Parents Demand Release of Network Defendants Due to Coronavirus

networkThe Network defendants in the courtroom in Penza. Photo by Yevgeny Malyshev. Courtesy of 7X7

Parents Demand Release of Network Defendants from Remand Prison Due to Coronavirus
Ekaterina Malysheva
7X7
April 1, 2020

Parents of the young men convicted in the Penza portion of the Network Case have demanded their children be transferred to house arrest due to the coronavirus. They have written appeals to this effect to the president of the Russian Federation, the prosecutor general, the heads of the Investigate Committee and the Federal Penitentiary Service, and the commissioner for human rights, as reported to 7X7 by Svetlana Pchelintseva, the mother of Dmitry Pchelintsev, one of the convicted men.

The parents also demanded that safety measures be put in place at detention facilities. They argue that being in remand prison during the COVID-19 outbreak is life-threatening. Of all the quarantine regulations, the parents say, only the ban on visits from relatives has been enforced at the remand prison since March 16.

“Not only is there no guarantee of protection from infection at the remand prison, but it is simply impossible,” the letter says. “Our sons are denied the right to remain alive during the global coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the issue of safeguarding the health of people confined to detention facilities is not on the agenda today. And, of course, qualified specialized medical care, especially involving the hospitalization of inmates from remand prisons and penal colonies in civilian medical facilities, is not feasible. It is a myth.”

The parents claim that no preventive measures have been enacted at the Penza Remand Prison: disinfection and sanitation procedures have not been carried out, and employees don’t have masks. The greatest danger, according to the authors of the appeal, are the detention facility’s employees themselves, who are potential carriers of the virus. The parents note that reducing the number of inmates in the federal penitentiary system would help prevent disease.

The parents point out that Vladimir Putin said nothing about measures to protect inmates during his address to the Russian people about the coronavirus outbreak. According to the parents, none of the regulations on laboratory testing for COVID-19 defends the rights of people in detention facilities. The authors of the letter claim that inmates will not be tested or treat if they are infected.

Two of the young men convicted in the Network Case, the parents recall, have contracted tuberculosis in remand prison. This puts them at high risk during a pandemic and could be “tantamount to a death sentence.”

On March 30, the Penza regional office of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service reported that in addition to the ban on visits to inmates in the system, visitors and employees with high temperatures and everyone who had been abroad in the last fourteen days were categorically prohibited from entering their facilities.

The office’s press service reported that a set of sanitary and anti-epidemic (preventive) was being organized and implemented at its facilities. It noted that if prisoners were suspected of having the coronavirus disease, the management of the regional office would hospitalize them in health care facilities.

The lawyers of the men convicted in the Network Case continue to visit their clients at Penza Remand Prison No. 1. According to them, conditions at the detention facility make it impossible to ensure the health and safety of prisoners during the epidemic. The lawyers are not allowed to bring certain personal protection gear into the facility. For example, latex medical gloves are not on the list of permitted items.

The lawyers have seen a mask only on the prison employee who inspects people at the entrance to the facility—the other employees were not wearing masks. According to the lawyers, the parents got the runaround in response to their previous complaints and appeals.

The last letter they sent, on February 5, was a request to Russian Federal Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov to investigate all the circumstances in the Network Case and launch a criminal case based on allegations that their children had been tortured by officers in the FSB’s Penza regional office.

In a response dated March 10, the prosecutor general’s office advised the parents to appeal (during the appeals phase of the main verdict in the Network Case) the admissibility of the evidence gathered. All the defendants and their defense lawyers have filed appeals with the Military Appeals Court in Moscow.

The parents organized a solidarity group of relatives against political repression, the Parents Network in spring 2018. In early November 2019, the relatives of defendants in several high-profile cases followed their example by uniting in the movement Mothers Against Political Repression. The movement has its own website, as well as group pages on Telegram and Facebook.

On February 10, the defendants in the Penza portion of the Network Trial were sentenced to terms in prison from six to eighteen years.

Translated by the Russian Reader. If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case aka the Network 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 share the articles I have posted on these subjects.

