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.

Why They Fight

I’m writing once more about the Donbas and our true goals in carrying out the SMO. Everyone should know this, given that there are still many Russians wondering what it was all for. This category of people should know that the events in Donbas did not arise in a vacuum.

We are fighting not only for the liberation of peaceful people from years of Nazi tyranny. We are fighting for the future of our country, Russia — for our traditions and identity, for spiritual and moral values, for religion and the triumph of justice.

If we have been saying for many, many years that NATO’s force should not threaten us and prance at Russia’s borders, it only meant that we would not sit still and watch them place the sword of Damocles over us.

If we kept saying for a long time, patiently, discreetly, but intelligibly, that they shouldn’t torture and exterminate the Russian-speaking population of Donbas, it simply meant that they should be treated equally, respectfully, without prejudice.

Further, if we said that the Crimea is ours, [and] that this is the choice of Crimeans themselves, then it was not worth regularly and monotonously repeating that you would invade this area at the first opportunity.

Finally, if we persistently repeated that you could cherish and lust after your faceless LGBT masses as much as you wanted, but don’t impose it on us, it just meant that we wouldn’t allow it at home. We do not understand or accept it. But even in this case, sanctions were imposed on Russia — just for rejecting LGBT values.

Listen to the combat general, Hero of Russia, and commander of the Akhmad special forces battalion Apti Alaudinov. He uses accessible, simple words, and speaks reasonably and intelligibly. Everything he says is very clear and precise!

Source: Kadyrov_95 (Ramzan Kadyrov), Telegram, 10 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The apparent collapse of the Russian forces has caused shock waves in Moscow. The leader of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, who sent his own fighters to Ukraine, said if there are not immediate changes in Russia’s conduct of the invasion, “he would have to contact the leadership of the country to explain to them the real situation on the ground.”

Source: Steve Hendrix, Serhii Korolchuk and Robyn Dixon, “Amid Ukraine’s startling gains, liberated villages describe Russian troops dropping rifles and fleeing,” Washington Post, 11 September 2022


Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, speaking in the State Duma on Tuesday, September 13, dubbed the “special operation in Ukraine” a war and called for a nationwide mobilization in Russia.

“How does a special military operation differ from a war? You can stop a military operation at any time. You cannot stop a war: it ends either with victory or defeat. I’m suggesting to you that there is a war going on, and we have no right to lose it. We must not panic now. We need a full mobilization of the country; we need completely different laws,” the online publication Sota quotes Zyuganov as saying.

Gennady Zyuganov, chair of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Russian Federation (KPRF):
“Today, Russia’s fate depends on victory in Donbas. We need a total mobilization of the country.
We need completely different laws.” Source: Sota

Earlier, Communist Party MP Mikhail Matveyev suggested that governors and MPs volunteer for the front. For his part, Mikhail Degtyarev, the governor of Khabarovsk Territory, said a few days ago that he would like to go to Ukraine as a volunteer, but he could not, because he had no right to resign his post. Residents of the region launched a petition proposing to “help the governor realize his dream to go to fight in Donbas.” It has been signed by several tens of thousands of people.

Later, the press service of the Communist Party commented on the party leader’s statement. Zyuganov had spoken primarily about mobilizing Russia’s economy, political system and resources in the face of the impending threat, said Communist Party press secretary Alexander Yushchenko. He claimed that [Zyugannov’s statement] had nothing to do with the military. “Some groups are engaged in outright provocations, like the people who have spread this news. I would would say that such people should generally be executed,” Yushchenko said.

[…]

Source: Sergei Romashenko, “Zyuganov says a war, not a special operation, underway in Ukraine,” DW, 13 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Good Deacon

Deacon Dmitry Bayev

Another criminal case has been opened against the Orthodox church deacon from Kirov who opposed the war, and he has been put on the federal wanted list.

On September 7, a new criminal case was opened against Deacon Dmitry Bayev, this time on charges of “exonerating Nazism” (per Article 207.3.4 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). The charges were occasioned by a video entitled “Thank you grandfather for the victory” and the comment to it (“The last parade in the Russian Federation is a parade of samovars”) which the deacon posted on the VK group page Kirov Online on May 9.

The investigators argued that these publications “offend[ed] the honor and dignity of veterans.” Bayev was placed on the federal wanted list.

The 33-year-old deacon of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kirov left Russia after he was charged with disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army due to his anti-war posts on VKontakte. On March 17, by decree of the Diocesan Bishop, Metropolitan Mark of Vyatka and Sloboda, Deacon Dmitry Bayev was banned from the ROC clergy.

Source: Andrey Churakov, Facebook, 10 September 2022, who cites “@ASTRA” as his source, which I have been unable to locate. Translated by the Russian Reader


Citing sources in the agency, Newsler reports that the Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into disseminating “fake news” about the Russian military (as defined by Article 207.3.d.2 of the Criminal Code) against Dmitry Bayev, a 33-year-old priest in the Orthodox parish of the Church of John the Baptist in Kirov.

The criminal case was opened on March 23. According to the investigation, Bayev published posts in support of Ukraine and its army on his VKontakte page. In his posts, Deacon Bayev claimed that the Ukrainian military had “dispatched 17 thousand 500 orcs to the next world.” According to him, the Russian armed forces — he called them “Russian occupiers” — have suffered significant losses of equipment every day. Bayev’s page was blocked at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office on March 24.

After the charges were filed, the deacon did not delete the entries against the war in Ukraine from his social media page.

“The purpose of the posts is the hope that before my page is blocked, at least one person will have been able to escape the intoxication of propaganda or at least doubt it, begin to understand the real state of affairs, and put things in order in their head after reach the right conclusions,” Bayev said in a comment to Idel.Realii.

If the deacon’s guilt is proven, he faces a fine of three to five million rubles, five years of community service, and five to ten years of imprisonment.

Bayev has been banned from the priesthood since March 11, according to the website of the Vyatka Metropolia.

On Forgiveness Sunday, Priest Ioann Burdin delivered an anti-war sermon in the Orthodox church in the village of Karabanovo, Kostroma Region. After one of the parishioners filed a complaint, Burdin was summoned to the police. The Krasnoselsky District Court found Burdin guilty of “discrediting” the Russian army (per Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation) and fined him 35 thousand rubles [approx. 560 euros]. At the very outset of the war, about 300 members of the Russian clergy published an open letter condemning the war in Ukraine.

