Do Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Deserve Our Solidarity?

[E]mpathy also requires identifying with the person you’re em­pathizing with. And sometimes you only identify with those whom you recognize. That’s a problem because part of solidarity is the people you don’t recognize. The people who you don’t see yourself in. And we’re raised in this particular era of liberal multiculturalism to see ourselves in others. When in fact I tell my students, “Look, not only do you not see yourself in others, but if we’re talking about en­slaved people in the eighteenth century, I’m sorry, none of y’all can know what that means.” We can begin to understand not by simply imposing our own selves but by stepping outside of ourselves and moving into different periods of history. Understanding the constraints and limitations of people’s lives that are not us, as opposed to those who are like us. The fallback is always, “Well, if it were me,” or, “I can see how other people feel,” as opposed to, “Let me step outside myself.”
—Robin D.G. Kelley, quoted in “Solidarity Is Not a Market Exchange”: An Interview with Robin D. G. Kelley, Black Ink, January 16, 2020

witnessesIvan Pryanikov, Venera Dulova, and Darya Dulova are considered “extremists” by the Putin regime. Image courtesy of Woman, Prison, Society

Woman, Prison, Society
Facebook
January 25, 2020

FAITH AS A CRIME

Charged with “extremism,” three Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sverdlovsk Region are awaiting the verdict in their trial. The defendants are Venera Dulova, who has a hearing disability, her twenty-year-old daughter Darya, and Alexander Pryanikov. The prosecutor’s office has asked the court to give them two to three years of probation.

According to the case file, all three prayed and read the Bible, “knowing that they belonged to an organization banned in Russia.”

The reading of the verdict is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., January 27, in the Karpinsk City Court (ul. Mira, 60)

By the way, Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted in Hitler’s Germany and the USSR during the Stalinist crackdowns.

Thanks to Grigory Mikhnov-Vaytenko for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Even Fascist Thugs Deserve Good Pay

d980753722fa6fe87bc7d8f46c7b5f01Russian National Guard troops. Photo courtesy of Moskva News Agency and the Moscow Times

Mishustin Introduces Bonus Pay for Security Forces in Moscow and Petersburg Working Protest Rallies
Mediazona
January 24, 2020

According to the government’s website, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has introduced bonus pay for regular police and National Guard officers in Moscow, Moscow Region, Petersburg, and Leningrad Region who perform “complicated tasks.”

The bonus would be as much as 100% of the monthly salary. It would be paid to Interior Ministry officers “involved in maintaining public order,” and National Guard soldiers “involved in providing law enforcement and ensuring public safety during mass events.”

The two government decrees introducing the bonus did not clarify what was meant by “complicated tasks.”

In October, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin thanked the security forces officers who worked last summer’s protest rallies. He said they had “ensured order on the streets of Moscow” and not let rally organizers “bring events to a critical point.”

Sobyanin also called the July 27 rally a “pre-planned, well-organized riot,” claiming that protesters had forced police to use force. Last summer, the mayor said the actions of the security forces, who brutally detained demonstrators, were “completely appropriate.”

The Moscow police later decided to sue the opposition for 10.2 million rubles for having to work the protest rallies. A court also ordered them to pay the National Guard, whose soldiers were involved in policing the summer protests, 2.3 million rubles after the Moscow prosecutor’s office filed suit on their behalf.

Thanks to Ksenia Astafiyeva and Mediazona for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the 2019 Russian regional elections and the fallout from them, including the ongoing crackdowns against opposition politicians and rank-and-file protesters.

Viktor Filinkov: “It’s As If You Disappear—Only the Pain Remains”

Viktor Filinkov’s Speech in Court on 4 June 2019 While Recording a Voice Sample (The Court Could Not Interrupt the Defendant for Ten Minutes)

Viktor Filinkov: When I was tortured . . . Well, it was unexpected, of course. It was nothing like in the movies. There was no time to think or laugh like some superheroes do or anything like that: you’re just screaming in pain. You’re in a terrible state, in fact. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Yes, I’d been shocked when touching an electrical socket or a telephone wire, and when licking a battery. But it’s a completely different sensation when you’ve been shocked with a stun gun. They were beating me at the same time, but I didn’t feel it at all, except for the blows to my head. When they hit me in the head, my vision went a little white. My eyes were mostly closed, because I had a cap pulled over my face, but I saw white when they hit me in the head.

