Expert in a Dying Field

The Beths, “Expert in a Dying Field” (2022)


On the first episode of his Twitter show, Tucker Carlson concluded that Ukraine was most likely the culprit.

“If this was intentional, it was not a military tactic. It was an act of terrorism,” he said. The dam was “built by the Russian government, and it currently sits in Russian-controlled territory. The dam’s reservoir supplies water to Crimea which has been, for the last 240 years, home of the Russian Black Sea fleet. Blowing up the dam may be bad for Ukraine, but it hurts Russia more. And for precisely that reason, the Ukrainian government has considered destroying it. In December, The Washington Post quoted a Ukrainian general saying his men had fired American-made rockets at the dam’s floodgate as a test strike.”

“So really, once the facts start coming, it becomes much less of a mystery what might have happened to the dam,” Carlson said. “Any fair person would conclude that the Ukrainians probably blew it up. Just as you would assume they blew up Nord Stream… and in fact, they did do that. As we now know.” But the American media has wasted no time “in accusing the Russians of sabotaging their own infrastructure.”


Source: Isaac Saul, “The Ukraine counteroffensive (and the dam attack),” Tangle, 7 June 2023

“Villages flooded as Moscow, Kyiv trade blame.”
A screenshot of the front page of the 7 June 2023 Monterey Herald, as sent to this subscriber

The Nova Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine, controlled by Russia, has been destroyed. One consequence is a humanitarian disaster that, had it not taken place within a war zone, would already have drawn enormous international assistance. Thousands of houses are flooded and tens of thousands of people are in flight or waiting for rescue. Another consequence is ecological mayhem, among other things the loss of wetland and other habitats. A third is the destruction of Ukrainian farmland and other elements of the Ukrainian economy. So much is happening at once that the story is hard to follow. Here are a few thoughts about writing responsibly about the event.

1.  Avoid the temptation to begin the story of this manmade humanitarian and ecological catastrophe by bothsidesing it.  That’s not journalism. 

2.  Russian spokespersons claiming that Ukraine did something (in this case, blow a dam) is not part of a story of an actual event in the real world.  It is part of different story: one about all the outrageous claims Russia has made about Ukraine since the first invasion, in 2014.  If Russian claims about Ukrainian actions are to be mentioned, it has to be in that context.

3.  Citing Russian claims next to Ukrainian claims is unfair to the Ukrainians.  In this war, what Russian spokespersons have said has almost always been untrue, whereas what Ukrainian spokespersons have said has largely been reliable.  The juxtaposition suggests an equality that makes it impossible for the reader to understand that important difference.

4.  If a Russian spokesman (e.g. Dmitri Peskov) must be cited, it must be mentioned that this specific figure has lied about every aspect of this war since it began.  This is context.  Readers picking up the story in the middle need to know such background. 

5.  If Russian propaganda for external consumption is cited, it can help to also cite Russian propaganda for internal consumption.  It is interesting that Russian propagandists have been long arguing that Ukrainian dams should be blown, and that a Russian parliamentarian takes for granted that Russia blew the dam and rejoices in the death and destruction that followed.

6.  When a story begins with bothsidesing, readers are being implicitly instructed that an object in the physical world (like a dam) is really just an element of narrative.  They are being guided into the wrong genre (literature) right at the moment when analysis is needed.  This does their minds a disservice.

7.  Dams are physical objects.  Whether or how they can be destroyed is a subject for people who know what they are talking about.  Although this valuable NYT story exhibits the above flaws, it has the great merit of treating dams as physical rather than narrative objects.  When this exercise is performed, it seems clear that the dam could only have been destroyed by an explosion from the inside.

8.  Russia was in control of the relevant part of the dam when it exploded.  This is an elemental part of the context.  It comes before what anyone says.  When a murder is investigated, detectives think about means.  Russia had the means. Ukraine did not. 

9.  The story doesn’t start at the moment the dam explodes.  Readers need to know that for the last fifteen months Russia has been killing Ukrainian civilians and destroying Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, whereas Ukraine has been trying to protect its people and the structures that keep them alive.

10.  The setting also includes history.  Military history offers an elemental point.  Armies that are attacking do not blow dams to block their own path of advance.  Armies that are retreating do blow dams to slow the advance of the other side.  At the relevant moment, Ukraine was advancing, and Russia was retreating.

The pursuit of objectivity does not mean treating every event as a coin flip, a fifty-fifty chance between two different public statements.  Objectivity demands thinking about all the objects — physical objects, physical placement of people — that must be in the story, as well as all of the settings — contemporary and historical — that a reader would need in order to come away from the story with greater understanding.

Source: Timothy Snyder, “The Nova Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine: Ten guidelines for writing about catastrophe,” Thinking about…, 7 June 2023. Thanks to Mark Teeter for the heads-up

Vladimir Slivyak (far left and on screen), speaking at the European Parliament earlier this week. Mikhail Khodorkhovsky, who made his fortune selling oil and gas, is seated the second to Mr. Slivyak’s left. Photo courtesy of his Facebook page

At the beginning of the week, an important conference, “The Day After,” was held at the European Parliament. I would not call it a “congress” of the Russian opposition, but rather something like a big meeting of Russian civil society. Some of the participants were those who are termed “opposition politicians” and their support groups. There were also human rights activists, women’s rights activists, LGBT+ rights activists, and many others. Environmentalists were extremely poorly represented (three out of the approximately 250 people in attendance). At the dozen or so panel discussions, in which more than fifty people took part, only one person addressed environmental issues—me.

Despite the fact that, as I observed, there were fewer politicians in attendance than non-politicians, the panel discussions were dominated by the topics that only the politicians talk about. Very rarely did anything different get talked about, but when it did the audience was usually quite supportive. I have no quarrel with the gist of what the opposition politicians said. Almost everyone spoke about supporting Ukraine, democratizing Russia, and the horror of the war, which must be stopped and all Russian troops withdrawn. There was a lot of discussion about what the political system of the new Russia should be, how to prevent a repeat of the dictatorship. This is all well and good, and I don’t think anyone in the audience disagreed with the main arguments. The big problem was something else. The vast majority of the speeches seemed to merge into a single digested mass: it was difficult to distinguish among people who, one after another, talked about the same thing in similar terms. If the audience expected just this, then that’s fine. But the audience were definitely expecting more. And they didn’t get it.

On the second day, the wonderful Karina Moskalenko organized a protest for women’s rights, threatening to leave the auditorium if the middle-aged white men in suits continued to dominate the panel discussions. Periodically, women did appear among the participants of the discussions, but not always. I fully supported the protest because the gripe was warranted: those who dominated the discussions (who had been involved in organizing the conference, of course) objectively had no desire to take into account the interests of other groups. This was the reaction of only one of the movements represented at the conference, but similar emotions (about the ignoring of all other interests) were also manifested by representatives of the other groups. Often one had the impression that there were the bearers of the truth, whose important cause everyone else should follow, while all other interests would be dealt with later (maybe). Someone said, How does this differ from Putin? No one else’s interests matter to him either.

There is no doubt that the opposition talked about important things, and I don’t think anyone at the conference questioned this. The topic of unifying the opposition was broached repeatedly. But it’s just that uniting people who don’t feel that their interests are taken into account won’t work. This is the answer to those who are always wondering why the opposition is fragmented. If you want someone to stand beside you, you have to make room for them.

On the morning of the second day, I spoke on the same panel with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Sergei Aleksashenko, Mark Feygin, Fyodor Krashennikov, and one of the European MPs. It was all per usual until my turn came. Briefly put, I argued that climate policy and the transition to green energy were extremely important, and that it was necessary to deal with this now if you were thinking about how to set up a new democratic Russia: you couldn’t get by without it, because for any civilized country today it was one of the priorities and its importance would only grow. No one would ever take Russia seriously if it was run by politicians who did not understand climate issues. The demand for fossil fuels would decline, and this would become a big economic problem; it would not be possible to employ the previous economic model (which enabled Putin to save money for the war). Also, the opposition needed the support of voters and, most importantly, young people, because it was they who would have to vouchsafe democracy in the future and prevent a new dictatorship. It was young people who would have to face much more terrible manifestations of climate change than those we were witnessing today. So, young people needed politicians to understand the climate agenda and work on it. If you wanted young people to vote for you in the future, you wouldn’t get anywhere with them without it. Nothing would ever happen if you put it off for later. In the USSR and post-Soviet Russia, dealing with environmental issues was always postponed.

