Yashar Shikhametov: 11 Years in Maximum Security for “Kitchen Conversations”

Yashar Shikhametov

⚡️ Another sentence: 11 years in a maximum security penal colony for a 52-year-old cook from Crimea

Today, the Southern District Military Court [of Russia] announced the verdict in the trial of Yashar Shikhametov, a Crimean Tatar, a cook from Sevastopol, and a political prisoner. He was charged with membership of the Islamist political party Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been banned in Russia since 2003. In Ukraine and most countries of the world, however, the organization operates without any restrictions in terms of national legislation.

According to the case file, the accused had no weapons, explosives, or ammunition, did not plan to commit a terrorist act and did not call on others to carry out terrorist acts. There is no evidence that he was planning to overthrow the constitutional order of the Russian Federation and seize power. The case materials contain audio recordings on which religion and politics are discussed. In fact, this was the only evidence presented by investigators, along with the testimony of secret witnesses, which cannot be corroborated.

Shikhametov was was arrested on 17 February 2021, and then spent over a year and a half in a pre-trial detention center, where he suffered from many ailments. In July of the same year, his case was submitted to the military court of Rostov-on-Don. The trial of the case on the merits took place over the course of twenty-four hearings.

On August 14, 2022, Prosecutor Sergei Aidinov asked the court to sentence Shikhametov to eleven years of imprisonment in a maximum security penal colony, with the first four years of the sentence to be served in a closed prison.

The verdict issued by the Russian court today gave the prosecutor exactly what he had asked.

At yesterday’s court hearing, the political prisoner complained of feeling unwell. When the court suggested that he take part in the closing arguments, Shikhametov insisted on the need for a recess.

The court turned down the defense’s request to declare a recess.

Judge Alexei Magomadov deemed Shekhametov’s inability to take part in the closing arguments as a voluntary refusal to testify, despite the fact that the defendant had written a twenty-one-page-long closing statement for the hearing. He also turned down [defense] lawyer Alexei Larin’s request to postpone the hearing.

“Did we have a choice in 2014? I will tell you that it’s all true. Ethnically, we are Crimean Tatars; we are Muslim in terms of religion and culture, and we are citizens of Ukraine. Is this proof of my guilt? We do not hide, we do not hide it, but we declare it directly and everywhere. Is that a crime? But the FSB investigator cooks up this whole [case] with remarks made around the kitchen table, and by tormenting people and intimidating them with searches,” Shikhametov wrote in the [closing statement], which he was unable to deliver in court.

Source: Mumine Saliyeva, Facebook, 9 September. Photo courtesy of Crimean Solidarity. Thanks to Natalia Sivohina for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader


Shikhametov is from Orlinoye on the outskirts of occupied Sevastopol.  He earlier appeared as a defence witness in the political trial of Enver Seitosmanov, which may have been the reason that the Russian FSB turned their attention to him.  They added him, six years after the earlier arrests in 2015, to Russia’s first conveyor belt ‘trial’ of Crimean Muslims on charges of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir. The latter is a peaceful, transnational Muslim organization which is legal in Ukraine, and which is not known to have committed any acts of terrorism anywhere in the world.  Russia’s prosecutions, under ‘terrorism’ legislation, are based solely on an extremely secretive Russian Supreme Court ruling from February 2003, which declared the organization ‘terrorist’ without providing any grounds or explanation. Russia is increasingly using these charges as a weapon against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists, with men who have committed no recognizable crime being sentenced to up to 20 years’ imprisonment. The charges are a favourite with the FSB and their decision to arrest any particular person is a near 100% guarantee that their victim will be imprisoned and receive a huge sentence.

Shikhametov was charged under Article 205.5 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code with ‘involvement’ in a Hizb ut-Tahrir group.  This was seemingly the same fictitious ‘group’ which the FSB claimed that Ruslan Zeytullaev had ‘organized’ (a more serious charge) and that Ferat Saifullaev, Yury Primov and Rustem Vaitov were supposed to have been members of. Russia was still ‘testing the ground’ (and international reaction) in that case and all of the men initially received much lower sentences than required by legislation. The prosecution (or, more likely, the FSB) challenged the sentence against Zeytullaev until they got a 15-year sentence but did not appeal against the other three sentences (more details here). One difference now is that the prosecution almost invariably adds the charge (under Article 278) of trying to overthrow the Russian state. This charge is even more nonsensical, as not one of the men has ever been found to have any weapons, but does enable them to increase the sentence.

Both the earlier ‘trials’ and that against Shikhametov were, as the latter said, based on ‘conversations in the kitchen’ on religious and political subjects. These were sent to FSB-loyal ‘experts’ (from the Kazan Inter-Regional Centre for Analysis and Assessments) who provide the opinion demanded of them.