When they twisted my arms or something like that, I didn’t feel anything at all. On the other hand, if you’re riding in the back seat of a car with your hands cuffed behind your back like this—like when they later took me to see a psychologist—your shoulders and joints start hurting really bad after the first hour or so. By the second hour, it’s completely unbearable. You’re wriggling and fidgeting the whole time because the pain is so unbearable.

I was tortured for around four hours, and although my hands were behind my back the entire time, I felt no pain at all in my shoulders. In fact, I felt no pain at all because my whole body hurt. When your whole body hurts, you can’t single out a specific part that hurts more. The burns from the electrical shocks didn’t hurt—they hurt only the next day or so—meaning the pain spreads out over your whole body. It feels like everything hurts, although they’re hitting and shocking you in very specific places.

I don’t even know where the shocks hurt the most. They shocked me in different places, mainly my feet, the shocks to my feet were the longest. And to the chest as well. I could twist my wrists, and work my neck a bit, but I think it didn’t matter where they shocked me: the shocks were quite painful. When they press the stun gun to your foot, it’s like you lose yourself completely. It’s as if you disappear—only the pain remains.

Recording Technician Volkov: Maybe you could talk about something more pleasant.

Filinkov (smiling): There was nothing pleasant about it.

Volkov: Not this instance, necessarily. Maybe some memorable instances from childhood.

Filinkov: Hmm… Memorable instances from childhood. It depends what you mean by childhood.

Volkov: Okay, then, what do you miss right now?

Filinkov: My wife—I miss my wife a lot. I love her very much. When they were torturing me, a field agent asked me why I was with my wife. I screamed that I loved her. They were shocking me, but I still screamed that I loved her. They would yell at me, “Why are you with her? Confess!” I would yell that I loved her, and they would give me a shock for saying so. This went on for a while. It was probably one of the most humiliating parts of the whole thing.

No, there was another one. They would ask me who my wife associated with—shocking me as they asked, of course—and I tried to remember who she associated with. I would reply that she had many acquaintances, but didn’t know who she associated with. I didn’t know that many people, especially my wife’s acquaintances. And they would say to me, “She’s getting fucked. Didn’t you know that?” The whole thing was just awful. And there were lots of questions like that… Apparently, it was a way of catching me out.

It was also a way of turning me against everyone. You realize that the people who are torturing you are the guilty one, but they try to put the blame on someone else. So, they would tell me about my “pal” Boyarshinov: I didn’t know who Boyarshinov was then. They would say, “That guy Yuri,” and try to explain he’d been going to plant a bomb to kill people. Under those circumstances I really believed “Yuri” (Yuli) Boyarshinov had gone to plant a bomb. They were really persuasive.

They also told me other people had wanted to kill people. Like Arman Sagynbayev: they said he wanted to make an explosive called ammonal. They knew I didn’t know that he had the ingredients, but I had to teach them a lesson. Then I cheated a little: when they asked me what they had found in Sagynbayev’s closet, I said they had found only aluminum powder. They didn’t specify that I was also supposed to say there had been saltpeter there as well. They kept saying, “A barrel! A barrel of powder!” The fact that it was a barrel was important, apparently. I never saw it.

They also said, of course, that everyone was ready to dish on me, and told me what would happen if I didn’t sign the interrogation report.

In fact, their threats were completely meaningless. I was completely broken after ten minutes of torture, but the threats continued for another twenty or twenty-five hours or however long I was there. It was a very long time. All the threats—that they would kill me there or put me in a cell with tuberculosis-infected prisoners or the SWAT team would take me to Penza—were pointless.

The SWAT team business was a trick. They told me a SWAT team would take me to Penza, where I would be in a line-up. All [of the other defendants] would identity me, point their fingers at me, and then I would go back [to Petersburg]. Besides the driver, there would be two SWAT officers in the vehicle. They would take turns sleeping, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep, and there wouldn’t be any water. The FSB agents would wonder aloud how long a person could last without water. The whole thing was completely pointless. I would have signed the interrogation report in any case.

It wasn’t like they said, “Here, sign it,” and I said, “No, I won’t sign it. Go to hell!” and they were like, “Oh yeah? We’ll show you.” It was just a prelude to everything they did. Just a prelude. Violence is seemingly the basis of their work. I later learned those guys in masks were from [the FSB’s] “Hail” SWAT team. When they escort someone in handcuffs, they drag him in different directions. I would say, “Hang on! You’re dragging me in different directions. I don’t understand where to go.” They would laugh and say it served me right. Meaning the violence was for its own sake. And none of them were bothered then about what had happened.

