A Little Song about the Physicist Sakharov


A statue of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov was unveiled Monday in St. Petersburg, despite criticism from his widow who said today’s Russia has failed her husband.

The 10 1/2-foot bronze statue depicts the Nobel peace laureate, slightly stooped but with his head held high, standing with hands tied behind his back atop a stone pedestal on a square that was named after him in 1996.

The monument by sculptor Levon Lazarev’s was unveiled a few weeks after a city commission in Moscow gave the green light to a stalled plan for another statue of Sakharov in the capital.

Yelena Bonner was opposed to both statues, saying Russia has failed to live up to Sakharov’s ideals of freedom and democracy since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It is out of place to erect a monument to Sakharov in today’s Russia,″ the Interfax news agency quoted Bonner as saying. She said she was not consulted.

“There’s no money to publish his works widely, so that people would finally read them, but they can put up a monument,″ Bonner told Russia’s TVS television by phone from Boston, where she lives.

The unveiling drew about 100 people, among them intellectuals and former dissidents who supported a transition to democracy at the time of the Soviet collapse.

A physicist who helped design the Soviet hydrogen bomb, Sakharov became a staunch promoter of human rights and world peace, and spent seven years in internal exile for speaking out. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

Source: “Monument to Sakharov Unveiled in Russia,” Associated Press, 5 May 2003


A Little Song about the Physicist Sakharov

The physicist Sakharov
Was one bad dude.
Oh, how he made us seethe!
Why do we suffer that fool?

It later suddenly transpired
That he was a real good cat.
We felt sorry for the poor man
And guiltily ate our hats.

Now it’s been ascertained
That he was bad news after all.
We’re seething once again.
Why did we suffer that fool?

If again it turns out
That he was, in fact, a good egg,
Ah, we'll regret it again,
And put on guilty mugs.

8 August 2022

Source: German Lukomnikov, “New Poems,” Volga 1 (2023). Thanks to ES for the suggestion. Translated by the Russian Reader

Russian prosecutors on Monday declared as “undesirable” the U.S.-based foundation that preserves the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov as Moscow continues to crack down on dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The activities of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation (ASF) “constitute a threat to the foundation of Russia’s constitutional order and security,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a statement.

Under Russian law, individuals believed to have cooperated with an “undesirable” international NGO face steep fines and jail terms.

ASF, based in Springfield, Virginia outside Washington, says its goal is to promote Sakharov’s works to “support peace efforts and anti-war events.”

The organization chaired by mathematician Alexei Semyonov has not yet commented on Russia’s latest designation.

Russian authorities have declared more than 70 organizations — including media outlets focused on exposing fraud and corruption in Russia — “undesirable” between mid-2015 and early 2023.

Sakharov, once feted as a hero of the Soviet defense industry for his role in developing the Soviet nuclear bomb, became one of the U.S.S.R.’s most prominent dissidents from the late 1960s. 

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his work against the nuclear arms race he had helped precipitate, though he was not permitted to leave the Soviet Union to accept the award.

Sakharov became one of the most distinctive personalities of the perestroika era, rising to the status of a national moral authority.

Arrested in 1980 after denouncing the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Sakharov was sent into internal exile in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, then closed to foreigners.

After six years in exile, during which he undertook several hunger strikes, Sakharov was released over a telephone call by reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Source: “Russia Labels U.S.-Based Sakharov Foundation ‘Undesirable,’” Moscow Times, 24 January 2023

Red Corners

“The post-Soviet man’s red corner.” Pavel Pryanikov (Facebook), 20 January 2023

Made of large logs of pine, spruce or larch, a tall and spacious northern izba (log-house) was heated by a huge Russian stove. If the stove was the heart of the Russian house, its soul was the Red Corner (red [krasny] meaning beautiful in old Russian) where the family’s sacred objects sat.

This area included holy icons draped over with the embroidered bozhnik (godly-towel), a Bible—if there was a literate person in the household—and occasionally a figurine of a saint brought from a pilgrimage by a pious relative.  Wooden representations of St. Nilus of Stolben were common.  An oil lamp suspended from the ceiling burned in front of the icons.

Source: TMORA (The Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis)


During the era of Soviet power, the ‘Red Corner’ was the name given to the place at a factory, plant, school, and in general at any establishment, that was equipped to carry out ‘agitation and propaganda’ of the new ideology, new communist ideas. The first post-revolutionary ‘Red Corners’ were places where ‘political enlightenment’ of the masses was conducted, lectures were arranged about the projects and plans of the new power, the bright future which awaited all workers during Communism was discussed. Slogans and posters were hung on the walls of these ‘corners,’ and banners were arranged in the ‘Red Corner’ near portraits of leaders, pamphlets with speeches by Lenin, Trotsky were placed on tables …

Gradually these ‘Red Corners’ turned into unique sorts of chapels of the new religion, and they became subordinate to the ideological department of the Party Committee of each factory, collective farm, etc. They became a place for mandatory meetings of the ‘Party collective,’ a meeting place for delegates, a place for elections.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, life in these club-temples gradually began to die out, the ‘cult’ dwindled, and the stands and posters that were more and more depressing and mechanical gradually decayed, and everything taken together – the ritual, the design, and the paints – turned into a depressing ceremony that was no longer of use to anyone.

Source: “Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: The Red Corner,” Fine Art Biblio


Many human rights activists expected that with the start of the war in Ukraine, Russian officials would refocus their repressive efforts away from the Jehovah’s Witnesses; but those expectations have proved untrue. And Putin’s campaign against the Witnesses has continued unabated.

As of now, 404 of the 538 structures classified as terrorists or extremists by the Russian government are Jehovah’s Witnesses; the number of searches in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes have increased and now number some 1800 in 71 federal subjects; and the number of Witnesses sentenced to camps rose from 32 to 45 between 2021 and 2022.

