How to Win Friends and Influence People

Book reading and experience sharing program at Russian House

On December 29 Russian House in Kathmandu conducted a book reading and experience sharing program in collaboration with Half Tone Design Private Limited.

The event featured an interactive group discussion program with a brief introduction of the Russian library, books, authors, quotes, and poem recitation. There were over 40 people: authors, students, poets, and professors. The main purpose of the program is to build reading habits and share experiences. In the program, many of the audience suggested their favorite books, which are as follows:

1. How to win friends and influence people — Dale Carnegie, and Bhagwat Gita by Mr. Indra Prasad Adhikari.

2. Ramcharitra Manas. By Mr. Rudra Dulal.

3. Jeevan Yatra by Mr. Bhola Shrestha.

4. Muna Madan, Aamai and Paheli by Mrs. Goma Banjade.

5. Mother – Maxim Gorky by Ms. Mira Pokherel.

6. Guna Ratna Mala by Mr. Narayan Thapa.

Source: Russian House in Kathmandu, Facebook, 29 December 2022


Ukrainian officials said that over 120 Russian missiles had been launched at the country’s cities. Explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Odessa and Zhytomyr. The mayor of Kyiv said that three people had been taken to hospital, and that 16 missiles were destroyed in flight by the city’s air defences. On the southern front Ukrainian officials urged residents of Kherson, which they liberated just six weeks ago, to evacuate their city as Russian forces escalated mortar and artillery attacks.

Source: The Economist, “The World in Brief” email newsletter, 29 December 2022


Mikhail [Lobanov] telephoned. He says that he has been charged under Article 19.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code.*

Mikhail managed to convey that during the search he was beaten in the face and chest. There was blood on the floor of the apartment.

* “Disobeying the lawful order of a police officer, a serviceman, an officer of the Federal Security Service, an officer of state security bodies, an officer of bodies exercising federal state control (oversight) in the field of migration, or an officer of a body or institution of the penal enforcement system, or an officer of the Russian Federal National Guard,” as amended on 19 December 2022.

Source: Mikhail Lobanov, Facebook, 29 December 2022. Translated by TRR


The home of Mikhail Lobanov was searched today. Mikhail’s [legal] status and the article of the criminal code [which he is being charged with or suspected of violating] are not yet known.

Mikhail was taken to the Ramenka police department.

During the search, the investigator mentioned the name Ponomarev (probably referring to Ilya Ponomarev), with whom Lobanov is not acquainted and is not connected in any way. All electronic devices were removed from the home.

The security forces quickly sawed down the door and talked with Lobanov in the apartment for more than three hours. They did not allow him to contact a lawyer, demanded that he sign some papers, and behaved heavy-handedly, Mikhail’s wife Alexandra Zapolskaya reports.

Source: Mikhail Lobanov, Facebook, 29 December 2022. Translated by TRR

The Extremist Community: Nine More Years in a Penal Colony for Left Resistance Founder Darya Polyudova

Darya Polyudova, holding a placard that reads, “Ukraine, we’re with you.” Photo courtesy of The Insider

The founder of the Left Resistance movement, Darya Polyudova, has been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on charges of “creating an extremist community.” Polyudova was already serving time on another charge, and had three years left to go in her sentence.

The Second Western District Military Court has handed down the new sentence to the activist. It agreed with the prosecution’s arguments that the Left Resistance, as created by Polyudova, was an “extremist community.” And yet, at the moment there is no such organization listed in the Russian Justice Ministry’s registry of “extremist organizations.”

In addition to “creating an extremist community” (Article 282.1.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code), the court found the activist guilty on two counts of “condoning terrorism” (Article 205.2.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code) over posts published on the movement’s social media page.

The sentence took into account Polyudova’s previous sentence of six years, which she received in 2021, writes Mediazona.

Polyudova was the first person in Russia charged under the criminal code article outlawing “calls for separatism” (Article 280.1). This accusation was brought against her in 2014 for trying to hold a “March for the Federalization of the Kuban” in Krasnodar.

One charge after another

Polyudova began her career as a political activist in Novorossiysk, where she organized Strategy 31 protests. Due to constant arrests and dismissals from work, Polyudova was forced to move to Krasnodar, and later to Moscow.

She went on pickets in support of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar political prisoners, and the defendants in the Moscow Case and the Network Case, against the construction of a landfill in Shiyes, and against plans to build a church on a city square in Yekaterinburg.

In 2017, Polyudova was released from a work-release penal colony where she spent two years on charges of calling for separatism, and founded the Left Resistance. The description of the movement on its VK page stated that it “stands against the oppressor capitalists and for all the oppressed and the power of the working people.” The movement’s members attended protest pickets and distributed leaflets.

In January 2020, Polyudova was arrested again on charges of calling for separatism — this time for a solo picket where the activist stood holding a placard that read, “Kuriles, stop feeding Moscow! Long live the Far Eastern Republic!”

She was also charged with publicly condoning terrorism over a repost of a message about the Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev.

The calling for separatism charge against Polyudova was eventually dropped due to the liberalization of Article 280.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. However, in September 2020, the activist, who by that time had been in remand prison for more than six months, was charged with a new offense.

The FSB regarded her statements about Yevgeny Manyurov, who opened fire at the FSB headquarters on the Lubyanka in December 2019, as grounds for charging Polyudova with “condoning terrorism.” Later, this charge was reduced to a charge of calling for separatism.

