). The latter Article carries a minimum term of 15 years.
The arson attack that Roman and Aleksei carried out – in reaction to the mlitary mobilisation, and to express their opposition to the invasion of Ukraine – was no more than symbolic. A female security guard was able to put out the fire, with a blanket and a few litres of water. There was damage to a window and some linoleum.
In court Roman Nasryev said:
I decided to carry out this action, because I did not agree with the [military] mobilisation, the “Special Military Operation” and the war as a whole. I simply wanted to show, by my actions, that in our city there is opposition to mobilisation and the “Special Military Operation”. I wanted in this way to make clear my opposition; I wanted my voice to be heard.
Solidarity Zone believes that this type of anti-war arson is not terrorism. That definition is politically motivated, and directly linked to the fact that the Russian government has unleashed a war of aggression against Ukraine.
□ Translated from Solidarity Zone’s Telegram feed. The original asks people to send letters and parcels to Roman and Aleksei in prison. If you are not a Russian speaker and you want to send them a message, there is no point in sending it directly. You can send messages to email@example.com and I hope to be able to pass them.
The case of Pavel Korshunov, accused of “terrorism” over anti-war arson, sent to trial
Pavel Korshunov was detained in the city of Togliatti, Samara Region, as if he were a particularly dangerous criminal — a large number of Interior Ministry special forces soldiers were involved in his capture. But, according to investigators, all that Pavel did was set try and set fire to the Togliatti city administration building the day after the mobilization was announced. In a video posted online by the security forces, Korshunov states that he wanted to impede the mobilization.
Before his arrest, Pavel worked at a boathouse. Citing sources in the security forces, the media also write that Korshunov had previously taken part in protests.
Pavel has been charged with “committing a terrorist act” (per Article 205.2.b of the Russian Federal Criminal Code) and “vandalism” (per Article 214.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). He faces from twelve to twenty years in prison if convicted.
On April 7, his case was submitted to the Central District Military Court in Samara. It will be tried by a three-judge panel chaired by Igor Belkin. There is not yet any information about exact trial dates on the court’s website.
✊ Help a teacher from Krasnodar accused of terrorism!
On the night of October 6, persons unknown set fire to the military enlistment office in the city of Goryachy Klyuch, Krasnodar Territory. The next day, the security forces detained two suspects — Bogdan Abdurakhmanov, a 27-year-old native of Minsk, and Boris Goncharenko, a 34-year-old man from Krasnodar.
Abdurakhmanov and Goncharenko were initially charged with “attempted destruction of property” (per Article 30.3 and Article 167.3 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code) and thus faced no more than three years and nine months of imprisonment if convicted. The FSB intervened in the case, however, and the charge was changed to “committing a terrorist act” (per Article 205.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). Bogdan and Boris now face from twelve to twenty years in prison.
Goncharenko graduated from Kuban State University. After graduating, he taught history, social studies, and philosophy at various educational institutions. At one time he worked as a manager for the Garant and Konsultant Plus legal information portals.
Boris does not support Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and after the outbreak of the full-scale war, he was very worried about the fate of the conscripts, including his former and current students.
Goncharenko does not consider himself guilty of “committing a terrorist act.”
Solidarity Zone has found a lawyer to defend Boris Goncharenko and made a down payment on their fee so that they may begin working. On March 29, we announced a campaign to raise the 250 thousand rubles necessary to pay the lawyer’s fees in full during the investigation phase of the case. To date, less than one fifth of the amount of money needed has been raised.
We urge you to support our fundraiser with donations and reposts!
You are not violating any Russian laws by participating in the fundraiser. We have not been deemed “foreign agents” or an “extremist” or “terrorist” organization by the authorities, and raising money to pay a lawyer’s fees is not prohibited in Russia yet. ☺️
A piece of street art featuring a crucified Jesus Christ and two soldiers with no insignia on their uniforms has appeared on Vasilievsky Island’s Kosaya Liniya. As the author of the work, artist Vano Bogomaz, writes on Instagram, it is a collage that uses images from the internet and reproductions of Diego Velasquez’s painting Christ Crucified.
In his description of the work, Bogomaz quotes the words of Jesus on the cross: “Forgive them, for they not what they do.”
“Two thousand years have passed, and yet we still can’t stop doing evil,” Bogomaz writes. The work was occasioned by Good Friday.
