Ilya Yashin: Life Is Everywhere

I spent almost a month in Pretrial Detention Center No. 7 in Kapotnya. But on Sunday the order came down to transfer me, and I was met by the legendary Butyrka Prison. What an interesting place this is, friends! Oak gates, ancient walls, every brick here is steeped in history. A genuine Russian prison with its own unique flavor.

Ilya Yashin in happier times. This was the photo included in his original post on Facebook.

Moving here from Kapotnya, where a “red” regime is strictly observed, you feel the strong contrast. A “black” flag flies over Butyrka, and its units have their own rules.

Life comes to a standstill in Pretrial Detention Center No. 7 after lights out. One of my cellmates was sent to solitary for getting out of bed at night and making himself tea. In Butyrka, life is just beginning when darkness comes. “The roads” — a communication system of ropes connecting the windows — run between the cells. Information is exchanged instantly. The senior inmates in the wings give instructions and bring their juniors “up to speed.” Prisoners make entries in a house book, recording the movement of people around the prison. Prisoners locate acquaintances, exchange malyava [letters and notes] sweets, and cigarettes, and get the news. “The roads” function like a social network.

Butyrka has its own currency — cigarettes. For a pack of Parliament you can get a good pillow or a plate of cottage cheese for breakfast. For four packs — a soft new mattress. Almost everyone smokes, and a thick tobacco smog is found in most cells.

The prison is overcrowded and simply teeming with people: the “overload” amounts to about a thousand people. Thirty prisoners share twenty beds in the large cells. I wound up a small cell in the special unit: four prisoners are crammed into nine square meters. Some time ago, the prosecutor’s office decided to restore order and launched an inspection of Butyrka after getting complaints about the conditions. On the eve of the prosecutors’ visit, several hundred prisoners were promptly scattered to other Moscow detention facilities. As soon as the inspection was over, everyone was brought back to Butyrka.

The most amazing thing in Butyrka Prison is the cats. There are a lot of them here, and they feel like the real proprietors of the place. They calmly stroll the corridors, lounge on the duffel bags of prisoners awaiting assignment at the assembly point, and solicit food with an absolutely imperturbable look.

If the duty guard leaves the food hatch in your cell open, the cats can then jump through it freely and pay you a visit.

Imagine my surprise when, waking up in the morning, I found a purring lump at my feet. It stretched out, asked me to scratch it behind the ear and went to the table, wondering what we were having for breakfast that day.

Life is everywhere.

Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 17 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Happy Birthday, Dmitry Ivanov!

Today, Open Space Moscow celebrated the birthday of a political prisoner Dmitry Ivanov, the administrators of the Telegram channel Protesting Moscow State University, with cakes, stickers, candles, and merch.

In addition to Ivanov, who is on trial for disseminating “fake news about the army,” the evening’s organizers remembered other people currently jailed under Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code who are not as well known, in particular:

Olga Smirnova, a Petersburg activist with Peaceful Resistance, who has been prosecuted for writing post about the war in Ukraine and burning a cardboard letter Z.

Vladimir Zavyalov, a businessman who hung anti-war price tags in a supermarket.

Ioann Kurmoyarov, a priest who said on YouTube that hell awaits the soldiers who attacked Ukraine.

Igor Baryshnikov, a Kaliningrad activist who wrote about Bucha on Facebook.

Source: SOTA (Telegram), 5 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

“Dima is in jail for words”
A merrymaker at Russian political prisoner Dmitry Ivanov’s birthday party writes him a postcard.

Ilya Yashin Is Standing His Ground

Ilya Yashin (center), at a recent court hearing. Photo: Alexandra Astakhova

Every morning, Radio Russia turns on in my cell at the temporary detention center. At 6 a.m., the national anthem plays, and then the brainwashing begins.

The news items don’t differ much from one another. Russian troops have inflicted another “surgically precise strike” on the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, destroying more than three hundred “nationalists” and about a hundred pieces of military equipment. The Ukrainian butchers responded by once again shelling residential neighborhoods in the DPR with American (emphasis on “American”) weapons. A rocket hit a kindergarten. Miraculously, there were no casualties.

Audio letters to the editor then come on the air. “Maria from Saratov” or “Elena Nikolayevna from Kirov” read out their original poems dedicated to our heroes who, fighting in Ukraine, have put themselves on a par with the “veterans of the Great Victory.” For dessert, there are “songs of the Russian spring” — amateur ensembles twanging about Mariupol’s return to its “home port” or about the crimes of the Maidan.

And so on — wash, rinse, repeat — every single day. Sometimes I feel like the character in the movie A Clockwork Orange who is seated in front of a screen, his eyes held wide open with clamps. It seems to me that the UN should deems forced listening to such broadcasts a form of torture.