Yevgenia Litvinova: Stop the Crackdown in Crimea!

litvinova placard“Stalinist prison sentences. Crimean Tatars: 7, 8, 12, 12, 18, 19 years. Network Case: 6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 18 years. Coming soon to a location near you!” Photo by Yevgenia Litvinova

Yevgenia Litvinova
Facebook
February 18, 2020

#StopCrackdownInCrimea #FreeCrimeanTatars

Strategy 18

Today I will go to Nevsky Prospect and do a solo picket as part of Strategy 18’s indefinite protest campaign in support of the Crimean Tatars.

My placard addresses the huge sentences handed out to people convicted of far-fetched “crimes.”

My family went through all of this once upon a time. My grandfather was arrested in 1934 and shot in 1937, while my grandmother was imprisoned for nearly 20 years in the Gulag. It is a good thing there is a moratorium on the death penalty, and the arrests have not yet become widespread. But otherwise, the same thing is happening.

In November 2019, the following Crimean Tatars—ordinary people, ordinary believers—were sentenced to monstrous terms of imprisonment:

  • Arsen Dzhepparov, 7 years in prison
  • Refat Alimov, 8 years in prison
  • Vadim Siruk, 8 years in prison
  • Emir-Usein Kuku, 12 years in prison
  • Enver Bekirov, 18 years in prison
  • Muslim Aliyev, 19 years in prison

In February 2020, the defendants in the Network Case—ordinary young men, anarchists—were sentenced to the following monstrous terms of imprisonment:

  • Arman Sagynbayev, 6 years in prison
  • Vasily Kuksov, 9 years in prison
  • Mikhail Kulkov, 10 years in prison
  • Maxim Ivankin, 13 years in prison
  • Andrei Chernov, 14 years in prison
  • Ilya Shakursky, 16 years in prison
  • Dmitry Pchelintsev, 18 years in prison

I will remind you of the famous quote: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.” And so on.

What is happening now with the Crimean Tatars—86 of them have been arrested for being from the “wrong” ethnicity and having the “wrong” faith—tomorrow could happen to anyone.

What is happening now with the lads from the Network Case—they were convicted based on testimony obtained under torture—tomorrow could happen to anyone.

Let’s show solidarity with those who have been marked out as sacrificial victims today.

Let’s try and pull these people out of the dragon’s mouth.

When we are together, we have a chance.

Today’s Strategy 18 protest in support of the Crimean Tatars will take place on the corner of Nevsky Prospect and Malaya Sadovaya at 7 p.m.

Join us!

Translated by the Russian Reader

86 Years in Prison for 7 Defendants in Network Case

Defendants in Network Case Receive Up to 18 Years in Prison
Bumaga
February 10, 2020

The Volga District Military Court, [sitting in Penza], has [convicted and] sentenced seven defendants in the Network Case.

Dmitry Pchelintsev was sentenced to 18 years in a maximum-security penal colony. Ilya Shakursky was sentenced to 16 years in a penal colony and fined 50,000 rubles. Investigators claimed they were organizers of a “terrorist community.” Both men alleged that FSB officers had electrocuted them in order to obtain confessions.

Maxim Ivankin was given 13 years in a maximum-security penal colony, while Andrei Chernov was sentenced to 14 years, and Mikhail Kulkov, to 10 years. They were found guilty of involvement in a “terrorist community” and attempting to sell drugs.

Vasily Kuksov was sentenced to 9 years in a penal colony. He was accused of involvement in a “terrorist community” and illegal possession of a weapon. Another defendant, Arman Sagynbayev, received 6 years in prison.

The verdict handed down by the court in Penza suggests that the acquittal of the Petersburg defendants in the case is less likely, Viktor Cherkasov, the lawyer for Viktor Filinkov, a defendant in the Network Case, told Bumaga.

“It sends a message,” said Cherkasov. “It is difficult to hope [for a positive outcome], but we are still determined to protect Filinkov’s interests.”

