What Matters in Russia

The Facebook post appealing for help in finding missing Bashkir activist Ilham Yanberdin

Environmental activist disappears, his belongings found in forest belt 
OVD Info
October 17, 2021

His associates have been looking for Bashkir grassroots activist Ilham Yanberdin (Ilham Vakhtovik) for a week. They published an appeal on social media, stating that Yanberdin’s relatives had not been able to contact him since October 11.

Idel.Realii reported that, on October 17, passersby found Yanberdin’s phone and personal belongings in the forest belt of the Ufa neighborhood of Inors, near the place where the activist lived. The missing person’s case has been transferred to the criminal investigation department.

The day before the disappearance, Yanberdin told his colleagues he planned to attend a protest in defense of the monument to Salavat Yulaev in Ufa on October 11, at which about ten people were detained. He never showed up for the rally.

Ilham Yanberdin is known in Bashkortostan for his active role in opposition protests. Among these were rallies in defense of the Kushtau shihan and actions by Alexei Navalny’s supporters. He was prosecuted for the protests that took place in January 2021.

In Ufa, the Interior Ministry sought to collect more than two million rubles from Yanberdin, Lilia Chanysheva and Olga Komleva for the “work” of its police officers during the January 2021 protest rallies. A similar decision was made by a court in Omsk. Daniil Chebykin and Nikita Konstantinov were judged to have been the organizers of the January 23 and 31 protests there and ordered to pay the Interior Ministry more than one and a half million rubles.

In June 2021, Yanberdin was detained at a people’s assembly held after the environmental activist Ildar Yumagulov was attacked and beaten by persons unknown on April 18 in Baymak. Yanberdin was later released from court. The case file was sent back to the police for verification due to violations in writing up the arrest sheet.

Translated by the Russian Reader

The monument to Salavat Yulaev in Ufa. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

9 Moscow Restaurants Awarded Coveted Michelin Stars
Andrea Palasciano (AFP)
Moscow Times
October 15, 2021

French gastronomic bible the Michelin Guide awarded nine Moscow restaurants with its coveted stars on Thursday, unveiling its first lineup of recommended eateries in Russia’s up-and-coming food scene.

Long derided as a gastronomic wasteland, Russia’s restaurant scene has emerged in recent years from a post-Soviet reputation for blandness, with establishments in Moscow regularly making lists of some of the world’s best.

Representatives of the Michelin guide — considered the international standard of restaurant rankings — released the first Moscow edition of their iconic red book at a ceremony at Moscow.

Sixty-nine restaurants were recommended in all.

Two restaurants — Twins Garden run by twin brothers Ivan and Sergei Berezutskiy, and chef Artem Estafev’s Artest — were given two stars.

Seven restaurants were given one star, including White Rabbit, whose chef Vladimir Mukhin featured in an episode of the Netflix documentary series “Chef’s Table.”

None were given three stars — the Holy Grail of the restaurant world.

‘Difficult time’
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said at the ceremony that the release of the guide was an important event at a tough time for the restaurant industry.

“It’s big moral support in this time of pandemic, when restaurants are having a particularly difficult time,” he said.

Sobyanin said it also showed Russia had rediscovered a food tradition that had suffered under the Soviet Union.

“Unfortunately during the Soviet period these traditions were lost,” he said.

“I am proud that Moscow’s restaurants have become a calling card for our fantastic city.”

Michelin’s international director Gwendal Poullennec told a press conference that the guide had used an international team of inspectors for its list and there was “no compromise in our methodology.”

Speaking to AFP earlier, he said Russia’s food scene had been “reinventing” itself since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

“There is an evolution of the Russian culinary scene. It is more and more dynamic,” Poullennec said.

He said he was surprised by “the quality and abundance of produce” in Moscow restaurants, highlighting in particular the seafood, such as crab and caviar, that are “exclusive” elsewhere but in Russia are available at a “reasonable price.”

Russia became the 35th country to have a Michelin guide and Moscow is the first city of the former Soviet Union to be awarded stars.

The selection of restaurants will appear in print and also be available via an app in 25 languages, including Russian.

Crab, smetana and borscht
Michelin in December said that chefs in Moscow had set themselves apart by highlighting Russian ingredients, including king crab from the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok and smetana, the sour cream used in preparing beef stroganoff.