But seriously, my observations suggest that fewer and fewer people are taking this brainwashing at face value. Surprisingly, despite the aggressive war propaganda, I haven’t encountered any manifestations of hatred on this side of the bars at all. Quite the opposite. A detainee escort guard, snapping the handcuffs on me, whispers “Hang in there, Ilya.” The woman on duty at the temporary detention center gives me an extra blanket, “so that at least you can sleep more comfortably.” A bailiff in court thanks me for my video about Kadyrov. Such moments reinforce one’s sense of being morally right.

Even now, sitting in a cell facing the threat of a ten-year prison sentence, I understand that my decision to stay in Russia was the right one, although it was a very difficult decision. Because it knocks out Putin’s main trump card about the opposition’s foreign affiliations and that we would all flee at the first sign of danger. But now people see that we are not fleeing, that we are standing our ground and sharing our country’s fate. This makes our words weightier and our arguments stronger. But the bottom line is that it leaves us a chance to get back our homeland.

After all, the winner is not the person who is stronger right now, but the person who is willing to go all the way to the end.

Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 26 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


“Opposing Putin but Staying in Russia”
Yuri Dud’s interview with Ilya Yashin was posted on YouTube on 16 June 2022. With English subtitles.
As of today (26 July 2022), the video has been viewed over 8.5 million times.

Russian authorities have launched a criminal case against Ilya Yashin, one of the last [prominent] opposition figures remaining in the country, for allegedly spreading false information about the army, his lawyer said Tuesday.

“I got a call from an investigator — they are beginning to search his home,” lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said on Facebook.

Prokhorov was later quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the probe was launched because his client spoke of “the murder of civilians in Bucha” on his YouTube channel on April 7.

Russian forces have been accused of committing war crimes in the Kyiv suburb after civilian bodies were discovered there following their withdrawal.

Another of Yashin’s lawyers, Mikhail Biriukov, said a search had been carried out at his home and that Yashin was taken out of prison to attend.

In June, Yashin, who is a Moscow [municipal district] councillor, was sentenced to 15 days in jail for disobeying police. He was set to be released in the early hours of Wednesday. 

Yashin has been a prominent opposition figure in Russia since the mass protests against President Vladimir Putin in 2011-2012. He has denounced Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

He is an ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and was close to Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.

After Putin sent troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russia introduced legislation imposing prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading information about the military deemed false by the Russian government.

Writing on social media earlier Tuesday, Yashin, who turned 39 in jail, said he was supposed to be released at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday (22:20 GMT Tuesday).

“Maybe they will let me out. Maybe not,” he said. “What do you think?”

[…]

Source: Moscow Times (AFP), “Russia Opens Criminal Case Against Activist Yashin,” 13 July 2022

“An Ordinary Person”: The Story of Jailed Petersburg Anti-War Protester Victoria Petrova

Victoria “Vika” Petrova. Photo courtesy of Ms. Petrova and The Village

“I demand an immediate cessation of all hostilities and an international investigation of all crimes committed. […] I call on all Russians to fight for their rights and against the dictatorship, and do everything to stop this monstrous [war],” a young woman named Victoria Petrova says confidently and clearly on the screen in courtroom 36 at the St. Petersburg City Court. The members of the public attending the hearing — they are thirty-three of them — applaud.

A month ago, Petrova was an “ordinary person,” a manager in a small family-owned company. Now she is a defendant in a criminal case, charged with disseminating “fake news about the army,” and has been remanded in custody in the so-called Arsenalka, the women’s pretrial detention center on Arsenalnaya Street in Petersburg. The case against her was launched after she posted an anti-war message on the Russian social media network VKontakte. If convicted, she could face up to ten years in prison. In the following article, The Village explains how, thanks to Petrova’s lawyer, the case of this unknown “ordinary person” has resonated with the public, why Petrova’s mother is not allowed to visit her, and what the prisoner herself has to say.

The Case

On the sixth of May, at seven in the morning, Center “E” and SOBR officers came to Petrova’s rented apartment on Butlerov Street with a search warrant. They seized phones, laptops, and seven placards on the spot. The next day, the Kalinin District Court remanded Petrova in custody in Pretrial Detention Center No. 5 for a month and twenty-five days.

“The investigator said that, if he had his way, he would have released Vika on his own recognizance. But he was instructed to petition the court to place her under arrest,” Anastasia Pilipenko, Petrova’s lawyer, told The Village.

A case was opened against Petrova under the new criminal article on “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” According to the new law, any information on the so-called special operation in Ukraine that does not come from official Russian sources can be deemed “fake.” In Petrova’s case, the grounds for the criminal charges were a post on VKontakte, dated 23 March 2022, and the nine videos that she attached to it, featuring journalists Dmitry Gordon and Alexander Nevzorov, and grassroots activist and blogger Maxim Katz.


