Tango Noir: Full List of MEPs Who Voted against Resolution on Political Prisoners in Russia

Full list of Members of the European Parliament who voted against the resolution on political prisoners in Russia
Tango Noir (Anton Shekhovtsov)
June 16, 2018

On 14 June this year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that, in particular, demanded “that the Russian authorities immediately and unconditionally release Oleg Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and on the Crimean peninsula.”

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian filmmaker who lived in Crimea. He stayed there after Russia had annexed the Crimean peninsula; shortly after the annexation, Sentsov was arrested, forcibly “granted” Russian citizenship, falsely charged with terrorist activities and sentenced to 20 years.

Oleg Sentsov

On 14 May 2018, Sentsov went on an indefinite hunger strike demanding the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russia and Crimea: there are more than 70 of them. Sentsov is dying right now.

Out of 627 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), 485 voted for the resolution, 76 voted against, and 66 abstained. Here is a full list of MEPs who voted against the resolution on political prisoners in Russia and Crimea. It is hardly a coincidence that almost all the MEPs listed here represent the pro-Putin “red-brown alliance.”

NAME PARTY IDEOLOGY GROUP
 
Bulgaria
Georgi PIRINSKI Bulgarian Socialist Party Far-left S&D
 
Czech Republic  
Kateřina KONEČNÁ Komunistická strana Čech a Moravy Far-left GUE-NGL
 
Cyprus
Neoklis SYLIKIOTIS Progressive Party of Working People Far-left GUE-NGL
 
France
Marie-Christine ARNAUTU Front national Far-right ENF
Nicolas BAY Front national Far-right ENF
Joëlle BERGERON Independent [Front national] Far-right EFDD
Dominique BILDE Front national Far-right ENF
Marie-Christine BOUTONNET Front national Far-right ENF
Steeve BRIOIS Front national Far-right ENF
Aymeric CHAUPRADE Les Français Libres [Front national] Far-right EFDD
Jacques COLOMBIER Front national Far-right ENF
Mireille D’ORNANO Les Patriotes [Front national] Far-right EFDD
Sylvie GODDYN Front national Far-right ENF
Bruno GOLLNISCH Front national Far-right NI
Jean-François JALKH Front national Far-right ENF
France JAMET Front national Far-right ENF
Patrick LE HYARIC Front de Gauche Far-left GUE-NGL
Gilles LEBRETON Front national Far-right ENF
Dominique MARTIN Front national Far-right ENF
Bernard MONOT Front national Far-right ENF
Sophie MONTEL Les Patriotes [Front national] Far-right EFDD
Joëlle MÉLIN Front national Far-right ENF
Younous OMARJEE L’union pour les Outremer Far-left GUE-NGL
Jean-Luc SCHAFFHAUSER Rassemblement bleu Marine Far-right ENF
Mylène TROSZCZYNSKI Front national Far-right ENF
Marie-Christine VERGIAT Front de Gauche Far-left GUE-NGL
Marie-Pierre VIEU Front de Gauche Far-left GUE-NGL
 
Germany
Stefan ECK Independent [Partei Mensch Umwelt Tierschutz] Far-left GUE-NGL
Cornelia ERNST Die Linke Far-left GUE-NGL
Sabine LÖSING Die Linke Far-left GUE-NGL
Jörg MEUTHEN Alternative für Deutschland Far-right EFDD
Martina MICHELS Die Linke Far-left GUE-NGL
Martin SCHIRDEWAN Die Linke Far-left GUE-NGL
Helmut SCHOLZ Die Linke Far-left GUE-NGL
Gabriele ZIMMER Die Linke Far-left GUE-NGL
 
Greece
Nikolaos CHOUNTIS Popular Unity [Syriza] Far-left GUE-NGL
Georgios EPITIDEIOS Golden Dawn Far-right NI
Lampros FOUNTOULIS Golden Dawn Far-right NI
Stelios KOULOGLOU Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) Far-left GUE-NGL
Kostadinka KUNEVA Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) Far-left GUE-NGL
Konstantinos PAPADAKIS Communist Party of Greece Far-left NI
Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) Far-left GUE-NGL
Sofia SAKORAFA Independent [Syriza] Far-left GUE-NGL
Eleftherios SYNADINOS Independent [Golden Dawn] Far-right NI
Sotirios ZARIANOPOULOS Communist Party of Greece Far-left NI
 
