Russia without Putin

1211505Vladimir Putin playing hockey Moscow’s Red Square on December 29, 2018. Photo courtesy of Valery Sharufulin/TASS and RA’s Daily News Blast

Yana Teplitskaya
Facebook
December 27, 2018

Police officers usually realize that, whatever they do, they are breaking the law or disobeying standing orders, and since they are afraid of being found out, they definitely don’t talk to the press. Here we have a different story, which I don’t know how to explain. Petersburg opposition activists are well aware of a police officer from the “Third Department” by the name of Ruslan Sentemov, while other people have not heard of him, likely as not. For some reason, Sentemov operates quite openly, going so far as to give the local news website Fontanka.ru a detailed interview about his work.

I don’t knowwhat happened to Petersburg opposition activist Shakhnaz Shitik at the Yabloko Party’s Petersburg office, but this is what happened at the police precinct, as related by Shakhnaz. It has been corroborated by one police officer, nor has it been refuted by the other officers who were present. According to the shift commander, during the incident, all or nearly all the officers at the 78th Police Precinct were in the duty room and were separated from the incident by a glass door. I also understand that Shakhnaz’s account is borne out by the videotape that civil rights activist Dinar Idrisov and Petersburg city councilman Boris Vishnevsky have seen.

Sentemov and two of his colleagues (their names are also known) used force on Shakhnaz. They pressed her head hard to her chest, causing her agonizing pain. Consequently, in the incident report, according to the social defender, in addition to the injuries she suffered at the Yabloko office, damage to her cervical vertebrae was caused at the police station.

Moreover, the officers grabbed Shakhnaz’s telephone by sticking their hands down her painties. No public witnesses or female police officers were present during this search, nor was an incident report filed. Taken from her but not officially confiscated, her telephone lay in the police department, along with her blouse and other clothing, prior to the Public Monitoring Commission’s visit. During the incident, Shakhnaz was wearing a bra. The blouse was returned to her only at the hospital.

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Concerning the sadistic tendencies of our police investigators and judges, I would argue this is an allegory, artistic embellishment. Otherwise, what kind of judicial system do we have? These were your words: judicial system. The system includes the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court. Are they sadists, too? We should choose our words more carefully. I realize you wanted to rouse us, you wanted to get our attention. You did what you set out to do. Thank you.

The courts and law enforcement agencies are staffed by our fellow Russian citizens. They live in the places we live. They [were] raised in the same families in which we were raised. They are part of our society. There are probably all kinds of different people everywhere, in all large organizations. If you have a look at the percentage of law enforcement officers convicted of crimes, it has recently increased, and increased considerably.

This suggests the work of housecleaning has not stood still. It has intensified and produced certain results. In order to minimize this, however, we do not need trepressive actions against the justice or judicial system. We need serious, multi-pronged, multi-facted work. That is what we have been trying to do on this Council.

Source: Vladimir Putin, Meeting of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, The Kremlin, Moscow, December 11, 2018. Thanks to Yevgenia Litvinova for the heads-up.

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Open Russia Activist Whom Police Assaulted in October Detained in Lipetsk
OVD Info
December 12, 2018

Alexander Kiselevich, the Open Russia activist assaulted by four police officers in October, has been detained in Lipetsk. He has reported the incident to OVD Info.

Kiselevich was stopped near his home by traffic police. After checking his papers, they asked Kiselevich to follow them to the Izmalkovo District Police Department, where he was charged with breaking Article 19.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code (disobeying a police officer’s lawful orders). The policemen told Kiselevich he would be taken to court from the police station.

In October, on the eve of an election to choose the head of the Izmalkovo District Council, Kiselevich was beaten by police officers before being taken to a psychiatric hospital for a compulsory examination. Kiselevich was thus unable to present himself to the competition committee, and his name was struck from the ballot

Kiselevich was charged with breaking Article 19.3 after the incident in October. The police claimed Kiselevich resisted them when they were forcibly delivering him to the psychiatric hospital.

Kiselevich is a well-known opposition activist in Lipetsk Region. In 2016, he was elected head of the Afanasyevo Village Council, but shortly thereafter the majority of council members voted to dismiss him. Kiselevich was charged with embezzlement (Article 160 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code).

UPDATE. Kiselevich has reported to MBKh Media that a court in Lipetsk has found him guilt of disobeying a policeman’s lawful orders and fined him 500 rubles. Kiselevich plans to appeal the sentence.

Translated by the Russian Reader

OVD Info: He’s No Tsar to Us in Facts and Figures

traffic sign in spbSlava Ptrk, Traffic Sign in Petersburg, 2018. Photo courtesy of OVD Info

OVD Info, That Was the Week That Was Email Newsletter, Special Edition:
How the He’s No Tsar to Us Protests Played Out Nationwide

Saturday, May 5, 2018, witnessed large-scale, nationwide protests by supporters of Alexei Navalny, who voiced their opposition to Vladimir Putin’s new term as president. This was how the protests went down in facts and figures.

The police behaved roughly. They detained not only demonstrators but also random passerby, children and reporters, and OVD Info’s hotline got more than one call about police brutality. In Moscow, so-called Cossacks joined regular police in dispersing the rally.  The so-called Cossacks beat people using whips, and a man with a raccoon was among the detainees. The Bell discovered the so-called Cossacks had ties with the mayor’s office. In Chelyabinsk, local activists were detained before the protest rally on suspicion of theft, while in Saratov, police detained a 12-year-old boy.

According to the information we have available, a total of 1,600 people were detained in 27 cities. Around 300 spent the night in police stations.*

  • 719 detainees in Moscow were taken to 42 police stations; around 154 people spent the night in custody.
  • 217 detainees in Petersburg were taken to 29 police stations; around 95 people spent the night in custody.
  • 185 people were detained in Chelyabinsk.
  • 75 people were detained in Yakutsk.
  • 64 people were detained in Krasnodar.
  • 63 people were detained in Togliatti, half of them minors.
  • 48 people were detained in Voronezh.
  • 45 people were detained in Krasnoyarsk.
  • 28 people were detained in Kaluga.
  • 24 people were detained in Astrakhan.
  • 22 people were detained in Novokuznetsk.
  • 20 people were detained in Belgorod.
  • 18 people were detained in Vladimir.
  • 16 people were detained in Samara.
  • 10 people each were detained in Barnaul and Blagoveshchensk.
  • 9 people were detained in Penza.
  • 6 people each were detained in Tver and Kurgan.
  • 5 people were detained in Sochi.
  • 2 people each were detained in Kemerovo, Naberezhnye Chelny, and Rostov-on-Don.
  • 1 person each was detained in Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Smolensk, and Tomsk.
*You can view the complete list of detainees, including names and the police stations where they were taken, here.

In the aftermath of the rallies, criminal charges have been filed against one detainee.  In Petersburg, a policeman named Sukhorukov has accused Mikhail Tsakunov of knocking out his tooth “deliberately, motivated by enmity.” Charges were filed under Article 318 Part 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code: health- or life-threatening violence against a police office. Tsakunov could be sent to prison for ten years if found guilty. Video footage of the young man’s arrest can be viewed here.

The detainees were tried on Sunday in Petersburg, Vladimir, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, and Chelyabinsk. 

Alexei Navalny was detained on Pushkin Square in Moscow. At the police station, he was written up for two administrative offenses: repeated violation of the procedures for holding public events and failure to obey a police officer’s lawful order. He was not kept in the police station overnight. His court hearing will take place on May 11.

What Did We Do?

We helped detainees in twenty police stations in Moscow and coordinated the rendering of legal aid in Chelyabinsk, Kaluga, and Krasnoyarsk.

In the space of twenty-four hours,* our hotline received 2,156 calls for a total duration of 64 hours and 45 minutes.

  • 5 hours and 24 minutes of that time was taken up by 93 legal consultations.
  • We were called 1,014 times.
  • We called back to verify information 1,142 times.

* From six in the morning on May 5 to six in the morning on May 6.

We do intake not only on our hotline but also using our Law Bot and our Red Button application.

  • 147 people reported being detained through Law Bot.
  • 78 reports of people being detained were received through the Red Button.
  • 1,993 people had installed the bot as of May 3.

43 volunteers helped us gather information on the detentions, putting in approximately 260 hours of work. You can sign up to join our team of volunteers here.