Who else has been arrested in Petersburg on criminal charges of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army?

Sasha Skochilenko
artist, musician

Olga Smirnova
activist

Maria Ponomarenko
journalist (she has been transferred to Barnaul)

Boris Romanov
activist

Total number of similar criminal cases in Russia: 53 (as of May 24)


Nearly 32,000 Victoria Petrovas are registered on VKontakte, and more than 1,800 of them live in Petersburg. The Victoria Petrova in question is depicted on her VKontakte pages as a woman wearing a light beanie, glasses, and makeup in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. She has 247 friends and eighty-nine followers.

Her post dated March 23 was deleted by VKontakte at the request of Roskomnadzor two days after it was published. But she made other anti-war posts, in which, among other things, Petrova recounts how she was jailed for ten days for taking part in a protest at Gostiny Dvor. In total, since the start of the “special operation,” she was detained twice on administrative charges.

When Center “E” [Center for Extremism Prevention] and SOBR [Special Rapid Deployment Force] came for Petrova on May 6, she thought at first that she would be charged once more under the Administrative Offenses Code. Realizing that now it was a matter for the Criminal Code, Petrova wrote her mother a detailed note explaining what to do with her apartment and her cat, and what things to send to the pretrial detention center, said Petrova’s attorney Pilipenko.

Pilipenko is now the only link between Petrova and the world: no one is allowed to see the prisoner except the lawyer.

The Lawyer

Pilipenko’s mother has her birthday on February 24. On the evening of the 24th this year, she and her daughter were going to drink tea and eat cake. But [the war] started early that morning.

“People who are also opposed to [the war] are taking to the streets. The police are putting them in paddy wagons. They face fines and arrests. Cake is canceled — I have work to do […] I am spending the night at a police station,” the lawyer wrote in her Telegram channel. She spent a month and a half working this way.

Pilipenko is thirty-five years old. She graduated from the Northwestern Branch of the Russian State University of Justice. For a year she worked as a clerk in the Leningrad Regional Court. “It was like going into the army,” she says. Usually clerks eventually become judges, but Pilipenko first became a lecturer, then a barrister. “I would never have become a judge, I would not have been able to make decisions that changed people’s lives,” she says.

Pilipenko specializes in criminal law. This is the toughest branch of the legal profession: the percentage of acquittals in Russia is negligible — 0.24%.

“But it happens that you can get a case dropped at the investigation stage. Or get the charges reduced to less serious ones. By today’s standards, that is tantamount to success for a defense lawyer,” says Pilipenko.

Pilipenko was not acquainted with Petrova until May 6, when the woman’s apartment was searched. The lawyer was asked to take the case by the Net Freedoms Project. The case is being handled by the Russian Investigative Committee’s central office.

“This means that there is no one investigator, that the entire investigative department is working on the case,” Pilipenko explains.

It was the lawyer who drew public attention to Petrova’s case by writing the following on May 11 on social media:

“Vika is an ordinary young woman. […] She has an ordinary life, goes to an ordinary gym, and has an ordinary cat. She has an ordinary job in an unremarkable company. […] Perhaps the only unusual thing about Vika’s case so far is just her ordinariness. She’s just like us. She’s not an activist, not a journalist, and not the voice of a generation.”

Victoria “Vika” Petrova. Photo courtesy of Ms. Petrova and The Village

Vika

Victoria Petrova is twenty-eight years old. She was born in Petersburg, where she graduated from St. Petersburg State University’s Higher School of Management.

“Vika had a long braid, was very serious, gave the impression of an intelligent person, and got good grades. Intuitively, I feel that Vika is childish in a good sense, unspoiled,” Sofia, a classmate of Victoria Petrova’s, told The Village.

Another friend from school, Daria, in a comment to Mediazona, described Vika as a “born A student,” a “battler in life,” and a person who “was the most organized of all.”

“And her heart always aches over any injustice,” Daria said.

Pilipenko says that Petrova is “a very calm and organized person.”

“I was amazed by this at [the May 7 bail] hearing. People behave differently when they are arrested for the first time. Vika behaved with great dignity,” Pilipenko says.

Before her arrest, Petrova lived alone with her cat Marusya. The animal is now living with the heroine’s mother, while Maruysa’s owner is now at Pretrial Detention Center No. 5.

The Arsenalka. Photo courtesy of Russian Behind Bars Prison Consultant

Arsenalka

Pretrial Detention Center No. 5 is located on Arsenalnaya Street, which is a deserted place dotted with small manufacturing facilities and the premises of the shuttered Krasnyi Vyborzhets plant, which was going to be redeveloped as a housing estate. A banner sporting the prison’s name and an image of the Bronze Horseman is stretched above the entrance to the Arsenalka. From the street side, the complex consists of a typical rhombus-shaped concrete fence, reinforced with mesh and barbed wire. A tower sheathed in corrugated iron juts out above it. On the right, behind an old brick wall, there is a a building in the shape of a cross — a psychiatric hospital “for persons who have committed socially dangerous acts in a state of insanity.” The old Crosses Prison itself, a remand prison for men, is about a kilometer away. Five years ago, all the prisoners were transferred from there to a new facility in Kolpino. The women remained in the pre-revolutionary red-brick Arsenalka complex.

