Ilya Pershin: The Ice Under the Major’s Feet

Russian political prisoner and artist Ilya Pershin. Photo courtesy of Anton Yupanov, OVID Info, and Kseniia Sonnaya’s Facebook page

The Ice Under the Major’s Feet: A Petersburg Man Has Been in Jail for More Than Six Months Because a Policeman Fell Down
Kseniia Sonnaya
OVD Info
September 2, 2021

Petersburg artist Ilya Pershin has been in jail for more than six months, accused of kicking a riot police officer in the leg and elbowing him in the chest when he tried to detain him at the January 31 protests. Pershin’s girlfriend, who witnessed the incident, claims that the policeman fell and bruised himself. This is our account of the Pershin case, along with excerpts from his prison diary.

On January 31,  2021, 26-year-old artist Ilya Pershin left work at lunchtime to pick up the house keys from his girlfriend Erzheni. She was going to a rally in support of Alexei Navalny and invited Ilya to go with her. They traveled to St. Isaac’s Square together.

“When we were at the parking lot, there was an attack by the so-called titushky. A young man who was most likely a protester was assaulted. It was just that, at some point, a fight started: two men in their forties began beating the young man. At first, I didn’t even understand what was happening,” says Erzheni.

She realized that it was titushky who were beating the young man when the police arrived at the scene of the fight and the instigators showed them their IDs. “The police didn’t even detain them, although they had beaten the young man until he bled,” says Erzheni. After that, according to her, “some kind of commotion began, the law enforcement officers got their act together, and at some point the crowd ran in the direction of St.  Isaac’s.” Ilya ran, too. According to Erzheni, he was afraid that he would be beaten. Erzheni followed him at a brisk pace.

“At that moment, a man in uniform in front of me grabbed [Ilya]. [The officer] was kitted out in in full battle armor: helmet, face mask and shields. He grabbed [Ilya] from behind. Ilya was running away from him, and the man was running right behind him — and grabbed him. By inertia Ilya continued moving, taking literally two steps, with the officer in tow. The monument to Nicholas the First, which is under repair, was nearby, and there was a mound of snow. I didn’t see any struggle. I don’t know what happened. Maybe he slipped, maybe he stumbled, but the officer just fell on his left side, while Ilya kept running. That was it,” recalls Erzheni.

According to police investigators, it was at this moment that Pershin kicked Ivan Alexeyev, an officer in the operational platoon of the riot police’s 5th Operational Battalion, in the left leg with his left foot. Alexeyev claims that he was kicked in his popliteal fossa (the space behind the knee joint). The victim also said that when Pershin was trying to escape, he struck him at least two blows in the chest with his elbow.

According to attorney Alexei Kalugin, who works with OVD Info, a medical examination recorded only a bruise on the riot policeman’s left knee joint. Pershin’s defense team say that there is no evidence of such blows in the case — there is not a single witness or video confirming the riot policeman’s testimony. When questioned by a police investigator, the victim himself said about the alleged blows to his chest that “due to the fact that I was wearing a bulletproof vest, I was not caused any injuries or physical pain.”

Investigative Ballet
The video of the investigative experiment shows that the stand-in for Ilya Pershin was able to touch the leg of the injured riot police officer close to the popliteal fossa area only on the fifth attempt. During the other attempts, despite the victim’s prompting, the stand-in struck the posterior region of the man’s left thigh, located much higher than the popliteal fossa. At the same time, it is noticeable that when trying to kick the victim with his left foot, the stand-in loses his balance and repositions his right leg to achieve aa more stable position. “It was thus established that, given a height of 181 cm, it is possible to use the left leg to kick the victim’s left leg, namely in the area of the knee joint from behind,” a police investigator concluded after the experiment.

When the stand-in tried to perform the same actions while in motion, he again failed to strike the victim’s popliteal fossa, kicking his calf instead. “Thus, when moving in this way, given a height of 181 cm, it is possible to use the left leg to kick the victim’s left knee joint, from which it can be concluded that this area of the left leg is reachable given this height,” the investigator again concluded.

At the request of the defense team, the Independent Expertise Center compared the video of the investigative experiment and the protocol and pointed out the inconsistencies: “The protocol of the investigative experiment contains information that does not correspond to the actions in the supplied video.” Pershin’s lawyer Anton Yupanov, who works with OVD Info, says that an independent examination was ordered because “a blow of the stated trajectory and force was not possible at all.”

There is a video recording in the case file in which the silhouettes of Pershin and the alleged victim, Alexeyev, are visible. When viewed in slow motion, “it is clearly visible that there was no impact,” says Yupanov. However, the investigator has cited the same video as proof that Pershin kicked the riot policeman.

When questioned, the victim’s colleagues said that they had also not seen Pershin kicking the officer. “Some of them heard their colleague cry out in pain, and then they helped him. But no one saw the moment when he fell, except for Ilya’s girlfriend, who said that the riot policeman slipped, ” the lawyer says.

In her dispatch on the court hearing in the Pershin case, Zaks.ru correspondent Sofia Sattarova wrote that Alexeyev testified that he himself did not see the moment of the blow, but “only felt pain that caused his leg to ‘give out’ and make him ‘slide off’ the accused.” In court, Alexeev also said that Pershin had “already served a real sentence in full.” He asked for a lenient sentence and said he would have “ended the whole thing peacefully.”

Pershin denies any wrongdoing. In reply to a letter from OVD Info, he noted, “I think the ‘victim’ just lost his balance and fell. The individual attacked me from behind. I didn’t see anything.” According to Pershin’s defense lawyer, Pershin regrets that the riot police officer was injured, but does not believe that he was to blame for this.

Detention and Arrest
Pershin was detained on the afternoon of February 17, 2021, at the hotel where he worked as a desk clerk. Yupanov surmises that the detention occurred only two weeks after the protest rally because law enforcement officers examined video footage from the rally and identified Pershin before putting him under surveillance. “I was on another case at the police department in Otradnoye, and there was a photo of Ilya hanging on the stand of those wanted by the police. The accompanying text said that they were looking for this person for assaulting a police officer,” the lawyer adds.

