“My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately” (Berlin, February 1-3, 2020)

network exhibition

“My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately”/”Meiner Aussage getreu protokolliert”

An Exhibition in Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Russia
Living Gallery Berlin, February 1-3, 2020

Exhibition opening and roundtable, 5 p.m., February 1, 2020, with simultaneous translation from Russian to German, exhibition closing and auction, 7 p.m., February 3, 2020

Living Gallery Berlin presents a group show of works by Russian anarchists and antifascists, as well as artists in solidarity with them.

The Network Case is a high-profile political trial in Russia. Ten activists from Penza and Petersburg have been in police custody for over two years, accused of involvement in a “terrorist community” known as the Network. They were subjected to torture with electrical shocks, beatings, and psychological and physical coercion to force them to confess. Their trials are coming to a close, but most of have denied their guilt and demanded an investigation of their allegations of torture. The defendants face sentences ranging from six years to eighteen years in prison.

The exhibition was created in Petersburg by the team behind Rupression.com, which has been publicizing the Network Case in solidarity with the young activists, who were brutally arrested and have been accused of absurd crimes. The artwork they have produced in police custody is part of their fight for freedom and dignity. The exhibition gives them a chance to speak.

The exhibition also features works by contemporary artists from Russia, Ukraine, France, Chile, and Sweden. They meditate on state-sponsored violence, torture, crackdowns, imprisonment, and absurd accusations.

The exhibition has already been shown five times in Russia: three times at various venues in Petersburg, and one time each in Moscow and Penza. The Berlin showing will be the first time the exhibition has been presented abroad.

The opening on February 1, 2020, will feature a guided tour of the show and a round table on political prisoners in Russia today, moderated by Olga Romanova, head of Russia Behind Bars. Former Russian political prisoners, as well as political exiles who faced persecution in Russia in connection with the Network Case, have been invited to attend.

The exhibition closes February 3. The closing will feature a charity auction at which you can buy works presented in the show and thus help the defendants in the Network Case, whose families constantly need money for legal and humanitarian aid to the prisoners. Poet Alexander Delfinov will serve as the auctioneer.

During all three days of the exhibition, there will be tours of the show in English and German, as needed. Exhibition goers will be able to write letters and postcards with words of support to the political prisoners, as well as buying merch from Rupression.com’s campaign. Proceeds from the sale will also be used to support the political prisoners in the Network Case.

The exhibition is organized with support from Memorial Deutschland and Dekabristen e.V.

Living Gallery Berlin
Kollwitzstraße 53
10405 Berlin

The gallery is opening from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the heads-up. A few minor factual errors in the original announcement have been corrected. Exhibition view (above) courtesy of the organizers. Translated by the Russian Reader

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If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and other recent cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other arms of the Russian police state, read and share the articles I have posted on these subjects.

Olga Romanova: How “Law Enforcement” Works in Russia

calvey
Michael Calvey in court. Photo by Maxim Shemetov. Courtesy of Reuters and Republic

“We Give You Serebrennikov and You Give us Calvey”: How Law Enforcement Works
Olga Romanova
Republic
May 13, 2019

“Who would make the decision about your arrest?”

“My colleagues would betray me, but they would vet it with my bosses.”

“What about Vasya [a big businessman]?”

“Cops, the economic security squad. It’s enough for the word to come down from the district office to grab him. Vasya is a respected person. He’s a thief.”

“And me?”

“You’re an enemy of the state. If the neighborhood cops can decide to arrest Vasya, the Secret Chamber, so to speak, would have to give the orders to arrest you. The decision to arrest you would be made by no one lower ranked than Bortnikov’s deputy, although you’re naked and barefoot, and no one would ask the prosecutor’s office or the Investigative Committee to go after you. It’s creepy and pointless.”

This should give you an idea of the conversations I have with my acquaintances in the security forces nowadays. It helps to do business with people who know the score. None of them is surprised when you ask them who would arrest someone, how they would do it, and when they would do it. Everything would have been planned long ago, and there are no illusions. If a person has to be placed under arrest and charged, it is going to happen. If they do not need to be indicted, they can be kept in custody for a while. No one remembers, even for appearance’s sake, that there are courts in Russia, and courts decide whether to remand someone in custody after hearing arguments by all the interested parties. Everyone knows the decisions are not made in court.

