#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

Mission of Burma

Dmitry Gudkov
Facebook
April 1, 2021

The Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), or in Russian, the Gulag, is designed so that an inmate cannot save his own life other than by directly endangering his own life.

Alexey Navalny’s hunger strike has the simplest, most natural demand: to be seen by a doctor. It’s not about politics, or even about justice, but about seeing a doctor.

When scoundrels from different “media” and “public monitoring commissions” say that a doctor is an unnecessary luxury for an inmate, they dig a hole for themselves. Because Arashukov and Spiegel are the two latest prime examples.

“The witnesses in my case were electrocuted!” former Senator Arashukov shouts.

“I’m a goner,” former Senator Spiegel whispers.

But their words will not change anything, because they were silent when they were free.

And also because we are silent. Navalny’s hunger strike, even with its media presence, is a desperate step. In response, there has been a resounding silence. But Alexander Shestun has been on hunger strike for a week. Have you heard about it?

Did you want to hear about it?

The sadism of the upper classes and the indifference of the lower classes.

Silence on both sides in response to the demand to “free everyone.”

They will, in fact, come for everyone. No one is an exception.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Moscow Has Some Truly Disturbing Reasons for Backing Myanmar Junta, El Murid Says
Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble)
April 2, 2021

The Putin regime’s cooperation with the most vicious and inhumane regimes on earth is usually explained either by its desire to gain allies among those the West because of its principles have made outcasts or by its interest in selling weapons to those who can’t get them easily elsewhere, Anatoly Nesmiyan says.

Those interests can’t be ignored, of course, the Russian commentator who blogs under the screen name El Murid says, but tragically, there are some additional reasons that are even more fateful and disturbing, all of which involve Moscow’s interest in studying the repressive techniques others use for adoption in Russia.

The Putin regime’s proclivity for cooperating with the worst regimes on earth has just been highlighted by its decision to send a deputy defense minister to attend a parade in Myanmar on the occasion of the anniversary of that country’s military, a parade all other countries chose to boycott because of the Myanmar military’s repression.

These other countries acted on principle, Nesmiyan says; but “the Russian regime doesn’t have principles and in support of its interests, it will cooperate with any cannibal.” And despite what many think, these interests are not just military sales or geopolitical competition. They involve learning from others the most effective means of repression.

Having increasingly turned to the use of force against its own people, the Putin regime “with deep interest studies the advanced experience of its partners in such questions.” Putin himself admitted as much about Syria which he describes as “a testing ground;” one that is first and foremost about the destruction of the civilian population.

The army of Myanmar has shown again and again that it is ready, willing and able to kill that country’s population in the name of keeping the generals in power, and that alone makes it particularly interesting for the Russian defense ministry and its bosses in the Kremlin, Nesmiyan says.

In addition, and adding to its attractiveness as an object lesson for Moscow, the commentator continues, the Myanmar military has been involved in the brutal suppression of ethnic and religious minorities, a challenge that the Russian siloviki also faces; and it has had to come up with a way to field a force in an ethnically diverse country, another Russian challenge.

The military in Myanmar “in fact is a military corporation of the ethnic majority,” something that has led ethnic minorities to form their own force structures, a prospect Moscow fears but, in the future, may not be able to prevent. And thus, the way the dominant army manages is of no small interest to Myanmar’s Moscow backers.

The Propiska Is Mightier than the Sword

Propiska (residence registration) stamps in a Russian internal passport. Courtesy of tbti.ru.  

Head of Omsk Foundation Tells of Police Probe Due to the Fact That She Registered Seven Former Psycho-Neurologial Boarding School Pupils 
Takie Dela
March 31, 2021

In Omsk, the police have launched a probe into Vika Marchevskaya, head of the charity foundation A World Where There Are No Strangers, A World of Equal Opportunities, because she registered people with disabilities at her own address. Marchevskaya herself informed Takie Dela of the news.

According to Marchevskaya, she registered at her country house, where the foundation is also registered, seven former pupils of a psycho-neurological boarding school. All of them are orphans over the age of eighteen and have first- and second-category disabilities. At various times, the young people had turned to the foundation to help them start an independent life.

