Three Years of Revenge (A Chronicle of the Network Case)

The Three-Year Revenge
The appeals hearing in the Network Case is over. The sentences are the same: from six to eighteen years in prison
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
October 20, 2020

The Network Case […] has been going on for exactly three years. Today, we can say that the case has come to an end: an appeals court has upheld the convictions of all the defendants [in the Penza portion of the case, not the Petersburg portion], who face six to eighteen years in prison. In the coming days and weeks, they will be transported to penal colonies to serve their sentences, while their lawyers file complaints with the Russian Court of Cassation and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Novaya Gazeta recalls how one of the most dramatic and unjust cases of the 2010s unfolded.

2017

October

The Maltsev/Artpodgotovka Case […] had just exploded on the front pages, and the World Cup and the presidential election were on the horizon. The circumstances were perfect for the special services to uncover a “terrorist plot” and impress their superiors. A year and and a half earlier, an ambitious FSB colonel, Sergei Sizov, took charge of the agency’s Penza office: it is believed that he launched the Network Case. Now a lieutenant-general, Sizov currently heads the agency’s Chelyabinsk regional office. Soon after he was assigned to Chelyabinsk, news broke of the so-called Chelyabinsk Case, which is quite reminiscent of the Network Case.

The arrests in Penza began on October 18, 2017. Yegor Zorin was the first to be taken. He had drugs on him, allegedly, but now that we know how investigators handled the evidence in the case, this circumstance is in doubt. Zorin was pressured into cooperating with the authorities, giving evidence about a certain organization, to which he and his friend Ilya Shakursky belonged, allegedly. Shakursky is a well-known anti-fascist activist, organizer of charitable and environmental campaigns, and musician. The authorities had long had their eyes on him and were so interested that they sicked a provocateur on him. This provocateur, Vladislav Gresko-Dobrovolsky, would later be a secret witness for the prosecution at the trial.

Dmitry Pchelintsev, Andrei Chernov, Vasily Kuksov and, a bit later, Arman Sagynbayev are arrested. The young men are beaten and threatened during their arrests. Although weapons were found, allegedly, on Kuksov, Shakursky, and Pchelintsev, no traces of the accused or their body tissues are detected on the weapons.

Everything is held against them: the books they read (including Tolstoy), a staged airsoft video, shot two years earlier; their correspondence on messengers; and hikes in the forest that involved practicing survival skills and first aid. But what matters most is their own testimony, obtained under torture, something that no one except the prosecutor’s office doubts anymore. The conclusion: the accused are a “terrorist community” that was planning to seize power and enact regime change.

November

Rumors reach Moscow that anarchists and antifascists have been disappearing in Penza. Their arrests are really like abductions: a person disappears, and that is it. Alexei Polikhovich, a correspondent with OVD Info and an anarchist who recently served time in the Bolotnaya Square Case, travels to Penza. He learns about what has happened, including the torture, but the relatives of the detainees ask him not to publish the information. The general sentiment at the time was not to make a fuss: things would only get worse, and most importantly, the torture would resume. Consequently, the information is published only in January, after the arrests in Petersburg of Viktor Filinkov, Igor Shishkin, and Yuli Boyarshinov as part of the same case.

2018

January

Yana Teplitskaya and Katya Kosarevskaya, members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission, find Filinkov in the Crosses Prison, recording “numerous traces of burns from a stun gun on the entire surface of [his] right thigh, a hematoma on [his] right ankle, [and] burns from a stun gun in [his] chest area.” There were more than thirty such signs of injury. Filinkov claims he was tortured. Slightly later, Pchelintsev and Shakursky would claim they were tortured. Doctors confirm that Shishkin suffered a fracture in the lower wall of his eye socket, as well as numerous bruises and abrasions.

Pchelintsev: “When I was tortured with electrical shocks, my mouth was full of ‘crushed teeth’ due to the fact I gritted my teeth since the pain was strong, and I tore the frenulum of my tongue. My mouth was full of blood, and at some point one of my torturers stuck my sock in my mouth.”

The case attracts attention.

