Ivan Kudryashov: An Anti-War Street Artist in Tver

“Fuck the War”: a street art piece attributed to Ivan Kudryashov, photographed in Tver on 1 May 2022. Photo courtesy of Solidarity Zone

Ivan Kudryashov: Tver resident accused of planning arson of military enlistment office

The Telegram channel Stasia and Letters reports that Tver activist Ivan Kudryashov is in a pretrial detention center, charged with planning to set fire to a military enlistment office.

It is reported that Kudryashov repeatedly carried out anti-war protests in Tver. He was arrested on September 30 and charging with “preparing to commit a terrorist act” (per Article 30.1 and Article 205 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). If found guilty, he faces a maximum prison sentence of eleven years and three months.

Kudryashov is, possibly, the author of the resonant “Fuck the War” street art pieces at bus stops in Tver. In any case, the VK page “Ivan Kudryashov” contains an entry about them, dated September 22.

Stasia and Letters quotes a letter from Andrei Trofimov, accused of making anti-war statements, who was held in the same cell as Kudryashov for three weeks:

“[Ivan Kudryashov] was born in the city of Bologoye and grew up in an orphanage and, later, with a foster family in Torzhok, Tver Region. He graduated from an eleven-year school. After school, he enrolled in the economics department at Tver State University. In the second year, he dropped out of university and did his obligatory military service in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. After that he lived in Tver and worked as a fitter at a train carriage factory. At school, he liked mathematics and was a checkers champion. He is fond of contemporary music, and is also a fan of the British TV series Sherlock.”

It is reported that Ivan Kudryashov is now in solitary confinement, which means it is especially important to write to him.

✉️📦 Address for letters and parcels:

Kudryashov Ivan Valeryevich (born 1996)

141 Vagazhanov Street

Pretriel Detention Center No. 1

Tver 170010 Russian Federation

(It is possible to send letters via the FSIN-Pismo service.)

#prisoners#solidarity #nowar#writing letters

Source: Solidarity Zone, 5 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able 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. In many cases, however, you can send letters (which must written in or translated into Russian) via the free, volunteer-run service RosUznik, but as of this writing Mr. Kudryashov has not appeared on their list of addressees. You can also ask me (avvakum@pm.me) for assistance and advice in sending letters.

“Face the Wall, Don’t Look Down”: Solidarity Becomes a Criminal Act in Moscow

A view of the entrance to Open Space Moscow. Photo courtesy of Mediazona

On the evening of November 24, masked security forces officers broke into Open Space in Moscow, where fifty people had gathered to support the anarchists arrested in the Tyumen Case and write postcards to political prisoners. The security forces, who were probably commanded by a colonel from Center “E”, made the visitors lie down on the floor or stood them facing the wall and held them for several hours, beating some of them. They didn’t let a lawyer inside.

On November 24, an evening of solidarity for the defendants in the Tyumen Case took place in Open Space, a co-working space for activists in Moscow’s Basmanny District. Six anarchists from Tyumen, Surgut and Yekaterinburg have been arrested and charged with organizing a “terrorist community,” and all of them have said they were tortured.

The event was open to the public and had been advertised, for example, by the online magazine DOXA. (Recently, State Duma deputies demanded that the magazine be designated an “extremist organization.”)

The event started around six o’clock, and about forty to fifty people were in attendance, says one of the participants. Some eyewitnesses say that before the security forces arrived, they signed postcards in support of political prisoners, while others said that they recited or listened to poetry. In any case, when an intermission was announced, the guests went outside to smoke — and at that moment a paddy wagon drove up to the building, and masked security forces officers stormed the venue.

Video footage of the beginning of the raid, which the SOTAvision journalist Ksenia Tamurka managed to shoot before she was detained, shows that the masked security forces officers behaved in a demonstratively rough manner. They shouted, kicked over furniture, and knocked the phone out of the correspondent’s hands. After the phone falls, the sounds of blows and shouts are audible in the footage: “Hands behind your head!”, “Legs wider!”, “Face the wall, don’t look down!”

The security forces officers forced some of the young people to lie down on the floor, while they made the rest of them, including the young women, stand facing the wall, forbidding them to move. A young woman who had left the event during the break and unhappily returned to retrieve a tote bag she had forgotten told SOTA that she stood facing the wall for about an hour.

“When I turned my head, I was told to keep facing the wall. An hour later, they apparently took out my passport from my tote bag and summoned me to another room, where most everyone was lying face down on the floor. I sat down and we waited further. Then after, I don’t know, thirty minutes, I was summoned by other Russian National Guard officers. They asked me where my phone was, and I showed them. They asked me to unlock it, but I said no, citing Article 23 [of the Russian Constitution, which enshrines the right to privacy]. They were like no, you’re going to unlock it. And when I had already sat down, there was already a young female journalist after me, and she refused to show them her phone. They dragged her by the hair and she screamed,” the young woman said.

After what she saw, the young woman agreed to unlock the phone, and the security forces wrote down its IMEI. Another woman, who attended event with a child, said that the security forces officers demanded that she show them her Telegram chats and latest bank transfers to find out “whether she sponsored terrorism.”

