In Moscow, Farmers Talk about Latest Arrests, Beatings
Anna Bessarabova Novaya Gazeta
September 14, 2016
Nina Karpenko, a farmer from Krasnodar Territory’s Kanevskaya District, told our correspondent that late last week, during the maize harvest, seven men attacked her workers and the assistants of a court-appointed manager. A combine driver, who had earlier spent three days in jail for involvement in the thwarted tractor convoy to Moscow, has now been hospitalized. One of the men attempted to record the attack on a video camera, but he was thrown to the ground, his equipment was broken, and the recording was erased, said Karpenko.
On September 13, Kuban law enforcement officers blocked the car of Alexei Volchenko, leader of the farmers’ protest movement, as he drove to Ryazan to take part in the All-Russian Congress of Farmers and Cargo Haulers.
“They said they wouldn’t let him leave the region, held him up for a while, but then stopped pestering him. But Lyubov Nikishova, head of a farm in the Novokubansk District, has been put under house arrest. She has been charged under Article 119 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (threat of murder),” explains another outraged farmer, Nikolai Maslov. “You saw her during the tractor convoy: she’s small and thin. She told the deputy presidential envoy in the Southern Federal District about the machinations of Rosreestr (Russian Federal Registration Service) and the attack on her farm. This summer, two palookas entered her house and beat her up, but when she grabbed an ax to defend herself, they photographed it and went to the police. No, she didn’t hurt anyone. It was a set-up.”
Nikiskova herself claims that immediately after the incident she filed a complaint with the Territorial Directorate of the Interior Ministry.
“It was sixteen pages long, and the medical examiner’s report was appended (there were visible traces of the assault on my body), as well as documents about the seizure of land shares and illegal fiddling with the land. 172 pages in all. It is still lying around somewhere. Unlike those marauders, they will put me away, despite the fact I am taking care of my sick mother. She has cancer, but that doesn’t bother anyone. As a criminal, they won’t let me out of the house. They’re afraid I won’t settle down and will go higher up the chain of command.”
According to Elena Dryukova, a farmer from the Kavkazsky District, Krasnodar Territory Governor Veniamin Kondratiev said recently that Kuban’s peasants had no problems, and that the tractor convoy, an attempt by the farmers to make themselves heard to the President of Russia, was an election campaign show.
“They Have Really Gone After Us” After returning to Krasnodar Territory, participants of tractor convoy feel the heat from the very people against whom they complained
Anna Bessarabova Novaya Gazeta
August 28, 2016
The farmers were threatened during the convoy. We will stage a second Novocherkassk massacre for you and dice you like cattle in a slaughterhouse, they were told by security officers, who after the protest was dispersed have been zealously carrying out checks of their homes and farms.
Around thirty FSB officers raided Nikolai Borodin’s farm in the village of Kazanskaya, which they turned upside down. The tax inspectorate has been looking into property owned by the relatives of protest leader Alexei Volchenko. Other men have been interrogated by the prosecutor’s office. Nina Karpenko escorted her driver Seryozha Gerasimenko, a young fellow with three small children, to the detention center. He has been jailed for three days. The other men were also issued misdemeanor charge sheets: the authorities even went to the trouble of delivering the documents to their homes. The hearings took place on the weekend (Saturday) in the Kavkazsky District. Sergei Gorbachev was jailed for five days, Slava Petrovsky, for four days, Andrei Penzin and Semyon Smykov, for three. The rest of the protesters are waiting their turn.
“Nearly everyone in the villages has been paid visits by prosecutors and police,” farmer Ludmila Kushnaryova told Novaya Gazeta. No one knows what they are looking for. Or what the charges will be, either. The pressure has not stopped.”
“I cannot believe this is happening to us, in our country. We had no idea it would be so frightening,” said Nina Karpenko. “They have really gone after us. The deputy chief of the district traffic police escorted my tractor drivers and me to the hearings. He followed us for 250 kilometers. Whatever for? There were two people working in the courthouse on Saturday: the judge and the chairman. Didn’t they have anything else to do?”
Nikolai Maslov and Oleg Petrov, two convoy participants jailed for ten days, have been transferred to Novocherkassk.
“Dad called early this morning. He said everything was alright. But who knows. Maybe he just didn’t want to scare us?” said Igor Maslov, worried about his father. “We still haven’t found lawyers for them. How much do you think they’ll gouge us?”
Alexei Volchenko’s colleagues and friends have been looking for him. He has not been answering calls to any of his phones. He is not to be found in his home village. He has disappeared. The last thing the farmers heard was that Volchenko had been fined in Rostov Region. He made it back to Kuban, where he was detained again and sentenced to ten days in jail in Ust-Labinsk. The authorities are now, allegedly, preparing to charge him with extremism.
The Russian government, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Russian Investigative Committee have been pretending nothing is happening in Kuban. The official TV channels have been airing election campaign spots about the ruling party’s ability to listen to people, but they have not aired any stories about the events in Krasnodar Territory. They have maintained their silence for a week.
Alexander Popkov, a lawyer with the Agora International Human Rights Group, Boris Titov, federal commissioner for the rights of entrepreneurs, former Federation Council member Ivan Starikov, and Russian Federal Public Chamber chair Georgy Fyodorov have promised to help the participants of the tractor convoy.
“Obviously, the farmers have committed no offenses, and the wild imitation of law enforcement involving riot police and arrests for a ‘rally’ in a cafe are aimed at suppressing a peaceful and reasonable protest campaign,” said lawyer Alexander Popkov. “The first thing we are going to do is file appeals, and then we are going to see whether there is any point in beating our heads against the courts in Russia or whether we should immediately file a class-action complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.”
“I have been in contact with the farmers, their wives, and their children. They are drafting an appeal, and next week we plan to hold a big press conference in Moscow,” Ivan Starikov informed Novaya Gazeta. “Their problem needs to be solved systemically. People’s land shares are being confiscated, and there are around 300,000 victims of this practice nationwide.”
According to Valentin Pyshkin, attorney for convoy participants Nikolai Maslov, Oleg Petrov, and Sergei Vladimirov, the farmers have filed an appealed against the court decisions that sentenced them to ten days in jail.
“But we won’t get an answer earlier than Monday,” the lawyer explained. “On August 26, I was not admitted to the Novocherkassk detention center and allowed to talk with my clients, because, you see, according to their internal regulations, prisoners are entitled to representation by a lawyer only from two to four in the afternoon. It is an odd rule. But at four o’clock I had a court hearing in Aksai. Rustam Mallamagomedov from the Association of Russian Carriers (OPR) was on trial. On August 24, he had gone to the police station on his own to find out what had happened to the detainees, and the police didn’t let him back out of the station.”
Truckers Ready to Fight for Farmers
Andrei Bazhutin, chair, Russian Association of Carriers (OPR):
“We arrived from Petersburg to Moscow, where we were getting ready for a car convoy through Siberia. We learned about the arrest of the tractor convoy on the morning of August 23 and changed our plans. We went to support the tractor drivers. We were stopped by police for eight hours on the Moscow Ring Road, and eight hours in Voronezh Region. Along the way, we were written up for violating Article 20.2 of the Misdemeanors Code [“Violation of the established rules for organizing or holding an assembly, rally, demonstration, march or picket” — Novaya Gazeta], but they did not stop us from traveling further.
“By the time we got to Rostov, two of our activists [who had been with the tractor convoy from the beginning — Novaya Gazeta] had been sentenced to ten days in jail, while another two had been fined 10,000 rubles. Now we are here in Rostov: we have four big rigs and some cars. We are working with the lawyers and human rights activists and trying to help the guys out. We think it is necessary to gather journalists and advance on Krasnodar Territory to draw attention to these court hearings. Center ‘E’ [the Interior Ministry’s Center for Extremism Prevention — TRR] has intimidated everyone here.