We’re thrilled to announce our latest album, a result of a collaboration between Ored Recordings and Luminary, an educational center in the village of Khryug, in the Ahtynsky district of Dagestan.
Luminary works with local children, offering them various classes in design, programming, music, and other fascinating topics. Our collaboration with them involved a three-day expedition of young Lezgins through their native Ahtynsky district, recording the songs of bards, local ensembles, and cultural workers.
In addition to the audio release, we’ve also published a printed zine, in which the children describe their experience, and we share our thoughts on the symbolism of such trips.
Ored Recordings is an ethnographic label, whose team travels mainly in the Caucasus, studying and recording local music. While there are many similar projects around the world, they are often led by white Europeans on an “exotic safari” in foreign lands. However, in our case, things are different. Ored Recordings is led by Circassians, who immerse themselves in their own tradition and the culture of their neighbors. In our eyes, there is less exoticism and orientalism, which can be found in the work of the French in Tibet or Americans in Ethiopia.
Nevertheless, we know relatively little about the music and culture of neighboring republics. Even in Dagestan, we may be neighbors, but we are still outsiders. We try to bridge the gap by taking local guides and carefully preparing for trips to other republics. However, the most honest thing we can do is to send the locals on the expedition themselves, without us.
When the Luminary center in Khryug invited us to do something together with their kids, it became evident that they should go on an expedition to their native villages and share their music and personal discoveries with everyone.
Ored Recordings’ role was to provide young ethnographers with tools, without imposing our vision. We didn’t teach young Lezgins what music was worthy of recording and what should be forgotten. Nor did we decide for them what would become a hit or what would be boring.
The result is an album of diverse music, the faces of living bearers of tradition, an engaging story of an ethnographic adventure, and a beautiful zine.
Importantly, the project is not interesting merely because it was done by children. The release and zine by the Luminary kids are not cute; they are serious works that adults could have done worse. And to us, this carries great symbolic value: traditional music does not belong to us — the elders, academics, and art curators. It’s for everyone, especially the new generations.
We hope you enjoy this album and take a moment to appreciate the work of these talented young musicians and ethnographers.
Students at the Mechnikov Medical University[in Petersburg] have told Bumaga that the dean’s office has asked them to fill out an online test about their attitude to the war in Ukraine, the president, and the future of Russia.
The students said that they were simply asked to take a survey—they were not informed about possible punishments for those who refused to fill out the test.
Before completing the test, students must log in through their VKontakte accounts or with a phone number, for example.
Students are asked to answer the following questions:
Do you generally trust the rector of your university?
What emotions do you feel when you think about Russia?
How much do you agree that things in our country are moving in the right direction?
Do you generally trust Russian President Vladimir Putin?
Do you think President Vladimir Putin is doing a good job or a poor job as president?
Has your attitude towards President Vladimir Putin changed over the past month? If it has changed, has it worsened or improved?
Choose the symbol that best fits the concept of “President of Russia.”
In your opinion, does Russia face the threat of a military attack?
Do you support Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine?
Choose the symbol that best fits the concept of “Special Military Operation.”
The survey also asks students to indicate what the country’s leadership should prioritize: strengthening sovereignty, strengthening the state, or developing the economy. The only alternative to these options is “undecided.”
The survey was created by the platform Concerned Individual, which operates in cooperation with the Education Ministry. It is marked as “April University Student Survey.” An employee of the Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University [in Petersburg] also reported to Bumaga that [students there had been asked to complete the survey].
If you have received such a request, tell us about it by writing to our Telegram bot: @PaperPaperNewsBot. It’s anonymous and safe.
Universities in all regions of Russia will join the platform Concerned Individual to become initiators and participants of positive change at their educational institutions and in the higher education system as a whole.
Along with the Russian Science and Higher Education Ministry, the Russian Education Ministry, Tomsk State University, and the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), Concerned Individual is launching a program of regular opinion polling of students, teachers, and administrative staff at Russian universities. We plan to recruit representatives of more than 700 tertiary educational institutions to the platform by the end of 2024.
The project’s aim is to form a permanent feedback mechanism between the university community and state authorities, to identify problems that need solving as well as promising directions for the growth of higher education.
“We believe that such a dialogue is especially necessary today, and our platform is technologically and methodically ready to provide it. Concerned people are the key potential for change in the universities, regions, and country. And opinion polls are a scientifically grounded tool that has proven itself well and reflect a real cross-section of the situation. Therefore, we urge students, teachers, and administrative staff to take part in the project and voice their opinion on the most pressing social issues,” comments Vadim Arakelov, CEO of the company Concerned Citizen.
The first wave of polls will kick off on April 10. Respondents will answer questions about the quality of education, media consumption, socio-psychological well-being, and other topics. In 2023, polls will also be conducted in May, September, October, and November. You can take part in the surveys by clicking on the link posted in your personal university account.
The results of the surveys will be published on Concerned Individual’s Telegram channel and website, and posted in the personal accounts of students and university staff.
Yuli Boyarshinov, convicted in the Petersburg portion of the so-called Network Case, has been released, our correspondent reports. His parents, wife, and friends were on hand to meet Boyarshinov.
Boyarshinov was released from Penal Colony No. 7 in Segezha, Republic of Karelia, early in the morning of April 21, although his relatives and friends had expected him to be released in the afternoon.
Boyarshinov said that the wardens gave him a ticket for the train to Petersburg, which departs at ten a.m., and released him right on time for that train. “Customer-oriented service,” Boyarshinov said by way of explaining the rush to release him from the penal colony.
The FSB launched a criminal case against the so-called Network “terrorist community” in October 2017. Eleven individuals from Penza, St. Petersburg, and Moscow, most of them anarchists and antifascists, were detained and then remanded in custody. According to FSB investigators, the young people had established a networked community with the aim of committing terrorist attacks and overthrowing the government.
Boyarshinov and Viktor Filinkov were arrested and eventually tried in Petersburg. Filinkov was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment, while Boyarshinov was sentenced to five and a half years in a penal colony. Later, however, his sentence was reduced by three months.
Most of the accused claimed that the evidence was fabricated by the FSB, and repeatedly stated that they had given confessions under torture. The Russian Investigative Committee, however, failed to find any illegalities in the actions of the FSB officers involved the case.
Yuli “Yulian” Boyarshinov, one of the Petersburg defendants in the Network Case, has been released from prison, after having spent over five years in custody. Bumaga was there to capture Boyarshinov’s first moments on the outside, where he was reunited with his wife and his parents.
Boyarshinov was detained in January 2018 and had been in custody from then until his release earlier today. In June 2020, he was sentenced to five and a half years in a penal colony on charges of “involvement in a terrorist community,” but an appeals court later reduced his sentence by three months. The sentence took into account the time Boyarshinov had already spent in jail.
