News from Ukraine Bulletin 27

A Ukrainian flag at Il Vecchio Italian restaurant in Pacific Grove, California, October 2022. Photo by the Russian Reader

News from Ukraine Bulletin 27 (3 January 2023)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Russia moves to legislate ‘impunity’ for all war crimes committed in occupied Ukraine  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 30th)

Crimean Tatar civic journalist sentenced to 11 years for refusing to collaborate with Russia’s FSB  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 30th)

Russians kidnapped 30 mayors, 7 of them went missing – Kyiv Mayor  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 30th)

Detention centre employee who helped torture Ukrainians found in Kherson  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 30th)

Abducted Ukrainian civic journalist sentenced to 7 years in brazen show of lawlessness in Russian-occupied Crimea   (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 29th)

Russia plans to imprison soldier who admitted to murder and plunder in Ukraine – for ‘circulating fake news’  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 28th)

“She did everything so that Ukraine could see: Crimeans are still waiting for liberation”: human rights activists called Iryna Danylovych’s sentence fabricated (Zmina, December 28th)

Russians threatened to kill abducted Crimean Tatar’s family if he didn’t sign fake ‘confession’  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 28th)

News from Ukraine – general:

Life during wartime (Alice Zhuravel on Twitter, January 2nd)

Ukraine prepares to give free rein to property developers  (Open Democracy, December 28th)

14 tons of humanitarian aid delivered to Donetsk (Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, 26 December)

Film about the working conditions of Ukrainian railway workers  (Spil’ne / Solidarity Collectives, December 27th)

Trapped in the Trenches in Ukraine  (New Yorker, December 26th)

Analysis and comment:

Special Issue on Ukraine  (Insurgent Notes, January)

“There is nothing cheaper in Russia than human life”  (Der Standard, December 31st)

Russia. Renaissance is not going to happen  (People & Nature, December 28th)

TikTok in service of FSB. How a social network for funny videos turned into a Kremlin propaganda mouthpiece  (The Insider, December 28th)

How Kremlin organizes pro-Putin rallies in Germany and why neo-Nazis participate  (The Insider, December 27th)

Multipolarity, the Mantra of Authoritarianism  (The India Forum, December 20th)

Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict in Ukraine? (Europe Solidaire, December 23rd)

Research of human rights abuses:

Homes and lives destroyed in northern Ukraine (Tribunal for Putin, 28 December)

Ukraine must ratify the Rome Statute now (Tribunal for Putin, 28 December)

“They put him in the basement, tortured him, and tore his tendons.” How Russia terrorizes ZNPP staff to keep a tight grip on the plant  (The Insider, December 22nd)

International solidarity:

Thanks to you  (Solidarity Collectives, December 29th)

==

This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com.

To receive the bulletin regularly, send your email to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com. To stop it, please reply with the word “STOP” in the subject field.  

The Subversive Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Why

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

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

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

News from Ukraine Bulletin 25

A pro-Ukrainian poster in the window of a home in Monterey, California, 18 December 2022. Photo by the Russian Reader

News from Ukraine Bulletin 25 (18 December 2022)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Russians abduct about 40 children from Luhansk Oblast to Russia  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 16th)

Russian invaders abduct Melitopol lecturer in new wave of terror (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 15th)

Unending torture of Crimean Tatar political prisoner for refusal to collaborate with Russia’s FSB  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 14th)

Children’s torture chambers found in liberated territories  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 14th)

Russians hold 232 residents of Zaporizhzhia Oblast in captivity  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 12th)

Russian invaders abduct Ukrainians in large numbers for grotesque ‘international terrorism trials’(Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 12th)

News from Ukraine – general:

3,000 miners trapped in mines after Russian missile strikes in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 17th)

Number of child victims continues to rise: Russia has killed 450 Ukrainian children  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 17th)

Ukraine is fighting for freedom. That means protecting independent journalism  (Open Democracy, December 15th)

Law on the Media, Electoral Code, and Days of Silence as a Rudiment (Opora, December 14th)

Twenty percent of Ukraine’s population leave country because of war  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 14th)

Meet the Activists Arming Leftists on Ukraine’s Frontlines  (Novara Media, December 12th)

