The Wagner Group’s Suicide Squad

For several months, inmates in Russian penal colonies have been recruited by the Wagner Group — hundreds, if not thousands of convicts who had several years left in their sentences have already gone to Ukraine. It is likely that many of them have already been killed, but so far only individual deaths have been confirmed. One of them is Yevgeny Yeremenko from Petrozavodsk, who had eight more years left to serve on his sentence. In mid-June, he unexpectedly informed his mother that he was being transferred to another region. In mid-August, two strangers brought her a death notice: Yevgeny had been killed near Bakhmut on July 24.

Around noon on August 14, Tatiana Koteneva, a pensioner from Petrozavodsk, opened the door to two strangers who had buzzed her on the intercom and said they had been “sent by Zhenya.” Zhenya is her 44-year-old son Yevgeny Yeremenko, who had been sentenced to ten years in a maximum security penal colony. He was serving his sentence in Correctional Colony No. 9 in Petrozavodsk. He usually telephoned his mother every week, but she hadn’t heard from her son since early May — except for a strange call in mid-June, when Yevgeny said briefly that he was being transferred to another region.

So the pensioner willingly opened the door to the strangers, invited them into the kitchen, and poured tea. They handed her a reward and her son’s death certificate. “We have come with bad news,” they said, “Zhenya has died.”

According to Koteneva, the certificate, issued by the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, indicated the date and place of her son’s death. He was killed on July 24 in Bakhmut, a Ukrainian-controlled city in the Donetsk Region, which has been heavily fought over all summer.

A call from the train: “Don’t worry, Mom — I’m doing what I have to do”
The pensioner does not know how her son ended up in Ukraine. Between early May and mid-June, he did not call her from the penal colony, although he used to do it regularly. Instead of Yevgeny, the pensioner was once called by a penal colony official and informed that her son was “alive and well, but undergoing punishment.” Koteneva refers to punitive confinement as “the cellar,” and she is sure that her son had been put there.

“[The official] introduced himself, but I don’t remember his name,” she says. “I tried to make an inquiry. He replied that my son had violated some article of the law there, and he had been punished. I said, ‘You tortured him and probably beat him.’ And this one who called me said, ‘There isn’t a scratch or a bruise on him.'”

Only on June 14 did Yevgeny unexpectedly telephone his mother and say that he was being temporarily transferred to another penal colony.

“He called me and said, ‘Mom, we are being convoyed at two o’clock in the morning to another colony,'” recalls Koteneva. “A tumor had formed on his cheek near his nose. He says, ‘There are no doctors here [in Petrozavodsk Colony No. 9], so maybe I’ll get treatment there.’ And that was it. I said, ‘I’ll be expecting a letter from you and the details of where I should send you a package or money.'”

According to her, her son did not say that he was going to Ukraine, probably because he knew that she would be opposed to it.

“I would probably have gone into hysterics and all that to prevent it,” the pensioner argues. “I would have run to the colony and bent over backwards. But I couldn’t get into his head… He’s a grown man. He just said, ‘Mom, don’t worry. I’m doing what I have to do.'”

A week later, according to Koteneva, her son sent an SMS to a friend, asking him to inform his mother that he was alright. He added that the prisoners were still traveling on the train, where “even their watches had been confiscated.”

Recruitment in the penal colonies: “You finish your service and you get amnestied”
Yevgeny Yeremenko was probably recruited by the Wagner Group and sent to Ukraine as a mercenary. The fact that mercenaries are being recruited in correctional colonies became public in early July, but, apparently, it began in May. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s founder, a man known for his proximity to the Russian authorities, personally went to some colonies to persuade inmates to join up. Recruiters promised convicts a large salary and release after six months of combat — to this end, those who agreed to join the mercenaries would have to write petitions asking for clemency.

It is unclear how many people have been marshaled this way, but recruiters, judging by the prisoners’ reports, have already visited between fifteen and twenty colonies, and in each of them a hundred or more inmates have agreed to go into combat. (Although relatives have managed to dissuade some of them.) The head of the Russian Behind Bars Foundation, Olga Romanova, noted that her organization has already received about two hundred appeals from relatives of convicts who have lost contact with them and assume that they have been sent to Ukraine.

Yevgeny Yeremenko. Photo courtesy of his VKontakte page and Mediazona

In June, people really did come to Petrozavodsk’s Correctional Colony No. 9, where Yevgeny Yeremenko was imprisoned, and tried to persuade the inmates to go to fight in Ukraine, convict Marat Najibov told Mediazona. He himself turned down their offer. “You finish your service and you get amnestied,” he says, adding that he does not know exactly where the recruiters were from.

Petrozavodsk lawyer Ivan Varfolomeyev, who represents ten convicts in Correctional Colony No. 9, believes that they were probably from the Wagner Group. “Ten people were persuaded to go to Ukraine, but after consulting with me, no one went,” says Varfolomeyev. I didn’t see [the recruiters]. The convicts asked me what they should do. I said, ‘You have parents, wives, and children — I would not recommend it.’ My clients, at least, are not serving such long sentences.”

The convicts did not tell Varfolomeyev that they had been coerced by recruiters or the colony’s wardens. They talked to the prisoners, as he puts it, “about pies”: they vividly described the benefits to which the inmates would be entitled after being in combat.

“[They were not threatened with] solitary confinement, AdSeg, or beatings,” says Varfolomeyev. “On the contrary, all the offers were tempting.”

Little is yet known about the deaths of the prisoners recruited by the Wagner Group to go to Ukraine. In late July, iStories reported the deaths of three prisoners from Petersburg Correctional Colony No. 7. Their papers did not contain their real names, but only their nicknames. Among the dead was Konstantin Tulinov, nicknamed “Red.” it was about him that filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov spoke in [the 6 August 2022] episode of his program [Exorcist TV] on Rossiya 1. According to Mikhalkov, Tulinov “wanted to atone for his past life,” so he himself petitioned to be sent to the front. In Ukraine, his legs were “crushed,” after which Tulinov “blew himself up with a grenade.”

“And the state responded with gratitude to him for his courageous deed. He was posthumously pardoned and, in addition, was designated a full-fledged combat veteran with all the ensuing benefits and payments,” Mikhalkov assures his viewers.

Olga Romanova of Russian Behind Bars has written that relatives of the recruited prisoners constantly appeal to her organization for help.

“What an outrage! They promised to pay [him] 200 thousand [rubles], but they paid [only] thirty thousand,” she wrote, paraphrasing the kinds of appeals her foundation has received. “And my [relative] was wounded, but [the wounded] are being treated only in the LPR; [they] are not taken to Russia. Help us save him! And then another one was killed near Luhansk; the relatives were not informed, and the body was abandoned in the combat zone so that they wouldn’t have to pay for a coffin.”

The Karelian office of the Federal Penitentiary Service has not yet responded to Mediazona‘s request for information as to how Yevgeny Yeremenko ended up in combat in Ukraine eight years before he was to be released from prison.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the Governor of Karelia, Arthur Parfenchikov, has been publishing posts on his VKontakte page about the residents of the republic who have perished in the war. But he did not even mention the death of prisoner Yevgeny Yeremenko.

The funeral: “young men” come to pay their last respects and reimburse expenses
Tatiana Koteneva calls the strangers who brought her the death notice “the young men.” They told her that her son’s body was “in an iron coffin in Leningrad, at Pulkovo [airport].” As for additional questions, according to the pensioner, she was told that “everything is classified.” The men did not respond when she asked them who they worked for.

“What can I do now? You can’t bring anything back,” she argued resignedly two days before the funeral. “Well, that’s how it turned out, so that’s how it’s going to be. What matters to me is burying him and having a grave to go to and cry. Things turned out the way they turned out.”

On August 18, Yevgeny Yeremenko’s body was brought to Petrozavodsk by a private driver: the pensioner paid 26 thousand rubles for transportation. Yeremenko’s funeral took place the next day, recalls Marina Gorodilova, a friend of Koteneva, whose son is also an inmate at Correctional Colony No. 9. (This was how she and Tatiana met.)

“The coffin was closed and there was a strong smell of decomposition,” she recalls. “Tatiana Ivanovna stood over the coffin lid the whole time and cried.”

According to Gorodilova, at the wake and the funeral there were none of the military officers or civilian officials who make speeches on such occasions. But in the funeral hall, she noticed “two strange guys.”

“One [was] forty years old, the other [was] younger, both of them [were] powerfully built. They laid the flowers [on the coffin] and took three or four steps back. They stood at attention and didn’t talk to anyone. I picked up my phone and poked it with my finger and out of the corner of my eye I saw that they were watching me — very attentively. Tatiana Ivanovna asked them, ‘Who are you?’ But they didn’t say anything. She then asked again, ‘Do you know Zhenya?’ One of them nodded his head quietly and kept standing there.”

The day after the funeral, Tatiana Koteneva refused to meet with her friend, citing the fact that “the young men” were coming to see her again. A few days later she reported [to Gorodilova] that she had been reimbursed 145 thousand rubles [approx. 2,400 euros] for the funeral.

“Either they hold them [in solitary] before sending them, or they hold those who don’t want to sign up”

Dmitry Gorodilov. Photo courtesy of Marina Gorodilova and Mediazona

Dmitry, Marina Gorodilova’s son, is serving his sentence at Correctional Colony No. 9, where he met the deceased Yevgeny Yeremenko. He has not been in touch with his mother for a month and a half — since July 4 — and she fears that Dmitry, like Yeremenko, was put in punitive detention before being sent to Ukraine. Human rights activists from Russia Behind Bars have spoken of this practice. For example, in Correctional Colony No. 7 in Karelia and Correctional Colony No. 19 in Komi, some convicts at first agreed to go into combat, but then changed their minds. Prison officials then began pressuring them, and some were sent to punitive detention.

“Now it’s the same story: now my Dima is missing,” says Gorodilova. “He doesn’t write and doesn’t call — this has never happened. The lawyer called the prison and asked them whether Dima was there. They said he was there. I went to the colony to visit him, and they said to me, ‘He is undergoing punishment.’ It’s one of two things. Either they are held [in solitary] before being sent [to Ukraine] so that they do not receive information and do not share it with anyone. Or those who don’t want to sign up are held [in solitary, where] they are forced [to sign up].”

Gorodilova is sure that her son would not left officials force him to go to Ukraine even under torture.

“Only if they lie to him or tell him that he would cleaning up after the war, maybe he would agree to sign up. But he’s a guy that won’t sign anything until he reads it. I know that Dima will definitely not agree to it. Even if he is promised his freedom, he will not go to kill people.”

Source: Alla Konstantinova, “Sent down for ten years, enlisted in the Wagner Group, killed in Ukraine: the example of one inmate from Karelia,” Mediazona, 26 August 2022. Thanks to Dmitry Tkachev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Like Share Fine Jail

GUIDE

How do I avoid going to jail for a repost?

1. Be cautious about what you say

When making statements about someone else’s ethnicity, race, religion, or gender, you need to adhere to basic norms of politeness.

2. Maintain your privacy

People are held accountable only for public statements, so you need to consciously chose your status when posting on social networks. There are probably entries that only your own friends, people you trust, but not outsiders should see.

3. Check the register of extremist materials

The list of extremist materials is available on the Justice Ministry’s website.

4. If you don’t approve of the content of the post you are sharing, then say it

You can write, for example, “I disagree with this material and voice my sincere indignation.”

5. Take into account the features of the social network where you publish information

Anyone can look at information that is in the public domain. Keep this in mind when you post something on your page.

What should I do if I’m targeted in a criminal investigation?

1. Say nothing

A preliminary investigation on “extremism” charges does not differ from other criminal cases in the way it unfolds and is regulated by the Criminal Procedure Code. If you are implicated in such a case, you must be notified in writing about it.

2. Be prepared for a police search

A search of your home or office is also possible, during which the “instruments of the crime” — computers and electronic devices — can be confiscated from you.

3. Get a lawyer

The presence of a lawyer is highly desirable during all criminal investigative procedures.

4. Do your own due diligence

The defense’s goal in any trial is to break down the arguments of the prosecution, which tries to prove the defendant’s guilt.

5. Order an alternative expert examination without waiting for the court to order one

Unfortunately, it is impossible to guarantee that it will be included in the case file. The decision on this is made by the judge, who is guided by their own considerations. Anyone can find information in the public domain. Keep this in mind when you post something on your page.

You’ve been found guilty. Now what?

1. Your devices will be destroyed

If the court finds you guilty of extremism, you face not only punishment, but also an order to destroy the “instruments of the crime.”

2. You will lose your savings and the ability to receive money through a bank

A serious consequence of extremism charges and convictions is inclusion in the the so-called Rosfinmonitoring list.

3. To lose your livelihood it is enough to be named a suspect in a case

If you are declared a suspect in a case, your name is simply published within a few days on Rosfinmonitoring’s official website.

4. You are not notified when you are put on the list

You just won’t be able to withdraw money from an ATM one day.

5. Not only bank accounts are blocked, but also access to electronic payment systems

You might not be able to access Yandex Money and Kiwi, for example.

Valeria Parusnaya, Like Share Fine Jail (Mediazona, 2021)

Our book is a collection of stories of Russians who have faced prosecution for statements they made on social networks. There are more and more guilty verdicts for posts, reposts and likes every year.

The Russian internet is under strict state control, as evidenced by the entry into force of laws on the “sovereign internet,” “fake news,” and “disrespect for the authorities”, which give greater leeway to the authorities in holding people criminally liable for their opinions.

The book consists of news stories, articles and specific cases published by Mediazona, along with commentary by IT lawyers, but with no personal opinions or value judgments on the part of the editors. It is meant for those who want to know what all of us can face and how to avoid it.

Source: likesrok.ru.tilda.ws. The 224-page book, in Russian, can be downloaded in four different electronic formats on Ridero, where you’ll be asked to register with an email address and social media ID before downloading. Translated by the Russian Reader

Solidarity

Courtesy of PADI Pros

Yesterday, the Russian Justice Ministry placed several more publications and more than two dozen people on its register of “foreign agent media outlets.” This time the label was given to Mediazona and OVD Info media outlets that, among other things, continue to cover protest events and speak out in support of convicts. The media outlets and journalists included in this list there are 72 of them so far are required to report their income every quarter, are required to undergo an audit, and are required to accompany each of their messages or reports with a loud disclaimer. This year alone, 54 new names have been placed on the list, including Meduza, VTimes and The Insider.

The editors of Inc. Russia empathize with their fellow journalists who find themselves in a difficult situation. We look anxiously into the future and expect that the law on foreign media, as well as the registry itself, will be at least revised. As our texts of the week, we suggest reading the work of the newly minted “foreign agents” from Mediazona and OVD Info. For each of these articles their authors were awarded an Editorial Board journalism prize. The prize was established by Boris Zimin’s Sreda Foundation.

The Editors, Inc. Russia

A sea of hermitages: How a US citizen, on the advice of her Old Believer relatives, came to “see Russia” and was imprisoned in a taiga monastery for 15 years [8 March 2017]

This is the monologue of a young American woman who managed to escape from an Old Believer settlement. Elizabeth’s story was recorded by Yegor Skovoroda for Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents).

“There were rumors in the village.” Why are women killed by their relatives in the North Caucasus? How are honor killings investigated? [28 July 2017]

Journalists Maria Klimova and Yulia Sugueva reveal how women in the North Caucasus are murdered for “immoral” behavior. Neighbors and loved ones do not turn to the police for help, and the standing in the community of families capable of killing for the sake of honor only grows. The text was published on Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents).

“I wanted to howl, to shout to them, What are you doing with my daughter at all? Are you human beings or not?” [29 May 2018]

In 2018, Kommersant journalist Alexander Chernykh did an interview for OVD Info (included in the list of foreign agents) with Yulia, the mother of Anna Pavlikova, a defendant in the New Greatness case. At the time, Pavlikova was 18 years old and had already spent several months in jail. The trial in the case ended only in 2020: Pavlikova received four years of probation.

Nemtsov’s unknown killers: What the investigation missed while investigating the attack on the politician [2 November 2020]

An investigation by Mikhail Maglov, Yegor Skovoroda, Alla Konstantinova and Polina Glukhova for Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents), published jointly with the Scanner Project. The journalists re-examined the entire case file in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov to figure out whose possible involvement the Russian Investigative Committee could not or did not want to investigate.

Source: Inc. Russia email newsletter, 30 September 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader. Since today, September 30, is International Translation Day, it would be more than appropriate for you, the readers of this and other translations on my website, to share it with your own colleagues, friends, relatives and neighbors. Or pick another translation on this site that has moved you and share it. In any case, doing this much reading and translating — for free, during my “free” time — is only worth it if you’re reading what I publish here and encouraging others to read it. Judging by my viewer numbers this year, that’s not happening so much as it did last year, for example, when I had nearly 175,000 views on the year, as compared to a little over 48,000 so far this year (with only three months left in the year). When International Translation Day comes around this time next year, this blog might not be around to celebrate it. On the contrary, with better viewer numbers and more donations (which have never been frequent, alas), I would have the motivation, the time and the resources to translate the intriguing articles listed above, or pay a small honorarium to a translator colleague to translate them. ||| TRR

The War on Terror in Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ilmira Bikbayeva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juneteenth a la russe

Four solo picketers detained in Moscow demanding that authorities not exacerbate the epidemic 
OVD Info
June 19, 2021

Alexander Rimov has informed OVD Info that four people involved in a series of solo pickets demanding that authorities not worsen the epidemiological situation have been detained.

During the United Russia party congress, taking place at Moscow’s Expo Center, several people took turns holding up a placard containing a message encrypted using a QR code. The protesters urged the authorities not to worsen the epidemiological situation and postpone the elections so that the ruling party does not endanger the electorate.

Among the detainees, according to Rimov, are two virologists, a law enforcement officer and a municipal employee. They were taken to the police department in the city’s Arbat district, where they were cited for violating the rules for holding public events (per Article 20.2.5 of the Administrative Code).

UPDATE 10:00 P.M. After the charges were filed, the detainees were released, a friend of theirs has told OVD Info.

During the United Russia congress, President Putin announced the first five names on the party’s federal list for the upcoming State Duma elections.

Thanks to Activatica for the link and the Kamchatka Krai branch of the United Russian party for the photo of the congress venue. Translated by the Russian Reader

United Russia has set itself goal of winning the elections, but this is not an end in itself. The main thing is to achieve more for the country, Vladimir Putin said.

He noted that the platform of United Russia, as a leading party, should be truly popular.

In the top five of United Russia’s federal list in the elections, there should be both political heavyweights and relative newcomers, Putin believes. The Russian president named Shoigu among those whom he sees at the top of United Russia’s federal list in the elections.

Putin also said that Protsenko, Lavrov, Shmeleva and Kuznetsova should be among the names at the top of the federal list.

Source: TASS, June 19, 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader. Mediazona editor Yegor Skovoroda writes that new data from Rosstat, the Russian federal statistics service, shows how authorities in many of Russia’s regions have been hiding covid-19 deaths by passing them off as mortalities from respiratory and circulatory diseases. In Chechnya, for example, such deaths suddenly increased by 674%, while in the Samara region they increased by 202%. It was mostly the elderly that have been dying from these alleged causes, prompting Skovoroda to call the phenomenon a “nightmarish variety of ‘pension reform.’” All the particulars are contained in Mediazona’s survey of the stats, published on June 18, 2021.

Buy Russian Art, Support Russian Protesters


Nick Teplov
Facebook
February 1, 2021

Thoughts from the darkroom:

How can we make posts and likes on social networks more effective?

As an analog experiment, you can buy any* black-and-white photo featured on my Instagram page (@bureau44), which I will print by hand. This can be either a classic print, an indigo twist, or a lithograph print on vintage paper from the 60s-80s (see the pictures here).

The format is 18 x 24 cm.

You can suggest you own price.

I will donate 50% of this amount to OVD Info to help people detained at protest rallies in Russia.

The prints will be delivered by any method you prefer.

This is a limited offer, as they say.**
______

* You must check with me whether a particular negative is available.
** Limited, that is, by my supply of paper and chemicals.

____________________

Yana Sergeeva
Facebook
February 3, 2021

I am signed up make recurring donations to OVD Info and send them as much extra money as possible, but now I want to do something more.

So, if you want to buy my ceramics, write to me. I will give you cups and plates, and you will send the money for them to OVD Info or Apologia for Protest.

Alexandra Vorobyova has made a helpful list of the donation pages of the Russian organizations who provide legal aid and other assistance to people detained while protesting and/or report on these issues. I can personally endorse all of these organizations, whose human rights work and journalism have been featured on this website many, many times in the past.

OVD Info: https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en
Mediazona: https://donate.zona.media/
Open Russia Legal Defense: https://orpravo.org/#help-project
Apologia for Protest: https://apologia.pro/
Team 29: https://team29.org/donate/

Keep in mind that, with the exception of OVD Info’s donations page, the others are in Russian only. It might also be the case that some of them only accept donations from Russian bank cards. However, I was easily able to donate money to OVD Info and Mediazona via PayPal. Write to me if you have questions about how to donate money. And let me know of similar undertakings by artists or anybody else, and I will add their details to this post. || TRR

Putin’s Base

Jenya Kulakova
Facebook
January 30, 2021

A random interlocutor told me about their friend, a Russian National Guardsman. Last Saturday, he worked the protests in St. Petersburg from 9 am to 10 pm without a single lunch break. After the elections in Belarus, his unit was taken to Pskov, where they removed all their insignia: if necessary, they could be shipped to Belarus to beat up the protesters. For a week, two hundred of them lived in a school, sleeping on mattresses tossed on the floor: “It was great way to get covid! But nobody gives a shit.”

They weren’t exported to Belarus, so they went home. The friend makes 40 grand a month. [40,000 rubles is approximately 435 euros at the current exchange rate.] “Do you think he loves Putin? No. But he took out a mortgage, and he has to pay it back.”

I wonder: do they really do what they do for forty thousand rubles a month and humiliating “working conditions”? Or do they do it out of conviction?

But they are now being forcibly vaccinated, and so the friend is thinking about quitting. Not because he has to harass peaceful fellow citizens, mind you.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Dmitry Gudkov
Facebook
January 30, 2021

All day I was planning to write about the awful things that the regime has done, but every time it seemed that they couldn’t do more and go lower, it turned out that no, they could, and then some. So, now I will summarize what were probably the most egregious things that happened during the day to remind you once again that we are not dealing with “police,” “judges,” and “prosecutors,” but with people (?) who are ready to commit any crime in order to preserve their power, salaries, and AMP license plates.

In Tver, the security forces came for the deputy coordinator of Navalny’s local HQ, Pavel Kuzmin. When he refused to come out, they cut off his electricity and internet, and then grabbed his fiancee. He surrendered.

In Yakutsk, the security forces came for Sergei Tikhy and Viktoria Postnikova, a couple who support the shaman [Alexander] Gabyshev and have a large family. The security forces shined a laser in their windows (apparently they had the family in their sights), and it seems that they still have not left.

In Moscow, the security forces came for the editor-in-chief of Mediazona Sergei Smirnov when he was out walking with his young child. Now he is in the holding cage at the Tverskaya police precinct, a place I know well. He is accused of participating in the demonstration on January 23, although at the time he was at home coordinating his website’s news coverage of the event.

In Nizhny Novgorod, the security forces came to the special detention center to visit the coordinator of Navalny’s local HQ, Roman Tregubov. They threatened him into reading on camera a text renouncing the protests (which he has now disavowed). I should explain that Roman had every reason to take the threats seriously: Nizhny, which is only three and a half hours from Moscow by train, is known for the insane torture that the local “anti-extremism” police practice. They made one guy sit naked on an anthill, and then for a long time publicly mocked him on “anonymous Telegram channels.”

The security forces in Nizhny also came for my friend Mikhail Iosilevich, who had already been charged with two felonies for cooperating with Open Russia and for not informing the authorities about his dual citizenship. Terrible crimes! Today, a court changed his pre-trial restrictions and remanded him in custody to a pre-trial detention center, and in this case too they hastened to mockingly report this fact on an “anonymous Telegram channel.”

It was after her apartment was searched as part of the case against Ioselevich that Irina Slavina set herself on fire and died.

This story is very personal to me. I know Ioselevich and knew Slavina, and I like visiting Nizhny. Mikhail was always willing to help me and local activists, and he had fun founding the local branch of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Church. But only cops—angry, offended, and embittered—can “have fun” in Russia nowadays.

I used to appeal to the reason of the “other side,” but now I understand that it’s like admonishing a mad wolf to go vegetarian. It’s useless. The conversation is over, and the wolf, no longer a man, has pounced.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader

All in a Day’s Work

TV Rain has made the following list of people and places in Moscow raided and searched today (January 27, 2020) by the Putinist security forces. Thanks to Darya Apahonchich for the heads-up. \\ TRR

We made a list of all police searches today. As of now, we know that the security services have raided the following:

    • Navalny’s apartment in the Maryino district of Moscow
    • An apartment rented by Navalny near the Avtozavodskaya subway station
    • The Navalny LIVE studio
    • The Anti-Corruption Foundation’s offices
    • Lyubov Sobol’s apartment
    • Moscow Navalny HQ coordinator Oleg Stepanov
    • The apartment of Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh, who has been transported home from a special detention center for the search
    • The apartment of Anti-Corruption Foundation employee Georgy Alburov, who has also been transported home from a special detention center for the search
    • The apartment of Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina
    • The apartment of municipal district councilor Lusya Stein
    • The apartment of Anastasia Vasilyeva, head of the Alliance of Doctors: she has been detained and taken there for the search
    • The apartment of Nikolai Kasyan, aide to municipal district councilor Yulia Galyamina
    • The apartment of Yegor Yefremov, a member of the Libertarian Party of Russia (LPR) and Civil Society
    • The apartment of the mother of Sergei Smirnov, editor-in-chief of Mediazona

Translated by the Russian Reader

Beat the Press

agoras day

While looking for an original Telegram post (cited and translated, below) by Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora group of human rights lawyers, I found these more recent entries. The latest (at the bottom of the screenshot, above) informed Chikov’s readers that Agora attorney Leonid Solovyov was on his way to the apartment of activist, artist and Mediazona publisher Pyotr Verzilov, which was being searched by police and security forces for the sixth (!) time in recent weeks. Meanwhile, according to the entry above it, Agora lawyers would be representing three people at three different court hearings today: reporter Mikhail Benyash, convicted and fined for, allegedly, “assaulting a police officer” (Benyash is appealing his conviction); Lyubov Kudryashova, a 55-year-old environmentalist indicted on charges of “inciting terrorism”; and Azat Miftakhov, a young mathematician charged with breaking the window at a United Russia party office in Moscow. It’s all in a day’s work.

Andrey Loshak
Facebook
July 7, 2020

Firs they grabbed the activists, now they’re jailing the journalists. When they come for you, there won’t be anyone to defend you.

Pavel Chikov wrote this on Telegram:

Attacks on the media in the summer of 2020 (disturbing)

1. Pyotr  Verzilov, publisher of Mediazona, has home raided by police, is jailed for an administrative offense, and charged with a crime.

2. Svetlahna Prokopyeva, a journalist with Echo of Moscow in Pskov, is convicted of “condoning terrorism.”

3. Ivan Safronov, a former reporter for Kommersant and Vedomosti, is detained on charges of “treason.”

4. Police search the home of Taisiya Bekbulatova, editor-in-chief of Kholod Media.

5. Ilya Azar, a journalist for Novaya Gazeta, is jailed for an administrative offense.

6. Journalists (including Tatyana Felgengauer, Alexander Plyushchev, Sergei Smirnov, Anna Zibrova, Alexander Chernykh, Olga Churakova, Elena Chernenko, Kira Dyuryagina, and Nikita Gorin) detained for holding solo pickets in solidarity with Azar.

7. Management at the [liberal business] newspaper Vedomosti is reshuffled.

8. Policemen assault David Frenkel, a correspondent for Mediazona.

Thanks to Anna Tereshkina for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

 

Coat Hangers for the Health Ministry

chelyab“#Hangers for the Health Ministry,” “Give us a choice,” “Without state-funded abortions there will be backroom abortions,” “The Health Ministry violates human rights,” “Banning abortions is no solution”: a protest installation set up by feminists outside of Hospital No. 1 in Chelyabinsk. Photo by Anastasia Zelentsova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

“Go Find a Place That Will Give You an Abortion When You Have a Cough like That”: The Challenges Women Face During the Pandemic
Alla Konstantinova
Mediazona
June 4, 2020

Since early April, most hospitals in Russia have been focused on battling the coronavirus pandemic, and the Russian Health Ministry has recommended postponing routine surgeries. Under this pretext some medical facilities have begun refusing to perform abortions and other gynecological operations. Consequently, unemployed women have been forced to take out loans for abortions at private clinics or give birth to children they may not be able to feed.

In April 29-year-old Tatyana Shapovalova, from the village of Solomenny, which is part of Petrozavodsk but is physically separated from the city, found out that she was eight weeks’ pregnant. Shapovalova already has four children, but only the youngest lives with her and her common-law spouse. Her parental rights have been restricted, so one child is being raised by Shapovalova’s sister, and the other two by foster parents.

“Our living conditions are very bad,” Shapovalova says, explaining the decision.

She and her husband decided to end the pregnancy: the village obstetrician-gynecologist sent Shapovalova off for tests, an ultrasound, and a consultation with a psychologist. The trips to the psychologist and doctors and waiting for the test results took a month.

“It took a week for the blood panels to arrive, and a week for everything else,” she says.

The fact that she would have to pass a Covid-19 test before the surgery was something Shapovalova learned from the village gynecologist one week before her appointment at the perinatal center in Petrozavodsk—ending a pregnancy as covered by compulsory health insurance is currently done only at this facility. One building at the Gutkin Municipal Maternity Hospital has been turned into a coronavirus observation ward, while the other has been converted into a coronavirus treatment facility. Tatyana caught a cold and had a strong cough, but she had the Covid-19 test smear.

“Six days later, I got a negative result for the coronavirus. The next day, I traveled to Petrozavodsk to the perinatal center,” Shapovalova continues. “I was already at twelve weeks. But in the reception area they heard my cough and went to consult with the head physician. I sat there for about forty minutes. Then the nurse came out and said, ‘You’re denied hospitalization.’ I said, ‘I have a negative test result for the coronavirus.’ And she replied, ‘Go find a place that will give you an abortion when you have a cough like that.’”

Petrozavodsk residents have at times had to wait even longer—sometimes two weeks—for the results of Covid-19 tests, says Irina Koroleva, the director of Women’s Clinic No. 1.

“For example, on June 1 we received the test results only for May 14. All of the labs in the city have had problems with the reactive agents for the swabs. If check-up results are not provided in time, the perinatal center has the right to refuse a woman service. It is the same with childbirth: if a woman is in labor, she’s sent to the maternity hospital, which has been converted into a coronavirus observation ward. Or the baby will be delivered in a single-bed ward in the perinatal center’s emergency room.”

The head doctor of the perinatal center, Yevgeny Tuchin, explained that Shapovalova had been denied treatment on the basis of a Health Ministry order.

“An artificial termination of pregnancy is not performed when acute infectious diseases and acute inflammatory processes are present in any location, including a woman’s reproductive organs,” he wrote in response to a query from Mediazona. “The abortion is performed after the patient recovers from these illnesses.”

Shapovalova insists that they did not even examine her at the perinatal center, and the only person with whom she spoke was the nurse, who merely heard her cough.

In Russia, an abortion is performed at a woman’s request only within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy; abortions are provided to rape victims “according to social indicators” for up to twenty-two weeks. Because of the delays with tests and the unexpected refusal at the perinatal center, Shapovalova missed this deadline.

Now Shapovalova, who is currently unemployed, lives in an unfinished wooden house, and was already restricted in her parental rights, has to give birth to a fifth child.

[In early April, the Health Ministry recommended that the heads of Russian hospitals “consider postponing” routine surgeries, citing as a reason for the decision the complicated epidemiological conditions in the country. At the same time, the ministry recommended not reducing routine treatment for patients with renal, cardiovascular, or endocrine diseases, or cancer. The Ministry of Health did not mention gynecological diseases or abortions, thereby creating additional problems for Russian women.]

Not Only Karelia
Shapovalova did not demand a written refusal of an abortion from the doctors. Medical lawyer Anna Kryukova says that now it will not be easy to prove the illegality of the doctors’ actions.

“A written refusal is provided after a written inquiry,” says Kryukova. “She didn’t insist on it, and the powers that be took advantage of it.”

In April, a female employee at the No to Violence Center (nasiliu.net) telephoned forty-four Moscow hospitals: only three of them agreed to schedule her for an abortion as paid for by compulsory health insurance. The Moscow Department of Public Health told us that, during the pandemic, many hospitals had classified elective abortions as routine or non-urgent surgeries. Later, the Department of Public Health reported that hospitals that had not been repurposed for treating Covid-19 are performing abortions, as before.

In an interview with Mediazona, Karina Denisova, a spokesperson for Hospital No. 1 in Chelyabinsk, called a social media announcement that they would no longer be performing abortions in their outpatient clinic a “misprint.” After protests by Chelyabinsk feminists, who set up an installation featuring clothes hangers next to the hospital entrance (in Soviet times, some women performed abortions on themselves using hooks made out of hangers) the hospital admitted that the published information had been “incorrect.”

Like Shapovalova, a resident of Kovrov in the Vladimir Region will also have to give birth. Obstetrician-gynecologist Alexander Rusin says that the woman was also denied an abortion.

“At Kovrov Central Municipal Hospital,” Rusin says. “They said, ‘It’s the coronavirus: we are closed for routine surgeries.’ What did the woman do? Nothing, as far as I know. Well, deadline was nearing, she was at eleven weeks. She left. Of course, I consider [the hospital’s actions] illegal, a violation of the law.”

“I Eat Macaroni to Save Money”
Irina Drozdova of Vsevolozhsk was supposed to have her tubes tied on April 13. Twenty-five-year-old Irina decided on the operation after an exceedingly difficult childbirth.

“The anesthesia for the C-section and the post-natal stress triggered cardiomyopathy,” she says. “Now I take pills that are incompatible with pregnancy, and I’ll be taking them for the rest of my life. Plus, they put me on a defibrillator, and it is just one of the indications for sterilization under compulsory health insurance.”

Getting ready for the operation, Irina underwent dozens of tests, but it was suddenly canceled.

“They refused because of the situation with the coronavirus, but I had spent three months doing the paperwork, consulting with a cardiologist, and undergoing an ultrasound—everything was ready. In order to reschedule, I have to go through another complete workup,” Irina says.

In April, dozens of maternity hospitals across Russia were repurposed to treat the coronavirus, and the Health Ministry recommended that facilities that did not close should do consultations with pregnant women online.

Twenty-nine-year-old Muscovite Anastasia Kirsh, who gave birth to a daughter in May, connected via WhatsApp with her gynecologist in the women’s clinic at the Yeramishantsev Maternity Hospital.

“If I needed to find out test results, get a referral to the infant feeding center, renew a prescription, or had an urgent question, it was possible to resolve that online, which was very convenient. Other services—gynecological exams, measurements, ultrasounds—were performed in the clinic as usual.”

Coda Story has told the tale of a Moscow woman who had to take out a loan for an abortion, because her husband had lost his job when the quarantine started, and the family had no means of support left. At Moscow Hospital No. 40, she was denied a free abortion under compulsory health insurance.

“You should not even count on a surgical abortion under compulsory health insurance. Routine surgeries, except in emergency cases, are currently not being performed,” a doctor told the woman. “Your case is not an emergency: there is no reason to hospitalize you. […] If you want to fight for your rights, you will miss all the deadlines.”

Unemployed single mother Anna Kazakova, from the Moscow suburb of Yegoryevsk, where the maternity hospital had been turned over to battling the pandemic, was faced with a choice: schedule an abortion under compulsory health insurance in Kolomna, fifty kilometers from home, and make numerous trips back and forth, first for tests and then for the operation, or pay to terminate the pregnancy at a private Moscow clinic, which would take a single day.

“They were sending everyone off to give birth fifty kilometers away at the Kolomna perinatal center,” she explains. “But what was I supposed to do with my four-year-old daughter? Drag her back and forth with me? They would start ‘losing’ the tests and making lots of referrals to psychologists, as is usually the case. There is all this hubbub in Russia about supporting families and mothers. But in fact, you have nothing coming to you. And an existing child doesn’t count either. If I tell them I won’t be able to support a second one in such conditions, I won’t get anything but condemnation,” says Anna.

After borrowing 15,000 rubles from a friend, Anna had a medical abortion at a private clinic in Moscow. Now she thinks about how to repay the debt.

“I eat macaroni to save money on food,” she says. “I applied for social security, but they said that I was not eligible for any benefits.”

“They Were Turned Down—and They Left, Sadly Wiping Away Tears”
Medical lawyer Anna Kryukova believes that “no one has directly prohibited” abortions in Russia, but that all the instances of refusal are the consequence of fear and ignorance on the part both of doctors and patients.

“The battle against Covid-19 has been farmed out by the federal government to the regions, but they all still look to Moscow,” Kryukova argues. “Doctors are used to saluting at every turn—god forbid they do something wrong, or they will be dismissed from their posts. This is due to fear: it is easier to follow orders now than to get whacked upside the head for these violations later. The outreach work has also been done very poorly: people are already so frightened of the virus, and nobody is explaining anything to them.”

Many patients need surgical help now, but they are afraid to go to the doctor because of the coronavirus, says Ph.D. in medicine and obstetrician-gynecologist Kamil Bakhtiyarov. He works in a private clinic in Moscow where paid medical and surgical abortions are performed.

“Women are so frightened that they come in for termination of pregnancy practically wearing spacesuits,” he says. “They’re terrified, deeply terrified. The first question they ask is, ‘Are you working with Covid patients?’ For patients who need surgical treatment the problem of hospitalization comes up: in the first place, many clinics have been repurposed to threat Covid cases, and secondly, people themselves are very much afraid. A person doesn’t want to go to an ordinary hospital because there it’s six people to a room.”

Despite the pandemic, patients should insist on their right to medical care, argues Kryukova.

“People should still seek medical care and exercise their rights. The problem is that the victims [mentioned in this article] apparently did not do that,” she says. “Unfortunately, the patient community does not know its rights very well. These women were simply turned down verbally—and they left, sadly wiping away tears. Nobody chases after patients nowadays: for something to change, the person who needs the medical treatment has to take the first step.”

Translated by Mary Rees