The Network Case is also known as the Penza Case, since most of the defendants were detained in Penza. However, the FSB claim that the “terrorist community” operated cells not only in Penza, but also in Petersburg, Moscow, Omsk, and Belarus. Leftist activists, antifascists, anarchists, and airsoft players were detained as part of the Network Case.
Before his arrest, Boyarshinov had been employed as an industrial climber and was involved in charity work. He recounted that he had been tortured in the pretrial detention center.
Boyarshinov pleaded guilty to the charges, claiming that the Network’s participants had come together for the purpose of self-defense training. And yet Boyarshinov did not make a deal with prosecutors and refused to testify against the other defendants.
Boyarshinov is the second person involved in the Network Case to be released. The first was Igor Shishkin, who was detained at the same time as Boyarshinov. Shishkin was released in July 2021, after which he spoke to the press about having been tortured.
Today, coming out of the front door of my building, I saw the following tableau. A neighbor from the third floor, who is somewhere between thirty-five and forty, was, on the contrary, coming in the front door. Judging by the bag he was carrying, he had just been grocery shopping. He doffed his baseball cap, clamped it under his arm, and crossed himself three times as he looked at the mailboxes. Then he peered into his own mailbox and let out a sigh of relief. His draft notice had not yet arrived, apparently. To be honest, it took a while for the meaning of his maneuvers to dawn on me. Of course, I pretended that I hadn’t noticed any of it.
On Wednesday, April 12, Samara journalist Sergei Podsytnik posted on the website Change.org a petition calling for the repeal of amendments paving the way for the introduction of electronic military draft notices, as passed the previous day by the State Duma and the Federation Council.
“These amendments violate our rights. A citizen cannot be stripped of their rights without a trial, but now this right has been given to the staff of military enlistment offices,” the petition says. Podsytnik draws attention to the fact that the public services portal Gosuslugi, through which it is planned to serve draft notices to Russians, has a number of vulnerabilities. In addition, not all residents of the country have access to their accounts on the portal, and almost thirty percent of Russians over thirty are not active internet users.
According to the amendments as adopted, if a conscript did not receive a paper summons and did not log into his Gosuslugi account, the summons will still be considered delivered within seven days after it was entered into the register of draft notices. He will then be banned from leaving the country. After twenty days, new bans will come into effect: those who failed to report to a military enlistment office will not be able to work as individual entrepreneurs, manage real estate, drive a car, or take out loans.
“To deprive people of the ability to sell real estate, drive a car, or travel abroad at the request of a person with no specialized legal education is an outrage against our rights and freedoms,” the petition says. At the time this story went to press, the petition had been signed by more than thirty thousand people, and their number was growing rapidly. For the amendments to go into effect, they must be signed by Vladimir Putin and published.
The legislative changes mean that once a Russian citizen has received a military summons online, they will be automatically forbidden from leaving the country, and therefore avoiding the call-up.
If they fail to appear at a draft office within 20 days, they will face a range of restrictions, including a ban on using their own vehicle, selling property or receiving a loan. They also face a fine of between 500 and 3,000 rubles (£5 to £29).
The head of Russia’s parliamentary committee on defence claimed that these measures will only come into force during the next conscription campaign.
The new system also anticipates a unified database where personal data about Russian reserve personnel can be collated by a range of government institutions, such as the tax service, law enforcement, the pension fund and medical facilities.
Such a database will make it “practically impossible” for reservists to avoid being called up, anti-conscription lawyer Alexey Tabalov told independent Russian media outlet Verstka, because military registration offices will have more detailed information about an individual’s home and work address.
This changes the advice he has been giving people who want to avoid mobilisation, Tabalov says.
Whereas he previously recommended that people avoid receiving the physical summons document, that “recommendation has lost all meaning” now, he said. “If you don’t want to serve, don’t go to the military registration office, but you’ll still face restrictive measures,” Tabalov said.
Andrei Kartopolov, head of the State Duma defense committee, spelled out tough penalties for those who do not respond to electronic summonses, including potential bans on driving, registering a company, working as a self-employed individual, obtaining credit or loans, selling apartments, buying property or securing social benefits. These penalties could apply to the thousands of men who are already outside the country.
The electronic summons will be issued via a government services portal, Gosuslugi, used for all manner of state payments and services including taxes, passports, housing services, social benefits, transport documents, medical appointments, employee insurance and countless other matters.
Under the law, personal data of conscripts including identity documents, personal tax numbers, driver’s license details, phone numbers and other information will be transferred by Gosuslugi to military enlistment offices. Universities, business employers, hospitals and clinics, government ministries, law enforcement agencies, the electoral commission and the tax authority are also required to transmit data to the military.
There should be at least some news to slightly brighten — like a mosquito-sized flashlight — the gloomy hopelessness of the current media landscape.
So, this morning a news item flashed across my screen that seemed provisionally positive and even slightly heartwarming amidst the already familiar meteor shower of news items, each one more nightmarish and ridiculous than the last.
However, this seemingly welcome news is also shipshape when it comes to absurdity.
Amid the events happening around us this bit of news struck me as quite strange. I immediately wanted to check whether it was a fake (sorry for the non-Russian word).
But it seems to be true, alright.
“In February–March 2024,” I read, “the World Festival of Youth will be held in Russia, per the decree signed by President Vladimir Putin.”
“Within three months, the government,” I read on, “should start prepping for staging the festival, as well as finding sources of funding.”
While I am amazed, to put it mildly, at the incongruity and obvious strangeness of all this, and while I imagine how the eyes of the various “preppers” and “stagers” light up when they read the word “financing,” one of my most vivid memories serves as a powerful backdrop to these spontaneous reflections of mine.
The Soviet propaganda of those years stressed the “fight for peace” as an alternative to the “aggressive policy of the imperialist West.”
In the phrase “fight for peace,” the emphasis increasingly shifted towards the word “fight.”
Be that as it may, the word “peace” [mir] in those days, in terms of the frequency with which it was used in both official and unofficial speech, knew no rivals. This is especially often and especially vividly remembered in our own time.
Be that as it may, the 1957 Moscow festival, conceived as a propaganda event, was an important and gratifying event in the life of not only the Soviet capital, but also the whole country.
I was ten years old—not so big as to understand everything, but not so little as to understand nothing.
That summer, parents were strongly recommended to take their children out of the capital. I don’t remember why I stayed in Moscow, moreover, smack dab in the center of it.
My friend and neighbor Smirnov and I would roam the streets of Moscow during the festival.
My eyes were blinded by the vividness and polychromatism. I remember an overexcited middle-aged dame grabbing the hand of a skinny Indian man. Speaking loudly and syllabically, as often happens when people talk to foreigners, she told him: “I i-dol-ize Indian cinema! Do you understand? I i-dol-ize it! Do you understand me?”
The Indian smiled and nodded his head, which was wrapped in something terribly foreign and incredibly beautiful. Then he shoved some kind of colorful pin into her hand. It is quite possible, however, that he was not from India but from somewhere else.