In May 2021, Polyudova was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on charges of publicly condoning terrorism and calling for extremism.

Polyudova was presented with new charges of “creating an extremist community” in December 2021, while she was in remand prison awaiting an appeal against the previous sentence.

Source: “Activist Darya Polyudova sentenced to nine years — this is her third prison sentence,” BBC News Russian Service, 23 December 2022. Translated by TRR


Left Resistance founder Darya Polyudova has been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony, while Left Resistance activist Kirill Kotov has been sentenced to three years probation, the Telegram channel Free Kirill Zhukov reports.

Polyudova’s sentence incorporates the previous verdict against her and will run from January 2020, when the young woman was remanded to a pretrial detention center in a previous criminal case, her lawyer Leonid Solovyov told OVD Info.

The prosecution had requested just this sentence for Polyudova, but had asked that Kotov be sentenced to three years in a penal colony.

Polyudova was accused of “creating an extremist community” (per Article 282.1.1 of the Criminal Code), while Kotov was accused of involvement in an “extremist community.” Polyudova was also charged on two counts of public calls for terrorism or “condoning terrorism” (per Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code).

According to the FSB, Polyudova created the Left Resistance to “plan and commit crimes, […] namely, public vindication of terrorism and public calls for extremist activity.” Investigators argued that the “extremist community” engaged in holding pickets and making posts on social media.

In addition to Kotov, four other activists have been charged with involvement in the extremist community: Sergei Kirsanov, Alyona Krylova, Igor Kuznetsov, and Andrei Romanov.

On 18 November 2021, the FSB searched two addresses as part of the case against the Left Resistance, including the house where Kotov used to live. The criminal charges against the movement were made public on 3 December 2021. Tomsk opposition activist and RusNews journalist Igor Kuznetsov was already in remand prison in connection with the case of the Telegram channel Chto-Delat! Andrei Romanov and Alyona Krylova were not in Russia, while Sergei Kirsanov and Kirill Kotov were released on their own recognizance. By this time, Polyudova had already been sentenced to six years in a penal colony in a previous case.

Polyudova was charged under the article criminalizing calls for terrorism over posts made in 2019 on the Left Resistance’s social media page, including a post entitled “Execute the traitor Putler for treason!” Forensic experts detected “calls for the violent seizure of power” and “use of violence against the security forces” in these posts. Another criminal count was based on posts made on anniversary of the annexation of Crimea and pickets in support of defendants charged with involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.

[…]

Polyudova founded the Left Resistance movement in 2017. Its activists said that the new left-wing organization’s purpose was to replace the “opportunistic Communist Party” and “defend genuine communist ideas.”

In May 2021, the court sentenced Polyudova to six years in a penal colony. She was found guilty on two counts: “condoning terrorism” (per Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code) in connection with a repost on VK, and “calling for extremist activity” (per Article 280.1 of the Criminal Code) for statements about the actions of the shooter outside the FSB headquarters building on the Lubyanka.

In 2014–2015, Polyudova was accused of calling for extremism and separatism. She was then sentenced to two years in a work-release (i.e., minimum security) penal colony.

Source: “Left Resistance founder Darya Polyudova sentenced to nine years in a penal colony,” OVD Info, 23 December 2022. Translated by TRR

The Subversive Community

The Russian Federal Criminal Code: “Original edition: Beware of fakes!” Image courtesy of the Russian State Duma’s website

The State Duma adopted in their third and final reading amendments to the Criminal Code that stipulate life sentences for “subversive activities,” reports the lower house’s website.

There was already an article in the Criminal Code that outlawed sabotage. It stipulated a life sentence only if someone was killed as a result (per Article 281.3).

The deputies decided to add three new articles (281.1, 281.2 and 281.3) to the Criminal Code. They have introduced such crimes as “creating a subversive community” and being involved in such a community, “facilitating subversive activities” and “training” to commit sabotage, and “promoting” and “condoning” sabotage.

As punishment, prison terms of eight to twenty years or life sentences are stipulated in all cases, except for aiding and abetting sabotage.

As in the case of the other articles in the Criminal Code dealing with terrorism and extremism, exemption from criminal liability is stipulated if an individual informs the authorities or “otherwise contributes” to the prevention of sabotage and “subversive activities.”

The deputies also included “promoting,” “condoning,” or “supporting” sabotage in the list of aggravating circumstances in the commission of other crimes (per Article 63 of the Criminal Code).

Other bills in this raft of legislation would allow the authorities to place people suspected or accused of violating the new articles on Rosfinmonitoring’s financial watch list and block their bank accounts, as well as enable the authorities block websites containing instructions for “making ammunition for firearms.”

The set of four bills was introduced on December 8 by a group of more than 380 deputies. [There are 450 seats in the State Duma.] The first reading was held on December 14, and the text of the bills had not been amended as of the second reading on December 20.