Who Makes the Decisions?
Who made the decision to arrest Kirill Serebrennikov? Who decided to let him go for the time being? Who arrested Michael Calvey and the employees of Baring Vostok? Who let them out of jail? Why? Who made the decision to arrest Mikhail Abyzov?

There is no one with whom you can talk about these cases.

This is not quite true. My sources in all the law enforcement and security agencies, who can be frank with me as long as they remain anonymous, talk to me about these cases, too, but they look really worried when they do.

Rank-and-file law enforcement officers are confused. They do not understand why someone decided to back off the Serebrennikov case so abruptly and quickly. The train was rushing the director and filmmaker towards a sentence of the four years or so in the camps when a powerful hand jerked hard on the brakes. The passengers jumped off the train, of course, for they didn’t want to keep traveling in that direction, but the trainmaster, driver, and conductors were completely at a loss.

What should they do with the next train and its contingent of VIP passengers? Should they railroad them, as they were ordered to do, or should they avoid hurrying the case? After the emergency brake has been pulled, everyone emerges with injuries and bumps. Some of the crew were counting on promotions after they had wrapped up such a big case. Other members of the crew were acting on orders from a celestial. He will not forgive them because now they know there are tougher celestials in the system. He cannot forgive the people involved in the case for knowing that fact nor can he forgive the other celestials for intervening. The passengers could not care less. Either they get to where they are going or they do not get there, but the crew is always aboard the train.

True, a smart alec from the Investigative Committee told me something interesting about the procedural aspect.

“Why is everyone so angry? The Serebrennikov case was sent back to the prosecutor’s office, so what? You saw that the court ordered a forensic examination. The first forensic examination was really crooked. The judge in the trial of Serebrennikov’s accountant, Nina Maslyaeva,  wondered why everyone was so glad. Serebrennikov’s case would now be sent back to the prosecutor’s office because his circumstances are the same as Maslyaeva’s. You are mixing up cause and effect. The judge in the Maslyaeva case cannot reach a verdict because he understands the outcome of the forensic examination, which was the same as in the Serebrennikov case, will now be different, and Maslayeva will have to be re-indicted in the light of the new forensic examination in the Serebrennikov case.”

Translated into ordinary language, he means the case can still go any which way. Procedurally, all the cards are still on the table, and the haggling could continue. Things could go one way or the other. The powers that be could change their minds and send Serebrennikov to prison, but they could also let him go. They could arrest him again and send him down. The statute of limitations is a flexible thing.

Somewhere above the clouds, the thunder gods fight over the case. Invisible to the world, they communicate with ordinary people by making motions to conduct additional forensic examinations. Ordinary people make of it what they will. Police investigators are also part of the rank and file, part and parcel of Russia’s unwashed masses.

In ordinary times, this is not what happens to ordinary defendants in ordinary cases. Everyone would have gone down five years each per capita, and no would have batted an eye. In this case, the decisions are obviously political. Look who made the decision! Who telephoned whom? What levers did they use? Who or what did they offer in exchange? Freebies are for freaks, after all. We will return to this subsequently when we discuss other factors.

If the boring procedural hypothesis made by my anonymous source at the Investigative Committee is right, events should unfold as follows. The authorities will get the results of the new forensic examination in the Serebrennikov case. If the total damages are less than was claimed earlier (or, say, there were, miraculously, no damages at all), the charges against Serebrennikov and the other defendants will be dropped right in the courtroom. If, on the contrary, the sum of the damages is more or less hefty, a million rubles, at least, the defendants will be found guilty and sentenced to prison. Then you can appeal the verdict wherever you like.

No one would ask why a particular ruling was made. No one would ask what happened. Why are some people treated one way, while others are treated another way? The foot soldiers of law enforcement know the score. But when they do not know the score, they know it is better not to ask whether a mistake has been made but to follow orders.

How Things Go Down
The Calvey case bears a strong resemblance to the case against Vladimir Yevtushenkov. Yevtushenkov failed to take the hints. He was told directly what to do but refused to hand over his business. Then he was arrested and given a good talking. He and his captors came to an understanding. He was released and his business confiscated. Unlike Yevtushenkov, however, Calvey is as poor as a church mouse. Compared with Yevtushenkov, that is. Calvey does not own a Bashneft, after all.

The foot soldiers in the security forces have not been particularly surprised about how the Calvey case has unfolded. They expected something of the sort. They expected him to “cash out,” as they call it, and they believe he has, in fact, cashed out. They are uninterested in what this meant. It is not their war, and the spoils are not theirs to claim.

We should look at this more closely.

My source, whom I  trust, albeit warily, explains the obvious to me.

“All cases are business as usual except the cases in which there a phone call,” he says.

I have two questions for him right off the bat. What does he mean by “business as usual”? Who usually makes the  “phone call”?

He explains that people who follow high-profile cases and comment on them fail to take one important factor into account in their arguments. The high-profile cases are handled by another agency as it were. They involve the same players: the prosecutor’s offices, the courts, the remand prisons, and the Investigative Committee. All of them realize, however, when they are handling a special case involving the interests of high-ranking officials and elite businessmen. In these cases, they need to keep close track of which way the wind blows.

The bulk of cases are “mundane.” There is a huge number of such cases, and they can drag on forever. Take, for example, the Baltstroy case, the case of police anti-corruption investigator Boris Kolesnikov, and the case of ex-deputy culture minister Grigory Pirumov, cases that everyone has forgotten, and the Oboronservis case, the cases of the banks implicated in the so-called Russian Laundromat, and the case of Alexander Grigoriev, the man, allegedly, behind the Laundromat, who was mixed up with Putin’s cousin Igor Putin. New indictments in these cases are made all the time. More and more defendants are convicted in these cases and sent down. It never stops, but public interest in these cases is almost nil.

There are cases that collapse, however. Why does this happen?

Why was the case of ex-economics minister Alexei Ulyukayev not reviewed on appeal? Why was his prison sentence not reduced by four years during the sentencing appeal hearing? Does anyone know why? Perhaps the political spin doctors get it, but Russia’s law enforcers do not have a clue. What they understand is when an order comes down to reduce a sentence and when it does not. They leave the blabbing to the spin doctors.

Alexei Fedyarov is a former prosecutor from Chuvashia. Nowadays, he is the head of our legal department at Russia Behind Bars. He gave me permission to quote him.

“It happens. A case is going fine. In the morning, you have a meeting with your superiors. They tell you everything is great, keep pushing, you’ve got the bastards. I was handling a case against the management of the Khimprom factory in Novocheboksarsk. At briefings, I was told my group and I were doing a great job. We had done the initial investigation beautifully and now it was time to detain the suspects, remand them in custody, and put them away. I went to my office, where the city prosecutor was waiting for me. He asked me to hand over the case file. I gave him the case file and he told me it was over, I should forget it. He was personally going to deliver the case file to the head prosecutor of the republic and that would be the end of it.  There would be no supporting documentation or anything. The case really did disappear, although an hour before I had been told to push it.

“During that hour, the head prosecutor of the republic had got a message from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. A call from a deputy prosecutor general was enough for them to take the whole thing back, despite the fact it was a big, interesting case involving illegal wiretapping throughout the company and even the local police department and the tax police office. We had found tons of recorded conversations: they recorded everything. They were trying to protect themselves and investigate other people.”

Sources of the “Telephone Call”
How does the “telephone call” work?

The “telephone call” is a conventional name for the outcome of lengthy negotiations. We see only the reflection of this process: Calvey’s arrest, his transfer to house arrest, Serebrennikov’s arrest and his release on his own recognizance, Abyzov’s arrest.

I am going to quote my anonymous source verbatim. In this instance, the way he says what he says is as important as what he says.

“Anyone can hit the brakes. It could be Bortnikov. It could be Chaika. But it is the outcome of agreements among people, not an arbitrary decision. They do not do things that way. Maybe new factors have been brought into play, but there has to be someone who wants to negotiate on behalf of the accused person, who appeals on his behalf. He would be told, ‘Okay, fine. But you have to give us such-and-such in exchange.” Then it is a matter of talking with Lebedev [Chief Justice of the Russian Supreme Court] and everything is put into reverse. It could be like, ‘We’ll give up Serebrennikov if you take the heat off Calvey.’ You see, the siloviki are not all on the same side. There is no longer one side. Not even everyone in the FSB or its departments is on the same side. The Constitutional Department fights with the Anti-Terrorism Department. It’s the same thing in the prosecutor’s office and the Investigative Committee. In the Investigative Committee, there is the group loyal to Bastrykin and then they are the boys from the North Caucasus. There are also the guys from Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, who are filthy rich but live orderly lives and are also capable of getting things done.

“Anything goes at this level. Why are you inclined to exaggerate how this works? Number One basically does not care about this stuff.”

I should try and explain.

The Investigative Committee and Prosecutor General’s Office are still at serious loggerheads. The conflict has even intensified. It is a personal conflict and a clash of business interests and a fight over resources. The amount of resources has not grown. On the contrary, there are palpably fewer resources. Relations between the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General’s Office are currently not just strained, they are intolerably strained.

In court, they take the same side, but those are the rules of the game. If a case has gone to trial, you cannot come out against your colleagues: you would be digging yourself a hole. As a prosecutor, you did not reverse the indictment. You were involved in prolonging the suspect’s custody in remand prison, and you seconded all the motions made by the case investigator. The case investigator, of course, always plays along with the prosecutor. In criminal trials, they are the prosecution.

Even the “groundlings” find it easier to make a deal. The big bosses may be at war with each other, but down on the ground, the workhorses plow away and know the score. There is no love lost for Bastrykin among Investigative Committee officers just as prosecutors are not fond of Chaika. But it is like this everywhere: people like their bosses only when they are standing right in front of them. There is a certain difference, however. Chaika and his deputies at the Prosecutor General’s Office are all former case investigators. They have paid their dues. Bastrykin does not have this background: he is not a criminologist. Their workhorses thus complain about different things. Bastrykin’s underlings complain about incompetence, while prosecutors grouse about their bosses’ passion for business.

The Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office have an innate tendency to divide up into clans, which are defined geographically: there are Circassian clans, Bashkir clans, etc. They are local fraternities of sorts, and they do not go away when someone moves and transfers to a new job. The clans are often at odds with each other. This is something you must always factor in when dealing with Russian law enforcers.

Internal disunity has also been increasing day by day in the conglomerate known as the FSB. Even mid-level officers have trouble getting along. For example, M Directorate, which oversees the Interior Ministry, the Federal Penitentiary Service, and so on, is often combined, in many regions, with the Economic Security Department, and there is a big problem with compatibility in terms of the cases they pursue. But there is also K Directorate, aka the 8th Directorate, which oversees banks and the financial system. Regarded as “blue bloods,” they are strongly disliked by other FSB officers.

“A guy from K Directorate worked out at the World Class gym where I worked out. His driver took him to work in a Maybach. Now he has transferred his membership to the gym in Zhukovka. A membership there costs 600,000 rubles a year [approx. $9,500] and the swimming pool is filled with mineral water. ‘My clients work out there,’ he said to me, ‘so I moved my membership there,'” an athlete and retired FSB veteran told me.

The FSB’s Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Departments are a whole other story. They oversee everyone who has any dealings with the opposition and they inspire no confidence whatsoever. For example, I am flattered Kirill Serebrennikov and I are overseen by the same FSB officers. But we are overseen by officers from the Constitutional Department, while the Anti-Terrorism Department are working-class blokes who specialize in completely different cases. They were merged into a single directorate in which the Anti-Terrorism Department, supposedly, is subordinated to the Constitutional Department. Naturally, they cannot stand each other.

What about the top bosses? They are busy with other things, which is why they are in charge. They are busy with politicking and intrigues. These quiet squabbles surface as cases like the recent arrest of Colonel Kirill Cherkalin from K Directorate. Did he really take a bribe? Maybe he did: anything is possible. It is more likely, however, he was arrested as part of a war for turf, turf that has been shrinking exponentially with every passing day. Fattened cows no longer graze on this turf: there are basically no cows left to milk. The entire herd has been devoured.

What to Expect
I will quote in full the monologue my anonymous source delivered when I asked him about the future. I do no think there is any need to decode it.