Smirnov and I were also given pins and postcards by foreigners. We kept them in our collections at home for many more years. Then they disappeared.
In those days it suddenly became obvious that, before the festival, we had been living in a black and white world. A spirit of unthinkable, unimaginable freedom reigned over the capital, which had become prettier and younger and had lapsed into charming frivolity.
The air was so supercharged with erotic energy that a year after the Moscow festival, babies of all colors of the spectrum showed up in noticeable numbers. Those babies are now all grown up.
But this was not the only trace left behind by the festival. Nor were the toponymic relics in the form of the countless “Festival Streets” and Druzhba (“Friendship”) cinemas. It was then, by the way, that First Meshchanskaya Street (“First Bourgeois Street”) was renamed Prospect Mira (“Avenue of Peace”).
Many artists of the older generation would later admit that the exhibition of modern painting brought to Moscow by the French and shown during the festival turned their ideas about art upside down and provided the first impulse to everything that is now collectively known as contemporary art. However hard the ideological leadership tried to put the “abstractionists” in their place a few years later and in subsequent years, the genie had been let out of the bottle.
After the festival, the stilyagi — the first aesthetic and, so to speak, behavioral dissidents in the Soviet Union — emerged. After the festival, the idea of fashion and fashionableness arose. After the festival, rock and roll appeared in the Soviet Union and spread around the country. After the festival, the youth subculture in our country took on distinctive features, however timid and provincial.
The Stalinist reinforced concrete (not even iron!) curtain was not flung open during the festival. Only a narrow crack opened in it, but the flow of air pouring through this crack was so powerful that it intoxicated an entire generation for many years to come.
The festival was yet another lesson about the important fact that freedom is not an absolute concept. That freedom is tangible only in the context of non-freedom. That freedom is just the feeling of freedom and nothing more. And it was this feeling that we experienced then. We were not given freedom. We were only shown it through a crack in a thick curtain.
Smirnov and I didn’t know how to articulate anything of the sort back then. We sensed this freedom in a childlike way, directly. It had appeared to us in a bright and sparkling shape that made even a New Year’s tree seem almost as tedious as a synopsis of the painting Arrived on Vacation.
There was no freedom, but there was the feeling of it then.
This powerful feeling touched even me, a ten-year-old. And for many young people from my older brother’s generation, this event largely shaped their further social and cultural evolution.
People who were twenty years older than me often recalled another brief but bright time when it seemed to many who had returned from the front, who had been able to see another world and other people, to spend time with the soldiers and officers of the allied armies, that “now everything would be different.” They also considered it a great fortune, despite the fact that they were very quickly shown who was the boss in the house, and, most importantly, who had really won that war.
History shows that when a totalitarian or authoritarian government, under the influence of certain political (most often external) circumstances, is forced to provide its citizens with a “whiff of freedom,” this is almost always followed by bouts of reaction in different shapes and guises. “You had a little breather and that’s enough!” the government seemingly says to citizens who decided that now things would be different.
Freedom, according to the great poet, comes to us naked. But when she sees that no one welcomes her with flowers and songs, she waits in vain for a while before dejectedly going home.
I cannot even really imagine the upcoming triumph of the spirit, the style and overall thrust of its staging, the number and, most importantly, the quality of its intended participants, and how the keyword of all the previous festivals, the word that begins with a “p,” and which has now become semi-forbidden, will be spun. I lack the imagination.
Today, April 10, my son Ilya turns 27. This is the sixth birthday he has celebrated behind bars. But every year I wait, believe, and hope that he be released from captivity and be near us. I naively believe in justice and truth. A miracle must happen sometime and Goodness will triumph!
My son, the best in the world, I lovingly congratulate you on your birthday! You are a part of me, and from the bottom of my heart I want to wish you incredibly beautiful days and nights, the most wonderful emotions, and fulfillment of ambitious plans! You deserve everything wonderful; may sincere Faith, pure and devoted Love, and optimistic Hope always remain with you! I wish my son the brightest road today. After all, you are all I have. My mother’s heart very often worries about you. It hurts for every trial you go through. It hurts for everything! Know, son, that you are everything to me. You are my only man, for whom I am not sorry to give my life. You’re my rock.
Ilya’s payphones have been turned off, and at the moment there is no connection with him. Today the weather is as warm and sunny as it was in 1996 [on the day he was born]. May the sun’s rays give hope, faith, kindness, and most importantly freedom to Ilya and to all political prisoners!
A criminal case against Zhlobitskaya was launched in December. She was released on her own recognizance after being charged with “publicly condoning terrorism,” per Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code. The charge was triggered by posts she had made in November and December 2019 on VKontakte. Among them are reposts of poems from the website stihi.ru, as well as two reposts from the group page of the People’s Self-Defense with information about the bomb blast at the FSB.
According to the prosecution’s expert witnesses, Mikhail Zhlobitsky’s actions in the posts in question were deemed “correct, worthy of support and imitation,” and he himself was characterized as a “good guy.”
17-year-old student Mikhail Zhlobitsky detonated a homemade bomb in the lobby of the FSB’s Arkhangelsk directorate on [October 31,] 2018, killing himself and injuring three security forces officers. A few minutes before the blast, a warning about the attack from Zhlobitsky appeared in the chat of the Telegram channel “A Rebel’s Speech.” The message said that his act, in particular, was motivated by the fact that the FSB had been fabricating criminal cases.
Yegor Balazeikin is sixteen years old. In late February, he was detained in Kirovsk, a town in the Leningrad Region: according to police investigators, he wanted to set fire to a military enlistment office, and now he stands accused of “attempted terrorism.” Later, a second criminal case was launched against the schoolboy, also for allegedly attempting to torch a military enlistment office, this time in Petersburg. Our correspondent found out how a teenager who had supported the war in Ukraine a year ago changed his views one hundred eighty degrees and how this has impacted his entire family.
After Yegor was detained, he admitted that he had in fact tossed homemade Molotov cocktails at a military enlistment office, but none of them had started a fire or caused other serious damage. Now the teenager is at risk of going to prison and spending as many years there as the time he has already spent on earth. His family are convinced that the security forces want to ruin the boy’s life. His parents and his lawyer have been forbidden from sharing information about the case with third parties.
Yegor turned sixteen last August. He loves the humanities, especially history and social studies. After finishing school, he wanted to enroll in the law school or economics faculty at [St. Petersburg State U]niversity. His parents had transferred him to School No. 166, one of the leading liberal arts prep schools in St. Petersburg.
“Yegor has always done very well at school. He passed the OGE (the basic state exam taken by pupils after they complete the ninth grade) with flying colors. It was decided to apply to several Petersburg schools at once, and School No. 166 was among them. His parents spent a long time talking it over. They were prepared for the fact that Yegor would have a long commute, since they lived in a single-family dwelling in Otradnoye[forty kilometers east of Petersburg]. Consequently, Yegor’s knowledge so impressed the headmaster at the 166th (who is a historian, by the way) that Yegor was unconditionally accepted into the tenth grade,” says Natalia Krylova, a friend of Yegor’s mother. (Her name has been changed to protect her identity.)