“I registered the guys, because without residence registration, a person’s hands are essentially tied. You can’t register with the local outpatient clinic or pass a psychological and medical exam, and you will have problems with receiving a disability pension. But, most importantly, registration is needed to get in the queue for public housing,” Marchevskaya explained. She noted that now the young people in question rented their own housing with their own money and did their own shopping.

Marchevskaya said that, on March 24, a beat cop came to her and said that she had been reported for fictitiously registering citizens, punishable under Article 322.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. The report was written by Dinara Marchenko, the head of the passport office in Omsk’s Lenin District. Marchevskaya faces a fine of up to 500 thousand rubles, up to three years forced labor or imprisonment for the same period.

Marchevskaya added that the Omsk Regional Ministry of Education was ready to temporarily register young people at an adaptive boarding school. Takie Dela asked the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Omsk regional directorate to comment on the matter. No response was received at the time of publication.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Сирия и “анти-империализм” дураков

Стирание людей с помощью дезинформации: Сирия и “анти-империализм” дураков

Недобросовестные писатели и СМИ, часто действующие под эгидой “независимой журналистики” с якобы “левыми” взглядами, распространяют агрессивную пропаганду и дезинформацию, целью которой является лишение сирийцев политической свободы.

[Следующее oткрытое письмо было совместным усилием группы сирийских писателей и интеллектуалов и других лиц, которые солидарны с ними. Она подписана активистами, писателями, художниками и учеными из Сирии и 34 других стран Африки, Азии, Европы, Ближнего Востока, Северной Америки, Океании и Южной Америки и выходит на нескольких языках: английском, арабском, французском, испанском, греческом и итальянском.]

С начала сирийского восстания десять лет назад, и особенно с тех пор, как Россия вмешалась в Сирию от имени Башара Асада, произошло любопытное и пагубное развитие событий: появление сторонников Асада во имя “анти-империализма” среди тех, кто в противном случае обычно идентифицирует себя как прогрессивных или “левых”, и последующее распространение манипулятивной дезинформации, которая обычно отвлекает внимание от хорошо документированных злоупотреблений Асада и его союзников. Изображая себя “противниками” империализма, они обычно проявляют крайне избирательное внимание к вопросам “вмешательства” и нарушениям прав человека, что часто согласуется с правительствами России и Китая; тех, кто не согласен с их строго контролируемыми взглядами, часто (и ложно) клеймят как “энтузиастов смены режима” или обдураченных западными политическими интересами.

Раскольническая и сектантская роль, которую играет эта группа, безошибочна: с их упрощенной точки зрения, все движения за демократию и за достоинство, которые идут против российских или китайских государственных интересов, обычно изображаются как нисходящая работа западного вмешательства: ни одно из них не является автохтонным, ни одно из них не связано с десятилетиями независимой внутренней борьбы против жестокой диктатуры (как в Сирии), и ни одно по-настоящему не представляет желания людей, требующих права на достойную жизнь, а не угнетения и насилия. Их объединяет отказ бороться с преступлениями режима Асада или даже признать, что имело место жестоко подавленное народное восстание против Асада.

Эти авторы и средства массовой информации выросли в последние годы и часто ставят Сирию на первый план своей критики империализма и интервенционизма, которую они характерно ограничивают западом; российское и иранское участие, как правило, игнорируется. При этом они стремились присоединиться к давней и почтенной традиции внутренней оппозиции злоупотреблениям имперской властью за рубежом, не только, но и довольно часто исходящей от левых.

Но они не принадлежат к этой компании по праву. Никто из тех, кто явно или неявно присоединяется к пагубному правительству Асада, этого не делает. Никто из тех, кто избирательно и оппортунистически выдвигает обвинения в “империализме” из соображений своей конкретной версии “левой” политики, вместо того чтобы последовательно противостоять ей в принципе по всему миру — тем самым признавая империалистический интервенционизм России, Ирана и Китая, — этого не делает.