Russia’s FSB have, however, discovered that such prosecutions do not go to plan, primarily because of committed lawyers who insist on demonstrating the flawed nature of both the charges and the alleged ‘evidence’.  Although the convictions remain essentially predetermined, the men’s lawyers, as well as the important Crimean Solidarity human rights initiative, provide important publicity about the shocking methods used to fabricate huge sentences.

Armed and masked enforcement officers burst into Shikhametov’s home on 17 February 2021 and carried out ‘a search’, before taking the father of three away and imprisoning him. As in all such cases, lawyers were illegally prevented from being present. The officers claimed to have found three ‘prohibited religious books’. The books, which did not have any fingerprints on them, were in a cupboard holding coats and shoes which was a place, as Shikhametov himself told the court, that no practising Muslim would hold religious literature.

During one of the hearings, Shikhametov stated that he considered the real criminals to be those who planted ‘prohibited books’ in his home. Typically, the only outcome of this was that Shikhametov himself was removed from the courtroom. Shikhametov has been open in calling those involved in this prosecution and others “accomplices and criminals” and this was not the only time he was removed from the courtroom.

In July 2021, the FSB carried out an armed search and interrogation of Ferat Saifullayev (who had been released after serving his sentence).They threatened “to come back and find prohibited literature” if he did not give false testimony against Yashar Shikhametov.  During this interrogation, he was neither informed of his rights, nor told what his status (suspect, witness, etc.) was. Saifullayev signed the document thrust in front of him, but later stated publicly that he had only done so because of the pressure and threats against him. He insisted that this supposed ‘testimony’ should be excluded as having been obtained with infringements of the law and issued a formal complaint to the FSB in Sevastopol, naming senior ‘investigator’ Yury Andreyev. 

Prosecutor Sergei Aidinov was never able to explain how Shikhametov, working as a café chef was supposed to have ‘carried out ideological work’ or what such ‘work’ was.

All of this was ignored by presiding judge Alexei Magamadov, together with Kirill Krivtsov and V.Y. Tsybulik who actively took the side of the prosecution. Such bias was seen here, as in all other political trials of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians, in the use of ‘secret witnesses’. The only real ‘evidence’ in this ‘trial’ came from people whose identity was not known, and whose supposed testimony could not be verified. In all these trials, the judges invariably disallow questions aimed at demonstrating that the person is lying and that he does not in fact even know the defendant.  

Please write to Yashar Shikhametov! 

He will almost certainly remain imprisoned in Rostov until his appeal hearing. Letters tell him that he is not forgotten and send an important message to Moscow that their persecution of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainian political prisoners is under scrutiny.

Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects. If that is a problem, use the sample letter below (copying it by hand), perhaps adding a picture or photo. Do add a return address so that the men can answer.

The addresses below can be written in either Russian or in English transcription. The particular addressee’s name and year of birth need to be given.

Sample letter

Привет,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten.] 

Address

344022, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1

Шихаметову, Яшару Рустемовичу, г.р. 1970

[In English:  344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Shikhametov, Yashar Rustemovich, b. 1970 ]

Source: Halya Coynash, “Crimean Tatar sentenced by ‘accomplices and criminals’ to 11 years in Russian captivity,” 9 September 2022, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Roman Holiday

A still from the motion picture Roman Holiday (1953). Courtesy of Republic

The debate about whether Schengen visas should cease to be issued to Russian nationals has tilted in a completely wrongheaded direction. In fact, it should not focus on the right of Russian nationals to visit European countries, including as tourists, but on Europe’s right to protect itself and to take measures that establish a direct political and legal link between citizens and the actions of their state. No one can or should deprive refugees or persons who are persecuted for their anti-war stance of the right to request asylum in EU countries. But this right should not be confused with the right to tourism, recreation, use of property or trouble-free business dealings in Europe.

What arguments are made by those who think that European countries cannot and do not have the right to stop issuing certain types of visas to Russian nationals?

Argument No. 1. The Russian intelligentsia argues that Europe, as an axiological benchmark for educated and non-war-supporting Russian nationals, has no right to close its borders to such nationals. This argument is based on a double omission.

Omission No. 1. It is not a matter of defending the right of all Russian nationals to vacation in Europe or find refuge there, but of the rights of only those Russian nationals who have linked their lives to Europe as an axiological (or consumerist) beacon. Everyone else, they imply, can do without visas — meaning it is a matter of triage, not a matter of rights or their lack. But this kind of sorting is a blatant injustice vis-a-vis one’s fellow citizens. Why should Russian nationals who know who Caravaggio and Ibsen are have visas, while those who don’t know who they are do without them?