Source: “Criminal case into disseminating fake news about Russian military opened against Kirov church deacon due to posts on VKontakte,” Current Time TV (Radio Svoboda), 1 April 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Day of Knowledge: “It’s Not Scary to Die for the Motherland”

In twenty regions of Russia, a school pupil’s start-of-the-year supplies costs more than the average monthly per person income.
This schematic map of the country show how much of the average per capita income has to be spent to ready a pupil for the school year.
Source: Unified Interagency Statistical Information System (EMISS), Russian Federal Statistics Service (Rosstat); calculations by iStories

About one hundred thousand Russians have signed a petition to the president demanding that they be paid 10 thousand rubles [approx. 163 euros] for children’s school expenses as was the case in 2021.

But instead of Russian families, this year parents of schoolchildren from the parts of Ukraine occupied by the Russian army will receive 10 thousand rubles each, while Russian citizens are being expressly told to go to war so that they can afford to send their child to school.

We calculated how much it would cost to send off a pupil to school in Russia’s regions, and we talked with the parents of schoolchildren.

What we learned:

In twenty regions of Russia, buying everything needed for school costs more than the average per capita income for a whole month. For example, in Tyva, one family member has an average income of 15.5 thousand rubles [approx. 253 euros] per month.

This money is usually spent on the bare necessities: food, clothing, medical treatment, transport and other needs. A schoolchild’s kit in Tyva costs almost 24 thousand rubles [approx. 393 euros] — money that parents don’t know where to get. In another fourteen regions, more than ninety percent of income will be spent on school-related expenses.

Parents told iStories that many goods, especially clothes and notebooks, have risen in price twofold or more. And yet, wages have not increased, and some parents have lost their jobs altogether due to sanctions.

Many parents have had to take out loans for everyday needs (this is corroborated by the data: before the start of the school year, the number of applications for consumer loans increased by 20%) and scrimp on vacations.

Prices have increased by thirty percent, but I have no salary, so I’ve felt the difference enormously. The option that I found this year is credit cards. And we scrimped on vacation, of course. It has become quite expensive to take the children somewhere and liven up their leisure time. Whereas earlier I could afford to spend the weekend with my children somewhere in a holiday home in the Moscow Region, now we choose places without an overnight stay, and we take food along with us.

[…]

You take shoes for physical education, light sneakers. The kids hang out in them all day [anyway], so you save money on school shoes.

[…]

I tried to tell [the children] that war is always a very bad thing, that you should aways try to negotiate.

Natalia, Moscow, who is raising a son and a daughter, both in school

On average, I spent around 35-40 thousand rubles [approx. 660 euros] on everything. Clothes have become much more expensive compared to last year, and the quality has become worse. […] I am now on maternity leave, raising the girls alone. I get alimony. We have spent all the new allowances for children between 8 to 17 years old on school expenses. […] I think we will cope with it all. Everything will end and be fine — [the war] will not affect us in any way. I think that everything is being done here [in Russia] so that we do not feel the effect of special military actions.

Elena, Novgorod Region, who is raising two school-age daughters

In which regions of the country does a schoolchild’s kit cost more than the average per capita monthly income?

Could the Russian state afford to cover the expenses for all 15 million Russian schoolchildren?

Source: iStories, email newsletter, 29 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Igor Stomakhin, from the series When we leave the schoolyard… Moscow, 1980s

My street exhibition will open on the fence of Danilovskaya Alley on September 4 at 1 p.m. as part of the project #SundayKhokhlovskyStandoffs. Photos from my Moscow cycle of the 1980s–1990s will be presented. At 2 p.m., I will give a tour of the show beginning with an account of the capital in that vivid period when Soviet stagnation was replaced by Gorbachev’s perestroika. The defenders of Ivanovo Hill will treat guests to tea from a samovar, so you can bring sweets to share. Address: Kolpachny Lane, between house no. 7 and house no. 9.

Source: Igor Stomakhin, Facebook, 1 September 2022. Click the link to see a dozen more photos from Mr. Stomakhin’s poignant perestroika-era Moscow school series. Translated by the Russian Reader


“It’s not scary to die for the Motherland.”
“Conversations about what matters” — mandatory lessons on love for the Motherland — have been introduced in Russian schools. During these lessons the war in Ukraine will be discussed.
The lessons will be held every Monday before first period after the raising of the flag and the national anthem.
The first “conversation about what matters” will take place on September 5.
Pupils in the first and second grades will be told about nature in Russia. Pupils in the third and fourth grades will be told about how it is necessary to defend the Motherland. The teaching manuals cite proverbs that can be used to explain this to children: “It’s not scary to die for the Motherland,” “Loving the Motherland means serving the Motherland,” and “The happiness of the Motherland is more precious than life.”
On September 12, pupils in grades 5–11 will be told about the war in Ukraine. “We also see manifestations of patriotism nowadays, especially in the special military operation,” it says in the course packet.
And to pupils in the tenth and eleventh grades, the instructors, as they conclude the conversation about the “special operation,” should say the following parting words: “You cannot become a patriot if you only spout slogans. Truly patriotic people are ready to defend their Motherland under arms.”
Attending the “conversations” is presented as mandatory. If pupils skip them, instructors are advised to have a talk with their parents. If talking to them doesn’t do the trick, instructors are advised to cite the law, which states that the school curriculum consists of lessons and extracurricular activities.
By law, pupils may skip extracurricular activities at the request of their parents. Teachers are afraid, however, that in the case of the “conversations about what matter” school administrators will be keeping a close eye on attendance.
“We find ourselves in a reality in which you have to keep your own opinion to yourself to avoid losing your job, at best, or ending up behind bars, at worst,” says a teacher in one Moscow school. “There are those [teachers] who actively support state policy. If a teacher diverges from the subject matter of the ‘conversations,’ he might find himself in a dangerous situation.”

Source: Current Time TV (Radio Svoboda), Instagram, 1 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Continue reading “Day of Knowledge: “It’s Not Scary to Die for the Motherland””

I Want a Story

On August 28, 1946, the amazing Lev Shcheglov was born in Petersburg. Alas, in December 2020, the damn covid took him away. We remember him. How could we forget him? He was the only one like him.