KVPU activities during #16daysofactivism  (Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, December 12th)

“Had to crawl past severed arms and legs for a long time, can’t eat meat anymore”. How AFU fighters cope with PTSD  (The Insider, December 10th)

Analysis and comment:

No, privatisation should not be restarted after the war  (Spil’ne (Commons), December 14th)

The Left View on the Prospects of Peace Negotiations  (Sotsia’lnyi Rukh, December 12th)

Research of human rights abuses:

Russian propaganda media and ex-President guilty of direct incitement to genocide in Ukraine, report finds  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 13th)

Truncheons, stun guns, gas masks. A report from a Russian torture chamber in Izium  (Tribunal for Putin, December 13th)

==

This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com.

To receive the bulletin regularly, send your email to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com. To stop it, please reply with the word “STOP” in the subject field.  

News from Ukraine Bulletin 23

A Ukrainian flag on the fence of a home in Monterey, California, 14 November 2022. Photo by the Russian Reader

News from Ukraine Bulletin 23 (4 December 2022)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Russian occupiers hand out draft summons to residents queuing for water in occupied Makiivka  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 4th)

‘Pensioner from Makariv witnesses the death of his grandson’  (Tribunal for Putin, December 2nd)

The Russians “amused themselves”, destroying Izyum’s old buildings  (Tribunal for Putin, December 2nd)

Russians deliberately beat Ukrainian haemophiliac, threaten to rape his 17-year-old sister in front of her father  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 2nd)

Children trained to be ‘Putin’s faithful soldiers’ in Russian-occupied Crimea  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 2nd)

Russia sentences Crimean Solidarity activist to 17 years for defending political prisoners  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 1st)

Russians forcibly deport 37 local residents from Kinburn Spit  (Ukrainska Pravda, November 30th)

Russian occupiers in southern Ukraine interrogate children who fail to attend Russian schools  (Ukrainska Pravda, November 30th)

Evangelical deacon and his son found murdered near Nova Kakhovka after being abducted by the Russians  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, November 30th)

The Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced another Crimean Tatar activist – Marlen Mustafatev to 17 years in prison  (Lutfiye Zudiyeva on Twitter, November 30th)

Ukrainian poet and writer Volodymyr Vakulenko killed after being seized by Russian invaders (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, November 29th)

Russian invaders abduct two Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests from Berdiansk and accuse them of ‘terrorism’  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, November 29th)

Threatened and starved: Russian sergeant tortured Donbas veterans in Katiuzhanka  (Ukrainska Pravda, November 28th)

Lecturer beaten, ‘tried’ and imprisoned in Russian-occupied Crimea for a Ukrainian patriotic song  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, November 28th)

Forcing Ukrainians to take up arms against their country is a war crime.” How Russia is mobilizing Ukrainians in occupied territories  (The Insider, November 12th)

News from Ukraine – general:

Ukrainians on the front line face a winter without warmth or light (Open Democracy, December 1st)

Ukraine’s nurses face brutal winter as health austerity collides with war  (Open Democracy, November 29th)

Dark times. How Ukraine is surviving without light, water, and heat  (The Insider, November 28th)

32,000 civilian properties and 700 infrastructure facilities have been damaged by Russians  (Ukrainska Pravda, November 27th)

Analysis and comment:

Thread in response to my thread about tankies and the Holodomor  (Taras Bilous on Twitter, December 2nd)

Economic Policy of Ukraine  (Luke Cooper on PeaceRep, December 1st)

Solidarity vital to expel Russia  (The Chartist, November 29th)

Together in Trouble: Social Policy for Just Reconstruction in Ukraine  (Spil’ne (Commons), November 28th)

Learning At The Teachers  (The Pensive Quill, November 27th)

Research of human rights abuses:

Abducted and tortured by the Russians, Kherson’s survivors tell their stories (Open Democracy, December 1st)

Ukraine 5AM Coalition will discuss in The Hague the mechanisms of holding Russia accountable for war crimes  (Zmina, December 1st)

‘Every second felt like eternity’: Inside the torture chambers of Ukraine’s occupied northeast (The Independent, December 1st)

Damage to historical monuments and religious buildings (24 February to 15 November 2022, Kharkiv Region)  (Tribunal for Putin, November 30th)

An appeal for support from Open Democracy:

@opendemocracyru  needs your help  (Tom Rowley on Twitter, December 4th)

==

This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com. To receive the bulletin regularly, send your email to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Normal

Is life in Russia still normal?