Omission No. 2. Europe as a political entity is supposed to have a moral obligation toward certain nationals of a state that for six months now has been bombing European cities, from Lviv and Vinnytsia to Mykolaiv and Odesa, without cause and without declaring war. Europe has no such moral obligation.

Europe has a political obligation to protect its nationals from the belligerent state and its “soft” power. It also has a moral obligation to take all necessary, sufficient or at least potentially effective measures to protect the European state that has been subjected to the aggression — meaning Ukraine (which is European, so far, only in a geographical, not legal sense). In this case, everything has been working as it should. The EU has welcomed several million refugees from Ukraine and granted them legal status.

Argument No. 2. A crackdown has begun in Russia: opponents of the war, cultural figures, academics, and artists have been persecuted for their stance. If European visa are canceled, these people will not be able to escape. An analogy is immediately drawn with the philosopher Walter Benjamin, whom the Spanish border service did not let into the country from occupied France during the Second World War. Benjamin committed suicide.

Although this analogy is flattering to those who make it, it has nothing to do with real life. There are at least four countries where it is possible to evacuate from Russia quickly, cheaply, and nearly risk-free: Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. There are flights there from Russia, the Russian language is in widespread use there, and no visas are required to stay there. Moreover, you can enter Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan without your foreign travel passport.

So it’s not that there is nowhere to run, but that people want to escape “poshly.” They want to escape to Europe. This raises another objection. Fleeing to the EU on a tourist visa not only means slyly embellishing the hopelessness of the situation, but also engaging in deception. Either you choose Kant’s Europe and apply for refugee status and prove the right to be called a refugee, as the President of Ukraine has advised Russian nationals to do. Or you don’t bother with Europe at all if you want to go to there because you want to live according to Kant, but think you can cheat a little to get there.

Argument No. 3 against visa restrictions is that the European countries, by introducing such restrictions, will punish the innocent and encourage those who are not involved. That is, they will consolidate the majority supporting the war and make life difficult for those who do not support the war and just want to travel to Europe. This argument is based on the false and harmful premise that for some unknown reason the EU countries should play a part in Russia’s internal politics as an insider.

For thirty years, Europe invested a great deal of effort and resources in developing civil society in Russia, in supporting education, science, and culture in the country. These investments all went up in smoke on February 24. They proved completely and absolutely unproductive from a political point of view. Despite the possibly credible opinion that popular support for the war is imaginary, and Russian society is actually opposed to it, it is impossible to understand whether this is true or not. How can one continue investing in something that either exists or does not exist, but should exist?

Argument No. 4 is even simpler: Russian nationals have the right to travel to Europe. Period. It is an inalienable human right. This is simply not the case. If we take the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a standard, it states that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state,” “[e]veryone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country,” and “[e]veryone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Neither the spirit nor the letter of a ban by European countries on issuing tourist visas to Russian nationals will violate these three principles governing freedom of movement as a basic human right.

Argument No. 5 is made in desperation and looks completely ridiculous: defamation. First-rate countries versus second-rate countries. These can versus those cannot. I needn’t remind readers about refugees from Syria, that the EU continues to issue visas to people in countries whose standard of living is much lower than in Russia, and so on. It’s not a question of “quality.” The fact is that every day on the social networks I personally see wholly content Russian nationals (including those who support the war, work for the Kremlin, and get paid for producing propaganda and maintaining the infrastructure that simulates “popular” support for the war inside the country) roaming peaceful European landscapes. Every single day.

The war in Ukraine is not a dictator’s safari. It is a terminal event for Russian statehood. Meaning that it is a terminal event for Russian nationals, too. Europe would be in its rights to underscore this fact by taking a simple decision. Peaceful tourism for nationals of a belligerent country is a political oxymoron. Therefore, and for this reason alone, such tourism should be halted at least for the duration of the war.

Source: Konstantin Gaaze, “No, Europe doesn’t owe us anything: In defense of visa restrictions for Russian nationals,” Republic, 18 August 2022. Konstantin Gaaze is a sociologist and journalist. Translated by the Russian Reader

International Day for the Protection of Children

“A happy childhood is stronger than war!”

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,

   Loitered about that vacancy; a bird

Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:

   That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,

   Were axioms to him, who’d never heard

Of any world where promises were kept,

Or one could weep because another wept.

— W.H. Auden, “The Shield of Achilles”


Wednesday is International Day for the Protection of Children in many former Soviet countries — a joyful celebration typically marked by concerts, outdoor games and arts and crafts.

