“No Future”: Popular Reactions to Putin’s Mobilization

Outside Gostiny Dvor [metro station and shopping center, in downtown Petersburg]. The police are plucking out the protesters one by one and dragging them away.

Passersby ask, “What happened?”

Most either don’t read the news or support the mobilization.

They look at us like we’re idiots.

I asked a middle-aged woman whether she had any children.

“Two sons, so what?” she answered me defiantly.

Today I thought for the first time that there is no future.

[Comments]

Natalia Vvedenskaya

Just for balance. Today, in the supermarket, I quietly eavesdropped on the conversations among the saleswomen (these were two different conversations). Irritated and indignant, these middle-aged women said that the members of parliament [who quickly passed laws enforcing Putin’s mobilization] should go to war themselves.

Source: Galina Artemenko, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the bus. A middle-aged woman in the front seat yells into the phone, not mincing her words. She says that there is a panic at work, that they have seven days to keep the guys from getting drafted. This was followed by instructions for direct action. The young fellow sitting with his back to her listened attentively, while the girls opposite him could not have cared less.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a trusted source and occasional contributor to this website, identified here as “AR” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


This hurts a lot. I console myself with the fact that, as in private life, the most vital and beautiful thing is the process itself, when you are initially in a hole, but you fight to make things better. But can I please go back to the time when I have to confront myself, and not a crazy autocrat with a nuclear button?

I try to shift my focus from irritation towards Russians who support the war, and the collective Europe playing along [sic], to endless love. First of all, to people who are in Russia and are not afraid to speak out against the war. I am glad that I am living at the same time as you. Of course, we are far from being Iran, where people take deadly risks for their beliefs. But we’re cool, too. We’re doing what we can. If everyone in Russia were like us, the war would have ended today. Now, when it is important to support myself, I console myself with this thought, and I advise you to do the same.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a grassroots activist in Petersburg, identified here as “JA” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the evening of September 21, in Petersburg, as in other cities, a protest was held against the mobilization of Russians for the war in Ukraine. The protest was called by the Vesna Movement. The protesters gathered at 7 p.m. on St. Isaac’s Square.

Riot police vigorously detained protesters, beat them with batons, dragged them on the ground, and put them on their knees. According to OVD Info, at least 444 people were detained in St. Petersburg.

Bumaga has put together a photo chronicle of the first popular protest in the city in the last six months.

Source: “How an anti-mobilization rally — the first mass protest in six months — took place in Petersburg,” Bumaga, 21 September 2022. There are several more photographs of the protest rally at the link, including photos from a second, separate protest the same evening outside Gostiny Dvor (as described by Galina Artemenko, above). Translated by the Russian Reader


Conscription Notice Russia. This channel was created to inform the residents of Russia about the delivery of conscription notices in our city! [sic] Write here with information about which addresses conscription notices in Russia are being sent — @maks_ge

“Prospect Mira. A conscription notice was just served to a man approximately 40-45 years of age. He was strolling with his wife and dog. Then they [the police?] went up to some young guys sitting on a bench and had a chat with them.”

“They’ve already started handing out conscription notices at the factories in the town of Gatchina in Leningrad Region.”

“The Gazpromneft filling station at Amurskaya 15A. Two men got into a scrap, and the attendant called the police. The cops came and gave them tickets. They threatened the men, saying that tomorrow, other people in uniform would come visit them at home — I think they meant the military conscription office.”

Source: Screenshot of the Telegram channel Where Draft Papers Are Being Handed Out — Russia. The channel was created on August 13, but only started posting on September 21. It already has over ten thousand subscribers. Thanks to VL for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


Well, my prognosis was mistaken. I underestimated the regime’s vileness and meanness. As the supreme ruler declared a partial mobilization, the local military enlistment offices issued decrees concerning all reservists without exception.

This is totally fucked up. For example, “temporary residents must depart for their legal place of residence.” Accordingly, millions of unregistered men or men registered at their temporary residences in large cities must leave for their hometowns or home regions. Accordingly, all these millions of men are “lawbreakers” — they can be seized in dragnets, blackmailed with prison terms, locked up, beaten up, and anything else that our cops do with our citizens. When [the cops] are faced with passive resistance, they will indiscriminately rake in whomever they catch.

These people will certainly “engage in combat,” but that will happen later. What matters now is filling the quotas.

Source: George Losev, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Putin has announced a “partial mobilization.” Only time will tell how “partial” it is, but it is already clear that the mobilization will affect many people. What options do those whom the Kremlin wants to mobilize have?

  1. Become cannon fodder.
  2. Go to jail.
  3. Illegally flee the country. If you fail, you go to jail.
  4. Go underground. If you fail, you go to jail.
  5. Go underground and become a guerrilla. You could also go to jail.

I do not consider legal ways to avoid mobilization, since the rules of the game can change at any moment, and those who were not subject to mobilization yesterday will be subject to it tomorrow.

The choice isn’t great, but there is a choice.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 21 September. Mr. Astashin is a former political prisoner and human rights activist who now seems to be living in exile in Berlin. Translated by the Russian Reader


In the kitchen of a communal flat:

— Soooo, you live closer to the front door, don’t open it to anyone. If they come, tell them there are no men living here.

— I’ve been dodging the draft for so long I don’t even remember how to do it anymore. I’ve had so many chronic illnesses since then. Do you think it will help?

— At my work, a friend of a friend of a friend of a colleague is offering to drive [men] to Finland for 50 thousand rubles [approx. 855 euros]. Any takers?

— He’s definitely going to Finland? That’s too cheap somehow. What if he takes you to the military enlistment office?

— My pop says that he would volunteer himself, but he’s already sixty-seven, they won’t take him. But he’s weird that way. He never goes to the welfare office, because he believes you have to have pride: he didn’t work all his life to ask the state for something in his old age! His pension is 25 thousand rubles a month [approx. 440 euros].

— Maybe he is also one of those people who have nothing, and who donates money to buy socks for soldiers?

— No, he believes that we have the strongest army and does not give them a kopeck. He says the people asking for that money are scammers.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a veteran human rights activist in Petersburg, identified here as “NN” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader

Mobilization: Mission Possible

The same day that President Putin announced a call-up of reservists to send off to continue his unprovoked invasion of Russia, Russian mega online retailer Ozon informed its customers that it was now selling the new Apple iPhone 14. Source: Ozon.ru

I have been extremely troubled by arguments that a mobilization in Russia is impossible. People are saying that everyone will run off, nothing will come of it, there is no logistics or anything else. This is all true, of course, but the stated goal of calling up 300 thousand reservists is quite realistic, in my unprofessional opinion.

I really don’t see any earth-shattering problems to it. There are military enlistment offices, there is transport. The uniforms will be fetched from Afghan War-era stockpiles. You know, those sand-colored uniforms, star-embossed belt buckles, and Kirza boots — there is probably a lot more of this stuff in the warehouses. The “mobilizees” will look, however, more like mobs of POWS than like an army, what with all of them wearing different uniforms, some sporting Kirza boots, and some in ankle-high combat boots purchased on the side from a cunning ensign. But still.

I have no doubt that our state will cope with the task of mobilizing men and delivering them to Ukraine. It will be done shabbily — five hundred men will lose fingers to frostbite while traveling in unheated train cars, and fifteen hundred will escape somewhere along the way — but that doesn’t mean that no one will get there.