A quote from Dmitry Bykov’s conversation with Lev Shcheglov in 2018: “But look at the faces everyone makes when they look at each other — on public transport, behind the wheel, just walking down street! Look at what a weighty mass of irritation hangs over every city: Moscow and Petersburg in this sense are no better than any impoverished provincial town. This mass of malice — which is completely gratuitous, by the way — puts pressure on everyone and demands to be let out.”

Source: Marina Varchenko, Facebook, 28 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Source: Zhenya Oliinyk (@evilpinkpics), Instagram, 15 April 2022. Thanks to Bosla Arts for the heads-up. I took the liberty of cropping the seven panels of Ms. Oliinyk’s original message (which I very much took to heart) and stacking them into a single image/text.


Diana and Lena

The group Ranetki, moving to Argentina and the birth of a child — everything about this news story is terrific.

The series Ranetki provided the soundtrack to our youth, but that is a thing of the past. The news is that From the new: Lena Tretyakova (who played the bass guitarist [in the show’s eponymous pop-rock band]) has left Russia for Argentina and become a mother.

Lena recently told her subscribers that she had legalized her relationship with her girlfriend Diana. They got married in Argentina, where their son Lionel was born.

Now Lena is joking about motherhood on her Instagram and sharing photos of her family, and this is such a sweet thing, we tell you!

Source: Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, Facebook, 24 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


In the six months since Russia invaded, the state media’s emphasis in reporting the war has gradually shifted. Gone are predictions of a lightning offensive that would obliterate Ukraine. There is less talk of being embraced as liberators who must “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine, though the “fascist” label is still flung about with abandon.

Instead, in the Kremlin version — the only one most Russians see, with all others outlawed — the battlefields of Ukraine are one facet of a wider civilizational war being waged against Russia.

The reporting is less about Ukraine than “about opposing Western plans to get control of Mother Russia,” said Stanislav Kucher, a veteran Russian television host now consulting on a project to get Russians better access to banned news outlets.

On state media, Russia is a pillar of traditional values, bound to prevail over the moral swamp that is the West. But the extent of Russia’s staggering casualties in Ukraine remains veiled; only the Ukrainian military suffers extensive losses.

State television has played down the mounting Ukrainian attacks on the strategically and symbolically important Crimean peninsula, but the images on social media of antiaircraft fire erupting over Crimea began to put domestic political pressure on the Kremlin.

The visceral reality of the war, especially the fact that Russian-claimed territory was not immune, was brought home both by the strikes on Crimea and by what investigators called a premeditated assassination in Moscow.

[…]

Glimpses of the war’s cost, however, remain the exception, as news and talk shows have branched into myriad economic and social topics to try to hammer home the idea that Russia is locked in a broad conflict with the West.

Lev Gudkov, the research director at the Levada Center, an independent polling organization, said the government explains European and American hostility by saying that “Russia is getting stronger and that is why the West is trying to get in Russia’s way,” part of a general rhetorical line he described as “blatant lies and demagogy.”

As state television stokes confrontation, the talk show warriors are getting “angrier and more aggressive,” said Ilya Shepelin, who broadcasts a Russian press review on YouTube for the opposition organization founded by the imprisoned Kremlin critic Aleksei A. Navalny.

Source: Neil McFarquhar, “Russian news media covers the war with ‘blatant lies and demagogy,'” New York Times, 26 August 2022


Rediscovering Russia
We have prepared a great guide to our country. We introduce you to amazing people who are not afraid to make discoveries, launch small-scale manufacturing companies, and fly airplanes. We tell success stories and inspire you to travel.

A female pilot of a Boeing 777 aircraft about her work
Pilot Svetlana Slegtina told us about her path to the profession and the difficulties she has had to face during her studies and work.
Read the interview

Who makes cool shoes in Russia
From leather shoes to sneakers made from eco-friendly materials.
Discover

What to show children in Moscow: rare places
We have compiled a list of interesting and free places
Show

Quilted jackets from Russian manufacturers
We selected 10 different models.
Look

Source: Excerpt from a 29 August 2022 email advertising circular from Ozon, a major Russian online retailer. Translated by the Russian Reader


Photographer Dmitry Markov’s friend Alexei, aka Lyosha, aka Lyokha

I have a friend named Lyosha. He lives an ordinary inconspicuous life, but his past terrifies not only the respectable citizens, but also the petty criminals in our glorious city. Lech has managed to gain a bad reputation even among the Narcotics Anonymous community, which preaches open-mindedness as one of its principles. I can’t remember how many times they have stopped me on the street or taken me aside at a meeting and said: “Do you even know who Lyokha is and what he’s capable of? Do you know the things he’s done?”

Yes, I knew what Lyokha had done and how he had done it — mostly from Lyokha himself. We had often sat in my kitchen (not very sober, but very cheerful), and Alexei had entertained me with yet another tall tale about how he had gone visiting and left in someone else’s expensive sneakers. I was won over by the fact that Lyosha did not allow himself to do anything like that to me, and even if I was no pushover myself, Alexei’s skill in duping those around him reached heights only the snow caps of the seven mountain peaks exceeded. Once he was taken to rehab, and the cops came after him and tried to reason with the management of the place. “Do you have any clue who you taken in?” they said. “He’s a stone-cold crook who will burgle your entire place in a single evening.”

Basically, despite his past, I have remained very close to Lyosha. Moreover, when a fucking ugly overdose happened, and an ordinary junkie would most likely have walked away from his dormant co-user, Alexei belabored himself with my body, keeping me as conscious as possible until the ambulance arrived, after which he lay down for the night in the next room and every half hour pounded on the wall shouting, “Dimarik, are you alive in there?”

So, he is my friend, and I feel a certain obligation towards him. And it has nothing to do with that fucking “a life for a life” romanticism and all that stuff… Lyokha is my friend because by his example he shows me that changes happen. That you can become a different person, even if previously your own mother said to her only son: “Lord, would that you’d make it snappy and die! You’d stop tormenting me, and you’d suffer less yourself.”

