Network: Parents versus the FSB

Network: Parents of Anarchists versus the FSB
Alexei Polikhovich and Ksenia Sonnaya
OVD Info
July 30, 2018

Members of the Parents Network. Photo courtesy of OVD Info

Eleven antifascists from Penza and Petersburg have been charged in the case against the alleged “terrorist community” known as the Network. Many people have got used to news of the violence, threats, and electrical shock torture used against the suspects in the case, but the accused themselves and their loved ones will probably never grow inured to such things. The parents of the accused came together in a committee known as the Parents Network. They have been trying to do something to help their loved ons.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) claims the Network is an international organization. Aside from Penza and Petersburg, secret cells were, allegedly, established in Moscow and Belarus. Yet no one has been arrested either in Russia’s capital or abroad. Meanwhile, the Parents Network is definitely an international organization. Aside from Penza, Petersburg, Moscow, and Novosibirsk, the committee has members in Petropavlovsk, the city in Kazakhstan where Viktor Filinkov’s mother lives.

Members of the Parents Network have appeared at two press conferences, in April and May of this year. They have established a chatroom on Telegram where they discuss new developments in the case, exchange opinions, share impressions of hearings and interrogations, and give each other support. In addition, the parents try and force reactions from Russian government oversight and human rights bodies. They write letters to Russia’s human rights ombudsman and the Presidential Human Rights Council, and file complaints with the Investigative Committee and the Russian Bar Association.

OVD Info spoke with members of the Parents Network.

Tatyana Chernova, Andrei Chernov’s mother, shop clerk
All this kicked off in March at the next-to-last custody extension hearing in Penza.

I went to see Ilya Shakursky. I knew reporters and human rights advocates would be there. I just approached the people who had come to the hearing and asked for help. One of those people was Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the movement For Human Rights. He responded and proposed meeting in Moscow.

I didn’t know any human rights activists. I didn’t know where to go or to whom to turn, since I’d never dealt with this. When I’d discuss it with my daughter, she would scold me, telling me we had to wait or we might make things worse.

My husband and I went to see Lev Ponomaryov. We said we didn’t know what to do. We had a lawyer. Our lawyer did his job, while we, the parents, didn’t know how to help. We were told to take a pen and sign up, that the first thing to do was unite with all the other parents. I found their telephones numbers and gradually called all of them.

Andrei Chernov’s family

I couldn’t get hold of Lena Shakurskaya. I sent her an SMS, saying I’m so-and-so’s mom, I want to talk, if you want to talk, write. She called me right back. Everyone was probably waiting for it. We shared a misfortune, and it brought us together. Our first meeting was at Lev Ponomaryov’s office. Lena came to Moscow for the meeting. It was only there she heard the whole truth. Mikhail Grigoryan, Ilya’s former lawyer, had been telling her a different story. The Pchelintsevs met her. They told her what was going on. Lena was made sick by what she found out.

We try to have each other’s backs. The blows are such that it’s hard to take. Yes, I have friends. But I can call Sveta Pchelintseva or Lena Bogatova, say, knowing they’ll know where I’m coming from, because this is part of our personal lives.

Yelena Bogatova, Ilya Shakursky’s mother, shop clerk
We had a lawyer, Mikhail Grigoryan. He warned me against communicating with the relatives of the other lads. He said each of us had to defend their own son. Nothing good would come of fraternizing. I listened to him.

In March, I saw Andrei Chernov’s mom. Again, at Grigoryan’s insistence, I didn’t go up to her or chat with her. Later, I had doubts. I wanted to talk to someone. God was probably reading our minds: it was then Tatyana Chernova sent me an SMS. We got in touch on the phone. I went to Moscow without telling the lawyer. We met with human rights activists. We discussed how to talk about the kids.

It’s really rough when you’re on your own in these circumstances, but now we are together. You realized you’re not alone and our boys are not alone. What we do is mainly for them. We put on these t-shirts when we go to hearings so they can see we are fighting. We have gone to all the hearings together so they see we’re all together.

At first, I was a “cooperative” mom. I was friendly with the investigator. We would talk. He said unflattering things about the other parents. Grigoryan would ask me to meet with Ilya to “talk sense” into him. The investigator would talk to me, telling me that if I was a good mom, I would get the message through his head, that is, if we had a good relationship, as I had told him. Then I would get to see Ilya for ten minutes.

Yelena Bogatova and Ilya Shakursky

In February, when Ilya signed a statement saying he had not been tortured, his uncle and I persuaded him to sign the paper. We didn’t understand a thing, of course. Grigoryan said Ilya had to sign the paper. He said he was working for us and Ilya shouldn’t be obstinate, but should sign everything he asked him to sign.

Ilya stared at me.

“Mom, what are you doing?” he said. “I’m not guilty of anything.”

“Sign it or things will get worse for you, and I’ll have it worse. I won’t see you again,” I said to him.

I was selfish, drowning in my own grief. I pushed my son into doing it because I felt sorry for myself. The FSB used me. Yes, you can see him, but make him to sign this. Hold his hand.

It’s psychologically easier for me now. I feel strong inside. I have the confidence to keep going and try and rescue the boys from the paws of the FSB. I don’t have any friends per  se anymore. At first, they would call and ask about things, but then they would do it less and less often. I don’t know, maybe they’re afraid of the FSB. They’re afraid of calling me once too much because they know my phone is bugged.

On the other hand, I have a sense of how many friends Ilya has. I communicate with the Parents Committee and Ilya’s friends, who are not afraid of anything. We talk on the phone. They visit Ilya’s grandma and help. They water the garden and go to the store, just like Timur and his friends.

Natalya, Viktor Filinkov’s mom, businesswoman
It was like a bolt out of the blue. Viktor’s wife, Alexandra, wrote to me. I was ready to go see him that very minute, but I was told it would be better for me not to show up in Russia for the time being. I live in Petropavlovsk in northern Kazakhstan, which is not far from Omsk. It’s sixty kilometers to the Russian border.

Then I could not wait any longer. I said I was going to Petersburg, come what may. Everyone was surprised I was allowed to see him. I was the first parent allowed to see their child. But it was so little time. It was so hard to talk to him through the glass.

“Mom, I’ve been tortured,” he said.

I could see he had a scar. He told me to stay strong and be reasonable about what was happening.

Viktor Filinkov

I’d never been interested in politics. Now, though, I’m interested. I’m interested in Russian politics and Kazakhstani politics, and I read all the news straight through. I read about what incidents happened where, who was tortured where, who has been framed, who has been protected. I read everything about what’s happened to antifascists and anarchists everywhere.

I think about why I don’t live in Russia, in Petersburg. I cannot move right now. It’s complicated to do the paperwork, register as an immigrant, and get a temporary resident permit. The thing that causes me the most pain is the thought they could ban me from entering the country.

Nikolai Boyarshinov, Yuli Boyarshinov’s father, artist
It’s a terrible state, which everyone has been through, when you suddenly find out your son has been arrested, and the charges are so absurd. You have no idea at all what to do. It’s a wall against which you beat your head. You quite quickly realize you’re completely powerless.

I joined the Parents Network when it had quite a few members. I was completely crushed then. At first, I imagined it existed for its own sake, to keep from going insane. But then I noticed it got results. By then I had completely recovered from my initial state, so I did things, thought about things, and discussed things. Being involved in the Parents Network was my salvation.

We have a chat page on Telegram. In contrast to the Network, which the FSB concocted, we don’t hide the fact we have a Network. If you think our children organized a criminal Network, then our Network is probably criminal, too.

Our actions get few results, perhaps, but it is this way, bit by bit, that you build up the desire to do something to improve the conditions in which the boys are incarcerated.  Publicity was their salvation, after all. It’s not a matter of getting them released yet. We are still thinking about how to keep them alive.

That was how it happened with my son. I saw him at the first custody extension hearing, a month after his arrest. I saw what he looked liked when he arrived at the courthouse. He looked drab and battered. He had fresh bruises on his head. You could see that it couldn’t go on for long like that. His friends, thirty people or so, came to the next hearing. When he saw everyone, he was happy. A new phase began after that. It was clear that at least they wouldn’t kill him.


Yuli Boyarshinov in childhood

It was a turning point for me. When everything went public, it saved my son’s life. Yet now I’m afraid the publicity will die down and the boys will again be isolated, and the nightmare will recommence. That’s why I never turn down an interview.

I go out picketing on Fridays. I had doubts when the World Cup was underway. The first day I had the sense I was preventing people from enjoying themselves, but I decided to keep going out. Something unexpected happens each time. A young man came up to me and said he knew nothing about the Network. He walked away, apparently looked in the internet, and came back. I told him about the other boys.

“I don’t share those views,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter now whether you’re leftist or rightist,” I replied. “What matters is that you have views, and that is sufficient grounds to arrest you and charge you with a crime.”