In Ukraine, it’s a Children’s Day like no other. On Friday, the country will mark the grim milestone of 100 days since the Russian invasion. During that time, at least 262 children have been killed and 415 injured in wartime strikes, according to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, which cited confirmed figures that the United Nations acknowledges are incomplete and much lower than the actual tolls.

Ukrainian officials have said there is little cause to celebrate. The war has left 5.2 million children in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UNICEF, and has disrupted children’s lives and education.

“This year, Children’s Day in Ukraine is celebrated in a different way than usual,” Daria Herasymchuk, an adviser to Ukraine’s president on children’s rights and rehabilitation, said Wednesday, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

In wartime, children “are forced to hide from the bombing in shelters, in the subway,” Herasymchuk said during a news briefing. “They are forced to leave their homes and seek shelter in safe regions.”

But despite the war, towns and cities across Ukraine still marked the occasion Wednesday — though it looked different than usual.

In the western city of Lviv, the mayor, Andriy Sadovy, posted photos of abandoned school buses, stuffed animals, name tags and backpacks on empty seats, during what Reuters described as an event marking the death of 243 children during the war.

“A school trip that will never happen,” Sadovy wrote in a Facebook post, using the hashtag #emptybuses.

“Stronger than war!”

“Today, the school buses on Ploshcha Rynok [Lviv’s central square] are empty,” he wrote, adding that “243 children will never travel to Lviv again.” He accused Russian forces of “killing children, women and civilians” and continued: “They must be held responsible for every life taken. Today, the whole world must unite to stop these terrible crimes.”

It was not immediately clear whether Sadovy’s figure of 243 referred to children killed in Lviv or more widely in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, soldiers from Ukraine’s army posed with drawings and stuffed animals in a video message for Children’s Day posted on the Defense Ministry’s Twitter account.

“We expect that you know what we do,” the soldiers say in the video. “We defend our native country. And … it is always very important for us to receive support from you, like these kinds of self-made items, pretty drawings and poems. So send them to us. Together, we will pray for our state.”

The video then zooms in on some of the drawings, which bear messages such as “Ukraine will be able to do anything” and “The enemy will not pass.”

In Bucha, where Russian forces were accused of committing war crimes during their month-long occupation of the quiet suburb of Kyiv, photos showed children making “embroidered hearts and paper birds for soldiers on the front line,” according to the Getty photo service.

Most of the 5.2 million children who need humanitarian assistance have been displaced by fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, the agency said. On average, the conflict in Ukraine kills at least two children and injures at least four each day, UNICEF and the U.N. agency for refugees said in a news release. It said the casualties occurred “mostly in attacks using explosive weapons in populated areas,” an oblique reference to bombardment by Russia, which went unmentioned in the news release.

The “pro-children, anti-war” mural is hidden amongst these building on the far side of the Obvodny Canal.

“June 1st is International Day for the Protection of Children in Ukraine and across the region,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in Wednesday’s release. “Instead of celebrating the occasion, we are solemnly approaching June 3 — the 100th day of a war that has shattered the lives of millions of children.”

Russell called for “an urgent cease-fire and negotiated peace” to end the war, without which she warned that “children will continue to suffer — and fallout from the war will impact vulnerable children around the world.”

Source: Annabelle Timsit, “As Ukraine marks Children’s Day, U.N. says 5 million need humanitarian aid,” Washington Post, 1 June 2022. Photos of the late-Soviet or early-post-Soviet-era pro-children, anti-war mural in the courtyard of the residential buildings at the corner of Borovaya Street and the Obvodny Canal in St. Petersburg taken by the Russian Reader on 28 May 2016.


“International Day for the Protection of Children, 1958. USSR Post, 40 kopecks.”

International Day for the Protection of Children is celebrated annually on June 1. Established in November 1949 in Paris by decision of the Congress of the Women’s International Democratic Federation, it was first celebrated in 1950. In addition, World Children’s Day (November 20), International Day of Innocent Child Victims of Aggression (June 4) and African Children’s Day (June 16) are dedicated to children. In terms of international law, the principal relevant document is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN on November 20, 1989 and ratified by the USSR on July 13, 1990.

[…]

The rights of children in the Russian Federation are protected by the Federal Law “On Basic Guarantees of the Rights of the Child in the Russian Federation,” adopted on July 24, 1998. It guarantees the basic rights and legitimate interests of children as stipulated in the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The State recognizes that childhood is an important stage of human life and prioritizes preparing children for a full-fledged life in society, encouraging them to engage in socially significant and creative activity, and inculcating them with lofty moral qualities, patriotism, and civic consciousness. Russia has a system of local child protection services, which are tasked with monitoring the well-being of children in families in their jurisdictions, as well as local and federal commissioners for children’s rights.