Dmitry Vakhtin • Lives in Russia • Jun 3

Life in Russia is a “new normal.”

Shops are full of food, but no Nespresso capsules (I still have some for a couple of months).

Stores are still selling printers, but not ink cartridges (I had to re-fill the used one last week).

There is clothes in shopping centers, but stores I used to go to are closed.

European countries still formally issue visas, but not really, although they might, but probably not, and getting there by air costs the same as becoming a space tourist.

Some countries are still open, but flights abroad are few and expensive and airbnb doesn’t accept payments from Russia, so I have to ask my son living in Germany to pay for our Summer trip.

Speaking of my son, I still can transfer money to him, but sometimes it takes weeks and sometimes they never get through, though sometimes they do, and you never know.

Speaking of the money, I still get my salary, but sometimes it is delayed because transferring money to the right bank account in the right currency in time makes our financial team prematurely gray-haired.

Speaking of the salary, our high-tech company is still working, but neither electronic components, nor equipment, nor people can cross borders, although sometimes they can, and then they don’t, and you never know when and why, and nobody knows it.

I keep reading and watching Youtube videos about the war every day, although it has all become a routine, and I hate myself for that, and I did protest but stopped because it’s all pointless and dangerous, though it isn’t, but it is, and we are all cowards, but it doesn’t matter, though it does.

I want Ukraine to win this war, and I don’t feel as if I am betraying my country but rather that my country is betraying me and itself, and this is probably the only crystal-clear thing in my life.

Yes, life is still normal in Russia.

91.7K views • 6,390 upvotes • 32 shares • Answer requested by Emirey Jackson

Source: Quora


“Blue Eyes,” who physically assaulted Ksenia Tamurka, escorts her around the police station. Photo courtesy of SOTA

SOTA correspondent Ksenia Tamurka was detained along with the other attendees of a solidarity event for the defendants in the so-called Tyumen Case. The event was held at Open Space, an activist co-working space in Moscow The journalist was beaten when she refused to show her phone to men who had their faces covered. Despite this, Tamurka did not succumb to pressure and for several hours defended her rights to police officers. We publish this monologue by our correspondent, from which you can learn how to talk to the security forces and what you must do for your own safety.

Masked security forces officers [siloviki] burst into Open Space, and I started filming. I was either knocked down with a chair, or I tripped over it when I was pushed. I dropped my phone, and they put me face to the wall — they told me to stand like that. People around me were knocked down and thrown on the floor. They were not allowed to turn their heads; they could only look at the floor or at the wall. A Narcotics Anonymous meeting was being held in the basement of the premises, and one of the [recovering drug addicts] was asked what he used and how long he had been going there. They found some kind of book on LGBT topics in his possession and the siloviki read it aloud. In the process, they made nasty jokes about the guy. They said that there was no such thing as a former drug addict, and reproached him for being so young and already hooked. They collected everyone’s phone and papers, including mine and my press pass.

One guy begged them to let him call his mom. When these masked me with no insignia on their black uniforms had broken in, he thought it was a terrorist attack and had written to his family about it. The boy was very afraid that his mother would be worried, but the siloviki laughed, saying, Come on, how could you confuse us with terrorists? Why are you scaring your mother?

Then one of the Center “E” officers [eshnik] — the nastiest, most weaselly one — called me over because he thought I was hiding something when I was tucking in my sweater. He asked me to be a good girl and give him what I had allegedly hid; otherwise they would search me and stick their hands in my underpants. I said that I hadn’t hidden anything, that I was a journalist and had come there on assignment. He asked me strange questions, but I answered reluctantly. I said that I would only answer an investigator’s questions. For this, I was “punished” — I was made to stand with my face to the wall, although the others were sitting. When the siloviki nearby suggested that I sit down too, this eshnik said, “No, she’s being punished. She will stand.”