Despite the fact that the audience applauded my remarks loudly and more than once, the moderator, Feygin, could not hold himself in check no way no how. He made a brief comment to the effect that of course it’s important, but it’s not important. He went out of his way to show his disrespect for the opinion of the people in the audience who obviously supported my arguments, let alone the climate and environmental agenda. Well, okay, we’ve seen worse things in our lives. But what really struck me was how many people (not a few, but dozens) came up to me during the day to thank me for my speech and say that it was important. About half of those who approached me mentioned how the reaction from the other panelists (I think they meant Feygin) had been ugly.

My conclusion in the light of all this is simple: there is nothing wrong with people, but there is something wrong with the leadership. It is vital to learn to feel what your target audience wants. If you are a politician who, albeit sometime in the future, not now, wants to build a democratic Russia and get people’s support, you not only have to talk about what you stand for. You also need to hear people and respect their interests. It’s not a one-way street. And this is not only my opinion (among the participants of the conference). Within Russian civil society there is an enormous desire to work to change Russia and a huge potential for unification. We can’t let this moment slip.

Source: Vladimir Slivyak (Facebook), 7 June 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. See Tomsk TV2’s recent interview with Mr. Slivyak, as part of its project Eyewitnesses.

The offices of a subsidiary of Russian oil giant Lukoil on Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, 7 June 2019
Photo by the Russian Reader

There is a phenomenon that, by the way, unites us Ukrainians with Russians—a burning irrational hatred for Greta Thunberg. I can’t understand this phenomenon. Basically, she’s never wronged anyone. But yesterday, social media was just bursting at the seams with hatred for her, including from people who went to her Twitter account to tell her that she was a “juvenile slut.” The conservative momma’s boys at Tyzhden (The Ukrainian Week) even knocked off a column about it.

They don’t hate Tucker Carlson, who yesterday released a video claiming that Ukraine bombed the hydroelectric power station itself. They don’t hate Elon Musk, who reposted it. They don’t hate fucking Ben Shapiro or the Trumpists, who have been stumping against Ukraine from the get-go and at the same time are readily published here in Ukraine, in translation by Our Format, because “we must respect different opinions.” No, for some reason, the hatred is reserved for Greta Thunberg.

The irony here is also that the RePlanet movement, which she represents, just yesterday quite promptly condemned Russia for the situation with the hydroelectric power plant and once again called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s sovereign territory. But who cares? Greta Thunberg, bitch, you’re going to answer for everything.

Source: Dmytro Rayevsky (Facebook), 7 June 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

International Children’s Day (June 1)

Important Stories • “Putin, Lvova-Belova and their crimes: how Ukrainian orphans are registered as Russians” • 31 May 2023

The Russian authorities have been removing children en masse from occupied Ukrainian territories and do not consider it a crime. But the International Criminal Court in the Hague thinks differently, accusing Vladimir Putin and Russian children’s ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova of war crimes—namely, the illegal deportation of minors from Ukraine.

Orphans and children left without parental care have been sent all over Russia, even to the Far North. Important Stories found out how this system works and how abducted Ukrainian orphans are forcibly turned into Russian nationals.



00:00 Why Putin and Lviv-Belova have been accused of kidnapping Ukrainian children

01:12 How 2,500 new children appeared in Russia’s database of orphans

02:32 The story of Sasha from Donetsk and his two sisters

03:56 The environment in which Ukrainian children are raised in Russia

05:23 “The children categorically refused to go to the Far North, where we live”

07:12 “The parents were killed there. The children told us terrible things”

07:48 Ukrainian orphans are provided with housing, for which Russians spend years on the waiting list

08:39 “There have never been such crimes in the history of humankind”

Source: Important Stories (YouTube), 31 May 2023. Annotation translated by the Russian Reader

SOTA • “Putin is readying young people to rebuild the army” • 31 May 2023

It won’t be possible to wage wars forever, but Putin is trying very hard. Since February 24, 2022, the lives of young people have changed. Starting in kindergarten, children are now taught that serving in the army is the best job in the world, and that the most beautiful thing in life is dying for the good of the Motherland.

[Endlessly repeat the message that] Russia is surrounded by Nazis, the whole world is against it, its soldiers are defenders, and you’re good to go. You’ve raised a whole new generation of soldiers.

This assembly line for producing soldiers has existed for several years. Even before the war, schoolchildren were inspired with imperialism and a desire to go to war. Now, however, everything has reached new levels. Military parades are organized in kindergartens. Schoolchildren are taught to dig trenches, shoot, and render first aid in combat. And university students are trained to serve in the military.

See more about how children are turned into soldiers in our new video.

Source: SOTA (YouTube), 31 May 2023. Annotation translated by the Russian Reader

A ruined building of the Burenevo Auxiliary Boarding School for Mentally Retarded Children.
Village of Burnevo, Priozersk District (Leningrad Region), 2021. Photo: Olga Matveeva/Republic

“Hello Irina Alexandrovna! This is your pupil writing to you. I decided to write to you. Please write a letter here so that they let me go on my own, whatever date you need, so that I can study from the beginning of the school year, that is, beginning September 1. Say hello to everyone at the school. When you write the letter, address it to the 11th department… Irina Alexandrovna what was the reason you sent me to the mental hospital again. I told you that I would remain at camp…”

This is an excerpt from a letter written by a pupil to the director of the Burnevo Auxiliary School for Mentally Retarded Children. I found the letter in his personal file.

In 1970, the Priozersk Sanatorium Forest School was reorganized into an auxiliary boarding school for mentally retarded children. According to the school’s fact sheet, “Forty-eight mentally retarded children studied [sic] at the school. Ten of them are disabled. All of the children are from at-risk families. Classes are held in one shift, five days a week. On weekends and holidays, ten to fifteen of them, mostly orphans, stay. There are twelve of them in the school.”

It seems that many of the pupils were not mentally retarded or disabled, but they were neglected. Sergei, a resident of the village of Burnevo, spoke to this fact: “Half of the children there were sick, while half of the healthy ones were from dysfunctional families. I attended this school until 1970, and my mother worked there as a minder.”

The school was closed in 2005 due to poor epidemiological conditions. There was only stove heating in the building, and the water was pumped from the lake. The school consisted of several buildings. In the main building there were four classrooms, a teacher’s room, a curriculum office, and the director’s office. There were sleeping quarters in a wooden building. Carpentry workshops, sewing workshops, a recreation and sports equipment room were located in separate buildings. There was also a medical unit with an isolation ward and a speech therapist’s office. There I found an archive containing the personal files of the school’s graduates.

“His grandmother telephoned. She said that her grandson was very bad, it was hard to deal him, his socks were wet and dirty. He gave a jacket to a girl, but lied to his grandmother that he had dropped it off at the laundry. At the class meeting, it was decided to refer him to the psychiatrist to prescribe treatment.”

“Slava ended up the border zone this summer: he told the border guards that he was flying in a spaceship. I had a frank talk with him. He still wants to go see his mother in Vyborg (she does not live with their family). He didn’t find her, got lost, and ended up in the border zone. Slava, smiling, told how me he deceived a border guard and a policeman. Slava was referred to a psychiatrist, who detected no abnormalities.”

“Oleg systematically wipes the dust from his bed badly. This was discussed at a class meeting. There are no results.”

“If children skip classes, they should be reported to the police without delay.”

These are quotes from pupil observation logs. Along with memos, letters, and assessments, they were kept in the students’ personal files. These records about the children were kept for years—from the first grade to graduation. Perusing them, you begin to imagine these children, how they lived, what they worried about, what they did. Their childhoods are written down in slim notebooks. You watch them grow up and go out into the world, or to a psychoneurological residential treatment facility, or to prison.

For bad behavior, children were referred to a psychiatrist and prescribed treatment. There is no data on how many orphans are placed in psychiatric clinics nowadays. The roots of what is happening in this system to this day must be sought in the past.

This project is based on archival materials and interviews with graduates of the Burnevo Auxiliary School for Mentally Retarded Children whom I managed to find.