The young woman who was screaming was SOTA journalist Ksenia Tamurka. The media outlet has not yet published the commentary of the journalist herself. One of the detainees recounted the assault on Tamurka as told by another eyewitness; another young man heard the journalist screaming, although he was in another room.

He said that the security forces treated the young men in various ways: in his opinion, it largely depended on the length of their hair. The young man pointed out that the security forces also detained members of Narcotics Anonymous, whose meeting was going on in the next room. “And when they were asked what they were doing there, they said, We are drug addicts, we don’t know anyone here! Then they were taken away from where we were, and [the police] talked to them separately,” he recalled.

At some point, the security forces perhaps began to behave a little less harshly. In video footage recorded a few hours after the start of the search, it is clear that the detainees were no longer pressed against the wall, but were simply looking at it. The security forces did not detain the journalists who shot the video, but, according to a Sota correspondent, they did drag a passerby inside the building after he looked in the window.

The security forces did not let the lawyer Leysan Mannapova, who arrived at the scene of the raid, inside the building, claiming that her warrant was incorrectly executed. A man who came to rescue his fourteen-year-old brother also failed to get inside the building.

The detainees were loaded into the paddy wagon only a few hours later, and the minors among them were released along the way. The rest were brought to the Basmanny police department.

One of them said that she and four young men were beaten at the station. According to the young woman, the security forces officers “struck her when she was lying on the floor.” One detainee was “beaten with a baton and a book,” and another young man was “thrown on a chair and kicked.” According to her, the police found a balaclava, an emergency hammer from a bus, and a traumatic pistol, which he had a permit to carry, on one of the men who was beaten.

Another young woman could not recall beatings and said only that the detainees wrote statements at the police department “about what they actually did.” Alexei Melnikov, a member of the Public Monitoring Commission who was recently appointed to the Presidential Human Rights Council, went inside the department and saw the detainees while they were making their statements, but also made no mention of possible violence.

The detainees were released from the department around two o’clock in the morning. None of them reported that they were forced to sign any documents other than their statements. Tamurka left the department last, around four in the morning.

Golos coordinator Vladimir Yegorov identified the colonel from Center “E” in video footage of the security forces escorting the detainees to the paddy wagon. According to Yegorov, he was beaten during a search of the Golos office on October 5 on the colonel’s orders. Yegorov does not know the policeman’s name, because it was not listed in the search report. According to SOTA, the masked security officers accompanying the colonel at Open Space serve in the second field regiment of the Interior Ministry’s Moscow Main Directorate.

Correction (7 p.m., November 25): The article originally stated that the journalist Ksenia Tamurka left the police department along with the other detainees around two o’clock in the morning. SOTAvision later clarified that she came out last, around four o’clock in the morning.

Source: Nikita Sologub, “‘Face the wall, don’t look down’: security forces raid solidarity event for defendants in Tyumen Case,” Mediazona, 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. This is the second part of a two-part feature on the 24 November raid on Open Space Moscow. You can read part one — journalist Ksenia Tamurka’s first-person account of the incident — here.

Question 5

Four and half years ago, I had to renew my Russian permanent residence permit. The procedure had changed considerably since the last time I’d applied for the permit. Among the changes were two written exams that applicants were now required to pass — a Russian language exam and a Russian civics exam. I decided to study for them by doing practice exams that I found online. One of the civics question was “Question 5,” screenshotted above. It’s a multiple choice question. The examinee must decide whether the “RF” (the Russian Federation) is a) a totalitarian state, b) an authoritarian state, c) a hybrid state, or d) a democratic state. To be honest, I no longer remember whether this particular question came up in the actual exam, which I passed with flying colors. But I thought that you, my readers, might find it productive to ponder this question while reading the following three items, ripped straight from this week’s headlines in the Russian media. At the end of this post, you’ll see what the “right” answer was (in 2018, at least) and the answer I tried to give when taking the online practice quiz. ||| TRR


The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation has identified 17 priority topics for state financial support of film production in 2023.

The procedure and conditions for selection competitions in 2023 will be announced at the end of December 2022.

“We publish a list of topics before the start of competitions for financing production, hoping that filmmakers will take into account the priorities of state support for film production when developing projects. The Ministry of Culture continues to support such important topics for society as the protection of family values, patriotic education, preservation of the traditions of Russia’s regions, the success of domestic science, and popularization of the professions of engineer and teacher. Given modern realities, we consider it necessary to focus as well on countering attempts to falsify history and modern manifestations of the ideology of Nazism, to talk about the heroism and dedication of Russian soldiers during the special operation and the work of front-line brigades and volunteers,” said Olga Lyubimova, Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation.

Some priority topics have been established pursuant to the Decrees of the President of the Russian Federation: “On the Approval of the Foundations of State Policy for the Preservation and Strengthening of Traditional Russian Spiritual and Moral Values,” dated 09.11.2022, No. 809; “On the Announcement of the Decade of Childhood in the Russian Federation,” dated 29.05.2017, No. 240; “On the Announcement of the Decade of Science and Technology in the Russian Federation,” dated 25.04.2022, No. 231; and “On Holding the Year of the Teacher and Mentor in the Russian Federation,” dated 27.06.2022, No. 401.