Cherkasov said that he planned in court to point to the faked evidence in the case. He also that he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if Filinkov were found guilty. The next hearing in the Network Case in Petersburg should take place between February 25 and February 28.

[In October 2017 and January 2018], antifascists and anarchists were detained in Penza and Petersburg. They were accused of organizing a “terrorist community,” allegedly called “the Network.” Its alleged purpose was to “sway the popular masses for further destabilization of the political situation” in Russia.

The defendants in the case said investigators had tortured them as a way of forcing them to confess and weapons had been planted on their persons and property to further implicate them. [Some of] the arrested men had played airsoft together: this, investigators, said was proof they were planning terrorist attacks.

Investigators claim that the Petersburg defendants in the case, Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinkov, acted as the group’s sapper and signalman, respectively. Their trial is scheduled to resume in late February.

Translated by the Russian Reader

This verdict doesn’t leave me at a loss for words. I’m just convinced there is no point in using them when everyone who could listen has made a point of tuning out people like me. If someone invited me to appear on their aptly named alternative radio program or their globe-spanning Qatar-based international TV network (as nearly happened in the past), I could talk for hours about the Network Case. But that’s not going to happen. Although if I were a betting man, I would wager that our tiresome planet’s obnoxious pillars of liberal truth—the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post, and Al Jazeera, among others—will suddenly weigh in on the case after blithely ignoring it for two years, as will many if not all of the crypto-Putinist “Russia watchers” in our midst, eerily silent until now. Barring a sudden revolution, don’t imagine this is the last such case in Russia, a country that has worried so many people around the world for the last several years that they’re determined not to know anything particular about it except “Putin” and “troll factories.” And don’t imagine that a show trial just as juicy and unjust won’t be coming to a theater near you. Please don’t reprint, repost or otherwise reference this article without prefacing it with my remarks. I’d like to preempt “spontaneous” shows of “solidarity” by people who couldn’t be bothered to do anything when it would have made a difference. Despite the well-known saying, it IS a popularity contest, and seven innocent young men in Penza have lost it. [TRR]

Two Network Case Defendants Married in Prison

Anastasia Pchelintseva and Anna Shalunkina after their weddings to Dmitry Pchelintsev and Maxim Ivankin. Photo courtesy of 7×7 and Novaya Gazeta

Two Defendants in Network Case Married in Prison
Novaya Gazeta
January 29, 2020

Dmitry Pchelintsev and Maxim Ivankin, two defendants in the Penza trial of the so-called Network (a terrorist organization banned in Russia)* have been married in remand prison, reports 7×7.

Registry Office workers registered Dmitry Pchelintsev’s marriage to his girlfriend, Anastasia Tymchuk, in the room on the premises of Penza Correctional Facility No. 4 where the defendants are currently held. Journalists, relatives, and friends of the couple were not allowed to attend the ceremony. Tymchuk reported that the groom made her a windcatcher as a wedding gift.

“It makes no difference what our life will be like from here on out: whatever the verdict and sentence are, we are still going to be together. We are still going to see this through to the end. We are going to seek the truth and do everything to secure [Dmitry’s] release,” Pchelintsev’s bride told journalists.

Another defendant in the case, Maxim Ivankin, registered his marriage to Anna Shalunkin at Penza Remand Prison No. 1. Ivankin had proposed to his girlfriend right in the courtroom after one of the hearings in the trial, presided over by judges from the Volga Military District Court.

“The whole procedure took two minutes,” Shalunkina said after the ceremony. “We only managed to ask each other how the other was doing. Whereas [Pchelintsev and Tymchuk] were allowed to sit next to each other and chat, here [in remand prison] there were two stools, a table, and a cage. I stood next to the table, and [Ivankin] stood in the cage. We were permitted to kiss each other only through the bars.”

Shalunkina explained that she had decided to marry Ivankin now because if he is found guilty, it is unclear where he will be taken to serve his sentence.

In August of last year, Yuli Boyarshinov, a defendant in the Petersburg portion of the Network Case, was married in remand prison. His bride wore a paper veil, and their wedding rings were fashioned from barbed wire.

A report about the weddings by 7×7

Eleven antifascists from Penza and Petersburg were arrested by the FSB several months before the 2018 presidential election. According to investigators they were planning to create armed groups in Moscow, Petersburg, Penza Region, and other Russian regions for attacking military garrisons, police officers, and United Russia party offices.

The trial in Penza against seven of the defendants—Maxim Ivankin, Vasily Kuksov, Mikhail Kulkov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, Arman Sagynbayeva, Andrei Chernov, and Ilya Shakursky—has concluded. All of them are charged with organizing [and/or] being involved in a “terrorist community.” Shakursky, Pchelintsev, and Kuksov also face charges of arms trafficking. On February 10, a panel of three judges from the Volga District Military Court will announce the verdict.

The case against Boyarshinov and Filinkov is being tried separately by the Moscow District Military Court, sitting in Petersburg.

Another defendant, Igor Shishkin, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

The defendants have reported that FSB officers tortured them to force confessions. In a complaint filed with the European Court of Human Rights, Filinkov said that FSB officers had beaten and electrocuted him, deprived him of food, water, and sleep, and subjected him to psychological pressure.

* Russian media are required by law to identify this perverse fiction by the FSB in this way.

Thanks to Anatrrra for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

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If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case aka the Network 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 share the articles I have posted on these subjects.

18 Years in Prison for Being Tortured by the FSB

content_001_setNetwork Case defendants. Photo by Andrei Karev. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

Prosecutor Asks Court to Sentence Penza Network Case Defendants to Up to Eighteen Years in Prison
OVD Info
December 26, 2019

The state prosecutor has asked the Volga District Military Court to sentence the five defendants in the Penza portion of the Network Case to between six and eighteen years in prison, according to a member of the campaign to support the defendants who was present in the courtroom.

The prosecution asked the court to hand down the longest sentence to Dmitry Pchelintsev: 18 years in a maximum-security penal colony. It asked the court to sentence Ilya Shakursky to 16 years, Andrei Chernov to 14 years, Maxim Ivankin to 13 years, Mikhail Kulkov to 10, Vasily Kuksov to 9 years, and Arman Sagynbayev to 6 years. It asked that all the defendants except Kuksov and Sagynbayev be sent to maximum-security penal colonies.

The prosecutor told the court that the defendants’ accounts that they were tortured into testifying had not been corroborated.

All the defendants are accused of involvement in a “terrorist community,” punishable under Article 205.4.4 of the Russian Criminal Code. Pchelinsky and Shakursky are accused of organizing a “terrorist community,” punishable under Article 205.4. In addition, some of the defendants are accused of illegal possession of firearms (Article 222.1), illegal possession of explosives (Article 222.1.1), attempted arson or bombing with mischievous intent (Article 167.2 in combination with Article 30.3), and large-scale attempted drug trafficking (Article 228.1.4.g in combination with Article 30.3).

The criminal case against the Network “terrorist community” was launched in October 2017. According to the FSB, eleven young men in Penza and Petersburg organized the Network and were planning to overthrow the government. The defendants in the case claimed the FSB subjected them to psychological pressure, tortured them with electric shocks, beat them, and planted weapons on them. Some of the defendants recanted the confessions they made in the days following their arrests. OVD Info has reported on each of the defendants in the case in detail.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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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 share the articles I have posted on these subjects.

Mediazona: Russian Show Trial Calendar

баршайRussian political prisoner Andrei Barshay, holding up a handmade placard reading “Free Everyone!” at his custody hearing in Moscow on October 16. Photo by Yevgeny Feldman. Courtesy of Vedomosti

Mediazona

The regime has ratcheted up its crackdown, but the numbers of people willing to help those affected by the crackdown by writing letters to prisoners, sending care packages to remand prisons, and attending court hearings have increased as well. Mediazona has been covering all the important court cases in Russia, and so we will be publishing a “Court Schedule” in which we summarize all the important court hearings in the coming week, updating it as new information is made available.