Pershin himself says that none of the people who detained him introduced themself nor did they explain the reason for his arrest. “When they were taking me to the GSU [the Main Investigative Department], they did a good cop-bad cop-style interrogation. Now I smile when I remember it, of course, but at the time I was not laughing. In the vehicle, they told me why I had been detained, politely adding, ‘If you so much as budge, we’ll shoot you in the knee.’ As we approached the GSU, they said, ‘It used to be easier. We would just take you into the countryside and beat the shit out of you.’ I don’t think I need to describe my feelings [at that moment],” Pershin wrote.

In the evening of the same day, February 17, the apartment where Erzheni and Ilya lived was searched. Pershin was not taken to the search, only Erzheni was present. According to the search report (OVD Info has a copy of the report), the two Center “E” officers who carried out the search did not confiscate anything from the apartment. On the morning of the following day, a preventive measures hearing was held at the October District Court in Petersburg. Erzheni, as the owner of the apartment, was ready to vouch formally for Pershin so that he could be placed under house arrest in her apartment, but she was not summoned to the hearing.

On its Telegram channel, the Consolidated Press Service of the Courts of St. Petersburg reported the court hearing as follows: “Pershin was detained on 17.02.2021. A native of Magadan, registered in Salsk, he has no registration in St. Petersburg, and works as an on-duty hotel clerk. He said that he has a child, but the father is not named in the [child’s] birth certificate, because he overslept the registration. He requested house arrest at the home of his current live-in girlfriend, but could only remember the girl’s first name.”

Pershin does in fact have a son, who is only two years old. Yupanov, who was with Pershin at the preventive measures hearing, said that the remark that Pershin had overslept the child’s registration is a fantasy on the part of the press secretary. “He merely said that by agreement with the child’s mother, they decided not to record [Pershin as father] in the birth certificate. But he communicates with the child regularly and has provided for him financially,” the lawyer explained. According to Erzheni, the child’s mother, Pershin’s ex-girlfriend, supports Pershin and even has gone to visit him at the pre-trial detention center.

“From the first day [since his arrest], Ilya has been worried about the child. He has been thinking not about himself, but about the child — how his potential criminal record would affect his future. Although they don’t live together, [Ilya and the child’s mother] maintain very warm personal relations, which is quite rare at the present time,” says Yupanov. In his letter, Ilya also told us about his son. He wrote that he first thing he would like to do after his release is to go play with him “to make up for the moments lost during this time in the baby’s growth.”

At first, Erzheni was quite worried about her boyfriend, “because after all, it was me who was initially going [to the protest rally]. He is an adult and makes his own decisions, but still.” In the spring, when the young woman was questioned as a witness in the case, the investigator, after reading their correspondence on Telegram, pressured her into feeling guilty, she says. “He said all sorts of things about how the whole thing was my fault, almost that I should go to jail. He behaved personally in a way that was ugly. I don’t know, maybe that’s how they’re used to doing things. Work is work, but we must remain human beings. I also worked in a government job for a long time,” says Erzheni. Pershin and Erzheni correspond, and the young woman helps his family to deliver care packages to the the pre-trial detention center.

Eight [sic] months have passed since Pershin’s arrest. “They’re pickling [Ilya]. He is already tired of being jailed in the Crosses,” says Yupanov. When asked how Ilya is enduring the arrest, Erzheni answers that it has been difficult. “It has been happening to him in waves: first there was shock and, well, all the stages of acceptance. He has had mood swings and bouts of depression. For him, as an artist, this has not been an inspiring story,” the young woman claims. Pershin himself said that because of his arrest, his “physical and mental state leaves much to be desired.” When asked how his experience of eight [sic] months in jail had changed him, the artist replied that it was not for him to judge, but he hoped that he had “gleaned only the best things.” Pershin wrote about the outcome he expects: “I hope for an acquittal. But I’m preparing for the worst.”

Ilya Pershin’s Diary, 25 March—10 April 2021
In the pre-trial detention center, Pershin has been keeping a diary, in which he writes about his feelings, everyday life and the people he meets. He gave part of his diary to OVD Info through his lawyer. We have published excerpts from it below. Some parts of the diary have been blurred at Pershin’s request. The original spelling and punctuation have been preserved.

25.03.21 There was a cell toss in the second block of the Crosses on all four floors. After the toss, I was moved from the third wing to the second. My cellmates are older, which means they are quieter. Bliss. Oh, I almost forgot: today is Thursday.

26.03.21 Fri. Remember that I said that my new cellmates were calmer? They’re so tactful… For the first time since my arrest, I had a good night’s sleep.

27.03.31 Sat. It was such a sunny morning today that for a second I forgot where I was. Being in prison heightens the senses. The slightest bad joke can lead to dismaying consequences. During internal inspection you leave the cell dressed to the waist (your pants are rolled up). During a cell inspection, you stand “on the galley” (in the corridor) facing the wall. One of the block wardens examined my tattoos and came to a brilliant conclusion: “Soon the theme of tattoos will change. Domes and stars will be the new thing.” That specifically made me lose my cool. So I said, “First I’ll make a picture of you on my pubis.” I almost wound up in the punishment cell.

28.03.21 Sun. I went out for a walk. […] You go to a walking cell about five by two and a half meters. It’s four walls and a cage with a grid that separates you from the clear sky. And the crimson dawn woke me up.

29.03.21 Mon. I didn’t sleep last night. It wasn’t possible to sleep during the day, because of the “bath.” This is bliss. […] Tomorrow I’m expecting visitors: [my] lawyers and the police investigator. I’ll be going for a stroll. I’m going to bed.

30.03.21 Tue. Today I read the case file. Well, it’s all over but the shouting. We are halfway to a verdict. While I was at the investigative department, they conducted another cell toss. They built something like a mountain of junk out of my things and my bunk. It’s good that letters have arrived.

31.03.21 Wed. Tomorrow is the court hearing on extending my arrest. Just the thought of it makes me sweat. The chances of getting the terms of my arrest changed [to house arrest or release on one’s own recognizance, for example] are zero, and I have to get up at five in the morning, otherwise it’s the punishment cell for me. I got a care package from Erzheni. My pussycat xD

1.04.21 Thur. I was woken up at 5:00. At 6:00 they took me out of the cell and took me down to the first floor. After that, all those who are sent to the courts (and there are hundreds of them from all over the prison) are sorted into “glasses” [holding cells]. A “glass” is a room 5 by 2 m., in which people are stuffed chockablock. The air comes through a small crack in the window. Everyone smokes. And they light up at the same time. It is in such an environment that you wait for your last name to be called to be shipped out.

2.04.21 Fri. The morning is repeated, since the hearing was postponed. Why? It’s not clear. After I arrive from the court, they throw me into a “glass” again. In a few hours you go for an inspection. After the inspection, you go to another “glass.” In the “glass” you wait hopefully for your section to be called. The waiting is accompanied by noise and “exhaust” from cigarettes. You have to wait hours for your section to be called.

3.04.21 Sat. — 4.04.21 Sun. After such travels, it takes you at least two days to recover! So, apart from sleeping and eating, nothing happened to me.

5.04.21 Mon. Around lunchtime, I was summoned for a telephone call for the first time during my stay. I had written and submitted the application about 15 days ago. It’s always like this here. Some [inmates] are taken out of their cells every day without applications or permissions, while others have to wait two weeks.

10.04.21 Sat. All of the past five days I carried out “orders” for my cellmates and prisoners from other cells. N. told me a “flat-out fucked” level story. When he was on the outside, he witnessed an accident in which two GAZelles burned to a crisp after a head-on collision, and a minibus was pulled out of a ditch. N. later met the driver of that selfsame minibus in the “glass” here in the Crosses. The driver was in the joint because a woman was killed in that minibus. The people you meet in the “glass”!

You can support Ilya by writing him a letter via FSIN Pismo [the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s electronic messaging system] or by regular mail, to the following address:

Russia 196655 St. Petersburg, Kolpino
Kolpinskaya St., 9, FKU SIZO-1 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region
Pershin Ilya Aleksandrovich, DOB 17.06.1994

You can read our guide to writing letters to political prisoners.

All images courtesy of OVD Info. Translated by the Russian Reader

No Woman Is an Island

Alexander Sokurov. Photo Andrey Chepakin/globallookpress.com. Courtesy of The Island of Sokurov Facebook page

The Island of Sokurov
Facebook
August 26, 2021

Yesterday (August 25), Alexander Sokurov sent the following letter to the [Presidential] Human Rights Council:

Dear colleagues!

I have just read the news on the internet that the Presna [District] Court in Moscow has imposed a fine of 200,000 rubles on people who picketed in defense of the women of Afghanistan.

I understand that the male members of the Council and our head, most likely, will not be interested in this event, so I appeal to the women who are members of the Council with a request to defend those who have been punished.

The female picketers are the only ones in our huge country who have shown solidarity with the real victims and those who will inevitably become victims.

The women involved in the picket in Moscow defended humanitarian values and were punished in Russia for doing this.

They have also been punished because the Presidential Human Rights Council did not protect them and their right to defend humanitarian solidarity.

I appeal to the female members of the Council to bring attention to what has happened and publicly protest the court’s decision.

Alexander Nikolaevich Sokurov

Thanks to Nikolai Boyarshinov and Elena Vilenskaya for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

You Won’t Rain on Our Parade

TV Rain general director Natalia Sindeeva, courtesy of her Facebook page. The slogan on her t-shirt – Ne dozhdyotes’ – means “fat chance,” “hold your breath,” that ain’t going to happen,” “in your dreams” – but here it’s also a play on the channel’s name in Russian, dozhd‘.

Natalia Sindeeva
Facebook
August 26, 2021

I have just gathered my thoughts and reflected on what has happened to us. I have written a letter to our viewers that I have also posted below.

[ _________ ]

I am Natasha Sindeeva, general director of TV Rain. And I’m not a foreign agent.

I am a patriot. I live in Russia, I love my country, I’m not going to leave and I’ve never had plans to leave.

Nor is Rain a foreign agent. Rain is almost 200 people who, just like me, love their country, cheer for it and want Russia to become better — more humane, safer, fairer, more honest, richer, freer. All we want is to be happy, live in peace and be proud of our country. And I’m sure the approximately 20 million people who watch and read us on different platforms every month want the same thing as we do.

A lot has happened to Rain over eleven years. We were disconnected from cable networks. Attempts were made to kill our business. We broadcast from an apartment, not knowing what would happen next. But we always continued to engage in honest journalism and tell the truth to our viewers. And we will continue to do it, even if someone doesn’t like it.

Of course, you can joke as much as you like about the status of foreign agent and call it a “seal of excellence.” But, in fact, all this is terrible. It is quite awful when the state divides people into “friends” and “strangers.”

A foreign agent, in fact, is a person or organization that acts in the interests of another country. We don’t have another country. We live, work and earn enough to keep our business going only in Russia. We act in the interests of our fellow Russian citizens who, according to the Constitution, have freedom of speech.

Here’s what I think is important.

The law on foreign agents is not only a dirty trick that stigmatizes dissidents and free people, and sicks our country’s citizens on each other, it is also a completely absurd law. Because any media outlet whatsoever can become a foreign agent today. For this to happen to you, you need to meet only two criteria: quoting other “foreign agents”, such as Meduza, Radio Liberty or Lev Ponomarev, and receiving money from abroad.

Even before the law on foreign agents was passed, like all media outlets we reported any foreign financing we received to Roskomnadzor [the Russian media regulator]. Today we went to the Roskomnadzor website to see who else besides us was in this report. And lo and behold! In addition to Rain, the report lists several dozen different media outlets, from knitting magazines to state-owned Russian companies such as RT, TASS and others.

Each of these media outlets, if it quotes a “foreign agent” at least once, can also be labeled a “foreign agent media outlet.” Think about it. And moreover, they do quote “foreign agents,” but they have not been labeled “foreign agents” themselves.

Is this stupid? Of course it’s stupid. Does it surprise me that Rain was labeled a foreign agent? No, it doesn’t surprise me. But it does not cow me either.

TV Rain subscribers now see the following obligatory warning message when they turn on the channel’s livestream: “This message (content) was created and (or) distributed by a foreign mass media outlet functioning as a foreign agent and (or) a Russian legal entity functioning as a foreign agent.”

We will defend the interests of Rain and other media outlets labeled foreign agents, and the interests of Russians. We will defend the right of our viewers to get information about what is really happening around them.

In an ideal world, I would dream of operating without ads that distract from our main content, without any funding other than the money paid by our subscribers.

Someday, I hope, that perfect time will come. But we are alive today, and we don’t live in an ideal world. In the current circumstances, the departure of any advertiser will be painful for us.

It is very expensive to make programs and run a TV channel . We have no curators, we have no state support, we aren’t owned by oligarchs or anyone else. We are a Russian independent media outlet, which the state once again wants to destroy simply because we are independent.

And we are also honest. First of all, to our viewers. We have never made compromises, even when physically threatened. We have never censored our work, either due to external pressure or out of our own fears. And we aren’t ashamed to look ourselves and you in the eye.

Thank you for your support and your faith in us. We will do everything in our power.

Rain is not a foreign agent, Rain is an agent of Russian citizens.

Rain is love!

Translated by the Russian Reader. If you speak Russian and have a PayPal account you can subscribe to TV Rain and/or make a donation to them. For more information and reflection on the Putin regime’s war on the country’s independent media and “foreign agents,” see “The Kremlin Is Coming for Media One By One — and Society Is Helpless to Stop It” (Moscow Times), and “Who Might Russia Declare A ‘Foreign Agent’ Journalist? Pretty Much Anyone, Really” (RFE/RL).

The Taliban Are Banned in Russia, But the Russian Police State Supports Their Misogynist Cause

SocFem Alternative activists outside the courthouse after the hearing at which two of their activists were fined 200,000 rubles each for support Afghan women. Courtesy of their Telegram channel and Novaya Gazeta

Moscow court fines two activists 200 thousand rubles for who picketing in support of Afghan women
Novaya Gazeta
August 25, 2021

Moscow’s Presna District Court imposed a fine of 200 thousand rubles [approx. 2,300 euros] each on SocFem Alternative activists Ksenia Bezdenezhnykh and Anna Pavlova, who on Monday held solo pickets outside the Embassy of Afghanistan in Moscow, as reported by members of the movement.

Five protesters were detained on August 23. Bezdenezhnykh and Pavlova were charged with violating Article 20.2.8 of the Administrative Offenses Code (repeated violation of the rules for public protests). Daria Kozhanova, Ilya Lukhovitsky and Sofia Miloradova were charged with violating Article 20.2.5 of the Administrative Offenses Code (involvement in an unauthorized protest) and released from the police station.

Footage of SocFem Alternative activist Ksenia Bezdenezhnykh’s arrest by Moscow police outside the Afghan embassy on August 23, 2021

The protesters voiced their solidarity with Afghan women, whose rights are limited by the Taliban terrorist movement, which is banned in the Russian Federation.

A similar protest was held in Petersburg, but no one was detained.

Earlier, on August 25, the Taliban banned women in Afghanistan from leaving their homes to go work until “the system of ensuring their security is organized.” After announcing that they had established full control over Afghanistan, representatives of the movement said that they would allow women to lead an active lifestyle, but in compliance with sharia law.

For example, women are already forbidden from going out in public without the escort of a male relative and without covering their head, hair and entire body. In addition, women are not allowed to perform certain jobs, including working in the media.

Thanks to Matthew Luxmoore for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

#FreeIrdorath

Yulya Tsimafeyeva
Facebook
August 14, 2021

#FreeIrdorath

It’s known now that Uladzimir Kalach, Nadzeya Kalach, Anton Shnip, my brother Piatro Marchanka and his wife Yuliya Marchanka (Yunitskaya) are imprisoned in the pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Valadarskaha street [in Minsk].

You can send them telegrams, letters and postcards. Getting a letter from the outside world is one of the best things the imprisoned can have there.

Piatro has his birthday on Monday, August 16. Please send him some birthday wishes.

Some important tips. (I’m also using the information from the website politzek.me.)

1) Your letter should be in Russian or Belarusian only. At every prison or detention center there is a censor check of all the mail the prisoners get. Usually those censors do not read any other languages, so the letter can just be thrown away. I think Google Translate can help.

Please write surnames, first names, patronymics and address in Cyrillic. Like this:

Владимир Александрович Калач
Надежда Робертовна Калач
Пётр Петрович Марченко
Юлия Анатольевна Марченко
Антон Валерьевич Шнип
СИЗО-1
ул. Володарского 2,
Минск
220030
Belarus

2) Some technical tips:

a) Put blank paper and an empty reply envelope into your mail. Sometimes prisoners have difficulty obtaining paper and envelopes.

But if they do not have Belarusian international stamps it could be complicated for them to send a reply to you abroad. They need a special kind of the stamp (with the letter P). The stamps can be bought here online:

https://shop.belpost.by/Catalog/Product/959
https://shop.belpost.by/Catalog/Product/141217

But I do not know if Belarusian post sends them abroad. Maybe you can ask anyone in Belarus to send them to you? Or you can just hope that the prisoners will buy the stamps themselves. It’s a crazy system, I know. But believe me, even if you do not get any reply, your letter still could bring a lot of joy to those behind the bars.

b) Structure your mail flow. In each letter, put the date and number, so it will be immediately clear which letter did not reach its addressee.

c) It is better to photograph all the letters – answers may come in 3-4 weeks. Do you remember what you wrote to a friend the day before yesterday? Unlikely. And then weeks!

3) What to write about?

Write about yourself and your life, write about some national or international news. People in jail lack the information from the outer world. But do not put in any intimate details and exclude the political context. You shouldn’t write “Long live Belarus” or the names of officials. Don’t forget that your letter will be read by a strict and unfriendly censor first. He (or she) might just throw it away.

Some more tips about writing to political prisoners you can find here: https://www.politzek.me/help/mails

You can also write a letter online through this free service: https://vkletochku.org/en (but the musicians in Irdorath are not in their database yet)

To read about other political prisoners and find their addresses you can look here:

https://prisoners.spring96.org/en
https://dissidentby.com/en

#MusicIsNotACrime #ArtIsNotACrime

This post has been very lightly edited for the sake of clarity. ||| TRR

Yuma, Mila, Barcelona (The VkusVill Refugees)

Yuma’s Instagram “postcard” from Barcelona: “We are safe, we are resting. We cannot hide our happiness at being a family. Many THANKS to those who supported us, to those who dared to make themselves visible and express their support to us, and to those who supported us in person! Thanks to you, we have not given up! It was a difficult ordeal for all of us, we are all in rough psychological shape. But the sea, the sun and kindness are healing [us]) And we are still with you) and are ready to communicate. We are ready to tell you how it happened, what happened, and why) #wearenotamistake #vkusvill #familyequality

“We were left without work and without a home”: The young women from the deleted VkusVill ad have left Russia

ACCORDING TO ROSKOMNADZOR, UTOPIA IS A PROJECT OF THE NASILIU.NET [“NO TO VIOLENCE”] CENTER WHICH, ACCORDING TO THE JUSTICE MINISTRY, PERFORMS THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT

Why is this not the case?

Women featured in an ad for the VkusVill supermarket chain, which was removed due to homophobic threats, have left Russia for Spain. Yuma, the head of the family, has written about this on Instagram.

“We are safe, we are resting. We cannot hide our happiness at being a family. […] It was a difficult ordeal for all of us, we are all in rough psychological shape. But the sea, the sun and kindness are healing [us],” she wrote.

Yuma’s daughter Mila has asked [her Instagram] followers for help in finding a job. She writes that she can only work remotely, and receive a salary in euros. “Unfortunately, due to this difficult situation with VkusVill, we were left without work and without a home. […] Now my family and I really need to get settled in Barcelona, we are having a difficult time and we need friends, and maybe your friends’ friends or their friends will help us start a new life in Barcelona,” the post says.

Mila’s Instagram appeal for help finding a job

In late June, the supermarket chain VkusVill published photos of families who are their customers and their favorite products on its website and social networks. Among the photos was a family consisting of a mother, two daughters, and the wife of one of them. After the photos were published on Instagram, users divided into two camps: some called for a boycott of the store and threatened the company and the women with violence, while others supported the campaign.

Four days later, VkusVill deleted the photos, and an apology appeared in their place: “This page contained an article that has hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers. We regret that this happened, and we consider this publication our mistake, which manifested the unprofessionalism of individual employees.” The apology was signed by Andrey Krivenko, the chain’s founder, and eleven top managers.

VkusVill’s Instagram apology, along with their image of a “proper” Russian family

The removal of the ad caused an even more violent reaction — users most often called it a “disgrace” and “support for homophobia.” Utopia published different opinions on the incident.

Source: Utopia, 3 August 2021. Thanks to Maria Mila for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Naked Truth

I Am/We Are Yulia ||| Telegram ||| July 6, 2021

😡The ArtPlay Design Center in Moscow has reneged on its agreement to provide a venue for a performance in support of Yulia Tsvetkova.

Over the last month, negotiations had been underway with an ArtPlay staffer about staging a performance as part of the Naked Truth project. The performance’s organizers provided a press release, all the information requested by the venue, and layouts and diagrams of the upcoming performance. The venue agreed to host the event, and the performance was to be held in ArtPlay’s small auditorium on [July] 14. Performances about female physicality had previously been staged at this site, and ArtPlay is known in art circles as one of the most creatively liberal spaces.

The Naked Truth. Performance view. Courtesy of I Am/We Are Yulia Telegram channel

However, today, an organizer of the performance was [told that ArtPlay would not host the performance], since, according to the ArtPlay staffer, they “do not hold events with a political bent.”

This is not the first time that a major contemporary art center, well known for its liberal views, has turned down requests by artists to host events in support of Tsvetkova, most often by citing “political” motives and the “dangerousness” of her case.

The Naked Truth project has been in existence for a year. As part of the project, performances in support of Yulia Tsvetkova have been staged by respected and significant male and female artists from Moscow and Petersburg.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Yuli Boyarshinov: A Day in the Life

Yuli Boyarshinov

Rupression: Information About the Network Case
Facebook
July 7, 2021

Yuli Boyarshinov has arrived at the place where he will be serving his sentence, Correctional Colony No. 7, in Segezha, Republic of Karelia. A lawyer visited him there yesterday. Yuli reports that everything is fine, the trip went well, and he feels good. He will be quarantined for the next three weeks, so for the time being he is alone in the cell.

Yuli’s birthday is quite soon, July 10: he will be 30 years old. Congratulate him by sending a letter or a postcard to the colony! Unfortunately, there is no e-mail service at IK-7, so you need to write paper letters, or use RosUznik’s volunteer service.

Correctional Colony No. 7 in Segezha became known throughout the country in November 2016 after the torture of Ildar Dadin at the facility was made public. In January 2019, the Segezha court sentenced the ex-warden of the colony, Sergei Kossiev, and his deputy, Anatoly Luist, to brief but actual terms of imprisonment (up to three years) for exceeding and abusing their powers. After that, according to journalists and lawyers, the torture in the colony stopped for a while, but it has not ended outright. Most often, newcomers who have just arrived in the colony are beaten while they are in quarantine.

Publicity can protect prisoners from possible torture and beatings. That is why it is so important to write letters! And, of course, letters help convicts to hold on.

Write to Yuli at:
186420, Republic of Karelia, Segezha, Leygubskaya St., FKU IK-7 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Republic of Karelia
Boyarshinov Yuli Nikolaevich, born 1991

N.B. Since the censors at Correctional Colony No. 7 in Segezha will undoubtedly not pass on letters mailed from abroad or written in English, please send your messages to me at avvakum(at)pm.me and I will send them to his supporters for translation and forwarding to Yuli. Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. You can find a complete list of all the articles that I have published on the Network Case here.