The list of priority topics includes:

1. Russia’s culture. The preservation, creation and dissemination of traditional values.

2. The decade of childhood. Families and children, their protection and support.

3. Russian science: innovations, technologies, priorities.

4. Historical cinema. History lessons, memory lessons. Countering attempts to falsify history. Russia’s peacekeeping mission of Russia. Russia’s historical victories. The eightieth anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. The Soviet soldier’s mission of liberation Generational conflict, generational continuity.

5. Russia as a modern, stable and secure state that provides opportunities for growth and self-realization.

6. The heroes among us. Stories of modern Russia’s outstanding individuals. Popularizing the teaching profession. School and college as important stages in social adaptation and personal orientation. The role of teachers and mentors in shaping the individual.

7. Motivating young people to master manual trades and engineering jobs. Improving the social status of the manual worker and the engineer, of research and innovation.

8. Film chronicle. The current state, culture and traditions of Russia’s regions. Development of the Far East and the Arctic. The life of small towns and villages, life in the provinces. Little Russia as a historical region of Russia.

9. Adaptations of works of Russian classical literature, including with the use of animation.

10. Films about outstanding figures in history, culture, science and sports. Popularizing the medical profession. Films about sporting achievements and victories.

11. Countering modern manifestations of the ideology of Nazism and fascism. Popularizing heroism and the dedication of Russian soldiers during the special military operation.

12. Popularizing service in the Russian Armed Forces of Russia. Society’s unanimous support of the army (front-line brigades and volunteers). Strengthening the status of the military profession as based on historical events and recent history.

13. The spiritual, moral and patriotic education of Russian citizens. Countering extremism. Images and models of behavior and creative motivation for modern youth. Spiritual leaders. The volunteer movement in Russia and the CIS countries as an international popularization of volunteerism.

14. The neocolonial policy of the Anglo-Saxon world. The degradation of Europe. The formation of a multipolar world.

15. Society without borders: the self-realization of people with disabilities. Volunteering in Russia. Active longevity.

16. Films about teenagers. Formation of values in life and guidelines while growing up. Disorientation in public space, information overload, forming one’s own way of thinking.

17. Modern society. Moral and ethical choice. Civic engagement. Social unity.

Source: “The Ministry of Culture of Russia has identified priority topics for state support of film production in 2023,” Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, 30 November 2022. Thanks to Radio Svoboda for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader


At a secondary school in the Leningrad Region, the Agalatovo Education Center, students were quizzed about racism, Russophobia and the emotions provoked by songs about the Motherland. A photo of the questionnaire, entitled “Patriot and Citizen,” was sent to Rotunda by the parents of one of the schoolchildren. Here are some of statements the children had to evaluate by answering “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know.”

🇷🇺 Those who criticize what is happening in the country cannot be considered real patriots.
🇷🇺 I owe a lot to my country.
🇷🇺 Sometimes I get very excited when I hear songs about my Motherland.
🇷🇺 We are a strong military power, and that is why we should be respected.
🇷🇺 If I go abroad, I will try not to be seen as Russian.
🇷🇺 I am ready to defend my Motherland in case of serious danger.
🇷🇺 Most of the crimes in our city (village) are committed by outsiders and immigrants.

🇷🇺 Our athletes are often judged unfairly at international competitions, because no one likes Russians.
🇷🇺 If we take into account all the pros and cons, the storage of foreign nuclear waste in Russia brings more financial benefits than it does environmental harm.
🇷🇺 There are nations and peoples who do not deserve to be treated well.
🇷🇺 Vandalism is one of the forms of youth protest.
🇷🇺 It is unfair to put people with dark skin in charge of white people.
🇷🇺 There can be only one true religion.

🤦 The school confirmed to Rotunda that they had conducted such a survey. They agreed to communicate with us only by mail. In a written response signed by the vice principal, they claimed that the questionnaire was needed “as background for a faculty meeting.” The school did not answer questions about how correctly or adequately the questionnaire was worded. Rotunda was unable to contact the school’s principal, Svetlana Sergiyenko. She is a supporter of the United Russia party and has run for election several times on the party’s ticket.

📌 The questionnaire itself seems to have been found by the educators on the internet. In 2014, Belarusian media reported that a similar survey (only with Belarus instead of Russia) was conducted in schools in Minsk.

Source: “Schoolchildren in Leningrad region surveyed on whether they’re ashamed to be Russian,” Rotunda (Telegram), 28 November 2022. Thanks to Leda Garina for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


There is a belief that the Russian elite under President Vladimir Putin has only ever been interested in money. Yet Putin’s militant, anti-liberal, anti-Western, isolationist, paternalistic, and harshly authoritarian regime has always had an ideology.

This ideology is not systematized, but it does exist, and snippets of it can be found throughout Putin’s speeches, articles, and interviews. Now the war in Ukraine has necessitated a more articulated ideology, however.