Aleksandr Verkhovsky, head of the SOVA information and analysis center, says this is insane especially in wartime and must reflect some judgment by the authorities that continuing to repress the Jehovah’s Witnesses is in their interests; but it remains unclear what basis there could be for that (baikal-journal.ru/2023/01/19/pochemu-vlast-bolshe-70-let-presleduet-svideteley-iegovy/).

But Sergey Davidis, head of Memorial’s “Support Political Prisoners” project, argues that there are three main reasons why the Putin regime continues to persecute the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

First of all, he says, “the Russian authorities are intolerant of any independent organization, especially a large one which has its own ideology” and in particular those whose centers are outside the borders of the Russian Federation, a reflection of the leadership’s paranoia about any independent group.

Second, he continues, many in Russia see the Jehovah’s Witnesses as being at odds with Russian traditions and so accept their persecution as a legitimate form of the defense of the latter.  And third, going after the Witnesses allows the security services to make themselves look good statistically. After all, it is easy to go after those who don’t hide and don’t resist.

Thus the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is likely to continue or even grow, despite the fact that the Witnesses themselves provide no justification for such actions. 

Source: Paul Goble, “Putin’s War Against Jehovah’s Witnesses Continues Unabated for Three Main Reasons, Davidis Says,” Window on Eurasia — New Series, 21 January 2023


Father Aleksandr Men’: “To say that 700 million Catholics and 350 million Protestants are in error,
and that only we are the true church, is to dwell in insane, utterly unwarranted pride.”

ON ECUMENICAL SUNDAY at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, Riga, I shared a few words about 2 of my favorite 20th c. ecumenists, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Aleksandr Men’ — great men of faith who rose above the parts to embrace the whole.

The service proper concluded w/ an early Franciscan benediction which I had never heard and like a lot:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.”

Amen! To which I will only add that while I think my foolishness quotient actually surpasses the level of “enough,” applying it regularly toward Francis’ ends remains a challenge.

Source: Mark H. Teeter (Facebook), 22 January 2023. Thanks to Mark for his kind permission to let me reproduce his original post (minus three images) here. ||| TRR

“Our People Are Not Terrorists”

Defense attorney Edem Semedlyaev and Crimean Tatar political prisoner Raif Fevziev, Rostov-on-Don, Russia, 12 January 2023. Imam Fevziev’s t-shirt reads, “Our people are not terrorists.” Photo courtesy of Imam Fevziev and Crimean Solidarity via Mumine Saliyeva

In one of his interviews from the dungeons of the Rostov pretrial detention center, Dagestani journalist Abdulmumin Hajiyev commented on the everyday lives of inmates: “Lately, I’ve been thinking about taking cooking lessons. For some reason, there has been a skilled cook in every cell I’ve inhabited since Makhachkala. Sirazhutdin (Kumyk), Magomed (Avar), Rutem and Alim (Crimean Tatars) — I always admired the enthusiasm and care with which those guys spent several hours every day cooking something delicious for their cellmates with only a bucket and an immersion hot-water boiler to hand. Hajiyev also mentions Alim Karimov, a defendant in the Crimean Hizb ut-Tahrir case, with whom he has shared a cell for a over year a year. Over this time, Alim has learned Arabic.

Yesterday, a Russian court sentenced Karimov and four other defendants, among whom there are pensioners with disabilities, to thirteen years in prison each. The two years it took to try the case on the merits were memorable in several ways. There was an ambulance present at the hearings, but its crew did not provide qualified medical care to the defendants, who were forbidden to speak Crimean Tatar during the proceedings. Putting old men in the dock for talking about Islam had nothing to do with the letter of the law. Instead, it speaks to Islamophobia cloaking itself in the law’s guise, and to the disgrace of the foot soldiers who executed this drama.

A few days ago, my fellow journalist had the opportunity to hand over to me his new articles, one of which tells the story of Ernes Ametov, a cellmate from Crimea, who was sentenced to eleven years in prison by a military court in late December because he would not do a deal with a lie.

Today, Russia’s Southern District Military Court again handed down a verdict to a Crimean Tatar religious figure. Imam Raif Fevziev was sentenced to seventeen years in a high-security penal colony (with the first three years to be served in an ordinary prison) for having a seventy-minute conversation about religion. His trial took place at the same time as the trial of Crimean defendants in another criminal case. Friends and colleagues of Fevziev’s — the religious figures Ismet Ibragimov, Vadim Bektemirov, Aider Dzhapparov, and Lenur Khalilov — had earlier been sentenced to brutal terms of imprisonment by the very same court. These are textbook political persecutions: the NKVD used the same methods, in the past, to eradicate and destroy religious and public figures who had influence among the people.

It is quite difficult to cope with such a merciless chronicle of crackdowns. But when you see and feel what kind of regime you have come face to face with, and how the political prisoners, their families, and a whole people wisely and peacefully oppose it, you have no choice but to recharge your batteries, be more resilient, and go on working, while believing ever more fiercely that change will come.

I read in a book that a system based on segregation and tyranny is a large-scale manmade disaster. The people involved in perpetuating it may well understand that the breakdown of such a “juggernaut” is inevitable, and that they themselves, collectively, are causing the breakdown. But each of them assumes that it’s not their own personal fault, but everyone else’s. Each of them, on the contrary, believes that they are trying to save it — through cruelty, by cracking down on those dubbed “enemies” and “undesirables.” Ultimately, however, they fail to save it.

Source: Mumine Saliyeva, Facebook, 12 January 2023. Translated by Hecksinductionhour

An Unexpected Twist in the Case of Anti-War Activist Vsevolod Korolev

Vsevolod Korolev in the dock at Vyborg District Court in Petersburg. Photo by Valentin Nikitchenko

An unexpected twist in the Vsevolod Korolev case

On January 12, Peterburg’s Vyborg District Court held a hearing on the merits of the criminal case against Petersburg documentary filmmaker Vsevolod Korolev. At today’s hearing, the complainant and prosecution witness Mikhail Baranov was cross-examined. It was Baranov who had requested that law enforcement agencies file criminal charges against Korolev.