So, I listened with some bewilderment to arguments that no mobilization would be declared. And now a mobilization has been announced, to the delight of Strelkov.

To make the figures clearer, I should explain that about 400 thousand people live in our district in Petersburg, the Frunzensky District, which means that 600 men should be called up (taking into account the fact that our population is older than the average for Russia). In reality, it will most likely be even fewer, since the powers that be will probably decide to throw residents of the ethnic republics into the furnace again.

Over the past few months, our district authorities have just barely recruited about forty volunteers, since they were unable to use any of the state’s usual enforcement mechanisms. Now they will have all the tools of the military enlistment officer at their disposal.

I’m sorry, but I believe in the success of the mobilization at this stage and that the stated quantities are doable. I don’t believe in the success of Putin’s war. Unmotivated poorly armed cannon fodder is needed in this war, but the benefit from it is not so great, and it will arrive [in Ukraine] only in winter, by the time the front stabilizes somewhere near Henichesk.

It’s not enough to mobilize men. The powers that be still have to somehow mobilize industry. Here I see much less chance of success.

I feel a certain shameful schadenfreude. When I adopted the slogan “Putin = war” as my profile pice in 2014, readers of the Kupchino News made fun of me. The people then were solidly in the “Crimea is ours” camp. Now, for the sake of this selfsame Crimea, a place where, until 2014, Russians could go on holiday with no problems, your brothers and your children will have to go off and die. Not me. I left Russia after police searched my home for a second time and a criminal case was launched against me. When something really could still be done [to oppose the Putin regime] with minimal risks, you were extremely smart to stay at home. Well, now you will be extremely smart in thinking of ways to dodge the draft. What counts is keeping a low profile, isn’t it? The president knows what he’s doing!

However, after this schadenfreude, I immediately feel ashamed. After all, it was I who lost my fight for a Russia free of autocracy, fascism and militarism. By the way, in 2014 I had another profile pic: “Putin = hunger.”

Source: Deputy Volokhonsky (Vladimir Volokhonsky), Telegram, 21 September 2022. Mr. Volokhonsky is a well-known Petersburg grassroots pro-democracy activist and municipal district councilor, currently living in exile in Belgrade. He is also the editor-in-chief of the neighborhood news website Novosti Kupchino (“The Kupchino News”). Translated by the Russian Reader

Reuters


President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s first mobilization since World War Two, warning the West that if it continued what he called its “nuclear blackmail” that Moscow would respond with the might of all its vast arsenal.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect our people – this is not a bluff,” Putin said in a televised address to the nation, adding Russia had “lots of weapons to reply.”

One-way flights out of Russia were selling out fast after Putin ordered the immediate call-up of 300,000 reservists, and Russia’s opposition called for protests.

Residents of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv dismissed Putin’s move as a mark of desperation and expressed confidence in their own armed forces to drive Russian troops from their country.

The European Union’s executive body told Putin to stop his “reckless” nuclear gamble, while Britain said the threats must be taken seriously.

Alexander Glushko says he spent the last fortnight of the Russian occupation of his hometown of Izium in northeast Ukraine jailed by Russian soldiers in the dank ruins of a police station where he was tortured with electric wires.

Pope Francis said that Ukrainians were being subjected to savageness, monstrosities and torture, calling them a “noble” people being martyred.

Source: Linda Noakes, “The Reuters Daily Briefing,” Reuters, 21 September 2022


Reuters

Our own correspondent is sorry to tell
Of an uneasy time that all is not well
On the borders there’s movement
In the hills there is trouble
Food is short, crime is double

Prices have risen as the government fell
Casualties increase as the enemy shell
The climate’s unhealthy, flies and rats thrive
And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape
Gunfire’s increasing
Looting, burning, rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape
Rape

Source: SongMeanings, as written by Colin Newman and Bruce Gilbert

Maxim Katz: “You’ve Ruined the Country, You Lousy Geostrategists”

Maxim Katz: “Yesterday, two events happened. First, the Russian army is still shamefully running. Second, Russian missiles are destroying the civilian infrastructure of peaceful Ukrainian cities. Today, in addition to frontline news, I want to tell the leaders of our regime where it’s all going.”

Katz’s takedown of the Putin regime has already been viewed 1.6 million times although it was posted only two days ago, on September 12. It’s outfitted with fairly decent English subtitles for the hard of Russian. It’s definitely worth seventeen minutes of your time.


Maxim Yevgenievich Katz (born December 23, 1984) is a Russian political and public figure, co-founder of the Urban Projects Foundation, author of the YouTube channel of the same name, Russian champion in sports poker, Wikipedia author, and former deputy of the municipal assembly of the Moscow district of Shchukino (2012–2016) from the [social liberal opposition] party Yabloko.

Source: Wikipedia. I’ve slightly edited the text for clarity. ||| TRR

Maxim Katz at the Boris Nemtsov Memorial March in Moscow in 2020. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Why They Fight

I’m writing once more about the Donbas and our true goals in carrying out the SMO. Everyone should know this, given that there are still many Russians wondering what it was all for. This category of people should know that the events in Donbas did not arise in a vacuum.

We are fighting not only for the liberation of peaceful people from years of Nazi tyranny. We are fighting for the future of our country, Russia — for our traditions and identity, for spiritual and moral values, for religion and the triumph of justice.

If we have been saying for many, many years that NATO’s force should not threaten us and prance at Russia’s borders, it only meant that we would not sit still and watch them place the sword of Damocles over us.

If we kept saying for a long time, patiently, discreetly, but intelligibly, that they shouldn’t torture and exterminate the Russian-speaking population of Donbas, it simply meant that they should be treated equally, respectfully, without prejudice.

Further, if we said that the Crimea is ours, [and] that this is the choice of Crimeans themselves, then it was not worth regularly and monotonously repeating that you would invade this area at the first opportunity.

Finally, if we persistently repeated that you could cherish and lust after your faceless LGBT masses as much as you wanted, but don’t impose it on us, it just meant that we wouldn’t allow it at home. We do not understand or accept it. But even in this case, sanctions were imposed on Russia — just for rejecting LGBT values.

Listen to the combat general, Hero of Russia, and commander of the Akhmad special forces battalion Apti Alaudinov. He uses accessible, simple words, and speaks reasonably and intelligibly. Everything he says is very clear and precise!

Source: Kadyrov_95 (Ramzan Kadyrov), Telegram, 10 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The apparent collapse of the Russian forces has caused shock waves in Moscow. The leader of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, who sent his own fighters to Ukraine, said if there are not immediate changes in Russia’s conduct of the invasion, “he would have to contact the leadership of the country to explain to them the real situation on the ground.”

Source: Steve Hendrix, Serhii Korolchuk and Robyn Dixon, “Amid Ukraine’s startling gains, liberated villages describe Russian troops dropping rifles and fleeing,” Washington Post, 11 September 2022


Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, speaking in the State Duma on Tuesday, September 13, dubbed the “special operation in Ukraine” a war and called for a nationwide mobilization in Russia.

“How does a special military operation differ from a war? You can stop a military operation at any time. You cannot stop a war: it ends either with victory or defeat. I’m suggesting to you that there is a war going on, and we have no right to lose it. We must not panic now. We need a full mobilization of the country; we need completely different laws,” the online publication Sota quotes Zyuganov as saying.