Source: “State Duma passes law on life sentences for ‘facilitating’ sabotage,” Mediazona, 21 December 2022. Translated by TRR


I can’t stand it, I know you planned it
I’m gonna set it straight, this Watergate
I can’t stand rocking when I’m in here
‘Cause your crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear
So while you sit back and wonder why
I got this fucking thorn in my side
Oh my God, it’s a mirage
I’m tellin’ y’all, it’s a sabotage

So, so, so, so listen up ’cause you can’t say nothin’
You’ll shut me down with a push of your button?
But you, I’m out and I’m gone
I’ll tell you now, I keep it on and on

‘Cause what you see you might not get
And we can bet, so don’t you get souped yet
You’re scheming on a thing that’s a mirage
I’m trying to tell you now, it’s sabotage

Why

Our backs are now against the wall?
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage
Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage

I can’t stand it, I know you planned it
I’m gonna set it straight, this Watergate
Lord, I can’t stand rockin’ when I’m in this place
Because I feel disgrace because you’re all in my face
But make no mistakes and switch up my channel
I’m Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle
What could it be? It’s a mirage
You’re scheming on a thing, that’s sabotage

Source: Musixmatch. Song written by Michael Louis Diamond, Adam Nathaniel Yauch and Adam Horovitz

“Murderers, You Bombed It to Smithereens”

Of course, as a true masochist, I went to Palace Square to look at those hearts, small and large, supposedly symbolizing the sister cities of Petersburg and Mariupol. It is clear whose heart is the small one, and whose the big one, in the imperial capital. My thoughts about this are unprintable, so I’ll omit them.

But I went for curiosity’s sake: how many people would be getting their pictures taken in front of the hearts? As I’d supposed, it was a lot of people.

I saw much more than I’d expected. It was a total trash fest. There were the hearts, people taking fotochki, as they say now, frozen Peter the Greats walking around, carriages circling the square, and a drunk-looking little dude playing the accordion right there.

But no one seemed to be paying attention to the unauthorized inscription on the heart — black and large and truthful. (See the last two photos.)

While I was standing there, however, both citizens and law enforcement agencies finally noticed it. And they will call it vandalism, of course.

Source: Marina Varchenko, Facebook, 18 December 2022. Translated by TRR


A Petersburg woman detained on Palace Square has been charged with “discrediting” the army, the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Petersburg office has informed Bumaga.

Earlier, city media reported that the inscription “Murderers, you bombed it to smithereens. Traitors” had appeared on an installation dedicated to the sister-city relationship between Mariupol and Petersburg, and that a juvenile female had been detained.

When Bumaga asked it whether these reports were true, the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Petersburg office replied that on the afternoon of December 18, the police had detained seventeen-year-old girl on Palace Square “for committing illegal actions.” She was charged with an administrative offense for public actions aimed at “discrediting” the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (per Article 20.3.3 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code).

The installation appeared on Palace Square on December 12. Rotunda reported that the Petersburg authorities ordered it back in September. According to the contract, the city spent 1.05 million rubles on the installation.

On December 18, an inscription appeared on the installation, after which the structure was partially disassembled. Workers told our correspondent that the installation would remain on the square, but would spend the next few days without cladding until the inscription was removed from it.

Source: Bumaga, 19 December 2022. Translated by TRR


Dec 19 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the Federal Security Services to step up surveillance of Russian society and the country’s borders to prevent risks from abroad and traitors at home.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s Security Services Day — widely celebrated in Russia [sic] — Putin said the “emergence of new threats” increases the need for greater intelligence activity.

“Work must be intensified through the border services and the Federal Security Service (FSB),” Putin said.

“Any attempts to violate it (the border) must be thwarted quickly and effectively using whatever forces and means we have at our disposal, including mobile action units and special forces.”

Putin instructed the FSB to maximise their “use of the operational, technical and personnel potential” to tighten control of the society.

The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has already been operating in Russia as an expansive surveillance and censorship apparatus and Moscow’s invasion in Ukraine has involved a large swathe of the security services.

“Maximum composure, concentration of forces is now required from counterintelligence agencies, including military intelligence,” Putin said, according to transcript of his speech provided by the Kremlin and translated by Reuters.

“It is necessary to severely suppress the actions of foreign special services, quickly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs.”

The FSB, headed by Putin ally Alexander Bortnikov, will also increase oversight of mass gatherings, strategic facilities and energy infrastructure.

Since the start of the war, demonstrations and dissent have been swiftly quelled in Russia, with more than 1,300 detained in September at protests denouncing Putin’s military mobilisation of 300,000.

[…]

Source: Lidia Kelly and Ronald Popeski, “Putin orders FSB to step up surveillance of Russians and borders,” Reuters, 19 December 2022

Environmental Movement 42 (Is a “Foreign Agent”)

Hi!

It’s the 7X7 team on the line. Today we’re going talk about the environmental movement 42 and why it suddenly became a “foreign agent.”

Approximate reading time: 4 minutes.

Some people look forward to Friday to go drinking after the work week, but we look forward to Friday to learn the names of the new “foreign agents,” as designated by the Russian Justice Ministry. Their updates to the registry of “foreign agents” are like a new episode of a TV series, the release of a long-awaited game, or a new song by a favorite artist. Russian officials know how to put on a show, you can’t take that away from them.

This week, The Bell, ex-What? Where? When? contestant Rovshan Askerov, TV Rain journalist Mikhail Fishman, philosopher Ruben Apresyan, and the Environmental Movement 42 were added to the registry. We’re going to tell you about 42, an eco-movement based in Arkhangelsk.

What does 42 do?

Article 42 of the Russian Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to a favorable environment.” The movement named itself after this article. 42’s activists run online seminars on eco-education, talk on social media about the Arkhangelsk Region’s unique sites, and organize subbotniks.

Everyone can lead an eco-friendly lifestyle. You can start by sorting and recycling garbage. So, the 42 team, together with the Ecomobile project, accepts glass, plastic, metal, and paper for recycling. And for convenience, once a month a real ecomobile drives around Arkhangelsk, staffed with activists to whom residents can hand over their recyclables.