Ireland
Luke Ming FLANAGAN Independent Far-left GUE-NGL
 
Italy
Mara BIZZOTTO Lega Nord Far-right ENF
Mario BORGHEZIO Lega Nord Far-right ENF
Angelo CIOCCA Lega Nord Far-right ENF
Eleonora FORENZA Lista Tsipras-L’Altra Europa Far-left GUE-NGL
Danilo Oscar LANCINI Lega Nord Far-right ENF
Curzio MALTESE Lista Tsipras-L’Altra Europa Far-left GUE-NGL
Giancarlo SCOTTA’ Lega Nord Far-right ENF
Barbara SPINELLI Independent [Lista Tsipras-L’Altra Europa] Far-left GUE-NGL
Marco ZANNI Independent [Movimento 5 Stelle] Far-right ENF
 
Latvia
Andrejs MAMIKINS “Saskaņa” sociāldemokrātiskā partija Centre-left S&D
 
Netherlands
Marcel de GRAAFF Partij voor de Vrijheid Far-right ENF
André ELISSEN Partij voor de Vrijheid Far-right ENF
Olaf STUGER Partij voor de Vrijheid Far-right ENF
Auke ZIJLSTRA Partij voor de Vrijheid Far-right ENF
 
Portugal
João FERREIRA Partido Comunista Português Far-left GUE-NGL
António MARINHO E PINTO Partido Democrático Republicano Centre-right ALDE/ADLE
Marisa MATIAS Bloco de Esquerda Far-left GUE-NGL
João PIMENTA LOPES Partido Comunista Português Far-left GUE-NGL
Miguel VIEGAS Partido Comunista Português Far-left GUE-NGL
 
Spain
Xabier BENITO ZILUAGA PODEMOS Far-left GUE-NGL
Javier COUSO PERMUY Izquierda Unida Far-left GUE-NGL
Tania GONZÁLEZ PEÑAS PODEMOS Far-left GUE-NGL
Paloma LÓPEZ BERMEJO Izquierda Unida Far-left GUE-NGL
Maria Lidia SENRA RODRÍGUEZ Alternativa galega de esquerda en Europa Far-left GUE-NGL
Lola SÁNCHEZ CALDENTEY PODEMOS Far-left GUE-NGL
Estefanía TORRES MARTÍNEZ PODEMOS Far-left GUE-NGL
Miguel URBÁN CRESPO PODEMOS Far-left GUE-NGL
 
United Kingdom
Janice ATKINSON Independent [UKIP] Far-right ENF
James CARVER UKIP Far-right EFDD
Steven WOOLFE Independent [UKIP] Far-right NI

_____________________________________________________

Editor’s Note: Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike for 35 days as of today, June 17, 2018. // TRR

#FreeSentsov
#SaveOlegSentsov

23 Days (#SaveOlegSentsov)

DesDUX8W4AM7n18Rally in support of Oleg Sentsov in Paris. Photo courtesy of Krym.Realii and Mediazona

Mediazona journalist Yegor Skovoroda writes that Ukrainian political prisoner and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike in a Russian penal colony for 23 days.

Filmmaker Askold Kurov, who made a terrific documentary film about Sentsov’s case, The Trial, has been to visit him there.

“He didn’t know any news. He didn’t know that [his co-defendant Simferopol anarchist Alexander] Kolchenko had gone on hunger strike. He didn’t call on anyone to join the hunger strike, especially Kolochenko, who is not in very good shape. But he feels solidarity with everyone who supports him. He knew nothing about the international campaign to support him, and he was quite grateful to everyone for not forgetting him,” said Kurov. “He continues to write and edit screenplays and stories. He has written a novel.”

Read the rest at Mediazona (in Russian) by following the link, below.

*****

Egor Skovoroda
Facebook
June 4, 2018

Олег Сенцов голодает уже 23-й день. Режиссер Аскольд Куров встретился с ним в колонии

«Он не знал никаких новостей, не знал, что Кольченко объявил голодовку. Он никого не призывает присоединяться к голодовке, особенно Кольченко, который в не очень хорошем физическом состоянии. Но он солидарен с каждым, кто его поддерживает. Он ничего не знал про всемирную кампанию в его поддержку, и он очень благодарен всем за то, что его не забывают, — рассказал Куров. — Он продожает писать, поправлять уже готовые свои сценарии, рассказы; он написал роман».

https://zona.media/chronicle/sentsov-strike

#free64

sentsov-free 64

The logo, above, was designed by the fabulous Petersburg activists Grigory Mikhnov-Voytenko and Natalia Sivohina, who had it printed on t-shirts.

You should do the same.

The slogan on the bottom reads, “Your freedom is our freedom.”

“64” refers to the number of Ukrainian political prisoners currently incarcerated by the Russian Federation. (Although there are claims that the Kremlin has imprisoned 69 Ukrainian political prisoners.)

Ukrainian political prisoner and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is currently serving a 20-year sentence of trumped-up charges in a maximum-security prison camp north of the Arctic Circle, has been on an indefinite hunger strike for nearly three weeks. His only demand is that the Kremlin release all the Ukrainian political prisoners it has in captivity.

So, as some of Grigory and Natalia’s interlocutors suggested on Facebook, the hashtag could read, “#Free64_SaveSentsov.”

In any case, if you write to them via Facebook, they will be happy to send you the full-sized file of the logo for printing on t-shirts, cloth bags or any other convenient, publicly visible surface.

sentsov-sivohinaGrigory and Natalia modeling the Oleg Sentsov solidarity t-shirts they designed. Photo courtesy of their Facebook pages. All of progressive humanity should be wearing t-shirts like these to bring attention to Sentsov’s struggle against the Kremlin.

The Conscience of Petersburg and the Conscience of Ukraine

osipova-sentsov-nevsky-1 june 2018Artist Yelena Osipova, protesting on the corner of Nevsky Prospect and Malaya Sadovaya in Petersburg four hours ago. Her placard reads, “2018, the 21st century. A filmmaker gets twenty years [in prison] for dissidence. Oleg Sentsov is on hunger strike. He demands the release of sixty-four Ukrainians from Russian prisons. Save him. Don’t be silent.” Photo by Yekaterina Bogach

UPDATE. Yelena Osipova was detained by police two hours later. Grigory Mikhnov-Voytenko captured the arrest on video. Thanks to Comrade Nastia for the heads-up. 

______________________

Fears grow for hunger-striking Ukrainian film director Sentsov
AFP
June 1, 2018

Fears grew on Thursday for the health of Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who has declared a hunger strike in a Russian prison, with a politician who spoke to him via video link saying he appeared unwell and warning “this could end badly.”

The 41-year-old went on hunger strike on May 14, demanding that Moscow release all its Ukrainian political prisoners as Russia prepares to host the 2018 World Cup next month.

Sentsov, a pro-Ukrainian activist and documentary director, was detained in Crimea in 2014 after Russia annexed the peninsula. He was accused of masterminding arson attacks.

Sentsov, who denied the allegations, is serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted on terrorism charges.

Politician and media star Ksenia Sobchak said she spoke to Sentsov in a video call on Thursday and tried to persuade him to halt his hunger strike but he refused.

“I am horrified because I understand that he looks like a man who will go all the way,” she told liberal radio Echo of Moscow.

“And, honestly speaking, this frightened me,” she said, adding that her mother, Lyudmila Narusova, [a member of the Federation Council], helped organize the call to Sentsov’s prison.

“I have a feeling that this hunger strike will end badly,” she said.

“He is very pale, very thin,” she said, adding that his teeth have begun to crumble.

On Monday, Russia’s prison service said Sentsov agreed to “receive supportive therapy,” without providing further details.

The prison service said his condition was “satisfactory.”

Sentsov’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze said on Thursday he had no recent contact with his client but was going to visit him on Monday.

He said the director was stable, but confirmed Sentsov had lost two teeth.

“The climate does not agree with him,” he said, adding that there was no dentist in his prison so teeth have to be pulled out.

Top opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is serving a 30-day sentence over organising an illegal protest, called on President Vladimir Putin to release more than 60 “Ukrainian political prisoners” including Sentsov.

“His feat, and his sacrifice, and his death will put him on a par with Bobby Sands, (Anatoly) Marchenko, and other titans of humankind,” he wrote on his blog, adding Putin should want to avoid this.

Irish nationalist Sands died in prison in 1981 after 66 days on hunger strike, while Soviet dissident Anatoly Marchenko died in prison in 1986 after a three-month-long hunger strike for the release of Soviet prisoners of conscience.

