“Take Off Your Underpants and Squat Five Times”: Nadezhda Belova’s Journey from Grassroots Activism to “Exonerating Terrorism”

nb-1Nadezhda Belova. Photo by Vladimir Lavrov. Courtesy of RFE/RL

“Take Off Your Underpants and Squat Five Times”: A New “Terrorism Exoneration” Case
Svetlana Prokopieva
Radio Svoboda
June 2, 2020

Two years after the bombing in the Federal Security Service (FSB) building in Arkhangelsk, law enforcement agencies continue to launch criminal cases against people who comment on the case on social media, claiming they have violated the law against “exonerating terrorism.” The story of Nadezhda Belova is more proof that the bombing carried out by 17-year-old Mikhail Zhlobitsky, resulting only in his own death, has been turned into a tool for persecuting undesirable activists.

Nadezhda Belova is 36 years old. She was born and lived her whole life in Novaya Usman, the largest village in Russia, near Voronezh. She had never been involved in politics or protest movements. She first came to the attention of the authorities in 2019, when she organized and brought to a victorious conclusion two protest actions defending the interests of her fellow villagers. In 2020, a criminal case was opened against her for “exonerating terrorism.”

“You’re in Big Trouble”
Criminal Code Article 205.2 came into Nadezhda Belova’s life on March 31—”probably at around nine in the morning, under the guise of a search for coronavirus-infected Asians,” Belova says.

“First my husband opened the door. They told him they were doing a search. Naturally, they weren’t wearing masks. First, they asked who lived there. (We rent a flat in Voronezh.) My husband told them that no one lived there but us, the two of us and our son. I came out and asked them why they weren’t wearing masks. When they saw me, they said, ‘Nadezhda Belova, you’re coming with us for questioning.'”

Nadezhda, her 15-year-old son, and her husband were taken to the police station and questioned. On the advice of a lawyer friend, she invoked Article 51 [of the Russian Constitution, which gives people the right not to incriminate themselves].

“I expected to be punished for all my campaigns in Usman,” Belova says, but investigators showed her a comment she had posted on the VK community page Lentach under one of the very first reports about the bombing in Arkhangelsk. Nadezhda had forgotten all about it.​

“This circus lasted for an hour and a half,” she says of the first interrogation. “‘You’re in big trouble,’ they said. Of course, they threatened me—with five years in prison, and with sending my son to an orphanage if I didn’t confess. I asked them what I should confess to and told them I didn’t know what they were talking about. ‘Here,’ they asked, ‘did you write this comment in 2018?’ ‘Can you hear yourselves?’ I asked them, ‘A comment in 2018!’ The investigator says, ‘If I had written this, I would have remembered.’ I wouldn’t have remembered the comment even if they had tortured me, although the investigator said, ‘If we want you to confess to the Kennedy assassination, we have ways of making you talk.'”

Leaving her family at the police station, the investigators took Nadezhda with them to search the rented flat in Voronezh and her home in Novaya Usman. They confiscated all the gadgets they found, including four phones, a laptop, two hard drives, and a flash drive. They released Nadezhda only late in the evening, dumping her in the middle of the city without a phone and without a single kopeck.

“I walked three kilometers at night, bawling my eyes out and hungry,” she says.

The next day, Belova filed complaints with the prosecutor’s office, the Interior Ministry, and the Investigative Committee. (They, of course, would respond to the complaints by claiming that everything that had happened to her was “legal.”) At first, Belova was named as a witness in the “exonerating terrorism” case, but in May she was named a suspect.

“On May 13, they came up to me on the street, shoved a piece of paper in my face, and said, ‘If you don’t show up now, police will arrest you and bring you there,'” Belova says. “I told them I was going to hire a lawyer, that I wouldn’t come without a lawyer. But things turned out badly with the lawyer, too.”

Nadezhda had bad luck with her lawyer. The person she hired on a friend’s recommendation “turned out to be either a pro-Putinist from the get-go, or he changed his stripes along the way,” she says.

He tried to persuade Nadezhda to “tell the truth” and had no objections when the investigator decided to arrest his suspect right in the middle of questioning.

“You wouldn’t confess. Now you’re going to sit in jail, think things over, and see what lies in store for you,” Nadezhda recalls him saying. She spent twenty-four hours in a temporary detention facility.

“They were not locking me up just to teach me a lesson. They put me in a cold, smoky kennel crawling with bedbugs. There were streaks of blood on the walls: apparently, the people before had been crushing the bedbugs. I was given tea and a piece of dry bread in a metal bowl and a mug, like a dog. I called an ambulance. They just give me a shot of painkiller, that was it. I hung in there till morning. In the morning, they put an actress in my cell who immediately started chewing me out. Her performance lasted fifteen minutes. ‘What’s your name? What you in for? If you’re in here, there must be a reason. Clear the dishes. Act normal. I’m going to smoke, you mind?’ I told her I did, because I was a non-smoker. ‘I’ll do as I like.’ She stood next to the bed and lit up a cigarette. I turned toward the wall and thought, ‘If only she doesn’t strangle me.’ But I knew she was an actress, so she stopped talking, too. She had played her role. Then a policeman came in: ‘Hands behind your back. Against the wall.’ They took me to another room and did a complete body search. They told me to strip naked, and patted down all my things. I was told to take off my underpants and squat five times: the idea was that I had drugs stuffed in there,” Belova recounts.