A couple of hours later I was summoned again. “Point your finger at your phone. Come on, unlock it,” they said. I refused because the request was illegal. Those men in uniform saw that I had Face ID, and they brought my phone close to my face, but I closed my eyes and looked away. The eshnik said all sorts of nasty things to me, getting angry and shouting. One of the masked siloviki, a man with blue eyes, grabbed me by the hair. Someone else hit me in the face and tried to open my eyes with his fingers. I was surrounded by five masked men. I screamed and cried and screwed up my face. I was very afraid to glance lest my phone be unlocked, god forbid. They dragged me back and forth by the hair. They shouted, “A drama queen! Ah, what a drama queen!” The police officers threatened to take me to the Moscow Region and talk to me in a basement.

At Open Space there is a mailbox for postcards designed to look like the bars in a jail. They punished me again by forcing me to stand looking at this box, like I was serving a prison sentence. Every police offer who walked by me thought I was backing away from it and pushed me closer. When one policeman passed by, he snapped his fingers before my eyes. When he was passing by, another policeman inserted a postcard with a beautiful picture in the box and said, “Let’s change the view — gaze at this.” Almost everyone passing by noted the pulled out hair on my clothes. Then that eshnik came up to me and tried to persuade me to unlock my phone. He asked whether I was tired, offered to deal with me “the normal way,” and said that I was delaying everything and would be the last to leave. “Just say the password, just enter it,” he said, but I wouldn’t enter it. They offered to give me a chair, to which I replied, “I’m not going to bargain with you. And bring a high chair.” They brought it. I sat down: I was comfortable, it was great, I looked at the wall. The blue-eyed man who had pulled my hair came up to me. I told him, “You beat me,” and pointed out that it was illegal, but he was like, “I don’t care.” The siloviki also tried to scare me by saying that my mobile phone would be entered into evidence and returned a year later, at the earliest, if we didn’t resolve everything on the spot.

The men in uniform constantly asked the organizers and participants why they supported terrorists and wrote postcards to them, and why the slogans on their walls were so filthy.

The siloviki asked everyone to tell them the PINs to their phones first, and then, if the person refused, they put the device in their hands and told them to enter it personally. They asked them to show their Telegram chats and film rolls and enter some other commands, like they were checking whether the mobile phone was stolen. When I asked what it all meant and why they needed my phone, they replied that they suspected me of theft, that there was a criminal complaint and even an APB out on me. I asked them to show them me and asked whether all those lying and sitting at Open Space had APBs out on them too. The siloviki replied that they would not show me anything because it was official information, and they stopped talking to me.

Everyone was photographed and searched, and their documents were photographed too — illegally, of course. They also took a picture of my father’s library card and public transport pass, although I didn’t consent to this. I was told that I was not in a position to forbid them to do anything. All the time I heard the same conversation: “We are checking your phone for theft, we are checking your phone for theft, enter the IMEI.” And almost everyone agreed to do it! Very few refused — and they were beaten, in my opinion. In any case, they were not treated very pleasantly. The eshnik asked me who I worked with at SOTA, who gave me the assignment, who I knew. He asked me about books and suggested that I read 1984. I told him to read Zamyatin’s We.

Th eshnik tried to make friends with me. He kept asking how I was feeling and complimented me, calling me a “persistent lady.” He even took my number and suggested that we discuss books later. He was constantly trying to get me to talk about “opposition” literature, bragging about his knowledge and telling me about Orwell. This man then invited me to take a stroll with him, but when he saw my face, he wimped out himself. “Well, you don’t want to walk with such scum, do you?” he said.

Ksenia Tamurka. Photo courtesy of SOTA

When I had already lost track of time, the intercessions on my behalf were conveyed to me. I was so glad when I found out that journalists had already gathered [outside], that my colleagues were there too! I was relieved because I had been very worried that I couldn’t contact anyone.

A man who did not agree to unblock his phone was beaten quite hard, judging by the sounds. We were forbidden to turn and look. One boy was whipped on his legs — the police officer made him spread his legs wider and thrashed him with all his might. It was so loud and scary.

