Irina Danilovich: A Political Prisoner in Russian-Occupied Crimea

Irina Danilovich. Photo courtesy of Ivan Astashin

Who is Irina Danilovich? Why is she in a remand prison? How can we support her?

The wave of criminal cases directly related to anti-war stances sometimes obscures other politically motivated cases. I want to tell you about one of them.

Irina Danilovich worked as a nurse at Koktebel’s post-stroke rehabilitation center while being heavily involved in civic affairs. Irina can be called a grassroots activist, human rights defender, and journalist. She was, for example, the coordinator of the information campaign Crimean Medicine Without a Cover and in this capacity she harshly criticized the Crimean authorities during the coronavirus pandemic. Danilovich has collaborated with the alternative news website Injir Media and the human rights project Crimean Process. Radio Svoboda reports that Irina defended the interests of medical workers on the peninsula and wrote extensively about violations of their rights. Recently, writes Injir Media, Danilovich had been drawing attention to the war and related problems, including in the healthcare sector.

On April 29, 2022, Irina Danilovich was abducted by the FSB. She was found in the Simferopol pretrial detention center almost two weeks later.

As attorney Aider Azamatov discovered, Irina had been held in the FSB building for eight days, where officers made her take a lie-detector test and threatened to take her into the woods [and shoot her] if she concealed anything from them. She was fed once a day this entire time. After a week of torture, Danilovich was told to sign blank forms in exchange for her release. However, after complying with the demands of the security officers, Danilovich was not released, but sent to the pretrial detention center – allegedly, 200 grams of explosives were unexpectedly found in her eyeglass case.

It is quite obvious to me that the 200 grams of explosives “found” in the eyeglass case of the grassroots activist, journalist, and human rights defender are part of a politically motivated trumped-up criminal case. Especially since this is happening in Crimea. The Memorial Human Rights Center has repeatedly drawn attention to trumped-up criminal cases against Crimeans disloyal to the Russian authorities involving weapons, explosives or ammunition planted during searches.

Now Irina Danilovich is in jail. How can we help her? By doing all the usual things – getting the word about her case out, sending her letters and parcels (there are no restrictions on receiving parcels at the pretrial detention center), and holding solidarity actions.

Crimea became a lawless place after 2014, but public attention to Irina’s case can protect her from further mistreatment and enable her to live to see her release with minimal injuries.

✉️📦 Send letters and parcels to:

295006, Republic of Crimea, Simferopol, Lenin Blvd., 4, SIZО-1,

Danilovich Irina Bronislavovna (born 1979)

Free everyone!

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 25 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Historian Yuri Dmitriev Transferred to Maximum Security Penal Colony

Karelian historian and human rights activist Yuri Dmitriev, who was sentenced to fifteen years in prison in late 2021, has been transferred to a maximum security penal colony in Mordovia, Interfax reports, citing Dmitriev’s attorney Viktor Anufriev as its source.

The historian will serve his sentence in Correctional Colony No. 18 in the village of Potma. Dmitriev must spend another ten years in the colony [to serve out his sentence].

The first criminal case against Yuri Dmitriev was launched in 2016. The historian was accused of making child pornography involving an adopted daughter. He denied any wrongdoing. The court acquitted Dmitriev, but in 2018 new charges were filed against him. In addition to making pornography, he was accused of sexually abusing his daughter and illegally possessing a weapon.

Yuri Dmitriev
Photo: Peter Kovalev/TASS. Courtesy of Radio Svoboda

In the summer of 2020, a court in Petrozavodsk sentenced Dmitriev to three and a half years in a maximum security penal colony. In September of the same year, the Supreme Court of Karelia toughened Dmitriev’s sentence to thirteen years in a maximum security penal colony. In December of last year, the court increased Dmitriev’s sentence to fifteen years in a penal colony. The court found him guilty of producing child pornography, committing indecent acts, and illegally possessing a weapon. He had previously been acquitted on all three charges.

A historian and the head of the Karelian branch of Memorial, Dmitriev and his colleagues discovered, in the 1990s, the killing fields at Sandarmokh, where people were shot during the Great Terror. In total, about 150 grave pits were identified and marked, in which the remains of approximately four and a half thousand people could be located.

A journalistic investigation [by Proekt] alleged that the historian’s persecution was linked to Anatoly Seryshev, an aide to President Vladimir Putin, who previously headed the Karelian FSB, where he was charged, among other things, with purging the opposition from the region.

Source: Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 10 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Terpily

Grigorii Golosov
Facebook
February 10, 2022

The sudden onset of winter has brought Petersburg to a state of ruin. The number of people crippled by black ice on pavements and ice floes falling from roofs is comparable to the number of victims of an international military conflict of medium intensity somewhere in Africa, and no terrorists could dream of having such an impact. I won’t even mention the regional authorities, whose only real task has long been to ensure “correct” election results, especially federal ones, but on occasion their own local elections as well. As for the federal authorities, they are even less interested in local problems. They prefer to spend hundreds of millions every day to senselessly drive tanks and other equipment along the southwestern borders. Geopolitical fantasies warm the soul, and their concern about security is quite sincere, because security for them is tantamount to maintaining power. The broken legs and broken heads of deadbeats are not included in this concept of security. Let them watch TV in a cast and rejoice in the country’s greatness, the doormats [terpily].

Screenshot from r/DoesNotTranslate

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Boris Vishnevsky
Facebook
February 10, 2022

A few sad takeaways from today.

A monstrous sentence was handed down to 15-year-old Nikita Uvarov: 5 years in prison for computer games.

In Chechnya, Zarema Musayeva, the wife of a federal judge, who was abducted from her home in Nizhny Novgorod, was denied a transfer to house arrest: she has been left in remand prison until April 1.

The arrest of journalist Ivan Safronov, who has never been told what kind of “high treason” he committed and what “state secrets” he gave out (secrets to which he never had access) had his arrest extended until April 7.

Ill and in need of medical care, Sergei Zuyev, the rector of the Shaninka [Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences], was transferred from the medical unit of the capital’s Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison to a gen pop cell.

No, we can’t change these thing now. Just like we can’t change many other things.

But when change happens — and it certainly will happen — we can refuse to forget or forgive these things.

No matter how often people tell us “we were ordered”, “we were forced,” “we were low on the totem pole,” “we had families, children, and mortgages”, and, more generally, “well, you understand…,” our answer will be, “No, we don’t understand.”

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Excerpt from an email that a friend in Petersburg sent me this morning:

In fact, I haven’t fully recovered yet, although it all started three weeks ago, apparently, and now [I’m suffering] the consequences of the fact that I blamed the initial symptoms on fatigue and ran through snowdrifts until I fell down with a temperature around 40; only then did I realize that this was it. It was right at this time that the medical system collapsed. It’s true that everyone is sick. I left the house [for the first time] a couple of days ago: there [were] five times fewer people on the streets and in the shops than usual, and a couple of weeks ago everyone was coughing and sneezing everywhere, without masks mostly, I won’t even mention vaccinations. Basically, I highly recommend not getting sick with this thing, if possible.

All three texts translated by the Russian Reader

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Russian Teenager Gets Five Years In Prison In Minecraft ‘Terrorism’ Case
Siberia.Realities (RFE/RL)
February 10, 2022

KANSK, Russia — A court in Siberia has sentenced a 16-year-old boy to five years in prison in a high-profile terrorism case prompted by plans he had with two friends to add the building of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to the popular video game Minecraft to allow players to blow it up.

The First Eastern District Military Court in the Krasnoyarsk region sentenced Nikita Uvarov on February 10 after finding him guilty of illegal weapons possession and passing through training for implementation of a terrorist act, charges he has rejected since his arrest in fall 2020.

Two other defendants in the case were convicted of illegal weapons possession and handed suspended prison terms of three years and four years, Vladimir Ilkov, the lawyer for one of the two other defendants, told RFE/RL.

Prosecutors had sought nine years in prison for Uvarov and six years in prison for the other defendants.

The three boys were 14 when they were arrested in 2020 while distributing leaflets to support Azat Miftakhov, a mathematician, who was in custody at the time and later sentenced to six years in prison in January 2021 on terrorism charges that he and his supporters called politically motivated.

After their arrest, investigators confiscated their telephones and said later they found chats in the phone that “had proven” that the trio planned to add the FSB building to the Minecraft game and blow it up there.

The investigators also said that the boys criticized the FSB in the chats, read banned books, fabricated firecrackers, and blew them up in abandoned buildings in their native city of Kansk.

Uvarov refused to cooperate with investigators and spent 11 months in pretrial detention before he was released last year to finish the ninth grade at school, while his two co-defendants pleaded guilty and fully cooperated with the investigation.

In his final statement at the trial on February 9, Uvarov reiterated his previous comments rejecting the charges and added that if he is imprisoned, he “will serve the sentence with a clean conscience and dignity.”

“It was painful for me to see how my country oppresses people, civil rights activists, who want the best for the country and stand for its well-being. Now, unfortunately, I am experiencing myself the despotism of the unfair collaborators of the system,” Uvarov said.

Image credit: screenshot of a Google News search for “Minecraft,” February 10, 2022

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Julia Galkina
Facebook
February 10, 2022

It turns out that the joke about a pizza courier who arrives faster than the ambulance is not a joke. Yesterday, it took the ambulance two hours to get to me: I think that was very fast.

I get the feeling that, like organs in a body with terminal cancer, all services in the city are failing. The doctor has got sick, the janitor has been killed by a block of ice. It’s like we’re inside the quiet apocalypse from the movie Songs from the Second Floor.

And yet, I know people who, although they are probably infected (“oh, I only have a sore throat”), continue to ride the subway. And I know people whose ordeal with omicron has not been “three days on the couch and that’s it,” but has been quite hard.

I would like to say to people from the first category that they (and/or their employers) are fucked in the head — no matter what the assholes themselves say.

This text was added two hours after the original post. Translated by the Russian Reader

“They were right to shoot people”

Natalia Vvedenskaya
Facebook
November 12, 2021

In the early 2000s, our computer broke down. There were few computer repairmen back then, and a passing acquaintance suggested her husband for the job. The young man came over and quickly fixed everything. Over tea it transpired that he worked at the FSB.

This was still amazing then, so we naively asked him how he could work in such a place, for the heirs of criminals and all that. And this twenty-five-year-old man literally said, “They were right to shoot people. They just should have done it more quietly.”

Now the whole country from top to bottom is run by people from the FSB. Of course, they want to ban Memorial. What need is there to remember if it was “right” to shoot people? What need is there to defend human rights if it is “right” to imprison people now?

The liquidation of Memorial is just the final whistle: the boat is leaving the dock. We’ll still put up a bit of a fight, of course. What else can we do?  But all the same.

___________

The acquaintance soon divorced the man because he had begun beating their child.

____________

The document, above, is from the family archive. Roman Troshchenko, a priest, worked as a physician’s assistant in an orphanage after serving time in the camps. He was shot, allegedly, for “spreading rumors among the children and the populace that the Soviet regime would fall and the fascists would come to power.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

Doppelganger

“It’s kind of a dystopia. In some respects. Of course, it has nothing to do with reality. The world is shrinking and becoming cramped. Something or someone is always offended in close quarters. And there’s always someone pointing a gun at your head. Sometimes it’s you.”

Masyanya, Episode 152: “Doppelganger.” (Toggle the “CC” button for English subtitles)

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The caste of those deprived of their civil rights — foreign agents, undesirable organizations, extremists of all stripes — will constantly expand. Social stigmatization will be strongly encouraged. The number of persons on different registries and lists, and under police watch will grow exponentially. Legal restrictions — bans on participating in elections, serving on various public councils, founding mass media, attending football matches, working in certain areas, and so on — will be supplemented by defamation campaigns. The separation of the estates in terms of legal and social status will be vigorously encouraged by the authorities.

Source: Pavel Chikov, “Not a Tyranny Yet: A Prognosis for the Rest of Putin’s Fourth Term,” Republic, 19 October 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

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Artist unknown, Russian National Guardsmen in Their Free Time. Posted by Dmitry Vrubel on Facebook. Thanks to Sergei Damberg for the heads-up

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Security forces raided a gathering to write letters to political prisoners at the Vogel Bar. They showed up along with Rospotrebnadzor officials for a surprise inspection on the evening of October 24. After managing to tally forty-five people on the premises and not find markings on the floor mats, the officials sealed the establishment prior to a court hearing. The bar’s management fears bankruptcy and plans to open a new bar in a new location.

The latest gathering to letters to political prisoners at the Vogel this time ended with a visit by regulatory authorities. The police officers who arrived twenty minutes after the event started immediately stated that the 76th police precinct had received a complaint alleging that the bar was not in compliance with the mask mandate. At that moment, the gathering, at which attendees were to write letters to the performance artist Pavel Krisevich, jailed on charges of disorderly conduct after a performance on Red Square in which he pretended to shoot himself, had just begun. That evening, Krisevich’s friends and acquaintances, as well as former political prisoners, were to speak to the guests. One of the bar’s co-founders, Valentin Khoroshenin, told Zaks.Ru that the complaint claimed that a “meeting of anti-covidniks” was planned for that evening at the Vogel. He believes that this was just an excuse to find non-existent violations and close the bar.

The inspection report indicated that more than forty-five people were present in the room at the time. The bar’s management are adamant that this was not the case. The Vogel’s owners have already studied surveillance camera tapes and counted less than forty people on the premises, including the police officers.

Other violations included the absence of markings on floor mats and an insufficient supply of medical masks. According to regulations, such establishments should have a five days’ supply of personal protective equipment. The available supply was only enough for one day. Rospotrebnadzor officials did not enter the kitchen. According to Khoroshenin, they claimed they were too tired to do so.

Vogel Bar has been in business since March 2021. From the very beginning it advertised itself as a venue for activists: political lectures, discussions and debates were held there. During this entire time, Rospotrebnadzor never carried out inspections. But the Interior Ministry regularly sent its people there. For example, Center “E” officers attended the debates. The security forces showed up for other letter-writing gatherings, but everything had ended without trouble.

Text & photos: Konstantin Lenkov, Zaks.ru, 25 October 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

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We have been preparing an investigation into torture in Russian prisons for almost a year. It took a lot of time to track down, earn the trust of, and obtain testimonies from former inmates of the penal colony in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Siberia, thousands of kilometers from central Russia. Simultaneously with The Insider’s investigation, Russian human rights activists published an archive of video footage depicting torture being inflicted on prisoners across Russia. The clips, obtained from the FSB and FSIN secret archive, show prisoners from Irkutsk, Saratov, Belgorod, Rostov and other Russian regions being raped, beaten and humiliated. Torture victims explain their torturers’ motives by their desire to break their will in order to obtain material for blackmailing other prisoners, make them confess to crimes, pay tribute, or even to start torturing other prisoners themselves. This all takes place in the modern world, in a country where there is no war, where torturers are not tasked with extracting valuable military information from prisoners at any cost. Torture is rampant in Russia, a country that has signed a number of human rights and anti-torture conventions and seems to enjoy a peaceful life. We have long known that in Russia, prison is not a place of correction, but rather a strange world separate from everything else, where guards and inmates resurrect on a daily basis the practices of the Stalinist Gulag. This has not always been the case. As early as ten years ago there was serious talk in Russia about the need to reform and humanize the penitentiary system. Now things are different. The authorities have been clearly and unambiguously showing how they prefer to rule the country. That is mainly by fear. Investigations into torture have hardly been a revelation, but in a split instant, they made it impossible to ignore torture and pretend it only concerns those behind bars. Of course, the situation will not change overnight, but one thing is certain – this knowledge has now become an integral part of our society. In the following article, we bring you the raw testimony of people who have experienced torture in Russian prisons. They share their thoughts on why it is used, the impact on them, and recount the involvement even of doctors in their ordeal.

Source: The Insider, 19 October 2021. Thanks to Antti Rautiainen for the heads-up

Russian Supreme Court Rejects Yuri Dmitriev’s Appeals Request

Screenshot of the Russian Supreme Court’s decision to reject Yuri Dmitriev’s request for a review of his verdict

Russian Supreme Court Refuses to Review Historian Yuri Dmitriev’s Verdict
Current Time
October 13, 2021

The Russian Supreme Court will not consider the cassation appeal of the head of Memorial’s Karelian branch, Yuri Dmitriev, who was sentenced to thirteen years in a high-security penal colony on charges of violent acts against a child. This was reported on the court’s website, and human rights activist Zoya Svetova also reported the denial of the request on Facebook.

“Request to transfer the case (cassation complaints, submissions) for consideration at a session of the cassation court has been denied,” the case card on the court’s website says.

This past summer, more than 150 cultural and academic figures sent an open letter to Russian Supreme Court chief justice Vyacheslav Lebedev asking the court to take Dmitriev’s case from the Petrozavodsk courts and render their own verdict.

Svetova reminded her readers that the criminal case against Dmitriev, who was accused of sexual crimes and distributing pornography, has been tried in the courts of Karelia for four and a half years. Twice the courts acquitted the historian, and twice the verdict was overturned.

“That is, [Russian Supreme Court] Judge Abramov read the file of a case in which the Karelian historian was actually acquitted twice, and then these sentences were overturned, but he decided not to review anything at all. That is, he didn’t allow the case to go to the cassation court, so as not to IMITATE justice. Because the outcome had been the same in the cassation court. This is another new low for justice,” Svetova commented on Facebook.

Historian Yuri Dmitriev, who was the first to investigate the mass graves from the Great Terror in Sandarmokh, was initially arrested five years ago, in 2016. He was charged with producing child pornography (punishable under Article 242.2 of the Criminal Code) and committing indecent acts (punishable under Article 135.1 of the Criminal Code) against his adopted daughter, a minor. The charges were occasioned by nude pictures of the child found at Dmitriev’s house, which, as he explained, he had taken so that the children’s welfare authorities could verify at any time that the child was healthy and not injured.

In 2018, he was acquitted of the charges of producing pornography and committing indecent acts, but was sentenced to two and a half years of supervised release for possession of a weapon (punishable under Article 222.1 of the Criminal Code): during a search of Dmitriev’s house, police had found part of the barrel from a hunting rifle.

Dmitriev’s adopted daughter was immediately removed from his custody after the first arrest, and since then she has been living with her grandmother.

In June 2018, Dmitriev was arrested again: a new criminal case was opened against him, this time into commission of violent acts, and the lower court’s initial acquittal in the case was also overturned. According to the new charges, Dmitriev had not only photographed the girl, but also touched her crotch. Dmitriev himself said that he was checking the dryness of the child’s underwear. (The girl had suffered from bedwetting.)

The new trial ended in July 2020 with an acquittal on the indecent acts and pornography charges. However, the Petrozavodsk City Court ruled that Dmitriev was guilty of committing violent acts and sentenced him to three and a half years in a high-security penal colony.

In September 2020, the Karelian Supreme Court, after considering the appeals of the defense and the prosecution against the verdict, increased Dmitriev’s sentence to thirteen years in a high-security penal colony.

On the day of the third cassation court hearing in the Dmitriev case, the investigative journalism website Proekt published an article in which it named a possible “high-ranking curator” overseeing the case. According to Proekt, it could be the Russian presidential aide Anatoly Seryshev, who was head of the FSB in Karelia from 2011 to 2016.

Очень серый кардинал

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Persecution of Valentina Chupik

Human rights activist Valentina Chupik. Photo courtesy of DW

Human rights activist Valentina Chupik has left Russia
After ECHR decision prohibits Chupik’s deportation to Uzbekistan, the human rights defender was released from a special detention center and allowed to fly to Yerevan
Deutsche Welle
October 2, 2021

The Russian authorities have released human rights activist Valentina Chupik from a special detention center at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. After the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) forbade the Russian authorities from deporting her to Uzbekistan, she was allowed to fly to Armenia, the human rights defender’s assistant Alexander Kim told reporters on Saturday, October 2.

“Uzbekistan has issued Valentina Chupik a new passport. She is currently on board a plane that took off a little over an hour ago for Yerevan. [The Russian authorities] couldn’t hold her anymore,” Kim said.

The human rights defender’s further plans are unknown. Her representatives have submitted an asylum request to the Ukrainian authorities for Chupik and her 84-year-old mother Lyubov Kodentsova, but have not yet received a response. Chupik’s seriously ill mother is still in the Moscow region.

Revenge for human rights work
The 48-year-old Chupik fled to Russia from Uzbekistan after the shooting of demonstrators in Andijan in 2005, fearing torture, and she received political asylum in Russia in 2009. The founder of Tong Jahoni (“Morning of the World”), a migrant rights protection center that provides free legal assistance to migrants facing pressure from the security forces and other problems, Chupik was detained by the FSB at Sheremetyevo Airport last week after arriving from Yerevan.

The Russian authorities had stripped Chupik of her status as a political refugee, banned her from entering Russia for a period of thirty years, and begun the process of deporting her to Uzbekistan. The activist believes that she was punished for criticizing corruption in the Russian Interior Ministry and for her human rights work.

On September 30, the ECHR forbade Chupik’s deportation, invoking Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. This rule is applied as an urgent measure in cases where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm.

Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

Goodbye to All That

One thing I find especially charming about certain Russians, often academics, who have lived for decades in “straunge strondes” (чужбина), is their conviction, now that the current “vegan” times have permitted them to make occasional and even annual junkets back to the Motherland, that life here is now nearly the same in every respect as back in the straunge strondes.

I’ll leave to one side the political aspects of this queer conviction, focusing instead on a single aspect of everyday life. I’ve heard it said a million times by many a Russian not resident in God’s Heavenly Kingdom on Earth full time or even part time (really) that wi-fi and internet connections here are the top of the pops, so much better than wherever they live, surrounded by black people and Mexicans and uncultured rednecks.

I have to admit that, outside of Russia, my only experience of wi-fi and internet connections over the last ten years or so has been places in the States and elsewhere where I’ve stayed for short stretches, including my parents’ farm, my sister’s house in the Cities, and the apartments of friends in other cities and countries, as well as my own secret hideout in Free Finland.

In all these places, I enjoyed shockingly fast, nearly outage-free internet and wi-fi connections. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times there were full-fledged outages in Free Finland, and all of them were sorted out in a matter of an hour or two, if not in a few minutes, with the sincerest of apologies by my Finnish providers.

As for the Cradle of Three Revolutions, everything was cool and seemingly getting cooler until sometime in the past year when, I suspect, the FSB placed so many demands, both physical and financial, on internet providers, that they are now no longer capable of doing routine maintenance on their networks and upgrading their hardware and software, despite the growing demand for their services on the part of the taxpaying and fee-paying populace.

But the ISPs serve a higher power—the siloviki—who are so out of their minds right now as to imagine you can organize a revolution on VKontakte by reposting pictures of Nazis and Navalny or something of the sort. They thus have to have ever-increasing capacities for surveilling the peons they rule over like medieval liege lords (or so they imagine), and they have tasked the country’s internet providers with giving them lots of electronic windows into the souls of these traitorous worms.

At least, I hope this is the case, because otherwise the sheer misery and torment visited on us since approximately last spring by our once faithful internet provider, long ago swallowed up by another company from Moscow and bereft of all the charms and virtues it had back in the days when I was one of its first customers, are inexplicable.

One look at the junction box in our attic will tell you tell that, in fact, is where the problem lies, and yet every time our internet goes under, which can be several times a day, the mumblers who man the phones at our provider’s tech support service run us through the same routines, all meant to persuade us morons that the problem is with our computers or even with our ignorant selves, not with the woeful state of the junction box in the attic or farther down the line.

Things turn from irritating to tragicomic when our provider sends an actual person to fix the mess. Nearly all of them (at this point, a dozen or so have darkened our door since spring) start out by ringing the changes on our wi-fi router, which supposedly has to be replaced, or the plastic snap connector on the end of the broadband cable or the cable itself.

If we can induce them to go up into the attic and open the junction box or just look at the junction box, which has wires poking out from in in all directions, like a Dalek gone south, they break down and admit the problem is on their end. If they’re kind and competent, they might apply a temporary fix by switching out a couple of cables in the box.

Then we have the joy of living humanity’s shared electronic life for an hour or two, or day or three, or, god forbid, a whole week. Sooner or later, though, the plug will be pulled on our meager joy, and our provider, unable or unwilling to give us the real explanation for the problem (our junction box? their servers back at the head office? SORM?), will plunge us back into their rehearsed routine of selling snake oil to their loyal customers, whose nerves shattered and hearts broken, their ability to do their own work suspended indefinitely.

I think all of us who actually live in the real Russia full time could make a long list of the country’s practical shortcomings, without once touching on politics per se, and the list would be long and sobering and, occasionally, incredibly frightening.

But the crypto-Putinists who teach at places like Berkeley and don’t actually live here and never or hardly ever deal with this failed state, don’t want to have the hard talk about how nearly all of these eminently practical failures are caused, ultimately, by wildly bad governance.

And what is the point of having that talk with them? They’ll only get testy and resort to whataboutism, the last refuge of scoundrels. ||| TRR, 19 September 2018. Photo of the beautiful clear blue sky in downtown Petersburg by the Russian Reader

The War on Terror in Russia

Mother-in-law of Rostov woman who left Russia to avoid criminal charges denied custody of her children, who are left in orphanage
Mediazona
September 6, 2021

The administration of Rostov-on-Don’s Lenin District has formally denied a request by the grandmother of the children of Rostov resident Alyona Sukhikh to take custody of them and collect them from an orphanage in Taganrog. Mediazona has a copy of the refusal at its disposal.

Mediazona has previously written in detail about the case. In the spring of 2021, 33-year-old Alyona Sukhikh was accused of financing terrorism: according to investigators, eight years ago, she transferred 2,360 rubles [approx. 27 euros] to a militant who was going to go to Syria to join Islamic State, an officially recognized terrorist organization.

Soon after the criminal case was launched, Sukhikh left for Turkey along with her youngest child and her husband. Her mother-in-law, Ekaterina Sadulayeva, was supposed to take the remaining children to them. The police took the children — a ten-year-old boy and two girls aged six and five — from their grandmother and placed them in an orphanage in Taganrog.

Sadulayeva tried to arrange preliminary custody of the children even before they were removed, but the local authorities dragged their feet, according to her. After the children had been taken away and placed in the orphanage, the pensioner was refused custody. Officials cited the fact that she is the biological grandmother of only one of the girls. Also, she does not have a residence registration permit for Rostov-on-Don, and her living conditions are allegedly “unpropitious.”

Among the reasons for the refusal, a letter from the local FSB field office was also cited: the security forces claimed that the grandmother had tried to “illegally remove the children from the Rostov region.”

Alyona Sukhikh has told Mediazona that other close family members would now seek custody of the children.

Ilmira Bikbayeva

Ufa court sentences pensioner to probation for financing extremism: she transferred six thousand rubles to political prisoner’s mother
Takie Dela
September 6, 2021

Idel.Realii reports that Ufa’s October District Court of Ufa has sentenced pensioner Ilmira Bikbayeva to three years of probation for financing extremism: the woman had transferred money to the family of political prisoner Ayrat Dilmukhametov.

According to the FSB’s Bashkiria field office, Bikbayeva made two payments to the bank card of Dilmukhametov’s mother in the amounts of 1,500 and 4,500 rubles [approx. 17 euros and 52 euros, respectively] in 2018 and 2019.  According to the security forces, Bikbayeva thus “provided funds deliberately earmarked for the preparation and commission of extremist crimes by Dilmukhametov.”

Investigators also concluded that Bikbayeva had supported Dilmukhametov by publishing materials on Facebook aimed at raising money for extremist crimes.

A criminal case was opened against Bikbayeva on suspicions of financing extremism, and the charge was filed in December 2020. The pensioner admitted no wrongdoing. According to her, she was helping Dilmukhametov’s mother, who experienced financial difficulties after her son’s arrest.

Bikbaeva explained that, in 2018, she transferred money to pay for a trip by Dilmukhametov and her father, the Bashkir writer Zigat Sultanov, to the village of Sunarchi in the Orenburg region, where they were supposed to erect a monument to victims of the genocide of the Bashkir population in May 1736. The second transfer was made as Bikbayeva’s contribution to the installation of the memorial.

Bikbayeva noted that she made the transfers after Dilmukhametov had been arrested. He was in solitary confinement and, as the pensioner said, could not have engaged in extremism.

The FSB detained Dilmukhametov on March 14, 2019, charging him with calling for separatism. The occasion was his on-air statement, broadcast on the radio station Echo of Moscow in Ufa, that it was necessary to create a “Fourth Bashkir Republic.” In April 2019, Dilmukhametov was charged with publicly calling for extremism and terrorism. In January 2020, charges of financing extremist activities were filed for a post on VKontakte containing the details of his mother’s bank card.

In August 2020, Dilmukhametov was sentenced to nine years in a maximum security penal colony.

Photo courtesy of RFE/RL. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ivan Pavlov: Thanks!

Russian human rights lawyer outside the Basmanny District Court in Moscow yesterday. Photo courtesy of his Telegram channel

Dear friends, colleagues, and allies!

This is Ivan Pavlov.

Yesterday was not an easy day for me, my family and the team. At 6 a.m., my friend Igor Dorfman had his door broken down. His apartment was searched for eight hours, and he was interrogated by the FSB. The Team 29 office was searched until nightfall.

But despite the fact that I have been restricted in my access to all means of communication, I am still with you.

My Facebook page has been temporarily blocked for security reasons. My Telegram channel will be run by my team. And this message has been written by Yevgeny Smirnov, who spent the whole day alongside me.

The team’s media resources will continue to function, publishing the latest news and features, because openness to the press and freedom of information have always been a priority for us. This, by the way, has always irritated our opponents a great deal.

The attack on me and my team is, of course, revenge for our work, for our principled stance, for our involvement in high-profile criminal cases run by the Russian FSB’s investigative department. And, of course, revenge for defending the Anti-Corruption Foundation, founded by Alexei Navalny, in court. But we are not going to stop. We will keep on working and fighting. Let’s not fall to the ground before shots are fired.

Especially since my team and I felt extraordinarily strong support from journalists, human rights defenders and the public on this day. And, most importantly, from our colleagues in the legal community, who came to the rescue without unnecessary formalities.

I am grateful for this difficult day because I learned how many people support me and Team 29. This inspires an optimism that cannot be diminished by interrogations, searches and court hearings.

Thanks!
Ivan Pavlov
(via Yevgeny Smirnov)

Source: weekly Team 29 emailing. Translated by the Russian Reader

____________________

Russia targets lawyer over media comments on treason case
Daria Litvinova
Associated Press
April 30, 2021

Russian authorities have launched a criminal probe against a lawyer representing a former Russian journalist accused of treason and the team of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accusing him of disclosing information related to a police investigation.

St. Petersburg-based lawyer Ivan Pavlov told reporters Friday he was formally charged with the criminal offense, punishable by a fine, community service or detention of up to three months, after his Moscow hotel room was raided on Friday morning and he was summoned to Russia’s Investigative Committee for interrogation.

Pavlov appeared in court later Friday and was ordered not to contact witnesses in the case or to use the Internet or a cellphone.

Pavlov’s colleague, Yevgeny Smirnov, had reported that the lawyer was detained. But Pavlov’s spokesperson, Yelizaveta Alexandrova-Zorina, later clarified to the Associated Press that Pavlov formally wasn’t arrested even though he was de-facto detained in his hotel room during the search.

The Team 29 association of lawyers that Pavlov heads said on social media that its office in St. Petersburg, the apartments of one of its employees and of Pavlov’s wife, and Pavlov’s house in the countryside were also raided Friday.

Opposition supporters, independent journalists and human rights activists have been facing increasing government pressure in Russia. Raids targeting Pavlov and his team elicited outrage in the Russian legal and human rights community, with prominent lawyers and legal aid groups calling on authorities to stop “using the law as a tool of pressure on lawyers.”

Pavlov said the accusations against him were connected to his defense of Ivan Safronov, a former Russian journalist charged with treason in a case that has been widely seen as retribution for his journalistic work. He said he was targeted because he shared information about the case with the media.

“The investigators maintain that I committed a crime when I told you, reporters, that your colleague is being unlawfully held in Lefortovo (pre-trial detention center) on absurd accusations,” the lawyer said.

Safronov, who wrote about military and security issues for a decade before becoming an adviser to Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, was detained last year and accused of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence. Many journalists questioned the charges, and his former newspaper rejected them as “absurd.”

Safronov’s former colleagues alleged that authorities may have sought revenge for his reporting that exposed Russian military incidents and opaque arms trade deals. Safronov has remained in pre-trial detention since July.

Pavlov had been due to appear in a Moscow court on Friday at a hearing about extending Safronov’s pre-trial detention. The lawyer said police unlawfully seized “almost the entire dossier” of documents related to the case during the hotel raid, including those subject to attorney-client privilege.

According to his colleague Smirnov, Pavlov frequently received threats from investigators at Russia’s Security Service, or FSB, with an investigator involved in the case against the former journalist allegedly saying to the lawyer, “We’re going to do everything to put you behind bars.”

Pavlov maintained his innocence and said he considered the case against him “revenge” for his work on cases investigated by the FSB.

Smirnov told the AP that persecution of Pavlov sends a signal to all lawyers: “Don’t even think about working effectively on criminal cases. Don’t even think about speaking out. Don’t even think about defending people.”

In August, Russian media reported the FSB had lodged a complaint against Pavlov over his refusal to sign a non-disclosure statement in Safronov’s case. Pavlov said he had signed a statement not to disclose state secrets in connection with the case, but no one had asked him to sign a broader non-disclosure statement.

The case against Pavlov was opened shortly after he started representing the [Anti-Corruption Foundation], founded by President Vladimir Putin’s longtime foe, opposition leader Navalny.

This month, the Moscow prosecutor’s office petitioned the Moscow City Court to outlaw Navalny’s foundation and his network of regional offices as extremist groups. The case, expected to be heard May 17, is part of a sweeping crackdown on Navalny, his allies and his political infrastructure.

On Friday, the Rosfinmonitoring agency, which analyzes financial transactions to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, added “Public Movement of Navalny’s Headquarters” to its list of organizations involved in extremist activities or terrorism.

However, Navalny’s top strategist Leonid Volkov said no such organization exists. Rosfinmonitoring can freeze access to bank accounts and it is not clear how Friday’s move would affect Navalny’s foundation or other operations.

Navalny is currently serving time in a penal colony outside Moscow. He was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a Soviet nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. Russian officials have rejected the accusations. European labs have confirmed he was poisoned.