“It’s going to be like this from now on. You’re suspected of committing a really terrible crime,” she was told.

When she left the detention center, the investigator met her, promising to send her back to her cell if she didn’t immediately sign a confession stating when, where, in whose presence, and on what brand of telephone she had posted the comment.

“I said, ‘You do understand that this is really a lie? It’s nonsense.’ Well, then the three of us—the lawyer, the investigator, and I—wrote an essay entitled ‘What I Wrote on October 31,'” Belova recounts. “‘You do understand that you could go to prison for forcing a confession and lying?’ But the investigator said, ‘In 1937, we would have tortured you for an hour, and you’d have confessed right away. We wouldn’t have had to drive you here and there, we wouldn’t have wasted time: we would have needed only an hour.’ They all laughed.”

__________________

[Prokopieva:] They have blood ties with 1937 . . .

[Belova:] I’ll say even more—they’re waiting for the go-ahead. Once they get permission, I don’t think they’ll even need to be persuaded. They’re too lazy to drive me here and there and waste time. They want to turn torture me quickly and get on with their lives. I said to them, “If you were ordered to shoot at children right now, you would shoot without flinching.” 

You later retracted the confession?

Yes, of course! On May 13, I was put in the lockup. On the 14th, I confessed to everything. On the 15th, I got a new lawyer and completely recanted my testimony. I wanted them to write that I had been coerced with the threat of prison, but the investigator categorically refused to do it. “Do you think I’m going to denounce myself?” he asked.

nb-2Screenshot of the social media post, dated October 31, 2018, under which Belova posted the comment that prompted the criminal case against her. The post reads, “There has been an explosion at the FSB building in Arkhangelsk. One person has been killed. The cause of the blast is under investigation.” Courtesy of RFE/RL

Belova was unable to recall the comment for which she was being prosecuted. But she did find the post on the social media community page and reread it. She called the slain man a “martyr” and wrote that he would “go to heaven.” Nadezhda now suggests that when she wrote it, she thought that an FSB employee was the victim since, at the time, there was no information about the identity and fate of the terrorist. Her comment also included the word “pushback.”

“Yeah, and there was also the phrase ‘Putin’s devils,'” Belova recalls.

Although her comment has been deleted, the responses to it are still there, including this one: “Nadezhda, they’re already coming to get you. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.”

“Many times I’d seen comments to many people on VK like ‘They’re coming to get you’ and ‘You’ve been reported to the FSB,’ but I’d always thought they were jokes. I’d been threatened many times in my life, after the campaigns for the parking lot and the jitneys, and people had filed ‘rioting’ complaints against me when I still lived in Usman. So I would have only laughed at such comments. I didn’t really believe people were jailed for the things they said. I didn’t realize that crackdowns like that were happening in Russia,” Belova says.

“There Was No Time to Choose Who to Be the Hero”
Belova has now been charged with violating Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code and released on her own recognizance. Her new lawyer, in whom she has confidence, is being paid by OVD Info.

The answer to the question of why it took the security forces almost two years to charge her with a “really terrible crime” is incredibly simple. In 2018, Nadezhda Belova was still of no interest to the regime’s watchdogs.

“I was born in Usman and had lived there all my life. My mother worked as a commercial freight forwarder, and my father was a mechanical engineer. I graduated from high school with a silver medal. I was a goody two-shoes, even a little bit of an outcast, you could say. I spent summers in the countryside reading books—Natasha Rostova, Chekhov, and Bunin,” Nadezhda says about herself.

nb-3Nadezhda Belova’s native village. Photo by Vladimir Lavrov. Courtesy of RFE/RL

She graduated from the Voronezh Technological Academy in 2005, giving birth to a child in her fifth year there.

“After that, as it happens, nobody hired me because I had a child and later nobody hired me because I had no experience,” Belova says.

An economics and information specialist by education, Belova worked at the post office, then as a clerk “punching out invoices.” She had a failed marriage, which she describes as “useless and unnecessary.” Finally, five years ago, she met Sergei, with whom she has started a real family and a family business. Sergei was teaching robotics and programming to children, their son had gradually begun helping out, and Nadezhda handled advertising and moderating group pages on social media. This year, to be closer to work, they moved to Voronezh.

“By the way, we had wanted to register as self-employed, but the coronavirus and the arrest have blindsided us,” Belova says.

Even before moving to Voronezh, Nadezhda had been in the public eye as a grassroots activist. She was motivated not by power, money or popularity, but by the sense that her “shoulders were pressed to the mat.”

“They have started taking away the last things we have. As it is, they haven’t been doing anything [for us], just skinning our hides,” she says by way of explaining the reasons for her activism. “That’s how I look at it. I took it as an occupation, a war, an attack by fascists. There was no time to choose who to be the hero, so I decided, ‘Who would do it if not me?'”