The Parents Network is now like a family. We’ve agreed that when this travesty of justice is over, we will definitely have a reunion with everyone. Everyone has become family. Viktor’s mom lives in Kazakhstan, and his wife had to escape, so when I take care packages to Yuli, I take packages for Viktor, too. I really want to meet all the boys. I’m worried sick about all of them. My wife sometimes reads an article about Dima Pchelintsev or Viktor, and she cries. We feel like they’re our children.

Yelena Strigina, Arman Sagynbayev’s mother, chief accountant 
The first to get together were the people in Penza, the Pchelintsevs and the Chernovs. I joined along the way. The defense lawyers had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, so we had to go public with all our problems.

I live in Novosibirsk. We all stay in touch through a certain banned messenging site. When we were at the hearings in Penza, we made t-shirts emblazoned with the logo “Free [son’s surname].” It might look like a game to outsiders, but we have to stay afloat. It’s important to do something. And to publicize everything that happens.


Arman Sagynbayev and his niece. Screenshot from the website of the Best of Russia competition (left); photo of a billboard in Moscow (right)

Arman has a serious chronic illness. There was no point in torturing him. His first testimony was enough to send him down for ten years. He testified against himself more than he did against the others. He was extradited from Petersburg to Penza. Along the way, the men who were transporting him opened the doors when they were in the woods and dragged Arman out. They promised to bury him alive. That was at night. In the morning, he was taken to the investigator for questioning. When people are under that kind of pressure, they would say anything. I would say I’d attempted to invade Kazan and blow up chapels.


Arman Sagynbayev in childhood

I kept the story secret from friends and relatives. But after the film about the case on NTV, everyone called and started looking funny at me. The news even made it to the school that Arman’s little brother attends. Imagine: your brother is a terrorist. It was a good thing honest articles had been published at that point. I would send people links to them. Thanks to those articles, people read a different take on events, and we have been protected from a negative reaction from society.

Svetlana Pchelintsev, Dmitry Pchelintsev’s mother, cardiologist
The Parents Network has empowered us a hundredfold. By joining together, we are no longer each fighting for our own son, we are fighting for all the boys. We love kids we don’t know at all, kids who are complete strangers, as if they were our own kids. Our hearts ache for each of them. I think it’s wonderful. A whole team of parents fighting for all the boys. What can stop parents? Nothing can stop them.

What has happened is terrible. Whether we like or not, we have to go on living while also helping the children. So, when one mom has a moment of weakness, she can telephone another mom, who is feeling the opposite emotions. It’s vital when a person hears that support.


Dmitry Pchelintsev in childhood

Dmitry Pchelintsev, Dmitry Pchelintsev’s father, engineer
We are a committee of parents. What we do is support each other. We live in Moscow, but our son is jailed in Penza. The parents who live in Penza visit our son. Our kids, as it turns out, belong to all of us. We were in Penza and we gave all the children all their care packages at the same time. If we talk with the warden of the remand prison, we speak on behalf of all the kids.

This has helped us and helped our children. We get emotional support. It’s one thing when you sit alone in a closed room and don’t know what’s happening to your child. It’s another thing when all the parents meet and discuss everything. Tiny facts come together into a big picture, and you more or less understand what’s happening.

In my view, publicity is quite effective. This has been borne out by the actions of the case investigator, Tokarev. If it makes Tokarev uncomfortable, if it makes Tokarev angry, it’s a good thing. As he said, “You raised this ruckus in vain. They would have been in prison long ago.” So, what’s bad for him is good for me. I visited the offices of the Investigative Committee in Penza. They couldn’t believe it was possible the FSB would torture people in a remand prison.

Lena, Ilya Shakursky’s mom, said Tokarev always referred to us and the Chernovs as “uncooperative” parents. He complained that, if it weren’t for us, our kids would have been sentenced to two years each in prison and that would have been it. How can a person say such things? You put a man in jail for nothing, and then you sit and clap.

The FSB are Putin’s hellhounds. Putin loosened their leash a little, and they grabbed everyone they could before the presidential election and the World Cup. Now it’s all coming to an end, and he’ll again say, “Heel!” Let’s see where it leads. Perhaps the plug will be pulled, unfortunately.

All photos courtesy of the parents and relatives of the accused and OVD Info. Translated by the Russian Reader.

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What can you do to support the Penza and Petersburg antifascists and anarchists tortured and imprisoned by the FSB?

  • Donate money to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal (abc-msk@riseup.net). Make sure to specify your donation is earmarked for “Rupression.”
  • Spread the word about the Network Case aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case. You can find more information about the case and in-depth articles translated into English on this website (see below), rupression.com, and openDemocracyRussia.
  • Organize solidarity events where you live to raise money and publicize the plight of the tortured Penza and Petersburg antifascists. Go to the website It’s Going Down to find printable posters and flyers you can download. You can also read more about the case there.
  • If you have the time and means to design, produce, and sell solidarity merchandise, please write to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters and postcards to the prisoners. Letters and postcards must be written in Russian or translated into Russian. You can find the addresses of the prisoners here.
  • Design a solidarity postcard that can be printed and used by others to send messages of support to the prisoners. Send your ideas to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters of support to the prisoners’ loved ones via rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Translate the articles and information at rupression.com and this website into languages other than Russian and English, and publish your translations on social media and your own websites and blogs.
  • If you know someone famous, ask them to record a solidarity video, write an op-ed piece for a mainstream newspaper or write letters to the prisoners.
  • If you know someone who is a print, internet, TV or radio journalist, encourage them to write an article or broadcast a report about the case. Write to rupression@protonmail.com or the email listed on this website, and we will be happy to arrange interviews and provide additional information.
  • It is extremely important this case break into the mainstream media both in Russia and abroad. Despite their apparent brashness, the FSB and their ilk do not like publicity. The more publicity the case receives, the safer our comrades will be in remand prison from violence at the hands of prison stooges and torture at the hands of the FSB, and the more likely the Russian authorities will be to drop the case altogether or release the defendants for time served if the case ever does go to trial.
  • Why? Because the case is a complete frame-up, based on testimony obtained under torture and mental duress. When the complaints filed by the accused reach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and are examined by actual judges, the Russian government will again be forced to pay heavy fines for its cruel mockery of justice.

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If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and other recent cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other arms of the Russian police state, read and republish the recent articles the Russian Reader has posted on these subjects.

Two More Suspects Detained in Network Case

krestovsky stadiumThe members of the wholly mythical terrorist organization the Network have been accused by the FSB of planning to disrupt the March presidential elections and this summer’s World Cup in order to foment rebellion among the hoi polloi. These accusations would be hilarious if they were not served up with heavy helpings of torture, intimidation, and incarceration. Photo of Krestovsky Stadium in Petersburg, a World Cup venue, by the Russian Reader

Two Suspects Detained in Network Case
OVD Info
July 5, 2018

Mikhail Kulkov and Maxim Ivankin, two suspects in the so-called Network Case, have been detained and placed in police custody, OVD Info has learned from Yelena Bogatova, the mother of Ilya Shakursky, another suspect in the case.

The Lenin District Court in Penza has remanded Kulkov and Ivankin in custody until September.

Bogatova had been waiting for a lawyer outside the Penza Remand Prison when Ivankin and Kulkov were brought there. According to her, their parents learned of their arrests on July 4. Their custody hearings took place at 2 p.m. on July 5.

Alexei Kulkov, Mikhail Kulkov’s father, told OVD Info the young men had been detained in Moscow without IDs. Penza’s Lenin District Court has remanded them in custody until September 18. Mr. Kulkov reported that his son and Maxim Kulkin have been charged with organizing a “terrorist community.”  He said he saw the two young men for several minutes in the courthouse as they were escorted down the hallway. He noticed they had black eyes and bruises on their bodies.

Previously, Ivankin and Kulkov were detained in Penza in March 2017 along with antifascist Alexei Poltavets. They were initially charged with drugs possession. According to Poltavets, after they were detained, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers tortured and beat them, demanding they testify against their friends in the antifascist scene. Poltavets later left Russia and had not seen Ivankin and Kulkov since then.

In June 2018, it transpired that Ivankin and Kulkov’s case had been combined with the investigation of the so-called Network, an organization that FSB investigators claim is a terrorist group. Ivankin and Kulkov have been charged with planning to produce or sell drugs in large quantities (Russian Criminal Code Article 228.1 Part 4 Paragraph G and Article 30 Part 3).

In the criminal case files, Ivankin, Kulkov, and Poltavets are identified both by their real names and the pseudonyms Redhead, Ilya, and Boris.

It transpired on July 4 that another suspect in the Network Case, Dmitry Pchelintsev, had been transferred from Penza Remand Prison No. 1, most likely to St. Petersburg.

