Last Bolotnaya Square Defendant Flees Russia RBC
November 9, 2017
In an interview with Current Time TV, Bolotnaya Square defendant Dmitry Buchenkov said he has left Russia for a European Union country.
He said he has applied for political asylum in this country. Buchenkov failed to say exactly where he had gone.
“I’m calm about the fact I won’t be returning to the motherland soon. I won’t say leaving was easy. Psychologically, of course, I didn’t want to leave,” he noted. “The regime and the entire justice system forced me to take this step.”
He added he was currently not in touch with relatives.
When asked how he managed to cross the Russian border, the Bolotnaya Square defendant said he was “neither the first nor the last person to do it in such circumstances.”
According to Buchenkov, the Bolotnaya Square Case was “political” from the onset. He said that, after he was put under house arrest, “for six months [he] observed how the case was unfolding personally for [him]” and was convinced a guilty verdict lay in store. He said he was transferred from a pretrial detention facility to house arrest during a “brief thaw.” He was not outfitted with an electronic tracking bracelet, because the Naro-Fominsky division of the Federal Penitentiary Service had run out of them.
“I think the police investigators have long known they nabbed the wrong guy. But it was too late for them to back out,” said Buchenkov.
On the morning of November 9, Buchenkov did not show up to the Zamoskvorechye District Court for the latest hearing in his case, in which he stood accused of involvement in rioting. The Federal Penitentiary Service has accused him of fleeing, writes Current Time. Federal Penitentiary Service spokeswoman Natalya Bakharina said the defendant had “absconded,” since he was not to be found in his flat. She noted another family had been living there since November 5, and they were given keys to the flat in late October.
Buchenkov’s attorney Ilya Novikov wrote that he would refrain from commenting for the time being. In turn, Buchenkov’s other attorney, Svetlana Sidorkina, told RBC she did not know about her client’s departure from Russia.
“I don’t know about it. I do know he did not come to today’s hearing, during which the matter of whether to continue the forensic investigation or not was to have been ajudicated,” said Sidorkina.
According to her, the court decided to postpone the hearing since Buchenkov was not in attendance.
In April, at a hearing in the Zamoskvorechye District Court, Buchenkov declared himself not guilty of involvement in rioting and fighting with policemen. He was accused of violence against six Interiory Ministry officers and causing damage in the amount of 73,800 rubles to a commercial firm that set up porta-potties near Bolotnaya Square in Moscow.
Buchenkov, a 38-year-old anarchist and history teacher, was detained and remanded to custody in December 2015, thus becoming the thirty-fourth defendant in the Bolotnaya Square Case. Later, the Moscow City Court released him from custody and put him under house arrest. Buchenkov’s lawyers insisted the activist was not in Moscow during the events of May 6, 2012. The claim was corroborated by Buchenkov’s relatives in Nizhny Novgorod.
According to the defense, the police investigators who, allegedly, identified Buchenkov on video recordings of the May 6, 2012, protest rally mixed him up with another person. The defense lawyers sought to enter higher resolution photographs into evidence, but police investigators refused to take them into account.
A Managed Thaw: What the Reversal of Verdicts in the Dadin and Chudnovets Cases Means
Pavel Chikov RBC
March 6, 2017
The Kurgan Regional Court quashed the verdict against Yevgenia Chudnovets and released her from a penal colony, where she had served four months of a five-month sentence for, allegedly, disseminating child pornography on the web. The Russian Deputy Prosecutor General almost literally copied the arguments made in the appeal by Chudnovets’s attoreny. Previously, during its consideration of the appeal, the selfsame Kurgan Regional Court had refused to release Chudnovets at the request of both the prosecutor and defense attorneys. The same court then denied the appeal against the verdict. The verdict was reversed only after the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Supreme Court intervened. Now Chudnovets will have the right to compensation for the harm caused her by illegal criminal prosecution.
The Chudnovets story unfolded at the same time as the even more high-profile case of Ildar Dadin. Dadin’s case was the first criminal case filed under the newly minted law on violating the law on public rallies, the first guilty verdict handed down under the new law. Dadin was taken into custody in the courtroom. Then came the shocking sentence of three years in a medium-security penal colony for a first offense, a moderately severe offense whose underlying cause was purely political, in a case tried in Moscow under the glare of all the media. During the appeals phase, the verdict was altered slightly, and the sentence reduced a bit. But then there was the drama of Dadin’s transfer to the penal colony, his arrival in a Karelian prison camp infamous for its severe conditions, the immense scandal that erupted after he claimed he had been tortured, and the harsh reaction to these revelations by the Federal Penitentiary Service. Then Dadin was secretly transferred to a remote penal colony in Altai over a demonstratively long period, after which the Constitutional Court, in open session, ruled that the relevant article of the Criminal Code had been wrongly interpreted in Dadin’s case. After this, the Supreme Court jumped quickly into the fray, granting a writ of certiorari, aquitting Dadin, and freeing him from the penal colony.
Politically Motivated Releases
The judicial system acted with phenomenal alacrity in both the Chudnovets and Dadin cases. Chudnovets’s criminal case was literally flown round trip from Kurgan to Moscow and back. Given current realities, this could only have been possible under the so-called manual mode of governance and with authorization at the highest level.
It calls to mind the instantaneous release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky from the same Karelian prison colony in December 2013, and the same sudden early releases, under amnesty, of the Greenpeace activists, convicted in the Arctic Sunrise case, and Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, two months before their sentences were up. Of course, the record holder in this sense is the Kirov Regional Court, which in the summer of 2013 quashed Alexei Navalny’s five-year sentence in the Kirovles case.
In all these previous cases, the causes of the system’s sudden softness were self-explanatory. The thaw of December 2013 was due to the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Navalny’s pardon was clearly connected with his being able to run in the Moscow mayoral elections. It was hard not to doubt the narrowly political, tactical objectives of these targeted releases.
The latest indulgences—the sudden releases of Dadin and Chudnovets, the transfer of the last defendant in the Bolotnaya Square case, Dmitry Buchenkov, and the Yekaterinburg Pokémon catcher, Ruslan Sokolovsky, from custody in pretrial detention facilities to house arrest—have been greeted with a roar of approval from the progressive public. The liberal genie would have burst out of its bottle altogether were it not for the eleven-hour police search of the home of human rights activist Zoya Svetova in connection with the ancient Yukos case. The search was as sudden and hard to explain as the releases described above.
