The Story of Igor Paskar, Who Threw a Molotov Cocktail at the FSB’s Offices in Krasnodar

Igor Paskar. Photo courtesy of Vot Tak (Belsat)

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.

The moment when the fire flared on the porch of the FSB offices in Krasnodar: Source: Baza. Courtesy of Vot Tak (Belsat)

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.

Source: Ivan Astashin, “‘He became an adherent of radical liberal ideas’: the story of Igor Paskar, who threw a Molotov cocktail building at an FSB building,” Vot Tak (Belsat), 31 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader



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.

Fundraiser details:

💳 Sberbank card

4276 5500 2065 1710 (Zlatislava)

🪙 PayPal: solidarity_zone@riseup.net (marked “for Paskar”).

🥷 Cryptocurrency (be sure to email us at solidarity_zone@riseup.net if you transfer cryptocurrency to support Igor Paskar)

bitcoin: bc1qfzhfkd27ckz76dqf67t0jwm4gvrcug49e7fhry

monero: 86565hecMGW7n2T1ap7wdo4wQ7kefaqXVPS8h2k2wQVhDHyYbADmDWZTuxpUMZPjZhSLpLp2SZZ8cLKdJkRchVWJBppbgBK

ethereum: 0xD89Cf5e0B04b1a546e869500Fe96463E9986ADA3

other altcoins:

https://nowpayments.io/donation/solidarityzone

#solidarity#nowar#prisoners

Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 31 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Life’s Rich Pageant: The Case of Yan Sidorov

Yan Sidorov. Photo courtesy of Memorial Human Rights Center

Minus one:Yan Sidorov, a former political prisoner in the Rostov Case, has volunteered for the war.

Sidorov served four years in prison in the Rostov Case, in which the court decided that two posters and thirty leaflets were evidence of “attempted organization of mass disturbances.” The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized him as a political prisoner.

Yan was released from prison a year ago, and he had planned to work in human rights protection. There were no vacancies in human rights organizations, however, and so he had to get a job as a food delivery courier.

Yan socialized with many leftist and liberal activists, but he also maintained relations with the red-brown National Bolsheviks.

Apparently, the latter were nicer to him. Several mutual friends have informed me that Yan Sidorov has joined the ranks of Eduard Limonov’s Other Russia and gone to the front.

I still don’t get how the National Bolsheviks degenerated from a flamboyant opposition party into the vanguard of the Kremlin regime. The late Limonov was always an imperialist, however.

But how — how?! — former political prisoners become defenders of Putin’s dictatorship, no one seems to understand. As one of my cellmates used to say, “Everyone has gone off their fucking gourd!”

Well, before he starts shooting, it’s not too late for him to change his mind. Maybe he will shake himself free of this delusion after all.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 27 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Russian human rights activist Yan Sidorov is facing the prospect of three years under harsh probation conditions, when he is released next week from the penal colony where he has spent the last two years, Amnesty International said today.

Yan Sidorov is a prisoner of conscience, whose attempts to hold a peaceful protest in 2017 resulted in an imprisonment at a Dimitrovgrad penal colony after he had spent two years in pre-trial detention. He is set to be released on 3 November, but on 29 October Dimitrovgrad City Court will hear a request by the authorities to impose a severely restrictive probation period.

“Russian authorities are sending a clear signal to all young activists that participation in peaceful protests can come at huge personal cost. Yan Sidorov has already served four years in prison; he may now have to spend three more under strict police surveillance, forbidden to go out after 10 pm and banned from travelling outside the Krasnodar region,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

“The Russian penitentiary authorities must immediately withdraw their request to impose additional arbitrary restrictions on Yan Sidorov and release him unconditionally. Yan Sidorov has done nothing but exercise his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and this outrageous campaign of punishment must end.”

Background

Two weeks ahead of Yan Sidorov’s release from penal colony IK-10 in Dimitrovgrad (Central Russia), the penitentiary administration requested that the court impose a three-year probation period on him. Conditions include obligatory biweekly registration at the local police station and a curfew between 10 pm and 6 am; Sidorov would also be banned from leaving his native Krasnodar region, and banned from attending or participating in any mass events. The Dimitrovgrad City Court will hear this case on 29 October. On 15 October, the penal colony authorities accused Yan Sidorov of violation of the prison regime regulations – allegedly for not attending morning workout – and placed him in a punishment cell for seven days.

In October 2019, Yan Sidorov and his friend Vladislav Mordasov, who spent almost two years in pre-trial detention, were found guilty of “attempted organization of mass disturbances”, and each sentenced to more than six years imprisonment for organizing a peaceful protest in November 2017. The protest was in support of dozens of people in Rostov-on-Don (Southern Russia) who had lost their homes in mass fires. Their sentences were subsequently reduced to four years on cassation. Vladislav Mordasov serving his sentence in IK-9 penal colony in Shakhty (Rostov-on-Don region) is due to be released on 3 November as well.

Source: “Russia: Prisoner of conscience Yan Sidorov faces further restrictions after release,” Amnesty International, 28 October 2021

“No Future”: Popular Reactions to Putin’s Mobilization

Outside Gostiny Dvor [metro station and shopping center, in downtown Petersburg]. The police are plucking out the protesters one by one and dragging them away.

Passersby ask, “What happened?”

Most either don’t read the news or support the mobilization.

They look at us like we’re idiots.

I asked a middle-aged woman whether she had any children.

“Two sons, so what?” she answered me defiantly.

Today I thought for the first time that there is no future.

[Comments]

Natalia Vvedenskaya

Just for balance. Today, in the supermarket, I quietly eavesdropped on the conversations among the saleswomen (these were two different conversations). Irritated and indignant, these middle-aged women said that the members of parliament [who quickly passed laws enforcing Putin’s mobilization] should go to war themselves.

Source: Galina Artemenko, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the bus. A middle-aged woman in the front seat yells into the phone, not mincing her words. She says that there is a panic at work, that they have seven days to keep the guys from getting drafted. This was followed by instructions for direct action. The young fellow sitting with his back to her listened attentively, while the girls opposite him could not have cared less.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a trusted source and occasional contributor to this website, identified here as “AR” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


This hurts a lot. I console myself with the fact that, as in private life, the most vital and beautiful thing is the process itself, when you are initially in a hole, but you fight to make things better. But can I please go back to the time when I have to confront myself, and not a crazy autocrat with a nuclear button?

I try to shift my focus from irritation towards Russians who support the war, and the collective Europe playing along [sic], to endless love. First of all, to people who are in Russia and are not afraid to speak out against the war. I am glad that I am living at the same time as you. Of course, we are far from being Iran, where people take deadly risks for their beliefs. But we’re cool, too. We’re doing what we can. If everyone in Russia were like us, the war would have ended today. Now, when it is important to support myself, I console myself with this thought, and I advise you to do the same.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a grassroots activist in Petersburg, identified here as “JA” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the evening of September 21, in Petersburg, as in other cities, a protest was held against the mobilization of Russians for the war in Ukraine. The protest was called by the Vesna Movement. The protesters gathered at 7 p.m. on St. Isaac’s Square.

Riot police vigorously detained protesters, beat them with batons, dragged them on the ground, and put them on their knees. According to OVD Info, at least 444 people were detained in St. Petersburg.

Bumaga has put together a photo chronicle of the first popular protest in the city in the last six months.

Source: “How an anti-mobilization rally — the first mass protest in six months — took place in Petersburg,” Bumaga, 21 September 2022. There are several more photographs of the protest rally at the link, including photos from a second, separate protest the same evening outside Gostiny Dvor (as described by Galina Artemenko, above). Translated by the Russian Reader


Conscription Notice Russia. This channel was created to inform the residents of Russia about the delivery of conscription notices in our city! [sic] Write here with information about which addresses conscription notices in Russia are being sent — @maks_ge

“Prospect Mira. A conscription notice was just served to a man approximately 40-45 years of age. He was strolling with his wife and dog. Then they [the police?] went up to some young guys sitting on a bench and had a chat with them.”

“They’ve already started handing out conscription notices at the factories in the town of Gatchina in Leningrad Region.”

“The Gazpromneft filling station at Amurskaya 15A. Two men got into a scrap, and the attendant called the police. The cops came and gave them tickets. They threatened the men, saying that tomorrow, other people in uniform would come visit them at home — I think they meant the military conscription office.”

Source: Screenshot of the Telegram channel Where Draft Papers Are Being Handed Out — Russia. The channel was created on August 13, but only started posting on September 21. It already has over ten thousand subscribers. Thanks to VL for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


Well, my prognosis was mistaken. I underestimated the regime’s vileness and meanness. As the supreme ruler declared a partial mobilization, the local military enlistment offices issued decrees concerning all reservists without exception.

This is totally fucked up. For example, “temporary residents must depart for their legal place of residence.” Accordingly, millions of unregistered men or men registered at their temporary residences in large cities must leave for their hometowns or home regions. Accordingly, all these millions of men are “lawbreakers” — they can be seized in dragnets, blackmailed with prison terms, locked up, beaten up, and anything else that our cops do with our citizens. When [the cops] are faced with passive resistance, they will indiscriminately rake in whomever they catch.

These people will certainly “engage in combat,” but that will happen later. What matters now is filling the quotas.

Source: George Losev, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Putin has announced a “partial mobilization.” Only time will tell how “partial” it is, but it is already clear that the mobilization will affect many people. What options do those whom the Kremlin wants to mobilize have?

  1. Become cannon fodder.
  2. Go to jail.
  3. Illegally flee the country. If you fail, you go to jail.
  4. Go underground. If you fail, you go to jail.
  5. Go underground and become a guerrilla. You could also go to jail.

I do not consider legal ways to avoid mobilization, since the rules of the game can change at any moment, and those who were not subject to mobilization yesterday will be subject to it tomorrow.

The choice isn’t great, but there is a choice.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 21 September. Mr. Astashin is a former political prisoner and human rights activist who now seems to be living in exile in Berlin. Translated by the Russian Reader


In the kitchen of a communal flat:

— Soooo, you live closer to the front door, don’t open it to anyone. If they come, tell them there are no men living here.

— I’ve been dodging the draft for so long I don’t even remember how to do it anymore. I’ve had so many chronic illnesses since then. Do you think it will help?

— At my work, a friend of a friend of a friend of a colleague is offering to drive [men] to Finland for 50 thousand rubles [approx. 855 euros]. Any takers?

— He’s definitely going to Finland? That’s too cheap somehow. What if he takes you to the military enlistment office?

— My pop says that he would volunteer himself, but he’s already sixty-seven, they won’t take him. But he’s weird that way. He never goes to the welfare office, because he believes you have to have pride: he didn’t work all his life to ask the state for something in his old age! His pension is 25 thousand rubles a month [approx. 440 euros].

— Maybe he is also one of those people who have nothing, and who donates money to buy socks for soldiers?

— No, he believes that we have the strongest army and does not give them a kopeck. He says the people asking for that money are scammers.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a veteran human rights activist in Petersburg, identified here as “NN” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader

Dmitry Lyamin: Hero of the Resistance

Dmitry Lyamin’s headshot from Odnoklassniki.ru (“Classmates.ru”

If there is an actual “Russian anti-war movement,” this is what it looks like: Dmitry Lyamin, accused of torching a military conscription office in Shuya, the third largest town in the Ivanovo Region. Lyamin has been transferred from Ivanovo to the notorious Butyrka remand prison in Moscow, allegedly, so that he can undergo a psychiatric examination at the equally notorious Serbsky Institute. According to former political prisoner Ivan Astashin, who now spends all his waking hours helping the new wave of political prisoners in Russia and publicizing their cases, there are rumors among the legal community that the criminal charge Lyamin faces will be changed from “destruction of property” (Article 167 in the Russian Federal Criminal Code) to “terrorist act” (Article 205), a much more serious charge that carries a penalty of up to twenty years in prison.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 29 June 2022

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

Darya Polyudova

Darya Polyudova, holding a placard that reads, “Ukraine, we are with you.”
Image courtesy of Ivan Astashin

A subscriber has reported that he received a letter from political prisoner Darya Polyudova in which she told him about her court hearing in the Moscow City Court on May 12.

Let me remind you that left-wing activist Darya Polyudova is currently doing her second stint in prison on political charges.

In 2015, the activist was sentenced to two years in prison for “calling for extremist activities and separatism”: this was how the authorities viewed her preparations for a March for the Federalization of the Kuban.

After her release, Darya continued to be involved in political activism. But in January 2020 Polyudova was arrested again. In May 2021, she was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “condoning terrorism” and “calling for terrorism.” The court regarded posts about Shamil Basayev and a phrase about the “Lubyanka shooter” Yevgeny Manyurov, who opened fire on FSB officers near Lubyanka Square in Moscow in December 2019, as evidence of Polyudova’s guilt.

In both cases, the Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Polyudova as a political prisoner.

However, the Russian state’s persecution of Darya Polyudova has not ended there. In late 2021, the FSB opened another case against the activist. Now she stands accused of “organizing an extremist community,” i.e., the so-called Left Resistance movement. Under the new charges, Darya may face another six to ten years in prison.

In this new case, Darya has been remanded in custody. Of course, she is already in custody. Without a new criminal case she would have been in a prison camp a long time ago [serving the sentence for her previous conviction], but the investigation wants her in a pretrial detention center.

Darya is appealing all the court decisions on the extension of her remand in custody. The court will consider her appeal of the latest extension on May 12.

Come and support Darya Polyudova!

11 a.m, 12 May 2022, Moscow City Court, 8 Bogorodsky Val, Room 327

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 7 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ivan Astashin: Violence Is the Norm

I’m not surprised by the violence. I am not surprised because I know about the violence that occurs in Russia every day. Senseless cruelty is seemingly the norm for some Russians. I don’t have a ready answer to why this is the case. It’s worth asking sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists for an explanation.

Those of you who were born in the early 1990s or earlier probably know about the brutal executions, tortures, and rapes of the Chechen population by Russian soldiers. Some of you will say that the Chechen militants were cruel too. Yes, they were. But it is always worth remembering that it was the Russian troops who invaded Chechnya, and not vice versa. Another big question is who was the first to employ torture and execute the so-called enemy using elaborate methods. To refresh your memory of those events, I would remind you of several well-known cases. The bombing of Katyr-Yurt. The murder of six dozen civilians in Novy Aldy by the Petersburg riot police. The abduction, rape, and murder of the 18-year-old Chechen girl Elza Kungayeva by Colonel Yuri Budanov. In addition, human rights defenders, journalists, and the European Court of Human Rights have reliably verified a huge number of abductions and the cruelest tortures of Chechens by Russian forces.

I remember the first time I found out about these tortures at school. A classmate told me that his brother had “fought” in Chechnya and brought back a videotape showing the torture of local residents. I didn’t watch the tape: what my classmate told me sufficed. A few years later, in the ninth grade, I met a Chechen boy my age, who told me about similar tortures to which his relatives had been subjected. I was told the same thing about men who had been involved in the Chechen campaign whom I met in prison. Only Chechens themselves do not like talking about the torture and rapes; therefore, the information found in open sources details only a small portion of the crimes committed by the Russian security forces in Chechnya.

‘Post-Soviet visual. An unknown activist’s protest performance titled “Bucha-Moscow” against the war crimes of the Russian army in Ukraine. Images via Холод.’ Courtesy of Soviet Visuals. Thanks as well to OG for the heads-up.

In addition to war, there is also quite enough cruelty (sadism, I would even say) both in the army and outside it. By the way, it is quite logical that since Russian soldiers bully and actually torture their fellow soldiers, they would not have any moral barriers vis-a-vis the enemy and the “enemy” civilian population. The infamous story of Private Andrei Sychev, who was tortured by his mates on the occasion of the New Year, is an eloquent illustration of relations within the army.

As probably everyone knows now, there are whole torture “conveyor belts” in the Russian penitentiary system. In such places, prisoners are tortured with extreme cruelty. And, it seems, with a particular relish. They are tortured both by Federal Penitentiary Service employees and by other prisoners who have signed contracts with the wardens. They torture and rape prisoners, and sometimes they kill them. Moreover, this goes on in both adult and juvenile penitentiaries.

And the cops? They also enjoy torturing, beating, and, on occasion, raping detainees in police departments.

However, cruelty is found not only among the security forces. Due to the fact that I was reputed to be a “lawyer” in the penal colony, many prisoners brought their verdicts to me to “have a look.” I wish I hadn’t seen them. Out of greed, in a drunken stupor or out of fear, these seemingly utterly ordinary people had done terrible things.

I also remember the stories of some of my inmate friends about how their fathers had “raised” them. “My dad beat me with a stick.” “Mine whacked the fucking hell out of me with a hose.”

As for these last arguments, you might counter me by saying that they are criminals from difficult backgrounds. Perhaps.

What about domestic violence? According to the Consortium of Women’s Non-Governmental Associations, at least five thousand women were killed as a result of domestic violence [in Russia] in 2018 alone.

Once in power (whether as conferred by epaulettes or as the “head of the family”) and believing in their impunity, many, many people in Russia become executioners, sadists, and rapists. And if this is also bolstered by xenophobic propaganda and strong alcohol, the monsters begin doing the unimaginable. Since the regime in Russia gives some people the authority to inflict whatever they want on those in their jurisdictions, and forces others to go along and not to rebel, violence becomes commonplace.

Now it has spilled out of Russia. The whole world has now seen what had been happening on the sly during “counter-terrorist operations,” in police departments, in secret prisons and the Federal Penitentiary Service’s unclassified institutions, and in the army, as well as on the streets and in home. [Bucha] is undoubtedly a terrible tragedy and a huge grief for the victims and all decent people. But I hope that over time it will lead to society’s re-examining the policy of giving people uncontrolled power. Ridding the world of violence seems to be an almost unmanageable task, but I think that when Russia doesn’t have policemen who “Putin told to beat the holy fuck” out of someone, when it doesn’t have military men whose crimes will be “written off by the war,” when it doesn’t have security officers who “defend the motherland,” and when there is no support in society for patriarchy, racism, and xenophobia, there will be much less violence.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 5 April 2022. Mr. Astashin is a former political prisoner. Translated by the Russian Reader

“This Is Not a Military Operation! This Is War!”

[Top] “This is not a military operation! This is war! Come out and protest for peace before they send you a summons to the front.” [Center left] “27 February at 4 p.m., we’ll say ‘No War!’ together.” [Center right] “No to the military incursion in Ukraine! Peace to peoples, fight the rulers!” [Bottom] “Bring the soldiers back home.”

Ivan Astashin
Facebook
February 26, 2022

Not everyone in Russia supports the war started by Putin. Far from everyone.

This photo was taken in an ordinary Moscow courtyard.

_________

Today, Roskomnadzor ordered Novaya Gazeta, Mediazona, TV Rain, and other media outlets to remove materials in which what is happening in Ukraine is referred to as “war”:

“On these resources, under the guise of reliable messages, unreliable socially significant information has been posted about the shelling of Ukrainian cities by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the death of civilians in Ukraine as a result of the actions of the Russian Army that does not correspond to reality, as well as materials in which the operation is called an attack, invasion, or declaration of war,” the order reads.

Source: Novaya Gazeta, 26 February 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

“And It’s Only the Second Day of the War”

“You will pay for Putin’s war with taxes, closed borders, poverty, blocked services, and an information vacuum. No war!” Photo courtesy of Ivan Astashin

Former Russian political prisoner Ivan Astashin writes:

A conversation at the post office today:
– Give me, please, a blank delivery confirmation slip for a letter going abroad.
– And where are you going to send it?
– To France.
– You can send to France. But you can’t send to Moldova and Ukraine.

* * *

Meanwhile, in Sberbank, there is a crowd of people like I’ve never seen before. There is no money in the ATMs. (Only yesterday, Russians withdrew 111 billion rubles from their accounts.) [This is approximately 1.2 billion euros.] Everyone is waiting for someone to come make a deposit, then they immediately withdraw what was deposited. Some people are quietly panicking.

And this is only the second day of the war.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 25 February 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader, who needs your donations to keep this website up and running and updated daily. Click on the “Donate” or “Buy me a coffee buttons” in the right sidebar. Thanks!

Smart Voting

Ivan Astashin
Facebook
February 15, 2022

Just an hour ago, the State Duma voted in favor of a bill recognizing the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic — the Kremlin-controlled southeastern regions of Ukraine. Now, if the bill is approved, troops can be sent to the region under the pretext of an appeal to Putin by the leaders of the “independent republics.” However, I am not a military or political analyst, so I will not fantasize overmuch.

But I will note this. The bill was introduced by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation — for which supporters of “Smart Voting” and even some libertarians were so hot to trot [in the autumn 2021 parliamentary elections]. I had written earlier that we are definitely not traveling the same road as the Communist Party, that it is just as much a part of the system as United Russia. Now, it seems, no one should have any doubts that сooperating with the Communist Party in any way is tantamount to cooperating with the regime.

Ivan Astashin is a former Russian political prisoner whose story you can read here. Translated by the Russian Reader

It’s strange how horrified most of my Russian friends and acquaintances are by everything happening in and around Russia even as these same events elicit the opposite reaction from go-to western Putin understanders well out of harm’s way. Source: Responsible Statecraft. Screenshot by the Russian Reader

Russian Parliament Backs Plan to Recognize Breakaway Ukrainian Regions
Felix Light
Moscow Times
February 15, 2022

Russia’s State Duma on Tuesday backed a resolution calling for diplomatic recognition of Eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian Donbas People’s Republics, raising tensions between Russia and Ukraine another notch, even as Russian troops began a partial withdrawal from the Ukrainian border.

The Russian parliament’s motion calls for President Vladimir Putin to formally recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, both of which declared independence from Ukraine in 2014. No other country currently recognizes the republics as sovereign states.

The motion, initially proposed by the Communist parliamentary opposition, attracted support from across the Duma’s five parties, including from speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

“Firefights are continuing, people are dying,” Volodin said on the Telegram messenger app in the run-up to the vote.

“We must find a solution.”

The resolution is not binding, and will now be sent to Putin for feedback.

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