Belova was annoyed by the decision of the local authorities to let a parking lot next to the ospital be redeveloped as a store. She wrote posts on local community social media pages, invited journalists to Novaya Usman, and appeared on television herself. The protest campaign was successful: the construction site was moved, and a new “huge paved parking lot, four times larger” was built in place of the old one.

nb-4The parking lot that Nadezhda Belova and other people in Novaya Usman stopped from being redeveloped as a store. Photo by Vladimir Lavrov. Courtesy of RFE/RL

Six months later, in June, Novaya Usman faced a more serious problem: the governor of Voronezh Region, Alexander Gusev, announced that the area’s public transport routes would be optimized. Jitneys from Usman would be forbidden from entering Voronezh. People would have to transfer to Voronezh municipal transport routes on the outskirts of the city.

“We realized it would be a disaster for us,” Belova says. “I told people we shouldn’t wait for them to cut us off. We just needed to make ourselves heard: we’d make a video and circulate a petition, letting them see we were opposed. Naturally, people said yes, that nothing good could come of [the governor’s plans]. I wrote a post on a community page, asking people to meet at the shopping center to collect signatures on a petition. All that was written there was that we opposed the cancellation of suburban transport routes and banning jitneys from entering the city. That was it! No posters, no rallies against Putin.”

Belova again wrote social media posts, made media appearances, and met personally with various officials. She and her fellow campaigners successfully defended the right of rural public transport to make stops in Voronezh. Her fellow villagers thanked Belova in the comments to reports on the campaign’s progress: “Such a fragile young woman has been dealing with three big, experienced men trying to defend the rights of all the inhabitants of New Usman! And she’s not afraid to tell the whole truth to their faces! Thank you, Nadezhda! You’re a smart cookie!”

“Everyone supported me at that moment. When I wrote on the community page that someone was denouncing me to the authorities, they told me not to fear, that they would defend me, that I was doing a great job, that I should run to become village head, that they supported me,” Nadezhda recalls. “A year goes by, and people have forgotten. Not only did they not support me, but some of them suggested I should think hard about what I’d said. Back then they told me I should run for head of the village, but now they’re telling me to think about what I’ve done. People have forgotten.”

__________________

2019 was much quieter in terms of public politics, unlike 2017–18, when there was Navaly’s presidential campaign and then the elections. Where were you during this time?

I have never voted for Putin. I realized back in 1999 that our country was coming to a gradual end. I was only 16 years old—my brother, who is four years older, said, “That’s it, this country is over. The monster has come!” His phrase summed it up for me. Then there was the Nord-Ost siege, the Beslan school siege, and the annexation of Crimea. I already looked at our country with sadness and pain. When would the people wake up? I asked myself. I realized it would never happen! Where was I? We have no elections in Usman. There are some local clowns who either shuffle papers around or aid and abet corrpution. Usman is the total pits in this regard. We have no politics: there is no opposition in Usman, just bottomless corruption, theft and nepotism.

So you weren’t involved in politics or activism of any kind?

Absolutely not! By the way, I once went to meet with officials about the jitneys. One of Gusev’s people asked me, “You probably want something for yourself, right? To be a village head or a council member? What do you want? Money? power?” I told him, “No matter how poor I am, I will never join your party or knuckle under.” No, I live a dignified life, and I won’t be ashamed to look my grandchildren in the eyes in the future. I’m not a vegetable. That matters most of all. In fact, that’s what I have been punished for.

You haven’t missed Usman after moving to Voronezh?

I loved that village and am still happy when something happens there. I don’t regret speaking out, I don’t regret being arrested, because I am a human being. I always wondered who I was. For example, I could say that I was a mother, that I was a daughter. I realized in 2019 that I was a human being and a citizen. I’m not a punching bag, I’m not a pushover—I’m a citizen. I can say this with absolute certainty, and it gives me strength and confidence. Even if I were alone, I would be a citizen. That is the highest calling I could have.

nb-5Nadezhda Belova on the limits of Novaya Usman. Photo by Vladimir Lavrov. Courtesy of RFE/RL

You’re not resentful that your home village has turned its back on you at a difficult moment?

In the house where I lived, a neighbor lady has knocked together a playground—there are some benches and chintzy swings. I recently went there to paint pictures on the walls. I paid for the paint with my own money. I breathed this paint and cleaned up dog poo and empty bottles. As a child, I saw puddles of sewage, drunks and drug addicts. Books were my only salvation, as I lived in utter poverty and was hungry all the time. May their children grow up amidst beauty. If at least one child doesn’t become a drug addict or go to prison thanks to this beauty, I will feel that I haven’t lived my life in vain. These are children, these are our children! After all, someone did not provide warmth, kindness and morality to the people who detained me and undressed me. They grew up to be monsters. This is a universal problem. It is sad that children escape into drug addiction, that they blow themselves up. I have tried to change this little world as much as I can. Everything I could do, I have done and will do. I won’t be made into a monster. I won’t retaliate, I won’t hate, and I’m not going to kill myself.