We can help a lot of people, but we need money to do it. Donations keep the 24-hour  hotline running. They pay for legal services. They pay people to write the news and analyze human rights violations in Russia. You can support us here.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Mari Davtyan: Thinking about the Police

ivan krasnov-takedown
Photo by Ivan Krasnov. Courtesy of RTVI and Mari Davtyan

Mari Davtyan
Facebook
May 6, 2018

Today I am thinking about police officers.

Some time ago I was in a police station in downtown Moscow, one of the police stations where detained protesters are routinely taken. On the bulletin board there was a photograph of a child, accompanied by a request to help the family of someone who worked at the station, someone whose son was seriously ill.

They were trying to raise around three million rubles [approx. 40,000 euros] to take the baby abroad for treatment.

But I look at these other photographs, and there is something I can never understand.

The men in the helmets have no yachts, private jets or hefty accounts in banks. Interior Ministry clinics will not even treat their children, and ambulances will refuse to pick up their elders and take them to hospital, because, “What do you want? He (or she) is seventy years old?!” They themselves will endure systematic violatons of their rights as employees, and when they are dismissed for reasons of health or due to budget cuts, they will have to sue the courts for years to be paid their pensions and other benefits. But if they die in the line of duty—no, not while detaining those awful protesters, but while trying to arrest actual criminals—their families will be paid kopecks in compensation and forgotten within six months.

They know quite well that if a conflict arises—say, an FSB officer hits them with his car—the Interior Ministry will throw them under the bus without batting an eye. They know better than we do how dangerous it is for their children and wives to walk outside in Russia, how easy it is to buy narcotics in Russian schools, and what their commanding officer’s summer cottage is like. They know perfectly well how senseless, illogical, and merciless the “system” is. They talk about it all the time.

But I look at them and I just cannot get my head around one thing. What is it they defend so vehemently?

Thanks to Varya Mikhailova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexei Navalny and Two Million Catalonians

Catalonia independence_thumb[1]
Two million Catalonians

Russian anti-corruption crusader and opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 20 days in the slammer for “repeated appeals to take part in unauthorized rallies.

That “repeated appeals” business sounds like a particularly pernicious crime.

What is the difference between messing with Navalny this way constantly and beating Catalonians over the head?

I don’t see any.

Or, actually, I do.

At the end of the day, after the Madrid government’s fine performance in Catalonia yesterday, with the whole world watching, the Catalonians might get what a lot of them seem to want: independence.

But they will get it, if they do, because millions of them have united and fought for it.

Alexei Navalny, on the other hand, has to pretend to be “two million Catalonians” all on his lonesome.

“Russia will be free” someday, but at the moment only Navalny and a handful of his countrymen want to act in a concerted, deliberate way to end the Putinist tyranny.

Everyone else is—to tell you the truth, I don’t know what they are doing.

What they definitely are not doing (at least, so far) is acting even remotely like “two million Catalonians.”

So, my reaction to the savage behavior of the Spanish police yesterday would definitely not be to gloat and suggest the police in so-called democratic countries are worse.

Actually, the police in Russia are much worse.

When push comes to shove, they wouldn’t hesitate to outdo their Spanish colleagues. And in any case there is a whole army of police, investigators, and prosecutors in Russia who could only be termed “political” police, because they spend all or most of their working days pursuing, interrogating, framing, trying, and imprisoning various “extremists.”

Tell me this hasn’t had a totally chilling effect on grassroots politics in Russia. It has. Why else would I, more or less a nobody, personally know so many Russians who have fled the country in fear of arrest and persecution or because they had simply been prevented by government agencies like the Justice Ministry, Center “E”, the FSB, and the Investigative Committee from doing the social justice work or political activism they had been doing in their own homeland for years?

But Russians are people like everybody else, and people sometimes are way too inclined to let their country’s powers that be off the hook, when they should be fighting them in the streets like “two million Catalonians.” TRR

Thanks to Erik Syring for the heads-up. Photo courtesy of Life on the Left

 

Kazakhstan: Land Protesters Face Police Rampage

Kazakhstan: Land Protesters Face Police Rampage
People and Nature
May 25, 2016

Street protests against plans to step up land privatization were broken up by police in many of Kazakhstan’s largest cities on Saturday, May 21. The demonstrations were organized by informal online networks rather than by any of the recognized opposition groups. Here are the key points from a report by Andrei Grishin, published in Russian on the website of the Fergana News Agency.