February 14

A banner bearing the inscription “The FSB is the main terrorist” is hung on the fence of the FSB building in Chelyabinsk “in solidarity with repressed anarchists all over the country.” The people who hung the banner are detained and, according to them, tortured. They are charged with disorderly conduct. Six months later, the charges are dropped due to lack of evidence. It is in Chelyabinsk that investigators use the phrase “damage to the FSB’s reputation” for the first time. The phrase is the key to the entire process. Subsequently, the security forces would take revenge against those who publicized instances of torture and procedural violations. People who supported the accused would sometimes be punished: they would face criminal charges and threats to their lives. The motive of revenge is clearly legible in all the actions taken by investigators, in the stance adopted by the prosecutors and the judges, and in the verdict itself.

Spring

Gradually, information about the Network Case is published in the media, first as brief news items, then as full-fledged articles in independent publications. By the end of April, everyone is writing about the case. The solidarity campaign becomes massive, and the case gains notoriety. At the same time, the NTV propaganda film Dangerous Network is broadcast: in terms of genre, it  resembles other such film, including Anatomy of a Protest and 13 Friends of the Junta. It attacks not only the accused, making them look like bin Laden-scale terrorists , but also the human rights defenders and activists who support them and thus, allegedly, betray Russian interests. Dangerous Network was the first of many similar “documentaries” and articles on the case.

The first solidarity rallies and concerts are held in May. The parents of the defendants create the Parents Network, an association aimed at protecting their children, and ask for help from federal human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova. Consequently, the torture stops, but no one thinks to close the case.

In July, there are new arrests in the case: Penza residents Mikhail Kulkov and Maxim Ivankin are arrested. At the same time, in July, during a session of the UN Committee Against Torture, the Russian delegation is asked about the Network Case. The delegation ignores the question.

October 28

An unauthorized “people’s meeting” in support of the defendants in the Network and New Greatness cases takes place outside FSB headquarters on Lubyanka Square in Moscow. Similar protests are held in Petersburg, Penza, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don, and Irkutsk. Among those detained after the protest in Moscow is activist Konstantin Kotov. A week later, 77-year-old human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov is fined and sentenced to 25 days of administrative arrest for calling for the meeting. Ponomaryov comments, “This is the FSB’s revenge.” The gatherings on Lubyanka against torture and crackdowns would continue in 2019.

October 31

In Arkhangelsk, 17-year-old anarchist Mikhail Zhlobitsky blows himself up at the local offices of the FSB. Shortly before the blast, a message appears on the Telegram channel Rebel Talk [Rech’ buntovshchika]: “Since the FSB fabricates cases and tortures people, I decided to go for it.” There is no indication of a specific case, but the phrase “fabricates cases and tortures” suggests the Network Case.

December

At a meeting of the Human Rights Council, journalist Nikolai Svanidze and council chair Mikhail Fedotov tell Putin about the provocations in the New Greatness Case and the torture in the Network Case. “This is the first time I’ve heard about it,” Putin says, promising to “sort it out.” Fedotov also appealed to FSB director Nikolai Bortnikov, but none of the internal investigations into the Network Case revealed any wrongdoing by law enforcement officers. The reason is simple: law enforcement agencies investigate themselves, and complaints of torture and other wrongdoing are sent down the chain of command to the local level—to those guilty of torture and other crimes.

2019

February

Moscow State University graduate student Azat Miftakhov is detained by police. At the police department, he slashes his wrists—to avoid torture, as he explains to his lawyer. According to one theory, Miftakhov has been detained in an attempt to “uncover” the Network’s “Moscow cell.”

Azat Miftakhov. Photo: Victoria Odissonova/Novaya Gazeta

April 

A petition is posted on Change.org demanding that the Network Case be dropped and that the allegations of torture be investigated. It is signed by rock musician Andrey Makarevich, actress Liya Akhedzhakova, writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, actress Natalya Fateyeva, animator Garri Bardin, and many others.

On April 8, by decision of the Moscow District Military Court, the FSB places the Network on its list of “terrorist” organizations. It bothers no one that the guilt of the defendants in the case has not yet been proven in court.