Nadezhda Belova is the latest in a growing list of Russians who have been prosecuted for allegedly publicly “exonerating” the suicide bomber Mikhail Zhlobitsky. Belova has joined the ranks of Lyudmila StechOleg NemtsevIvan LyubshinSvetlana ProkopievaAnton AmmosovPavel ZlomnovNadezhda RomasenkoAlexander DovydenkoGalina GorinaAlexander SokolovYekaterina Muranova15-year-old Moscow schoolboy Kirill, and Vyacheslav Lukichev. Translated by the Russian Reader

Facebook Is Not Your Friend

mr7-block

“This message violates our community standards on spam.” Screenshot of a message from Facebook informing Petersburg news website MR7.ru that the world’s mightiest social network was blocking the public’s access to the website’s articles on the city’s battle with the coronavirus—and the battle of Petersburg doctors and other healthcare workers with a corrupt, mendacious regime. Courtesy of Vit New and Galina Artemenko

Galina Artemenko
Facebook
May 27, 2020

Friends, please share this information as widely as possible and don’t rule out the possibility that my account and the accounts of my colleagues MR7.ru editor-in-chief Sergei Kvalchenko and MR7.ru journalist Anastasia Gavrielova may also be blocked in the near future, unfortunately.

What happened was that the Facebook page of our publication and all our texts were allegedly blocked “due to numerous complaints.”

The social network has blocked our articles about the coronavirus in Petersburg after receiving multiple complaints about “distributing spam.” There was no spam, however, only numerous articles about how Petersburg doctors do not have enough PPE, how doctors are not paid extra for working with Covid-19 patients, how hospitals have become overcrowded, and how health workers have been quitting or getting sick on the job.

Facebook has started blocking our posts containing texts about the fight against the coronavirus in Petersburg. The social network’s messages state that the posts “violate community rules” and have been blocked due to spam complaints. It is likely that the page was blocked after someone sent them numerous complaints about spam and offensive posts.

During the pandemic, MR7.ru has been constantly covering current hot-button issues in a timely manner. Now, however, Facebook has closed access to articles by Galina Artemenko and Anastasia Gavrielova. These correspondents have told readers about how doctors have been looking for PPE for their employees and face a shortage of specialists (“As in a shop, the head doctor looks for PPE for his people”), about how medical workers in Petersburg have not received promised bonuses or have been paid kopecks for risky work with coronavirus patients (“We were paid not for the risk, but for hours and minutes”), and about how doctors have been infected while saving people (“Covid brought Alexandra to Moscow”).

In addition, MR7.ru has been covering the situation in Lenexpo [a trade show center in Petersburg where a temporary coronavirus hospital has been set up], telling the stories of people who have been forced to go there, and in psychoneurological resident treatment facilities, which house thousands of patients with disabilities and which have also been compromised by the coronavirus. There are many examples of such publications, but they can no longer be read on [Facebook].

Editor-in-chief Sergei Kovalchenko has written to Facebook, refuting the allegations that MR7.ru has been spreading spam, but has not yet received a reply.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Case Closed?

Zhlobitsky

Investigation of Bomb at Arkhangelsk FSB Office Discontinued Due to Suspect’s Death
Kommersant
May 24, 2020

FSB (Federal Security Service) investigators have dropped the criminal prosecution of the teenager who in October 2018 brought a explosive device into the FSB’s Arkhangelsk Regional offices and perished in the resulting blast, TASS reports, citing a source. The case has been discontinued on non-exoneratory grounds.

“FSB investigators conducted a thorough investigation into the allegations of terrorism made against the Arkhangelsk teenager. Investigators obtained the findings of previous forensic examinations and questioned witnesses before deciding to terminate the case on non-exoneratory grounds in connection with the suspect’s death,” the source said.

All legal proceedings in the case have been completed, but the case will not be referred to the court. Once the criminal investigation into the terrorist attack is discontinued, the process of establishing the deceased man’s guilt has been completed, but the charges are not considered withdrawn.

The explosion in the entryway of the Arkhangelsk regional offices of the FSB occurred on October 31, 2018. A homemade bomb was detonated by 17-year-old Mikhail Zhlobitsky. Three FSB employees were injured, and the young man himself was killed on the spot. Before his death, [Zhlobitsky] posted an explanation for what he was about to do in an anarchist chat room on Telegram. He had decided to protest the “fabrication of cases and torture of people” [by the FSB] by setting off a bomb.

Several people have since been convicted of exonerating [sic] the attack. In February 2019, a criminal investigation was opened into the actions of Pskov journalist Svetlana Prokopieva, who had voiced an opinion about the teenager’s motives for detonating the bomb. For approving [sic] the bombing in Arkhangelsk, a resident of Sochi was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. For the same reason, Kaliningrad activist Vyacheslav Lukichev was fined 300,000 rubles. Ivan Lyubshin, a resident of Kaluga, was sentenced to five years and two months in a penal colony for exonerating terrorism over a comment he had posted on Vkontakte (VK). In Voronezh Region, a criminal investigation of exonerating terrorism was recently launched over a series of social media comments made by a local resident, Nadezhda Belova.