Businesswoman Natalia Verkhova has described life at Pretrial Detention Center No. 5.

“The meter-thick walls and the thick iron doors outfitted with peepholes and bolts. The mattresses a couple of centimeters thick. The prison-baked loaves of bread, often burnt. The broken toilets. The concrete floors in basements where the ladies wait for many hours to be shipped out [to interrogations, court hearings, and other prisons]. The queues at the care packages office and for visiting inmates. The duffel bags chockablock with romance novels in the corridors.”

Former inmate Elizaveta Ivanchikova describes the largest cell in the Arsenalka (for eighteen inmates), to which Petrova, like all newcomers, was first assigned.

“There were nine bunk beds in [the cell]. There were bedside tables next to the beds. In the middle of the cell there was a large iron table with wooden benches. All of this was bolted to the floor. There was also a refrigerator, a TV, a sink next to the toilet, and the toilet itself, behind an ordinary door, without a lock.”

Pilipenko says that Channel One is constantly turned on in this cell and there are many unspoken rules for maintaining cleanliness.

“For example, you can only comb your hair in one place, because if eighteen ladies do it in different places, the hair would be everywhere,” says Pilipenko.

A head inmate keeps order, and at first Vika did not get on well with her. The head inmate did not like that the new girl did not know how to behave in the detention center.

“For example, when the guards come to toss the cell, you need to stand up and lock your hands behind your back,” says Pilipenko.

The conflicts were quickly settled, however, and Petrova was subsequently transferred to another cell.

This, according to Pilipenko, was preceded by an incident in the second part of May, during which plaster fell directly on the imprisoned women.

“Vika said that the girls were sitting and drinking tea when part of the ceiling collapsed on the table. Vika was not injured, but one inmate suffered bruises,” Pilipenko says.

The Telegram channel Free Sasha Skochilenko! reported that the plaster collapsed due to severe leaks: “The residents of the cell gathered the pieces of the ceiling, the largest of which weighed about three kilograms. The pieces were wrapped in sheets and the floor was swept.”

Petrova is currently in a cell for six inmates. During their last visit, when Pilipenko asked her how she was doing, Petrova replied, “You know, okay.” Petrova was surprised by her own answer.

“The letters she receives play a big role. Without them, she would not have any way to keep herself busy. This is the biggest problem in remand prison,” says Pilipenko.

The Letters

Petrova has received hundreds of letters, mostly from strangers, including from other countries. Petrova has told Pilipenko that she received a letter from a person who works in management at VKontakte. “He is upset that the social network played a role in my criminal case,” she told her.

“Vika definitely replies to all the letters. Except for those whose senders marked them with Z-symbols,” Pilipenko promises.

Petrova can correspond with other “ordinary people,” but it seems she cannot correspond with journalists. The Village sent her questions through her lawyer, but the sheet of paper with the answers was confiscated from Petrova right in her cell. Our correspondent then wrote to Petrova through the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s online FSIN-Pismo system. All three attempts that the The Village made to communicate with Petrova were not approved by the censor, and the negative responses came within a few hours, although the standard processing time is three days. Then, on the advice of Petrova’s lawyer, our correspondent sent all the same questions via FSIN-Pismo, but did not indicate that they were from the media. On the day this article went to press they were delivered to Petrova, but there has been no response from her yet. According to our information, other journalists have also failed to make contact with Petrova.

Petrova’s mother is also not allowed to see her daughter. According to the lawyer, one of the investigators said that “permission to meet with Mom will depend on the results of Vika’s interrogation as the accused party.” The investigators want Petrova to admit wrongdoing.

The Hearing

Victoria’s mother Marina Petrova lives in a three-room flat on Lunacharsky Avenue. Pilipenko filed an appeal against the order to remand her client in custody, hoping that “on grounds of reasonableness, legality, and humaneness” Petrova would be transferred to house arrest at her mother’s residence.

On the eighth of June, a hearing on the matter was held in the City Court. During the hearing, Pilipenko stated that her client was “actually being persecuted for voicing her opinion about the special military operation.” She also said that Petrova does not have a international travel passport and presents no flight risk, that there are no victims or witnesses in the case [whom the defendant theoretically thus might attempt to pressure or intimidate if she were at liberty], and that she had been charged with a nonviolent offense.

