Russia’s Crusade Against Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims Continues

Caucasian Knot reports that a court in Sochi has extended the remand in custody of Jehovah’s Witness Danil Suvorov until June 13. Suvorov’s defense counsel Sergei Yanovsky said that he had appealed the decision.

Danil Suvorov has been charged with involvement in an extremist organization (punishable under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code), as well as recruiting for an extremist organization (punishable under Part 1.1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code). According to criminal investigators, Suvorov attempted to recruit people to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “using his authority as a spiritual leader.”

The accused man’s mother, Gulnara Suvorova, was able to communicate with her son in the courtroom for the first time in over nine months.

“My son has been languishing in prison for nine months running for nothing. Or rather, for the fact that he read the Bible aloud to a person who had asked him about it. But, of course, it was just an easy excuse for law enforcement officers to catch a ‘criminal’ and earn a promotion for such a serious charge as extremism,” she told Caucasian Knot.

Suvorov’s defense moved to have the case dismissed, because, according to an expert witness, there was no extremism in the believer’s actions.

Suvorov was detained on 18 August 2021, the same day that his home and the homes of other Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Krasnodar Territory were searched. Electronic devices, personal diaries, postcards, and literature were seized from believers.

In 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia was an extremist organization. It dissolved the Center and banned it from operating in Russia. Later, all Jehovah’s Witnesses branches in Russia were added to the list of banned organizations. Subsequently, a flood of criminal prosecutions against members of the confession began.

Source: OVD Info, 14 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The Mahal Mosque in Nizhny Tagil. Photo: IslamTsentr

On 12 May 2022, it transpired that in April, the Tagilstroyevsky District Court of Nizhny Tagil fined Fanis Galeyev (spelled “Galiyev” in some sources), the imam at the Mahal Mosque, under Article 20.29 of the Russian Federal Administrative Code (“distribution of extremist materials”).

An inspection conducted by the prosecutor’s office found twenty-books books included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials in the imam’s possession.

According to Galeyev, he had collected the books only to study and later destroy them.

“There is a fine line. Today these are not extremist books, but tomorrow they will be extremist. This can be determined by a spiritual person, not a secular one. These books that have been discovered cannot simply be thrown away. They must either be buried or burned.”

The imam is a member of the Nizhny Tagil Council for Combating Extremism.

There is no information about the books in question, but we should note that we consider many cases of banning Islamic literature to be unlawful.

Sources:

“Case Card No. 5-512/2022,” website of the Tagilstroievsky District Court of Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk Region, May 2022 [the embedded link was inaccessible from my IP]

“Nizhny Tagil imam fighting extremism is convicted of distributing extremist literature,” 66.ru, 12 May 2022

“Nizhny Tagil imam punished for extremist literature,” Vse novosti, 12 May 2022

Source: SOVA Center, 13 May 2022. Thanks to OVD Info for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Darya Polyudova

Darya Polyudova, holding a placard that reads, “Ukraine, we are with you.”
Image courtesy of Ivan Astashin

A subscriber has reported that he received a letter from political prisoner Darya Polyudova in which she told him about her court hearing in the Moscow City Court on May 12.

Let me remind you that left-wing activist Darya Polyudova is currently doing her second stint in prison on political charges.

In 2015, the activist was sentenced to two years in prison for “calling for extremist activities and separatism”: this was how the authorities viewed her preparations for a March for the Federalization of the Kuban.

After her release, Darya continued to be involved in political activism. But in January 2020 Polyudova was arrested again. In May 2021, she was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “condoning terrorism” and “calling for terrorism.” The court regarded posts about Shamil Basayev and a phrase about the “Lubyanka shooter” Yevgeny Manyurov, who opened fire on FSB officers near Lubyanka Square in Moscow in December 2019, as evidence of Polyudova’s guilt.

In both cases, the Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Polyudova as a political prisoner.

However, the Russian state’s persecution of Darya Polyudova has not ended there. In late 2021, the FSB opened another case against the activist. Now she stands accused of “organizing an extremist community,” i.e., the so-called Left Resistance movement. Under the new charges, Darya may face another six to ten years in prison.

In this new case, Darya has been remanded in custody. Of course, she is already in custody. Without a new criminal case she would have been in a prison camp a long time ago [serving the sentence for her previous conviction], but the investigation wants her in a pretrial detention center.

Darya is appealing all the court decisions on the extension of her remand in custody. The court will consider her appeal of the latest extension on May 12.

Come and support Darya Polyudova!

11 a.m, 12 May 2022, Moscow City Court, 8 Bogorodsky Val, Room 327

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 7 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Police Target Feminist Activists in Kazan

The homes of FemKyzlar activists Dina Nurm, Taisiya Albarinho and Aigul Akhmetova were searched by Kazan police as part of an investigation into “calls for mass riots.” Searches in the same criminal case, launched on March 14, took place earlier at the homes of members of the Yabloko party, a Kazan Federal University lecturer, university students and activists. Idel.Realii talked with one of the founders of FemKyzlar, Dina Nurm, about how and why the police homed in on them.