On May 23, a friend of the accused, Victoria Frolova, was detained at the Russian-Ukrainian border. She was forced to testify against her Penza friends, including Ivankin and Kulkov. In her signed statement, Ivankin and Kulkov are identified as members of the 5.11 (“November Fifth”) cell of the Network. According to FSB investigators, all members of the Network trained with sticks in the woods, practice orienteering and first aid, and learned to set traps.

In the autumn of 2017, five young men were arrested in Penza: Yegor Zorin, Ilya Shakursky, Dmitry Pchelintsev, Vasily Kuksov, and Andrei Chernov. Arman Sagynbayev was detained in St. Petersburg and extradited to Penza. All of them were charged with involvement in a “terrorist” community. The FSB claimed the young young were involved in a terrorist organization known as the Network, whose cells, allegedly, existed in Moscow, Petersburg, Penza, and Belarus. The accused men gave accounts of mental coercion, electrical shock torture, and being hung upside down by FSB officers, as well as their planting weapons in the men’s cars and flats.

Later, several of the suspects renounced their confessions, saying they had been given under torture.

Besides the six suspects jailed in Penza, there are three more young men who have been charged with involvedment in the Network who have been remanded in custody in Petersburg. They are Viktor Filinkov and Igor Shishkin, on whose bodies human rights activists found physical traces of their having been tortured, and Yuli Boyarshinov, originally accused of illegal possession of explosive substances. Later, investigators tried to force him to testifying against the men accused in the Network Case and charged him with the same offenses.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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What can you do to support the Penza and Petersburg antifascists and anarchists tortured and imprisoned by the FSB?

  • Donate money to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal (abc-msk@riseup.net). Make sure to specify your donation is earmarked for “Rupression.”
  • Spread the word about the Network Case aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case. You can find more information about the case and in-depth articles translated into English on this website (see below), rupression.com, and openDemocracyRussia.
  • Organize solidarity events where you live to raise money and publicize the plight of the tortured Penza and Petersburg antifascists. Go to the website It’s Going Down to find printable posters and flyers you can download. You can also read more about the case there.
  • If you have the time and means to design, produce, and sell solidarity merchandise, please write to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters and postcards to the prisoners. Letters and postcards must be written in Russian or translated into Russian. You can find the addresses of the prisoners here.
  • Design a solidarity postcard that can be printed and used by others to send messages of support to the prisoners. Send your ideas to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters of support to the prisoners’ loved ones via rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Translate the articles and information at rupression.com and this website into languages other than Russian and English, and publish your translations on social media and your own websites and blogs.
  • If you know someone famous, ask them to record a solidarity video, write an op-ed piece for a mainstream newspaper or write letters to the prisoners.
  • If you know someone who is a print, internet, TV or radio journalist, encourage them to write an article or broadcast a report about the case. Write to rupression@protonmail.com or the email listed on this website, and we will be happy to arrange interviews and provide additional information.
  • It is extremely important this case break into the mainstream media both in Russia and abroad. Despite their apparent brashness, the FSB and their ilk do not like publicity. The more publicity the case receives, the safer our comrades will be in remand prison from violence at the hands of prison stooges and torture at the hands of the FSB, and the more likely the Russian authorities will be to drop the case altogether or release the defendants for time served if the case ever does go to trial.
  • Why? Because the case is a complete frame-up, based on testimony obtained under torture and mental duress. When the complaints filed by the accused reach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and are examined by actual judges, the Russian government will again be forced to pay heavy fines for its cruel mockery of justice.

***************

If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and other recent cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other arms of the Russian police state, read and republish the recent articles the Russian Reader has posted on these subjects.

May Day in Petersburg: “Your Torture Won’t Kill Our Ideas”

31715161_2002393253350140_6474713312398409728_n“Your torture won’t kill our ideas.” Anarchists and antifascists march down Nevsky Prospect in Petersburg on May Day 2018

St. Petersburg Anarchist Black Cross
Facebook
May 1, 2018

We, people who espouse anarchist and antifascist views, dedicated May Day this year to our comrades, arrested in The Network case, a frame-up by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Despite the rain, we made common cause and march in the May Day demo. We carried placards inscribed with quotations from the diaries and testimony of the arrested men in which they talk of the torture to which FSB officers have subjected them.

31688009_2002392766683522_1947585257179971584_n

“Send Yuli home! Stop the bullying in Gorelovo!” Yuli Boyarshinov’s mother at 2018 May Day demo in Petersburg.

It was the most important message to convey during this year’s May Day demo.

Six young men were detained in Penza in autumn 2017. FSB officers had planted weapons and explosives in the cars and homes of some of the men. Then FSB officers tortured the antifascists in the local remand prison. They attached electrodes to various parts of their bodies and sent electrical currents surging through them. They hung them upside down and brutally assaulted them. During the torture sessions, the secret services tried to force the activists to memorize the testimony they wanted the men to give to investigators, a story about how they had established a nonexistent “terrorist community” of which they were, allegedly, members.

In late January 2019, two more antifascists were detained in Petersburg. They were also beaten, tasered, and forced to incriminate themselves.

In April 2018, a third young man in Petersburg was charged with involvement in the same fictitious “terrorist community.”

31682379_2002392876683511_519457091652419584_n“Viktor Filinkov, programmer.” || “I screamed, ‘Tell me what to say. I’ll say anything!'” Anarchist and antifascists at 2018 May Day demo in Petersburg

Establishing the truth is the essential goal and only value of law enforcement and the institutions of state power that enforce the law. The language of violence is not the language of truth. Confessions and testimony obtained under torture cannot constitute the truth. They are knowingly false. The worldview offered to us by the investigators in the case of the Penza and Petersburg antifascists is completely unconvincing.

Fascists fight for the past. Antifascists fight for the future.

Free Dmitry Pchelintsev, Ilya Shakursky, Armen Sagynbayev, Vasily Kuksov, Andrei Chernov, Viktor Filinkov, Yuli Boyarshinov, and Igor Shishkin!

The Party of the Dead, LEFT FEM, and the Column of Free Trade Unions also voiced their solidarity with the imprisoned antifascists during the 2018 May Day march in Petersburg.

Translated by the Russian Reader. If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and other cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other branches of the Russian police state, please read and repost the recent articles I have published on these subjects.

Families of Penza-Petersburg “Terrorists” Form Committee

Антифашизм-800x445“Antifascism is not a crime.” Photo courtesy of Movement For Human Rights

Relatives of Defendants in Penza-Petersburg “Terrorism” Case Form Parents Network
Mediazona
April 9, 2018

The website of the Movement For Human Rights (MFHR) reports parents of the arrestees in the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case have come together to form The Parents Network: A Committee for Relatives of Arrested Anarchists.

The human rights activists report that a meeting of relatives of the young men accused in the case took place in Moscow on April 7. The loved ones of almost all the defendants in the case came to MFHR’s offices, while two relatives participated in the meeting via Skype.

The arrested men’s loved ones talked about the pressure put on their children and husbands, and the illegal actions of law enforcement officials. At the end of the meeting, the relatives decided to form an organization whose goal would be to mutually support each other as well as interact with the authorities and human rights organizations. MHFR’s website list contact information for the committee’s officers.

In October 2017, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers detained four antifascists in Penza: Yegor Zorin, Ilya Shakursky, Vasily Kuksov, and Dmitry Pchelintsev. In early November 2017, Andrei Chernov was detained in Penza, while Arman Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg. In January 2018, Igor Shishkin and Viktor Filinkov were detained in Petersburg.

All eight men have been accused of involvement in a “terrorist community,” a crime under Article 205.4 Part 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. The FSB claims the antifascists were members of a terrorist organization, code-named The Network, whose members planned to set off bombs during the March 2018 Russian presidential election and theFIFA World Cup, schedule for this summer in Russia, and thus “sway the popular masses to further destabilize the political circumstances in the country” and spark an armed insurrection.

Several of the defendants, including Pchelintsev, Shakursky, and Filinkov, as well as Ilya Kapustin, a witness detained in Petersburg, said FSB officers tortured them to make them to confess. Members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission certified they found signs of beating and traces of taser burns on Filinkov’s and Shiskin’s bodies. It later transpired that Kapustin left Russia, and Pchelintsev withdrew his testimony after he was beaten in the Penza Remand Prison.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my earlier posts on the Penza-Petersburg  case and two other current cases that also seem to be FSB frame-ups. Also check out the first major international press coverage of the case in Newsweek.

Ping, Ping, Ping: The Remand Extension Hearing of the Penza “Terrorists”

Ping, Ping, Ping: A Report from the Remand Extension Hearing of the Defendants in the Penza “Terrorism” Case
Yegor Skovoroda
Mediazona
March 16, 2018


Ilya Shakursky. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

Yegor Svokoroda traveled to Penza, where, over the course of three days, the Lenin District Court considered whether to extend the remand in police custody of the antifascists who, according to the FSB, were part of a “terrorist community” known as The Network.