They also promised that they would talk to me separately — I was afraid that they would just start torturing me, because I asked the policemen about it, and they either jokingly or seriously answered that yes, they would. There was a moment when everyone was really led away, and I thought, Well, that’s it — it’s about to start. But no, I was just sent to a paddy wagon.

At the station, I realized that everyone was pretty sick of me, judging by the comments that came my way. They called me a dumb broad and a pest. They said that I should be beaten with a rod. Later, in the department, they suggested that I should be “whipped with an officer’s belt in a dark room.” It also transpired that I was a dumb broad because no one was fucking me. They said disgusting things about me. I wrote down everything they said and all sorts of atmospheric details in the blank spaces in the book I had with me, [Vladimir] Sorokin’s Sugar Kremlin. The police saw it and tried to take a peek. Then the blue-eyed duded just stole it from me. They read all my notes in front of me and laughed in my face: “What? Who beat you? No one touched you. Why are you making things up?” But one of them added that I could still be beaten, because there was no other way to make me understand.

I was held separately and constantly harassed. And yet, when I asked to make a phone call, they said that it was specifically forbidden to me. When I asked to let a lawyer in to see me, that was also forbidden to me. I wanted to go to the toilet, but that too was specifically forbidden to me, while everyone else was allowed to go. They lied to me that there was no one waiting for me outside, that no one had any use for me and no one was waiting for me, although I knew that a crowd had already gathered at the station. The policemen discussed my breasts in front of me. Then they asked me my size — I cited Article 51 [of the Russian Constitution] and refused to testify.

When everyone else had already been released, they continued to drag their feet with me. The policemen kept their promise. I had to prove to them that the phone was mine for some reason. But if they had confiscated it from me, they should have known whose phone it was! It was their problem that they didn’t follow the legal procedures and forced me to deal with the consequences of their negligence! Moreover, my phone was the last one. The cunning eshnik and the blue-eyed devil finally decided to punish me too for my perseverance and entered the wrong password many times so that my phone would be blocked.

While we were waiting for the on-duty officer, the fool who dragged me by the hair ran out through another exit. Today I will file a complaint regarding the theft of my book and the actions of those police officers. I also went to the emergency room — I feel that it hurts me to touch it [sic]. I had the assault and battery documented there. The trauma specialist told me that it was an “industrial” injury because I had been on the job.

By the way, the slogan “The people’s trust is the police’s strength” was written on the wall of the police department.

Source: “‘The police threatened to take me to the Moscow Region and talk to me in a basement’: The story of the assaulted SOTA journalist,” SOTA (Teletype), 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. The original article contains three embedded Telegram posts featuring video footage taken during the events described above.

The Distance Between Krasnoobsk and Moscow Is 3,420 Kilometers

Five persons unknown abducted and tortured Dmitry Karimov, a 22-year-old resident of Krasnoobsk (Novosibirsk Region), in order to get him to confess to burning a banner in support of the Special Military Operation. The young man told the Telegram channel “Caution, News” [which has 1,443,493 subscribers] about the incident.

According to Karimov, on the morning of October 14, five men in mufti attacked him and pushed him into a vehicle. “I was screaming, calling for help, and they used a cattle prod on me,” he said, adding that they immediately accused him of setting fire to the banner, a crime which he did not commit.

Then, according to Karimov, the men took him to the forest, handcuffed him, strangled him, threatened to shoot him, and offered to convey to his parents his last words if he did not confess to the arson. Karimov confessed under duress. He was taken home, where a search took place, during which the security forces seized electronic devices and a jacket.

The detainee was then taken to the police station. Karimov said that during the interrogation he tried to tell the truth, but he was threatened with being sent to the war in Ukraine, and due to fear and coercion, he confessed.

The detainee’s mother Ekaterina Mikhasyonok said that her son is a third-category disabled person: he has been diagnosed with an organic lesion of the central nervous system, and has hearing and speech problems. She added that when her son did not return from school, she began looking for him. At about nine in the evening, she went to the police station, where she was told that Karimov was there.

Karimov was charged with “intentional destruction or damage to property by arson” (per Article 167.2 of the Criminal Code) and released on his own recognizance.