Special rapid-reaction police detachments attacked small groups [of demonstrators] wherever they gathered. They grabbed everyone, regardless of gender, age and nationality. Dozens of journalists were arrested.

Kazakhstan had waited for the events of May 21 with bated breath. [Protesters had named that as a day of action after a previous wave of demonstrations had forced the government to pull back from planned land reforms. See an earlier report here.] The official media had railed against the protests. And it all ended, as it has so many times before, with the “slaughter of the innocents,” but this time more brutal than usual. The detention of dozens of journalists, including foreigners, was proof of that.

Police detain land protester in Almaty
Police detain protester in Almaty, May 21, 2016

However, for the first time, people came out to protest all at once, in a number of cities and towns, without any leaders, because these leaders had either been arrested in advance, or had agreed to the authorities’ demands [after the previous demonstrations] and joined the [government’s] land commission.

[In Almaty in the southeast, the largest city in Kazakhstan and former capital, the authorities used every possible method of disrupting people’s plans to demonstrate. They created a “terrorism” scare, announcing the discovery of a stash of molotov cocktails, sticks, money and explosives; blocked social media; and issued orders forbidding public sector employees, students and workers in large enterprises from demonstrating, and in many cases, called people into work. Nevertheless, people gathered in small groups at Astana Square and by 11.30 am there were about a thousand of them. The police then went on the rampage, arresting and dispersing people.]

In other towns where activists made attempts to gather in squares or parks, the authorities acted similarly, although the numbers of both demonstrators and police were much smaller than those in Almaty. [There were arrests in Astana, the new capital, whereas things went compariatively peacefully in Kustanai and Pavlodar.]

In any case, no revolution took place! The president of the administrative policing committee at the ministry of internal affairs, Igor Lepekha, announced on Saturday that there had been “no unsanctioned gatherings or conflicts with the police. No breaches of order were permitted.” But at the same time he confirmed the detention of a number of people, including journalists; there had been a “misunderstanding” with the latter, he said.

Nevertheless, even this small number of demonstrations was a new phenomenon in Kazakhstan, in the sense that they started simultaneously in different regions. And all the experts noted in chorus that the land question was just the pretext, that in fact people have all sorts of other issues with the government. And that is really worrying parliament, above all, the fact that people are openly, and quite legally, calling for the resignation of the president.

And so it was clear that the government once again would deal with the problem [of protest] with repression. Evidence of this was the series of criminal cases opened even before May 21 against civil society activists, and the announcement by the internal affairs department of Western Kazakhstan about “preventing mass disorder.”And it is still possible, of course, that the Almaty police will “find” the owners of the molotov cocktails and sticks [i.e. use frame-up tactics against militants].

Police detaining protesters in Almaty on Saturday, May 21, 2016
Police detaining protesters in Almaty on Saturday, May 21, 2016

However at the same time the authorities have treated the land question with great caution, thus the one-year moratorium [announced by President Nazarbayev on 6 May] on the amendments [to the land code], and the establishment of the land commission, and inclusion in it of several “disloyal” civil society activists, and the hints that have been dropped about the possibility that each citizen of the country could be granted by law 1,000 square meters of free land.

Riot police loading protesters onto a bus, Almaty, May 21, 2016
Riot police loading protesters onto a bus, Almaty, May 21, 2016

Just a few days ago, when the government feared the spread of mass action, President Nazarbayev appealed to Kazakhs “not to shame ourselves before the world, but to solve our complicated problems by means of constructive dialogue.”

Despite this talk of “constructive dialogue” from the president, the police special detachments hid firearms in their buses on Saturday. Whether they had plastic bullets, tear gas or live ammunition we don’t know. But thankfully they didn’t open fire on the crowds: bearing in mind the events at Zhanaozen and Shetpe [in December 2011, when police fired on a crowd of striking oil workers, killing at least 16 and wounding at least 60], it seems there was enough sense at the top to order that there be no repeat of that. 25 May 2016.