A growing number of Russians have been prosecuted or are currently facing prosecution for allegedly “exonerating” publicly the suicide bomber Mikhail Zhlobitsky. They include Nadezhda Belova, Lyudmila StechOleg NemtsevIvan LyubshinSvetlana ProkopievaAnton AmmosovPavel ZlomnovNadezhda RomasenkoAlexander DovydenkoGalina GorinaAlexander SokolovYekaterina Muranova15-year-old Moscow schoolboy Kirill, and Vyacheslav Lukichev. Photo courtesy of Anarchist Fighter. Translated by the Russian Reader

Don’t Mention Mikhail Zhlobitsky! (The Case of Nadezhda Belova)

belovaNadezhda Belova. Photo from the VK group page Free People of Voronezh. Courtesy of OVD Info

Voronezh Activist Released After Day in Jail for Comment on Bombing at FSB Office
OVD Info
May 14, 2020

Voronezh grassroots activist Nadezhda Belova has been released after spending twenty-fours in a temporary detention center in connection with a criminal investigation into alleged “exoneration of terrorism.” It was Belova herself who reported the news to OVD Info.

The woman was released on her own recognizance. At the moment, she is suspected of having “exonerated terrorism” (punishable under Article 205.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code) by commenting online about [the October 2018 suicide bombing of the Arkhangelsk offices of the FSB]. Belova had been a witness in the case for the last month. In late March, her home was searched by police, and she and members of her family were interrogated.

In recent days, a police investigator had visited Belova at home and summoned her to an interrogation on May 13, which she went to accompanied by OVD Info attorney Sergei Garin. After Belova was questioned, she was jailed for the night in the temporary detention center, and then interrogated again the next morning. According to Belova, she was pressured into saying it was she who had posted the commentary, although she denied any wrongdoing.

According to her, a women was purposely placed in her cell who intimidated her, smoked cigarettes, used profane language, and forced her to clean up the dishes in the cell.

“Yesterday and the day before yesterday, I was a free person, but today, I’m sorry to say, they have been trying to turn me into an out-and-out convict—they have humiliated me. First they handcuffed me, then they said I could go to the toilet only in handcuffs and escorted by a wardress. I want women to know what can happen [to them], what a performance can take place. I have been humiliated to such an extent, dragged through the mud, and I don’t know why. Even if I wrote those thirty words, why such degradation?” Belova said.

During the morning interrogation, according to Belova, the investigator threatened to arrest and jail her for the next two months.

“Today, [the investigator] said to me, ‘Either you wrote this or you’re going to spend another twenty-four hours in the detention center and tomorrow, at my request, you’ll either be put under house arrest or remanded in custody for two months. Or they’ll let you go—but I can’t say what will happen,'” said Belova. “The argument was that I could tamper with witnesses who had allegedly testified that the comment was written in my style, and that I could pose a danger to them.”

The activist has been summoned to another interrogation the following day, supposedly to verify whether she had deleted the comment or not. According to Belova, the investigator has a folder containing her various social media comments and personal messages, and he threatened her that if she continued to engage in activism, there would be other criminal cases.

UPDATE: May 15, 2020. Ekaterina Seleznyova, OVD Info’s legal aid coordinator, has informed us that Belova has been pressured by investigators into confessing not only to posting the comment but also to wrongdoing.

A local grassroots activist, Belova campaigned against the cancellation of direct bus service from Voronezh to Novaya Usman [in the summer of 2019], collecting signatures at people’s gatherings. In this regard, complaints were filed against her, alleging that she was organizing riots. Belova was also actively involved in protests against fare increases.

On October 31, 2018, 17-year-old local resident Mikhail Zhlobitsky detonated a bomb in the Federal Security Service (FSB) building in Arkhangelsk. Three FSB employees were injured, and the young man himself was killed. Several minutes before the blast, a message about the attack was posted on Telegram in the open chat channel Rebel Talk [Rech’ buntovshchika]. The authorities investigated the incident as a terrorist attack.

In Russia, at least ten criminal cases of “exonerating terrorism” have been opened in connection with the October 2018 bombing in Arkhangelsk. In March, a resident of Kaluga, Ivan Lyubshin, was sentenced to five years and two months in prison for commenting on the topic on the internet.

Nadezhda Belova is the latest in a growing list of Russians who have been prosecuted or are facing prosecution for allegedly “exonerating” the suicide bomber Mikhail Zhlobitsky on social media or in the traditional media. Belova has joined the ranks of Lyudmila Stech, Oleg Nemtsev, Ivan Lyubshin, Svetlana Prokopieva, Anton Ammosov, Pavel Zlomnov, Nadezhda Romasenko, Alexander Dovydenko, Galina Gorina, Alexander Sokolov, Yekaterina Muranova, 15-year-old Moscow schoolboy Kirill, and Vyacheslav Lukichev. Translated by the Russian Reader

Masked Men Invade and Search Kaliningrad Woman’s Apartment over Social Network Repost

нарсамо

A screenshot of the Popular Self-Defense movement’s page on the VK social network. If you’re in Russia, you should think twice about reposting anything the PSD posts about suicide bomber Mikhail Zhlobitsky. Otherwise, masked men might break down your door, as just happened to Lyudmila Stech in Kaliningrad.

Masked Men Invade and Search Kaliningrad Woman’s Apartment Over Social Network Repost
Novyi Kaliningrad
May 8, 2020

In Kaliningrad, masked security forces officers broke into the apartment of a local resident, Lyudmila Stech, and conducted a search. As transpired, she is suspected of publicly exonerating terrorism because of a post on a social network. The incident was reported to Novyi Kaliningrad by a friend of the Kaliningrad woman.

