On March 6 of this year, Zhuchkov and Sergeyev went to an anti-war demonstration that had been announced that day in Moscow. However, the police detained them on their way to Pushkin Square. Molotov cocktails were found in Sergeyev’s backpack, and the police decided to immediately take them to the police station. However, halfway there, the police had to change the route.
As they were detained, Anton and Vladimir managed to take lethal doses of methadone, as they had planned to commit suicide that day as a political protest. So instead of the police station, the police had to take the friends to the hospital. Zhuchkov and Sergeyev were resuscitated at the Sklifosofsky Research Institute. A week later, when they had recovered, they were sent to a pretrial detention center.
At first, they were charged with “attempted disorderly conduct with the use of weapons” (per Article 30.1 and Article 213.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), but later the charge was reclassified as “preparation of a terrorist attack” (per Article 30.1.a and Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Now Anton and Vladimir face up to 10 years in prison.
In his testimony, Zhuchkov stated that he did not intend to harm anyone, but only wanted to commit suicide: “I took [methadone] so as not to see what was happening in the world — the war in Ukraine, the events in the Donbass — and I was also afraid of a nuclear war. Therefore, I wanted to take my own life so as not to see what would happen next, including worrying that young people would live in poverty,” he said during interrogation.
Sergeyev initially admitted that, before committing suicide, he wanted to set fire to an empty police van in protest against the war. Sergeyev’s lawyer Svetlana Zavodtsova reports that these statements were given under duress and without a lawyer present. Sergeyev now refuses to testify.
Solidarity Zone has been providing Zhuchkov with comprehensive support, including paying for a lawyer and sending care packages. Solidarity Zone has been helping Sergeyev and his relatives by giving them consultations and providing them information.
You can also support Vladimir Sergeyev and Anton Zhuchkov.
(It is possible to send letters through the service FSIN-Pismo, as well as the volunteer resource RosUznik)
In the photo, Sergeyev is on the left, Zhuchkov is on the right.
Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 6 November 2022. I have edited the original post in English for clarity and consistency. I would also note that people living outside Russia will not be able to donate money via Russian bank cards or use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service. It is also probably the case that it is impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. ||| TRR
Katerina Silvanova was born and raised in Kharkiv, but moved to Russia at the age of twenty-two. She majored in forestry engineering, but never finished her studies. She has worked in sales all her life. Elena Malisova is a Muscovite and married, and works in IT. The girls [sic] had never been associated with literature, but both have had a passion for writing since childhood. One day, chatting on the internet after a hard day’s work, the friends agreed that they had to do something together. So, the idea of the novel A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie was born.
Musician Yuri Konev arrives at the abandoned Swallow Young Pioneer Camp in the Kharkiv region to encounter the ghosts of his past. Something happened there that turned his life upside down, changing it forever. There he met the camp counselor Volodya, who became more than a friend to the teenager.
Walking through streets of the camp, overgrown with grass, Yura recalls how rapidly and stormily his relationship with Volodya developed, how they had been afraid of what was happening between them. And yet, they had gravitated to each other. The trip to the camp is a new revelation for Yura. He was sure he had buried the past there, that its rebellious echo would never again disturb him . And yet, Konev will have to come face to face again with what already turned his life around once. Apparently, not all the ghosts of the past are willing to hide in memory’s back alleys forever.
Why should you read A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie?
It’s a new extraordinary look at the late Soviet period of history.
It’s a novel about sincere first feelings, cloaked in mystery and shame, condemnation and doubts.
It’s an absolute bestseller, one of the year’s most anticipated and controversial books.
Book Description Yura returns to the Young Pioneer camp of his youth after twenty years. In the ruins of the past, he hopes to find a path back to the present, to the person he once loved. This story is about the fact that not everything in the USSR was smooth, straight-laced, and impersonal, that there were experiences, passions, drives, and feelings that did not fit into the moral framework leading to the “bright future,” and that this future was not so bright.
Source: LitRes. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader
Leto v pionerskom galstuke (LVPG) [A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie] is a novel co-written by Elena Malisova and Katerina Silvanova. The book deals with the relationship between two young men, the Young Pioneer [sic] Yura and Volodya, who meet at Young Pioneer camp in the summer of 1986.
Twenty years later, the musician Yuri Konev returns to the place where the Swallow Young Pioneer Camp was once located, recalling the summer of 1986, which spent there, and his love for the MGIMO student and camp counselor Vladimir Davydov. Yura and Volodya were jointly involved in staging a play, and a strong friendship arose between them, which gradually developed into teenage love. Throughout the book, Volodya refuses to accept his homosexual orientation, periodically insisting on ending the relationship and explaining that he is trying to “steer Yura off the right path” and that he is homophobic himself. At the end of the their stay at the camp, the young men bury a kind of time capsule under a willow tree, agreeing to dig it up in ten years. After parting, Yura and Volodya continue to communicate by correspondence for some time, but after a while they lose touch with each other. In 2006, after finding the time capsule, Yura learns in a letter that Volodya sends him that he had failed to “overcome” his orientation and still loves Yura.
The novel, which was originally posted on the website Ficbook.net, was published by Popcorn Books in 2021. By the end of May 2022, the book had sold more than 200,000 copies, not counting electronic sales. The novel took second place in the list of the most popular books among Russians in the first half of 2022, compiled by the Russian Book Union, and sales of the book amounted to about 50 million rubles. August 2022 saw the release of a sequel, What the Swallow Won’t Say, which takes place twenty years after the events described in A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie.
Critic Galina Yuzefovich gave a generally positive review of the novel, noting that “life in the Soviet Union differed little from life today, and emotions, relationships, and the desire to love and be loved do not depend on ideology.” Book blogger Anthony Yulai (Anton Ulyanov) rated the novel positively on the whole, noting that the authors keep the reader “in a state of emotional shock due to the alternation of sweet moments with sad ones and an abrupt change in the tone of the narrative towards the novel’s end.”
Zakhar Prilepin harshly condemned the book and its publishers on his Telegram channel: “Popcorn Books (which inevitably suggests “porn books”) is are celebrating their triumph and counting their profits. They will regard this post as good fortune, too. That’s what they were counting on. I won’t hide it: I’d burn down your whole office while you’re sleeping at home!” A video featuring a negative review of the book was released by Nikita Mikhalkov. He read aloud an excerpt from the novel and deems its publication a “violation of the Constitution.” He also noted that the abbreviation “LVPG,” as the novel is known among fans, is very similar to “LGBT.”
N.A. Ostanina, chair of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children, sent a request to Roskomnadzor to examine the contents of the book to determine whether a criminal case could be launched against it in the future. A similar request was sent by the news agency RIA Ivan-Chai, but received a negative response.
Source: Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader
“Aren’t you exaggerating?”
Seeing Volodya’s slightly condescending smile, Yurka was embarrassed. He probably thought that Yurka remembered their dance too well and was still jealous, so he was ready to accuse Masha of anything. And if Volodya really thought so, then he was right. Yurka’s ardent desire to jump out of the bushes and catch the spy red-handed was caused precisely by jealousy. But Yurka also had arguments in defense of his theory.