Moscow restaurants have increasingly turned to local ingredients after Western sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 resulted in a scarcity of many European foods.

A number of restaurants that relied on meat, cheese and fish imported from the West were forced to close, while those that strived to source their ingredients from Russian regions became more competitive.

In explaining why it chose Moscow, the guide last year pointed to the “unique flavors” of the “nation’s emblematic first courses such as borscht.”

Another leading French restaurant guide, Gault et Millau, launched its first Russian edition in 2017. In 2019, Gault & Millau was sold to Russian investors.

Twins Garden and White Rabbit have previously featured on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Michelin also recently expanded to Beijing, Slovenia and California.

Russia Sets New ‘Anti-Records’ for Covid But ‘Somehow This isn’t Agitating Anyone’
Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble)
October 18, 2021

Staunton, Oct. 12 – Russian officials continued to report unprecedentedly high numbers of infections (28,190) and deaths (973) over the last 24 hours, with other statistics equally devastating including a surge of new cases over the last week by 16 percent for Russia as a whole and more than 30 percent in 11 regions.

Twenty-six regions have imposed QR requirements for entrance to public places, and 605 Russian schools have gone completely over to distance instruction. Many more have done so in part. More than 90 percent of Russia’s covid beds are full and 6,000 patients are on ventilators.

And the pandemic is hitting members of the Russian elite, not only in the regions but in Moscow, where 11 Duma deputies are now hospitalized with coronavirus infections, even though 70 percent of the members of the lower house of the legislature have received their shots.

But despite all this and the fact that it is being widely reported, a Rosbalt commentator says, “everything in Russia is calm: people are digging their graves without particular noise … and one has the impression that somehow this isn’t affecting anyone.”

Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

N.B. In the original article, the links were inserted in parentheses in the body of the text. I have embedded them for ease of reading. TRR

Russian Supreme Court Rejects Yuri Dmitriev’s Appeals Request

Screenshot of the Russian Supreme Court’s decision to reject Yuri Dmitriev’s request for a review of his verdict

Russian Supreme Court Refuses to Review Historian Yuri Dmitriev’s Verdict
Current Time
October 13, 2021

The Russian Supreme Court will not consider the cassation appeal of the head of Memorial’s Karelian branch, Yuri Dmitriev, who was sentenced to thirteen years in a high-security penal colony on charges of violent acts against a child. This was reported on the court’s website, and human rights activist Zoya Svetova also reported the denial of the request on Facebook.

“Request to transfer the case (cassation complaints, submissions) for consideration at a session of the cassation court has been denied,” the case card on the court’s website says.

This past summer, more than 150 cultural and academic figures sent an open letter to Russian Supreme Court chief justice Vyacheslav Lebedev asking the court to take Dmitriev’s case from the Petrozavodsk courts and render their own verdict.

Svetova reminded her readers that the criminal case against Dmitriev, who was accused of sexual crimes and distributing pornography, has been tried in the courts of Karelia for four and a half years. Twice the courts acquitted the historian, and twice the verdict was overturned.

“That is, [Russian Supreme Court] Judge Abramov read the file of a case in which the Karelian historian was actually acquitted twice, and then these sentences were overturned, but he decided not to review anything at all. That is, he didn’t allow the case to go to the cassation court, so as not to IMITATE justice. Because the outcome had been the same in the cassation court. This is another new low for justice,” Svetova commented on Facebook.

Historian Yuri Dmitriev, who was the first to investigate the mass graves from the Great Terror in Sandarmokh, was initially arrested five years ago, in 2016. He was charged with producing child pornography (punishable under Article 242.2 of the Criminal Code) and committing indecent acts (punishable under Article 135.1 of the Criminal Code) against his adopted daughter, a minor. The charges were occasioned by nude pictures of the child found at Dmitriev’s house, which, as he explained, he had taken so that the children’s welfare authorities could verify at any time that the child was healthy and not injured.

In 2018, he was acquitted of the charges of producing pornography and committing indecent acts, but was sentenced to two and a half years of supervised release for possession of a weapon (punishable under Article 222.1 of the Criminal Code): during a search of Dmitriev’s house, police had found part of the barrel from a hunting rifle.

Dmitriev’s adopted daughter was immediately removed from his custody after the first arrest, and since then she has been living with her grandmother.

