The Fire in Uryupinsk and Elsewhere

Guryanov Sergei @Segozavr
A man backed his car up to the building housing the draft board [conscription office] and began tossing Molotov cocktails. 100 square meters were destroyed by fire. Uryupinsk, Volgograd Region, Russia, 26.09.2022
.

Source: Twitter. Translated by the Russian Reader. “The name of this town is known to many Russian people as a synonym for ‘backwater town.’ This usage became widespread after the popular Soviet film Destiny of a Man. The film was based on a short story by Mikhail Sholokhov, and Uryupinsk was the place of the action, shown as an inconspicuous provincial town.”


A screenshot of the visuals in Mr. Stupin’s original post

In Moscow’s Kosino-Ukhtomsky district, housing authority employees and police officers, without showing their IDs, have been breaking open front doors in the staircases of residential buildings in order to serve residents with summonses to the military enlistment office! Some residents have already been issued threats that the electrical wires to their apartments will be cut if the men do not open the door to receive a summons!

Source: Yevgeny Stupin, Facebook, 26 September 2022. Thanks to Alexander Kynev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


A telephone call I got yesterday from a female acquaintance has made me think about the economic consequences of the “mogilization” [literally, “grave-ization,” a play on the word “mobilization”]. I confirmed her fears that her son would be among the first to be mobilized. And that they would come looking for him first at his registered address, then at his workplace. Consequently, the solution to his problem would be to quit his job and go live somewhere in the boondocks for a year, even if there was no work there.

And now look — not only those who are called up will vanish from workplaces, but also those who dodge the draft. To get the three hundred thousand men declared [by Putin as the goal of his “partial mobilization”], they have to slap the asses of at least a million men with draft notices and dragnets. I’m not an economist and I cannot even estimate numerically what kind of blow to the country’s GDP will be caused by the withdrawal of at least half a million employees.

By the way, the mobilized must be fired [by law]. It is not very clear whether their jobs will be kept for them in any way. But [officially] they will not be listed as on leave, but as having been called up from the reserves to military training camps. They will simply be dismissed from their jobs, and they will have to be paid in full.

Really simple vacancies can be filled by migrants from Central Asia, but it is another matter whether they will go and fill them. Currently, the exchange rate has been maintained at a level that is favorable to migrant workers, but as soon as the volume of imports grows (and it will grow: there will be other sources, gray market goods/parallel imports, and so on), this rate will inevitably begin to sink. Consequently, the economy will take a simultaneous triple hit around December:

1) On December 5, a complete ban on the delivery of Russian crude oil to the EU will come into effect;
2) hundreds of thousands of people will be laid off in October, November, and December;
3) and the exchange rate will go crazy.

By the way, state-funded and quasi-state-funded organizations will face the biggest problems. Petersburgers are no stranger to it, but the snow will definitely not be removed this year, either.

That’s my economic forecast for you. It’s going to be a clusterfuck, my fellow Russians.

Source: Vladimir Volokhonsky, Facebook, 22 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Yesterday, Vladimir Putin announced a “partial” mobilization, which is actually a total mobilization. His decree sets no restrictions on age, qualifications, regions, and the number of people mobilized. Already today, we see that everyone is being called up.

Source: Navalny LIVE, YouTube, 22 September 2022. Annotation translated by the Russian Reader. The video has already been viewed over 2.6 million times since it was posted. It has no subtitles in English, but the message from the lawyer in the video is clear and simple: there is no such thing as a “partial” mobilization, so all draft-age men must avoid being called up and serving at all costs, especially since Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine is illegal and criminal.

“No Future”: Popular Reactions to Putin’s Mobilization

Outside Gostiny Dvor [metro station and shopping center, in downtown Petersburg]. The police are plucking out the protesters one by one and dragging them away.

Passersby ask, “What happened?”

Most either don’t read the news or support the mobilization.

They look at us like we’re idiots.

I asked a middle-aged woman whether she had any children.

“Two sons, so what?” she answered me defiantly.

Today I thought for the first time that there is no future.

[Comments]

Natalia Vvedenskaya

Just for balance. Today, in the supermarket, I quietly eavesdropped on the conversations among the saleswomen (these were two different conversations). Irritated and indignant, these middle-aged women said that the members of parliament [who quickly passed laws enforcing Putin’s mobilization] should go to war themselves.

Source: Galina Artemenko, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the bus. A middle-aged woman in the front seat yells into the phone, not mincing her words. She says that there is a panic at work, that they have seven days to keep the guys from getting drafted. This was followed by instructions for direct action. The young fellow sitting with his back to her listened attentively, while the girls opposite him could not have cared less.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a trusted source and occasional contributor to this website, identified here as “AR” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


This hurts a lot. I console myself with the fact that, as in private life, the most vital and beautiful thing is the process itself, when you are initially in a hole, but you fight to make things better. But can I please go back to the time when I have to confront myself, and not a crazy autocrat with a nuclear button?

