Vladlen Menshikov: A Real Russian Hero

Vladlen Menshikov. Photo courtesy of Solidarity Zone

We have begun supporting Vladlen Menshikov, accused of anti-war sabotage on the railways.

On September 30, pro-government media reported the arrest of 29-year-old Vladlen Menshikov by the FSB in the Sverdlovsk Region. Investigators claim that Menshikov installed short-circuiting devices on the railway at the eightieth kilometer of the stretch between Rezh and Striganovo, along which trains carrying Russian military equipment run.

During an interrogation, which FSB field agents recorded on video, Menshikov said that he opposes the war and supports overthrowing the current government. He also discusses methods of sabotaging the Russian army’s railway supply lines.

Solidarity Zone was able to establish Menshikov’s identity and locate the pretrial detention center in which he is detained. When we contacted him and offered our support, he responded positively. He asked for legal assistance, and also said he would be glad to receive letters.

We are currently working to start providing full-fledged legal assistance to Menshikov.

We would note that Vladlen is currently being held in solitary confinement, so letters are especially important for him.

✉️📦 Address for letters and parcels:

Menshikov Vladlen Alexeyevich (born 1993)

4 Repin Street

Pretrial Detention Center No. 1

Ekaterinburg 620019 Russian Federation

(It is possible to send letters through the FSIN-Pismo service and Zonatelecom, as well as through RosUznik, a volunteer-run resource.)

💰 To support Solidarity Zone financially, so that we can continue to pay lawyers, send parcels to prisoners, and help cover other expenses, you can use the follow payment methods:

💳 Sberbank card

4276 7201 3618 1221 (Darya T.)

🪙 PayPal: solidarity_zone@riseup.net

🥷 Cryptocurrency:

Bitcoin: bc1qfzhfkd27ckz76dqf67t0jwm4gvrcug49e7fhry

Monero: 86565hecMGW7n2T1ap7wdo4wQ7kefaqXVPS8h2k2wQVhDHyYbADmDWZTuxpUMZPjZhSLpLp2SZZ8cLKdJkRchVWJBppbgBK

Ethereum: 0xD89Cf5e0B04b1a546e869500Fe96463E9986ADA3

Other altcoins: https://nowpayments.io/donation/solidarityzone

Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 21 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service or the privately run Zonatelecom. It is also probably impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can send letters — translated into Russian (if you don’t know a competent translator, you can use a free online translation service such as Google Translate) — to Vladlen Menshikov (and many other Russian political prisoners) via RosUznik. You can also ask me (avvakum@pm.me) for assistance and advice in sending letters.

Kirill Butylin: The Partisan of Lukhovitsy

Kirill Butylin. Image courtesy of Solidarity Zone

Solidarity Zone supports Kirill Butylin. And you can too!

On February 28, four days after the Russian army’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 21-year-old Kirill Butylin threw Molotov cocktails at the military enlistment office in Lukhovitsy, a town in the Moscow Region.

A video of the attack and the arsonist’s manifesto were posted online on March 8.

Their author said that he had painted the gates of the military enlistment office in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and written the message “I’m not going to kill my brothers!” on them, before climbing the fence, pouring gasoline on the outside wall of the building, breaking the windows, and tossing Molotov cocktails through them. The insurgent saw as his goal the destruction of the archive containing the personal files of conscripts, which according to his information was located in that part of the building. He hoped that his actions would hinder mobilization in his district.

The partisan also stated in his manifesto: “I hope that I will not see my classmates in captivity or the lists of the dead. I think this should be circulated. Ukrainians will know that there are people in Russia who are fighting for them, that not everyone is afraid or indifferent. Our protesters should be inspired and act more decisively. And this should break the spirit of the Russian army and government even more.”

Butylin was detained on the day the manifesto was published. After the arson attack, he got rid of his phone and managed to travel to the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, Vremya MSK and Moskovsky Komsomolets claimed, but he was detained there. Butylin allegedly confessed that he wanted to go fight in Ukraine. The young man was promptly extradited to Russia and taken to the police station in Lukhovitsy.

On March 13, Butylin managed to escape. He took advantage of the moment when he was allowed to go to the toilet: finding himself not in handcuffs, he jumped out of the window. He then climbed over a fence and ran off in the direction of the M5 highway. He was soon detained again, however.

The criminal charges against Butylin have morphed, during the course of this case, from “vandalism” to “terrorist attack.” And if initially he was threatened with no more than three years of community service, he now faces from ten to fifteen years in prison.

In October, Solidarity Zone tracked down Butylin in the Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention center in Moscow and established a connection with him. He accepted our offer of support and said that he would be glad to receive publicity, letters and books. According to him, all his other needs are being taken care of. Butylin’s lawyer is paid for by his relatives.

Solidarity Zone supports Kirill Butylin and will continue to cover his case, as well as provide him with all necessary assistance.

You can also support Kirill by writing him a letter, sending him a book (we recommend that you first find out what kinds of books he likes and how to send them by writing him a letter) or publicizing his case.

✉️📦 Address for letters and parcels:

Butylin Kirill Vladimirovich (born 2001)

18 Matrosskaya Tishina Street

Pretrial Detention Center No. 1

Moscow 107076 Russian Federation

(It is possible to send letters through the FSIN-Pismo service and the RosUznik volunteer resource.)

Solidarity without borders!

#writeletters#solidarity#prisoners#no war

Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 7 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service. It is also probably the case that it is impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can send letters — translated into Russian (if you don’t know a competent translator, you can use a free online translation service such as Google Translate) — via RosUznik. You can also ask me for assistance and advice in sending letters by writing to avvakum@pm.me.

Who Are Anton Zhuchkov and Vladimir Sergeyev?

Vladimir Sergeyev and Anton Zhuchkov

Who are Anton Zhuchkov and Vladimir Sergeyev?

On March 6 of this year, Zhuchkov and Sergeyev went to an anti-war demonstration that had been announced that day in Moscow. However, the police detained them on their way to Pushkin Square. Molotov cocktails were found in Sergeyev’s backpack, and the police decided to immediately take them to the police station. However, halfway there, the police had to change the route.

As they were detained, Anton and Vladimir managed to take lethal doses of methadone, as they had planned to commit suicide that day as a political protest. So instead of the police station, the police had to take the friends to the hospital. Zhuchkov and Sergeyev were resuscitated at the Sklifosofsky Research Institute. A week later, when they had recovered, they were sent to a pretrial detention center.

At first, they were charged with “attempted disorderly conduct with the use of weapons” (per Article 30.1 and Article 213.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), but later the charge was reclassified as “preparation of a terrorist attack” (per Article 30.1.a and Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Now Anton and Vladimir face up to 10 years in prison.

In his testimony, Zhuchkov stated that he did not intend to harm anyone, but only wanted to commit suicide: “I took [methadone] so as not to see what was happening in the world — the war in Ukraine, the events in the Donbass — and I was also afraid of a nuclear war. Therefore, I wanted to take my own life so as not to see what would happen next, including worrying that young people would live in poverty,” he said during interrogation.