In June 2018, Dmitriev was arrested again: a new criminal case was opened against him, this time into commission of violent acts, and the lower court’s initial acquittal in the case was also overturned. According to the new charges, Dmitriev had not only photographed the girl, but also touched her crotch. Dmitriev himself said that he was checking the dryness of the child’s underwear. (The girl had suffered from bedwetting.)

The new trial ended in July 2020 with an acquittal on the indecent acts and pornography charges. However, the Petrozavodsk City Court ruled that Dmitriev was guilty of committing violent acts and sentenced him to three and a half years in a high-security penal colony.

In September 2020, the Karelian Supreme Court, after considering the appeals of the defense and the prosecution against the verdict, increased Dmitriev’s sentence to thirteen years in a high-security penal colony.

On the day of the third cassation court hearing in the Dmitriev case, the investigative journalism website Proekt published an article in which it named a possible “high-ranking curator” overseeing the case. According to Proekt, it could be the Russian presidential aide Anatoly Seryshev, who was head of the FSB in Karelia from 2011 to 2016.

Очень серый кардинал

Translated by the Russian Reader

Metamorphosis

The incomparable Valery Dymshits writes:

Yesterday at dinner my son Senya said: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a foreign agent.”

“When Friday comes … identify foreign agents.” Meme courtesy of Andrei Pivovarov

Andrei Pivovarov
Facebook
October 8, 2021

⚡️The Justice Ministry has placed 9 more journalists and 3 companies on its  register of “foreign media agents,” including Bellingcat, which investigated Navalny’s poisoning, the founder of the Center for the Protection of Media Rights, a TV Rain journalist, and a BBC journalist.

The list now includes:
🔸Tatyana Voltskaya, Radio Svoboda
🔸Daniil Sotnikov, TV Rain
🔸Katerina Klepikovskaya, Sever.Realii
🔸Аndrei Zakharov, BBC
🔸Galina Arapova, director of the Center for the Protection of Media Rights
🔸Roman Perl, Current Time
🔸Elizaveta Surnacheva, Proekt
🔸Elena Solovieva, Sever.Realii
🔸Eugene Simonov, international coordinator of the Rivers Without Borders Coalition
🔹M.News World
🔹Bellingcat
🔹LLC “МЕМО”(the founding company of Caucasian Knot)

We were happy for the journalists at Novaya Gazeta, but we shouldn’t overdo it, is the message, apparently.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“Eternal summer.” 8 October 2015, Petersburg. Photo by the Russian Reader

Russia’s total excess death toll since the beginning of the pandemic until the end of August, the most recent available data, stands at 660,000 — one of the highest rates in the world both in absolute terms and on a per capita basis.

Network Case Defendant Maxim Ivankin Claims He Was Tortured into Memorizing Meduza’s Smear and Repeating It as a “Confession”

Maxim Ivankin in court. Still from a video by 7×7. Image courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

“They put me on a spreader and beat me”: man convicted in Network case confesses to murder after he is subjected to “course of treatment”
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
October 5, 2021

Maxim Ivankin, convicted in the Network case, has turned up at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1 in Ryazan. During the three weeks when he was officially in transit from Chuvashia to Ryazan, and not accessible to his lawyers, he signed a confession in the so-called Ryazan case, admitting his complicity in the murders of Artyom Dorofeyev and Katya Levchenko. Only a few days later, however, he complained that he had been subjected to physical coercion and retracted his testimony.

Russian Investigative Committee investigators have long been attempting to connect the Ryazan case with the Network case. Here are several facts supporting this hypothesis:

1. The investigation was initially based on the account given by Alexei Poltavets to the news website Meduza. Poltavets claimed that he and Ivankin committed the murders in the spring of 2017. There was no significant corroboration of Poltavets’s account before Ivankin confessed, nor did the authorities particularly look for such evidence. Poltavets himself is currently in hiding in Ukraine. He has not been questioned by the Russian authorities, and so his account is inadmissible in court. However, the investigation did not consider any other explanations for the murders. It is not surprising, then, that Ivankin’s confession is a slightly modified variation on Poltavets’s monologue.