FemKyzlar is a community for the protection of women’s rights in Tatarstan, established in 2019. Its activists are involved in educational outreach. They hold public lectures, advise women on legal issues, and help victims of domestic violence.

Dina Nurm

On March 14, the Major Case Squad of the Russian Investigative Committee’s Tatarstan Bureau opened a criminal investigation into the “inciting of mass riots” (per Article 212.1.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code) over a post in the Telegram chat Protest Chat: Kazan. According to investigators, “on 3 March 2022, an unidentified person, located in Kazan, published a message in the Telegram messenger in an open chat while discussing the upcoming unsanctioned ‘No War’ protest rally in Kazan” in which he offered to “buy megaphones,” a mixture prohibited for distribution [sic], and batons, “that is, [he called] for armed resistance to the authorities.”

— How did the searches go? What were the police interested in?

— They came to see Taisiya and Aigul on April 27, and they came to my apartment on Saturday the 30th. We just hadn’t been at home before then: a friend had asked us to look after her cats while she was away. In the morning, around 9:30, there was an insistent knock on the door. There were two plainclothes policemen outside the door and our neighbors were present as witnesses [as required by Russian law during a police search]. They were interested in our office equipment, and we immediately gave them everything they asked for. I was interrogated as a witness in the case (as written on my interrogation report). I told the truth — that I had seen the message with calls to buy incendiary mixtures only in the press. I am not a member of the chat, and I do not know who wrote the message. The police were at our place for about two hours. An “expert” arrived, inventoried the equipment, and packed it into an opaque bag. We signed warnings that protest actions had to be authorized.

On the morning of May 2, my girlfriend Nastya, who was present during the search, was summoned by Center “E” [the “anti-extremism” police]. They said she also had to be questioned since she lives with me. Indeed, she was questioned as part of the same investigation. They also asked her about the work of FemKyzlar and what was wrong with women’s rights, why they had to be protected. Nastya told them about how she advises women on custody and alimony issues.

— Why do you think the police came to your house if you have nothing to do with Protest Kazan? Have you ever had problems with the police before?

— I think they came to our apartments as part of such a precautionary campaign. Just like they visited many other Kazan activists, just to say, “In case you were wondering, we know about you, we monitor your work and understand that you could organize some kind of protest action, so we ask you not to to do it.”

— How have these searches impacted your lives and FemKyzlar’s work?

— The fact that they confiscated our equipment makes it difficult to work. I am a designer, I need certain capacities. Taisiya is a singer, and all her arrangements are now gathering dust at the Investigative Committee. Of course, it slows down the maintenance of FemKyzlar’s social media pages. It has involved a lot of extra logistics. Friends have been lending their equipment, which needs to be brought to Kazan from other cities. You have to ask loads of people to help, and you have to warn them that their equipment can sink into oblivion. We have been fundraising to get back on our feet, but our subscribers are mostly poor women. We are very grateful for their help, but they could have spent this money on themselves if this situation had not happened. Women are already an economically vulnerable group, and now both we and our subscribers are incurring unnecessary expenses. As for my psychological state, there is paranoia, the feeling that I am guilty of something, although I understand perfectly well that I am not doing anything illegal. I just want to improve women’s lives.

— What are you plans for the future?

— FemKyzlar continues to do what we’d been doing.

Source: Idel.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 4 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Bad Manicure

A woman with a yellow and blue manicure was detained in Yalta. Girls, be careful with the nails.

46-year-old Olga Dyachenko was detained following a complaint from a local resident. The man went to the translation agency where Olga works, and saw a woman with a manicure in the colors of a national traitor [sic]. One of Olga’s nails was decorated in yellow and blue, and the other could have been dubbed extremist per se: on the woman’s ring finger, the man made out the Right Sector’s red and black flag.

The woman told the police that she had been a citizen of Ukraine, but in 2021 she became a Russian citizen. She had had her manicure done two weeks earlier, and since that time no one had paid it any mind. Moreover, there was nothing suspicious about it: according to Olga, she had an ordinary multicolored manicure, and the man [who filed the complaint] had just imagined things.

The police interviewed Olga, photographed her hands, had a preventive conversation with her, and reported the manicure to the local FSB office — just in case. After her conversation with the police, the woman had the manicure removed.

Source: Baza (Telegram), 13 April 2022. Thanks to Maria Mila for the link. I have no idea whether the woman in the photo, above, is Olga Dyachenko, but this was the photo published along with the dispatch. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Theory of Small Deeds: The Case of Chulpan Khamatova

Yigal Levin
Facebook
March 21, 2022

Mitya is infinitely right. All these years I have been constantly saying that all people of good will should leave the Russian Federation. How can one imagine a “theory of small deeds,” say, in the Third Reich? All conscientious Germans left Germany in the 30s, and to one degree or another joined various resistance forces. Such regimes are not destroyed from the inside, but only by blows from outside —military, economic, political and cultural.

Russia delenda est

Mitya Raevsky
Facebook
March 21, 2022

Until recently, a segment of the Russian intelligentsia and the upper middle class had a favorite toy — the “theory of small deeds.” In practice, it meant that they said: yes, we cannot defeat the dictatorship, which means we need to do something useful in spite of that — save sick children, create foundations, hold cultural events, publish literature, defend human rights wherever possible. They had the hope that everyone would be able to influence the state and society as a whole doing what they do best, and these little drops would come together to make a sea, so to speak. Well, in the process, of course, they would have to cooperate with the state.

It all turned out to be baloney. Here is another historical lesson — do not collaborate with tyrants. Never. Under any circumstances. Don’t lend them legitimacy. Even for the sake of sick children.

Because you will never turn that debit into a debit. You will save 10 thousand children who have cancer only for the dictatorship to kill 100 thousand children sooner or later. It’s already killing them, and not only Ukrainian children. It’s killing Russian children, too, whom it will now be impossible to save without western drugs and equipment.

In a dictatorship, small deeds happen only in the toilet.

________________

 

Chulpan Khamatova. Kirill Zykov/Moskva News Agency. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

Actress and Activist Chulpan Khamatova Has Left Russia
She joins dozens of Russian cultural figures who have left the country.
Moscow Times
March 21, 2022

The Russian stage and screen actress Chulpan Khamatova told Ekaterina Gordeyeva in an interview released on Monday that she would not be going back to Russia.

Khamatova, who heads the Gift of Life charity foundation, was abroad when Russia began its attack on Ukraine. “For the first few days I didn’t know what to do,” she said in the interview. At first I just wanted to stay some place and wait for it to end, but then I was led to believe that it might not be safe for me to return. I’m in Riga for now. I am certainly not a traitor. I love my homeland very much,” she said.

Khamatova is one of Russia’s most celebrated actresses who has acted in dozens of films and television series — most recently playing the lead role in the screen version of Guzel Yakhina’s novel “Zuleikha.” She also plays Raisa Gorbachev in the hit play “Gorbachev” at the Moscow Theater of Nations.

She is just one of dozens of Russian cultural figures who have left the country since the war began.

Earlier this month the music director of the Bolshoi Theater, Turgan Sokhiev, resigned his post in Moscow and in Toulouse, France. He wrote that he felt he was being forced “to choose between my beloved Russian and beloved French musicians” and so “decided to resign from my positions at both the Bolshoi in Moscow and Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.”

At the same time two foreign ballet dancers at the Bolshoi, Jacopo Tissi and David Motta Soares, put in their resignations.

This was followed by the announcement that Bolshoi prima ballerina Olga Smirnova left for the Dutch National ballet.

Russian television has also lost several of its best-known on-screen personalities: Channel One colleague Zhanna Agalakova quit her job as Europe correspondent for Channel One, and both Lilia Gildeyeva and Vadim Glusker quite NTV. Gildeyeva had worked at the channel since 2006, and Glusker had been there almost from the start, for 30 years.

Dmitry Linkin, the head designer for Channel One for 24 years, also quit. “I was taught that human life is invaluable,” he said.

________________

 

In an interview with Ksenia Sobchak, broadcast on TV Rain in June 2012, Chulpan Khamatova said that she would rather live in “North Korea” than have her own country go through another revolution.

No Political Harmony Among Cultural Elite
Alexander Bratersky
Moscow Times
February 19, 2012

As Prime Minister Vladimir Putin enters the home stretch of his campaign to return to the Kremlin, he is relying on the support not only of the blue-collar electorate, but also members of the cultural elite, who are helping to market his bid for the presidency.

Putin’s extended campaign team has about 500 participants, including famous musicians, actors and writers who appear in pro-Putin commercials and at rallies. But political analysts and experts said their participation has divided the cultural elite itself.

Several dozen prominent celebrities, among them world-famous piano player Denis Matsuyev, St. Petersburg Mariinsky conductor Valery Gergiev, jazz musician Igor Butman and opera star Anna Netrebko have thrown their lot in with Putin.

When contacted to explain the reasons behind their choice of candidate, most have declined to comment. The situation has even split families: in one case a well-known rock musician sided with Putin, while his brother, also a rock star, is for the opposition.

Supporting Putin, who is seen by his opponents as an authoritarian leader, might damage a performer’s reputation and can become a source of controversy. The liberal media has attacked prominent actress Chulpan Khamatova for appearing in a Putin commercial, in which she thanks the prime minister for supporting her charity that aids children with cancer. Although Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Khamatova appeared in the commercial voluntarily, sources at the charity said she was forced into the recording.

The public response against the video was so negative that even liberal Novaya Gazeta had to defend Khamatova in one of its latest articles. Khamatova has declined to discuss her endorsement for Putin. “Let everyone stick to his own vision,” she said, RIA Novosti reported.

Iosif Prigozhin, a prominent music producer and show business insider has also defended the actress.

“Khamatova is an absolutely sincere person. But imagine that I had helped you. Would you do the same for me?” he told The Moscow Times.

Continue reading “The Theory of Small Deeds: The Case of Chulpan Khamatova”

Grigory Sverdlin: This Isn’t Goodbye

Good day, dear friend!

It is very difficult for me to write this letter. I don’t want to say goodbye at all. To my great regret, I was forced to leave Russia and resign as the director of Nochlezhka. Of course, I will help my colleagues remotely as much as I can, but it would be strange to try and run everything from afar. Danya Kramorov, our longtime volunteer, coordinator, and until recently the head of fundraising and PR, will replace me as head of our organization.

Twenty years ago, I came to Nochlezhka myself as a volunteer, and in 2010 I became an employee. Back then it was a lovely and proud little organization. That hasn’t changed, but the scale of our work has. Currently, we are helping 480-490 people in Petersburg and Moscow every day. Together we have opened free showers, laundries, warming-up spots, and rehabilitation shelters. In our approach to helping people in need, we have grown into providing psychological assistance, employment programs, training in new professions, and a dedicated rehabilitation shelter for homeless people suffering from alcohol addiction. Just as twenty years ago, everyone who comes to us for help or provides assistance in any of our current projects is treated like a human being. I’m confident that things will always be like this at Nochlezhka. It is a huge effort by many people, and if you are reading this, you are one of them. I would very much like to list everyone by name, but only last year Nochlezhka was supported by donations from over 20,000 people. Thank you very much!

Nochlezhka’s 2013 This Side of Life campaign hasn’t lost its relevance. Photo courtesy of Nochlezhka

Nochlezhka is much bigger than Grisha Sverdlin. Nochlezhka is my colleagues, a wonderful, professional team of eighty people. Nochlezhka is the hundreds of volunteers from all over the world who respond to our call. Nochlezhka is the thousands of people who donate money and medicines, food and clothes to us, who read our news and don’t believe the stereotypes [about homeless people and homelessness]. Nochlezhka is the companies that provide their services for free. Nochlezhka is you.

With the help of this huge cool team, just last year we helped 8,165 people in need. No matter what happens, this year we will definitely keep all our projects running so that anyone who turns to us can keep their health and dignity and return to a normal life. Moreover, this summer we will be opening a shelter for elderly homeless people in the Leningrad Region, and in late March we will launch the long-awaited restaurant Street Entrance, where the residents of our rehabilitation shelters will master new trades that will enable them to continue getting their lives back together.

I’m terribly sorry that I won’t be at the grand opening. I had planned to spend most of my salary at our restaurant. It’s incredibly cozy and the food is very, very tasty. But  enjoy yourselves there for me, please! And I will wait for the day when we can meet at the bar and discuss the good news.

Nochlezhka will continue to operate even if the earth crashes into the celestial axis. And I will continue to classify myself as a Nochlezhkin, remaining a volunteer and donor of this organization so dear to my heart. Unfortunately, more and more people will need our help in the coming months. And since that is the case, we will continue to help them, of course.

Yours,

Grisha Sverdlin

Source: Nochlezhka email newsletter, 15 March 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. I was a volunteer at Nochlezhka and its (now defunct) “street newspaper” Na Dne (The Depths) in the mid-nineties. Although I included the original link in Mr. Sverdlin’s letter to Nochlezhka’s donations page, it would seem that people outside Russia can no longer donate money to the organization, as they could only a short time ago. I tried just now to donate 1,000 rubles using a European-issued MasterCard, but the transaction was declined. However, I immediately got a message from Nochlezhka saying that they could see that I had tried to donate but that something had gone wrong on their bank’s end. I write this not by way of soliciting donations for Nochlezhka but to illustrate the difficulties charitable organizations in Russia now find themselves in. And, although he doesn’t mention this in his letter, Mr. Sverdlin has written on social media that he left the country because several reliable sources told him that he was in danger of arrest. ||| TRR

UPDATE (3.15.22) Nochlezhka’s project coordinator has written to me to confirm that, indeed, it is no longer possible to make donations to them using non-Russian bank cards and non-Russian payment systems. She cited the advice to donors that Nochlezhka published on its website earlier today.  The last two paragraphs of that advice read as follows:

Payment via Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay has been blocked for Visa and Mastercard cardholders. This means that one-time and regular donations that were issued in this way are no longer valid. Please re-register your donation if it has been made using one of the methods listed. You can manually sign up for a new donation payment using the form on our website.

Currently, bank cards from foreign banks cannot be used to donate money for our work. We are no longer receiving money transferred through Global Giving and PayPal. We will look for new ways [to donate] for anyone who does not have a Russian bank card, and we will definitely inform you as soon as we find them.

The Black Square

An Open Letter from Russian Culture and Art Workers

Art and culture workers across Russia have been signing an open letter for peace in Ukraine.