“It’s not the first time she’s been out at night. Do you remember when Ira came to the theater and attacked me, asking me what I’d been doing with Masha and where I’d been walking? And it’s true, no matter where we are, she’s always there. Volodya, we have to tell them about her walks!”
“Deal with Irina first.”
Yurka did go find her almost immediately. All the same, his mood was spoiled, and Volodya was paranoid again, and he constantly froze, listening and looking around and not even letting him touch his hand. And the evening was already coming to an end.
After hastily saying goodbye to Volodya, Yurka returned to his unit and found the counselor. He expected her to frown and scream at him as soon as he walked in. He was already ready to babble excuses, but Ira stared at him in surprise.
“Actually, no, I wasn’t looking for you,” she said. Yurka had already put his hands up to stop his jaw from dropping, when Ira yelled.
“Where have you been, by the way?”
“Did you even notice what time it is?! Yura, who are they playing lights out for?! If you’re going to be late, you have to warn me!”
Yurka fell asleep, struggling with mixed feelings full of anxiety. Volodya was constantly surrounded by girls, but it seemed to Yurka that Masha popped up too often. It must be jealousy after all. And to top it all off, he apparently had been infected with Volodya’s paranoia.
Source: Elena Malisova and Katerina Silvanova, A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie (Popcorn Books, 2021), p. 155, as chosen by the True Random Number Generator. Translated by the Russian Reader
In an industrial block in northeastern Moscow on a recent Friday night, organizers of an L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly art festival were assiduously checking IDs. No one under 18 allowed. They were trying to comply with a 2013 Russian law that bans exposing minors to anything that could be considered “gay propaganda.”
The organizers had good reason to be wary: Life has been challenging for gay Russians since the law passed, as the government has treated gay life as a Western import that is harmful to traditional Russian values and society.
Now Russia’s Parliament is set to pass a legislative package that would ban all “gay propaganda,” signaling an even more difficult period ahead for a stigmatized segment of society.
The laws would prohibit representation of L.G.B.T.Q. relationships in any media — streaming services, social platforms, books, music, posters, billboards and films — and, activists fear, in any public space as well. That’s a daunting prospect for queer people searching for community, validation or an audience.
“I’m afraid for my future, because with these kinds of developments, it won’t be as bright as I would like it to be,” said a drag artist who uses the stage name Taylor. Taylor’s performance on Friday before a small but enthusiastic crowd tackled themes of domestic violence, mental health and AIDS.
The proposed laws are part of an intensifying effort by President Vladimir V. Putin to cast Russia as fighting a civilizational struggle against the West, which he accuses of trying to export corrosive values.
The Kremlin is coupling the crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. expression with its rationale for the war in Ukraine, insisting that Russia is fighting not just Ukraine but all of NATO, a Western alliance that represents a threat to the motherland.
Russian authorities have canceled the 9th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art, which was supposed to take place at the New Tretyakov Gallery.
In a press release, the Russian Ministry of Culture said the reason was “the absolute discrepancy between the caliber of a number of the exhibits and the venue’s status […] The Tretyakov Gallery is a treasure trove of Russian art. The desire to hold the project [t]here, and not at a private or corporate venue, should go hand in hand with responsibility for the exhibition’s artistic and ethical context.”
In addition, with reference to the Tretyakov Gallery, the Ministry of Culture noted that the management of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art Foundation had not fulfilled its obligations under the contract. Among other things, they had failed to meet the deadlines for installing the exhibition and not provided the necessary paperwork, which, in turn, led to a violation of fire safety rules.
The biennale was to begin on November 7. In connection with the news that the exhibition had been canceled, a statement by the organizers and a video from the exposition, now closed and sealed off, appeared on the biennale’s website.
The event’s organizers and participating artists say they do not dispute the decision to close it, but do not agree with the “terrifying wording” of the explanation for its closure.
The exhibition’s spokespeople note that they were going to show, in particular, Sergei Bugaev’s project on the demolition of Soviet war monuments in Europe, the works of Anastasia Deineka and Adelina Shabanova, who are artists from Donetsk and Lugansk, and other projects on timely topics.
“Contemporary art is considered to be outcasts [sic]. We are suspected of hooliganism and nihilism in advance, of giving people the finger with our hand stuffed in our pocket. But we did no such thing. We decided in march 2022 that we were working for our viewers. We are all going through perhaps the most difficult test for our country and in each of our lives, and we need to at least try to go through it with dignity. We tried,” the organizers said in their statement.
LAST NIGHT, WE, THE TEAM AND THE ARTISTS OF THE 9TH MOSCOW BIENNALE LEARNED FROM THE NEWS THAT THE MINISTRY OF CULTURE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION HAD DECIDED TO CLOSE THE EXHIBITION. ONE DOES NOT ARGUE WITH THE MINISTRY, BUT WE CANNOT HELP BUT OBJECT TO THE HORRIFYING WORDING “THE DISCREPANCY BETWEEN THE CALIBER OF A NUMBER OF THE EXHIBITS AND THE CHOSEN VENUE’S STATUS.”
BY DECISION OF THE MOSCOW BIENNALE’S ADVISORY BOARD, ONLY RUSSIAN ARTISTS — 27 CREATORS — ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE 9TH MOSCOW BIENNALE. FOR SOME, THIS IS THEIR FIRST SERIOUS EXHIBITION, WHILE FOR OTHERS IT IS JUST ANOTHER IN A LONG LIST OF EXHIBITIONS AT LEADING VENUES AROUND THE WORLD. THEY HAVE ONE THING IN COMMON: EACH IS A TALENTED ARTIST:
TATIANA BADANINA, MARINA BELOVA AND ALEXEI POLITOV, YEVGENIA BURAVLEVA, SERGEI BUGAEV, DMITRY VOLODIN, THUNDER GROUP: ALEXEI LOGINOV ARTYOM LOGINOV OLGA MICHI ANASTASIA DEINEKA, VASILY ELSHIN, PLATON INFANTE, ANDREI KARTASHEV, DARIA KONOVALOVA-INFANTE,
THE EXHIBITION IS CALLED “SHORTHAND FOR FEELINGS”. THE VIEWER WAS TO MOVE FROM “TENSION” THROUGH “RESPECT,” “NOSTALGIA,” “SURPRISE,” “INFINITY,” “FAITH,” “HOPE,” “TRANQUILITY,” HISTORICAL “MEMORY,” “REVERENCE,” “GRATITUDE,” “BITTERNESS OVER WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN,” “LOVE” AND “BELONGING” TO “LIGHT” AND “PEACE.”