2. In the spring and summer of this year, Investigative Committee investigator A.M. Kosenko made the rounds of the penal colonies where the men convicted in the Network case are serving their sentences. According to some of them, he demanded that they bear false witness against Ivankin. Or, to put it more delicately, Kosenko was gathering evidence against Ivankin. After refusing to speak without a lawyer present, some of the convicted men (for example, Mikhail Kulkov and Ilya Shakursky) were sent to punitive detention cells. For completely other reasons, of course.

3. Ivankin was threatened with violence if he did not cooperate with the investigation, and these threats were also communicated to his wife, Anna.

The day after Ivankin was dispatched to Ryazan, he found himself in Nizhny Novgorod and, a bit later, in Vladimir. If you look on the map you’ll see that neither Nizhny nor Vladimir are on the way from Chuvashia to Ryazan. There is a direct road between them, which lies much farther to the south than the route by which Ivankin was transported.

Judging by the stories of convicts, the penal colonies in Vladimir, in particular, the hospital at Penal Colony No. 3 (aka Motorka), have a reputation as places where where prisoners are taken to be coerced and beaten into testifying. The most famous example is the case of Gor Hovakimyan, who died after being tortured in the hospital at Penal Colony No. 3. Ivankin was taken to this hospital. “I still do not know what my diagnosis is,” he said in a statement to his lawyers.

Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of the project Gulagu.net, recently reported that his organization had more than 1,000 Federal Penitentiary Service videos corroborating that torture takes place in Russian penal colonies, including footage from the Vladimir region.

And now the most important part. Lawyers Svetlana Sidorkina and Konstantin Kartashov visited Ivankin in the Ryazan pre-trial detention center on October 4 and 5. They have given Novaya Gazeta a copy of their official, on-the-record conversation with Ivankin, from which we have excerpted the following passages:

Question: Were you subjected to psychological and physical pressure in the hospital? If yes, what were the circumstances?

Answer: Yes, I was. Immediately, when I was brought to the hospital, I was met by the “reds” (activists from among the inmates)… The inmates began beating me in the back of the head and the kidneys… I will be able to identify the activists… When I was asked to sign a statement, I was put on a spreader for refusing to sign, and I was beaten in this position.

This treatment lasted about nine days. It is difficult to say more precisely: Ivankin himself has doubts. Apparently, he lost track of time.

I told them I was not involved in the murders of Dorofeyev and Levchenko… The field officers said that they were not satisfied with my position, and demanded that I rewrite the handwritten confession written by them, which I was forced to rewrite under the supervision of several activists. The events described in the confession matched the account given by journalists in the media (“Meduza”).

The activists forced me to learn the contents of the confession by heart. Until I had repeated it to them verbatim, I was not allowed to sleep… Investigator Kosenko arrived and wrote up a report that he had received the confession…

I was forced, in writing, to waive the services of my private legal counsel and my right to have my relatives notified… I made the confession out of fear for my life and safety…

My testimony was verified at the crime scene. The whole thing was a farce, because I don’t know what happened. In all the documents I indicated that I had not been coerced [into confessing], but I had to say that, out of fear for my life.

And here is the result: an indictment order. Previously, we should recall, Ivankin was officially a witness in the Ryazan case. If he was treated this way as a witness,  what awaits him as an indicted man?

Under Article 105.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (premeditated murder and conspiracy to murder) Ivankin faces a possible life sentence.

If Russia had the death penalty, Ivankin would be sentenced to death.

I have before me a document from the Federal Penitentiary Service in which what happened to Ivankin is called a “course of treatment.” “Maxim now shudders when he hears the word ‘Vladimir,'” says his lawyer Konstantin Kartashov. Nevertheless, he retracted his confession. But he did say, “If the publicity subsides, I’m finished.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

Quick Snab: Profiled PET Sheets and Picket Fences

I got the following email this morning:

From: Владимир info@kviksnab.ru
Subject: забор ПЭТ
Date: September 29, 2021 at 3:56 AM

From: Vladimir info@kviksnab.ru
Subject: PET fences
Date: September 29, 2021 at 3:56 am


Менеджер отдела продаж Владимир
Компания “КВИК СНАБ”
Производство и поставки забора из полиэтилентерефталата.
Тел: +74959223362
WhatsApp +7(903)798-98-55