Source: “Novosibirsk Region resident says he was tortured into confessing to torching pro-SMO banner,” OVD Info, 16 November 2022. Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday named several supporters of the war in Ukraine to the presidential Human Rights Council in a shake-up of the body which appeared to purge members who have publicly expressed doubts about the war. 

War correspondent Alexander Kots and two other prominent supporters of the war were added to the council, while 10 members, including the well-known television host Nikolai Svanidze, found themselves removed from the body. 

Kots, a journalist for the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid who also runs the popular Telegram channel Kotsnews, has risen to prominence during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as he has been embedded with Russian forces throughout the war. 

While he has reported on Ukraine since 2014, he has faced repeated accusations of being a mouthpiece for the Kremlin since the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion, most notably for his claim that the massacre of Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha was staged by Kyiv.

Also added to the body on Thursday were Yulia Belekhova of the All-Russian People’s Front, an organization that raises money to support pro-Kremlin separatist forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region, as well as Elena Shishkina, a member of the Free Donbas party in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. 

The 10 members removed from the body include Svanidze, who has increasingly voiced his concerns over Russia’s invasion and who called for curbs on the death penalty in the Donetsk region in an open letter to Putin in August.

Prominent rights activist Igor Kalyapin and leading anti-xenophobia researcher Alexander Verkhovsky were also removed from the council in Thursday’s shake-up.

Russia’s Human Rights Council, which was established by presidential decree in 2004 to guarantee and protect human rights in Russia, has been criticized for failing to challenge Putin as members have been ousted and replaced with more Kremlin-friendly figures over the years.

The council has been chaired by journalist and war supporter Valery Fadeyev since 2019.

Source: “Putin Names War Supporters to Russia’s Human Rights Council,” Moscow Times, 17 November 2022

Life’s Rich Pageant: The Case of Yan Sidorov

Yan Sidorov. Photo courtesy of Memorial Human Rights Center

Minus one:Yan Sidorov, a former political prisoner in the Rostov Case, has volunteered for the war.

Sidorov served four years in prison in the Rostov Case, in which the court decided that two posters and thirty leaflets were evidence of “attempted organization of mass disturbances.” The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized him as a political prisoner.

Yan was released from prison a year ago, and he had planned to work in human rights protection. There were no vacancies in human rights organizations, however, and so he had to get a job as a food delivery courier.

Yan socialized with many leftist and liberal activists, but he also maintained relations with the red-brown National Bolsheviks.

Apparently, the latter were nicer to him. Several mutual friends have informed me that Yan Sidorov has joined the ranks of Eduard Limonov’s Other Russia and gone to the front.

I still don’t get how the National Bolsheviks degenerated from a flamboyant opposition party into the vanguard of the Kremlin regime. The late Limonov was always an imperialist, however.

But how — how?! — former political prisoners become defenders of Putin’s dictatorship, no one seems to understand. As one of my cellmates used to say, “Everyone has gone off their fucking gourd!”

Well, before he starts shooting, it’s not too late for him to change his mind. Maybe he will shake himself free of this delusion after all.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 27 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Russian human rights activist Yan Sidorov is facing the prospect of three years under harsh probation conditions, when he is released next week from the penal colony where he has spent the last two years, Amnesty International said today.

Yan Sidorov is a prisoner of conscience, whose attempts to hold a peaceful protest in 2017 resulted in an imprisonment at a Dimitrovgrad penal colony after he had spent two years in pre-trial detention. He is set to be released on 3 November, but on 29 October Dimitrovgrad City Court will hear a request by the authorities to impose a severely restrictive probation period.

“Russian authorities are sending a clear signal to all young activists that participation in peaceful protests can come at huge personal cost. Yan Sidorov has already served four years in prison; he may now have to spend three more under strict police surveillance, forbidden to go out after 10 pm and banned from travelling outside the Krasnodar region,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

“The Russian penitentiary authorities must immediately withdraw their request to impose additional arbitrary restrictions on Yan Sidorov and release him unconditionally. Yan Sidorov has done nothing but exercise his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and this outrageous campaign of punishment must end.”