This page once contained an open letter from culture and art workers, stating their opinion on the “special military operation,”* which had been signed by more than 18,000 people. On March 4, 2022, the “law on fakes” was adopted, stipulating a fine or a term of imprisonment [for publicly speaking the truth about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine]. The process of collecting signatures has now been suspended, and the text of the letter and signatures have been concealed for the safety of all signatories.


* The government forbids us from using any other term for the “special military operation.”

We remind you that according to Article 54 of the Russian Federal Constitution, “[a] law introducing or aggravating responsibility shall not have retrospective effect,” and “[n]o one may bear responsibility for [an] action which was not regarded as a crime when it was committed.”

Source: Spectate.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

100% Herd Immunity

https://paperpaper.ru/papernews/2022/2/15/vlasti-zayavili-chto-peterburg-dostig-k/

[February 5, 2022]

The authorities say that Petersburg has achieved 100% herd immunity. Is it true?

The number of people who been vaccinated and people who have recovered from covid-19 in Petersburg speaks to the fact that the city has achieved 100% herd immunity, first deputy chair of the Health Committee Andrei Sarana said on the St. Petersburg TV channel.

Referring to the Health Ministry’s website, Sarana said that Petersburg had reached 100% collective immunity. According to the official, 3.14 million people, including more than 2,400 children, had been fully vaccinated in Petersburg.

According to Health Ministry’s guidelines, Petersburg has to vaccinate 80% of its entire population, excluding children and adults who cannot be vaccinated — this amounts to 3.5 million people. At the same time, it is not known how this approach works and whether it takes into account people who, for example, were vaccinated more than a year ago.

In fact, 2.9 million residents have undergone a full vaccination cycle in Petersburg, which is equal to only 55% of the total number of people officially residing in St. Petersburg (5.3 million people), according to city hall’s website. Only the covid crisis center reports that 3.5 million people in Petersburg have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

In mid-January, the authorities were already claiming that herd immunity in Petersburg, according to various calculation methods, was at either 88% or 100%. Bumaga discovered then that they were talking about a portion of the total number of the city’s residents. Read more here.

Screen shot from the animated series Masha and the Bear

https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/1240

[February 14, 2022]

Dear compatriots! So as not to give my detractors cause for hysteria that I am exceeding my powers, I officially declare that this is my personal opinion, the humble opinion of Russian citizen Ramzan Kadyrov.

In my appeal there are two messages to two addressees — to the Ukrainian authorities and to the Ukrainian people.

Mr. Zelensky! The time for clowning has come to an end. The hour has come to fulfill one’s duty to one’s own people in order to avoid irreversible consequences. That is, today, more than ever, there is a need to implement the Minsk Accords, which were signed not only by the President of Russia, but also by the President of Ukraine. The strict implementation of the provisions spelled out in this document is the first important step in a political settlement of the growing confrontation not only between our countries, but also in reducing general tension in the global sense of the word. In this regard, you, as the guarantor of the Constitution and the security of your people and state, are simply obliged to do everything in your power to avoid bloodshed and establish peace. President Vladimir Putin and the peoples of Russia do not want war: we know firsthand the meaning of this terrible word. Be reasonable, Mr. Zelensky!

And now I want to address Ukrainians. My dear ones! I love Ukraine and its kind people. From the Soviet history class that I took at school, I know that Kievan Rus is the cradle of Russian statehood and Orthodoxy. Russians and Ukrainians are a single Slavic people with a common history, culture and religion. I will never believe that Ukrainians consider themselves part of the so-called Western world with all its degenerate “values” and Russophobic hysteria. Yes, that’s right, despite the fact that the current anti-national regime and its propaganda are doing everything to erase this sense of community. Somewhere in the depths of my soul I have a glimmer of hope that this historical justice [sic] will be restored by the Ukrainian people themselves without anyone’s help from outside. It cannot be that the spiritual and historical heirs of the great Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky and the brilliant writer Nikolai Gogol would not want eternal peace with fraternal Russia!

https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/1241

[February 15, 2022]

I fully support the decision of the State Duma to ask the President of the Russian Federation to recognize the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

I believe that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief will grant the request and our country will recognize the independent status of both republics. Vladimir Vladimirovich is a far-sighted and wise politician. I think he will definitely take such an important step for the advent of peace.

I am sure that this is not only my opinion, but also that of the majority of Russians. Residents of the DPR and LPR have been living under the yoke of lawlessness for many years, their right to self-determination ignored. In this situation, it is recognition of independence that will determine their status in the international arena and put an end to many years of confrontation and bloodshed.

The Chechen people perfectly remember what mayhem, violence and continuous fighting can lead to. We clearly remember the unenviable feeling of hopelessness and believe that only such a logical endpoint will save the inhabitants of these two republics.

A large-scale information campaign has been launched against Russia and the two republics. Every day, fakes [sic] are disseminated about a new date for the crossing of the Ukrainian border by Russian troops and the declaration of war. But everyone has forgotten that Ukraine has been waging such a war with its neighbors for eight years. The foreign media prefer to keep quiet about this.