Natalia is close to Yegor’s family. She has know the boy since he was four. She is aware of the details of his life and had tutored him in English. According to her, Yegor’s father, Daniel, was quite supportive of his passion for Russian history.
“He was especially interested in military history and studied all the wars. When Yegor was still a little boy, he got interested in the history of weaponry at his father’s suggestion. I remember his getting books about tanks for New Year’s. He’s just such a dogged young fellow — if he starts doing something, he goes all the way. He knew all the places connected with the Great Patriotic War, he went several times to historical sites near Petersburg, and he often visited military museums,” says Natalia.
Yegor’s interest in military history was also encouraged by his uncle Dmitry, Daniel’s older brother. Dmitry [was] a professional military man with combat experience. He had always been an authority for Yegor when it came to complex historical matters.
When Yegor had just started school, he began having health problems. His mother, Tatiana Balazeikina, took him to the doctors, and they discovered that the boy had a serious disease — autoimmune hepatitis.
“To put it simply, his immune system attacks the liver cells for some reason. Maybe there is some kind of pathogen or virus hidden there, and so the immune system went crazy and began attacking its own tissues in an attempt to get this virus. It is a serious problem, especially if the liver is involved,” says Natalia.
The disease proved to be hereditary: Yegor’s mother also has an autoimmune disease, only it affects a different organ in her body.
“His parents spent so much time with Yegor at all kinds of hospitals trying to understand what was happening to their child that there was practically nothing left in his life except medical tests. He was even classified as a disabled person, a status that was later rescinded,” Natalia recalls. “When he was ten, they had to do something to prevent him from seeing himself as disabled. That’s why they signed him up for kyokushin, a style of Japanese karate.”
Yegor lucked out with his coaches and grew quite fond of this difficult, harsh style of karate. He took part in competitions, often winning, and the Balazeikin home was chockablock with martial arts trophies and medals. After emerging victorious at regional championships, Yegor often judged children’s competitions himself.
But Yegor had to give up his promising sporting career due to his transfer to the new school and having to study for the state exams. His disease eventually went into persistent remission, but he still has to visit a hematologist every three months, have a comprehensive physical once a year, and constantly take life-saving medications.
When Yegor transferred to the new school, his load seriously increased: his classes were harder, and every day he had to spend several hours traveling to the prep school and back. His parents eventually rented him a room directly opposite the school. The family had no extra money for this. Tatiana, who worked as an English teacher, had to go into business as freelance tutor, although there were few lessons to be had, mostly with the children of friends and acquaintances. The family’s main source of income are the wages that Daniel earns as an electrician.
“The child was dying from fatigue, from the huge workload, but his studies were important to him. After arriving home, it would happen that he would fall asleep in the hallway with his coat and shoes still on. Can you imagine how tired he was? Yegor would stay the night at this [rented] room [in the city] when he realized that he could not make it home after school. He would spend all weekends at home. The media has written that his mother left her son to live alone, but this is a lie. He did very well at the new school. Although it was difficult, he got excellent marks. He was looking at several fields to go into. For a long time he dreamed of becoming a diplomat and started studying English in depth, but then he settled on studying history, law, and economics,” says Natalia.
According to Yegor’s new classmates, he is a very kind and intelligent boy. He unfailingly attended all outings, electives, and lectures, and not only always took a clear stance on historical issues, but also knew how to argue his point well.
“Yegor is not terribly talkative, and he didn’t hang out a lot with many people, but he always gave the impression of being a decent, good person. It is a pity that he is in such circumstances now,” a female classmate told our correspondent.
His teachers and the parents of his classmates spoke well of Yegor.
“My son spoke very positively of Yegor. He is a very good boy. It would be a pity to ruin the young fellow’s life,” says one of the parents.
According to Yegor’s relatives, the family had always respected his right to his own opinion and position, and always gave him the opportunity to choose. With the support of his parents, he had grown up to be an individual interested in the history of his country.
When the war in Ukraine began, life in the Balazeikin family changed a great deal. At first there were no disagreements between the parents and the teenager: they all fully supported Vladimir Putin’s decisions.
“I found it strange, but we never quarreled about it, because we are adults who can share their own opinions in the spirit of friendship and grant the other person the right to be different. At first, Yegor was like everyone in his family, like his mom, his dad, his grandmother and, especially, his father’s brother, his uncle, a professional military man. But Uncle Dima was killed almost at the outset of the special military operation. And after his uncle was killed, Yegor’s position began to change,” recalls Natalia Krylova.
It was early April. Dmitry Balazeikin, Yegor’s uncle, volunteered to go to Ukraine as part of an army reserve unit (BARS). He was no longer of military service age, but had a lot of experience. He had served in hot spots, and his relatives called him a “real officer.”
“He didn’t say anything to anyone — he just went off to the front. And he was almost immediately killed near Izyum, where there were terrible battles and heavy losses last March and April,” says Natalia. “He died with dignity, as Tanya told me: he was a platoon commander and was defending his soldiers. But it happened that it was at the beginning of the special military operation, when everything was still unorganized, and he was a volunteer, so his funeral was quite difficult to arrange, including financially. His body had to be claimed and all the paperwork done. Tanya took care of this, since Dima’s mother was completely unable to do it. Besides, she was in Kazakhstan. Dima’s two ex-wives, who have children to care for, couldn’t handle it either.”
It so happened that it was Yegor’s parents who took on most of the chores associated with Dmitry’s funeral, and Yegor watched the whole difficult process unfold.
“It was the first funeral in the family for him. Some time before, his paternal grandfather had died from covid. But Yegor was not involved in any funeral-related events at that time: the covid restrictions were still in effect, and only his father flew to the funeral. The funeral of his uncle, who had been killed, was bound to leave a mark on him,” says Natalia.
“At first, the intensity of his emotions was off the scale. It seems to me that he felt quite conflicted. His uncle had been killed, but you go on the internet and there’s hoople. It’s the same thing on TV. At school, Yegor’s class was studying the First World War, it seems. If it had been me, I really wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It’s a lot of stress at sixteen. I remember when Tanya and I were talking about what was happening in our families, she spoke in great detail about how Yegor was having a rough time processing events, that he was against people getting killed on either side. I thought the right thing to do would be to advise her to take Yegor to a therapist, because it’s a little odd that a child of his age is not interested in girls and friends, but is all tense like a coiled spring. You see, he steered almost all conversations to a single topic, to how Russia was doing wrong. I think everything overlapped so terribly, both this war and his inner emotions,” Natalia says, sighing.
On the evening of February 28, Yegor’s mother received a call from the police informing her of her son’s arrest. According to Russian National Guard officers, it was Yegor who had thrown the Molotov cocktail at the military enlistment office in Kirovsk. The bottle “had broken, but nothing had caught on fire.”