Background

Two weeks ahead of Yan Sidorov’s release from penal colony IK-10 in Dimitrovgrad (Central Russia), the penitentiary administration requested that the court impose a three-year probation period on him. Conditions include obligatory biweekly registration at the local police station and a curfew between 10 pm and 6 am; Sidorov would also be banned from leaving his native Krasnodar region, and banned from attending or participating in any mass events. The Dimitrovgrad City Court will hear this case on 29 October. On 15 October, the penal colony authorities accused Yan Sidorov of violation of the prison regime regulations – allegedly for not attending morning workout – and placed him in a punishment cell for seven days.

In October 2019, Yan Sidorov and his friend Vladislav Mordasov, who spent almost two years in pre-trial detention, were found guilty of “attempted organization of mass disturbances”, and each sentenced to more than six years imprisonment for organizing a peaceful protest in November 2017. The protest was in support of dozens of people in Rostov-on-Don (Southern Russia) who had lost their homes in mass fires. Their sentences were subsequently reduced to four years on cassation. Vladislav Mordasov serving his sentence in IK-9 penal colony in Shakhty (Rostov-on-Don region) is due to be released on 3 November as well.

Source: “Russia: Prisoner of conscience Yan Sidorov faces further restrictions after release,” Amnesty International, 28 October 2021

News from Ukraine Bulletin 15

News from Ukraine Bulletin 15 (9 October 2022)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Invaders want to take children and elderly people out of Kherson Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 8th)

Russia sentences three Ukrainian Jehovah’s Witnesses to six years for ‘threatening state security’ by discussing the Bible  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 7th)

Volodymyr Sakada, Yevhen Zhukov, and Volodymyr Maladyka have been sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian occupation in Sevastopol for being Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Photo: Lutfiye Zudiyeva, Graty. Courtesy of Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Bodies of more tortured victims and Russian torture chambers found in liberated parts of Kharkiv oblast  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 7th)

Mass grave found in liberated Lyman  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 7th)

Two more bodies with traces of torture discovered in Kharkiv region  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 6th)

Over 1.6 million Ukrainians deported to Russia – Zelenskyy (Ukrainska Pravda, October 6th)

Russian atrocities at Bucha may be nothing to those that will be found when Kherson is liberated  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 5th)

Mass graves of civilians found in liberated Lyman  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 5th)

Two bodies tortured by Russian special forces found in liberated Kharkiv Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 5th)

Russian torture chamber discovered in district police department in Kharkiv Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 4th)

Russia refuses to return Ukrainian children taken from Kharkiv oblast  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 4th)

Another torture chamber set up by Russians discovered in Kharkiv Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 3rd)

News from Ukraine – general:

Russia strikes high-rise buildings in Zaporizhzhia with rockets, people trapped under rubble  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 6th)

Open wounds of the Russian-Ukrainian war: Ukrainian victims will share their stories in Milan  (Zmina, October 5th)

13 children killed in Russian attack on civilian convoy in Kharkiv oblast  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 3rd)

How Ukraine’s metal industry is powering this city’s fight against Russia (Open Democracy, September 24th)

Donations worth millions fail to reach Ukraine – sparking calls for change  (Open Democracy, September 20th)

Analysis and comment:

Walking a Tightrope on Ukraine: How India Is Balancing Ties to Russia & United States  (Democracy Now, October 6th)

“Leftists” outside Ukraine are used to listening only to people from Moscow: Interview with anarcho-syndicalists in Eastern Ukraine  (Freedom News, October 4th)

“The minimum task is to restore, without losses, all the civil, political, and social rights that we had before the war.” Interview with Serhii Guz  (LeftEast, October 4th)

One Ukrainian Democratic Socialist’s Opinion On The War  (The Real News, September 20th)

It’s Russia and Europe That Have a Problem With Ukraine (Green European Journal, September 7th)

Research of human rights abuses:

Who attacked the Mykolaiv Region Administration building?  (Tribunal for Putin, October 8th)

Establishment of a tribunal on Russian aggression against Ukraine: High level of responsibility as a safeguard against new conflicts in Europe  (Opora, October 5th)

Solidarity actions:

Solidarity With Trade Unions In Ukraine  (LabourNet TV, October 2nd)

Support Ukrainian unions (Solidarity Collectives, 29 September)


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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