Gennady Zyuganov, chair of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Russian Federation (KPRF):
“Today, Russia’s fate depends on victory in Donbas. We need a total mobilization of the country.
We need completely different laws.” Source: Sota

Earlier, Communist Party MP Mikhail Matveyev suggested that governors and MPs volunteer for the front. For his part, Mikhail Degtyarev, the governor of Khabarovsk Territory, said a few days ago that he would like to go to Ukraine as a volunteer, but he could not, because he had no right to resign his post. Residents of the region launched a petition proposing to “help the governor realize his dream to go to fight in Donbas.” It has been signed by several tens of thousands of people.

Later, the press service of the Communist Party commented on the party leader’s statement. Zyuganov had spoken primarily about mobilizing Russia’s economy, political system and resources in the face of the impending threat, said Communist Party press secretary Alexander Yushchenko. He claimed that [Zyugannov’s statement] had nothing to do with the military. “Some groups are engaged in outright provocations, like the people who have spread this news. I would would say that such people should generally be executed,” Yushchenko said.

[…]

Source: Sergei Romashenko, “Zyuganov says a war, not a special operation, underway in Ukraine,” DW, 13 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Good Deacon

Deacon Dmitry Bayev

Another criminal case has been opened against the Orthodox church deacon from Kirov who opposed the war, and he has been put on the federal wanted list.

On September 7, a new criminal case was opened against Deacon Dmitry Bayev, this time on charges of “exonerating Nazism” (per Article 207.3.4 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). The charges were occasioned by a video entitled “Thank you grandfather for the victory” and the comment to it (“The last parade in the Russian Federation is a parade of samovars”) which the deacon posted on the VK group page Kirov Online on May 9.

The investigators argued that these publications “offend[ed] the honor and dignity of veterans.” Bayev was placed on the federal wanted list.

The 33-year-old deacon of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kirov left Russia after he was charged with disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army due to his anti-war posts on VKontakte. On March 17, by decree of the Diocesan Bishop, Metropolitan Mark of Vyatka and Sloboda, Deacon Dmitry Bayev was banned from the ROC clergy.

Source: Andrey Churakov, Facebook, 10 September 2022, who cites “@ASTRA” as his source, which I have been unable to locate. Translated by the Russian Reader


Citing sources in the agency, Newsler reports that the Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into disseminating “fake news” about the Russian military (as defined by Article 207.3.d.2 of the Criminal Code) against Dmitry Bayev, a 33-year-old priest in the Orthodox parish of the Church of John the Baptist in Kirov.

The criminal case was opened on March 23. According to the investigation, Bayev published posts in support of Ukraine and its army on his VKontakte page. In his posts, Deacon Bayev claimed that the Ukrainian military had “dispatched 17 thousand 500 orcs to the next world.” According to him, the Russian armed forces — he called them “Russian occupiers” — have suffered significant losses of equipment every day. Bayev’s page was blocked at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office on March 24.

After the charges were filed, the deacon did not delete the entries against the war in Ukraine from his social media page.

“The purpose of the posts is the hope that before my page is blocked, at least one person will have been able to escape the intoxication of propaganda or at least doubt it, begin to understand the real state of affairs, and put things in order in their head after reach the right conclusions,” Bayev said in a comment to Idel.Realii.

If the deacon’s guilt is proven, he faces a fine of three to five million rubles, five years of community service, and five to ten years of imprisonment.

Bayev has been banned from the priesthood since March 11, according to the website of the Vyatka Metropolia.

On Forgiveness Sunday, Priest Ioann Burdin delivered an anti-war sermon in the Orthodox church in the village of Karabanovo, Kostroma Region. After one of the parishioners filed a complaint, Burdin was summoned to the police. The Krasnoselsky District Court found Burdin guilty of “discrediting” the Russian army (per Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation) and fined him 35 thousand rubles [approx. 560 euros]. At the very outset of the war, about 300 members of the Russian clergy published an open letter condemning the war in Ukraine.

Source: “Criminal case into disseminating fake news about Russian military opened against Kirov church deacon due to posts on VKontakte,” Current Time TV (Radio Svoboda), 1 April 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

A Bill of Goods

“Commander [watch]. Death to spies: commissioned by the GRU of the USSR.”
Source: Kitenhome, where the watch is identified as a “vintage men’s wrist watch” from 1990. It is priced to sell at $29.99.

Only the blind can claim that Vladimir Putin wants to revive the Soviet Union. On the contrary, he has built one of the most Darwinian and irresponsible capitalist systems on the planet. Only its imperial ambitions and the normalization of permanent theft bear any relation to the late Soviet state. Only the fear of the return of a totalitarian regime, which struck several generations in Russia, has delayed a left turn among the young. But the war has finally started it.

After February 24, the protest against the Putin regime, amplified by antiwar sentiment, was embodied in a digital resistance movement. The global media has been largely silent about this fact, but military commissariats in Russia burn down every few days, freight trains with weapons or raw materials for military factories derail, and the walls of houses and fences are covered with huge pro-Ukrainian graffiti at night. Volunteers take care of Ukrainians forcibly displaced to Russia and help them flow to Europe. This resistance is horizontal and egalitarian, and it is mainly engaged in by twenty- to thirty-year-olds. What values drive them?

[…]

The range of the views of this new left is wide — from anarcho-federalism to social liberalism — but at its heart is a clear demand for equality and a restart of the state with an economy focused on personal self-realization, the satisfaction of basic needs, and the protection of rights. As Russians come to accept responsibility for the terror inflicted on Ukraine, we can expect turbulence to last for decades. But one reason for optimism is the likely fact that any new Russia — or several Russias — will be leftist.

Source: Nikolay V. Kononov, “The Russian Left Is Standing Against Putin’s War in Ukraine,” Jacobin, 4 September 2022. Thanks to Charles Keener and Marxmail for the heads-up. This same article was published in Tribune on 29 August 2022.


Mr. Kononov is identified by Tribune as the “editor-in-chief of Teplitsa Journal, a Russian-language media outlet about activism.” I had trouble finding this “journal” online until my boon companion suggested it might have something to do with the so-called Teplitsa sotsial’nykh teknologii (“Greenhouse of Social Technologies”), an organization that describes itself as a “support system for NGOs and activists.” Teplitsa Journal is only referred to as such in Mr. Kononov’s Anglophonic ventures outside the “hothouse” of Russia’s overhyped (and in fact mostly nonexistent) “anti-war movement.” Teplitsa Journal is not a “Russian-language media outlet,” but a section on Teplitsa’s website.

Among other things, Mr. Kononov recently published an interview there with the philosopher Artemy Magun. This passage in particular struck me as another “bill of goods,” this one intended not for wobbly-kneed western leftists, but for Russian “dissidents” eager to blame anyone else but the Russian regime and an overwhelmingly compliant Russian society for the brutal, utterly unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

— What is the source of the war?

— A mutual misunderstanding among three countries and cultures: Ukraine, Russia, or rather its leadership, and the West, by which I mean Europe and the US plus Japan and South Korea. Imperial chauvinism comes from Russia, nationalism comes from Ukraine. And on the third hand, there is the as it were universal imperialism of the United States, infused with their special version of civic nationalism.

US relations with other countries are based on soft power, hegemony. This involves not only the dominance of the dollar and financial institutions, not only technological innovations, but also the assertion of national democratic and humanistic values.