CONTEMPORARY ART IS CONSIDERED TO BE OUTCASTS. WE ARE SUSPECTED OF HOOLIGANISM AND NIHILISM IN ADVANCE, OF GIVING PEOPLE THE FINGER WITH OUR HAND STUFFED IN OUR POCKET. BUT WE DID NO SUCH THING. WE DECIDED IN MARCH 2022 THAT WE WERE WORKING FOR OUR VIEWERS. WE ARE ALL GOING THROUGH PERHAPS THE MOST DIFFICULT TEST FOR OUR COUNTRY AND IN EACH OF OUR LIVES, AND WE NEED TO AT LEAST TRY TO GO THROUGH IT WITH DIGNITY. WE TRIED:
HOPE BY TATIANA BADANINA. PART OF THE PROJECT IS A SERIES OF WHITE SHIRTS, SIMILAR TO CHRISTENING SHIRTS, BUT IT IS CLEAR THAT SOME OF THEM HAVE SOMETHING IN THEIR POCKETS. IT IS DEDICATED TO THE NOTES CONTAINING PRAYERS THAT WIVES AND MOTHERS SEW INTO THE CLOTHING OF SOLDIERS AS THEY SEE THEM OFF TO THE FRONT, HOPING THAT HER LOVE AND HOPE FOR A REUNION WILL HELP HER HUSBAND OR SON STAY ALIVE. AND ON THE WALL NEXT TO IT IS A LETTER FROM THE FRONTLINE OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR, FROM THE AUTHOR’S FAMILY ARCHIVE.
MEMORY BY SERGEI BUGAEV IS A PROJECT ABOUT THE DEMOLITION OF OUR MONUMENTS IN EUROPE. MOST OF THEM ARE MEMORIALS TO THE LIBERATING SOLDIERS, ERECTED AFTER THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR IN COUNTRIES LIBERATED FROM FASCISM: ESTONIA, LATVIA, LITHUANIA, UKRAINE, POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC. BUT THE BUSTS OF ALEXANDER SERGEYEVICH PUSHKIN AND THE PLAQUE ON THE HOUSE WHERE MIKHAIL BULGAKOV WAS BORN HAVE ALSO SUFFERED. WE HAVE COLLECTED 102 IMAGES OF DEMOLISHED AND DESECRATED MONUMENTS: FROM MEMORIAL CEMETERIES TO BUSTS OF THE POET AND BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER IN ONE VIDEO, AND IN THE FINALE THERE IS FOOTAGE OF THE SAUR-MOGILA MEMORIAL COMPLEX IN DONETSK, RESTORED IN 2022 AFTER SIMILAR DAMAGE.
THE WALL TEXT WITH THE FULL LIST OF TITLES TOOK UP 4 METERS.
ANASTASIA DEINEKA’S PEOPLE ARE PORTRAITS OF PEOPLE LIVING IN DONETSK, PEOPLE WHO DID NOT LEAVE THE CITY EITHER IN 2014 OR NOW. THE ARTIST’S STORY ABOUT THE PERSON IN THE PORTRAIT SUPPLEMENTS EACH PORTRAIT. “THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF HEROES IN THE WORLD, ABOUT WHOM THOUSANDS OF BOOKS AND STORIES HAVE BEEN WRITTEN. NO ONE TALKS ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU WILL SEE DEPICTED ON MY CANVASES, BUT YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THEM WITHOUT WORDS.”
THE CREATOR OF THE STORY OF THE BLUE HARES, ADELINA SHABANOVA, WAS BORN IN LUGANSK IN 1998. WHAT SEEMS AT FIRST GLANCE TO BE A CHEERFUL STORYBOARD FOR A CARTOON PROVES TO BE A SCARY FAIRY TALE WHEN EXAMINED CAREFULLY. THE BLUE HARES ARE LIVING THEIR NORMAL LIVES, BUT ARE IN CONSTANT TENSION. AT ANY MOMENT A BIRD OF PREY CAN BLOW UP A QUIET FAMILY DINNER, A MATH LESSON, SITTING ON THE COUCH IN FRONT OF THE TV, AND THERE IS NOWHERE TO HIDE.
PEACE — TWO ARTISTS: SASHA KUPALYAN FROM MOSCOW AND NASTYA DEINEKA FROM DONETSK, FOR TWO WEEKS COLLABORATED ON PAINTING A PEACEFUL SKY AS OUR COMMON PRAYER FOR PEACE AND CALM.
THE 9TH MOSCOW BIENNALE IS READY. WE NEEDED 1 MORE DAY TO FINISH 3 INSTALLATIONS, TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE, SET UP THE VIDEO, HANG THE CURTAINS AND SOLEMNLY MOUNT THE VAN DYCK.
MIKHAIL BORISOVICH PIOTROVSKY, A MEMBER OF THE MOSCOW BIENNALE’S ADVISORY BOARD, WAS DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN SELECTING THE CREATORS FOR THE PROJECT AND GAVE THIS QUOTE FOR THE OPENING DAY PRESS RELEASE: “RUSSIA PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN SHAPING THE ART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. THE MOSCOW BIENNALE IS A CHANCE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.”
WE WEREN’T GIVEN A CHANCE. IT IS ESPECIALLY A PITY THAT MOSCOW WILL NOT SEE THE WORKS OF ARTISTS FROM DONETSK AND LUGANSK. NASTYA DEINEKA, IN ADDITION TO WORKING WITH SASHA KUPALYAN, REPPRODUCED IN HER ROOM “THE ANGEL OF DONBASS, WHICH SHE PAINTED FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE WALL OF A KINDERGARTEN BOMBED ON JUNE 1, 2022. AND WE HUNG A VIDEO OF HER WORKS ON THE WALLS OF DONETSK NEARBY.
WE MANAGED LAST NIGHT, BEFORE THE ROOMS WERE SEALED, TO FILM THE EXHIBITION AND ARE POSTING THE VIDEO. PLEASE TAKE A LOOK.
Regarding the Convocation of a Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation in Poland
From open sources, we have learned about an undertaking to convene a Congress of People’s Deputies in the town of Jabłonna, Poland (November 4–7, 2022). The delegates to the Congress are parliamentary deputies of different years and different levels who were elected in internationally recognized elections. Rejection of the war between Russia and Ukraine that began in 2014 and a willingness to change the socio-political system established in the Russian Federation are their common platform. The event’s organizers have announced that they will adopt a “Declaration on the Constitutional Principles of a Free Russia after the Putin regime’s overthrow,” a “list of priority decisions by the post-Putin Russian government,” etc.
In the light of this news:
We cannot but note the fact that [free and fair] elections in the Russian Federation disappeared long before 2014. Ethno-national political parties were banned thirteen years before Ukrainian region of Crimea was annexed. Thus, despite the fact that the Russian Federation, according to its own constitution, is a federation, and most of the ethno-national republics within the Russian Federation are nation-states with their own constitutions, parliaments, and governments, we have been deprived of the opportunity to represent and defend our interests in representative bodies for decades.
We acknowledge that the Russian Federation as a state has gone too far both in its ethno-national policy (extolling the Russian nation as chosen and endowing it with a special status in the Russian Federal Constitution) and in its foreign policy, thus completely destroying the legal space of the federation. The Russian Federation currently has no clear and legitimate borders, nor does it have legitimate representative bodies, since there are “deputies” and “senators” seated in the Federal Assembly who were, allegedly, delegated by illegally annexed foreign territories.
In light of the above considerations, we, representatives of the ethno-national and regionalist movements united in the Free Nations League, declare the following:
1. We do not recognize any political forces and hubs that would justify maintaining the Russian Federation in its current form. We have no need of arbitrators from Moscow, neither from the authorities nor from the opposition. We are open to dialogue and contact only with those who publicly support the right of enslaved peoples to establish independent States.