Nevertheless, years of prison and severe drug addiction take their toll even on the hardiest. Therefore, it is especially important to me that Lyokha is alive and stays close. After all, if he succeeded, maybe sooner or later, I will succeed…

P.S. I forgot to explain the context: Lyosha saved me from an overdose last week.

Source: Dmitry Markov, Facebook, 27 August 2022. Dmitry Markov is a world-renowned photographer who lives in Pskov. 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

Dmitry Skurikhin’s Anti-War Protest Store

Dmitry Skurikhin

On Yandex Maps, almost all the roofs of houses in Russko-Vysotskoye, a settlement near St. Petersburg, are gray, but one sports the colors of the Russian flag. This is Iren, a shopping center owned by local businessman Dmitry Skurikhin. He had the tricolor painted on the roof ten years ago. But this year he ordered a nine by two meter yellow banner from a friendly printing house and on May 7 installed it on the blue section of the roof.

“I defiantly sided with Ukraine. And everything is fine — the villagers say hello to me, no one tells me to buzz off. I regard this as unequivocal support,” says Skurikhin.

He has turned the front of his store into a political statement and, despite numerous fines, he has no plans to stay silent or leave the country. Dmitry Skurikhin told The Village why he doesn’t worry when people scrawl the word “traitor” on the walls of his store, how he drives a vehicle with a “No war!” sticker (while his former best friend drives a car marked with a Z), and what tricks the activist has for communicating with rural policemen.

The front of Dmitry Skurikhin’s store: “Peace to Ukraine! Freedom for Russia!” is painted on it, along with the names of Ukrainian cities and towns attacked by the Russian army.
Russian businessman and anti-war activist Dmitry Skurikhin

How the protest store works
Dmitry Skurikhin is forty-seven years old. He was born in Russko-Vysotskoye and graduated from school there. He studied electrical engineering at the Voenmekh (Military Mechanical Institute) in Petersburg, and is an officer in the reserves. He went into business in 1996. In 2009, he went into politics when he was elected to a five-year term as a municipal councillor in Russko-Vysotskoye.

Dmitry has five daughters. The eldest recently married, while the youngest are still in school. “Four years ago, there was this incident. I came to the school and saw a portrait of Putin on a stand in a classroom. I demanded that the teacher take down this poster. They took it down!”

The businessman has two stores in total. The first is in the neighboring village of Yagelevo, and it has no political murals. The second one is in his native settlement. This is the Iren shopping center, named after the river in the Perm Region, where Dmitry’s parents came from. On Iren’s ground floor are Wildberries, Ozon and SDEK delivery points, a flower shop, a shoe repair shop, and a small gym; on the second floor, there is a tailor’s, a manicurist’s, a hairdresser’s, and a game room. Behind the facade of the building inscribed with the slogan “Peace to Ukraine! Freedom for Russia!” is a 256 square meter banquet hall. “Weddings, wakes, and rural discos-cum-fistfights are held there,” says Dmitry. According to him, there have been an especially large number of wakes recently.

How the war has impacted Russko-Vysotskoye
“Words are my weapons. I am trying to convince my fellow villagers that freedom, democracy, human rights, local self-government, and separation of powers are the road to prosperity,” the businessman says.

“We basically have nothing to say about Dmitry Skurikhin’s activism. It is, rather, reflected only in his posts on the internet, not in the life of the settlement,” the moderators of the Russko-Vysotskoye group on the VKontakte social network wrote in reply to a query from The Village.

The first mention of the settlement dates back to the sixteenth century, but there are no historical buildings left except for the ruins of the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. The population of Russko-Vysotskoye is about five thousand. Many worked at a poultry plant, the main local employer (in terms of volume, it was among the top five agricultural enterprises in the Leningrad Region). But in the second month of the “special operation,” the factory management announced its closure, citing plans to build housing on the site. Then Leningrad Region Governor Drozdenko reversed the closure, and in June, after two months of downtime, the poultry plant is scheduled to resume production.

“Our store survives due to the fact that we sell on credit. We’ve got debtors up to our eyeballs. These are people who are three days away from retirement, but have no money. They come to buy bread and potatoes. We sell them in irregular batches. For example, there are people in the village who cannot buy a dozen eggs and buy four eggs instead. This is telling,” Skurikhin replies when asked about the war’s impact on Russko-Vysotskoye’s economy.

How the activist is fined for posters
The inscription “Peace to Ukraine! Freedom for Russia!” appeared on Skurikhin’s store in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea. This was followed by many (about two hundred) political posters. Skurikhin orders them from the same company that made him the yellow stripe for the roof, whose name he won’t disclose. “You can say that I am a small-town activist who voices his stance on any occasion. Some event happens — for example, [Russian opposition politician Boris] Nemtsov was killed [on 27 February 2015 in Moscow] — and I put up a poster.” The businessman fastens the posters with screws at a height of six meters on the same wall as the inscriptions.

The posters hang for an average of two to three hours. Then the local council sends an employee with a ladder and a screwdriver, and the police arrive from the 114th precinct in Annino, fifteen minutes from Russko-Vysotskoye. The posters are taken down. “The police officers in rural areas are smart, intelligent, decent, normal people. Not like in the city. They’re almost all on my side. It’s another matter that they have their orders and their oath,” Skurikhin argues.

Then Dmitry is fined. At first, the fines for “violating landscaping rules” were 300 rubles, but then they went up to three thousand rubles. (“As the secretary of the administrative commission told me, ‘They increased it especially for you, because no one else in the region is being punished under this article.'”) The last fine was issued under the new law on “discrediting the army.”

How they’re trying to prosecute Dmitry for “discrediting the army”
On March 5, the State Duma passed a law according to which people can be fined for “discrediting the army.” On March 6, Skurikhin hung a poster on his shopping center depicting residential buildings bombed in Kharkiv and a Ukrainian girl who had been killed. On Facebook he wrote, “Perhaps this is my last publication. Just in case, goodbye, my friends.”

“This is Kharkiv. Everyone speaks Russian there. Who are we defending there and from what?”
Photo courtesy of Dmitry Skurikhin’s Facebook page.
This image was not part of the original article on The Village, although there was a link to it.