“Foreign agent”

42 is this environmental organization’s second incarnation. They used to be called Aetas, but in 2017 the Justice Ministry designated the organization a “foreign agent.” The reason they were put on the registry was their cooperation with the Norwegian activist group Natur og Ungdom, which financed some of Aetas’s events, including free children’s camps, expeditions, and Ecobattle, an annual championship for collecting recyclables.

After they were put on the foreign agents registry, the activists founded a new movement, 42, in February 2018. But it was also designated a “foreign agent” this past Friday, December 9. Will there be a third incarnation and a second reincarnation? We’ll see.

Organizations and individuals are place on the “foreign agents” registry for a reason. You have to consistently and vigorously mess with the state’s attempts to generate tyranny and speak out against it. But how did people trying to organized segregated waste collection deserve the new designation? One can never say for sure, but there is speculation that the reason they were placed on the registry is that they have called for locals to participate in public discussions about the construction of a new waste sorting complex in the village of Kholmogory.

Friends in misery

Someone may think that the title of “foreign agent” is a seal of excellence. Perhaps this is partly true, but it is also a heavy burden for any organization, especially if it is located in Russia. Foreign agents have to submit additional reports, indicate their foreign agent status on any public platforms, and cannot receive state grants.

In 2022, the Russian government has been pressuring activists from environmental protest groups more vigorously than usual, but most often not for environmentalism, but for anti-war statements. On December 9, Elena Kalinina, one of the participants of the protests in Shiyes, was ordered by a court to refrain from certain activities due to her alleged “repeated discrediting of the army.” Ivan Ivanov, chairman of the Pechora Rescue Committee, was fined by a court in June for appealing to Putin to stop the war. And Arshak Makichyan of Fridays for Future and his family members were stripped of their Russian passports altogether: officials claimed that they had suppled false information when they applied for them in the early noughties after moving from Armenia.

Life goes on

Fines, bans, and denaturalization. But is there any good news? Of course there is! And we at 7×7 are just the people to find it for you.

Greenpeace opened its first branch in the USSR in 1992 [sic: the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991]. The money for opening this branch was raised from the sales of a charity album called Greenpeace Breakthrough. Songs for the album were recorded by U2, Sting, Talking Heads, Dire Straits, and others.

Thirty years later, a collection called Greenpeace Breakthrough 3.0 has been released in Russian. The songs on it were recorded by Samsara, Electrophoresis, Neschatsnyi Sluchai, Nogu Svelo, and other Russian-speaking artists. The artists will transfer the money received from the auditions to environmental organizations in Russia.

In its group description on VK, 42 writes: “We are safeguarding nature in Russia until better times.” Indeed, garbage recycling and subbotniks may seem unimportant now, but this is not the case. The war will end, and the country and its nature will still be a concern for inhabitants of the regions.

Take care of yourself. Thank you for sticking with us.

Source: “Focus” email newsletter, 7X7, 12 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


THIS IS THE LAST POST

Today, the Russian Justice Ministry placed the Environmental Movement 42 on its registry of foreign agents. It should be noted that the persons listed as members of an association are not deemed “individual foreign agents.” This bit of misinformation has been widely repeated. 😡

❗About the law

The Law on Foreign Agents has been in force in Russia since 2012. At that time, you to had to engage in political activity and receive foreign funding to earn a spot on the registry. Despite the fact that “activities for the protection of flora and fauna” are excluded from the law as forms of political activity, thirty-four environmental organizations have been placed on the registry to date. Ten years later, on December 1, a new law on foreign influence went into force. Its implications are unclear. You are probably reading this post on a smartphone manufactured somewhere other than Russia. You listen to foreign music, watch foreign movies, and go on holiday to Turkey. Under the new law all these things can be deemed “foreign influences.”

❗Our opinion

Naturally, we do not agree with our inclusion on this registry. If we are “agents,” we are only agents of nature. Our families have lived in the Arkhangelsk Region for several generations. We are rooted to this land, and so our principal mission is safeguarding nature and the well-being of future generations. This is reflected in our name: 42 is the number of the article in the Russian Constitution that states that everyone has the right to a favorable environment. We doubt that the people who put us on this registry have the same love for our region and our people as we do, that they understand the connection between environmental mistakes and people’s health and safety.

We are not surprised by this turn of events. Unfortunately, this is the trend — to drown out the public’s voice. Why do you think we were included in the registry? Just a few days ago, we published information about public hearings on the proposed construction in Kholmogory of a municipal solid waste processing facility with a capacity of 275 thousand tons. There was clearly an attempt by the authorities to hold the hearings quietly and unnoticed; even local council members didn’t know about them. Due to the attention they attracted, the administration has had to hold a second round of hearings, which now will be going on until January 7. But again, the project documentation has not been made available, although it is topic of discussion. Why all these secrets? Why the pressure on us?

❗What’s next?

We do not know what we’ll do next, because the law is quite harsh and imposes numerous burdens, including financial ones, which we simply cannot afford. We are consulting with lawyers about this. It is very easy to break the “rules,” the fines are large, and there is a risk of criminal liability for us. The safety of the people who selflessly protect nature under 42’s auspices is important to us.