Federal officials have not tried to dampen the talk of a thaw. On the contrary, they have encouraged it. The president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, Supreme Court Chief Justice Vyacheslav Lebedev, federal human right’s ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova, and Justice Ministry spokespeople have publicly supported decriminalizing the Criminal Code article under which Dadin was convicted.
Putting the Brakes On
Even earlier we had noticed that the number of politically motivated criminal cases had stopped increasing. Twelve years of defending grassroots activists, human rights activists, journalists, and heads of local NGOs mean we are sensitive to changes in which way the wind blows. It would be wrong to speak of an improvement. Rather, the brakes have been put on the slide into deterioration. There are still dozens of political prisoners doing time in Russia’s prisons.
Political scientists have spoken of an unloosening of the screws; lawyers, of necessary legal reforms. One way or another, it is clear these events did not began in February, and the changes have been implemented from the top, quite deliberately, but without any explanation.
Given the tactial objectives pursued in previous reversals of high-profile cases, there are serious grounds for assuming recent events are due to next year’s main political event, the presidential election.
Preparations for the election began last spring with a shakeup of the law enforcement agencies. The superfluous Migration Service and Gosnarkokontrol (Federal Agency for Drug Trafficking Control) were eliminated. A new political special forces unit, the National Guard of Russia, was established. The influence of the Investigative Committee has been sharply reduced, although from 2012 to 2016 it had been the Investigative Committee that served as the main vehicle for domestic political crackdowns.
The old framework has gradually ceased functioning. The effectiveness of show trials has waned. Leading opposition figures have grown accustomed to working with the permanent risk of criminal prosecution hanging over them. Some have left the country and thus are beyond the reach of the security forces, but they have exited politics as well. Protest rallies have not attracted big numbers for a long time, and NGOs have been demoralized by the law on “foreign agents.” The stats for cases of “extremism” are mainly padded by the online statements of web users in the provinces and “non-traditional” Muslims.
Under a Watchful Eye
The foreground is no longer occcupied by the need to intimidate and crack down on dissidents, but by information gathering and protest prevention, and that is the competence of different government bodies altogether. It is the FSB that has recently concentrated the main function of monitoring domestic politics in its hands. FSB officers have been arresting governors, generals, and heavyweight businesmen, destroying the reputations of companies and government agencies, and defending the internet from the west’s baleful influence.
Nothing adds to the work of the FSB’s units like a managed thaw. Bold public statements, new leaders and pressure groups, and planned and envisioned protest rallies immediately attract attention. The upcoming presidential election, the rollout of the campaign, and good news from the courts as spring arrives cannot help but awaken dormant civic protest. Its gradual rise will continue until its apogee in March of next year [when the presidential election is scheduled]. Information will be collected, analyzed, and sent to the relevant decision makers by the summer of 2018. And by the autumn of 2018 lawyers will again have more work than they can handle. This scenario needs to be taken into account.
There is, of course, another option: the Kremlin’s liberal signals may be addressed not to the domestic audience, but to a foreign one. Foreign policy, which has remained the president’s focus, is in a state of turbulence. Vladimir Putin is viewed by the western liberal public as a dark force threatening the world order. Sudden moves toward democratization can only add to the uncertainty and, consequently, the Kremlin can gain a tactical advantage in the game of diplomacy. Considering the fact there are lots of politicians in the world who are happy to be fooled, the ranks of the Russian president’s supporters will only swell.
Pavel Chikov is head of Agora, an international human rights group. Thanks to Comrade AK for the heads-up. Translation and photograph by the Russian Reader
Bolotnaya Square Defendant Alexei Gaskarov Released from Prison
Ekaterina Fomina Novaya Gazeta
October 27, 2016
Alexei Gaskarov was released from Penal Colony No. 6 in Novomoskovsk today. He had served his entire sentence: three and a half years in a medium-security penal colony. Gaskarov was twice denied parole.
“I don’t think it was possible to change anything under these circumstances. I said at the trial that if our way runs through prison, we have to go. Personally, everyone who went to prison lost a lot. But if you compare that with the public interest, someone had to go through it, someone had to have this piece of ‘good’ luck,” Gaskarov said after his release.
“The risks are clear, but I don’t think there is an alternative. I don’t think that the path, the values that were professed on Bolotnaya Square can be put on the back burner. Yes, these are complicated times, and we have to wait them out somewhere, but I don’t think you can impact this vector by intimidating people. When I was in prison I read about a hundred history books. Everyone had to go through this. We are just at this stage,” he added.
“The point of my attitude is this: don’t be afraid, guys. Our little undertakings will merge into a river that will lead us to the right path. Prison is not the end of life,” Gaskarov concluded.
Gaskarov was accused of involvement in “rioting” and being violent towards police officers. However, Gaskarov claimed he had himself been assaulted on Bolotnaya Square. During the mass arrests, an unidentified policeman pushed him to the ground, beat him with his truncheon, and kicked him.
In October, citing a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the arrest and imprisonment of Bolotnaya Square defendants Ilya Gushchin and Artyom Savyolov had been illegal. Earlier, in June, after a complaint had been filed with the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court declared the arrest of Leonid Kovyazin, a defendant in the same case, illegal.
Anarchist Dmitry Buchenkov awaits trial in a pre-trial detention facility. According to police investigators, he was violient toward lawful authorities and “tried to destroy a portapotty.” Buchenkov himself claims he was not in Moscow during the so-called March of the Millions.
Maxim Panfilov is also awaiting trial. He was charged four years after the opposition rally on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow—in April 2016. He is the thirty-sixth defendant in the Bolotnaya Square case. In October, Panfilov was declared mentally incompetent.
The other day, a friend of mine who works with kids complained to me that kids in Russia had no real heroes. Like kids most everywhere, they are in love with the wretched, hyper-commercialized Spider-Man and Harry Potter, not with homegrown heroes.
