Yesterday, during a dinner conversation, I was asked why I’d been silent, why I hadn’t been writing anything about the war. Was it because I was afraid of going to jail, or was it something else? These questions were posed point blank albeit sympathetically.
I’ve been asking myself this question for many months. On the one hand, it’s stupid to deny that watching as my acquaintances are given devastating prison sentences does not affect me in any way. It makes an impression, of course.
On the other hand, I wonder what would I write or say now if the level of state terror had remained at least at pre-war levels. I realize that I would still write or say nothing. I can hardly squeeze this text out of myself. I’m just explaining myself because yesterday was not the first time I’ve been asked why I haven’t been writing anything about the war.
I feel that words have lost their meaning.
One of the ideologues of the war, who constantly makes allegations about the “genocide of the Russian language,” writes bezpilotnik, obezpechenie, na primer, and ne obezsud’te. [Instead of the correct spellings bespilotnik, obespechenie, naprimer, and ne obessud’te — meaning, respectively, “drone,” “provisions,” “for example,” and “don’t take it amiss.”] No one corrected him for a year. Compared to him, I’m a total expert on the Russian literary language, but I don’t have the words to stop cruise missiles or send soldiers home, while his bezpilotnik turns residential buildings into ruins in a second.
I do not know what words to find for a mother who, conversing with her POW son, regularly interjects “bitch” and “fuck.” Or for a mother who, as she sees off her son, smiles at the camera and says what actually matters is that she didn’t raise him to be a faggot, and basically, if push comes to shove, she has another child. Moreover, the supplies of such people are really endless.
Now, sadly, only the Ukrainian Armed Forces can “explain” anything. I am not trained in military affairs. So I am silent.
Source: Yevgeny Levkovich (Facebook), 2 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader
Separately on Friday, police briefly detained Yevgeny Levkovich, a reporter for Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL’s Russian service, at his home in Moscow, and charged him with “discrediting the army,” according to news reports and Facebook posts by Levkovich.
In Moscow, police detained Levkovich for about five hours at the Teply Stan police station and charged him under Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative code for allegedly discrediting the army; convictions for that offense can carry a fine of up to 50,000 rubles (US$613).
Levkovich wrote on Facebook that his trial was scheduled for Monday, but he did not plan to attend because he did not “see the point” in contesting the charge.
Radio Svoboda wrote that the charge was likely related to Levkovich’s posts on social media, but did not say whether authorities had specified any posts prompting the charge. On his personal Facebook page, where he has about 36,000 followers, Levkovich recently wrote about Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Source: “Russian journalists labeled as ‘foreign agents,’ detained, and attacked while reporting,” Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 April 2022
These are the numbers. I want to do something so that people don’t get caught, and even more actively support those who do get caught. But in the first case, it is unclear what these people are reading, and where the safety recommendations should be published so that they are accessible to such people. And we are already working on the second case, but we lack the human resources.
Those arrested for radical anti-war protest are heroes, although sometimes the charges are completely trumped-up. In any case, all of them deserve support. Solidarity Zone regularly writes about such political prisoners, publishes addresses where you can send them letters, and raises funds to pay their lawyers. Sign up to get news of what is happening to these people and, if possible, get involved in supporting them.
Source: Ivan Astashin (Facebook), 25 February 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader
Solidarity Zone: Numbers
112 people are being prosecuted on charges of carrying out or planning radical anti-war acts.
Solidarity Zone counted how many people have been criminally charged with setting fire to military enlistment offices, sabotaging the railroads and other militant anti-war actions, or planning them, in the year following [Russia’s] full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
What police investigators allege these people have done to warrant criminal prosecution:
1 — “other”
7 — torched vehicles marked with the letter Z
17 — planned arsons of military enlistment or other government offices
36 — sabotaged the railways
51 — torched military enlistment or other government offices
Articles of the Russian criminal code under which these people have been charged:
36 — Article 205: Terrorist Act
31 — Article 167: Destruction of Property
15 — Article 281: Sabotage
14 — Unknown
12 — Article 213: Disorderly Conduct
4 — Other Criminal Code Articles
Of these people:
78 are being held pretrial detention centers (remand prisons).
5 have been sentenced to parole.
4 are serving prison sentences.
1 is under house arrest.
1 has been released on their own recognizance pending trial.
There is no information about 23 of them.
Our statistics are incomplete because the Russian authorities do not always report new criminal cases. Sometimes we only get reports that people have been detained, with no mention of their names or the charges against them, and these reports are thus extremely hard to verify.
Our statistics do not include people who were killed by the security forces during arrest or people prosecuted on administrative charges.
Source: Solidarity Zone (Facebook), 24 February 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Here, by way of comparison, are OVD Info’s statistics for numbers of people criminally (as opposed to administratively) prosecuted for “non-radical” anti-war actions since 24 February 2022:
Total defendants: 465 in 77 regions (we include occupied Crimea and Sevastopol in our data because we monitor activities of repressive Russian government authorities that operate there).