I try to shift my focus from irritation towards Russians who support the war, and the collective Europe playing along [sic], to endless love. First of all, to people who are in Russia and are not afraid to speak out against the war. I am glad that I am living at the same time as you. Of course, we are far from being Iran, where people take deadly risks for their beliefs. But we’re cool, too. We’re doing what we can. If everyone in Russia were like us, the war would have ended today. Now, when it is important to support myself, I console myself with this thought, and I advise you to do the same.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a grassroots activist in Petersburg, identified here as “JA” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the evening of September 21, in Petersburg, as in other cities, a protest was held against the mobilization of Russians for the war in Ukraine. The protest was called by the Vesna Movement. The protesters gathered at 7 p.m. on St. Isaac’s Square.

Riot police vigorously detained protesters, beat them with batons, dragged them on the ground, and put them on their knees. According to OVD Info, at least 444 people were detained in St. Petersburg.

Bumaga has put together a photo chronicle of the first popular protest in the city in the last six months.

Source: “How an anti-mobilization rally — the first mass protest in six months — took place in Petersburg,” Bumaga, 21 September 2022. There are several more photographs of the protest rally at the link, including photos from a second, separate protest the same evening outside Gostiny Dvor (as described by Galina Artemenko, above). Translated by the Russian Reader


Conscription Notice Russia. This channel was created to inform the residents of Russia about the delivery of conscription notices in our city! [sic] Write here with information about which addresses conscription notices in Russia are being sent — @maks_ge

“Prospect Mira. A conscription notice was just served to a man approximately 40-45 years of age. He was strolling with his wife and dog. Then they [the police?] went up to some young guys sitting on a bench and had a chat with them.”

“They’ve already started handing out conscription notices at the factories in the town of Gatchina in Leningrad Region.”

“The Gazpromneft filling station at Amurskaya 15A. Two men got into a scrap, and the attendant called the police. The cops came and gave them tickets. They threatened the men, saying that tomorrow, other people in uniform would come visit them at home — I think they meant the military conscription office.”

Source: Screenshot of the Telegram channel Where Draft Papers Are Being Handed Out — Russia. The channel was created on August 13, but only started posting on September 21. It already has over ten thousand subscribers. Thanks to VL for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


Well, my prognosis was mistaken. I underestimated the regime’s vileness and meanness. As the supreme ruler declared a partial mobilization, the local military enlistment offices issued decrees concerning all reservists without exception.

This is totally fucked up. For example, “temporary residents must depart for their legal place of residence.” Accordingly, millions of unregistered men or men registered at their temporary residences in large cities must leave for their hometowns or home regions. Accordingly, all these millions of men are “lawbreakers” — they can be seized in dragnets, blackmailed with prison terms, locked up, beaten up, and anything else that our cops do with our citizens. When [the cops] are faced with passive resistance, they will indiscriminately rake in whomever they catch.

These people will certainly “engage in combat,” but that will happen later. What matters now is filling the quotas.

Source: George Losev, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Putin has announced a “partial mobilization.” Only time will tell how “partial” it is, but it is already clear that the mobilization will affect many people. What options do those whom the Kremlin wants to mobilize have?

  1. Become cannon fodder.
  2. Go to jail.
  3. Illegally flee the country. If you fail, you go to jail.
  4. Go underground. If you fail, you go to jail.
  5. Go underground and become a guerrilla. You could also go to jail.

I do not consider legal ways to avoid mobilization, since the rules of the game can change at any moment, and those who were not subject to mobilization yesterday will be subject to it tomorrow.

The choice isn’t great, but there is a choice.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 21 September. Mr. Astashin is a former political prisoner and human rights activist who now seems to be living in exile in Berlin. Translated by the Russian Reader


In the kitchen of a communal flat:

— Soooo, you live closer to the front door, don’t open it to anyone. If they come, tell them there are no men living here.

— I’ve been dodging the draft for so long I don’t even remember how to do it anymore. I’ve had so many chronic illnesses since then. Do you think it will help?

— At my work, a friend of a friend of a friend of a colleague is offering to drive [men] to Finland for 50 thousand rubles [approx. 855 euros]. Any takers?

— He’s definitely going to Finland? That’s too cheap somehow. What if he takes you to the military enlistment office?

— My pop says that he would volunteer himself, but he’s already sixty-seven, they won’t take him. But he’s weird that way. He never goes to the welfare office, because he believes you have to have pride: he didn’t work all his life to ask the state for something in his old age! His pension is 25 thousand rubles a month [approx. 440 euros].

— Maybe he is also one of those people who have nothing, and who donates money to buy socks for soldiers?