As for Russia, it is not only the collapse of one ideology and the misunderstanding of another, but also economic dependence. Russia does not have high-tech products, not only due to backwardness and corruption, but also because many markets have not been opened to it. The free trade space turned out to be not entirely free. For example, Russia was not admitted into the European Union, by and large, except for its energy resources. Do you remember the conversation with Ukraine in 2013–2014 about the common customs zone? Ukraine then refused to join the Russian-Belarusian customs union and was going to sign an association agreement with the European Union, and the Russian elites argued that the loss of its partners in production chains would be economically painful — and it really would have been. Why am I saying this? Imperialism as political economic rivalry among capitalist powers — this situation exists, it is not contrived. And until 2022, everything really did resemble the beginning of the twentieth century, before the First World War. But that’s why it seems to me that the economic factors that led to the war cannot be considered the main ones. Ideological and political [factors], in my opinion, were more important.

— And what are these factors?

— [After the collapse of the USSR and a sharp decline in its influence in the world], the rejection of communism or socialism as a kind of humanistic perspective became a framework factor. Instead, a liberal democratic ideology was proposed that is contradictory. It asserts a universal order of human rights, and at the same time electoral democracy, which is based on national sovereignty. Plus neoliberalism, which asserts the autonomy of economic entities and total competition among [them].

Now there is pressure from the West under the auspices of the universalist empire, aimed at building global liberal democratic institutions. The trick is that this global program and policy is not entirely global. The West, arriving [in the former Soviet bloc] with the universal idea of democracy, did not fully implement its program. They entered undemocratic countries, tried to build democracies there, but they were in no hurry to spend money — nothing like the Marshall Plan was offered anywhere else. Instead of strong support for these countries, a neoliberal political economy was devised, which played a disastrous role by turning their populace away from America.

Source: “In Russia, activism is an existential, heroic choice,” Teplitsa sotsial’nykh tekhnologii, 15 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The most discussed session at the congress was the session featuring spokespeople from grassroots anti-war initiatives, who were allotted the standard hour and a half for six presentations. Vika Fas of Feminist Anti-War Resistance (FAS) boasted that the movement, founded by activists on February 25, already had sixty cells in Russia and thirty abroad.

“If you don’t know about FAS yet, you should read about us on Wikipedia. I think it’s interesting to observe a grassroots initiative that has become so popular in six months… Feminism was not taken seriously until we gained media weight, but we need international support for our communities and assistance in the form of grants,” she said in a passive-aggressive manner.

Alexander Belik, a spokesperson for the Movement of Conscientious Objectors to Military Service, said that after February 24, they had fielded a good number of requests for assistance from military personnel already deployed in Ukraine.

“Everything is happening quite successfully: you can still refuse conscription and even from serving if you’re already serving there. Everything is possible with due perseverance,” he said.

The recorded live stream of the Congress of Free Russia (Vilnius, 31 August 2022).
The panel discussed by Ilya Azar begins at the 2:54:00 mark.

Maria Novikova thanked [the organizers] for maintaining gender balance at the session and explained that the NITKA project had tried out different formats, but had settled on an “unusual and creative” TikTok account.

“Our audience is not intellectuals who get everything as it is, but ordinary people who need enlightenment. Not only cringeworthy videos about Putin’s battalions are popular [on our account], but also serious videos about various aspects of the war in Ukraine and the crackdown in Russia,” she said.

NITKA, Novikova says, has already garnered more than nine thousand subscribers, and one video has been clicked more than two million times.

The project Media Partisans, according to Olga Demidova, arose when it became clear that due to the fact that large numbers of protesters were being detained by police during protests, “it [was] pointless to take to the streets in Russia.”

“At first, everyone [sic] wanted to stop the war and Putin, but it takes time.”

“Many saw that their protest did not bring results, and they were disappointed, so you need to choose small goals and set realistic tasks,” she explained.

Media Partisans has seven projects: for example, a Telegram channel featuring anti-war artwork and instructions on how to safely distribute leaflets and stickers, as well as the Brave Partisans bot (@bravepartizanbot), where you can get an assignment for a performance or posting leaflets.

Timofey Martynenko of the Vesna Movement boasted that the anti-war rallies and marches in late February and early March were held at the behest of his movement, and talked about other projects, in particular a service for sending appeals to State Duma deputies.

“The same people are seated in the State Duma, and it is vital to show them that a huge number of people oppose the war,” said the activist.

At the end of his talk, Martynenko said that Vesna does not believe that Russians have a “slave mentality” or that there is a “bloodthirsty ‘deep folk’ who love Putin.”

“It is vital to talk about the depoliticization of Russian society, about civic involvement, about how democratic institutions and the media have been destroyed.”

“The problem is not that we are monstrous imperialists at the genetic level, but the monstrous centralization of Russia and the destruction of local self-government,” Martynenko tried to persuade the audience.

Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, conversations about TikTok and a service for sending appeals to Russian MPs seemed frankly lightweight, but the young people were clearly pleased with themselves. After the session, I asked the chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Refat Chubarov, who had traveled [to the congress] from Kyiv, what he thought about the anti-war movement in Russia.

“I would thank them for what they are doing, and it would be sincere. But it’s all very childish. And they also have to be very careful, because an incorrect diagnosis can lead to incorrect treatment,” Chubarov replied.

The head of the Mejlis said that he had gone up and talked to Martynenko because he strongly disagreed with his “pompous claims that Russians do not suffer from imperialism and servility.”

“About a million Russian nationals [sic] pulled up stakes and settled in occupied Crimea without any remorse. What the fuck? That’s what imperialism is. When we [Crimean Tatars] returned [to Crimea] in the late [19]80s, we didn’t evict a single [Russian] family. I personally purchased the rooms where my mom had been born. When we return to Crimea again, none of those who settled there after 2014 will [be allowed to] live in Crimea. No servility? But what is it when a mother says that her son is being held [as a POW in Ukraine], but immediately adds that he is defending Russian interests? What Russian interests?” said Chubarov.

Source: Ilya Azar, “On the threshold of great achievements: a congress of the Russian emigration took place in Vilnius,” Novaya Gazeta Europe, 4 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


[…]

The ballrooms of the Grand Vilnius Resort, set on a golf course on the outskirts of the Lithuanian capital, were a universe away from the front lines in the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Donbas. And while the motto of the Congress of Free Russia was “Be Brave Like Ukraine,” this was a gathering of Russians who have fled their country out of fear of what Mr. Putin’s regime might do to them.

Hanging over the three-day gathering was the knowledge that — while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been hailed as a hero for refusing to flee Kyiv — many Russian dissidents who have stood their ground are either dead, or jailed by their government.

[…]

Source: Mark Mackinnon, “Russian dissidents squabble over how to ensure Putin’s defeat,” The Globe and Mail, 2 September 2022

Day of Knowledge: “It’s Not Scary to Die for the Motherland”

In twenty regions of Russia, a school pupil’s start-of-the-year supplies costs more than the average monthly per person income.
This schematic map of the country show how much of the average per capita income has to be spent to ready a pupil for the school year.
Source: Unified Interagency Statistical Information System (EMISS), Russian Federal Statistics Service (Rosstat); calculations by iStories

About one hundred thousand Russians have signed a petition to the president demanding that they be paid 10 thousand rubles [approx. 163 euros] for children’s school expenses as was the case in 2021.