Women among the defendants: 90 (19%)
Minors among the defendants: 6 (1%)
(Section 3, Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code) Prosecuted for “spreading fakes about the Russian army” (ie talking about the war in an unsanctioned manner): 141 (30%)
(Section 3, Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code) Prosecuted for “discrediting the Russian army”: 54 (12%)
Convicted: 119 (26%)
Imprisoned upon conviction: 26 people
In pre-trial detention: 108 people
Under house arrest: 17 people
Convicted and given a non-custodial sentence: 62 people
It thus follows that a total of 577 Russians have faced criminal prosecution for anti-war actions of all kinds (violent and nonviolent) since the start of their country’s invasion of Ukraine. As Ivan Astashin, a former political prisoner himself, argues, above, all these people are, indeed, heroes. It’s another matter that they constitute a statistically insignificant segment of the world’s ninth most populous country. Again, by way of (invidious) comparison, at least 1,003 Americans have been charged with crimes for their alleged involvement in the 6 January 2020 riot at the US capitol.
Meanwhile, in Iran (population: approx. 87 million):
At least 522 people have been killed in four months of anti-government protests in Iran, said a report issued on January 15 by the U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). Among the dead are 70 minors and 68 security forces, the agency reported. Nearly 20,000 people had been arrested, 110 on charges that could lead to a death sentence, it said. Four have been executed. Protests were triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurdish woman who was arrested by morality police for allegedly not complying with Islamic dress codes. ||| TRR
Evgeny Krupitsky writes:
I would argue that those who were forced to leave Russia due to Putin’s unleashing of illegal aggression against Ukraine could file a class action lawsuit against the Russian Federation or the ruling elite of the Russian Federation demanding compensation for the moral anguish and economic harm suffered as a result of these events. The Russian federal authorities must fully compensate them for expenses incurred by forced relocation, such as the cost of airplane and other tickets, accommodation in hotels and rented accommodation abroad, and other expenses. Compensation could also include the irreparable losses suffered by citizens within the country due to forced relocation — for example, the loss of a job or a business. Compensation for emotional suffering is a separate issue.
Payments could be made from the Russian federal budget, through the sale of the property of officials directly responsible for unleashing the war, or at the expense of business income from entrepreneurs who have directly supported the illegal aggression. Naturally, compensation for this damage is possible only after full payment of the reparations necessary to restore Ukraine’s economy and civil infrastructure. What do you think about this? #nowar#netvoine
[two selected comments + one response by the author]
Zmey Gurevich A difficult question. It’s true that the monstrous war forced me to leave Russia. But to my incredible surprise, I have have become happy here [in emigration]. Perhaps it’s immoral to be happy when rivers of blood overflow their banks. It’s been eating at me. But the painful departure has led me a new happiness. Some vital knots have been untied… No, I have nothing to bill [the Russian authorities] for. My friends empathize with me and ask me how things are going here. I can’t tell them the truth. I am ashamed. But my departure has turned into a happy time for me. I don’t know what will happen next.
Vlad Shipitcyn Zhenya! Did you go to at least one protest rally against Putin in Russia over [the last] 22 years? No, you didn’t. Did you ever stand on the stand on the street holding a [protest] placard? No. So no one owes you anything, not a kopeck. You too are responsible for both the regime and the war. You let them happen. So calm down.
Evgeny Krupitsky Hi! Yes, I am responsible for this war: it happened due to my connivance, indifference and cowardice. And I said it right away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsAFChc2HSI And my protest was that on March 6, exactly a year ago, I left the Russian Federation having abandoned everything, because I felt sick and ashamed. Okay, maybe it’s not such a big deal in terms of significance and courage, but I am proud of my little protest. I know you went to the rallies long before the start of the war, that you were detained, beaten and fined, and I respect and admire you for that! But someone will say that they suffered more than you did, that they did more to prevent this war, etc. We need to consolidate, rather than argue about who is more to blame!
Source: Evgeny Krupitsky (Facebook), 3 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader
Some people in Russia are living a normal life, but they feel the lack of real normality, and this causes them discomfort. Others live with a sense of catastrophe, but they feel the absence of a real catastrophe, and this also causes discomfort. Consequently, everyone is on edge. The sensible approach is to live normally with a sense of disaster. But this useful attitude is hard to achieve, and if you don’t have it, then I do not even advise you to start. When it takes shape, it will no longer be relevant.
Source: Grigorii Golosov (Facebook), 4 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader
The four members of this “countryside hub” are among hundreds of Russian opposition activists of various political leanings who have fled their country to Georgia throughout the past year. Some left in the months prior to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last February as repression grew to unprecedented levels in the Putin era. Others came after the war began, realizing that with their dissenting opinions, they could no longer live in what they deem a fascist totalitarian state.
