No Kidding

Russia for the Rueful: A Map of Fear | Ivan Davydov | Republic | 7 December 2021

Once upon a time, an influential, respected person and I came up with a project meant to illustrate the absurdity of the Russian Criminal Code’s infamous Article 282, the one about “inciting hatred and enmity.” Oh, what a long time ago it was. Back then, there were simply no other articles in the Criminal Code that covered thought crimes. Can you imagine?

The idea was simple: gather quotes from classic Russian literature that were obvious violations of Article 282, make a website, and send an angry letter to the authorities. How long must this go on? we would write. Enough is enough! Ban books that sow hatred!

Actually, that’s why we focused on the Russian classics. It would have been easy to find the same kind of incitement in Homer, but uniformed readers might not react to his name. But they had definitely heard the surname Pushkin.

When everything was almost ready, however, my senior colleague (a wise person) said, “You know, let’s not do this. After all, they might just up and ban these books. But we have to go on living. How will we live with ourselves then?”

Patriot Games

I recalled this story while reading the amazing news about the Investigative Committee’s war on Russian rap. First, an alarming dispatch appeared on the newswires: the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, after receiving an appeal from a “pressure group of patriots,” had ordered an inquiry into the new albums by Oxxxymiron and Noize MC. The pressure had informed the general that the rappers had whitewashed Nazism and promoted extremism.

It was a news item like any other. There is no other kind of news nowadays in Russia, nor can there be any other kind of news.

But then there was more news: the text of the letter by the “patriots” turned up on the LiveJournal blog of a moderately successful online humorist. The country’s chief investigator was not bothered, it transpired, by passages such as the following: “To tell the truth, the faces of Russian law enforcement chiefs are really not always so elegant, and when they start talking, they sometimes seem like aggressive morons, thus generating depression and suicidal moods [among the populace]. It’s also good that they’ve stopped showing the MP Irina Yarovaya on TV. Something needs to be done in this case, because our enemies exploit this weakness.” Famous for his habit of viewing publications on the internet through a magnifying glass, Bastyrkin failed to notice the ridicule.

Alexander Bastyrkin, checking whether the internet is whitewashing Nazism. Photo: Russian Investigative Committee

The author of the “letter” has now been making the rounds of the media, trying to prove that he had been joking. But it doesn’t matter: Veterans of Russia, which is a real (not fictional) pressure group, said that they would write an actual denunciation against the rappers.

Forbidden Topics

It’s basic knowledge that you don’t kid around with policemen, judges, and border guards. Lately, everyone has been recalling what they did during the “snow revolution” protests, ten years ago, so I’ll indulge in remembering what I did too. In the spring of 2012 (not the winter of 2011), I was tried and fined for being involved in an “unauthorized” protest in which I was not involved. At the trial, I decided to take issue with the arrest report, according to which it had taken the paddy wagon ten minutes to transport me from the Nikitsky Gate (in the very center of Moscow) to a police station in the suburbs.

I contacted experts, who calculated that the unfortunate PAZ bus would have had to race at a speed of 600 kilometers per hour. I presented my thoughts to the judge.

The stern lady looked up at me with tired eyes. “Are you questioning the capabilities of the domestic automotive industry?” she asked. I resigned myself to my fate. Plus the fines were humane back then, nothing like the current ones.

But the list of those who cannot be trifled with is outdated. On Monday, the supremely pro-Kremlin polling agency VTSIOM published data on what things Russians now consider it impossible to laugh at.

Many of our fellow Russians are sure that they have a sense of humor. Overall, forty percent of the respondents said they had a sense of humor, and more than half of the young people surveyed said the same thing. And yet, Russians laugh at the jokes of the Ural Dumplings and love KVN, which makes one wonder about their assessments of their own sense of humor. But let’s get to the point.

A screenshot of VTsIOM’s polling data about subjects that Russians consider off-limits for humor. It should be kept in mind that it was VTsIOM that compiled this list of “forbidden” topics, not the people who were surveyed. And Ivan Davydov says as much, below.