“They broke into her apartment at 6 a.m. today. First they knocked on the door and said they were from Rospotrebnadzor [the Russian federal consumer watchdog]. When Lyudmila didn’t open it, they broke the window,” our source said.

According to the source, the search of Lyudmila Stech’s apartment lasted about four hours. Stech’s router and mobile phone were confiscated, and then Sech herself was taken away for questioning. By evening, she had been released on her own recognizance. She was informed that she was suspected of committing a crime under Article 205.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (public calls to carry out terrorist activities; public exoneration or promotion of terrorism) due to a post on the Russian social network Vkontakte (VK).

“No copies of the documents that she was forced to sign were given to her. She received only a certificate for work, ” says the suspect’s friend.

Novyi Kaliningrad has learned that the Kaliningrad women has been charged over an incident in October 2019 in which she allegedly reposted a post, published on the group page of the Popular Self-Defense (Narodnaya Samooborona) dealing with 17-year-old anarchist Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who in 2018 set off a bomb in the building of the Federal Security Service (FSB) building in Arkhangelsk, killing himself and [injuring] three FSB employees.

Kaliningrad has already seen a similar case. In the fall of 2018, FSB officers detained Kaliningrad resident Vyacheslav Lukichev. According to investigators, the antifascist had posted a text on the Telegram channel Prometheus that called anarcho-communist Zhlobitsky’s deed “heroic.” Lukichev admitted during the investigation and during the trial that it was he who had published the post on the Telegram channel, but he argued that the content of the text had been incorrectly interpreted. In March 2019, Lukichev was found guilty of vindicating terrorism, under Article 205.2.2 of the criminal code, and fined 300,000 rubles [approx. 4,066 euros at the then-current exchange rate].

Thanks to Novaya Gazeta for the heads-up. Lyudmila Stech is the latest in a growing list of Russians prosecuted or facing prosecution for allegedly “exonerating” the suicide bomber Mikhail Zhlobitsky on social media or in the traditional media. Stech has joined the ranks of Ivan Lyubshin, Svetlana Prokopieva, Anton Ammosov, Pavel Zlomnov, Nadezhda Romasenko, Alexander Dovydenko, Galina Gorina, Alexander Sokolov, Yekaterina Muranova, 15-year-old Moscow schoolboy Kirill, and Vyacheslav Lukichev. On March 5, OVD Info reported that Oleg Nemtsev, a trucker in Arkhangelsk Region, had been charged with the same “crime.” Translated by the Russian Reader

Penalty Kick in the Teeth

Krylya Sovetov Goalkeeper to Be Punished for Unauthorized Interview in Which He Criticized Regime
OVD Info
April 27, 2020

According to MBKh Media and the club’s website, the Samara football club Krylya Sovetov will take disciplinary action against goalkeeper Yevgeny Frolov for giving an interview not authorized by the club.

In an interview with football columnist Sergei Yegorov on the YouTube channel Futbolnyi Bigi, Frolov called the Russian president’s televised addresses “empty talk.”

In particular, the footballer said, “Like it or not, we won’t be getting anything—the regime will just blow us off.”

Prompted by media coverage, the club’s management issued a statement that it and the coaching staff do not share Frolov’s opinion.

“Recently, the federal and regional authorities have done a great deal to grow football in Samara Region and Russia,” it says in the statement.

According to team management, the new Samara Arena stadium “would not have been possible without the support of the senior leadership not only of the region but also the country.”

“By giving an interview without prior agreement with the club, [Frolov] violated the terms of his contract, harming the team’s interests. The player will be punished according to the club’s regulations on disciplinary actions, ” the statement reads.

______________________

141760-27Krylya Sovetov goalkeeper Yevgeny Frolov. Photo courtesy of Sport

On April 26, Yevgeny Frolov gave an interview to the YouTube channel Futbolnyi Bigi. In particular, he said that Russian authorities have not been helping ordinary citizens during the coronavirus pandemic and [and the ensuing economic] crisis.

“Like it or not, we won’t be getting anything—the regime will just blow us off. It will blow us off and say, ‘There’s no money, but hang in there.’ They have money for themselves, but they have nothing for people. Take America and Europe: in many countries, [the authorities] have been helping their citizens, helping business. There is none of that here in Russia. What the president says on TV is all empty talk. There is no real action at all,” said Frolov.

Source: MBKh Media

Translated by the Russian Reader

Solo Picket: At Home Edition (Darya Apahonchich)

I’m in self-isolation, but if I could . . .

. . . I would go out on a solo picket and make these demands.

Urgently take measures to stop domestic violence.

Release political prisoners immediately.

Give financial assistance to everyone who has lost their source of livelihood due to the virus.

Announce an amnesty for people convicted of nonviolent crimes.

Stop fighting wars and supporting dictatorial regimes.

Or buzz off.

Translated by the Russian Reader. See more by and about Darya Apahonchich here. And check out my coronavirus coverage while you’re at it.

darya

Good Friday

Uprising in Penal Colony No. 15, Angarsk, Irkutsk Region (Updated)
Russian Behind Bars
April 10, 2020

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Image of text message stating “Good evening. I am asking for your help, Penal Colony No. 15, Angarsk, Irkutsk Region. They are killing prisoners, shooting them with automatic weapons, gassing them. I called my son, he asked for help.”