— No, he believes that we have the strongest army and does not give them a kopeck. He says the people asking for that money are scammers.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a veteran human rights activist in Petersburg, identified here as “NN” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader

Mobilization: Mission Possible

The same day that President Putin announced a call-up of reservists to send off to continue his unprovoked invasion of Russia, Russian mega online retailer Ozon informed its customers that it was now selling the new Apple iPhone 14. Source: Ozon.ru

I have been extremely troubled by arguments that a mobilization in Russia is impossible. People are saying that everyone will run off, nothing will come of it, there is no logistics or anything else. This is all true, of course, but the stated goal of calling up 300 thousand reservists is quite realistic, in my unprofessional opinion.

I really don’t see any earth-shattering problems to it. There are military enlistment offices, there is transport. The uniforms will be fetched from Afghan War-era stockpiles. You know, those sand-colored uniforms, star-embossed belt buckles, and Kirza boots — there is probably a lot more of this stuff in the warehouses. The “mobilizees” will look, however, more like mobs of POWS than like an army, what with all of them wearing different uniforms, some sporting Kirza boots, and some in ankle-high combat boots purchased on the side from a cunning ensign. But still.

I have no doubt that our state will cope with the task of mobilizing men and delivering them to Ukraine. It will be done shabbily — five hundred men will lose fingers to frostbite while traveling in unheated train cars, and fifteen hundred will escape somewhere along the way — but that doesn’t mean that no one will get there.

So, I listened with some bewilderment to arguments that no mobilization would be declared. And now a mobilization has been announced, to the delight of Strelkov.

To make the figures clearer, I should explain that about 400 thousand people live in our district in Petersburg, the Frunzensky District, which means that 600 men should be called up (taking into account the fact that our population is older than the average for Russia). In reality, it will most likely be even fewer, since the powers that be will probably decide to throw residents of the ethnic republics into the furnace again.

Over the past few months, our district authorities have just barely recruited about forty volunteers, since they were unable to use any of the state’s usual enforcement mechanisms. Now they will have all the tools of the military enlistment officer at their disposal.

I’m sorry, but I believe in the success of the mobilization at this stage and that the stated quantities are doable. I don’t believe in the success of Putin’s war. Unmotivated poorly armed cannon fodder is needed in this war, but the benefit from it is not so great, and it will arrive [in Ukraine] only in winter, by the time the front stabilizes somewhere near Henichesk.

It’s not enough to mobilize men. The powers that be still have to somehow mobilize industry. Here I see much less chance of success.

I feel a certain shameful schadenfreude. When I adopted the slogan “Putin = war” as my profile pice in 2014, readers of the Kupchino News made fun of me. The people then were solidly in the “Crimea is ours” camp. Now, for the sake of this selfsame Crimea, a place where, until 2014, Russians could go on holiday with no problems, your brothers and your children will have to go off and die. Not me. I left Russia after police searched my home for a second time and a criminal case was launched against me. When something really could still be done [to oppose the Putin regime] with minimal risks, you were extremely smart to stay at home. Well, now you will be extremely smart in thinking of ways to dodge the draft. What counts is keeping a low profile, isn’t it? The president knows what he’s doing!

However, after this schadenfreude, I immediately feel ashamed. After all, it was I who lost my fight for a Russia free of autocracy, fascism and militarism. By the way, in 2014 I had another profile pic: “Putin = hunger.”

Source: Deputy Volokhonsky (Vladimir Volokhonsky), Telegram, 21 September 2022. Mr. Volokhonsky is a well-known Petersburg grassroots pro-democracy activist and municipal district councilor, currently living in exile in Belgrade. He is also the editor-in-chief of the neighborhood news website Novosti Kupchino (“The Kupchino News”). Translated by the Russian Reader

Maxim Katz: “You’ve Ruined the Country, You Lousy Geostrategists”

Maxim Katz: “Yesterday, two events happened. First, the Russian army is still shamefully running. Second, Russian missiles are destroying the civilian infrastructure of peaceful Ukrainian cities. Today, in addition to frontline news, I want to tell the leaders of our regime where it’s all going.”

Katz’s takedown of the Putin regime has already been viewed 1.6 million times although it was posted only two days ago, on September 12. It’s outfitted with fairly decent English subtitles for the hard of Russian. It’s definitely worth seventeen minutes of your time.


Maxim Yevgenievich Katz (born December 23, 1984) is a Russian political and public figure, co-founder of the Urban Projects Foundation, author of the YouTube channel of the same name, Russian champion in sports poker, Wikipedia author, and former deputy of the municipal assembly of the Moscow district of Shchukino (2012–2016) from the [social liberal opposition] party Yabloko.

Source: Wikipedia. I’ve slightly edited the text for clarity. ||| TRR

Maxim Katz at the Boris Nemtsov Memorial March in Moscow in 2020. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Cancel(ed) Culture in Petersburg and Moscow

Polina Osetinskaya

A concert by the famous and talented pianist Polina Osetinskaya at the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic has been canceled.