When I tried talking about the fact that torture was inhumane, they would interrupt me and say, “Did anyone really torture you? You bumped yourself in the car.” Different field agents who were there said this in front of investigators. The one who I remembered the most was an investigator named Alexei from the second floor of the FSB regional headquarters building [in Petersburg]. He wore a jacket and suspenders.

The jacket was bright green. He would give me toilet paper when I went to the toilet. I would go to the toilet not to go to the toilet, of course. I was thinking how to put an end to my suffering and contemplated slitting my wrists. But the office was right there, and an agent would always follow me out and stand by the door, which couldn’t be closed. I went there several times, hoping they’d let their guard down, but no: there was always an agent outside the door, and I wouldn’t have been able to shatter the mirror or the toilet tank.

If I’d known that I had a sharpened coin in my pocket, but I’d forgotten about it. It made it through several pat downs. The SWAT team patted me down twice and didn’t find it. Then an investigator searched me and didn’t find it. Then I was searched at the temporary detention center on Zakharyevskaya Street [in Petersburg], and they didn’t find the coin. It was found only at Remand Prison No. 3. They decided to put it in the till, but it was a Ukrainian hryvnia coin, so they decided not to mess with it. They asked me what to do with it, and I told them to throw it away.

“Fine, fine, just don’t tell anybody,” they said. And they threw it away.

Volkov: That’s long enough, thank you.

Judge Muranov: Is that it?

Volkov: Yes.

Judge: So, Viktor Sergeyevich, I didn’t interrupt you when you were recording your monologue, but now I’m giving you an official warning. If you use obscene language again in the courtroom, you’ll be removed until the closing arguments. Have I made myself clear?

Filinkov: Yes, you have. May I ask a question?

Judge: Ask away.

Filinkov: How I am supposed to quote obscene language?

Judge: I don’t know, but I would ask you not to use obscene expressions. I gave you an official warning, which has been entered into the record.

Filinkov: Understood.

Judge: Sit down.

Judge: Maxim Alexandrovich, are you done?

Volkov: I would like to take literally a minute to check the quality of the recording . . . The recording is fine.

Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the original Russian text and the video. Translated by the Russian Reader

__________________________________________

If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case aka the Network Case, and other recent cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other arms of the Russian police state, read and share the articles I have posted on these subjects.

Mish US Tin

mish us tin

PUTIN (PUTIN’ UP)

Tin: Putin?
Tip Putin in?
Put Putin in?

Tin put in input:
Tin put Putin in.
It put Putin up.
It put Putin in.

Up, tin!
In, tin!
Pin, tin!
Put Putin in!

Putin putin’ it in . . . .

Putin in:
It? Tin?

Putin put in input:
Putin put Putin up!
Putin put Putin in!

Up, Putin, up!
In, Putin, in!
Nip, Putin, nip!
Pin, Putin, pin!
Pin tin, Putin!
Nip tin, Putin!

Putin in?
Putin up?
Putin pinup?

Ni, ni, ni, ni!

Putin pun.
Putin tin.
Putin nit.
Putin nut.

Nip Putin!
Pin Putin!
Tup Putin!

Putin
Puti
Put
Pu
P
N
Ni
Nit
Nitu
Nitup

Circa 2001–2002, East Rock

 

_____________________________

Mikhail Mishustin gained notoriety for arranging for two World Bank loans (in the amounts of 100 and 160 million US dollars) in 2002 for the purchase of computer equipment and successfully managing to pocket the money. At the same time, he built himself a luxury house, featuring a large sports complex, on the Rublevo-Uspenskoye Highway.

Screenshot, written and translated by the Russian Reader

Judge Not

trialStill from Judge Gramm. Courtesy of YouTube

Activist Karim Yamadayev Could Face Criminal Charges for Video Depicting “Execution” of Sechin and Peskov
Grani.ru
January 3, 2019

Quoting human rights activist Ruzil Mingalimov, MBKh Media reports that the Tatarstan branch of the Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation under Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code (“insulting a government official”) over an episode of the web series Judge Gramm in which activist Karim Yamadayev, playing a judge, sentences Igor Sechin and Dmitry Peskov.