Vladimir, Sales Department Manager 
QUICK SNAB
Producer and supplier of polyethylene terephthalate fences
Phone: +74959223362
WhatsApp +7(903)798-98-55

PET PROFILED SHEETS, TRANSPARENT
PET profiled sheet, transparent 1500x800x1 mm
colorless, transparent brown, transparent green 580 rubles/sheet
PET profiled sheet, transparent 1800x800x1 mm
colorless, transparent brown, transparent green 650 rubles/sheet
PET profiled sheet, transparent 2000x800x1 mm
colorless, transparent brown, transparent green 720 rubles/sheet
PET profiled sheet, transparent 2440x800x1 mm
colorless, transparent brown, transparent green 790 rubles/sheet

[and so on].

ИНСТРУКЦИЯ ПО МОНТАЖУ ПРОФИЛИРОВАННОГО ПЭТ-ЛИСТА И ШТАКЕТНИКА

  1. Основы монтажа профилированного ПЭТ-листа и Штакетника
  2. Нейтрализация термического расширения.
  3. Резка профилированного ПЭТ-листа.
  4. Сверление профилированного ПЭТ-листа и Штакетника.
  5. Точечное профилированного ПЭТ-листа.
  6. Соединение профилированного ПЭТ-листа.
  7. Хранение профилированных листов и Штакетника!!!
  8. Не применять…!!!

INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS FOR PROFILED PET SHEETS AND PICKET FENCES

  1. Basics of installing profiled PET sheets and picket fences
  2. Neutralizing thermal expansion
  3. Cutting profiled PET sheets
  4. Drilling profiled PET sheets and picket fence
  5. Center-spotting profiled PET sheets
  6. Connecting profiled PET sheets
  7. Storing profiled sheets and picket fence!!!
  8. Do not apply…!!!

1. Основы монтажа профилированного ПЭТ-листа.

При устройстве покрытия крыш и навесов из профилированного ПЭТ-листа необходимо учесть:.

  • воздействие ветровых и снеговых нагрузок.
    Для противодействия ветровым нагрузкам рекомендуется крепить лист согласно п.5 данной инструкции. Для того чтобы лист выдержал снеговую нагрузку, рекомендуется подготовить обрешётку с ячейками не более чем 400*400 и углом наклона не мене 25 градусов. Края листов по их длинной и короткой сторонах должны располагаться на несущих опорах каркаса…

    1. Basics of installing profiled PET sheets

    When covering roofs and canopies with profiled PET sheets, it is necessary to take into account the impact of wind and snow loads.

    To counteract wind loads, we recommend fastening the sheets according to Point 5 of these instructions. In order for the sheets to withstand snow loads, we recommend making a meshed roof sheath no more than 400 * 400 and an angle of inclination of at least 25 degrees. The edges of the sheets on their long and short sides should be located on the supporting supports of the frame.

    [and so on.]

    Translated by the Russian Reader

A Second Thaw

The poster for a special 35mm screening of Gennady Shpalikov’s A Long Happy Life, held in Petersburg’s Avrora Cinema on September 9, 2017, as part of a “Second Thaw” program at the annual D-Day Dovlatov Festival. The screening, ostensibly held to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Shpalikov’s birth, was to be introduced by the establishment film director Sergei Solovyov. Courtesy of the D-Day Facebook page

What’s wrong with Russia in one easy lesson.

Gennady Shpalikov was a brilliant Soviet screenwriter, poet, and lyricist, and, in his only attempt at directing, A Long Happy Life (1966), an equally brilliant filmmaker.

If you’ve ever seen the film, you probably wondered at some point how such a bleak, beautiful, and utterly hopeless masterpiece could have been made in the post-Krushchevian Soviet Union.

I don’t remember how that miracle happened, but after this and until his death by suicide in 1974 at the ripe old age of 37, Shpalikov was a man without a country and certainly a man without almost any prospects of getting decent, honest work in a country whose leadership had decided to do a little re-Stalinization after a very brief period of mostly cultural liberalization. (Hence the glorious Soviet cinematic new wave of the Krushchev period, in which Shpalikov played a key role.)

But now, even as it persecutes Kirill Serebrennikov for some of the same “faults” that Sphalikov had, the regime tries to redeem itself by resurrecting the suicided Shpalikov for an evening and rehabilitating itself in its own eyes.