2. The Russian Federation cannot be re-established by cutting off what was seized by force and holding new elections. It is not elections that are at issue, but the very nature of Russian statehood: it is imperialist and exudes aggression towards its neighbors. This means that we, representatives of ethno-national republics and regions, have the right to shape our own destiny. If there is a discussion of independence for certain lands, let the people themselves hold this discussion, let them decide which confederations or unions to join, free from the intervention of federal forces, be they the government or the opposition. Any attempts at “peacekeeping,” attempts to teach us how to exercise our right to self-determination, will be rejected by us, and if they are intrusive, they will be met with a forceful response.
3. The process of forming a new Russian state should be voluntary and undertaken exclusively by those federal subjects whose legislative bodies vote to join a new federation. All federal parties currently represented among the federal authorities should be banned since they profess a misanthropic ideology that has produced thousands of victims and millions of refugees. The legislative bodies of the former federal subjects must be re-elected democratically, by open and secret ballot, with the involvement of ethno-national and regional political parties. There can be no automatic entry into the “renewed” Russia, no joining it “by inheritance.”
This appeal has been signed by representatives of the following national movements:
Source: Free Nations League, Facebook, 31 October 2022. Thanks to Sergey Ogurtsov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
The FNL’s Principles
The Russian Federation is an empire that keeps its colonies in servitude by force. It is impossible to liberate them by holding a referendum, just as a referendum on the observance of human rights is impossible under conditions of state terror.
The peoples of the Russian Federation should be able to exercise their right to self-determination. Further federations or confederations can be established only a voluntary basis, not by diktat of the former federal center.
We declare the principle of the presumption of identity and agency [sub’ektnost’]. Accordingly, with the collapse of the current political regime in the Russian Federation, the regions have no need to appeal to anything to endow themselves with sovereignty. By definition, all regions acquire complete sovereignty and full independence from Moscow, and only then, as free territories, do they decide their future: whether they want to maintain independence, unite with other regions and republics, or create a confederation of states.
All subjects of the Russian Federation have the right to independently determine their future.
Source: “About Us,” Free Nations League. Translated by the Russian Reader
On November 3, a court in Moscow will consider whether to extend the remand in pretrial custody of Anton Zhuchkov and Vladimir Sergeyev, defendants in the so-called Anti-War Case
Zhuchkov and Sergeyev were detained on March 6 of this year on Pushkin Square in Moscow during an anti-war demonstration. Molotov cocktails were found in Sergeyev’s backpack, which later served as grounds for launching a criminal case: the friends were accused of preparing to set fire to empty paddy wagons.
They were initially charged with “attempted disorderly conduct involving the use of weapons” (per Articles 30.1 and 213.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code), but the charge was later amended to “preparation for a terrorist attack” (per Articles 30.1 and 205.2.a of the Criminal Code). Zhuchkov and Sergeyev now face up to 10 years in prison.
Today, it transpired that the court hearing, at which the case investigator’s petition to extend Sergeyev and Zhuchkov’s term in the pretrial detention center will be considered, is scheduled for November 3.
You can support the prisoners by being present in court. If you do intend to go to court, do not forget to take your internal passport and to leave your sharp objects and means of self-defense at home.
On October 28, the trial of Igor Paskar began in the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don. He is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at the FSB’s offices in Krasnodar, and also of setting fire to a [pro-war] “Z” banner. Paskar explains his actions as a protest against the war: after the alleged attempted arson at the FSB, he painted his face in the colors of the Ukrainian flag of Ukraine. The FSB has classified the protest as “terrorism,” and the burning of the banner as “vandalism.” Paskar faces ten to fifteen years in prison if convicted.
To Moscow and Back
Igor Paskar was born and lived until the age of thirty-five in a workers settlement in the Volgograd Region. He came of age in the 1990s, turning eighteen in 1994. After school, he enrolled in the administrative and industrial buildings maintenance program at the Volgograd Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering, but had to quit his studies in his first year after he was drafted into the army. After two years in a construction battalion, Paskar returned to his native village and immediately began working odd jobs — on construction sites, as a loader, and as a courier.
In 1998, when Paskar was twenty-two, he was first sentenced to five years probation on charges related to drug trafficking. In 2001, he received two years of actual prison time for theft and possession of hashish. He was last convicted of a criminal offense — one and a half years probation for possession of marijuana — in 2006. The last ten years, Paskar told Vot Tak, he has been clean — he completely gave up using light drugs.
In 2013, Paskar moved to Moscow. At various times in the capital, he worked as a courier at Samokat, as a loader, and as a furniture assembler. He also sold rare items on Amazon.
He became interested in politics in 2018 — as his case investigator would later write, he became an “adherent of radical liberal opposition ideas.” In 2021, Paskar was detained in Moscow for taking part in a protest rally called by Team Navalny after the politician’s arrest.
In the summer of 2021, the activist returned to Volgograd, where he got a job as a courier. During one of the interrogations about this period, he said: “I was still interested in the work of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and I supported Alexei Navalny. I publicly voiced my opinions among people I know, including at work, and I posted my opinions in messengers and chats.”
The FSB on Fire
In February of this year, before the start of the Russian invasion, Paskar responded to an ad and took in a lost dachshund. According to the activist, stray dogs tried to attack the pooch several times, so he bought a flare gun to scare them away. He soon left his village in the Volgograd Region with his dog for work: he had found an unusual vacancy on the internet — picking strawberries in Adygea. Paskar was unable to start the job, however. There was a conflict in the workers’ accommodations over the dachshund, and he fired the flare gun at the ceiling. Paskar himself called the police, and the court sentenced him to five days in jail. After his release from a special detention center, Paskar left for Krasnodar.
In a letter, he describes this period as follows: “I have had a whole series of failures in life over the last three months. When the special operation began, I was unable to transfer money from abroad after the SWIFT system was switched off. I had an Amazon account on which I traded rare items. After the start of the special operation, I lost my earnings. I could not get a job in Volgograd and decided to go to Krasnodar for seasonal work, but there were a number of failures. I was angry at my plight and decided to sacrifice myself for what I believe in — peace.”
Paskar held his first anti-war protest in downtown Krasnodar on June 12, Russia Day. It was then that he threw a lighted bottle of gasoline at a banner featuring the letter Z and the slogan “We do not abandon our own.” No one paid attention to his actions, the banner quickly went out, and Paskar was not detained.
Paskar then decided to carry out a protest action at the FSB’s Krasnodar offices. He did not plan to go into hiding and prepared for his arrest by selling his phone and packing a bag for the pretrial detention center. “My criminal experience has left its mark on me. When a person has [this experience], they are no longer afraid to go to prison. They already know that you can live there too — not very well, but you can do it. It is not hell. This has an impact not so much on radical decisions as on accepting one’s fate,” Paskar noted in a letter to your correspondent.
On June 14, Paskar went to the FSB’s offices on ulitsa Mira [“Peace Street”] in Krasnodar. A Molotov cocktail flew [sic] onto the building’s stone porch. The activist then painted his cheeks yellow and blue and waited for passersby to react and for the authorities to detain him. He hoped that someone would record the protest on their phone and post the video on the internet. Passersby avoided the scene, however. FSB officers came out of the building after a few minutes and detained the activist.