We will be glad of any support on your part. You can also like, comment, and share information here as before (the lawyers explained that it is safe). This is our last post without the ugly boilerplate [indicating “foreign agent” status], which from tomorrow we will be obliged to put in all our informational materials. 🤕

* The photo, above, shows members of 42 after they arrived in Shiyes for a week-long vigil on the eve of 8 March 2019.

Source: Environmental Movement 42, VK, 9 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The Arkhangelsk-based Ecological Movement “42” is one of the first to be listed after Russia on December 1 drastically expanded the oppressive foreign agent legislation. The eco-group was started after Aetas environmental organization in 2017 was declared foreign agents and shut down.

“The only agents we are, are agents of nature,” the group wrote at its site on VKontakte when it became known that the Ministry of Justice in Moscow declared them so-called foreign agents.

“Naturally, we do not agree with the inclusion of us in the register.”

The foreign agent law itself was adopted in 2012 and said that registered organizations could be listed if they conducted political activities and got funding from abroad.

Later, successive amendments in 2017 and 2019 expanded the law to include media, individuals and non-registered associations.

The latest expansion of the law, adopted in July and entering force on December 1, says individuals, organizations, legal entities, or groups without official registration, receiving foreign support, or are “under foreign influence” and conduct activities that authorities would deem to be political would be listed as foreign agents.

The definition of “foreign influence” and “political” could be endlessly broad.

In Arkhangelsk, the Ecological Movement “42” says they don’t know for what reasons it is included on the list.

“Preservation of nature, and hence the preservation of the well-being of future generations, is our main goal and task.”

42 points to the article in the Russian Constitution stating that everyone has the right to a favorable environment.

“We doubt that those people who included us in the register have the same love for our region, for our people, understand the connection of errors with the health and safety of people,” the group says.

The eco-group has over the last years worked actively worked to stop the plans to establish a huge dump field for household waste from Moscow in Shiyes, far north in the taiga forest in the borderland between Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic.

Ecological Movement “42” was started by former members of Aetas, another youth eco-group that in 2017 had to shut down after being labeled as “foreign agents.”

The group is only for members under the age of 30. It is member of the Russian Social Ecological Union, the Climate Action Network and the Stop Shiyes Coalition.

Since 2012, 34 environmental organizations in Russia have been included in the foreign agent register.

The foreign agent law was also used to shut down the human rights group Memorial that last weekend was given the Nobel Peace Price for 2022 in Oslo.

The “foreign agents” designation, which carries negative Soviet-era connotations, burdens subjects with strict labeling and auditing requirements.

Many independent journalists, activists and civil society figures have been added to the registry in recent years amid a sweeping crackdown on non-Kremlin-aligned voices.

Source: Thomas Nilsen, “Rebranded ecological youth group declared foreign agent,” Barents Observer, 12 December 2022

Ilya Yashin: Closing Statement in Court

This is a translated excerpt from Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin’s closing statement, which he delivered at his show trial in Moscow earlier today. Charged with “spreading false information about the Russian military,” Yashin faces up to ten years in prison if convicted, which he almost certainly will be. ||| TRR


Ilya Yashin

Taking advantage of this podium, I would also like to address Russian President Vladimir Putin, the person who is responsible for this massacre, who signed the law on military censorship, and by whose will I am in prison.

Vladimir Vladimirovich!

Seeing the consequences of this monstrous war, you have probably already understand yourself what a grave mistake you made on February 24. Our army has not been greeted with flowers. We are called executioners and occupiers.

The words “death” and “destruction” are now firmly associated with your name.

You have brought terrible misfortune to the Ukrainian people, who will probably never forgive us. But you are waging war not only against Ukrainians, but also against your compatriots.

You have sent hundreds of thousands of Russians into the inferno of battle. Many of them will never return home, turned into dust. Many will be crippled and go crazy from what they have seen and experienced. For you, they are just casualty statistics, numbers in columns. But many families the face unbearable pain of losing husbands, fathers and sons.

You have deprived Russians of their home.

Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have left their homeland because they do not want to kill and be killed. People are running away from you, Mr. President. Haven’t you noticed that?

You have undermined the foundations of our economic security. By putting industry on a war footing, you have sent our country back in the wrong direction. Tanks and guns are again a priority, and poverty and disenfranchisement are again our realities. Have you forgotten that such a policy has already led our country to collapse before?

Although my words might sound like a voice crying in the wilderness, I urge you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, to stop this madness immediately. You must acknowledge that the policy towards Ukraine has been mistaken, withdraw troops from its territory, and proceed to settle the conflict diplomatically.

Remember that every new day of war means new victims. Enough is enough.

Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 5 December 2022. Photo by Zlata Milyavskaya. Translated by the Russian Reader

“Face the Wall, Don’t Look Down”: Solidarity Becomes a Criminal Act in Moscow

A view of the entrance to Open Space Moscow. Photo courtesy of Mediazona

On the evening of November 24, masked security forces officers broke into Open Space in Moscow, where fifty people had gathered to support the anarchists arrested in the Tyumen Case and write postcards to political prisoners. The security forces, who were probably commanded by a colonel from Center “E”, made the visitors lie down on the floor or stood them facing the wall and held them for several hours, beating some of them. They didn’t let a lawyer inside.

On November 24, an evening of solidarity for the defendants in the Tyumen Case took place in Open Space, a co-working space for activists in Moscow’s Basmanny District. Six anarchists from Tyumen, Surgut and Yekaterinburg have been arrested and charged with organizing a “terrorist community,” and all of them have said they were tortured.

The event was open to the public and had been advertised, for example, by the online magazine DOXA. (Recently, State Duma deputies demanded that the magazine be designated an “extremist organization.”)

The event started around six o’clock, and about forty to fifty people were in attendance, says one of the participants. Some eyewitnesses say that before the security forces arrived, they signed postcards in support of political prisoners, while others said that they recited or listened to poetry. In any case, when an intermission was announced, the guests went outside to smoke — and at that moment a paddy wagon drove up to the building, and masked security forces officers stormed the venue.

Video footage of the beginning of the raid, which the SOTAvision journalist Ksenia Tamurka managed to shoot before she was detained, shows that the masked security forces officers behaved in a demonstratively rough manner. They shouted, kicked over furniture, and knocked the phone out of the correspondent’s hands. After the phone falls, the sounds of blows and shouts are audible in the footage: “Hands behind your head!”, “Legs wider!”, “Face the wall, don’t look down!”

The security forces officers forced some of the young people to lie down on the floor, while they made the rest of them, including the young women, stand facing the wall, forbidding them to move. A young woman who had left the event during the break and unhappily returned to retrieve a tote bag she had forgotten told SOTA that she stood facing the wall for about an hour.

“When I turned my head, I was told to keep facing the wall. An hour later, they apparently took out my passport from my tote bag and summoned me to another room, where most everyone was lying face down on the floor. I sat down and we waited further. Then after, I don’t know, thirty minutes, I was summoned by other Russian National Guard officers. They asked me where my phone was, and I showed them. They asked me to unlock it, but I said no, citing Article 23 [of the Russian Constitution, which enshrines the right to privacy]. They were like no, you’re going to unlock it. And when I had already sat down, there was already a young female journalist after me, and she refused to show them her phone. They dragged her by the hair and she screamed,” the young woman said.

After what she saw, the young woman agreed to unlock the phone, and the security forces wrote down its IMEI. Another woman, who attended event with a child, said that the security forces officers demanded that she show them her Telegram chats and latest bank transfers to find out “whether she sponsored terrorism.”

The young woman who was screaming was SOTA journalist Ksenia Tamurka. The media outlet has not yet published the commentary of the journalist herself. One of the detainees recounted the assault on Tamurka as told by another eyewitness; another young man heard the journalist screaming, although he was in another room.

He said that the security forces treated the young men in various ways: in his opinion, it largely depended on the length of their hair. The young man pointed out that the security forces also detained members of Narcotics Anonymous, whose meeting was going on in the next room. “And when they were asked what they were doing there, they said, We are drug addicts, we don’t know anyone here! Then they were taken away from where we were, and [the police] talked to them separately,” he recalled.

At some point, the security forces perhaps began to behave a little less harshly. In video footage recorded a few hours after the start of the search, it is clear that the detainees were no longer pressed against the wall, but were simply looking at it. The security forces did not detain the journalists who shot the video, but, according to a Sota correspondent, they did drag a passerby inside the building after he looked in the window.

The security forces did not let the lawyer Leysan Mannapova, who arrived at the scene of the raid, inside the building, claiming that her warrant was incorrectly executed. A man who came to rescue his fourteen-year-old brother also failed to get inside the building.

The detainees were loaded into the paddy wagon only a few hours later, and the minors among them were released along the way. The rest were brought to the Basmanny police department.

One of them said that she and four young men were beaten at the station. According to the young woman, the security forces officers “struck her when she was lying on the floor.” One detainee was “beaten with a baton and a book,” and another young man was “thrown on a chair and kicked.” According to her, the police found a balaclava, an emergency hammer from a bus, and a traumatic pistol, which he had a permit to carry, on one of the men who was beaten.

Another young woman could not recall beatings and said only that the detainees wrote statements at the police department “about what they actually did.” Alexei Melnikov, a member of the Public Monitoring Commission who was recently appointed to the Presidential Human Rights Council, went inside the department and saw the detainees while they were making their statements, but also made no mention of possible violence.

The detainees were released from the department around two o’clock in the morning. None of them reported that they were forced to sign any documents other than their statements. Tamurka left the department last, around four in the morning.

Golos coordinator Vladimir Yegorov identified the colonel from Center “E” in video footage of the security forces escorting the detainees to the paddy wagon. According to Yegorov, he was beaten during a search of the Golos office on October 5 on the colonel’s orders. Yegorov does not know the policeman’s name, because it was not listed in the search report. According to SOTA, the masked security officers accompanying the colonel at Open Space serve in the second field regiment of the Interior Ministry’s Moscow Main Directorate.

Correction (7 p.m., November 25): The article originally stated that the journalist Ksenia Tamurka left the police department along with the other detainees around two o’clock in the morning. SOTAvision later clarified that she came out last, around four o’clock in the morning.

Source: Nikita Sologub, “‘Face the wall, don’t look down’: security forces raid solidarity event for defendants in Tyumen Case,” Mediazona, 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. This is the second part of a two-part feature on the 24 November raid on Open Space Moscow. You can read part one — journalist Ksenia Tamurka’s first-person account of the incident — here.

The New Normal

Is life in Russia still normal?

Dmitry Vakhtin • Lives in Russia • Jun 3

Life in Russia is a “new normal.”

Shops are full of food, but no Nespresso capsules (I still have some for a couple of months).

Stores are still selling printers, but not ink cartridges (I had to re-fill the used one last week).

There is clothes in shopping centers, but stores I used to go to are closed.