Judge Gramm (Episode 1)

In the video, the judge reads out sentences to people wearing black bags over their heads and signs reading “Vladimir Putin,” “Dmitry Peskov,” and “Igor Sechin,” respectively. The judge sentences Peskov and Sechin to death before escorting them off camera, taking a gun with him, in Peskov’s case, and an axe, in Sechin’s. Sounds of a gunshot and an axe striking a chopping block are then heard. At the end of the video, the judge says that the trial has been recessed until the following week.

Investigators searched Yamadayev’s home on Friday before taking him to the Russian Investigative Committee. Police also searched an office and the home of Yamadayev’s parents, said Alexei Glukhov, head of Apologia for Protest. Mingalimov reported to Mediazona that Yamadayev was interrogated and qualified as a witness before being released.

During the search, investigators seized computer equipment and a notebook containing passwords to online payment systems.

“[Yamadayev] is afraid the investigators will clean them out,” Mingalimov said.

On December 31, Yamadayev was summoned to the police over the same video.

“They got a tip, which they didn’t show us, by the way. They said they were obliged to react to the tip within seventy-two hours, and so they summoned [Yamadayev],” Mingalimov said.

After making a statement, Yamadayev was released.

96593“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, 1952–2019.” Photo courtesy of Grani.ru

A resident of Naberezhnye Chelny, Yamadayev was jailed on March 12, 2019, for twenty-eight days for, allegedly, setting up a gravestone with Putin’s name outside the city’s Investigative Committee office. Another activist, 32-year-old Nikolai Peresedov, was sentenced to six days in jail over the incident. Yamadayev was found guilty of violating Article 20.2.8 of the Administrative Offenses Code (“repeated violation of the procedure for holding public events”), while Peresedov was found guilty of violating Article 20.2.2 (“holding a public event without prior notification”). Yamadayev went on hunger strike during his time in jail. In September, he filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Vladislav Inozemtsev: The Foreign Agent in the Kremlin

lakhta wreck

The Foreign Agent in the Kremlin
Vladislav Inozemtsev
The Insider
December 31, 2019

One of the crucial events of the past year was passage of the law on labeling Russian nationals as “foreign agents.” Although the law emphasizes that such “agents” should disseminate information from foreign media outlets and receive financial remuneration from abroad, the notion of “foreign agent” has a quite definite meaning for most Russians: someone who works on behalf of a foreign government to the detriment of their own country.

However, if you think hard about the new law and its implementation (the Justice Ministry has been charged with designating individuals foreign agents, but citizens and NGOs will probably also be able to take the initiative), the first thing that comes to mind is the man who signed it so showily into law on December 2—Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, who took office exactly twenty years ago today, albeit as acting president.

When Putin moved into the Kremlin, Russia was successfully emerging from an economic crisis triggered by a sharp drop in oil prices in the late 1990s and the ruble crisis of 1998. These two events largely brought to a close the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse and the transition from a planned economy to a market economy. Welcoming the new president, people believed him when he said, “The country’s future, the quality of the Russian economy in the twenty-first century, depends primarily on progress in those industries based on high technology and hi-tech products,” while the world took him at face value when he claimed, “Today we must declare once and for all that the Cold War is over. We abandon our stereotypes and ambitions, and henceforth we will jointly ensure the safety of the European population and the world as a whole.” It seemed that the coming decades should be extremely successful ones for Russia, and the country would inevitably takes its rightful place in the world economy and politics. However, events unfolded following a different scenario, and nearly all the trends that we can now ascertain as well-established suggest that if a CIA officer had taken charge of his country’s recently defeated enemy he would have done less damage to it than Putin has done.

First, Russia in the early noughties had very low labor costs: according to Rosstat, the average salary was $78 a month in 2000. Given that energy prices in Russia were then seven to ten times lower than in Europe, it was self-evident the country should decide to undertake large-scale industrialization by attracting foreign investors. The Central European countries, which in the late nineties and early noughties became successful industrial powers by attracting European capital (we can recall what happened with Škoda’s factories) were an example of the strategy’s wisdom.