A Burnt Rug
Paskar calls his protest symbolic, emphasizing that his actions could not have caused serious damage — only a rug was burned on the stone porch. Despite this, a criminal case was immediately launched against Paskar under Article 205 (“Terrorism”) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code, which stipulates a penalty of ten to fifteen years in prison.
On October 28, the Southern District Military Court began considering the case — according to the amendments to the law adopted in 2014, only four district military courts [in Russia] can try terrorism cases. The court extended Paskar’s term in the pretrial detention center for six months, and ruled that the trial would be open to the public. The first hearing on the merits in the case was scheduled for November 10.
In 2016, for setting fire to the door of the FSB headquarters in Lubyanka Square [in Moscow], the performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky was sentenced to pay a fine of 500 thousand rubles under Article 243 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Destruction or damage to objects of cultural heritage or cultural artefacts”). And yet, at the trial, the artist demanded that his actions be reclassified as terrorism.
Earlier, the [exiled opposition] politician Gennady Gudkov said that Paskar’s actions could be deemed disorderly conduct: “In any civilized country, such a thing is regarded as disorderly conduct and is punished with a warning or a fine.” And gallery owner Marat Guelman called Paskar’s act activism.
Paskar is being aided by the human rights initiative Solidarity Zone, which previously announced a fundraiser to pay for Paskar’s lawyer.
Vot Tak has published an article about Igor Paskar, who is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at the FSB offices in Krasnodar and setting fire to a “Z” banner. He did this to drawn attention to the war and voice support for the people of Ukraine.
On October 28, the Southern District Military Court began trying Paskar’s case.
Solidarity Zone has been providing comprehensive assistance to Paskar.
We are now raising funds to pay for Igor’s lawyer.
Olga Nazarenko, a university lecturer in Ivanovo, risks going to prison for simply hanging the Ukrainian flag in the window of her own flat. Neighbors from the building opposite regularly complain about her. Nazarenko goes on anti-war pickets, where aggressive fellow citizens attack her. And the pickets have already triggered a criminal case against her. Repeated visits and searches by police officers at night and early in the morning have become routine for her children. Nazarenko sees the situation in Russia as nearly hopeless. She is amazed at how the country’s maternal instinct has even been destroyed: Russians dutifully send their children off to die for nothing. Despite all this, she considers it her duty to talk to people. She remains in Russia, and has no plans to emigrate.
Recently, the police rang at Nazarenko’s door at three o’clock in the morning. They demanded to be let in so that they could remove the Ukrainian flag. It has been hanging for six months on the balcony of the activist’s flat in an ordinary multi-storey residential building in the city of Ivanovo. Nazarenko refused to let the police in without a search warrant. Through the door, the night visitors informed her that neighbors had filed another complaint about the Ukrainian flag. The law enforcement officers left, only to return at seven in the morning and knock on the door for a long time. Nazarenko did not unlock the door, but wrote a complaint against the police to the prosecutor’s office.
Over the past two months, the police have visited the well-known anti-war protester at least four times. In the autumn, two criminal cases were opened against Nazarenko, one of them under the so-called Dadin article of the Russian criminal code. The medical school at which the activist has worked for almost twenty-four years has suspended her employment. The university lecturer is currently listed as a “suspect” by the authorities. Despite the fact that term of her undertaking not to leave the country, which went into effect after the criminal case was launched, has recently expired, she has no plans to leave Russia. She talked to Radio Svoboda about her principled choice.
— How did you find out that you had been identified as a suspect in a criminal case?
— I learned that a criminal case had been launched against me under Article 280.3 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Public actions aimed at discrediting the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”) from the Center “E” officers who came to my workplace at around eleven a.m. on September 20. They obliged my colleagues to to serve as witnesses, searched my desk, and found two placards. Before that, my laptop was seized without my knowledge. The bigwigs at the medical school wanted to conceal it at first, but I made a fuss. It transpired that the Center “E” officers did not even give our management rep a copy of the report for the seizure of the laptop, nor did he demand one from them. Then we went to my house; fortunately, there were no handcuffs on me. There they carefully rummaged for a long time: they took our phones (even the phone of my young son), a computer, old leaflets, our personal money, and the savings of our daughter, who is a university student. The money was returned to her, but the police kept our funds for themselves, and they are not planning to give them back to us, apparently.
— How did your children react to the search of your home?
— My son was in a little shock, especially since they took something that belonged to him. My daughter behaved calmly. She talked to the police a little. She asked whether their “assistant” was an adult: the computer technician they brought with them looked quite young. A Center “E” officer replied tersely that they were all adults and all officers. My daughter is already an adult, and she understands everything and supports me. My family took the search well, because this was not my first encounter with the relevant authorities due to politics. In the spring, at seven a.m., the riot police came to search the flat since I had been identified as a witness in a vandalism cased launched against another activist. Then they tried to prevent me from calling a lawyer, seized my phone, my computer, 138 posters, and the Ukrainian flag from the window. The law enforcement agencies’ interest in me had already become something routine.
— How long has the Ukrainian flag been hanging in the window of your flat?
— Every year since 2014, I had hung up the flag of Ukraine on the country’s Independence Day. Last year, I put it in the window and decided not to take it down. Police officers visited me after complaints were made, and they demanded explanations about the flag. I refused to explain anything to them. In the spring, after my apartment was searched, and they took the Ukrainian flag with them. I sewed a new one and hung it in the window again. I did the same thing after the search in the autumn.
— Why did you do that?
— For reasons of principle: if I support Ukraine, then I support it. And most importantly: no one in uniform and flashing a badge gets to decide what hangs in my window.
— What was the first criminal case brought against you for?
— Were you not intimidated when they launched a criminal case and searched your flat?
— All this was to be expected. And no, it didn’t intimidate me. I continued going to anti-war pickets and rallies in support of those who have been persecuted for making anti-war statements, and I talked to people on the streets. A second criminal case was soon launched against me under the so-called Dadin article (i.e., Article 212.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code: “repeated violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, march, or picket”). In October, Center “E” officers and the investigator who was running the first criminal case against me came again to search my flat. They were accompanied by several people in black masks and bulletproof vests. It’s hot in our flat, and I saw sweat on their faces, probably from overexertion. I even felt sorry for them. The search was superficial; they didn’t see anything new, apparently. They again seized our phones and a couple of posters. Once they got into the flat, they immediately rushed to the balcony and again pulled down the Ukrainian flag. I told them that I hadn’t violated the law when I hung up the flag, since I wasn’t infringing on the building’s communal property. The Center “E” guys replied that I should understand how turbulent the situation was now. They asked me why I was hanging the flag up. I said that it reflected my position and my aesthetic tastes.
— Do you like the colors yellow and blue?
— Yes, they are my favorite colors: the sky and the sun. The next day I sewed another Ukrainian flag and hung it out.
— Do you usually sew Ukrainian flags on a sewing machine?
— Yes. There are many shops in Ivanovo where you can buy fabric. I found a good one and bought three sets at once. It will last for a long time.
— Why do you think that it is the neighbors who filed complaints against over the flag?
— Only residents of the house located opposite mine can see the flag all the time. The denunciations are probably written by neighbors and residents of the neighboring house. I saw one complaint. The poor lady wrote: “I see the Ukrainian flag every morning and I consider it unacceptable in such a situation as we have now.” I even felt sorry for her. After I hung out the Ukrainian flag, the neighbors living in the apartments below and above mine hung out Russian flags. After the search, a “Z” was again written on my apartment’s mailbox and a note was tossed in it that said, “Ukraine is no more. Take down your rag and dry yourself with it.”