Here we give our readers a glimpse of what the collage looks like and how passersby reacted to it.
“Fun times” today at the trial of Olga Borisovna Smirnova. The escort guard pushed the defense lawyer, Zyryanova, and ripped a phone from her hands, injuring her fingers. As soon as the ambulance arrived, the doctors took Olga’s defense attorney downstairs to the vehicle and drove her away.
At the trial itself, the prosecutor read out a bunch of papers for three hours regarding the searches of the homes of Olga’s associates. In each instance the investigator wrote that none of this evidence was entered into the case file, whereas earlier she herself had insisted on urgent searches without a court order, which were carried out.
The only variety in these boilerplate search and inspection reports was provided by the descriptions of apartments and rooms. And, for some reason, the prosecutor always says “kitCHEN table,” with the stress on the second syllable.
But there is nothing [“incriminating” in these reports?] except literature in Ukrainian (the prosecutor reads the title in Ukrainian and then the Russian translation, as supplied by Yandex Translate) and placards whose slogans the prosecutor was occasionally ashamed to read aloud, claiming that the slogan “Free political prisoners” was “obscene,” and the slogan “Putin resign” was “illegible.” What sort of sharp practice is it to fill the criminal case file, under the guise of evidence, with stuff that has nothing to do with the case and even according to the investigator is not evidence? Is the prosecutor trying to generate an overall fogginess?
While there is a break in the trial, people wait in the hallway. More than twenty people have come to hearing, including a group of supporters and journalists.
When Olga is escorted out now, the bailiffs close the door to the stairs, where people are standing, apparently so that they won’t be able to shout out words of support to her.
As our correspondent reports, at the latest hearing in the trial of activist Olga Smirnova, in the Kirovsky District Court, the prosecution made public the contents of the nine posts on VKontakte which occasioned criminal charges of disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army.
The posts listed by the prosecution were made on the public social media page of the movement Democratic Petersburg.
A post with a link to a video titled “We will never be brothers,” in which it is reported that the Russian army is “reducing Ukrainian cities to ruins.”
A post with a link to a video that concludes with the words [in Ukrainian], “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the defenders, death to the enemy.”
A post with a link to a video titled “We show Russians photos from Ukraine. The reaction of Russians to the war in Ukraine.” In the video, “the assertion is made” that the photos show Ukrainian cities destroyed by Russian shelling.
A post featuring a photo of a placard on which “the assertion is made” that the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center was damaged by Russian bombing.
A link to a video titled “No war with Ukraine.”
A post titled “Chronicles of the war, March 9,” in which it is reported that over 1,300 civilians were killed in Mariupol, most of whom were Russian-speaking.
A post titled “Chronicles of the war, March 9, continued,” which reports that Russian troops continue to bomb Kharkiv’s civilian infrastructure facilities.
A post which”sarcastically” reports on a battle between Kadyrovites and Ukrainian National Guardsmen on the premises of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, claiming that goal of the Kadyrovites is to seize the nuclear power plant in order to “blackmail the whole of Europe with radioactive contamination.”
A post titled “Anti-war pickets: greetings and glory to Ukraine,” which reports that supporters of peaceful resistance in Petersburg came out to protest against the criminal war which Russia is waging against Ukraine.
Due to the absence of witnesses, the prosecution moved to postpone the trial until March and the court granted the motion.
Olga Smirnova is a grassroots activist. She is one of the founders of Strategy 18, an ongoing campaign in support of the Crimean Tatars. She is also a a member of the Petersburg movement Peaceful Resistance, which, according to its own description, “spreads the truth about the Russian Federation’s large-scale criminal war against Ukraine.”
Until 2014, Smirnova worked as an architect, but after Crimea was occupied, she devoted herself to grassroots activism. In 2021, her home was searched due to Strategy 18’s protest campaign, as part of a criminal investigation into “condoning the activities of a terrorist organization banned in Russia.”
The Petersburger faces up to ten years in prison if convicted. You can write to Olga Smirnova in jail: Bumagaexplains how to do it.
Yegor Balazeikin is sixteen years old. In late February, he was detained in Kirovsk, a town in the Leningrad Region: according to police investigators, he wanted to set fire to a military enlistment office, and now he stands accused of “attempted terrorism.” Later, a second criminal case was launched against the schoolboy, also for allegedly attempting to torch a military enlistment office, this time in Petersburg. Our correspondent found out how a teenager who had supported the war in Ukraine a year ago changed his views one hundred eighty degrees and how this has impacted his entire family.