Source: Olga Matveeva, “‘A slight degree of imbecility’: the stories of graduates of an auxiliary boarding school for mentally retarded children,” Republic, 31 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

A girl paints a pebble during an event to mark the International Children’s Day in Vladivostok, Russia, June 1, 2023. (Photo by Guo Feizhou/Xinhua)

Students from a special education school perform during an event to mark the International Children’s Day in Vladivostok, Russia, June 1, 2023. (Photo by Guo Feizhou/Xinhua)

A girl draws during an event to mark the International Children’s Day in Vladivostok, Russia, June 1, 2023. (Photo by Guo Feizhou/Xinhua)

Teachers and students in traditional attire dance during an event to mark the International Children’s Day in Vladivostok, Russia, June 1, 2023. (Photo by Guo Feizhou/Xinhua)


Source: “Int’l Children’s Day marked around world,” Xinhua, 1 June 2023

You Went Away

A gravestone at El Carmelo Cemetery, Pacific Grove, California, 25 May 2023. Photo by the Russian Reader

Everyone I know who has left [Russia] has improved their circumstances by leaving. I understand that mine is a biased sample, but it is still a sample. One young woman recently said it to me outright: “Things have got better for all of us because of the war. And that scares me.”

We are beneficiaries of the war, me included. I have started earning more money. I live in a great place, better than where I lived in Moscow. Everyone respects me, which was unheard of in Moscow, and sometimes they even recognize me on the streets. Every day something good happens to me: new projects, interviews, interesting encounters. And I’ve generally started feeling better. I have become calmer, kinder, more confident in myself, and I smile more often.

And all because the war is underway.

It scares me to admit it, but sometimes I think: if only it had started fifteen years earlier, when I was younger and I had more vim and vigor. Would it have been to hard for them to arrange? How wonderful my life would have turned out then.

I realized this back in 2014, when I spoke with people who had gone to fight in Donbas completely voluntarily. Yes, of course, there were ideological idiots among. Some were in it for the money. But many honestly admitted that there was nothing else for them to do. Life had become meaningless and hopeless: TV, vodka, the wife. Life was boring, there were no prospects. They had to raise the stakes, and so they went to war.

I was like that myself. In 2014, I worked at a terrible dreary job. My personal life had come to a dead end. I felt that what mattered most in life was happening somewhere other than where I was, and I was just rotting where I was. It was like Groundhog Day, like being in a sludge which you can not get out. Everything was unreal, inauthentic, imaginary. And so I went to report in Donbas, because I knew for sure that that was reality. It didn’t matter what kind of reality, but whatever it was, it was the real thing.

And suddenly everything fell into place. I am a feckless, indecisive person, poorly adapted to life. But suddenly, in the midst of war, I felt that I was in my element. I knew exactly what to do, I had no doubts, I took responsibility. And everything panned out for me, something I wouldn’t have dared to dream of in peacetime. But why was war just the ticket?

There was even a fire in my belly. I thought: there is a chance for people like me in this mess, in this chaos. Now I’m going to show you assholes just like—you’ll dance to my tune. You had me all wrong…

It sounds nice, but there’s something despicable about it.

So did all those failed poets, provincial schoolteachers, and hairdressers with cosmic-scale ambitions who in 1917 posed for pretty photographs and then engaged in mass executions. That’s how history is made. And then they were shot themselves.

And it also eliminates the need for choice. Oh, how easy it is to make decisions when there is no other choice! Can’t make up your mind? It’s okay, the course of things will choose for you. “The coercive force of reality,” as Babel said. Force majeure, as they say in the courts.

In December 2022, I had good papers made for myself, and so now I can move freely around the world. And my first thought was: that’s it, now I’m going to Kyiv. From there I’ll go to Odesa and Kharkiv. I know how it’s done. I have to go. I won’t forgive myself later if I don’t go, so off I go!

But I didn’t go. I wasn’t able to double dare myself. I couldn’t explain to myself why I had to go to the war and what I would do there. I already have a different life from the one I led in Moscow. I don’t need to compensate, to show my worth in a particular way, to prove anything to myself. I think I’m recovering, I’m getting better.

“Have you read the news? What a beautiful article you could write!” a friend recently wrote to me. “Come on, have a whack at it! It would be a powerful move!”

I texted him: “Go fuck yourself!”

But another person wrote: “We have a problem here. Can you…” I answered briefly: “Yes, I’ll do it.”

I’m recovering, but I’m not quite recovered yet.

P.S. For those who are outraged by the first sentence.

I lived badly in Russia, I had nothing to lose. So yes, my life has improved. Everything is relative.

You had been living well, apparently, and now you are experiencing difficulties trying to restore your previous standard of living. That’s also the way the ball bounces. I hate everything about the way things were. I wouldn’t want things to be like they were before.

Source: Yan Shenkman (Facebook), 26 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ultra Bra, “Sinä lähdit pois” (“You Went Away,” 1997)

In the wee hours neither of us can party anymore
In the wee hours neither of us can party anymore
Tired gazes, hoarse voices
In the background a sun that doesn’t warm
In the background a sun that doesn’t warm

You went away
From the balcony I watched
Your receding back
You skirted the puddles
And I guess you won’t regret this parting

All the birds in the bushes sing before seven in the morning
All the birds in the bushes sing before seven in the morning
Tired gazes, hoarse voices
In the background a sun that doesn’t warm
In the background a sun that doesn’t warm

You went away
From the balcony I watched
Your receding back
You skirted the puddles
And I guess you won’t regret this parting, parting

The night’s last drink
Turns into breakfast
To which I added coffee

You went away
From the balcony I watched
Your receding back
You skirted the puddles
And I guess you won’t regret this parting

You went away
From the balcony I watched
Your receding back
You skirted the puddles
And I guess you won’t regret this parting, parting, parting

Source: Genius. Translated from the Finnish by the Russian Reader

KYIV, May 29 (Reuters) — Explosions rang out across Kyiv on Monday as Russia launched its 16th air attack on the Ukrainian capital this month, hours after unleashing dozens of missiles and drones overnight.

Panicked residents, some of whom initially ignored the air raid siren as they ate breakfast in cafes, rushed for cover when the sky filled with smoke trails and blast clouds.

All the Russian missiles were shot down, but one person in the central Podil district was taken to hospital, authorities said. No major damage was reported.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said explosions sounded in the capital’s central districts and emergency services were dispatched.

“The attack on Kyiv continues. Don’t leave the shelters!” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukraine shot down 11 cruise and ballistic missiles fired in the second of Monday’s attacks on Kyiv, said Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Heavy air strikes about six hours earlier had targeted the capital, put five Ukrainian aircraft out of action in the west of the country and caused a fire in the Black Sea port of Odesa.

“I would say there has been an activisation, a serious activisation… there are fewer missiles flying, but the regularity of strikes has increased,” said air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat.

Russia’s main targets are typically stocks of Western weapons, energy facilities and government buildings, but the fact the missiles over Kyiv were shot down made it difficult to establish their target on Monday, he said.

Russia has increased the frequency of air attacks as Ukraine prepares to launch a counteroffensive.

Kyiv metro stations were packed with people taking shelter although many residents ignored the air raid alarm until they heard loud blasts in city centre.

A local television report from a junction on a busy highway showed missile wreckage that appeared to have hit a traffic light.

Source: Pavel Polityuk and Max Hunder, “Russia launches 16th air strike on Kyiv this month,” Reuters, 29 May 2023


Just two of the soldiers who were rebuilding the machine-gun nest had been with the battalion since Kherson. One of them, a twenty-nine-year-old construction worker called Bison—because he was built like one—had been hospitalized three times: after being shot in the shoulder, after being wounded by shrapnel in the ankle and knee, and after being wounded by shrapnel in the back and arm. The other veteran, code-named Odesa, had enlisted in the Army in 2015, after dropping out of college. Short and stocky, he had the same serene deportment as Bison. The uncanny extent to which both men had adapted to their lethal environment underscored the agitation of the recent arrivals, who flinched whenever something whistled overhead or crashed nearby.

“I only trust Bison,” Odesa said. “If the new recruits run away, it will mean immediate death for us.” He’d lost nearly all his closest friends in Kherson. Taking out his phone, he swiped through a series of photographs: “Killed . . . killed . . . killed . . . killed . . . killed . . . wounded. . . . Now I have to get used to different people. It’s like starting over.”