Baranov unexpectedly changed his initial testimony, telling the court that he considered the posts by the accused “an expression of free speech,” and that he himself had “liked” Korolev’s posts to give them more publicity. The prosecution witness also said that the police had come to his home, and that he had been questioned at the police department about that very same “like.” It was only after this interaction that Baranov had filed the complaint, asking the authorities to determine whether Korolev’s posts constituted “disseminating fake news about the army.”

However, the interrogation record in the case file paints a different picture: according to it, Baranov had gone to the police himself. Korolev’s posts had, allegedly, angered him. Today, at the trial, Baranov said that he could not remember what his emotions were at the time, and that his opinion could have changed.

Source: Politzek-Info (Telegram), 12 January 2023. Photo by Valentin Nikitchenko. Translated by Hecksinductionhour


29 July 2022

Vsevolod Korolev, a St. Petersburg poet and documentary filmmaker remanded in custody on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army, is a political prisoner. Until his arrest, Vsevolod Korolev supported people subjected to repression for anti-war statements: he made a documentary about those prosecuted and he called the war a war

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial


The human rights project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ considers Vsevolod Korolev a political prisoner in line with international standards. He is being prosecuted for posts on social networks. Korolev’s criminal prosecution violates his constitutional right to freedom of expression. His prosecution is intended to silence voices in Russia that oppose the war against Ukraine and to intimidate civil society. 

We demand the immediate release of Vsevolod Korolev and the termination of all criminal prosecutions under the unconstitutional Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Who is Vsevolod Korolev and what are the charges against him?

Vsevolod Korolev, 34, is from St. Petersburg and in recent years he has been active in the city’s volunteer movement and engaged in civic activism. Korolev has worked as a volunteer with the Perspectives Charitable Foundation and the St. Petersburg Observers movement (which organizes independent election observation).

After the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Korolev became very active in the anti-war movement. On his social media pages he wrote about the crimes of the Russian military, attended the trials of those arrested on charges related to the war, collected donations of food and other necessities for those held on remand, and made documentary films about what was happening. For example, he made films about the prosecutions for ‘anti-war’ activities of the artist Sasha Skochilenko and the journalist Maria Ponomarenko.

On 11 July 2022, a criminal case was opened against Vsevolod Korolev on suspicion of disseminating information known to be false about the use of the Russian armed forces. The next day his apartment was searched and he was detained.

Korolev is accused of making posts in March and April 2022 on the VK social media site about the crimes of the Russian military in Bucha and Borodyanka near Kiev and about the shelling of Donetsk. Korolev subsequently confirmed he had made posts about the war in Ukraine, but maintained they contained no lies.

Korolev understood the risks of speaking out freely. ‘I refuse to not say the truth about things,’ he wrote on his social networks.

On 13 July, a St. Petersburg court remanded Korolev in custody, even though he has had his thyroid removed and needs regular medical examinations.

Korolev faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Why do we consider Vsevolod Korolev a political prisoner?

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code criminalising dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law.

In particular, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.’ Restrictions on the exercise of these rights ‘shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’ Such norms are also contained in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution. The restrictions on freedom of expression introduced by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code serve none of these purposes and are a form of censorship. This is all the more so given that, in the course of an armed conflict, it is not always possible to establish the accuracy of statements made by the parties to the conflict, and the Russian authorities hold simply that official reports by the Russian Ministry of Defence should be considered reliable.

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code was specifically created as an instrument for the prosecution of critics of the Russian authorities and criminalises any statements about the use of the Russian armed forces abroad. This has already been confirmed in practice. Under this article, people are more often prosecuted not even for statements of fact but for expressing their opinions and personal attitudes. At the same time, the prosecuting authorities ascribe to many of those prosecuted, like Vsevolod Korolev, the subjective motive of ‘political hatred,’ which significantly increases the potential penalty.

A more detailed description of this case and the position of the Human Rights Project can be found on our Telegram channel.

A full list of political prisoners in Russia can be found on our temporary website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can send letters to the following address:

In Russian: 196655, г. Санкт-Петербург, г. Колпино, ул. Колпинская, д. 9, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по СПб и ЛО, Королёву Всеволоду Анатольевичу 1987 г. р. 

In English: Vsevolod Anatolievich Korolev (dob 1987), Remand Prison No. 1 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region, 9 Kolpinskaya Street, Kolpino, St. Petersburg, 196655, Russia.

Electronic mail can be sent via FederalPenitentiaryService-Letter and Zonatelekom.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.


Translated by Rights in Russia

Source: “‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: St. Petersburg poet and documentary filmmaker Vsevolod Korolev is a political prisoner,” Rights in Russia, 10 October 2022. As I have pointed out in previous posts on Russian anti-war protesters and political prisoners, Russian remand prisons and penal colonies only accept letters written in Russian, and the federal penitentiary service’s FSIN-Pismo service and Zonatelekom are only accessible to residents of the Russian Federation. It’s also almost a certainty that YooMoney, another Russia-based service, will not accept money from non-Russian bank cards. ||| TRR

Mikhail Lobanov: Why Police Raided My Home

Mikhail Lobanov in August 2021. Photo by Kirill Medvedev

Why did the police raid my home?

The formal reason — as follows from the court ruling and what people from pro-Kremlin media have heard — is a fictitious “connection” between me and ex-State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev. This is a product of the meager imagination of the security forces. I have not interacted with Ponomarev in any way, either in 2022 or in previous years, neither personally, nor through other people.

Why did the authorities have to intimidate me? I have two possible explanations.

The first and most likely explanation is that Moscow City Hall was behind the raid.

The following facts speak in favor of this explanation.