FSB Senior Investigator Valery Tokarev blushes gradually: first the tip of his nose, then his ears, and finally the bald patch that covers half his head. He is arguing with a lawyer, insting on a closed hearing in order to ensure “investigatory privilege.” The lawyer objects.

“The case is at the evidence gathering stage. We have not finalized all the witnesses or the defendants. A number of parties to the crime have not been identified or are on the wanted list,” says Tokarev, his forehead covered with sweat.

This scene was repeated several times in Penza’s Lenin District Court, where, between March 13 and March 15, the arrest in police custody of five antifascists apprehended and charged with involvement in a “terrorist community” was extended. Time after time, Judge Svetlana Shubina closed the hearings to the public and the press.

Ordering that yet another of the accused be remanded in custody to the local remand prison until June 18, Judge Shubina time after time bases her ruling by referring to the particularly complicated nature of the case and the allegation that each of the young men was a member of a “stable, highly secretive criminal group,” and that “firearms and ammunition” were involved. Shubina notes investigators had to finish their numerous forensic examinations and interrogations, and finally indict Sagynbayev, Pchelintsev, Shakursky, Chernov, Zorin, Kuksov, Ivankin, and Kulkov.

Yegor Zorin, a fourth-year student at the Belinsky Pedagogical Institute, was the first person detained in the investigation of the “terrorist community.” The FSB has alleged its members planned, during the March 18 presidential election and this summer’s FIFA World Cup, to “agitate the masses in order to further destabilize the political situation in the country” by setting off bombs; when the H-hour came, they would lead an armed insurrection. Zorin was apprehended on October 17, 2018. There are unconfirmed reports he signed a confession, which was the basis of Criminal Case No. 11707560001000036, concerning organization of and involvement in a terrorist community, per Article 205.4 Parts 1 and 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code.

Zorin’s time in the remand prison was not extended. He was jailed there until December 18 and subsequently transferred to house arrest. The press service of the Lenin District Court told Mediazona, however, that after December 18, investigators had not petitioned the court to extend his arrest.


Arman Sagynbayev. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

The next to be apprehended were Zorin’s classmate Ilya Shakursky and their common friend Vasily Kuksov during the wee hours of October 19, 2017. On October 27, Dmitry Pchelintsev was detained; he knew Shakursky through the leftist activist scene and because they shared a hobby: airsoft. On November 6, Arman Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg. He had been to Penza several times for airsoft practice sessions. He was transferred to the Penza Remand Prison. On November 9, Andrei Chernov, another airsoft player and an old friend of Pchelintsev’s was detained.

A passion for airsoft and a sympathy for leftist ideas, anarchism, and antifascism were what all the detainees had in common. The case files contain videos of training sessions in the woods outside Penza, sessions during which the young men used fireworks. The FSB has alleged that the group training sessions were preparation for the insurrection, while the hikes the young men took in the woods constituted “illegal mastery of survival skills in the woods and rendering of first aid.”The airsoft teams in which the antifascists played, Voskhod (“Sunrise”) and 5.11 (“November Fifth”), were cells of a terrorist organization known as The Network (Set’). Aside from Penza, The Network was alleged to have underground cells in Moscow, Petersburg, and Belarus.*

The FSB has alleged the Penzans divided up the roles in their “terrorist community.” Pchelintsev was the leader and ideologue. His deputy, nicknamed Redhead, handled reconnaissance and recruiting, while Sagynbayev, nicknamed Andrei Security, was the engineer and sapper, Shakursky (aka Spike), the tactician, Chernov (aka Twin), the signalman, Zorin (aka Grisha), the sniper, while a certain Boris was also a coordinator and ideologue.

Redhead is Maxim Ivankin, mentioned in the court’s new custody ruling, while in all likelihood the Boris referred to by the security services is M.A. Kulkov. According to our sources, both men have left Russia and are on the wanted list.

The Lenin District Court occupies a three-storey nineteenth-century mansion whose interior has been modernized. The courtroom where the custody extension hearings take place is located in a wing of the building accessible only through doors outfitted with an electronic lock. To gain access to the hallway leading to the courtroom you have to place a card on the lock, which sets off an obnoxious pinging sound. The squeaky alarm goes off constantly. Ping, ping, ping: terrorist community. Ping, ping, ping: investigative privilege. Ping, ping, ping: extend the arrests.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.


Dmitry Pchelintsev and his wife Angelina. Photo courtesy of relatives

A broad-shouldered FSB guard escorts 25-year-old Dmitry Pchelintsev into the room, not taking his eyes off him the entire hearing. Guards just like him also escort the other detainees. Some of them wear balaclavas to conceal their identities, some wear Buff scarves over their faces. Viktor Filinkov, detained in Petersburg, and Pchelintsev himself recounted how they were tortured by men wearing such masks. Pchelintsev recalled how the officers who tortured him later escorted him to the remand prison.

“When I was tortured with electrical shocks, my mouth was full of ‘crushed teeth’ due to the fact I gritted my teeth since the pain was strong, and I tore the frenulum of my tongue. My mouth was full of blood, and at some point one of my torturers stuck my sock in my mouth,” Pchelintsev told his lawyer in order to explain why he had signed a confession.

Soon, after he was beaten again, Pchelintsev recanted his testimony about being tortured. Pchelintsev, who has thick, kinky eyebrows and slightly protruding ears, worked as a target practice instructor after serving in the army. He wears a checkered shirt whose collar he constantly buttons and unbuttons. Cautious at first, he thaws by the end of the hearing, when he manages to chat with his wife Angelina through the glass of the so-called fish tank in which defendants are held during trials and hearings.

Dmitry laughs, talking about books and Alina Orlova songs. He jokes that during the last hearing he was in handcuffs because “Arman was sitting next to me, and they thought I would attack him.”

Alina Orlova sings “I Stroll Around Moscow,” IKRA Club, Moscow, September 29, 2008

“What should I do with your car?” Angelina asks. The FSB claims to have found two grenades under the seat of the old Lada. Pchelintsev said they were planted there.

“Burn it,” says Dmitry, joking once more.

“I’m afraid I’d be arrested.”

“Yeah, you’d also go to jail for terrorism,” Pchelintsev quips. “Actually, I was told we should take it to the junkyard and sell it for scrap.”

Angelina presses her nose against the glass of the fish tank.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.


Vasily Kuksov. Photo courtesy of relatives

29-year-old design engineer Vasily Kuksov appears to be the most confused and indifferent of all the prisoners. His wife Yelena says Vasily was cheerful and life-affirming prior to his arrest. He enjoyed drawing and was into music, performing a year ago at a Vladimir Vysotsky memorial festival at the Penza Philharmonic. Now his case file describes him as an “individual who leads an isolated lifestyle characterized by antisocial behavior.”

Vasily Kuksov performing at the Penza Philharmonic on January 25, 2017

Kuksov has not complained that FSB officers were violent with him, but his friend Ilya Shakursky recalled that, when they were taken to the FSB building in Penza, first he heard Kuksov’s groan and then later saw him, his face badly mangled. Nevertheless, Kuksov avoided testifying by invoking his right not to incriminate himself under Article 51 of the Russian Constitution.

A pistol was confiscated from his car. According to his loved ones, the gun had been planted there.

Kuksov is the only prisoner whom the investigator allows to talk with his mother for a long time during the recess [sic].

As he listens to the judge’s ruling, Kuksov zips and unzips the zipper of his black winter jacket.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

“They blindfolded me, tied my hands, and stuck a sock in my mouth. Then I thought they wanted to leave my fingerprints on something, but later they attached wires to my big toes. I felt the first surge of current, and I could not hold back the moaning and shaking. They repeated the procedure until I promised to say what they told me to say. After that, I forgot the word ‘no’ and said everything the officers told me to say,” recalled 21-year-old antifascist Ilya Shakursky.

Shakursky was a classmate of the first person arrested in the case, Yegor Zorin. Both of them were studying to be physics teachers.

Shakursky is a thin young man with a shaved head and a deep wrinkle on his forehead. He is a well-known activist in Penza. He used to be involved with Food Not Bombs, and he was himself always organizing everything from lectures to trips to the woods to pick up trash. Before the antifascist rally held annually on January 19, he sent friends a letter in which he wrote, “If I were on the outside, I would definitely attend the memorial event for two great heroes, Nastya Baburova and Stas Markelov.”

Recently, relations between him and Pchelintsev had been strained. The young men had fallen out over Shakursky’s ex-girlfriend Victoria Frolova. They had fought several days before Shakursky’s arrest. The FSB officers who were staking out the alleged terrorist group were surprised to see two members of the “stable” group brawling.

When the judge reads out the ruling, Shakursky, dressed in a gray track suit, lifts his left eyebrow slightly and folds his hands behind his back.