[…]

Abortion opponents have chosen this day to hold events in defense of the right of unborn children to life. In various countries of the world (e.g., the USA, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus, etc.), they gather on or around June 1 to draw the the general public’s attention to the problem of abortion.

Anti-abortion events have also been held [on this day] in Russia, including a car rally, a procession, a march, a rally, prayer services, pickets, film screenings and discussions, informational leafletting, and suspension of abortions by medical institutions.

In 2016, Patriarch Kirill marked International Day for the Protection of Children with a special appeal to make donations to support women in crisis situations. On May 29, the last Sunday of the month, his appeal was read aloud in every church and [churchgoers were asked to donate] money for the creation of humanitarian aid centers [sic] for women expecting children. The fundraising campaign, which took place throughout the country, garnered 38 million rubles, which were earmarked for the creation of the new humanitarian aid centers.

Source: “International Day for the Protection of Children” (Russian), Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader

Irina Danilovich: A Political Prisoner in Russian-Occupied Crimea

Irina Danilovich. Photo courtesy of Ivan Astashin

Who is Irina Danilovich? Why is she in a remand prison? How can we support her?

The wave of criminal cases directly related to anti-war stances sometimes obscures other politically motivated cases. I want to tell you about one of them.

Irina Danilovich worked as a nurse at Koktebel’s post-stroke rehabilitation center while being heavily involved in civic affairs. Irina can be called a grassroots activist, human rights defender, and journalist. She was, for example, the coordinator of the information campaign Crimean Medicine Without a Cover and in this capacity she harshly criticized the Crimean authorities during the coronavirus pandemic. Danilovich has collaborated with the alternative news website Injir Media and the human rights project Crimean Process. Radio Svoboda reports that Irina defended the interests of medical workers on the peninsula and wrote extensively about violations of their rights. Recently, writes Injir Media, Danilovich had been drawing attention to the war and related problems, including in the healthcare sector.

On April 29, 2022, Irina Danilovich was abducted by the FSB. She was found in the Simferopol pretrial detention center almost two weeks later.

As attorney Aider Azamatov discovered, Irina had been held in the FSB building for eight days, where officers made her take a lie-detector test and threatened to take her into the woods [and shoot her] if she concealed anything from them. She was fed once a day this entire time. After a week of torture, Danilovich was told to sign blank forms in exchange for her release. However, after complying with the demands of the security officers, Danilovich was not released, but sent to the pretrial detention center – allegedly, 200 grams of explosives were unexpectedly found in her eyeglass case.

It is quite obvious to me that the 200 grams of explosives “found” in the eyeglass case of the grassroots activist, journalist, and human rights defender are part of a politically motivated trumped-up criminal case. Especially since this is happening in Crimea. The Memorial Human Rights Center has repeatedly drawn attention to trumped-up criminal cases against Crimeans disloyal to the Russian authorities involving weapons, explosives or ammunition planted during searches.

Now Irina Danilovich is in jail. How can we help her? By doing all the usual things – getting the word about her case out, sending her letters and parcels (there are no restrictions on receiving parcels at the pretrial detention center), and holding solidarity actions.

Crimea became a lawless place after 2014, but public attention to Irina’s case can protect her from further mistreatment and enable her to live to see her release with minimal injuries.

✉️📦 Send letters and parcels to:

295006, Republic of Crimea, Simferopol, Lenin Blvd., 4, SIZО-1,

Danilovich Irina Bronislavovna (born 1979)

Free everyone!

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 25 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Mahal Mosque in Nizhny Tagil. Photo: IslamTsentr

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

The Siege

Monument to workers and staff at the Ivan Fyodorov printing plant in Leningrad who gave their lives during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad by the Nazis. Photo by Alexey Chernov

Hello, dear friend!

You may have already run into problems when you tried to visit the OVD Info website, or seen disturbing news headlines about our project. We would lie to ell you what we know about the problem at the current moment.

What happened?

On Saturday morning, our website was blocked by decision of the Lukhovitsy City Court. Later, Roskomnadzor sent a request to social networks to block our accounts. We have not received any official notification.

Later, comments made by a Roskomnadzor official to the media made us aware of the reason Roskomnadzor had ordered our website blocked, and had also sent a request to the administrators of social networks to block our accounts.

It follows from the Roskomnadzor official’s statement that our site has been placed on the registry of sites featuring prohibited information, although it is not on the list yet. It does NOT FOLLOW from this same statement that our project has been deemed “extremist” or “terrorist,” nor does it follow from the court ruling. At most, some of our publications have been deemed prohibited matter. We do not yet know which publications these are.