“The turbulence will increase. Until all the issues with Russia’s natural gas and its transit through Ukraine are settled, Number One won’t have time for things happening here. They have been outsourced to our guys. They have been told to go and bite everyone’s heads off. They have temporary permission to do it.

“But there are few fat cats. All the money has been sent abroad. Everyone is living on loans. All of Rublyovka is up to their ears in loans. There will be searches in some people’s homes, and some folks will be ripped to shreds. There will be a lot of this kind of stuff this year. The government will be purged, too. People love this sort of thing.

“Abyzov made no impression on anyone. No one understood what it was about. The only thing people will remember is that he offered to pay a billion rubles in bail. No one will forget him and the billion rubles.

“Circumstances are such that even the system’s insiders cannot make any forecasts. The settings are changing constantly. There is no stable paradigm.

“It is like with water. At room temperature, we understand how it acts. You can stick your finger in it and blow on it. But now it is being warmed. It has not boiled yet and vaporized, but you do not know what to do with it and how it will act next.

“The tax police are busy with major shakedowns. They are kicking everyone’s ass. When we ask them why they are doing it, they reply, ‘Crimea is ours, and our job is to get people to make additional payments.’ But additional payments and penalties are different things, especially penalties meant to wipe people out. They are going after people’s last rubles.

“I have a friend who works as a business court judge on tax cases. Whereas earlier, when she would be asked why she reduced a claim from one hundred million rubles to ten million, she could have an off-the-record chat with the head judge of the court and explain she was doing it so the person could keep their business, such chats are not kosher nowadays.

“Hard times are coming. The Syrian project fell through, and Russia failed to get control of the pipeline going through Turkey. Nothing that was planned in Syria has worked out, and both the South Stream and Nord Stream projects fell through [sic]. Nor will they replace the Ukrainian transit, although that was the goal. But it impossible to exit Syria, and now they have butted their noses in Venezuela. Their luck has been bad. People’s nerves are on edge up top.

“Number One is interested only in oil and gas, and so other parties have got involved in the game. If it were up to Number One, he would crush everyone and no one would breathe another word. He probably decided the lower ranks should take care of this stuff themselves. The very top bosses are not concerned with these matters at all right now. The lower ranks are running things and a huge amount of haggling has been happening.  We are witnessing a classic turf war.”

Welcome to the magical world of turbulence in a pot of boiling water.

Olga Romanova is the director of Russia Behind Bars, a charitable foundation that aids Russian convicts and their families, people who have been victimized by the Russian justice system. Translated by the Russian Reader

Olga Romanova: Yevgeny Makarov’s Life Is in Danger

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Olga Romanova
Facebook
December 15, 2017

I have to write this so you’ll read it, so as many people as possible will read it, because a man’s life depends on it. So repost this, please, and maybe we’ll save his life.

His name is Yevgeny Makarov. Ivan Nepomnyashchikh has written a lot about him, because they were in prison together. There were three of them: Ivan, Ruslan Vakhapov, and Yevgeny Makarov. Of the fifteen hundred inmates in Penal Colony No. 1 in Yaroslavl, the three of them stubbornly stood up to the sadism, bullying, and humiliation meted out by wardens and guards. For their pains, they were beaten, held in solitary confinement, and issued leaky dishes, and they went on hunger strike.

They were not allowed to see their lawyers, but the prison’s special forces team would be dispatched to deal with them.

When Ivan was released, he immediately left the country. He has now enrolled at a university in the US. Ruslan and Yevgeny still have to serve out their sentences.

It was Yevgeny who has borne the brunt of the wardens’ anger. On December 5, he was transferred to Penal Colony No. 8.  The prison guards stripped Makarov naked, sat him in a chair, and beat him with a wet rag knotted on the end. They then poured water over him and shocked him with a cattle prod. Afterwards, guards attempted to plunge Makarov’s head in a toilet. (This is one method of “punking” an inmate.) Makarov resisted, and his head was slammed against the toilet bowl. His torturers stopped at this point and put Makarov in solitary confinement for fifteen days. He has also been sentenced to eight months in a single-cell room (abbreviated EPKT in Russian), a prison within a prison.

Our friends the lawyers at the Public Verdict Foundation have filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The ECHR has ordered the Russian Federation government to ensure that Makarov has been given a medical exam within 48 hours by physicians independent of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service and provide the court with a report on the results of the exam. The Russian goverment must also ensure Makarov’s safety and that he has unhindered access to legal counsel representing his interests. The EHCR drew the Russian government’s attention to the fact that it has taken urgent measures on behalf of Yevgeny Makarov. The complaint has been given priority status.

But the wardens in Russian prisons could not care less about the ECHR. They don’t understand. And human life there is worthless.

Thanks to Dmitry Kalugin for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ildar Dadin: “When I Get Out, We Will Change the Country for the Better”

The Prison Blog of Ildar Dadin’s Fiancée: First Visit, January 14
Zekovnet.ru

Nastya Zotova and Ildar Dadin had agreed to get married in January 2015, when Ildar was detained. Imprisoned Russia continues its publication of his fiancée’s blog.

nastya & ildar
Nastya Zotova & Ildar Dadin. Photo courtesy of openrussia.org

I got permission to meet with Ildar from Judge Natalya Dudar on December 30, and I went for my first short visit on January 13. A short visit is not like a date at a cafe or the movies. There is no hugging and kissing. You see each other only through the glass, and there is also a metal grille on top of the glass.

Getting a “date” was not as difficult as I thought. I went to the pretrial detention facility at nine in the morning and handed over the authorization from the judge and the application form, which was printed on the same piece of paper. Then I waited until eleven for one of facility’s wardens to come. He collected everyone’s internal passports and took us to the fifth floor, where there were about fifteen cubbyholes with glass in the middle.

The visit lasted two hours. You can discuss a lot in that time, both life in prison and personal affairs. Apart from me, nine other people had come for visits. Most were women, some of them with children in tow.

Before the visit, a little boy showed me a drawing.

“I drew this for Dad. This is me, this is Mom, and this is Dad. And this is our home.”

Ildar was finally led in. The feelings provoked by such visits are mixed. On the one hand, there he was, my beloved one, whom I had not seen for five weeks. He was safe and sound, without a bruise on his face. The first few minutes we stared at each through the glass and smiled like fools. On the other hand, it was hard. I wanted to hug and kiss him. But talking with him through the glass was still better than nothing.

I quizzed him about prison life. It turned out that the inmates were often worried about the simplest problems, which were hard to solve imprison. For example, your socks are torn. If you were at home, you would grab a needle and thread and darn them. But there are needles and thread in the detention facility. You might be able to borrow a needle, but thread is totally inaccessible and is not allowed in care packages.

Or you have run out of toilet paper. You will have to wait until someone buys it in bulk through the Federal Penitentiary Service store. Toilet paper is not allowed in care packages. According to Ildar, the wardens should issue toilet paper to inmates, but in Pretrial Detention Facility No. 4 it is “not done.”

Or you need to write complaints and appeals in triplicate or quintuplicate. There is no printer, so you have to write everything by hand. You could use carbon paper, but for some reason it is also not allowed in care packages.

The inmates entertain themselves in peculiar ways. Whereas Oleg Navalny caught pigeons, Ildar and his cellmates catch mice. They are ordinary gray mice that run under the bunks at night.

To catch a mouse you need an empty milk carton. You cut a little hole and plant the bait inside. When the mouse enters the cartoon, you close the hole with your hand and then transfer the little beast to a plastic ice cream pail.

They managed to catch two mice in this simple way. Ildar’s cellmates decided to put them on trial and “sentenced” them to four days in prison. They were to serve their sentence in the plastic ice cream pail. Afterwards, they planned to “release” the rodents by throwing them out a third-floor window. But the prisoners escaped by gnawing a hole in their cell.

Smoking is another serious issue. There are eleven men in Ildar’s cell. Five of them are smokers, and they smoke right in bed. The others, who are nonsmokers, are not happy, to put it mildly.

There are only eight beds for the eleven inmates. They take turns sleeping. According to Ildar, however, this is even a good thing, because you can borrow a second blanket from someone. Otherwise, it is too cold to sleep. It got cold in the cell on January 1, so the thermal underwear that I bought on the advice of Alexei Polikhovich, who was convicted in the Bolotnaya Square case, was a real godsend. But Ildar is warm in it only if he sleeps under two blankets. And he still has to survive the transfer to the penal colony where he will serve his sentence—in winter in a cold train car!

After sleep, the second most important issue is food. Ildar admits the food is better than at the special detention center. However, the portions per inmate are not very big. It is not that he is completely hungry, but he would like more. He says that some cellmates eschew the prison food, and so the other prisons divvy up their helping among themselves. They can even warm the food up. A boiler is placed in a pot with water, and a plate with the food on it is place over the pot. The food is thus heated over a water bath.

I have been trying to figure how best to fatten up my inmate through care packages. Ildar already rejected hot meals ordered through the FPS website, and then canned buckwheat kasha with meat. I don’t feel like sending him instant mashed potatoes and noodles (which in prison are called “steamers”).

“Maybe you’d like more cheese? More sausage?”

Ildar frowned.

“I look at the prices in the FPS store and feel offended at how these thugs prey on us. I would rather eat the regulation hundred grams of soup, then shop there,” he said.

This is especially because, according to Ildar, all the care packages are put in the “kitty,” to which everyone has access, so Ildar himself does not end up with so much.

Ultimately, we agreed that I would cooperate with the relatives of other inmates, and that together we would buy food in bulk at ordinary stores and then pass it on to the lads in the cell, since there was a common pot there anyway. Regard the FPS store, Ildar nevertheless admitted that sometimes he wanted something sweet: chocolate, sweetened condensed milk or soda. He was very grateful to Olga Romanova for the garlic she sent him. Garlic was the best thing for you, he said, because it was full of vitamins! All his cellmates were ill, but he wasn’t.

There is no shower in the cell. The inmates are taken once a week to the shower room. But there is a sink, so they can wash up and launder their clothes. As Ildar put it, the toilet is “luxurious”: there are walls on two sides, and a door on the third up to the waist.

I asked Ildar how he spent his time at the detention facility, whether he had been writing complaints. Ildar admitted that he had stopped for the time being. The wardens had hinted to him as it were that if he continued, they could take it on his cellmates.

“However, maybe I’ll soon have to make an important decision: to be a living scoundrel or die,” he said.

Ildar did not explain what was the matter: our conversation was bugged. But he did promise in any case to send a letter, written in his own hand, indicating that under no circumstances was he planning to commit suicide. He believed this would protect him from the “accidents” that happen in Pretrial Detention Facility No. 4.

Despite this eerie message, Ildar was more or less optimistic and was planning to read books.

“I have a lot to learn: political science, economics . . . When I get out, we will change the country for the better,” he said hopefully.

Before his arrest, Ildar said he wanted to be a lawyer and specialize in human rights.

UPDATE
On the night of January 14, it transpired that immediately after our visit, Ildar was removed from his cell along with his things. According to the tentative information we have, he has been transferred to another cell in the same pretrial detention facility.

UPDATE: January 15
As it turned out, Ildar has been transferred to a special cellblock in the same facility. (Meaning greater scrutiny from the wardens and better living conditions.) Meanwhile, our marriage application is ready to submit to the registrar.

Ildar Dadin and Nastya Zotova's marriage application. Image courtesy of Imprisoned Russia
Ildar Dadin and Nastya Zotova’s marriage application. Image courtesy of Imprisoned Russia

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Russia: Peaceful activist sentenced under repressive new law must be released
Amnesty International
December 7, 2015

Russia’s jailing of a peaceful opposition activist for violating the country’s new law on public assemblies is a shocking and cynical attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in jail by a Moscow court for repeated anti-government street protests. He is the first person to be jailed using the law, which was introduced in 2014 and punishes repeated breaches of public assembly rules.

“The shocking sentencing of Ildar Dadin shows that the Russian authorities are using the law on public assemblies to fast-track peaceful protesters to prison,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“This cynical move shows that compared to the drawn out criminal proceedings against peaceful protesters in the past, the authorities have now created a shortcut for imprisoning activists. It is more dangerous to be a peaceful activist in Russia than at any time in recent years.”