The defendant participated in the court hearing via video link from the Arsenalka. In her seven-minute closing statement, she explained what, in her opinion, had been happening for the last three and a half months in Ukraine.

Among other things, she said, “As a result of eight years of brainwashing by propaganda, Russians for the most part did not understand that [a war] had begun. Meanwhile, the completely immoral Z movement, ‘zedification,’ has been spreading across the country that once defeated Nazism. […] I do not feel any ideological, political, religious or other enmity towards the state authorities and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation as institutions. In my anti-war posts, I said that people who gave and carried out criminal orders and committed war crimes should be punished for it.”

Judge Tatiana Yaltsevich denied the defense’s appeal. Petrova will remain in jail at least until the end of June.

On the evening of June 8, subscribers to the Telegram channel Free Vika Petrova! were warned that reposting her speech in court “could lead to criminal prosecution” — probably also under the article on “fake news” about the army.

The next day, Petrova commented on her speech to her lawyer.

“She says that since she has already become a political prisoner, she cannot help but use the court hearings as a means to talk about what is happening. She has not remained silent before, and she has even less desire to be silent now that many people will hear what she has to say,” reports Pilipenko.

Source: “‘An ordinary person’: the story of Vika Petrova, who wrote a post on VKontakte and has been charged with spreading ‘fake news,’ but refuses to give up,” The Village, 9 June 2022. Thanks to JG for the story and the heads-up. Translated by Thomas H. Campbell. Ms. Petrova’s support group has a Telegram channel and is circulating an online petition demanding her release.

Darya Polyudova

Darya Polyudova, holding a placard that reads, “Ukraine, we are with you.”
Image courtesy of Ivan Astashin

A subscriber has reported that he received a letter from political prisoner Darya Polyudova in which she told him about her court hearing in the Moscow City Court on May 12.

Let me remind you that left-wing activist Darya Polyudova is currently doing her second stint in prison on political charges.

In 2015, the activist was sentenced to two years in prison for “calling for extremist activities and separatism”: this was how the authorities viewed her preparations for a March for the Federalization of the Kuban.

After her release, Darya continued to be involved in political activism. But in January 2020 Polyudova was arrested again. In May 2021, she was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “condoning terrorism” and “calling for terrorism.” The court regarded posts about Shamil Basayev and a phrase about the “Lubyanka shooter” Yevgeny Manyurov, who opened fire on FSB officers near Lubyanka Square in Moscow in December 2019, as evidence of Polyudova’s guilt.

In both cases, the Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Polyudova as a political prisoner.

However, the Russian state’s persecution of Darya Polyudova has not ended there. In late 2021, the FSB opened another case against the activist. Now she stands accused of “organizing an extremist community,” i.e., the so-called Left Resistance movement. Under the new charges, Darya may face another six to ten years in prison.

In this new case, Darya has been remanded in custody. Of course, she is already in custody. Without a new criminal case she would have been in a prison camp a long time ago [serving the sentence for her previous conviction], but the investigation wants her in a pretrial detention center.

Darya is appealing all the court decisions on the extension of her remand in custody. The court will consider her appeal of the latest extension on May 12.

Come and support Darya Polyudova!

11 a.m, 12 May 2022, Moscow City Court, 8 Bogorodsky Val, Room 327

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 7 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

The English Lesson

Jenya Kulakova
Facebook
November 18, 2021

A trifle, but an unpleasant one all the same.

According to the Russian Penal Code, convicted foreign nationals have the right to communicate with prison wardens in any language they speak and receive a response in that language. Vitya [Viktor Filinkov], as you know, is a citizen of Kazakhstan. In response to the razor blades planted [and “found”] by prison officials in his cell on his birthday, he wrote a statement in English.

And what do you think happened? The penal colony found an English teacher, Nadezhda Ivanovna Zhavikova, who works at Night School No. 13. in Orenburg, who “checked” Vitya’s composition and “corrected” the “mistakes” in it so that the text would better suit the wardens. The only thing she didn’t do, unfortunately, was grade the composition. But the prison staff probably gave her an A.

Vitya writes, “Before I started, current inspector had said that I should REPLACE my prison uniform. I DECLINED but he took it and gave me new one.”

The meaning is clear. What does Nadezhda Ivanovna write in [her] translation?

“Before that, the duty inspector told me to PUT my clothes in ORDER. I SUGGESTED that he take it away and give me a new one in return.”

At issue here is the tunic that was replaced against Vitya’s will before he went to the baths. After he came back, prison officials “found” a shard of a blade in the seam of the tunic. It thus transpires that it was Vitya who asked for it to be replaced.

Vitya ends his statement with an appreciation of the production staged by the Correctional Colony No. 1 troupe: “I didn’t brake the razor, it’s a play. Good scenario, actors. Good game, well played.”

