“They Are Trying to Destroy Us for Daring to Speak Up”

“They Are Trying to Destroy Us for Daring to Speak Up”
Rural Pensioners Threatened with Fines for Rally against Police Inaction in Investigating Fatal Road Accident
Nadezhda Andreyeva
Novaya Gazeta
August 4, 2018

Residents of the village of Tersa in Saratov Region’s Volsk District have sent an open letter to the president asking him to take charge of investigating road accident in which 30-year-old Alexander Lopasteysky was killed. According to the letter’s authors, the local police have tried to cover up a crime. A criminal case has not yet been opened, although the fatal accident occurred more than two months ago. Over three hundred people, every tenth resident of the village, signed the letter. The residents then held an assembly where they discussed the inaction of law enforcement agencies. The police immediately sprang into action—but not to investigate the accident. The next night, the police made the rounds of the village, threatening residents with huge fines for attending an unauthorized public event. 

“To: The Kremlin, Moscow. From: Your Voters”
Railroad Street has never been paved or lighted. On the side of the road stands a black metal cross, fenced off with a chain.

“We didn’t bother to attach a plaque. Everyone knows who it’s for anyway.”

In the early hours of May 28, 2018, 30-year-old Tersa resident Alexander Lopasteysky died here while riding a motorcycle. According to his relatives, he was knocked off his bike and run over by Alexander Letov, driving a VAZ 2108 car.

Alexander Lopasteysky. Photo by Matvei Flyazhnikov for Novaya Gazeta

An investigation of the fatal road accident was not opened. Villagers claim an investigator from the district Interior Ministry office came to Tersa to question witnesses forty-two days after the accident.

“The police probably thought they could dillydally, and the collective farmers would forget the whole thing,” argues Tersa resident Viktor Konstantinovich.

“I can’t say the police have been paid off. They have just been negligent in this case. A man accidentally fell off a motorcycle and died through his own fault. It’s convenient. They don’t have to make any effort,” says Valentina Vasilyevna, mother of the dead man, shuffling through photos of her son.

Lopasteysky’s relatives wrote to the district council and prosecutor’s office, asking them to take charge of the investigation. They received formal but meaningless replies to their requests. The only thing left to do was write the president.

“To: The Kremlin, Moscow. From: Your voters in the village of Tersa, Volsk District,” reads the opening of their appeal to the president, which was signed by over three hundred residents of the village, whose total population is approximately three thousand.

As the letter’s authors note, “There has been an attempt to cover the crime up, since Letov’s father is an officer in the Volsk District Police.”

Dream’s Backyard
The shop Dream is in the middle of the village, a one-storey brick box crowned with a tall wooden attic. Manufactured goods are through the door on the right, while groceries are through the door on the left.  Dream’s backyard was the site of the “unauthorized public event” at nine in the evening on a Sunday.

“The entire village waited for the investigation to begin. We were patient for two months. We sent letters to all the relevant authorities. What was left for us to do? People said we should raise a ruckus,” says Lyudmila Lopasteyskaya, the dead man’s sister.


Lyudmila Lopasteyskaya, Alexei Lopasteysky’s sister. Photo by Matvei Flyazhnikov for Novaya Gazeta

On the social media website Odnoklassniki [“Classmates”], Lyudmila asked everyone concerned about the tragedy to meet by the entrance to the village shop. Around one hundred people came.

Half a dozen police officers from Volsk also came to the meeting, including one armed with a video  camera.

“They said it was forbidden to gather near the porch, that it was a public place. We went into the backyard. We wanted to find out what stage the investigation was at. But the police commander from Volsk turned his back on us and chewed out Lyudmila,” recounts pensioner Lydia Nikolayevna, a former schoolteacher.

“I said to him, ‘You’re treating people with disrespect, turn around and face us. He wouldn’t tell us his name. He only ordered the cameraman to film everyone who opened their mouths and told the other officers to write down people’s license plate numbers,” says pensioner Nadezhda Ivanovna, a former college employee.

People dispersed after village council head Vyacheslav Mokhov promised he would go with the dead man’s relatives to meet with the district police chief.

The next day, five Tersans went to Volsk.

“We were allowed to enter the police building in twos. Alexander’s daughter and the village head went in, then Alexander’s friends. I wanted to go last. But the police said to me, ‘No, that’s enough,'” says Valentina Vasilyevna.


Dream, the village shop. Photo by Matvei Flyazhnikov for Novaya Gazeta

“We told them what evidence had been seen at the accident site. But the police weren’t really interested. They kept asking whether the village council had authorized the protest rally, and why the shop owners had agreed to let us in,” Viktor Konstantinovich recounts.

A 20,000 Ruble Fine on an 8,000 Ruble Pension
The police returned to the village a day later.

“They made the rounds of the houses yesterday and the day before yesterday. It was our village beat cop and some officers from Volsk. They knocked on the doors of old women at eleven, eleven-thirty at night. They told people to come outside, shoved papers in their faces, and told them to sign them. They told my wife that by six in the morning they had to get the signatures of the people who had gone to the meeting,” say Viktor Konstantinovich.

He nervously twirls a phone in his hands.

“Dont mention my surname in the newspaper,” he adds.

“He didn’t even get out of the car. I asked where he’d got my name and address. That stopped him short,” recounts Nadezhda Ivanovna.

“He said fines for protest rallies range from 10,000 to 20,000 rubles. My monthly pension is 8,000 rubles. I worked as a lab assistant for thirty-nine years. I spend my entire pension on the gas and light bills, and medicines. We’re frightened.”

“The police are not protecting us. On the contrary, they are destroying us for daring to speak up. Don’t take a picture of me. I have a grandson I’m raising.”

The village beat cop served Lopeystskaya with a notice of initiation of administrative proceedings under Article 20.2 of the Administrative Offenses Code (“Violation of the Rules for Holding a Public Event”), as filed “against an unknown person,” along with an official warning from the Interior Ministry’s district office.

The police informed Lopeystskaya that “in case of a public event, planned by you in the village of Tersa, you could face administrative and criminal sanctions.”

The warning was followed by list of six articles from the Administrative Offenses Code and Criminal Code, including the article that stipulates “organization of an extremist community” as a felony.


A box marked “Information about Incidents of Corruption” at the local police department. Photo by Matvei Flyazhnikov for Novaya Gazeta

The neighborhood police precinct is in the village council  building. It is quiet and hot in the hallway, and flies are buzzing. The beat cop’s office hours are glued to a window: two hours on Tuesdays and  Saturdays, one hour on Fridays.

I call the mobile phone listed there.

“There was an unauthorized protest rally on my beat, ninety-seven people. I’ve been ordered to gather evidence,” says Lieutenant Alexander Bakanov.

Lieutenant Bakanov does not specify who gave the orders and why. He cuts the conversation short.

The village council head’s office. A United Russia party flag covers the window on the right. Photo by Matvei Flyazhnikov for Novaya Gazeta

The door to the office of village council head Vyacheslav Mokhov is open. A blue United Russia party flag covers a crack in a window. There are framed photos of the president, the region’s governor, and the district head on the wall. The Volsk coat of arms features a sleeping bear.

The ladies in the office next door chime in unison that the boss has left the village.

“He’s gone to Volsk. No, he’s gone to Shikhany.”

Pointing at each other, they argue about who should replace Mokhov when he is out of the office.

Mokhov hangs up on me twice, but then he arrives at the office anyway.

“Don’t you photograph me. I’m scared of everything. This thing can be spun the wrong way,” he says.

“That was the first unauthorized protest rally in the Volsk District ever,” he adds, lowering his voice.

P.S. The press’s attention to this story has been reflected in the surprising speed with which local law enforcement has reacted. While this issue was going to press, a criminal case was opened under Criminal Code Article 264 (“Violation of Traffic Rules”), and the Volsk District Court placed Alexander Letov under house arrest. Volsk District Deputy Prosecutor Andrei Shevchenko refused to comment on the case when asked by Novaya Gazeta.

Meanwhile, the Volsk District Court has begun hearing the matter of Lyudmila Lopasteyskaya’s alleged violation of Article 20.2 of the Administrative Offenses Code. The Tersans summoned to testify have told the court that what happened was not a protest rally, but a meeting of villagers concerned about the tragedy. The next court hearing in the case has been scheduled for August 9.

Thanks to Valentin Urusov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

LGBT Pride in Petersburg: Thirty Activists Detained

38405292_1907386405980822_7528714663547109376_n

Yevgenia Litvinova
Facebook
August 4, 2018

A LGBT pride event was scheduled today, but the authorities refused to permit it, and it was decided we should limit ourselves to solo pickets on Palace Square. The protest was scheduled for 12:34 p.m. It looks pretty (1,2,3,4), but the time is horribly early for me.

But I remembered the words of Alexei Sergeyev and forced myself to get up.

“I hope solidarity is not an empty phrase for you. Maybe we have been together at architectural preservation marches and the Marches for Peace. Or we came out to support the striking truckers and women’s reproductive rights, protested against the destruction of confiscated produce, against corruption, against torture by the FSB, and mourned the murdered Boris Nemtsov. Maybe this is your first picket holding a flag or card. Or you are coming just to support us, to be with us. All of it matters. Every person counts.”

Alexei and I wound up on the same bus. We were running a bit late.

38301108_1907384719314324_5175463354348601344_n

On Palace Square, we saw crowds of patriotically minded Petersburgers. Many had dressed in camouflage and adorned themselves with St. George’s Ribbons. It transpirted that today was a party for Harley-Davidson motorcycles and their owners.

Palace Square was completely cordoned off and chockablock with cops.

I got held up, and when I got to the square, Alexei Sergeyev had already been detained. Then Alek Naza (Alexei Nazarov) was detained: he had no placard, only a rainbow flag. Before that 28 more people had been detained. That is a total of 30 people detained for trying to hold solo pickets [which, according to Russian law, can be held without permission and without notifying authorities in advance]. There are minors among them. Some have been taken to the 74th Police Precinct (in particular, Alexander Khmelyov), while a third group is still being held in a paddy wagon, as far as I know.

Information from witnesses: “Six of the people detained on Palace Square were dropped off at the 69th Police Precinct at 30/3 Marshal Zhukov Avenue, including Yuri Gavrikov, Alexei Sergeyev, and Tanya (Era) Sichkaryova. One of the detainees is an underaged girl. We have refused to be fingerprinted and photographed.”

I was taking pictures with Yelena Grigorieva’s camera. I don’t have those photos yet. I’m using ones that have already been published on group pages and the social media pages of the protesters.

Translated by the Russian Reader

UPDATE. Please do not credit the accounts of this incident published by Gay Star News, Gay Tourism, and True Media. I sent the following letter to them a few minutes ago.

Your websites published a very sketchy summary of a post I published on my blog The Russian Reader earlier this evening.

Namely, you characterized the source of my post, Yevgenia Litvinova, as a “LGBTI activist.” She is no such thing. She is a well-known opposition journalist and pro-democracy (anti-Putin) activist, whose organization, Democratic Russia, feels it important to show solidarity with the LGBTI movement in Petersburg. 

Please correct or delete this baseless speculation on your part or I’ll expose your bad journalistic practices on social media and my blog.

My blog is a copyleft website, but no one has the right to rip what I translate and write out of context—a context I know well because I’ve lived in Petersburg for 25 years—and fit it into a fake context that makes more sense to your readers, who, apparently, cannot imagine a non-LGBTI person would or could show solidarity with the LGBTI movement.

83 Days

83 daysImage courtesy of Askold Kurov

Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike in a prison in the far north of Russia for eighty-three (83) days. His only demand is that the Kremlin release the other sixty-four (64) Ukrainian political prisoners it has incarcerated on trumped-up charges in the wake of its illegal, unprovoked occupation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine. {TRR}

#SaveSentsov
#FreeOlegSentsov
#Free64

Do the Right Thing

38072215_2021826408147215_5307798211635707904_n.jpgFamous Russian human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov picketing outside the Tverskoi District Court in Moscow on July 31, 2018. His placard reads, “Send Anya Pavlikova, 18, and Masha Dubovik, home immediately! #StopFSB.” Anna Pavlikova and Maria Dubovik are currently under in police custody in a remand prison, charged with involvement in a “terrorist community,” New Greatness, that by all accounts was concocted by undercover agents of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) as a means of entrapping the people who attended its political discussions, held, allegedly, in rooms rented by the FSB for the purpose and fastfood restaurants. The fact that two teenage girls are in jail, while four of the ten people charged in the case are under house arrest has outraged many people in Russia, as well as the torture-like treatment meted out to Ms. Pavlikova by the authorities. Photo courtesy of the Support Group for Suspects in the New Greatness Case, a public group on Facebook

My posts on the New Greatness case and related affairs:

_____________________________

Do you remember the controversy that erupted when Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was released in 1989? I do, as well as going to a rather heated showing of the film at a cinema in downtown Portland, Ore., at which moviegoers were evenly divided between frightened white liberals and screaming black kids. That was a hoot.

The funny thing is that, when I watched the movie again a year or two ago, I realized that, for all its tremendous performances and stunning cinematography, editing, and directing, the question that plagued Americans in 1989—namely, what was the right thing to do?—was answered quite plainly and simply by one of the main characters at the end of the film. He understood what the right thing to do was and he did it.

When it comes to the Putinist secret police whacking on people who did nothing wrong— people like Oleg Sentsov, Anna Pavlikova, and the eleven young men implicated in the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case—there’s no controversy. If we don’t publicize their cases, discuss them aloud, make a fuss, make a lot of noise, show our solidarity, and encourage other people to do the same, they will die in the effort to get other political prisoners released (i.e., Oleg Sentsov) or be tried in kangaroo courts and sent to prisons for many years for thought crimes or no crimes at all (i.e., Anna Pavlikova, her fellow New Greatness suspects, and the eleven Network lads).

Is that you want? It’s not what I want. But I don’t hear many of you making much noise about it. What are you scared of? Looking stupid? So what, “being cool” is more important than doing the right thing? Or do you thinking doing the right thing should make you look cool? In reality, most of the time, doing the right thing either goes wholly unnoticed or makes you look stupid, as in Spike Lee’s film.

There are people, however, who almost always know what the right thing to do is and have learned the simple lesson that solidarity is a two-way street. One of those people is the famous Russian human rights defender Lev Ponomaryov. {TRR}

 

Yanka Dyagileva, “Hell Brink”

yanka“I don’t know now whether I’ll fall or fly. / I don’t have the strength to fly away nor do I want to lie.”

Янка Дягилева
Ад-край

Отдыхай, я молчу. Я внизу, в стороне.
Я в краю, где молчат. Я на самом краю.
Где-то край, где-то рай, где-то ад, где-то нет
Там, где край, там и ад. Там, где рай, там и нет ничего
Головою в порог — дверь закрой, не смотри
С башни вниз полетишь, если ветер внутри
Если нет, будешь камнем лежать под горой
Там, где празднуют пир при Луне упыри .
Я не знаю теперь — упаду, полечу:
Улететь нету сил, а лежать не хочу
Будет ночь — закричу, отвернусь, укачусь
Разобьюсь всё равно до утра
Постучу во все двери. Пройду по местам, где вас нет
Просто так — может встречу кого по пути
Поклонюсь до земли — головою в порог в третий раз —
Раза два мне ещё до пяти. До шести ещё три —
Будет срок и в острог
Тяжело здесь лежать, были б силы уйти
Или вниз, или с краю чуть-чуть отойти
Хоть на метр — присесть-посидеть-покурить
Может дух испустить, может, перевести…
Отдыхай, не всегда ведь со мною легко
Я не та, кто я есть. Я пока далеко
Я внизу в стороне. Я на самом краю.

Июнь 1987, Омск

Source: grob-khroniki.org

Yanka Dyagileva
Hell Brink 

Relax, I’m silent. I’m down below, off to the side.
I’m in the land of the silent. I’m on the very brink.
Heaven, hell, the brink are somewhere and somewhere not.
Find the brink and you’ll find hell. Find heaven and you’ll find nothing.
Run headfirst into the threshold. Close the door, don’t look.
You’ll hurtle from the tower if there’s a wind inside.
If there’s none, you’ll like like a rock under the mountain
Where the vampires feast when the moon is out.
I don’t know now whether I’ll fall or fly.
I don’t have the strength to fly away nor do I want to lie.
When night comes, I’ll scream, I’ll turn away, I’ll leave in a hurry.
Anyway I’ll be smashed to smithereens before morning.
I’ll knock on all the doors. I’ll go everywhere you aren’t
Just for the heck of it. Maybe I’ll meet someone along the way.
I’ll bow down to the ground and go headfirst into the threshold a third time.
Two more times makes five. Three more times makes six.
There will be time in jail.
It’s hard to lie here. Would that I had the strength to leave
Or go down or back away from the brink a bit,
If only a meter, to sit down and have a sit and a smoke,
Maybe to give up the ghost, maybe to catch my breath.
Relax, it’s not always easy with me.
I’m not who I am. I’m still far away.
I’m down below, off to the side. I’m on the very brink.

June 1987, Omsk

Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

 

Yevgenia Litvinova: “The Buskers Played Pink Floyd’s The Wall”

litvinovaYevgenia Litvinova. Her placard reads, “Crimean Tatars are not terrorists! Free political prisoners! Emir Hussein Kuku, a member of the Crimean Human Rights Group, has been on hunger strike since June 26.” Photo courtesy of Ms. Litvinova’s Facebook page

Yevgenia Litvinova
Facebook
July 19, 2018

July 18, 2018

We arrived at Strategy 18 ahead of time yesterday, but we started our pickets half an hour later.

An unauthorized rally against raising the retirement age was planned to take place on Malaya Sadovaya Street. They might have needed help. Paddy wagons were lined up on the Nevsky. It was understood people would be arrested. That was what happened.

Two hundred people attended the protest rally. Fourteen of them were detained, including Father Grigory Mikhnov-Voytenko, a member of the Petersburg Human Rights Council. The detainees were driven from one police precinct to another for three hours. They were released around midnight.

Why do so few people defend their own interests? Are they afraid? Yes. Was the rally poorly advertised? That, too. But there is also an indifference to everything and everyone, including oneself.

Around a year ago, in September 2017, we organized a Peace March. It was also unauthorized, of course. Approximately three hundred people showed up. It was understandable: people are fed up with the antiwar agenda. They want to isolate themselves from other people’s corpses and the crimes of their own government.

Pensions affectly them directly, however. They are the ones whose money is being stolen, lots of money when you add it up. Yet people are again okay with everything.

“Should I bring the rope [to hang me]?”

At seven-thirty, we went back to our own plan, pulling out placards about the persecution of the Crimean Tatars. Natalia Voznesenskaya and I stood together for reasons of safety. There were tons of hired thugs [titushki] out on the Nevsky yesterday. They all claimed to be Crimeans who had just arrived from Crimea. You would have thought Crimea had sent a landing force to the shores of the Neva.

When they walked by us, they would shout the same thing.

“It’s not true! It doesn’t exist! You’re making it all up!”

What doesn’t exist?

My placard featured a picture of Emir Hussein Kuku, who has gone on hunger strike. What was not true? Did Kuku not exist? Did he not go on hunger strike?

There has been good news from Kuku’s wife. He ended his hunger strike today, July 19. However, his hand was forced by the rapid deterioration of his health.

That was today, though. His hunger strike lasted twenty-four days.

I have a young lady friend who is three years old. “No” and “not” are currently the keywords in her vocabulary.

When the first two lines of Samuil Marshak’s famous children’s poem “What a Scatterbrain”—”A scatterbrained man lived / on Basin Street”—are read to Sonya, she comments, “He did not live. He was not a man. He was not scatterbrained. It was not on Basin Street.”

It was exactly like that at our protest yesterday. A woman holding a child’s hand shouted the memorized text at us. She didn’t hesitate to look that way in front of the child. Or she thought the child didn’t understand what mom was saying.

There was also an attack on one of our picketers. Alexander Khmelyov was standing on Anichkov Bridge. One of the hawkers who encourages people to go on boat trips, a huge man in his thirties who could just as well have been tossing heavy sacks for a living, tore Alexander’s placard from his hands and tossed it into the Fontanka River.

We complained to the police. We pointed the attacker out to them.

Their response?

“Go to the precinct and file a complaint.”

The guardians of order didn’t bother to go up and talk to the attacker.

The buskers were playing Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“A Truly Great Competition”: Yegor Yekimov Jailed in Petersburg for Picketing in Solidarity with Oleg Sentsov

37117187_528244187619896_1623487471700410368_n

St. Petersburg Group for Assistance to Detainees
Facebook
July 15, 2018

On Saturday, Yegor Yekimov was detained in the Petersburg 2018 FIFA World Cup Fan Zone for holding a solo picket in solidarity with Oleg Sentsov and handing out leaflets.

The activist spent the night at the 71st Police Precinct.

Today, the Petrograd District Court sentenced him to five days in jail.

Mr. Yekimov has an illness that requires constant maintenance therapy. He must strictly avoid catching any infection whatsoever.

This fact, however, did not stop Judge Irina Grechishko, who sentenced Mr. Yekimov to jail.

Additionally, Mr. Yekimov is a voting member of an election commission, and the court had no right to try him without authorization from a prosecutor.

Mr. Yekimov has been taken to the detention facility on Zakharyevskaya Street in central Petersburg. Attorney Daniil Semyonov will file an appeal of the verdict tomorrow.

Translated by the Russian Reader

#SaveSentsov