In first place on the list of forbidden topics are jokes about the “health characteristics of other people,” and this is probably a good thing. It gets more interesting from there. Eighty percent of those surveyed believe that it is impossible to joke about the [Russian Orthodox] Church. Sixty-nine percent do not see anything funny about “the ethnic traditions and peculiarities of different peoples.” The same number are convinced that there is also little funny about the history of Russia, the USSR and the Russian Empire. (Here, by the way, I agree: there is little that is funny about Russian history.) This includes the sixty-three percent who are against jokes about “historical figures who are not living now.” Fifty-three percent would not touch “the army and the armed forces.” And fifty-one percent consider President Putin off limits (or untouchable?). Reverence for government in general is so strong that forty-five percent are afraid to joke about “other heads of state.”

Joking Aside

The list is quite revealing. But it has nothing at all to do with a special species of hypocrisy peculiar to our population. It has to do with the state’s attempts to train the populace like animals. After all, the list perfectly correlates with the news about the campaign that the state has been waging against thought criminals. The feelings of religious believers are fragile, and the more that official spokesmen of traditional confessions talk about love and mercy, the higher are the chances that they would tear you apart for making an innocent joke. Or their particularly zealous adherents would do this: it makes no difference to the targets of their outrage. There has been a lull in the “buttocks war,” but the echoes of this war are still capable of scaring people.

Why people would steer clear of “ethnic traditions” also needs no explanation, nor is it an example of their outstanding political correctness. They understand that some traditions have their own specifics. Some peoples have a tradition of taking offense and demanding an apology on camera after having conversation with the offender that is fraught with bodily injuries of varying severity.

Nor is our reverent love of history love at all. “Whoever remembers old things, pluck out his eyes,” says the proverb. “Or maybe give him five years for whitewashing Nazism,” the Investigative Committee would add. We now have our own favorite stories on this score. The stories about the Investigative Committee and Alexander Bastrykin’s personal campaign against “Hitler’s accomplices” are well known to everyone. In the Chelyabinsk region, a homeless man who decided to dry his socks at the Eternal Flame was charged with whitewashing Nazism. What can we say about smart people who risk talking about the past? Yes, it’s better not to say anything—you’ll be safer. And if you think that all this concerns only the Second World War, then you’re thinking wrong. In Novosibirsk, investigators had a strict conversation with a scholar who dared to speak about Alexander Nevsky without sufficient respect. In St. Petersburg, the probe into the blogger who hung his own portrait in the Hermitage’s Gallery of Heroes of 1812 so that he could take selfies has not yet been completed. And so on.

The fact that the Russian President rounds out the list of topics forbidden for humor is a direct rebuke to Federation Council member Andrei Klishas. The law he wrote on mandatory respect for the authorities is not really working. (Although the police on the ground have been trying: they have been catching jokers on VKontakte and rolling out gigantic fines for them.) The Investigative Committee should probably take a closer look and figure out whether there has been any sabotage on Klishas’s part. Times are turbulent: there’s a hybrid war underway, and the enemy can entrench itself even at the Federation Council. You can’t let your guard down for a minute.

A Map of Fear

I don’t know what the pollsters at VTsIOM hoped to achieve when they did their survey. But they have produced a perfect map of fear. The state has been trying to intimidate its subjects, and, as we can see, its efforts have not been in vain. Although we should note that the Church, the “traditions of certain peoples,” and their own history frighten Russians more than the authorities, which is evidence that the state cannot finish the job even in this case. They cannot pull off everything: the police-state vertical has not yet been built. But I have to give them credit: they keep on working, they don’t give up.

What can I say. Let’s remember that laughter is the most effective cure for fear. By setting traps for pranksters, the country’s current proprietors do not demonstrate their own strength. They only point up their own weak spots. By intimidating us and nurturing our fears, they demonstrate their own fear. It’s good to see this. Although this is cold consolation for someone who has been imprisoned for making a joke.

But to avoid succumbing to excessive pessimism (and thus delighting government officials), let’s recall these lines of verse by Nikolai Karamzin, the founding father of Russian historiography:

He who, bored, summons the Muses
And the gentle Graces, their attendants,
With poems and prose amuses
Himself, strangers, and dependents,
And laughs in all sincerity
(Laughing is really not a sin!)
At everything that makes him grin
Will get along with the world in amity,
And won’t cut short his days
With sharp blades or poisons…

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Police

This is the first thing that pops up when you do an image search for “the Russian police.” The caption reads: “A Russian police officer detains a teenager during rally in St Petersburg protesting against retirement age increases. Photograph: Roman Pimenov/AP.” Courtesy of the Guardian

There is no “politics” in Russia anymore, only “police” (per Jacques Rancière’s distinction). And this is what “police” in Russia are up to, 24/7, 365 days a year:

University student Miloslava Malyarova and her boyfriend were detained on the streets of Moscow in August. They were held at the police station overnight without explanation, and their personal belongings, internal passports and mobile phones were confiscated. During the night, Miloslava says, a drunk police officer came into her cell and raped her. The young woman tried to slash her wrists with a razor in order to force the police to release her, but she was held until morning.