“I think everything is clear to everyone. Thank you for your concern,” Polina wrote on social media.

What could be clearer? At outset of the “special operation,” Osetinskaya wrote about her attitude to it, about what she really thinks.

And now, like many other artists whose conscience did not permit them to remain silent, she has been excommunicated from her work.

But our TV screens and concert halls are still full of those artists who have no conscience at all. Either they had one, or it atrophied from disuse.

Source: Boris Vishnevsky, Facebook, 2 September 2022. Photo of Ms. Osetinskaya courtesy of her website. Translated by the Russian Reader

Polina Osetinskaya playing Arvo Pärt, Valentin Silvestrov and Giya Kancheli at DK Rassvet in Moscow on 31 May 2022

Vsevolod Lisovsky

Moscow police on Friday evening detained the director, actors and audience of a theatrical street performance — a total of fourteen people, reports OVD Info. The reason for the arrests is not yet known.

Based on Bertolt Brecht’s play Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, the operetta Judicial Process was supposed to take place in a pedestrian underpass on Prospect Mira, but the police interrupted the performance.

The operetta has been produced by the Moscow troupe Theater of the Transitional Period and director Vsevolod Lisovsky. He chose the format of street performances in pedestrian underpasses a few months ago. He decided to stage the Brecht play, he said, “because you can’t think of anything more resonant with the time.”

Written by Brecht in 1934–1938, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich is based on eyewitness accounts and newspaper articles. It deals with fascism’s gradual penetration of all areas of life in Nazi Germany, thus discrediting justice and undermining morality.

Vsevolod Lisovsky is an experimental theater director and playwright who worked for many years at Teatr.doc in Moscow. He established a new venue for the theater, Transformator.doc. Lisovsky is is a two-time winner of the Golden Mask Award.

Source: “Moscow street performance’s director, actors and audience detained,” Radio Svoboda, 2 September 2022. Photo courtesy of Teatr magazine. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Wagner Group’s Suicide Squad

For several months, inmates in Russian penal colonies have been recruited by the Wagner Group — hundreds, if not thousands of convicts who had several years left in their sentences have already gone to Ukraine. It is likely that many of them have already been killed, but so far only individual deaths have been confirmed. One of them is Yevgeny Yeremenko from Petrozavodsk, who had eight more years left to serve on his sentence. In mid-June, he unexpectedly informed his mother that he was being transferred to another region. In mid-August, two strangers brought her a death notice: Yevgeny had been killed near Bakhmut on July 24.

Around noon on August 14, Tatiana Koteneva, a pensioner from Petrozavodsk, opened the door to two strangers who had buzzed her on the intercom and said they had been “sent by Zhenya.” Zhenya is her 44-year-old son Yevgeny Yeremenko, who had been sentenced to ten years in a maximum security penal colony. He was serving his sentence in Correctional Colony No. 9 in Petrozavodsk. He usually telephoned his mother every week, but she hadn’t heard from her son since early May — except for a strange call in mid-June, when Yevgeny said briefly that he was being transferred to another region.

So the pensioner willingly opened the door to the strangers, invited them into the kitchen, and poured tea. They handed her a reward and her son’s death certificate. “We have come with bad news,” they said, “Zhenya has died.”

According to Koteneva, the certificate, issued by the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, indicated the date and place of her son’s death. He was killed on July 24 in Bakhmut, a Ukrainian-controlled city in the Donetsk Region, which has been heavily fought over all summer.

A call from the train: “Don’t worry, Mom — I’m doing what I have to do”
The pensioner does not know how her son ended up in Ukraine. Between early May and mid-June, he did not call her from the penal colony, although he used to do it regularly. Instead of Yevgeny, the pensioner was once called by a penal colony official and informed that her son was “alive and well, but undergoing punishment.” Koteneva refers to punitive confinement as “the cellar,” and she is sure that her son had been put there.

“[The official] introduced himself, but I don’t remember his name,” she says. “I tried to make an inquiry. He replied that my son had violated some article of the law there, and he had been punished. I said, ‘You tortured him and probably beat him.’ And this one who called me said, ‘There isn’t a scratch or a bruise on him.'”

Only on June 14 did Yevgeny unexpectedly telephone his mother and say that he was being temporarily transferred to another penal colony.

“He called me and said, ‘Mom, we are being convoyed at two o’clock in the morning to another colony,'” recalls Koteneva. “A tumor had formed on his cheek near his nose. He says, ‘There are no doctors here [in Petrozavodsk Colony No. 9], so maybe I’ll get treatment there.’ And that was it. I said, ‘I’ll be expecting a letter from you and the details of where I should send you a package or money.'”

According to her, her son did not say that he was going to Ukraine, probably because he knew that she would be opposed to it.