If officials in Kiev are not going to implement the Minsk Accords, are not attempting to settle the issue peacefully, issue, are heating up the situation, and not looking for ways to solve the crisis, then it is more than logical that our President Vladimir Putin should take over the peacekeeping mission in this difficult political situation.

Peace will come to Donetsk and Lugansk after you say your WORD, Vladimir Vladimirovich!

https://t.me/tass_agency/108662

[February 15, 2022, 1:11 pm]

Russia will not abandon the residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics alone in the event of an invasion of their territory by the Ukrainian army — the response will be commensurate with the scale of aggression, Federation Council Chair Valentina Matviyenko said.

https://t.me/tass_agency/108663

[February 15, 2022, 1:13 pm]

Valentina Matviyenko called even the idea of a war with Ukraine wild, noting that Russia would do everything on its part to prevent such a development of events.

“Our position has been clearly set out by the head of the Russian state: for our part, we will do everything so that there is no war with Ukraine. Not today, not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, never!” said the speaker of the Federation Council in an interview with Parlamentskaya Gazeta.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Paranoid Android

Snipers, security cameras covered with masking tape, and disinfected snowbanks: a Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery employee talks about the unprecedented security measures for the president’s visit • Galina Artemenko • Novaya Gazeta in Petersburg • 28 January 2022

On January 27, St. Petersburg celebrated the 78th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad. Vladimir Putin came to the city to visit the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. On the same day, a video was posted on the web showing how veterans who had come with flowers were not allowed to enter the cemetery. A young woman in an orange jacket explained to them, “People who have come just to lay flowers will not get in until three o’clock.”

Novaya Gazeta found the young woman: she turned out to be Piskaryovsky Memorial Complex (PMC) employee Margarita Nikolayeva. We asked here to explain why veterans were not allowed in and who was responsible for what during the president’s visit.

Vladimir Putin in a cordoned-off Piskaryovskoye Cemetery in St. Petersburg. On the roof of the pavilion there is a group of FSO (Federal Protective Service) officers and two snipers. Photo: Alexander Demyanchuk/TASS

How many days’ notification do you usually get that the president is coming to the cemetery?

Vladimir Putin has not come for the last couple of years. We knew for sure that the president would come this year on January 24. On the same day, we posted an announcement on the PMC’s official website that the memorial would be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. o’clock. This information was given to us by the FSO (Federal Protective Services). Our employees shared the same information with everyone who telephoned to find out about the possibility of visiting the PMC on January 27. Several dozen people called a day.

Did you announce this on radio and TV, where it was more likely that older people who do not use the Internet would hear the news?

No, as far as I know, we didn’t.

In the comments under the video on the internet, you are accused of being the one who ordered not to let anyone in. What really happened?

It’s not my first year working for the PMC, and I know that every year there are people who come to lay flowers but have not looked at our the website, and they have to be told that it’s pointless to wait outside, especially in the cold. So I went up to the police and asked what to say to people who were expecting to be let through any minute. They pointed to the FSO officers: they said they were in charge.

The FSO officers clearly replied that no one would be allowed on the grounds until three in the afternoon. I exited the perimeter and told this to the people waiting outside.

Had it ever happened before that people came on January 27, but were not allowed in?

Yes, and last year it was like that too. People would come and wait for the delegation (Beglov, the Legislative Assembly, and other dignitaries) to go through, and then they would be let in, usually around noon. I believe that on such an important day for Petersburgers, everyone should be let into the cemetery without restrictions. But this is my personal point of view. Unfortunately, I do not decide such matters.

But this year everything was complicated because of the president’s visit. It was announced that the cemetery would be closed until three. In fact, they began letting people in not at 3:00 p.m., as the FSO had said they would, but at 1:30 p.m., when the president left the memorial. But still many people stood in the cold for two hours or so. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said people waited for ten minutes. That wasn’t so.

People were just left to stand outside at the entrance? Were they not invited inside the pavilion to warm up and drink hot tea?

No.

Photo: Alexander Demyanchuk/TASS

How is the commemorative ceremony involving high-ranking officials organized?

Usually, the Smolny’s social policy committee sends us a list of organizations: the governor, the Legislative Assembly, the Federal Assembly, and the judges of the Constitutional Court are all arranged in hierarchical order. We print their names on pieces of paper, put them on music stands, take them outside, and arrange them so that no one, for example, stands in front of the governor.

I know that the social policy committee (which is in charge of the PMC) starts making the lists around two weeks before the ceremony. [Current Petersburg governor Alexander] Beglov is included automatically. I also never noticed any special preparations before visits by [former Petersburg governor] Valentina Matviyenko. At most, her protocol staff would come to the PMC to find out the details of the ceremony.

How was this presidential visit to the cemetery different from the previous ones?