Sergeyev initially admitted that, before committing suicide, he wanted to set fire to an empty police van in protest against the war. Sergeyev’s lawyer Svetlana Zavodtsova reports that these statements were given under duress and without a lawyer present. Sergeyev now refuses to testify.

Solidarity Zone has been providing Zhuchkov with comprehensive support, including paying for a lawyer and sending care packages. Solidarity Zone has been helping Sergeyev and his relatives by giving them consultations and providing them information.

You can also support Vladimir Sergeyev and Anton Zhuchkov.

💰 Donations for Anton Zhuchkov:

4279 3806 5189 1279 (Sberbank card, Evgenia Alekseevna Sh.)

💰 Donations for Vladimir Sergeyev:

5536 9141 5380 7247 (Tinkoff card, Anna Aleksandrovna A.)

You can also transfer funds to support Zhuchkov and Sergeyev via PayPal and Solidarity Zone’s crypto wallets, but you must earmark your payment for them.

🪙 PayPal: solidarity_zone@riseup.net

🥷 Cryptocurrency (write to us at solidarity_zone@riseup.net if you transfer cryptocurrency to support Sergeyev or Zhuchkov)

bitcoin: bc1qfzhfkd27ckz76dqf67t0jwm4gvrcug49e7fhry

monero: 86565hecMGW7n2T1ap7wdo4wQ7kefaqXVPS8h2k2wQVhDHyYbADmDWZTuxpUMZPjZhSLpLp2SZZ8cLKdJkRchVWJBppbgBK

ethereum: 0xD89Cf5e0B04b1a546e869500Fe96463E9986ADA3

other altcoins:

https://nowpayments.io/donation/solidarityzone

✉️📦 Address for letters and parcels:

127055, Moscow, Novoslobodskaya st., 45, SIZO-2,

Zhuchkov Anton Alexandrovich, born in 1983

Sergeyev Vladimir Andreyevich, born in 1985

(It is possible to send letters through the service FSIN-Pismo, as well as the volunteer resource RosUznik)

In the photo, Sergeyev is on the left, Zhuchkov is on the right.

Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 6 November 2022. I have edited the original post in English for clarity and consistency. I would also note that people living outside Russia will not be able to donate money via Russian bank cards or use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service. It is also probably the case that it is impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. ||| TRR

The Anti-War Case: Anton Zhuchkov and Vladimir Sergeyev

Vladimir Sergeyev (left) and Anton Zhuchkov. Photo courtesy of Solidarity Zone

On November 3, a court in Moscow will consider whether to extend the remand in pretrial custody of Anton Zhuchkov and Vladimir Sergeyev, defendants in the so-called Anti-War Case

Zhuchkov and Sergeyev were detained on March 6 of this year on Pushkin Square in Moscow during an anti-war demonstration. Molotov cocktails were found in Sergeyev’s backpack, which later served as grounds for launching a criminal case: the friends were accused of preparing to set fire to empty paddy wagons.

They were initially charged with “attempted disorderly conduct involving the use of weapons” (per Articles 30.1 and 213.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code), but the charge was later amended to “preparation for a terrorist attack” (per Articles 30.1 and 205.2.a of the Criminal Code). Zhuchkov and Sergeyev now face up to 10 years in prison.

Today, it transpired that the court hearing, at which the case investigator’s petition to extend Sergeyev and Zhuchkov’s term in the pretrial detention center will be considered, is scheduled for November 3.

You can support the prisoners by being present in court. If you do intend to go to court, do not forget to take your internal passport and to leave your sharp objects and means of self-defense at home.

🕛 12 p.m., 3 November 2022

📍 Khamovnichesky District Court (Judge M.L. Syrova, presiding), 21 Seventh Rostov Lane, Moscow

[…]

Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 1 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Story of Igor Paskar, Who Threw a Molotov Cocktail at the FSB’s Offices in Krasnodar

Igor Paskar. Photo courtesy of Vot Tak (Belsat)

On October 28, the trial of Igor Paskar began in the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don. He is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at the FSB’s offices in Krasnodar, and also of setting fire to a [pro-war] “Z” banner. Paskar explains his actions as a protest against the war: after the alleged attempted arson at the FSB, he painted his face in the colors of the Ukrainian flag of Ukraine. The FSB has classified the protest as “terrorism,” and the burning of the banner as “vandalism.” Paskar faces ten to fifteen years in prison if convicted.

To Moscow and Back

Igor Paskar was born and lived until the age of thirty-five in a workers settlement in the Volgograd Region. He came of age in the 1990s, turning eighteen in 1994. After school, he enrolled in the administrative and industrial buildings maintenance program at the Volgograd Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering, but had to quit his studies in his first year after he was drafted into the army. After two years in a construction battalion, Paskar returned to his native village and immediately began working odd jobs — on construction sites, as a loader, and as a courier.

In 1998, when Paskar was twenty-two, he was first sentenced to five years probation on charges related to drug trafficking. In 2001, he received two years of actual prison time for theft and possession of hashish. He was last convicted of a criminal offense — one and a half years probation for possession of marijuana — in 2006. The last ten years, Paskar told Vot Tak, he has been clean — he completely gave up using light drugs.

In 2013, Paskar moved to Moscow. At various times in the capital, he worked as a courier at Samokat, as a loader, and as a furniture assembler. He also sold rare items on Amazon.

He became interested in politics in 2018 — as his case investigator would later write, he became an “adherent of radical liberal opposition ideas.” In 2021, Paskar was detained in Moscow for taking part in a protest rally called by Team Navalny after the politician’s arrest.

In the summer of 2021, the activist returned to Volgograd, where he got a job as a courier. During one of the interrogations about this period, he said: “I was still interested in the work of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and I supported Alexei Navalny. I publicly voiced my opinions among people I know, including at work, and I posted my opinions in messengers and chats.”

The FSB on Fire

In February of this year, before the start of the Russian invasion, Paskar responded to an ad and took in a lost dachshund. According to the activist, stray dogs tried to attack the pooch several times, so he bought a flare gun to scare them away. He soon left his village in the Volgograd Region with his dog for work: he had found an unusual vacancy on the internet — picking strawberries in Adygea. Paskar was unable to start the job, however. There was a conflict in the workers’ accommodations over the dachshund, and he fired the flare gun at the ceiling. Paskar himself called the police, and the court sentenced him to five days in jail. After his release from a special detention center, Paskar left for Krasnodar.

In a letter, he describes this period as follows: “I have had a whole series of failures in life over the last three months. When the special operation began, I was unable to transfer money from abroad after the SWIFT system was switched off. I had an Amazon account on which I traded rare items. After the start of the special operation, I lost my earnings. I could not get a job in Volgograd and decided to go to Krasnodar for seasonal work, but there were a number of failures. I was angry at my plight and decided to sacrifice myself for what I believe in — peace.”

Paskar held his first anti-war protest in downtown Krasnodar on June 12, Russia Day. It was then that he threw a lighted bottle of gasoline at a banner featuring the letter Z and the slogan “We do not abandon our own.” No one paid attention to his actions, the banner quickly went out, and Paskar was not detained.

