Alexei “Socrates” Sutuga, 1986-2020

Alexei “Socrates” Sutuga

Vlad Tupikin
Facebook
September 1, 2020

Alexei Sutuga, a former political prisoner and one of the most distinguished activists of the antifa movement, better known in Moscow by the pseudonym Socrates, died on the morning of September 1, 2020, at the Sklifosovsky Institute of Emergency Medicine in Moscow.

Since the Saturday before last, Alexei had been in a coma after suffering severe head injuries during a nighttime criminal assault in the vicinity of the Baumanskaya subway station in Moscow. His relatives and friends had been raising money for his treatment all this time. Now I guess we’ll have to raise money to support his mom.

You see, I started this text according to all the rules of news journalism. But actually I’m crying my eyes out.

Socrates was one of those rare people, strikingly intelligent and sensitive, who, it seems, you do not expect to encounter in the radical (anti)political and countercultural movement. Among people who need to think quickly and act quickly, as in war, how often you meet a poetic soul, a person who is ready to listen carefully, think over what others have said, respond to someone else’s pain and, more generally, to the particulars of another person’s state or condition? Socrates was that kind of person.

I will probably be updating this text, adding details, like bank account numbers, if necessary. Now I can’t even figure out exactly how old he was… Thirty-something. He was a big, strong, reliable, kindhearted guy from Siberia, an anti-fascist, an anarchist, a real hero of the working class who knew how to list, think, make decisions, and act.

He was.

Alexei Sutuga, born January 24, 1986, Irkutsk, died September 1, 2020, Moscow.

I’m sorry we didn’t save him.

Photo courtesy of Alexander Chernykh, who reminds his readers that Alexei Sutuga’s book Socrates: The Prison Dialogues (in Russian) is available for free download. If you would like to help the Sutuga family pay for his funeral and outstanding medical costs, you can send money via PayPal to his mother, Olga Nikolayevna, at https://www.paypal.me/sutugaolga. Translated by the Russian Reader

Socrates Is in Trouble (Solidarity Appeal for Alexei Sutuga)

Alexei “Socrates” Sutuga

Alexei Polikhovich
Facebook
August 25, 2020

Socrates is in trouble

Alexei “Socrates” Sutuga is in intensive care. He has suffered a severe brain contusion, fractures of the parietal and temporal bones, and a cerebral edema, and the right half of the body is paralyzed. Alexei was operated on and his skull was trepanated. He’s in a coma now.

Alexei is an antifascist, civic activist, and former political prisoner who has been involved in campaigns supporting other political prisoners. We met at Butyrka prison. I always tell everyone this story and laugh, since I hinted to him about his nickname in the presence of the cops: “Ancient Greek philosopher, fifth century BC?” Afterwards, we corresponded, exchanged books, and discussed politics. After we got out, we were both in a play about torture at Theater.Doc. Alexei enriched the production with personal account of being tortured in a Kiev police station.

Socrates is a big, brave man who has seen a lot and gives the impression of a rock. But now the rock must be saved.

Any amount you can donate will make a difference. Please, if you can help, here are the bank details for Alexei’s parents (Sberbank, Olga Nikolaevna Sutuga):
4276 3800 4603 9843 Sberbank
or +7 892 688 82967 by phone.
You can transfer money from any bank without incurring fees.

Please like and share this post.

UPDATE

How Socrates ended up in intensive care

It all happened on the night of August 23 near the Baumanskaya subway station. Alexei was with friends. As far as we now understand, there was a routine conflict with a shop assistant, but Alexei himself was not involved in this conflict at all. The verbal conflict turned into a showdown with the shop assistant’s husband and a group of his friends. Then the conflict petered out, and Alexei and his friends were leaving. But four of the men caught up with them, attacked, and began beating them. Alexei fell and hit his head. Witnesses say that he was also kicked. Alexei was taken to the Sklifosovsky Institute and had an emergency operation. The attackers were soon detained and taken to the Krasnoselsky police station, but nothing is known about what happened to them after that.
https://www.paypal.me/sutugaolga

Translated by the Russian Reader. If you would like to help Alexei Sutuga and his family, you can send money to their PayPal account: https://www.paypal.me/sutugaolga. Thanks to Irina Yudina for her help.

Alexei Sutuga reading Viktor Filinkov’s testimony about being tortured as part of Torture 2018, a Theater.Doc production staged in March 2018

Dmitry Strotsev: How Amazing

Dmitry Strotsev
Facebook
August 23, 2020

*

how amazing
bringing the girlfriend to the square at long last

in the morning the country’s chief warmonger cried foul

let them call it genocide of our own people
first soldiers should fire into the air
and then shoot to kill

walking down the boulevard hand in hand
like last time
and suddenly on the square breathing
freely

the neighbors have the keys
the dog has water and enough biscuits for a whole day

going through the courtyard
where a reckless shadow falls

coming out on the street
where holy humdrum trudges

maybe out of everyone these two
are moving into our madness
to be shot

jump off
it’s not too late
nausea panic attack
of course you can always turn
back

eyes and eyes and eyes
all is lost boss we are going to win
all is lost boss we are going to win

who turns primitive blind fear
into freedom and happiness
and when

who are these twenty people
who annoy the dictator so much
why do they dance before his eyes

Lukashenko’s evacuation from the palace
has begun right this very minute

Lukashenko is leaving the palace
right this very second

no the dragon has returned
a machine gun in its claw

all is lost boss we are going to win

we are very tired
we are going to win

8.23.2020

Thanks to Joan Brooks for the heads-up. Photo courtesy of Dmitry Strotsev. Translated by the Russian Reader

Hanna Zubkova: Including

The Belarusian artist Hanna Zubkova recently produced this heart-wrenching poetization of the list of injuries sustained by protesters during the first days of the revolution, when riot police inflicted incredible violence on the Belarusian people.

#stoptheviolence #ACAB


including
gunshot wounds
to the head
and various
body parts
and limbs
including

the chest,
shoulders, forearms,
hips,
shins,
feet,
buttocks,
belly,
including

penetrating wounds
to the abdomen
with eventration
of the small intestine
blunt wounds—
dozens of cases
external injuries
to the chest
penetrating wounds
to the chest
penetrating trauma
to the chest
with damage to the right middle lobar
bronchus
and the development of hemopneumothorax

the leakage of blood and air
into
the chest
shrapnel wounds to various
body parts,
including

the face,
neck,
hands,
forearms,
hips,
knee joints,
shins,
groin area,
lower back,
the lower part
of the torso,
the abdominal wall,
the buttocks,
including

penetrating shrapnel wounds
and multiple shrapnel wounds—
dozens of cases
trauma and
wounds
from explosions
and mines
to various
body parts,
including

crush injuries to the soft tissue—
dozens of cases
open pneumothorax
the leakage of air into
the chest
lacerations of various
body parts
and limbs,
including

degloving injuries—
dozens of cases
stab wounds
to various
body parts
and limbs,
including

multiple ones—
dozens of cases
thermal burns
from flames
on the upper and lower limbs
and the abdomen—
several cases;
chemical burns
to the eyes—
several cases;
barotrauma
to the ears
from blasts of pressurized
air—
several cases
ruptured eardrums
bleeding from the ears
the condition
after suffering electrical injury
the toxic effect
of gases, vapors, fumes—
several cases
craniocerebral injuries
of varying severity
including

both closed and open—
many dozens of cases
concussions of the brain
hemorrhagic contusions
to the brain—
dozens of cases
traumatic
subarachnoid
hemorrhaging
of the brain
with the formation of subdural
hematomas,
including

acute hematomas—
several cases
periorbital hematomas—
several cases
pneumocephalus
the leakage of air
inside the skull;
fractures of various
bones in the head
and the face
the base of the skull,
the cranial vault,
the zygomatic bone,
the upper jaw,
the maxillary sinuses,
the bridge of the nose,
the crown of the head,
the frontoparietal region,
the temporal region,
including

open fractures
of the zygomatic bone—
dozens of cases
fractures of the upper and lower limbs
both closed and open,
including
comminuted fractures
and displacement
of the bones,
rib fractures—
dozens of cases
compression
fractures of the body
the vertebrae
the dislocation
of joints
damage to the capsular bags
of the joints
and displacement
of the capsular ligament
apparatus of various
joints
including

the cervical vertebrae
including
hemarthrosis
of the limb joints
the leakage of blood inside
the joint
blunt
trauma
to the abdomen
subcutaneous hematomas,
bruising
of different parts
of the body and the head
and the limbs,
including

extensive interstitial hematomas
including

linear hyperemia
including
edema and induration
blood in the gluteal regions
the lumbar region,
the posterior surface
of the hips,
the neck,
the posterior and lateral surfaces
of the chest,
the posterior surface
of the shoulders,
the posterior surface of the ulnar
joints—
many dozens of cases
contusions,
contused wounds,
contused abrasions
of various
body parts,
the head
and the limbs—
many dozens of cases
arterial hypertension,
hypertensive crisis
several cases
convulsive
epileptic seizures
—several cases.
decompensated
diabetes,
(brought from the detention center on Okrestin Lane)
including

death before the arrival of
paramedics,
at 10:35 p.m.
08/10/2020,
Pritytsky Square
one case*
including

*There have now been at least three confirmed deaths from the violence: Alexander Taraikovsky in Minsk, Gennady Shutov in Brest, and Alexander Vikhor in Gomel. Rest in power.

There are also still around eighty people missing nationwide in the wake of the arrests. It is quite likely that at least some of these missing protesters died while being tortured in detention centers. (Thanks to Alexei Borisionik for providing these facts.)

Translation and commentary by Joan Brooks. Photo courtesy of BelarusFeed

Wake Up! (Appeal from Belarusian Women)

 

 

The references to “drunken juveniles, hoodlums,” etc., allude to claims by President Lukashenko that only such marginal elements are behind the nationwide popular protests in Belarus. Thanks to many friends on Facebook for the heads-up. // TRR

Learn more about the events in Belarus:

 

belarusian women“Video footage shared on social media showed opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova joining the female protesters in Minsk, holding a bunch of flowers.” Courtesy of BBC

Belarus: “Without Organisation, Without Struggle, the Oppressive Unfreedom Will Never Disappear” (People and Nature)

Belarus: ‘Without organisation, without struggle, the oppressive unfreedom will never disappear’
People and Nature
August 14, 2020

The revolt against the authoritarian regime in Belarus has spread from the city streets, where thousands of protesters have been battling with police, to the workplaces. On Thursday 13 August workers at large enterprises – including chemical and food factories, and construction and transport companies – downed tools in protest at the monstrous surge of police violence and arrests. People are quitting the state-supported trade unions. Films and photographs of workers’ meetings, at which participants denounced police violence and the fraudulent election results, are spreading like wildfire across social media. Womens’ organisations are taking to the streets – against a president whose fury was provoked, especially, by the support for Svetlana Tikhonovskaya, the woman who dared to stand against him for election. Here are two appeals by independent trade union organisations that were published yesterday. Please share and re-post. GL.

Open Appeal by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union to workers

Dear Belarusians,

The authorities’ actions – in falsifying the election results, breaching human rights, instigating mass arrests and beatings of peaceful protesters and passers-by across the whole country – could all lead to irreversible consequences for Belarus. We are hearing ever-louder announcements from the European Union and the United States, that they are ready to impose various sanctions, including economic ones, on Belarus as a state that is trampling cynically on the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

a-factory-meetingA factory meeting in Minsk earlier this week

Closure of the western markets for our products and services would be a catastrophe for our enterprises. The impact of this would be borne first of all by ordinary workers, who are in a bad enough situation already.

To defend ourselves and our freedom of action at the workplace, we propose the following pattern of simple collective actions:

1. Quit the state’s social organisations, such as the [government-supported] Federation of Belarusian Trade Unions, [the pro-presidential civic-political association] Belaya Rus and the Belarusian Republican Union of Youth. If you remain in these organisations, you are actually confirming your support for [president] Aleksandr Lukashenko.

2. Join the independent trade unions at your workplace, and if there is not one, organise it yourself.

3. Organise a mass meeting, declare “no confidence” in the results of the elections, and send it to the Central Electoral Commission. Collect the signatures of those who did not vote for Lukashenko.

4. Present demands to the management of your workplace, and the local authorities, for the cessation of aggression and violence on the part of the security services; for guarantees of safety for the enterprises’ workers and their families; of a guarantee that no-one will be dismissed on account of being seized [by the police] on the streets.

5. Record any mass meetings and demands in minutes; record videos; take photos and send this material to independent media.

In unity there is strength!

In solidarity, Maksim Poznyakov, president of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union.

This statement was published here on 13 August.

The Belarusian Independent Trade Union English-language page is here.

Belarusian Independent Trade Union contact details: Telephone.+375 17 424 18 80. Fax. +375 17 424 18 90. E-mail: bnpsoligorsk@gmail.com

===

An appeal by the recently-established Telegram channel ZabastovkaBY (Strike Belarus)

Belarus is in the grip of a protest movement … and now many people are demanding that the factories be stopped, in order to stop police violence. But that is just the start.

We don’t just need a one-off strike for free elections. We need an organisation, that will rouse workers every time that the manager or boss “loses the plot”. All of us spend most of the day at our workplaces, and it is from the situation there, from the fear of losing our jobs, that the most oppressive unfreedom grows among us.

We need effective organisations of working people, constantly active, and independent of the authorities and the owners of companies.

Furthermore, such organisations are needed not only at the gigantic state-controlled industrial enterprises. Today the majority of Belarusians already work in the private sector, and the situation there is often no better than at the state-owned workplaces. And those private bosses, no less than the state enterprises, are “sponsors of the system”.

We hear about these issues less often, because there is not a single businessman who would want an organisation in his enterprise that could stop him feeding his appetites. But without organisation by working people, and without struggle in the private sector, that feeling of oppressive unfreedom that is suffered by most Belarusians will never disappear.

What we are fighting for:

►The democratisation of the political system;

►The immediate release of those who have been detained without cause at demonstrations;

►A ban on the privatisation of enterprises;

►No job losses;

►Abolition of Decree no. 3 “on the prevention of social parasitism”;

►A ban on fines and the cancellation of bonuses [in workplaces];

►Abolition of the contract [labour] system;

►Expansion of social welfare provision;

►No to the pension reform;

►For trade unions that stand up for our rights.

What to do:

Meet up with your colleagues outside of work time. Organise chats on social media and messaging networks. Work out which departments could most effectively stop production or the provision of services by striking. Join up with our resources, and at the right moment be ready to go on strike. (14 August 2020.)

■ Londoners! There’s a picket at the Belarusian embassy tomorrow (Saturday).

■ Belarusian workers support protesters, by Maxim Edwards on Global Voices – a first-class survey of actions

■ And here is some analysis by Volodymyr Artiukh, published on Open Democracy just before the election.

Some social media clips

■ Redfish film of security forces clashing with demonstrators in the centre of Minsk.

■ Film of a mass meeting at Grodnozhilstroya, a construction company. The chair asks who has voted for Lukashenko, “don’t be shy”, a handful raise their hands. He asks who voted against, an overwhelming cheer goes up. Posted on Facebook.

■ Film of a mass meeting at the huge Minsk automobile factory (MAZ). The crowd shouts “[Lukashenko] Go!” and “honest elections!”. Posted on Facebook by Boris Kravchenko, a Russian trade union official.

■ Medical staff demonstrating in Minsk, as reported by Current Time TV. Those interviewed say they are protesting at the appalling character of the wounds inflicted on patients by the security forces.

■ A film circulating widely on Russian social media. A police officer, completely unprovoked and without warning, smashes the windscreen of a passing car. The elderly driver gets up to complain and is beaten by five officers, in broad daylight, and arrested. Those filming the incident are exclaiming “bandits! fascists!”.

Thanks to Gabriel Levy for sending this to me and graciously permitting me to repost it here. // TRR

Artyom Loskutov: Belarus

Artyom Loskutov, Belarus, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, truncheon print, 60 cm x 40 cm

loskutov-belorus

Loskutov writes: “Starting price 1₽. The auction on my Facebook page will last until Friday, 10:30 p.m. 50% will be sent to the Belarusians.”

Source: @kissmyba

(Thanks to Anna Klimenko for the heads-up)

Belarus

— Паслухай, стары,
нам учора абвешчана воля,
і сёння ад рання
народам запоўнены пляцы,
наперадзе – радасць,
якая нас век не пакіне,
і я назаўсёды з табой
развітацца хачу…
— Паслухай, мой хлопча,
учора зіма пачалася,
і белыя вопраткі
чорныя дрэвы надзелі,
і шэранем ранішнім
ледзь прыцярушаны прорвы,
і холад хавае
ўсялякі ці прыпах, ці пах –
і так будзе доўжыцца
аж да вясновае ўлады –
тады на дарогах
адкрыюцца раны старыя,
як сонца сарве перавязкі…
Крывёю і брудам
вам станецца радасць
і доўга чаканая воля.
А тут, пад зямлёй,
пад заброснелай нізкаю столлю,
на змрочнай сцяне,
будуць мілыя блікі блукаць
маленькай, як жменька,
і вечнай – і вечнай! – надзеі…
… У кніжцы без вокладкі
і без апошніх старонак,
дзе вы, адмыслоўцы шалёнага часу,
жылі,
я сёння заместа закладкі
лісток пакладу
ад пекнай герані,
падобнай на кроў і агонь.

Тацяна Сапач (1962-2010)

vadim f lurie-minsk 2019Vadim F. Lurie, Minsk, 2019. Courtesy of the photographer

— Послушай, старик,
нам свободу вчера обещали,
и нынче с утра
уже площади полны народа,
их радость ведет,
и она нас вовек не покинет,
и с этого дня я с тобою
расстаться хочу…
— Послушай, сыночек,
вчера к нам зима подступила,
и белые платья
решили примерить деревья,
и инеем ранним
чуть проруби сверху покрыты,
и холод скрывает
повсюду и запах, и вонь —
и будет держаться
все это до вешнего ветра —
тогда на дорогах
откроются старые раны,
лишь солнце сорвет с них повязки…
И кровью и грязью
окажется радость
и званая вами свобода.
А тут, под землей,
тут, где низкие своды и плесень,
на темной стене
будут милые блики играть
от зеркала крошечной
светлой и вечной надежды…
Но в книгу, где нет ни последних страниц,
ни обложки,
где вы, мастера сумасшедшего времени,
жили,
я вместо закладки сегодня
листок положу
прекрасной герани,
похожей на кровь и огонь.

Translated from the Belarusian by Gennady Kanevsky

 

—Listen, granddad,
yesterday they promised us freedom,
and now, since morning,
the squares are filled with people,
led on by joy,
and it will never abandon us,
and from this day, I want
to part with you . . .
—Listen, sonny,
yesterday winter arrived,
and the trees decided
to try on white dresses,
and the ice holes are slightly covered
with early frost,
and everywhere the cold hides
both scents and stink—
and all this will hold firm
until a wind comes from outside—
then, on the roads,
old wounds will open,
if only the sun tears off the bandages . . .
And blood and dirt
will turn out to be the joy
and the freedom you called for.
And here, under the earth,
here, where there are low vaults and mold,
on the dark wall
dear flecks of light will play
from the tiny mirror
of bright and eternal hope.
But today, in this book, where there are no final pages,
no covers,
where you, masters of the crazy times,
lived,
I will place a leaf
instead of a bookmark
from a wonderful geranium
that resembles blood and fire.

Translated from Gennady Kanevsky’s Russian by Joan Brooks

* * * * *

Tatsyana Sapach (1962–2010) was a Belarusian poet, journalist, and translator, and the author of two collections of poetry. Gennady Kanevsky (b. 1965, Moscow) has published eight books of verse. Many of his poems have been translated into English, Italian, Hungarian, and Ukrainian. Video courtesy of Nexta and Andrey Rysev

Darya Apahonchich: Did The Police Have Nothing More Important to Do?

apaDarya Apahonchich is greeted by supporters outside the October District Court in Petersburg, August 4, 2020

Darya Apahonchich
Facebook
August 5, 2020

So, here is a more detailed account of my arrest and trial.

Yesterday, I was stopped by police officers on the street near work. They would not let me pass, grabbing my scooter and saying that I should go with them, because they had “material” on me. I said I wasn’t going anywhere, so they just forced me into a vehicle.

In the vehicle, they refused to tell me what the reason was for detaining me. We drove to the first police precinct for a very long time, and the car broke down along the way. All the way, I scolded them, appealing to their conscience and reason. There were four of them and a vehicle, they had spent the whole day on me (probably more than one): did they have nothing more important to do? Later, I found out that they had been waiting for me since 5:30 in the morning, but I had left the house only at 2:00 in the afternoon. (So many resources wasted on me! Whatever for?) By the way, it’s funny that they were waiting for me near my house, but they only arrested me near my work, because I when I left the house I immediately jumped on my scooter, so they probably didn’t have time to grab me there. I can imagine how annoyed they were.

Varya Mikhailova, a community public defender, came and found me at the precinct, where I was handed charge sheets, concocted on the spot, for two street performances: the vulva ballet in support of Yulia Tsvetkova, and the road to the ocean of blood in support of the Khachaturyan sisters. There were a lot of mistakes in the charge sheets, which Varya had better tell you about, and I just refused to testify against myself.

vardarVarya Mikhailova and Darya Apahonchich waiting for her hearing at the October District Court in Petersburg, August 4, 2020. Photo courtesy of Ms. Mikhailova’s Facebook page

Around six o’clock, I was taken to court and tried on the two charges at once. It was there that I had a gander at my case files. They were quite hilarious. There was a touching insert from Center “E” [the “anti-extremism” police] where you could see the photos from all my old [internal] passports, in which I was fifteen, twenty-one, and so on. Then there were screenshots of videos, and disks containing these same videos. In short, it was a cool folder, better than my pathetic portfolio. Another funny thing was that all the performances had been taken from a page on the MBKh Media Northwest website. They also wrote in my file how many likes and comments there were. There were very few likes.

The judge’s assistant showed the video and read aloud the text of the performance “this road leads to an ocean of blood.” She read very well, after which everyone fell silent. I really liked it, I would also add it to my portfolio.

I was found guilty (under Article 20.2, Part 5 of the Administrative Offenses Code of the Russian Federation [“violation by a participant of a public event of the established procedure for holding an assembly, rally, demonstration, march or picket”] and was sentenced to pay two fines of 10,000 rubles each [approx. 230 euros]. We will appeal the fines, of course, and I think we will also file a complaint against police officers for unlawful arrest.

***

I am upset, of course. (My “joking” program clicks on in such situations, but then when I get home, the “get scared” program turns on.) I don’t like living in a world where people in uniform grab you on the street and shove you into a paddy wagon. (I told them, “Don’t touch my scooter!” They said, “We’re not touching it!”—and then they grabbed the scooter.) I’m also sorry, of course, that I said I worked at the Red Cross. In the past, I usually didn’t tell them where I worked, but I didn’t get picked up on the street like this in the past. It’s an important lesson for everyone who has a “civilian” job: don’t tell the police about it.

I’m also upset that I have to constantly be ready for violence from all directions. Today, I have again been getting messages containing insults from strangers. Thank you for only sending messages. I categorically don’t like that, in this world, I constantly have to prove I have the right to voice my opinion. You see, the system thinks that if you are a teacher, a mother, then okay, that is a normal job, a normal life, you have the right to be (a little) dissatisfied, to engage in a little activism. (Moms cannot be held overnight at police stations on administrative charges.) But employers rarely like it when you are an activist. This system is very complicated and stifling.)

But I cannot help doing what I do. My support for Yulia Tsvetkova, for Angelina, Maria, and Krestina Khachaturyan is a very important part of my life. It is my freedom, my fight for the safety of all women, and my contribution to my children’s future. (I am really, really worried that my daughter is growing up in an unsafe world, that my son is growing up in an unsafe world, that society imposes places on them in the hierarchical meat grinder.) I am still going to be involved in activism: I cannot do it any other way.