1) PR support. [The Telegram channel] Kremlin Laundress, which published posts containing threats and attempts to denigrate me (including a week before the raid), is a “drain tank” for the mayor’s office. The secretary of the Communist Party City Committee told me about this more than a year ago: they had been watching [the channel] for a long time and had come to this conclusion.

2) There was no investigator present during the raid. The field agents who were on hand, having unenthusiastically asked me two questions at the outset — whether I was connected with Ponomarev, and whether I had delegated [Vladimir] Zalishchak and [Sergei] Tsukasov to some congress — did not return to this topic during the six hours we spent together. But they did spend a great deal of time trying to persuade me that I should not be involved in politics by making threats (while drawing parallels with [Ilya] Yashin and [Yulia] Galyamina) and giving me “friendly” advice.

3) The mayor [of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin] will run for re-election later this year, and his “victory” may further delegitimize the regime. In 2021–2022, my name was inextricably linked with the most successful opposition election campaigns in Moscow. Teams of like-minded people formed around me during both the municipal and the parliamentary elections. By mobilizing the enthusiasm of thousands of dynamic people, we defeated United Russia and corporate candidates. Political spin doctors and administrative resources were powerless against us. By accumulating the support of ordinary people, we achieved greater results than did candidates with exponentially larger campaign coffers.

Yes, our victories were stolen [through rigging] online voting. But even today, unbowed people can together find a way to use the mayor’s re-election campaign to organize themselves and make his “re-election” problematic.

For some reason, the Kremlin’s foreign policy “successes” in 2022 have not had the effect that the people who allocate tens of billions to state propaganda wanted. If the protest-minded segment of the electorate is mobilized in a minimal way, the construction business and ruling class candidate will enjoy only a Pyrrhic victory, one based on flagrant vote rigging.

A second possible explanation is that the raid on my home and my arrest are part of preparations to transfer power to puppet ultra-right revanchists.

In this case, what is happening to me reflects the fear of people with a consistent democratic anti-war stance on the part of officials, siloviki, and the oligarchs who have fused with them. We are trying to develop real trade unions and push the topic of blatant economic inequality onto the agenda.

After the ruling group’s collapse, the far-right revanchists will try to play the card of virtual “angry patriots” and maintain the existing system of domination. If they succeed, there will be a new dictator, increased crackdowns, a new round of spending on “security,” funded by a shrinking budget and, in the medium term, another senseless war.

But I believe that there are many dynamic people in Russian society who will be able to formulate a convincing left-democratic alternative and inspire tens of millions of other people. I look to the future with hope.

Source: Mikhail Lobanov, Facebook, 9 January 2023. Thanks to Simon Pirani for encouraging me to share this piece with my readers. Translated by the Russian Reader, who is much less hopeful about Russia’s future than is Mr. Lobanov. But more power to him!

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Book reading and experience sharing program at Russian House

On December 29 Russian House in Kathmandu conducted a book reading and experience sharing program in collaboration with Half Tone Design Private Limited.

The event featured an interactive group discussion program with a brief introduction of the Russian library, books, authors, quotes, and poem recitation. There were over 40 people: authors, students, poets, and professors. The main purpose of the program is to build reading habits and share experiences. In the program, many of the audience suggested their favorite books, which are as follows:

1. How to win friends and influence people — Dale Carnegie, and Bhagwat Gita by Mr. Indra Prasad Adhikari.

2. Ramcharitra Manas. By Mr. Rudra Dulal.

3. Jeevan Yatra by Mr. Bhola Shrestha.

4. Muna Madan, Aamai and Paheli by Mrs. Goma Banjade.

5. Mother – Maxim Gorky by Ms. Mira Pokherel.

6. Guna Ratna Mala by Mr. Narayan Thapa.

Source: Russian House in Kathmandu, Facebook, 29 December 2022


Ukrainian officials said that over 120 Russian missiles had been launched at the country’s cities. Explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Odessa and Zhytomyr. The mayor of Kyiv said that three people had been taken to hospital, and that 16 missiles were destroyed in flight by the city’s air defences. On the southern front Ukrainian officials urged residents of Kherson, which they liberated just six weeks ago, to evacuate their city as Russian forces escalated mortar and artillery attacks.

Source: The Economist, “The World in Brief” email newsletter, 29 December 2022


Mikhail [Lobanov] telephoned. He says that he has been charged under Article 19.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code.*

Mikhail managed to convey that during the search he was beaten in the face and chest. There was blood on the floor of the apartment.

* “Disobeying the lawful order of a police officer, a serviceman, an officer of the Federal Security Service, an officer of state security bodies, an officer of bodies exercising federal state control (oversight) in the field of migration, or an officer of a body or institution of the penal enforcement system, or an officer of the Russian Federal National Guard,” as amended on 19 December 2022.

Source: Mikhail Lobanov, Facebook, 29 December 2022. Translated by TRR


The home of Mikhail Lobanov was searched today. Mikhail’s [legal] status and the article of the criminal code [which he is being charged with or suspected of violating] are not yet known.

Mikhail was taken to the Ramenka police department.

During the search, the investigator mentioned the name Ponomarev (probably referring to Ilya Ponomarev), with whom Lobanov is not acquainted and is not connected in any way. All electronic devices were removed from the home.

The security forces quickly sawed down the door and talked with Lobanov in the apartment for more than three hours. They did not allow him to contact a lawyer, demanded that he sign some papers, and behaved heavy-handedly, Mikhail’s wife Alexandra Zapolskaya reports.

Source: Mikhail Lobanov, Facebook, 29 December 2022. Translated by TRR

The Extremist Community: Nine More Years in a Penal Colony for Left Resistance Founder Darya Polyudova

Darya Polyudova, holding a placard that reads, “Ukraine, we’re with you.” Photo courtesy of The Insider

The founder of the Left Resistance movement, Darya Polyudova, has been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on charges of “creating an extremist community.” Polyudova was already serving time on another charge, and had three years left to go in her sentence.