Seventh Studio Case (Retrial)
Room 409, Meshchansky District Court, Moscow
Judge Olesya Mendeleyeva
10:00 a.m, November 5

Director Kirill Serebrennikov, Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum, and ex-Seventh Studio heads Alexei Malobrodsky and Yuri Itin have been accused of embezzling 133 million rubles allocated to the Platform theater project.

Initially, the defendants in the case were under house arrest, but later they were released on their own recognizance. In early September, the court sent the case back to the prosecutor’s office after a comprehensive forensic analysis was performed. On October 8, Moscow City Court overruled that decision, ordering a retrial in the case.

Mediazona has been covering the Seventh Studio Case.

New Greatness Case (Main Trial)
Room 219, Lyublino District Court, Moscow
Judge Alexander Maslov
2:00 p.m., November 5

Moscow’s Lyublino District Court has been hearing the case of eight members of the little-known movement New Greatness, who have been accused of involvement with an “extremist” organization, as punishable by Articles 282.1.1 and 282.1.2 of the Russian Criminal Code. The prosecution’s case is based on testimony given by a person identified as “Ruslan D.,” who is presumably an informant employed by the security services. The defense has insisted it was “Ruslan D.” who encouraged the activists to create a political organization and drafted its charter.

Four of the defendants—Ruslan Kostylenkov, Pyotr Karamzin, Vyacheslav Kryukov, and Dmitry Poletayev—have been in police custody since March 2018. At the October 17 hearing, Kostylenkov and Kryukov slashed their wrists to protest the extension of their time in remand prison.

Three defendants—Anna Pavlikova, Maria Dubovik, and Maxim Roshchin—are under house arrest. The eighth defendant, Sergei Gavrilov, has left Russia and asked for political asylum in Ukraine. He is on the wanted list.

Mediazona has been covering the New Greatness Case.

Dmitry and Olga Prokazov (Child Custody Case)
Room 520 (Appeals Wing), Moscow City Court
Judge Olga Igonina
9:20 a.m., November 6

Dmitry and Olga Prokazov went to the protest rally in Moscow on July 27 with their one-year-old son. The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office decided they had put the boy in danger and asked the court to strip the couple of their parental rights. According to Dmitry Prokazov, on July 27 they had gone only to places where they saw no threat to their child.

“We were tired and decided to go home. I asked our friend Sergei [Fomin] to join us. He agreed and we headed home together. Sergei is my best friend, my childhood friend. He’s the godfather of my eldest son and my wife’s cousin. […] At some point, I asked Sergei to carry the child, and we went to the subway together and then home,” Prokazov recalled.

On August 15, police searched the Prokazovs’ home on the basis of a criminal investigation launched by the Investigative Committee, which suspected the couple of abandonment (Article 125 of the Russian Criminal Code) and failure to perform parental duties (Article 156). Defense lawyer Maxim Pashkov said investigators had no grievances against the couple after questioning them.

In early September, the Lefortovo District Court ruled in favor of the Prokazovs, refusing to deprive them of parental custody. The prosecutor’s office appealed the decision. The hearing at Moscow City Court has been postponed twice.

Penza Case (Main Trial)
Penza Regional Court
A panel of three judges, chaired by Yuri Klubkov
11:00 a.m., November 6, 7, 8

Seven antifascists—Maxim Ivankin, Vasily Kuksov, Maxim Kulkov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, Arman Sagynbayev, Anton Chernov, and Ilya Shakursky—have been charged with founding the “terrorist community Network.” According to the FSB, the defendants were planning to “stir up the masses in order to then destabilize the political situation in the country” and organize a rebellion during the 2018 presidential election and 2018 World Football Cup. The criminal case against the men was launched in the autumn of 2017.

Pchelintsev and Shakursky have said they were tortured with electrical shocks in the basement of the Penza Remand Prison. In September 2018, Sagynbayev, who initially pleaded guilty, said he had also been tortured into testifying. Another defendant, Viktor Filinkov, an alleged member of the Network’s Petersburg cell, has also said he was tortured with an electrical shocker after the FSB detained him.

Although the case is being heard by the Volga District Military Court, the hearings have been taking place at the Penza Regional Court. Experts and witnesses are to be examined at the upcoming hearings.

Mediazona has been covering the Penza Case.

Moscow Case: Eduard Malyshevsky (Merits Hearing)
Room 356, Tverskaya District Court, Moscow
Judge Belyakov
3:30 p.m., November 6

47-year-old Eduard Malyshevsky is accused of violence against a police officer (Russian Criminal Code Article 318.1). According to investigators, after he was detained at the July 27 rally, Malyshevsky kicked out the window of a paddy wagon, which grazed a police officer as it fell to the ground. The defense claims that when Malyshevsky saw two women being beaten by police, he was outraged and pounded on the window, but did not see the police officers next to the vehicle.

After the rally, a court sentenced Malyshevsky to thirteen days in jail for disorderly conduct (Article 20.1.1 of the Administrative Offenses Code). When he was released from the detention facility, Malyshevsky went home to Khimki. A month after the rally, on August 30, he was detained by police and remanded in custody.

Moscow Case: Nikita Chirtsov (Remand Appeal)
Room 225, Moscow City Court
10:00 a.m., November 7

Chirtsov, who took part in the July 27 rally, was detained in Minsk on August 28. Local law enforcement officials explained that Chirtsov, 22, was on the wanted list in Russia on suspicion of using violence against police officers and involvement in rioting.

Chirtsov was expelled from Belarus and banned from entering the country for ten years. On the evening of August 30, he flew from Minsk to Moscow. He was met at Domodedovo Airport by a Mediazona correspondent, but no one attempted to detain Chirtsov.

Chirtsov was detained only two days later, on September 2. Investigators charged him with only one crime: violence against a police officer (Russian Criminal Code Article 318.1), to which he has pleaded not guilty. Chirtsov was remanded in custody on September 3.

Moscow Case: Vladimir Yemelyanov (Remand Appeal)
Room 225, Moscow City Court
10:15 a.m, November 7

Yemelyanov, 27, is accused of grabbing [Russian National Guardsman] Kosov by the uniform at the July 27 protest and pulling him over, making it impossible for him to move and causing him physical pain. Yemelyanov has pleaded not guilty, insisting he did nothing illegal.

A store merchandiser, Yemelyanov suffers from asthma. An orphan, he lives with his 74-year-old grandmother and 91-year-old great-grandmother. Although his grandmother went to his custody hearing, the judge did not allow the parties to question her on the stand.

“I felt civically responsible for the people against whom force was used [at the July 27 rally] and took it upon myself to stop the illegal actions of the Russian National Guardsmen. For my part, I see nothing wrong in the fact that I tried to save a person,” Yemelyanov said in court.

Yemelyanov was remanded in custody on October 16.

Moscow Case: Andrei Barshay (Remand Appeal)
Room 225, Moscow City Court
10:30 a.m., November 7

Like the other defendants in the Moscow Case, 21-year-old Andrei Barshay, a student at the Moscow Aviation Institute, is accused of violence against a police officer, as punishable by Article 318.1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

According to investigators, Barshay pushed a Russian National Guardsman in the back at the July 27 protest rally. Barshay was detained only on October 14. He came to his custody hearing with a piece of paper on which he had written the words “Free Everyone!” On October 16, the Basmanny District Court remanded him in custody for two months.

After Barshay was sent to remand prison, his lawyers reported that his cellmates, who were ex-convicts, had joked about rape in their client’s presence and tried to persuade him to make a deal with investigators. Barshay was then sent for an inpatient psychological and psychiatric examination.

“Undesirable Organization” Case: Yana Antonova
Lenin District Court, Krasnodar
Judge Vitaly Gavlovsky
12:00 p.m., November 7

Antonova, a pediatric surgeon and former Open Russia coordinator in Krasnodar, is accused of involvement in the work of an “undesirable organization,” as punishable by Article 284.1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

The pretext for the case were two posts Antonova made on Facebook and her attendance of a protest rally. In the first post, she wrote about the lack of schools in Krasnodar; in the second, she encouraged people to attend a rally in support of Anastasia Shevchenko from Rostov-on-Don, who has also been charged with involvement in an “undesirable organization.”

Thanks to Elena Zakharova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the 2019 Russian regional elections and the fallout from them, including the ongoing crackdowns against opposition politicians and rank-and-file protesters.

Guided Tour of a Torture Chamber

torture-1Darya Apahonchich, just one big torture chamber, 2019. Photo courtesy of Ms. Apahonchich

Darya Apahonchich
Facebook
July 8, 2019

Here’s a little about torture chamber.

My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately, an art exhibition in solidarity with imprisoned anarchists and antifascists, took place July 5–7, 2019, at Pushkinskaya 10 Art Center in Petersburg.

The show was sad and daring. During the three days it was up, it was visited by both regular cops and the “anti-extremism” police from Center “E” [known in Russia as eshniki or “eeniks”].

Our group {rodina} [“motherland“] did a performance, and there were concerts and discussions as well. I also had a piece in the show, entitled just one big torture chamber.

I really liked how Jenya [Kulakova] talked about it simply and calmly during her guided tours of the show.

“According to the latest surveys by Levada Center, ten percent of Russians have been tortured.”

True, it’s a really simple figure, but when I hear it I want to hear more figures. What percentage of Russians have tortured someone? What percentage of Russians have ordered someone tortured? What percentage of Russians said nothing although they knew someone was being tortured? What percentage of Russians share a home with people who torture other people at work? Do torturers beat their wives, children, and elderly parents?

At first, I wanted to fashion Russia from a single piece of cardboard, but then I realized I had no sense of how I could unify the country except with borders, frontier guards, and barbed wire. I know tons of different Russias. I know academic Russia and literary Russia. I know the Russia of forests and mushrooms. I know the Russia of poor people and factories. I know the elegant Russia of rich people. All of these Russias have one thing in common: the violence of torture and the fear of torture. So, I assembled the map from scraps of cardboard.

torture-2Ms. Apahoncich writing the names of Ukrainian and Crimean political prisoners imprisoned in Russian jails and prisons on the wall below a hand-drawn map of occupied Crimea. Photo courtesy of Ms. Apahonchich

I didn’t know what to do with Crimea. I couldn’t include it since I don’t consider its presence on a map of Russia legal, but I also had no choice but to include it because people are tortured there as well, and the people doing the torturing have Russian passports. So, I drew Crimea on the wall in pencil and wrote a list of Ukrainian political prisoners under it. The list was terrifyingly long.

I spelled the word “torture chamber” as it is pronounced in received Moscow standard [pytoshnaya instead of pytochnaya], although maybe no one speaks that way anymore. I would imagine I don’t need to explain why.

It’s a sad piece. If it were carnival now, I would burn it instead of a straw puppet.

Thanks to Alina for the photographs.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Ms. Apahonchich for her permission to translate and publish her post here. Thanks to Nastia Nek for the link to the article on the Levada Center study.

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[…]

Policemen visited the exhibition at the end of its first day. Witnesses said it was the coolest performance in the show. The soloist was Senior Lieutenant Ruslan Sentemov aka Mister Policeman. According to people who took part in the protest action Immortal Gulag, Sentemov insisted this was how the president obliged them to address him when he was detaining them.

The phrase turned into a meme, and Sentemov became the target of parodies and epigrams. It is rare when people are detained at protest rallies in Petersburg and he is not involved. In 2017, 561 people were detained during a protest against corruption. All of them were charged with disobeying the lawful demands of a police officer, and in all 561 cases, that officer was Lieutenant Sentemov. Petersburg civil rights activist Dinar Idrisov claimed each of the ensuing 561 court case files contained a copy of Sentemov’s police ID and his handwritten, signed testimony.

words-1Ruslan Sentemov (right) and another police officer at My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately, July 7, 2019, Pushinskaya 10 Art Center, Petersburg. Photo by Elena Murganova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

In interviews with the press and when he is on camera, Sentemov likes to maintain the image of a “good cop.” He was true to this image at Pushkinskaya 10 as well, upsetting activists, who surrounded him and peppered him with questions about why he had come to the exhibition.