“I would probably have gone into hysterics and all that to prevent it,” the pensioner argues. “I would have run to the colony and bent over backwards. But I couldn’t get into his head… He’s a grown man. He just said, ‘Mom, don’t worry. I’m doing what I have to do.'”

A week later, according to Koteneva, her son sent an SMS to a friend, asking him to inform his mother that he was alright. He added that the prisoners were still traveling on the train, where “even their watches had been confiscated.”

Recruitment in the penal colonies: “You finish your service and you get amnestied”
Yevgeny Yeremenko was probably recruited by the Wagner Group and sent to Ukraine as a mercenary. The fact that mercenaries are being recruited in correctional colonies became public in early July, but, apparently, it began in May. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s founder, a man known for his proximity to the Russian authorities, personally went to some colonies to persuade inmates to join up. Recruiters promised convicts a large salary and release after six months of combat — to this end, those who agreed to join the mercenaries would have to write petitions asking for clemency.

It is unclear how many people have been marshaled this way, but recruiters, judging by the prisoners’ reports, have already visited between fifteen and twenty colonies, and in each of them a hundred or more inmates have agreed to go into combat. (Although relatives have managed to dissuade some of them.) The head of the Russian Behind Bars Foundation, Olga Romanova, noted that her organization has already received about two hundred appeals from relatives of convicts who have lost contact with them and assume that they have been sent to Ukraine.

Yevgeny Yeremenko. Photo courtesy of his VKontakte page and Mediazona

In June, people really did come to Petrozavodsk’s Correctional Colony No. 9, where Yevgeny Yeremenko was imprisoned, and tried to persuade the inmates to go to fight in Ukraine, convict Marat Najibov told Mediazona. He himself turned down their offer. “You finish your service and you get amnestied,” he says, adding that he does not know exactly where the recruiters were from.

Petrozavodsk lawyer Ivan Varfolomeyev, who represents ten convicts in Correctional Colony No. 9, believes that they were probably from the Wagner Group. “Ten people were persuaded to go to Ukraine, but after consulting with me, no one went,” says Varfolomeyev. I didn’t see [the recruiters]. The convicts asked me what they should do. I said, ‘You have parents, wives, and children — I would not recommend it.’ My clients, at least, are not serving such long sentences.”

The convicts did not tell Varfolomeyev that they had been coerced by recruiters or the colony’s wardens. They talked to the prisoners, as he puts it, “about pies”: they vividly described the benefits to which the inmates would be entitled after being in combat.

“[They were not threatened with] solitary confinement, AdSeg, or beatings,” says Varfolomeyev. “On the contrary, all the offers were tempting.”

Little is yet known about the deaths of the prisoners recruited by the Wagner Group to go to Ukraine. In late July, iStories reported the deaths of three prisoners from Petersburg Correctional Colony No. 7. Their papers did not contain their real names, but only their nicknames. Among the dead was Konstantin Tulinov, nicknamed “Red.” it was about him that filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov spoke in [the 6 August 2022] episode of his program [Exorcist TV] on Rossiya 1. According to Mikhalkov, Tulinov “wanted to atone for his past life,” so he himself petitioned to be sent to the front. In Ukraine, his legs were “crushed,” after which Tulinov “blew himself up with a grenade.”

“And the state responded with gratitude to him for his courageous deed. He was posthumously pardoned and, in addition, was designated a full-fledged combat veteran with all the ensuing benefits and payments,” Mikhalkov assures his viewers.

Olga Romanova of Russian Behind Bars has written that relatives of the recruited prisoners constantly appeal to her organization for help.

“What an outrage! They promised to pay [him] 200 thousand [rubles], but they paid [only] thirty thousand,” she wrote, paraphrasing the kinds of appeals her foundation has received. “And my [relative] was wounded, but [the wounded] are being treated only in the LPR; [they] are not taken to Russia. Help us save him! And then another one was killed near Luhansk; the relatives were not informed, and the body was abandoned in the combat zone so that they wouldn’t have to pay for a coffin.”

The Karelian office of the Federal Penitentiary Service has not yet responded to Mediazona‘s request for information as to how Yevgeny Yeremenko ended up in combat in Ukraine eight years before he was to be released from prison.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the Governor of Karelia, Arthur Parfenchikov, has been publishing posts on his VKontakte page about the residents of the republic who have perished in the war. But he did not even mention the death of prisoner Yevgeny Yeremenko.

The funeral: “young men” come to pay their last respects and reimburse expenses
Tatiana Koteneva calls the strangers who brought her the death notice “the young men.” They told her that her son’s body was “in an iron coffin in Leningrad, at Pulkovo [airport].” As for additional questions, according to the pensioner, she was told that “everything is classified.” The men did not respond when she asked them who they worked for.

“What can I do now? You can’t bring anything back,” she argued resignedly two days before the funeral. “Well, that’s how it turned out, so that’s how it’s going to be. What matters to me is burying him and having a grave to go to and cry. Things turned out the way they turned out.”