The initiative to systematize and codify Putinism has led to a presidential decree listing Russia’s “traditional spiritual and moral values,” as well as the development of a new ideological curriculum for colleges.

It is no longer enough to indoctrinate children in kindergartens and schools. It is now time to unify the worldviews of college students, and, by extension, those of their professors, whose ranks will inevitably be purged. A similar course taught during the Soviet era was known as “Scientific Communism.”

The name for this new curriculum is “Fundamentals of Russian Statehood,” though it might as well be called “Scientific Putinism.” It is composed of four units: “History” – historical policy as the imposition of a mythologized official version of history, which is one of the instruments for manipulating the mass consciousness of Russians; “Cultural Codes” or the “traditional spiritual and moral values,” around which Putin has ordered federal and regional governments to unify; “Russia and the World” — a justification of isolationism, anti-Westernism, and jingoism; and “Vision for the Future,” which sets out what the state hopes to achieve beyond victory in Ukraine and the destruction of the “fifth column.”

The curriculum justifies the cult of the eternal leader and doubles down on the idea that Russia is fighting the forces of evil in Ukraine in an effort to “de-satanize” the country. However, at the same time, Scientific Putinism lacks key components such as development goals or a vision for Russia’s future, focusing as it does almost exclusively on the past.

During Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency, there were teams working on a future-oriented ideology and making road maps based on the idea that Russia would fast-track the modernization of the state and society. Putin’s ideology, however, is one that fundamentally opposes modernization.

Putin has successfully convinced a significant portion of the population that Russia must regain its status as a great power, and that Russia is under attack by both the liberal West and traitors at home. As the regime has grown more authoritarian, its ideology has also become more archaic, its propaganda more obtrusive, and any hopes of modernization have dwindled. 

An ideology that consists of historical, cultural, and religious myths, bogus traditions, and resentment seeks to legitimize an authoritarian regime and delegitimize those who oppose it.

Such an ideology makes it possible to label nonconformists as enemies, and to divide people into “us” and “them.” The division into “us” and “them” doesn’t just provide a marker for self-identification, it also serves to convince the public that there is a certain majority from which they should not stray.

In the past, the only requirement for being part of the “us” was passive, silent, conformist support. Today, however, this is not enough: Russians must surrender their very bodies to be cannon fodder in the supreme leader’s holy war against the “satanic” forces of the West. This is no longer authoritarianism; it is totalitarianism.

Imperialism and colonialism are key components of Putinism and key factors in the war. There is nothing new about this ideology; it comes almost verbatim from Stalinism and from earlier Eurasian and Slavophile narratives.

The war is being passed off as striving to restore historical fairness, as defensive and preventive, and as liberation. According to Putin, the land of the empire must be “returned and reinforced.”

In just a few years, the regime has evolved from a cult of the victory of 1945 to a cult of war itself, and Putin has managed to persuade a large segment of Russian society that the “special military operation” of 2022 is a natural continuation of World War II. In essence, it is an existential war between Russian and Western civilizations.

Putin has started to refer to Russia as an entire civilization. The state is not just sacred and worthy of the ultimate sacrifice; it is also a separate and superior civilization with a “thousand-year history” and its own special path.

Within this history, cultural codes are being passed down from generation to generation as part of the country’s political DNA. This state-civilization has its own pantheon of heroes unchanged from the Soviet era: Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Joseph Stalin, and Yuri Gagarin.

This state-civilization has always been under attack by enviers and foes, making its state of permanent conflict critical, and not simply limited to the battlefield. The state must win in all aspects — in culture and in sports, in the construction of Olympic facilities, and in the war against Ukraine and the West.  

To defend the sovereignty of this state-civilization, the Kremlin is counting on the security services, or siloviki, who have been given additional funding and are reinforced by spin doctors and so-called “journalists” in the Kremlin’s service.

The Culture Ministry, the communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, and the Russian Orthodox Church are becoming de facto siloviki themselves, enjoying as they do the right to block or ban media, restrict the sales of books by authors who oppose the war, and decide who can perform on theater stages.

The ideology has become corporeal, bolstered by political and military acts, such as the annexation of Crimea and the “special military operation.” In short, the special ideological operation is ongoing, and it seems to be faring rather better than the military one. 

This article was originally published by the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace.

Source: Andrei Kolesnikov, “Scientific Putinism: Shaping Official Ideology in Russia,” Moscow Times, 27 November 2022. Thanks to Mark Teeter for the heads-up.


Back in the summer of 2018 I tried to answer Question 5 truthfully, replying that the Russian Federation was an “authoritarian state.” But the right answer, then, was “democratic state,” as it turned out. Again, I don’t remember now whether this question on the actual civics exam that I took, but there were several other “ideological” questions like it, which I would have answered “incorrectly,” thus jeopardizing my chances to get a residence permit, if I hadn’t been schooled in advance by the practice quizzes I’d found online. ||| TRR

Vladlen Menshikov: A Real Russian Hero

Vladlen Menshikov. Photo courtesy of Solidarity Zone

We have begun supporting Vladlen Menshikov, accused of anti-war sabotage on the railways.