Because the high attrition rate had disproportionately affected the bravest and most aggressive soldiers—a phenomenon that one officer called “reverse natural selection”—seasoned infantrymen like Odesa and Bison were extremely valuable and extremely fatigued. After Kherson, Odesa had gone awol. “I was in a bad place psychologically,” he said. “I needed a break.” After two months of resting and recuperating at home, he came back. His return was prompted not by a fear of being punished—what were they going to do, put him in the trenches?—but by a sense of loyalty to his dead friends. “I felt guilty,” he said. “I realized that my place was here.”


Source: Luke Mogelson, “Two Weeks at the Front in Ukraine,” New Yorker, 22 May 2023

The Sasha Skochilenko Trial: Olga Safonova’s “Slightly Misleading” Expert Analysis

Sasha Skochilenko (center) at her criminal trial in Petersburg, 25 May 2023. Photo: Nadezhda Skochilenko

At today’s hearing [in Sasha Skochilenko’s criminal trial on charges of disseminating knowingly false information about the Russian army], Sasha’s defense lawyers and Svetlana Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya, a linguist who conducted an independent forensic examination and found no knowingly false information in Sasha’s messages, were able to question one of the authors of the linguistic forensic examination [commissioned by the prosecution].

Olga Safonova, a specialist in political science (!), was enlisted to contribute to the linguistic forensic examination. But, as she was instructed to do by a staff member at the forensics expertise center, she evaluated whether what was written [on the anti-war “price tags” that Ms. Skochilenko is alleged to have posted in a Petersburg supermarket] was in line with the Russian Defense Ministry’s position, not whether it was truthful.

[Safonova] admitted that her analysis of one of the messages was “slightly misleading.” She was “at a loss” when asked to respond to the assertion that Sasha faces up to ten years in prison on the basis of such misleading conclusions, among other things.

After a recess (due to her heart problems, Sasha found it difficult to endure the stuffiness and lack of water), the examination of the witness was continued by Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya. Safonova was forced to admit that among the sources against which she checked Sasha’s messages, only the Defense Ministry’s website corresponded to her own definition of an official source — unlike the website and anonymous Telegram channels. She also could not answer a school curriculum-level question about impersonal sentences, although their erroneous definition in the forensic examination is one of the “proofs” of Sasha’s guilt.

In addition to pointing out the errors in the forensic examination and its noncompliance with government standards, Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya recalled that, according to the Justice Ministry’s methodological recommendations, when an expert strays beyond their area of professional competence, it is a procedural error and is inadmissible [as evidence in court]. Safonova was forced to agree. Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya followed this up by asking a direct question: “Can you, as an expert, prove conclusively that Skochilenko knowingly falsified information?”

Safonova replied that she could not.

The new prosecutor abruptly interrupted her and requested that the hearing be postponed.

You can come out and support Sasha at 11:30 a.m on June 13. Many thanks to everyone who continues to attend the trial, shares information about the case, and donates money to pay the lawyers and buy food and medicine care packages! You can help Sasha financially here:


(Sofia S., Sberbank)



Source: Nadezhda Skochilenko (Facebook), 25 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. The details for donating money to Ms. Skochilenko’s defense fund are only for people based in Russia.


Olga Safonova. Photo courtesy of The Village

In the late 1990s, St. Petersburg State University, for reasons unknown, gave away one of its dormitories on Vasilievsky Island — 10 Bering Street — with a two-story attic built on. Later, one of the university’s vice-rectors regretfully claimed that if the building had not been given away, the university would have had room to house over 500 students. Today, the building houses apartments (a three-bedroom flat there will run you 20 million rubles) and offices. It is owned by the Bering-10 Condominium Association, whose chair is Olga Diomidovna Safonova. She has the exact same name as an associate professor in the Faculty of Political Science at St. Petersburg State University.

Safonova has been involved as an expert witness in the criminal cases against [Petersburg anti-war protesters] Victoria Petrova, Sasha Skochilenko, and Vsevolod Korolev. They face up to ten years in prison if convicted. These are quotations from the expert analysis in the case against Victoria Petrova:

“Objective facts indicate that the war crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine have not been committed by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, but by the Kiev regime and the armed formations controlled by it.”

“The practical intent and purpose of the statements under examination [i.e., Victoria Petrova’s posts] consists in generating false ideas among readers (listeners) that the actions of the Russian federal leadership are condemned by society, as manifested by the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and against European countries. […] In the materials submitted for examination, the negative assessment of the policy of Russian federal state bodies vis-a-vis their deployment of Russian federal armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens and maintain international peace and security, is not supported by arguments and evidence.”

Safonova graduated first from St. Petersburg State University’s law faculty, then from its philology faculty. In 2005, she defended her dissertation in political science. Here is a quote from the abstract: “Social deprivation has become a characteristic feature of the lifestyle of a significant portion of the Russian populace. A drop in the level of real monetary income has entailed increased competition for survival, thereby generating an increase in the stratum of people whose intentions have become criminal, i.e., unlawful.”

At least until the mid-2010s, Safonova led an active social life. The Village found the academic’s picture in a dozen photo reportages from different parties, as published by and Geometria. Here she is at a presentation by the jewelry house Freywille; here, at the (now-closed) restaurant Gusto’s birthday party; and here, at the opening of XXXX Baltika Brew.

The Village spoke about Safonova with graduates of various faculties at St. Petersburg State University: their assessments of her were contradictory. Journalist Anastasia Romanova, who took Safonova’s lecture course on political science, remembered her as “the toughest teacher, whose pass-fail exam was very hard to pass.” “She honestly read the whole class the riot act,” said Romanova. “It was very scary to go to her.” Emile, a graduate of the political science faculty, where Safonova taught a course on law, recalls, on the contrary, that “the course was a formality,” and “at some point that woman just disappeared.” It was one of the easiest subjects to pass,” he said.

In 2012, commenting to Delovoi Peterburg on the newly adopted law on foreign agents, Safonova said, “There are many organizations that, under plausible pretexts, are engaged in near-subversive activities. We as a state should be concerned about this, and it’s good that this issue has been addressed.”

“I remember that Safonova gave what I thought were absurd descriptions of the political regimes in other countries. She said there was no democracy anywhere. It seems to me that most students found her unpleasant both as a teacher and as an apologist for the regime. A couple of days ago, a classmate sent me an article in Rotunda about her involvement in the expert analysis [in the case of Victoria Petrova]. I wasn’t surprised,” says Emile. Romanova adds, “She didn’t give the impression of being a stupid person. Arrogant, yes. I think she understands perfectly well what is happening now.”


Source: Julia Galkina, “Meet the experts who help jail anti-war protesters in Petersburg. They teach at St. Petersburg State University,” The Village, 14 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Price of “Treason” Is 2,500 Rubles: The Case of Tamara Parshina

Tamara Parshina
Photo courtesy of the BBC via Activatica

A Khabarovsk woman, detained in March on suspicion of treason for financing the Ukrainian armed forces, has been identified by BBC journalists as twenty-three-year-old Tamara Parshina. Parshina’s initials and surname appeared in a judicial database in late April, when her term of detention was extended at the FSB’s request.

Parshina graduated from the Far Eastern State University of Railway Engineering (DVGUPS) with a degree in information systems and information technologies. Prior to that, the accused studied at the prep school on Leningrad Street, which was also where she was detained. The young woman was employed at the Khabarovsk Regional Compulsory Health Insurance Fund.

After Parshina’s arrest, there were rumors that she was an activist in the I Am/We Are Furgal movement. However, the regular attendees of the pickets in support of ex-regional governor Sergei Furgal said that no one they knew had been arrested in the case. Furgal’s headquarters called the claim that the detainee was an activist in the movement an attempt to discredit it.

The attorney Kaloy Akhilgov reported that Parshina had donated a total of 2,500 rubles [approx. 29 euros] in small amounts to various Ukrainian charitable foundations. She is currently in custody at Moscow’s Lefortovo remand prison.

Parshina is the youngest person so far detained on suspicion of treason in Russia. She faces up to twenty years in prison if convicted. The toughening of the punishment for treason occurred after Parshina’s arrest. Also, women are not given life sentences in Russia: the maximum sentence for women is twenty-five years.

Source: “Khabarovsk woman arrested for treason identified,” Activatica, 13 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Olga Mazurova for the heads-up.