Paskar then decided to carry out a protest action at the FSB’s Krasnodar offices. He did not plan to go into hiding and prepared for his arrest by selling his phone and packing a bag for the pretrial detention center. “My criminal experience has left its mark on me. When a person has [this experience], they are no longer afraid to go to prison. They already know that you can live there too — not very well, but you can do it. It is not hell. This has an impact not so much on radical decisions as on accepting one’s fate,” Paskar noted in a letter to your correspondent.

On June 14, Paskar went to the FSB’s offices on ulitsa Mira [“Peace Street”] in Krasnodar. A Molotov cocktail flew [sic] onto the building’s stone porch. The activist then painted his cheeks yellow and blue and waited for passersby to react and for the authorities to detain him. He hoped that someone would record the protest on their phone and post the video on the internet. Passersby avoided the scene, however. FSB officers came out of the building after a few minutes and detained the activist.

The moment when the fire flared on the porch of the FSB offices in Krasnodar: Source: Baza. Courtesy of Vot Tak (Belsat)

A Burnt Rug

Paskar calls his protest symbolic, emphasizing that his actions could not have caused serious damage — only a rug was burned on the stone porch. Despite this, a criminal case was immediately launched against Paskar under Article 205 (“Terrorism”) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code, which stipulates a penalty of ten to fifteen years in prison.

On October 28, the Southern District Military Court began considering the case — according to the amendments to the law adopted in 2014, only four district military courts [in Russia] can try terrorism cases. The court extended Paskar’s term in the pretrial detention center for six months, and ruled that the trial would be open to the public. The first hearing on the merits in the case was scheduled for November 10.

In 2016, for setting fire to the door of the FSB headquarters in Lubyanka Square [in Moscow], the performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky was sentenced to pay a fine of 500 thousand rubles under Article 243 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Destruction or damage to objects of cultural heritage or cultural artefacts”). And yet, at the trial, the artist demanded that his actions be reclassified as terrorism.

Earlier, the [exiled opposition] politician Gennady Gudkov said that Paskar’s actions could be deemed disorderly conduct: “In any civilized country, such a thing is regarded as disorderly conduct and is punished with a warning or a fine.” And gallery owner Marat Guelman called Paskar’s act activism.

Paskar is being aided by the human rights initiative Solidarity Zone, which previously announced a fundraiser to pay for Paskar’s lawyer.

Source: Ivan Astashin, “‘He became an adherent of radical liberal ideas’: the story of Igor Paskar, who threw a Molotov cocktail building at an FSB building,” Vot Tak (Belsat), 31 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader



Vot Tak has published an article about Igor Paskar, who is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at the FSB offices in Krasnodar and setting fire to a “Z” banner. He did this to drawn attention to the war and voice support for the people of Ukraine.

On October 28, the Southern District Military Court began trying Paskar’s case.

Solidarity Zone has been providing comprehensive assistance to Paskar.

We are now raising funds to pay for Igor’s lawyer.

Fundraiser details:

💳 Sberbank card

4276 5500 2065 1710 (Zlatislava)

🪙 PayPal: solidarity_zone@riseup.net (marked “for Paskar”).

🥷 Cryptocurrency (be sure to email us at solidarity_zone@riseup.net if you transfer cryptocurrency to support Igor Paskar)

bitcoin: bc1qfzhfkd27ckz76dqf67t0jwm4gvrcug49e7fhry

monero: 86565hecMGW7n2T1ap7wdo4wQ7kefaqXVPS8h2k2wQVhDHyYbADmDWZTuxpUMZPjZhSLpLp2SZZ8cLKdJkRchVWJBppbgBK

ethereum: 0xD89Cf5e0B04b1a546e869500Fe96463E9986ADA3

other altcoins:

https://nowpayments.io/donation/solidarityzone

#solidarity#nowar#prisoners

Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 31 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Olga Nazarenko: “What Is the Point of Having Principles If You Don’t Act on Them?”

Olga Nazarenko, a university lecturer in Ivanovo, risks going to prison for simply hanging the Ukrainian flag in the window of her own flat. Neighbors from the building opposite regularly complain about her. Nazarenko goes on anti-war pickets, where aggressive fellow citizens attack her. And the pickets have already triggered a criminal case against her. Repeated visits and searches by police officers at night and early in the morning have become routine for her children. Nazarenko sees the situation in Russia as nearly hopeless. She is amazed at how the country’s maternal instinct has even been destroyed: Russians dutifully send their children off to die for nothing. Despite all this, she considers it her duty to talk to people. She remains in Russia, and has no plans to emigrate.

Recently, the police rang at Nazarenko’s door at three o’clock in the morning. They demanded to be let in so that they could remove the Ukrainian flag. It has been hanging for six months on the balcony of the activist’s flat in an ordinary multi-storey residential building in the city of Ivanovo. Nazarenko refused to let the police in without a search warrant. Through the door, the night visitors informed her that neighbors had filed another complaint about the Ukrainian flag. The law enforcement officers left, only to return at seven in the morning and knock on the door for a long time. Nazarenko did not unlock the door, but wrote a complaint against the police to the prosecutor’s office.

Over the past two months, the police have visited the well-known anti-war protester at least four times. In the autumn, two criminal cases were opened against Nazarenko, one of them under the so-called Dadin article of the Russian criminal code. The medical school at which the activist has worked for almost twenty-four years has suspended her employment. The university lecturer is currently listed as a “suspect” by the authorities. Despite the fact that term of her undertaking not to leave the country, which went into effect after the criminal case was launched, has recently expired, she has no plans to leave Russia. She talked to Radio Svoboda about her principled choice.

Olga Nazarenko, holding a placard that reads: “If those who oppose the war are imprisoned, fascism has won.
Alexandra Skochilenko face five to ten years in prison for anti-war stickers…” Photo courtesy of Radio Svoboda

— How did you find out that you had been identified as a suspect in a criminal case?

— I learned that a criminal case had been launched against me under Article 280.3 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Public actions aimed at discrediting the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”) from the Center “E” officers who came to my workplace at around eleven a.m. on September 20. They obliged my colleagues to to serve as witnesses, searched my desk, and found two placards. Before that, my laptop was seized without my knowledge. The bigwigs at the medical school wanted to conceal it at first, but I made a fuss. It transpired that the Center “E” officers did not even give our management rep a copy of the report for the seizure of the laptop, nor did he demand one from them. Then we went to my house; fortunately, there were no handcuffs on me. There they carefully rummaged for a long time: they took our phones (even the phone of my young son), a computer, old leaflets, our personal money, and the savings of our daughter, who is a university student. The money was returned to her, but the police kept our funds for themselves, and they are not planning to give them back to us, apparently.

— How did your children react to the search of your home?

— My son was in a little shock, especially since they took something that belonged to him. My daughter behaved calmly. She talked to the police a little. She asked whether their “assistant” was an adult: the computer technician they brought with them looked quite young. A Center “E” officer replied tersely that they were all adults and all officers. My daughter is already an adult, and she understands everything and supports me. My family took the search well, because this was not my first encounter with the relevant authorities due to politics. In the spring, at seven a.m., the riot police came to search the flat since I had been identified as a witness in a vandalism cased launched against another activist. Then they tried to prevent me from calling a lawyer, seized my phone, my computer, 138 posters, and the Ukrainian flag from the window. The law enforcement agencies’ interest in me had already become something routine.