“That day, I received a message from Tanya. It opened with the words, ‘Our family is dead.’ Later, she told me that Yegor had taken his arrest calmly. Perhaps he had anticipated it. He hadn’t tried to break free or run from the police. So far, he has been behaving absolutely calmly, as far as I know. It’s quite strange. I can’t understand it. Apparently, he had thought through all the options, including this one. A person who has decided to carry out a protest like that must be mentally prepared for such an outcome,” Natalia says.
Before she was forbidden to talk about the case, Tatiana Balazeikina managed to tell the media that, immediately after her son’s arrest, she was able to have a short conversation with him, during which he said, “If I hadn’t done what I did, I would probably have hanged myself, because I can’t go around with this weight in my heart, seeing how many people are getting killed.” Yegor was first charged with arson, but later charged with attempted terrorism. According to his mother, during the interrogation, “the investigators very clearly pushed” the teenager to say what they wanted to hear. As was reported on the Telegram channel in support of Yegor, FSB officers threatened that he would be raped in the pretrial detention center and sent to a mental hospital, to which Yegor said, “Do with me what you wish, I will not change my position.”
Yegor is currently in custody at Pretrial Detention Center No. 5. His relatives and other people directly involved in the case have been forced to sign an agreement not to disclose any information about it. His mother was able to deliver to him the medicines and textbooks he needed, along with warm clothes, because it is cold at the detention center. According to Natalia, Yegor has been trying to work out in his spare time and has been thinking a lot about what is happening in the country.
“No one takes into account the age of the offender. There are different circumstances, different life experiences, different motives, and different people. Why can’t he be put under house arrest? He’s just a kid! My only hope and all my prayers are that the criminal code article under which has been charged will be changed. Initially, when he was detained, he was under investigation for violating a completely different article. Now [if he is convicted] he will be imprisoned for ten to fifteen years — at the age of sixteen. This is neither education nor social adaptation. It is a very deep trauma, so many years of isolation. Our state does not value human life as much as it does its own peace of mind,” says Natalia, indignantly.
“Despite their differences over the war, Yegor’s dad has supported his son,” she says. “What has happened has very much brought the family together. Such tragedies either break up families, or, on the contrary, people become even closer to each other. In their case, the second has happened. I think Yegor’s father blames himself for what happened, no less than his mother. Tanya said, ‘Did we bring him up wrong? But how? I really did want him to be a good person…’ I can say that he is in fact a good person. After all, bad deeds don’t always make you a bad person. Everyone can make mistakes. It is a life experience for which you bear responsibility.”
His relatives and human rights activists have launched a Telegram channel in support of Yegor on which they report on his condition. According to Natalia, he really wants people to write him letters.
Petersburg lawyer Leonid Krikun, who is known for having defended a number of activists and public figures, is confident that the court will return a guilty verdict and the length of the sentence it hand downs will depend directly on the defendant’s admission or non-admission of guilt in court.
“With a full confession, the extent of punishment may be smaller. If there is no confession, judges give close to the maximum [sentence] within the scope mandated by the criminal code. The current regime is aware of the populace’s discontent with the mobilization and has been doing everything to stop attempts to prevent it from implementing the mobilization. If criminal cases are launched against disapproving social media posts about mobilization, then for direct actions aimed at disrupting the mobilization, the authorities would have people shot if they could,” Krikun argues. ” The authorities punish assaults on ‘sacred thing’ to the fullest extent of the law, which changes at any time at their discretion.”
Without reliable information about an arsonist’s objectives, the investigating authorities are free to launch criminal proceedings in cases of arson under various articles in the Criminal Code, but after receiving testimony from the suspect, the article under which they are charged may be changed..
Krikun notes that the strictest form of pretrial restriction — detention in a remand prison — is mandated for “undesirables,” and [their lawyers and loved ones] are prohibited from disclosing the investigation’s preliminary findings. The general public thus has no information about the civil rights violations committed by police investigators. Meanwhile, the security forces do not even take into consideration who exactly they are dealing with, even when the suspect is a teenage boy, a young woman, or an elderly lady.
“This is how the authorities intimidate detainees in these cases in order to persuade them to make a full confession of guilt and to repent, and to present them to society not as opposition activists, but as lost sheep who have realized that their own behavior was mistaken,” the lawyer argues.
Source: Yelizaveta Dobrovinskaya, “‘Our Family Is Dead’: The Story of Yegor Balazeikin, Suspected of Torching a Military Enlistment Office,”Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 22 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. If you don’t want the Russian Reader to turn into a chatbot, or for it to be switched off altogether, show your support today by liking, commenting, sharing, or donating. I have to see that there are other human beings out there reacting tangibly to my unpaid labor of love, which is now in the middle of its sixteenth year. I have received only $117 in donations so far in 2023. That’s not enough financial support for me for to keep doing this much longer, considering that last year, for example, my overhead costs alone were $1,620 (for internet, hosting, and subscriptions to online independent Russian media), against only $1,403 in reader donations on the year. ||| TRR
Logging truck driver Ruslan Zinin grabbed a sawed-off shotgun when, in the wake of the “partial” mobilization’s annoucement, a summons arrived for his brother. On September 26, Zinin went to the military enlistment office in Ust-Ilimsk (Irkutsk Region). Military commissar Alexander Yeliseyev was giving a speech as he dispatched dozens of people to the slaughter. His disdainful attitude towards the mobilized men, as well as his remarks that they themselves were to blame, that they had “piled up loans” and “had heaps of children,” outraged Zinin to the depths of his soul. At that moment, someone in the room asked, “Where are we going?” “We’re all going home now!” Zinin shouted back and fired twice at the military commissar.
Consequently, Zinin’s brother was not mobilized (and, perhaps, the mobilization was temporarily suspended in the district), and military commissar Yeliseyev spent a month and a half in the hospital.
Zinin himself was remanded in custody and charged with “encroachment on the life of a law enforcement officer” (per Article 317 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
The charge was incommensurate with Zinin’s actions [and the circumstances]: the military commissar is not a law enforcement officer and was not performing tasks to protect public order.
However, police investigators went even further and reclassified the charge to “commission of a terrorist act” (per Article 205.2.b of the Criminal Code).
Formally speaking, this is a lesser charge since it does not stipulate life imprisonment, unlike the previous one. However, there cannot be a jury trial for those charged with “terrorism,” judges cannot impose sentences below the statutory minimum, and part of the sentence must be served in a closed prison [as opposed to a penal colony, in which inmates live together in open-plan barracks]. This is not to mention the mass of smaller infringements on the rights of a person convicted as a “terrorist.” Person convicted under this article must be sentenced to between twelve and twenty years in prison.
Currently, we do not know Zinin’s opinion on the matter, nor the specifics of the indictment, because the defense lawyer was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement. However, the Solidarity Zone team in any case considers the accusation unfounded, regarding it as nothing other than lawlessness on the part of law enforcement agencies and an attempt to intimidate society. One of the main points of the criminal code article on “terrorism” is to terrorize the populace. In this case it is not Zinin’s actions that constitute “terrorism,” but, on the contrary, the actions of the authorities.