“This is Russia’s cultural capital. But you, young lady, have a very nasty habit of interrupting people and horning in on the conversation,” he said to one of them.

Reassuring activists he was in no hurry, Sentemov set about perusing the show. The police officer who was with him photographed each exhibit in turn.

Jenya Kulakova volunteered to give Sentemov a guided tour.

“These are drawings made by Dmitry Pchelintsev in the Penza Remand Prison. He was tortured with electricity. Here is a banner with the slogan ‘The ice under the major’s feet.’ Perhaps you are familiar with the music of Yegor Letov and Civil Defense?”

“Perhaps.”

Yegor Letov and Civil Defense (Grazhdanskaya oborona) performing the song “We Are the Ice under the Major’s Feet” at a concert at the Gorbunov Culture Center in Moscow in November 2004. Courtesy of YouTube

“Here is Viktor Filinkov’s account of being tortured, handwritten by a female artist. This is a postcard made by Yuli Boyarshinov. Did you know that, in prison, defendants are prohibited from using colored pencils and pens?”

“No, I didn’t know that, unfortunately. I will probably have to study up on the topic.”

spinach“We have no money and machine guns, but we do have a herbarium of spinach leaves.” Photo by Jenya Kulakov. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

“These are drawings from the trials in the Network case. We have an artist who attends the hearings and draws them. This next piece also draws on the case files.”

“I got it. Let’s speed things up.”

“No, you should read a bit of it. Here’s a passage about how someone was hit on the legs and the back of the head. And this is what the tortures said to Viktor Filinkov as they were torturing him. After that, they gave him a Snickers bar to eat. That was probably humane of them, don’t you think?”

“I’ve already read it.”

After strolling around the room containing works by the [Network defendants], Sentemov admitted what interested him most of all was whether the art had been forensically examined for possible “extremism.”

“Look,” said Ms. Kulakova, “all of this was sent to us from remand prisons. By law, all correspondence going in and going out is vetted by a censor. Do you see this stamp here? Have you ever sent a letter to a remand prison?”

“Unfortunately, I haven’t. Or maybe I should say, fortunately. If you say all of this was vetted by the censor, we will definitely have to verify your claim.”

“You seriously want to verify whether remand prison censors working for the FSB have been doing their jobs?”

“At very least, I’d like to send them an inquiry.”

“Here is an installation entitled just one big torture chamber. You may have heard that Levada Center recently did a survey on torture. One in ten people reported they had experienced torture in their lives.”

jenyaJenya Kulakova (center) gives Lieutenant Sentemov and his colleague a guided tour of My Words Have Been Recorded Correctly, July 7, 2019, Pushkinskaya 10 Art Center, Petersburg. Photo by Elena Murganova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta 

“Have you been tortured by chance?” Sentemov suddenly asked Ms. Kulakova, staring unpleasantly at her.

“My friends have been tortured,” she replied.

“I was asking about you.”

“Why would ask me about that?”

“You just talk about it so enthusiastically.”

Sentemov appreciated the interest among exhibition goers aroused by his appearance and laughed smugly.

“I think I’m getting more attention than all these pictures,” he said.

He brushed aside questions about what had brought the police officers to the exhibition and how they had heard about it.

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” he said.

“We gave you a whole guided tour, but you’re just one big mystery,” said Ms. Kulakova disappointedly, fishing for an answer.

“Thank you for such a comprehensive tour. I am quite pleased with the attentiveness of you and your gadgets. Nevertheless, I must leave this wonderful event. I am very pleased you welcomed us so warmly,” Sentemov said in conclusion, turning towards the exit.

“See you soon,” he said as he left.

Source: Tatyana Likhanova, “A Guided Tour of a Torture Chamber,” Novaya Gazeta, July 8, 2019. Translated by the Russian Reader