“The FSB has detained a Khabarovsk woman, an activist in the I Am/We Are Furgal movement, on suspicion of treason for financing the Ukrainian armed forces, the FSB’s public relations office has told us. Criminal charges have been filed. Video footage courtesy of Russian Federal Security Service Public Relations Office.” Source: TASS (Telegram), 13 March 2023

In March, the FSB began accusing Russians of providing financial assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces and charging them with treason. The BBC has discovered that 36-year-old Nina Slobodchikova from Novosibirsk was the first to be detained, followed by 23-year-old Tamara Parshina from Khabarovsk (who is the youngest Russian woman so far accused of treason). Both women were employed in the IT field before their arrests. One of them has relatives in Ukraine.

Two men in camouflage walk briskly, skirting snowdrifts, down a snow-covered sidewalk. They chase down and grab a young woman in a light-colored down jacket carrying a small bag. Her face has been blurred: only a strand of hair that has escaped from under her cap is visible. She is confused and crying. Something falls from her hands to the ground; one of the men picks it up and says, “Calm down.” The girl is bundled into a black minibus with tinted windows.

This is video footage shot by the FSB. In the next scene, the detainee, now carrying a backpack, enters the FSB’s Khabarovsk Territory offices, escorted by security forces officers. She is then seen being led up the gangway of an Aeroflot Boeing 777 named in honor of Marshal of the USSR Vasily Chuikov. The sign above the airport reads “Khabarovsk.” At the end of the video, the young woman disembarks from the plane at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. In the final shots, she is led through the courtyard of Lefortovo remand prison. Her hands are cuffed behind her back.

The video appeared in the media on March 13, the same day the FSB reported that it had detained a Khabarovsk woman on suspicion of treason for financially aiding the Ukrainian army. The BBC was told by the Lefortov court that pretrial restraints had been imposed on Parshina on March 9 in Khabarovsk. According to information obtained on the website Flightradar24, the Chuikov Boeing flew to Moscow around three o’clock in the afternoon on March 9.


The BBC tracked down classmates and acquaintances of 23-year-old Tamara Parshina on social media. One of them recognized the young woman in the video released by FSB. “Those are her sneakers,” she said. “And she seems to be sobbing too. I remember because she often cried at school. The hair is curly, like hers. She also wore glasses.” Her description matches photos of Parshina on social media.

Parshina’s friends do not know the exact nature of the charges against her. “It seems that she donated money last spring [in 2022] to some organization that helps someone in Ukraine,” an acquaintance of the young woman wrote to the BBC. Parshina’s mother declined to speak with the BBC about her daughter.

The FSB reported that the young woman was detained on Leningrad Street in Khabarovsk “near the train station.” According to a friend, [that was a coincidence]: she merely lived in the neighborhood. Leningrad Street is also the location of the prep school that Parshina attended and where she won academic competitions. [I was unable to access this link from my computer — TRR.]

In 2021, Parshina graduated from the Far Eastern State University of Railway Engineering (DVGUPS) with a degree in information systems and information technologies. “Novice web developer […] looking for remote work, but would also consider relocating,” she wrote about herself on LinkedIn.

After graduating from university, the young woman worked at the Khabarovsk Regional Compulsory Health Insurance Fund, said a former university classmate.

Friends of Parshina with whom the BBC spoke had lost contact with her in the winter. “[In February] some friend of hers wrote to me: he was also looking for her. I wrote to her wherever I could, but she didn’t reply to me,” one of them said. Another friend of Parshina from a group in which they played board games together claims that Parshina had not been in touch with him since late January.

The FSB alleged that Parshina was “an activist in the ‘I Am/We Are Furgal’ movement.” With this as their slogan, thousands of the region’s residents protested in support of ex-governor Sergei Furgal after his arrest [on murder charges] in the summer of 2020. In February of this year, Furgal was sentenced to 22 years in prison. According to the FSB, the Khabarovsk woman, motivated, allegedly, by “political hatred and enmity,” donated money to the Ukrainian armed forces for the purchase of weapons, ammunition, and uniforms. Now she is housed in the same Moscow prison as Furgal.

Parshina’s friends were not aware of her protest activities. “To be honest, I don’t think she was involved in that,” a former university classmate told the BBC. “I know that she was subscribed to various environmental activists and feminists on Instagram.”

Six months before his arrest, Furgal paid a visit to DVGUPS, where Parshina was studying at that time. There were many students in attendance, and the Khabarovsk Territory government published a report about the visit on its website. [This website seems to be blocked to users outside Russia — TRR.] Parshina is not in any of the photos of this event.

On March 13, Khabarovsk regional MP Sergei Bezdenezhnykh, a Furgal ally, wrote on his Telegram channel that “none of the I Am/We Are Furgal activists recognized the detainee.”

“As a member of the Furgal team, I can say that she has nothing to do with us. I have the sense that certain forces want to link financing of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the ex-governor’s name. The movement is not official, it is not registered anywhere. First and foremost, it is an indefinitely large group of people,” Bezdenezhnykh wrote. The Furgal team, he claims, supports Russia, not Ukraine.

The FSB alleges that Parshina donated “personal funds” to the Armed Forces of Ukraine on grounds of “political hatred and enmity,” without specifying at whom these feelings of hers were directed.

It was this motive that the Khabarovsk Regional Court had previously ruled an aggravating circumstance in another treason case. In the autumn of 2022, it sentenced Vyacheslav Mamukov to twelve and a half years in a maximum-security penal colony for, allegedly, attempting to sell information on the design of thirty Russian bridges to the Ukrainian special services.


Source: Sergei Goryashko and Ksenia Churmanova, “‘I want peace, to hug my mother, and to walk around Kyiv’: two stories of Russian women accused by FSB of financing the Ukrainian army,” BBC News Russian Service, 11 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Nikita Tushkanov: “I Will Not Change My Stance”

Nikita Tushkanov (above left), in the cage at his trial. Photo courtesy of RFE/RL

Nikita Tushkanov, 29, a history teacher from the town of Mikun in the Komi Republic, has been sentenced to five and a half years in a medium-security penal colony on charges of “repeatedly discrediting” [the Russian army] and “condoning terrorism” over posts and comments he made on the VKontakte social network. It took the court about nine hours to consider all the evidence in the criminal case and render its verdict. Sever.Realii takes a look at the trial and the basis of the prosecution’s case.

The criminal trial against Nikita Tushkanov, a 29-year-old historian and history and social studies teacher from the Komi Republic, ended with this brief closing statement by the defendant:

“I think we know the verdict in advance. So I cannot influence the decisions you make with my closing statement. I will not change my stance on the events in Ukraine. Moreover, I condemn them and consider them criminal. At the outset of the hearing, I asked for a recusal. It was not granted, of course. In this regard, I would like to say that I don’t want to ask you for justice, but I can’t ask you for mercy.”

The next day, a judge with the Second Western District Military Court sentenced Tushkanov to five and a half years in a medium-security penal colony over a post and several comments published on VKontakte about the war in Ukraine and the explosion on the Crimean Bridge on 8 October 2022, which the Russian authorities have declared a terrorist attack. Essentially, the judge needed only a single working day, 10 May, to review the evidence and testimony and reach a verdict. Nikita’s relatives, who were witnesses in the case, were not allowed to attend the first half of the hearing, at which the findings of a forensic examination were read into the record.

“A birthday gift for Putler”

The criminal case against Nikita Tushkanov was launched in December 2022. He was initially accused only of “condoning terrorism” over a post about the bomb blast on the Crimean Bridge, but subsequently he was also charged with “repeated discrediting” of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, also over posts he made on VKontakte.


The Russian authorities declared the blast on the Crimean Bridge a terrorist attack a day after the incident. The entries on Nikita Tushkanov’s social media page were made on 8 October, the day of the blast, when the incident had not yet been declared a terrorist attack.

Tushkanov was arrested in early December 2022. He later recounted that the police had been monitoring his VKontakte page for several months before the criminal case was launched. He had been written up on administrative charges of “discrediting the army” over social media posts.

The accusations were triggered by a post that read, “A birthday present for Putler. Grandpa turned 70 years old. The last anniversary of the last shithead. P.S. The Crimean Bridge was blown up today. De jure, the Ukrainians have destroyed their own bridge, what psychos…,” and discussions of the events in the comments to this post.

What other phrases were cited in the case against Nikita Tushkanov?