European countries still formally issue visas, but not really, although they might, but probably not, and getting there by air costs the same as becoming a space tourist.

Some countries are still open, but flights abroad are few and expensive and airbnb doesn’t accept payments from Russia, so I have to ask my son living in Germany to pay for our Summer trip.

Speaking of my son, I still can transfer money to him, but sometimes it takes weeks and sometimes they never get through, though sometimes they do, and you never know.

Speaking of the money, I still get my salary, but sometimes it is delayed because transferring money to the right bank account in the right currency in time makes our financial team prematurely gray-haired.

Speaking of the salary, our high-tech company is still working, but neither electronic components, nor equipment, nor people can cross borders, although sometimes they can, and then they don’t, and you never know when and why, and nobody knows it.

I keep reading and watching Youtube videos about the war every day, although it has all become a routine, and I hate myself for that, and I did protest but stopped because it’s all pointless and dangerous, though it isn’t, but it is, and we are all cowards, but it doesn’t matter, though it does.

I want Ukraine to win this war, and I don’t feel as if I am betraying my country but rather that my country is betraying me and itself, and this is probably the only crystal-clear thing in my life.

Yes, life is still normal in Russia.

91.7K views • 6,390 upvotes • 32 shares • Answer requested by Emirey Jackson

Source: Quora


“Blue Eyes,” who physically assaulted Ksenia Tamurka, escorts her around the police station. Photo courtesy of SOTA

SOTA correspondent Ksenia Tamurka was detained along with the other attendees of a solidarity event for the defendants in the so-called Tyumen Case. The event was held at Open Space, an activist co-working space in Moscow The journalist was beaten when she refused to show her phone to men who had their faces covered. Despite this, Tamurka did not succumb to pressure and for several hours defended her rights to police officers. We publish this monologue by our correspondent, from which you can learn how to talk to the security forces and what you must do for your own safety.

Masked security forces officers [siloviki] burst into Open Space, and I started filming. I was either knocked down with a chair, or I tripped over it when I was pushed. I dropped my phone, and they put me face to the wall — they told me to stand like that. People around me were knocked down and thrown on the floor. They were not allowed to turn their heads; they could only look at the floor or at the wall. A Narcotics Anonymous meeting was being held in the basement of the premises, and one of the [recovering drug addicts] was asked what he used and how long he had been going there. They found some kind of book on LGBT topics in his possession and the siloviki read it aloud. In the process, they made nasty jokes about the guy. They said that there was no such thing as a former drug addict, and reproached him for being so young and already hooked. They collected everyone’s phone and papers, including mine and my press pass.

One guy begged them to let him call his mom. When these masked me with no insignia on their black uniforms had broken in, he thought it was a terrorist attack and had written to his family about it. The boy was very afraid that his mother would be worried, but the siloviki laughed, saying, Come on, how could you confuse us with terrorists? Why are you scaring your mother?

Then one of the Center “E” officers [eshnik] — the nastiest, most weaselly one — called me over because he thought I was hiding something when I was tucking in my sweater. He asked me to be a good girl and give him what I had allegedly hid; otherwise they would search me and stick their hands in my underpants. I said that I hadn’t hidden anything, that I was a journalist and had come there on assignment. He asked me strange questions, but I answered reluctantly. I said that I would only answer an investigator’s questions. For this, I was “punished” — I was made to stand with my face to the wall, although the others were sitting. When the siloviki nearby suggested that I sit down too, this eshnik said, “No, she’s being punished. She will stand.”

A couple of hours later I was summoned again. “Point your finger at your phone. Come on, unlock it,” they said. I refused because the request was illegal. Those men in uniform saw that I had Face ID, and they brought my phone close to my face, but I closed my eyes and looked away. The eshnik said all sorts of nasty things to me, getting angry and shouting. One of the masked siloviki, a man with blue eyes, grabbed me by the hair. Someone else hit me in the face and tried to open my eyes with his fingers. I was surrounded by five masked men. I screamed and cried and screwed up my face. I was very afraid to glance lest my phone be unlocked, god forbid. They dragged me back and forth by the hair. They shouted, “A drama queen! Ah, what a drama queen!” The police officers threatened to take me to the Moscow Region and talk to me in a basement.

At Open Space there is a mailbox for postcards designed to look like the bars in a jail. They punished me again by forcing me to stand looking at this box, like I was serving a prison sentence. Every police offer who walked by me thought I was backing away from it and pushed me closer. When one policeman passed by, he snapped his fingers before my eyes. When he was passing by, another policeman inserted a postcard with a beautiful picture in the box and said, “Let’s change the view — gaze at this.” Almost everyone passing by noted the pulled out hair on my clothes. Then that eshnik came up to me and tried to persuade me to unlock my phone. He asked whether I was tired, offered to deal with me “the normal way,” and said that I was delaying everything and would be the last to leave. “Just say the password, just enter it,” he said, but I wouldn’t enter it. They offered to give me a chair, to which I replied, “I’m not going to bargain with you. And bring a high chair.” They brought it. I sat down: I was comfortable, it was great, I looked at the wall. The blue-eyed man who had pulled my hair came up to me. I told him, “You beat me,” and pointed out that it was illegal, but he was like, “I don’t care.” The siloviki also tried to scare me by saying that my mobile phone would be entered into evidence and returned a year later, at the earliest, if we didn’t resolve everything on the spot.