After Yegor was detained, he admitted that he had in fact tossed homemade Molotov cocktails at a military enlistment office, but none of them had started a fire or caused other serious damage. Now the teenager is at risk of going to prison and spending as many years there as the time he has already spent on earth. His family are convinced that the security forces want to ruin the boy’s life. His parents and his lawyer have been forbidden from sharing information about the case with third parties.
Yegor turned sixteen last August. He loves the humanities, especially history and social studies. After finishing school, he wanted to enroll in the law school or economics faculty at [St. Petersburg State U]niversity. His parents had transferred him to School No. 166, one of the leading liberal arts prep schools in St. Petersburg.
“Yegor has always done very well at school. He passed the OGE (the basic state exam taken by pupils after they complete the ninth grade) with flying colors. It was decided to apply to several Petersburg schools at once, and School No. 166 was among them. His parents spent a long time talking it over. They were prepared for the fact that Yegor would have a long commute, since they lived in a single-family dwelling in Otradnoye[forty kilometers east of Petersburg]. Consequently, Yegor’s knowledge so impressed the headmaster at the 166th (who is a historian, by the way) that Yegor was unconditionally accepted into the tenth grade,” says Natalia Krylova, a friend of Yegor’s mother. (Her name has been changed to protect her identity.)
Natalia is close to Yegor’s family. She has know the boy since he was four. She is aware of the details of his life and had tutored him in English. According to her, Yegor’s father, Daniel, was quite supportive of his passion for Russian history.
“He was especially interested in military history and studied all the wars. When Yegor was still a little boy, he got interested in the history of weaponry at his father’s suggestion. I remember his getting books about tanks for New Year’s. He’s just such a dogged young fellow — if he starts doing something, he goes all the way. He knew all the places connected with the Great Patriotic War, he went several times to historical sites near Petersburg, and he often visited military museums,” says Natalia.
Yegor’s interest in military history was also encouraged by his uncle Dmitry, Daniel’s older brother. Dmitry [was] a professional military man with combat experience. He had always been an authority for Yegor when it came to complex historical matters.
When Yegor had just started school, he began having health problems. His mother, Tatiana Balazeikina, took him to the doctors, and they discovered that the boy had a serious disease — autoimmune hepatitis.
“To put it simply, his immune system attacks the liver cells for some reason. Maybe there is some kind of pathogen or virus hidden there, and so the immune system went crazy and began attacking its own tissues in an attempt to get this virus. It is a serious problem, especially if the liver is involved,” says Natalia.
The disease proved to be hereditary: Yegor’s mother also has an autoimmune disease, only it affects a different organ in her body.
“His parents spent so much time with Yegor at all kinds of hospitals trying to understand what was happening to their child that there was practically nothing left in his life except medical tests. He was even classified as a disabled person, a status that was later rescinded,” Natalia recalls. “When he was ten, they had to do something to prevent him from seeing himself as disabled. That’s why they signed him up for kyokushin, a style of Japanese karate.”
Yegor lucked out with his coaches and grew quite fond of this difficult, harsh style of karate. He took part in competitions, often winning, and the Balazeikin home was chockablock with martial arts trophies and medals. After emerging victorious at regional championships, Yegor often judged children’s competitions himself.
But Yegor had to give up his promising sporting career due to his transfer to the new school and having to study for the state exams. His disease eventually went into persistent remission, but he still has to visit a hematologist every three months, have a comprehensive physical once a year, and constantly take life-saving medications.
When Yegor transferred to the new school, his load seriously increased: his classes were harder, and every day he had to spend several hours traveling to the prep school and back. His parents eventually rented him a room directly opposite the school. The family had no extra money for this. Tatiana, who worked as an English teacher, had to go into business as freelance tutor, although there were few lessons to be had, mostly with the children of friends and acquaintances. The family’s main source of income are the wages that Daniel earns as an electrician.