There is an uprising in a penal colony. Relatives report that prisoners are being shot with automatic weapons and gassed. The press service of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) reports that the uprising has been put down, while photos of the burning colony have been posted to social media. The convicts are calling their relatives crying and asking for help. There are bodies.

Source: Approximately 300 injured in uprising at Penal Colony No. 15 in Irkutsk Region
Around 300 people have been injured in an uprising at Penal Colony No. 15 in Irkutsk Region, one of the prisoners has reported to MBKh Media. He also stated that around 200 people have injured themselves.

8:11 p.m., April 10
Audio recording of a mother of one of the prisoners in Penal Colony No. 15 in the Irkutsk Region, April 10. Posted by Russia Behind Bars

Translated transcript: “Hello, I’m calling from Anzhero-Sudzhensk, Kemerovo Region. My son is at Penal Colony No. 15 in Angarsk, Irkutsk Region. He just called and said that the situation there is getting out of control. They’re killing them, shooting them with automatic weapons, and the whole colony is drenched in blood; they’re gassing them, beating them with batons, and he just says ‘they’re killing us all.’ He asked me to call and ask for some kind of help.”

7:19 p.m., April 10
Video recorded by a prisoner at Penal Colony No. 15 in Angarsk, Irkutsk Region, April 10. Published on the Facebook page of Pavel Glushenko, chairman of the Irkutsk branch of For Human Rights

Translated transcript: “People, this another appeal from Penal Colony No. 15 in Angarsk, Irkutsk Region. The pigs are running riot. They’re beating everyone, everyone’s wrists are slashed, nothing’s helping. The whole prison’s burning. Look, help us somehow . . . As we speak, the special forces are beating us, they’re using grenades, they’re using pump-action guns. Look, the prisoners standing here have slit their wrists, we can’t do a thing. We’re asking for your help . . . Here everyone’s wrists are slashed. Right now, we’re located in the work area, the special forces can’t get to us, soon everything will burn down and we’ll be in trouble. [Other voice: “They’re going to kill us”]. People, help us please, we’re begging for your help.”

6:52 p.m., April 10

Photos from Penal Colony No. 15 in Angarsk, Irkutsk Region, April 10. Posted by Baza

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6:38 p.m., April 10

Penal Colony No. 15IK-15. Explosions are audible and bursts of flame visible at Penal Colony No. 15 in Angarsk, Irkutsk Region, April 10. Published by Baza

6:27 p.m., April 10

Video of burning buildings at Penal Colony No. 15 in Angarsk, Irkutsk Region, April 10. Posted by Baza

5:57 p.m., April 10

Recording of a conversation between Russia Behind Bars director Olga Romanova with Penal Colony No. 15 inmate Andrei . Recorded April 10. Posted by Russia Behind Bars

Translated transcript
Andrei: They were wearing masks and had shields, naturally… They huddled up and came after us… What did we have to defend ourselves with? We didn’t have anything special. But they had batons, they had masks, they had . . . They started detonating flash grenades. They started just thrashing the prisoners they caught with batons. So, in a sign of protest we slashed our veins. I slashed mine, and I don’t know how many others did, but the majority did.
Olga Romanova: Andrei, so what is happening now in the prison colony?
A: What’s happening now? I don’t know what’s happening in the residential area. I don’t know what’s happening there. But we’re in the work area now, everything around us is burning. Every convict in the area, [inaudible] . . . everything’s on fire. All the utility yards, all the agricultural buildings, everything’s burning, everything’s just ablaze.
OR: It’s now 6 p.m. Moscow time?
A: Yes, Friday, 6 p.m. Moscow time.
OR: Can you tell us please, have people been killed or wounded? Have you seen them?
A: Well, so rumors have reached us that, yes, there’s a body . . . As for wounded, you could say everyone is, because we all slashed our veins, everyone who could.
OR: How many inmates are in the penal colony now?
A: There are 1,200 inmates in the colony, I think, at least.
OR: And 200 special forces officers have entered the colony, or is it 300?
A: Yeah, probably around 300.
OR: They came this morning?
A: No, this evening. Probably 7 p.m. Irkutsk time, 2 p.m., Moscow time.
OR: Can you tell me please, has the prison administration tried to enter into negotiations with you in some way?
A: No, they haven’t in any way . . . I have no idea where the administration is, no one has negotiated.
OR: Do I understand correctly—
A: The special forces are catching people and beating them up. What happens next, I don’t know.
OR: Do I understand correctly that the uprising happened because prison staff have been systematically beating prisoners?
A: Yes, systematically.
OR: And the prisoners—
A: —systematically beating prisoners, you got that correct, because the other day there was a similar situation, and as a sign of protest all the prisoners refused to go to morning exercise. That seemed like no big deal to them. They went back to their old tricks and started beating prisoners again.
OR: Andrei, have you been in touch with doctors? Have you been in touch with your relatives, maybe, or members of the PMC [Public Monitoring Commission; in every Russian region, these commissions monitor conditions in prisons and other places of imprisonment and confinement]?
A: No one has been in touch with us.
OR: No one ban in touch with you?
A: They say that the roads leading to the colony have been closed by the Federal Penitentiary Service’s special forces troops.
OR: But you can communicate for now?
A: I have this telephone, nothing else.
OR: Andrei, we’re getting messages from many prisoners’ relatives whose children, whose husbands, may be in your penal colony. What should we tell the families?
A: What to tell the families? Tell them hello, everything’s okay, or what? We’re hanging in there . . . Why the relatives? It would be better for you to get the attention of society, I don’t know, the mass media in Angarsk.
OR: Mm-hm. What kind of help do you need?
A: Well that’s what I’m telling you . . . We need . . . Our conditions are just that they leave here. Just that they leave. And we’ll go back to our cell blocks.
OR: You want the special forces troops to leave? And then you’ll go back to your cell blocks?
A: Of course. We don’t want to [inaudible] with them. They’re the ones who started this.
OR: Thank you, Andrey, hang in there. Thank you very much. This will be published right away.