Shakursky’s mother sobs.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

When questioning 28-year-old Andrei Chernov’s mother after her son was arrested, the investigator wondered aloud whether she knew he had a secret nickname, Twin.

“He’s had the nickname since he was a kid,” Tatyana Chernova says, recalling her outrage. Next to her is Alexei Chernov, Andrei’s twin brother.


Andrei Chernov. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

The Chernov brothers studied in the same department at the pedagogical institute as Zorin and Shakursky, but they dropped out before the other young men had enrolled there. Subsequently, Andrei went to work at a factory where he assembled water heaters. He was apprehended on the shop floor.

According to his defense attorney, Stanislav Fomenko, Chernov had not been subjected to violence by the FSB. Tatyana Chernova adds that her son signed a confession after Dmitry Pchelintsev, who had been tortured, spoke with him. Chernov has now recanted his testimony.

Andrei wrote to his mother that after human rights activists spoke out about the plight of the young men and the press published articles about the so-called Penza Case, the guards and wardens at the remand prison often visited his cell to perform spot checks, videotaping everthing he did.

Chernov was finally examined by an ophthalmologist (there were suspicions he had a detached retina). The doctor for some reason prescribed him antibiotics.

Chernov smiles the most of all the defendants. If it were not for the fish tank, it would be impossible to tell him apart from his brother.

“My son is not guilty of anything. Sure, he played airsoft and studied survival skills, but lots of people are into that. I will fight for my son till the end of my days,” says Tatyana Chernova.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

No one has come to the courtroom [sic] to support 25-year-old Arman Sagynbayev, transferred to Penza from Petersburg,** and yet he is cheerful and talkative.

Arman was born in Novosibirsk, where his mother, stepfather, ex-wife, and their five-year-old daughter still live.

He has spent the last several years in Petersburg, where he was convicted of petty theft (Article 158 Part 1 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to a fine of 6,000 rubles. When Sagynbayev’s room was searched, the security services allegedly found a bucket of aluminum powder, four kilograms of ammonium nitrate, two alarm clocks, and various radio components.

After his arrest, Sagynbayev fully acknowledged his guilt. He is still cooperating with investigators. He has no objections when Deputy Prosecutor Sergei Oskolkov moved to extend his arrest.

“He has no complaints. He has not claimed he was tortured. He cooperates with the investigators and gets privileges in return for his cooperation. He was now given the chance to speak with his mother. He spoke with her the entire recess [sic]. Arman has a separate cell,” says his lawyer, Rakhmanova [sic].

In the remand prison, her client, who suffers from a serious illness, receives timely medical care, she emphasizes, without specifying what the illness is

At the beginning of the week, Sagynbayev was sent under armed guard to Saratov, where he was examined at the St. Sophia Regional Clinical Psychiatric Hospital. He is the only suspect in the case who has been made to undergo an inpatient forensic examination.

“He said lots of things to our experts about anarchy and social revolution. They said he was deluded and refused to render an opinion, recommending he be hospitalized,” Rakhmanova explains.

According to the attorney, the doctors in Saratov concluded Sagynbayev was mentally competent.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

* The name of the airsoft team 5.11 had nothing to do with the revolution allegedly scheduled by nationalist Vyacheslav Maltsev for November 5, 2017. According to various sources, the name refers either to a popular brand of tactical clothing and equipment or to the date when seventeen-year-old Penza anarchist Nikolai Pchelintsev was hanged in 1907. Historians Alexander Kolpakidi and Gennady Potapov write that Pchelintsev took the blame for the murder of a gendarme during a shootout, counting on the court’s mercy towards him as a juvenile, but instead was sentenced to death. His burial site in the Abrekov Woods near Penza is marked by a monument to fallen revolutionaries. Mediazona has been unable to ascertain whether Dmitry Pchelintsev is a distant relative of Nikolai Pchelintsev.

** The FSB apprehended antifascists in Petersburrg late January 2018. According to the FSB, the city was home to two cells of The Network, code-named Jordan and Field of Mars. The investigation of the Petersburg case, Case No. 11807400001000004, is supervised by FSB investigator Gennady Belyayev. After they were detained, Igor Shishkin and Viktor Filinkov confessed their guilt. Filinkov soon recanted what he claimed had been rehearsed testimony and gave a detailed account of how FSB officers had tortured him with an electric shocker. Shishkin has said nothing about torture, but doctors recorded bruises, abrasions, and a fracture to the lower wall of his eye socket, while members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission found numerous traces on his body that resembled burns made by electric wires.

Translated by the Russian Reader

If you have not heard about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and the related crackdown against Russian grassroots and political activists on the eve of the March 18 Russian presidential election, you need to read the following articles and spread the word.

 

Arrested Penza Antifascists Talk about Torture in Remand Prison

“He Would Check My Pulse by Touching My Neck and Monitor My Condition.” Arrested Penza Antifascists Talk about Electric Shock Torture in Remand Prison Basement
Anna Kozkina and Yegor Skovoroda
Mediazona
February 9, 2018


Dmitry Pchelintsev. Photo courtesy of his relatives and Mediazona

Ilya Shakursky and Dmitry Pchelintsev, arrested in Penza and charged with involvement in a “terrorist community,” have told their attorneys that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers tortured them in the basement of the city’s remand prison. Mediazona has decided to publish the story told by Shakursky’s defense counsel and the transcript of what Pchelintsev relayed to his lawyer.

••••••••••

In October 2017, the FSB  detained four antifascists in Penza: Yegor Zorin, Ilya Shakursky, Vasily Kuksov, and Dmitry Pchelintsev. In early November, they detained Andrei Chernov in Penza, and Arman Sagynbayev, who was in Petersburg at the time. All six young men have been accused of involvement in a “terrorist community” (a criminal offense under Article 205.4 Part 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). According to the FSB, the six had established an organization, known as The Network (Set’). They planned a series of bomb blasts during the presidential election, in March, and the World Cup, in June and July, that would “sway the popular masses in order to subsequently destabilize the political situation [in Russia]” and set off an armed insurrection.

The Network allegedly had cells functioning in Moscow, Petersburg, Penza, and Belarus [an independent country]. On January 23, 2018, antifascist Viktor Filinkov was detained in Petersburg, followed two days later by Igor Shishkin. Friends and family could not find either of them for over a day. A court had remanded both of them in custody as members of the alleged “terrorist community.”

In Penza, relatives of the detained activists told how law enforcement officers had planted weapons in the men’s cars and flats, and subjected them to torture by shocking them with electrical wires and hanging them upside down. According to friends and loved ones, all the detained men had been airsoft enthusiasts.

“All they ever did was learn how to render first aid in field conditions and survive in the woods. Is that illegal?” Angelina Pchelintseva, Dmitry Pchelintsev’s wife, asked OVD Info.

Initially, all the men in custody, except Kuksov, who invoked his right not to incriminate himself, as stipulated by Article 51 of the Russian Constitution, confessed to their alleged crimes.

After he was detained, Viktor Filinkov said that siloviki had tortured him with an electric shocker and forced him to memorize the wording of his testimony in order to repeat it later to investigators. Ilya Kapustin, interrogated as a witness in the case, also spoke of torture. FSB officers had shocked him with an electric shocker and threatened to break his legs and abandon him in the woods.

Igor Shishkin has not said anything about torture. The case file contains a letter written by Shishkin after he was detained. It is addressed to Alexander Rodionov, head of the FSB’s Petersburg Office. In the letter, Shishkin explains he received all his injuries while playing sports. Doctors confirmed Shishkin suffered a fracture to the lower wall of one eye socket, as well as numerous bruises and abrasions. Members of the Public Monitoring Commission on Conditions in Places of Imprisonment who visited Shishkin in a remand prison made note of numerous traces on his body of what looked like burns from electrical wires. Recently, Shishkin sent a petition to the authorities asking to cooperate with the investigation and requesting a pretrial agreement.

A Letter by Igor Shishkin from the Remand Prison
Greetings to friends, relatives, acquaintances, and sympathizers! In my stupidity, I got caught up in a very serious and unpleasant situation. I’ll skip the details. I just want to advise everyone to think a hundred times about what you are doing and how the consequences do not affect just you. I also want to send my sincerest apologies to the people whom my problem has affected. Sorry, guys! […] I really ask everyone not to generate a media buzz. We don’t need that right now.

“He Said, ‘I Couldn’t Take It. I Broke Down.'”
Attorney Anatoly Vahterov, Ilya Shakursky’s defense counsel, has written the following. Mr. Vahterov visited Mr. Shakursky in Penza Remand Prison No. 1 on February 7, 2018.

It follows from my client’s statement that he was one of six people simultaneously detained on suspicion of violating Article 205.4 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. The article refers literally to “organization of a terrorist community.” During my conversation with my client, I did not have the slightest doubt he had not been involved in these actions.