Оlga Nazarenko in her office at the medical school. Photo by Oskar Cherdzhiyev. Courtesy of Radio Svoboda

— How long has the Ukrainian flag been hanging in the window of your flat?

— Every year since 2014, I had hung up the flag of Ukraine on the country’s Independence Day. Last year, I put it in the window and decided not to take it down. Police officers visited me after complaints were made, and they demanded explanations about the flag. I refused to explain anything to them. In the spring, after my apartment was searched, and they took the Ukrainian flag with them. I sewed a new one and hung it in the window again. I did the same thing after the search in the autumn.

— Why did you do that?

— For reasons of principle: if I support Ukraine, then I support it. And most importantly: no one in uniform and flashing a badge gets to decide what hangs in my window.

— What was the first criminal case brought against you for?

— They think that I posted anti-war leaflets in Ivanovo. I refused to give evidence by citing Article 51 of the Constitution.

— Were you not intimidated when they launched a criminal case and searched your flat?

— All this was to be expected. And no, it didn’t intimidate me. I continued going to anti-war pickets and rallies in support of those who have been persecuted for making anti-war statements, and I talked to people on the streets. A second criminal case was soon launched against me under the so-called Dadin article (i.e., Article 212.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code: “repeated violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, march, or picket”). In October, Center “E” officers and the investigator who was running the first criminal case against me came again to search my flat. They were accompanied by several people in black masks and bulletproof vests. It’s hot in our flat, and I saw sweat on their faces, probably from overexertion. I even felt sorry for them. The search was superficial; they didn’t see anything new, apparently. They again seized our phones and a couple of posters. Once they got into the flat, they immediately rushed to the balcony and again pulled down the Ukrainian flag. I told them that I hadn’t violated the law when I hung up the flag, since I wasn’t infringing on the building’s communal property. The Center “E” guys replied that I should understand how turbulent the situation was now. They asked me why I was hanging the flag up. I said that it reflected my position and my aesthetic tastes.

— Do you like the colors yellow and blue?

— Yes, they are my favorite colors: the sky and the sun. The next day I sewed another Ukrainian flag and hung it out.

— Do you usually sew Ukrainian flags on a sewing machine?

— Yes. There are many shops in Ivanovo where you can buy fabric. I found a good one and bought three sets at once. It will last for a long time.

— Why do you think that it is the neighbors who filed complaints against over the flag?

— Only residents of the house located opposite mine can see the flag all the time. The denunciations are probably written by neighbors and residents of the neighboring house. I saw one complaint. The poor lady wrote: “I see the Ukrainian flag every morning and I consider it unacceptable in such a situation as we have now.” I even felt sorry for her. After I hung out the Ukrainian flag, the neighbors living in the apartments below and above mine hung out Russian flags. After the search, a “Z” was again written on my apartment’s mailbox and a note was tossed in it that said, “Ukraine is no more. Take down your rag and dry yourself with it.”

– How did the medical school react to the criminal cases against you?

– The management suspended me on the grounds that the articles of the Criminal Code brought against me hinder my work as a lecturer. My colleagues were upset. We have worked together for many years. Besides, now they have to do my duties. My colleagues do not talk about politics. Most of my colleagues are apolitical. But they have voiced their support to me and hope that everything will be resolved somehow. I studied at the medical school for six years, and after graduation I stayed on there to work. That is, my entire adult life, almost thirty years, has been connected with the medical school.

— Have you been able to get another job?

— Due to the criminal cases, I cannot tell an employer how long I would be able to work for them. So, I will look for something temporary, and then my professional career will depend on the court’s decision.

— How many pickets did you hold in the autumn?

— In September and October, I held four or five pickets. Since the second criminal case was launched, I have not yet gone out to protest, but I’m going to continue to voice my civic stance.

— Why are you going to continue to hold anti-war pickets, despite the serious risks of ending up in a Russian prison?

– I have beliefs, and I will act in keeping with them. As long as I can talk, I’ll keep doing it. What is the point of having principles if you don’t act on them, regardless of the risks?

— Do you have the support of friends, family, and associates?

— I have moral support from friends, and there are also simple acquaintances who support me and help me raise the money for fines. I am being defended by attorney Oskar Cherdzhiyev.

Aren’t you annoyed by like-minded people who emigrated instead of getting involved in anti-war protests with you?

— If the question is about ordinary Russian citizens, and not about protest leaders, then I’m not annoyed. I understand that nothing will change in the near future. People in difficult circumstances choose the best option for themselves. We have one life, and everyone has the right to live it as they please. Besides, emigration is now a rational, appropriate solution. Many of those who have gone abroad continue their protest activities: they go to anti-war protests at Russian embassies, help refugees from Ukraine and Russia, and work on publicity.

— But why is it the best option for you to stay in Russia and go to anti-war pickets, rather than worry about your own safety?

— My choice is based on the fact that I can do more in terms of working with people in Russia than I could in emigration. I’m rubbish at information technology. It’s easier for me to talk to passersby at street protests in the hope of getting my message to them. Russia is my country, and I won’t let them kick me out. I have the right to my own country and I don’t want to leave Russia for anywhere else. I will stay here and do what I think is necessary, voice my position. If I left, I would feel bad because I got scared and ran away.

— Do you think your long-term street activism has produced any results?

— If we’re talking about changing people’s minds, I don’t see any particular results. The war is so propagandized that a few people who publicly voice a different viewpoint cannot shift the minds of the majority in the other direction. My protests are meant to have an effect on the people who are having doubts. I have succeeded in making such people think. But the main purpose of my protests is to support like-minded people among Russians and Ukrainians. Thanks to my actions, among other things, friends in Ukraine know that not everyone in Russia is an “orc.”

— How has the reaction of passersby to your pickets changed since the war with Ukraine began?

— I’ve observed that people have become more guarded and scared. They usually dash past me quickly, averting their eyes. The reactions of those who do not hide them have become quite polarized. Either passersby are emotionally grateful, or they almost pounce on me, fists flying, and call me a Banderite. At the last picket, a man grabbed my placard and tore it up. There have been more negative reactions to my pickets than friendly ones, but this is not surprising. It is amazing how, with such propaganda, one hundred percent of people don’t react negatively to anti-war protests.

— How do you manage to be so tolerant towards people whose views differ from yours?

— I would not call my attitude towards them tolerant. I just understand what motivates their behavior: a lack of critical thinking skills, plus the fear and the reverence for the authorities that is inscribed in their subcortex. Powerful state propaganda combines with excessive loyalty to those in power. Thus, Russian citizens support all decisions by high-ranking officials.

Olga Nazarenko in the lobby of the Ivanovo Regional Office of the Interior Ministry. Photo by Oskar Cherdzhiyev. Courtesy of Radio Svoboda

Are you able to understand why the parents of conscripts did not come out in droves to protests after the mobilization was announced?