On August 18, Yevgeny Yeremenko’s body was brought to Petrozavodsk by a private driver: the pensioner paid 26 thousand rubles for transportation. Yeremenko’s funeral took place the next day, recalls Marina Gorodilova, a friend of Koteneva, whose son is also an inmate at Correctional Colony No. 9. (This was how she and Tatiana met.)

“The coffin was closed and there was a strong smell of decomposition,” she recalls. “Tatiana Ivanovna stood over the coffin lid the whole time and cried.”

According to Gorodilova, at the wake and the funeral there were none of the military officers or civilian officials who make speeches on such occasions. But in the funeral hall, she noticed “two strange guys.”

“One [was] forty years old, the other [was] younger, both of them [were] powerfully built. They laid the flowers [on the coffin] and took three or four steps back. They stood at attention and didn’t talk to anyone. I picked up my phone and poked it with my finger and out of the corner of my eye I saw that they were watching me — very attentively. Tatiana Ivanovna asked them, ‘Who are you?’ But they didn’t say anything. She then asked again, ‘Do you know Zhenya?’ One of them nodded his head quietly and kept standing there.”

The day after the funeral, Tatiana Koteneva refused to meet with her friend, citing the fact that “the young men” were coming to see her again. A few days later she reported [to Gorodilova] that she had been reimbursed 145 thousand rubles [approx. 2,400 euros] for the funeral.

“Either they hold them [in solitary] before sending them, or they hold those who don’t want to sign up”

Dmitry Gorodilov. Photo courtesy of Marina Gorodilova and Mediazona

Dmitry, Marina Gorodilova’s son, is serving his sentence at Correctional Colony No. 9, where he met the deceased Yevgeny Yeremenko. He has not been in touch with his mother for a month and a half — since July 4 — and she fears that Dmitry, like Yeremenko, was put in punitive detention before being sent to Ukraine. Human rights activists from Russia Behind Bars have spoken of this practice. For example, in Correctional Colony No. 7 in Karelia and Correctional Colony No. 19 in Komi, some convicts at first agreed to go into combat, but then changed their minds. Prison officials then began pressuring them, and some were sent to punitive detention.

“Now it’s the same story: now my Dima is missing,” says Gorodilova. “He doesn’t write and doesn’t call — this has never happened. The lawyer called the prison and asked them whether Dima was there. They said he was there. I went to the colony to visit him, and they said to me, ‘He is undergoing punishment.’ It’s one of two things. Either they are held [in solitary] before being sent [to Ukraine] so that they do not receive information and do not share it with anyone. Or those who don’t want to sign up are held [in solitary, where] they are forced [to sign up].”

Gorodilova is sure that her son would not left officials force him to go to Ukraine even under torture.

“Only if they lie to him or tell him that he would cleaning up after the war, maybe he would agree to sign up. But he’s a guy that won’t sign anything until he reads it. I know that Dima will definitely not agree to it. Even if he is promised his freedom, he will not go to kill people.”

Source: Alla Konstantinova, “Sent down for ten years, enlisted in the Wagner Group, killed in Ukraine: the example of one inmate from Karelia,” Mediazona, 26 August 2022. Thanks to Dmitry Tkachev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ilya Yashin: Life Is Everywhere

I spent almost a month in Pretrial Detention Center No. 7 in Kapotnya. But on Sunday the order came down to transfer me, and I was met by the legendary Butyrka Prison. What an interesting place this is, friends! Oak gates, ancient walls, every brick here is steeped in history. A genuine Russian prison with its own unique flavor.

Ilya Yashin in happier times. This was the photo included in his original post on Facebook.

Moving here from Kapotnya, where a “red” regime is strictly observed, you feel the strong contrast. A “black” flag flies over Butyrka, and its units have their own rules.

Life comes to a standstill in Pretrial Detention Center No. 7 after lights out. One of my cellmates was sent to solitary for getting out of bed at night and making himself tea. In Butyrka, life is just beginning when darkness comes. “The roads” — a communication system of ropes connecting the windows — run between the cells. Information is exchanged instantly. The senior inmates in the wings give instructions and bring their juniors “up to speed.” Prisoners make entries in a house book, recording the movement of people around the prison. Prisoners locate acquaintances, exchange malyava [letters and notes] sweets, and cigarettes, and get the news. “The roads” function like a social network.

Butyrka has its own currency — cigarettes. For a pack of Parliament you can get a good pillow or a plate of cottage cheese for breakfast. For four packs — a soft new mattress. Almost everyone smokes, and a thick tobacco smog is found in most cells.