On September 30, pro-government media reported the arrest of 29-year-old Vladlen Menshikov by the FSB in the Sverdlovsk Region. Investigators claim that Menshikov installed short-circuiting devices on the railway at the eightieth kilometer of the stretch between Rezh and Striganovo, along which trains carrying Russian military equipment run.

During an interrogation, which FSB field agents recorded on video, Menshikov said that he opposes the war and supports overthrowing the current government. He also discusses methods of sabotaging the Russian army’s railway supply lines.

Solidarity Zone was able to establish Menshikov’s identity and locate the pretrial detention center in which he is detained. When we contacted him and offered our support, he responded positively. He asked for legal assistance, and also said he would be glad to receive letters.

We are currently working to start providing full-fledged legal assistance to Menshikov.

We would note that Vladlen is currently being held in solitary confinement, so letters are especially important for him.

✉️📦 Address for letters and parcels:

Menshikov Vladlen Alexeyevich (born 1993)

4 Repin Street

Pretrial Detention Center No. 1

Ekaterinburg 620019 Russian Federation

(It is possible to send letters through the FSIN-Pismo service and Zonatelecom, as well as through RosUznik, a volunteer-run resource.)

💰 To support Solidarity Zone financially, so that we can continue to pay lawyers, send parcels to prisoners, and help cover other expenses, you can use the follow payment methods:

💳 Sberbank card

4276 7201 3618 1221 (Darya T.)

🪙 PayPal: solidarity_zone@riseup.net

🥷 Cryptocurrency:

Bitcoin: bc1qfzhfkd27ckz76dqf67t0jwm4gvrcug49e7fhry

Monero: 86565hecMGW7n2T1ap7wdo4wQ7kefaqXVPS8h2k2wQVhDHyYbADmDWZTuxpUMZPjZhSLpLp2SZZ8cLKdJkRchVWJBppbgBK

Ethereum: 0xD89Cf5e0B04b1a546e869500Fe96463E9986ADA3

Other altcoins: https://nowpayments.io/donation/solidarityzone

Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 21 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service or the privately run Zonatelecom. 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 Vladlen Menshikov (and many other Russian political prisoners) via RosUznik. You can also ask me (avvakum@pm.me) for assistance and advice in sending letters.

The Distance Between Krasnoobsk and Moscow Is 3,420 Kilometers

Five persons unknown abducted and tortured Dmitry Karimov, a 22-year-old resident of Krasnoobsk (Novosibirsk Region), in order to get him to confess to burning a banner in support of the Special Military Operation. The young man told the Telegram channel “Caution, News” [which has 1,443,493 subscribers] about the incident.

According to Karimov, on the morning of October 14, five men in mufti attacked him and pushed him into a vehicle. “I was screaming, calling for help, and they used a cattle prod on me,” he said, adding that they immediately accused him of setting fire to the banner, a crime which he did not commit.

Then, according to Karimov, the men took him to the forest, handcuffed him, strangled him, threatened to shoot him, and offered to convey to his parents his last words if he did not confess to the arson. Karimov confessed under duress. He was taken home, where a search took place, during which the security forces seized electronic devices and a jacket.

The detainee was then taken to the police station. Karimov said that during the interrogation he tried to tell the truth, but he was threatened with being sent to the war in Ukraine, and due to fear and coercion, he confessed.

The detainee’s mother Ekaterina Mikhasyonok said that her son is a third-category disabled person: he has been diagnosed with an organic lesion of the central nervous system, and has hearing and speech problems. She added that when her son did not return from school, she began looking for him. At about nine in the evening, she went to the police station, where she was told that Karimov was there.

Karimov was charged with “intentional destruction or damage to property by arson” (per Article 167.2 of the Criminal Code) and released on his own recognizance.

Source: “Novosibirsk Region resident says he was tortured into confessing to torching pro-SMO banner,” OVD Info, 16 November 2022. Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday named several supporters of the war in Ukraine to the presidential Human Rights Council in a shake-up of the body which appeared to purge members who have publicly expressed doubts about the war. 

War correspondent Alexander Kots and two other prominent supporters of the war were added to the council, while 10 members, including the well-known television host Nikolai Svanidze, found themselves removed from the body. 

Kots, a journalist for the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid who also runs the popular Telegram channel Kotsnews, has risen to prominence during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as he has been embedded with Russian forces throughout the war. 

While he has reported on Ukraine since 2014, he has faced repeated accusations of being a mouthpiece for the Kremlin since the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion, most notably for his claim that the massacre of Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha was staged by Kyiv.

Also added to the body on Thursday were Yulia Belekhova of the All-Russian People’s Front, an organization that raises money to support pro-Kremlin separatist forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region, as well as Elena Shishkina, a member of the Free Donbas party in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. 

The 10 members removed from the body include Svanidze, who has increasingly voiced his concerns over Russia’s invasion and who called for curbs on the death penalty in the Donetsk region in an open letter to Putin in August.

Prominent rights activist Igor Kalyapin and leading anti-xenophobia researcher Alexander Verkhovsky were also removed from the council in Thursday’s shake-up.