Nadezhda Ivanovna feigns that she didn’t understand what was at issue, and translates [the passage] as if Vitya was bragging about his own play-acting: “I didn’t break the razor, it’s a game. A good acting script. A good performance, well ACTED [by Vitya, apparently [because the verb is the singular in Russian, not the plural —TRR]].”

Maybe, of course, the teacher didn’t do it out of spite, but simply couldn’t make sense [of Filinkov’s statement]. But somehow it seems to me that she made perfect sense of it and even made it over [to satisfy the wardens].

UPDATE. On a more practical note, if you have a translator’s diploma and would like to write a specialist’s opinion for the upcoming hearing appealing Vitya’s transfer to a single-cell facility for a month, you’re welcome!

Team Navalny
Instagram
November 15, 2021

❗️ Viktor Filinkov and the torture colony

Viktor is a political prisoner in the Network case. The case is about a “terrorist community” of young men who were fond of airsoft and openly voiced opposition to Putin.

The FSB took these two facts and cooked up charges that got the defendants sent to prison for terms from six to eighteen years. Allegedly, the young men were divided into combat groups that were supposed to organize bombings in order to “sway the masses for further destabilization of the political situation in the country.”

The defendants claim that they were tortured into confessing, and that the evidence in the case was completely manufactured by the security forces.

The verdicts were announced in February 2020. But the matter did not end when the young men were sent to penal colonies: the authorities began bullying them there. We know the most about their treatment of Viktor Filinkov.

For the slightest offense — such as “didn’t say hello ten times a day to a prison employee,” “washed ten minutes earlier than he was supposed to,” “left his work station during work (he went to the work station next to his to ask how to use the machine because he hadn’t been properly instructed)” —  Viktor is sent to a punitive detention cell. Letters from [Viktor’s] friends and relatives are opened, shown to other prisoners, and even replies to them are forged.

Things are so over the top that when there was a scabies outbreak in [Viktor’s] cell, his cellmates were given ointment, but Viktor himself was not, because “he complained.”

Now Viktor is being transferred to Correctional Colony No. 5 in Novotroitsk, to an isolated solitary cell, for repeatedly violating those supremely absurd rules. This colony is a torture colony, one of the most violent in Russia. In June, twelve inmates there engaged in a “collective act of self-mutilation” to protest the torture.

The Putin regime is a regime of vengeful scum. No one is safe from their lawlessness. This nightmare will become more and more commonplace with every passing day. Don’t let that happen.

More information about how Victor is being bullied can be found in the article linked to in stories.

Release political prisoners!

Translated by the Russian Reader

11/11

 

“Killer icicles” on the rooftop of a building in downtown Petersburg, 11 November 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

11 November 2021

The Russian Prosecutor General’s office has petitioned the Russian Supreme Court to “liquidate” the venerated human rights, educational and charitable organization Memorial, reports the BBC’s Russian Service.

A snowy street in downtown Petersburg, 11 November 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

200 Years Ago

On this day in 1821, Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow into the family of an army doctor who worked at a hospital for the poor. After finishing school in Moscow, Dostoevsky joined the army and studied engineering in St. Petersburg, where he was captivated — or perhaps invented — the city’s dark allure. He published his first novel, “Poor Folk,” in 1845. Four years later he was arrested for being in a literary club that discussed banned books critical of the authorities; he was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted just moments before he was to be shot. He spent four years in a prison camp and another six years of compulsory military service.

A snow-covered Alexander Pushkin on Pushkinskaya Street in Petersburg, 11 November 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

1 Year Ago

The US correspondent of a newfangled “leftist” Russian website, writing one year ago:

“If you believe the mass American media, former Vice President Joe Biden won the US presidential election. If you believe the camp of the current president Donald Trump and American Marxists (a bizarre interweaving), it was not without machinations. I personally have no confidence in any of the candidates, much less in their parties, or in the American electoral system as a whole.”

 

Corner of Bolshaya Podyacheskaya Street and Nikolsky Lane at the Fontanka River in Petersburg, with a view of the Trinity Cathedral of the Izmailovо Life Guards Regiment in the background, 11 November 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

11 November 2021

Officials Decide to Send Network Case Convict Viktor Filinkov to Single-Cell Room, Then to Punitive Detention
Mediazona
November 11, 2021

Prison officials have decided to send Viktor Filinkov, convicted in the [Network] case, who was sent to Orenburg Correctional Colony No. 1 in August, to a single-cell room for a month, and then to a punitive detention cell for ten days. His public defender Evgenia Kulakova reported this turn of events to Mediazona.

According to Kulakova, yesterday the prison’s disciplinary commission decided to send Filinkov to a single-cell room [abbreviated EPKT in Russian, this is a prison within a prison for the most “unruly” or “dangerous” inmates] because of razor blades that, as the prisoner noted, had been planted [in his cell] by Federal Penitentiary Service officers on his birthday. The second penalty was imposed on the young man for “inter-cell communication.”