The fact that he (the president) walked completely alone, that the security cameras were covered with tape, that the wreath stand was moved away from the sculptures, and that the snow was disinfected. The harshest preparations began at 8:30 a.m. on January 27. Metal detectors were set up: this had never been done before. A metal fence was set up on the opposite side of the Avenue of the Unvanquished, and public transport stopped making stops at the cemetery in the early morning.

They covered the security cameras with tape? Why?

The ones that were next to the Motherland monument, where the wreath laying took place, were covered with ordinary masking tape. We didn’t ask why. Probably for security reasons: so that [FSO] officers could not be seen next to the president.

We have a sound engineer’s room, and the cameras that were taped up feed into this room. The sound engineer turns on the music, the metronome, and the anthem, unless a military band is playing. To turn everything at the right time, he needs to have a view of the grounds. So, after the security cameras were covered with tape, they left him a small window so that he could see only the spot to which the president walked.

A photo of snipers standing on the roof of the museum pavilion has been posted on the web. Is it a fake?

Snipers on the roof of the museum pavilion at the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. Photo: Fontanka.ru

No, it’s not a fake. I saw them with my own eyes on the roof of the pavilion (the pavilion on the right side, if you stand with your back to the Avenue of the Unvanquished). There were also snipers in previous years. The picture was taken from inside the memorial: the snipers were aiming towards the Motherland sculpture, that is, where the laying of flowers would take place.

You mentioned that the snowdrifts were disinfected. It sounds funny, although in fact, what’s so funny about it? What did it look like? How many people were involved? Did the snow color change from this treatment? Did it smell? Was the snow treated in previous years?

I can’t say for sure. I wasn’t on site at that moment, my colleagues were there. About half an hour [before the ceremony], a special vehicle arrived: people got out, treated the snowdrifts with something, and left. The snow has never been treated before. There were other precautions: the wreath-bearers were brought from Moscow, where they were quarantined for two weeks. They were brought to the cemetery in a special vehicle and dropped off. They rehearsed with the wreath at a distance from everyone else.

All images courtesy of Novaya Gazeta. Translated by the Russian Reader

Will Covid QR Codes Cause Petersburg to Explode?

George Losev • Facebook • January 11, 2022

It is the first working week after the tightening of anti-covid rules, and amid a new rise in infections, we can draw preliminary conclusions.

During this entire time, my QR code has been checked three times. The first and only time it was done thoroughly was at a football match at a state-owned facility on January 3. The second time was at the entrance to a Leroy Merlin store. It had been refitted so that it was impossible to enter the store otherwise, but they didn’t verify my name. The third time was at a bakery, where they also didn’t check my name.

That is, on a standard working day, I first travel an hour in a packed subway car and then in a packed minibus, then I sit in a room packed with elderly colleagues at the daily briefing, then I do the rounds of apartments [to make electrical repairs], then I travel home for another hour. And all this happens without anyone checking any QR codes. But if I stop by a Rainbow Smile cosmetics store on the way home and accidentally forget my phone, which contains my QR code, then I won’t be served.

Why not? So that I cannot infect other customers at Rainbow Smile. Or at the bakery. But I would have already infected three times as many people in the subway, on the minibus, and in the apartments I visited (although I was masked).

It is obviously no accident that people have been calling the QR codes “PR codes.” The idea may have been sound, but it has been implemented as idiotically as possible, like everything our authorities undertake, except military interventions.

On the web, I have been observing unusually ferocious and surprisingly cookie-cutter attacks on the owners and staff of establishments that have announced they are doing QR code checks.

I definitely get the feeling that Prigozhin’s trolls are carrying out a coordinated attack on these establishments — possibly with the goal of getting ahead of the curve (anti-covid riots have already happened in other countries) and channeling popular anger in the most negative direction. The focus of rage thus shifts from the authorities to the establishments forced to obey the rules.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of natural-born anti-vaxxers in our society, but the uniformity, absurd rage, and standard advice (e.g., “hire a lawyer and take them to court”) evinced by at least some of the social media commentators expose them as Prigozhin’s trolls.

The future will depend on how the QR code campaign goes. If the procedure becomes a routine matter, they start checking full names, counterfeiters are subjected to crackdowns, and everyone gradually gets used to it, then most of the population will get vaccinated.

Another option is that everyone gradually stops being afraid, and QR code checks become more and more a formality and gradually come to naught.

If revolts suddenly occur, then the left will have to decide whether to get involved in them. Most people on the left are likely to condemn the riots as conservative (the right will undoubtedly be involved), destructive (the anger will be directed against specific businesses), and harmful to the fight against the epidemic.

In my opinion, the left should be involved in such revolts as much as possible by shifting the focus to the true culprits — the authorities — and coming out with a constructive program as to what should be done.