The Second Western District Military Court has handed down the new sentence to the activist. It agreed with the prosecution’s arguments that the Left Resistance, as created by Polyudova, was an “extremist community.” And yet, at the moment there is no such organization listed in the Russian Justice Ministry’s registry of “extremist organizations.”

In addition to “creating an extremist community” (Article 282.1.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code), the court found the activist guilty on two counts of “condoning terrorism” (Article 205.2.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code) over posts published on the movement’s social media page.

The sentence took into account Polyudova’s previous sentence of six years, which she received in 2021, writes Mediazona.

Polyudova was the first person in Russia charged under the criminal code article outlawing “calls for separatism” (Article 280.1). This accusation was brought against her in 2014 for trying to hold a “March for the Federalization of the Kuban” in Krasnodar.

One charge after another

Polyudova began her career as a political activist in Novorossiysk, where she organized Strategy 31 protests. Due to constant arrests and dismissals from work, Polyudova was forced to move to Krasnodar, and later to Moscow.

She went on pickets in support of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar political prisoners, and the defendants in the Moscow Case and the Network Case, against the construction of a landfill in Shiyes, and against plans to build a church on a city square in Yekaterinburg.

In 2017, Polyudova was released from a work-release penal colony where she spent two years on charges of calling for separatism, and founded the Left Resistance. The description of the movement on its VK page stated that it “stands against the oppressor capitalists and for all the oppressed and the power of the working people.” The movement’s members attended protest pickets and distributed leaflets.

In January 2020, Polyudova was arrested again on charges of calling for separatism — this time for a solo picket where the activist stood holding a placard that read, “Kuriles, stop feeding Moscow! Long live the Far Eastern Republic!”

She was also charged with publicly condoning terrorism over a repost of a message about the Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev.

The calling for separatism charge against Polyudova was eventually dropped due to the liberalization of Article 280.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. However, in September 2020, the activist, who by that time had been in remand prison for more than six months, was charged with a new offense.

The FSB regarded her statements about Yevgeny Manyurov, who opened fire at the FSB headquarters on the Lubyanka in December 2019, as grounds for charging Polyudova with “condoning terrorism.” Later, this charge was reduced to a charge of calling for separatism.

In May 2021, Polyudova was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on charges of publicly condoning terrorism and calling for extremism.

Polyudova was presented with new charges of “creating an extremist community” in December 2021, while she was in remand prison awaiting an appeal against the previous sentence.

Source: “Activist Darya Polyudova sentenced to nine years — this is her third prison sentence,” BBC News Russian Service, 23 December 2022. Translated by TRR


Left Resistance founder Darya Polyudova has been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony, while Left Resistance activist Kirill Kotov has been sentenced to three years probation, the Telegram channel Free Kirill Zhukov reports.

Polyudova’s sentence incorporates the previous verdict against her and will run from January 2020, when the young woman was remanded to a pretrial detention center in a previous criminal case, her lawyer Leonid Solovyov told OVD Info.

The prosecution had requested just this sentence for Polyudova, but had asked that Kotov be sentenced to three years in a penal colony.

Polyudova was accused of “creating an extremist community” (per Article 282.1.1 of the Criminal Code), while Kotov was accused of involvement in an “extremist community.” Polyudova was also charged on two counts of public calls for terrorism or “condoning terrorism” (per Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code).

According to the FSB, Polyudova created the Left Resistance to “plan and commit crimes, […] namely, public vindication of terrorism and public calls for extremist activity.” Investigators argued that the “extremist community” engaged in holding pickets and making posts on social media.

In addition to Kotov, four other activists have been charged with involvement in the extremist community: Sergei Kirsanov, Alyona Krylova, Igor Kuznetsov, and Andrei Romanov.

On 18 November 2021, the FSB searched two addresses as part of the case against the Left Resistance, including the house where Kotov used to live. The criminal charges against the movement were made public on 3 December 2021. Tomsk opposition activist and RusNews journalist Igor Kuznetsov was already in remand prison in connection with the case of the Telegram channel Chto-Delat! Andrei Romanov and Alyona Krylova were not in Russia, while Sergei Kirsanov and Kirill Kotov were released on their own recognizance. By this time, Polyudova had already been sentenced to six years in a penal colony in a previous case.

Polyudova was charged under the article criminalizing calls for terrorism over posts made in 2019 on the Left Resistance’s social media page, including a post entitled “Execute the traitor Putler for treason!” Forensic experts detected “calls for the violent seizure of power” and “use of violence against the security forces” in these posts. Another criminal count was based on posts made on anniversary of the annexation of Crimea and pickets in support of defendants charged with involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.

[…]

Polyudova founded the Left Resistance movement in 2017. Its activists said that the new left-wing organization’s purpose was to replace the “opportunistic Communist Party” and “defend genuine communist ideas.”

In May 2021, the court sentenced Polyudova to six years in a penal colony. She was found guilty on two counts: “condoning terrorism” (per Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code) in connection with a repost on VK, and “calling for extremist activity” (per Article 280.1 of the Criminal Code) for statements about the actions of the shooter outside the FSB headquarters building on the Lubyanka.

In 2014–2015, Polyudova was accused of calling for extremism and separatism. She was then sentenced to two years in a work-release (i.e., minimum security) penal colony.

Source: “Left Resistance founder Darya Polyudova sentenced to nine years in a penal colony,” OVD Info, 23 December 2022. Translated by TRR

The Subversive Community

The Russian Federal Criminal Code: “Original edition: Beware of fakes!” Image courtesy of the Russian State Duma’s website

The State Duma adopted in their third and final reading amendments to the Criminal Code that stipulate life sentences for “subversive activities,” reports the lower house’s website.

There was already an article in the Criminal Code that outlawed sabotage. It stipulated a life sentence only if someone was killed as a result (per Article 281.3).