Zeitgeist Checklist

taste real mexicoA Williamsburg-inspired eatery in snowy central Petersburg, 5 February 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

It’s remarkable how the MH17 final report and Ukrainian political prisoner and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike have exacerbated two sad trends among Russia’s left/liberal/creative/academic intelligentsia.

The first trend involves intelligenty out-Putining Putin and his regime’s put-on anti-Americanism by ramping up the number of social media posts and hasbarical hate-a-grams about the US, its sinister machinations, and its signal failings.

This is part of the same operetta in which the nefarious NATO is a greater threat to world peace than a country that reserves the right to invade its closest neighbor and join in crushing a democratic, grassroots rebellion in a faraway country whose people have never harmed Russia in any shape or form.

But it’s no fun talking, much less doing anything, about that at all, because it would require real collective effort. So, depending on your political tastes, it’s much easier, as a Russophone, to hate on NATO or Hamas.

Some Russians go for the trifecta, hating on both “terrorist” organizations, while also indulging in the most satisfying infantile pleasure on our planet today: Islamophobia. You know, Europe has been overrun by Islamic terrorists and that whole tired spiel, which gives such a sense of purpose to otherwise wildly ignorant people who have betrayed their own country and countrymen so many ways over the last 25 or 30 years it should make all our heads spin.

The other trend, which has also kicked into high gear again, is going hipster as hard as you can. There are any number of “projects,” “creative clusters,” eating and drinking establishments, festivals, semi-secret dance parties, and god knows what else in “the capitals” to make the younger crowd and even some of the middle-aged set forget they live in a country ruled by a ultra-reactionary kleptocratic clique that can have any of them abducted for any reason whatsoever at a moment’s notice and charged with “involvement in a terrorist community” or some such nonsense and ruin their lives forever.

That’s no fun to think about it, either, and it’s altogether scary to do something about it, so why not pretend you live in Williamsburg while you can?

The day before yesterday, I translated and posted an essay, by Maria Kuvshinova, about Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike and the non/reaction to this brave call to action on the part of Russia’s creative so-called intelligentsia. At some point, I thought the essay might be a bit off the mark, but on second thought, despite its obvious quirks, I decided Ms. Kuvshinova had sized up the Russian zeitgeist perfectly.

Post-Soviet infantilism is total. It affects the so-called intelligentsia no less than the so-called ordinary folk. Infantilism means being unable to empathize, being unable to put yourself in another person’s shoes, even if that person is President Putin, a man with a quite distinct sense of ethics, a man who has been studied backwards and forwards for twenty years. Apparently, the message sent to the creative communities through the arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov was not registered. If you want to be a dissident, start down the hard road of doing jail time for misdemeanor charges, facing insuperable difficulties in renting performance and exhibition spaces, becoming an outsider, and experiencing despair. If you want a big theater in downtown Moscow, play by the rules. Like your average late-Soviet philistine, Putin regarded the creative intelligentsia with respect at the outset of his presidential career. (See, for example, footage from his visit to Mosfilm Studios in 2003.) However, a few years later, he was convinced the creative intelligentsia was a rampantly conformist social group who would never move even a millimeter out of its comfort zone and would make one concession after another. A lack of self-respect always generates disrespect in counterparts. // TRR

Maria Kuvshinova: What Sentsov Could Die For

What Sentsov Could Die For
Maria Kuvshinova
Colta.Ru
May 25, 2018

Detailed_pictureOleg Sentsov. Photo by Sergei Pivovarov. Courtesy of RIA Novosti and Colta.Ru 

On May 14, 2018, Oleg Sentsov went on an indefinite hunger strike in a penal colony located north of the Arctic Circle. His only demand is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. According to Memorial’s list, there are twenty-four such prisoners.

In August 2015, Sentsov was sentenced to twenty years for organizing a terrorist community and planning terrorist attacks. The second defendant in the case, Alexander Kolchenko, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Mediazona has published transcripts of the hearings in their trial. Around three hundred people have read them over the last three years. The transcripts make it plain the only evidence of the alleged terrorist organization’s existence was the testimony of Alexei Chirniy, who was not personally acquainted with Sentsov. It is police footage of Chirniy’s arrest while he was carrying a rucksack containing a fake explosive device that propagandists often pass off as police footage of Sentsov’s arrest.

Before his arrest, Sentsov was an Automaidan activist. In the spring of 2014, he organized peaceful protests against Crimea’s annexation by Russia.

“Yesterday’s ‘suicide bomber auto rally’ took place in Simferopol yesterday, but in quite abridged form,” Sentsov wrote on Facebook on March 12, 2014. “Only eight cars, six reporters with cameras, and twenty-five activists/passengers assembled at the starting point. I would have liked to have seen more. Unfortunately, most of the armchair revolutionaries who were invited were afraid to go. The traffic cops and regular police also showed up at the starting line, insisting we not leave for our own safety. We told them our protest was peaceful. We had no plans of breaking the rules, so we suggested they escort us to keep the peace for everyone’s sake.”

The second defendant, Kolchenko, admitted involvement in the arson of an office that was listed in the case file as belonging to the United Russia Party, but which in April 2014 was an office of Ukraine’s Party of Regions. The arson took place at night. It was meant to cause physical damage while avoiding injuring anyone.

The Russian authorities tried to prove both Sentsov and Kolchenko were linked with Right Sector, a charge that was unsubstantiated in Sentsov’s case and absurd in the latter case due to Kolchenko’s well-known leftist and anarchist convictions. Gennady Afanasyev, the second witness on whose testimony the charges against the two men were based, claimed he had been tortured and coerced into testifying against them.

Sentsov and Kolchenko’s show trial, like the show trials in the Bolotnaya Square Case, were supposed to show that only a handful of terrorists opposed the referendum on Crimea’s annexation and thus intimidate people who planned to resist assimilation. The Russian authorities wanted to stage a quick, one-off event to intimidate and crack down on anti-Russian forces. But two circumstances prevented the repressive apparatus from working smoothly. The first was that the defendants did not make a deal with prosecutors and refused to acknowledge the trial’s legitimacy. The second was that Automaidan activist Oleg Sentsov unexpectedly turned out to be a filmmaker, provoking a series of public reactions ranging from protests by the European Film Academy to questions about whether cultural producers would be capable of blowing up cultural landmarks. Segments of the Russian film community reacted to the situation with cold irritation. According to them, Sentsov was a Ukrainian filmmaker, not a Russian filmmaker, and he was not a major filmmaker. The owner of a computer club in Simferopol, his semi-amateur debut film, Gamer, had been screened at the festivals in Rotterdam and Khanty-Mansiysk, while release of his second picture, Rhino, had been postponed due to Euromaidan.

The Ukrainian intelligentsia have equated Sentsov with other political prisoners of the empire, such as the poet Vasyl Stus, who spent most of his life in Soviet prisons and died in Perm-36 in the autumn of 1985, a week after he had gone on yet another hunger strike. The Ukrainian authorities see Sentsov, a Crimean who was made a Russian national against his will and is thus not eligible for prisoner exchanges, as inconvenient, since he smashes the stereotype of the treacherous peninsula, a part of Ukraine bereft of righteous patriots. Sentsov’s death on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup would be a vexing, extremely annoying nuisance to the Russian authorities.

Sentsov is an annoyance to nearly everyone, but he is a particular annoyance to those people who, while part of the Russian establishment, have openly defended him, although they have tried with all their might to avoid noticing what an inconvenient figure he has been. Although he was not a terrorist when he was arrested, he has become a terrorist of sorts in prison, because his trial and his hunger strike have been a slowly ticking time bomb planted under the entire four-year-long post-Crimean consensus, during which some have been on cloud nine, others have put down stakes, and still others have kept their mouths shut. Yet everyone reports on the success of their new endeavors on Facebook while ignoring wars abroad and torture on the home front. Sentsov represents a rebellion against hybrid reality and utter compromise, a world in which Google Maps tells you Crimea is Russian and Ukrainian depending on your preferences. To what count does “bloodlessly” annexed Crimea belong, if, four years later, a man is willing to die to say he does not recognize the annexation?

The success of Gamer on the film festival circuit, which made Sentsov part of the international film world, and his current address in a prison north of the Arctic Circle beg three questions. What is culture? Who produces culture? What stances do cultural producers take when they produce culture? There are several possible answers. Culture is a tool for reflection, a means for individuals and societies to achieve self-awareness and define themselves. It is not necessarily a matter of high culture. In this case, we could also be talking about pop music, fashion, and rap. (See, for example, the recent documentary film Fonko, which shows how spontaneous music making has gradually been transformed into a political force in post-colonial Africa.) On the contrary, culture can be a means of spending leisure time for people with sufficient income, short work days, and long weekends.

Obviously, the culture produced in Russia today under the patronage of Vladimir Medinsky’s Culture Ministry is not the first type of culture, with the exception of documentary theater and documentary cinema, but the founders of Theater.Doc have both recently died, while Artdocfest has finally been forced to relocate to Riga. The compromised, censored “cultural production” in which all the arts have been engaged has no way of addressing any of the questions currently facing Russia and the world, from shifts in how we view gender and the family (for which you can be charged with the misdemeanor of “promoting homosexualism”) to the relationship between the capitals and regions (for which you can charged with the felony of “calling for separatism”). Crimea is an enormous blank spot in Russian culture. Donbass and the rest of Ukraine, with which Russia still enjoyed vast and all-pervasive ties only five years ago, are blank spots. But cultural producers have to keep on making culture, and it is easier to say no one is interested in painful subjects and shoot a film about the complicated family life of a doctor with a drinking problem and a teetotalling nurse.

When we speak of the second type of culture—culture as leisure—we primarily have in mind Moscow, which is brimming over with premieres, lectures, and exhibitions, and, to a much lesser extent, Russia’s other major cities. So, in a country whose population is approaching 150 million people, there is a single international film festival staged by a local team for its hometown, Pacific Meridian in Vladivostok. All the rest are produced by Moscow’s itinerant three-ring circus on the paternalist model to the delight of enlightened regional governors. It matters not a whit that one of them ordered a brutal assault on a journalist, nor that another was in cahoots with the companies responsible for safety at the Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam, where 75 people perished in 2009. What matters is that the festival movement should go on. There is no room in this model for local cultural progress. There can be no free discussion generated by works of art when everyone is engaged in total self-censorship. After I went to Festival 86 in Slavutych, whose curators have been conceptually reassessing the post-Soviet individual and the post-Soviet space, I found it painful to think about Russian film festivals. This sort of focused conceptualization is impossible in Russia. It is of no interest to anyone.

There are two more possible answers to the question of what culture is. Culture is propaganda. Or, finally, culture is only the marquee on a commercial enterprise profiting at the taxpayer’s expense. It is not a big choice, and the kicker is that by agreeing today to be involved in churning out propaganda, milking taxpayers, supplying optional leisure time activities, producing censored works, and colonizing one’s own countrymen for the sake of money, status, and membership in a professional community, the people involved in these processes automatically stop making sense. It is naïve to think the audience has not noticed this forfeiture. It is no wonder the public has an increasingly hostile reaction to cultural producers and their work.

No one has the guts to exit this vicious circle even in protest at the slow suicide of a colleague convicted on trumped-up charges, because it would not be “practical.” The events of recent months and years, however, should have transported us beyond dread, since everyone without exception is now threatened with being sent down, the innocent and the guilty alike.

Post-Soviet infantilism is total. It affects the so-called intelligentsia no less than the so-called ordinary folk. Infantilism means being unable to empathize, being unable to put yourself in another person’s shoes, even if that person is President Putin, a man with a quite distinct sense of ethics, a man who has been studied backwards and forwards for twenty years. Apparently, the message sent to the creative communities through the arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov was not registered. If you want to be a dissident, start down the hard road of doing jail time for misdemeanor charges, facing insuperable difficulties in renting performance and exhibition spaces, becoming an outsider, and experiencing despair. If you want a big theater in downtown Moscow, play by the rules. Like your average late-Soviet philistine, Putin regarded the creative intelligentsia with respect at the outset of his presidential career. (See, for example, footage from his visit to Mosfilm Studios in 2003.) However, a few years later, he was convinced the creative intelligentsia was a rampantly conformist social group who would never move even a millimeter out of its comfort zone and would make one concession after another. A lack of self-respect always generates disrespect in counterparts.

By signing open letters while remaining inside the system and not backing their words with any actions whatsoever, the cultural figures currently protesting the arrests of colleagues are viewed by the authorities as part of the prison’s gen pop, while people who live outside Moscow see them as accomplices in looting and genocide. No one takes seriously the words of people who lack agency. Agency is acquired only by taking action, including voluntarily turning down benefits for the sake of loftier goals. The acquisition of agency is practical, because it is the only thing that compels other people to pay heed to someone’s words. I will say it again: the acquisition of agency is always practical. At very least, it generates different stances from which to negotiate.

Sentsov has made the choice between sixteen years of slow decay in a penal colony and defiant suicide in order to draw attention not to his own plight, but to the plight of other political prisoners. Regardless of his hunger strike’s outcome, he has generated a new scale for measuring human and professional dignity. It is an personal matter whether we apply the scale or not, but now it is impossible to ignore.

Thanks to Valery Dymshits for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Comrade to Comrade

1465990524-5252Crimean political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Alexander Kolchenko during their so-called trial by a Russian kangaroo court. Photo courtesy of Unian Information Agency

Alexander Kolchenko, Convicted in the Case of the “Crimean Terrorists,” Writes a Letter to Oleg Sentsov
Mediazona
May 22, 2018

Antifascist Alexander Kolchenko, convicted in the Case of the “Crimean Terrorists,” has written a letter to filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is in the ninth day of a hunger strike meant to force the Russian authorities to release all Ukrainian political prisoners from the country’s prisons. Mediazona was told about the letter by attorney Svetlana Sidorkina.

According to Sidorkina, Kolchenko was afraid the censor would not pass the letter on to Sentsov, so he gave her a detailed acount of its contents when she visited Kolchenko at Corrective Colony No. 6 in the town of Kopeysk.

“In the letter he wrote that, in his opinion, a hunger strike was an effective means of defense only in cases in which a country valued its reputation. Alexander believes that, in Oleg’s case, Russia could ignore his hunger strike, but not let him die by forcibly feeding and sending him off for a psychiatric examination. Sergei Magnitsky’s death changed nothing in Russia. Instead, the Dima Yaklovev Law was adopted. He did not try and dissuade Oleg, since he knows Oleg is stubborn and does not change his mind. He is quite concerned for his health, since he knows what the climate and living conditions are like in Labytnangi from prisoners he met when he and Oleg were in transit to the prisons where they would serve their sentences. Although Alexander doesn’t agree with Oleg’s method, he respects his stance on freeing Ukrainian political prisoners from Russian prisons and is ready to support Oleg if he needs to,” said Sidorkina.

Sidorkina tried to dissuade Kolchenko from a possible hunger strike by pointing to his health problems and the fact he is underweight. Because of this, he is on a special diet.

Aside from the letter to Sentsov, Kolchenko wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin demanding he intervene in the situation and release Sentsova. Kolchenko, however, was afraid the censor would also prevent the letter from reaching its addressee.

Kolchenko added he had no complaints about conditions in the penal colony. According to Sidorkin, he looked cheerful, but was quite worried about Sentsova. Sidorkina had wanted to show him articles about the Ukrainian filmmaker’s hunger strike, but penal colony staff stopped her from doing so.

In 2015, a court sentenced Kolchenko and Sentsov to ten years and twenty years, respectively, in maximum security penal colonies. According to police investigators, in 2014, Sentsov established a “terrorist community” (illegal under Article 205.4 Part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code). Members of the alleged community supposedly set fire to the doors of the Russian Community of Crimea and the windows of a United Russia Party office. These actions were deemed terrorist attacks, punishable under Article 205 Part 2 Paragraph A of the Criminal Code.

In addition, police investigators insisted members of the alleged “terrorist community” were planning to blow up a monument to Lenin and the Eternal Flame, punishable under Article 30 Part 1 and Article 205 Part 2 Paragraph A. Sentsov was also charged with trafficking in arms and explosives as part of a group, punishable by Article 222 Part 3. Kolchenko was found guilty of involvement in the alleged terrorist community and planning terrorist attacks on the Crimean Peninsula. Both men have denied their guilt.

In the spring of 2016, Sentsov was transported to a penal colony in Yakutia, but in 2017 he was transferred to the White Bear Colony in Labytnangi. In the winter of 2017, the Ukrainian authorities announced they were prepared to exchange Russian prisoners for Sentsov and Kolchenko. On May 14 of this year, Sentsov announced he was going on an indefinite hunger strike to secure the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia.

Translated by the Russian Reader