It might be a bit of a reach (because how do you explain this stuff to kids?), but from where I sit there are lots of heroes in modern Russia. Prominent among them are all the people convicted as part of the shameful sham known as the Bolotnaya Square case.
One of those heroes is Sergei Krivov, recently released after serving over four years in prison for the nonexistent crimes of being beaten over the head with a truncheon by a policeman and attempting nonviolently to prevent policemen from doing the same to other peaceable demonstrators in Moscow on May 6, 2012.
In the country I would like to live in, I would go outside and see dozens of people wearing t-shirts with Krivov’s totally ordinary but heroic face emblazoned on them. Krivov’s birthday would be a minor holiday, celebrated with a rousing march down every town’s main thoroughfare, followed by hearty little picnics, to celebrate the fact that Krivov undertook two hunger strikes, nearly dying in the attempt, in order to defend the freedom of speech and assembly in Russia.
Needless to say, Krivov’s would be a household name. Kids would read comics about the adventures of Sergei Krivov, where the hard facts would be mixed with a light helping of fantasy to make them more palatable to childish fancy.
If you have never heard of Sergei Krivov or don’t understand why he is a modern-day Russian hero, you need to read this interview with him. TRR
“It Is Not Recommended to Live in This Country”
Natalia Dzhanpoladova and Nikita Tatarsky Radio Svoboda
July 26, 2016
Yet another person convicted in the so-called Bolotnaya Square case, Sergei Krivov, a 54-year-old with a Ph.D. in physics and mathematics, has been released. Krivov was released from a prison colony in Bryansk Region, having served his sentence in full. In 2014, a court found him guilty of involvement in rioting and using force against police officers during a May 6, 2012, opposition rally on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow.
Krivov received one of the harshest sentences in the case, three years and nine months imprisonment.
His allies explained this was because the authorities avenged Krivov for the uncompromising stand he had taken throughout the trial. Krivov went on two lengthy hunger strikes. The first, to protest his arrest, lasted over forty days. During the second, he did not eat for sixty days in order to secure transcripts of the court proceedings. Krivov suffered two heart attacks during the second hunger strike.
Krivov was arrested as part of the Bolotnaya Square investigation several months after the events, in October 2012. According to police investigators, on May 6, 2012, when the crowd broke through police lines, Krivov seized a rubber truncheon from a policeman and used it to deliver several blows to police officers. Krivov himself repeatedly claimed he had been beaten by police on Bolotnaya Square, but the Investigative Committee refused to investigate his complaint.
Krivov served his sentence in two penal colonies in Bryansk Region, first at a correctional facility in Starodub. He was then transferred to a penal colony in Klintsy. The wardens put him in solitary, because they felt his life was in danger.
In an interview with Radio Svoboda, Kriov admitted his sentence might have been shorter had he “kept [his] mouth shut.” He spoke in detail about the reasons for his uncompromising stance, what happened on Bolotnaya Square, and how much Russia has changed since 2012.
The changes have been quite huge, and for the worse, although I still cannot say I have figured out what is what. I had been gradually following these changes by watching TV and reading Novaya Gazeta newspaper and New Times magazine, so they did not happen all at once for me and were not news. Nevertheless, I am perfectly aware the country as it was in 2012 and the country as it is in 2016 are two fundamentally different countries. There are far fewer freedoms, naturally, and It is nearly impossible to do anything within this framework.
Do you feel you have changed over these years?
In fact, after I got out, changed my clothes, and bathed, I had the feeling everything was as it had been. Although I did have big problems during the middle of my sentence: lots of things happened. But when it is all behind me, when I have come back to the “free” world, I cannot say I have changed. I think I am the same person I was.
Have you managed to meet with friends and relatives since your release? What are your impressions from these meetings and conversations?
Of course I have managed to meet with them. Let me put it is this way: almost no has chewed me out, except my wife, of course. In general, the feelings have been positive, because everyone has been friendly. They all congratulate me and wish me the best.
Naturally, anyone would find this pleasant. I want to say thank you to all the people who wrote me letters, held pickets, and collected money through the Internet, and to the leaders of the PARNAS Party, who paid my lawyers and sent me care packages: Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Vladimir Ryzhkov, and Ilya Yashin. In addition, Lyudmila Alexeyeva was involved. Despite her age, she attended the court hearings. A big thank-you to everyone for their support.
Last Wednesday, you also met with activists in Sokolniki Park. You mentioned you had no hope of being paroled. [In March, the court turned down Krivov’s parole application — Radio Svoboda.] Did you pin any hopes on the court in this case, that is, the trial court that heard the Bolotnaya Square case?
No. We had no chance from the get-go. What would have been the point of cooking all this up and then releasing us later? Obviously, the authorities conceived a quite definite plan, and they have been carrying it out. From my point of view, there was no reason to change anything, and nothing changed. I had been detained on misdemeanor charges several times., and I knew perfectly well how such matters were decided. There were no doubts in this case.
And yet your tactics in court were quite different from those of the other fellows. You were one of the most active participants in all the court proceedings.
Yes, I was, because I felt it could not make things any worse. That is how it happened, if you look at the sentences handed down. Naturally, my sentence would have been shorter if I had kept my mouth shut. But here, you know, six months more, six months less do not matter. Naturally, we had to defend ourselves to the hilt. After all, we did not take to the streets only to snitch on the protest movement, to put it crudely. We did not do what we did to make the court rule in our favor. It was a continuation of the protest. Pavlensky said it: court is a continuation of my protest action. For me, it was simply a continuation of the opposition’s fight. It can happen anywhere: in court, outside of court, on Bolotnaya, away from Bolotnaya. It is like a way of thinking. It is as Solzhenitsyn put it: “Not living a lie.” Every single moment you do what you think is right. The situation changes, but the individual does not change in the situation.
Were your fairly long, serious hunger strikes also a continuation of this same story?
What prompted you to do it? Do you remember what you felt when you decided there were no other methods left?
During both hunger strikes, I was perfectly aware my demands would not be met. I got carried away with the second hunger strike: let’s put it that way. But retreating? Chapayev never retreated. So the only way was forward. The main objective was to attract attention, to shake up the situation somehow. Because getting results, especially in the first case, when it was a matter of custody measures, was totally unrealistic. All I was charged with (not what I did, but what I was charged with) was causing the bruise on the back of the hand of a policeman who in fact assaulted me. The policeman’s name is Alexander Ivanovich Algunov. He completely flagrantly hit me over the head with a truncheon. I had three lumps on my head, one of which clearly visible on my temple. It was both videotaped and photographed. And there were eyewitnesses who saw everything.
But when it was matter of conducting a judicial review or investigatining this conflict… The bruise I allegedly caused the policeman was investigated by the Investigative Committee of Russia, meaning the country’s top investigative body. But what he did to me (and they believe that these actions took place at the same time) has been investigated by another committee. When I filed a written complaint against the officer, the case was not just dropped down to the municipal level, but to a neighborhood precinct, where an investigator wrote there was nothing to investigate. The bruise on the policeman’s hand was investigated by the Investigative Committee of Russia, while beating a person with a truncheon was investigated by a completely different division, the lowest on the totem pole, and it said there was nothing to investigate. I am simply a victim in the Bolotnaya Square case. But I was really visible in the video footage. I was in a confrontation with a policeman who was assaulting me. I grabbed the truncheon with which he was beating me, because at one point I nearly fainted. He hit me so hard on the head it felt like I had been hit with a sharp nail, not a truncheon.
You were not the only victim on Bolotnaya Square, and yet the authorities investigated these incidents so unfairly. How do you explain this?
In the trial documents, for example, there is this bit of evidence. There were two ambulance crews on duty on Bolotnaya Square. They kept a record of injuries in which they wrote down the names and addresses of everyone whom they examined. As far as I remember, there are forty-eight civilians in this list, who suffered something like seventeen concussions and thirteen head injuries and injuries to the soft part of the skull, meaning they had mainly been beaten on the head. There were three policemen who sought medical attention on the square. Of the forty-eight civilians, only two people were deemed injured parties by the authorities. One was hit in the back with a stone, while the other person’s trousers caught fire, and he suffered burns on his leg from a Molotov cocktail. We do not know who threw the bottle or the stone. The authorities assume it was the protesters, so only two individuals were deemed victims. The rest were not recognized as victims, because these forty-six individuals were victims of the police. Who the heck is going to investigate injuries caused by the police? That is not how things are done.
The public commission who investigated the events on Bolotnaya Square came to the conclusion it was the Moscow authorities and police who provoked the confrontation? Do you share this point of view?
I also came to the same conclusion. Only I think it was not the Moscow authorities, but the federal authorities [who provoked the conflict]. Moscow, in this case, did not have the authority to decide these questions. There were provocateurs there. I saw a man in a mask step forward, chunks of asphalt in both hands. At the time, I wondered what was so black, because I was looking into the light. At first, I thought he was throwing black earth, because the asphalt everywhere was so clean. This guy stepped forward and tossed one stone. Then he shifted a second stone [to his throwing hand] and threw the second stone. A policeman was standing there. I was standing there looking back and forth between the two. Either I should have said, “Why are you tossing stones?” or I should have gone up to the policeman and said, “Why are you just standing and watching?” The policeman saw what he did, and then turned around and walked away. The police were completely uninterested in the people who were actually throwing stones, just as the people throwing the stones knew the police were not going to do anything to them.
Yes, and the most interesting thing is the authorities alleged the protesters shouted things about attacking the Kremlin and Red Square, and overthrowing someone. I was there. I heard no such cries. There are twenty-six hours of video footage in the case file. There are no such appeals in that footage. When the police cordon fell apart, people did not run to the bridge. This is clearly visible in the footage. People who were squeezed out of the crowd ran ten or fifteen meters away, because there was a crowd behind them and the danger of being crushed. Then, at a leisurely place, these people fixed their clothes or tied their shoelaces or something, and headed towards the square. This, too, is visible in the footage. Yet the investigators continue to claim, and the courts have not refuted it, but take it as a proven fact, that people were shouting to run across the bridge somewhere and were, allegedly, trying to escape.
So it transpires the whole thing was a planned provocation. How do you explain it? What goals was the regime pursuing via this case? Has it achieved them?
It was the first [opposition] rally after the elections. All the major protest rallies had taken place between the December [parliamentary] elections and the March [presidential] election. May 6, 2012, was the eve of the presidential inauguration: the regime no longer had anything to fear. If they had used force before the elections, naturally, it could have turned against them. But there was nothing to fear after the elections, so they were going to put the heat on people and arrest them. This was followed by the adoption of a series of repressive laws and amendments to the laws on elections, and pickets and demonstrations, not to mention the fact they introduced Criminal Code Article 212.1, which they used to put away [Ildar] Dadin.
You were not detained immediately after the events of May, but around five months later. Did you follow what was happening to the guys who were arrested first? Were you afraid you might become a defendant in the case?
Of course, I followed what was happening. I went and picketed outside the Investigative Committee building. I had this routine: one evening at home with the family, the next evening I would go picketing, and so on. At first, I did not take it very seriously. Why did they take so long to arrest me? First, they checked out everyone who had been detained on Bolotnaya. Despite the fact I had been detained, there was no arrest sheet on me; I had refused to sign some of the pages. They tossed out my arrest documents, and so it turned out I had not been detained. So, apparently, this was the reason it took so long to track me down. But the problem was that I was all over the footage. Despite the fact I inflicted no blows—I would like to emphasize I inflicted no blows, and I am absolutely certain I caused no physical pain to any policeman—I did try and prevent them from assaulting other people. I used my hands to restrain the police. Afterwards, when I found footage of myself on the Internet, I thought to myself: yeah, that was me in action. My emotional sense was that I had prevented beatings without resorting to violence. But when I watched the videos, I did think I had reasons to be worried. But I decided what was the point of worrying now? I should have thought about it then.
Four years have passed, but the authorities are still prosecuting people [as part of the Bolotnaya Square case], people whose cases have not even gone to trial, for example, Dmitry Buchenkov and Maxim Panfilov. Do you think this will go on for a long time?
No, I don’t think it will go on for long. They are just running on momentum. The case is not so interesting nowadays. There are many new, interesting articles [that have been added to the Criminal Code]. The authorities can charge people to their heart’s content: for slander, for incitement to hatred. The amended laws have now given them such possibilities they can put away any person who says anything the least bit negative or critical.
Basically, the alternatives are this: either just one opposition party will be seated in the parliament or it won’t. There are also the single-mandate districts, which also helps. A party might not get its list into parliament, but someone can get into the Duma by winning a single-mandate district. I have read that [Alexei] Navalny is inclined to boycott the elections. I understand his resentment: his party was not registered, and he himself was not admitted as a candidate. But there are other parties besides his, and they are also opposition parties. I think all fourteen percent [of Russians who, according to the country’s extremely problematic opinion polls, disapprove of President Putin’s performance] definitely have to go and vote. Anyone who can do it should be an election observer, because it is not enough just to go and vote; we also have to monitor the vote. In the current circumstances, the authorities just cannot do without electoral fraud. Maybe we have few opportunities to stop the fraud, but we have to record the incidents and talk about them. Of course, it is very unpleasant the Democratic Coalition was not able to pull it together, but the law is such that for this to happen, people would have had to join another party. Unforunately, the majority was unwilling to do this. I think they should have come to an agreement whatever the conditions, but they didn’t.
As I understand it, this is part of the old conversation about attempts to unite democratic forces, which have been going on since the 1990s.
First, the law is wrong, because it does not allow electoral coalitions. Second, in my opinion, there should be no minimum barrier [for being seated in the Duma] at all. Democracy is a regime in which decisions are taken by the majority, but the problem is the majority is quite often mistaken. For example, on the stock exchange, the majority always lets the big money get away. The minority turns out to be on the money. The majority differs from minorities in the sense that there is one majority, but there can be two, three, four, five minorities, and so on. The minority has to be allowed to speak its mind, and then, perhaps, the majority will reorient itself. So there should be no barriers. The only barrier should be each physical person. The current laws, naturally, are designed to monopolize power, which is convenient to those currently in power. So they have no need of any competitors. Competitors are harassed, persecuted, and forced off the road.
As far as I know, you were educated as a physicist and worked in science for a long time. How did it happen that you switched from science to grassroots activism and began following political events? What prompted you to do this?
A profession is a profession, but one’s own opinion is something else. I first served as an elections observer in 1989. I was still working at MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute) then. One thing did not interfere with the other, and it even helped. I left science, because salaries in the field had completely dried up, and I completely lost interest in what I was working on at the time. There was no future in it. In 1989, I was a member of an election commission for the first time. I went and found the election commission myself. It was perestroika. People had serious doubts and asked what perestroika was all about. They said perestroika would rearrange everything, but everything would be the same, [the Soviet Communist Party] would again get 99.9% of the vote, and so on. Those were the first actual elections, when Sakharov was elected [to the All-Union Congress of People’s Deputies].
What pleasantly surprised me was that there was no electoral fraud at all. In the evening, MEPhI’s Communist Party organizer came to check out the polling station, to see how we were doing. I tensed up, thinking that now they would come up with something. Nothing of the sort! I kept my eyes peeled. Everything was clean. But in 2011, when I also worked as an observer, everything was dirty, beyond dirty. It so dirty that, for example, there was an old woman, an observer from United Russia, working at our polling station. She did not get up to any tricks herself, but she would come up to us and say, “What is she doing?! Imagine the insolence!” She was referring to the woman who chaired our election commission. The old woman was indignant, her blood was boiling, but it did not go beyond that. She was already quite old, but [the electoral fraud] itself was too much for her. I was very glad a United Russia party member was outraged by our chairwoman’s behavior.
During the four years you spent in custody, how hard was it to get information about what was happening in Russia? How did you find out about events? What events during this time amazed you the most?
I was given subscriptions to Novaya Gazeta and New Times, although they only started to come regularly when I was in the penal colony. I would read these periodicals and try and watch the news. In some places, this was easier; in some places, harder. For example, the last three months, I was basically without TV, because the guys did not want to watch any news. They would turn on MUZ-TV, which would be spinning a popular music video for the hundredth time. I could not stand to listen to it. But the TV, as you know, is a biased source of information. As for events, of course, the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass. Incidentally, there were lots of Ukrainians in the penal colony, because the border is nearby. There was a guy in there who was himself from Russia, but his wife was from over there: he had got married in Ukraine. There was fighting in Kramatorsk. I asked him, “When were you there last?” He said, “Five years ago. Everything there was fine.” “Are Russians harassed there?” I asked. “Are you kidding?” he said, “Everyone lived in perfect peace. There were no problems at all.” Meaning no one discriminated against anyone, neither Russians nor Ukrainians. Where did this all come from? Why does the TV tell us that certain people are in danger there, that there is hostility? Russian TV has been kindling hostility between two sister nations. You cannot just go to war for their “bright future,” if everything in their country is okay. They have to say that everything there is bad.
You served your sentence in two penal colonies. Is it true that there are totally different rules depending on the colony?
The rules are different. That is why they say there are “red” colonies and “black” colonies. But those are the extremes, as it were, because the spectrum is continuous. The penal code is one thing, the laws are another, and if they were all obeyed, then it would make no difference where you did your time, but in reality the differences are fundamental. There is constant trench warfare between the convicts and the wardens over wrestling themselves more rights or forbidding more things. Figuratively speaking, for example, in one colony, the convicts march in formation, while in another they don’t. Even on this primitive level, marching in formation or not, there is constant conflict. The convicts try not to march in formation, while the wardens try to force them to march. It turns out different in every colony. And that applies to everything else.
Considering you were convicted as part of the Bolotnaya Square case, how were you treated in these colonies? Was there any talk about the fact you were basically a political prisoner?
The majority could care less. But some talked about it, especially in the pretrial detention facility, where I would come across sensible people. We would talk about who had been convicted and was doing time for no reason at all. When I was in the pretrial detention facility, it seemed there were many such prisoners. First, this was Moscow. Second, I was told, roughly speaking, that the accountants were on that floor, members of some other profession were on some other floor, and so on. Seemingly around thirty percent of the prisoners were in there for nothing. But when I got to Bryansk Region, this figure was no longer thirty percent, but much lower, somewhere between five and ten percent. A lot of guys were in for petty theft and drugs. Over a third were doing time for drugs. Realistically, a maximum of ten percent were doing time for nothing, or even five percent. As for how I was treated, well, I was repeatedly on the verge of a conflict. There were conflicts.
With the convicts or the wardens?
With both the wardens and the convicts. It is just that the wardens foist their rules on you, and the convicts foist theirs. You are a free man, and you realize you cannot abide by either set of rule.s So you don’t want to carry out either set of orders, and you start weaving and dodging. I was involved in several conflicts of that sort. My age was my salvation. Basically, there are all sorts of kids in there, and they could not bring themselves to hurt old people. Or rather, they could: I saw sixty-year-olds get beaten up in there, but it was still much more complicated. They also look at what you have been sent down for, although I cannot say it is so meaningful. But in this case it was a factor that worked in my favor; it was meaningful. I did not conceal the fact I had not assaulted any policemen, but a conviction is a conviction.
Now you are free and in Moscow. What are your plans? Do you see a future for yourself in Russia? Have you had thoughts of leaving the country?
By and large, I realize it is not recommended to live in this country. If a person has the opportunity and the desire, it is in his or interests to emigrate. But I somehow feel inherently Russian. I am afraid in any other country I would feel like an immigrant, an alien, if not like a guest worker. I cannot imagine living somewhere else. I feel it is okay to emigrate, and some people should emigrate, but I am afraid I am incapable of it.
Sergei Krivov is the twelfth person convicted in the Bolotnaya Square case to have been released from prison. A total of thirty-five people were prosecuted as part of the case. Thirteen of them were amnestied. Eight people remain in prison or under investigation.
In No Mood for Songs and Dialogues OVD Info
July 2, 2016
Hello. We continue to raise money for the work of our monitoring group. Watch the following video, in which Artyom Loskutov, co-founder of the annual Monstrations, talks about what champs we are.
You can donate money to us by heading to this page.
Last week, Moscow courts left two suspects in the Bolotnaya Square case, Dmitry Buchenkov and Maxim Panfilov, in police custody, along with Petersburg architect Sergei Akhmetov, accused of tearing epaulettes from a policeman’s uniform during a gathering in support of Alexei Navalny and Pyotr Ofitserov. Curiously, police investigators have been unable to produce convincing evidence that Buchenkov and Akhmetov were actually at the scene of the crimes of which they have been accused.
Other Criminal Prosecutions
No less predictable was the rejection of Oleg Navalny’s petition for parole, especially considering the fact that, a week before his court hearing, he received three reprimands for poor conduct at the penal colony where he has been imprisoned.
Totally unpredictable, however, was the return to Moscow of Ildar Dadin, sentenced to two and a half years in a prison colony for “repeated violations” at public protests. Dadin had been held for over two months in a Petersburg remand prison, and it was anticipated that sooner or later he would be transferred to a penal colony. For some reason, however, this has not happened.
News came of the first criminal charges filed for “willful refusal” to obey the law on “foreign agents.” Charges were filed against Valentina Cherevatenko, chair of Women of the Don Foundation.
FSB agents raided the Mayakovsky Library in Petersburg in connection with the fact that it served as the venue for Dialogues, monthly public discussions of political topics. The project’s founder, Nikolai Solodnikov, resigned his post at the library, which will no longer host the events.
In Krasnodar, people involved in solo pickets against the policies of current Mayor Vladimir Yevlanov and in support of Communist Party MP Sergei Obukhov were assaulted, while in Kemerovo, local opposition activist Stanislav Kaliniсhenko was detained, taken to a police station, and, allegedly, beaten up by police.
Karelian village council member Vladimir Zavarkin, sentenced to a fine for calling for a referendum to decide whether the republic should secede from Russia, was stripped of his mandate.
How the Investigative Committee Interrogated Me in the Buchenkov Case (Bolotnaya Square Case)
April 27, 2016 yaroslavn.livejournal.com
Yesterday, I went to the Investigative Committee for questioning in the Dmitry Buchenkov case (part of the Bolotnaya Square case).
Dmitry Buchenkov is one of the recent defendants in the case. He was arrested on December 2, 2016. The investigation has been plagued by gross violations from the get-go. Buchenkov’s attorney, Svetlana Sidorkina, was not allowed to see the accused. She was thus unable to defend him not only at his pre-trial custody hearing but was also unable to establish his whereabouts for several days. During this time, investigators were subjecting him to psychological pressure. Dmitry has been accused of involvement in rioting (Criminal Code Article 212.2), the rioting that, allegedly, took place on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on May 6, 2012, and of using non-life-threatening violence against officials. Dmitry and his loved ones have claimed he was not at Bolotnaya Square that day. He was visiting relatives in Nizhny Novgorod, and so could not have committed the crimes of which he has been accused. I am a witness in the case, because I have known Buchenkov for many years and was at Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012.
On December 11, 2015, a photograph of a “man in black,” whom investigators believe to be Dmitry Buchenkov, according to activists, appeared on the Internet.
I do not know the man in the black hoodie in this photograph or whether he inflicted a great deal harm on the policeman in body armor and helmet, but it is obvious to me he is not Dmitry Buchenkov.
When I saw the photograph and realized the man was not Dmitry, I contacted Svetlana Sidorkina and told her I could act as a witness in Dmitry’s case.
Later, I learned that the same man in black has been accused of upending port-a-potties on Bolotnaya Square on May 6. I can also testify that during this incident I was in the vicinity of the port-a-potties from the very beginning and nearby until the police finally dispersed everyone. Dmitry Buchenkov was not there.
The general sequence of events was as follows. I arrived at the Oktyabrskaya subway station, where the march started, approximately at the beginning of the event (i.e., 3 p.m.). I marched with the bloc of Pussy Riot supporters, and I was wearing a pink balaclava (which is dangling from my chest later in the photographs). On Malyi Kammenyi Bridge, our group and the LGBT bloc were attacked by provocateurs, who tried to snatch a flag. Then there was a sit-down strike near the Udarnik movie theater. I thought about sitting for a while too, but I didn’t like it very much. I could not get through to Bolotnaya Square, although I wanted to make it to the rally, because, it seemed, they were not allowing anyone to enter. Subsequently, closing the entrance to the square has been regarded as one of the numerous police provocations at the rally. Then someone seemingly decided to try and break through the police cordon. I am not sure whether I saw it myself or read it about later on the Internet, but the idea seemed pretty silly to me then and still seems that way now, because there were really a lot of police, and the people who broke through the first cordon probably went straight to the paddy wagons. At some point, stones started flying at the police. What I remember most of all was how the police split the crowd outside the Udarnik theater into several sections, and a huge column of cops ran through the empty space wielding batons and indiscriminately hitting the people standing along the sides.
Gradually, I moved closer to Bolotnaya Square. There, I stood for a while in a human chain with people who thought it might be an effective self-defense. But it wasn’t. Policemen armed with batons constantly attacked these people, hitting them and dragging individuals out of the crowd to arrest them. Then I remember that someone who looked a bit wild-eyed suggested we overturn the toilets, as if it were really important and could protect us from the mobs of police. Then everything [the contents of the port-a-potties? — TRR] spread out over the pavement, and even more police came running from the direction of Bolotnaya Square to disperse the group of people there as well. (This was between the public garden in Bolotnaya Square and the embankment.) I went back over Malyi Kammenyi Bridge around 8 p.m.
The man in the photos bears no resemblance to the real Dmitry Buchenkov.
Read Dmitry Borko’s analysis for a detailed comparision of photographs of Buchenkov and the man in black. A criminal expert, cited by Borko, is certain that Buchenkov and the man in black are different people. Borko also lists psychological and political inconsistencies. Indeed, why did it take the police three and a half years to find an activist whose identity had long been know to them if photos and videos of him at Bolotnaya Square were, allegedly, plastered all over the Internet? I would remind you that Maxim Luzynanin, who was wearing a mask the whole time on May 6 and was virtually unknown within the protest movement, was located by police in May 2012.
The man in black felt quite at ease on Bolotnaya Square. He hit policemen, threw them on the pavement, tossed glass bottles at them, sprayed them with pepper spray, and overturned toilets. He clearly sensed his own impunity.
As someone who has long been involved in protests and grassroots movements, I can say such behavior is virtually impossible for a very experienced activist. Anarchists and anti-fascists quite often cover their faces even at authorized rallies where nothing illegal is happening. Approximately half of civil society’s work involves defending unjustly accused comrades and political prisoners. Every longstanding activist (such as Buchenkov) is well aware that if activists with no ties to the authorities give them the slightest excuse, they will be jailed instantly, while even if they give them no excuse, the authorities will fabricate a case against them. It is obvious to me that no opposition activist could have behaved with such flagrant impunity. That means he could have been someone linked to the authorities, whose safety had been ensured in advance and who was handsomely remunerated. I do not believe he was a random person, because he was clearly well trained to do what he did. He avoided arrest and was armed with a pepper spray can. (For some reason, however, he did not wear a mask.) Civic activists clearly have nowhere to go where they could do such training. I think the man could only have been a specially trained intelligence officer, and this explains why he could not be found (probably because no one looked for him). It is another question why Buchenkov had to take the man in black’s place. It is quite possible the authorities want to put pressure on protest movement activists in the run-up to September’s parliamentary elections. (They are ready to jail anarchists and anti-fascists any time.) Besides, it is quite possible the security agencies do not always coordinate their actions, and arresting another man was a clear miscalculation on their part.
Compared to other protest rallies, there were a great number of provocations at Bolotnaya Square. Moreover, the authorities initially knew about them but did nothing to prevent them. In all likelihood, they took advantage (and set up many of them themselves).
The fact that the man in the photographs is not Dmitry Buchenkov is obvious to me and other people who know Dmitry personally.
Moreover, I did not see Dmitry Buchenkov on Bolotnaya Square at any point on May 6, 2012.
I was right next to the man in black during the incidents of which he has been accused (as listed above). Of course, my memory of the man has now faded. But if an acquaintance of mine had been next to me and the police had tried to beat him, and he had done the things the man in black did, I could not have failed to remember it.
It is impossible not to recognize an acquaintance who is at arm’s length from you. Besides, during the incident with the toilets there were many fewer people there; the crowd was considerably thinner. So not seeing and not recognizing an acquaintance of mine there (especially one who stuck out so much in terms of clothing and behavior, and was demonstratively at the very center of events) would also have been impossible.
Would the above-mentioned facts be meaningful in an objective investigation? In my opinion, they would be of primary importance. But my testimony proved fairly uninteresting to the actual investigation. On January 11, I wrote a letter to the Investigative Committee. I explained I was personally acquainted with Buchenkov, had been at Bolotnaya Square, and could act as a witness in the case. I received a formal reply from Major General R.R. Gabdulin of the major cases division.
“The information related in the letter will be taken into account during the investigation of the criminal case in question,” he wrote.
The investigators have probably already found policemen who probably had never seen Dmitry Buchenkov in their lives but have already testified they saw him, just as their higher-ups wanted them to do. Why would they need more witnesses? I believe this shows clear bias on the part of the investigation and an unwillingness to establish the truth. Policemen committed many crimes on Bolotnaya Square, but none of them has been punished. Where there is obvious bias there can be no justice.
Suddenly, last Monday, April 24 (i.e., three months after I wrote my letter and four months after Buchenkov’s arrest), Investigator Uranov telephoned me and asked me to come to the Investigative Committee for questioning. Buchenkov’s attorney, Svetlana Sidorkina, had no longer been counting on my being summoned to the Investigative Committee as a witness and had put me on the list of defense witnesses. In this case, an investigator was obliged to question me.
Yesterday [Tuesday, April 26], my attorney and I arrived at the Investigative Committee at 12:30 p.m. (The investigator had initially scheduled us for 1 p.m., but an hour and a half before our meeting, he called and said the building’s security checkpoint closed at 1 p.m. and we had to be there earlier.)