“The child was dying from fatigue, from the huge workload, but his studies were important to him. After arriving home, it would happen that he would fall asleep in the hallway with his coat and shoes still on. Can you imagine how tired he was? Yegor would stay the night at this [rented] room [in the city] when he realized that he could not make it home after school. He would spend all weekends at home. The media has written that his mother left her son to live alone, but this is a lie. He did very well at the new school. Although it was difficult, he got excellent marks. He was looking at several fields to go into. For a long time he dreamed of becoming a diplomat and started studying English in depth, but then he settled on studying history, law, and economics,” says Natalia.
According to Yegor’s new classmates, he is a very kind and intelligent boy. He unfailingly attended all outings, electives, and lectures, and not only always took a clear stance on historical issues, but also knew how to argue his point well.
“Yegor is not terribly talkative, and he didn’t hang out a lot with many people, but he always gave the impression of being a decent, good person. It is a pity that he is in such circumstances now,” a female classmate told our correspondent.
His teachers and the parents of his classmates spoke well of Yegor.
“My son spoke very positively of Yegor. He is a very good boy. It would be a pity to ruin the young fellow’s life,” says one of the parents.
According to Yegor’s relatives, the family had always respected his right to his own opinion and position, and always gave him the opportunity to choose. With the support of his parents, he had grown up to be an individual interested in the history of his country.
When the war in Ukraine began, life in the Balazeikin family changed a great deal. At first there were no disagreements between the parents and the teenager: they all fully supported Vladimir Putin’s decisions.
“I found it strange, but we never quarreled about it, because we are adults who can share their own opinions in the spirit of friendship and grant the other person the right to be different. At first, Yegor was like everyone in his family, like his mom, his dad, his grandmother and, especially, his father’s brother, his uncle, a professional military man. But Uncle Dima was killed almost at the outset of the special military operation. And after his uncle was killed, Yegor’s position began to change,” recalls Natalia Krylova.
It was early April. Dmitry Balazeikin, Yegor’s uncle, volunteered to go to Ukraine as part of an army reserve unit (BARS). He was no longer of military service age, but had a lot of experience. He had served in hot spots, and his relatives called him a “real officer.”
“He didn’t say anything to anyone — he just went off to the front. And he was almost immediately killed near Izyum, where there were terrible battles and heavy losses last March and April,” says Natalia. “He died with dignity, as Tanya told me: he was a platoon commander and was defending his soldiers. But it happened that it was at the beginning of the special military operation, when everything was still unorganized, and he was a volunteer, so his funeral was quite difficult to arrange, including financially. His body had to be claimed and all the paperwork done. Tanya took care of this, since Dima’s mother was completely unable to do it. Besides, she was in Kazakhstan. Dima’s two ex-wives, who have children to care for, couldn’t handle it either.”
It so happened that it was Yegor’s parents who took on most of the chores associated with Dmitry’s funeral, and Yegor watched the whole difficult process unfold.
“It was the first funeral in the family for him. Some time before, his paternal grandfather had died from covid. But Yegor was not involved in any funeral-related events at that time: the covid restrictions were still in effect, and only his father flew to the funeral. The funeral of his uncle, who had been killed, was bound to leave a mark on him,” says Natalia.
“At first, the intensity of his emotions was off the scale. It seems to me that he felt quite conflicted. His uncle had been killed, but you go on the internet and there’s hoople. It’s the same thing on TV. At school, Yegor’s class was studying the First World War, it seems. If it had been me, I really wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It’s a lot of stress at sixteen. I remember when Tanya and I were talking about what was happening in our families, she spoke in great detail about how Yegor was having a rough time processing events, that he was against people getting killed on either side. I thought the right thing to do would be to advise her to take Yegor to a therapist, because it’s a little odd that a child of his age is not interested in girls and friends, but is all tense like a coiled spring. You see, he steered almost all conversations to a single topic, to how Russia was doing wrong. I think everything overlapped so terribly, both this war and his inner emotions,” Natalia says, sighing.
On the evening of February 28, Yegor’s mother received a call from the police informing her of her son’s arrest. According to Russian National Guard officers, it was Yegor who had thrown the Molotov cocktail at the military enlistment office in Kirovsk. The bottle “had broken, but nothing had caught on fire.”
“That day, I received a message from Tanya. It opened with the words, ‘Our family is dead.’ Later, she told me that Yegor had taken his arrest calmly. Perhaps he had anticipated it. He hadn’t tried to break free or run from the police. So far, he has been behaving absolutely calmly, as far as I know. It’s quite strange. I can’t understand it. Apparently, he had thought through all the options, including this one. A person who has decided to carry out a protest like that must be mentally prepared for such an outcome,” Natalia says.
