Torture First, Ask Questions Later (The Case of Azat Miftakhov)

азатAzat Miftakhov. Courtesy of Autonomous Action

Detained Moscow State University Mechanics and Mathematics Grad Student Tells Lawyer Security Forces Beat Him
Mediazona
February 3, 2019

Defense lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina reported to Mediazona that Azat Miftakhov, a graduate student in the mechanics and mathematics department at Moscow State University, told her he was beaten by security forces officers after they detained him.

“In the office [at the Balashikha police station — Mediazona] where he was held, they demanded he confess and were upset he asked to call family members or a lawyer. As he told me, one of the officers pressed an object that appeared to be a screwdriver to his chest and said he would use it if [Miftakhov] did not do as they asked,” Sidorkina told us.

“Then he was beaten on the arms and face. As [Miftakhov] said, they kicked and punched him in the chest. But there were no visible injuries. Then [one of the security forces officers]  wanted to stick the screwdriver in his anus. [Miftakhov] took the threat seriously, but [the officers] did nothing. Ultimately, [Miftakhov] did not tell them anything nor did he sign a confession,” said Sidorkina.

She noted that, aside from a bruise on Azat’s ear and a mark made by the screwdriver, there were no visible injuries on his body.

Miftakhov did not know what security agency the men who beat him represented.

Sidorkina added that Miftakhov was detained as part of an investigation into a violation of Russian Criminal Code Article 223.1 Part 1 (illegal manufacture of explosives).

According to Sidorkina, Miftakhov was detained on the morning of February 1. After his dwelling was searched, he was delivered to the Balashikha police station. In the evening, after he was interrogated by security services officers, he was taken to hospital, where he was treated for abrasions from the screwdriver and injected with a sedative. He was driven back to the police station, but held in the car until three in the morning.

Sidorkina suspects the security forces did not know how to charge the detained graduate student.

Ultimately, Miftakhov was placed in a room for people detained on administrative charges in the Balashikha police station’s other building, which houses its investigative department.

On the morning of February 2, however, he was taken back to the first building. According to Miftakhov, he was held in a office there for the entire day, but he was handcuffed. Around seven o’clock in the evening, he was driven back to the Balashikha police station’s investigative department, where the written record of his detention was read out to him.

At least eleven other people were detained as part of the explosives investigation. Except for Miftakhov, all of them have been released.

Mediazona has spoken with six of the former detainees. Daniil Galkin told us that, after the search, FSB officers tortured him with a taser and tried to force him into testifying against Miftakhov and doing an interview with a news crew from Channel One.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Arman Sagynbayev: I Was Tortured by the FSB

“Two Wires Came Out of the Box”: Penza-Petersburg “Terrorism” Case Suspect Arman Sagybayev Says FSB Tortured Him with Electrical Shocks in Minivan
Mediazona
September 6, 2018

sagynbayevArman Sagybayev. Photo courtesy of Mr. Sagynbayev and Mediazona

Antifascist and anarchist Arman Sagynbayev, who was arrested and remanded in custody as part of the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, had until recently admitted his guilt. On September 4, he withdrew his confession, explaining that initially he had been tortured into testifying against himself and other young men arrested in the case, and then had been afraid to go against case investigators. His defense counsel has sent a statement to the Russian Federal Investigative Committee. Mediazona has published Sagynbayev’s deposition to his lawyer, in which Sagynbayev recounts how FSB field agents tortured him after detaining him in Petersburg.

In November 2017, officers of the Russian FSB [Federal Security Service] used unlawful investigative methodw (torture) against me. The circumstances were as follows.

On 5 November 2017, at approximately six o’clock in the morning, the doorbell of an apartment at [omitted] in St. Petersburg, where I was located at the time, rang. I opened the door, since when I had asked who was there, I was told the neighborhood beat cop was at the door. As soon as I opened the door, at least four men burst into the apartment. They yelled that they were from the FSB. They pushed a weapon (pistol) into my face before making me face the wall and handcuffing me with my hands behind my back. The men searched the apartment.

When the search was over, I was taken to a burgundy colored minivan parked next to the house whose address I have given. I would be hard pressed to name the vehicle’s make and model. A cloth sack was put over my head when I was in the vehicle. One of the men hit me in the body and head, demanding I tell them where I actually lived in St. Petersburg.

I could see through the fabric of the sack over my head that the man beating me was thickset and had blue eyes. I also made out the tattoo on the backside of his left hand: “For the Airborne Forces.” Later, I heard the other FSB officers call him [omitted].

Unable to withstand the beating, I told them where I actually lived in St. Petersburg: [omitted]. I was taken to the address I gave them, and there the men conducted a search without producing a warrant and without having official witnesses present [as required by Russian law].

When the search was finished, I was again put in the minivan and the sack was put over my head. At some point, I realized we were leaving St. Petersburg, but I had no way of knowing where we were going. I had a sack over my head and was handcuffed during the entire trip.

As we drove, I noticed that the man with the Airborne Forces tattoo, who had assaulted me, pulled a brown box from under his seat. There were two switches of some kind on the sides of the box. I cannot say what they were for. It is possible they controlled the intensity of the electrical current. Two wires came out of the box, which were attached to my thumbs. I was told they would check whether they had a current or not. I then experienced agonizing pain. I realized they were shocking me with electric currents. Meanwhile, the men in the vehicle asked me different questions. For example, I was asked to identify people whom I did not know, and when I said I did not know them, I would be shocked with the electrical current.

The men also hit me hard over the head with an object that resembled a day planner. When they realized I could not identify the people they named, they asked me other questions, for example, how to manufacture explosive devices and what parts were used in those devices. When my answers did not satisfy the men, I was hit over head and shocked with electrical current until I told them what they wanted to hear. They also told me that if I were not cooperative, they could do anything whatsoever to me and my loved ones, and they would get away with it, because I was a terrorist. They told me they could rape (“gang-bang”) my girlfriend [omitted], cut off her hands and my hands, and burn us with a soldering iron.

The torture lasted for around four hours, but I cannot say for sure, since I had no way of keeping track of the time, and I was in a great deal of pain.

When I was delivered to Penza Regional Remand Prison No. 1, there were burns from the electrical shocks on my hands, but no one paid any mind to these injuries, and the doctors did not record them when I was given a medical exam. Since I have been in custody in Penza Regional Remand Prison No. 1, no more illegal actions—beatings, torture, etc.—have been taken against me.

Fearing for the lives of my close relatives, for the life of [omitted], and for my own life, due to my health, which has worsened due to a serious illness, and due to the torture I endured, I testified against [Dmitry] Pchelintsev and myself, saying we had organized the so-called Network,  which was not really true.

Attorney Timur Miftakhutdinov: Did you report the circumstances you have described and the unacceptable investigative methods used on you to the public defender and the case investigator?

Saginbayev: I told attorney O.V. Rakhmanova everything and showed her the injuries from the electrical shocks on my hands. But I flatly refused to file a statement about the incident, since I still feared for the lives and safety of my relatives and the people I love. I thus forbade attorney O.V. Rakhmanova from reporting the incident to anyone and especially from sending complaints to the prosecutor’s office and the Investigative Committee. That was why I wrote to you in February 2018 that I had not been subjected to torture.

Miftakhutdinov: What position do you now intend to pursue with regard to the criminal case?

Saginbayev: My position, which I communicated to the case investigator when I was interrogated, has not changed for now.  I ask you to stick to it.

The deposition was conducted on May 31, 2018. Since then, Arman Sagynbayev has changed his stance. On September 4, 2018, he denounced his confession and decided to file a torture complaint.

The Penza-Petersburg “Terrorism” Case
The criminal case against the so-called Network “terrorist community” was launched by the FSB in October 2017. Over the course of a month, Yegor Zorin, Ilya Shakursky, Vasily Kuksov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, and Andrei Chernov were detained in Penza. Arman Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg and extradited to Penza. Two Penza residents, Maxim Ivankin and Mikhail Kulkov, left Russia and were put on the wanted list.

In January 2018, Viktor Filinkov and Igor Shiskin were detained in Petersburg as part of the same case. On April 11, 2018, charges were filed against another Petersburger, Yuli Boyarshinov.

Most of the young men charged in the case are antifascists and anarchists, and many of them share a passion for the game airsoft. The FSB claims that all the arrested men belonged to an underground organization known as the Network and, allegedly, had plans to “arose the popular masses to further destabilize the political situation” in Russia and instigating an armed revolt by setting off a series of explosions during the March 2018 Russian presidential election and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Network supposedly had cells operating in Moscow, Petersburg, Penza, and Belarus.

The relatives of the accused in Penza have related that when the young men were detained, weapons were planted in their homes and cars, and late they were tortured. Viktor Filinkov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, and Ilya Shakursky have provided detailed accounts of their torture at the hands of the FSB. Ilya Kapustin, who was released as a witness, also spoke of being interrogated by the FSB as they tasered him. Like Filinkov’s wife Alexandra, Kapustin subsequently left for Finland, where he requested political asylum.

Pchelintsev and Shakursky claimed FSB officers tortured them with electrical shocks in the basement of the Penza Remand Prison. Shishkin made no statement about torture, although doctors found that the lower wall of his eye socket had been fractured, and that he had suffered numerous bruises and abrasions. Members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission who visited him in remand prison noted numerous traces on his body of what looked like electrical burns.

The Investigative Committee has refused to open criminal cases in connection with Filinkov and Kapustin’s claims of torture. The lead investigator decided that in Filinkov’s case the taser had been employed legally, while the spots on Kapustin’s body had been caused by flea bites, not electrical burns.

Valery Tokarev heads the team of investigators handling the case in the FSB’s Penza office, while in Petersburg the investigation has been led by Investigator Gennady Belyayev.

The relatives of the accused have formed a support committee known as the Parents Network.

The accused have been charged with violating Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 205.4 Part 2, i..e., involvement in a terrorist community, which carries a punishment of five to ten years in prison.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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

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

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

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

Two More Suspects Detained in Network Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by the Russian Reader

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

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

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

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

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

Families of Penza-Petersburg “Terrorists” Form Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ilya Shakursky. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Arman Sagynbayev. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dmitry Pchelintsev and his wife Angelina. Photo courtesy of relatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m afraid I’d be arrested.”

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

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

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


Vasily Kuksov. Photo courtesy of relatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shakursky’s mother sobs.

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

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

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


Andrei Chernov. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by the Russian Reader

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

 

They Jump on Anything That Moves, Part 3: The Case of the New Greatness Movement

Arrests Made in the New Greatness Case in Moscow
Grani.ru
March 15, 2018

Arrests and searches have been made in Moscow in the investigation of the New Greatness movement. The first source to report the news was Kremlin Washerwoman, a Telegram channel associated with the security services. More detailed information was soon published by OVD Info.

The detainees included the movement’s leader, Ruslan Kostylenkov, and two female activists, Maria Lapina and a juvenile whose name has not been disclosed. They were taken to the Kuntsevo Interdistrict Office of the Russian Investigative Committee. The female juvenile detainee was escorted by her father.

It is reported that during one of the searches a list containing the names of ten members of the movement was confiscated. According to uncorroborated reports, FSB investigators were present during the search.

There is information the juvenile detainee had earlier been subjected to pressure from Center “E” (Center for Extremism Prevention), after which her employer demanded she quit her job.

Photos of the search, as published on Kremlin Washerwoman, show campaign material for the so-called Voters’ Strike, a leaflet printed with New Greatness’s platform, and a t-shirt emblazoned with anarchist symbols.

Screenshot from the Telegram channel Kremlin Washerwomen. “Searches taking place at the home of supports of an obscure organization by the name of New Greatness. The guys drink a lot and cannot pin down their views.”

After lunch, Kremlin Washerwoman posted a video showing Kostylenkov’s confession. Out of breath, Kostylenkov recites a memorized text, mentioning in particular plans for “organizing a tribunal for members of the ruling elite” and “practice in shooting and throwing Molotov cocktails.”

Screenshot of Ruslan Kostylenkov’s alleged confession. Courtesy of Grani.ru’s Twitter account

The movement’s website contains only a home page featuring a notification that the site would be launched on March 15, that is, today. It also contains a brief, two-paragraph description of the movement’s objectives.

“We are the ones who will awake a sense of their own self-worth in people and help the nations of Russian acquire the energy for reviving the spirit of victors,” reads the text. “Only together can we build a strong country the rest of the world will respect and take into account.”

At the same time, both “pro-regime” and “opposition” forces are criticized for “divvying up spheres of influence,” while “ordinary people vegetate in poverty and dishonor, having forgotten the plight of the Motherland in which they live is in their hands.”

Screenshot of the homepage of New Greatness’s website

New Greatness began posting on its VK page on December 30 of last year. In late January, the movement encouraged people to take part in a rally demanding the preservation of trolleybus service in Moscow. The capital’s mayor has gradually been replacing trolleybus lines with bus line, which has sparked protests by environmentalists.

In February, New Greatness launched a large-scale campaign to paste anti-Putin leaflets around Moscow. The movement signaled it was in favor of boycotting the presidental election. On February 25, its activists were involved in the Boris Nemtsov Memorial March in Moscow.

On February 26, a pinned post was published on the movement’s VK page that read as follows: “Our young, ambitious, and quickly growing organization needs your help. If you are finally ready for the fight and willing to sacrifice your time and strength for the sake of our Motherland’s future by working in strong team led by an energetic leader, then join us. To do that, you must live in Moscow or Moscow Region and write to the message inbox on this page. If you cannnot help out physically, help us financially!”

The message is followed by an electronic address for transferring money.

On the evening of March 14, the Telegram canal A Copper Spills posted a message that opened as follows: “Evidence that an extremist organization has been established has been uncovered.”

The post’s author claimed Center “E” investigators in Moscow’s Southeastern District had discovered that “unidentified persons” had established “a group accessible to all [VK] users, which posted information about the creation of an informal political association whose main activity is involvement in popular insurrections, revolutionary actions, and clashes with the authorities.”

“The evidence is there, but for now we’ll keep quiet about everything else. When the times comes, we will tell all,” the author of the post concludes.

Kuntsevo is located in Moscow’s Western District, not in the Southeastern District. Besides, none of New Greatness’s posts contain calls for clashes with the authorities. In this connection, it is difficult to give an unequivocal answer to the question of whether the post on A Copper Spills had anything to do with the recent searches.

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

P.S. Not that anyone much cares (I’m not trying to be smug: I really don’t get the sense there are huge numbers of people either in my reading audience, Russia or the great wide world who genuinely care about any of this), but I think we can extract three takeway lessons rom the war the Russian security services and police have unleased against grassroots activists in recent months.

1. When the director of the FSB or Putin (I forget who) said the other day the FSB had “prevented” fifty or a hundred or six thousand “terrorist attacks” last year, what they really had in mind is juvenile operations and investigations like the one described in the article above. That is, perfectly harmless young people with “funny ideas” and “informal” lifestyles are turned into “terrorist groups” with a little ultraviolence from the so-called security services.

The key is to scare, threaten or torture the harmless non-terrorists into confessing their non-guilt and signing confessions before letting them see a lawyer. Then their gooses are cooked for good, because cases concerning “terrorism” and “public safety” more generally have been removed from the remit of jurors in Russia, meaning they are tried by judges who know in advance what verdicts they are supposed to hand down.

A jury of more or less intelligent people would look at the flimsy evidence and the forced confessions and be tempted to acquit the defendants. If the Bolotnaya Square defendants, for example, had been tried by juries of their peers, I have no doubt most if not all of them would have been acquitted.

2. It has become extraordinarily dangerous to call for a boycott of the March 18 presidential election. Activists who have been calling for a boycott have painted big targets on their backs, and the authorities have spent the last few months shooting at them with increasing ferociousness. Depending on their ideological leanings, the activists have been sentenced to more or less long jail sentences or branded “terrorists,” as seems to be the case with the unfortunates described in the Grani.ru article, above.

I could be wrong, but this “minor terror” alone should be enough to discredit the election in the eyes of anyone with a conscience. By voting on Sunday, you will be saying to the authorities they can terrorize with impunity anyone who criticizes elections in Russia too vigorously and loudly, although that is exactly what needs to happen.

3. The only way to beat this racket is broad-based solidarity, but as we have seen with the accused in the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and even with many of Navalny’s nominal supporters sent off to jail or beaten up for god knows what reason, people occupying different political camps are not too eager to show their solidarity.

The poor folks from the utterly harmless and helpless New Greatness movement, I am nearly certain, will elicit no solidarity or support from anyone whatsoever, except maybe the lawyers from Agora or Public Verdict, if they are lucky.

This points up the biggest flaw in the Russian grassroots democratic movement (if such a thing exists): its clannish, extremely partisan notions of solidarity. There are very few political activists who cross party lines to show their solidarity with their nominal opponents, and this is a huge, crippling problem for the anti-Putin, pro-democracy movement if it wants ever to move forward for real.

When it comes to folks like the New Greatness movement, it likely means they will be railroaded and sent off to a penal colony for ten years or twenty years without so much as anyone but their loved ones even noticing it happened.

After all, even silly, harmless people have human rights, such as the right to an attorney, the right to a proper investigation, and the right to a fair trial. TRR

How “Stability” Has Really Been Achieved in Russia

photo_2018-01-24_22-04-13Viktor Filinkov. Photo courtesy of Filinkov’s wife and OVD Info

Petersburg Anarchist Viktor Filinkov, Arrested in Terrorism Case, Says He Was Tortured
Mediazona
January 26, 2018

Antifascist Viktor Filinkov, arrested for alleged involvement in a terrorist network, has told members of the Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) he was tortured, according to the PMC’s report, which Mediazona has in its possession.

According to the PMC report, injuries “inflicted in the last two or three days” were discovered on Filinkov’s body, including numerous traces of burns from an electric shocker all over his right thigh, a hematoma on his right ankle, and burns from an electric shocker on his thorax.

Filinkov explained he suffered the injuries on January 24 in the car in which he was put by FSB officers after he was detained at Pulkovo Airport in Petersburg. The activist was then taken to the local Interior Ministry headquarters, and from there to a hospital. Filinkov was then driven into woodlands and held in the car for five hours.

FSB officers were seated in the front of the car, according to Filinkov. The middle row of seats was occupied by a man wearing a mask, while Filinkov and another man wearing a mask sat in the back of the vehicle. The injuries were inflicted between seven and eight o’clock in the morning.

According to the PMC’s report, “The FSB officers demanded that Filinkov confess, and having obtained his consent, they forced him to memorize the particular wording [of his confession].”

The masked men said very little, while the FSB officers threatened Filinkov that if he subsequently reneged on the confession, the beating they had given him would be a “light version” of the beating he would get later.

Afterwards, Filinkov signed a statement, addressed to the local Interior Ministry headquarters and the local FSB headquarters, in which he informed them of all the things he had been prompted to say. The FSB officers then demanded he not deny the statement in court, threatening to place him in a pretrial detention center with tuberculosis patients.

The only things the masked men said were “Stop twitching!” and “What you shouting for?”

Filinkov was transferred to another car in the woodlands, a Lada Priora, and taken to the local Interior Ministry headquarters. According to Filinkov, the masked men seemed to know their way around the building, as if they had been there many times. They also discussed the fact they should keep their faces hidden because of the security cameras in the building.

The PMC’s report notes that the men wiped the blood off Filinkov’s face with his own hat and with snow, and traces of bood were left on the hat. The leftist activist was also told that if he behaved badly, the FSB would “get to” his wife “even in Kyiv.”

On January 24, Filinkov’s wife told OVD Info her husband had disappeared on his way to Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport. The antifascist was scheduled to fly to Kyiv at eight o’clock in the evening on January 23. The last time they communicated that day was three o’clock in the afternoon, when Filinkov texted his wife that he was headed to the airport and would text her again after he arrived there.

On January 25, it transpired that the Dzerzhinsky District Court in Petersburg had remanded Filinkov to police custody for two months on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist network (per Article 205.4 Part 2 of the Russian Criminal Code). According to police investigators, Filinikov and unidentified persons who “supported the anarchist ideology” were branch members of a terrorist network whose purpose was to engage in terrorist activities, propaganda, and justification of terrorism.

Today, the wife of another Petersburg antifascist, Igor Shishkin, reported he was missing. Shishkin went missing after his home was searched and he was taken away by law enforcement officers.

Translated by the Russian Reader