The farewell was premature — Dmitry was only fined 45 thousand rubles [approx. 750 euros]. (He has challenged the fine in court.) And not so much for the poster itself, as for the story he told about it on Telegram, which follows from the charge sheet for the administrative offense: “68 views were made [of the post]; the channel has 23 subscribers.”

Later, another charge was filed against the activist under the same article in the administrative offenses code (there has been no court hearing yet) for reposting one of the blogger Rustem Adagamov’s posts. Skurikhin says that now he has a “standing invitation” on WhatsApp to come in and face a third set of charges, and shows us his correspondence with the policeman involved. The summons is preceded by the New Year’s greeting car that the law enforcement officer sent to the businessman six months ago.

Earlier, Dmitry says, the local beat cops themselves came to deliver the summonses, but they got tired of it. “Rural police,” he says, “have a lot of cases to deal with, and here they’re being sent to deal with nonsense. They said the hell with it.”

How the activist was called a traitor
While we are talking, a local passes by and asks Dmitry how things are going.

“I’m alive and well and at large,” the activist replies.

Dmitry Skurikhin, as one of the few public anti-war activists who have not left Russia, is regularly visited by journalists. Recently, three foreign media outlets were doing stories about him at once: the BBC, Belsat, and Stern. Reporters like to ask the opinion of passerby about Skurikhin’s “protest wall.” “He’s an idiot,” one of the respondents told Steve Rosenberg of the BBC. Another noted that Dmitry “has the right to express his opinion.”

Skurikhin is grateful to journalists. “If it weren’t for their attention, activists would be” — he rubs an imaginary powder in his palms — “and everything here right down to the lawn would be demolished,” he says.

At the end of March, the activist painted the names of Ukrainian cities that had been attacked on the front of the store. Then he regularly supplemented the red list. When we were there, he painted in two more names: Dnipro and Sloviansk.

But on the night of April 15, three unidentified people scrawled the word “traitor” on the Iren shopping center and deposited a pile of manure outside the entrance.

“They thought they would present me in an unfavorable light to my fellow villagers. It turned out the opposite. A woman passes by: ‘Dima, don’t touch the manure, I’ll take it myself, I need it for the garden.’ Or I go out with a bucket of yellow paint to paint over the graffiti, and an old-timer stops me. ‘Are you going to paint over the [names of the] cities?’ he asks. ‘No, just the word “traitor,”‘ I say. ‘Ah, paint over “traitor,” but don’t touch the cities,'” the activist recounts.

As this article was going to press, the walls of the shopping center were again vandalized. An unknown man on a bicycle wrote the words “traitor,” “freak,” and “moron” next to the names of the cities.

How the businessman interacts with his opponents
“A person can come up to me on the street and yell that I’m an asshole. Be my guest,” the activist says. He has many opponents in the settlement.

As for the Z symbol in Russko-Vysotskoye, according to Skurikhin, there is one on the car of the deputy head of the local administration.

“We were in school together for eleven years. We were very friendly. I wrote to him: ‘Lyosha, what did you put such a thing up for?’ He replied: ‘Dima, you have reached a new low.'”

His friendship with his classmate, according to Skurikhin, was long ago undone by political differences.

“It’s his people who take down my posters,” the activist explains, adding about his former friend, “He’s a good guy, but he’s an UnRus [a member of the ruling United Russia party].”

The official told us in a telephone conversation that he really was in the same class in school as Dmitry Skurikhin, but they were never friends. He did not comment on the activist’s work, saying only, “Our positions are diametrically opposed. You could say that we are ardent opponents.”

The businessman himself pastes a “No war!” sticker on his car.

“The response has been only positive. No, sometimes I see a sour expression on someone’s face. But people who do react [give me a thumbs-up] — attaboy!”

How Skurikhin decided not to shave his beard
“I’m afraid. What then? I can’t stop campaigning,” the activist says in answer to our question whether he is afraid of facing criminal charges for spreading “fake news” about the army, like artist and musician Sasha Skochilenko, “ordinary person” Vika Petrova, Skurikhin’s ally the activist Olga Smirnova, and many others.

He has no plans to leave Russia. But he does not condemn emigrants — on the contrary.

“Good, decent anti-Putin people are leaving. And there is a plus in this. Perhaps the whole world will judge Russia by them. ‘Look, not all Russians are idiots!” But I’ll go on here. If they put me in jail, I’ll sit in jail.”

At the end of the interview, Dmitry asks us to ask him a question about his beard and immediately tells us that on 23 January 2021, he shaved and went to downtown Petersburg for a rally in support of Alexei Navalny. There he was detained and jailed for twenty days. During those three weeks, Skurikhin grew out his beard and made a bet with a cellmate that he would not shave while Putin was in power.

“My cellmate told me, ‘Dima, you’re going to be playing Santa Claus without makeup.’ We’ll see. For some reason it seems to me that I will be shaving my beard off soon.”

Source: “‘A man can come up to me on the street and yell that I’m an asshole’: How a businessman turned his store into a political statement,” The Village, 14 June 2022. Thanks to JG for the story. All images courtesy of The Village, except where noted. Translated by the Russian Reader


“It’s our soldiers, our [Russian] troops, fighting there. Not Martians, but our people. And we are responsible for them. These people exist on taxes, including my taxes. I pay roughly 1,200,000 rubles [$19,500] a year in taxes. Our authorities buy weapons with this money and dispatch our fellow citizens to murder Ukrainian children.”

On the front of his village store, Dmitry Skurikhin paints the names of Ukrainian cities that have been bombarded.

“My heart simply aches when I see what is happening there. I simply cannot stand it. I paint the [name of the] city and I feel better. What if I could do something more? But it’s society that has to do something. I’m campaigning for our society to understand and accept this viewpoint — that we cannot be doing this, that we urgently have to stop it. At first I thought that half [the Russian people] supported the ‘special operation,’ but now it is fewer. It has begun to sink in that this is madness.”

Dmitry Skurikhin has opposed the actions of the Russian authorities since 2014. 

“The Putin regime should simply be eliminated. They are occupiers — they have occupied our country, do you understand? And they treat our country like occupiers, meanwhile fooling our people with their propaganda.”

Businessman Dmitry Skurikhin regularly hangs up posters featuring anti-war slogans on his store.