I said to him, “I know that you signed a confession. How could that be?” 

He wrote a note to me, “I was beaten.”

Later, he gave me a more detailed account of how he had been tortured in the remand prison.

He said the plan was to implicate them in the Maltsev case. He said this. I was surprised. What was the connection? In my view, this case was fabricated on formal grounds. They grabbed one comrade by the name of Zorin. He was the weakest of them and testified against all his friends. Moreover, his testimony is absolutely far-fetched. It was grounds for detaining the other guys on suspicion of having committed the particular crime.

This is where it gets interesting. According to my client, all of them were tortured in the basement of the remand prison. The torture was sophisticated. Officers in masks and camouflage uniforms would enter their cells. They took them to a room in the basement, forced them to strip, attached electrodes to their fingertips, and cranked up a so-called dynamo. 

He just said, “I couldn’t take it. I broke down.”

9df5e576b811a2658cced24c766cda70Ilya Shakursky. Photo from personal archive and courtesy of Mediazona

Torture was also used against Pchelintsev, according to my client. They talk to each other in the remand prison. Sagynbayev has also been tortured. This is savagery, you realize? As if the year now were 1937.

There can be no question of any terrorist activity whatsoever. I would venture to say that during the preliminary investigation and trial we will try and prove it. The guys only played role-playing games. They were into airsoft and running round the woods. Yes, the guys gave each other nicknames. It was just easier for them to address each other that way. None of this is anything other than child’s play. Yes, there were nicknames, yes, there were assigned roles. Why not? We played war when we were kids. We also pretended to be medics, sappers, and snipers. Each had a role to play. There were role-playing games and nothing more.

The had their own group and their own music. They were involved in the antifascist movement and environmentalism. The authorities have been trying to accuse them of espousing anarchism, but the thing is that my client and the other comrades are antifascists. A person who opposes Nazism cannot preach Nazi ideas and chauvinism, engage in any kind of propaganda, and advocate overthrowing the social order.

Ilya Shakursky is a totally sensible, regular guy. I would say he is the salt of the Russian earth. He’s a normal, genuine, good Russian lad, raised in our society’s best traditions. He is not a criminal, that is for sure. But when he speaks, you can see the pain and resentment on his face. It happens. But he is hanging in there and hoping for a good defense. His mother was immediately fired from her job when the first articles about Pchelintsev and so on were published.

In order to be involved in a group, especially a terrorist group, a strict conspiracy, as my client has been accused of, there must be exclusively friendly relations, based on mutual respect, decency, and the knowledge that your comrade will not turn you over to the relevant authorities. But Shakursky and Pchelintsev had a falling-out over a young woman. They had fought with each other, and one even spit in the other’s eye.When there were conflicts like this, what kind of tightly knit team can we speak of?

In order to justify what I regard as groundless detentions, criminal charges, and remands in police custody, the men were accused of committing another crime, possession of weapons and explosives, Article 222 in the Criminal Code. Law enforcement planted two grenades and a pistol under the back seat of Shakursky’s car. If he and his friends were such conspirators, he would not have done something as amateurish as leaving two grenades in his car.  

Ilya Shakursky’s letter to his girlfriend 

Ilya Shakursky’s Letter to His Girlfriend
Today is exactly three months since I’ve been in the remand prison. If I were on the outside I would definitely go to the event commemorating two great heroes, Nastya Baburova and Stas Markelov.

We now find ourselves in circumstances in which we miss these people like never before. They fought injustice and helped people who were in very difficult situations in life. I sincerely hope that with the help of friends, loved ones, and concerned citizens we can get out of this pickle, which is one enormous misunderstanding and injustice.

Goodness will triumph!

January 19, 2018

All my acquaintances and friends should see this text.

“My Mouth Was Full of Blood, and One of the Torturers Stuck My Sock in It”
On February 6, 2018, attorney Oleg Zaitsev visited Dmitry Pchelintsev and interviewed him. Like most of the defense attorneys in the case, the investigator made Zaitsev sign a non-disclosure agreement concerning evidence in the preliminary investigation. Zaitsev notes that, under the circumstances, he has not violated investigatory privileges, but nevertheless he felt obliged to discuss all the violations of rights his client has suffered. What follows is a transcript of his interview with Pchelintsev.

I can say the following. On October 27, 2017, I left the house at around six o’clock in the morning to meet my grandmother. Near the end wall of the building, as I was nearing my car, four men in plain clothes suddenly approached me. I was so surprised I put my hands up in front of me. These men immediately beat me up and threw me on the ground. Their faces were not covered. I could identify them. Later, some of them escorted me from the remand prison to the FSB office. One of them looked to be thirty-five years old. He had light-brown hair, was wearing a gray jacket, and had a stout face and thickset build. They asked me my surname and struck various parts of my body. They reproached me for having putting up my dukes when I was being detained by the FSB. They confiscated the keys to my flat and used them to enter the place when my girlfriend was sleeping and search the place.

On October 28, 2017, after the court had remanded me in custody to the remand prison on Karakozov Street, I was in solidarity confinement cell 5-1. It was around four o’clock in the afternoon when a special forces policeman, the senior shift officer, and a major from the local office of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service entered my cell. They told me to exit the cell and go to the nearby punishment cell, which I did. Six or seven men immediately entered the cell. Half of them were in MultiCam camouflage uniforms, while the other half were in plain clothes. But all of them wore balaclavas. Despite the headgear concealing their faces, I could identify some of these people by their voices, physique, and clothes. Subsequently, I recognized some of them when I was being transported and escorted.

They told me what to do, and I followed their orders. I stripped to my shorts, sat down on a bench, stretched my arms backwards, and put my head down. At first, I thought this was some examination everyone sent to the remand prison had to undergo, so I voluntarily submitted to it. Then they taped my hands behind me, tied one of my legs to the foot of the bench with more tape, and stuck a wad of gauze in my mouth.

One of the men was wearing white rubber medical gloves. He took out a dynamo and set it on a table. He stripped two wires with a boxcutter and told me to stick out my big toe. Another man checked my pulse by touching my neck. He would subsequently do this more than once: he was monitoring my condition. He was surprised my pulse was normal and I was not agitated. That was because I did not realize at first what was happening.

Then the man in gloves cranked the dynamo. The current flowed to my knees. My calf muscles contracted, and I was seized by paralytic pain. I screamed. My back and head convulsed against the wall. They put a jacket between my naked body and the stone wall. This went on for about ten seconds, but when it was happening, it felt like an eternity to me.

One of them spoke to me.

“I don’t know the word ‘no.’ I don’t remember it. You should forget it. You got me?” he said literally.

“Yes,” I replied.

“That’s the right answer. Attaboy, Dimochka,” he said.

The gauze was stuck in my mouth again, and I was shocked four times, three seconds each time. […] Then I was tossed onto the floor. Since one of my legs was tied to the foot of the bench, when I fell, I seriously banged up my knees, which bled profusely. My shorts were pulled off. I was lying on my stomach. They tried to attach the wires to my genitals. I screamed and asked them to stop brutalizing me.

“You’re the leader,” they repeated.

“Yes, I’m the leader,” I said to make them stop torturing me.

“You planned terrorist attacks.”

“Yes, we planned terrorist attacks,” I would reply.

One of the men who measured my pulse put his balaclava on me so I would not see them. At one point, I lost consciousness for awhile. […] After they left, a Federal Penitentiary Service officer entered the room and told me to get dressed. He took me back to my solitary confinement cell.

The next day, October 20, 2018, I broke the tank on the toilet and used the shards to slash my arms at the wrists and elbows, and my neck in order to stop the torture. There was a lot of blood from the cuts on my clothes and the floor, and I collapsed onto the floor. They probably saw what I did via the CCTV camera installed in the cell. Prison staffers entered my cell and gave me first aid. Then the prison’s psychologist, Vera Vladimirovna, paid me a visit.

As regards the video cameras installed in my cell, as well as in the punishment cell and the corridor, I can say that when FSB officers show up, the cameras either are turned off or the recording is later erased, or something is done with the sensors. The FSB officers completely control the local Federal Penitentiary Service officers.

On November 8, 2017, at around five o’clock in the afternoon, the senior shift officer was getting ready to leave.

“Will everything be alright with me?” I asked him.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be right back,” he replied.

I had connected his departure with the fact that the last time he left, the day before, Saginbayev’s scream was audible on the floor. I realized he was being tortured. Later, our paths crossed, and he apologized for testifying against me.

A lieutenant from the Federal Penitentiary Service then came to my door.

“Am I safe here?” I wrote on a piece of paper that I showed to him.

“Yes,” he replied in big letters.

After that I showed him the enormous bruise on my chest and stomach to let him know I had been tortured. After awhile he opened the cell door, and four men wearing prisoner’s uniforms dashed into the cell. Civilian clothes were visible under these uniforms, all of which were baggy. They were all wearing what looked like Buff masks, black tube scarves.