Infographic courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle. Translated by the Russian Reader


The people are upset: Is Petersburg threatened by grassroots protests over QR codes? • Darya Kovalyonok • Delovoi Peterburg • January 12, 2022

QR codes have been mandatory for gaining entry to dining establishments and non-food stores in Petersburg since January 2. While most restaurants and retail outlets have been coping with cursing customers, counterfeit codes, and long queues, a little more than a hundred others have openly declared that they would be ignoring the new requirements. Alexander Konovalov, a Petersburg restaurateur who became famous for publishing a “map of resistance” a year ago, has now launched a website with a list of establishments that are ready to welcome customers without vaccination and immunity certificates. As this issue went to press, there were 118 establishments on the list who promised not to ask for a QR code at the entrance.

Incidentally, Konovalov’s initiative has significantly facilitated the work of the Smolny [Petersburg city hall], which has weaponized the website containing the names of the bars and shops that ignore the QR code by regularly carrying out raids on them. For its part, the Petersburg prosecutor’s office has reacted to the boycott by these establishments by reminding them that they could face administrative and criminal charges for violating the QR-code regime and other restrictive measures.

Nevertheless, in many cases, the QR-code regime is either enforced nominally or not enforced at all. Earlier this week, our correspondent interviewed more than a dozen Petersburg residents who had patronized cafes and restaurants over the holidays. The upshot is that business ask to see QR codes about half of the time, and after asking for them, they often don’t even scan them. Even in the shops and dining establishments where customers are asked to show a QR code, the customer’s identify is not always checked. Many Petersburgers who patronize such establishments take advantage of this to use someone else’s QR codes.

At the same time, the experts note, the negative attitude of Petersburgers to QR codes is not always tantamount to rejecting vaccination. Maria Matskevich, a senior researcher at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, draws attention to the fact that skepticism about the new regulations comes not only from diners and shoppers, but also from those who have to check for QR codes.

“Moreover, unlike in other countries, this practice is not accepted in our country even by those who are forced to check whether people are complying with requirements. It is a game in which there is a mutual understanding on both sides of the measure’s futility. The procedure for checking QR codes is performed with detachment: people on both sides show that this is not their own undertaking, unlike vaccination. When conflicts arise, the people performing the role of inspectors apologize for their actions, which is incomparable, for example, with a traffic police inspector fining a violator for an offense. For the time being, [the checking of QR codes] is more like a game played according to rules that are intuited by all parties,” says Matskevich.

Although the experts doubt that the QR codes themselves can trigger popular unrest, in the current circumstances, the growth of discontent is palpable at the everyday level without sociological surveys.

Vladimir Sokratilin, executive director of Solution, a consulting company, notes that the level of tension in society is rarely determined by any one factor; most often the causes are complex. Nevertheless, in the public’s mind, all these factors form an image that is denoted at the everyday level by the term “injustice.” Sokratilin argues that the point is not that people’s real incomes are stagnant or even declining, but that the majority of people imagine that “wrong actions on the part of the authorities” are the reason for this decline.

“Tension in society does not necessarily mean that people will take to the streets and protest. However, the higher the degree of tension in society, the higher the probability that society will explode. If there are opportunities and channels for interaction between the authorities and society, then the most dangerous thing that the country can expect is a political crisis. But we have observed in Kazakhstan what happens when there are no channels for negotiating.

“After all, the Kazakh authorities met the populace’s demand to reverse the increase in gas prices, but it was unclear with whom and how to negotiate. It is difficult to predict which leaders could come forward in the wake of social protest, and it is even more difficult to predict how they would behave. Let us recall that when Vladimir Lenin arrived in Petrograd in the spring of 1917, his plans were greeted with surprise even by some of his Bolshevik supporters, and many intellectuals considered him an outsider and an eccentric,” Sokratilin argues.

The introduction of QR codes, which the authorities formally declared was a means of slowing the virus’s spread, when in fact they are obviously pursuing other goals, has also become an irritating factor.

“We understand, however, that vaccinated and re-infected people can also spread the infection. So the QR codes are just a way of encouraging the populace to get vaccinated. Consequently, society receives an additional signal that the authorities are deceiving and manipulating them when it comes to a vital issue. Such an inconsistent and opaque position on the part of the authorities does not increase the populace’s confidence in it, but undermines it,” says Sokratilin.

Matskevich argues that it is not yet obvious at the grassroots level what shape dissatisfaction with QR codes could take, since there is no organizing force that would help people to comprehend and politically formalize their dissatisfaction. At the same time, an aggressive reaction has been increasingly occurring at the individual level, exacerbating social polarization.

“When confronting such major problems as the pandemic, people can show either extreme individualism or solidarity. So far, our society has displayed an extreme degree of individualism and lack of unity,” the sociologist notes.

Sokratilin adds that in such circumstances, favorable conditions are generated for unexpected people to become very famous and popular extremely quickly. “For example, the bar owner and ‘bar resistance’ organizer Alexander Konovalov is not a political figure, but a businessman. However, more and more people are avidly keeping track of what he’s doing, regardless of their attitude toward him,” says Sokratilin.

Photo by Sergei Yermokin. Courtesy of Delovoi Peterburg. Translated by the Russian Reader