We still have not received any official notification. Grigory Okhotin, OVD Info co-founder and the website’s proprietor, was not informed about the investigation, the court hearing, or the blocking of the site, although his lawyer responded on December 14 to a summons by traveling to the Lukhovitsy prosecutor’s office, which filed the lawsuit, where he tried to obtain information about the details of the complaint.

We regard this as a continuation of the Russian state’s attack on civil society. There is nothing surprising in the fact that OVD Info has now been targeted, since our project is probably the largest human rights project in Russia. In addition, OVD Info is the driving force behind the campaign to abolish the law on “foreign agents.” After our petition calling on the authorities to abolish the law went public, we were placed on the list of “foreign agents”; after a bill that would abolish the law was submitted to the State Duma, our website was blocked. We can conclude that this is how the authorities consult with the professional human rights community.

We cannot say that we did not anticipate this attack. After the attack on the Memorial Human Rights Center and the lodging of similar claims against it, we realized that we would be next. However, unlike the Memorial case, where formal legal procedures have been followed, at least, our website was blocked in violation of all possible norms.

What’s next?

  1. We will seek to clarify the situation and defend ourselves in a legal manner. Naturally, we do not promote or condone terrorism or extremism. OVD Info is an independent human rights media project and we are confident that all our information is reliable and does not violate laws. We have always operate and will continue to operate in compliance with the law.
  2. We will continue our work. You can still read us on social networks. Even if all our social networks are blocked, we will still provide legal assistance to people who are persecuted for political reasons, receive calls and messages via our bot, and provide legal advice. And we will find a way to convey necessary and important information to you.
  3. We are still counting on your help. The project has existed for over ten years only thanks to public support. No court and no prosecutor’s office can block the help of hundreds of thousands of people. For now, it’s still safe to support us in any way possible. You can subscribe to our social media accounts to follow the news, or you can make a small donation, preferably in cryptocurrency. If something changes and a method of support becomes unsafe, we will immediately tell you about it.

We hope that we will be able to gladden you with good news this year! Thank you for staying with us!

Yours as always,

Grigory Okhotin and the OVD Info team

The indepedent human rights media project OVD Info
https://donate.ovdinfo.orgdonate@ovdinfo.org 

You received this letter because you support OVD Info.

 On 29 September 2021, the Russia Justice Ministry placed OVD Info on its “registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent.” We include this disclaimer, among other things, so that your donations do not go towards paying fines for its absence.

But you can help us get rid of it.

Source: OVD Info email newsletter, 25 December 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader


Five hundred years ago, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that it is best for a ruler to be both loved and feared, but ‘it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both’. The Kremlin seems to share this belief. Since the government’s economic policy is aimed at maintaining ‘stable stagnation’ rather than economic growth, it won’t be able to buy the population’s complacency. On the other hand, although the government’s propaganda is still working, its long-term performance is questionable. The share of Russians who obtain information through television has decreased by 25% in the seven years since March 2014. At the same time, citizens’ trust in information from social media and online publications is growing. Against this backdrop, along with the consolidation of online censorship, the politics of fear is becoming an increasingly attractive tool for controlling public sentiment.

Lauren Young, a professor at the University of California, Davis, demonstrated in her recent study how repression works and what dividends a dictator can reap from it. Citizens are more likely to feel fear when witnessing violence used by the authorities. Fear, in turn, leads to pessimism about the prospects for collective action (‘no one will take to the streets, and I won’t either’) and a lower willingness to take risks. All of this diminishes citizens’ desire to express disloyalty to the authorities. In the case of Russia, the politics of fear is also amplified by the fact that many Russians depend on payments from the state budget. As studies show, state-sector professionals, all other things being equal, are less likely to protest and are also less supportive of democracy.

Yes, repressions undermine the legitimacy of state institutions and can even, albeit with very low probability, lead to the opposite effect when people lose patience and pour into the streets. But the year 2021 showed that the Russian regime will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo.

Source: Mikhail Turchenko, “One year in the life of a consolidated personalist dictatorship,” Riddle, 20 December 2021

Solidarity

Courtesy of PADI Pros

Yesterday, the Russian Justice Ministry placed several more publications and more than two dozen people on its register of “foreign agent media outlets.” This time the label was given to Mediazona and OVD Info media outlets that, among other things, continue to cover protest events and speak out in support of convicts. The media outlets and journalists included in this list there are 72 of them so far are required to report their income every quarter, are required to undergo an audit, and are required to accompany each of their messages or reports with a loud disclaimer. This year alone, 54 new names have been placed on the list, including Meduza, VTimes and The Insider.