Часто под прикрытием практики “независимой журналистики” эти различные авторы и средства массовой информации функционировали в качестве главных источников дезинформации и пропаганды о продолжающейся глобальной катастрофе, в которую превратилась Сирия. Их реакционная, перевернутая Реалполитика так же зациклена на нисходящей, антидемократической “политике власти”, как и Генри Киссинджер или Сэмюэл Хантингтон, только с обратной валентностью. Но этот сводящий с ума упрощающий риторический ход (“переворачивание сценария”, как однажды выразился один из них), каким бы привлекательным он ни был для тех, кто стремится определить, кто такие “хорошие парни” и “плохие парни” в любом конкретном месте на планете, на самом деле является инструментом специально подобранной лести для своей аудитории о “истинной работе власти”, которая служит укреплению дисфункционального статус-кво и препятствует развитию действительно прогрессивного и международного подхода к глобальной политике, в котором мы так отчаянно нуждаемся, учитывая планетарные проблемы реагирования на глобальное потепление.

Доказательства того, что мощь США сама по себе была ужасающе разрушительной, особенно во время холодной войны, ошеломляют: по всему миру, от Вьетнама до Индонезии, Ирана, Конго, Южной и Центральной Америки и за ее пределами, массовые нарушения прав человека, имевшие место во имя борьбы с коммунизмом, очевидны. И в период после окончания холодной войны, так называемой “Войны с террором”, американские интервенции в Афганистане и Ираке не сделали ничего, чтобы предложить фундаментальную национальную перемену.

Но Америка не играет центральной роли в том, что произошло в Сирии, несмотря на то, что утверждают эти люди. Идея о том, что это так или иначе, несмотря на все доказательства обратного, является побочным продуктом провинциальной политической культуры, которая настаивает как на центральной роли власти США в глобальном масштабе, так и на империалистическом праве определять, кто “хорошие парни” и “плохие парни” в любом данном контексте.

Идеологическое сближение правых поклонников Асада с такого рода авторитарно-дружественной “левизной” симптоматично и указывает на то, что очень реальная и очень серьезная проблема заключается в другом: что делать, когда народ подвергается такому же насилию со стороны своего правительства, как сирийский народ, удерживаемый в плену теми, кто охотно прибегают к пыткам, исчезновениям и убийствам людей даже за малейший намек на политическую оппозицию их власти? По мере того как многие страны все ближе и ближе приближаются к авторитаризму и отходят от демократии, нам кажется, что это чрезвычайно важный политический вопрос, на который пока нет ответа; и поскольку ответа нет, во всем мире растет безнаказанность со стороны сильных и растет уязвимость для бессильных.

Об этом у этих “антиимпериалистов” нет полезных слов. О глубоком политическом насилии, которому подвергли сирийский народ Ассады, иранцы, русские? Нет слов. Простите нас за то, что мы указываем на то, что такое стирание жизни и опыта сирийцев воплощает саму суть империалистических (и расистских) привилегий. Эти писатели и блогеры не проявили никакой осведомленности о сирийцах, в том числе подписавших это письмо, которые рисковали своей жизнью, выступая против режима, которые были заключены в пыточные тюрьмы пыток Ассадов (некоторые в течение многих лет), потеряли близких, у которых есть друзей и родственников, которых насильственно исчезли, бежали из своей страны – хотя многие сирийцы пишут и говорят об этом опыте в течение многих лет.

В совокупности сирийский опыт от Революции до настоящего времени представляет собой фундаментальный вызов миру, каким он представляется этим людям. Сирийцы, которые напрямую противостояли режиму Асада, часто ценой больших потерь, сделали это не из-за какого-то западного империалистического заговора, а потому, что десятилетия злоупотреблений, жестокости и коррупции были и остаются невыносимыми. Настаивать на обратном и поддерживать Асада значит пытаться лишить сирийцев всякой политической воли и поддержать давнюю политику Асадов по внутренней политике, которая лишила сирийцев какого-либо значимого права голоса в их правительстве и обстоятельствах.

Мы, сирийцы и сторонники борьбы сирийского народа за демократию и права человека, воспринимаем эти попытки “исчезнуть” сирийцев из мира политики, солидарности и партнерства как вполне соответствующие характеру режимов, которыми так явно восхищаются эти люди. Это “анти-империализм” и “левизна” беспринципных, ленивых и дураков, и только усиливает дисфункциональный международный тупик, демонстрируемый в Совете безопасности ООН. Мы надеемся, что читатели этой статьи присоединятся к нам в противостоянии этому.

