18 Years in Prison for “Et Cetera” (Penza Network Case Appeals Hearing)

18 Years in Prison for “Et Cetera”
Why the FSB cannot manage any case without resorting to torture: on the appeals hearing in the Penza Network case
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
September 3, 2020

Everything about the Network Case is seemingly clear. All of the defendants have been found guilty and sentenced to six to eighteen years in prison. Public support has subsided due to a fake news hit job against the defendants. The matter is closed, and you can switch with a clear conscience to other news items: Belarus, Khabarovsk, Navalny, and so on.

But why is it, then, that every time I come to Penza, inconspicuous-looking tough guys follow me around town? Why do the court bailiffs try their darnedest to close the formally open court hearings in the case to the public? Why, finally, was testimony given under torture removed from the case file? Are the authorities afraid?

Yes, they are afraid. Six months have passed, but the case is still a bugbear for the FSB.

Photo courtesy of Sota.Vision and Novaya Gazeta

There are five pairs of handcuffs on the railing that separates us from the prisoners. They look like broken Olympic rings. They are for defendants Pchelintsev, Shakursky, Chernov, Kulkov, and Ivankin. The two other defendants, Kuksov and Sagynbayev, are sitting separately: they have tuberculosis.

The appeals hearing begins on a terribly dark note: the guys are told about the death of the Alexei “Socrates” Sutuga. Kuksov says, “That is beyond awful.” In the three years since they’ve been in police custody, a lot has happened, including the New Greatness case, the Ivan Golunov case, the Moscow case, the presidential “reset,” and, finally, the coronavirus. The context has changed completely. There is a photo in the case file of the defendants wearing black masks. It looks really scary. It would suffice to show it to laypeople for them to conclude the defendants were terrorists, of course. The court also thought so.

But now half the country goes around in masks, and it frightens no one.

In the 1930s, there were associations of former political prisoners in the USSR. Amid the turbulent events at the turn of the century, the old-style political prisoners appeared anachronistic. One war, two revolutions, another war, and rivers of blood had flowed since they had served time under the tsars for impertinence to their superiors, involvement in student political groups, and other nonsense. That government, just like this one, did not like students and those who were impertinent to their superiors. They put them in jail and beat them at demos. We remember how that whole story ended.

Pchelintsev says it outright: “We have been sacrificed.” Yes, they are classic victims of history.

Dmitry Pchelintsev. Photo by Alexei Obukhov. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

The first few hours of the hearing are spent on technical issues that, however, are not so technical. The numerous complaints filed by the defense lawyers boil down to the fact that the convicts were not given a good look at the case files and other documents from their trial nor allowed to voice their complaints. The court turns down all the defense’s motions and requests.

It’s as if court is saying, You don’t need to need what you’re in prison for. If you’re in prison it means that is how it has to be.

The defense’s complaints against the verdict can be divided into three parts.

1. The Witnesses

At the trial, the prosecution’s witnesses (!) did not confirm the veracity of their pretrial testimony. Some of the witnesses even disavowed it. Some admitted they had been pressured during the investigation. Some, it transpired, testified to what other people had told them. But the court was not in the least troubled by this fact: for some reason nothing bothers it at all.

That leaves the secret witnesses: there are six of them in the case. One of them, identified as “Kabanov,” is an experienced provocateur (Novaya Gazeta has written about him): this is not his first job for the security services. Another of them could not really explain what he had witnessed. Three of the witnesses claimed that the defendants had told them about their criminal plans after they had been arrested and remanded in custody, that is, in the remand prison in Penza.

Could this have happened? It’s unlikely, but let’s assume it is true. And yet these same “witnesses” could not even correctly describe the defendants’ physical appearance and the setting in which the conversation allegedly took place. Not to mention the fact that prisoners are always dependent. It is an easy matter for the authorities to put pressure on them, to frighten them, to force them to give the “right” testimony in court in exchange for better conditions.

Investigators put testimony obtained from the defendants under torture in the mouths of these witnesses. You get the feeling that they carried the transcripts of the interrogations around them and read them aloud to the first people they met.

Finally, there is the small matter that the transcripts of the interrogations do not match the videos of the interrogations. A person would literally say one thing in the transcript and another thing in the video recordings. The court looked at the videos, compared them with the transcripts, nodded, and everything was left as it was. There is no mention of these discrepancies in the verdict.

2. The Forensic Examinations

Almost all the investigation’s forensic examinations have been refuted by independent experts and specialists. Among the reasons cited by them are incompetence, bias, non-compliance with established standards, and even falsification. It is for falsifications in the Network Case that the Military Investigative Committee is now reviewing FSB Investigator Valery Tokarev. It is so obvious that even their own people don’t believe it.

Although the court claims that defense’s forensic examinations do not contradict the FSB’s forensic examinations, they actually do. None of the FSB’s forensic examinations passed the test, neither the computer examination, the linguistic examination nor the psychological examination.

We must give the court its due: it more often than not did enter findings and testimony that were unpleasant to the prosecution into evidence. But it did not evaluate them in any way and did not take them into account when rendering its verdict. There they are. Sure, qualified specialists have proven that the FSB’s forensic examinations are bullshit, and they can say so if they like. But this has no bearing whatsoever on the verdict.

3. Bias and Presumption of Guilt

Each letter of the verdict indicates that the court was biased in favor of the prosecution. The trial need not have taken place. The investigative case file and the court’s published findings are nearly identical. In fact, it was the FSB who tried the Network defendants, not the court. The court only signed off on their pre-ordained verdict.

As many people have heard, Russia has an independent judiciary.

And here is the icing on the cake, the culmination of this theater of the absurd: the Volga District Military Court that handed down the guilty verdict in the Network Case did not officially exist when the verdict was rendered. So, it is not clear exactly who tried the case.

The Penza Network Case defendants during the trial. Photo by Alexei Obukhov. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

Let’s leave aside for a moment the FSB’s use of torture, the injustice of the case, and the court’s bias. Even if everything had been objective and impartial, from a legal point of view this is not a verdict, but the delirium of a madman. What does a sentence like the following tell us?

“The participants took clandestine security measures, as evidenced by the presence of aliases, communication on the internet using secure protocols, trips to other cities in passing vehicles, et cetera.”

A huge number of questions immediately come to mind.

Half of the people on the internet uses aliases (aka usernames). Are all of them involved in “clandestine security measures”?

Secure protocols are a feature, for example, of Telegram, which is used by half of the country, including government agencies. So, does this mean we should only use insecure protocols? Then the authorities should put an end to it, they should criminalize secure protocols and warn us not to use them.

No one has ever accused hitchhikers of using “clandestine security measures.” This is a game changer for criminology.

Finally, the “et cetera.” This was written by adults. How could “et cetera” be grounds for sentencing someone to eighteen years in prison?  How could anyone write such nonsense in a verdict at all?

The defendants communicate with their relatives. Photo by Alexei Obukhov. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

Konstantin Kartashov, Maxim Ivankin’s lawyer: “I cannot call this document a verdict.”

Oxana Markeyeva, Dmitry Pchelintsev’s lawyer: “The verdict does not meet the procedural requirements.”

Translated into plain language, this means the judges did a poor job, a shabby job. If they had been building a house instead of writing a verdict, the house would have collapsed.

The reason for all these inconsistencies is simple: the guilt of the defendants was proved not in the course of the investigation, but in the course of torturing them. The FSB, however, were afraid to use this testimony, obtained under duress, although they would not admit to torturing the defendants. But without it, nothing sticks. Without it, the verdict is just a random pile of dubious evidence vouched for by the authority of Russian state security. The main thing you need to know about the case is that seven young men were sentenced to terms in prison from six to eighteen years, and their guilt was not proven in court. And this unproven guilt is a threat to all of us—not just to opposition activists, but to anyone walking down the street who catches the eye of FSB field agents.

There are so many problems with the verdict that it is impossible even to state all of them in one or two appeals hearings. There is little hope that the court will heed the arguments of the defense. There is an aura of hopelessness about the case. But it has to be brought to a close because a lot of things hang in its balance. After all, the verdict is based mainly on suspicion—on the fact that, hypothetically, the defendants could have “organized a terrorist community.” In theory, any of us could organize one. We are all under suspicion.

The lawyers in this case are not only defending Pchelintsev, Shakursky, Chernov, Kulkov, Ivankin, Kuksov, and Sagynbayev. They are also defending society, the right of each of us to be protected from the FSB. When they lose their appeal, they will keep going—to the European Court of Human Rights, to the Court of Cassation, to the Russian Supreme Court. Everyone involved in engineering this verdict should realize that they will inevitably have to account for their actions, and at the highest level. I don’t know about criminal responsibility, but universal disgrace is inevitable. They must answer for what they have done, and sooner or later they will answer for it.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the Network Case (see the list, below), and go to Rupression.com to find out how you can show your solidarity with the other defendants in the case.

#NetworkCase 

Viktor Filinkov: The Big Picture

Viktor Filinkov, political prisoner: “An idealist who takes on responsibility for the big picture”
People and Nature
July 4, 2020

While Black Lives Matter demonstrators fill the streets of cities around the world, opening a new chapter in the history of anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle, the Russian anti-fascists Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov are starting long jail sentences.

A St Petersburg court sentenced Filinkov to seven years, and Boyarshinov to five-and-a-half, on 22 June, on trumped-up charges of involvement in a “terrorist grouping” – the “Network”. In February, seven other defendants were jailed by a court in Penza for between six and 18 years, and last year another in St Petersburg for three-and-a-half years.

Detailed evidence that the “Network” case defendants were subjected to horrific tortures after their arrest has been published and submitted to state bodies. President Vladimir Putin last year cynically promised to look into it. Nevertheless, the defendants have been railroaded to penal colonies.

This portrait of Viktor Filinkov – who refused to admit guilt and received one of the heaviest sentences – is by Yevgeny Antonov. It was first published in Russian by the Petersburg news outlet Bumaga.

photo-2020-06-22-11-54-45
Viktor Filinkov in court. Photo by David Frenkel, Mediazona

On Monday 22 June, the 2nd Western District Military Court [in St Petersburg] announced the sentences on the Petersburg defendants in the “Network” case, Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov. They were found guilty of involvement in a terrorist grouping (article 205.4, part 2 of the criminal code). Filinkov was sentenced to seven years in a penal colony (standard regime). Boyarshinov got five and a half years (Yuli was also convicted of the illegal possession of explosive materials (article 222.1, part 1)).

Four days before the sentencing, Filinkov addressed the court. The 25-year old computer programmer set out the inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s case, and used diagrams to show why the PGP [Pretty Good Privacy encryption] programme would not be used by a conspiratorial terrorist group, as the prosecution had claimed.

In his closing statement, Filinkov stated that the internal affairs ministry, the prosecutor, the federal prison service, the Investigative Committee, the federal security service [FSB], the court and the legislature had worked in bad faith. He accused them of obeying orders unquestioningly and of being unwilling to investigate the case.

“The nine-year sentence that the prosecutor has asked for seems like some sort of indication of respect for everything that I have done”, Filinkov said. “All of them have disgraced themselves. I don’t know what the solution to this situation is.”

755296506252927Viktor Filinkov at work. Photo courtesy of Rupression

Viktor Filinkov was born in Petropavlovsk, in Kazakhstan. His mother worked in a jeweller’s shop; his father, who worked installing medical equipment, died when Viktor was 11; and his elder sister lived away from home.

“We waited so long for Viktor. And when he was born, he grew up loved and cared for, by grandparents, by his aunts and uncles, and by us”, Natalia Filinkova, Viktor’s mother, told Bumaga. “He hardly knew the word ‘no’. He was a good, kind child, very honest, strong-willed. Right from when he went to nursery, if he didn’t like something, he would say so straight out. He would tell anyone, to their face, what he thought. I used to ask him, ‘why so direct?’ and he would answer ‘because it’s true!’.”

According to Natalia, electronics caught her son’s imagination when he was still a child. At six, he used his sister’s computer to read up about it. At ten, he would put together robots. As a teenager, he learned programming and won computer competitions. In court, Filinkov’s colleagues from the IT company where he worked confirmed his remarkable skills as a programmer.

“He hadn’t yet started going to school, when he told me, when I grow up I’ll be professor, earn lots and lots of money and buy KAMAZ [the truck construction company], so that it can make lots of money too. He obviously thought professors are high earners”, Natalia joked.

After Viktor’s father’s death, the family had to spend less, and moved to a smaller flat, but was still free of serious financial problems. Viktor’s wife, Aleksandra Aksenova, said that he described his childhood as difficult. “He saw how his mum and his sister kept their noses to the grindstone. But still, they had no money for meal time treats. I well remember how Viktor said that, when he was a child, butter was a real treat. It was not starvation, but it was definitely poverty.”

Viktor is described as a sociable person, with dozens of friends, who loves social gatherings. According to his mother, he was a voracious reader as a teenager – of technical books from school in particular. And he would sit on the internet and play computer games.

Aleksandra Aksenova says that Viktor mentioned to her his dislike of the education system in Kazakhstan, and his frequent arguments with his school teachers. “One thing that’s striking about Viktor is that he loves a good argument. Once he has worked out his position, he is very good at defending it. But also, if it turns out he is wrong, he’s not afraid to say so.

“Although he didn’t like the way the school system worked, he was anything but stupid. With STEM subjects he was in his element. And he argued with his teachers, often because he knew more than they did.”

Viktor himself says that, as he got older, he wore his hair long, on account of which the school management “tried to put pressure on him”. Around this time, Filinkov’s anti-fascist and anarchist views took shape.

annotaciya-2020-06-22-111158Viktor Filinkov (third from left) with schoolmates in Kazakhstan. Photo courtesy of Mediazona

“At some point when Vitya was in the 9th year [i.e. at 15], he said that he had become keen on anarchism”, Natalia Filinkova remembers. “Surely he read about it on the internet, there was plenty

Viktor Filinkov (third from left) as a school pupil. Photo: zona.media

written there. This was shortly after [the lawyer, Stanislav] Markelov and [the journalist Anastasia] Baburova were killed [in Moscow]. This had a real effect on Viktor; he wanted justice.”

Viktor’s mother says, however, that they did not talk about politics. In court, she said: “He was a good example to others. At no time did he suggest that he was against the government.”

photo-2018-01-24-22-04-10Viktor Filinkov in happier times. Photo courtesy of Rupression

In 2013 Viktor finished school and moved to Omsk, [in western Siberia, in Russia] where he started studying in the faculty of information and communications technology at Omsk state university.

Viktor never graduated. After two-and-a-half years he abandoned his studies, because his mum became “seriously ill”. (Natalia asked that the diagnosis remain confidential). Filinkov started work, earning 30,000 rubles [400 euros at 2016 exchange rate] per month.

Viktor was happy to quit university, a friend from that time told Bumaga; he complained that classes were boring. This source said that Filinkov soon understood that he had hit the pay ceiling in Omsk, and thought about moving on.

Viktor’s wife recalls that at that time he began to participate in anti-fascist actions and to support human rights campaigns. In 2014-16 he stood on picket lines opposing redundancies among health workers, supported trade unions and attended demonstrations in memory of Markelov and Baburova.

By 2015 Viktor was a committed anti-fascist, an acquaintance from Omsk told Bumaga. According to them, Viktor came to these beliefs himself, without reading “ideological literature” such as the work of [Pyotr] Kropotkin or [Mikhail] Bakunin.

“We first met in 2015, when he was hanging around the university with his friends”, this source recalls. “We had interests in common – in computer technology, and sport – and became friends. There was a small circle there [in Omsk] of people who were anti-authoritarian: a milieu of young leftists, who shared a clear understanding: racism – no way, capitalism – no way.”

This friend of Filinkov’s said they were “not the sort who build communes and prepare revolution”: their main aim was to create horizontal cooperation, within which people could live side-by-side comfortably and help each other. This way of living was seen as an alternative to the state’s.

Aleksandra Aksenova, with whom Filinkov often discussed his time in Omsk, said: “He grew up in conditions of great social injustice. He also saw people’s attitudes to him, due to the fact he was a citizen of another country [Kazakhstan]. How could he not become an anti-fascist?”

Viktor himself has said that in 2016, because of the views he held, he was several times attacked by nationalists.

Both Aksenova and Filinkov’s friend from Omsk said that Viktor had come to know Aleksei Poltavets, who would later confess to the murder of an associate of the “Network” defendants in Penza. Of the other future defendants Viktor knew little, but he had heard their names, says the source in Omsk.

“It wasn’t so much about going to demonstrations or getting together in groups”, Filinkov’s Omsk friend said. “It was that we tried to live by the principles of anti-authoritarianism, anarchism, anti-fascism. And of course we spent time together: cycling, skating, playing around with Linux, trying to write [computer] programmes, listening to music, hanging out, climbing on roofs.”

5-demonstratorsPolice detain a demonstrator outside the courthouse in Petersburg where Filinkov and Boyarshinov were sentenced on June 22, 2020. Photo by David Frenkel, Mediazona

Viktor met his future wife in the summer of 2015 at an anti-fascist concert in Moscow. Aleksandra then lived in Moscow, Filinkov was just visiting. They kept in touch on line, then began talking on the phone and in mid 2016 decided to meet in Penza, midway between Omsk and St Petersburg, where Aleksandra then lived.

Aleksandra had by then got to know many anti-fascists and anarchists, including future defendants in the “network” case: she was friends with Dmitry Pchelintsev, knew Arman Sagynbaev, Igor Shishkin, Andrei Chernov and Yuli Boyarshinov, and had communicated with Ilya Shakursky. Filinkov himself said that, even by the time of the court case, he had only known some of the other defendants indirectly, or met them just once.

“My comrades got to know Vitya”, Aksenova remembers. “They grew pretty fond of him, because he knew so much about so many things. They would endlessly come to see him. ‘Vitek, help with this, help with that, my computer is broken, I need to find something, how can this be done safely?’ And he would sit and explain everything.”

Aksenova says that Filinkov grew to like Dmitry Pchelintsev, the shooting instructor and anti-fascist, who the FSB would later name as the founder of the “network” terrorist organisation. “It’s no secret to anybody that one of most well-read guys in Penza was Dmitry Pchelintsev”, Aksenova says. “He could explain his reasoning, sometimes very romanticised and sometimes loudly, but it was always interesting to talk with him.”

In court, Filinkov’s lawyer, Vitaly Cherkasov, insisted that in Penza Viktor hardly spent time with any of the others, since he was “so enchanted with his lover”.

In September 2016, Filinkov found work at a Petersburg start-up. He and Aleksandra began to live together, and then got married – partly so that Viktor could become a Russian citizen.

At the same time, Filinkov got to know Sagynbaev, and began to attend lectures on first aid. In 2017 Aksenova applied for permission to acquire a firearm: the couple then kept it in a safe in their flat.

In the same year Filinkov, along with other anti-fascists, began to visit a flat at Bogatyrsky Prospekt 22. Aksenova says: “These were meetings of friends. They discussed community projects, and how they could cooperate with each other. As was stated in court, they talked about, among other things, sociological methods of study, and how to develop a culture of discussion.”

When, at the end of 2017, Pchelintsev and other activists in Penza disappeared, Filinkov and Aleksandra tried to find out what had happened to them. Aksenova decided to travel to Kiev, and in January 2018, when it became known that the Petersburg anti-fascist Yuli Boyarshinov had been arrested, Viktor decided to fly out to join her.

Filinkov had a ticket for a Kiev flight two days after Boyarshinov was detained. He told his wife that he was leaving for the airport, but never made it to the Ukrainian capital. Aleksandra searched for her husband for two days. Later on it became clear that he had been detained by FSB officers. Filinkov said that in those days the officers tortured him with an electric shocker, in order to obtain a confession.

6-filinkov-boyarshinovFilinkov and Boyarshinov at a court hearing in 2018

Filinkov spent two-and-a-half years in an Investigative Detention Centre (SIZO). During that time he reported injuries he had sustained as a result of the torture. He was diagnosed with a ruptured spinal disc, and prescribed medicine for psychological problems that he suffered.

According to the FSB, Viktor Filinkov, together with other members of the “Network”, in 2016-18 acquired firearms and learned how to use them, and “acquired the practical means to seize a building”, with the aim of making violent change to the constitutional order. The FSB claimed that the group, in which Filinkov allegedly took part, aimed at the “armed overthrow of the state power”. In the prosecution case, Viktor was named as the signals operative.

The prosecutors argued that Filinkov spoke about being tortured in order to discredit Russia’s law enforcement agencies. As evidence, they adduced the fact that Viktor did not officially inform anyone about the torture before he met with Vitaly Cherkasov, his lawyer, on 26 January [2018]. Cherkasov asserts that his client was in a state of shock, and says that he himself saw the marks [on Filinkov] that resulted from him being beaten.