— It’s beyond my comprehension. The maternal instinct is a powerful biological mechanism. As conceived by nature, it should be stronger than any propaganda. Apparently, there has been a real degradation in our society over the past twenty years. Total state propaganda, which includes not only the media, but also the education system, has aimed to completely distort values. Fear and reverence for power, submission to it, which never disappeared in many Russians, have now resurfaced especially strongly. Unfortunately, learned helplessness has overcome the maternal instinct. I do not know if such people can change anything.

— This is not the first year that you have been constantly going out to protest. Perhaps you have a hope that Russia will become a free country?

— It’s hard to say. Historically, Russia has been going in circles all the time, rather than developing in a spiral. But I still want to hope that Russia will become a developed and free country. However, this won’t happen soon, perhaps in one hundred years.

Source: Daria Yegorova, ‘Why have principles if you don’t act?’: A fight over the Ukrainian flag in Ivanovo,” Radio Svoboda, 29 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Living Their Best Lives

“People have been sending [me] this from Paris all morning.”

Source: Darja Serenko, Facebook, 25 October 2022


The movement was born underground, on February 25, the day after Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory, but as its co-founder, Darja Serenko, immediately clarifies, “We were not starting from scratch.” Feminist Anti-War Resistance (Feministskoe antivoennoe soprotivlenie, or FAS) unites 45 organizations that already existed in different sectors, to which dozens of anonymous activists in sixty cities in Russia have been added, not counting those who had to go into exile. It is a network that is increasingly determined to take action and make itself heard.

Her hair short and asymmetric, her gaze direct, Serenko, who was in Paris in early October, is categorical: the violence in Ukraine fuels domestic violence, and vice versa. “War and women’s rights are closely linked,” she explains, “because on the one hand, men, who come back with their traumas, constitute a real danger to them. On the other hand, those who commit the worst crimes [on the battlefield] are often the same ones who are the most brutal at home.” The 29-year-old activist, one of the movement’s few public figures, does not forget to mention the driving force behind the violence — the regime. “Vladimir Putin is the stupidest representation of Russian masculinity,” she says. “He serves, alas, as a model for some Russian men, but he does not represent us. We laugh about it, even if it’s hard to laugh under a dictatorship.”

A poet and literature teacher who had been “fired from everywhere,” the young woman fled Russia to take refuge in Georgia two weeks after the FAS’s creation and her last stint in jail, from February 7 to 23, just before the start of the war. Prosecuted for “extremism” — the presence of the logo of opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation on her Instagram account was enough to merit that charge — she was arrested at the same time as her friend Maria Alyokhina, a member of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot. Placed under house arrest, the latter managed to escape in April, disguised as a food delivery courier.

“The time for peaceful resistance is over”

In Russia, the feminist movement has continued to grow as the crackdown on society has expanded, especially in the wake of a law decriminalizing domestic violence, adopted in 2017, with the strong support of the Orthodox Church. But it was indeed the war that united their efforts. Born in Siberia and transplanted to Moscow, Serenko, who is also an LGBT activist, committed herself in 2014, after Russia’s first aggression against Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and the start of the armed conflict in Donbas. “War is a backlash, a crucible of conservatism,” she emphasizes. “During the Second World War, women took the place of men in the rear, before being again excluded from important positions. And voila! They were then sent back to the reproductive front.”

On October 7, in Paris, the activist, invited to testify at a forum organized by Russie-Libertés, bluntly outlined her vision of things today: “The time for peaceful resistance is over. I’ve always been in favor of peaceful protests, but now I’m not.” In fact, FAS activists, linked by a permanently powered Telegram channel that keeps “beeping,” have gone on the offensive with the meager means at their disposal.

In Russia, they produce Zhenskaia Pravda (“Women’s Truth”), an underground newspaper printed on personal printers and distributed surreptitiously, like the samizdat of the Soviet dissidents, in order to “break the information blockade.” They organize, at their own peril, commando operations [sic] such as the one that consisted in installing, overnight, 2,000 memorials in Russia in tribute to the dead of the martyred Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Crosses, sometimes even bearing names, were planted in courtyards “in the same way as Ukrainians were forced to bury their loved ones at the foot of their residential buildings.” They are also involved in the sabotage actions of Russian “partisans” against strategic sites.

More than 200 activists are currently being prosecuted [sic]. On October 21, a court in St. Petersburg sentenced Alisa Druzhina to five days in prison for putting up a banner in the city that read, “The zinc coffin on wheels is already on your street.” According to the prosecution, the young woman is part of the Feminist Anti-War Resistance and her banner must have been posted on their Telegram channel to be taken up by others. This channel, which has 42,000 subscribers, is chockablock with drawings, stickers, and slogans ready to be disseminated. One of them shows Vladimir Putin immersed in a bathtub of blood filled by defense minister Sergei Shoigu.

The “partial” mobilization has increased determination tenfold

Most of the arrested feminists have been sentenced to administrative penalties, but several are still in detention. This is the case, in particular, of Alexandra Skochilenko. Incarcerated since her arrest on March 31, the 32-year-old musician, accused of being part of a “radical feminist group,” faces ten years in prison under a law, adopted at the beginning of the war, on “fake news,” for having switched price tags in a supermarket with anti-war slogans. “By replacing something quite mundane with something different, something unusual, we are showing that there is not a single place in our country that is not affected by the war, and we are not letting people just turn a blind eye to what is happening,” the FAS channel recommends. “We document the war with quotes from Ukrainian women,” says Serenko.

The “partial” mobilization, decreed at the end of September by Vladimir Putin, has increased the determination of feminists tenfold. The volunteers, who are already helping deported Ukrainians seeking to leave Russia, as well as opposition activists facing threats of prosecution, have also mobilized on behalf of men threatened with being drafted. “Women in Dagestan came out to protest against the mobilization, but also in Chechnya where, for the first time in a long time, one hundred and twenty [women[ dared to demonstrate. [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov brought their husbands [to the protest], telling them, ‘Either you beat them, or we’ll take care of it,'” reports Serenko.

“We also take care of homosexuals and trans people who have not had time to change their papers and have been mobilized,” she adds. (Although often attacked, registering gender change as part of one’s civil status is still possible in Russia.) From their countries of asylum, the activists, who have regrouped abroad, act as relays, “even if it has become more and more difficult with the closing of the borders.” Several of them, lawyers or psychologists by training, offer their services online under the guise of anonymity on both sides. The introduction of martial law in the border regions, on October 19, has caused additional concern. And it’s not a question of generations. “Recently, a babushka threw a Molotov cocktail into a branch of Sberbank in Moscow shouting ‘No war!'” laughs Serenko.

The latter highlights a completely different phenomenon likely to increase the number of women mobilized in the ranks of the FAS. “A lot of ‘cargo 200s’ have been arriving,” she says, thus using the code word, well known in Russia since the Soviet war against Afghanistan, denoting dead soldiers evacuated from the battlefield. For the feminist leader, “war has entered [people’s] homes,” and it is no coincidence, she says, that the most vehement reactions have come from areas such as Dagestan, from which part of the troops sent to the front have left and which have paid a heavy price in terms of casualties. “Many women also understand that there is discrimination. The anti-war movement,” continues Serenko, enthusiastic, “will play an important role because the state is trying to silence the bereaved families, but women, partisans, and minorities have formed a collective that is growing rapidly.”