But instead of Russian families, this year parents of schoolchildren from the parts of Ukraine occupied by the Russian army will receive 10 thousand rubles each, while Russian citizens are being expressly told to go to war so that they can afford to send their child to school.

We calculated how much it would cost to send off a pupil to school in Russia’s regions, and we talked with the parents of schoolchildren.

What we learned:

In twenty regions of Russia, buying everything needed for school costs more than the average per capita income for a whole month. For example, in Tyva, one family member has an average income of 15.5 thousand rubles [approx. 253 euros] per month.

This money is usually spent on the bare necessities: food, clothing, medical treatment, transport and other needs. A schoolchild’s kit in Tyva costs almost 24 thousand rubles [approx. 393 euros] — money that parents don’t know where to get. In another fourteen regions, more than ninety percent of income will be spent on school-related expenses.

Parents told iStories that many goods, especially clothes and notebooks, have risen in price twofold or more. And yet, wages have not increased, and some parents have lost their jobs altogether due to sanctions.

Many parents have had to take out loans for everyday needs (this is corroborated by the data: before the start of the school year, the number of applications for consumer loans increased by 20%) and scrimp on vacations.

Prices have increased by thirty percent, but I have no salary, so I’ve felt the difference enormously. The option that I found this year is credit cards. And we scrimped on vacation, of course. It has become quite expensive to take the children somewhere and liven up their leisure time. Whereas earlier I could afford to spend the weekend with my children somewhere in a holiday home in the Moscow Region, now we choose places without an overnight stay, and we take food along with us.

[…]

You take shoes for physical education, light sneakers. The kids hang out in them all day [anyway], so you save money on school shoes.

[…]

I tried to tell [the children] that war is always a very bad thing, that you should aways try to negotiate.

Natalia, Moscow, who is raising a son and a daughter, both in school

On average, I spent around 35-40 thousand rubles [approx. 660 euros] on everything. Clothes have become much more expensive compared to last year, and the quality has become worse. […] I am now on maternity leave, raising the girls alone. I get alimony. We have spent all the new allowances for children between 8 to 17 years old on school expenses. […] I think we will cope with it all. Everything will end and be fine — [the war] will not affect us in any way. I think that everything is being done here [in Russia] so that we do not feel the effect of special military actions.

Elena, Novgorod Region, who is raising two school-age daughters

In which regions of the country does a schoolchild’s kit cost more than the average per capita monthly income?

Could the Russian state afford to cover the expenses for all 15 million Russian schoolchildren?

Source: iStories, email newsletter, 29 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Igor Stomakhin, from the series When we leave the schoolyard… Moscow, 1980s

My street exhibition will open on the fence of Danilovskaya Alley on September 4 at 1 p.m. as part of the project #SundayKhokhlovskyStandoffs. Photos from my Moscow cycle of the 1980s–1990s will be presented. At 2 p.m., I will give a tour of the show beginning with an account of the capital in that vivid period when Soviet stagnation was replaced by Gorbachev’s perestroika. The defenders of Ivanovo Hill will treat guests to tea from a samovar, so you can bring sweets to share. Address: Kolpachny Lane, between house no. 7 and house no. 9.

Source: Igor Stomakhin, Facebook, 1 September 2022. Click the link to see a dozen more photos from Mr. Stomakhin’s poignant perestroika-era Moscow school series. Translated by the Russian Reader


“It’s not scary to die for the Motherland.”
“Conversations about what matters” — mandatory lessons on love for the Motherland — have been introduced in Russian schools. During these lessons the war in Ukraine will be discussed.
The lessons will be held every Monday before first period after the raising of the flag and the national anthem.
The first “conversation about what matters” will take place on September 5.
Pupils in the first and second grades will be told about nature in Russia. Pupils in the third and fourth grades will be told about how it is necessary to defend the Motherland. The teaching manuals cite proverbs that can be used to explain this to children: “It’s not scary to die for the Motherland,” “Loving the Motherland means serving the Motherland,” and “The happiness of the Motherland is more precious than life.”
On September 12, pupils in grades 5–11 will be told about the war in Ukraine. “We also see manifestations of patriotism nowadays, especially in the special military operation,” it says in the course packet.
And to pupils in the tenth and eleventh grades, the instructors, as they conclude the conversation about the “special operation,” should say the following parting words: “You cannot become a patriot if you only spout slogans. Truly patriotic people are ready to defend their Motherland under arms.”
Attending the “conversations” is presented as mandatory. If pupils skip them, instructors are advised to have a talk with their parents. If talking to them doesn’t do the trick, instructors are advised to cite the law, which states that the school curriculum consists of lessons and extracurricular activities.
By law, pupils may skip extracurricular activities at the request of their parents. Teachers are afraid, however, that in the case of the “conversations about what matter” school administrators will be keeping a close eye on attendance.
“We find ourselves in a reality in which you have to keep your own opinion to yourself to avoid losing your job, at best, or ending up behind bars, at worst,” says a teacher in one Moscow school. “There are those [teachers] who actively support state policy. If a teacher diverges from the subject matter of the ‘conversations,’ he might find himself in a dangerous situation.”

Source: Current Time TV (Radio Svoboda), Instagram, 1 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Continue reading “Day of Knowledge: “It’s Not Scary to Die for the Motherland””

The Wagner Group’s Suicide Squad

For several months, inmates in Russian penal colonies have been recruited by the Wagner Group — hundreds, if not thousands of convicts who had several years left in their sentences have already gone to Ukraine. It is likely that many of them have already been killed, but so far only individual deaths have been confirmed. One of them is Yevgeny Yeremenko from Petrozavodsk, who had eight more years left to serve on his sentence. In mid-June, he unexpectedly informed his mother that he was being transferred to another region. In mid-August, two strangers brought her a death notice: Yevgeny had been killed near Bakhmut on July 24.

Around noon on August 14, Tatiana Koteneva, a pensioner from Petrozavodsk, opened the door to two strangers who had buzzed her on the intercom and said they had been “sent by Zhenya.” Zhenya is her 44-year-old son Yevgeny Yeremenko, who had been sentenced to ten years in a maximum security penal colony. He was serving his sentence in Correctional Colony No. 9 in Petrozavodsk. He usually telephoned his mother every week, but she hadn’t heard from her son since early May — except for a strange call in mid-June, when Yevgeny said briefly that he was being transferred to another region.

So the pensioner willingly opened the door to the strangers, invited them into the kitchen, and poured tea. They handed her a reward and her son’s death certificate. “We have come with bad news,” they said, “Zhenya has died.”

According to Koteneva, the certificate, issued by the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, indicated the date and place of her son’s death. He was killed on July 24 in Bakhmut, a Ukrainian-controlled city in the Donetsk Region, which has been heavily fought over all summer.

A call from the train: “Don’t worry, Mom — I’m doing what I have to do”
The pensioner does not know how her son ended up in Ukraine. Between early May and mid-June, he did not call her from the penal colony, although he used to do it regularly. Instead of Yevgeny, the pensioner was once called by a penal colony official and informed that her son was “alive and well, but undergoing punishment.” Koteneva refers to punitive confinement as “the cellar,” and she is sure that her son had been put there.

“[The official] introduced himself, but I don’t remember his name,” she says. “I tried to make an inquiry. He replied that my son had violated some article of the law there, and he had been punished. I said, ‘You tortured him and probably beat him.’ And this one who called me said, ‘There isn’t a scratch or a bruise on him.'”