In addition to the post about the blast on the Crimean Bridge, the evidence in the case included comments that Tushkanov made beneath the post. Among the comments that were entered into evidence were the following (the original spelling and punctuation have been preserved — SR):

“Desktop photo for phone”

“Crimea was annexed (if you understand such words at all)”

“It’s delightful that the aggressor is getting f*****”

“My country carries out terrorist attacks by attacking peaceful cities in Ukraine. Any more questions?”

“Maybe you consider yourself a part of this state. I don’t. I didn’t elect this president, the government, and all the rest of it. My homeland has been seized by fascists and I don’t consider myself a part of it”

“How is it a terrorist attack? I don’t understand. Destroying the infrastructure and a symbol of Putin’s Russia, that’s a terrorist attack?”

“For what people? Ukraine did not ask [Russia] to build a bridge on its own land”

“Should we be sad?”

“Putin annexed the occupied territories”

“That’s what the ‘partial’ deadening mobilization does!”

“I *** didn’t get it, but it’s very interesting. What information? They weren’t annexed? Or were there no armed people there while the ‘referendum’ was going on? What’s wrong? Are the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation beating the **** out of the Armed Forces of Ukraine? Then why the mobilization? And what about ‘Z Power of PraVda’?”

The criminal case against Tushkanov was based on a forensic examination conducted by an expert from the Federal Security Service’s Komi Republic office. During the trial, Tushkanov asked the expert to explain how “discrediting” differs from ordinary criticism. The expert replied that discrediting involves creating a negative image, while criticism involves making suggestions to rectify a situation.

In the forensic examination itself, the expert found that there was no evidence in Tushkanov’s posts of his calling for the blast, but there were “signs of acknowledging the ideology and practice of perpetrating the blast that warranted support and imitation” and “discrediting” the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

The expert detected condoning of terrorism in the phrase about the “gift”: the word “gift” and the phrase “the Ukrainians destroyed their own bridge,” constituted, according to the expert, an attempt to condone the blast.

The purpose of the word “Putler,” according to the expert, was to “destabilize the activities of the authorities of the Russian Federation or impact their decision-making.”

The comment “Desktop photo” constituted “a positive assessment of the explosion on the Crimean Bridge, voiced as a desire to save” the picture.

The expert also detected justification for the explosion on the Crimean Bridge in the phrase “my homeland has been seized by fascists”: it was “expressed by the justification for the explosion: ‘My homeland has been seized by fascists’ (exploding the bridge is a response to the fact that the Russian Federation has been seized by fascists).”

The FSB expert also found evidence of discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Tushkanov’s comments about the annexation of the occupied territories, “the deadening mobilization,” and armed people during the “referendums” on annexation of the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.

Tushkanov’s relatives and his close friends were also questioned in court. They described Tushkanov positively and said that they had not touched on political topics in personal conversations.

Nikita Tushkanov. Photo courtesy of the Moscow Times

Testifying in court, Tushkanov again stressed that he had not renounced his comments and did not understand how he could be tried for condoning terrorism if his post had been published a day before the Russian authorities declared the explosion on the Crimean Bridge a terrorist attack. Here is a complete transcript of Tushkanov’s testimony:

I, Nikita Alexeyevich Tushkanov, date of birth 24 April 1994, was born and grew up in the small village of Chuprovo in Komi’s Udora District. My mother was a teacher and, later, the director of the school, while my father was the director of the House of Culture. My grandmother was a home-front worker and the daughter of a frontline soldier who was killed in the fight against Nazism on 1 January 1945 and was awarded the Order of the Red Star. Grandfather was the son of an exiled kulak from Voroshilovgrad (Luhansk), and his mother had been denounced by a neighbor and subjected to political persecution.
I grew up in this environment. From childhood I learned about the horrors of war and the horror of losing parents, through the tears of my grandmother and my grandfather I knew how hard it was for the children of victims of political persecution to live.
With this knowledge and a sense of duty, I joined a search party in 2013 and until 2019 was involved in searching for unburied soldiers and officers of the Winter War of 1939–40 and the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 and reburying them with full military honors.
I loved my homeland and continue to love it, but my love changed due to the way my country, Russia, has behaved towards its own citizens (including veterans, leaving them on the sidelines of life, without assistance) and in the international arena.
I used to see no difference between the concepts of “State” and “Homeland,” but now they are absolutely opposed concepts for me. How did this happen?
It all started in 2014, and not with the annexation of Crimea, which I accepted, as did the majority of the [Russian] populace. It all started with combat involving unidentified military units in which my comrades served. They told me firsthand about what went on there and who did what.
Strelkov (Girkin) […] has himself admitted on numerous occasions that he, a former FSB officer, “pressed the button that launched the war.” This was followed by the downing of Flight MH-17 and the emergence in Russian territory of fresh graves for soldiers and military personnel from the “they aren’t there” echelon. Since 2014, my State has supported the separatists and thrown more and more victims into the furnace of war.
We have had to pay for it all. Sanctions were imposed, and the so-called pension reform was carried out, but they simply confiscated the populace’s hard-earned money. They froze the invested part of pensions, raised the VAT, and much more. In the name of what?
It’s not the sea that drowns people, but the puddle.
I was baffled by the building of the Crimean Bridge. Didn’t we have other places where bridges needed to be built? There were thousands of possible places for this. But [they built the bridge] on territory that Ukraine recognizes as its own, as does the entire international community.
The Russian authorities called construction of the bridge a “historic mission,” one of the key tasks in the “final unification of Crimea and Russia.” Meanwhile, people’s salaries were not paid on time, and roads and bridges fell into disrepair. Why weren’t we building bridges to Sakhalin?
While still engaged in searches [for WWII soldiers still missing in action], I realized that war was pretty only at parades and musters, but in fact it was only DEATH and those whose remains I carried out of forests, fields, and swamps could tell the whole truth about war. Only the dead and the maimed know the truth about war! War is a crime, and unleashing it is a crime for which there is no justification.
The Anschluss of Austria took place in the same way as [Russia’s] “reunification” with Crimea. My state unleashed a war in Ukraine in 2014, and in February 2022, led by the President, it unleashed a full-scale war while simultaneously ensnarling the whole world by unleashing a world war, the third world war. It was my state that doomed tens of thousands of people to death and doomed millions to suffering. And the so-called special military operation has been going on for more than a year.
And now I am charged with violating two articles of the Russian Federal Criminal Code.
Article 205.2.2
I should say that I reject terrorism. I do not approve of acts of terrorism, and I regard them only negatively, no matter who commits them. I have not made calls for terrorist attacks, and I have never sought to condone their goals.
The Russian authorities allegedly declared on 8 October that the damage that had occurred on the Crimean Bridge was a terrorist act, but the media reported this only on the evening of 9 October, and the President of the Russian Federation himself did not refer to the damage to the bridge as a terrorist attack in his initial comments. Information about the terrorist attack also appeared on the [web] page of the Russian Investigative Committee in the late afternoon of 9 October.
The [social media] post in question [in the case against Tushkanov] was published on 8 October at 10:04 a.m. Moscow Time. I could not have foreseen the fact that the damage to the bridge, a military target, would be declared a terrorist attack.
From the very launch of the (auto and rail) bridge, it was used by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, including during preparations for the 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. There were relevant publications on this topic, the use of the bridge (logically) as military infrastructure. The bridge is part of the military logistics chain for supplying the Southern Grouping of Troops in the war with Ukraine.
Thus, the damaging of the bridge as a facility used for military purposes (i.e., the transport of equipment, missiles, personnel, and provisions) cannot be declared a terrorist attack, just as is the case with all military facilities that are fair targets for damage and/or destruction. The sinking of the warship Moskva was thus also a “terrorist attack,” judging by the rationale of the Russian authorities.
Despite the fact that terrorism and acts of terrorism pursue clear goals of generating publicity and pressure [on their targets], no one has claimed responsibility for the incident on the bridge, no terrorist organization has made demands, and there have been no statements [of responsibility].
It was an act of sabotage, targeting a site that is still used for military purposes. So I thought at the time [when I published my social media post] and I still think so to this day. But it was in no way an act of terrorism.
Ukraine considers Crimea its own territory and is in the active phase of hostilities, which also points to the fact that [the attack on the Crimean Bridge] was and is an instance of sabotage.
In any military action, bridges are key targets for disrupting the logistics and supplying of enemy troops, as illustrated by the famous “rail wars” on the Berezina River during the Second World War and in this “special military operation,” which has been going on for over a year. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation blew up and destroyed bridges in the Novomoskovsk District of the Dnipropetrovsk Region (22 April 2022), the Preobrazhensky Bridge in Zaporizzhia, and other bridges even BEFORE the incident on the Crimean Bridge.
In any war, bridges are key supply routes for armies, such as the bridges blown up by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and the bridges under the control of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation that have been attacked by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
But while accusing Ukraine of engaging in terrorism by sabotaging the Crimean Bridge, the Russian authorities have continuously launched more than 18,000 missile strikes on Ukraine and, according to the Ukrainian authorities, 97% of those strikes targeted civilian sites, including (just to mention a few) Kyiv thermal power plant no. 5, Zmiivska thermal power plant, Kharkhiv thermal power plant no. 5, Burshtyn thermal power plant, and so on.
In response to the attacks on the Dnieper and the Kremenchuk hydroelectric stations, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the bombing of civilian infrastructure was a response to a strike by Ukrainian drones on ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Fifty of [Ukraine’s] energy infrastructure has been damaged, and attacks continue, rendering cities literally uninhabitable.
These strikes did not affect the supplying of weapons and other materiel to the front. They affected such critical [civilian] infrastructure as heating, water supply, and healthcare.
And all of the above attacks on civilian targets took place before the attack on the Crimean Bridge. Who committed a terrorist attack after that?
When I published my post on the explosion on the Crimean Bridge I regarded it as damage to a military target. And I regarded the country [allegedly responsible for the sabotage], a country which is under direct attack from the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, as involved in a war, as indicated in [my] comments to the text.
According to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, public condoning of terrorism constitutes a crime from the moment it is disseminated. [My] post was published on 8 October at 10:04 a.m., while the media reported the declaration of the incident as an act of terrorism on the evening of 9 October 2023.
Article 280.3.1
The concept of “discrediting” the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is not specified anywhere and is not substantiated. There is no such concept in the case files or the indictment, and it is absent in regulatory acts.
As for the “maintenance of international peace,” after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, Russia was subjected to sanctions that caused great damage to many of its economic structures, and caused many manufacturers to exit the Russian market.
According to the international community, the main purpose of the strikes on Ukraine’s energy grid was the desire to sow fear among the populace and make people’s lives unbearable!
As a result of this “defense of its own interests and its citizens,” Russia has turned into a worse scarecrow than Afghanistan.
On May 22, 2022, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine declared Russia a terrorist state.
On August 2, 2022, the Saeima of Latvia declared Russia a sponsor of terrorism.
On October 13 (after the bombing and destruction of a portion of the Ukrainian power grid), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared the Russian government a terrorist regime.
On October 18, Estonia declared the Russian Federation a state sponsor of terrorism.
On October 26, Poland declared the Russian regime a terrorist regime, and Russia a state that supported and implemented terrorist measures.
On November 13, the Czech Parliament declared the Russian regime a terrorist regime.
On November 21, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution stating that the Russian Federation and its current regime are acting as a terrorist organization.
On November 23, the European Parliament declared that Russia uses the means of terrorism and is a state sponsor of terrorism, due to Russian strikes on civilian targets in Ukraine, energy infrastructure, hospitals, schools, and shelters.
On November 24, the Netherlands declared the Russian Federation a sponsor of terrorism.
In 2022, after Russian strikes on vital infrastructure sites in Ukraine, from the. legal point of view Russia meets the criteria of a “terrorist state,” as adopted in the United States and the EU.
The world is on the verge of a nuclear war, and it all started with the actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and personally their commander-in-chief.
However, [the borders of Ukraine] were recognized by both parties (Ukraine and Russia) back in 1992.
[The borders] of the Russian Federation are fixed in the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which can be changed only by means of a referendum, in which the whole country, its entire multinational people, approves them. Amendments to the Constitution and its articles made arbitrarily by the President or anyone else are illegal and constitute a crime.
According to the laws of the Russian Federation, these are also crimes:
  1. Planning, preparing, unleashing, or waging a war of aggression (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 353)
  2. Publicly calling for war to be waged (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 354)
  3. Genocide (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 357)
  4. Engaging in mercenary activities (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 359)
  5. Engaging in international terrorism (per Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 361)
Along with all of the aforesaid, I would like to say that no one apart from the authorities of the Russian Federation and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation threatens international security, but the citizens of the Russian Federation, including myself, have no right or possibility to countervail the actions of the authorities and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
The purpose of my posts was to show my disagreement with the horror that has gone on for over a year, a horror in which hundreds of people die every day. In the name of what?
With the start of the special military operation, war broke out not only on the front lines and in the international arena, but also in the soul of every person. The hearts of millions of Russians are in the firing line. We are all now in a state of mental civil war, a civil war that was unleashed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (Vladimir Putin), the Federation Council, the Security Council, and the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