There was a huge Saint George’s Ribbon (two hands’ long) hanging from Investigator Uranov’s desk lamp, and a picture of people convicted in the Bolotnaya Square Case, published on the website of the May 6 Committee, hung above his desk.
When we finished, the investigator made me sign an agreement not to disclose information from the preliminary investigation. He explained I could talk about what had happened on Bolotnaya, but I could not talk about what I had been asked during questioning and what testimony I had given. He also warned me I would be held criminally liable if case information were disclosed.
So I have not written here about what happened during the interrogation yesterday, and everything I have written in this post is either publicly available on the Internet or is my own personal knowledge and opinions and has nothing to do with the investigation’s classified information.
Just in case, I asked another lawyer friend whether I could write this.
“You know what the times are like now yourself. If they want to get you, they will find a crime to charge you with, so it’s better not to write,” he replied.
However, according to Article 161.2 of the Criminal Procedural Code, “The investigator or interrogating officers warns those involved in criminal proceedings of the inadmissibility of disclosing information from the preliminary investigation without proper authorization.”
So I decided to act in keeping with what the investigator himself had said, and another lawyer confirmed I could write about it. I think it is very important to testify publicly about what I saw at Bolotnaya Square and why Buchenkov had nothing to do with it, especially because I don’t know whether I will be able to do it in the future.
When I wrote that I had been summoned to the Investigative Committee in the Bolotnaya Square Case, very many friends of mine were worried. Many of them wrote that one could go from being a witness to a suspect almost in an instant. Many wrote that I had better not go. Everyone advised me to be careful. I can vouch for myself that I did nothing illegal on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, but it is clear they can easily fabricate a case and find a whole platoon of “witnesses,” as they have done many times before. I would only note that in a country that has the rule of law and where law enforcement agencies work to administer justice and protect the rights of citizens, this attitude on society’s part to the status of witnesses in criminal cases would be impossible.
And today, investigators began putting real pressure on me. The day after my questioning, the investigator suddenly telephoned and asked me to report to him tonight. Unfortunately, my attorney could not come with me tonight, so I offered to come with him tomorrow. Uranov (the man who, after Dmitry’s arrest, searched his parents’ flat in Nizhny Novgorod and did not inform his lawyer of his whereabouts) replied that this did not bother him very much.
“You can come with another lawyer or without a lawyer,” he said, adding, “You are a witness, after all.”
During his next call, Uranov informed me that my lawyer could not come at the time tomorrow I had just scheduled with him, because another investigator in the same case had summoned him. But then my lawyer told me he was not going on another case and was willing to go with me to questioning even at ten in the morning.
This entire conversation was conducted with me acting as the intermediary for some reason, and the investigator said several times I could find another lawyer. Uranov also insisted I not write about this on Facebook, but that I look for another lawyer and come to see him today: it was extremely urgent. Obviously, this way of doing things was illegal, because the impossibility of having a lawyer present during question is a legitimate excuse for failing to appear for questioning. Fortunately, realizing he would not be able to persuade me, the investigator agreed to reschedule the questioning to tomorrow, but he reminded me about administrative responsibility [for failing to respond to a summons — TRR] and repeated several times I could be forcibly brought in for questioning. In any case, I would have filed a written statement that I would not take part in the investigation without a lawyer and would remain silent. But I would like to note that when investigators behave this way with witnesses, they are signaling to the public that witnesses in political cases will have problems.
My lawyer and I had met before in another case, and he had been at his best then. He is now also involved in the Bolotnaya Square case, and so it was quite important to me that he come with me. However, when I called him to say the investigator could question us tomorrow at ten in the morning, it transpired that all his papers had just been stolen and he would not be able to come tomorrow. I hope it has nothing to do with this case.
Many people have been quite demoralized by the Bolotnaya Square case, but I am not pessimistic. I have also found it painful over the last few years to see this injustice and hear that my acquaintances have been convicted or have been forced to leave the country. Society, however, is a complex system, and the political situation changes rapidly. Many of the prisoners of May 6 were convicted despite massive protests against the case. But that is no reason to give up. People who do not give up always have a chance of winning, and this is especially true in politics. I can see that the case against Dmitry Buchenkov has obviously been grossly fabricated. It is a complete failure on the part of the Bolotnaya Square case investigators, and whether or not you support Dmitry’s political views, you must talk about the case as much as possible.
We must fight back against the obviously unfair and unjust charges against Dmitry Buchenkov.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AK for the heads-up
Picketing Tomsk Residents Demand Release of Political Prisoners Novosti v Tomske
April 23, 2016
The rally was held today at the Monument to the Construction Brigades, reports vtomske.ru’s correspondent.
According to our correspondent, around fifteen people were involved in the picket. One of the participants, Anton Sharypov, said that its main aim was to draw attention to the problem of political prisoners.
“In Russia today, there are many people who are subjected to illegal arrest, to what amounts to political repression, for their civic and political stances. We demand the release of those who are in prison and an end to torture and crackdowns so that people can live freely, grow, and help their country. None of these people are terrorists, which is how they are presented. They are ordinary people who work and study, and in their free time they are socialists and anti-fascists. They lend a helping hand to trade unions and grassroots groups. They are not criminals and murderers,” he explained.
In particular, the Tomsk residents at today’s picket supported Dmitry Buchenkov. According to federal media, Buchenkov has been accused of a resisting a riot police officer during the riot on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on May 6, 2012. He was arrested on December 3, 2015.
“We believe this is a provocation on the part of the security forces. There are witnesses who have testified that [Buchenkov] was in Nizhny Novgorod, his hometown, that day. However, he was basically abducted. His lawyers were not allowed to attend his pretrial custody hearing, and his relatives did not know his whereabouts for a long time. Now he is in police custody. They are going to try him on the basis of a photograph of another person. We believe this is political repression,” said Sharypov.
The picketing Tomsk residents also showed their support for Sergei Udaltsov, Alexei Gaskarov, and Tomsk activist Yegor Alexeev, who is suspected of posting extremist videos on the VKontakte social network, and collected donations for an aid fund for victims of political repression.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Photos courtesy of Dmitry Kandinsky and vtomske.ru. Thanks to theMay 6 Committeefor the heads-up