Only on June 14 did Yevgeny unexpectedly telephone his mother and say that he was being temporarily transferred to another penal colony.

“He called me and said, ‘Mom, we are being convoyed at two o’clock in the morning to another colony,'” recalls Koteneva. “A tumor had formed on his cheek near his nose. He says, ‘There are no doctors here [in Petrozavodsk Colony No. 9], so maybe I’ll get treatment there.’ And that was it. I said, ‘I’ll be expecting a letter from you and the details of where I should send you a package or money.'”

According to her, her son did not say that he was going to Ukraine, probably because he knew that she would be opposed to it.

“I would probably have gone into hysterics and all that to prevent it,” the pensioner argues. “I would have run to the colony and bent over backwards. But I couldn’t get into his head… He’s a grown man. He just said, ‘Mom, don’t worry. I’m doing what I have to do.'”

A week later, according to Koteneva, her son sent an SMS to a friend, asking him to inform his mother that he was alright. He added that the prisoners were still traveling on the train, where “even their watches had been confiscated.”

Recruitment in the penal colonies: “You finish your service and you get amnestied”
Yevgeny Yeremenko was probably recruited by the Wagner Group and sent to Ukraine as a mercenary. The fact that mercenaries are being recruited in correctional colonies became public in early July, but, apparently, it began in May. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s founder, a man known for his proximity to the Russian authorities, personally went to some colonies to persuade inmates to join up. Recruiters promised convicts a large salary and release after six months of combat — to this end, those who agreed to join the mercenaries would have to write petitions asking for clemency.

It is unclear how many people have been marshaled this way, but recruiters, judging by the prisoners’ reports, have already visited between fifteen and twenty colonies, and in each of them a hundred or more inmates have agreed to go into combat. (Although relatives have managed to dissuade some of them.) The head of the Russian Behind Bars Foundation, Olga Romanova, noted that her organization has already received about two hundred appeals from relatives of convicts who have lost contact with them and assume that they have been sent to Ukraine.

Yevgeny Yeremenko. Photo courtesy of his VKontakte page and Mediazona

In June, people really did come to Petrozavodsk’s Correctional Colony No. 9, where Yevgeny Yeremenko was imprisoned, and tried to persuade the inmates to go to fight in Ukraine, convict Marat Najibov told Mediazona. He himself turned down their offer. “You finish your service and you get amnestied,” he says, adding that he does not know exactly where the recruiters were from.

Petrozavodsk lawyer Ivan Varfolomeyev, who represents ten convicts in Correctional Colony No. 9, believes that they were probably from the Wagner Group. “Ten people were persuaded to go to Ukraine, but after consulting with me, no one went,” says Varfolomeyev. I didn’t see [the recruiters]. The convicts asked me what they should do. I said, ‘You have parents, wives, and children — I would not recommend it.’ My clients, at least, are not serving such long sentences.”

The convicts did not tell Varfolomeyev that they had been coerced by recruiters or the colony’s wardens. They talked to the prisoners, as he puts it, “about pies”: they vividly described the benefits to which the inmates would be entitled after being in combat.

“[They were not threatened with] solitary confinement, AdSeg, or beatings,” says Varfolomeyev. “On the contrary, all the offers were tempting.”

Little is yet known about the deaths of the prisoners recruited by the Wagner Group to go to Ukraine. In late July, iStories reported the deaths of three prisoners from Petersburg Correctional Colony No. 7. Their papers did not contain their real names, but only their nicknames. Among the dead was Konstantin Tulinov, nicknamed “Red.” it was about him that filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov spoke in [the 6 August 2022] episode of his program [Exorcist TV] on Rossiya 1. According to Mikhalkov, Tulinov “wanted to atone for his past life,” so he himself petitioned to be sent to the front. In Ukraine, his legs were “crushed,” after which Tulinov “blew himself up with a grenade.”

“And the state responded with gratitude to him for his courageous deed. He was posthumously pardoned and, in addition, was designated a full-fledged combat veteran with all the ensuing benefits and payments,” Mikhalkov assures his viewers.

Olga Romanova of Russian Behind Bars has written that relatives of the recruited prisoners constantly appeal to her organization for help.

“What an outrage! They promised to pay [him] 200 thousand [rubles], but they paid [only] thirty thousand,” she wrote, paraphrasing the kinds of appeals her foundation has received. “And my [relative] was wounded, but [the wounded] are being treated only in the LPR; [they] are not taken to Russia. Help us save him! And then another one was killed near Luhansk; the relatives were not informed, and the body was abandoned in the combat zone so that they wouldn’t have to pay for a coffin.”

The Karelian office of the Federal Penitentiary Service has not yet responded to Mediazona‘s request for information as to how Yevgeny Yeremenko ended up in combat in Ukraine eight years before he was to be released from prison.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the Governor of Karelia, Arthur Parfenchikov, has been publishing posts on his VKontakte page about the residents of the republic who have perished in the war. But he did not even mention the death of prisoner Yevgeny Yeremenko.

The funeral: “young men” come to pay their last respects and reimburse expenses
Tatiana Koteneva calls the strangers who brought her the death notice “the young men.” They told her that her son’s body was “in an iron coffin in Leningrad, at Pulkovo [airport].” As for additional questions, according to the pensioner, she was told that “everything is classified.” The men did not respond when she asked them who they worked for.

“What can I do now? You can’t bring anything back,” she argued resignedly two days before the funeral. “Well, that’s how it turned out, so that’s how it’s going to be. What matters to me is burying him and having a grave to go to and cry. Things turned out the way they turned out.”

On August 18, Yevgeny Yeremenko’s body was brought to Petrozavodsk by a private driver: the pensioner paid 26 thousand rubles for transportation. Yeremenko’s funeral took place the next day, recalls Marina Gorodilova, a friend of Koteneva, whose son is also an inmate at Correctional Colony No. 9. (This was how she and Tatiana met.)

“The coffin was closed and there was a strong smell of decomposition,” she recalls. “Tatiana Ivanovna stood over the coffin lid the whole time and cried.”

According to Gorodilova, at the wake and the funeral there were none of the military officers or civilian officials who make speeches on such occasions. But in the funeral hall, she noticed “two strange guys.”

“One [was] forty years old, the other [was] younger, both of them [were] powerfully built. They laid the flowers [on the coffin] and took three or four steps back. They stood at attention and didn’t talk to anyone. I picked up my phone and poked it with my finger and out of the corner of my eye I saw that they were watching me — very attentively. Tatiana Ivanovna asked them, ‘Who are you?’ But they didn’t say anything. She then asked again, ‘Do you know Zhenya?’ One of them nodded his head quietly and kept standing there.”

The day after the funeral, Tatiana Koteneva refused to meet with her friend, citing the fact that “the young men” were coming to see her again. A few days later she reported [to Gorodilova] that she had been reimbursed 145 thousand rubles [approx. 2,400 euros] for the funeral.