Russia’s Human Rights Council, which was established by presidential decree in 2004 to guarantee and protect human rights in Russia, has been criticized for failing to challenge Putin as members have been ousted and replaced with more Kremlin-friendly figures over the years.

The council has been chaired by journalist and war supporter Valery Fadeyev since 2019.

Source: “Putin Names War Supporters to Russia’s Human Rights Council,” Moscow Times, 17 November 2022

Going Underground (The Pulkovo Variations)

The river of eclipses is over, but not everyone’s psyche has recovered yet. For example, in the parking lot of Pulkovo Airport, a man decided to attempt an escape.

He stripped to the waist and climbed into a sewer pipe. He managed to crawl twelves meters before getting stuck.

Municipal services had to pull the man out using an excavator.

According to Fontanka.ru, the man is a 21-year-old resident of the city of Zhigulyovsk, in the Samara region.

On November 6, he left home and never returned. He had presumably gone to St. Petersburg to visit friends. It was known that the young man had a return ticket for November 9, but he did not use it.

The entire time his relatives back home and Liza Alert activists had been looking for him, but he was found in the sewer outside Pulkovo Airport, under circumstances already known to us.

Source: St. Petersburg Photo Diary (Natalya Yuda), Facebook, 12 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Life’s Rich Pageant: The Case of Yan Sidorov

Yan Sidorov. Photo courtesy of Memorial Human Rights Center

Minus one:Yan Sidorov, a former political prisoner in the Rostov Case, has volunteered for the war.

Sidorov served four years in prison in the Rostov Case, in which the court decided that two posters and thirty leaflets were evidence of “attempted organization of mass disturbances.” The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized him as a political prisoner.

Yan was released from prison a year ago, and he had planned to work in human rights protection. There were no vacancies in human rights organizations, however, and so he had to get a job as a food delivery courier.

Yan socialized with many leftist and liberal activists, but he also maintained relations with the red-brown National Bolsheviks.

Apparently, the latter were nicer to him. Several mutual friends have informed me that Yan Sidorov has joined the ranks of Eduard Limonov’s Other Russia and gone to the front.

I still don’t get how the National Bolsheviks degenerated from a flamboyant opposition party into the vanguard of the Kremlin regime. The late Limonov was always an imperialist, however.

But how — how?! — former political prisoners become defenders of Putin’s dictatorship, no one seems to understand. As one of my cellmates used to say, “Everyone has gone off their fucking gourd!”

Well, before he starts shooting, it’s not too late for him to change his mind. Maybe he will shake himself free of this delusion after all.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 27 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Russian human rights activist Yan Sidorov is facing the prospect of three years under harsh probation conditions, when he is released next week from the penal colony where he has spent the last two years, Amnesty International said today.

Yan Sidorov is a prisoner of conscience, whose attempts to hold a peaceful protest in 2017 resulted in an imprisonment at a Dimitrovgrad penal colony after he had spent two years in pre-trial detention. He is set to be released on 3 November, but on 29 October Dimitrovgrad City Court will hear a request by the authorities to impose a severely restrictive probation period.

“Russian authorities are sending a clear signal to all young activists that participation in peaceful protests can come at huge personal cost. Yan Sidorov has already served four years in prison; he may now have to spend three more under strict police surveillance, forbidden to go out after 10 pm and banned from travelling outside the Krasnodar region,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

“The Russian penitentiary authorities must immediately withdraw their request to impose additional arbitrary restrictions on Yan Sidorov and release him unconditionally. Yan Sidorov has done nothing but exercise his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and this outrageous campaign of punishment must end.”

Background

Two weeks ahead of Yan Sidorov’s release from penal colony IK-10 in Dimitrovgrad (Central Russia), the penitentiary administration requested that the court impose a three-year probation period on him. Conditions include obligatory biweekly registration at the local police station and a curfew between 10 pm and 6 am; Sidorov would also be banned from leaving his native Krasnodar region, and banned from attending or participating in any mass events. The Dimitrovgrad City Court will hear this case on 29 October. On 15 October, the penal colony authorities accused Yan Sidorov of violation of the prison regime regulations – allegedly for not attending morning workout – and placed him in a punishment cell for seven days.

In October 2019, Yan Sidorov and his friend Vladislav Mordasov, who spent almost two years in pre-trial detention, were found guilty of “attempted organization of mass disturbances”, and each sentenced to more than six years imprisonment for organizing a peaceful protest in November 2017. The protest was in support of dozens of people in Rostov-on-Don (Southern Russia) who had lost their homes in mass fires. Their sentences were subsequently reduced to four years on cassation. Vladislav Mordasov serving his sentence in IK-9 penal colony in Shakhty (Rostov-on-Don region) is due to be released on 3 November as well.

Source: “Russia: Prisoner of conscience Yan Sidorov faces further restrictions after release,” Amnesty International, 28 October 2021

“No Future”: Popular Reactions to Putin’s Mobilization

Outside Gostiny Dvor [metro station and shopping center, in downtown Petersburg]. The police are plucking out the protesters one by one and dragging them away.

Passersby ask, “What happened?”