I don’t doubt for a second that the utterly loyalist filmmaker Sergei Solovyov regards Sphalikov as his friend, but everything I’ve read about Shpalikov suggests he was such a charming fellow everyone liked him anyway. That is, until he was made a creative outcast by his own country’s always righteous political regime, couldn’t get work, and started hitting the bottle.

Basically, this is like an evening of films by John Cassavetes as introduced by Ron Howard.

I also don’t know what any of this has to do with Sergei Dovlatov, another talented and “troubled” fellow the great Soviet Union ejected from its sacred midst because it had no place for him, essentially, but who has also been subjected, in recent years, to one of the most extensive and absurd cooptation-cum-rehabilitation campaigns you can imagine, as if he hadn’t left the Soviet Union in 1979, or hadn’t had any good reason for leaving.

None of these frantic attempts on the part of the regime and its running dogs to save themselves in the eyes of the nonexistent intelligentsia should prevent you from watching every film Sphalikov had anything to do with (they’re all worth watching, and some are masterpieces), and reading everything Dovlatov wrote (most of it is hilarious and poignant) in the comfort of your own home.

No one needs to attend pro-Putin rallies disguised as cultural events. What else could the slogan “1967: The Second Thaw” refer to?

There was no second thaw. Only a “long happy life” that ended in 1991. ||| TRR, August 30, 2017

Gennady Shpalikov (director), A Long Happy Life (1966)

Yuri Leiderman: The Brontosaurus Is You

Entering the line. Each line has its own thickness, its own tightness, torsion, shagginess. That’s right, every line is a minge. When you enter the line, it is no longer there, you don’t see what it is meant to to represent, but you look out of it into the world, as from a window. There are lines from which it is especially convenient to do this — the wrinkles on the forehead, the creases running from the nose to the lips, the eyebrows.

Each painted face is a moving system of windows from which you look out into the world. A kind of brontosaurus, hung with windows. The brontosaurus — the crawling, peering, quivering asshole — is you. The brontosaurus’s evolution is your nausea. The death of the brontosaurus is your destiny.

But for now throw yellow on blue, and in such a way that the green… Not on your life!

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Rammstein Offense

Yan Shenkman
Facebook
April 29, 2021

Help me figure this out — I don’t understand. Anyone could go crazy thinking about it. I opened my news feed and read the following two items with barely a gap between them.

In Arkhangelsk, Andrei Borovikov was sentenced to two and a half years for reposting the video for Rammstein’s “Pussy” (2009).

I scrolled down the screen a bit and saw that a video by Rammstein’s leader [Till Lindemann], “Lubimy Gorod” (“Beloved Town”) had garnered almost two million views. Now it’s up two and a half (million), the same number as Borovikov’s prison sentence [of two and half years]. Most of the viewers are probably from Russia.

Till Lindemann performs “Beloved Town”

This is the classic Soviet song “Your Beloved Town Can Sleep in Peace”: many people remember it as performed by Mark Bernes. It is featured in Timur Bemkakbetov’s film V2. Escape from Hell, about the heroic Soviet fighter pilot Mikhail Devyatayev, which has just been shown at Moscow Film Festival, and everyone liked it. Till Lindemann himself attended the film’s premiere.

Mark Bernes performs “Beloved Town” 

Now correct me if I’m wrong. While Borovikov was being sentenced to prison in Arkhangelsk for sharing Rammstein, Rammstein’s lead singer was living it up at a film festival in the Russian capital, and thousands of Russians were enjoying his work. Did I get that right?

When I scrolled down even further I read that Till Lindemann had starred in a video for the anniversary of the Moscow State Circus. Meanwhile, as they say.

I’m not saying that we should put Till in jail now, along with the entire Moscow circus and the animals in it, since the party’s already started and you can’t stop it. I’m just surprised at life’s variety.

Our beloved town can sleep well, of course.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Andrei Borovikov kisses his wife outside the courthouse. Photo: Dima Shvets/Mediazona

Russian Man Gets Prison Sentence For Sharing Rammstein Video
RFE/RL
April 29, 2021

A court in northwestern Russia has sentenced a former associate of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to 2 1/2 years in prison for “distributing pornography” after he shared a video by the German rock band Rammstein in 2014, in a case Amnesty International described as “utterly absurd.”