The editors of Inc. Russia empathize with their fellow journalists who find themselves in a difficult situation. We look anxiously into the future and expect that the law on foreign media, as well as the registry itself, will be at least revised. As our texts of the week, we suggest reading the work of the newly minted “foreign agents” from Mediazona and OVD Info. For each of these articles their authors were awarded an Editorial Board journalism prize. The prize was established by Boris Zimin’s Sreda Foundation.

The Editors, Inc. Russia

A sea of hermitages: How a US citizen, on the advice of her Old Believer relatives, came to “see Russia” and was imprisoned in a taiga monastery for 15 years [8 March 2017]

This is the monologue of a young American woman who managed to escape from an Old Believer settlement. Elizabeth’s story was recorded by Yegor Skovoroda for Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents).

“There were rumors in the village.” Why are women killed by their relatives in the North Caucasus? How are honor killings investigated? [28 July 2017]

Journalists Maria Klimova and Yulia Sugueva reveal how women in the North Caucasus are murdered for “immoral” behavior. Neighbors and loved ones do not turn to the police for help, and the standing in the community of families capable of killing for the sake of honor only grows. The text was published on Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents).

“I wanted to howl, to shout to them, What are you doing with my daughter at all? Are you human beings or not?” [29 May 2018]

In 2018, Kommersant journalist Alexander Chernykh did an interview for OVD Info (included in the list of foreign agents) with Yulia, the mother of Anna Pavlikova, a defendant in the New Greatness case. At the time, Pavlikova was 18 years old and had already spent several months in jail. The trial in the case ended only in 2020: Pavlikova received four years of probation.

Nemtsov’s unknown killers: What the investigation missed while investigating the attack on the politician [2 November 2020]

An investigation by Mikhail Maglov, Yegor Skovoroda, Alla Konstantinova and Polina Glukhova for Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents), published jointly with the Scanner Project. The journalists re-examined the entire case file in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov to figure out whose possible involvement the Russian Investigative Committee could not or did not want to investigate.

Source: Inc. Russia email newsletter, 30 September 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader. Since today, September 30, is International Translation Day, it would be more than appropriate for you, the readers of this and other translations on my website, to share it with your own colleagues, friends, relatives and neighbors. Or pick another translation on this site that has moved you and share it. In any case, doing this much reading and translating — for free, during my “free” time — is only worth it if you’re reading what I publish here and encouraging others to read it. Judging by my viewer numbers this year, that’s not happening so much as it did last year, for example, when I had nearly 175,000 views on the year, as compared to a little over 48,000 so far this year (with only three months left in the year). When International Translation Day comes around this time next year, this blog might not be around to celebrate it. On the contrary, with better viewer numbers and more donations (which have never been frequent, alas), I would have the motivation, the time and the resources to translate the intriguing articles listed above, or pay a small honorarium to a translator colleague to translate them. ||| TRR

Navalny’s Musicians

13 musicians not allowed to perform at City Day concert in Moscow due to support for Navalny
The Village
Tasya Elfimova
September 11, 2021

The Federal Protective Service (FSO) did not allow several musicians to perform at a concert in honor of City Day in Moscow due to their alleged support of Alexei Navalny.

Sergei Sobyanin and Vladimir Putin were planning to attend the celebration, so the FSO vetted the lists of performers in advance. The FSO did not admit thirteen people to the performance without explaining the reasons. Dmitry Klyuyev, an employee of the State Academic Chapel Choir, believes that it happened because the musicians were in the leaked databases of Alexei Navalny’s projects or had taken part in protest rallies.

Four employees of the chapel choir, three people from the Svetlanov State Orchestra and six people from the team of directors were removed from the concert.

“The organizers are in shock, no one has explained anything to them,” Klyuyev said.

Source: OVD Info

Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexander Gudkov, “Aquatic Disco,” a song inspired by Alexei Navalny’s revelations that the blueprints for “Putin’s palace” contained a room labeled as such

Moscow Police Use Leaked Personal Data To Investigate Navalny Supporters
RFE/RL Russian Service
August 18, 2021

Moscow police are using leaked online personal data from projects linked to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny to investigate people who have supported the Kremlin critic.

The OVD Info website said on August 17 that police had visited some 20 individuals who registered for online projects developed by Navalny associates or donated to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his other projects.

According to OVD Info, police are demanding explanations from the people as to how their names were included in the leaked data related to Navalny’s online projects and why they are involved with him.

In June, a court in Moscow labeled FBK and Navalny’s other projects and groups extremist and banned them. Under Russian law, cooperation with such groups is considered illegal and may lead to criminal prosecution.

Police have not said how they obtained the people’s personal data from Navalny’s websites.