They beat and kicked me in the stomach, kidneys, and head. I had bruises from their blows, but they hit me like in a gym, so they would leave fewer visible traces. They informed me they were from the “underworld committee”: because of me they had been put on lockdown. They gave me a week to solve my problems with the “pigs.” If I didn’t solve them, they would punk me. One of them filmed the whole thing on a smartphone. The Federal Penitentiary Service officer was outside in the hallway the entire time. The four FSB guys from the “underworld committee” left. Later, I also recognized some of them when I was being escorted and transported.

Then the senior shift officer, a captain, returned.

“How can I believe you when FSB guys just came into my cell and beat me up?” I asked him.

He looked puzzled.

Afterwards, FSB agents have visited me many times in the remand prison. They wear no masks and chat with me in the visiting room. When they talk with me, they exert psychological pressure on me. They threaten, blackmail, and manipulate me. 

During an interrogation, the investigator told me it was he who gave the agents permission to visit me. They took their orders from him and they had their own work.

After I tried to commit suicide by slashing my veins open, I was put under special watch in the remand prison. The cuffs are not removed from my hands even when I am signing interrogation reports.

I want to add that, when I was tortured with electrical shocks, my mouth was full of “crushed teeth” due to the fact I gritted my teeth since the pain was strong, and I tore the frenulum of my tongue. My mouth was full of blood, and at some point one of my torturers stuck my sock in my mouth. 

I was beaten so badly I had open wounds on my head.

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According to Republic, which has seen the case file, the FSB has named Pchelintsev the organizer of The Network terrorist group. He met his accomplices at concerts and allegedly founded the organization in 2014. According to the FSB, since 2015, every member of The Network has had his own role. Investigators believe Pchelintsev is The Network’s leader and ideologue. He has a deputy, nicknamed Redhead, who recruits new members.

The case files indicate that, in the summer of 2016, several cells joined The Network. The Penza cell was dubbed 5.11 (November Fifth) or Sunrise; the Moscow cell, MSK (Moscow Standard Time); and the two Petersburg cells, Field of Mars and Jordan. In addition, investigators believe The Network has a branch in Belarus, and that the cells were managed out of Penza. The FSB refers to all the detainees as anarchists.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to NV and PK for the heads-up

The Penza “Terrorism” Case

Airsoft: The Penza Terrorism Case
OVD Info
January 29, 2018

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Pretrial Detention Center No. 1 in Penza

On January 23, antifascist Viktor Filinkov disappeared in Petersburg. He was found two days later: the press service of the Petersburg court system related Filinkov had been remanded to police custody after confessing his involvement in a terrorist network whose members “profess[ed] the anarchist ideology.” Members of the Public Monitoring Commission were able to visit him in the pretrial detention center a day later. Filinkov told them he had been tortured.

On January 25, Petersburger Igor Shishkin disappeared after going out to walk the dog. The dog came home with security services officers, who conducted a search of Shiskin’s flat. Petersburg’s Dzerzhinsky District Court remanded Shishkin to police custody on the very same charges that had been imputed to Filinkov. Reporters were not admitted to the courtroom. The investigation and arrests in Petersburg were sanctioned by a municipal district court in Penza.

What is the connection between Penza, Petersburg, and antifascists?

On December 11, 2017, OVD Info published a long report on the manhunt mounted in the wake of the so-called Maltsev Revolution of November 5, 2017. In particular, the report mentioned a criminal investigation of an alleged terrorist network in Penza. We wrote at the time that five people had been charged in the case, and two of them were anarchists. This was not entirely true. Six people have been charged in the case, in fact, and at least some of them are antifascists. One of them, Arman Sagynbayev, lived in Petersburg before his arrest. According to Fontanka.ru, a transcript of Sagynbayev’s interrogation was included in the case file police investigators entered into evidence at Shishkin’s remand hearing.

On October 17 or October 18, 2017, the first suspect in the case, Yegor Zorin, was detained. Antifascist Ilya Shakursky and his friend Vasily Kuksov were detained shortly thereafter. Dmitry Pchelintsev was detained on October 27. Then, in early November, Andrei Chernov was detained in Penza, and Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg, shipped to Penza, and remanded to the pretrial detention center. According to police investigators, all six men had been members of the terrorist group 5.11 (i.e., November Fifth), who were planning for unrest to kick off in Russia. Five of the men are still imprisoned in the pretrial detention center, while a sixth man has been placed under house arrest. The accused men said they have been tortured while in police custody, enduring psychological coercion, electrical shocks, and being hung upside down, and that FSB officers planted weapons on them.

In airsoft, unlike paintball, there are no ratings, because responsibility for following the rules lies with the players themselves. A player who has been shot is obliged to admit it and immediately don a clearly visible red armband, which denotes he or she has been killed or wounded in the game, and proceed to the place designated as the cemetery or infirmary. Consequently, the point of the game is not winning, but playing fair and having fun. Arguments about whether someone has been killed or not are not kosher, and people who get into rows with each other are sidelined until the game is over.

Players use airsoft guns, which shoot plastic pellets 6 mm or 8 mm in diameter. The projectiles are powered either by compressed air or a gas mixture. Airsoft guns come in four basic models: spring-powered, battery-powered, gas-powered, and hybrid.

“There is no doubt terrorism is a bad thing,” says Vasily Kuksov’s defense attorney Alexander Fedulov. “But you punish the people who are really involved in terrorism, not everyone without exception. I also used to play paintball just to give my head a rest. I also have an airsoft gun at home. You don’t need a permit of any kind for it. I also used to shoot at targets in the park in the evenings. Well, Vasily would go play war. He fired two times from an airshot gun. During the hearing to extend Vasily’s remand to police custody, I gave a twenty-minute speech, but not a word of it ended up in the judge’s ruling. The police investigator read out the prosecution’s appeal: ‘They engaged in the illegal mastery of survival skills in the woods and rendering first aid.’ Where is it written in the Russian legal codes these skills are illegal? And the judge sat there and nodded. ‘They planned to blow up offices of the United Russia party and post offices.’ Rubbish.”

When Kuksov’s wife Yelena came home from work on October 19, she realized Vasily was not there, although he should have been home earlier. She called him on his mobile. The call went through, but her husband did not pick up the phone. A few hours later, Yelena heard someone trying to unlock the door of their flat. When she looked through the peephole, she saw around ten strangers, one of whom was holding her husband by the neck. Vasily could barely stand up. The men claimed they were from the FSB.

Kuksov’s trousers and jacket were torn and blood-stained, and his forehead and nose were badly injured, as if he had been smashed against the pavement. According to Yelena, the search was superficial. The FSB officers then asked Vasily whether he had a car. They took Kuksov and his wife to the car and ordered him to open the door. When he approached the car, Kuksov exclaimed the door lock was broken, to which one of the FSB officers crudely replied, “What do you mean by that?” The men searched the car, allegedly finding a pistol in it. Kuksov, who had been calm until then, screamed the weapon had been planted.

Ilya Shakursky was detained the same day. At first, he was suspected of “organizing” the group, but later the charge against him was reduced to “involvement.” Shakursky had organized lectures and park cleanups as part of environmental campaigns, and animal rights events. He was a fairly prominent figure in the local leftist scene.

A female acquaintance relates how, when they were at school, Shakursky got his classmates together and they went off together to clean up the Moksha River. No one had thought of doing such a thing before, but the idea occurred to Shakursky. A while later, members of the Mokshan city government and policemen came to the school. They organized a special class for the schoolchildren during which they instructed them Ilya was a Nazi, and his peers should stop associating with him. Shakursky and his antifascist friends always laughed when they retold the story.

At the December 14 hearing to extend the accused men’s term in police custody, Shakursky sat in the courtroom, not in the cage with Sagynbayev and Pchelintsev. Perhaps the police investigator did not want Shakursky to speak with the other defendants, although the hearing was for all three of them. Shakursky appeared very depressed, and he sat with his hood pulled over his head. His mother sat next to him, hugging him the whole time. She would ask her son something, and he would give one-word replies. The longest thing he said to his mother was about the New Year: “Mom, be sure to decorate the tree.”

According to Fedulov, Shakursky has confessed. Actually, everyone except Kuksov has confessed. Invoking Article 51 of the Russian Constitution [“No one shall be obliged to give evidence incriminating themselves, a husband or wife or close relatives the range of whom is determined by federal law.”], he refused to answer questions. Some time ago, Shakursky and Pchelintsev were friends. They worked out and played sports together, including airsoft. But they have not seen each other for several months.

Dmitry Pchelintsev writing to his wife:

It is mean to treat people like this. You are suspected and accused of something, but until it is proven, you are not guilty. That is why I am living in such horrible conditions: because it it doubles the punishment for something I did not really do.