The Lomonosovsky District Court in Arkhangelsk handed down its verdict against Andrei Borovikov, his lawyer told Russian independent media on April 29.

Amnesty International said Borovikov — a former coordinator of Navalny’s Arkhangelsk regional headquarters — was being “punished solely for his activism, not his musical taste.”

Describing Borovikov’s prosecution as “a mockery of justice,” the London-based human rights group’s Moscow office director, Natalia Zviagina, called for all charges against him to be dropped.

“The Russian authorities should be focusing on turning around the spiraling human rights crisis they have created, not devising ludicrous new ways of prosecuting and silencing their critics,” Zviagina said in a statement ahead of the verdict.

“This is not the first time the Russian authorities have used an overbroad definition of ‘pornography’ as a pretext for locking up their critics,” Zviagina said, citing the case of Yulia Tsvetkova, an LGBT activist from Russia’s Far East who stood trial earlier this month on pornography charges over her drawings of women’s bodies.

“It is astonishing that cases like this even make it to court,” Zviagina said.

The music video posted by Borovikov came to the authorities’ attention six months ago when a former volunteer at his office informed the police. Amnesty International said it suspected the volunteer was employed as an agent provocateur to help fabricate the case.

The prosecution said the video had been seen by “not fewer than two people” and ordered “a sexological and cultural examination” of the clip, before experts found it to be of “pornographic nature” and “not containing artistic value.”

Rammstein is no stranger to controversy.

In Belarus, the Council for Public Morals in 2010 protested against Rammstein’s concerts in the country that year, saying the band’s shows were “open propaganda of homosexuality, masochism, and other forms of perversions, violence, cruelty, and vulgarism.”

In 2019, a man in Belarus was charged with producing and distributing pornographic materials for posting a clip in 2014 of the band’s video Pussy, which showed graphic sex scenes.

That same year, a video for the group’s song Deutschland showed band members dressed as concentration camp prisoners, sparking outrage, especially among Jewish groups.

#StandWithBelarus

Human Rights Foundation
HRF Raises $500,000 to Support Democracy in Belarus

Since its inception, the Belarus Solidarity Fund has provided a lifeline to democracy movements in Belarus. HRF provides modest financial assistance to those Belarusians who have been fired from their jobs, injured, arbitrarily detained, or who face steep fines because of their support for freedom and democracy in Belarus. The fund also provides equipment and assistance to independent journalists who, at great personal risk, continue to cover events in Belarus even in the face of government repression.

So far, more than 1,000 individual donors have contributed to the fund, and $450,000 have already been disbursed as direct support for journalists, human rights advocates, civil society organizations, and workers on strike against the dictatorship.

Eight months ago, fraudulent elections sparked a democratic uprising in Belarus. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens all across the country took to the streets to protest the regime of Alexander Lukashenko — who first seized power in 1994 — and express their support for freedom and democracy. For months, the peaceful protesters endured the brutality of the regime, which resorted to extreme violence, including the use of live ammunition, torture, and rape in prisons, to deter the democracy movement. According to the Human Rights Centre Viasna, in 2020 more than 33,000 individuals were detained, more than 1,000 cases of torture were documented, and at least 7 people were killed since the beginning of the protests.

HRF began closely monitoring the situation in Belarus back in May 2020, when the first protests against the Lukashenko regime started. In August, HRF persuaded American rapper Tyga to cancel a concert planned as a propaganda stunt for Lukashenko, and urged members of the Belarusian state security apparatus to lay down their arms. At the end of August, HRF set up the Belarus Solidarity Fund to aid protesters adversely affected by their support for freedom and democracy. In September, HRF hosted Belarusian democratic leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya for a talk at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

In January, the Belarusian democracy movement achieved an important victory when the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) moved the Ice Hockey World Championships away from Belarus, after facing public backlash from Belarusians, as well as the international community. HRF wrote a letter to the IIHF as part of the civil society campaign, which you can read here. This month, HRF recorded a podcast with the Belarus Sports Solidarity Foundation to discuss how Belarusian athletes are defending democracy. Going forward, HRF will continue to support the Belarusian democracy movement through direct aid, legal advocacy, and public education.