However, the activist remains lucid: “We have studied several wars, such as Yugoslavia, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, and, on average, anti-war campaigns do not make a name for themselves for three years… This was the case with the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers for Chechnya.” Emerging in 1989 in response to the treatment of conscripts in the Russian army, this human rights organization did indeed grown to more than 200 active committees throughout Russia in 1997, three years after the start of the first Russian-Chechen War (1994–1999). In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky, who never ceases to appeal to the mothers and wives of Russian soldiers, often invokes this memory.

Source: Isabelle Mandraud, “En Russie, les féministes contre la guerre,” Le Monde, 25 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


In March, Iraq War veteran Carl Larson took a leave from his digital marketing job in the Puget Sound region to join in the Ukrainian struggle against the Russian invasion of their country.

He spent his toughest weeks in the front-line trenches of northeast Ukraine.

Artillery fire kept him awake through most of the nights, and it was easy to confuse stray dogs walking nearby with Russian soldiers who might be scouting the position of his unit of the International Legion of the Defense of Ukraine.

The risks of exiting the trenches were brutally demonstrated on the afternoon of May 31. Larson and several other soldiers gathered by a command post in a nearby house. A Russian shell hit a tree, then shrapnel fragments struck the head and groin of German legionnaire Bjorn Clavis.

The soldiers lacked a generator to charge their radio, and also a vehicle. So they had to use a runner to summon medics.

Some 40 minutes later, this aid arrived. But Clavis died in an ambulance.

“He lost too much blood,” Larson said.

Larson is convinced Clavis could have been saved if the unit had been able to charge their radios. And since his July return to his home in Snohomish County, he has been raising money to buy generators and other supplies for the legion soldiers, who amid the fall chill have shifted from defensive positions in trenches to joining Ukraine’s fast-moving offensive to reclaim territory held by Russians.

On Thursdays, Larson gathers with a group of legion supporters in a banquet room at European Foods, a grocery and restaurant in north Seattle. Over bowls of borscht and plates of cutlets they share news about the legion and what equipment is needed.

Larson says Ukrainian as well as legion units suffer from supply shortages despite international aid that includes more than $18.2 billion in U.S. government security assistance since 2021.

The legion’s current list of needs includes more cold-weather equipment, drones, communications and vehicles. And some who have served in the legion say that their units, when compared with other front-line forces, have had more serious shortfalls.

“We’re a great PR stunt because ‘Wow, look at all these foreign soldiers who are willing to put their lives on the line for Ukraine,’ ” said Stuart Burnside, a British veteran from Yorkshire who has been in Ukraine since February. “But we’re fed on scraps — to be fair.”

Others say shortages are a shared hardship.

“Unfortunately, right now, the reality is there’s not enough supplies,” said Evelyn Aschenbrenner, an American who left a teaching job in Poland to staff an International Legion administrative job.

Ukraine ‘way more stressful’

The legion was formed by the Ukrainian government to organize combat units of foreigners to fight in the war. The Russian government declared that they would be seen as mercenaries — and if captured, lack the standing of regular-duty troops. But that did not deter a surge of people, many from North America, Great Britain and Europe, but also some from Latin America and the former Soviet Republic, from making their way to Ukraine, where they receive training and are paid for their service.

Larson, 48, had joined the U.S. Army four months after 9/11 and worked as a combat engineer in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As he settled into middle age, he was inspired to take up arms again by what he viewed as the moral imperative of preventing the slaughter of civilians and thwarting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of military conquest.

He said his experiences in Ukraine where “way more stressful and frustrating” than his service in Iraq.

Early on, Larson was dismayed by some of the would-be recruits who had no military experience, or appeared unstable. And Larson initially balked at joining the International Legion, concerned by where he might be sent, what he would be tasked to do and whom he might serve with.

But after discussions with Ukrainian officials, he took a job helping to screen new recruits to the legion and prepare them for service. Then, he joined a legion battalion and spent five weeks in training, much of it as a platoon leader, before deploying to the front.

Larson said his unit took up position in zigzagged trenches, some of which were initially made by German soldiers during World II then reoccupied some eight decades later.

“We just dug them out. They were quite well made,” Larson said.

In the hours before dawn, he sometimes had to deal with business back home — calling contractors to fix a house that he and his wife had purchased in Snohomish County.

Some of the legion soldiers Larson encountered served for a few months and left, others had been in Ukraine since late winter. Most get a code name that can be easily remembered and spoken over the radio. Larson was told his would be Grinch.

Through the course of his service, Larson said the legion evolved, emerging as a more cohesive, fighting force composed largely of a more professional mix of hundreds of military veterans. (Detailed legion troop numbers are not publicly released.)

Larson concluded his military career in Ukraine had dead-ended after clashes with a Ukrainian officer whom he alleged stole money from the unit. The officer was reprimanded but stayed in command, and Larson was assigned a new job digging ditches.

A legion spokeswoman said she could not comment on “individual allegations and individual situations. But she said that “we have firsthand experience standing up against corruption and problematic people. It can be done, and it is done.”

With his wife eager for his return, Larson decided to fly back home to Washington a few weeks earlier than he had planned.

Return to Washington

Back in Washington, Larson has stayed in touch with some of the legion soldiers as they have advanced to towns once held by the Russians. The legion casualty count has climbed.

“Now, we have soldiers who engage in combat, and they are more direct targets for tanks and grenades,” Aschenbrenner said.

Source: Hal Bernton, “Washington vet returns from harrowing Ukraine front-line duty,” Seattle Times, 25 October 2022

Albina Sentyakova: “No Means No”

Albina Sentyakova

Tomsk resident Albina Sentyakova protested [the war] by shaving her hair off on the city’s Novosobornaya Square on Wednesday, October 19. She placed the hair in a box, and then held it aloft, thus displaying the slogan “No means no,” Sibir.Realii’s correspondent reports.

The protester was not detained, as the police were not in the vicinity.

“I cannot remain silent about what is happening in the world and in our country. It’s quite painful and unbearable. I cannot be silent. All the men in my family have a military specialty and silently accept the fact that they will have to go (to the front — SR),” Sentyakova said.

Source: “Tomsk resident shaves her head in anti-war protest,” Sibir.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 19 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Irina Tsybaneva: “You Raised a Freak and a Murderer”

Irina Tsybaneva. Photo courtesy of Mediazona

A court in St. Petersburg has put sixty-year-old accountant Irina Tsybaneva under house arrest for leaving a note that read “Death to Putin” on the grave of the Russian president’s parents. The woman was able to steal up to the gravestone, which is guarded, but she was unable to leave the cemetery unnoticed. The police and the prosecutor’s office asked the court to send Tsybaneva to a pretrial detention center, calling the crime “audacious,” but the court found that this was too harsh a pretrial restraint. Mediazona has delved into the details of the case and found out what role the news played in the Petersburg woman’s spontaneous actions.