“The police just come up and take them down. I’ve been charged twice with the newfangled crime of ‘discrediting’ [the Russian army]. From their point of view I’m discrediting our Russian army simply by showing my fellow villagers what is happening in Ukraine.”

Fines for discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation can lead to up to five years of imprisonment. 

“People see this and it stays in their heads. Now it is just sitting there, but later it will become an itch and then turn into something unbearable. Putinism is a cancerous tumor, a disease of our society. We have to vomit it up somehow. Russia is now on the side of evil, on the side of Putinism. Putinism is an evil, definitely, for unleashing such a hell in Ukraine. Consequently, Ukraine has the motivation — they are fighting for their lives, for their families, for their homes, for their land. What are we doing there? Putin has forced our society to fight against a neighboring society, instead of doing business and exchanging knowledge and services to our mutual benefit. We could live together wonderfully, but now they are our enemies for hundreds of years to come.”

Despite the fines, Dmitry continues his campaign in the village. 

“Not a day goes by when I don’t think about my security. But this is more important. It’s important to campaign, to convince people to come over to this point of view. And I won’t spare any expense or effort on it. Well, what could happen? If they imprison me, I’ll go to prison.”

Source: Current Time TV, Instagram, 21 August 2022. Subtitles translated by the Russian Reader

Be Careful What You Wish For

“An Alt-future map where Russia is divided. Could be Post-WW3 or after collapse due to economic sanctions etc.” Source: Reddit

Re: the “volunteer battalions.” Many people, including me, have spoken out quite harshly here [on Facebook] about the irresponsible fools who have posted map[s] of a “collapsed Russia” on the web. The centripetal forces in the country will be more powerful than the centrifugal ones for a long time to come, and if Russia collapses, those daydreamers will definitely not be involved. Nevertheless, work on its collapse is in full swing in Russia itself, and the country’s authorities are leading the effort. Understand me correctly: I am sure that Putin and his friends do not want disintegration, because Russia has become and will forever remain their only available feeding trough. However, heedlessness, as always, trumps vested interest. As in the case of covid, what the center does not cope with, it sloughs off on the regions. But if this was relatively harmless when it came to covid, it is not so harmless when it comes to the “volunteer battalions” being formed on a regional basis. When the “volunteers” return — and some of them will return, inevitably — a small but cohesive and extremely angry force with combat experience and, most likely, access to weapons, will emerge in each region. Precisely due to its local identity, it will become a convenient tool for factions seeking local power. During a social and political crisis, this desire can be realized, but not without a local armed force. And such a force will be there for the taking. The infamous Girkin proved in practice in Sloviansk that even a small group like this can easily take power in a medium-sized city if it encounters no resistance. It will be both easy and pleasant for local security forces to negotiate with “veterans” if such agreements are sanctioned by the “elites” in the towns and villages, but especially in the ethnic republics. A scenario in which Russia will break up into 80+ independent countries cannot be precluded. These countries, however, will not be benevolent democracies in the European orbit, but gangster autocracies. And Russia is being pushed in this direction not by its real or imaginary enemies, but by its own authorities.

Source: Grigorii Golosov, Facebook, 11 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. Professor Golosov’s most recent book is Authoritarian Party Systems: Party Politics in Autocratic Regimes, 1945–2019 (Singapore: World Scientific, 2022).


“A Map of the Free States of Post-Russia. Decolonizing and Restructuring Russia. It’s Time for Indigenous Peoples and Regions to Take Back Their Independence and Sovereignty.” Source: We Survived Mariupol, 25 July 2022, Telegram

Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov meeting on 11 August 2022 with his military commanders. The meeting is conducted in Chechen with occasional infusions of isolated Russian words and phrases.

Western intelligence services have never really disguised their plans for our country. Their dream is Russia’s complete collapse and, in fact, the enslavement of its peoples. Our country has always been and remains the West’s number one target. The fact of the matter is that the Russian Federation’s multi-ethnic peoples have never accepted an alien ideology and have historically maintained their identity, mindset, and age-old principles.

And if at one time entire foreign institutions tried to achieve this goal by unleashing two wars in the Chechen Republic, later there were attempts to achieve it via South Ossetia and even Syria. Nothing came of them.

Now the West has played the Ukraine card. But here, too, all their efforts are doomed to utter failure. And I am very glad that the new tactical actions used by our combatants during the special military operation in the Donbass are bringing great success. I had no doubts about this initially. Today it is already obvious that the results have exceeded all expectations.

On Thursday, I met with the commanders and fighters of our detachments involved in the SMO. We once again had a warm conversation in an informal setting, discussing the successes we have achieved. We also discussed in detail the issue of improving the material resources for units from the Chechen Republic, of additionally supplying and equipping our fighters with modern weapons, equipment, and gear.

The most important thing is that [our] warriors are in great fighting spirit. The lads are clearly aware that they are fighting for the sake of all straight-thinking humanity and for the triumph of law, order, and justice. That is why, even after returning home, almost all SMO combatants are eager to go back. They have only one desire — to go all the way alongside their comrades. This is true patriotism, which means that victory will be ours! Absolutely! There is simply no other option.

Source: Ramzan Kadyrov, Telegram, 11 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Graduation Day

The two-week accelerated tactical and weapons training courses for the latest group of volunteers at the Russian Special Forces University @ruspetsnaz in Gudermes have ended.

The soldiers, who are from various regions of Russia, are full of determination and ready to join the battle for truth and justice on the territory of Donbass and Ukraine.

One more flight headed for the site of the special military operation from Hero of Russia Akhmad-Khadzhi Kadyrov Grozny International Airport.

Our dear BROTHERS — Chairman of the Parliament of the [Chechen Republic] Magomed Daudov @MDaudov_95, Deputy Prime Minister of the CR Abuzaid Vismuradov, Secretary of the Security Council of the CR Apty Alaudinov @sovbez95, Deputy Interior Minister and Police Chief of the Interior Ministry of the CR Aslan Irakhanov, and Head of the Grozny Transit Police of the Russian Interior Ministry Ali Tagirov — had parting words for the volunteers

They noted that fascism and Banderism had to be eradicated from the land of Donbass, [and] that [the volunteers] had been given the honorable mission of being part of the force that would bring about the triumph of justice and victory over evil.