As before, you can support Ruslan by sending him a letter or parcel. If your letters are not passed by the censor or you do not receive a reply from Ruslan, let us know and file a complaint. Templates for complaints can be found on our Telegram channel.
Address for letters and parcels:
Zinin Ruslan Alexandrovich (born 1997)
63 ul. Barrikad, SIZO-1
Irkutsk 664019 Russian Federation
You can send letters electronically from anywhere in the world via the FSIN-Pismo service (subject to payment with a Russian-issued bank card) or the free, volunteer-run resource RosUznik (which allows you to remain anonymous).
Solidarity Zone is providing comprehensive assistance to Ruslan Zinin and his family.
Source: Solidarity Zone (Facebook), 9 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will find it difficult, if not impossible, to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service. It is also probably impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can send letters — translated into Russian (if you don’t know a competent translator, you can use a free online translation service such as Google Translate) — to Ruslan Zinin (and many other Russian political prisoners) via RosUznik, as mentioned above. You can also ask me (email@example.com) for assistance and advice in sending letters.
I have been in police custody since April of last year. I was formally charged in early June, and since then I have been an “accused” man. I see this word in paperwork, I sign statements containing it, and that is how the prison authorities address me. “Accused” has been my new social status for the past nine months.
A criminal change can be a serious burden. I have met people in prison, albeit a few, who are plagued by a sense of guilt for what they have done. In this sense, though, my case is simple. All the accusations against me are ridiculous and absurd, and the article [in the criminal code] under which I am being tried should not exist, basically. I find it easy and pleasant to take a consistent stance and to tell the truth. I have always adhered to this principle both in public life and in personal matters.
The investigation, whilst trying to accuse me of spreading “fakes,” has constructed one giant fake. Literally the entire indictment, from the first word to the last, is at odds with reality. I subscribe to every word I wrote a year ago. All my emotional assessments have retained their force, and all factual claims have been borne out many times. So there can be no question of any sense of guilt on my part in terms of the present case.
Life, though, is much more complicated than a trumped-up criminal case. A year ago, events happened that shocked the world. In a matter of days, the foundations of life, which had seemed to us unshakable, were destroyed. The most terrible pictures stepped off the pages of history textbooks, reviving the nightmares of bygone years and wars whose fury had long ago been stilled. Unable to stop this ongoing tragedy, tens of millions of Russians have come face to face with an oppressive sense of guilt. It is a normal reaction to the monstrously abnormal situation in which all of us find ourselves.
If you feel guilty, it means that you have a conscience. It means that you cannot see the suffering of innocent people without feeling pain in your heart, that you are able to empathize with someone else’s grief. What is more, a sense of guilt for the actions of one’s country is impossible without a sense of belonging. It means that no matter where you are now, you maintain an emotional connection with your homeland, you realize that you are a citizen of Russia and worry about its fate. You — we — are real patriots of Russia in the true sense of the word! We love our country, and so we are especially hurt and ashamed that this inhuman war is waged on its behalf.
It is vital to remember that the guilt that we cannot help but feel is irrational per see. After all, we are not actually to blame for what is happening. The blame is on those who unleashed and wage this war, on those who issue and carry out criminal orders, on those who commit outrages on foreign soil, as well as on those who condone these crimes by cracking down on their own people and generating an atmosphere of fear and intolerance.
On the contrary, we want to live in a free and peaceful country. We want a better future for ourselves and our neighbors. In order for our hopes to come true, we must move away from a passive sense of guilt, focused on the past, and strive to realize our own civic responsibility. We must move away from regrets about what has happened to solving existing problems and making plans for the future. Yes, right now we are unable to stop the war, but this does not mean that we are powerless. I want each of you to think about what you can do personally. The answer “nothing” is not acceptable. First, if you are not on the side of the scoundrels, if you have remained true to yourself, have kept your wits about you, and have not fallen into despair, if you are listening to me now or reading this text, this is much more than nothing. And second, even I can do something and am doing something. I keep talking, communicating the truth about events to people. I have been using this trial as a platform for public anti-war statements. To the best of my ability, I have been helping those who, due to their civic stance, have found themselves on the same side of the bars as me. You have many more opportunities to act today for the sake of our common better tomorrow.
Our problem is the inability to take the initiative and find allies. We are used to following leaders and waiting for instructions. Don’t wait — act! Become volunteers, help refugees, support political prisoners, form horizontal ties. Get to know your neighbors, colleagues and classmates, set common goals and achieve them together. When someone needs your help, don’t ignore them. Make this world a better place for us and for our children.
We like to repeat, like a mantra, the words “Russia will be free!” But Russia is us, and what it will be depends only on us. The war will inevitably end, and then the regime that unleashed it will cease to exist. This is the law of history. We have a lot of work ahead of us, work which we must start now. This work of ours, I am sure, is bound to succeed. Russia will be free — because we will make it so.
Source: Darya Kornilova (Facebook), 1 March 2023. Thanks to Elena Zaharova for the heads-up. Originally published on the website of the movement For Human Rights. Translated by the Russian Reader. The verdict in Mr. Ivanov’s case is scheduled to be announced on March 7. The prosecutor has asked the court to find him guilty as charged and sentence him to nine years in prison. See my translation of Mediazona‘s detailed account of the case and trial against Mr. Ivanov, below.
Russian lawmakers on Thursday voted in favor of a bill that would make it a criminal offense to “discredit” anyone fighting on Russia’s side in the war in Ukraine, not just the Russian military.
The legislation aims to expand current laws criminalizing the discrediting of the Russian Armed Forces to include mercenaries serving in the ranks of Russia’s growing number of private military companies, such as the Wagner Group.
The bill was unexpectedly introduced by State Duma deputies Wednesday in the form of amendments to two largely unrelated bills that were already due to be voted on in the lower chamber of the Russian parliament.
If signed into law, the amendments would introduce sentences of up to seven years in prison for “public acts aimed at discrediting volunteer formations, organizations or individuals” that are aiding the work of the Russian Armed Forces.
The proposed amendments also increase the maximum punishment for violating the existing law against spreading “false” information about the army.
Those found guilty of “spreading fake information” about the army or a volunteer military formation would then face up to five years in prison instead of the three years outlined in the current law.
The new law would also raise the maximum fine from 700,000 rubles ($9,250) to 1.5 million rubles ($19,830).
In cases in which the dissemination of “false information” is deemed to have had “grave consequences,” violators could face up to 15 years in prison, under the new legislation.
The bill must now pass its third reading in the State Duma on March 14 before going to the upper house of parliament for approval and then finally to the president for his signature.