Source: “‘I will not change my stance’: history teacher from Komi gets five and a half years for anti-war posts,” Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 11 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Mediazona, which has also published a complete transcript of Mr. Tushkanov’s testimony, included a slightly different version of his closing statement at the trial, which I have translated below:

I think we know the verdict in advance. I don’t think I can influence the decisions you make with my closing statement.

I have not changed my stance about the “incident” or, I don’t know, “the events that occurred in Ukraine”: it remains what it was. I condemn the war. I consider it criminal. Just like all aggression.

Well, even in the Criminal Code there is an article about necessary self-defense. Which is being employed by the other side [the Ukrainian military].

At the outset of the hearing, I asked for a recusal. You, of course, did not grant it. In this regard, I would like to say…

I don’t want to ask you for justice, but I can’t ask you for mercy.

“You’re a Man”

On Thursday, April 20, the Russian Defense Ministry posted a voluntary military service recruitment ad on its Telegram channel. The phrase “You’re a man” is the advertising spot’s slogan.

The Details. The video features three characters: a store security guard, a fitness trainer, and a taxi driver. First, all of them are shown at work, as the following captions appear on the screen: “Is this what you dreamed of defending?”, “Is this how you wanted to show your strength?”, and “Is this the road you meant to choose?” The men are then shown in military uniforms whose sleeves are emblazoned with “Z” patches.

The video concludes with the words “You’re a man. Be one” and a call to sign up for volunteer military service [along with a promise of a monthly salary starting at 204,000 rubles, or approximately 2,280 euros].

Another advertisement for volunteer military service was discovered by Echo FM. The ad spot was originally broadcast on the sports channel Match TV. In the video clip, Russian soldiers are shown driving over rough terrain in a military vehicle.

“It seats a group of up to nine people. Everyone in here is one of our boys,” the characters in the advertisement say.

Source: Echo FM (Telegram), 19 April 2023

Who starred in the ad. One of the actors in the “You’re a man” ad was Vladimir Cheprakov, a fitness trainer from Odessa, Verstka discovered, after locating his VK social media page.

Meanwhile, Agentstvo reports that the fitness trainer was played by Belarusian national Maxim Shalypin. He was a coach at a Belorussian [sic] club in Vitebsk, the publication writes.

Muscovite Mikhail Morozov also appeared in the ad. In 2014, Morozov published a social media post about the Russian Federation’s “aggression” due to its “declaration of fratricidal war” against Ukraine. In the ad spot, he played the role of a taxi driver.

The actor who played the security guard was another Muscovite, Anton Volosnikhin. After the shoot, he posted photos of himself dressed in a military uniform with a “Z” patch on his VK page.

Source: “‘You’re a man’: Defense Ministry releases volunteer military service ad,” Bumaga, 20 April 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader, who inserted the two videos, above, and the screen shot of Mr. Volosnikhin’s social media page, which were not part of the original article in Russian.

The Death of Theodor Herzen

Theodor Herzen

A WAKE for Theodor Herzen will take place at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, 20 April 2023, at the Chernyakhovsk District recreation center in the village of Shchegly.

Source: Chernyakhovsk NEWS (VK), 18 April 2023, via Goryushko (Telegram), 18 April 2023, where Mr. Herzen, a resident of the Kaliningrad (Königsberg) Region, is identified as the 20,700th Russian soldier whose death in combat it has confirmed using open sources. It claims to be publishing this catalogue of war dead “for meditation and as a sedative.”