We wish our soldiers a successful hunt for Banderites, Nazis and Shaitans! May their joint efforts, courage and heroism bring victory to Russia and freedom to Donbass! AKHMAD IS POWER!!!

Source: Kadyrov_95 (Telegram), 8 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The terminal building at Grozny Airport. The inscription over the entrance reads, “My weapon is truth, and all armies are powerless before this weapon. A[khmad] Kadyrov.” Source: Wikipedia

[…]

According to investigations by Novaya Gazeta and human rights organization Human Rights Watch, as a person in the inner circle of Kadyrov, Daudov often carries out his “special instructions”.

In 2014, according to a Novaya Gazeta investigation, Daudov participated in the torture and beating of detained president of Assembly of the Caucasian people, R[uslan] Kutayev.

In 2015, Novaya Gazeta reported that Chechen authorities were concerned about “true news” about the republic, claiming that bloggers writing about Chechnya in a manner viewed as “incorrect” by the authorities were illegally pressured and forced to apologise. Daudov was mentioned in this context.

On 16 and 17 January 2016, Daudov made posts on his Instagram account that contained insults and veiled threats against members of the Russian opposition, including journalists and right activists (Alexei Venediktov, I.A. Kalyapin, K.E. Merzlikin, A.A. Navalny, L.A. Ponomaryov, M.B. Khodorkovsky, V.I. Shenderovich and I.V. Yashin. Editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow A.A. Venediktov said: “Magomed Daudov’s statements [addressed to the opposition are] a serious threat and inadequate reaction to inconvenient issues of murder of Boris Nemtsov and a question to investigation and Chechen authorities”.

In a 12 October 2016 Instagram post, Daudov again made veiled insults against I.A. Kalyapin, chairman of interregional public organization Committee Against Torture. Gregory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of online newspaper Caucasian Knot submitted an application to the Investigative Committee of Russia, trying to bring Daudov’s publication under corpus delicti under article 144, part 3 of the Criminal Code of Russia. The Investigative Committee of Russia investigated but chose not to open a criminal case against Daudov.

Press articles covered Daudov’s conflict with the acting Chairman of the Supreme Court of Chechnya T.A. Murdalov.

According to some journalists, on 6 October 2016, Daudov came to the Supreme Court of Chechnya accompanied by security, entered the office of acting Chairman T. A. Murdalov and began to beat him, demanding that he write the resignation letter for health reasons. Murdalov refused.

According to media and human rights activists, Daudov participated in the prosecution of homosexuals in Chechnya and “played the key role in cleaning of the republic from gays, which was approved by republican management Journalists provided evidence that Daudov personally went to secret prisons in Argun and Grozny and managed the transfer of detained gays to relatives.

[…]

Source: “Magomed Daudov,” Wikipedia

“It’s Too Late for Me to Be Afraid”: Olga Nazarenko’s Solo Anti-War Protests

Olga Nazarenko: “I’m a Russian citizen who opposes the war. Send Putin to The Hague!”

Olga Nazarenko, a lecturer at medical university in Ivanovo, got involved in protests supporting Ukraine back in 2018. Since February 24 of this year, she has gone on an anti-war picket almost every week. Over this time, five cases have been opened against her for administrative offenses. Recently, Nazarenko was fined 150 thousand rubles [approx. 2,350 euros] for an anti-war picket. Only a few people in Ivanovo support the lecturer, so she usually stands alone with a placard. There are incomparably more people in her city who disagree with her position. Once, when Nazarenko was returning home, a passerby doused her face with spray paint on a dark street. People have written the Z symbol and the words “Ukrainian scum” on the associate professor’s mailbox. Nazarenko paints over the insults with yellow and blue flowers.

Nazarenko spoke to Radio Svoboda about her resistance to the war.

What was February 24 like for you?

– I didn’t believe until the last moment that war was possible. I can describe my reaction to the news about the outbreak of war with Ukraine only with obscene language. That same day, I went on a solo picket with an anti-war placard, and the next day too. Since then, I have been going on pickets every week, sometimes once every two weeks.

– You have already been convicted once for “discrediting the armed forces.” Why do you risk being prosecuted?

– My conscience won’t let me do otherwise. In the twenty-first century, problems in interstate relations are not solved by war. It’s barbaric. This war is an injustice on Russia’s part, and I cannot remain silent when I see injustice. A [solo] picket is now the only way to voice one’s stance publicly. Yes, most passersby do not voice their opinion in any way while I am picketing. But at each picket I see that two or three people support me. I understand that it is vital for each of them to see that they are not alone. Also, I have friends and acquaintances living in Ukraine. I worry about them, of course, and I know that for them my support — at least in the sense that I am not silent — is also vital.

– What was the trial at which you were fined 150 thousand rubles like?

– On February 27, I went out with a placard that read, “I’m a Russian citizen who opposes the war. Send Putin to The Hague!” Half an hour later, I was detained after a disgruntled passerby denounced me to the police. In April, the court recognized that my right to a defense had been violated due to the fact that my lawyer was not given the charge sheet to sign. The police appealed this decision, and the court found me guilty under Article 20.2 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code for, allegedly, “organizing a public event” and fined me 150 thousand rubles. I told the court about my anti-war stance and that our courts are cemented into the power vertical, and so they make the rulings that the Russian authorities need them to make. I also told the court that Russia is waging an unjust war against Ukraine, that people are dying, and that I opposed it. In my opinion, the judge’s ruling had been made in advance.

– Do passersby often react aggressively to your anti-war pickets?

– Of course, there are people who react aggressively to my position. They drew the Z symbol and wrote “Ukrainian scum” on my mailbox. I painted over the inscription with yellow and blue flowers, making it beautiful. Once on the street late at night, a young man doused my face and clothes with spray paint. Fortunately, my glasses protected my eyes from injury, while my clothes turned a golden color. My down jacket even became beautiful, iridescent, but only on one side, sadly. Once, at a picket in support of the boys from the Network Case, a man came up and said that people like me should be shot. He tried to take my placard away and hurt my finger in the scuffle. But I kept him from getting my placard.

– At what point did you decide to go on pickets?