One person, who was not identified, told OVD Info that police asked him to file a legal complaint against Navalny to accuse him of sharing personal data.

Journalist and municipal lawmaker Ilya Azar, whose personal data was among those leaked, wrote on Telegram late on August 17 that police had tried to visit him as well, but he was not at home.

“They talked to [my] neighbors about some personal data leaked on the Internet,” Azar wrote.

One such leak took place in April, when the online campaign called “Freedom to Navalny” was reportedly compromised.

Navalny associates said at the time that a former FBK worker had “stolen” all the personal data of those who registered at the pro-Navalny site.

After that leak, the Moscow [subway] fired dozens of workers whose personal data turned up among the names of Navalny supporters.

 

Jenya Kulakova: In Orenburg

The Sokol (“Falcon”) Widescreen Movie Theater in Orenburg, as photographed by Jenya Kulakova on August 13, 2021. She reports that the American animated feature “The Boss Baby: Family Business” was playing there today.

Jenya Kulakova
Facebook
August 13, 2021

Today I did manage to meet with Vitya [Viktor Filinkov] at Penal Colony No. 1 in Orenburg. I didn’t recognize him at first when they brought him out. He was wearing a baggy uniform that was too big, a small cap that didn’t fit on his head and, as he showed me later, huge size 45 shoes. (There all the new arrivals were given size 45 shoes. Another inmate commented on this fact as follows: “I’m trying to laugh hard about it so as not to be sad.”) My only glimpses of the usual Vitya were face (in a mask) and hands (in gloves).

He is in quarantine, where the conditions are indistinguishable from solitary confinement. All his things have been taken to the warehouse, and he has nothing to write on and nothing to read. The mattress is taken away during the day, but he can only sit on the bench when eating. They hadn’t yet taken him out for a walk during his first day there.

Upon his arrival at the penal colony, blood and urine tests were done, and an EKG was performed. Vitya is still ill, so they began giving him cough pills and antibiotics.

He is alone in the cell. He experienced no violence or threats during his first day in the penal colony.

He will be in quarantine for 14 days.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Here is a complete list of all the articles that I have published about Viktor Filinkov and the other defendants in the Network Case. Visit Rupression.com to find out how you can show your solidarity with them.

#NetworkCase #ДелоСети

 

Compulsory Psychiatric Treatment for Yakut Shaman Alexander Gabyshev

 

Alexander Gabyshev. Archive photo courtesy of Deutsche Welle

Yakutsk Court Orders Compulsory Medical Treatment for Shaman Gabyshev
Deutsche Welle
July 26, 2021

Alexander Gabyshev has been sent to a specialized medical facility as part of the case against him following accusations of violence against a Russian National Guard officer. The court issued an obiter dictum against Gabyshev’s lawyer, Olga Timofeyeva.

The court in Yakutsk ordered Gabyshev, known as the “Yakut shaman,” to undergo compulsory medical treatment “at a specialized medical facility with intensive care.” Alexei Pryanishnikov, coordinator of Open Russia Human Rights and a defense attorney for Gabyshev, informed MBKh Media of this on Monday, July 26.

According to Pryanishnikov, his defendant will remain in custody until the court order takes effect. Furthermore, the court issued an obiter dictum against Gabyshev’s lawyer Olga Timofeyeva, who stated that she “was ashamed to be taking part in this trial.”

The Gabyshev Case
It was reported in June that Gabyshev—held at the time in the Yakutsk Psycho-Neurological Treatment Clinic—had taken a turn for the worse: he reported feeling weak, dizzy and drowsy.

The shaman’s trial began on April 30. Gabyshev stood accused of using force against a Russian National Guardsman. Gabyshev had been sentenced to six months in the psychiatric clinic, a term that expired on July 27. This is precisely why the Yakutsk court was in such a hurry to review his case, according to Pryanishnikov.

Marching to Moscow
In March 2019, Gabyshev, a resident of Yakutsk, announced that he was walking to the Kremlin to “drive out Putin.” He was detained in September following six months and 3,000 kilometers of travel. The FSB opened a case into publicly calling for extremism, but did not officially accuse the shaman of anything. He was placed in the psycho-neurological clinic and declared mentally incompetent on October 3, but was later released.

In December 2019, Gabyshev again set out for Moscow, but he was detained again, and this time accused of failure to obey the police. In 2020, he underwent compulsory medical treatment in the Yakutsk Republic Psychiatric Clinic, at which point Memorial recognized Gabyshev as a political prisoner.

In January 2021 Gabyshev announced that he was preparing for a new march to Moscow, after which he was again detained and subsequently transferred to the psychiatric clinic.

Translated by the Fabulous AM