“I just saw a [TV] program, at that time very serious, there was some news, and something just…,” said Tsybaneva, trying to explain her actions, while standing in the defendant’s cage at the Primorsky District Court in Petersburg.

Tsybaneva has been charged with desecrating the burial place of deceased persons due to political or ideological enmity. It is alleged that she went to the grave of the parents of Russian President Vladimir Putin and left a note there that included the following phrase: “You raised a freak and a murderer.”

“And how often do you go and write notes to everyone [sic] while watching the news?” the prosecutor asked her.

“Never. I watched the news and realized that everything is quite scary, everything is very sad, a lot of people have been killed.”

“We had the coronavirus, everyone was depressed. Did you also write something to someone then?”

“What for? No, of course not,” said Tsybanev, smiling.

“Well, I don’t know. You watched the news and decided to write.”

“Yes, under the influence of the news.”

“Are the media to blame for your actions?”

“That’s the upshot.”

Irina Tsybaneva. Photo courtesy of Mediazona

Before the war in Ukraine, Tsybaneva, who is employed as an accountant in Petersburg, was not particularly interested in politics. Even after the Russian invasion, she practically never raised the topic of war raised in conversations with relatives, her son Maxim told Mediazona.

“She went to concerts, festivals, theaters, and museums. She traveled a lot both in Russia and abroad,” the man added. “At one time, she was a big fan of bard music. I don’t know how it is now, but it’s probably still the case. She went to the Grushinsky Festival many times. She was a prominent figure in Trofim‘s fan club.”

Tsybaneva spent a lot of time with her six grandchildren. (Her daughter and her son each have three children.) She moved to St. Petersburg in the 1980s from the Tver Region, working as an engineer and then as an accountant in various companies.

On October 6, the eve of the Russian president’s birthday, Tsybaneva went to the Serafimovskoe Cemetery, where Mr. Putin’s parents are buried.

Security had already been beefed up at the cemetery and specifically at the graves of Vladimir and Maria Putin, probably due to the fact that, in late September, a small poster in the guise of a school pupil’s class journal appeared on their headstone. It read as follows: “Dear parents! Your son has been behaving disgracefully! Skipping history lessons, fighting with his desk mates, and threatening to blow up the whole school! Take action!”

“Dear parents! Your son has been behaving disgracefully! Skipping history lessons, fighting with his desk mates, and threatening to blow up the whole school! Take action!”
Photo courtesy of Feminist Anti-War Resistance

A week later, a court in Petersburg jailed the activist Anastasia Filippova for ten days on charges of disobeying a policeman. As reported by Bumaga, Filippova’s relatives linked her arrest with the poster. Yesterday, a court overturned her arrest, and she was released from the special detention center.

Despite the beefed-up security and the police officers on duty at the cemetery, Tsybaneva was able to walk up to the grave of the Putins.

“They got distracted there, and she somehow left the note. It transpired that there are a lot of cameras there,” Maxim Tsybanev said, adding that his mother was able to photograph the note on her phone, which was later seized, however.

The contents of the note were made public today during Tsybaneva’s pretrial restraints hearing. “Parents of the maniac, move him in with you. He has caused so much pain and trouble, the whole world is begging for his death [illegible]. Death to Putin, you raised a freak and a murderer,” Tsybaneva’s message read.

In a linguistic analysis, a copy of which was submitted as part of the written request for pretrial restraints in court today, experts concluded that the note contains a “negative assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin” addressed to his parents. But how exactly the police identified the person who left the note is unknown. In court, the prosecutor cited an “ongoing investigation.”

The leaflet containing the appeal to Putin’s late parents was found the same day by a cemetery guard, who immediately informed the police. On Monday, October 10, they were already knocking on Tsybaneva’s door.

“She wouldn’t open it for a long time, but eventually a policeman promised to pry it open, and she opened it. At three p.m. yesterday she was taken to the 35th police precinct. For some reason, they kept her waiting there for a long time. Finally, around nightfall, she telephoned and said that there would be a search. We immediately went to her house, but she wasn’t there,” Maxim Tsybanev told Mediazona.

The accountant was placed in the temporary detention center and a criminal case was opened against her for abusing the burial place of deceased persons due to political or ideological enmity. If she is convicted, Tsybaneva could face up to five years in prison.

During the couple of days that Tsybaneva was in custody, the police were able to conduct a DNA examination, which confirmed that the traces of skin found on the note were hers. Handwriting analysis also indicated that it was Tsybaneva who wrote it. In addition, a picture of the note was found on her phone.

“I immediately admitted that I had written [the note], and that there was no need to do these analyses,” Tsybaneva said in court.

Police investigators and the prosecutor’s office asked that Tsybaneva be sent to a pretrial detention center.

“She is suspected of a crime whose danger to public consists in insulting the memory of the dead, the deceased, and the feelings of the living towards the dead,” the prosecutor argued.

She called the crime committed by the accountant “audacious” and, given Tsybaneva’s impressionability and the impact the news has on her, she argued that it was better for the woman to be in custody.

The defense lawyers were able to convince the court that the restraint measure requested by the state was too harsh. Consequently Judge Dmitry Lozovoy put Tsybaneva under house arrest for twenty-eight days, forbidding her to use the internet, telephone and mail.

“Given the actions committed, this is too harsh, but given current situation in the country, it is quite good,” said her son Maxim, commenting on the judge’s decision.

Source: Pavel Vasiliev, “‘Move him in with you’: 60-year-old Petersburg woman put under house arrest in case of note left on grave of Putin’s parents,” Mediazona, 12 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Timur Saifulmulyukov: “When You Start Doing Something, There Is No Fear Anymore”

On September 24, the day Putin announced a military mobilization, Timur Saifulmulyukov walked into traffic on Tomsk’s main street, maneuvering between the streams of moving cars and waving an anti-war poster. A couple of minutes later he was detained. The police confiscated the poster and drew up an arrest report, charging him with violating traffic rules and discrediting the Russian army. He talked about what prompted him to take the action, his attitude to the mobilization, and how he sees his future in Russia in an interview with Siber.Realii.

Timur Saifulmulyukov is thirty-five years old, married, with one child, and works as a fire safety and video surveillance systems installer. He had not been involved in protests before September 24.

Timur Saifulmulyukov, shouting “No war!” in downtown Tomsk on 24 September 2022

– What were you doing February 24 and how did you feel when you learned that war had broken out?

– On February 24, I didn’t know that the war had started. I overlooked it. I found out only the next day. There was nothing devious about it. I had followed the news before the war, and I saw that Russia was amassing troops. Other countries asked what was going on, and our officials dismissed their concerns. It’s always like this in Russia: you file any complaint and it gets dismissed everywhere. And just as Russia spat on the rights of its own citizens, so it spat on the rights of the citizens of Ukraine.