The Investigative Committee, with whom she lodged a complaint the next day, has refused to launch a criminal case. They decided that the young woman entered into sexual contact with the policeman voluntarily. After all, no injuries characteristic of rape were found on her body. “She did not resist enough,” they concluded.

Source: “Locals” Facebook page, which cites a proper article on the incident published in Takie Dela (who in turn refer to a post on Russian MP Sergei Shargunov’s Telegram channel). Thanks to Maria Mila for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Network Case Defendant Maxim Ivankin Claims He Was Tortured into Memorizing Meduza’s Smear and Repeating It as a “Confession”

Maxim Ivankin in court. Still from a video by 7×7. Image courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

“They put me on a spreader and beat me”: man convicted in Network case confesses to murder after he is subjected to “course of treatment”
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
October 5, 2021

Maxim Ivankin, convicted in the Network case, has turned up at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1 in Ryazan. During the three weeks when he was officially in transit from Chuvashia to Ryazan, and not accessible to his lawyers, he signed a confession in the so-called Ryazan case, admitting his complicity in the murders of Artyom Dorofeyev and Katya Levchenko. Only a few days later, however, he complained that he had been subjected to physical coercion and retracted his testimony.

Russian Investigative Committee investigators have long been attempting to connect the Ryazan case with the Network case. Here are several facts supporting this hypothesis:

1. The investigation was initially based on the account given by Alexei Poltavets to the news website Meduza. Poltavets claimed that he and Ivankin committed the murders in the spring of 2017. There was no significant corroboration of Poltavets’s account before Ivankin confessed, nor did the authorities particularly look for such evidence. Poltavets himself is currently in hiding in Ukraine. He has not been questioned by the Russian authorities, and so his account is inadmissible in court. However, the investigation did not consider any other explanations for the murders. It is not surprising, then, that Ivankin’s confession is a slightly modified variation on Poltavets’s monologue.

2. In the spring and summer of this year, Investigative Committee investigator A.M. Kosenko made the rounds of the penal colonies where the men convicted in the Network case are serving their sentences. According to some of them, he demanded that they bear false witness against Ivankin. Or, to put it more delicately, Kosenko was gathering evidence against Ivankin. After refusing to speak without a lawyer present, some of the convicted men (for example, Mikhail Kulkov and Ilya Shakursky) were sent to punitive detention cells. For completely other reasons, of course.

3. Ivankin was threatened with violence if he did not cooperate with the investigation, and these threats were also communicated to his wife, Anna.

The day after Ivankin was dispatched to Ryazan, he found himself in Nizhny Novgorod and, a bit later, in Vladimir. If you look on the map you’ll see that neither Nizhny nor Vladimir are on the way from Chuvashia to Ryazan. There is a direct road between them, which lies much farther to the south than the route by which Ivankin was transported.

Judging by the stories of convicts, the penal colonies in Vladimir, in particular, the hospital at Penal Colony No. 3 (aka Motorka), have a reputation as places where where prisoners are taken to be coerced and beaten into testifying. The most famous example is the case of Gor Hovakimyan, who died after being tortured in the hospital at Penal Colony No. 3. Ivankin was taken to this hospital. “I still do not know what my diagnosis is,” he said in a statement to his lawyers.

Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of the project Gulagu.net, recently reported that his organization had more than 1,000 Federal Penitentiary Service videos corroborating that torture takes place in Russian penal colonies, including footage from the Vladimir region.

And now the most important part. Lawyers Svetlana Sidorkina and Konstantin Kartashov visited Ivankin in the Ryazan pre-trial detention center on October 4 and 5. They have given Novaya Gazeta a copy of their official, on-the-record conversation with Ivankin, from which we have excerpted the following passages:

Question: Were you subjected to psychological and physical pressure in the hospital? If yes, what were the circumstances?