Angelina Pchelintseva writing to her husband:

I could not care less about birthdays, New Year, and all the other celebrations, and all the difficulties that happen to me. You are the only thing that matters. If I could, I would be with you and go through all of it. But I know you would be against it, at least, and that it is impossible, at most. I will do everything I can to help you. Just don’t worry about me. Believe me, I will handle things.

Prior to his arrest, Pchelintsev worked as a shooting instructor. He learned his profession while doing his compulsory military service at the Penza Artillery Engineering Institute’s training center.

On October 27, Pchelintsev left home in the early morning to meet his grandmother. His wife, Angelina, was still asleep when her husband returned to the flat in handcuffs, escorted by FSB officers. According to Angelina, during the search, law enforcement officers turned the flat topsy-turvy, ultimately confiscating their personal telephones and other electronic devices, as well as their registered firearms: two hunting rifles and two trauma pistols. They went to look at Pchelintsev’s car. His car had broken down, and he had recently just barely driven it close to their building and parked it. As Pchelintsev recounts, the FSB officers got into the car to search it right when no one was looking at them, and they allegedly found two grenades under the back seat.

“A car without an alarm. You guys are champs,” Pchelintsev said, implying they had planted the grenades in his car.

The same day, Angelina got a call from the FSB. Her husband supposedly wanted her to be present during his interrogation. She was greeted by two secret service agents. According to Angelina, during their conversation, one of them, who was playing with an awl, threatened her husband would be sentenced to life in prison. The FSB officer said someone just needed to be shot in the foot so Pchelintsev stopped refusing to testify by invoking Article 51 of the Constitution.

“The stupidest thing is a terrorist organization that did not commit a single terrorist act and was not planning any,” says Angelina. “Meaning that in court no one can even say they were planning to do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such a day. One cannot say that because they were not planning to do anything at all. All they ever did was learn how to render first aid in field conditions and survive in the woods. Is that illegal?”

After several days in the pretrial detention center, Pchelintsev said he planned to confess his guilt. This shocked his relatives, who were certain of Dmitry’s innocence. To pay the services of an attorney, his relatives borrowed money from a bank: attorney Alexei Agafonov had asked them for an advance of 150,000 rubles [approx. 2,150 euros]. According to Dmitry’s family, despite the high fee, Agafonov was not particularly sensitive to the needs of his client. Aganofov regularly came to the pretrial detention center and showed Pchelintsev where to sign the papers the investigator had brought. As Pchelintsev recounts in his letters, the lawyer would agree to meet with Dmitry on Monday, before the investigator’s arrival, but then show up the same time as the FSB officer, on Tuesday. When Pchelintsev expressed his bewilderment, Agafonov would reply, “Well, I came.”

Dmitry Pchelintsev writing to his wife:

Unfair. Dishonest. Wrong. Pointless. All the roads in my life led only in one direction. You, Grandma, my sister, my parents, and lots of people know I’m a good person. But why does everything happening to me not care a whit about this? Not care about a whole, safe person with his joys and troubles, his thoughts and experiences? What will it bring to me and my relatives except trauma? It doesn’t even make me angry, but it upsets me like nothing. It is not an accident, not a coincidence. It is just someone’s unjust will. An utterly senseless Saturday. I took a shower and shaved off my beard, at least. I don’t want to look like the person they take me for. How am I wrong, Angelina?

Angelina Pchelintseva writing to her husband:

I believe you, as do your entire family and your friends. Everyone is very worried about you and understands what is happening. It is obvious to us. The first month, I tried to understand what a person could have done to be treated this way, but then I gave up looking for meaning. It’s a pitiless steamroller that could not care less about the people it crushes.

Agafonov once met with Angelina and asked her whether husband suffered from “fantasies.” Angelina replied that the situation was probably not very conducive to fantasies. It transpired Dmitry had been telling the lawyer that FSB officers were coming to see him every day and taking him to different cells for interrogations. According to the lawyer, this simply could not be happening in the pretrial detention center, where it was prohibited.

At first, Angelina received no letters from her husband, although later he told her he had written to her practically every day. Later, she found a thick envelope in the mailbox: it was filled to overflowing with all her husband’s letters for a month. It was then she discovered Dmitry had been complaining about Agafonov from the outset. According to Angelina, the fact his own defense attorney did not believe him literally was “finishing off” her husband. Moreover, he was in solitary confinement, isolated as much as possible from everyone, and the lawyer was the only person in whom he could confide.

“Given the relationship between law enforcement and the courts in our city, they will be convicted with a minimal amount of evidence,” argues Alexander Fedulov. “Because this is the first such case in the region, and everyone is interested in it. It is this stick to whack everyone with. ‘What’s with you? Fancy that! They caught some terrorists.’ Who were running round the forest with wooden sticks and pine boughs. Vasily said to me, ‘You know, Alexander, what I was afraid of? That someone would really see me running in the woods playing war. I would have sunk through the ground in shame.’ Changing the constitutional order where? In the village of Shalusheyka? What, they could change the system there with their airsoft guns?”

Once, Angelina received a letter from Dmitry written on a piece of paper torn unevenly from a notebook. It began with a passage about how her husband was reading 800-page books and he loved his wife. But these lines had been crossed out, and at the bottom of the page Dmitry had written in a quite shaky hand, “Don’t write to me, don’t bring me anything, go away as far as possible, don’t ask about me, I’m a goner.” In the same letter, Pchelintsev informed Angelina he was being injected with tranquilizers and given tablets, and it was “worse than death.”

Angelina thought Dmitry was not himself and wrote back to him.

“I took a piece of paper and, my hands shaking, I wrote that everything would be fine. I realized that, although it seemed to us that not so much time had passed, it felt like a much longer time to him. Then his father told Agafonov to take from the advance we had already paid what he considered necessary and give us back the rest. We found a new lawyer.”

After Pchelintsev was formally charged on December 1, he and Angelina were able to see each other and chat. Dmitry said he had asked for a meeting with his wife “to say goodbye.” According to Pchelintsev, he had been tortured every day: he had been hung upside down, and various parts of his body had been hooked up to an electrical current. He was afraid they would kill him and make it look like a suicide. He said his body might not be able to withstand the torture.

“I’m afraid my heart will give out, and I won’t make it out of here alive. This is hell,” he said.

Pchelintsev asked his wife to tell the investigator he had said goodbye to her. Then, perhaps, they would not come and torture him that day.

According to Angelina, she made up her mind beforehand she would not cry in front of the FSB officers, so she kept her cool and tried to cheer up her husband. She tried to persuade him not to despair and wait for the new lawyer to come up with something.

When her husband was led away, the investigator asked Angelina what they had discussed.

“Stop killing Dima,” Angelina replied.

Dmitry Pchelintsev writing to his wife:

I wouldn’t refuse to colonize Mars. Something farther away would be better, so these earthlings could not reach us quickly. I probably don’t need anything in the next care package: no Cheetohs, no Snickers. So don’t come here for the time being. I’ll write if I need anything. Basically, I’m hanging in there. I’m thinking about how we’ll start life over.

Angelina Pchelintseva writing to her husband:

I’ll make arrangements with Elon Musk. We will fly away and never return to this planet. We’ll wait until the ship is built, okay?

Arman Sagynbayev, who was jailed after most of the other accused, has serious health problems and needs constant medical career. During the police custody extension hearing in mid December, he said he constantly felt sick and vomited.

Yegor Zorin and Ilya Shakursky were classmates at Penza State University, where they had studied to be physics teachers. Zorin was the first to be detained, and he was the first to testify. According to relatives of the other accused men, his testimony was “utterly savage.” Zorin rang in the new year in partial freedom: he was released from the pretrial detention center and placed under house arrest.

According to investigators, the so-called November Fifth Group was allegedly established with the aim of planning a revolutionary coup and overthrowing the government using terrorist methods. Other similar groups also allegedly operated in Russia, and they were all part of a single organization with the same goals and methods. Investigators argue the members of November Fifth used conspiratorial methods, and they had a clear division of roles. The group allegedly had a sapper and a signalman, for example. Given this context, according to investigators, the airsoft games were a means of preparing for terrorist attacks.

And yet, currently there is no visible connnection, procedural or actual, between the criminal cases launched in the aftermath of the so-called Maltsev Revolution and the case of the Penza antifascists, except the numbers five and eleven in the name of their so-called terrorist community.

Dmitry Pchelintsev writing to his wife:

The lights are on twenty-four hours a day. If I’m not released because I’m innocent, I’ll be released when I develop Alzheimer’s. The humidity is such I’ll be released when I contract tuberculosis, and it’s so filthy I’ll be released when I contract hepatitis. And I smoke so much I’ll be released when I get cancer. And you all send me too much chocolate, so I’ll be released when I get diabetes. I’m kidding, of course. No one will ever release me.

Translated by the Russian Reader