Members of the Public Monitoring Commission [a civic organisation empowered to monitor conditions in places of detention] also confirmed that there were signs of torture. But no independent medical examination was conducted. Viktor’s mother met with him only several months after his arrest: according to her, it was cold and her son wore a coat: all she saw was a scar on his chin.

When the court hearings began in Petersburg, Filinkov at practically every opportunity spoke of his innocence and rejected the prosecution’s claims. In open court he said: “All that I can say is: no, it’s not true. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution. But for two-and-a-half years, the authorities have shown their bias. They have wagged their fingers at me and said that I have to prove that I am not a camel.”

Filinkov’s work colleagues said in court that he had spoken openly with several of them about his wife’s legal possession of a firearm. He had introduced her to them as “Olga” – which the FSB claimed was a conspiratorial pseudonym. The prosecution also claimed that Filinkov’s “code name” was Gena. Viktor himself insists that people started to call him by that nickname in Omsk, because sometimes he laughed “like a hyena” [“giyena” in Russian].

jenya viktor yuliPublic defender Jenya Kulakova (left) photographs Network Case defendants Viktor Filinkov (center) and Yuli Boyarshinov. Courtesy of Jenya Kulakova

People who know Viktor well have told Bumaga that they understand why he refused to confess, which theoretically could have reduced his sentence. (According to Vitaly Cherkasov, after arrest Filinkov was offered a three-year term [if he confessed].)

“That’s just his character. He won’t confess to something that he didn’t do”, Viktor’s mother Natalia said. “I know what he is thinking: if a person is right, why should he incriminate himself? Knowing him, I wouldn’t even dare to ask if he would think about making a deal. I couldn’t have brought myself to say it to him. Just impossible.”

Aleksandra explains her husband’s decision in terms of the “prisoner’s dilemma” in game theory. There is a choice for two sides: betray each other, or cooperate. Betrayal brings greater gains for each side, and for this reason it is assumed that rational players will choose betrayal. But if both sides turn traitor, the total winnings will be less than if they cooperate.

“When all the defendants in a fabricated trial refuse to admit their guilt, and insist on what they see as the truth, then the mathematical chance that they will all be given the maximum sentence is reduced”, Aleksandra says. “In such a case there’s a possibility that the whole case will just collapse. Because everyone will say what really happened. But in our case, things were complicated because there were only three defendants in Petersburg.”

Officially, the other Petersburg “network” defendants – Igor Shishkin and Yuli Boyarshinov – made no statements that they had been tortured. But after they were first detained, members of the Public Monitoring Commission learned that Shishkin had been diagnosed with a large number of bruises and instances of localised internal bleeding, and that the bone around his eye [the lower orbital wall] had been broken. Boyarshinov stated that FSB officers came to see him in the detention centre, and that other detainees had threatened to rape him.

In his final statement to the court, Filinkov said that he understood both Yuli Boyarshinov, who had confessed to his guilt, and Igor Shishkin, who had cooperated with the investigation (and already in 2019 been sentenced to three-and-a-half years). Viktor considers that they saw no other way out.

Aksenova concludes: “He is an idealist. An idealist who sees the need to take his place in history, who takes upon himself responsibility for the big picture.

“If there were no such idealists, then we would never have an example to follow, of how a person should act in such circumstances. Maybe it will seem to some people that Viktor’s words and actions were rash, and doomed to fail from the outset. I would not argue. But these words and actions are a necessity, for us to stand up for our ideals.” 3 July 2020.

■ Please visit the Rupression web site, to see how you can support the “Network” case prisoners.

■ For more coverage of Filinkov and Boyarshinov’s trial, and of the case, see The Russian Reader, Open Democracy Russia, and Freedom News. People & Nature has written about the case too, e.g. here, and about international solidarity events.

Thanks to People & Nature for permission to reprint this article. \\ TRR

The Network Case

DSCN5441 “Stay human”

This is a complete list of all the articles on the Network Case (aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case) and related developments that I have published on this website to date. The list will be updated and republished periodically as more articles are added. \\ TRR

[Updated: 3 September 2020]

#NetworkCase #ДелоСети

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