Filinkov was delivered to Orenburg Correctional Colony No. 1 in August after 45 days in transport. Since then, he has spent only three days in the general population. He has spent the rest of the time in a punitive isolation cell or strict conditions of detention.

On October 6, Filinkov received a month-long reprimand for his [alleged] refusal to sweep the exercise yard in the colony and transferred to a single-cell room. He was also put on a watch list as someone “prone to systematic violation of internal regulations.” Kulakova also said that on October 30, Political Prisoners Day, he went on a hunger strike.

Filinkov demanded freedom for all political prisoners and that he be moved from solitary confinement. A few days later he added a new demand — that books, newspapers and writing materials be brought to his cell. He ended his hunger strike on November 9.

In 2020, the Second Western District Military Court, sitting in St. Petersburg, sentenced Filinkov to seven years in a penal colony in the Network case. He was found guilty of involvement in a terrorist community (punishable under Article 204.5.2 of the Criminal Code). Filinkov was the first of the young men charged in the case to report that he had been tortured by the security forces.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Doppelganger

“It’s kind of a dystopia. In some respects. Of course, it has nothing to do with reality. The world is shrinking and becoming cramped. Something or someone is always offended in close quarters. And there’s always someone pointing a gun at your head. Sometimes it’s you.”

Masyanya, Episode 152: “Doppelganger.” (Toggle the “CC” button for English subtitles)

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The caste of those deprived of their civil rights — foreign agents, undesirable organizations, extremists of all stripes — will constantly expand. Social stigmatization will be strongly encouraged. The number of persons on different registries and lists, and under police watch will grow exponentially. Legal restrictions — bans on participating in elections, serving on various public councils, founding mass media, attending football matches, working in certain areas, and so on — will be supplemented by defamation campaigns. The separation of the estates in terms of legal and social status will be vigorously encouraged by the authorities.

Source: Pavel Chikov, “Not a Tyranny Yet: A Prognosis for the Rest of Putin’s Fourth Term,” Republic, 19 October 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

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Artist unknown, Russian National Guardsmen in Their Free Time. Posted by Dmitry Vrubel on Facebook. Thanks to Sergei Damberg for the heads-up

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Security forces raided a gathering to write letters to political prisoners at the Vogel Bar. They showed up along with Rospotrebnadzor officials for a surprise inspection on the evening of October 24. After managing to tally forty-five people on the premises and not find markings on the floor mats, the officials sealed the establishment prior to a court hearing. The bar’s management fears bankruptcy and plans to open a new bar in a new location.

The latest gathering to letters to political prisoners at the Vogel this time ended with a visit by regulatory authorities. The police officers who arrived twenty minutes after the event started immediately stated that the 76th police precinct had received a complaint alleging that the bar was not in compliance with the mask mandate. At that moment, the gathering, at which attendees were to write letters to the performance artist Pavel Krisevich, jailed on charges of disorderly conduct after a performance on Red Square in which he pretended to shoot himself, had just begun. That evening, Krisevich’s friends and acquaintances, as well as former political prisoners, were to speak to the guests. One of the bar’s co-founders, Valentin Khoroshenin, told Zaks.Ru that the complaint claimed that a “meeting of anti-covidniks” was planned for that evening at the Vogel. He believes that this was just an excuse to find non-existent violations and close the bar.

The inspection report indicated that more than forty-five people were present in the room at the time. The bar’s management are adamant that this was not the case. The Vogel’s owners have already studied surveillance camera tapes and counted less than forty people on the premises, including the police officers.

Other violations included the absence of markings on floor mats and an insufficient supply of medical masks. According to regulations, such establishments should have a five days’ supply of personal protective equipment. The available supply was only enough for one day. Rospotrebnadzor officials did not enter the kitchen. According to Khoroshenin, they claimed they were too tired to do so.

Vogel Bar has been in business since March 2021. From the very beginning it advertised itself as a venue for activists: political lectures, discussions and debates were held there. During this entire time, Rospotrebnadzor never carried out inspections. But the Interior Ministry regularly sent its people there. For example, Center “E” officers attended the debates. The security forces showed up for other letter-writing gatherings, but everything had ended without trouble.