1:50 p.m., April 10

“I was beaten by Duty Officer Krutynov.” A Video featuring Viktor Tirskikh, inmate at Penal Colony No. 15, Irkutsk Region. Posted by the Irkutsk Human Rights Council. The video was presumably made on April 9.

Translated transcript: “I was beaten by Duty Officer Krutynov, so I slashed my wrists, because this isn’t the first instance of mistreatment by the police. Look, I’ve been beaten here. They choked me. I don’t know how much one can take. The lawlessness that’s going on here . . . So I’m asking you to take action of some kind.

Translated by Comrade JS. A huge thanks to them for bringing this publication to my attention and doing the hard, important work of translating it. \\TRR

Jesus and His Dog

Muscovite Detained While Walking Dog, Police Leave Dog on Street Alone
Mediazona
April 4, 2020

Eyewitness Snezhana Mayskaya has told Mediazona that a young man was detained by police while walking a dog at Patriarch Ponds in downtown Moscow. Police officers put the man in a police van and drove away, leaving the dog on the street, Mayskaya added.

“They tried to call the dog. But it didn’t go up to them—it got scared and ran away. In the end, the young man was driven away, while the dog remained here,” she said.

 

Smartphone video of the incident, shot by Snezhana Mayskaya, as posted on @patriarshi

The Twitter account @patriashi claims the detained man’s wife retrieved the dog.

OVD Info reports that the detained man was delivered to the Presna District police precinct. “The police still refuse to specify what they are charging the detainee with,” it writes. According to OVD Info, the police said that Patriarch Ponds were closed when they detained the man.

The detained man, Jesus Vorobyov, told TV Rain that he was walking the dog within one hundred meters of his home when they were stopped by police. “They didn’t let me take the dog home or contact my wife, and they put me in their van. The dog was running around and barking,” he said. Vorobyov added that, during the arrest, police “twisted” his arm, while he was threatened at the precinct with fifteen days in jail.

A stay at home order has been in effect in Moscow since March 30 due to the coronavirus. People may now leave their homes only to walk their dogs, shop for groceries, seek medical attention, and go to work.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Petersburg Activist Faces Criminal Investigation for Posting “Fake News” About Coronavirus

Criminal Investigation Launched Against Activist in Petersburg for Post About Coronavirus
Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda)
April 3, 2020

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Activist Anna Shushpanova has been placed under criminal investigation for disseminating fake information about the coronavirus. Officers of the Investigative Committee are searching her home, according to activist Krasimir Vransky. His report to Sever.Realii has been corroborated by Shushpanova’s sister Alyona.

Investigative Committee officers arrived at the Shushpanova home around 5 p.m. According to Alyona, her sister was shown the order to open the investigation. The officer are currently searching the home and have confiscated Anna Shushpanova’s telephone and computer. There are five Investigative Committee officers in the apartment. According to Alyona, the criminal investigation was launched due to a post Anna had published on the VK group page Sestroretsk Activist Group [Sestroretskii akvtiv].

According to Vransky, on April 2, Shushpanova posted information that a local outpatient medical clinic had, allegedly, sent home a patient diagnosed with the coronavirus who was exhibiting mild symptoms. The doctor who allegedly let the person with the coronavirus go home could have been asked to resign voluntarily. The incident was reported to Shushpanova by a local resident who witnessed the alleged situation.

“[Shushpanova] is a voting member of the local election commission, so there are special procedures for her. That is probably why the Investigative Committee came to her house. Instead of doctors who may have been negligent, they harass an activist,” said Vransky.

On Tuesday (March 31, 2020), the Federation Council approved the law on criminal liability  for spreading “fake news” about the coronavirus.

For spreading knowingly false information about the infection, the law stipulates a fine of 300,000 to 700,000 rubles [approx. 3,600 to 8,500 euros], one year of community service or three years’ imprisonment. If spreading the fake news caused harm to a person’s health, the stipulated criminal penalties are more severe: a fine of 700,000 to 1.5 million rubles [approx. 18,000 euros], three years of forced labor or three years’ imprisonment. If a person dies, a a fine of 1.5 million to 2 million rubles [approx. 27,000 euros], five years of forced labor or five years’ imprisonment are stipulated.

Thanks to Grigory Mikhnov-Vaytenko for the heads-up. Photo of Shushpanova courtesy of Grani.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader