A Khabarovsk woman, detained in March on suspicion of treason for financing the Ukrainian armed forces, has been identified by BBC journalists as twenty-three-year-old Tamara Parshina. Parshina’s initials and surname appeared in a judicial database in late April, when her term of detention was extended at the FSB’s request.
Parshina graduated from the Far Eastern State University of Railway Engineering (DVGUPS) with a degree in information systems and information technologies. Prior to that, the accused studied at the prep school on Leningrad Street, which was also where she was detained. The young woman was employed at the Khabarovsk Regional Compulsory Health Insurance Fund.
After Parshina’s arrest, there were rumors that she was an activist in the I Am/We Are Furgal movement. However, the regular attendees of the pickets in support of ex-regional governor Sergei Furgal said that no one they knew had been arrested in the case. Furgal’s headquarters called the claim that the detainee was an activist in the movement an attempt to discredit it.
The attorney Kaloy Akhilgov reported that Parshina had donated a total of 2,500 rubles [approx. 29 euros] in small amounts to various Ukrainian charitable foundations. She is currently in custody at Moscow’s Lefortovo remand prison.
Parshina is the youngest person so far detained on suspicion of treason in Russia. She faces up to twenty years in prison if convicted. The toughening of the punishment for treason occurred after Parshina’s arrest. Also, women are not given life sentences in Russia: the maximum sentence for women is twenty-five years.
In March, the FSB began accusing Russians of providing financial assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces and charging them with treason. The BBC has discovered that 36-year-old Nina Slobodchikova from Novosibirsk was the first to be detained, followed by 23-year-old Tamara Parshina from Khabarovsk (who is the youngest Russian woman so far accused of treason). Both women were employed in the IT field before their arrests. One of them has relatives in Ukraine.
Two men in camouflage walk briskly, skirting snowdrifts, down a snow-covered sidewalk. They chase down and grab a young woman in a light-colored down jacket carrying a small bag. Her face has been blurred: only a strand of hair that has escaped from under her cap is visible. She is confused and crying. Something falls from her hands to the ground; one of the men picks it up and says, “Calm down.” The girl is bundled into a black minibus with tinted windows.
This is video footage shot by the FSB. In the next scene, the detainee, now carrying a backpack, enters the FSB’s Khabarovsk Territory offices, escorted by security forces officers. She is then seen being led up the gangway of an Aeroflot Boeing 777 named in honor of Marshal of the USSR Vasily Chuikov. The sign above the airport reads “Khabarovsk.” At the end of the video, the young woman disembarks from the plane at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. In the final shots, she is led through the courtyard of Lefortovo remand prison. Her hands are cuffed behind her back.
The video appeared in the media on March 13, the same day the FSB reported that it had detained a Khabarovsk woman on suspicion of treason for financially aiding the Ukrainian army. The BBC was told by the Lefortov court that pretrial restraints had been imposed on Parshina on March 9 in Khabarovsk. According to information obtained on the website Flightradar24, the Chuikov Boeing flew to Moscow around three o’clock in the afternoon on March 9.
The BBC tracked down classmates and acquaintances of 23-year-old Tamara Parshina on social media. One of them recognized the young woman in the video released by FSB. “Those are her sneakers,” she said. “And she seems to be sobbing too. I remember because she often cried at school. The hair is curly, like hers. She also wore glasses.” Her description matches photos of Parshina on social media.
Parshina’s friends do not know the exact nature of the charges against her. “It seems that she donated money last spring [in 2022] to some organization that helps someone in Ukraine,” an acquaintance of the young woman wrote to the BBC. Parshina’s mother declined to speak with the BBC about her daughter.
The FSB reported that the young woman was detained on Leningrad Street in Khabarovsk “near the train station.” According to a friend, [that was a coincidence]: she merely lived in the neighborhood. Leningrad Street is also the location of the prep school that Parshina attended and where she won academic competitions. [I was unable to access this link from my computer — TRR.]
In 2021, Parshina graduated from the Far Eastern State University of Railway Engineering (DVGUPS) with a degree in information systems and information technologies. “Novice web developer […] looking for remote work, but would also consider relocating,” she wrote about herself on LinkedIn.
After graduating from university, the young woman worked at the Khabarovsk Regional Compulsory Health Insurance Fund, said a former university classmate.
Friends of Parshina with whom the BBC spoke had lost contact with her in the winter. “[In February] some friend of hers wrote to me: he was also looking for her. I wrote to her wherever I could, but she didn’t reply to me,” one of them said. Another friend of Parshina from a group in which they played board games together claims that Parshina had not been in touch with him since late January.
The FSB alleged that Parshina was “an activist in the ‘I Am/We Are Furgal’ movement.” With this as their slogan, thousands of the region’s residents protested in support of ex-governor Sergei Furgal after his arrest [on murder charges] in the summer of 2020. In February of this year, Furgal was sentenced to 22 years in prison. According to the FSB, the Khabarovsk woman, motivated, allegedly, by “political hatred and enmity,” donated money to the Ukrainian armed forces for the purchase of weapons, ammunition, and uniforms. Now she is housed in the same Moscow prison as Furgal.
Parshina’s friends were not aware of her protest activities. “To be honest, I don’t think she was involved in that,” a former university classmate told the BBC. “I know that she was subscribed to various environmental activists and feminists on Instagram.”
Six months before his arrest, Furgal paid a visit to DVGUPS, where Parshina was studying at that time. There were many students in attendance, and the Khabarovsk Territory government published a report about the visit on its website. [This website seems to be blocked to users outside Russia — TRR.] Parshina is not in any of the photos of this event.
On March 13, Khabarovsk regional MP Sergei Bezdenezhnykh, a Furgal ally, wrote on his Telegram channel that “none of the I Am/We Are Furgal activists recognized the detainee.”
“As a member of the Furgal team, I can say that she has nothing to do with us. I have the sense that certain forces want to link financing of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the ex-governor’s name. The movement is not official, it is not registered anywhere. First and foremost, it is an indefinitely large group of people,” Bezdenezhnykh wrote. The Furgal team, he claims, supports Russia, not Ukraine.
The FSB alleges that Parshina donated “personal funds” to the Armed Forces of Ukraine on grounds of “political hatred and enmity,” without specifying at whom these feelings of hers were directed.
It was this motive that the Khabarovsk Regional Court had previously ruled an aggravating circumstance in another treason case. In the autumn of 2022, it sentenced Vyacheslav Mamukov to twelve and a half years in a maximum-security penal colony for, allegedly, attempting to sell information on the design of thirty Russian bridges to the Ukrainian special services.
A criminal case against Zhlobitskaya was launched in December. She was released on her own recognizance after being charged with “publicly condoning terrorism,” per Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code. The charge was triggered by posts she had made in November and December 2019 on VKontakte. Among them are reposts of poems from the website stihi.ru, as well as two reposts from the group page of the People’s Self-Defense with information about the bomb blast at the FSB.
According to the prosecution’s expert witnesses, Mikhail Zhlobitsky’s actions in the posts in question were deemed “correct, worthy of support and imitation,” and he himself was characterized as a “good guy.”
17-year-old student Mikhail Zhlobitsky detonated a homemade bomb in the lobby of the FSB’s Arkhangelsk directorate on [October 31,] 2018, killing himself and injuring three security forces officers. A few minutes before the blast, a warning about the attack from Zhlobitsky appeared in the chat of the Telegram channel “A Rebel’s Speech.” The message said that his act, in particular, was motivated by the fact that the FSB had been fabricating criminal cases.
Yegor Balazeikin is sixteen years old. In late February, he was detained in Kirovsk, a town in the Leningrad Region: according to police investigators, he wanted to set fire to a military enlistment office, and now he stands accused of “attempted terrorism.” Later, a second criminal case was launched against the schoolboy, also for allegedly attempting to torch a military enlistment office, this time in Petersburg. Our correspondent found out how a teenager who had supported the war in Ukraine a year ago changed his views one hundred eighty degrees and how this has impacted his entire family.
After Yegor was detained, he admitted that he had in fact tossed homemade Molotov cocktails at a military enlistment office, but none of them had started a fire or caused other serious damage. Now the teenager is at risk of going to prison and spending as many years there as the time he has already spent on earth. His family are convinced that the security forces want to ruin the boy’s life. His parents and his lawyer have been forbidden from sharing information about the case with third parties.
Yegor turned sixteen last August. He loves the humanities, especially history and social studies. After finishing school, he wanted to enroll in the law school or economics faculty at [St. Petersburg State U]niversity. His parents had transferred him to School No. 166, one of the leading liberal arts prep schools in St. Petersburg.
“Yegor has always done very well at school. He passed the OGE (the basic state exam taken by pupils after they complete the ninth grade) with flying colors. It was decided to apply to several Petersburg schools at once, and School No. 166 was among them. His parents spent a long time talking it over. They were prepared for the fact that Yegor would have a long commute, since they lived in a single-family dwelling in Otradnoye[forty kilometers east of Petersburg]. Consequently, Yegor’s knowledge so impressed the headmaster at the 166th (who is a historian, by the way) that Yegor was unconditionally accepted into the tenth grade,” says Natalia Krylova, a friend of Yegor’s mother. (Her name has been changed to protect her identity.)
Natalia is close to Yegor’s family. She has know the boy since he was four. She is aware of the details of his life and had tutored him in English. According to her, Yegor’s father, Daniel, was quite supportive of his passion for Russian history.
“He was especially interested in military history and studied all the wars. When Yegor was still a little boy, he got interested in the history of weaponry at his father’s suggestion. I remember his getting books about tanks for New Year’s. He’s just such a dogged young fellow — if he starts doing something, he goes all the way. He knew all the places connected with the Great Patriotic War, he went several times to historical sites near Petersburg, and he often visited military museums,” says Natalia.
Yegor’s interest in military history was also encouraged by his uncle Dmitry, Daniel’s older brother. Dmitry [was] a professional military man with combat experience. He had always been an authority for Yegor when it came to complex historical matters.
When Yegor had just started school, he began having health problems. His mother, Tatiana Balazeikina, took him to the doctors, and they discovered that the boy had a serious disease — autoimmune hepatitis.
“To put it simply, his immune system attacks the liver cells for some reason. Maybe there is some kind of pathogen or virus hidden there, and so the immune system went crazy and began attacking its own tissues in an attempt to get this virus. It is a serious problem, especially if the liver is involved,” says Natalia.
The disease proved to be hereditary: Yegor’s mother also has an autoimmune disease, only it affects a different organ in her body.
“His parents spent so much time with Yegor at all kinds of hospitals trying to understand what was happening to their child that there was practically nothing left in his life except medical tests. He was even classified as a disabled person, a status that was later rescinded,” Natalia recalls. “When he was ten, they had to do something to prevent him from seeing himself as disabled. That’s why they signed him up for kyokushin, a style of Japanese karate.”
Yegor lucked out with his coaches and grew quite fond of this difficult, harsh style of karate. He took part in competitions, often winning, and the Balazeikin home was chockablock with martial arts trophies and medals. After emerging victorious at regional championships, Yegor often judged children’s competitions himself.
But Yegor had to give up his promising sporting career due to his transfer to the new school and having to study for the state exams. His disease eventually went into persistent remission, but he still has to visit a hematologist every three months, have a comprehensive physical once a year, and constantly take life-saving medications.
When Yegor transferred to the new school, his load seriously increased: his classes were harder, and every day he had to spend several hours traveling to the prep school and back. His parents eventually rented him a room directly opposite the school. The family had no extra money for this. Tatiana, who worked as an English teacher, had to go into business as freelance tutor, although there were few lessons to be had, mostly with the children of friends and acquaintances. The family’s main source of income are the wages that Daniel earns as an electrician.
“The child was dying from fatigue, from the huge workload, but his studies were important to him. After arriving home, it would happen that he would fall asleep in the hallway with his coat and shoes still on. Can you imagine how tired he was? Yegor would stay the night at this [rented] room [in the city] when he realized that he could not make it home after school. He would spend all weekends at home. The media has written that his mother left her son to live alone, but this is a lie. He did very well at the new school. Although it was difficult, he got excellent marks. He was looking at several fields to go into. For a long time he dreamed of becoming a diplomat and started studying English in depth, but then he settled on studying history, law, and economics,” says Natalia.
According to Yegor’s new classmates, he is a very kind and intelligent boy. He unfailingly attended all outings, electives, and lectures, and not only always took a clear stance on historical issues, but also knew how to argue his point well.
“Yegor is not terribly talkative, and he didn’t hang out a lot with many people, but he always gave the impression of being a decent, good person. It is a pity that he is in such circumstances now,” a female classmate told our correspondent.
His teachers and the parents of his classmates spoke well of Yegor.
“My son spoke very positively of Yegor. He is a very good boy. It would be a pity to ruin the young fellow’s life,” says one of the parents.
According to Yegor’s relatives, the family had always respected his right to his own opinion and position, and always gave him the opportunity to choose. With the support of his parents, he had grown up to be an individual interested in the history of his country.
When the war in Ukraine began, life in the Balazeikin family changed a great deal. At first there were no disagreements between the parents and the teenager: they all fully supported Vladimir Putin’s decisions.
“I found it strange, but we never quarreled about it, because we are adults who can share their own opinions in the spirit of friendship and grant the other person the right to be different. At first, Yegor was like everyone in his family, like his mom, his dad, his grandmother and, especially, his father’s brother, his uncle, a professional military man. But Uncle Dima was killed almost at the outset of the special military operation. And after his uncle was killed, Yegor’s position began to change,” recalls Natalia Krylova.
It was early April. Dmitry Balazeikin, Yegor’s uncle, volunteered to go to Ukraine as part of an army reserve unit (BARS). He was no longer of military service age, but had a lot of experience. He had served in hot spots, and his relatives called him a “real officer.”
“He didn’t say anything to anyone — he just went off to the front. And he was almost immediately killed near Izyum, where there were terrible battles and heavy losses last March and April,” says Natalia. “He died with dignity, as Tanya told me: he was a platoon commander and was defending his soldiers. But it happened that it was at the beginning of the special military operation, when everything was still unorganized, and he was a volunteer, so his funeral was quite difficult to arrange, including financially. His body had to be claimed and all the paperwork done. Tanya took care of this, since Dima’s mother was completely unable to do it. Besides, she was in Kazakhstan. Dima’s two ex-wives, who have children to care for, couldn’t handle it either.”
It so happened that it was Yegor’s parents who took on most of the chores associated with Dmitry’s funeral, and Yegor watched the whole difficult process unfold.
“It was the first funeral in the family for him. Some time before, his paternal grandfather had died from covid. But Yegor was not involved in any funeral-related events at that time: the covid restrictions were still in effect, and only his father flew to the funeral. The funeral of his uncle, who had been killed, was bound to leave a mark on him,” says Natalia.
“At first, the intensity of his emotions was off the scale. It seems to me that he felt quite conflicted. His uncle had been killed, but you go on the internet and there’s hoople. It’s the same thing on TV. At school, Yegor’s class was studying the First World War, it seems. If it had been me, I really wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It’s a lot of stress at sixteen. I remember when Tanya and I were talking about what was happening in our families, she spoke in great detail about how Yegor was having a rough time processing events, that he was against people getting killed on either side. I thought the right thing to do would be to advise her to take Yegor to a therapist, because it’s a little odd that a child of his age is not interested in girls and friends, but is all tense like a coiled spring. You see, he steered almost all conversations to a single topic, to how Russia was doing wrong. I think everything overlapped so terribly, both this war and his inner emotions,” Natalia says, sighing.
On the evening of February 28, Yegor’s mother received a call from the police informing her of her son’s arrest. According to Russian National Guard officers, it was Yegor who had thrown the Molotov cocktail at the military enlistment office in Kirovsk. The bottle “had broken, but nothing had caught on fire.”
“That day, I received a message from Tanya. It opened with the words, ‘Our family is dead.’ Later, she told me that Yegor had taken his arrest calmly. Perhaps he had anticipated it. He hadn’t tried to break free or run from the police. So far, he has been behaving absolutely calmly, as far as I know. It’s quite strange. I can’t understand it. Apparently, he had thought through all the options, including this one. A person who has decided to carry out a protest like that must be mentally prepared for such an outcome,” Natalia says.
Before she was forbidden to talk about the case, Tatiana Balazeikina managed to tell the media that, immediately after her son’s arrest, she was able to have a short conversation with him, during which he said, “If I hadn’t done what I did, I would probably have hanged myself, because I can’t go around with this weight in my heart, seeing how many people are getting killed.” Yegor was first charged with arson, but later charged with attempted terrorism. According to his mother, during the interrogation, “the investigators very clearly pushed” the teenager to say what they wanted to hear. As was reported on the Telegram channel in support of Yegor, FSB officers threatened that he would be raped in the pretrial detention center and sent to a mental hospital, to which Yegor said, “Do with me what you wish, I will not change my position.”
Yegor is currently in custody at Pretrial Detention Center No. 5. His relatives and other people directly involved in the case have been forced to sign an agreement not to disclose any information about it. His mother was able to deliver to him the medicines and textbooks he needed, along with warm clothes, because it is cold at the detention center. According to Natalia, Yegor has been trying to work out in his spare time and has been thinking a lot about what is happening in the country.
“No one takes into account the age of the offender. There are different circumstances, different life experiences, different motives, and different people. Why can’t he be put under house arrest? He’s just a kid! My only hope and all my prayers are that the criminal code article under which has been charged will be changed. Initially, when he was detained, he was under investigation for violating a completely different article. Now [if he is convicted] he will be imprisoned for ten to fifteen years — at the age of sixteen. This is neither education nor social adaptation. It is a very deep trauma, so many years of isolation. Our state does not value human life as much as it does its own peace of mind,” says Natalia, indignantly.
“Despite their differences over the war, Yegor’s dad has supported his son,” she says. “What has happened has very much brought the family together. Such tragedies either break up families, or, on the contrary, people become even closer to each other. In their case, the second has happened. I think Yegor’s father blames himself for what happened, no less than his mother. Tanya said, ‘Did we bring him up wrong? But how? I really did want him to be a good person…’ I can say that he is in fact a good person. After all, bad deeds don’t always make you a bad person. Everyone can make mistakes. It is a life experience for which you bear responsibility.”
His relatives and human rights activists have launched a Telegram channel in support of Yegor on which they report on his condition. According to Natalia, he really wants people to write him letters.
Petersburg lawyer Leonid Krikun, who is known for having defended a number of activists and public figures, is confident that the court will return a guilty verdict and the length of the sentence it hand downs will depend directly on the defendant’s admission or non-admission of guilt in court.
“With a full confession, the extent of punishment may be smaller. If there is no confession, judges give close to the maximum [sentence] within the scope mandated by the criminal code. The current regime is aware of the populace’s discontent with the mobilization and has been doing everything to stop attempts to prevent it from implementing the mobilization. If criminal cases are launched against disapproving social media posts about mobilization, then for direct actions aimed at disrupting the mobilization, the authorities would have people shot if they could,” Krikun argues. ” The authorities punish assaults on ‘sacred thing’ to the fullest extent of the law, which changes at any time at their discretion.”
Without reliable information about an arsonist’s objectives, the investigating authorities are free to launch criminal proceedings in cases of arson under various articles in the Criminal Code, but after receiving testimony from the suspect, the article under which they are charged may be changed..
Krikun notes that the strictest form of pretrial restriction — detention in a remand prison — is mandated for “undesirables,” and [their lawyers and loved ones] are prohibited from disclosing the investigation’s preliminary findings. The general public thus has no information about the civil rights violations committed by police investigators. Meanwhile, the security forces do not even take into consideration who exactly they are dealing with, even when the suspect is a teenage boy, a young woman, or an elderly lady.
“This is how the authorities intimidate detainees in these cases in order to persuade them to make a full confession of guilt and to repent, and to present them to society not as opposition activists, but as lost sheep who have realized that their own behavior was mistaken,” the lawyer argues.
Source: Yelizaveta Dobrovinskaya, “‘Our Family Is Dead’: The Story of Yegor Balazeikin, Suspected of Torching a Military Enlistment Office,”Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 22 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. If you don’t want the Russian Reader to turn into a chatbot, or for it to be switched off altogether, show your support today by liking, commenting, sharing, or donating. I have to see that there are other human beings out there reacting tangibly to my unpaid labor of love, which is now in the middle of its sixteenth year. I have received only $117 in donations so far in 2023. That’s not enough financial support for me for to keep doing this much longer, considering that last year, for example, my overhead costs alone were $1,620 (for internet, hosting, and subscriptions to online independent Russian media), against only $1,403 in reader donations on the year. ||| TRR
I have been in police custody since April of last year. I was formally charged in early June, and since then I have been an “accused” man. I see this word in paperwork, I sign statements containing it, and that is how the prison authorities address me. “Accused” has been my new social status for the past nine months.
A criminal change can be a serious burden. I have met people in prison, albeit a few, who are plagued by a sense of guilt for what they have done. In this sense, though, my case is simple. All the accusations against me are ridiculous and absurd, and the article [in the criminal code] under which I am being tried should not exist, basically. I find it easy and pleasant to take a consistent stance and to tell the truth. I have always adhered to this principle both in public life and in personal matters.
The investigation, whilst trying to accuse me of spreading “fakes,” has constructed one giant fake. Literally the entire indictment, from the first word to the last, is at odds with reality. I subscribe to every word I wrote a year ago. All my emotional assessments have retained their force, and all factual claims have been borne out many times. So there can be no question of any sense of guilt on my part in terms of the present case.
Life, though, is much more complicated than a trumped-up criminal case. A year ago, events happened that shocked the world. In a matter of days, the foundations of life, which had seemed to us unshakable, were destroyed. The most terrible pictures stepped off the pages of history textbooks, reviving the nightmares of bygone years and wars whose fury had long ago been stilled. Unable to stop this ongoing tragedy, tens of millions of Russians have come face to face with an oppressive sense of guilt. It is a normal reaction to the monstrously abnormal situation in which all of us find ourselves.
If you feel guilty, it means that you have a conscience. It means that you cannot see the suffering of innocent people without feeling pain in your heart, that you are able to empathize with someone else’s grief. What is more, a sense of guilt for the actions of one’s country is impossible without a sense of belonging. It means that no matter where you are now, you maintain an emotional connection with your homeland, you realize that you are a citizen of Russia and worry about its fate. You — we — are real patriots of Russia in the true sense of the word! We love our country, and so we are especially hurt and ashamed that this inhuman war is waged on its behalf.
It is vital to remember that the guilt that we cannot help but feel is irrational per see. After all, we are not actually to blame for what is happening. The blame is on those who unleashed and wage this war, on those who issue and carry out criminal orders, on those who commit outrages on foreign soil, as well as on those who condone these crimes by cracking down on their own people and generating an atmosphere of fear and intolerance.
On the contrary, we want to live in a free and peaceful country. We want a better future for ourselves and our neighbors. In order for our hopes to come true, we must move away from a passive sense of guilt, focused on the past, and strive to realize our own civic responsibility. We must move away from regrets about what has happened to solving existing problems and making plans for the future. Yes, right now we are unable to stop the war, but this does not mean that we are powerless. I want each of you to think about what you can do personally. The answer “nothing” is not acceptable. First, if you are not on the side of the scoundrels, if you have remained true to yourself, have kept your wits about you, and have not fallen into despair, if you are listening to me now or reading this text, this is much more than nothing. And second, even I can do something and am doing something. I keep talking, communicating the truth about events to people. I have been using this trial as a platform for public anti-war statements. To the best of my ability, I have been helping those who, due to their civic stance, have found themselves on the same side of the bars as me. You have many more opportunities to act today for the sake of our common better tomorrow.
Our problem is the inability to take the initiative and find allies. We are used to following leaders and waiting for instructions. Don’t wait — act! Become volunteers, help refugees, support political prisoners, form horizontal ties. Get to know your neighbors, colleagues and classmates, set common goals and achieve them together. When someone needs your help, don’t ignore them. Make this world a better place for us and for our children.
We like to repeat, like a mantra, the words “Russia will be free!” But Russia is us, and what it will be depends only on us. The war will inevitably end, and then the regime that unleashed it will cease to exist. This is the law of history. We have a lot of work ahead of us, work which we must start now. This work of ours, I am sure, is bound to succeed. Russia will be free — because we will make it so.
Source: Darya Kornilova (Facebook), 1 March 2023. Thanks to Elena Zaharova for the heads-up. Originally published on the website of the movement For Human Rights. Translated by the Russian Reader. The verdict in Mr. Ivanov’s case is scheduled to be announced on March 7. The prosecutor has asked the court to find him guilty as charged and sentence him to nine years in prison. See my translation of Mediazona‘s detailed account of the case and trial against Mr. Ivanov, below.
Russian lawmakers on Thursday voted in favor of a bill that would make it a criminal offense to “discredit” anyone fighting on Russia’s side in the war in Ukraine, not just the Russian military.
The legislation aims to expand current laws criminalizing the discrediting of the Russian Armed Forces to include mercenaries serving in the ranks of Russia’s growing number of private military companies, such as the Wagner Group.
The bill was unexpectedly introduced by State Duma deputies Wednesday in the form of amendments to two largely unrelated bills that were already due to be voted on in the lower chamber of the Russian parliament.
If signed into law, the amendments would introduce sentences of up to seven years in prison for “public acts aimed at discrediting volunteer formations, organizations or individuals” that are aiding the work of the Russian Armed Forces.
The proposed amendments also increase the maximum punishment for violating the existing law against spreading “false” information about the army.
Those found guilty of “spreading fake information” about the army or a volunteer military formation would then face up to five years in prison instead of the three years outlined in the current law.
The new law would also raise the maximum fine from 700,000 rubles ($9,250) to 1.5 million rubles ($19,830).
In cases in which the dissemination of “false information” is deemed to have had “grave consequences,” violators could face up to 15 years in prison, under the new legislation.
The bill must now pass its third reading in the State Duma on March 14 before going to the upper house of parliament for approval and then finally to the president for his signature.
The trial of Dmitry Ivanov, a mathematics student and creator of the Telegram channel “MSU Protesting,” is nearing completion in Moscow’s Timiryazevsky District Court. Ivanov is accused of disseminating “fake news” about the army. (The investigators claim that reports of war crimes, the killing of civilians and the destruction of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure are “fake news,” as well as Ivanov’s refusal to call the war a “special operation.”) Today, Prosecutor Yulia Pravosud asked the court to sentence Ivanov to nine years in prison. Mediazona examines the grounds for the case against the activist and how investigators have tried to prove his guilt.
“Don’t betray the Motherland, Dima” was the message painted on 16 March 2022 on the door of the Moscow flat in which the Moscow State University student Dmitry Ivanov had lived all twenty-two years of his life. The message was embellished with three huge Z’s. At the time, Ivanov joked: “We have already washed off the door — a simple Soviet acetone helped us make short work of the paint.” The Telegram channel “MSU Protesting,” which he had created and ran, continued to write about the war and anti-war protests inside Russia, until its author was detained on April 28 as he was leaving the university. He has not been released since.
On April 29, the Nikulinsky District Court jailed Ivanov for ten days for “organizing a rally” — this is how the security forces deemed one of the posts in his channel. He served his jail sentence in the Sakharovo Temporary Detention Center for Foreign Nationals outside of Moscow, but on May 9 he was detained as he was leaving the facility and sentenced again under the same article of the Administrative Offenses Code — this time for twenty-five days. The student missed the state exams and was unable to submit his honor’s thesis. After serving the new sentence, he was immediately detained again on June 2, this time on a criminal charges. He was taken from the detention center to the Investigative Committee for questioning.
Ivanov managed to transfer the admin of “MSU Protesting” to his friend Nikita Zaitsev. Ivanov’s friends later created a separate channel in his support, “Prison MSU.”
“From the very beginning of my imprisonment, I have lucked out in terms of symbolic dates. I was tried on Victory Day and on the day the mobilization began, and I was transferred to the pretrial detention center on Russia Day. Another hearing will be held on the anniversary of Navalny’s return to Russia. Back then it seemed that all the masks had been doffed and there was nothing more that could shock us. If only we had known what would happen a year later,” Ivanov wrote in a letter to our correspondent.
What Dmitry Ivanov is accused of
The case against Ivanov was handled by the Investigative Committee’s First Major Case Department. Like most cases investigated under the article on “fakes about the military,” it was launched on the basis of “law enforcement intelligence.” Еhe report on the student was written by Lieutenant Colonel A.L. Kapustin, a field officer in the FSB’s Moscow and Moscow Region directorate.
Kapustin copied several posts from “MSU Protesting,” and Captain K.A. Myagkov, a major case investigator, concluded that they were sufficient to launch a criminal case.
The prosecution argues that the activist, “motivated by political hatred” and “foreseeing the inevitability of socially dangerous consequences in the form of undermining and discrediting the current state authorities,” is alleged to have disseminated the following claims on Telegram between 4 March and 4 April 2022:
— the Russian army attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant;
— The Russian armed forces have been destroying cities and civilian infrastructure and killing civilians in Ukraine;
— Russia is waging a real war, not a “special military operation”;
— Russian aviation has suffered significant losses in the war;
— Russian soldiers committed war crimes in the towns of Bucha and Irpen.
Most of the posts that investigators attributed to Ivanov were reposts of allegations made by other people, including politician Alexei Navalny, Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky, BBC journalist Ilya Barabanov, blogger Maxim Katz, and the writers on social media news page Lentach.
From a broken phone to a canceled thesis defense: how field officers and MSU officials persecuted an undesirable student
In 2018, Ivanov was a student majoring in computational mathematics and cybernetics. Along with dozens of other students and lecturers, he protested against construction of a World Cup fan zone outside Moscow State University’s main building. The inhabitants of the building complained that the construction work prevented them from working during the day and sleeping at night, and that the crowds of fans would make their lives unbearable.
It was then that Ivanov launched the initially anonymous Telegram channel “MSU Protesting,” in which he described in detail the struggle of students and lecturers against developers. He would go on to write about other protest actions. On 16 December 2018, Ivanov was detained at a rally outside the FSB building in Moscow: the infamous Center “E” officer Alexei Okopny did not like the fact that the student had photographed him.
The very next day, Ivanov’s channel ceased to be anonymous. “Hi, my name is Dima, I’m 19, I study at Moscow State University, and today I became a victim of torture,” the student wrote. He said that after his arrest the security forces had demanded that he give them the password to his phone; when he refused, they beat him and threatened to rape him with a police baton. Having failed to achieve their goal, they simply broke the phone, and access to “MSU Protesting” was lost. Ivanov created a new channel with the same name and recounted his experiences in detail in his inaugural post.
Ivanov thus became one of the well-known activists whom the security forces snatched from the crowd first during protests. On 2 February 2021, he was detained at a rally in support of Alexei Navalny, who had returned to Russia after recovering from poisoning. It was then that, for the first time, the Meshchansky District Court sent the student to the Temporary Detention Center for Foreign Nationals in Sakharovo for thirty days. At this center for migrants facing deportation, where Moscow opposition activists were taken to serve their administrative sentences that winter, a second charge sheet was drawn up against Ivanov because he argued with the guards. Ten more days were added to the thirty days he had got for attending the rally.
Ivanov’s friends estimated that he spent a total of 101 days under administrative arrest.
Ivanov was scheduled to defend his honor’s thesis on 1 June 2022. The student was supposed to be released from the detention center on the second of June. Ivanov’s defense team asked the court to shorten the term of arrest by at least one day and requested a postponement from the examination commission, but to no avail. In July, Ivanov was expelled from Moscow State University for not having passed the state final certification.
“I got out of the subway, saw a building with paddy wagons, and decided to give evidence”: the prosecution’s witnesses
The investigation into the Ivanov case was completed in two months. During this time, several witnesses were questioned at the Investigative Committee. Only one of them, Yuliaslava Korolevich, a school friend of the activist, testified in his defense. The security forces searched the home of Korolevich and her mother, and then brought the young woman in for questioning. She said only that she knows Dmitry “as a person who can listen and help out in difficult times, and who is intelligent, rational and logical by nature.”
The other witnesses in the case did not have their homes searched. All of them unfailingly identified themselves as “patriots” during questioning, and the wording of their testimony against Ivanov overlaps almost verbatim. All of them described the arrested student “negatively as an anti-Russian fascist,” and his posts in the Telegram channel as “not corresponding to the position of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation.”
The most verbose among the witnesses was the former dean of the Faculty of Fundamental Physical and Chemical Engineering at Moscow State University Lyudmila Grigorieva, infamous for her confrontation with student activists. In 2021, she was forced to resign after she called the Initiative Group at the university “western liberasts” who “grunt, crawl and shit constantly for scraps.”
During questioning, Grigorieva labeled herself “a patriot and a person who loves her country very much, and also stands for kindness, state power, unity, and public order.” She thus considered it her duty to testify against a student who, in her opinion, is a “fascist” and “belongs to a political sect.”
“Ivanov hates people who do not share his liberal views, and defends all the dregs of society,” she said.
Later, at the trial, Grigorieva voiced the hope that not only Ivanov, but also another opposition mathematician from Moscow State University, associate professor Mikhail Lobanov, would pay for “anti-Russian activities.”
Three more prosecution witnesses are Grigorieva’s former subordinates Alexander Krasilnikov, Daniil Afanasyev, and her former graduate student Kirill Borisevich. In court, none of them (like the ex-dean herself) could explain how they had ended up in the investigator’s office and had decided to testify against Ivanov.
“I was walking from the subway, I had got out of the subway. I saw a building with paddy wagons, and decided to give evidence,” Krasilnikov said uncertainly. Each of the three repeated verbatim Grigorieva’s epithets for the student, and in court they read their testimony from a phone or a piece of paper.
What connects the unemployed man Ivan Lyamin and Kolomna Philharmonic musician Mikhail Zhuravlev with the case of Ivanov is not at all clear. In court, Lyamin explained that he had “accidentally stumbled upon” the Telegram channel “MSU Protesting.” He would sometimes read it. He then told an acquaintance about it, who advised him to contact the Investigative Committee.
Zhuravlev claimed that he had decided to testify so that justice would prevail.
“Because freedom of speech has become too much,” he said.
During questioning, Zhuravlev said that Ivanov “is trying to disorient his readers about the events in Ukraine and impose a sense of guilt for the conduct of the special operation not only on Russian citizens, but on all ethnic Russians. He is also trying to shape public opinion among citizens of the Russian Federation about the need to stop the actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Ukraine in order to preserve the power of the nationalists.”
The witness could not repeat such a long statement from memory, so in court the prosecutor had to read out his written testimony .
The evidence and witnesses for the defense
The prosecution argues that, since the posts on the Telegram channel “MSU Protesting” diverged from the official reports of the Defense Ministry, meaning that they were “deliberately false,” this is sufficient proof of Ivanov’s guilt. This conclusion was reached by linguists from the FSB, who testified in court.
Defense counsel Maria Eismont asked psychologist Veronika Konstantinova and linguist Igor Zharkov to prepare an independent expert analysis of the activist’s posts. They concluded that, at the time of their publication, the information in Ivanov’s posts was not “knowingly false” from his point of view. The prosecutor retorted that the experts were only “trying to discredit the actions of the investigation.”
In addition to the expert analysis, the defense presented the testimony of seven people in court. Unlike the prosecution witnesses, all of them were personally acquainted with Ivanov. Andrei Stroganov taught Ivanov computer science at school. Ivanov worked on his honor’s thesis with Alexei Borodin, a senior researcher at the Institute of System Programming. Ivan Shmatin, a fifth-year student at Moscow State University is not only friends with the defendant, but also knows Lyudmila Grigorieva, whom he called “a person hyper-concentrated on people who espouse democratic values.”
All of them described the accused as an honest individual and a talented mathematician. This was said by activists Irina Yakutenko and Konstantin Kotov, with whom Ivanov had been involved in solidarity campaigns for political prisoners — the mathematician Azat Miftakhov and the defendants in the New Greatness Case.
Mathematician and leftist politician Mikhail Lobanov, for whose election campaign to the State Duma Ivanov had worked, was also summoned to court. He talked about defendant’s involvement in the life of the university. According to Lobanov, “Uniquely, Dima was not embittered, even as he was being persecuted for his views.”
Grigory Mikhnov-Voytenko, a bishop of the Apostolic Orthodox Church and a human rights activist, helps Ukrainian refugees who find themselves in Russia. Their accounts fully confirm the veracity of Ivanov’s posts, the clergyman said in court.
A billy club and a dog in court, summonses to the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry
On January 19, Ivanov was beaten by a guard. The reason was that the defendant did not immediately exit the “fish tank” after the court hearing, but stayed to find out from Maria Eismont when she would visit him in the pretrial detention center. It later transpired that the escort guard’s name was Alexei Nikolayevich Zhalnin.
Without giving the defendant a chance to talk to his lawyer, Zhalnin dragged Ivanov into the escort guard room. The next day, Ivanov told Eismont that the escort had taken him downstairs, turned off his body cam, and kicked him in the head and ribs and beaten him with a billy club. Zhalnin tried to put Ivanov’s head into the toilet and threatened that he would “insert a stick in his anus.” The second escort guard “watched” this and “did nothing.” The bruises suffered by the activist were documented at the detention center’s medical unit.
The defense has filed complaints about Zhalnin’s actions to numerous authorities, but so far to no avail. At the subsequent hearings, however, Ivanov was escorted by emphatically polite guards, and Judge Daria Pugacheva asked whether he had any complaints about the escort. Meanwhile, bailiffs stopped letting members of the public who could not recall the judge’s surname into the courthouse. Previously it had been enough to name the defendant’s last name at the entrance. A continuously whining service dog appeared in the courtroom.
Coincidentally, all these security measures were introduced when Eismont persuaded the court to call as witnesses Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya.
“Ivanov is charged with a serious crime based on a comparison of his texts with statements made by Nebenzya, Lavrov, and Konashenkov. This means that these people are essentially witnesses for the prosecution, and so he has the right to question them in court,” the lawyer argued.
Eismont had attempted to use this trick before, at the trial of the politician Ilya Yashin, but the court did not even issue summonses to the high-ranking officials then. In the Ivanov case, the summons reached their addressees, but the witnesses ignored them.
What else Ivanov was asked in court
Before oral arguments were made, Ivanov was himself put on the witness stand. While answering the questions posed by Prosecutor Yulia Pravosud, he explained why, as a student, he had written about pension reform, how he had checked his sources of information for reliability, and which media outlets he trusted. The prosecutor then tried to get Ivanov to talk about allegations that the Russian language has been banned in Ukraine.
“Do you know anything about Zelensky’s attitude toward the Russian language?” she asked.
“It’s his native language, basically. He’s completely fluent in it,” Ivanov replied.
“Is the Russian language banned or not banned [in Ukraine]?”
“I had not heard that the Russian language was banned in Ukraine. As far as I know, many regions used it as the primary one. The Mariupol City Hall maintained all its social media and websites in Russian even after 2014.”
“I see, and what about Zelensky’s position? Does he allow [Ukrainians] to communicate [in Russian]?”
“Probably, if he forbade communication in Russian, the mayor of Mariupol would not have spoken publicly in Russian, and would not have maintained online resources in Russian.”
Prosecutor Pravosud then read aloud a post from “MSU Protesting” in which Ivanov admitted that he could face criminal charges for his statements about the Russian army’s actions in Ukraine.
“Why did you, knowing of the criminal liability, still write on your Telegram channel?” she asked Ivanov.
“‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.’ That’s a quote from George Orwell,” he said. “Should I explain it to you?”
This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to email@example.com.
Of course, as a true masochist, I went to Palace Square to look at those hearts, small and large, supposedly symbolizing the sister cities of Petersburg and Mariupol. It is clear whose heart is the small one, and whose the big one, in the imperial capital. My thoughts about this are unprintable, so I’ll omit them.
But I went for curiosity’s sake: how many people would be getting their pictures taken in front of the hearts? As I’d supposed, it was a lot of people.
I saw much more than I’d expected. It was a total trash fest. There were the hearts, people taking fotochki, as they say now, frozen Peter the Greats walking around, carriages circling the square, and a drunk-looking little dude playing the accordion right there.
But no one seemed to be paying attention to the unauthorized inscription on the heart — black and large and truthful. (See the last two photos.)
While I was standing there, however, both citizens and law enforcement agencies finally noticed it. And they will call it vandalism, of course.
Source: Marina Varchenko, Facebook, 18 December 2022. Translated by TRR
A Petersburg woman detained on Palace Square has been charged with “discrediting” the army, the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Petersburg office has informed Bumaga.
Earlier, city media reported that the inscription “Murderers, you bombed it to smithereens. Traitors” had appeared on an installation dedicated to the sister-city relationship between Mariupol and Petersburg, and that a juvenile female had been detained.
When Bumaga asked it whether these reports were true, the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Petersburg office replied that on the afternoon of December 18, the police had detained seventeen-year-old girl on Palace Square “for committing illegal actions.” She was charged with an administrative offense for public actions aimed at “discrediting” the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (per Article 20.3.3 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code).
The installation appeared on Palace Square on December 12. Rotundareported that the Petersburg authorities ordered it back in September. According to the contract, the city spent 1.05 million rubles on the installation.
On December 18, an inscription appeared on the installation, after which the structure was partially disassembled. Workers told our correspondent that the installation would remain on the square, but would spend the next few days without cladding until the inscription was removed from it.
Source: Bumaga, 19 December 2022. Translated by TRR
Dec 19 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the Federal Security Services to step up surveillance of Russian society and the country’s borders to prevent risks from abroad and traitors at home.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s Security Services Day — widely celebrated in Russia [sic] — Putin said the “emergence of new threats” increases the need for greater intelligence activity.
“Work must be intensified through the border services and the Federal Security Service (FSB),” Putin said.
“Any attempts to violate it (the border) must be thwarted quickly and effectively using whatever forces and means we have at our disposal, including mobile action units and special forces.”
Putin instructed the FSB to maximise their “use of the operational, technical and personnel potential” to tighten control of the society.
The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has already been operating in Russia as an expansive surveillance and censorship apparatus and Moscow’s invasion in Ukraine has involved a large swathe of the security services.
“Maximum composure, concentration of forces is now required from counterintelligence agencies, including military intelligence,” Putin said, according to transcript of his speech provided by the Kremlin and translated by Reuters.
“It is necessary to severely suppress the actions of foreign special services, quickly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs.”
The FSB, headed by Putin ally Alexander Bortnikov, will also increase oversight of mass gatherings, strategic facilities and energy infrastructure.
Since the start of the war, demonstrations and dissent have been swiftly quelled in Russia, with more than 1,300 detained in September at protests denouncing Putin’s military mobilisation of 300,000.
We have begun supporting Vladlen Menshikov, accused of anti-war sabotage on the railways.
On September 30, pro-government mediareported the arrest of 29-year-old Vladlen Menshikov by the FSB in the Sverdlovsk Region. Investigators claim that Menshikov installed short-circuiting devices on the railway at the eightieth kilometer of the stretch between Rezh and Striganovo, along which trains carrying Russian military equipment run.
During an interrogation, which FSB field agents recorded on video, Menshikov said that he opposes the war and supports overthrowing the current government. He also discusses methods of sabotaging the Russian army’s railway supply lines.
Solidarity Zone was able to establish Menshikov’s identity and locate the pretrial detention center in which he is detained. When we contacted him and offered our support, he responded positively. He asked for legal assistance, and also said he would be glad to receive letters.
We are currently working to start providing full-fledged legal assistance to Menshikov.
We would note that Vladlen is currently being held in solitary confinement, so letters are especially important for him.
Address for letters and parcels:
Menshikov Vladlen Alexeyevich (born 1993)
4 Repin Street
Pretrial Detention Center No. 1
Ekaterinburg 620019 Russian Federation
(It is possible to send letters through the FSIN-Pismo service and Zonatelecom, as well as throughRosUznik, a volunteer-run resource.)
To support Solidarity Zone financially, so that we can continue to pay lawyers, send parcels to prisoners, and help cover other expenses, you can use the follow payment methods:
Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 21 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service or the privately run Zonatelecom. It is also probably impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can send letters — translated into Russian (if you don’t know a competent translator, you can use a free online translation service such as Google Translate) — to Vladlen Menshikov (and many other Russian political prisoners) via RosUznik. You can also ask me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance and advice in sending letters.
On October 28, the trial of Igor Paskar began in the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don. He is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at the FSB’s offices in Krasnodar, and also of setting fire to a [pro-war] “Z” banner. Paskar explains his actions as a protest against the war: after the alleged attempted arson at the FSB, he painted his face in the colors of the Ukrainian flag of Ukraine. The FSB has classified the protest as “terrorism,” and the burning of the banner as “vandalism.” Paskar faces ten to fifteen years in prison if convicted.
To Moscow and Back
Igor Paskar was born and lived until the age of thirty-five in a workers settlement in the Volgograd Region. He came of age in the 1990s, turning eighteen in 1994. After school, he enrolled in the administrative and industrial buildings maintenance program at the Volgograd Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering, but had to quit his studies in his first year after he was drafted into the army. After two years in a construction battalion, Paskar returned to his native village and immediately began working odd jobs — on construction sites, as a loader, and as a courier.
In 1998, when Paskar was twenty-two, he was first sentenced to five years probation on charges related to drug trafficking. In 2001, he received two years of actual prison time for theft and possession of hashish. He was last convicted of a criminal offense — one and a half years probation for possession of marijuana — in 2006. The last ten years, Paskar told Vot Tak, he has been clean — he completely gave up using light drugs.
In 2013, Paskar moved to Moscow. At various times in the capital, he worked as a courier at Samokat, as a loader, and as a furniture assembler. He also sold rare items on Amazon.
He became interested in politics in 2018 — as his case investigator would later write, he became an “adherent of radical liberal opposition ideas.” In 2021, Paskar was detained in Moscow for taking part in a protest rally called by Team Navalny after the politician’s arrest.
In the summer of 2021, the activist returned to Volgograd, where he got a job as a courier. During one of the interrogations about this period, he said: “I was still interested in the work of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and I supported Alexei Navalny. I publicly voiced my opinions among people I know, including at work, and I posted my opinions in messengers and chats.”
The FSB on Fire
In February of this year, before the start of the Russian invasion, Paskar responded to an ad and took in a lost dachshund. According to the activist, stray dogs tried to attack the pooch several times, so he bought a flare gun to scare them away. He soon left his village in the Volgograd Region with his dog for work: he had found an unusual vacancy on the internet — picking strawberries in Adygea. Paskar was unable to start the job, however. There was a conflict in the workers’ accommodations over the dachshund, and he fired the flare gun at the ceiling. Paskar himself called the police, and the court sentenced him to five days in jail. After his release from a special detention center, Paskar left for Krasnodar.
In a letter, he describes this period as follows: “I have had a whole series of failures in life over the last three months. When the special operation began, I was unable to transfer money from abroad after the SWIFT system was switched off. I had an Amazon account on which I traded rare items. After the start of the special operation, I lost my earnings. I could not get a job in Volgograd and decided to go to Krasnodar for seasonal work, but there were a number of failures. I was angry at my plight and decided to sacrifice myself for what I believe in — peace.”
Paskar held his first anti-war protest in downtown Krasnodar on June 12, Russia Day. It was then that he threw a lighted bottle of gasoline at a banner featuring the letter Z and the slogan “We do not abandon our own.” No one paid attention to his actions, the banner quickly went out, and Paskar was not detained.
Paskar then decided to carry out a protest action at the FSB’s Krasnodar offices. He did not plan to go into hiding and prepared for his arrest by selling his phone and packing a bag for the pretrial detention center. “My criminal experience has left its mark on me. When a person has [this experience], they are no longer afraid to go to prison. They already know that you can live there too — not very well, but you can do it. It is not hell. This has an impact not so much on radical decisions as on accepting one’s fate,” Paskar noted in a letter to your correspondent.
On June 14, Paskar went to the FSB’s offices on ulitsa Mira [“Peace Street”] in Krasnodar. A Molotov cocktail flew [sic] onto the building’s stone porch. The activist then painted his cheeks yellow and blue and waited for passersby to react and for the authorities to detain him. He hoped that someone would record the protest on their phone and post the video on the internet. Passersby avoided the scene, however. FSB officers came out of the building after a few minutes and detained the activist.
A Burnt Rug
Paskar calls his protest symbolic, emphasizing that his actions could not have caused serious damage — only a rug was burned on the stone porch. Despite this, a criminal case was immediately launched against Paskar under Article 205 (“Terrorism”) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code, which stipulates a penalty of ten to fifteen years in prison.
On October 28, the Southern District Military Court began considering the case — according to the amendments to the law adopted in 2014, only four district military courts [in Russia] can try terrorism cases. The court extended Paskar’s term in the pretrial detention center for six months, and ruled that the trial would be open to the public. The first hearing on the merits in the case was scheduled for November 10.
In 2016, for setting fire to the door of the FSB headquarters in Lubyanka Square [in Moscow], the performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky was sentenced to pay a fine of 500 thousand rubles under Article 243 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Destruction or damage to objects of cultural heritage or cultural artefacts”). And yet, at the trial, the artist demanded that his actions be reclassified as terrorism.
Earlier, the [exiled opposition] politician Gennady Gudkov said that Paskar’s actions could be deemed disorderly conduct: “In any civilized country, such a thing is regarded as disorderly conduct and is punished with a warning or a fine.” And gallery owner Marat Guelman called Paskar’s act activism.
Paskar is being aided by the human rights initiative Solidarity Zone, which previously announced a fundraiser to pay for Paskar’s lawyer.
Vot Tak has published an article about Igor Paskar, who is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at the FSB offices in Krasnodar and setting fire to a “Z” banner. He did this to drawn attention to the war and voice support for the people of Ukraine.
On October 28, the Southern District Military Court began trying Paskar’s case.
Solidarity Zone has been providing comprehensive assistance to Paskar.
We are now raising funds to pay for Igor’s lawyer.
Olga Nazarenko, a lecturer at medical university in Ivanovo, got involved in protests supporting Ukraine back in 2018. Since February 24 of this year, she has gone on an anti-war picket almost every week. Over this time, five cases have been opened against her for administrative offenses. Recently, Nazarenko was fined 150 thousand rubles [approx. 2,350 euros] for an anti-war picket. Only a few people in Ivanovo support the lecturer, so she usually stands alone with a placard. There are incomparably more people in her city who disagree with her position. Once, when Nazarenko was returning home, a passerby doused her face with spray paint on a dark street. People have written the Z symbol and the words “Ukrainian scum” on the associate professor’s mailbox. Nazarenko paints over the insults with yellow and blue flowers.
Nazarenko spoke to Radio Svoboda about her resistance to the war.
– What was February 24 like for you?
– I didn’t believe until the last moment that war was possible. I can describe my reaction to the news about the outbreak of war with Ukraine only with obscene language. That same day, I went on a solo picket with an anti-war placard, and the next day too. Since then, I have been going on pickets every week, sometimes once every two weeks.
– You have already been convicted once for “discrediting the armed forces.” Why do you risk being prosecuted?
– My conscience won’t let me do otherwise. In the twenty-first century, problems in interstate relations are not solved by war. It’s barbaric. This war is an injustice on Russia’s part, and I cannot remain silent when I see injustice. A [solo] picket is now the only way to voice one’s stance publicly. Yes, most passersby do not voice their opinion in any way while I am picketing. But at each picket I see that two or three people support me. I understand that it is vital for each of them to see that they are not alone. Also, I have friends and acquaintances living in Ukraine. I worry about them, of course, and I know that for them my support — at least in the sense that I am not silent — is also vital.
– What was the trial at which you were fined 150 thousand rubles like?
– On February 27, I went out with a placard that read, “I’m a Russian citizen who opposes the war. Send Putin to The Hague!” Half an hour later, I was detained after a disgruntled passerby denounced me to the police. In April, the court recognized that my right to a defense had been violated due to the fact that my lawyer was not given the charge sheet to sign. The police appealed this decision, and the court found me guilty under Article 20.2 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code for, allegedly, “organizing a public event” and fined me 150 thousand rubles. I told the court about my anti-war stance and that our courts are cemented into the power vertical, and so they make the rulings that the Russian authorities need them to make. I also told the court that Russia is waging an unjust war against Ukraine, that people are dying, and that I opposed it. In my opinion, the judge’s ruling had been made in advance.
– Do passersby often react aggressively to your anti-war pickets?
– Of course, there are people who react aggressively to my position. They drew the Z symbol and wrote “Ukrainian scum” on my mailbox. I painted over the inscription with yellow and blue flowers, making it beautiful. Once on the street late at night, a young man doused my face and clothes with spray paint. Fortunately, my glasses protected my eyes from injury, while my clothes turned a golden color. My down jacket even became beautiful, iridescent, but only on one side, sadly. Once, at a picket in support of the boys from the Network Case, a man came up and said that people like me should be shot. He tried to take my placard away and hurt my finger in the scuffle. But I kept him from getting my placard.
– At what point did you decide to go on pickets?
– I have been actively voicing my position since 2014. I was outraged that Russia, at a difficult moment for Ukraine, committed a treacherous act against it by annexing Crimea. This was the first thing that angered me, and the second was the lies that supported it. I realized that in such circumstances I could not remain silent. At first, I went to various protest rallies and marches. But they were held rarely and I wanted to voice my civic stance more often. At first, I was bashful about going out on solo pickets. But on social media I saw that people were doing solo pickets. At some point I decided to try to picket too and got sucked into it.
I have been going on pickets in support of Ukraine since 2018. A friend of mine and I protested for the release of the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. After all, a hybrid war had essentially been waged since 2014, and I had always opposed it. I was brought up on the principle that you couldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you, which also applied to international relations. Crimea is Ukrainian by all international standards. I could not approve of Russia’s interference in the affairs of a sovereign state, and from that moment I took an unambiguous stance. On February 24, everything became completely transparent.
– I believe that the FSB now holds all the power in our country, because Putin is from the FSB. So, the FSB lets itself break any law and torture people with impunity — such as, for example, the defendants in the Network Case. I think it important to voice my negative attitude to this. The banner hung for about half an hour until police officers arrived and tore it down.
I was detained right there and taken to the police department, where they took my statement and released me. This is not the first time I have publicly condemned the actions of the FSB. For example, I picketed against the Network Case outside the FSB headquarters in Ivanovo.
– Aren’t you afraid to publicly criticize the FSB?
– Yes, that organization has a lot of power, but I have no respect for it.
– I know that you sued Center “E” last year. Please tell us how that happened.
– I was doing community service at the zoo for a video in which I had talked about the problems of our region and called for peaceful protest. I was charged with “organizing an unauthorized event” for these actions. Right when I was cleaning the bird cages, a Center “E” officer came and videotaped me without my permission. The video was posted on the Telegram channel “A Cop’s Life: Ivanovo,” along with what they imagined was a funny comment. I decided that the Center “E” officer had violated my right to privacy. I filed an administrative lawsuit against the Interior Ministry, but my suit was dismissed.
– Not long ago, you were accused of resisting the police because you tried to help a friend at an anti-war picket. What did you do then?
– A female acquaintance decided to go on a picket on February 24 and asked on a chat for support. I responded to this request and arrived at the picket site. As soon as the young woman held up her placard, a policeman approached her and tried to detain her. She was opposed to being detained, so I got between her and the policeman. Consequently, we were both detained. The next day, I was taken to the police department, charged with resisting the police, and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. I’ve already done them. But soon I will have to do another 180 hours for a fresh administrative offense related to publicly voicing my anti-war position.
– How do the heads of the medical school where you work look at your pickets and court hearings?
– They are still relatively friendly to me at work. The bosses said that I could do anything as long as it was not during working hours. I never engage in activism to the detriment of my work: I don’t lobby anyone in the classroom. So I have no problems at the university now. For the time being I can juggle work and activism.
– Does your family support your anti-war position?
– My loved ones worry about me, but they don’t try to dissuade me. My husband and I try not to talk about politics. His point of view runs counter to mine, and we don’t discuss politics to avoid spoiling our relationship. As it is, there are so many situations in which I have to get harsh to defend my position, but at home I want to live in peace and tranquility. My little son and adult daughter worry about me and support me emotionally.
– How are you going to pay the 150 thousand ruble fine?
– Friends and friends of friends helped me to pay the previous fine of 75 thousand. I don’t know yet how I will raise this amount. I’ll probably have to turn to public organizations for help.
– Putin recently passed laws that give [law enforcement] even more possibilities to crack down on grassroots activists. Aren’t you afraid to continue going on pickets when this is the reality?
– It’s too late for me to be afraid. If the security forces want to sanction me, they have enough material against me. I have already passed the phase of being afraid.
– Do you think your numerous pickets have affected the attitude people in Ivanovo have toward the war with Ukraine?
– Everything in society has only gotten worse over the years. In the big scheme of things, such protests cannot change a thing. They matter only to the person who does them and to people who think the same way, as well as for those supported by them.
– Why are you taking such a big risk in this instance?
– I just act on the principle that you do what you have to do, come what may. This is how I was brought up as a child. I realize that there could be unpleasant consequences for me, but I don’t think about it.
– But many Russians have read those books. Aren’t you angry that so few Russians protest publicly?
– I am a little annoyed, rather, that people cannot act in keeping with their conscience. And I realize that if more Russians had openly voiced their position when it was not less dangerous, the situation would be slightly different now.
Most people let their personal interests outweigh [other things], and this is normal. My instinct for self-preservation is a little dull, and perhaps this is not entirely normal. I don’t condemn Russians, but still I think that, in the current situation, it is impossible to remain silent.
– Now, after almost five months of war in Ukraine, many Russian activists complain of burnout and fatigue. Do you have such problems?
– I don’t have burnout and depression, but nor do I have any hope that things will change quickly. Perhaps in a hundred years our great-grandchildren will be able to change something — if we manage to raise our children the right way, and then they raise their children the right way. At some point, there will be enough people to change things here. But my generation won’t live to see it.
– Are you not planning to leave the country if a criminal case is opened against you?
– I’m not going anywhere. Russia is my country: it doesn’t belong only to those in power and their supporters. I won’t let anyone kick me out of my own country. I’m ready for a possible prison sentence. If it happens, I will serve my time, and then I will get out and continue my pickets. I’m not too afraid of prison: people somehow live in there too. You can’t jail everyone, and you can’t shut everyone up.
Source: Darya Yegorova, “‘It’s too late for me to be afraid’: Olga Nazarenko’s solo pickets,” Radio Svoboda, 16 July 2022. All images courtesy of Ms. Nazarenko via Radio Svoboda. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
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,