The deputies decided to add three new articles (281.1, 281.2 and 281.3) to the Criminal Code. They have introduced such crimes as “creating a subversive community” and being involved in such a community, “facilitating subversive activities” and “training” to commit sabotage, and “promoting” and “condoning” sabotage.

As punishment, prison terms of eight to twenty years or life sentences are stipulated in all cases, except for aiding and abetting sabotage.

As in the case of the other articles in the Criminal Code dealing with terrorism and extremism, exemption from criminal liability is stipulated if an individual informs the authorities or “otherwise contributes” to the prevention of sabotage and “subversive activities.”

The deputies also included “promoting,” “condoning,” or “supporting” sabotage in the list of aggravating circumstances in the commission of other crimes (per Article 63 of the Criminal Code).

Other bills in this raft of legislation would allow the authorities to place people suspected or accused of violating the new articles on Rosfinmonitoring’s financial watch list and block their bank accounts, as well as enable the authorities block websites containing instructions for “making ammunition for firearms.”

The set of four bills was introduced on December 8 by a group of more than 380 deputies. [There are 450 seats in the State Duma.] The first reading was held on December 14, and the text of the bills had not been amended as of the second reading on December 20.

Source: “State Duma passes law on life sentences for ‘facilitating’ sabotage,” Mediazona, 21 December 2022. Translated by TRR


I can’t stand it, I know you planned it
I’m gonna set it straight, this Watergate
I can’t stand rocking when I’m in here
‘Cause your crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear
So while you sit back and wonder why
I got this fucking thorn in my side
Oh my God, it’s a mirage
I’m tellin’ y’all, it’s a sabotage

So, so, so, so listen up ’cause you can’t say nothin’
You’ll shut me down with a push of your button?
But you, I’m out and I’m gone
I’ll tell you now, I keep it on and on

‘Cause what you see you might not get
And we can bet, so don’t you get souped yet
You’re scheming on a thing that’s a mirage
I’m trying to tell you now, it’s sabotage

Why

Our backs are now against the wall?
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage

I can’t stand it, I know you planned it
I’m gonna set it straight, this Watergate
Lord, I can’t stand rockin’ when I’m in this place
Because I feel disgrace because you’re all in my face
But make no mistakes and switch up my channel
I’m Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle
What could it be? It’s a mirage
You’re scheming on a thing, that’s sabotage

Source: Musixmatch. Song written by Michael Louis Diamond, Adam Nathaniel Yauch and Adam Horovitz

Environmental Movement 42 (Is a “Foreign Agent”)

Hi!

It’s the 7X7 team on the line. Today we’re going talk about the environmental movement 42 and why it suddenly became a “foreign agent.”

Approximate reading time: 4 minutes.

Some people look forward to Friday to go drinking after the work week, but we look forward to Friday to learn the names of the new “foreign agents,” as designated by the Russian Justice Ministry. Their updates to the registry of “foreign agents” are like a new episode of a TV series, the release of a long-awaited game, or a new song by a favorite artist. Russian officials know how to put on a show, you can’t take that away from them.

This week, The Bell, ex-What? Where? When? contestant Rovshan Askerov, TV Rain journalist Mikhail Fishman, philosopher Ruben Apresyan, and the Environmental Movement 42 were added to the registry. We’re going to tell you about 42, an eco-movement based in Arkhangelsk.

What does 42 do?

Article 42 of the Russian Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to a favorable environment.” The movement named itself after this article. 42’s activists run online seminars on eco-education, talk on social media about the Arkhangelsk Region’s unique sites, and organize subbotniks.

Everyone can lead an eco-friendly lifestyle. You can start by sorting and recycling garbage. So, the 42 team, together with the Ecomobile project, accepts glass, plastic, metal, and paper for recycling. And for convenience, once a month a real ecomobile drives around Arkhangelsk, staffed with activists to whom residents can hand over their recyclables.

“Foreign agent”

42 is this environmental organization’s second incarnation. They used to be called Aetas, but in 2017 the Justice Ministry designated the organization a “foreign agent.” The reason they were put on the registry was their cooperation with the Norwegian activist group Natur og Ungdom, which financed some of Aetas’s events, including free children’s camps, expeditions, and Ecobattle, an annual championship for collecting recyclables.

After they were put on the foreign agents registry, the activists founded a new movement, 42, in February 2018. But it was also designated a “foreign agent” this past Friday, December 9. Will there be a third incarnation and a second reincarnation? We’ll see.

Organizations and individuals are place on the “foreign agents” registry for a reason. You have to consistently and vigorously mess with the state’s attempts to generate tyranny and speak out against it. But how did people trying to organized segregated waste collection deserve the new designation? One can never say for sure, but there is speculation that the reason they were placed on the registry is that they have called for locals to participate in public discussions about the construction of a new waste sorting complex in the village of Kholmogory.

Friends in misery

Someone may think that the title of “foreign agent” is a seal of excellence. Perhaps this is partly true, but it is also a heavy burden for any organization, especially if it is located in Russia. Foreign agents have to submit additional reports, indicate their foreign agent status on any public platforms, and cannot receive state grants.

In 2022, the Russian government has been pressuring activists from environmental protest groups more vigorously than usual, but most often not for environmentalism, but for anti-war statements. On December 9, Elena Kalinina, one of the participants of the protests in Shiyes, was ordered by a court to refrain from certain activities due to her alleged “repeated discrediting of the army.” Ivan Ivanov, chairman of the Pechora Rescue Committee, was fined by a court in June for appealing to Putin to stop the war. And Arshak Makichyan of Fridays for Future and his family members were stripped of their Russian passports altogether: officials claimed that they had suppled false information when they applied for them in the early noughties after moving from Armenia.

Life goes on

Fines, bans, and denaturalization. But is there any good news? Of course there is! And we at 7×7 are just the people to find it for you.