The trial of Dmitry Ivanov, a mathematics student and creator of the Telegram channel “MSU Protesting,” is nearing completion in Moscow’s Timiryazevsky District Court. Ivanov is accused of disseminating “fake news” about the army. (The investigators claim that reports of war crimes, the killing of civilians and the destruction of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure are “fake news,” as well as Ivanov’s refusal to call the war a “special operation.”) Today, Prosecutor Yulia Pravosud asked the court to sentence Ivanov to nine years in prison. Mediazona examines the grounds for the case against the activist and how investigators have tried to prove his guilt.
“Don’t betray the Motherland, Dima” was the message painted on 16 March 2022 on the door of the Moscow flat in which the Moscow State University student Dmitry Ivanov had lived all twenty-two years of his life. The message was embellished with three huge Z’s. At the time, Ivanov joked: “We have already washed off the door — a simple Soviet acetone helped us make short work of the paint.” The Telegram channel “MSU Protesting,” which he had created and ran, continued to write about the war and anti-war protests inside Russia, until its author was detained on April 28 as he was leaving the university. He has not been released since.
On April 29, the Nikulinsky District Court jailed Ivanov for ten days for “organizing a rally” — this is how the security forces deemed one of the posts in his channel. He served his jail sentence in the Sakharovo Temporary Detention Center for Foreign Nationals outside of Moscow, but on May 9 he was detained as he was leaving the facility and sentenced again under the same article of the Administrative Offenses Code — this time for twenty-five days. The student missed the state exams and was unable to submit his honor’s thesis. After serving the new sentence, he was immediately detained again on June 2, this time on a criminal charges. He was taken from the detention center to the Investigative Committee for questioning.
Ivanov managed to transfer the admin of “MSU Protesting” to his friend Nikita Zaitsev. Ivanov’s friends later created a separate channel in his support, “Prison MSU.”
“From the very beginning of my imprisonment, I have lucked out in terms of symbolic dates. I was tried on Victory Day and on the day the mobilization began, and I was transferred to the pretrial detention center on Russia Day. Another hearing will be held on the anniversary of Navalny’s return to Russia. Back then it seemed that all the masks had been doffed and there was nothing more that could shock us. If only we had known what would happen a year later,” Ivanov wrote in a letter to our correspondent.
What Dmitry Ivanov is accused of
The case against Ivanov was handled by the Investigative Committee’s First Major Case Department. Like most cases investigated under the article on “fakes about the military,” it was launched on the basis of “law enforcement intelligence.” Еhe report on the student was written by Lieutenant Colonel A.L. Kapustin, a field officer in the FSB’s Moscow and Moscow Region directorate.
Kapustin copied several posts from “MSU Protesting,” and Captain K.A. Myagkov, a major case investigator, concluded that they were sufficient to launch a criminal case.
The prosecution argues that the activist, “motivated by political hatred” and “foreseeing the inevitability of socially dangerous consequences in the form of undermining and discrediting the current state authorities,” is alleged to have disseminated the following claims on Telegram between 4 March and 4 April 2022:
— the Russian army attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant;
— The Russian armed forces have been destroying cities and civilian infrastructure and killing civilians in Ukraine;
— Russia is waging a real war, not a “special military operation”;
— Russian aviation has suffered significant losses in the war;
— Russian soldiers committed war crimes in the towns of Bucha and Irpen.
Most of the posts that investigators attributed to Ivanov were reposts of allegations made by other people, including politician Alexei Navalny, Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky, BBC journalist Ilya Barabanov, blogger Maxim Katz, and the writers on social media news page Lentach.
From a broken phone to a canceled thesis defense: how field officers and MSU officials persecuted an undesirable student
In 2018, Ivanov was a student majoring in computational mathematics and cybernetics. Along with dozens of other students and lecturers, he protested against construction of a World Cup fan zone outside Moscow State University’s main building. The inhabitants of the building complained that the construction work prevented them from working during the day and sleeping at night, and that the crowds of fans would make their lives unbearable.
It was then that Ivanov launched the initially anonymous Telegram channel “MSU Protesting,” in which he described in detail the struggle of students and lecturers against developers. He would go on to write about other protest actions. On 16 December 2018, Ivanov was detained at a rally outside the FSB building in Moscow: the infamous Center “E” officer Alexei Okopny did not like the fact that the student had photographed him.
The very next day, Ivanov’s channel ceased to be anonymous. “Hi, my name is Dima, I’m 19, I study at Moscow State University, and today I became a victim of torture,” the student wrote. He said that after his arrest the security forces had demanded that he give them the password to his phone; when he refused, they beat him and threatened to rape him with a police baton. Having failed to achieve their goal, they simply broke the phone, and access to “MSU Protesting” was lost. Ivanov created a new channel with the same name and recounted his experiences in detail in his inaugural post.
Ivanov thus became one of the well-known activists whom the security forces snatched from the crowd first during protests. On 2 February 2021, he was detained at a rally in support of Alexei Navalny, who had returned to Russia after recovering from poisoning. It was then that, for the first time, the Meshchansky District Court sent the student to the Temporary Detention Center for Foreign Nationals in Sakharovo for thirty days. At this center for migrants facing deportation, where Moscow opposition activists were taken to serve their administrative sentences that winter, a second charge sheet was drawn up against Ivanov because he argued with the guards. Ten more days were added to the thirty days he had got for attending the rally.
Ivanov’s friends estimated that he spent a total of 101 days under administrative arrest.
Ivanov was scheduled to defend his honor’s thesis on 1 June 2022. The student was supposed to be released from the detention center on the second of June. Ivanov’s defense team asked the court to shorten the term of arrest by at least one day and requested a postponement from the examination commission, but to no avail. In July, Ivanov was expelled from Moscow State University for not having passed the state final certification.
“I got out of the subway, saw a building with paddy wagons, and decided to give evidence”: the prosecution’s witnesses
The investigation into the Ivanov case was completed in two months. During this time, several witnesses were questioned at the Investigative Committee. Only one of them, Yuliaslava Korolevich, a school friend of the activist, testified in his defense. The security forces searched the home of Korolevich and her mother, and then brought the young woman in for questioning. She said only that she knows Dmitry “as a person who can listen and help out in difficult times, and who is intelligent, rational and logical by nature.”
The other witnesses in the case did not have their homes searched. All of them unfailingly identified themselves as “patriots” during questioning, and the wording of their testimony against Ivanov overlaps almost verbatim. All of them described the arrested student “negatively as an anti-Russian fascist,” and his posts in the Telegram channel as “not corresponding to the position of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation.”
The most verbose among the witnesses was the former dean of the Faculty of Fundamental Physical and Chemical Engineering at Moscow State University Lyudmila Grigorieva, infamous for her confrontation with student activists. In 2021, she was forced to resign after she called the Initiative Group at the university “western liberasts” who “grunt, crawl and shit constantly for scraps.”
During questioning, Grigorieva labeled herself “a patriot and a person who loves her country very much, and also stands for kindness, state power, unity, and public order.” She thus considered it her duty to testify against a student who, in her opinion, is a “fascist” and “belongs to a political sect.”