The prison is overcrowded and simply teeming with people: the “overload” amounts to about a thousand people. Thirty prisoners share twenty beds in the large cells. I wound up a small cell in the special unit: four prisoners are crammed into nine square meters. Some time ago, the prosecutor’s office decided to restore order and launched an inspection of Butyrka after getting complaints about the conditions. On the eve of the prosecutors’ visit, several hundred prisoners were promptly scattered to other Moscow detention facilities. As soon as the inspection was over, everyone was brought back to Butyrka.

The most amazing thing in Butyrka Prison is the cats. There are a lot of them here, and they feel like the real proprietors of the place. They calmly stroll the corridors, lounge on the duffel bags of prisoners awaiting assignment at the assembly point, and solicit food with an absolutely imperturbable look.

If the duty guard leaves the food hatch in your cell open, the cats can then jump through it freely and pay you a visit.

Imagine my surprise when, waking up in the morning, I found a purring lump at my feet. It stretched out, asked me to scratch it behind the ear and went to the table, wondering what we were having for breakfast that day.

Life is everywhere.

Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 17 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ilya Yashin Is Standing His Ground

Ilya Yashin (center), at a recent court hearing. Photo: Alexandra Astakhova

Every morning, Radio Russia turns on in my cell at the temporary detention center. At 6 a.m., the national anthem plays, and then the brainwashing begins.

The news items don’t differ much from one another. Russian troops have inflicted another “surgically precise strike” on the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, destroying more than three hundred “nationalists” and about a hundred pieces of military equipment. The Ukrainian butchers responded by once again shelling residential neighborhoods in the DPR with American (emphasis on “American”) weapons. A rocket hit a kindergarten. Miraculously, there were no casualties.

Audio letters to the editor then come on the air. “Maria from Saratov” or “Elena Nikolayevna from Kirov” read out their original poems dedicated to our heroes who, fighting in Ukraine, have put themselves on a par with the “veterans of the Great Victory.” For dessert, there are “songs of the Russian spring” — amateur ensembles twanging about Mariupol’s return to its “home port” or about the crimes of the Maidan.

And so on — wash, rinse, repeat — every single day. Sometimes I feel like the character in the movie A Clockwork Orange who is seated in front of a screen, his eyes held wide open with clamps. It seems to me that the UN should deems forced listening to such broadcasts a form of torture.

But seriously, my observations suggest that fewer and fewer people are taking this brainwashing at face value. Surprisingly, despite the aggressive war propaganda, I haven’t encountered any manifestations of hatred on this side of the bars at all. Quite the opposite. A detainee escort guard, snapping the handcuffs on me, whispers “Hang in there, Ilya.” The woman on duty at the temporary detention center gives me an extra blanket, “so that at least you can sleep more comfortably.” A bailiff in court thanks me for my video about Kadyrov. Such moments reinforce one’s sense of being morally right.

Even now, sitting in a cell facing the threat of a ten-year prison sentence, I understand that my decision to stay in Russia was the right one, although it was a very difficult decision. Because it knocks out Putin’s main trump card about the opposition’s foreign affiliations and that we would all flee at the first sign of danger. But now people see that we are not fleeing, that we are standing our ground and sharing our country’s fate. This makes our words weightier and our arguments stronger. But the bottom line is that it leaves us a chance to get back our homeland.

After all, the winner is not the person who is stronger right now, but the person who is willing to go all the way to the end.

Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 26 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


“Opposing Putin but Staying in Russia”
Yuri Dud’s interview with Ilya Yashin was posted on YouTube on 16 June 2022. With English subtitles.
As of today (26 July 2022), the video has been viewed over 8.5 million times.

Russian authorities have launched a criminal case against Ilya Yashin, one of the last [prominent] opposition figures remaining in the country, for allegedly spreading false information about the army, his lawyer said Tuesday.

“I got a call from an investigator — they are beginning to search his home,” lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said on Facebook.

Prokhorov was later quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the probe was launched because his client spoke of “the murder of civilians in Bucha” on his YouTube channel on April 7.

Russian forces have been accused of committing war crimes in the Kyiv suburb after civilian bodies were discovered there following their withdrawal.

Another of Yashin’s lawyers, Mikhail Biriukov, said a search had been carried out at his home and that Yashin was taken out of prison to attend.

In June, Yashin, who is a Moscow [municipal district] councillor, was sentenced to 15 days in jail for disobeying police. He was set to be released in the early hours of Wednesday. 

Yashin has been a prominent opposition figure in Russia since the mass protests against President Vladimir Putin in 2011-2012. He has denounced Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

He is an ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and was close to Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.

After Putin sent troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russia introduced legislation imposing prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading information about the military deemed false by the Russian government.

Writing on social media earlier Tuesday, Yashin, who turned 39 in jail, said he was supposed to be released at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday (22:20 GMT Tuesday).

“Maybe they will let me out. Maybe not,” he said. “What do you think?”

