Ilya Budraitskis: “Trial”

“Trial”
Ilya Budraitskis
July 24, 2014
OpenLeft.Ru

Udaltsov: four and a half years in prison. Razvozzhayev: four and a half years in prison.

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“You were paid to come here, right?” the girl in uniform at the entrance to Moscow City Court asked out of habit. Then came the long hours of standing with sympathizers, acquaintances, and strangers listening as the sentence in the trial of Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev was read out. The Bolotnaya Square case is only two years old, but it seems a whole lifetime has passed.

Slurring the words, Judge Alexander Zamashnyuk and his henchmen took turns reading out the full version of the idiotic detective story, a puzzle whose pieces have finally fallen into place: long-cherished dreams of violent revolution, the heady atmosphere of the Movement for Fair Elections, the connection with Georgian intelligence and clandestine seminars on how Maidan was organized (then it was still the previous Maidan), the columns of “anarchists and nationalists” on May 6, 2012, in Moscow, the “riots,” with all their participants and “hallmarks.”

The absurd picture of a conspiracy, which just recently provoked laughter, now finds support and understanding in the eyes of the frightened and brutalized “new Putin majority,” who seemingly think it is nice everything ended on May 6, 2012, and that the prison sentences and frame-ups are the price that must be paid for perpetual Russian stability.

Like the other Bolotnaya Square prisoners, Sergei Udaltsov is no longer a symbol of a movement that served its purpose but something much more than that. He is a reminder that resisting, dissenting, and undermining the false unity of the people and the state continue to be historical possibilities.

Free Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev!

A Muted Joy: Who Got Left Out of Putin’s Amnesty

Lenta.Ru
December 19, 2013
A Muted Joy
Four Defendants in the Bolotnaya Square Case Amnestied

The amnesty passed yesterday by the State Duma has enabled charges against four defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case to be dropped. Today, December 19, opposition activist Vladimir Akimenkov and journalist Leonid Kovyazin, who had been held in a remand prison for over a year, were released. Human rights activist Nikolai Kavkazsky was released from house arrest, and charges were likewise dropped against Maria Baronova, who had been under travel restrictions. Our correspondent went to the hearing at the Nikulinsky District Court in Moscow to see how the “prisoners of Bolotnaya” were freed.

Lawyers and journalists waited for the hearing to begin in a small, five-table cafe on the first floor of the Nikulinsky District Court. It had been known since yesterday evening that motions to amnesty four defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case—Maria Baronova, Vladimir Akimenkov, Nikolai Kavkazsky and Leonid Kovyazin—would be filed today. The four had been charged under sections 2 and 3 of Article 212 of the Criminal Code (participating in rioting and incitement to riot). Yesterday, the State Duma amended the president’s amnesty bill, extending it not only those convicted of such crimes but also to suspects and defendants charged under this article. However, the hearing had already been delayed by two hours and the people in the cafe were nervous.

Someone suggested the motions would not be accepted until Vladimir Putin’s press conference was over, because Judge Natalya Nikishina was waiting for a go-ahead from the Kremlin. Someone else claimed that traffic jams were to blame: because of them, the defendants had not been delivered to the court on time.

“In our difficult times, any delay gives rise to conspiracy theories,” lawyer Sergei Badamshin said by way of summing up.

When asked whether the four defendants would be released, lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant answered quite cautiously.

“It often happens that courts like to drag things out until the verdict. In Russia, the authorities don’t like letting people go. Today, I heard that some lady from the Federal Penitentiary Service said that for Nadya [Tolokonnikova] to be amnestied they would need a paper from child protection services saying that Nadya had not been deprived of her parental rights. Can you imagine? What grounds do they have for suspecting her of this? Her daughter has a birth certificate in which Nadya is identified as the mother. But in Russia, if they don’t want to let someone go, they always come up with an excuse.”

Dmitry Agranovsky, Vladimir Akimenkov’s lawyer, was categorical.

“I prepared the draft amendments to the amnesty bill along with MPs from the Communist Party. We ensured that the cases against people eligible for amnesty who have been charged under Article 212 would be dropped not after the verdict, but at the stage where they are currently are. From a legal perspective, Akimenkov should be released today, end of story. Since yesterday, there has no longer been any need for his detention. His complaint has already been filed with the European Court of Human Rights, and if he’s kept in the remand prison even for a day after the amnesty bill is published, that will be tantamount to a real abuse of power, since they are no legal grounds for detaining him. He should be released in the courtroom.”

Agranovsky recited [the final stanza of Pushkin’s poem “Deep in Siberian mines”] with expression.

“The heavy fetters will fall, / The jails will crumble. And freedom / Will joyfully hail you at the entrance, / And brothers will give you back your swords.”

Lawyer Alexei Vetrentsev, who was representing defendant Leonid Kovyazin, did not think his client would be released today.

“I think Leonid will be released from the remand prison only tomorrow. There’ll be paperwork at the prison, and he’ll have to gather his things.”

The expression on Vetrentsev’s face was extremely sad.

“For us, the amnesty is a good decision, but I feel embarrassed before the others. It is inhuman to carry out an amnesty this way, releasing some people while others are left in jail.”

Nine other people were to appear with his client in the cage for defendants at the Nikulinsky District Court. Only two of them, Kovyazin and Akimenkov, were supposed to be released. Baronova, the mother of a young child, had been under travel restrictions, while Kavkazsky had been under house arrest.

“I’m ashamed, but I’m glad, and that’s an objective feeling,” said Baronova. “You can feel as guilty as you like because the others aren’t being let out, but now for the first time in two years I can leave the country for at least a few days. I’m looking here at names of banks that give consumer loans for the New Year holidays, so I can go to Berlin.”

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(Left to right) Sergei Krivov, Stepan Zimin, Denis Lutskevich, Andrei Barabanov and Artyom Savyolov. Photo: Gennady Gulyaev/Kommersant
Anatoly, grandfather of anarchist Alexei Polikhovich, another defendant, sat motionless not far from Baronova. Anatoly’s grandson was first charged under “amnestied” Article 212, for involvement in rioting. But after a press conference last year in which President Vladimir Putin spoke out strongly against people who had [allegedly] assaulted police officers, Article 318 (“use of violence that does not endanger human life or health […] against a representative of the authority”), the standard charge, was added to the charges against Polikhovich. Riot police officer Igor Tarasov had then suddenly remembered that at the May 6, 2012, rally, Polikhovich had “hit him in the wrist, causing severe pain.”
Immediately after the defendants were brought into the courtroom, the four lawyers moved to have their clients released in connection with the amnesty decree published yesterday in [official government newspaper] Rossiiskaya Gazeta. The appeals were wholly supported by the prosecution. Judge Natalya Nikishina then asked whether the appeals were supported by the remaining defendants not covered by the amnesty—that is, Polikhovich, Alexandra Dukhanina, Denis Lutskevich, Stepan Zimin, Sergei Krivov, Andrei Barabanov, Yaroslav Belousov and Artyom Savyolov.

Polikhovich replied by chuckling ironically a few times, but the other defendants unanimously seconded the appeals. Stella Anton, Denis Lutskevich’s mother, wept loudly. Twenty minutes later, Judge Nikishina returned to the courtroom and read out her decision: to grant the motions and dismiss the criminal charges.

The first to exit the courtroom was Leonid Kovyazin. His wife Yevgenia threw her arms around him.

“The guys aren’t getting out, and that’s bad,” said Kovyazin, now free. “My joy is severely muted for this reason.”

When asked what conditions had been like for him in the Butyrka remand prison, Kovyazin answered calmly.

“At first, I had conflicts in the remand prison. Then I got used to it: the only tough thing was the waiting. Other than that, the people in prison, who are mostly there on drugs charges, are often quite outstanding. Incidentally, I was surprised it wasn’t only young people who used drugs: there were fortysomething men in jail with me who told me how they had got hooked on heroin on their birthdays. Basically, I can’t say anything good about jail: any term of imprisonment means stress, unhappiness and a few years deducted from your life. For example, it is physically painful to ride in the paddy wagon: it is very cold in winter, and extremely hot in summer.”

Kovyazin had been accused of overturning portable toilets that had been set up in Bolotnaya Square during last year’s May 6 rally, which ended in massive clashes between protesters and police. Kovyazin was frank about his actions that day.

“I had gone to the square to shoot video for the Vyatsk Observer newspaper, but then I lost my cool. When I saw the case materials, the video shot from above, I noticed that at the moment [when police dispersed the rally] only around fifty people remained in the square, but the police were on both sides. I had shot scenes of people being beaten by the police, but then I had put away the camera and yet was unable to leave. Perhaps that was my mistake: the camera distances you from what’s happening, but when you’re involved in the events, it’s different.”

Kovyazin did not deny that he had pushed the toilet stalls.

“It was an emotional decision. After the fact you can discuss it at length and reflect on it, but when you see [people being beaten] . . . I was caught up in the action. Later, when the task force came to arrest me, I said to my brother, ‘See you in five years.’ Fortunately, that hasn’t come to pass.”

After a pause, Leonid continued.

“If I could play it back, I would do what I did, only I would have gone without the camera. As Vova [Vladimir Akimenkov] joked to me, ‘When you get out, the journalists are going to slap you first, then shake your hand.’ Because that kind of involvement is, of course, a violation of professional journalistic ethics. But I don’t believe I was involved in rioting.”

“There was no rioting in the square,” asserted Nikolai Kavkazsky, one of the amnestied defendants and a lawyer with the human rights organization Civil Assistance. “It is obvious to everyone that on May 6 there was a sanctioned march and rally that the authorities wanted to disrupt. People who went to that rally are now on trial, but not the policemen who actually violated the law, which prohibits dispersing rallies. What happened to me, for example? I saw a police officer hitting some unknown people with a truncheon. He was beating them severely, you might say. I went up to the police officer and wanted to say to him, ‘Why are you violating the law on police conduct? Why are you beating citizens?” But I didn’t manage to say anything. He raised his truncheon. I wanted to cover myself with hands, but the blow landed on my arm, and to protect myself from this police officer, I lifted my leg. That was it.”

Kavkazsky was arrested on July 25, 2012, when he left his home to buy new pants. (He never did buy those pants.) Later, in the remand prison, he found that the hardest thing to endure was being cut off from the familiar, everyday world.

“When you’re cut off from the phone and Internet, from interacting with your usual circle of people, you feel completely isolated. That’s the scariest thing. And there’s not knowing. Conditions in prisons are horrible: they’re not meant to observe human rights but to violate them. Everything is forbidden there. Why do they forbid you from listening to music you want to listen to? Why can’t you put duvets on your blankets? Why can’t you eat the food you like?”

Kavkazsky spent nearly a year in the remand prison. He was switched to house arrest only in August of this year because endocrine disorders he suffers from had flared up while he was in custody.

Vladimir Akimenkov, an activist with the now-routed Left Front, was also released from the remand prison on Thursday. At first, he had wanted to turn down the amnesty.

“It’s a Byzantine decision: they’re planning to release some and not others. I don’t understand how I’m better than the others, why guys who have become real comrades to me, people with serious health problems, including fathers and men separated from their other halves, have to be in prison.”

His lawyer convinced Akimenkov to sign the appeal. He did not consider himself guilty.

“I did none of the things I’ve been charged with. I was not involved in a riot that, incidentally, did not happen.”

Akimenkov looked out the window and rubbed his wrists.

“I find it strange to go outside, strange to feel my hands without handcuffs on them. But after I find a job, I’ll be going to the Bolotnaya Square trial, making care packages, giving money and doing everything possible to ensure there is not a single political prisoner in this country.”

In the very near future, Akimenkov plans to attend another trial, that of Left Front coordinator Sergei Udaltsov, accused of organizing the “riot” in downtown Moscow a year and a half ago. The court has yet to begin examining the charges against him.

Svetlana Reiter

NB. The original article features a four-minute video of the December 19 court hearing and its aftermath.

Relatives of the Bolotnaya Square Prisoners: Letter to Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin

grani.ru
Relatives of the Bolotnaya Square Prisoners Write to Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin
May 6 Committee
October 1, 2013

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Dear Sergey Semyonovich:

We are friends and relatives of the defendants in the so-called case of the riots of May 6, 2012, currently being tried in the capital’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court.

Nearly all of us are Muscovites, and many of us received a personally addressed election campaign letter from you containing many warm words. “Moscow is the city to which you’ve given your strength, talent and soul,” you wrote. And it is true: we have years of work on behalf of our city’s and our country’s welfare, safety and defense under our belts.

And we really would like, as you rightly noted, “to feel secure in Moscow and confident in the future.” Unfortunately, however, no one can feel “safe and confident in the future” in Moscow nowadays. No matter how Moscow is modernized and prettified, this has no effect on the security of Muscovites if civil rights are not respected.

It has become apparent to us during the court hearings that the main cause of the events of May 6, 2012, on Bolotnaya Square was the Moscow police’s sudden alteration of the arrangements [for the planned opposition march and rally], which had earlier been approved at a meeting with the Moscow Department of Regional Security. This change provoked confusion among the crowd and led to riot police pushing people back, thus exacerbating an already unbearable crush. Police brutally beat protesters in an attempt to clear the streets. But no criminal proceedings were instituted in connection with these incidents. Our relatives ended up in police custody instead of the real culprits of the clash. The trial against most of them began in June 2013 and is likely to take a very long time.

On trial days, our relatives get up early (at five or six in the morning), return to their cells late (around midnight or later), spend long hours waiting in a cramped holding cell, eat poorly soluble dry rations for lunch and endure lengthy court proceedings. These conditions would cause even healthy people to experience a significant deterioration of health. Among the defendants, however, is the Class 2 disabled person Mikhail Kosenko (whose mother recently died, although he was not informed about her illness or death, and was not released to attend her funeral) and Vladimir Akimenkov, who is threatened with blindness.

Sergey Semyonovich, we hope that we, Muscovites, are not a faceless mass to you, but individuals with their own lives and needs. And we want an answer: why, for over a year, have our relatives suffered without any proof of their guilt, while police officers who beat people are at large and serving as complainants in the case, although they often do not remember the accused and have no relation to them? Some of these police officers had a finger cut by persons unknown, making them “experience severe physical suffering,” while others had their clothes pulled or were bruised.

There were no riots—meaning massive destruction, arson and use of weapons—on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012. The matter could simply be put to a rest right there, but the “riots” are, in fact, the cause of the whole trial. It is clear that the level of such legal proceedings does not stand up to scrutiny.

In your letter, you invited us to vote in the [mayoral] election, implying, of course, that it should be an honest election. It was fair elections that our children, brothers and husbands demanded: that is why they are in custody, and why they face hefty prison sentences. Judging by your letter, you want to make our city a better place, and Muscovites happier. But what can be said if here, in Moscow, in plain view, innocent people—young people, academics, and journalists—are on trial, if the country’s future is on trial?

If you are really worried about Moscow’s image, then you will certainly pay attention to the ugly spectacle being played out in the Moscow City Court, which is a disgrace to the city and the country. We appeal to you to come to the trial, which convenes every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the Appeals Wing of the Moscow City Court, Room 635. (As of October 1, the trial will be held at the Nikulinsky District Court, Room 303 – Editors.) You yourself will be convinced that the judge is working with the prosecution, that the evidence presented by the prosecution does not withstand scrutiny, and that the prosecution witnesses—police officers—are forced to lie under oath. Come and see for yourself that the presumption of innocence does not apply at this trial and that to impartial observers the court looks like a total circus. Or rather, it would look that way to us if our children were not behind the glass cage in this court.

We ask you to get to the bottom of this “court case” and help to ensure that in the future not a single Muscovite or visitor to the capital will be beaten with police batons at a peaceful, sanctioned rally, charged with “rioting” and thrown into prison.

We ask you, Sergey Semyonovich, to do everything to save our relatives.

We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Natalya Kavkazkaya (mother of Nikolai Kavkazsky)
Yuri Kavkazsky (father of Nikolai Kavkazsky)
Viktor Savyolov (father of Artyom Savyolov)
Alexei Polikhovich (father of Alexei Polikhovich)
Tamara Likhanova (wife of Yaroslav Belousov)
Stella Anton (mother of Denis Lutskevich)
Artyom Naumov (husband of Alexandra Dukhanina-Naumova)
Ekaterina Tarasova (mother-in-law of Leonid Kovyazin)
Vasily Kovyazin (brother of Leonid Kovyazin)
Olga Ignatovich (mother of Ilya Gushchin)
Ksenia Kosenko (sister of Mikhail Kosenko)
Maria Baronova (defendant)
Tatyana Barabanova (mother of Andrei Barabanov)
Alexandra Kunko (fiancée of Stepan Zimin)