Before she was forbidden to talk about the case, Tatiana Balazeikina managed to tell the media that, immediately after her son’s arrest, she was able to have a short conversation with him, during which he said, “If I hadn’t done what I did, I would probably have hanged myself, because I can’t go around with this weight in my heart, seeing how many people are getting killed.” Yegor was first charged with arson, but later charged with attempted terrorism. According to his mother, during the interrogation, “the investigators very clearly pushed” the teenager to say what they wanted to hear. As was reported on the Telegram channel in support of Yegor, FSB officers threatened that he would be raped in the pretrial detention center and sent to a mental hospital, to which Yegor said, “Do with me what you wish, I will not change my position.”
Yegor is currently in custody at Pretrial Detention Center No. 5. His relatives and other people directly involved in the case have been forced to sign an agreement not to disclose any information about it. His mother was able to deliver to him the medicines and textbooks he needed, along with warm clothes, because it is cold at the detention center. According to Natalia, Yegor has been trying to work out in his spare time and has been thinking a lot about what is happening in the country.
“No one takes into account the age of the offender. There are different circumstances, different life experiences, different motives, and different people. Why can’t he be put under house arrest? He’s just a kid! My only hope and all my prayers are that the criminal code article under which has been charged will be changed. Initially, when he was detained, he was under investigation for violating a completely different article. Now [if he is convicted] he will be imprisoned for ten to fifteen years — at the age of sixteen. This is neither education nor social adaptation. It is a very deep trauma, so many years of isolation. Our state does not value human life as much as it does its own peace of mind,” says Natalia, indignantly.
“Despite their differences over the war, Yegor’s dad has supported his son,” she says. “What has happened has very much brought the family together. Such tragedies either break up families, or, on the contrary, people become even closer to each other. In their case, the second has happened. I think Yegor’s father blames himself for what happened, no less than his mother. Tanya said, ‘Did we bring him up wrong? But how? I really did want him to be a good person…’ I can say that he is in fact a good person. After all, bad deeds don’t always make you a bad person. Everyone can make mistakes. It is a life experience for which you bear responsibility.”
His relatives and human rights activists have launched a Telegram channel in support of Yegor on which they report on his condition. According to Natalia, he really wants people to write him letters.
Petersburg lawyer Leonid Krikun, who is known for having defended a number of activists and public figures, is confident that the court will return a guilty verdict and the length of the sentence it hand downs will depend directly on the defendant’s admission or non-admission of guilt in court.
“With a full confession, the extent of punishment may be smaller. If there is no confession, judges give close to the maximum [sentence] within the scope mandated by the criminal code. The current regime is aware of the populace’s discontent with the mobilization and has been doing everything to stop attempts to prevent it from implementing the mobilization. If criminal cases are launched against disapproving social media posts about mobilization, then for direct actions aimed at disrupting the mobilization, the authorities would have people shot if they could,” Krikun argues. ” The authorities punish assaults on ‘sacred thing’ to the fullest extent of the law, which changes at any time at their discretion.”
Without reliable information about an arsonist’s objectives, the investigating authorities are free to launch criminal proceedings in cases of arson under various articles in the Criminal Code, but after receiving testimony from the suspect, the article under which they are charged may be changed..
Krikun notes that the strictest form of pretrial restriction — detention in a remand prison — is mandated for “undesirables,” and [their lawyers and loved ones] are prohibited from disclosing the investigation’s preliminary findings. The general public thus has no information about the civil rights violations committed by police investigators. Meanwhile, the security forces do not even take into consideration who exactly they are dealing with, even when the suspect is a teenage boy, a young woman, or an elderly lady.
“This is how the authorities intimidate detainees in these cases in order to persuade them to make a full confession of guilt and to repent, and to present them to society not as opposition activists, but as lost sheep who have realized that their own behavior was mistaken,” the lawyer argues.
Source: Yelizaveta Dobrovinskaya, “‘Our Family Is Dead’: The Story of Yegor Balazeikin, Suspected of Torching a Military Enlistment Office,”Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 22 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. If you don’t want the Russian Reader to turn into a chatbot, or for it to be switched off altogether, show your support today by liking, commenting, sharing, or donating. I have to see that there are other human beings out there reacting tangibly to my unpaid labor of love, which is now in the middle of its sixteenth year. I have received only $117 in donations so far in 2023. That’s not enough financial support for me for to keep doing this much longer, considering that last year, for example, my overhead costs alone were $1,620 (for internet, hosting, and subscriptions to online independent Russian media), against only $1,403 in reader donations on the year. ||| TRR
Ruslan Zinin is a real Russian hero, but you won’t find many Russians talking about his heroism or his current plight for the simple reason that they’ve convinced themselves that there is nothing more to be said or done about their country’s dreadful criminal invasion of Ukraine. It is now up to Ukrainians and the “collective West” to stop Putin, whatever the cost. The vast majority of Russians have better things to do, apparently. In the last few days alone, I’ve seen smart Russian friends of mine, people I definitely consider to be among the country’s best and brightest and even (in other circumstances) the most courageous, writing angrily about alleged government bank bailouts in the US and the supposed tendency of US “taxpayers” to vote for conservative politicians, or how they can’t talk about the things that matter to them on social media due to the war (about which they emphatically don’t want to write because enough has been said about it already), or wondering aloud why it took so long for “them” (i.e., the “international community”) to issue an arrest warrant for Putin.||| TRR
Ruslan Zinin transferred to solitary confinement
Ruslan Zinin’s mother Marina Zinina has reported that on March 21 [her son] was transferred to a solitary confinement cell without explanation.
“They came and took him away, saying, ‘Let’s go to another place.’ They put him in the basement in a solitary confinement cell. […] The conditions are terrible. It’s damp and cold and reeks of sewage, and rats are running around, and there’s nothing in the cell at all, except for a cot. There’s nowhere to store food, nowhere to get water, there’s no kettle, there’s nothing.”
Marina Zinina also said that Ruslan has not received any letters for two weeks, despite the fact that FSIN-Pismo [the Russian penitentiary system’s electronic correspondence service] has been sending people notifications that their letters had been vetted by the censor and handed over to Ruslan.
Solitary confinement is one of two forms of punishment for violating the rules in a pretrial detention center. (The second is a reprimand.) The warden of the pretrial detention center or his deputy can impose these penalties. But before imposing a penalty, the prisoner is given the opportunity to write an explanation about their alleged violation, and they must be notified of the penalty in writing.
Zinin was not charged with violating the rules of the pretrial detention center, and was not informed of any such decisions on the part of the warden.
We consider Zinin’s transfer to solitary confinement to be an escalation of pressure on the prisoner, an attempt to silence him and get him to consent to unfounded accusations of “terrorism.”
A logging truck driver from Ust-Ilimsk (Irkutsk Region), Zinin fired several shots from a sawn-off shotgun at the local military commissar in the midst of the mobilization announced in September of last year. He was incited to do this by the draft notice that had arrived for his brother. The military commissar survived the attack.
In early March, Zinin was charged with committing a “terrorist act” (per Article 205.2.b of the Russian Federal Criminal Code).
Despite the fact that letters are not being handed on to Ruslan at the moment, they remain an important support tool. A large flow of letters shows the wardens at the pretrial detention center that a lot of people are concerned about Ruslan’s plight. An even greater flow of letters and complaints in connection with their non-receipt has repeatedly been shown to be capable of breaking through the information blockade that the authorities impose on political prisoners.
Address for letters and parcels to Ruslan:
Zinin Ruslan Alexandrovich (born 1997)
63 ul. Barrikad, SIZO-1
Irkutsk 664019 Russian Federation
You can send letters electronically from anywhere in the world via the FSIN-Pismo service (subject to payment with a Russian-issued bank card) or the free, volunteer-run resource RosUznik (which allows you to remain anonymous).
❗️ If in the last two weeks FSIN-Pismo has sent you a notification of delivery, write to the service’s support team that your letter was not passed on to Ruslan. (You can say that you found about this in the media.)
Solidarity Zone has been providing comprehensive assistance to Ruslan Zinin and his family.
Source: Solidarity Zone (Facebook), 22 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will find it difficult, if not impossible, to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service. It is also probably impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can send letters — translated into Russian (if you don’t know a competent translator, you can use a free online translation service such as Google Translate) — to Ruslan Zinin (and many other Russian political prisoners) via RosUznik, as mentioned above. You can also ask me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance and advice in sending letters.