[…]

Source: Moscow Times (AFP), “Russia Opens Criminal Case Against Activist Yashin,” 13 July 2022

Rock Monsters in Our Midst

“Monsters in our midst! The best urban fantasy”
Source: Ozon.ru email newsletter, 7 July 2022

It’s hilarious how many people, back in the day, thought that Medvedev was a “liberal”:

Reviving Russia’s implicit nuclear threats, Dmitry Medvedev, a former president, has warned that the war in Ukraine might endanger the future of humanity. Mr Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, wrote on Telegram that “the idea of punishing a country that has one of the largest nuclear potentials is absurd and potentially poses a threat to the existence of humanity.”

Source: The Economist, “The World in Brief” (email newsletter), 7 July 2022


Meeting with Russian rock musicians

Dmitry Medvedev held an informal meeting with Russian rock musicians, during which he answered numerous questions on a variety of topics, including the most pressing ones.

Andrei Makarevich (Time Machine), Dmitry Medvedev, and Boris Grebenshchikov (Aquarium). Moscow, 12 October 2010

One of the questions concerned the Khimki Forest. The President stressed that in the case of such high-profile topics, a wide-ranging discussion is needed to make a final decision. Dmitry Medvedev noted that the authorities should learn a lesson from this situation. “If there is still a feeling that the topic is making huge waves, you cannot close your eyes and say that we have made the optimal decision, even when it is optimal,” he said.

“Trying to pretend that everything is okay, that nothing is happening, can lead to a dead end, putting all of us in a very difficult situation, in which the authorities have to make a difficult, unpopular, and simply bad decision,” Medvedev said.

He stressed that in this case it was necessary to hold consultations, meet, discuss, and only then make a final decision.

The [planned] construction of Okhta Center, a 400-meter-high business complex in Petersburg that has caused great concern amongst the city’s residents, was also discussed. The head of state stressed that he, as someone who had lived in Petersburg for a considerable part of his life, was not unmindful of the architectural appearance of the city, which is virtually an open-air museum. According to Medvedev, this problem should be solved after the conclusion of the relevant lawsuits and consultations with UNESCO, the international agent empowered to resolve such issues.

“It is extremely important for Petersburg have new centers of growth, new architectural landmarks. But must it be done next to Smolny [Cathedral]? That is a very big question.” There are many places in the city that the skyscraper could complement, Medvedev noted.

Alexei Kortnev, leader of the band Accident, asked the head of state about the plight of Zurab Tsereteli’s Peter the Great monument. “It will depend to a great extent on the new mayor of Moscow,” the President replied, stressing that in the very near future he would submit a candidate for the post of the capital’s mayor to the Moscow City Duma.

The problem of combating drug addiction was also touched upon. Vladimir Shakrin, leader of the group Chaif, asked about the criminal case against the head of the City Without Drugs Foundation in Nizhny Tagil, Yegor Bychkov, and about his trial. Shakhrin noted that Bychkov has been charged with torturing people and kidnapping, although the only thing he did was to help people free themselves from drug addiction.

“One must analyze any case carefully. You said your piece, and I heard what you said. I would ask you to pay attention to what is happening there without interfering in the course of the trial or coming into conflict with the law,” Medvedev said.

Andrei Makarevich asked the head of state to support the Creation of Peace rock festival. The idea of the celebration is to gather on a single stage people of different ethnicities and confessions, and even people from countries “that are not friendly with each other.” The President noted that the festival has been underappreciated, promising to support it.

The rock musicians included the leaders of the groups Earring (Sergei Galanin), Aquarium (Boris Grebenshchikov), Accident (Alexei Kortnev), Time Machine (Andrei Makarevich), B2 (Alexander Uman), and Chaif (Vladimir Shakhrin), as well as ex-Agatha Christie leader Vadim Samoilov and Ilya Knabenhof, leader of the group Pilot. They had several surprises [for the President], performing both their own songs and foreign rock classics [for him].

At the end of the meeting, the musicians took a photo with the President of Russia and presented him with an electric guitar which they had autographed.

Source: Kremlin.ru, 12 October 2010. Translated by the Russian Reader

Dmitry Lyamin: Hero of the Resistance

Dmitry Lyamin’s headshot from Odnoklassniki.ru (“Classmates.ru”

If there is an actual “Russian anti-war movement,” this is what it looks like: Dmitry Lyamin, accused of torching a military conscription office in Shuya, the third largest town in the Ivanovo Region. Lyamin has been transferred from Ivanovo to the notorious Butyrka remand prison in Moscow, allegedly, so that he can undergo a psychiatric examination at the equally notorious Serbsky Institute. According to former political prisoner Ivan Astashin, who now spends all his waking hours helping the new wave of political prisoners in Russia and publicizing their cases, there are rumors among the legal community that the criminal charge Lyamin faces will be changed from “destruction of property” (Article 167 in the Russian Federal Criminal Code) to “terrorist act” (Article 205), a much more serious charge that carries a penalty of up to twenty years in prison.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 29 June 2022