Answer: Yes, I was. Immediately, when I was brought to the hospital, I was met by the “reds” (activists from among the inmates)… The inmates began beating me in the back of the head and the kidneys… I will be able to identify the activists… When I was asked to sign a statement, I was put on a spreader for refusing to sign, and I was beaten in this position.

This treatment lasted about nine days. It is difficult to say more precisely: Ivankin himself has doubts. Apparently, he lost track of time.

I told them I was not involved in the murders of Dorofeyev and Levchenko… The field officers said that they were not satisfied with my position, and demanded that I rewrite the handwritten confession written by them, which I was forced to rewrite under the supervision of several activists. The events described in the confession matched the account given by journalists in the media (“Meduza”).

The activists forced me to learn the contents of the confession by heart. Until I had repeated it to them verbatim, I was not allowed to sleep… Investigator Kosenko arrived and wrote up a report that he had received the confession…

I was forced, in writing, to waive the services of my private legal counsel and my right to have my relatives notified… I made the confession out of fear for my life and safety…

My testimony was verified at the crime scene. The whole thing was a farce, because I don’t know what happened. In all the documents I indicated that I had not been coerced [into confessing], but I had to say that, out of fear for my life.

And here is the result: an indictment order. Previously, we should recall, Ivankin was officially a witness in the Ryazan case. If he was treated this way as a witness,  what awaits him as an indicted man?

Under Article 105.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (premeditated murder and conspiracy to murder) Ivankin faces a possible life sentence.

If Russia had the death penalty, Ivankin would be sentenced to death.

I have before me a document from the Federal Penitentiary Service in which what happened to Ivankin is called a “course of treatment.” “Maxim now shudders when he hears the word ‘Vladimir,'” says his lawyer Konstantin Kartashov. Nevertheless, he retracted his confession. But he did say, “If the publicity subsides, I’m finished.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

Irina Slavina: “I Ask You to Blame the Russian Federation for My Death”


Irina Slavina

Baza
Telegram
October 2, 2020

Irina Slavina, editor-in-chief of the online publication Koza Press, set herself on fire near the Interior Ministry headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod [on October 2]. Before that, she wrote [the following] post on her Facebook page: “I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death.”

Slavina died on the spot.

Slavina’s alleged suicide note on Facebook

Yesterday, Slavina’s home was searched as part of the Open Russia case. According to the journalist, all of her electronic devices confiscated.

“Today, at 6:00 a.m., 12 people entered my apartment using a blowtorch and a crowbar: Russian Investigative Committee officers, police, SWAT officers, [official] witnesses. My husband opened the door. I, being naked, got dressed under the supervision of a woman I didn’t know. A search was carried out. We were not allowed to call a lawyer. They were looking for pamphlets, leaflets, Open Russia accounts, perhaps an icon with the face of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. I don’t have any of these things. But they took what they found—all the flash drives, my laptop, my daughter’s laptop, the computer, phones (not only mine, but also my husband’s) a bunch of notebooks that I had scribbled on during press conferences. I was left without the means of production. I’m completely okay. But May [a dog?] suffered a lot. They didn’t let him go outside until 10:30.”

Passersby and Interior Ministry tried to extinguish Slavina. According to eyewitnesses, the flame blazed up very quickly and they were unable to save [her].

*****

This video is not for the faint of heart: it show the self-immolation of Koza Press editor-in-chief Irina Slavina in Nizhny Novgorod. From the very beginning, a bystander tried to help her, but [Slavina] pushed him away.

*****

In the spring of 2019, [Slavina], for example, was fined 20,000 rubles for an “unauthorized” protest march, and in the autumn, a record 70,000 rubles for “disrespecting the authorities.” This summer, the journalist was investigated on suspicion of “disseminating false information” because of a news item [she published] about the coronavirus, and this time she was threatened with a fine of 500,000 rubles [approx. 5,500 euros], which [Slavina] regarded as “financial murder.”

____________________________

Thanks to Alexander Chernykh for the heads-up. Photograph and video courtesy of Baza. Translated by the Russian Reader. The most recent article published on the Koza Press website was posted yesterday (October 1) at 8:27 p.m. local time. It may have some bearing on Ms. Slavina’s death.