Text & photos: Konstantin Lenkov, Zaks.ru, 25 October 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

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We have been preparing an investigation into torture in Russian prisons for almost a year. It took a lot of time to track down, earn the trust of, and obtain testimonies from former inmates of the penal colony in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Siberia, thousands of kilometers from central Russia. Simultaneously with The Insider’s investigation, Russian human rights activists published an archive of video footage depicting torture being inflicted on prisoners across Russia. The clips, obtained from the FSB and FSIN secret archive, show prisoners from Irkutsk, Saratov, Belgorod, Rostov and other Russian regions being raped, beaten and humiliated. Torture victims explain their torturers’ motives by their desire to break their will in order to obtain material for blackmailing other prisoners, make them confess to crimes, pay tribute, or even to start torturing other prisoners themselves. This all takes place in the modern world, in a country where there is no war, where torturers are not tasked with extracting valuable military information from prisoners at any cost. Torture is rampant in Russia, a country that has signed a number of human rights and anti-torture conventions and seems to enjoy a peaceful life. We have long known that in Russia, prison is not a place of correction, but rather a strange world separate from everything else, where guards and inmates resurrect on a daily basis the practices of the Stalinist Gulag. This has not always been the case. As early as ten years ago there was serious talk in Russia about the need to reform and humanize the penitentiary system. Now things are different. The authorities have been clearly and unambiguously showing how they prefer to rule the country. That is mainly by fear. Investigations into torture have hardly been a revelation, but in a split instant, they made it impossible to ignore torture and pretend it only concerns those behind bars. Of course, the situation will not change overnight, but one thing is certain – this knowledge has now become an integral part of our society. In the following article, we bring you the raw testimony of people who have experienced torture in Russian prisons. They share their thoughts on why it is used, the impact on them, and recount the involvement even of doctors in their ordeal.

Source: The Insider, 19 October 2021. Thanks to Antti Rautiainen for the heads-up

Five Years Ago Today

This is one of the pleasantest pictures I’ve seen in a long time: former Russian political prisoner Alexei Gaskarov walking in the woods.

Gaskarov was released from prison this past Thursday after serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence for being involved in a peaceful opposition march that was attacked by police and provocateurs, for being truncheoned and kicked while lying on the ground by a policeman who never paid for his crimes, and for being Alexei Gaskarov.

That sounds absurd, but it’s the truth.

Why was the opposition march attacked by police and provocateurs?

Because it took place the day before Putin reinstalled himself as president, this time, apparently, for life. The protesters were ruining his party by showing the country and the world that not all Russian were happy about this semi-legal coup d’etat.

So three dozen people, some more or less famous, like Alexei Gaskarov, some complete strangers to grassroots politics, had to be taught a lesson about what happens to the nominally powerless when they spoil the festivities for the most powerful man in the country.

This is only one of the reasons why those of us know who really know what has been going on in Russia the past seventeen years feel bemused, at best, and furious, at worst, when the snake oil salesman known as Donald Trump praises Putin for his leadership.

In reality, Putin has brought the country to the brink of moral, political and economic ruin. ||| TRR, 29 October 2016. Photo courtesy of Alexei Gaskarov’s Facebook page

Solving Problems

Grigorii Golosov
Facebook
October 14, 2021

Yesterday, President Putin, driven mainly by the curiosity of journalists, publicly tried to solve problems. There are a lot of problems, he noted: they are literally “raining down.” He named only two: the decline in incomes among the population and the population’s rapid decline (the “demographic” problem). He promised to solve the first one non-linearly, i.e., not by growing incomes per se, but through economic growth. As you know, the Russian economy grows rarely and slowly, but when it does grow (which has happened over the past ten years), then for some reason this has no effect on the incomes of the population. However, it depends on whom we understand by “the population.” There is definitely a population of several thousand people constantly getting richer, although this population is more often outside of Russia than inside it. Putin did not elucidate his methods for solving the second problem, but he is certain that they will also be nonlinear. There are no other problems in Russia, however. There is no problem with political prisoners: they are all criminals. I would probably doubt that. But I totally agree with Putin that there is no problem with democracy in Russia. If there is no democracy, there is no problem with it. Verily, “if you don’t have an aunt, then you won’t lose her.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia — one of the world’s biggest producers of oil and gas — is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060.

“Russia in practice will strive for carbon neutrality of its economy,” he said at an energy forum in Moscow.

“And we set a benchmark for this — no later than 2060.”

Source: AFP/Moscow Times

Russia’s natural population underwent its largest peacetime decline in recorded history over the last 12 months, an analysis of official government statistics has shown.

Russia’s natural population — a figure which counts registered deaths and births, excluding the effects of migration — declined by 997,000 between October 2020 and September 2021, demographer Alexei Raksha calculated.

The stark drop comes as Russia, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls, continues to see record numbers of lives lost to the pandemic. The country has recorded at least 660,000 excess deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Russia’s total population of around 145 million is lower than it was when President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000 despite Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 which added 2 million to Russia’s official population statistics.

Source: Moscow Times

Only 12 World Leaders Greet Putin on His 69th Birthday. In another sign of Putin’s isolation, only 12 world leaders sent him greetings on his birthday this year. None at all came from the US or from EU countries (business-gazeta.ru/article/524870).

Source: Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble)