Article 318: Criminalizing Protest in Russia

wehatecops

Criminalizing Protest Has Become a Tool for Combating Rallies
Experts Studied Use of Law Criminalizing Violence Against Authorities
Anastasia Kornya
Vedomosti
February 28, 2019

Defending Protest (Apologiya protesta), an organization that provides assistance to people detained at protest rallies, has analyzed the use of Russian Criminal Code Article 318 against people involved in protest events. Article 318 makes violence against authorities a criminal offense. Between 2009 and 2017, a total of 65,046 people were convicted on this charge. Typically, the charge has been filed against people involved in drunken brawls broken up by police units or people involved in roadside altercations with traffic police. But Article 318 has also become the primary tool for charging activists with using violence against the security forces.

Demonstrative Cruelty
There are no separate figures for protesters charged with violating Article 318, but between 2013 and 2015 the number of people convicted on such charges rose annually by 600 to 800 people before decreasing slightly. The authors of Defending Protest’s report argue this increase stemmed from a rise in the number of protests and protesters in 2012: it was on May 6, 2012, that the March of the Millions took place, leading to the show trials of the Bolotnaya Square Case. After the protests peaked in 2015, there was a cooling off period, and the number of convictions nearly returned to their 2009 levels. However, there has been a growing tendency to sentence people convicted under Article 318 to actual prison time.

The experts note that when defendants confess their guilt and are tried in special expedited trials, it should theoretically mitigate their punishments, but in reality it does not increase chances they will be sentenced to probation or other non-carceral penalties. Besides, courts in Moscow have made a point of not invoking the option, stipulated by law, of dismissing cases because the parties have been reconciled or defendants have sincerely apologized for their crimes, since, in the opinion of Moscow judges, cases cannot be dismissed in so-called double-ended crimes, crimes committed not only against the victim as such but also against law and order.

The report notes that customary Russian methods of criminal investigation and judicial procedure have now been applied to the cases of grassroots activists, including double standards in weighing evidence, the presumption that law enforcement officers tell the truth, and giving priority to testimony made by suspects prior to their trials. The experts note the charges in such cases can be trumped up easily. The key evidence in these cases is the testimony of the victim and witnesses, all of them police officers. If necessary, their statements can be coordinated and entered into the court record in literally identical form.

Nonpunishable Violence
The flip side of the process is the inability to hold police officers criminally liable for using violence against demonstrators, says Alexei Glukhov, head of Defending Protest. If justice is served, this happens only if and when the European Court of Human Rights rules on a case, although Russian policemen and security services officers have been dispersing peaceful demonstrations and detaining grassroots activists and random bystanders with ever-greater ferocity. But nearly the only well-known case in which a Russian police officer was held criminally liable for violence against protesters was the case of Vadim Boyko, the so-called Pearl Sergeant, who hit a man over the head with a rubber truncheon at a demonstration in Petersburg in July 2010. In 2011, Sergeant Boyko was sentenced to three and half years of probation.

It is common practice to reject complaints filed by victims of police violence by claiming they are means of self-defense against the counter charges faced by the complainants. Thus, in the formal refusal to open a criminal case based on the complaint filed by lawyer Mikhail Benyash, the police investigator wrote, “M.M. Benyash’s testimony should be treated skeptically because he is thus attempting to build his own defense against criminal charges and thereby avoid prosecution.” In turn, the police officers who denied they had beaten Benyash testified he had beaten his own head against the window, door, and other parts of the car in which they abducted him, and when they dragged him out of the car, he beat his head against the pavement.

No less noteworthy were the reasons police investigators gave for refusing to open a criminal case based on a complaint filed by Danil Bolshakov and Daniil Markelov of Krasnoyarsk. Their testimony was not corroborated since Markelov was a supporter of Alexei Navalny, “who is a well-known opponent of the leadership of the Russian Federation, as headed by President V.V. Putin.”

Crackdown
Generally, the police crackdown has been intensifying. Lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky agreed Article 318 has been used to intimidate people.

“I would encourage everyone to compare the verdicts in the Bolotnaya Square Case, in which a demonstrator brushed away a policeman’s arm and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, with the sentences handed down in the wake of the recent unrest in France, in which protesters have been fined or sentenced to a few months in jail at most,” he said.

In fact, Agranovsky explained, any physical contact with Russian police would result in the “offender” being charged under Article 318. Ultimately, people have become wary of attending protest rallies, although, formally speaking, Russia has signed all the relevant international conventions encouraging  peaceful protest.

Agranovsky recalled that ex-Russian MP Vladimir Bessonov was stripped of the right to engage in politics after he was charged with using violence against police officers at a protest rally.

Opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov agreed the police crackdown has intensified.

“There is a desire to extinguish protests, and that is something you can only do with a stick. The powers that be have run out of carrots,” he said.

Gudkov argued all the available tools have been brought into play in order to artificially criminalize protest. For example, the so-called Ildar Dadin article in the criminal code had been revived after it was all but outlawed by the Russian Constitutional Court. The article criminalizes repeated involvement in “unauthorized” protest rallies.

Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

Advertisements

Solidarity with Persecuted Russian Antifascists and Anarchists in NYC and Minneapolis

27540850_322877634890103_3528138355329883641_n

Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council – MACC
As part of the week of solidarity with Russian anarchist political prisoners there will be a demo at the Russian Consulate, 91st Street, today, February 7, 2:30 PM–4:00 PM.

#Antifa #Antifascism

More information on the recent arrest and torture of anarchist and antifascist political prisoners here:

https://freedomnews.org.uk/russia-arrests-and-torture-of-anarchists-and-antifascists/

•••••••••••

Solidarity with Russian Anarchists
The Base
1302 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11221
7 PM–10 PM, February 8, 2018

Six anarchists have been arrested in Penza, Saint Petersburg, and Crimea, from October 2017 to February 2018, by officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on charges of involvement in a terrorist group. During this period, there have been raids on the homes of anarchists and antifascist all over Russia. The arrested anarchists have been tortured into falsely confessing their involvement in the imaginary network. This is clearly a state-fabricated conspiracy being used to eradicate the anarchist movement.

As the support team says, “These repressions can only intimidate people and crush the anarchist movement. In this case it’s necessary to show that we are not afraid and we can’t be destroyed by their force. Otherwise, the repressions will be used every time when the anarchist movement attracts the notice of the FSB. We must show them that the stronger their crackdowns are, the more furious our resistance is.”

We are hosting a movie and information session about the broader anarchist and antifascist movement in Russia, and talking in more detail about this particular case.

About the movie
Antifascist Attitude is the first-ever documentary film on the emerging Russian antifascist movement made by activists themselves. The movie features moderate NGO activists and radical grassroots activists and anarchists from three cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Irkutsk. It also features the antifascist lawyer Stanislav Markelov, murdered by neo-Nazis in Moscow on January 19, 2009.

Come and learn about what’s happening and ways to support our comrades in Russia!

•••••••••••

Solidarity Dinner with Russian Antifascists
Twin Cities IWW General Defense Committee Local 14
5:30–8:00 p.m., Saturday, February 17, 2018
2101 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN, United States

Join the General Defense Committee for a dinner, discussion, and letter writing to support antifascists targeted by the FSB crackdowns in Penza and St Petersburg.

The far right rises in the US, in Russia, and across the world, attacking oppressed peoples, immigrants, and working class revolutionaries. Antifascists are fighting against nationalist hate across borders, and facing attacks from the ruling class’s governments. In Russia, the FSB (Federal Security Service) are hard at work arresting, torturing, and framing antifascist activists in Penza, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere.

The Anarchist Black Cross in Moscow and St. Petersburg has asked for international solidarity with the Russian anarchists facing repression. We will be holding a dinner in the IWW offices at 2101 Hennepin Avenue South, Suite 101, Minneapolis, on Saturday, February 17, 2018, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

We’ll discuss the situation in Russia as well as the repression faced by anarchists in Belarus, Ukraine, and other countries. We’ll collect donations, provide a space for letter writing to the defendants, and facilitate discussion on further international solidarity work with political prisoners, labor organizers, and anti-authoritarians.

https://libcom.org/news/support-anarchist-antifa-prisoners-stpetersburg-penza-31012018

https://itsgoingdown.org/call-international-days-solidarity-russian-anarchist-political-prisoners-feb-5th-12th-2018/

https://avtonom.org/en/news/how-stability-has-really-been-achieved-russia

Petersburgers Rally Round Demolished Mephistopheles

Petersburgers Protest Destruction of Mephistopheles Bas-Relief
August 30, 2015
Yodnews.ru

Novaya Gazeta reports that a popular assembly to protest the destruction of a bas-relief featuring an image of Mephistopheles took place today, August 30, on Lakhtinskaya Street.

mef-1Protester with a handmade Mephistopheles t-shirt at Sunday’s rally

“This is not a rally; we are not using amplifiers and posters. People have just come out to show how they feel about vandalism,” said Alexander Kobrinsky, a deputy in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly.

About five hundred people attended the rally. They attached a temporary banner with a photo of the bas-relief to the facade of the building from which it had been knocked down.

The people who attended the assembly sang Mikhail Novitsky’s song, “This is our city, this is our city, / We will stand up for it! / This is our city, this is our city, / We will defend it from wild vandals!”

mef-nov crowdFolk singer and activist Mikhail Novitsky leads protesters in song

They also played a recording of Feodor Chaliapin’s rendition of the aria “Sérénade de Méphistophélès,” from Gounoud’s opera Faust, on their cell phones.

The Mephistopheles bas-relief on Lakhtinskaya was demolished on August 26. A petition has been posted on Change.org demanding that those involved in the sculpture’s destruction be brought to justice. It has gathered nearly 2,300 signatures of the necessary five thousand. [As of this writing, 4,887 people had signed the petition — TRR.]

__________

Mephistopheles Facade Facing Orthodox Church Taken Down In St. Petersburg
Anna Dolgov
August 27, 2015
The Moscow Times

A 100-year-old bas-relief depicting the mythical demon Mephistopheles has been removed from the facade of a historical building in St. Petersburg overlooking the nearby construction site of a new Orthodox church, local inhabitants said.

mef-houseMephistopheles House sans Mephistopheles

Mephistopheles is a mythical demon that appears as the devil in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play Faust. The bas-relief of the character had been a feature of one of St. Petersburg’s minor landmarks, a building on Lakhtinksaya Street known as the House with Mephistopheles.

Local news outlets and social media users reported that the relief was removed from the building without explanation on Wednesday. According to one Facebook user, historian Dmitry Bratkin, the house was designed by 19th and early 20th century architect Alexander Lishnevsky.

“Naturally, the monument was under protection,” Bratkin said. “Or had been. Fifteen minutes ago, Mephistopheles was knocked off the facade.”

One resident of the building, Kirill Alexeyev, told independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that “workers showed up at 10 in the morning, did not introduce themselves, and did not say who had sent them.”

Instead, the workers asked the building’s residents to move their cars away from the building to avoid being damaged by falling plaster, and then proceeded with the removal of Mephistopheles, Alexeyev said.

“I said: What have you done, this is after all a monument protected by the state,” he said, Novaya Gazeta reported. “They responded: Not to worry, it is old and dilapidated, and it will be restored in plaster.”

The promise of recreating a version of the bas-relief in plaster indicated that the demolition had been a “planned action,” supposedly approved by the authorities, instead of a grassroot stunt by activists displeased by the sight of a mythical demon, Alexeyev suggested.

However, a spokesperson for the city’s architectural monument preservation department, known by its Russian acronym KGIOP, denied any knowledge of the incident, Novaya Gazeta reported.

The removal of the historical bas-relief has also prompted protests by some local lawmakers. St. Petersburg municipal legislator Boris Vishnevsky has sent a complaint to KGIOP, while his fellow lawmaker Alexander Kobrinsky said he would ask police to open a criminal investigation on charges of destruction of cultural heritage sites, St. Perersburg’s Fontanka news agency reported.

mef-vishPetersburg legislator Boris Vishnevsky poses with photo reproduction of Mephistopheles bas-relief

Some commentators also claimed that the removal of sculpture might be connected to the construction of an Orthodox church that would face the House with Mephistopheles.

“A couple of days ago, a cross was placed on the roof of the church that is under construction across [from the building],” Bratkin wrote on his Facebook page. “Yesterday, some sprightly people showed up and took photographs of the facade with the Mephistopheles, and today at 3 in the afternoon, a worker hung down from the roof and — whack, whack, whack.”

mef-churchRussian Orthodox church currently under construction opposite Mephistopheles House

Natalya Levina, another local woman, said her neighbors had spotted “people from the church” looking around and inquiring about the “demon,” the Metro news agency reported.

Historical preservation activists have asked police and the construction firm that is building the church about who had authorized removing the Mephistopheles image, Levina was quoted as saying. Both organizations denied having any knowledge of who authorized its removal, she said, according to the report.

Lishnevsky, the architect, died during World War II after being evacuated to a hospital in Yaroslavl — a historical city 250 kilometers to the northeast of Moscow. Much of his work survived the devastation of the war and the secular policies of the Soviet Union.