Politically Motivated Criminal Investigation Launched Against Businessman in Nizhny Novgorod
Koza Press
October 1, 2020

The investigative directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee’s Nizhny Novgorod regional office has launched a politically motivated criminal investigation against entrepreneur Mikhail Iosilevich, who has been charged with violating Article 284.1 of the criminal code (“activity in the Russian Federation on behalf of a foreign or international non-governmental organization that has been ruled an undesirable organization in the Russian Federation”). A copy of the document confirming this fact has been made available to Koza Press.

In particular, Mr. Iosilevich is accused of the fact that, on September 2 and 3, lectures for election observers from the Yabloko Party were held in his premises (That Very Place, on Gorky Street), lectures that were twice disrupted by the police. According to investigators, activists from the Open Russia movement organized the lectures. Previously, That Very Place was a venue for discussions of current political problems in Russia, for which Mr. Iosilevich was twice charged with and convicted of administrative offenses.

As part of the criminal case against Mr. Iosilevich, the homes of several Nizhny Novgorod residents—Alexei Sadomovsky, deputy chair of the Yabloko Party’s Nizhny Novgorod regional branch; Dmitry Silivonchik, former coordinator of Alexei Navalny’s headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod; Roman Tregubov, current coordinator of Alexey Navalny’s Nizhny Novgorod headquarters; civic activists Yuri Shaiposhnikov and Mikhail Borodin; and Koza Press founder and editor-in-chief Irina Murakhtayeva (Slavina)—have been searched by law enforcement officers, who, among other things, confiscated electronic devices, personal belongings, documents, and notebooks containing notes.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Petersburg Activist Faces Criminal Investigation for Posting “Fake News” About Coronavirus

Criminal Investigation Launched Against Activist in Petersburg for Post About Coronavirus
Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda)
April 3, 2020

98584

Activist Anna Shushpanova has been placed under criminal investigation for disseminating fake information about the coronavirus. Officers of the Investigative Committee are searching her home, according to activist Krasimir Vransky. His report to Sever.Realii has been corroborated by Shushpanova’s sister Alyona.

Investigative Committee officers arrived at the Shushpanova home around 5 p.m. According to Alyona, her sister was shown the order to open the investigation. The officer are currently searching the home and have confiscated Anna Shushpanova’s telephone and computer. There are five Investigative Committee officers in the apartment. According to Alyona, the criminal investigation was launched due to a post Anna had published on the VK group page Sestroretsk Activist Group [Sestroretskii akvtiv].

According to Vransky, on April 2, Shushpanova posted information that a local outpatient medical clinic had, allegedly, sent home a patient diagnosed with the coronavirus who was exhibiting mild symptoms. The doctor who allegedly let the person with the coronavirus go home could have been asked to resign voluntarily. The incident was reported to Shushpanova by a local resident who witnessed the alleged situation.

“[Shushpanova] is a voting member of the local election commission, so there are special procedures for her. That is probably why the Investigative Committee came to her house. Instead of doctors who may have been negligent, they harass an activist,” said Vransky.

On Tuesday (March 31, 2020), the Federation Council approved the law on criminal liability  for spreading “fake news” about the coronavirus.

For spreading knowingly false information about the infection, the law stipulates a fine of 300,000 to 700,000 rubles [approx. 3,600 to 8,500 euros], one year of community service or three years’ imprisonment. If spreading the fake news caused harm to a person’s health, the stipulated criminal penalties are more severe: a fine of 700,000 to 1.5 million rubles [approx. 18,000 euros], three years of forced labor or three years’ imprisonment. If a person dies, a a fine of 1.5 million to 2 million rubles [approx. 27,000 euros], five years of forced labor or five years’ imprisonment are stipulated.

Thanks to Grigory Mikhnov-Vaytenko for the heads-up. Photo of Shushpanova courtesy of Grani.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

“He Fell on the Knife”: Moscow Jury Acquits Man Who Confessed to Involuntary Manslaughter of Gay

Moscow Jury Acquits Man Who Confessed to Involuntary Manslaughter of Gay Man
Takie Dela
February 7, 2020

A jury at Moscow’s Basmanny District Court acquitted a man accused of murdering homosexual Roman Yedalov, reports the LGBT group Stimul, whose lawyers represented the interests of the victim’s friend and mother in court. The website xgay.ru reports that the assailant’s name is Anton Berezhnoy.

The defendant admitted his guilt in part. He claimed, however, that he had not caused the death deliberately but accidentally: the victim had allegedly “[fallen] on the knife.” On February 6, when asked the question of whether Berezhnoy had caused Yedalov’s death or not, the jury said he had not, thus obviating the following question as to his guilt.

A final verdict will be handed down by the presiding judge in a few days but, according to law, the verdict cannot be a guilty one for the defendant. Stimul’s lawyers have already said they would appeal the court’s decision.

“The evidence and testimony presented in the trial convinced me that the altercation was provoked by the defendant,” said Anton Lapov, a lawyer for the injured party. “I’m convinced that it was this bloody outcome that the defendant envisaged. One person had their life taken, while another person was robbed of their health.”

The murder occurred in the early hours of June 29, 2019, at Kursk Railway Station in Moscow. Berezhnoy assaulted gay couple Roman Yedalov and Yevgeny Yefimov, who were returning to their home in the Moscow Region, and struck them with a knife.

The murder was captured on CCTV. Courtesy of Takie Dela

Yefimov’s wounds were not life-threatening and he survived, but Yedalov died on the spot. According to Yefimov, Berezhnoy shouted insults relating to their sexual orientation during the attack. Yefimov suspects that Berezhnoy followed them from a night club.

The Russian Investigative Committee launched a criminal investigation into the murder. Yefimov and the dead man’s mother were named as the injured party, while Berezhnoy was remanded in custody. During the trial, the prosecutor argued that the available evidence proved the defendant’s guilt. Yedalov’s mother told the court that she was proud of her son for defending his friend by stepping between him and the assailant.

In November 2019, Maxim Pankratov, the star of a video on the YouTube channel Real Talk in which children asked him questions about homosexuality, reported that he had been threatened. People on the street recognized him and shouted “Faggot! Pervert” as he walked past. Another group of strangers attempted to attack him at night, but he managed to escape. Pankratov underscored the fact that he had not talked with the children about sex and had not committed violent acts against them.

After the video starring Pankratov was posted, the Moscow police charged the channel’s creators with “promoting homosexualism [sic] among minors,” while the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case into sexual violence against minors. Investigators claimed that the conversations with children were designed to arouse them sexually and induce them to have sexual relations. The video was deleted after the scandal erupted.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Website Builder Tilda Cracks Down on “Political” Website

tilda

A screenshot of Tilda’s homepage

Website Builder Tilda Blocks Rostov Case Website
Mediazona
January 16, 2020

Website builder Tilda has blocked a website containing information about Vladislav Mordasov and Yan Sidorov, defendants in the so-called Rostov Case, according to a Telegram channel dealing with the criminal case.

The page’s creators received an email from Tilda’s legal service.

“We wish to inform you that your project has been blocked for publishing politically directed information. Tilda is a platform designed for creating business projects,” the letter said.

The legal service stressed that Tilda was not designed for the “posting and publication of information and/or projects involving exposés, scandals, offensive content, and other such things.”

“Personally, we understand you and your position, and would like to help. But we cannot jeopardize the sites of our other users by working with such content, since it is impossible for us to moderate such projects,” the letter said.

The activists said that Tilda had allowed them to download their website in order to publish it on another platform.

In October of last year, the Rostov Regional Court sentenced 24-year-old Vladislav Mordasov and 19-year-old Yan Sidorov to six years and seven months, and six and half years, respectively, in a maximum-security prison. In December, the Third Appellate Court upheld the verdict.

rostov case

“Blocked.” The Rostov Case Telegram channel announces Tilda’s decision to shut down their website.

Mordasov and Sidorov were found guilty of attempting to organize riots (punishable under Articles 30.3 and 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). The young men frequented a chat room for supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev, and on the day of his promised “revolution,”they picketed the Rostov regional government building.

Tilda Publishing is a service that lets users create their own websites using pre-designed blocks. Russian businessman Nikita Obukhov launched the platform in 2014.

Translated by the Russian Reader

__________________

Why is this an important story? Because more Russian grassroots activists than I can count have created websites on the Tilda platform to champion their causes, and that has included publicizing political trials like the one described above. For example, human rights activists in Petersburg have used Tilda to create a website about the frame-up of immigrants from Central Asia, who were charged and, recently, convicted of helping to organize a bombing in the Petersburg subway in April 2017. Thanks to Julia Murashova for the heads-up.