To celebrate this milestone, HRF is organizing a special Clubhouse event with our Chairman Garry Kasparov, Magnitsky Act originator Bill Browder, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and the leader of democractic Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya about what the future of the democracy movement in Belarus looks like. We will update you with details soon. The event will take place at the Oslo Freedom Forum club on Clubhouse, an audio-only social media app, where HRF holds a weekly discussion series on the most pressing human rights issues with activists from around the world.

It is more important now than ever to support the Belarusian democracy movement.

Last week, Belarusians celebrated the Day of Freedom by peacefully protesting all across the country. The demands of the protesters remain unchanged. The violence against Belarusians must be stopped, political prisoners must be released, and new, free and fair elections must be held. To further support the Belarusian democracy movement, you can help by:

Donating to the Belarus Solidarity Fund.

Writing letters to political prisoners in Belarus.

Assuming godparenthood over political prisoners.

Writing a tweet, social media post, or creating a video in support of Belarus with the hashtag #StandWithBelarus.

Source: HRF emailing. Thanks to SZ for the advice. NB. Contrary to the claim made in the text, above, Lukashenko did not “seize power” in 1994. He received over 45% of the vote in the first round and over 80% in the second round of the first post-independence presidential election in 1994, which is generally regarded as the only free and fair election held in post-Soviet Belarus. || TRR

The Good Guys

The FSB is in despair: religious fanaticism has afflicted people in high society. To prevent a series of terrorist attacks, the authorities have resorted to unconventional methods. They hire former investigator Oleg Ruzhin—now a journalist—and a professional murderer named Chubchik. Find out in Dmitry Krasko’s book whether the heroes are able to prevent a tragedy!

Source: LitRes emailing list, April 3, 2021

Religious fanaticism sometimes takes on monstrous guises. And anyone can be inveigled into the ranks of the fanatics. Even a high position in society is no guarantee against it. This means that the possibilities of extremist religious groups are sometimes off the scale. So much so that even the almighty FSB is forced to resort to unconventional methods to fight this evil. Thus, in order to combat fanatics who have planned a series of brutal terrorist attacks, the FSB contracts utter outsiders: the former private detective and now journalist Oleg Ruzhin and … the professional hired killer Chubchik. It is they who are tasked with foiling the designs of the fanatics. But will they be able to do it? And how will Chubchik, himself a product of the criminal world, behave when he has to confront evil face to face?

Source: LitRes

I carefully put the stock to my shoulder, settling more comfortably on the hard tar-covered roof, and fell silent, studying through the telescopic sight’s eyepiece the area in which the client was supposed to appear. The rifle lay comfortably in my hand, the sun was shining in the sky: although it was not yet hot, it was pleasantly warm. The morning air was fresh, not fouled by the exhaust of tens of thousands of cars, so, in the absence of smog, it was easy to breathe. The new day, born a couple of hours earlier, had already got its bearings in this world and persistently laid claim to it. The city was waking up and getting ready for the hustle and bustle.

Source: LitRes

People also began to gather in the Square of Fallen Heroes. To what extent the label “people” could be applied to these citizens was a matter of serious and lengthy discussion, however, because the square was a meeting place for yesterday’s goodfellas and various gangsters. The former, who had managed to scale to the very heights of life from the gloomy gateways or prison bunks where they had ruled ten or twenty years ago, met with the latter, who had been transported to these heights by cronyism, careerism and a willingness to lick any ass, provided it was above them. Both the former and the latter had achieved their goals, and now they soared majestically over the heads of mere mortals, occasionally defecating on them, and licking the cream from the snow-capped peaks of destiny. On the square, they proudly shared their impressions of what the latest peak, licked to shreds, had tasted like, and haggled over what new peaks to conquer.

Source: LitRes

My mark was also a part of this world, a blindingly bright specimen. He was the director of a security firm and, at the same time, a deputy in the regional legislative assembly. In the mid-nineties, his current guards, under their chief’s strict guidance, shook down the traders in the markets, then began running a protection racket on firms big and small. But everything changes, and he had gone legit. So much so that he had managed to finagle his way into the corridors of power. For me, such nimbleness remained a mystery that I did not even try to solve. It was none of my business: I had been hired take out the deputy-slash-director, and apart from that, nothing worried me. Half of the one hundred thousand greenbacks I would get for the job were already in my bank account.

Source: LitRes

Translation and photos by the Russian Reader