Recipes for Domestic Bliss

VkusVill removes ad featuring queer family, apologizing to customers and suppliers for “hurt feelings”
Takie Dela
July 4, 2021

The retail chain VkusVill has apologized for an advertisement featuring a queer family. The company’s press release notes that the deleted piece “hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.” In the release, which was signed by company’s founder and its regional managers, the advertisement was dubbed a “mistake that manifested the unprofessionalism of individual employees.”

On June 30, VkusVill published on its website the story of a family consisting of a mother and two daughters [sic], one of whom is engaged to a young woman [sic]. In addition, the “Consumer School” section contained stories from other customers of the store: a woman who lives with a dog, a couple without children, a large family, and a single mother. They talked about themselves and their favorite VkusVill products.

After the advertisement was published, VkusVill and the queer heroines of the article began to receive threats.

Roman Polyakov, the manager of the store’s content factory, told Takie Dela that the store’s employees regularly touch on hot-button topics, including the problems of refugees, people with autism, and people with Down syndrome, and the topic of garbage recycling. He told Takie Dela that VkusVill valued examining issues from different sides.

He added that “it would be untrue” to say that there are no such families among VkusVill’s clients, so he had decided to include [the queer family] in the feature.

According to Polyakov, employees of the content factory consulted with lawyers on how to correctly submit information about LGBT people from the legal point of view, and also discussed with smm specialists and hotline employees how to react to customer dissatisfaction.

Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

A screenshot of the page containing VkusVill’s abject apology to violent Russian homophobes for their queer-positive ad. The page is entitled “Recipes for Domestic Bliss.”

This page contained an article that has hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.

We regret that this happened, and we consider this publication our mistake, which manifested the unprofessionalism of individual employees.

Our company’s goal is to enable our customers to receive fresh and delicious products every day, not to publish articles that reflect political or social views. In no way did we want to become a source of discord and hatred.

We sincerely apologize to all our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.

Respectfully,

Andrey Krivenko, Founder
Valera Razgulyaev, Information Manager
Alyona Nesiforova, Unified Concept Manager
Yevgeny Kurvyakov, Development Manager
Yevgeny Rimsky, Quality and Procurement Manager
Tatyana Berestova, Regional Manager
Lyubov Frolova, Regional Manager
Renata Yurash, Regional Manager
Svetlana Lopatina, Regional Manager
Larisa Romanovskaya, E-Commerce Manager
Kirill Shcherbakov, Micromarket Department Director
Maxim Fedorov, Order Manager

Source: VkusVill website. Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

VkusVill’s ad spotlights a “matriarch,” her partner and two daughters who practice ethical veganism, support fair trade and provide shelter to LGBT people in need. Image: VkusVill Natural Products/Facebook/Moscow Times

Russian Food Retailer Defies ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law With LGBT Family-Featuring Ad
Moscow Times
July 2, 2021

Russian organic food retailer VkusVill has featured an LGBT family in its new promotional material this week, defying the country’s law against “gay propaganda toward minors.”

As part of a series of health-conscious families, VkusVill spotlights a “matriarch” Yuma, her partner Zhenya and two daughters Mila and Alina, who practice ethical veganism, support fair trade and provide shelter to LGBT people struggling to find acceptance in their own families.

“We believe not featuring the families of our real customers would be hypocritical,” VkusVill said, warning readers to “weigh all the pros and cons” before continuing further.

The popular retail chain marked its June 30 promotional piece with an “18+” label to comply with the anti-LGBT propaganda law.

“Family is blood ties or a stamp in a passport. Let’s rethink this. In the 21st century, it’s primarily people who love us, those who will always shield us, people with whom we go through life together,” the promotion says.

Law enforcement authorities, who usually file misdemeanor charges against violators — the most recent of which were the authors of a Dolce & Gabbana Instagram ad showing kissing same-sex couples — have not yet commented on VkusVill’s publication.

Notorious anti-gay St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov took to social media to condemn the “pagan” ad.

Other social media users — which the MBKh Media news website reported swarmed VkusVill’s social media after a notorious anti-LGBT hate group reposted the article — posted threats against the chain.

Western countries and human rights activists have criticized Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law as well as 2020 constitutional changes that contain a clause defining marriage as between a man and a woman only.

_________

yumalevel
Perhaps the most important thing to our family is care and acceptance. And we also fiercely protect each other and all support each other as much as possible. And we also try to help others. And today @vkusvill_ru posted a piece featuring us, and I’m amazed at how much support I saw there!!! “Others” are not so different at all))) it turns out that we are all our kind!!!

I love you! Kind, caring, accepting, gutsy, brave, making the world a world)
💞 💞 💞 💞 💞 💞 💞

Source: Instagram/Moscow Times. Translated by the Russian Reader

Why Small-Town Electrician Vladimir Yegorov Had to Flee Russia

Vladimir Yegorov is still in quarantine and lives in a tent camp for refugees in Lithuania. Photo courtesy of Vladimir Yegorov and Radio Svoboda

“I realized that the country was over”: a “terrorist” electrician from Toropets flees to Lithuania
Radio Svoboda
Elizaveta Mayetnaya
June 28, 2021

Vladimir Yegorov, 54, from Toropets, Tver Region, was an ordinary electrician, but he has now become a political refugee in Lithuania. He fled there because in Russia he was threatened with up to ten years in prison on two criminal charges: “condoning terrorism” and “calling for extremism.” “I outfoxed the FSB: I lived under their nose for four months while they were looking for me everywhere,” Yegorov tells Radio Svoboda. “They can only steal, torture and invent criminal cases. They are no match for real terrorists.”

On June 27, Vladimir Yegorov posted these photos on his Facebook page, writing, “[My] final days in Russia. It’s a pity. It could be such a [great] country. But we are the people, and we fucked it all up. And it’s our fault that Putin exists here. Now all I can do is run. I did what I could.”