__________________

Manifesto

In 2017, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov took part in a peaceful picket. They were arrested, accused of involvement in rioting, tortured into confessing, jailed for a few years in a remand prison, and recently sentenced to seven years in a maximum-security prison.

There is no reason to doubt that the case against them was cooked up by the Investigative Committee and Center “E”, if only because there was no rioting. Amnesty International and the Memorial Human Rights Center have recognized the young men as prisoners of conscience.

We demand the immediate release of Sidorov and Mordasov, the reversal of the court rulings in their case, and the prosecution of those in the security forces responsible for fabricating charges against them and torturing them.

Source: rostovcase.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

__________________

Russia: Two youth activists jailed in deplorable act of injustice
Amnesty International
October 4, 2019

Today a court in Rostov-on-Don (southern Russia) sentenced two youth activists, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov, to six years and six months and six years and seven months in a penal colony respectively and another, Viacheslav Shashmin, to three years on probation on fabricated charges of “attempted organization of mass disturbances” and “attempted participation in mass disturbances”. Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Yan Sidorov, Vladislav Mordasov and Viacheslav Shashmin are prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Throwing these human rights activists behind bars is a deplorable move which serves as an indictment of the state of the Russian justice system.

“These young men organized a peaceful picket with nothing more than a piece of paper and a loudspeaker. In falsely characterizing this protest as a violent ‘mass disturbance’, Russian investigators have fabricated a story designed to destroy the lives of these activists and their families. The charges brought against them contradict most apparent facts and go against international law and standards.

“During a plainly unfair trial the court closed its eyes to the evidence supporting Yan Sidorov, Vladislav Mordasov and Viacheslav Shashmin’s innocence. We call on the Russian authorities to quash the sentences and release these two young men immediately and unconditionally. Peaceful protest is not a crime and the right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in international law.”

Background

On 4 October, the Rostov-on-Don Regional Court found Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov guilty of “attempted organization of mass disturbances” and sentenced them to up to six years and seven months in a penal colony. In the same decision, Viacheslav Shashmin was found guilty of “attempted participation in mass disturbances” and was given three years of probation.

The human rights activists were prosecuted for trying to stage a peaceful protest in November 2017 in support of residents who had lost their houses in mass fires in Rostov-on-Don in August that year. Yan Sidorov and Viacheslav Shashmin were 18 years old when they were arrested in November 2017. Vladislav Mordasov was 21 years old.

Judge Not

trialStill from Judge Gramm. Courtesy of YouTube

Activist Karim Yamadayev Could Face Criminal Charges for Video Depicting “Execution” of Sechin and Peskov
Grani.ru
January 3, 2019

Quoting human rights activist Ruzil Mingalimov, MBKh Media reports that the Tatarstan branch of the Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation under Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code (“insulting a government official”) over an episode of the web series Judge Gramm in which activist Karim Yamadayev, playing a judge, sentences Igor Sechin and Dmitry Peskov.

Judge Gramm (Episode 1)

In the video, the judge reads out sentences to people wearing black bags over their heads and signs reading “Vladimir Putin,” “Dmitry Peskov,” and “Igor Sechin,” respectively. The judge sentences Peskov and Sechin to death before escorting them off camera, taking a gun with him, in Peskov’s case, and an axe, in Sechin’s. Sounds of a gunshot and an axe striking a chopping block are then heard. At the end of the video, the judge says that the trial has been recessed until the following week.

Investigators searched Yamadayev’s home on Friday before taking him to the Russian Investigative Committee. Police also searched an office and the home of Yamadayev’s parents, said Alexei Glukhov, head of Apologia for Protest. Mingalimov reported to Mediazona that Yamadayev was interrogated and qualified as a witness before being released.

During the search, investigators seized computer equipment and a notebook containing passwords to online payment systems.

“[Yamadayev] is afraid the investigators will clean them out,” Mingalimov said.

On December 31, Yamadayev was summoned to the police over the same video.

“They got a tip, which they didn’t show us, by the way. They said they were obliged to react to the tip within seventy-two hours, and so they summoned [Yamadayev],” Mingalimov said.

After making a statement, Yamadayev was released.

96593“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, 1952–2019.” Photo courtesy of Grani.ru

A resident of Naberezhnye Chelny, Yamadayev was jailed on March 12, 2019, for twenty-eight days for, allegedly, setting up a gravestone with Putin’s name outside the city’s Investigative Committee office. Another activist, 32-year-old Nikolai Peresedov, was sentenced to six days in jail over the incident. Yamadayev was found guilty of violating Article 20.2.8 of the Administrative Offenses Code (“repeated violation of the procedure for holding public events”), while Peresedov was found guilty of violating Article 20.2.2 (“holding a public event without prior notification”). Yamadayev went on hunger strike during his time in jail. In September, he filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Special Rapid Deployment Force Raids Jehovah’s Witness Gathering in Norilsk

tomsk raidPolice raiding Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tomsk in 2018. Photo courtesy of the website Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

Special Forces Raid Recreational Compound in Norilsk Where More Than 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses Were Gathered, Criminal Charges Filed
OVD Info
October 22, 2019

On October 20, the Special Rapid Deployment Force (SOBR) raided a recreational compound in Norilsk where more than fifty Jehovah’s Witnesses had gathered, later carrying out searches in some of their homes, according to a report posted the next day on the religious organization’s website. A source in law enforcement confirmed that the raid had happened, according to local news website Tayga.info.

“Masked commandos broke into the building and ordered everyone who was there to surrender their telephones and tablets,” said the report on the Jehovah’s Witness website. Some of the people were then taken away in minivans to be interrogated or have their homes searched. Witnesses noticed the Norilsk Nickel logo on some of the vans.

There is information about searches in five homes. They lasted around five hours. Police confiscated Bibles, computers, tablets, and telephones from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The interrogations took place at the local headquarters of the Russian Investigative Committee. The people interrogated were asked questions from a questionnaire consisting of twenty-five questions. In particular, they were asked about their affiliation with the “forbidden” faith.

According to Tayga.info’s source, criminal charges have been filed against the leader of the local Jehovah’s Witness community.

On April 20, 2017, the Russian Supreme Court declared the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia an “extremist” organization, abolishing it and banning it from operating in Russia. In August of the same year, all local Jehovah’s Witness organizations in Russia were banned, setting off a subsequent wave of criminal cases against members of the church.

In February 2019, a court handed down the first sentence against a Jehovah’s Witness involving a long term of imprisonment: Danish national Dennis Christensen was sentenced to six years in prison. He has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which has promised to review it.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Piglet

piglet“Should we go and search someone’s home, Piglet?” Cartoon by Sergey Elkin

New Wave of Police Searches Targets Allies of Opposition Leader Navalny Across Russia
Moscow Times
October 15, 2019

Police searched the homes of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s supporters in at least 12 Russian cities overnight following mass raids last month, the police-monitoring website OVD Info reported Tuesday.

News of the latest wave of early-morning home searches came from cities including Yekaterinburg, Krasnodar in the south, and Arkhangelsk in the north. Police carried out more than 200 raids against Navalny allies across Russia last month as part of a criminal money-laundering investigation into his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK).

“This is a new wave of searches concerning the case of alleged money laundering by FBK employees,” the foundation’s director Ivan Zhdanov told Russia’s Ekho Moskvy radio station.

Russia’s Investigative Committee later confirmed it carried out searches across 30 Russian regions as part of its money-laundering investigation into the FBK.

The Justice Ministry blacklisted FBK last week under Russia’s 2012 “foreign agent” law that imposes crippling auditing and reporting requirements on groups listed. Navalny and his allies maintain that they receive funding solely through Russian donations, but the ministry said that the FBK had received donations from the US and Spain.

Navalny has called that move and others, including the jailing of several protesters, part of a coordinated and trumped-up campaign to stifle the anti-Kremlin opposition’s activities.

On Tuesday, investigators said they had seized documents and other items during their searches. Several of Navalny’s supporters had been taken in for questioning, they said.

The FBK’s video investigations accusing officials of corruption have riled Russia’s elite. The authorities froze bank accounts associated with Navalny in August as part of the money-laundering investigation that he says is trumped up.

Navalny and his allies led political protests this summer over a local election in Moscow that grew into the biggest sustained protest movement in the Russian capital in years, peaking at around 60,000 people before appearing to lose steam.