Greenpeace opened its first branch in the USSR in 1992 [sic: the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991]. The money for opening this branch was raised from the sales of a charity album called Greenpeace Breakthrough. Songs for the album were recorded by U2, Sting, Talking Heads, Dire Straits, and others.

Thirty years later, a collection called Greenpeace Breakthrough 3.0 has been released in Russian. The songs on it were recorded by Samsara, Electrophoresis, Neschatsnyi Sluchai, Nogu Svelo, and other Russian-speaking artists. The artists will transfer the money received from the auditions to environmental organizations in Russia.

In its group description on VK, 42 writes: “We are safeguarding nature in Russia until better times.” Indeed, garbage recycling and subbotniks may seem unimportant now, but this is not the case. The war will end, and the country and its nature will still be a concern for inhabitants of the regions.

Take care of yourself. Thank you for sticking with us.

Source: “Focus” email newsletter, 7X7, 12 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


THIS IS THE LAST POST

Today, the Russian Justice Ministry placed the Environmental Movement 42 on its registry of foreign agents. It should be noted that the persons listed as members of an association are not deemed “individual foreign agents.” This bit of misinformation has been widely repeated. 😡

❗About the law

The Law on Foreign Agents has been in force in Russia since 2012. At that time, you to had to engage in political activity and receive foreign funding to earn a spot on the registry. Despite the fact that “activities for the protection of flora and fauna” are excluded from the law as forms of political activity, thirty-four environmental organizations have been placed on the registry to date. Ten years later, on December 1, a new law on foreign influence went into force. Its implications are unclear. You are probably reading this post on a smartphone manufactured somewhere other than Russia. You listen to foreign music, watch foreign movies, and go on holiday to Turkey. Under the new law all these things can be deemed “foreign influences.”

❗Our opinion

Naturally, we do not agree with our inclusion on this registry. If we are “agents,” we are only agents of nature. Our families have lived in the Arkhangelsk Region for several generations. We are rooted to this land, and so our principal mission is safeguarding nature and the well-being of future generations. This is reflected in our name: 42 is the number of the article in the Russian Constitution that states that everyone has the right to a favorable environment. We doubt that the people who put us on this registry have the same love for our region and our people as we do, that they understand the connection between environmental mistakes and people’s health and safety.

We are not surprised by this turn of events. Unfortunately, this is the trend — to drown out the public’s voice. Why do you think we were included in the registry? Just a few days ago, we published information about public hearings on the proposed construction in Kholmogory of a municipal solid waste processing facility with a capacity of 275 thousand tons. There was clearly an attempt by the authorities to hold the hearings quietly and unnoticed; even local council members didn’t know about them. Due to the attention they attracted, the administration has had to hold a second round of hearings, which now will be going on until January 7. But again, the project documentation has not been made available, although it is topic of discussion. Why all these secrets? Why the pressure on us?

❗What’s next?

We do not know what we’ll do next, because the law is quite harsh and imposes numerous burdens, including financial ones, which we simply cannot afford. We are consulting with lawyers about this. It is very easy to break the “rules,” the fines are large, and there is a risk of criminal liability for us. The safety of the people who selflessly protect nature under 42’s auspices is important to us.

We will be glad of any support on your part. You can also like, comment, and share information here as before (the lawyers explained that it is safe). This is our last post without the ugly boilerplate [indicating “foreign agent” status], which from tomorrow we will be obliged to put in all our informational materials. 🤕

* The photo, above, shows members of 42 after they arrived in Shiyes for a week-long vigil on the eve of 8 March 2019.

Source: Environmental Movement 42, VK, 9 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The Arkhangelsk-based Ecological Movement “42” is one of the first to be listed after Russia on December 1 drastically expanded the oppressive foreign agent legislation. The eco-group was started after Aetas environmental organization in 2017 was declared foreign agents and shut down.

“The only agents we are, are agents of nature,” the group wrote at its site on VKontakte when it became known that the Ministry of Justice in Moscow declared them so-called foreign agents.

“Naturally, we do not agree with the inclusion of us in the register.”

The foreign agent law itself was adopted in 2012 and said that registered organizations could be listed if they conducted political activities and got funding from abroad.

Later, successive amendments in 2017 and 2019 expanded the law to include media, individuals and non-registered associations.

The latest expansion of the law, adopted in July and entering force on December 1, says individuals, organizations, legal entities, or groups without official registration, receiving foreign support, or are “under foreign influence” and conduct activities that authorities would deem to be political would be listed as foreign agents.

The definition of “foreign influence” and “political” could be endlessly broad.

In Arkhangelsk, the Ecological Movement “42” says they don’t know for what reasons it is included on the list.

“Preservation of nature, and hence the preservation of the well-being of future generations, is our main goal and task.”

42 points to the article in the Russian Constitution stating that everyone has the right to a favorable environment.

“We doubt that those people who included us in the register have the same love for our region, for our people, understand the connection of errors with the health and safety of people,” the group says.

The eco-group has over the last years worked actively worked to stop the plans to establish a huge dump field for household waste from Moscow in Shiyes, far north in the taiga forest in the borderland between Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic.

Ecological Movement “42” was started by former members of Aetas, another youth eco-group that in 2017 had to shut down after being labeled as “foreign agents.”

The group is only for members under the age of 30. It is member of the Russian Social Ecological Union, the Climate Action Network and the Stop Shiyes Coalition.

Since 2012, 34 environmental organizations in Russia have been included in the foreign agent register.

The foreign agent law was also used to shut down the human rights group Memorial that last weekend was given the Nobel Peace Price for 2022 in Oslo.

The “foreign agents” designation, which carries negative Soviet-era connotations, burdens subjects with strict labeling and auditing requirements.

Many independent journalists, activists and civil society figures have been added to the registry in recent years amid a sweeping crackdown on non-Kremlin-aligned voices.

Source: Thomas Nilsen, “Rebranded ecological youth group declared foreign agent,” Barents Observer, 12 December 2022

“Face the Wall, Don’t Look Down”: Solidarity Becomes a Criminal Act in Moscow

A view of the entrance to Open Space Moscow. Photo courtesy of Mediazona

On the evening of November 24, masked security forces officers broke into Open Space in Moscow, where fifty people had gathered to support the anarchists arrested in the Tyumen Case and write postcards to political prisoners. The security forces, who were probably commanded by a colonel from Center “E”, made the visitors lie down on the floor or stood them facing the wall and held them for several hours, beating some of them. They didn’t let a lawyer inside.

On November 24, an evening of solidarity for the defendants in the Tyumen Case took place in Open Space, a co-working space for activists in Moscow’s Basmanny District. Six anarchists from Tyumen, Surgut and Yekaterinburg have been arrested and charged with organizing a “terrorist community,” and all of them have said they were tortured.

The event was open to the public and had been advertised, for example, by the online magazine DOXA. (Recently, State Duma deputies demanded that the magazine be designated an “extremist organization.”)

The event started around six o’clock, and about forty to fifty people were in attendance, says one of the participants. Some eyewitnesses say that before the security forces arrived, they signed postcards in support of political prisoners, while others said that they recited or listened to poetry. In any case, when an intermission was announced, the guests went outside to smoke — and at that moment a paddy wagon drove up to the building, and masked security forces officers stormed the venue.

Video footage of the beginning of the raid, which the SOTAvision journalist Ksenia Tamurka managed to shoot before she was detained, shows that the masked security forces officers behaved in a demonstratively rough manner. They shouted, kicked over furniture, and knocked the phone out of the correspondent’s hands. After the phone falls, the sounds of blows and shouts are audible in the footage: “Hands behind your head!”, “Legs wider!”, “Face the wall, don’t look down!”

The security forces officers forced some of the young people to lie down on the floor, while they made the rest of them, including the young women, stand facing the wall, forbidding them to move. A young woman who had left the event during the break and unhappily returned to retrieve a tote bag she had forgotten told SOTA that she stood facing the wall for about an hour.

“When I turned my head, I was told to keep facing the wall. An hour later, they apparently took out my passport from my tote bag and summoned me to another room, where most everyone was lying face down on the floor. I sat down and we waited further. Then after, I don’t know, thirty minutes, I was summoned by other Russian National Guard officers. They asked me where my phone was, and I showed them. They asked me to unlock it, but I said no, citing Article 23 [of the Russian Constitution, which enshrines the right to privacy]. They were like no, you’re going to unlock it. And when I had already sat down, there was already a young female journalist after me, and she refused to show them her phone. They dragged her by the hair and she screamed,” the young woman said.

After what she saw, the young woman agreed to unlock the phone, and the security forces wrote down its IMEI. Another woman, who attended event with a child, said that the security forces officers demanded that she show them her Telegram chats and latest bank transfers to find out “whether she sponsored terrorism.”

The young woman who was screaming was SOTA journalist Ksenia Tamurka. The media outlet has not yet published the commentary of the journalist herself. One of the detainees recounted the assault on Tamurka as told by another eyewitness; another young man heard the journalist screaming, although he was in another room.

He said that the security forces treated the young men in various ways: in his opinion, it largely depended on the length of their hair. The young man pointed out that the security forces also detained members of Narcotics Anonymous, whose meeting was going on in the next room. “And when they were asked what they were doing there, they said, We are drug addicts, we don’t know anyone here! Then they were taken away from where we were, and [the police] talked to them separately,” he recalled.

At some point, the security forces perhaps began to behave a little less harshly. In video footage recorded a few hours after the start of the search, it is clear that the detainees were no longer pressed against the wall, but were simply looking at it. The security forces did not detain the journalists who shot the video, but, according to a Sota correspondent, they did drag a passerby inside the building after he looked in the window.

The security forces did not let the lawyer Leysan Mannapova, who arrived at the scene of the raid, inside the building, claiming that her warrant was incorrectly executed. A man who came to rescue his fourteen-year-old brother also failed to get inside the building.

The detainees were loaded into the paddy wagon only a few hours later, and the minors among them were released along the way. The rest were brought to the Basmanny police department.

One of them said that she and four young men were beaten at the station. According to the young woman, the security forces officers “struck her when she was lying on the floor.” One detainee was “beaten with a baton and a book,” and another young man was “thrown on a chair and kicked.” According to her, the police found a balaclava, an emergency hammer from a bus, and a traumatic pistol, which he had a permit to carry, on one of the men who was beaten.

Another young woman could not recall beatings and said only that the detainees wrote statements at the police department “about what they actually did.” Alexei Melnikov, a member of the Public Monitoring Commission who was recently appointed to the Presidential Human Rights Council, went inside the department and saw the detainees while they were making their statements, but also made no mention of possible violence.

The detainees were released from the department around two o’clock in the morning. None of them reported that they were forced to sign any documents other than their statements. Tamurka left the department last, around four in the morning.

Golos coordinator Vladimir Yegorov identified the colonel from Center “E” in video footage of the security forces escorting the detainees to the paddy wagon. According to Yegorov, he was beaten during a search of the Golos office on October 5 on the colonel’s orders. Yegorov does not know the policeman’s name, because it was not listed in the search report. According to SOTA, the masked security officers accompanying the colonel at Open Space serve in the second field regiment of the Interior Ministry’s Moscow Main Directorate.

Correction (7 p.m., November 25): The article originally stated that the journalist Ksenia Tamurka left the police department along with the other detainees around two o’clock in the morning. SOTAvision later clarified that she came out last, around four o’clock in the morning.

Source: Nikita Sologub, “‘Face the wall, don’t look down’: security forces raid solidarity event for defendants in Tyumen Case,” Mediazona, 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. This is the second part of a two-part feature on the 24 November raid on Open Space Moscow. You can read part one — journalist Ksenia Tamurka’s first-person account of the incident — here.