– I have been actively voicing my position since 2014. I was outraged that Russia, at a difficult moment for Ukraine, committed a treacherous act against it by annexing Crimea. This was the first thing that angered me, and the second was the lies that supported it. I realized that in such circumstances I could not remain silent. At first, I went to various protest rallies and marches. But they were held rarely and I wanted to voice my civic stance more often. At first, I was bashful about going out on solo pickets. But on social media I saw that people were doing solo pickets. At some point I decided to try to picket too and got sucked into it.

I have been going on pickets in support of Ukraine since 2018. A friend of mine and I protested for the release of the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. After all, a hybrid war had essentially been waged since 2014, and I had always opposed it. I was brought up on the principle that you couldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you, which also applied to international relations. Crimea is Ukrainian by all international standards. I could not approve of Russia’s interference in the affairs of a sovereign state, and from that moment I took an unambiguous stance. On February 24, everything became completely transparent.

– In February of last year, you hung a large banner that read “The FSB is a disgrace to Russia” on a railway bridge. What made you decide to do this protest?

– I believe that the FSB now holds all the power in our country, because Putin is from the FSB. So, the FSB lets itself break any law and torture people with impunity — such as, for example, the defendants in the Network Case. I think it important to voice my negative attitude to this. The banner hung for about half an hour until police officers arrived and tore it down.

I was detained right there and taken to the police department, where they took my statement and released me. This is not the first time I have publicly condemned the actions of the FSB. For example, I picketed against the Network Case outside the FSB headquarters in Ivanovo.

Olga Nazarenko

– Aren’t you afraid to publicly criticize the FSB?

– Yes, that organization has a lot of power, but I have no respect for it.

– I know that you sued Center “E” last year. Please tell us how that happened.

– I was doing community service at the zoo for a video in which I had talked about the problems of our region and called for peaceful protest. I was charged with “organizing an unauthorized event” for these actions. Right when I was cleaning the bird cages, a Center “E” officer came and videotaped me without my permission. The video was posted on the Telegram channel “A Cop’s Life: Ivanovo,” along with what they imagined was a funny comment. I decided that the Center “E” officer had violated my right to privacy. I filed an administrative lawsuit against the Interior Ministry, but my suit was dismissed.

– Not long ago, you were accused of resisting the police because you tried to help a friend at an anti-war picket. What did you do then?

– A female acquaintance decided to go on a picket on February 24 and asked on a chat for support. I responded to this request and arrived at the picket site. As soon as the young woman held up her placard, a policeman approached her and tried to detain her. She was opposed to being detained, so I got between her and the policeman. Consequently, we were both detained. The next day, I was taken to the police department, charged with resisting the police, and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. I’ve already done them. But soon I will have to do another 180 hours for a fresh administrative offense related to publicly voicing my anti-war position.

– How do the heads of the medical school where you work look at your pickets and court hearings?

– They are still relatively friendly to me at work. The bosses said that I could do anything as long as it was not during working hours. I never engage in activism to the detriment of my work: I don’t lobby anyone in the classroom. So I have no problems at the university now. For the time being I can juggle work and activism.

– Does your family support your anti-war position?

– My loved ones worry about me, but they don’t try to dissuade me. My husband and I try not to talk about politics. His point of view runs counter to mine, and we don’t discuss politics to avoid spoiling our relationship. As it is, there are so many situations in which I have to get harsh to defend my position, but at home I want to live in peace and tranquility. My little son and adult daughter worry about me and support me emotionally.

Olga Nazarenko, holding a placard that reads, “Free political prisoners!!! While we drink tea, they’re in prison.” It features a long list of current Russian political prisoners, nearly of all whose cases have been covered on this website.

– How are you going to pay the 150 thousand ruble fine?

– Friends and friends of friends helped me to pay the previous fine of 75 thousand. I don’t know yet how I will raise this amount. I’ll probably have to turn to public organizations for help.

– Putin recently passed laws that give [law enforcement] even more possibilities to crack down on grassroots activists. Aren’t you afraid to continue going on pickets when this is the reality?

– It’s too late for me to be afraid. If the security forces want to sanction me, they have enough material against me. I have already passed the phase of being afraid.

– Do you think your numerous pickets have affected the attitude people in Ivanovo have toward the war with Ukraine?

– Everything in society has only gotten worse over the years. In the big scheme of things, such protests cannot change a thing. They matter only to the person who does them and to people who think the same way, as well as for those supported by them.

– Why are you taking such a big risk in this instance?

– I just act on the principle that you do what you have to do, come what may. This is how I was brought up as a child. I realize that there could be unpleasant consequences for me, but I don’t think about it.

– How exactly were you brought up?

– My parents are teachers. They are decent people who shaped my principles, such as the literature I read as a child. My favorite books were Alexandra Brushtein’s trilogy The Road Goes Off into the Distance.

– But many Russians have read those books. Aren’t you angry that so few Russians protest publicly?

– I am a little annoyed, rather, that people cannot act in keeping with their conscience. And I realize that if more Russians had openly voiced their position when it was not less dangerous, the situation would be slightly different now.

Most people let their personal interests outweigh [other things], and this is normal. My instinct for self-preservation is a little dull, and perhaps this is not entirely normal. I don’t condemn Russians, but still I think that, in the current situation, it is impossible to remain silent.

– Now, after almost five months of war in Ukraine, many Russian activists complain of burnout and fatigue. Do you have such problems?

– I don’t have burnout and depression, but nor do I have any hope that things will change quickly. Perhaps in a hundred years our great-grandchildren will be able to change something — if we manage to raise our children the right way, and then they raise their children the right way. At some point, there will be enough people to change things here. But my generation won’t live to see it.

– Are you not planning to leave the country if a criminal case is opened against you?

– I’m not going anywhere. Russia is my country: it doesn’t belong only to those in power and their supporters. I won’t let anyone kick me out of my own country. I’m ready for a possible prison sentence. If it happens, I will serve my time, and then I will get out and continue my pickets. I’m not too afraid of prison: people somehow live in there too. You can’t jail everyone, and you can’t shut everyone up.

Source: Darya Yegorova, “‘It’s too late for me to be afraid’: Olga Nazarenko’s solo pickets,” Radio Svoboda, 16 July 2022. All images courtesy of Ms. Nazarenko via Radio Svoboda. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader