Dmitry Buchenkov, Last Bolotnaya Square Defendant, Flees Russia

CF8AAC04-C132-492E-9382-9B569A27A780_cx0_cy8_cw0_w1023_r1_sDmitry Buchenkov

Last Bolotnaya Square Defendant Flees Russia
RBC
November 9, 2017

In an interview with Current Time TV, Bolotnaya Square defendant Dmitry Buchenkov said he has left Russia for a European Union country.

He said he has applied for political asylum in this country. Buchenkov failed to say exactly where he had gone.

“I’m calm about the fact I won’t be returning to the motherland soon. I won’t say leaving was easy. Psychologically, of course, I didn’t want to leave,” he noted. “The regime and the entire justice system forced me to take this step.”

He added he was currently not in touch with relatives.

When asked how he managed to cross the Russian border, the Bolotnaya Square defendant said he was “neither the first nor the last person to do it in such circumstances.”

According to Buchenkov, the Bolotnaya Square Case was “political” from the onset. He said that, after he was put under house arrest, “for six months [he] observed how the case was unfolding personally for [him]” and was convinced a guilty verdict lay in store. He said he was transferred from a pretrial detention facility to house arrest during a “brief thaw.” He was not outfitted with an electronic tracking bracelet, because the Naro-Fominsky division of the Federal Penitentiary Service had run out of them.

“I think the police investigators have long known they nabbed the wrong guy. But it was too late for them to back out,” said Buchenkov.

On the morning of November 9, Buchenkov did not show up to the Zamoskvorechye District Court for the latest hearing in his case, in which he stood accused of involvement in rioting. The Federal Penitentiary Service has accused him of fleeing, writes Current Time. Federal Penitentiary Service spokeswoman Natalya Bakharina said the defendant had “absconded,” since he was not to be found in his flat. She noted another family had been living there since November 5, and they were given keys to the flat in late October.

Buchenkov’s attorney Ilya Novikov wrote that he would refrain from commenting for the time being. In turn, Buchenkov’s other attorney, Svetlana Sidorkina, told RBC she did not know about her client’s departure from Russia.

“I don’t know about it. I do know he did not come to today’s hearing, during which the matter of whether to continue the forensic investigation or not was to have been ajudicated,” said Sidorkina.

According to her, the court decided to postpone the hearing since Buchenkov was not in attendance.

In April, at a hearing in the Zamoskvorechye District Court, Buchenkov declared himself not guilty of involvement in rioting and fighting with policemen. He was accused of violence against six Interiory Ministry officers and causing damage in the amount of 73,800 rubles to a commercial firm that set up porta-potties near Bolotnaya Square in Moscow.

Buchenkov, a 38-year-old anarchist and history teacher, was detained and remanded to custody in December 2015, thus becoming the thirty-fourth defendant in the Bolotnaya Square Case. Later, the Moscow City Court released him from custody and put him under house arrest. Buchenkov’s lawyers insisted the activist was not in Moscow during the events of May 6, 2012. The claim was corroborated by Buchenkov’s relatives in Nizhny Novgorod.

According to the defense, the police investigators who, allegedly, identified Buchenkov on video recordings of the May 6, 2012, protest rally mixed him up with another person. The defense lawyers sought to enter higher resolution photographs into evidence, but police investigators refused to take them into account.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Terrorism in Petersburg: Then and Now

St. Petersburg Gets a Taste of Terrorism
Vladimir Alexandrov
Kommersant Daily
December 20, 1996

A bomb exploded in the Petersburg subway in the early hours of December 19. By a lucky chance, there were no victims. This was the first terrorist attack in Petersburg [sic].* Until the incident, law enforcement had either received false bomb threats or had found the bombs in time. FSB officers, who have joined the investigation, have not yet put forward any more or less convincing explanations of what happened.

The hands on the clock in the driver’s cab showed 12:10 a.m. when he felt the train tremble violently. (It was then traveling between Ploshchad Lenina and Vyborgskaya stations, on the Kirovsky Zavod-Vyborgskaya Line).

“At first, I thought one of the junction boxes in the train’s pneumatic system had exploded, but several seconds later, I realized something unpredictable had happened,” he said.

The steering system was compromised. The emergency sensors lighted up.  The driver immediately reported the incident to the duty officer at the station, and he contacted the police.

In fact, an explosive device had gone off in the train’s second car. There were two passengers in the car at the time, one of whom was deafened by the blast wave. His face and hands were injured by shards of glass.

Despite the fact the energy supply system was malfunctioning, the train rolled into Vyborgskaya station under its own momentum. The wounded man received first aid. Because he had trouble speaking and was quite disoriented, he was almost immediately taken to hospital. The second passenger, a woman, disappeared from the scene for reasons as yet unknown.

An FSB investigative team soon arrived. They inspected the car. It was an awful sight. The bomb had torn apart the car’s insides. The windows had been knocked out, the doors torn from their grooves, and the seats and upholstery ripped apart. The windows had been blown out in adjacent cars as well.

The damaged train was moved onto a storage track, near the Ploshchad Lenina subway station, where there used to be a depot.

The outcome of the forensic investigation was made public only yesterday. Judging by the blast pattern, an explosive device with no casing was placed in the subway car. It contained approximately 400 grams of TNT. The mechanism used to ignite the explosives has not yet been identified.

“It was our good fortune that there were few people on the train at the time of the attack [according to some sources, there were sixteen — Kommersant]. Otherwise, the consequences of the explosion would have been difficult to foresee,” said an FSB spokesman.

The motives and the people who carried out the attack are also still unknown. According to a few witnesses, when the train was stopped at Ploshchad Lenina, several young men dashed out of the car where the explosion would later occur, but no has yet linked the subsequent events with these men. Nevertheless, they are being actively sought by police.

Traffic on the stretch of track between Ploshchad Lenina and Vyborgskaya was restored by early morning on December 19 because the tunnel had suffered almost no damage. Diagnostic work on the tracks and cable conduits will continue tonight, however.

Nearly all police units in St. Petersburg have been on alert since the attack. Security at all subway stations, on public transport, and at other vital sites in the city has been increased. The FSB has established a special task force to investigate the crime.

Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev was informed about the incident half an hour after the explosion. According to him, it was hardly connected with events in Chechnya. Mentioning recent similar events in different countries, the governor suggested that “terrorism has, apparently, simply become a profitable business.”

This is the first terrorist attack in St. Petersburg in the last three months, although the police constantly receive anonymous bomb threats. (The callers usually claim the bombs have been planted in schools.) The last time police received an anonymous message about a bomb in the subway was in early October of this years. Traffic on the Moskovskaya-Petrogradskaya Line was halted for ten minutes due to the threat.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Norsu for the invaluable heads-up and having a good memory.

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wanted the alleged bomber
Social network users were quick to join the exciting hunt for the “alleged bomber,” especially because the screenshot image disseminated by local media evoked every radicalized Islamophobe’s wet dream of a “Muslim terrorist.”

Man Named as Suspect in Subway Explosion Turns Himself over to Police
Inna Sidorkova and Vladimir Gordeev
RBC
April 3, 2017

A man resembling the man in a photograph whom the media had identified as a suspect in the terrorist attack in the subway has produced himself at a Petersburg police precinct.

“He saw himself on TV, got scared, and came to the police himself,” said RBC’s source in law enforcement. According to him, the man had nothing to do with the terrorist attack.

Earlier, REN TV and online newspaper Fontanka.ru had published a screenshot of a recording made by a CCTV camera. The image showed a man who, allegedly, had carried out the terrorist attack. The still showed a tall, bearded man dressed in black.

Later, Channel Five published the photograph of a second suspect in the terrorist attack.

alleged suspect
The “alleged terrorist” looks very much like a Russian Orthodox priest or seminary student. Photo courtesy of RBC and their sources in law enforcement**

** UPDATE (5 April 2017). His real name is Andrei (Ilyas) Nikitin, and here is the touching story of how this totally innocent man got booted off a plane in Moscow because Islamophobic, panick-mongering Russian media and social media users had already dragged him through the mud and labeled him a “terrorist.”

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Execution of the five Pervomartovtsy, April 13, 1881. Source: Wikipedia

*Pervomartovtsy (Russian: Первома́ртовцы; a compound term literally meaning those of March 1) were the Russian revolutionaries, members of Narodnaya Volya [The People’s Will] who planned and carried out the assassination of Alexander II (March 1, 1881), and attempted to assassinate Alexander III (March 1, 1887, also known as “The Second First of March”).

The 1881 assassination was planned by Narodnaya Volya’s Executive Committee. Andrei Zhelyabov was the main organizer. After his arrest on February 27, he was replaced by Sofia Perovskaya.

Alexander II was killed on March 1, 1881, by a bomb thrown by Ignacy Hryniewiecki. Hryniewiecki wounded himself fatally in the assassination; Nikolai Sablin committed suicide. The conspirators—Zhelyabov, Perovskaya, Nikolai Kibalchich, Gesya Gelfman, Timofei Mikhailov, and Nikolai Rysakov—were tried by a Special Tribunal of the Ruling Senate on March 26–29 and sentenced to death by hanging. On April 3, 1881, five Pervomartovtsy were hanged, except for Gelfman, whose execution was postponed due to her pregnancy. Her execution was later commuted to indefinite penal servitude. She nevertheless died in prison of post-natal complications.

The second “First of March” was planned by members of the so-called Terrorist Faction of Narodnaya Volya, including [Vladimir Lenin’s older brother] Alexander Ulyanov. On March 1, 1887, they went to St. Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospect with bombs and waited for the Tsar’s carriage to pass by. However, they were arrested on the spot before his arrival. All fifteen conspirators, including Alexander Ulyanov and Pyotr Shevyryov (the main organizers), Pakhomy Andreyushkin, Vasily Generalov and Vasily Osipanov (the bombthrowers), and ten other people were tried by a Special Senate Committee on April 15–19 and sentenced. The first five men were hanged on May 8, 1887, while the rest were sentenced to prison, exile or penal servitude.

Source: Wikipedia. The article has been edited lightly to make it more readable. TRR

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A 1988 map of downtown Leningrad, showing Zhelyabova and Perovskya Streets (inside the red oval). The streets were renamed in memory of the People’s Will terrorists in October 1918. The streets reverted to their pre-Revolutionary names (Bolshaya and Malaya Konyushennaya Streets) only in October 1991. (Image courtesy of retromap.ru.)

Yet streets named in memory of their fellow People’s Will terrorists Alexander Ulanov and Nikolai Kibalchich are still firmly in place on the grid of post-Soviet Petersburg to this day.

Alexander Ulyanov Street, in Petersburg’s Okhta neighborhood
Kibalchich Street, in Petersburg’s southern Frunze District

Railroading Dmitry Buchenkov

How the Investigative Committee Interrogated Me in the Buchenkov Case (Bolotnaya Square Case)
Yaroslav Nikitenko
April 27, 2016
yaroslavn.livejournal.com

Yesterday, I went to the Investigative Committee for questioning in the Dmitry Buchenkov case (part of the Bolotnaya Square case).

Dmitry Buchenkov is one of the recent defendants in the case. He was arrested on December 2, 2016. The investigation has been plagued by gross violations from the get-go. Buchenkov’s attorney, Svetlana Sidorkina, was not allowed to see the accused. She was thus unable to defend him not only at his pre-trial custody hearing but was also unable to establish his whereabouts for several days. During this time, investigators were subjecting him to psychological pressure. Dmitry has been accused of involvement in rioting (Criminal Code Article 212.2), the rioting that, allegedly, took place on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on May 6, 2012, and of using non-life-threatening violence against officials. Dmitry and his loved ones have claimed he was not at Bolotnaya Square that day. He was visiting relatives in Nizhny Novgorod, and so could not have committed the crimes of which he has been accused. I am a witness in the case, because I have known Buchenkov for many years and was at Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012.

On December 11, 2015, a photograph of a “man in black,” whom investigators believe to be Dmitry Buchenkov, according to activists, appeared on the Internet.

I am the man in the white t-shirt standing next to the “man in black.”

I do not know the man in the black hoodie in this photograph or whether he inflicted a great deal harm on the policeman in body armor and helmet, but it is obvious to me he is not Dmitry Buchenkov.

When I saw the photograph and realized the man was not Dmitry, I contacted Svetlana Sidorkina and told her I could act as a witness in Dmitry’s case.

Later, I learned that the same man in black has been accused of upending port-a-potties on Bolotnaya Square on May 6. I can also testify that during this incident I was in the vicinity of the port-a-potties from the very beginning and nearby until the police finally dispersed everyone. Dmitry Buchenkov was not there.

Between the public garden and the embankment. I am in the middle in the white t-shirt. Photo courtesy of martin.livejournal.com
This is a bit closer to Bolotnaya Square. I am the person left of center in the white t-shirt. Photo courtesy of Yevgeny Feldman

The general sequence of events was as follows. I arrived at the Oktyabrskaya subway station, where the march started, approximately at the beginning of the event (i.e., 3 p.m.). I marched with the bloc of Pussy Riot supporters, and I was wearing a pink balaclava (which is dangling from my chest later in the photographs). On Malyi Kammenyi Bridge, our group and the LGBT bloc were attacked by provocateurs, who tried to snatch a flag. Then there was a sit-down strike near the Udarnik movie theater. I thought about sitting for a while too, but I didn’t like it very much. I could not get through to Bolotnaya Square, although I wanted to make it to the rally, because, it seemed, they were not allowing anyone to enter. Subsequently, closing the entrance to the square has been regarded as one of the numerous police provocations at the rally. Then someone seemingly decided to try and break through the police cordon. I am not sure whether I saw it myself or read it about later on the Internet, but the idea seemed pretty silly to me then and still seems that way now, because there were really a lot of police, and the people who broke through the first cordon probably went straight to the paddy wagons. At some point, stones started flying at the police. What I remember most of all was how the police split the crowd outside the Udarnik theater into several sections, and a huge column of cops ran through the empty space wielding batons and indiscriminately hitting the people standing along the sides.

Gradually, I moved closer to Bolotnaya Square. There, I stood for a while in a human chain with people who thought it might be an effective self-defense. But it wasn’t. Policemen armed with batons constantly attacked these people, hitting them and dragging individuals out of the crowd to arrest them. Then I remember that someone who looked a bit wild-eyed suggested we overturn the toilets, as if it were really important and could protect us from the mobs of police. Then everything [the contents of the port-a-potties? — TRR] spread out over the pavement, and even more police came running from the direction of Bolotnaya Square to disperse the group of people there as well. (This was between the public garden in Bolotnaya Square and the embankment.) I went back over Malyi Kammenyi Bridge around 8 p.m.

I also do not remember this tent being set up. (Although I cannot vouch for the fact it is the same tent I saw.) Photo courtesy of Yevgeny Feldman and Novaya Gazeta

The man in the photos bears no resemblance to the real Dmitry Buchenkov.

Dmitry Buchenkov. Photo courtesy of ad-sr.info
The man in black (left) and Buchenkov. Their noses and chins are shaped completely differently.

Read Dmitry Borko’s analysis for a detailed comparision of photographs of Buchenkov and the man in black. A criminal expert, cited by Borko, is certain that Buchenkov and the man in black are different people. Borko also lists psychological and political inconsistencies. Indeed, why did it take the police three and a half years to find an activist whose identity had long been know to them if photos and videos of him at Bolotnaya Square were, allegedly, plastered all over the Internet? I would remind you that Maxim Luzynanin, who was wearing a mask the whole time on May 6 and was virtually unknown within the protest movement, was located by police in May 2012.

The man in black felt quite at ease on Bolotnaya Square. He hit policemen, threw them on the pavement, tossed glass bottles at them, sprayed them with pepper spray, and overturned toilets. He clearly sensed his own impunity.

Photo courtesy of Yevgeny Gurko and OpenSpace.ru

As someone who has long been involved in protests and grassroots movements, I can say such behavior is virtually impossible for a very experienced activist. Anarchists and anti-fascists quite often cover their faces even at authorized rallies where nothing illegal is happening. Approximately half of civil society’s work involves defending unjustly accused comrades and political prisoners. Every longstanding activist (such as Buchenkov) is well aware that if activists with no ties to the authorities give them the slightest excuse, they will be jailed instantly, while even if they give them no excuse, the authorities will fabricate a case against them. It is obvious to me that no opposition activist could have behaved with such flagrant impunity. That means he could have been someone linked to the authorities, whose safety had been ensured in advance and who was handsomely remunerated. I do not believe he was a random person, because he was clearly well trained to do what he did. He avoided arrest and was armed with a pepper spray can. (For some reason, however, he did not wear a mask.) Civic activists clearly have nowhere to go where they could do such training. I think the man could only have been a specially trained intelligence officer, and this explains why he could not be found (probably because no one looked for him). It is another question why Buchenkov had to take the man in black’s place. It is quite possible the authorities want to put pressure on protest movement activists in the run-up to September’s parliamentary elections. (They are ready to jail anarchists and anti-fascists any time.) Besides, it is quite possible the security agencies do not always coordinate their actions, and arresting another man was a clear miscalculation on their part.

Compared to other protest rallies, there were a great number of provocations at Bolotnaya Square. Moreover, the authorities initially knew about them but did nothing to prevent them. In all likelihood, they took advantage (and set up many of them themselves).

The fact that the man in the photographs is not Dmitry Buchenkov is obvious to me and other people who know Dmitry personally.

Moreover, I did not see Dmitry Buchenkov on Bolotnaya Square at any point on May 6, 2012.

I was right next to the man in black during the incidents of which he has been accused (as listed above). Of course, my memory of the man has now faded. But if an acquaintance of mine had been next to me and the police had tried to beat him, and he had done the things the man in black did, I could not have failed to remember it.

It is impossible not to recognize an acquaintance who is at arm’s length from you. Besides, during the incident with the toilets there were many fewer people there; the crowd was considerably thinner. So not seeing and not recognizing an acquaintance of mine there (especially one who stuck out so much in terms of clothing and behavior, and was demonstratively at the very center of events) would also have been impossible.

Would the above-mentioned facts be meaningful in an objective investigation? In my opinion, they would be of primary importance. But my testimony proved fairly uninteresting to the actual investigation. On January 11, I wrote a letter to the Investigative Committee. I explained I was personally acquainted with Buchenkov, had been at Bolotnaya Square, and could act as a witness in the case. I received a formal reply from Major General R.R. Gabdulin of the major cases division.

“The information related in the letter will be taken into account during the investigation of the criminal case in question,” he wrote.

The investigators have probably already found policemen who probably had never seen Dmitry Buchenkov in their lives but have already testified they saw him, just as their higher-ups wanted them to do. Why would they need more witnesses? I believe this shows clear bias on the part of the investigation and an unwillingness to establish the truth. Policemen committed many crimes on Bolotnaya Square, but none of them has been punished. Where there is obvious bias there can be no justice.

The Investigative Committee’s reply to my letter

Suddenly, last Monday, April 24 (i.e., three months after I wrote my letter and four months after Buchenkov’s arrest), Investigator Uranov telephoned me and asked me to come to the Investigative Committee for questioning. Buchenkov’s attorney, Svetlana Sidorkina, had no longer been counting on my being summoned to the Investigative Committee as a witness and had put me on the list of defense witnesses. In this case, an investigator was obliged to question me.

Yesterday [Tuesday, April 26], my attorney and I arrived at the Investigative Committee at 12:30 p.m. (The investigator had initially scheduled us for 1 p.m., but an hour and a half before our meeting, he called and said the building’s security checkpoint closed at 1 p.m. and we had to be there earlier.)

There was a huge Saint George’s Ribbon (two hands’ long) hanging from Investigator Uranov’s desk lamp, and a picture of people convicted in the Bolotnaya Square Case, published on the website of the May 6 Committee, hung above his desk.

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Some of the people convicted in the Bolotnaya Square Case: Alexandra Dukhanina, Yaroslav Belousov, Andrei Barabanov, Artyom Savyolov, Denis Lutskevich, Alexei Polikhovich, Stepan Zimin, and Sergei Kriov, along with their sentences. Image courtesy of May 6 Committee. TRR

When we finished, the investigator made me sign an agreement not to disclose information from the preliminary investigation. He explained I could talk about what had happened on Bolotnaya, but I could not talk about what I had been asked during questioning and what testimony I had given. He also warned me I would be held criminally liable if case information were disclosed.

So I have not written here about what happened during the interrogation yesterday, and everything I have written in this post is either publicly available on the Internet or is my own personal knowledge and opinions and has nothing to do with the investigation’s classified information.

Just in case, I asked another lawyer friend whether I could write this.

“You know what the times are like now yourself. If they want to get you, they will find a crime to charge you with, so it’s better not to write,” he replied.

However, according to Article 161.2 of the Criminal Procedural Code, “The investigator or interrogating officers warns those involved in criminal proceedings of the inadmissibility of disclosing information from the preliminary investigation without proper authorization.”

So I decided to act in keeping with what the investigator himself had said, and another lawyer confirmed I could write about it. I think it is very important to testify publicly about what I saw at Bolotnaya Square and why Buchenkov had nothing to do with it, especially because I don’t know whether I will be able to do it in the future.

When I wrote that I had been summoned to the Investigative Committee in the Bolotnaya Square Case, very many friends of mine were worried. Many of them wrote that one could go from being a witness to a suspect almost in an instant. Many wrote that I had better not go. Everyone advised me to be careful. I can vouch for myself that I did nothing illegal on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, but it is clear they can easily fabricate a case and find a whole platoon of “witnesses,” as they have done many times before. I would only note that in a country that has the rule of law and where law enforcement agencies work to administer justice and protect the rights of citizens, this attitude on society’s part to the status of witnesses in criminal cases would be impossible.

And today, investigators began putting real pressure on me. The day after my questioning, the investigator suddenly telephoned and asked me to report to him tonight. Unfortunately, my attorney could not come with me tonight, so I offered to come with him tomorrow. Uranov (the man who, after Dmitry’s arrest, searched his parents’ flat in Nizhny Novgorod and did not inform his lawyer of his whereabouts) replied that this did not bother him very much.

“You can come with another lawyer or without a lawyer,” he said, adding, “You are a witness, after all.”

During his next call, Uranov informed me that my lawyer could not come at the time tomorrow I had just scheduled with him, because another investigator in the same case had summoned him. But then my lawyer told me he was not going on another case and was willing to go with me to questioning even at ten in the morning.

This entire conversation was conducted with me acting as the intermediary for some reason, and the investigator said several times I could find another lawyer. Uranov also insisted I not write about this on Facebook, but that I look for another lawyer and come to see him today: it was extremely urgent. Obviously, this way of doing things was illegal, because the impossibility of having a lawyer present during question is a legitimate excuse for failing to appear for questioning. Fortunately, realizing he would not be able to persuade me, the investigator agreed to reschedule the questioning to tomorrow, but he reminded me about administrative responsibility [for failing to respond to a summons — TRR] and repeated several times I could be forcibly brought in for questioning.  In any case, I would have filed a written statement that I would not take part in the investigation without a lawyer and would remain silent. But I would like to note that when investigators behave this way with witnesses, they are signaling to the public that witnesses in political cases will have problems.

My lawyer and I had met before in another case, and he had been at his best then. He is now also involved in the Bolotnaya Square case, and so it was quite important to me that he come with me. However, when I called him to say the investigator could question us tomorrow at ten in the morning, it transpired that all his papers had just been stolen and he would not be able to come tomorrow. I hope it has nothing to do with this case.

Many people have been quite demoralized by the Bolotnaya Square case, but I am not pessimistic. I have also found it painful over the last few years to see this injustice and hear that my acquaintances have been convicted or have been forced to leave the country. Society, however, is a complex system, and the political situation changes rapidly. Many of the prisoners of May 6 were convicted despite massive protests against the case. But that is no reason to give up. People who do not give up always have a chance of winning, and this is especially true in politics. I can see that the case against Dmitry Buchenkov has obviously been grossly fabricated. It is a complete failure on the part of the Bolotnaya Square case investigators, and whether or not you support Dmitry’s political views, you must talk about the case as much as possible.

We must fight back against the obviously unfair and unjust charges against Dmitry Buchenkov.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AK for the heads-up