However, despite what Russian authorities said at the time, preventing foreign capital from entering strategic industrial sectors became policy. Almost immediately after Putin came to power, the government began renationalizing assets that had been privatized in the nineties: instead of raising taxes on companies owned by Russian oligarchs, the regime commenced buying them out, constantly ratcheting up the price, culminating with Rosneft’s purchase of TNK-BP for $61 billion in 2013. In fact, taxes raised from the competitive sectors of the economy and redistributed through the budget went to buy assets in the extractive sector and were invested in rather dubious projects. Consequently, by the early teens, the share of raw materials (mineral products, ore, and metals) in Russian exports had reached 79–80%, as opposed to 50.4% of Soviet exports in 1989. Finally, in recent years, Russia has begun “diversifying” its raw materials exports by reaching out to China, effectively becoming an “energy appendage” not only of Europe but also of the whole world.

Second, as the economy became ever more dependent on extractive industries, Russia under Putin began to deindustrialize rapidly, resulting in a sharp decline in the demand for skilled workers, who could have been employed to develop the country on new foundations. According to various estimates, 16,000 to 30,000 industrial enterprises, which had employed over 13 million people in the late-Soviet period, were closed between 2000 and 2018. As of 2017, 9.9 million people were employed in Russian processing industries, as opposed to 21.7 million people in the RSFSR in 1989, although there was no significant increase in labor productivity. We can concede, of course, that a good many of these enterprises were not competitive, but most of them were never put up for auctions in which foreign investors were allowed to bid, the Russian government did not provide potential investors guarantees on investments in technically modernizing enterprises, and so on. Essentially, the government adopted a consistent policy of simplifying the industrial infrastructure, increasing dependency on imports, and most significantly, downgrading whole cities that had previously been important industrial centers. It would be no exaggeration to say that the bulk of Soviet industrial enterprises was destroyed not in the “accursed nineties,” but in the noughties and the early teens.

Third, the process went hand in glove with a demonstrative lack of attention to infrastructural problems and managing Russia’s vast expanses. About 700 airports were closed between 2000 and 2010, domestic passenger traffic dropped below international passenger traffic, and so many roads fell into disrepair and collapse that since 2012 city streets have been counted as roads in order to buff up the statistics. Infrastructure projects have been concentrated either in Moscow (e.g., the Moscow Ring Road, the Central Ring Road, expansion of the Moscow subway) or on the country’s borders as a kind of exercise in “flag waving” (e.g., Petersburg and environs, Sochi, Chechnya, the Crimean Bridge, the reconstruction of Vladivostok and Russky Island).

Consequently, rural settlements have begun dying out massively in most regions of the country: since 2000, around 30,000 villages in Russia have disappeared, and nearly 10,000 of them have eight or fewer residents. The number of residents in cities with populations ranging from 50,000 of 200,000 people has decreased: population reductions have been recorded in 70% of these cities, while the population has dropped by a quarter in more than 200 such cities. There has been a massive exodus of people from the Russian Far East.  Even the solution of longstanding problems that were handled for better or worse in the nineties has been abandoned, including disposing solid wastes, minimizing harmful emissions, and storing hazardous industrial waste. Russian infrastructure is close to collapse: depreciation of the power grids exceeds 70%, while 75% of the heating network is obsolete. Only 52.8% of local roads meet Russia’s poor standards. All attempts to remedy the situation are propaganda tricks more than anything, and yet budget funds for infrastructure are allocated regularly, just as taxes are collected from the populace.

Fourth, despite formal achievements, such as increasing life expectancy and reducing per capita alcohol consumption, the nation’s physical and mental health is verging on the disastrous. From 2000 to 2016, the number of HIV-infected Russians increased almost twelve times, reaching 1.06 million people, meaning that the threshold for an epidemic has been crossed. Spending on health care has remained extremely low. It is usually measured as a percentage of GDP, but a comparison of absolute figures is much more telling: in 2019, the government and insurance companies allocated only 23,200 rubles or €330 for every Russian, which was 14.2 times less than in Germany, and 29 times less than in the US, not counting out-of-pocket expenses.

Despite the huge influx of immigrants and migrant workers during Putin’s rule, the population of Russia (without Crimea) decreased by 2.7 million people from 2000 to 2019. Drug addiction has been spreading rapidly, becoming one of the leading causes of death among relatively young people in small towns. And yet the authorities see none of these things as a problem, limiting access to high-quality foreign medicines and accessible medical care (the number of hospitals has been halved since 2000, while the number of clinics has decreased by 40%), all the while believing the HIV crisis can be solved by promoting moral lifestyles. There is little doubt that Russia’s population should began dying off at a furious pace now that the reserves of economic growth have been exhausted.