The Mephistopheles bas-relief was created in 1910-1911, Fontanka reported.

All photos by and courtesy of David Frenkel. First article translated by The Russian Reader

Thousands of Muscovites Protest Hospital Closures and Layoffs

Around 6,000 People Rally against “Collapse of Medicine” in Moscow
Farida Rustamova and Artyom Filipenok
November 2, 2014
rbc.ru

A rally against health care reform in Moscow brought together six times more protesters than originally announced, uniting medical and educational trade unions and people from entire spectrum of the political opposition. They protested against the city government’s plans to close twenty-eight medical facilities in the near future. The protesters demanded the resignation of Moscow deputy mayor Leonid Pechatnikov and the heads of the capital city’s health department. According to organizers, another protest, this time nationwide, has been planned for late November.

The Stop the Collapse of Moscow Medicine rally took place on Sunday [November 2, 2014] on Suvorov Square in Moscow. According to rally organizer Alla Frolova (leader of the civic movement Together for Decent Medicine) around six thousand people came out for the rally, despite the fact the announced number had been one thousand.

“We are grateful to the doctors who were not afraid of being laid off and came. Seventy percent of the speakers were doctors, and many people wanted to speak at the open mike we announced at the end of the rally,” Frolova commented.

She told RBC that the trade union Action planned to hold a nationwide protest against medical care reform on November 29, and Together for Decent Medicine would support it.

The speakers included representatives of Yabloko, the December 5th Party, and the CPRF, and Andrei Nechayev, leaders of the Civic Initiative party and former economics minister. The rally was also attended by activists from independent trade unions (Confederation of Labor of Russia, Action, Paramedic.ru, a trade union of ambulance workers, the trade union Teacher, and opponents of reforms at the Russian Academy of Sciences) and opposition movements, from far-rightists (the National Democratic Party) to anarchists.

The rally was attended by people of all ages, but the attendees were mainly middle-aged and elderly. Several protesters wore uniforms of doctors and orderlies. The slogan on the placards borne by protesters called for “bureaucrats to get a conscience shot,” “demolish old Soviet residential buildings, not maternity hospitals,” and so on. Many of the attendees were health care workers who had either been fired or threatened with layoffs. All the protesters with whom RBC spoke wished to remain anonymous, for fear of losing their job and not finding a new one.

ukraine

Protester at Sunday’s rally: “They screwed up with Ukraine, now they’ve moved to medicine. Let’s say a firm no to closures and layoffs. The people who busted the budget should be fired.” Photo courtesy of RBC

Psychiatrist Alexander still works at Psychiatric Hospital No. 14, but the hospital is among those slated for closure by 2017.

“We have slowly been cut back. Over the past two years, half of our 1,100 beds have been slashed. My salary has not been cut yet, but it has been kept afloat by layoffs of coworkers,” he said.

According to Alexander, the elimination of clinics will primarily affect the most disadvantaged people. He warned of a possible increase in the number of offenses and suicides committed by patients, who will be left to fend for themselves at inpatient facilities.

“Western Europe already went through this in the seventies, when psychiatric hospitals there were closed. Later, they had bring them all back,” said the psychiatrist.

The doctors, nurses, trade unionists, and party activists who gathered at Suvorov Square in Moscow demanded an end to layoffs of doctors and wage cuts, and a moratorium on the reorganization of medical facilities. Another demand was the dismissal of all the top managers of the Moscow health department involved in reorganizing the Moscow health care system. During the rally, doctors even promised to organize a Doctor at Hand protest rally where attendees would be able to get free medical advice. Organizers said that doctors who had been planning to attend the rally had been threatened with dismissal.

Marina, a nephrologist, received a layoff notice on Friday.

“I, a highly qualified nephrologist, will be unemployed as of January 1 of next year due to a downsizing of beds. Ten of sixty beds are left in our department at Izmailovo Municipal Children’s Hospital, which has been merged with the Morozovskaya Hospital. Since April, only a third of our five hundred employees are left. I have come here in the hope that we will be heard, because as these reforms continue it will only get worse,” said the fired doctor.

Elena, an anesthesiology nurse, expects to be fired after the New Year.

“Our hospital, Gynecological Hospital No. 5, was merged with Municipal Clinical Hospital No. 57: now we are Medical Diagnostic Unit No. 3. In the past two years, eighty beds have been slashed at our hospital. The remaining one hundred and ten beds will be cut to sixty, meaning only one of five wards will be left,” she said.