“Either they hold them [in solitary] before sending them, or they hold those who don’t want to sign up”

Dmitry Gorodilov. Photo courtesy of Marina Gorodilova and Mediazona

Dmitry, Marina Gorodilova’s son, is serving his sentence at Correctional Colony No. 9, where he met the deceased Yevgeny Yeremenko. He has not been in touch with his mother for a month and a half — since July 4 — and she fears that Dmitry, like Yeremenko, was put in punitive detention before being sent to Ukraine. Human rights activists from Russia Behind Bars have spoken of this practice. For example, in Correctional Colony No. 7 in Karelia and Correctional Colony No. 19 in Komi, some convicts at first agreed to go into combat, but then changed their minds. Prison officials then began pressuring them, and some were sent to punitive detention.

“Now it’s the same story: now my Dima is missing,” says Gorodilova. “He doesn’t write and doesn’t call — this has never happened. The lawyer called the prison and asked them whether Dima was there. They said he was there. I went to the colony to visit him, and they said to me, ‘He is undergoing punishment.’ It’s one of two things. Either they are held [in solitary] before being sent [to Ukraine] so that they do not receive information and do not share it with anyone. Or those who don’t want to sign up are held [in solitary, where] they are forced [to sign up].”

Gorodilova is sure that her son would not left officials force him to go to Ukraine even under torture.

“Only if they lie to him or tell him that he would cleaning up after the war, maybe he would agree to sign up. But he’s a guy that won’t sign anything until he reads it. I know that Dima will definitely not agree to it. Even if he is promised his freedom, he will not go to kill people.”

Source: Alla Konstantinova, “Sent down for ten years, enlisted in the Wagner Group, killed in Ukraine: the example of one inmate from Karelia,” Mediazona, 26 August 2022. Thanks to Dmitry Tkachev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Dmitry Skurikhin’s Anti-War Protest Store

Dmitry Skurikhin

On Yandex Maps, almost all the roofs of houses in Russko-Vysotskoye, a settlement near St. Petersburg, are gray, but one sports the colors of the Russian flag. This is Iren, a shopping center owned by local businessman Dmitry Skurikhin. He had the tricolor painted on the roof ten years ago. But this year he ordered a nine by two meter yellow banner from a friendly printing house and on May 7 installed it on the blue section of the roof.

“I defiantly sided with Ukraine. And everything is fine — the villagers say hello to me, no one tells me to buzz off. I regard this as unequivocal support,” says Skurikhin.

He has turned the front of his store into a political statement and, despite numerous fines, he has no plans to stay silent or leave the country. Dmitry Skurikhin told The Village why he doesn’t worry when people scrawl the word “traitor” on the walls of his store, how he drives a vehicle with a “No war!” sticker (while his former best friend drives a car marked with a Z), and what tricks the activist has for communicating with rural policemen.

The front of Dmitry Skurikhin’s store: “Peace to Ukraine! Freedom for Russia!” is painted on it, along with the names of Ukrainian cities and towns attacked by the Russian army.
Russian businessman and anti-war activist Dmitry Skurikhin

How the protest store works
Dmitry Skurikhin is forty-seven years old. He was born in Russko-Vysotskoye and graduated from school there. He studied electrical engineering at the Voenmekh (Military Mechanical Institute) in Petersburg, and is an officer in the reserves. He went into business in 1996. In 2009, he went into politics when he was elected to a five-year term as a municipal councillor in Russko-Vysotskoye.

Dmitry has five daughters. The eldest recently married, while the youngest are still in school. “Four years ago, there was this incident. I came to the school and saw a portrait of Putin on a stand in a classroom. I demanded that the teacher take down this poster. They took it down!”

The businessman has two stores in total. The first is in the neighboring village of Yagelevo, and it has no political murals. The second one is in his native settlement. This is the Iren shopping center, named after the river in the Perm Region, where Dmitry’s parents came from. On Iren’s ground floor are Wildberries, Ozon and SDEK delivery points, a flower shop, a shoe repair shop, and a small gym; on the second floor, there is a tailor’s, a manicurist’s, a hairdresser’s, and a game room. Behind the facade of the building inscribed with the slogan “Peace to Ukraine! Freedom for Russia!” is a 256 square meter banquet hall. “Weddings, wakes, and rural discos-cum-fistfights are held there,” says Dmitry. According to him, there have been an especially large number of wakes recently.

How the war has impacted Russko-Vysotskoye
“Words are my weapons. I am trying to convince my fellow villagers that freedom, democracy, human rights, local self-government, and separation of powers are the road to prosperity,” the businessman says.

“We basically have nothing to say about Dmitry Skurikhin’s activism. It is, rather, reflected only in his posts on the internet, not in the life of the settlement,” the moderators of the Russko-Vysotskoye group on the VKontakte social network wrote in reply to a query from The Village.

The first mention of the settlement dates back to the sixteenth century, but there are no historical buildings left except for the ruins of the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. The population of Russko-Vysotskoye is about five thousand. Many worked at a poultry plant, the main local employer (in terms of volume, it was among the top five agricultural enterprises in the Leningrad Region). But in the second month of the “special operation,” the factory management announced its closure, citing plans to build housing on the site. Then Leningrad Region Governor Drozdenko reversed the closure, and in June, after two months of downtime, the poultry plant is scheduled to resume production.

“Our store survives due to the fact that we sell on credit. We’ve got debtors up to our eyeballs. These are people who are three days away from retirement, but have no money. They come to buy bread and potatoes. We sell them in irregular batches. For example, there are people in the village who cannot buy a dozen eggs and buy four eggs instead. This is telling,” Skurikhin replies when asked about the war’s impact on Russko-Vysotskoye’s economy.

How the activist is fined for posters
The inscription “Peace to Ukraine! Freedom for Russia!” appeared on Skurikhin’s store in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea. This was followed by many (about two hundred) political posters. Skurikhin orders them from the same company that made him the yellow stripe for the roof, whose name he won’t disclose. “You can say that I am a small-town activist who voices his stance on any occasion. Some event happens — for example, [Russian opposition politician Boris] Nemtsov was killed [on 27 February 2015 in Moscow] — and I put up a poster.” The businessman fastens the posters with screws at a height of six meters on the same wall as the inscriptions.

The posters hang for an average of two to three hours. Then the local council sends an employee with a ladder and a screwdriver, and the police arrive from the 114th precinct in Annino, fifteen minutes from Russko-Vysotskoye. The posters are taken down. “The police officers in rural areas are smart, intelligent, decent, normal people. Not like in the city. They’re almost all on my side. It’s another matter that they have their orders and their oath,” Skurikhin argues.

Then Dmitry is fined. At first, the fines for “violating landscaping rules” were 300 rubles, but then they went up to three thousand rubles. (“As the secretary of the administrative commission told me, ‘They increased it especially for you, because no one else in the region is being punished under this article.'”) The last fine was issued under the new law on “discrediting the army.”

How they’re trying to prosecute Dmitry for “discrediting the army”
On March 5, the State Duma passed a law according to which people can be fined for “discrediting the army.” On March 6, Skurikhin hung a poster on his shopping center depicting residential buildings bombed in Kharkiv and a Ukrainian girl who had been killed. On Facebook he wrote, “Perhaps this is my last publication. Just in case, goodbye, my friends.”

“This is Kharkiv. Everyone speaks Russian there. Who are we defending there and from what?”
Photo courtesy of Dmitry Skurikhin’s Facebook page.
This image was not part of the original article on The Village, although there was a link to it.

The farewell was premature — Dmitry was only fined 45 thousand rubles [approx. 750 euros]. (He has challenged the fine in court.) And not so much for the poster itself, as for the story he told about it on Telegram, which follows from the charge sheet for the administrative offense: “68 views were made [of the post]; the channel has 23 subscribers.”