Fifth, the formation of a bureaucratic oligarchy, able to appropriate at will what the authorities see less as “public property” and more as “budget flows,” has generated enormous corruption and blatantly inefficient public spending. A sizeable increase in spending on the space program—from 9.4 billion rubles in 2000 to 260 billion rubles in 2019—producced a drop in the number of successful launches from 34 to 22. Despite promises in 2006 to build almost 60 new nuclear power units, only 12 units have been brought online over the last twenty years. Programs for growing the military-industrial complex have not been consistently implemented: production of new weapons has been minuscule, amounting to only ten to twenty percent of Soviet-era production. The country’s only aircraft carrier has for the second time suffered combat-like damage during an “upgrade,” while its only 4.5-generation fighter has just crashed during a test flight.

The latest challenges posed to Russia by the development of information technology around the world have elicited no response whatsoever from the regime. On the contrary, the bureaucrats and siloviki have consistently acted to discourage researchers and innovators. The dominance of the siloviki in most government decision-making, their utter lack of oversight, and unprecedented incompetence have meant that much of the money that could be used effectively in the military sector and open up new frontiers for Russia has been simply been embezzled.

Sixth, Putin’s rule has been marked by the impressive “gifts” he has made to countries which the Kremlin has often identified as potential enemies. Around $780 billion was spirited from Russia between 2009 and 2019, whereas less than $120 billion was taken out of the country during the entirety of the nineties. The most important cause of this outflow was a law, passed in 2001, establishing a nine-percent tax on dividends paid to “foreign investors” or, rather, the offshore companies registered as owners of Russian assets. (The subsequent abolition of this measure in 2015 has changed little.) Much of this money was invested in passive sources of income in the west or spent on the luxurious lifestyles of Russian billionaires, thus supporting local economies in other countries.

Even more “generous,” however, was Putin’s gift to west in the form of the four million Russian citizens who have left Russia during his presidency: mainly young and middle-aged, well-educated, willing to take risks and engage in business, they now control assets outside the country that are comparable to the Russian Federation’s GDP. This wealth has been generated from scratch by talented people the Russian regime regarded as dead weight. The destruction of human capital is the biggest blow Putin has dealt to Russia, and it is no wonder western analysts argue Russia will need a hundred years at best to bridge the emerging gap.

Seventh, we cannot ignore the holy of holies: national security. We have already touched on the military sector in passing. It is a realm in which technological progress has largely boiled down to showing cartoons to members of the Russian Federal Assembly: space launches are still carried out using Soviet Proton rockets, designed in the sixties; the last of the Tu-22M strategic bombers rolled off the line in 1993; the Su-57 is based on groundwork done while designing the Su-47 during the late eighties;  and the advanced Angara (S-200) missile was developed as part of the Soviet Albatross program from 1987 to 1991. Things are no better in the secret services: agents sent on secret missions set off Geiger counters, like Lugovoy and Kovtun, blow their cover wherever they can, like Mishkin and Chepiga, or get caught in the act, as was the case with Krasikov.

The elementary inability to carry out their work in secret is the height of unprofessionalism: a handful of journalists can dig up nearly all the dirt on Russian agents, using information freely available on the internet. The same applies, among many other things, to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the Donbass and the regime’s use of unprofessional, incompetent mercenaries from various private military companies.

Finally, eighth, President Putin’s foreign policy deserves special attention. Over the past ten years or so, the Kremlin’s own efforts have led to the creation of a buffer zone of neighboring countries that fear or hate Russia. If something like this could be expected from the Baltic states, which sought for decades to restore the independence they lost in 1940, no one could have imagined twenty years ago that Russia would make Georgia and Ukraine its worst enemies. However, our country’s principal “patriot”—whose daily bedtime reading seemingly consists of the works of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who once argued that Russia’s “imperial backbone” would be broken only when it lost Ukraine once and for all—has consistently sought to make Kiev recognize Moscow as its principal existential threat.