The men in uniform constantly asked the organizers and participants why they supported terrorists and wrote postcards to them, and why the slogans on their walls were so filthy.

The siloviki asked everyone to tell them the PINs to their phones first, and then, if the person refused, they put the device in their hands and told them to enter it personally. They asked them to show their Telegram chats and film rolls and enter some other commands, like they were checking whether the mobile phone was stolen. When I asked what it all meant and why they needed my phone, they replied that they suspected me of theft, that there was a criminal complaint and even an APB out on me. I asked them to show them me and asked whether all those lying and sitting at Open Space had APBs out on them too. The siloviki replied that they would not show me anything because it was official information, and they stopped talking to me.

Everyone was photographed and searched, and their documents were photographed too — illegally, of course. They also took a picture of my father’s library card and public transport pass, although I didn’t consent to this. I was told that I was not in a position to forbid them to do anything. All the time I heard the same conversation: “We are checking your phone for theft, we are checking your phone for theft, enter the IMEI.” And almost everyone agreed to do it! Very few refused — and they were beaten, in my opinion. In any case, they were not treated very pleasantly. The eshnik asked me who I worked with at SOTA, who gave me the assignment, who I knew. He asked me about books and suggested that I read 1984. I told him to read Zamyatin’s We.

Th eshnik tried to make friends with me. He kept asking how I was feeling and complimented me, calling me a “persistent lady.” He even took my number and suggested that we discuss books later. He was constantly trying to get me to talk about “opposition” literature, bragging about his knowledge and telling me about Orwell. This man then invited me to take a stroll with him, but when he saw my face, he wimped out himself. “Well, you don’t want to walk with such scum, do you?” he said.

Ksenia Tamurka. Photo courtesy of SOTA

When I had already lost track of time, the intercessions on my behalf were conveyed to me. I was so glad when I found out that journalists had already gathered [outside], that my colleagues were there too! I was relieved because I had been very worried that I couldn’t contact anyone.

A man who did not agree to unblock his phone was beaten quite hard, judging by the sounds. We were forbidden to turn and look. One boy was whipped on his legs — the police officer made him spread his legs wider and thrashed him with all his might. It was so loud and scary.

They also promised that they would talk to me separately — I was afraid that they would just start torturing me, because I asked the policemen about it, and they either jokingly or seriously answered that yes, they would. There was a moment when everyone was really led away, and I thought, Well, that’s it — it’s about to start. But no, I was just sent to a paddy wagon.

At the station, I realized that everyone was pretty sick of me, judging by the comments that came my way. They called me a dumb broad and a pest. They said that I should be beaten with a rod. Later, in the department, they suggested that I should be “whipped with an officer’s belt in a dark room.” It also transpired that I was a dumb broad because no one was fucking me. They said disgusting things about me. I wrote down everything they said and all sorts of atmospheric details in the blank spaces in the book I had with me, [Vladimir] Sorokin’s Sugar Kremlin. The police saw it and tried to take a peek. Then the blue-eyed duded just stole it from me. They read all my notes in front of me and laughed in my face: “What? Who beat you? No one touched you. Why are you making things up?” But one of them added that I could still be beaten, because there was no other way to make me understand.

I was held separately and constantly harassed. And yet, when I asked to make a phone call, they said that it was specifically forbidden to me. When I asked to let a lawyer in to see me, that was also forbidden to me. I wanted to go to the toilet, but that too was specifically forbidden to me, while everyone else was allowed to go. They lied to me that there was no one waiting for me outside, that no one had any use for me and no one was waiting for me, although I knew that a crowd had already gathered at the station. The policemen discussed my breasts in front of me. Then they asked me my size — I cited Article 51 [of the Russian Constitution] and refused to testify.

When everyone else had already been released, they continued to drag their feet with me. The policemen kept their promise. I had to prove to them that the phone was mine for some reason. But if they had confiscated it from me, they should have known whose phone it was! It was their problem that they didn’t follow the legal procedures and forced me to deal with the consequences of their negligence! Moreover, my phone was the last one. The cunning eshnik and the blue-eyed devil finally decided to punish me too for my perseverance and entered the wrong password many times so that my phone would be blocked.

While we were waiting for the on-duty officer, the fool who dragged me by the hair ran out through another exit. Today I will file a complaint regarding the theft of my book and the actions of those police officers. I also went to the emergency room — I feel that it hurts me to touch it [sic]. I had the assault and battery documented there. The trauma specialist told me that it was an “industrial” injury because I had been on the job.

By the way, the slogan “The people’s trust is the police’s strength” was written on the wall of the police department.

Source: “‘The police threatened to take me to the Moscow Region and talk to me in a basement’: The story of the assaulted SOTA journalist,” SOTA (Teletype), 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. The original article contains three embedded Telegram posts featuring video footage taken during the events described above.

Kirill Butylin: The Partisan of Lukhovitsy

Kirill Butylin. Image courtesy of Solidarity Zone

Solidarity Zone supports Kirill Butylin. And you can too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✉️📦 Address for letters and parcels:

Butylin Kirill Vladimirovich (born 2001)

18 Matrosskaya Tishina Street

Pretrial Detention Center No. 1

Moscow 107076 Russian Federation

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

Solidarity without borders!

#writeletters#solidarity#prisoners#no war

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Why did you do that?

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

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

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

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

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

— Do you like the colors yellow and blue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Have you been able to get another job?

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

— How many pickets did you hold in the autumn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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