Подписанты [Институциональная принадлежность указывается только для целей идентификации, полный список можно найти тут]

Ахмад Айша, журналист и переводчик (Турция)
Али Акил, основатель и представитель Сирийской солидарности в Новой Зеландии (Аотеароа/Новая Зеландия)
Амина Масри, активистка/педагог (США)
Асмаэ Дачан, сирийско-итальянский журналист (Италия)

и многие другие.

___________

Источник: New Politics. Перевод яндексовских роботов с моей посильной помощью. Спасибо Гаральду Эцбаху и другим за подсказку. Фото: “Дейли Бист”/Дэвид Грей/Рейтерс

Buy Russian Art, Support Russian Protesters


Nick Teplov
Facebook
February 1, 2021

Thoughts from the darkroom:

How can we make posts and likes on social networks more effective?

As an analog experiment, you can buy any* black-and-white photo featured on my Instagram page (@bureau44), which I will print by hand. This can be either a classic print, an indigo twist, or a lithograph print on vintage paper from the 60s-80s (see the pictures here).

The format is 18 x 24 cm.

You can suggest you own price.

I will donate 50% of this amount to OVD Info to help people detained at protest rallies in Russia.

The prints will be delivered by any method you prefer.

This is a limited offer, as they say.**
______

* You must check with me whether a particular negative is available.
** Limited, that is, by my supply of paper and chemicals.

____________________

Yana Sergeeva
Facebook
February 3, 2021

I am signed up make recurring donations to OVD Info and send them as much extra money as possible, but now I want to do something more.

So, if you want to buy my ceramics, write to me. I will give you cups and plates, and you will send the money for them to OVD Info or Apologia for Protest.

Alexandra Vorobyova has made a helpful list of the donation pages of the Russian organizations who provide legal aid and other assistance to people detained while protesting and/or report on these issues. I can personally endorse all of these organizations, whose human rights work and journalism have been featured on this website many, many times in the past.

OVD Info: https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en
Mediazona: https://donate.zona.media/
Open Russia Legal Defense: https://orpravo.org/#help-project
Apologia for Protest: https://apologia.pro/
Team 29: https://team29.org/donate/

Keep in mind that, with the exception of OVD Info’s donations page, the others are in Russian only. It might also be the case that some of them only accept donations from Russian bank cards. However, I was easily able to donate money to OVD Info and Mediazona via PayPal. Write to me if you have questions about how to donate money. And let me know of similar undertakings by artists or anybody else, and I will add their details to this post. || TRR

It Might Sound Dodgy Now, But It Sounds Great When You’re Dead

It must be said, too, that although [Nikolai] Obukhov devoted most of his life to composing his “The Book of Life,” and therefore thought naturally on a huge scale, he was also master of the miniature. His sets of pieces like “Revelation” are sure and original, and will, hopefully, be revived one day. The set of songs published by Rouart, Lerolle and Cie, dating from 1918, are among the most curious products in all music. The singer is required to cope with indications such as “crying with extasy [sic],” “groaning and shrieking,” “in the anguish of death,” “with the dread of remorse,” and “with ecstatic horror”; and this is all within one short song! The atmosphere is that of a hothouse (Figure 21.4). Another setting asks the singer to whistle, followed by “suffering, regretting with a hoarse voice,” “convincing, with an insane smile,” “with malignancy,” and “suffering furiously.” A kind of rhythmic speech is employed.

Obukhov’s early influences were undoubtedly Scriabin and the poet Bal’mont, but gradually he moved further and further into the realm of an extreme mysticism. He saw himself as a channel through which some divine force was composing his music. “The Book of Life” was based on a ritual symbolic form. It was Scriabin’s convictions pushed a step further. It is Obukhov’s masterpiece, a sacred work meant for performance in a specially constructed temple of symbolic design (executed by the painter N. Goncharova), and intended (like Scriabin’s “Mysterium”) to effect a mystical union of Man and Divinity. Sabaneev ascribes a more secular meaning to the music:

‘Obukhov’s “Book of Life” is also a “Mystery,” and, like every self-respecting mystery is “revealed” to him from above. Unlike Scriabin’s, which was designed to bring about the end of the world, and which, happily for its inhabitants, he did not succeed in completing, Obukhov’s mystery has a political purpose – the restoration to the throne of the last Russian Emperor, who is supposed to be alive and well, but in hiding.’

There are also stories, possibly apocryphal, that Obukhov, in the throes of fanatical and ecstatic composition, would write the bar numbers in red, using his own blood. Obukhov worked on this opus all his life, and the main work has a number of subsidiary pieces stemming from it, sometimes in multiple versions. The total work, covering some two thousand (!) pages, has apparently never been presented, although fragments have been played by conductors such as Koussevitzky, and French Radio has broadcast some excerpts. A film made by Germaine Dulas on the subject had some distribution in France and Italy in 1935.

—Larry Sitsky, Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900–1929 (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 257, 259

The Croix Sonore is an early electronic musical instrument with continuous pitch, similar to the theremin. Like the theremin, the pitch of the tone is dependent on the nearness of the player’s arm to an antenna; unlike the theremin, the antenna was in the shape of a cross, and the electronics were inside a brass ball to which the cross was affixed.

It was developed by Russian born composer Nikolai Obukhov who lived and worked in France from 1918, and built by Michel Billaudot and Pierre Dauvillier in Paris; they developed a prototype version in 1926 and demonstrated an improved version in 1934. Along with many, including Maurice Martenot, Obhukov was present at a demonstration of the thereminvox by its inventor Lev Termen (Leon Theremin) in 1924. Obukhov composed several pieces for the Croix Sonore, in duet with piano, in ensemble and as solo instrument with orchestras. The Croix Sonore was played by Marie-Antoinette Aussenac-Broglie, who was a student of Obukhov’s.

Source: Wikipedia. Thanks to Alexei Stavitsky for the inspiration. // TRR

Zoom vs. Zoom (Rospotrebnadzor vs. Side by Side)

Peter Gutnitsky
Facebook
November 16, 2020

In a nutshell.

Zoom Cafe has been shut down because the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival announced an online event on Zoom. And it is so easy to confuse us with an online platform.

Fake diners without [anti-covid] masks hired for 500 rubles, a deliberately false statement from the well-known [anti-gay] activist Timur Bulatov, ten police officers blocking the entrance, violations like “Where is the germicidal lamp? Here it is! And where does it say that it is a germicidal lamp?”, a plainclothes officer who refused to introduce himself, a printer that they brought with them to quickly print out the order and seal the front door. That’s all.

We look forward to the court hearing.

Screenshot of Zoom Cafe’s page on restoclub.ru

Rospotrebnadzor Closes Zoom Cafe After Receiving Complaint That Side by Side LGBT Festival Was Taking Place There. But It Was Taking Place on Zoom
Bumaga
November 16, 2020

Rospotrebnadzor has temporarily closed Zoom Cafe on Gorokhovaya Street in Petersburg due to non-compliance with social distance and other violations of the coronavirus regime, as reported by Fontanka.ru, citing the agency’s closure order.

The cafe was inspected by authorities following a complaint by anti-gay activist Timur Bulatov, cafe owner Pavel Shteynlukht told Bumaga. In his complaint, Bulatov wrote that Zoom Cafe was hosting the LGBT film festival, which minors could allegedly attend. (Bumaga has a copy of the complaint.)

Side by Side’s press service told Bumaga that they had discussed an information partnership with Zoom Cafe, but they had not been able to come to an agreement. The cafe was not a venue for the festival, which was moved online after its opening event was disrupted by police officers.

“Unfortunately, Zoom Cafe has suffered simply because the people who make complaints about us cannot tell the difference between discussions on the platform Zoom and the Zoom Cafe,” the festival’s press service said.

Earlier this month, Bumaga spoke with Side by Side founders Manny de Guerre and Gulya Sultanova, who talked about how the LGBT film festival came into being, how the law on so-called gay propaganda has affected it, and why the project had to be closed in Russia’s regions.

Translated by the Russian Reader

 

Before the opening of the 13th Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, Rospotrebnadzor officers accompanied by police came to the building where the event was to be held. They demanded that everyone leave the premises so they could “check for possible violations of the law.” The organizers claim that they had met all the sanitary and epidemiological requirements imposed by the authorities. A few days before the start of the festival, the police had already inspected the venue following a complaint by Russian MP Vitaly Milonov.

Source: Radio Svoboda, 12 November 2020

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.