Most either don’t read the news or support the mobilization.

They look at us like we’re idiots.

I asked a middle-aged woman whether she had any children.

“Two sons, so what?” she answered me defiantly.

Today I thought for the first time that there is no future.

[Comments]

Natalia Vvedenskaya

Just for balance. Today, in the supermarket, I quietly eavesdropped on the conversations among the saleswomen (these were two different conversations). Irritated and indignant, these middle-aged women said that the members of parliament [who quickly passed laws enforcing Putin’s mobilization] should go to war themselves.

Source: Galina Artemenko, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the bus. A middle-aged woman in the front seat yells into the phone, not mincing her words. She says that there is a panic at work, that they have seven days to keep the guys from getting drafted. This was followed by instructions for direct action. The young fellow sitting with his back to her listened attentively, while the girls opposite him could not have cared less.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a trusted source and occasional contributor to this website, identified here as “AR” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


This hurts a lot. I console myself with the fact that, as in private life, the most vital and beautiful thing is the process itself, when you are initially in a hole, but you fight to make things better. But can I please go back to the time when I have to confront myself, and not a crazy autocrat with a nuclear button?

I try to shift my focus from irritation towards Russians who support the war, and the collective Europe playing along [sic], to endless love. First of all, to people who are in Russia and are not afraid to speak out against the war. I am glad that I am living at the same time as you. Of course, we are far from being Iran, where people take deadly risks for their beliefs. But we’re cool, too. We’re doing what we can. If everyone in Russia were like us, the war would have ended today. Now, when it is important to support myself, I console myself with this thought, and I advise you to do the same.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a grassroots activist in Petersburg, identified here as “JA” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the evening of September 21, in Petersburg, as in other cities, a protest was held against the mobilization of Russians for the war in Ukraine. The protest was called by the Vesna Movement. The protesters gathered at 7 p.m. on St. Isaac’s Square.

Riot police vigorously detained protesters, beat them with batons, dragged them on the ground, and put them on their knees. According to OVD Info, at least 444 people were detained in St. Petersburg.

Bumaga has put together a photo chronicle of the first popular protest in the city in the last six months.

Source: “How an anti-mobilization rally — the first mass protest in six months — took place in Petersburg,” Bumaga, 21 September 2022. There are several more photographs of the protest rally at the link, including photos from a second, separate protest the same evening outside Gostiny Dvor (as described by Galina Artemenko, above). Translated by the Russian Reader


Conscription Notice Russia. This channel was created to inform the residents of Russia about the delivery of conscription notices in our city! [sic] Write here with information about which addresses conscription notices in Russia are being sent — @maks_ge

“Prospect Mira. A conscription notice was just served to a man approximately 40-45 years of age. He was strolling with his wife and dog. Then they [the police?] went up to some young guys sitting on a bench and had a chat with them.”

“They’ve already started handing out conscription notices at the factories in the town of Gatchina in Leningrad Region.”

“The Gazpromneft filling station at Amurskaya 15A. Two men got into a scrap, and the attendant called the police. The cops came and gave them tickets. They threatened the men, saying that tomorrow, other people in uniform would come visit them at home — I think they meant the military conscription office.”

Source: Screenshot of the Telegram channel Where Draft Papers Are Being Handed Out — Russia. The channel was created on August 13, but only started posting on September 21. It already has over ten thousand subscribers. Thanks to VL for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


Well, my prognosis was mistaken. I underestimated the regime’s vileness and meanness. As the supreme ruler declared a partial mobilization, the local military enlistment offices issued decrees concerning all reservists without exception.

This is totally fucked up. For example, “temporary residents must depart for their legal place of residence.” Accordingly, millions of unregistered men or men registered at their temporary residences in large cities must leave for their hometowns or home regions. Accordingly, all these millions of men are “lawbreakers” — they can be seized in dragnets, blackmailed with prison terms, locked up, beaten up, and anything else that our cops do with our citizens. When [the cops] are faced with passive resistance, they will indiscriminately rake in whomever they catch.

These people will certainly “engage in combat,” but that will happen later. What matters now is filling the quotas.

Source: George Losev, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Putin has announced a “partial mobilization.” Only time will tell how “partial” it is, but it is already clear that the mobilization will affect many people. What options do those whom the Kremlin wants to mobilize have?

  1. Become cannon fodder.
  2. Go to jail.
  3. Illegally flee the country. If you fail, you go to jail.
  4. Go underground. If you fail, you go to jail.
  5. Go underground and become a guerrilla. You could also go to jail.

I do not consider legal ways to avoid mobilization, since the rules of the game can change at any moment, and those who were not subject to mobilization yesterday will be subject to it tomorrow.

The choice isn’t great, but there is a choice.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 21 September. Mr. Astashin is a former political prisoner and human rights activist who now seems to be living in exile in Berlin. Translated by the Russian Reader


In the kitchen of a communal flat:

— Soooo, you live closer to the front door, don’t open it to anyone. If they come, tell them there are no men living here.

— I’ve been dodging the draft for so long I don’t even remember how to do it anymore. I’ve had so many chronic illnesses since then. Do you think it will help?