(I had a year in my life when I worked at a college and was quite afraid that my name would be googled at work and I would be fired. Consequently, I tried not to do performances, and then I was fired anyway, because the college was shuttered, and my students were deported to boot.)

I want to say a huge thank you for your support. Yesterday, I got calls and emails, and my wonderful friends came to the courthouse. (No one was allowed inside, but we met outside when it was all over.) I am very glad for this a world of solidarity, thank you.

***

My  public defender suggested that I should immediately announce that I was soliciting donations to pay the fines. I decided this was probably reasonable. There is hope that we will be able to get the fines reversed. In this case, I will transfer all money donated to Yulia Tsvetkova and Mediazona.

So here’s my card number. 4276 5500 7321 7849.

(This photo was taken near the courthouse. I found it on the Telegram channel  https://t.me/armageddonna.)

Photo courtesy of Ms. Apahonchich’s Facebook page. Translated by the Russian Reader

Jenya Kulakova: A Sunny Downpour

sunny downpour

Jenya Kulakova
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July 28, 2020

I exit the remand prison on Shpalernaya Street—and find myself in a sunny downpour. From inside, the storm seemed much darker. (Many things probably seem much darker inside the prison.). I stand under the awning of Center “E” and look across the road at the prison, dazzling in silver drops from the sky, in the spray made by the wheels of passing cars. I’m under the awning and safe, but my feet are getting a little wet. For a short time the street is quiet, there are no people or cars. A small rainbow falls directly on Shpalernaya from the sky, vanishing in a few minutes.

I will tell Vitya [Viktor Filinkov] about this when we meet, just I told him about the bat that flies at night in the courtyard near the prison. And he told me how a pigeon had flown into their prison cell and landed on his trousers, and how he and his cellmate had caught it by donning plastic bags. They had chased it out of the window and fed it prison bread.

About the verdict.* Vitya had received it on Thursday and immediately read it, but he hadn’t looked at it again. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, he plans to write and send an appeal. When I asked him to comment on the verdict, he could not say anything printable—he cursed loudly and waved his hands. When I asked him one more time to make a publishable statement on the matter, he slumped his head on the table. That was when I realized that it was his verdict and his seven years in prison, and he could comment or not comment on them as he wished.

He will write an appeal, of course, there is no doubt about it. Although he doesn’t feel like doing it at all: he says that he is always busy with something, and there is not enough time. He reads a lot about math (I only remember something about graph theory, but there are a lot of other topics), devises assignments for a training course on “pogromming,” and studies English. He’s apparently in good health, and his mood is also cheerful. However, the last couple of weeks he has had increased problems with sleep. He falls asleep in the morning, when it is already time to get up. (And this is despite the fact that since February, he has been taking drugs that should also level out his sleep.)

The censor is on vacation, and for three weeks, Vitya has received no letters from the outside world. (I don’t think he is able to send letters, either). But he gets Novaya Gazeta once a week, so Vitya is more or less aware of all the news. The library has been undergoing repairs of some kind, so a month ago, Vitya and his cellmate had to return all their library books, but they cannot take out new ones yet.

Update (added here from the comments). The coronavirus restrictions, imposed in early April, have almost all been lifted: the receipt of care packages and parcels has resumed, as well as visits with relatives. Meetings with lawyers no longer take place through glass, but all visitors must still wear masks and gloves. The mysterious “cleaning day” on Friday, when lawyers cannot visit clients, is also still in place.

*The verdict has been mailed to Vitaly [Cherkasov] and me by mail, and is still on its way, but Olga Krivonos has posted it here, so you can read it.

Photo by and courtesy of Jenya Kulakova. Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on Viktor Filinkov and the Network Case (see below), and go to Rupression.com to find out how you can show your solidarity with him and the other defendants in the case. All of them now face long terms in prison unless their guilty verdicts are reversed on appeal, which is not going to happen as long as the current regime remains in power, unfortunately.

#NetworkCase