Yegorov says that he was not very interested in politics until the war in Ukraine began.

“My mother was seriously ill. She was a doctor, the head of the medical clinic, a respected person in the town. And then came the war, the seizure of foreign territory by Russia, the dead, the prisoners of war: my mother read all about it and could not believe that such a thing was even possible. And before that, holding her heart, almost crying, she told me how our entire healthcare system had been ruined,” Yegorov recalls. “Before the war with Ukraine, I still somehow hoped that all was not lost, but then I finally realized that the country was over.”

Yegorov worked at a sawmill and earned money on the side as an electrician. Then he joined the opposition Yabloko party and moderated (first at the party’s request, then on his own behest) Citizens of Toropets, a social media community page that was popular in the area.

“Of course, we have mass media there, but they only write what suits the authorities, while I, though I’m a simple electrician, was like an independent journalist. I wrote on the community page about our ‘crooks and thieves.’ In our wildest fantasies, we expected that three hundred people would read it, but the page was quite popular: we had more than a thousand subscribers, nearly every resident of the district read it! Sand was being stolen from quarries there by the tons and hauled out in KAMAZ trucks, but the local police and administration covered up the whole thing. After I wrote about this in May 2017, windows were broken in my house. A stone was thrown into the room where my little daughter was sleeping, and a canister of gasoline was found lying nearby.”

Yegorov was not intimidated and sent the evidence of theft at the sand quarry to Moscow. But instead of investigating the theft and the attack on his family, the authorities opened a criminal case against Yegorov himself over an old post on the social network VKontakte. In 2016, Yegorov had bluntly commented on a statement made by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who suggested that a teacher who had complained about a low salary “earn some more” and go into business if he wanted a high income. “We need to understand that all these ‘statements’ in public by these morons with zero popularity ratings, who occupy high-ranking posts, are nothing more than part of a special operation by the KGB to whitewash the main culprit of all the troubles and his closest cronies,” Yegorov wrote. His post was accompanied by a photo of President Vladimir Putin.

Police investigators interpreted the expressions used in the post as “extremist.” One of their forensic linguistic experts deemed it a call for the physical destruction of the Russian leadership, and a witness in court said that he read the post as an appeal to overthrow the government. Consequently, Yegorov was sentenced to two years of probation and forbidden from moderating websites. Memorial recognized him as a political prisoner.

Fearing criminal prosecution, Yegorov fled to Ukraine, where he applied for political asylum. The Ukrainian authorities denied him refugee status and took him to a neutral zone near the border with Russia. Yegorov left for Belarus, but he was detained there and sent back to Russia. He spent several months in jail before getting a suspended sentence.​

“My wife left me and took my daughter with. No one anywhere would hire me because I was immediately put on Rosfinmonitoring’s list of extremists; my bank accounts were blocked, and the house was also impounded. When I would go to the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) to check in, they mocked me, telling get a job! But no one anywhere would hire me. I went all over town many times, applying for all the vacancies, even the lousiest ones, which no one at the unemployment office would apply for, but I was turned down everywhere,” he says. “I, a healthy man who can do anything with my own hands, whom the whole town used to ask to fix things, was an outcast. I ate only potatoes and noodles for four years, and lived with boarded-up windows, because I had no money to replace the windows broken by those gangster. I didn’t go anywhere much: it was almost like being in prison, only at home. And the court had ruled that I could no longer moderate the community page, either.”

The patriarchal town of Toropets is, as it were, a dead end. Moscow is 400 kilometers away, and Tver is 350 kilometers away. Yegorov’s house stands almost in the center of the town, and is perfectly visible from the highway, where hundreds of cars pass every day. In March 2019, Yegorov hung a Ukrainian flag over his house, which he had ordered for 167 rubles on AliExpress. He posted a photo of it on social networks along with a list of political demands: “Putin, liberate the occupied territory of Ukraine! Release [Oleg] Sentsov, the [imprisoned Ukrainian] sailors and all prisoners of war! Don’t meddle in the affairs of a neighboring country! Take care of your own people! I am a simple Russian man, I don’t want my country to be like this.”

“The Ukrainian flag didn’t make [the local authorities] happy, of course, but according to the law, I can do what I want on my 2,200 square meters, and you can’t touch me. Basically, I made a nuisance of myself,” says Yegorov. “During that time, I figured out computers and learned how to use a VPN. When it comes to modern technology, those [FSB] field officers are just kids compared to me.”

Nor did the law enforcement agencies leave Yegorov alone: several times his home was searched, and in December 2019 and July 2020 his computer was seized. In December 2020, Yegorov was named the defendant in two new criminal cases: he was charged with “publicly condoning terrorism on the internet” (punishable under Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code) and “publicly calling for extremism” (punishable under Article 280.2 of the Criminal Code). This happened after the security forces had again searched his home on December 4.

“I supported Katya Muranova from Medvezhegorsk in Karelia on social networks. She is still very young, she has a sick child on her hands, and she was also convicted, fined and put on the Rosfinmonitoring list, allegedly for condoning terrorism [Ekaterina Muranova of Medvezhegorsk was accused of “condoning terrorism” in 2019. For commenting on a social media post about the suicide bombing at the FSB’s Arkhangelsk offices by the 17-year-old anarchist Mikhail Zhlobitsky on November 4, 2018, she was sentenced to pay a fine of 350 thousand rubles. Several dozen people in Russia have also been convicted on the same charge for commenting on the bombing — Radio Svoboda.] I feel very sorry for Katya, who also can’t get a job anywhere because of this stigma. She and I became friends, and I wrote a post about the anarchist Zhlobitsky. According to the FSB, it contains ‘statements condoning terrorist activities and creating a positive image of terrorists,'” says Yegorov.

Ekaterina Muranova, convicted in 2019 of “condoning terrorism.” Photo courtesy of Radio Svoboda

Actually, it was this post that led to the charge of “condoning terrorism” against Yegorov. Law enforcement agencies detected “publicly calling for extremism” in another post, which Yegorov allegedly made on January 1, 2020, in the VK group Toropets Realities, referring to a news item published on Ura.Ru, “District head blown up near Voronezh.” There was a note under the news story: “All of them should be blown up.” The FSB believes that it was Egorov who posted this comment from someone else’s account, accessing the page from a virtual Ukrainian number.

