“The People’s Crime”: Drug Convictions Are Filling Russia’s Prisons with Nonviolent Offenders

lebedev-dimaDima has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for a minor drugs offense. Photo by Mikhail Lebedev

Mikhail Lebedev
Facebook
February 19, 2020

THIS IS IMPORTANT! LEGAL HELP NEEDED!

It is no secret that I am now shooting a project dealing with the so-called people’s article [Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code, which makes it a felony to possess over seven grams of a controlled substance; see the articles, below—TRR]. Among other things, I have been photographing people who were convicted under this article and interviewing them. Four months ago, I went to Novgorod to shoot Dima, who was on his own recognizance as his trial was underway. [Last] Friday, Dima, who is twenty-two, was sentenced to eleven years in a maximum-security prison.

Dima was not a dealer. He used synthetic drugs and, as often happens, he used them in the company of others. A couple of times he also used his Hydra account to buy stashes of drugs for friends and sent them photos of the stashes. At some point, the “friends” were detained, the photos Dima sent were found on their telephones, and Dima became a “drug dealer.” At most, he should have been charged with aiding and abetting, but the court refused to change the charges.

This is not a matter of right or wrong, but of whether the punishment fits the crime. Dima is guilty of using drugs and “helping” friends in such an irresponsible manner. Nowadays, however, the emergence of the Darknet and Hydra make it akin to a computer game: you can buy anything with a couple of clicks. I remember what my friends and I were like at the age of twenty-two: any of us could have been sent down like Dima. We lucked out, however, and he did not. Eleven years in prison! People get less time for rape and murder, not to mention assault and battery, domestic violence, and robbery.

We walked around Novgorod for five hours, conversing the entire time. Dima already had a different life: he had stopped using, improved his relationship with his girlfriend, and worked as a loader when possible. (Although Dima is a talented programmer, no one will hire you above the table if you are under investigation.) When he gets out of prison, society will punish him again. Among the people I have met, no one convicted under Article 228 who has served time or been put on probation can get a decent job above the table because corporate security services reject such applicants.

If any of my friends on Facebook know good lawyers in this area or foundations that help people convicted under Article 228 or have practical advice, be sure to write me and I will pass on these contacts to Dima’s girlfriend. His family is now preparing an appeal, and they need support and legal assistance.

message from xtc dealerPetersburg and other Russian cities are now chockablock with stencils and placards advertising illegal drugs like this one, which I photographed in March 2018.

The Stash and Its Master: Why Russians Are Becoming Drugs Couriers
Nataliya Zotova
BBC Russian Service
June 10, 2019

With the spread of the internet and smartphones in Russia, a whole new profession for young people has emerged—stashers (zakladchiki) aka stashmen (kladmeny), people who deliver drugs ordered on the internet to buyers. Although it is a fairly easy way for young people to make money, they could face up to twenty years in prison if they are caught.

Young people employed in the business told the BBC why they went into it, what the job involved, and whether they were afraid of getting caught.

[…]

Twenty-year-old Daniil Zhilenkov did his mandatory military service in the Russian National Guard, and when he was demobbed, he wanted to sign up again as a professional soldier. But he changed his mind when he found out that novice guardsmen made only 16,000 rubles [approx. $250] a month. He then left his hometown of Mariinsk, in Kemerovo Region, to live with his girlfriend, a university student in Krasnoyarsk. Kseniya could not contribute to their joint budget because she had to finish her studies.

Daniil found employment at the train depot (he had graduated from the railway college before going to the army), but he left the job after a month, again due to the low salary. He tried working part-time at a car wash.

“The salary was 27,000 rubles [approx. $420] a month. Our rent was 15,000, and then there were the groceries. We didn’t have enough money to cover everything,” he said.

Kseniya recalled that she bought only the cheapest products at the time.

One day, Daniil and a friend were walking down the street and saw an ad on a wall: a store was hiring couriers. Daniil found out what the store sold when came home and googled the name.

“He took the job without my knowledge. When he started going out in the evenings, I realized something was wrong. We sat down and talked. We had a huge row over it,” Kseniya recounted, explaining that she was afraid for her boyfriend.

Daniil was not afraid, however.

“I didn’t think about how to do things more safely. I couldn’t imagine the police were interested in us. It was quite the opposite, as it turned out: it is only people like us who are arrested,” he said.

Daniil and Kseniya agreed that he would not do the work for long, only until he found a better job.

“He said, ‘I’ll save up and leave,'” she recalled.

So four months passed, but one night Daniil was detained on the street by the police. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for distributing drugs.

He spoke to me on a pay phone from the penal colony in Irkutsk: he had served around two years of his seven-year sentence. Daniil wondered how old I was. I told him I was twenty-age. Daniil would be the same age when he was released.

[…]

Translated by the Russian Reader

fullsizeoutput_1ba8“Stashers wanted.” Petrograd Side, Petersburg, March 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

A Change in Russia’s Draconian Drug Laws Could Be on the Horizon
The fiasco surrounding the case of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov is bringing the country’s controversial Article 228 into the spotlight.
Pjotr Sauer
Moscow Times
June 14, 2019

Living in a country where so-called gay propaganda is banned, Denis, 19, was happy to finally meet someone he felt a connection with on the dating app Tinder.

A few weeks after they had started chatting, the guy on the other side of the screen invited him over and asked him to bring “some weed” to relax them during their first encounter. But when Denis arrived at the address his date had given him, he was met by two policeman who began to search him.

“It turned out to be a set up, and the guy I was talking to on Tinder was a cop,” Denis told The Moscow Times.

The police presented him with a choice — pay a bribe or face being charged under the notorious Article 228 for drug-related crimes.

“They told me they would charge me with possession of 7 grams of marijuana and open a criminal case against me, even though I had much less on me. It would have been the end of my university career and possibly my future,” he said.

Possession of up to 6 grams of the drug is an administrative offense, while anything over that is a criminal offense. Denis paid the 70,000 ruble ($1,088) bribe.

Russia has the highest number of people per capita imprisoned for drug crimes in Europe. Most of them were convicted under Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code — nicknamed “narodnaya statya” or “the people’s article” because of the large number of people imprisoned under it. In 2018 alone, around 100,000 people were jailed under the article, and a quarter of all prisoners are in jail on drug-related charges.

According to Maksim Malishev coordinator of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation NGO that aims to change Russia’s drug laws, Denis’s story is far from unique.

“We constantly hear of police either planting drugs on innocent people or increasing the amount of drugs they caught someone with in order to prosecute the person under criminal law,” he said.

Human rights lawyer Arseniy Levinson said that police and other officials fabricate cases for several reasons, including having to reach certain quotas and collecting bribes.

Last week, Russian investigative reporter Ivan Golunov was arrested and charged with drug trafficking under Article 228. The anti-corruption journalist’s detention led to a national outcry among his Russian peers and human rights activists, who said drugs found by police in his backpack and apartment were planted. On Monday, Russia’s Interior Ministry ruled to drop the charges against Golunov, admitting that there was no evidence the drugs belonged to him.

“Not everyone is as famous as Ivan Golunov, and most cases go unnoticed as they aren’t political. We have thousands and thousands of people rotting away in jail because of false charges,” said Vyacheslav Matushin, a colleague of Malishev at the Andrey Rylkov Foundation.

The Golunov case has ignited public debate about Article 228 and how it is being implemented.

“We are feeling the post-Golunov effect, and this could be a turning point in how Russians look at Article 228,” said Ella Paneyakh, a sociologist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

The problem with current drug legislation is how the system is set up, said Mikhail Golichenko, a human rights lawyer specializing in drug and HIV cases.

He pointed to official state figures showing that over 80 percent of all people charged under Article 228 are convicted for the possession of drugs without the intention of selling them.

“In those cases, police have almost full oversight over the evidence that is presented to the courts and the judges need little else to make their decision.”

Golunov’s high profile case, however, might have triggered a response from the authorities. On Tuesday, the independent television station Dozhd reported that a proposal to cut sentences for drug possession unrelated to attempted sales might be passed by Russia’s State Duma before the end of the spring session.

The first hearing could be on June 20.

“I know they have been working for a while now on softening the legislation, maybe now they think they will have the support of the public to push it through,” Malishev said, adding that “it is only a tiny step in the right direction.”

Several high profile officials have also voiced their support for reform. Alexei Kudrin, the head of the Audit Chamber and a long-standing advisor of Russian President Vladimir Putin said while he “welcomed” the release of Golunov, “many others are still in jail” and called for a reform of Article 228.

Lawyers and human rights activists The Moscow Times spoke to, however, remain skeptical that new legislation will bring genuine change.

“The government might soften the laws a bit, but unless there is a fundamental shift in the way police deal with suspects, this will keep on happening,” Levinson said.

It’s also unclear if drug reform has popular support

Sociological polls indicate little public support for any kind of drug decriminalization in Russia. Levada, the country’s sole independent pollster, in 2014 showed that only 14 percent of the population would like to see soft drugs legalized.

VTsIOM, the state polling agency, showed similar numbers in 2018. But attitudes toward punishment for drug-related offenses were much more lenient among under 24s.

“There is a definite generational shift in attitudes towards drug use, young people are seeing the absurdity of the current legislation and how it is being implemented,” said Malishev, adding that his organization received a “large amount of interest and calls” following Golunov’s arrest.

Other initiatives have also sprung up to bring attention to the issues surrounding current drug legislation, including a range of t-shirts with the slogan “228” from Moscow-based fashion brand Kultrab.

“They have been a massive success, we completely sold out and had to order a new batch, people have been proud to wear them on the streets and are posting about them on social media, so the stigma seems to be going away,” said Kultrab’s founder Yegor Yeremeev.

“We have the momentum with us, suddenly everyone is talking about 228. People have realized that they too could be Golunov,” he added.

This sentiment was echoed by the editors of Russia’s three most influential newspapers — Vedomosti, Kommersant and RBC — who on Monday made history by printing identical front pages with the headline “I/We are Ivan Golunov” in support of the journalist.

RBC’s editor-in-chief, Igor Trosnikov, told The Moscow Times that Golunov being charged under Article 228 played a big role in the decision.

For Denis, change can’t come soon enough, as he said he and his friends often feel “hunted by police” in Moscow under the current laws.

“This has to end, I am sick of being scared.”

Eduard Nizamov Gets 23 Years Hard Time for Thought Crimes

nizamovEduard Nizamov. Photo courtesy of Idel.Realii (RFE/RL)

Court Sentences Kazan Resident Eduard Nizamov to 23 Years in Maximum Security for Managing Hizb ut-Tahrir
Regina Gimalova
Idel.Realii (Radio Svoboda)
February 10, 2020

Today, February 10, the Central Military District court in Yekaterinburg announced its verdict in the trial of Kazan resident Eduard Nizamov, accused of managing the Russian wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Nizamov was sentenced to 23 years in a maximum-security penal colony.

The Kazan resident was charged with financing terrorism (punishable under Article 205.1.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code), organizing terrorist activity (Article 205.5.1), and attempting to seize power illegally (Article 278.30.1). Nizamov pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. He and his defense attorney, Rifat Yakhin, consider the case a frame-up.

During the trial, the defense revealed the real identity of a secret witness who testified to investigators. The defense argued that their testimony was used to implicate Nizamov.

“This witness, whose identity was hidden under a man’s name, allegedly donated money to finance Hizb ut-Tahrir’s activities. In fact, the witness is a woman whose child goes to the same school and studies in the same class as my client’s child,” Yakhin said.

“The financing of terrorism” in question was the payment of 200,000 rubles to Nizamov. According to Yakhin, the woman acting as a hidden witness gave his client this amount because Nizamov was building her a house. He argues that the authorities “got to” the woman, whose husband was then serving time for involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Investigators were unable to find this amount of money in Nizamov’s possession during the investigation.

The prosecutor asked the court to sentence Nizamov to 25 years in a penal colony and fine him 200,0000 rubles, to be paid to the state treasury. The defense asked the court to acquit Nizamov. The court sided with the prosecution, finding Nizamov guilty on all three counts and sentencing him to 23 years in a maximum-security penal colony and ordering him to pay the 200,000 rubles.

Nizamov was detained on October 10, 2018, at his home in Kazan. He was suspected of running the Russian wing of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir organization. In September of last year, the final version of the charges against Nizamov were made public. In addition to managing the organization, he was charged with financing terrorism and planning the violent seizure of power.

Two other residents of Kazan, Ildar Akhmetzyanov and Rais Gimadeyev, were also detained on the same day as Nizamov. They were identified by authorities as “leaders” of the banned organization in Tatarstan.

All of them have pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. The maximum punishment for the crimes they are alleged to have committed is life in prison.

After his arrest, Nizamov complained that officers at the remand prison had tortured him. He also said that his cellmates had been provoking him. According to our source, Nizamov was moved to another cell after his story went public.

In 2005, Nizamov was convicted of involvement in an extremist organization, as punishable under Article 282.2.2 of the Criminal Code, and sentenced to two years’ probation.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was designated a “terrorist organization” in Russia in 2003. According to human rights activists, the decision was groundless, since there was no evidence that members of the movement had ever planned or carried out terrorist attacks. The Memorial Human Rights Center has placed Nizamov on its list of Russian political prisoners.

Thanks to Elena Zaharova for the heads-up. 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]

“I Examined You from a Distance”: Journalist and Human Rights Lawyer Attacked in Grozny

84412382_3207050759323702_7873276774191202304_n“My poor head.” This was the photo that reporter Elena Milashina posted on her Facebook page after being attacked in Grozny earlier today.

Novaya Gazeta Journalist Elena Milashina and Human Rights Lawyer Marina Dubrovina Assaulted in Grozny
Mediazona
February 6, 2020

Novaya Gazeta has reported that persons unknown assaulted its correspondent Elena Milashina and human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina in Grozny.

Milashina and Dubrovina had arrived in Grozny for the trial of blogger Islam Nukhanov, who shot a video entitled How Kadyrov and His Associates Live, Part 1. After the video was posted, Nukhanov was charged with illegal possession of weapons, punishable under Article 222 Part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Novaya Gazeta writes that the assault took place in the lobby of the Continent Hotel and near the building’s entrance. Unidentified men and women beat up lawyer Marina Dubrovina.

“It was mostly women who assaulted her, punching and kicking her,” the newspaper said.

The newspaper noted that the assailants videotaped the incident.

Milashina and Dubrovina are now having their injuries documented by physicians and plan to file charges with Chechen law enforcement authorities.

84105461_3207145192647592_8637423701794488320_nHuman rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina. “We are being driven to the crime scene in a police van with its lights flashing,” writes Elena Milashina.

Milashina has just written that Musa Bekov, a neurosurgeon at the Grozny hospital [where they went], refused to examine Dubrovina carefully.

“I examined you from a distance. Everything is fine, everything will heal. Have a nice day,” Milashina quoted the doctor as saying.

______________________

Yegor Skovoroda
Facebook
February 6, 2020

It so happened that four years ago, when Kadyrov’s men attacked our van in Ingushetia, lawyer Marina Dubrovina was the first person I called and told about it —while lying on the floor of the van, its windows broken. I was beaten with sticks, first in the van, and then in a roadside ditch. Several young women next to me were beaten in the same way.

Today in Grozny, Marina Dubrovina and Elena Milashina, from Novaya Gazeta, were attacked near a hotel. I would not be surprised if the perpetrators were the same, but the man who commissions all crimes in Chechnya is Ramzan Kadyrov. Novaya writes that Marina was beaten up.

______________________

Chechen Man Who Shot Video “How Kadyrov and His Associates Live” Charged with Crime
Mediazona
December 9, 2019

Novaya Gazeta reports that Islam Nukhanov, a Chechen man who shot a video entitled How Kadyrov and His Associates Live, has been charged with a criminal offense.

According to the newspaper, Nukhanov spent most of his time outside Chechnya, but in the spring he came to the republic to apply for a free operation. It writes that Nukhanov often watched the videos of opposition blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov.

“He frequently raised in conversation the question of how people were so filthy rich and lived in such palaces in a subsidized republic with very high unemployment,” Novaya Gazeta writes.

On October 31, Nukhanov posted a video, entitled How Kadyrov and His Associates Live, on YouTube. Shot from a car, the video features houses in a Grozny neighborhood that Novaya Gazeta calls the “Chechen Rublyovka.”

The newspaper describes the video’s contents: “The dashcam blankly records the houses on either side of the road. The driver does not utter a single word.”

According to Novaya Gazeta, the next day men in camouflage uniforms burst into Nukhanov’s house and took the young man away. It writes that the men confiscated all of his telephones, his computer and CPU, and the “ill-fated” Ford Focus whose dashcam Nukhanov used to shoot his video.

Novaya Gazeta writes that a day after the arrest Nukhanov’s father saw his son at the police station. He had been beaten up, his hand was bandaged, and his clothes were bloody and nearly torn to shreds.

Nukhanov was charged with illegal possession of weapons, as punishable under Article 222.1 of the Criminal Code. According to investigators, the young man was summoned to the police station to “verify intelligence.” Once at the station, Nukhanov allegedly behaved suspiciously, and so it was decided to search him. Police allegedly found two gun cartridges in his pocket, and when they searched his car, they also found a pistol. The young man pleaded guilty on the advice of his state-appointed lawyer.

The newspaper writes that Nukhanov spent nearly a month in the basement of the Grozny central police station. The court remanded him in custody only on November 27. After his wife hired Nukhanov a “proper” lawyer, he withdrew his confession.

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

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

__________________________________________

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.

Viktor Filinkov: “It’s As If You Disappear—Only the Pain Remains”

Viktor Filinkov’s Speech in Court on 4 June 2019 While Recording a Voice Sample (The Court Could Not Interrupt the Defendant for Ten Minutes)

Viktor Filinkov: When I was tortured . . . Well, it was unexpected, of course. It was nothing like in the movies. There was no time to think or laugh like some superheroes do or anything like that: you’re just screaming in pain. You’re in a terrible state, in fact. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Yes, I’d been shocked when touching an electrical socket or a telephone wire, and when licking a battery. But it’s a completely different sensation when you’ve been shocked with a stun gun. They were beating me at the same time, but I didn’t feel it at all, except for the blows to my head. When they hit me in the head, my vision went a little white. My eyes were mostly closed, because I had a cap pulled over my face, but I saw white when they hit me in the head.

When they twisted my arms or something like that, I didn’t feel anything at all. On the other hand, if you’re riding in the back seat of a car with your hands cuffed behind your back like this—like when they later took me to see a psychologist—your shoulders and joints start hurting really bad after the first hour or so. By the second hour, it’s completely unbearable. You’re wriggling and fidgeting the whole time because the pain is so unbearable.

I was tortured for around four hours, and although my hands were behind my back the entire time, I felt no pain at all in my shoulders. In fact, I felt no pain at all because my whole body hurt. When your whole body hurts, you can’t single out a specific part that hurts more. The burns from the electrical shocks didn’t hurt—they hurt only the next day or so—meaning the pain spreads out over your whole body. It feels like everything hurts, although they’re hitting and shocking you in very specific places.

I don’t even know where the shocks hurt the most. They shocked me in different places, mainly my feet, the shocks to my feet were the longest. And to the chest as well. I could twist my wrists, and work my neck a bit, but I think it didn’t matter where they shocked me: the shocks were quite painful. When they press the stun gun to your foot, it’s like you lose yourself completely. It’s as if you disappear—only the pain remains.

Recording Technician Volkov: Maybe you could talk about something more pleasant.

Filinkov (smiling): There was nothing pleasant about it.

Volkov: Not this instance, necessarily. Maybe some memorable instances from childhood.

Filinkov: Hmm… Memorable instances from childhood. It depends what you mean by childhood.

Volkov: Okay, then, what do you miss right now?

Filinkov: My wife—I miss my wife a lot. I love her very much. When they were torturing me, a field agent asked me why I was with my wife. I screamed that I loved her. They were shocking me, but I still screamed that I loved her. They would yell at me, “Why are you with her? Confess!” I would yell that I loved her, and they would give me a shock for saying so. This went on for a while. It was probably one of the most humiliating parts of the whole thing.

No, there was another one. They would ask me who my wife associated with—shocking me as they asked, of course—and I tried to remember who she associated with. I would reply that she had many acquaintances, but didn’t know who she associated with. I didn’t know that many people, especially my wife’s acquaintances. And they would say to me, “She’s getting fucked. Didn’t you know that?” The whole thing was just awful. And there were lots of questions like that… Apparently, it was a way of catching me out.

It was also a way of turning me against everyone. You realize that the people who are torturing you are the guilty one, but they try to put the blame on someone else. So, they would tell me about my “pal” Boyarshinov: I didn’t know who Boyarshinov was then. They would say, “That guy Yuri,” and try to explain he’d been going to plant a bomb to kill people. Under those circumstances I really believed “Yuri” (Yuli) Boyarshinov had gone to plant a bomb. They were really persuasive.

They also told me other people had wanted to kill people. Like Arman Sagynbayev: they said he wanted to make an explosive called ammonal. They knew I didn’t know that he had the ingredients, but I had to teach them a lesson. Then I cheated a little: when they asked me what they had found in Sagynbayev’s closet, I said they had found only aluminum powder. They didn’t specify that I was also supposed to say there had been saltpeter there as well. They kept saying, “A barrel! A barrel of powder!” The fact that it was a barrel was important, apparently. I never saw it.

They also said, of course, that everyone was ready to dish on me, and told me what would happen if I didn’t sign the interrogation report.

In fact, their threats were completely meaningless. I was completely broken after ten minutes of torture, but the threats continued for another twenty or twenty-five hours or however long I was there. It was a very long time. All the threats—that they would kill me there or put me in a cell with tuberculosis-infected prisoners or the SWAT team would take me to Penza—were pointless.

The SWAT team business was a trick. They told me a SWAT team would take me to Penza, where I would be in a line-up. All [of the other defendants] would identity me, point their fingers at me, and then I would go back [to Petersburg]. Besides the driver, there would be two SWAT officers in the vehicle. They would take turns sleeping, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep, and there wouldn’t be any water. The FSB agents would wonder aloud how long a person could last without water. The whole thing was completely pointless. I would have signed the interrogation report in any case.

It wasn’t like they said, “Here, sign it,” and I said, “No, I won’t sign it. Go to hell!” and they were like, “Oh yeah? We’ll show you.” It was just a prelude to everything they did. Just a prelude. Violence is seemingly the basis of their work. I later learned those guys in masks were from [the FSB’s] “Hail” SWAT team. When they escort someone in handcuffs, they drag him in different directions. I would say, “Hang on! You’re dragging me in different directions. I don’t understand where to go.” They would laugh and say it served me right. Meaning the violence was for its own sake. And none of them were bothered then about what had happened.

When I tried talking about the fact that torture was inhumane, they would interrupt me and say, “Did anyone really torture you? You bumped yourself in the car.” Different field agents who were there said this in front of investigators. The one who I remembered the most was an investigator named Alexei from the second floor of the FSB regional headquarters building [in Petersburg]. He wore a jacket and suspenders.

The jacket was bright green. He would give me toilet paper when I went to the toilet. I would go to the toilet not to go to the toilet, of course. I was thinking how to put an end to my suffering and contemplated slitting my wrists. But the office was right there, and an agent would always follow me out and stand by the door, which couldn’t be closed. I went there several times, hoping they’d let their guard down, but no: there was always an agent outside the door, and I wouldn’t have been able to shatter the mirror or the toilet tank.

If I’d known that I had a sharpened coin in my pocket, but I’d forgotten about it. It made it through several pat downs. The SWAT team patted me down twice and didn’t find it. Then an investigator searched me and didn’t find it. Then I was searched at the temporary detention center on Zakharyevskaya Street [in Petersburg], and they didn’t find the coin. It was found only at Remand Prison No. 3. They decided to put it in the till, but it was a Ukrainian hryvnia coin, so they decided not to mess with it. They asked me what to do with it, and I told them to throw it away.

“Fine, fine, just don’t tell anybody,” they said. And they threw it away.

Volkov: That’s long enough, thank you.

Judge Muranov: Is that it?

Volkov: Yes.

Judge: So, Viktor Sergeyevich, I didn’t interrupt you when you were recording your monologue, but now I’m giving you an official warning. If you use obscene language again in the courtroom, you’ll be removed until the closing arguments. Have I made myself clear?

Filinkov: Yes, you have. May I ask a question?

Judge: Ask away.

Filinkov: How I am supposed to quote obscene language?

Judge: I don’t know, but I would ask you not to use obscene expressions. I gave you an official warning, which has been entered into the record.

Filinkov: Understood.

Judge: Sit down.

Judge: Maxim Alexandrovich, are you done?

Volkov: I would like to take literally a minute to check the quality of the recording . . . The recording is fine.

Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the original Russian text and the video. 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.

David Graeber on the Network Case

David Graeber on the Network Case

Thanks to Giuliano Vivaldi for the heads-up.

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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.

“Red Darya” Polyudova Arrested Again

“Red Darya,” the fourth episode of Grani TV’s series “Extremists,” posted on October 30, 2017

Darya Polyudova Remanded in Custody in Terrorism and Separatism Case
Grani.ru
January 16, 2020

Judge Anna Sokova of the Meshchansky District Court in Moscow has remanded in custody Darya Polyudova, leader of the Left Resistance movement, until March 13,  Moskva News Agency has reported. Polyudova has been charged with calling for separatism and vindicating terrorism.

According to the news agency, Polyudova has been charged with violating Russian Criminal Code Articles 280.1.1 (public calls for separatism, punishable by up to four years in prison) and 205.2.2 (public vindication of terrorism via the internet, punishable by five to seven years in prison).

Polyudova pleaded innocent and informed the judge of a number of procedural violations. According to Polyudova, she has been charged with “calling for separatism and a referendum on the Kuril Islands, and vindicating terrorism on social networks.”

Earlier, civic activist Alla Naumcheva reported that the investigation of the case was focused on “two video clips of some kind.”

Kuban activist Viktor Chirikov has reported that Polyudova is represented by court-appointed lawyer Galina Timofeyeva.

The record of Polyudova’s case on the Meshchansky District Court’s website lists only one charge, the alleged violation of Russian Criminal Code Article 205.2.2.

The political prisoner’s mother, Tatyana Polyudova, wrote on Facebook that her daughter had been taken to Remand Prison No. 6 in Moscow’s Pechatniki District. According to her, FSB investigator Dmitry Lashchenov was handling the investigation.

Human rights activist Irina Yatsenko told MBKh Media that on Wednesday leftist activist Kirill Kotov had been detained and questioned in the same case. He signed a non-disclosure agreement.

The day before Polyudova’s arrest, the security forces searched her dormitory room, as well as the dwelling of Gradus TV reporter Olga Sapronova, in connection with the case. Sapronova was questioned at the FSB’s Moscow and Moscow Regional Office on Bolshoi Kiselny Alley before being released. Her attorney, Olga Pelshe, was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement on the case. Sapronova’s procedural status is currently unknown.

In 2015–2017, Polyudova served a two-year sentence at Work-Release Penal Settlement No. 10 in Novorossiysk after being convicted of publicly calling for extremism (Russian Criminal Code Article 280.1), publicly calling for extremism via the internet (Article 280.2), and publicly calling for separatism via the internet (Article 280.1.2). The opposition activist was convicted for organizing the March for the Federalization of  Kuban and solo-picketing against the war with Ukraine, and for posts she had published on the VK social network. Polyudova maintained her innocence.

After her release from prison, Polyudova moved to Moscow, where she had been organizing protest rallies.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Website Builder Tilda Cracks Down on “Political” Website

tilda

A screenshot of Tilda’s homepage

Website Builder Tilda Blocks Rostov Case Website
Mediazona
January 16, 2020

Website builder Tilda has blocked a website containing information about Vladislav Mordasov and Yan Sidorov, defendants in the so-called Rostov Case, according to a Telegram channel dealing with the criminal case.

The page’s creators received an email from Tilda’s legal service.

“We wish to inform you that your project has been blocked for publishing politically directed information. Tilda is a platform designed for creating business projects,” the letter said.

The legal service stressed that Tilda was not designed for the “posting and publication of information and/or projects involving exposés, scandals, offensive content, and other such things.”

“Personally, we understand you and your position, and would like to help. But we cannot jeopardize the sites of our other users by working with such content, since it is impossible for us to moderate such projects,” the letter said.

The activists said that Tilda had allowed them to download their website in order to publish it on another platform.

In October of last year, the Rostov Regional Court sentenced 24-year-old Vladislav Mordasov and 19-year-old Yan Sidorov to six years and seven months, and six and half years, respectively, in a maximum-security prison. In December, the Third Appellate Court upheld the verdict.

rostov case

“Blocked.” The Rostov Case Telegram channel announces Tilda’s decision to shut down their website.

Mordasov and Sidorov were found guilty of attempting to organize riots (punishable under Articles 30.3 and 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). The young men frequented a chat room for supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev, and on the day of his promised “revolution,”they picketed the Rostov regional government building.

Tilda Publishing is a service that lets users create their own websites using pre-designed blocks. Russian businessman Nikita Obukhov launched the platform in 2014.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Why is this an important story? Because more Russian grassroots activists than I can count have created websites on the Tilda platform to champion their causes, and that has included publicizing political trials like the one described above. For example, human rights activists in Petersburg have used Tilda to create a website about the frame-up of immigrants from Central Asia, who were charged and, recently, convicted of helping to organize a bombing in the Petersburg subway in April 2017. Thanks to Julia Murashova for the heads-up.

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Manifesto

In 2017, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov took part in a peaceful picket. They were arrested, accused of involvement in rioting, tortured into confessing, jailed for a few years in a remand prison, and recently sentenced to seven years in a maximum-security prison.

There is no reason to doubt that the case against them was cooked up by the Investigative Committee and Center “E”, if only because there was no rioting. Amnesty International and the Memorial Human Rights Center have recognized the young men as prisoners of conscience.

We demand the immediate release of Sidorov and Mordasov, the reversal of the court rulings in their case, and the prosecution of those in the security forces responsible for fabricating charges against them and torturing them.

Source: rostovcase.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

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Russia: Two youth activists jailed in deplorable act of injustice
Amnesty International
October 4, 2019

Today a court in Rostov-on-Don (southern Russia) sentenced two youth activists, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov, to six years and six months and six years and seven months in a penal colony respectively and another, Viacheslav Shashmin, to three years on probation on fabricated charges of “attempted organization of mass disturbances” and “attempted participation in mass disturbances”. Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Yan Sidorov, Vladislav Mordasov and Viacheslav Shashmin are prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Throwing these human rights activists behind bars is a deplorable move which serves as an indictment of the state of the Russian justice system.

“These young men organized a peaceful picket with nothing more than a piece of paper and a loudspeaker. In falsely characterizing this protest as a violent ‘mass disturbance’, Russian investigators have fabricated a story designed to destroy the lives of these activists and their families. The charges brought against them contradict most apparent facts and go against international law and standards.

“During a plainly unfair trial the court closed its eyes to the evidence supporting Yan Sidorov, Vladislav Mordasov and Viacheslav Shashmin’s innocence. We call on the Russian authorities to quash the sentences and release these two young men immediately and unconditionally. Peaceful protest is not a crime and the right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in international law.”

Background

On 4 October, the Rostov-on-Don Regional Court found Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov guilty of “attempted organization of mass disturbances” and sentenced them to up to six years and seven months in a penal colony. In the same decision, Viacheslav Shashmin was found guilty of “attempted participation in mass disturbances” and was given three years of probation.

The human rights activists were prosecuted for trying to stage a peaceful protest in November 2017 in support of residents who had lost their houses in mass fires in Rostov-on-Don in August that year. Yan Sidorov and Viacheslav Shashmin were 18 years old when they were arrested in November 2017. Vladislav Mordasov was 21 years old.

“My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately” (Berlin, February 1-3, 2020)

network exhibition

“My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately”/”Meiner Aussage getreu protokolliert”

An Exhibition in Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Russia
Living Gallery Berlin, February 1-3, 2020

Exhibition opening and roundtable, 5 p.m., February 1, 2020, with simultaneous translation from Russian to German, exhibition closing and auction, 7 p.m., February 3, 2020

Living Gallery Berlin presents a group show of works by Russian anarchists and antifascists, as well as artists in solidarity with them.

The Network Case is a high-profile political trial in Russia. Ten activists from Penza and Petersburg have been in police custody for over two years, accused of involvement in a “terrorist community” known as the Network. They were subjected to torture with electrical shocks, beatings, and psychological and physical coercion to force them to confess. Their trials are coming to a close, but most of have denied their guilt and demanded an investigation of their allegations of torture. The defendants face sentences ranging from six years to eighteen years in prison.

The exhibition was created in Petersburg by the team behind Rupression.com, which has been publicizing the Network Case in solidarity with the young activists, who were brutally arrested and have been accused of absurd crimes. The artwork they have produced in police custody is part of their fight for freedom and dignity. The exhibition gives them a chance to speak.

The exhibition also features works by contemporary artists from Russia, Ukraine, France, Chile, and Sweden. They meditate on state-sponsored violence, torture, crackdowns, imprisonment, and absurd accusations.

The exhibition has already been shown five times in Russia: three times at various venues in Petersburg, and one time each in Moscow and Penza. The Berlin showing will be the first time the exhibition has been presented abroad.

The opening on February 1, 2020, will feature a guided tour of the show and a round table on political prisoners in Russia today, moderated by Olga Romanova, head of Russia Behind Bars. Former Russian political prisoners, as well as political exiles who faced persecution in Russia in connection with the Network Case, have been invited to attend.

The exhibition closes February 3. The closing will feature a charity auction at which you can buy works presented in the show and thus help the defendants in the Network Case, whose families constantly need money for legal and humanitarian aid to the prisoners. Poet Alexander Delfinov will serve as the auctioneer.

During all three days of the exhibition, there will be tours of the show in English and German, as needed. Exhibition goers will be able to write letters and postcards with words of support to the political prisoners, as well as buying merch from Rupression.com’s campaign. Proceeds from the sale will also be used to support the political prisoners in the Network Case.

The exhibition is organized with support from Memorial Deutschland and Dekabristen e.V.

Living Gallery Berlin
Kollwitzstraße 53
10405 Berlin

The gallery is opening from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the heads-up. A few minor factual errors in the original announcement have been corrected. Exhibition view (above) courtesy of the organizers. 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.