– How did the medical school react to the criminal cases against you?
– The management suspended me on the grounds that the articles of the Criminal Code brought against me hinder my work as a lecturer. My colleagues were upset. We have worked together for many years. Besides, now they have to do my duties. My colleagues do not talk about politics. Most of my colleagues are apolitical. But they have voiced their support to me and hope that everything will be resolved somehow. I studied at the medical school for six years, and after graduation I stayed on there to work. That is, my entire adult life, almost thirty years, has been connected with the medical school.
— Have you been able to get another job?
— Due to the criminal cases, I cannot tell an employer how long I would be able to work for them. So, I will look for something temporary, and then my professional career will depend on the court’s decision.
— How many pickets did you hold in the autumn?
— In September and October, I held four or five pickets. Since the second criminal case was launched, I have not yet gone out to protest, but I’m going to continue to voice my civic stance.
— Why are you going to continue to hold anti-war pickets, despite the serious risks of ending up in a Russian prison?
– I have beliefs, and I will act in keeping with them. As long as I can talk, I’ll keep doing it. What is the point of having principles if you don’t act on them, regardless of the risks?
— Do you have the support of friends, family, and associates?
— I have moral support from friends, and there are also simple acquaintances who support me and help me raise the money for fines. I am being defended by attorney Oskar Cherdzhiyev.
— Aren’t you annoyed by like-minded people who emigrated instead of getting involved in anti-war protests with you?
— If the question is about ordinary Russian citizens, and not about protest leaders, then I’m not annoyed. I understand that nothing will change in the near future. People in difficult circumstances choose the best option for themselves. We have one life, and everyone has the right to live it as they please. Besides, emigration is now a rational, appropriate solution. Many of those who have gone abroad continue their protest activities: they go to anti-war protests at Russian embassies, help refugees from Ukraine and Russia, and work on publicity.
— But why is it the best option for you to stay in Russia and go to anti-war pickets, rather than worry about your own safety?
— My choice is based on the fact that I can do more in terms of working with people in Russia than I could in emigration. I’m rubbish at information technology. It’s easier for me to talk to passersby at street protests in the hope of getting my message to them. Russia is my country, and I won’t let them kick me out. I have the right to my own country and I don’t want to leave Russia for anywhere else. I will stay here and do what I think is necessary, voice my position. If I left, I would feel bad because I got scared and ran away.
— Do you think your long-term street activism has produced any results?
— If we’re talking about changing people’s minds, I don’t see any particular results. The war is so propagandized that a few people who publicly voice a different viewpoint cannot shift the minds of the majority in the other direction. My protests are meant to have an effect on the people who are having doubts. I have succeeded in making such people think. But the main purpose of my protests is to support like-minded people among Russians and Ukrainians. Thanks to my actions, among other things, friends in Ukraine know that not everyone in Russia is an “orc.”
— How has the reaction of passersby to your pickets changed since the war with Ukraine began?
— I’ve observed that people have become more guarded and scared. They usually dash past me quickly, averting their eyes. The reactions of those who do not hide them have become quite polarized. Either passersby are emotionally grateful, or they almost pounce on me, fists flying, and call me a Banderite. At the last picket, a man grabbed my placard and tore it up. There have been more negative reactions to my pickets than friendly ones, but this is not surprising. It is amazing how, with such propaganda, one hundred percent of people don’t react negatively to anti-war protests.
— How do you manage to be so tolerant towards people whose views differ from yours?
— I would not call my attitude towards them tolerant. I just understand what motivates their behavior: a lack of critical thinking skills, plus the fear and the reverence for the authorities that is inscribed in their subcortex. Powerful state propaganda combines with excessive loyalty to those in power. Thus, Russian citizens support all decisions by high-ranking officials.
– Are you able to understand why the parents of conscripts did not come out in droves to protests after the mobilization was announced?
— It’s beyond my comprehension. The maternal instinct is a powerful biological mechanism. As conceived by nature, it should be stronger than any propaganda. Apparently, there has been a real degradation in our society over the past twenty years. Total state propaganda, which includes not only the media, but also the education system, has aimed to completely distort values. Fear and reverence for power, submission to it, which never disappeared in many Russians, have now resurfaced especially strongly. Unfortunately, learned helplessness has overcome the maternal instinct. I do not know if such people can change anything.
— This is not the first year that you have been constantly going out to protest. Perhaps you have a hope that Russia will become a free country?
— It’s hard to say. Historically, Russia has been going in circles all the time, rather than developing in a spiral. But I still want to hope that Russia will become a developed and free country. However, this won’t happen soon, perhaps in one hundred years.
This is a post for Russian citizens. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party held a press conference in the National Assembly, where the floor was given to three Russians. The names are familiar to you: Alexei Sakhnin, Andrei Rudoy, and Elizaveta Smirnova, who were presented as members of a “coalition of Russian socialists against the war.” The moderator of the discussion was His Majesty “La République, c’est moi!” Oh, sorry, Mélenchon. I can only congratulate him on this successful PR operation. One of Putin’s main underlings in French politics shall now be able to say not only something like “Look, I’m not a racist a defender of the Putin regime’s interests. I even have friends who are Negroes Russian anti-war activists.”
I don’t know whether the featured activists fully understand what they got themselves tangled up in, but hey, that’s not my problem. In any case, I can only be glad for them, and happy that they managed to leave Russia, albeit with JLM’s help. I can put myself in their shoes and understand their choice. But that’s not the problem. What does their “anti-war discourse” amount to now that they can speak freely on French soil?
Suffice it to say that the anti-war activists roundly ignored Ukraine and Ukrainians. But they were able to discuss with the French exactly how they would like to build a new democratic world after the war. They could have even shown the audience a map, for greater clarity, but for some reason it didn’t dawn on them to do that.
Thirty-five minutes into the news conference, a journalist asked a question, and it even seemed that he was perturbed: “Do you have anything to say to Ukrainians?” Rudoy replied: “The working-class majority of Russia and Ukraine have nothing to fight over. Our regimes are our principal enemies. The working-class majority of Russia and Ukraine must unite against the bourgeois authorities. “
Need I explain what the problem is with this museum-quality specimen of pseudo-internationalist Russian jingoism? If it is still not obvious to anyone, I can explain it to them one on one.
I don’t know this person. If you do happen to know him, let him know that Ukrainian socialists are already quite tired of watching Russian socialists perform their traditional dance on the same rake.
No, the fucking Ukrainian authorities are not our principal enemies. Our principal enemies are the Russian authorities, who are waging an aggressive war on our territory. We would sincerely like to help you worm your way out of your imperialist cocoon and help you realize, finally, a simple truth that would enable you to exit your political impasse. Ukraine’s victory, the liquidation of Russia’s colonial empire, and the liberation of the peoples enslaved by the empire are the first and only conditions for the Russian people’s liberation. And it is impossible to jump over this step into your “socialist Russia of the future.”
But if, during the past nine months of a war of conquest, you have not yet figured out that you are not the French in 1914, but the Germans in 1939, then I can only pity you that you have such gaps in your historical education. If you want to continue playing at awakening class consciousness among proletarians living in a fascist state, no one has the right to stop you. But do not be surprised when the steamroller of a reality that you painstakingly avoid comprehending runs over you. Russian society is permeated through and through with a colonialist mindset, jingoism, and messianic imperialism. This ideology has poisoned people on all floors of your caste-based state and until you directly stand up and fight it, you will be able to do nothing but lead the Russian socialist movement to another round of failures.
Ukrainian socialists are ready to extend their hand to you and invite you to join us in our struggle against Russian expansionism and imperialism, the victory over which is the first prerequisite for any struggle for a just society, both in Russia and in Ukraine. We Ukrainians are now losing our best people, including leftists. These people have taken up arms, among other things, to save you from your principal perennial misfortune — an empire that imagines itself to be a nation-state. But what are you doing for this cause?
It’s sad, but it seems we will again have to wistfully watch you making a disgrace of yourselves and solve the problem of the crazy empire ourselves. I would like to be wrong, of course.
The leader of La France Insoumise Jean-Luc Mélenchon and several dozen Insoumise deputies welcomed three Russian opponents of Vladimir Putin, members of a “coalition of Russian socialists against the war,” to the Assembly on Tuesday evening.
Mélenchon expressed his “emotion” in welcoming Alexei Sakhnin, Andrei Rudoy, and Elizaveta Smirnova, Russian radical left activists who had arrived in France the same day.
“Those who are here are those who resist,” said Mélenchon. “They say to themselves, fortunately there are French people like us. And we say to ourselves, fortunately there are Russians like them,” he added.
Mélenchon thanks Macron
“It is Putin and his oligarchy, they alone, who bear the responsibility for the war in Ukraine,” reminded Mathilde Panot leader of the LFI group in the Assembly, calling on [whom?] “to work to isolate the Russian regime. Welcoming and supporting its opponents is part of it.”
“It is a great joy to have them in our midst safe and sound,” added Mélenchon, assuring the audience that “the struggle would continue for them, and we are committed to their side.”
“Once doesn’t count,” the Insoumise leader said, thanking President Macron “for helping us, from beginning to end,” to bring the Russian opposition activists to France.
“The fear of talking about politics” in Russia
“You cannot imagine the atmosphere that reigns in our country,” said Sakhnin, via a translator, referring to “the fear of talking about politics,” and the fear of being mobilized for the war in Ukraine.
“The news that we are in Paris will cause a sensation in Russia,” explained Rudoy, an activist and blogger, who hopes to “create a new International that could unify the leftists of different countries.”
Elizaveta Smirnova added that “all the work we can do is to enable all the Russian people, who live in fear, to have a voice.”
All three indicated that the international economic sanctions had had “consequences” for the lives of Russians. “The standard of living has collapsed by ten percent,” said Rudoy.
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.
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.”
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.
The movement was born underground, on February 25, the day after Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory, but as its co-founder, Darja Serenko, immediately clarifies, “We were not starting from scratch.” Feminist Anti-War Resistance (Feministskoe antivoennoe soprotivlenie, or FAS) unites 45 organizations that already existed in different sectors, to which dozens of anonymous activists in sixty cities in Russia have been added, not counting those who had to go into exile. It is a network that is increasingly determined to take action and make itself heard.
Her hair short and asymmetric, her gaze direct, Serenko, who was in Paris in early October, is categorical: the violence in Ukraine fuels domestic violence, and vice versa. “War and women’s rights are closely linked,” she explains, “because on the one hand, men, who come back with their traumas, constitute a real danger to them. On the other hand, those who commit the worst crimes [on the battlefield] are often the same ones who are the most brutal at home.” The 29-year-old activist, one of the movement’s few public figures, does not forget to mention the driving force behind the violence — the regime. “Vladimir Putin is the stupidest representation of Russian masculinity,” she says. “He serves, alas, as a model for some Russian men, but he does not represent us. We laugh about it, even if it’s hard to laugh under a dictatorship.”
A poet and literature teacher who had been “fired from everywhere,” the young woman fled Russia to take refuge in Georgia two weeks after the FAS’s creation and her last stint in jail, from February 7 to 23, just before the start of the war. Prosecuted for “extremism” — the presence of the logo of opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation on her Instagram account was enough to merit that charge — she was arrested at the same time as her friend Maria Alyokhina, a member of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot. Placed under house arrest, the latter managed to escape in April, disguised as a food delivery courier.
“The time for peaceful resistance is over”
In Russia, the feminist movement has continued to grow as the crackdown on society has expanded, especially in the wake of a law decriminalizing domestic violence, adopted in 2017, with the strong support of the Orthodox Church. But it was indeed the war that united their efforts. Born in Siberia and transplanted to Moscow, Serenko, who is also an LGBT activist, committed herself in 2014, after Russia’s first aggression against Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and the start of the armed conflict in Donbas. “War is a backlash, a crucible of conservatism,” she emphasizes. “During the Second World War, women took the place of men in the rear, before being again excluded from important positions. And voila! They were then sent back to the reproductive front.”
On October 7, in Paris, the activist, invited to testify at a forum organized by Russie-Libertés, bluntly outlined her vision of things today: “The time for peaceful resistance is over. I’ve always been in favor of peaceful protests, but now I’m not.” In fact, FAS activists, linked by a permanently powered Telegram channel that keeps “beeping,” have gone on the offensive with the meager means at their disposal.
In Russia, they produce Zhenskaia Pravda (“Women’s Truth”), an underground newspaper printed on personal printers and distributed surreptitiously, like the samizdat of the Soviet dissidents, in order to “break the information blockade.” They organize, at their own peril, commando operations [sic] such as the one that consisted in installing, overnight, 2,000 memorials in Russia in tribute to the dead of the martyred Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Crosses, sometimes even bearing names, were planted in courtyards “in the same way as Ukrainians were forced to bury their loved ones at the foot of their residential buildings.” They are also involved in the sabotage actions of Russian “partisans” against strategic sites.
More than 200 activists are currently being prosecuted [sic]. On October 21, a court in St. Petersburg sentenced Alisa Druzhina to five days in prison for putting up a banner in the city that read, “The zinc coffin on wheels is already on your street.” According to the prosecution, the young woman is part of the Feminist Anti-War Resistance and her banner must have been posted on their Telegram channel to be taken up by others. This channel, which has 42,000 subscribers, is chockablock with drawings, stickers, and slogans ready to be disseminated. One of them shows Vladimir Putin immersed in a bathtub of blood filled by defense minister Sergei Shoigu.
The “partial” mobilization has increased determination tenfold
Most of the arrested feminists have been sentenced to administrative penalties, but several are still in detention. This is the case, in particular, of Alexandra Skochilenko. Incarcerated since her arrest on March 31, the 32-year-old musician, accused of being part of a “radical feminist group,” faces ten years in prison under a law, adopted at the beginning of the war, on “fake news,” for having switched price tags in a supermarket with anti-war slogans. “By replacing something quite mundane with something different, something unusual, we are showing that there is not a single place in our country that is not affected by the war, and we are not letting people just turn a blind eye to what is happening,” the FAS channel recommends. “We document the war with quotes from Ukrainian women,” says Serenko.