May

The case is brought to trial: the [Penza] trial will last until February 10, 2020. At the trial, the prosecution’s witnesses will recant their earlier statements, which they claim were given either under duress or misrepresented. The prosecution still has confessions made under torture, the testimony of secret witnesses, and physical evidence, including internet correspondence and computer files that were altered after they were confiscated, weapons of unknown origin, and a conclusion by FSB experts that the defendants constituted a group, and Pchelintsev was their leader.  This is enough to persuade the court to sentence the seven Penza defendants to 86 years in prison in total: Pchelintsev is sentenced to 18 years; Shakursky, to 16; Chernov, to 14; Ivankin, to 13; Kulkov, to 10; Kuksov, to 9; and Sagynbayev, to 6.

Penza Network defendants during the reading of the verdict. Photo: Victoria Odissonova/Novaya Gazeta

2020

February

There is unprecedented public outrage at the verdict and the prison sentences requested by the prosecutor. Hundreds of open letters and appeals—from musicians, poets, cinematographers, book publishers, artists, teachers, and municipal councilors—are published. For the first time in Russia, the practice of torture by the special services is openly and massively condemned. The verdict is called an attempt to intimidate the Russian people. The public demands a review of the Network Case and an investigation of the claims of torture. People stand in a huge queue on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square to take turns doing solo pickets.

Journalist Nikolai Solodnikov, holding a placard that reads, “I demand an investigation of the torture in the Network Case.” Photo: Svetlana Vidanova/Novaya Gazeta

But a week later, the wave of indignation is shot down. Meduza publishes a controversial article, “Four Went In, Only Two Returned,” in which a certain Alexei Poltavets confesses to a double murder that he committed, allegedly, with defendants in the Network Case. There had long been rumors about the so-called Ryazan Case—the murders of Artyom Dorofeyev and Ekaterina Levchenko in the woods near Ryazan—within the activist community, but the story had never surfaced, because there was no evidence. There is no evidence now, either: the Network’s involvement in the murder is not corroborated by anything other than the claims made by Poltavets. Poltavets himself is in Kiev, and no formal murder charges are made against the Network. But it is enough to discredit the solidarity campaign. Now, in the eyes of society, those who take the side of the Network Case defendants are defending murderers. Public outrage fades, and the verdict remains the same.

June

In Petersburg, Filinkov and Boyarshinov are sentenced to seven years and five and a half years in prison, respectively. Shishkin made a deal with the investigation and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 2019.

Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov. Photo: David Frenkel/Mediazona

Putin signs a decree awarding Sergei Sizov the rank of lieutenant general. Other Russia activists are arrested in Chelyabinsk. The so-called Chelyabinsk Case begins.

September

The appeals hearing in the Network Case has begun. It is held in the closed city of Vlasikha near Moscow, with a video link from Penza. The issue now is not torture, but the lack of evidence for the verdict. And indeed, from the point of view of any lawyer, the verdict look quite odd. It is not the verdict of an independent court, but a rewrite of excerpts from the case file and the indictment, a sloppy collection of unconfirmed facts and unreliable expertise. The verdict is reminiscent of the famous line from the 1979 Soviet TV miniseries The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed: “He’s going to prison! I said so.”

October 20
The appeal hearing ends and the verdict is upheld. The authorities have enacted their revenge. The defense concludes that there is no more justice in Russia.

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

Sonnet 130

DSCN4325

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Source: poets.org. Photo by the Russian Reader

Give Me Your Datasets!

December 10, 2018

Hi,

I am trying to collect a richer database of all the large protests that have occurred in Russia since 1/1/17, and where they have occurred in space and time.

Our research is to determine the significance of cultural landmarks and locations for protests.

For example, we know 4 large protests occurred on the following day and locations (and we are trying to pin point the approximate time):

datasetBut we would love 100s more records.

By the looks of the attached white paper [there was no “white paper” attached], and the below links, CEPR has tracked over 2,500 protest locations.  I would love to work with the CEPR team doing this research, collaborating in any way we can.

http://cepr.su/category/monitoring-protests/

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/number-protests-russia-spikes-in-2018-researchers-say-63428

“With less than two months to go before the end of 2018, CEPR researchers said they have already recorded over 2,500 protests this year compared to under 1,500 nationwide last year, according to the report published Thursday.”