“At first I denied everything, but then, during the search, they showed me some kind of knife. I had never had such a thing in my life, and they said that they could find something worse. Consequently, I dismissed my lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina and confessed to everything. In exchange, they promised to leave me on my own recognizance until the trial. I didn’t want to go to prison again,” says Egorov. “I was then actively corresponding on social networks with one person who promised to help me. He also had problems with his wife: it was our common ground. So I decided that I would let [the authorities] think that they had broken me, and I would hide and run away from them. On February 10, I left.”

In the evening, Yegorov lit a stove in his house and left his mobile phone there. Under cover of darkness, he got into the car of his new acquaintance, whom he had never seen before, and left with him for Moscow.

“I helped him with electrical work and did a lot of other things around the house, and then he took me to his dacha,” Yegorov recounts. “All those four months they were looking for me. They hassled my wife’s relatives: they thought that she was hiding me, but no one knew anything. And all that time we were reading everything we could about the border and the best places to cross it. We were on different online chat groups, carefully gathering information. Then we went to Belarus by car. My friend took his family along so the authorities would not suspect anything. We even went to a restaurant, like we were ordinary tourists. And then for seven thousand rubles illegal guides took us to the border. At the lake that divides the border in half, I jumped out of the car and immediately dove into the water. I was wearing swim fins, and had a hermetically sealed bag and sat nav with me. I was supposed to swim 400 meters under water, but I surface at the wrong spot: the water had risen, and there was grass and swamp all round. I ended up swimming 1,200 meters, paddling for a very long time along the Lithuanian shore. Nothing was visible, and I didn’t turn on the flashlight to avoid being detected. I got out on the shore: there was no one in sight. I quickly changed my clothes and went to the road to take a minibus to Vilnius. I came to the road and everywhere there were signs, in Russian, advertising houses for sale. I was afraid that I had come ashore in Russia.”

In Vilnius, Yegorov turned himself in to the police.

“I told them: you’d better me shoot here than hand me over to Russia! They would put me away for ten years for nothing, and then they would me kill me prison. They would hang me like Tesak, and then they say I did it myself,” Yegorov argues.

At first, Yegorov was housed in the transit zone at Vilnius Airport.

“I have never seen a Boeing, I have never flown anywhere on airplanes, only by helicopter when I was in the army. Basically, I haven’t been anywhere: I’ve been to Moscow, to Tver for interrogations, and to Velikiye Luki. I fled unsuccessfully to Ukraine, but they sent me back… So my whole life has been lived in Toropets: I have graves of relatives there that are 300 years old. I didn’t think that I would go on the run in my old age, but I didn’t have much choice, ” says Yegorov.

After several days in the transit zone, Yegorov was transferred to a quarantine camp. He now lives in a tent for twenty-two people.

“The food here is quite tasty: they give us cheese and pears. After my long life of semi-starvation in Toropets, I feel like I’m at a health spa now,” Yegorov says, smiling. “Most of the refugees here are Iraqis, Sri Lankans, and Arabs. The staff treat us well. All of them speak Russian, and I communicate with the other refugees using an online translator: somehow we understand each other. They are all in transit to Europe via Belarus, where it is now a well-established business. This, however, has turned out to be in my favor.”

On June 6, 2021, Agnė Bilotaitė, Lithuania’s interior minister, said that the situation with migrants in her country was getting worse.

“We live next door to an unpredictable terrorist regime,” she said. “After Lukashenko’s threats about unleashing an unprecedented flow of migrants, we are seeing an increase in illegal migrants. Four times a week, flights from Istanbul and Baghdad arrive Minsk, whence the migrants head for Lithuania. At least 600 people fly from these destinations every week. The price of transporting people illegally across the border is as much as 15 thousand euros per person, and 30 thousand euros per family.”

This year, over 400 illegal migrants have arrived in Lithuania from Belarus, which is five times more than during the whole of 2020.

A view of Vladimir Yegorov’s hometown of Toropets. Courtesy of Wikipedia

“The flow of refugees is huge, and they spend a lot of time vetting everyone. I was given [refugee] status five years ago after waiting a month and a half, but the folks who came after me waited for six months,” says Irina Kalmykova. Criminal charges were filed against Kalmykova in Moscow for her repeated participation in solo pickets and protest rallies, and she was fined 150 thousand rubles. Instead of waiting until she was arrested again and faced a second set of criminal charges, she and her son fled to Belarus in January 2016, and from there they went to Lithuania, where she was granted political asylum.

Kalmykova was one of the co-founders of the Russian European Movement, which was organized to bring together Russian political refugees in Lithuania.

“We have a very friendly Russian diaspora here now,” says Kalmykova. “We help each other out because, until recently, we ourselves were in the same situation: no money, no clothes, no documents, nothing at all. The guys have already found an apartment where Vladimir can stay, and they will help him find a job. Lithuania is considered one of the poorest countries in Europe, but, you know, people here are quite responsive and kind, and everyone knows Russian, so it is much easier to adapt here than in some other countries The main thing is that Vladimir already has support, because it is quite important that a person doesn’t feel unwanted in their new home. I have no doubt that Lithuania will grant him political asylum: criminal charges have been filed against him, and he has been persecuted for his political stance.”

Yegorov says that he really hopes that his life will finally get better in Lithuania.

“Maybe when I can work here, my wife and daughter will move here to join me. I would really like that,” he says.

Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. In my “real life” as a professional translator, I would have earned around 170 euros for translating a text of this length. Instead, I have provided translations of this and thousands of other compelling texts for free over the last fourteen years here and at Chtodelat News. So, please consider donating money via PayPal or Ko-Fi to help support this work and encourage me to continue it. You’ll find “Donate” and “Buy me a coffee” buttons in the sidebar on the left of this page. Click on one of them to make a donation. Thanks! ||| TRR