It wasn’t a depression that afflicted me, but a kind of apathy. A feeling of hopelessness. You feel incapable of doing anything, you don’t feel what your role is in all of this. I knew about those who disagreed with the Putin regime, I knew that criminal cases were being launched against them and that they were being imprisoned. It was an ambivalent, you know, feeling. On the one hand, you think that nothing can be done, and on the other, that something has to be done.

– And that’s why you decided to go protest using the slogans “No war!” and “Give our children a free and peaceful life”?

– I had never been involved in political protests before. But I now realized that something had to be done to support people who were more proactive than me and the people around me. I made myself a poster and chose an anti-war slogan to attract attention, but at the same time there were as few reasons [for the police] to find fault as possible. Of course I want a peaceful life to children and people in general.

– And what did you do next?

– I went to Novosobornaya Square, but I saw that the police weren’t even letting the people (who had came out to protest against the mobilization — SR) just stand there. The point of the protest was to voice our stance, but we couldn’t even stand there for two minutes. There was no effect, but there was punishment. I started looking for protesters — I thought that journalists would definitely be photographing and filming some of them. The police stopped me immediately and checked my documents. I decided that I would definitely not do anything in such circumstances. I thought about what to do and shook a little: I felt completely vulnerable.

I thought that I had to take a little break, to gather my wits about me. I walked around and looked at what was happening. It was clear that some people had already been detained. I thought it was time for me to go home, but also that I had to do something, ultimately. To overcome my fear, I went to a store to buy water and chocolates — in case I was detained. And cigarettes: I don’t smoke myself, but I thought they would come in handy in a paddy wagon or a jail cell. And then the idea occurred to me to block traffic. I wrote to my wife that I’d made up my mind and off I went.

– So your wife supported your action?

– No, she’s afraid. It’s psychologically difficult for her. We used to talk about personal responsibility for what was happening in our country. And we came to different positions: that I felt responsible, and she, maybe, felt a little responsible, but thought that nothing could be done. That she had no levers of influence, and didn’t want to risk her life. I don’t want to either, but I’ve read and watched so much about people who do things, and then are railroaded for the rest of their lives. Pressure is put on them, but they still go out and protest.

– And how do the people around you generally feel about the war?

– I think they mostly passively support it. It’s not that they hated anyone very much or believed the propaganda. But it is convenient for them to adopt the position taken by the “strongman”: it seems to them that our state now has a strong position. And whoever is stronger is right. If it occurred to them that this was abnormal, they would have to explain these contradictions to themselves. And they don’t want to take risks. If [protesters] hadn’t been at obvious risk now, more people would have come out. Many people think this way: that the effect [of protests] is zilch, but the risks are numerous.

– What were the minutes before you were detained, during which you walked in traffic, like? How did others react?

– I didn’t see any negative reactions. People were looking at me, and some of them tried to film or take pictures of me on their phone. But I was trying not to get hit by a car and attract as much attention to myself as possible.

Timur Saifulmulyukov, standing in front of a wall painted with a “No war!” slogan. Courtesy of RFE/RL

– How did the police treat you?

– I was lucky that I was detained by a traffic police patrol. That’s why I didn’t sit in a paddy wagon for several hours like the other detainees. They didn’t put my hands behind my back. They put me in a car and took me to the police department. As we were driving, they were honking at everyone [to get out of the way], so I took advantage of this and showed my poster through the window. When we arrived, they confiscated my phone and started writing me up. They charged me with traffic violations, and I thought they would let me go. But then they took me to the fifth floor and made me give a statement. One person interrogated me, but two others were constantly in the room. None of them introduced themselves. When I asked for their names, they said we’d meet again and I’d find out then. They never did introduce themselves. And they constantly interrupted me.

– What they did ask you about?

– Did I make the poster myself? What time did I leave the house? Did I know about the Vesna Movement and the [local Tomsk opposition] Telegram channel Velvet Street? I had recently changed my [internal] passport, so I was also asked why I had a new passport. They asked me if I knew where the troops were, and what my attitude to the war was. I replied that this was my personal opinion, and I would not say it out loud. It’s clear what they wanted, but I tried not to talk about it.

Then I was taken to another office and given a charge sheet, this time for “discrediting.” I looked at it, but I overlooked one paragraph, which I noticed later. In this paragraph, written by a third person, it stated that I had violated Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code (“discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”) and that I agreed with the charge.

– Were you scared?

– When I stepped into traffic holding the poster, it was no longer scary. When you start doing something, there is no fear anymore — there is a confidence, a willingness to do whatever it takes. It’s like they’re torturing you and torturing you, and then it doesn’t matter anymore what they do.

– You have no desire to leave Russia?

– I don’t want to go anywhere. My wife and I have already discussed this. War or no war, we’re not going anywhere.

– And if you get a [mobilization] summons?

– I’m not going to the war. I don’t want to be involved in this massacre, I don’t see the point in it. And it doesn’t matter to me if I just pushed papers instead of being directly involved in combat. Nor do I think that the majority supports the mobilization. It’s just that people don’t want to go to jail. They think that maybe it will pass. Or they hope for the best. Or a friend or a brother has been killed [in combat], so they think, What, am I going to try and dodge the draft? I’ll go get killed too.

– Wars end sooner or later. What do you think will happen then between Ukraine and Russia?

– I think that the relationship will be very difficult, because relations between countries are based on some kind of background, and the background is terrible. Something like 150 years will have to pass for a semblance of tolerance to emerge. Such things don’t fade away just like that.

– And how do you see your own future?

– I think that after holding the referendums and annexing [the occupied Ukrainian territories], they will introduce martial law. Otherwise, why all this fuss? Ukraine will not retreat and will win back its territories. And a complete mess will ensue. But I am relatively prepared for it.

Source: “‘When you start doing something, there is no fear anymore’: stepping into traffic in the name of peace,” Sibir.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 4 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader.


This is my 3,000th dispatch on this beat, as filed on this website, which I launched fifteen years ago, in October 2007, and its shorter-lived sister blog, Chtodelat News, which was my main venue for broadcasting news and views from the other Russias and other Russians between 2008 and 2013.

Timur Saifulmulyukov’s story, above, is a perfect example of the kind of stories about Russia and Russians that definitely weren’t getting told anywhere else in English fifteen years ago. They are told only marginally better nowadays, despite everything (mostly bad, but occasionally good) that has happened in and around Russia since then.

In one measurable way, this project has been a success. As of today, I’ve had a combined total of 1,115,195 views since October 2007, including over 180,000 this year alone so far! Would that I had a penny or two for each of those views.

If you find these stories valuable, you can support my work by sharing them on social media with friends and colleagues. You can also donate money via PayPal or Ko-Fi to help me pay overhead costs (such as internet fees, hosting charges, and online magazine subscriptions) and somehow compensate me and my guest translators for our considerable work.

This labor of love takes as much time as my paying jobs, which have become less dependable recently. I would rather continue filing dispatches on the Russian Reader as frequently as I have in the past fifteen years, but for that to happen I need much more serious financial support than I’ve enjoyed in the past. If you have solid tips about where I could seek such support, I would appreciate hearing them as well. ||| Thomas Campbell, publisher, editor, writer, researcher, and lead translator of the Russian Reader since October 23, 2007