Thanks,

Mark

______________________

December 10, 2018

Mark,

You introduced yourself in no way, shape or form, and I’m not sure what it is that you’re asking me to do. I’m not an information clearinghouse.

I edit, translate, and write a blog called the Russian Reader, which is not affiliated in any way with the Center for Economic and Political Reform, although I have translated several articles by the center’s director, Nikolay Mironov, over the years.

If you would like to work with the CERP, you would have to send them a letter or call them. Their contact information is clearly indicated on their website.

http://cepr.su/about/

Контакты ЦЭПР:
E-mail: ceprsu@yandex.ruceprsu@gmail.com
Пресс-служба: +7 916 629 5609

If you don’t speak Russian, I would encourage you to learn it before doing research on Russia.
Yours,

The Russian Reader

______________________

December 11, 2018

Dear Russian Reader,

You sound angry. I think what I was asking for was pretty straightforward, and I don’t need to know Russian for what I am looking for.

I am looking for a dataset of protest locations in space and time, which is just simple math.

Have a nice 2019 and thanks for the tip on CERP.

Mark

______________________

And you are obtuse.

You just want a dataset. It’s simple math.

Where did I indicate on my site that I was in the business of handing out datasets I don’t have to people who don’t introduce themselves?

What you were asking for was not straightforward, and you were asking the wrong person.

People who don’t know Russia or Russian probably shouldn’t attempt to do research on it. Because you could have the most precise dataset on Russian protests possible, but it wouldn’t tell you anything about Russia or Russians.

Just as you failed to tell me anything about yourself or why you need this dataset.

______________________

From: Mark
7:18 AM (15 minutes ago)

Whatever.

Sent from Mobile Phone

Mac’n’Cheese

macncheeseSign on the front of Daily Delicatessen, a restaurant on Liteiny Prospect, in downtown Petersburg, that purports to serve “autherican american [sic] cuisine.” Photo by the Russian Reader

A Democratic majority will not bring back the eleven Jewish people in Pittsburgh, massacred while they prayed. Or the two Black people gunned down days before at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. It won’t fully stop the relentless attacks against immigrants in America.

But on Sunday evening, Pittsburgh mourners—angry and broken-hearted like us—chanted “Vote! Vote! Vote!” They understand the magnitude of the midterm election six days from today: that it affords us the chance to forge a powerful bulwark against Donald Trump’s hate and hold accountable the Republicans who have been complicit in every step of his toxic, self-serving, and destructive agenda. We must offer a path out of the darkness.
—Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, excerpted from a Moveon.org campaign email

The path that the avowed democratic socialist Ocasio-Cortez offers out of the darkness is a “Democratic majority.” The sad thing is that, given the sluggish staying of the stagnant course and unchange the DNC and, thus, the Democratic Party have represented my entire life (I was born in 1967, one year before the disastrous 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago), I think we would be fools to trust them to hold anyone accountable for anything, much less Don Trump and the Falangists.

They certainly don’t ever hold themselves accountable for anything.

In any case, it’s been clear for two decades, at least, that most Americans don’t want either the now full-blown fascism of the former Republican Party or the so-called centrism of the Democratic Party, whatever face you put on it, even the handsome face of the otherwise utterly likable Barack Obama, a former community organizer who should have know better than to do half the things he did while in the White House, and who should have done many things he didn’t even contemplate doing.

What we need is actual democratic socialism, as fought for by an actual socialist party.

We also need an actual labor party, whose agenda is driven by progressive trade unions and their members.

And a party for small-c conservatives, not fascists.

And a green party that is not run by people who think it’s okay to fly to Moscow and have dinner with Putin.

And a libertarian party whose leaders and rank-and-file are true to actual libertarian principles, instead of being eager to make alliances with the falangists.

And a centrist party for people whose cup of tea is Obama and Hillary Clinton, warts and all.

We could also use a few regional parties, for folks who think the South, the Midwest, etc., are essences in themselves and need special representation in Congress.

And an agricultural party, to protect our farmers all over our great land.

In short, we need a parliamentary democracy. To that end, we need a presidency whose powers are much reduced, and a president who is elected by a straightline popular vote, not by an electoral college.

This would be an actual path out of the darkness, because a multi-party democracy and a weakened presidency would make it nearly impossible for what we have been witnessing lately—a lying, vicious clown, who is probably a Kremlin stooge, smashing our country to bits on behalf of his sponsors and a increasingly rabid white nationalist minority—to happen again.

So, go and vote a straight Democratic ticket on Tuesday. It won’t save us from the darkness, because with our absurdly outmoded political system, rigged to protect the tiny ruling class and its interests, our faith in leaderism and lesser evilism, our nearly perennial committment to racism, savagery, and barbarism at home and abroad, and our preference for policing over politics, we are the darkness.

P.S. We also need to ditch the Supreme Court in its present untenable form: political appointees disguised as nine wise mandarins of justice, seated for life, making a mockery of the law. In a real democracy, we would elect Supreme Court justices to one-time eight-year terms by popular vote, and the vetting they would get before being put on the ballot—conducted by a panel of lawyers, journalists, and ordinary citizens, and broadcast live on TV and the internet—would ensure we actually knew what they stood for before we voted them up or down, end of story. {TRR}

Sonnet 83

 

clouds

I never saw that you did painting need
And therefore to your fair no painting set;
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet’s debt;
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself being extant well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.
This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb;
For I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.

Source: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Photo by the Russian Reader

The Case of the Anarchists: Disappearances, Torture, Frame-Up (11 AM, February 15, 2018, Moscow)

vTxDDMgRWGeIMpk-800x450-noPad“FSB! Stop Torturing People!” Photo courtesy of Change.org

The Case of the Anarchists: Disappearances, Torture, Frame-Up. Press Conference in Moscow
Rosbalt
February 13, 2018

At 11:00 a.m. on February 15, 2018, Rosbalt News Agency will host a press conference, entitled “The Case of the Anarchists: Disappearances, Torture, Frame-Up,” in its press center at 4/2 Skaternyi Pereulok, Building 1, in Moscow.

During the press conference, information will be provided about the persecution of members of the anarchist movement in Penza and St. Petersburg on the part of the Federal Security Service (FSB), as well as evidence of torture, violence, and coerced self-incrimination. Human rights organizations will present a consolidated stance on this case. In addition, participants will talk about how they plan to organize public and legal support for the accused.

The press conference will feature:
— Lev Ponomaryov, executive director, For Human Rights Movement
— Alexander Cherksasov, council chair, Memorial Human Rights Center
— Irina Sergeyeva, attorney, Moscow Helsinki Group
— Oleg Zaitsev, defense counsel for Dmitry Pchelintsev, Penza
— Yana Teplitskaya,  St. Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission
— Yekaterina Kosarevskaya, St. Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission
— Alexandra Krylenkova, St. Petersburg Human Rights Council

Accreditation of journalists:
Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 690-1638, +7 (926) 244-6395
E-mail: es@msk.rosbalt.ru

••••••••••

I have previously posted the following translations of popular press articles on the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and the FSB-led investigation of the April 2017 bombing in the Petersburg subway, which upon closer examination seem eerily like carbon copies of each other.

Kefir the Plough

punisher-it's a lonely row to hoe

I cannot discern grace.

A child of God may have the kingdom of grace in his heart, and yet not know it. The cup was in Benjamin’s sack, though he did not know it was there; so thou mayest have faith in thy heart, the cup may be in thy sack, though thou knowest it not. Old Jacob wept for his son Joseph when Joseph was alive; so thou mayest weep for want of grace, when grace may be alive in thy heart. The seed may be in the ground, when we do not see it spring up; so the seed of God may be sown in thy heart, though thou dost not perceive it springing up. Think not grace is lost because it is hid.

Before the kingdom of grace come into the heart, there must be some preparation for it; the fallow ground must be broken up: I fear the plough of the law has not gone deep enough: I have not been humbled enough: therefore I have no grace.

__________________________________________

Today on The Archers:

At Bridge Farm Susan is keen to start promoting the kefir again now that Christmas is over. However, Helen is far too busy, and insists she’ll have to wait for Tom to return from his conference. Susan devises a market research project of her own, and starts pouncing on customers at the Ambridge Tearoom. Fallon and Emma worry that she’s scaring away customers, and do their best to moderate her zeal. Eventually Emma puts her foot down: the Tea Room is not the place for Susan’s market research.

__________________________________________

What Emma says to Susan when she puts her foot down over the latter’s sinister kefirization of the Ambridge Tea Room:

Take Life or Nonlife in the Anthropocene and the Meteorocene. Geology and meteorology are devouring their companion discipline, biology. For if we look at where and how life began, and how and why it might end, then how can we separate Life from Nonlife? Life is not the miracle—the dynamic opposed to the inert of rocky substance. Nonlife is what holds, or should hold for us, the more radical potential. For Nonlife created what it is radically not, Life, and will in time fold this extension of itself back into itself as it has already done so often and long. It will fold its own extension back into the geological strata and rocky being, whereas Life can only fall into what already is. Life is merely a moment in the greater dynamic unfolding of Nonlife. And thus Life is devoured from a geological perspective under the pressure of the Anthropocene and Meteorocene. Life is merely another internal organ of a planet that will still be here when it is not, when we are not, undergoing its unfolding, creating who knows what. Will Life be a relevant concept there? If not, perhaps Nonlife will finally be freed from Life’s anxiety, freed from being Nonlife, or as Luce Irigaray might have said, from being the other of the same, freed to finally be the other of the other.

Until then perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the emergence of geontopower is mobilizing very similar techniques and tactics that we saw when we were looking at late liberalism. We hear all around us the coming Event, the catastrophic imaginary orienting and demanding action—the last wave, the sixth extinction. And yet pulsing through various terrains is a very different temporality—the river becomes a polluted dump; the fog becomes smog; rock formations become computer components. Is this why the poetics of the quasi-event stitch together the environmental studies of Rob Nixon, the affective optimisms of Lauren Berlant, and the crumbling worlds of settler liberalism? It is most certainly why we see the constant seduction of older late liberal politics of recognition: the sudden realization, the welcoming of an otherwise into what already exists, the extension of qualities we already most value and create most of our value from to the other.

Get out the musical instruments. Put on the robes. Say a mass of remembrance for the repose of the souls of the dead. Cling to life if even in the form of its mass extinction.

__________________________________________

I can imagine listeners will have a lot to say about the further radicalization of The Archers on this week’s edition of Feedback.

Dmitry Kalugin: Bruce Willis vs. Brad Pitt

you can trust bruce willis“Bruce Willis. A loan in ten minutes. Trust Bank.” Mayakovsky Street, Petersburg, April 22, 2012. Trust Bank’s managers and employees were charged with fraud in April 2015. The bank received a $500 million emergency bailout from the Russian Central Bank in December 2014. Photo by the Russian Reader

Dmitry Kalugin
Facebook
December 15, 2017

Yesterday, I got chatting with the saleswoman in the basement where I buy smuggled coffee. Looking at my gray face, she saw signs I had not been getting enough shut-eye.

“Yes,” I said, “I’ve been sleeping badly. Nightmares have been messing with my head.”

“Well, the dreams I dream are totally screwed up. Take yesterday, for example. I dreamt I was getting married to Brad Pitt. It was like the thing was settled, the whole megillah. But my heart was topsy-turvy, because I don’t love him.”

“Who do you love?”

“Bruce Willis. I like him more as an actor and as a person.”

“Well,” I said, “if that is the hand dealt you (I’m no expert, of course), Brad Pitt is no bad bet, either.”

“I told myself the same thing. Why you mucking around? You’ve lived your whole life ass-backwards. Finally, a good option comes along: Brad Pitt. What else could you want?”

“Yeah, definitely a good option.”

“On the other hand, no way! Because I like somebody else, Bruce Willis. I realize it looks strange, but I can’t force myself. Basically, things are complicated.”

“So, how did it end? Did you get married?”

“I didn’t get anything. I woke up completely confused.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Mr. Kalugin for his kind permission to translate and publish his feuilleton on this website.