Later, another charge was filed against the activist under the same article in the administrative offenses code (there has been no court hearing yet) for reposting one of the blogger Rustem Adagamov’s posts. Skurikhin says that now he has a “standing invitation” on WhatsApp to come in and face a third set of charges, and shows us his correspondence with the policeman involved. The summons is preceded by the New Year’s greeting car that the law enforcement officer sent to the businessman six months ago.

Earlier, Dmitry says, the local beat cops themselves came to deliver the summonses, but they got tired of it. “Rural police,” he says, “have a lot of cases to deal with, and here they’re being sent to deal with nonsense. They said the hell with it.”

How the activist was called a traitor
While we are talking, a local passes by and asks Dmitry how things are going.

“I’m alive and well and at large,” the activist replies.

Dmitry Skurikhin, as one of the few public anti-war activists who have not left Russia, is regularly visited by journalists. Recently, three foreign media outlets were doing stories about him at once: the BBC, Belsat, and Stern. Reporters like to ask the opinion of passerby about Skurikhin’s “protest wall.” “He’s an idiot,” one of the respondents told Steve Rosenberg of the BBC. Another noted that Dmitry “has the right to express his opinion.”

Skurikhin is grateful to journalists. “If it weren’t for their attention, activists would be” — he rubs an imaginary powder in his palms — “and everything here right down to the lawn would be demolished,” he says.

At the end of March, the activist painted the names of Ukrainian cities that had been attacked on the front of the store. Then he regularly supplemented the red list. When we were there, he painted in two more names: Dnipro and Sloviansk.

But on the night of April 15, three unidentified people scrawled the word “traitor” on the Iren shopping center and deposited a pile of manure outside the entrance.

“They thought they would present me in an unfavorable light to my fellow villagers. It turned out the opposite. A woman passes by: ‘Dima, don’t touch the manure, I’ll take it myself, I need it for the garden.’ Or I go out with a bucket of yellow paint to paint over the graffiti, and an old-timer stops me. ‘Are you going to paint over the [names of the] cities?’ he asks. ‘No, just the word “traitor,”‘ I say. ‘Ah, paint over “traitor,” but don’t touch the cities,'” the activist recounts.

As this article was going to press, the walls of the shopping center were again vandalized. An unknown man on a bicycle wrote the words “traitor,” “freak,” and “moron” next to the names of the cities.

How the businessman interacts with his opponents
“A person can come up to me on the street and yell that I’m an asshole. Be my guest,” the activist says. He has many opponents in the settlement.

As for the Z symbol in Russko-Vysotskoye, according to Skurikhin, there is one on the car of the deputy head of the local administration.

“We were in school together for eleven years. We were very friendly. I wrote to him: ‘Lyosha, what did you put such a thing up for?’ He replied: ‘Dima, you have reached a new low.'”

His friendship with his classmate, according to Skurikhin, was long ago undone by political differences.

“It’s his people who take down my posters,” the activist explains, adding about his former friend, “He’s a good guy, but he’s an UnRus [a member of the ruling United Russia party].”

The official told us in a telephone conversation that he really was in the same class in school as Dmitry Skurikhin, but they were never friends. He did not comment on the activist’s work, saying only, “Our positions are diametrically opposed. You could say that we are ardent opponents.”

The businessman himself pastes a “No war!” sticker on his car.

“The response has been only positive. No, sometimes I see a sour expression on someone’s face. But people who do react [give me a thumbs-up] — attaboy!”

How Skurikhin decided not to shave his beard
“I’m afraid. What then? I can’t stop campaigning,” the activist says in answer to our question whether he is afraid of facing criminal charges for spreading “fake news” about the army, like artist and musician Sasha Skochilenko, “ordinary person” Vika Petrova, Skurikhin’s ally the activist Olga Smirnova, and many others.

He has no plans to leave Russia. But he does not condemn emigrants — on the contrary.

“Good, decent anti-Putin people are leaving. And there is a plus in this. Perhaps the whole world will judge Russia by them. ‘Look, not all Russians are idiots!” But I’ll go on here. If they put me in jail, I’ll sit in jail.”

At the end of the interview, Dmitry asks us to ask him a question about his beard and immediately tells us that on 23 January 2021, he shaved and went to downtown Petersburg for a rally in support of Alexei Navalny. There he was detained and jailed for twenty days. During those three weeks, Skurikhin grew out his beard and made a bet with a cellmate that he would not shave while Putin was in power.

“My cellmate told me, ‘Dima, you’re going to be playing Santa Claus without makeup.’ We’ll see. For some reason it seems to me that I will be shaving my beard off soon.”

Source: “‘A man can come up to me on the street and yell that I’m an asshole’: How a businessman turned his store into a political statement,” The Village, 14 June 2022. Thanks to JG for the story. All images courtesy of The Village, except where noted. Translated by the Russian Reader


“It’s our soldiers, our [Russian] troops, fighting there. Not Martians, but our people. And we are responsible for them. These people exist on taxes, including my taxes. I pay roughly 1,200,000 rubles [$19,500] a year in taxes. Our authorities buy weapons with this money and dispatch our fellow citizens to murder Ukrainian children.”

On the front of his village store, Dmitry Skurikhin paints the names of Ukrainian cities that have been bombarded.

“My heart simply aches when I see what is happening there. I simply cannot stand it. I paint the [name of the] city and I feel better. What if I could do something more? But it’s society that has to do something. I’m campaigning for our society to understand and accept this viewpoint — that we cannot be doing this, that we urgently have to stop it. At first I thought that half [the Russian people] supported the ‘special operation,’ but now it is fewer. It has begun to sink in that this is madness.”

Dmitry Skurikhin has opposed the actions of the Russian authorities since 2014. 

“The Putin regime should simply be eliminated. They are occupiers — they have occupied our country, do you understand? And they treat our country like occupiers, meanwhile fooling our people with their propaganda.”

Businessman Dmitry Skurikhin regularly hangs up posters featuring anti-war slogans on his store.

“The police just come up and take them down. I’ve been charged twice with the newfangled crime of ‘discrediting’ [the Russian army]. From their point of view I’m discrediting our Russian army simply by showing my fellow villagers what is happening in Ukraine.”

Fines for discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation can lead to up to five years of imprisonment. 

“People see this and it stays in their heads. Now it is just sitting there, but later it will become an itch and then turn into something unbearable. Putinism is a cancerous tumor, a disease of our society. We have to vomit it up somehow. Russia is now on the side of evil, on the side of Putinism. Putinism is an evil, definitely, for unleashing such a hell in Ukraine. Consequently, Ukraine has the motivation — they are fighting for their lives, for their families, for their homes, for their land. What are we doing there? Putin has forced our society to fight against a neighboring society, instead of doing business and exchanging knowledge and services to our mutual benefit. We could live together wonderfully, but now they are our enemies for hundreds of years to come.”

Despite the fines, Dmitry continues his campaign in the village. 

“Not a day goes by when I don’t think about my security. But this is more important. It’s important to campaign, to convince people to come over to this point of view. And I won’t spare any expense or effort on it. Well, what could happen? If they imprison me, I’ll go to prison.”

Source: Current Time TV, Instagram, 21 August 2022. Subtitles translated by the Russian Reader