“Ivanov hates people who do not share his liberal views, and defends all the dregs of society,” she said.
Later, at the trial, Grigorieva voiced the hope that not only Ivanov, but also another opposition mathematician from Moscow State University, associate professor Mikhail Lobanov, would pay for “anti-Russian activities.”
Three more prosecution witnesses are Grigorieva’s former subordinates Alexander Krasilnikov, Daniil Afanasyev, and her former graduate student Kirill Borisevich. In court, none of them (like the ex-dean herself) could explain how they had ended up in the investigator’s office and had decided to testify against Ivanov.
“I was walking from the subway, I had got out of the subway. I saw a building with paddy wagons, and decided to give evidence,” Krasilnikov said uncertainly. Each of the three repeated verbatim Grigorieva’s epithets for the student, and in court they read their testimony from a phone or a piece of paper.
What connects the unemployed man Ivan Lyamin and Kolomna Philharmonic musician Mikhail Zhuravlev with the case of Ivanov is not at all clear. In court, Lyamin explained that he had “accidentally stumbled upon” the Telegram channel “MSU Protesting.” He would sometimes read it. He then told an acquaintance about it, who advised him to contact the Investigative Committee.
Zhuravlev claimed that he had decided to testify so that justice would prevail.
“Because freedom of speech has become too much,” he said.
During questioning, Zhuravlev said that Ivanov “is trying to disorient his readers about the events in Ukraine and impose a sense of guilt for the conduct of the special operation not only on Russian citizens, but on all ethnic Russians. He is also trying to shape public opinion among citizens of the Russian Federation about the need to stop the actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Ukraine in order to preserve the power of the nationalists.”
The witness could not repeat such a long statement from memory, so in court the prosecutor had to read out his written testimony .
The evidence and witnesses for the defense
The prosecution argues that, since the posts on the Telegram channel “MSU Protesting” diverged from the official reports of the Defense Ministry, meaning that they were “deliberately false,” this is sufficient proof of Ivanov’s guilt. This conclusion was reached by linguists from the FSB, who testified in court.
Defense counsel Maria Eismont asked psychologist Veronika Konstantinova and linguist Igor Zharkov to prepare an independent expert analysis of the activist’s posts. They concluded that, at the time of their publication, the information in Ivanov’s posts was not “knowingly false” from his point of view. The prosecutor retorted that the experts were only “trying to discredit the actions of the investigation.”
In addition to the expert analysis, the defense presented the testimony of seven people in court. Unlike the prosecution witnesses, all of them were personally acquainted with Ivanov. Andrei Stroganov taught Ivanov computer science at school. Ivanov worked on his honor’s thesis with Alexei Borodin, a senior researcher at the Institute of System Programming. Ivan Shmatin, a fifth-year student at Moscow State University is not only friends with the defendant, but also knows Lyudmila Grigorieva, whom he called “a person hyper-concentrated on people who espouse democratic values.”
All of them described the accused as an honest individual and a talented mathematician. This was said by activists Irina Yakutenko and Konstantin Kotov, with whom Ivanov had been involved in solidarity campaigns for political prisoners — the mathematician Azat Miftakhov and the defendants in the New Greatness Case.
Mathematician and leftist politician Mikhail Lobanov, for whose election campaign to the State Duma Ivanov had worked, was also summoned to court. He talked about defendant’s involvement in the life of the university. According to Lobanov, “Uniquely, Dima was not embittered, even as he was being persecuted for his views.”
Grigory Mikhnov-Voytenko, a bishop of the Apostolic Orthodox Church and a human rights activist, helps Ukrainian refugees who find themselves in Russia. Their accounts fully confirm the veracity of Ivanov’s posts, the clergyman said in court.
A billy club and a dog in court, summonses to the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry
On January 19, Ivanov was beaten by a guard. The reason was that the defendant did not immediately exit the “fish tank” after the court hearing, but stayed to find out from Maria Eismont when she would visit him in the pretrial detention center. It later transpired that the escort guard’s name was Alexei Nikolayevich Zhalnin.
Without giving the defendant a chance to talk to his lawyer, Zhalnin dragged Ivanov into the escort guard room. The next day, Ivanov told Eismont that the escort had taken him downstairs, turned off his body cam, and kicked him in the head and ribs and beaten him with a billy club. Zhalnin tried to put Ivanov’s head into the toilet and threatened that he would “insert a stick in his anus.” The second escort guard “watched” this and “did nothing.” The bruises suffered by the activist were documented at the detention center’s medical unit.
The defense has filed complaints about Zhalnin’s actions to numerous authorities, but so far to no avail. At the subsequent hearings, however, Ivanov was escorted by emphatically polite guards, and Judge Daria Pugacheva asked whether he had any complaints about the escort. Meanwhile, bailiffs stopped letting members of the public who could not recall the judge’s surname into the courthouse. Previously it had been enough to name the defendant’s last name at the entrance. A continuously whining service dog appeared in the courtroom.
Coincidentally, all these security measures were introduced when Eismont persuaded the court to call as witnesses Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya.
“Ivanov is charged with a serious crime based on a comparison of his texts with statements made by Nebenzya, Lavrov, and Konashenkov. This means that these people are essentially witnesses for the prosecution, and so he has the right to question them in court,” the lawyer argued.
Eismont had attempted to use this trick before, at the trial of the politician Ilya Yashin, but the court did not even issue summonses to the high-ranking officials then. In the Ivanov case, the summons reached their addressees, but the witnesses ignored them.
What else Ivanov was asked in court
Before oral arguments were made, Ivanov was himself put on the witness stand. While answering the questions posed by Prosecutor Yulia Pravosud, he explained why, as a student, he had written about pension reform, how he had checked his sources of information for reliability, and which media outlets he trusted. The prosecutor then tried to get Ivanov to talk about allegations that the Russian language has been banned in Ukraine.
“Do you know anything about Zelensky’s attitude toward the Russian language?” she asked.
“It’s his native language, basically. He’s completely fluent in it,” Ivanov replied.
“Is the Russian language banned or not banned [in Ukraine]?”
“I had not heard that the Russian language was banned in Ukraine. As far as I know, many regions used it as the primary one. The Mariupol City Hall maintained all its social media and websites in Russian even after 2014.”
“I see, and what about Zelensky’s position? Does he allow [Ukrainians] to communicate [in Russian]?”
“Probably, if he forbade communication in Russian, the mayor of Mariupol would not have spoken publicly in Russian, and would not have maintained online resources in Russian.”
Prosecutor Pravosud then read aloud a post from “MSU Protesting” in which Ivanov admitted that he could face criminal charges for his statements about the Russian army’s actions in Ukraine.
“Why did you, knowing of the criminal liability, still write on your Telegram channel?” she asked Ivanov.
“‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.’ That’s a quote from George Orwell,” he said. “Should I explain it to you?”