Similar sentiments have emerged in Minsk, where the authorities and populace of the country that suffered the greatest losses in the Great Patriotic War for the sake of the Soviet Union’s common victory have been nearly unanimous in their opposition to further rapprochement with Russia. We won’t even mention Russia’s damaged relations with the US and the EU: at the behest of Moscow, which is immeasurably weaker than the collective west, a new cold war has been launched that the Kremlin has no chance of winning but that could lead Russia to the same collapse suffered by the Soviet Union during the previous cold war. Meanwhile, Moscow’s hollow propaganda and its theatrical micro-militarism have been a genuine godsend to western military chiefs, who have been securing nearly unlimited defense budgets, just like the designers of advanced technology, who have been developing new weapons and gadgets in leaps and bounds.

I will not catalogue the current president’s other achievements—from destroying the Russian education system and nourishing a cult of power in society, thus generating a crisis of the family, to undermining Russian federalism and nurturing an unchecked power center in Chechnya. I will only emphasize once again that not just any foreign agent, after spending decades infiltrating the highest echelons of power in an enemy country, would be able to inflict such damage. I don’t consider Putin a foreign agent in the literal sense of the word, of course, but if it is now comme il faut in Russia to identify those who are working, allegedly, for hostile powers and thus inflicting damage on their own country, it is impossible to ignore what Putin has done over the past twenty years.

The current head of the Russian state should have a place of honor on the list of “foreign agents,” just as “Party card number one” was always reserved for Lenin in bygone days. And the west should be advised not to seek to undermine Putin’s regime but, on the contrary, do its utmost to extend his term in the Kremlin, simply because as long as Russia is so inefficient, backward, and profligate it poses no threat to the rest of the world, however much the strategists at the Pentagon try and convince the top brass otherwise.

Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

“My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately” (Berlin, February 1-3, 2020)

network exhibition

“My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately”/”Meiner Aussage getreu protokolliert”

An Exhibition in Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Russia
Living Gallery Berlin, February 1-3, 2020

Exhibition opening and roundtable, 5 p.m., February 1, 2020, with simultaneous translation from Russian to German, exhibition closing and auction, 7 p.m., February 3, 2020

Living Gallery Berlin presents a group show of works by Russian anarchists and antifascists, as well as artists in solidarity with them.

The Network Case is a high-profile political trial in Russia. Ten activists from Penza and Petersburg have been in police custody for over two years, accused of involvement in a “terrorist community” known as the Network. They were subjected to torture with electrical shocks, beatings, and psychological and physical coercion to force them to confess. Their trials are coming to a close, but most of have denied their guilt and demanded an investigation of their allegations of torture. The defendants face sentences ranging from six years to eighteen years in prison.

The exhibition was created in Petersburg by the team behind Rupression.com, which has been publicizing the Network Case in solidarity with the young activists, who were brutally arrested and have been accused of absurd crimes. The artwork they have produced in police custody is part of their fight for freedom and dignity. The exhibition gives them a chance to speak.

The exhibition also features works by contemporary artists from Russia, Ukraine, France, Chile, and Sweden. They meditate on state-sponsored violence, torture, crackdowns, imprisonment, and absurd accusations.

The exhibition has already been shown five times in Russia: three times at various venues in Petersburg, and one time each in Moscow and Penza. The Berlin showing will be the first time the exhibition has been presented abroad.

The opening on February 1, 2020, will feature a guided tour of the show and a round table on political prisoners in Russia today, moderated by Olga Romanova, head of Russia Behind Bars. Former Russian political prisoners, as well as political exiles who faced persecution in Russia in connection with the Network Case, have been invited to attend.

The exhibition closes February 3. The closing will feature a charity auction at which you can buy works presented in the show and thus help the defendants in the Network Case, whose families constantly need money for legal and humanitarian aid to the prisoners. Poet Alexander Delfinov will serve as the auctioneer.

During all three days of the exhibition, there will be tours of the show in English and German, as needed. Exhibition goers will be able to write letters and postcards with words of support to the political prisoners, as well as buying merch from Rupression.com’s campaign. Proceeds from the sale will also be used to support the political prisoners in the Network Case.

The exhibition is organized with support from Memorial Deutschland and Dekabristen e.V.

Living Gallery Berlin
Kollwitzstraße 53
10405 Berlin

The gallery is opening from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the heads-up. A few minor factual errors in the original announcement have been corrected. Exhibition view (above) courtesy of the organizers. Translated by the Russian Reader

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If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and other recent cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other arms of the Russian police state, read and share the articles I have posted on these subjects.