In Tbilisi, they have created or joined new anti-war resistance organizations, which operate on Western grants and employ hundreds of volunteers. Working around the clock, these groups offer services in real time to Ukrainians refugees as well as Russian activists and military deserters fleeing their respective countries. The help comes in the form of evacuation routes, therapeutic services, legal guidance, shelters and resettlement plans.
From her volunteering as an election monitor in Russia’s 2011 elections to offering pro-bono legal support to activists arrested during protests in subsequent years, Burakova’s career followed a linear trajectory. Degrees in political science and law equipped her with the legal know-how to aid political opponents, and now exiles, over how to wrestle with and escape an authoritarian system that often invents new laws to persecute citizens. As of 2022, “discrediting the Russian army” is now an offense that has landed countless people in prison for sharing anti-war posts on social media.
“To conduct these types of congresses and host mock parliamentary votes on Russia’s future while in exile just looks a bit cringe-ova,” Burakova tells me, using the popular English word that has been appropriated into the Russian language. Her husband Egor Kuroptev shares the sentiment.
Source: Aron Ouzilevski, “Russian activists in Tbilisi organize to resist Putin’s war,” Institute of Current World Affairs, 1 March 2023. Thanks to Sveta Voskoboinikova for the heads-up. The emphasis is mine. ||| TRR
M., one of my smartest interlocutors, arrived from Moscow Time. “Well, what is your final conclusion? Why?” he asked me. I told him that now I see three points that we simply missed, that ended up in our blind spot. The first point is that of course everyone worked hard during these years, enthusiastically; everyone had an articulated mission in life, etc. But it was seemingly taken as a natural given that each of us was the client of someone a few floors above us. Now everyone looks back and discovers that their mission has been burned for a long time, and their belonging to one or another Moscow (or regional) clan shines forth in their biography. For some reason, it was automatically believed that, in the nineties, we operated in a world in which, when difficulties arose, we should turn to “the man from Kemerovo” (in the words of Grebenshchikov’s song). In the noughties, however, all this was allegedly vanquished. In reality, nothing was “vanquished”: it was simply transformed into large-scale state clans. That is why now everyone who was engaged in charity, book publishing, media development, etc., has suddenly shifted the emphasis in their reflections on life: wait a second, I worked for Abramovich (or Gusinsky, or Potanin, etc.). The system consisted entirely of a network of clients.
The second point: the language of pragmatic communication. It was a completely abusive language. The smash-mouth jargon permeated everything. Roughly speaking, the country was governed in the language of American rappers (i.e., the Solntsevo mob). All communications! Not only the special communications among those in power, but also all communications in the liberal, academic realm, in civil society. The cynical jargon of abuse reigned everywhere, and it was absolutely acceptable even in highly cultured milieux. And we did not see what consequences this would have.
The third point: “populism.” The automatic perception of the “common people” [narod], which had its origins in the late-Soviet and perestroika periods, was a colossal mistake. It was tacitly assumed, first, that there was a “common people”; second, that the “common people” would determine their own fate; and third, that the “common people” naturally triumph over evil because they themselves are good. It was this “populism” that served as the basis for the compromise with the state when it began to take institutional shape in Yeltsin’s wake.
All three of these points were “organic” in some sense. They were a part of ontology: they were taken for granted without any reflection and criticism. And all three played a fatal role in the process of “slowly boiling the frog alive.”
Source: Alexander Morozov (Facebook), 5 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader
I had problems, I had gone way too far. The lower depths of the deepest hell Didn't seem so deep to me. I called my mom, And Mom was right. She said, "Straightaway you've got to call The man from Kemerovo." He is a man of few words, like de Niro. Only a wacko would argue with him. You can't pull one over on him, He knows all the insides and outs. The sky could crash to the ground, The grass could stop growing, He would come and silently fix everything, The man from Kemerovo. Adam became a refugee, Abel got on a mobile connection, Noah didn't finish what he was building, Got drunk and fell face down in the mud. The history of humankind Wouldn't be so crooked, If they had thought to get in touch With the man from Kemerovo. I got a call from Kyiv, I got a call from Kathmandu, I got a call from the opening of the plenum — I told them I would not come. You have to drink two liters of water at night, To have a fresh head in the morning. After all, today I'm going to drink With the man from Kemerovo.
Source: ezh108 (YouTube). Lyrics translated by the Russian Reader
Only one conclusion follows from Stalin’s death: woe is the country where tyrants die natural deaths while still in power.
Source: Roman Osminkin (Twitter), 5 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Mr. Osminkin’s remarks were occasioned by the social media “celebration” of the anniversary of Stalin’s death, yesterday, which often as not consisted of the meme “That one croaked, and this one will croak too.” Meaning, apparently, that the entire “plan” of the “Russian anti-war movement” and the “anti-Putin oppositions” consists in waiting for the current Russian tyrant to die a natural death. It’s a frank admission to be sure. ||| TRR