The “partial” mobilization, decreed at the end of September by Vladimir Putin, has increased the determination of feminists tenfold. The volunteers, who are already helping deported Ukrainians seeking to leave Russia, as well as opposition activists facing threats of prosecution, have also mobilized on behalf of men threatened with being drafted. “Women in Dagestan came out to protest against the mobilization, but also in Chechnya where, for the first time in a long time, one hundred and twenty [women[ dared to demonstrate. [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov brought their husbands [to the protest], telling them, ‘Either you beat them, or we’ll take care of it,'” reports Serenko.
“We also take care of homosexuals and trans people who have not had time to change their papers and have been mobilized,” she adds. (Although often attacked, registering gender change as part of one’s civil status is still possible in Russia.) From their countries of asylum, the activists, who have regrouped abroad, act as relays, “even if it has become more and more difficult with the closing of the borders.” Several of them, lawyers or psychologists by training, offer their services online under the guise of anonymity on both sides. The introduction of martial law in the border regions, on October 19, has caused additional concern. And it’s not a question of generations. “Recently, a babushka threw a Molotov cocktail into a branch of Sberbank in Moscow shouting ‘No war!'” laughs Serenko.
The latter highlights a completely different phenomenon likely to increase the number of women mobilized in the ranks of the FAS. “A lot of ‘cargo 200s’ have been arriving,” she says, thus using the code word, well known in Russia since the Soviet war against Afghanistan, denoting dead soldiers evacuated from the battlefield. For the feminist leader, “war has entered [people’s] homes,” and it is no coincidence, she says, that the most vehement reactions have come from areas such as Dagestan, from which part of the troops sent to the front have left and which have paid a heavy price in terms of casualties. “Many women also understand that there is discrimination. The anti-war movement,” continues Serenko, enthusiastic, “will play an important role because the state is trying to silence the bereaved families, but women, partisans, and minorities have formed a collective that is growing rapidly.”
However, the activist remains lucid: “We have studied several wars, such as Yugoslavia, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, and, on average, anti-war campaigns do not make a name for themselves for three years… This was the case with the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers for Chechnya.” Emerging in 1989 in response to the treatment of conscripts in the Russian army, this human rights organization did indeed grown to more than 200 active committees throughout Russia in 1997, three years after the start of the first Russian-Chechen War (1994–1999). In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky, who never ceases to appeal to the mothers and wives of Russian soldiers, often invokes this memory.
In March, Iraq War veteran Carl Larson took a leave from his digital marketing job in the Puget Sound region to join in the Ukrainian struggle against the Russian invasion of their country.
He spent his toughest weeks in the front-line trenches of northeast Ukraine.
Artillery fire kept him awake through most of the nights, and it was easy to confuse stray dogs walking nearby with Russian soldiers who might be scouting the position of his unit of the International Legion of the Defense of Ukraine.
The risks of exiting the trenches were brutally demonstrated on the afternoon of May 31. Larson and several other soldiers gathered by a command post in a nearby house. A Russian shell hit a tree, then shrapnel fragments struck the head and groin of German legionnaire Bjorn Clavis.
The soldiers lacked a generator to charge their radio, and also a vehicle. So they had to use a runner to summon medics.
Some 40 minutes later, this aid arrived. But Clavis died in an ambulance.
“He lost too much blood,” Larson said.
Larson is convinced Clavis could have been saved if the unit had been able to charge their radios. And since his July return to his home in Snohomish County, he has been raising money to buy generators and other supplies for the legion soldiers, who amid the fall chill have shifted from defensive positions in trenches to joining Ukraine’s fast-moving offensive to reclaim territory held by Russians.
On Thursdays, Larson gathers with a group of legion supporters in a banquet room at European Foods, a grocery and restaurant in north Seattle. Over bowls of borscht and plates of cutlets they share news about the legion and what equipment is needed.
Larson says Ukrainian as well as legion units suffer from supply shortages despite international aid that includes more than $18.2 billion in U.S. government security assistance since 2021.
The legion’s current list of needs includes more cold-weather equipment, drones, communications and vehicles. And some who have served in the legion say that their units, when compared with other front-line forces, have had more serious shortfalls.
“We’re a great PR stunt because ‘Wow, look at all these foreign soldiers who are willing to put their lives on the line for Ukraine,’ ” said Stuart Burnside, a British veteran from Yorkshire who has been in Ukraine since February. “But we’re fed on scraps — to be fair.”
Others say shortages are a shared hardship.
“Unfortunately, right now, the reality is there’s not enough supplies,” said Evelyn Aschenbrenner, an American who left a teaching job in Poland to staff an International Legion administrative job.
Ukraine ‘way more stressful’
The legion was formed by the Ukrainian government to organize combat units of foreigners to fight in the war. The Russian government declared that they would be seen as mercenaries — and if captured, lack the standing of regular-duty troops. But that did not deter a surge of people, many from North America, Great Britain and Europe, but also some from Latin America and the former Soviet Republic, from making their way to Ukraine, where they receive training and are paid for their service.
Larson, 48, had joined the U.S. Army four months after 9/11 and worked as a combat engineer in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As he settled into middle age, he was inspired to take up arms again by what he viewed as the moral imperative of preventing the slaughter of civilians and thwarting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of military conquest.
He said his experiences in Ukraine where “way more stressful and frustrating” than his service in Iraq.
Early on, Larson was dismayed by some of the would-be recruits who had no military experience, or appeared unstable. And Larson initially balked at joining the International Legion, concerned by where he might be sent, what he would be tasked to do and whom he might serve with.
But after discussions with Ukrainian officials, he took a job helping to screen new recruits to the legion and prepare them for service. Then, he joined a legion battalion and spent five weeks in training, much of it as a platoon leader, before deploying to the front.
Larson said his unit took up position in zigzagged trenches, some of which were initially made by German soldiers during World II then reoccupied some eight decades later.
“We just dug them out. They were quite well made,” Larson said.
In the hours before dawn, he sometimes had to deal with business back home — calling contractors to fix a house that he and his wife had purchased in Snohomish County.
Some of the legion soldiers Larson encountered served for a few months and left, others had been in Ukraine since late winter. Most get a code name that can be easily remembered and spoken over the radio. Larson was told his would be Grinch.
Through the course of his service, Larson said the legion evolved, emerging as a more cohesive, fighting force composed largely of a more professional mix of hundreds of military veterans. (Detailed legion troop numbers are not publicly released.)
Larson concluded his military career in Ukraine had dead-ended after clashes with a Ukrainian officer whom he alleged stole money from the unit. The officer was reprimanded but stayed in command, and Larson was assigned a new job digging ditches.
A legion spokeswoman said she could not comment on “individual allegations and individual situations. But she said that “we have firsthand experience standing up against corruption and problematic people. It can be done, and it is done.”
With his wife eager for his return, Larson decided to fly back home to Washington a few weeks earlier than he had planned.
Return to Washington
Back in Washington, Larson has stayed in touch with some of the legion soldiers as they have advanced to towns once held by the Russians. The legion casualty count has climbed.
“Now, we have soldiers who engage in combat, and they are more direct targets for tanks and grenades,” Aschenbrenner said.