— At my work, a friend of a friend of a friend of a colleague is offering to drive [men] to Finland for 50 thousand rubles [approx. 855 euros]. Any takers?

— He’s definitely going to Finland? That’s too cheap somehow. What if he takes you to the military enlistment office?

— My pop says that he would volunteer himself, but he’s already sixty-seven, they won’t take him. But he’s weird that way. He never goes to the welfare office, because he believes you have to have pride: he didn’t work all his life to ask the state for something in his old age! His pension is 25 thousand rubles a month [approx. 440 euros].

— Maybe he is also one of those people who have nothing, and who donates money to buy socks for soldiers?

— No, he believes that we have the strongest army and does not give them a kopeck. He says the people asking for that money are scammers.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a veteran human rights activist in Petersburg, identified here as “NN” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader

KVN Trix

“Do we need, do we need to keep studying? Maybe we should go straight to prison after university?”

The KVN Trix team from St. Petersburg, which consists of female journalism students, sang about “foreign agents” and the prison sentence of journalist Ivan Safronov.

INDEED!!!

Source: Irod Uralskii (“Herod of the Urals” or “Monster of the Urals”), Telegram, 19 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


KVN Trix

“Maybe we should go straight to prison after university?”: a team of journalism students sang a song about “foreign agents” at a KVN competition

In the quarterfinals of the Baltika KVN League, members of the Petersburg university student team Trix sang a song about the plight of Russian journalism, listing the names of the media outlets and journalists labeled “foreign agents,” to the tune of Alla Pugacheva’s song “Nado zhe” (“Well, I Never”).

During the performance, three members of the team took the stage. The team’s captain, Anastasia Kostina, listed the names of “foreign agents” and asked in the song, “Do we need, do we need, do we need to keep studying? Maybe we should go straight to prison after university?” As she sang these lines, a young man in a police uniform ran onto the stage, twisted the soloist’s hands behind her back, and escorted her backstage.

Kostina said that the jury took the joke warmly and that there had been no censorship prior to the performance. “There was no internal censorship. Thanks to the editors for that — they allowed this song. The jury warmly welcomed such humor. They gave a critique at the end of the contest: they said it was bold, satirical, and so topical that it’s a sin to condemn us for it.”

The young woman was also asked what she thinks about continuing her studies in journalism school. “Indeed, I’m having a crisis right now, because I don’t understand whether to put more emphasis on my studies and the profession, or go into humor. But for now I continue to study, because who knows what will come in handy in life,” Anastasia replied.

Source: Mel (“Chalk”) Magazine: On Raising and Educating Children, Facebook, 19 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


KVN (Russian: КВН, an abbreviation of Клуб весёлых и находчивых, Klub Vesyólykh i Nakhódchivykh or Ka-Ve-En, “Club of the Funny and Inventive”) is a Russian (and formerly Soviet) humour TV show and an international competition where teams (usually composed of college students) compete by giving funny answers to questions and showing prepared sketches. The Club originated in the Soviet Union, building on the popularity of an earlier program, An Evening of Funny Questions (Russian: Вечер весёлых вопросов, romanized: Vecher vesyolykh voprosov); the television programme first aired on the First Soviet Channel on November 8, 1961. Eleven years later, in 1972, when few programmes were being broadcast live, Soviet censors, finding the students’ impromptu jokes offensive and anti-Soviet, banned KVN. The show was revived fourteen years later during the perestroika era in 1986, with Alexander Maslyakov as its host. It is one of the longest-running TV programmes on Russian television. It has its own holiday on November 8, the birthday of the game — celebrated by KVN players every year since it was announced and widely celebrated for the first time in 2001.

Source: “KVN,” Wikipedia

Fairy with a Velvet Core

Maria Butina, a “State Duma deputy” and a “fairy with a velvet core,” is featured on the cover of the September 2022 issue of Semya (“Family”) magazine, wearing an outfit designed by the Russian women’s clothing brand Feminelli [sic] and produced in Kirov. Thanks to Sergei Medvedev for the heads-up.


Maria Butina, a Duma deputy who early gained notoriety as a pro-gun Russian operative in the United States, says that Russia schools should teach young people how to “profile” enemies of the state and then turn them in before they can do any further damage to their country.

Such “civic vigilance,” she says, can be taught and must not be confused with snitching about what someone says or does. Instead, it is about examining people at a glance and recognizing them as enemies (mk.ru/social/2022/09/07/mariya-butina-pedlozhila-vvesti-v-shkolakh-uroki-profaylinga-dlya-vychisleniya-vragov.html).

In reporting this, Anna Belova of Moskovsky komsomolets says that it is far from clear how children will be taught to do something that even professionals struggle with but that one thing is clear: it will only elevate the level of suspiciousness among Russians toward anyone who is different from the majority in any way, ethnically, religiously or behaviorally.

And that of course is precisely what Butina seems committed to doing. 

Source: Paul Goble, “Russian Schools Must Teach Youngsters How to ‘Profile’ Enemies of the State, Butina Says,” Window on Eurasia — New Series, 15 September 2022