History Matters, “Why Does Russia Own Kaliningrad?” (2020)
RussianPlus, “Kaliningrad, Russia: Russian People and German Heritage” (2021)

The Meaning of Easter: “The Rest Is Hell”

Alexander Beglov, the governor of St. Petersburg, congratulated all Orthodox Christians on yesterday’s Easter holiday during his weekly program on Radio Russia, wishing them peace and health.

“Easter is a symbol of the victory of life over death, light over darkness, good over evil. Today, our soldiers are defending by force of arms the ideals of goodness and justice, and protecting the historical truth and our culture,” the official added.

In his opinion, it was observance of the ancient Christian traditions that made Russia “strong and invincible.”

Announcing his upcoming trip to the St. Petersburg Days celebration in Belarus, Beglov said that both countries opposed fascism. This year, the city will be sending its largest delegation in the history of Petersburg-Belarusian bilateral relations to the neighboring state.

In his Easter address yesterday, Beglov remembered Mariupol.

Source: “Beglov links Eastern holiday to actions of Russian in SMO zone,”, 17 April 2023. Translated by TRR

“Christ is risen!”: the traditional Russian Easter greeting, as seen here on a card I received yesterday.

Basically, what I want to say is that I have been incredibly lucky when it comes to people. It is the only real thing, the future. The rest is hell.

Source: An Easter greeting sent to me by an old friend and lifelong resident of St. Petersburg. Translated by TRR

Petersburg mayor [sic] Alexander Beglov and the head of the city’s parliament [sic] Alexander Belsky addressed the residents of the Northern Capital on the occasion of the Orthodox holiday of Easter. The speeches made by the politicians were quoted by the press service for the Smolny.

Beglov and Belsky spent last night at a service in Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral.

Metropolitan Varsonofy conducted the service. Addressing the residents of St. Petersburg, the mayor [sic] recalled the special military operation.

“Today our country is undertaking a special mission. Our military has been facing difficult trials in the name of justice and the future of our children. Our hearts are with them. Our prayers are for them!” the governor said.

In his address, Beglov mentioned Mariupol, St. Petersburg’s sister city, as well as the involvement of Russians in the SMO.

“Our Church prays for them, for the soldiers, for all who are united with us in our values,” Beglov concluded.

Source: “Beglov remembers Mariupol while congratulating Petersburgers on Easter,”, 16 April 2023. Translated by TRR

Vladimir Kara-Murza: Closing Statement in Court

After two decades spent in Russian politics, after all that I have seen and experienced, I was sure that nothing can surprise me any more. I must admit that I was wrong.

I’ve been surprised by how far my trial, in its secrecy and contempt for legal norms, has surpassed even the “trials” of Soviet dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s. And that’s not even to mention the harsh sentence requested by the prosecution or the talk of “enemies of the state”. In this respect, we’ve gone beyond the 1970s – all the way back to the 1930s.

As a historian, for me this is an occasion for reflection.

At one point during my testimony, the presiding judge reminded me that one of the extenuating circumstances [in my case] was “remorse for what [the accused] has done”. And although there is little that’s funny about my current situation, I couldn’t help but smile: A criminal, of course, must repent of his deeds. I’m in jail for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For many years of struggle against Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. For facilitating the adoption of personal international sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against human rights violators.

Not only do I not repent of any of this, I am proud of it. I am proud that [assassinated opposition politician] Boris Nemtsov brought me into politics. And I hope that he is not ashamed of me. I support every word that I have spoken and every word of which I have been accused by this court. I blame myself for only one thing: that over the years of my political activity I have not managed to convince enough of my compatriots and enough politicians in the democratic countries of the danger that the current regime in the Kremlin poses for Russia and for the world. Today this is obvious to everyone, but at a terrible price – the price of war.

In their last statements to the court, defendants usually ask for an acquittal. For a person who has not committed any crimes, acquittal would be the only fair verdict. But I do not ask this court for anything. I know the verdict. I knew it a year ago when I saw people in black uniforms and black masks running after my car in the rear view mirror. Such is the price for speaking up in Russia today.

But I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will evaporate. When black will be called black and white will be called white; when it will be officially recognised that two times two is still four; when a war will be called a war, and a usurper a usurper; and when those who fostered and unleashed this war will be recognised as criminals, rather than those who tried to stop it.

This day will come as spring comes after even the coldest winter. And then our society will open its eyes and be horrified by what terrible crimes were committed on its behalf. Through this realisation, through this reflection, the long, difficult but vital path toward Russia’s recovery and restoration begins, its return to the community of civilised countries.

Even today, even in the darkness surrounding us, even sitting in this cage, I love my country and believe in our people. I believe that we can walk this path.

Source: Thomas Rowley, “Poignant final defence speech of jailed Russian opposition politician: Vladimir Kara-Murza gave this speech to a Russian court before receiving his 25-year sentence for ‘treason’ and other charges,” openDemocracy, 17 April 2023

A Russian court sentenced opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison on charges of treason and “fake news” Monday, capping a high-profile trial of one of the country’s most defiant anti-war voices.

Moscow City Court found Kara-Murza, 41, guilty of treason, “false information about the Russian army,” and affiliation with an “undesirable organization,” Interfax reported.

“Russia will be free, tell everyone,” Kara-Murza said after the verdict, according to the independent news site

Russia has witnessed a widespread wartime crackdown on dissent, but the severity of Kara-Murza’s sentence marks a new record as the Kremlin seeks to muzzle any criticism of its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The Western-educated politician was detained in April 2022 on charges of “spreading false information about the Russian army” in an address to U.S. state legislators a month earlier.

Kara-Murza was later accused of being affiliated with an “undesirable organization” for participating in a conference in support of political prisoners. His treason charges came in October over anti-war comments made at three public events abroad.

Prosecutors had requested a prison sentence of 25 years — the maximum possible jail term — for Kara-Murza.

“My self-esteem even went up [on the prosecutors’ request]. I realized I was doing everything right,” Kara-Murza’s lawyer Maria Eismont recounted her client as saying.

“Twenty-five years is the highest score I could get for what I did, what I believe in as a citizen, as a patriot, as a politician,” Eismont quoted him as saying, adding that he greeted the verdict “with a smile.”

His trial was held behind closed doors.

Monday’s hearing was attended by several Kara-Murza supporters and foreign diplomats including a U.S. embassy official named David Bernstein, according to the Mediazona news site.

The Kremlin declined to comment on Kara-Murza’s prison sentence, which his supporters and Western governments slammed as politically motivated.

U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy called Russia’s criminal prosecution of Kremlin critics “a symbol of weakness, not strength,” while Canadian Ambassador Alison LeClaire said Kara-Murza’s sentence marked a “dark turn” in Russia’s post-Soviet history.

The British Ambassador in Moscow Deborah Bronnert denounced the court ruling and called for the “immediate” release of Kara-Murza, a dual British-Russian citizen.

“The British government expresses solidarity with Vladimir Kara-Murza and his family,” Bronnert told journalists from the steps of the courthouse.

A Russian citizen by birth, Kara-Murza received British citizenship after moving to the United Kingdom with his mother when he was 15.

Russia’s Ambassador in London Andrei Kelin was summoned by the U.K. Foreign Office, which condemned Kara-Murza’s sentence as a violation of his right to a fair trial under international law.

The European Union denounced Kara-Murza’s sentence as “outrageously harsh” and called on Russia to provide access to health care for the ailing Kremlin critic.

The opposition activist suffers from a nerve condition called polyneuropathy which his lawyers say was due to poisoning attempts in 2015 and 2017. 

The condition has worsened in prison, and he was too unwell to attend some of his hearings, his lawyers said.

Kara-Murza says he was poisoned twice because of his political activities, but he continued to spend long periods of time in Russia.

Kara-Murza has said he stands by all of his political statements, including those opposing the Ukraine offensive.

“I subscribe to every word that I have said, that I am incriminated for today,” Kara-Murza said in his final address to court last week, highlighting his fight against the Ukraine offensive and President Vladimir Putin. 

“Not only do I not repent for any of it — I am proud of it,” he said.

Germany condemned the “shocking level repression” in Russia on Monday, and Latvia announced it had banned 10 Russian nationals from traveling to the Baltic country in retaliation to the court ruling.

Source: “Kremlin critic Kara-Murza sentenced to 25 years in prison,” Moscow Times, 17 April 2023