Despite the fact she has worked twenty-one years, she is the first to face redundancy, she says. Her salary is now 22,000 rubles a month [approx. 400 euros at the time of publication]. Over the past two years, it has been cut by forty percent.

“Who is now going to provide qualified gynecological assistance to women in our place? We are told that we aren’t wanted,” said Elena.

Ekaterina came to the rally instead of her relatives, who were threatened with dismissal if they went.

“My relatives work in Moscow’s oldest eye clinic, on Mamonovsky Alley. In December, the clinic will turn a hundred and ninety years old. Now it is Branch No. 1 of the Botkin Hospital. This clinic is being vacated. It is on the timetable of hospitals slated for downsizing, and by 2017 there will not be any doctors or patients there,” said Ekaterina.

Not everyone could make it to the rally. As an ob-gyn doctor from Medical Unit No. 33 who identified himself as Dmitry told RBC, a shift prevented him from going to Suvorov Square. According to him, layoffs have also been made in his unit, which is attached to Hospital No. 40.

“Many of my colleagues no longer believe the situation can change,” he said, expressing hope that the rally would have some impact.

In a number of Moscow hospitals, Sunday had been declared “Health Day,” which, people in the crowd claimed, had been done specially to prevent doctors from taking part in the rally. Rain TV reported this, in particular, citing a source in Clinical Diagnostic Center No. 1.

In the resolution adopted by the rally, protesters demanded an immediate halt to “pseudo-reforms to health care in Moscow.” Organizers were also interested in the fate of the real estate vacated after the closure of the health care facilities. There were also demands for the immediate resignations of Moscow deputy mayor Leonid Pechatnikov and the top managers of the Moscow city health department, who had been “discredited by their involvement in the destruction of Moscow’s health care system.” As Frolova told RBC, rally organizers had invited Pechatnikov and health department chief Alexei Khripun, but the deputy mayor’s office only promised to pass the invitation on to him, while Khripun was represented at the rally by an aide, who “remained incognito.”

Protesters called for a public debate on the present state and future of the Moscow health care system involving members of the medical community, the Pirogov Doctors Movement, Together for Decent Medicine, and other public organizations. They demanded that all discussions be public, and the proceedings be published in the media.

“The demands in this resolution will be sent to municipal and federal authorities,” the conclusion of the resolution states.

Cuts to medical institutions in Moscow have been underway since late last years. According to the working version of the timetable for closing Moscow clinics and maternity hospitals, employees at twenty-eight facilities, including fifteen hospitals, will be fired and their premises vacated. Employees have already been laid off at several hospitals listed in the timetable. The bulk of the closures will take place by April of next year.

hospital closures infographic

Plan for eliminating medical facilities in Moscow. Courtesy of RBC

“We did not want to publish [the timetable] because we were crying softly in our offices. But since it has already gone public, we can now all cry together,” said Pechatnikov, commenting on the document.

__________

Read more about the planned hospital closures in Moscow and the public outcry:

  • Andrei Kozenko, “‘You closed a hospital, open a cemetery’: doctors rally against health care reforms,” Meduza, November 2, 2014 (in Russian)
  • Alison Quinn, “Moscow’s Deputy Mayor Attempts to Allay Panic over Health Care Reforms,” Moscow Times, October 29, 2014 (in English)
  • Lyudmila Alexandrova, “Russia’s fast-tracked health service reform sparks protests,” Tass, October 21, 2014 (in English)
  • Ilya Matveev, “Who built them?” OpenLeft.ru, October 17, 2014 (a list of facilities scheduled for closure, in Russian)
  • “We were crying softly in our offices,” Navalny.com, October 17, 2014 (in Russian)
  • Dina Yusupova and Konstantin Gaaze, “Why hospitals are being closed in Moscow,” Bolshoi Gorod, October 17, 2014 (in Russian)

__________

Meanwhile…

Moscow, October 16, 2014, Interfax. On Thursday, Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov told Interfax that, according to the draft budget, a record sum of 3,286,800,000,000 rubles [approx. sixty billion euros] which amounts to 4.2% of GDP, would be spent on the national defense in 2015. This exceeds 2014 spending by 812,160,000,000 rubles.

In 2016, the government plans to spend 3,113,240,000,000 rubles on defense; in 2017, 3,237,820,000,000 rubles.