Release Oleg Sentsov!

Oleg Sentsov first came to the attention of the international film world when he triumphed with his film Gaamer (Gamer) at the 2012 Rotterdam Film Festival. With the cruelty only hindsight can bring, Gaamer screened in the ‘Bright Future’ section of the festival, which aims to draw attention to idiosyncratic and talented newcomers.

The ‘bright future’ that Sentsov is looking at now involves a 20-year stretch in a Russian prison, condemned as traitor and terrorist. Sentsov was arrested by the Russian security services at home in Simferopol on 11 May 2014, and brought to Moscow where he is detained and awaiting trial on charges of terrorism. Though Ukrainian, of Crimean origin, the investigating authorities of the Russian Federation do not recognise Sentsov’s Ukrainian citizenship. In line with the March 2014 law on the assimilation of Crimea, Russia required any permanent resident of Crimea who held Ukrainian citizenship to declare their intentions of maintaining Ukrainian citizenship. The deadline for this process was April 18, after which all Ukrainian passport holders who resided in Crimea were deemed Russian citizens.

So Oleg not only languishes in a Russian jail, he languishes there deprived of his rights as a Ukrainian citizen, deprived of visits from diplomats of his country, and categorised as a Russian national who has betrayed his own country.

Mike Downey, “The ‘bright future’ of Oleg Sentsov,” openDemocracy, February 17, 2015

Sign the petition demanding the release of Oleg Sentsov.

Solidarity with Alexander Kolchenko!


Alexander Kolchenko is a Crimean anarchist, social activist, and antifascist who is being held by the Russian authorities. Along with other Crimean activists, he was kidnapped by the Russian FSB (ex-KGB) and is now detained as a political hostage in Lefortovo Prison in Moscow. He has been charged with committing “acts of terrorism” and “belonging to a terrorist community.”

Why is Alexander Kolchenko in jail?

Alexander, who has proven his antifascist stance over many years, is facing preposterous accusations of belonging to Right Sector, the radical Ukrainian right-wing organization, whose real role in Ukrainian events has been blown out of proportion by Russian official propaganda.

In modern Russia, any activist — left wing, anarchist or liberal — can be slandered as a member or sympathizer of Right Sector. This situation is comparable to the hunt for nonexistent Trotskyists under Stalin, or the McCarthy witch hunt for communists in the US. Putin’s authoritarian and nationalist regime, which uses everything from religious prejudices and conspiracy theories to outright racism in its propaganda, shamelessly steals antifascist rhetoric. And yet anyone who is considered bothersome is called a fascist, even if he/she stands on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

The case against antifascist Alexander Kolchenko and civil activist and film director Oleg Sentsov (investigators enrolled them in the same “terrorist” group) is political. It is meant to intimidate the inhabitants of Crimea and prevent any resistance on the peninsula. The most authoritarian of methods are now used in annexed Crimea to repress all dissent. Many people have been forced to leave Crimea because their life and freedom were threatened: lawyers, left wing activists, student and trade union activists, anarchists, antifascists, and Crimean Tatar activists who have fallen victims of ethnic discrimination.

What does Alexander Kolchenko face?

Alexander Kolchenko is threatened with a terrible prison sentence of up to 20 years for a non-existent “terrorist attack” in which he was not involved. Kolchenko and other Ukrainian political prisoners have been detained only to demoralize the opposition through show trials. Their freedom is directly linked to the stability of the Putin regime. If we can shake Putin’s confidence in his impunity, the prisoners will be set free. There is no hope that Kolchenko, Sentsov, and others will be given fair trials. Their arrests were unlawful, and the charges against them are far-fetched. It was not a mistake: the regime knows what it is doing.

How can you help Alexander Kolchenko?

We are asking international left wing and libertarian forces for help. You can organize and lead actions of protest and solidarity, write letters to Kolchenko, and send donations to pay for lawyers, food parcels, and support for his family. It is also important to spread information about his case. Most of all, we need to dissociate ourselves from any forces that support the aggressive expansion of Russian nationalism, even if they cover it up with leftist and anti-imperialist rhetoric. Putin’s regime is doing just fine without your sympathy. You had better save it for those who are its victims.

When should you start?

You can start right now by helping us spread this appeal, translating it into other languages, and sending it to comrades. We also strongly encourage you to organize demonstrations from April 1 to 7, 2015, in support of Alexander Kolchenko and other political prisoners jailed in Russia. Sentsov’s and Kolchenko’s current terms in pretrial police custody end on April 11 and 16, respectively. In the first half of April, Lefortovo District Court in Moscow will decide whether they should await trial in jail, be placed under house arrest or be released on their own recognizance, Only strong, massive pressure on the Putin regime and protests around the world will make it possible to set our comrades free. We demand their immediate release and the dropping of charges against them.


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Free Leonid Tikhonov!

Why was Leonid Tikhonov actually convicted?
January 11, 2015

On December 15, 2014, Nakhodka City Court handed down a guilty verdict against Leonid Tikhonov, chair of the Dockers’ Union of Russia (DUR) local branch at Vostochny Port JSC in the Russian Far East. The trade union leader was sentenced to three years and six months in a medium security prison. Moreover, in future Tikhonov will be barred from engaging in trade union activities for three years.

tikhonov photo

Leonid Tikhonov

Tikhonov was accused of embezzlement. But the trade union is certain the prosecution and harsh sentence were port management’s revenge against Tikhonov and the entire local for acting too aggressively to prevent them from capitalizing on the deteriorating labor conditions of dockworkers.

The case has been much discussed in the media. But we can draw our own conclusion about who is in the right here. We only have to examine the facts in the case.

* * *

Criminal charges against Tikhonov were filed on June 22, 2012. He was accused of misappropriating 359,571 rubles (approx. 8,600 euros at the time) from Vostochny Port JSC, money allocated to the trade union for purchasing New Year’s gifts. None other than Anatoly Lazarev, managing director of Vostochny Port JSC, filed the charges against Tikhonov.

However, neither the trade union committee nor trade union members employed at Vostochny Port complained about the allegedly misappropriated funds. On the contrary, they came to the defense of their chair.

The trade union submitted to the court a written decision by the Vostochny Port JSC trade union committee to allocate funds as New Year’s gifts in the amount of five hundred rubles per member and the subsequent transfer of the money to shop stewards for presenting to union members employed at Vostochny Port JSC. That is, the money was allocated for gifts.

Perhaps Tikhonov had violated the trade union committee’s decision? The trade union submitted to the court affidavits given by members of the DUR local at Vostochny Port JSC. Around ninety-five per cent of the local’s members testified. They confirmed they had received gifts in December 2011. In some departments, gifts had taken the form of baskets containing sweets and alcoholic beverages. In others, the five hundred rubles were given in cash to each member. Each shop steward had decided how exactly to distribute the money, as gifts or cash. Only fifteen of all the members surveyed did not confirm receiving gifts that year: some recalled they had not received them, while others could not remember the events because they had happened too long ago. It thus transpires that the allocated funds had indeed been spent on gifts.

The court, however, decided not to admit these documents and affidavits as evidence.

On the other hand, the fact that criminal charges were filed after a representative of port management made a complaint cannot but raise questions.

The fact is that the money that Tikhonov was accused of embezzling did not belong to Vostochny Port JSC.

Vostochny Port JSC had allocated the funds to the DUR local at the port, as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement between the trade union and the port. The money is allocated for funding cultural, sporting, and recreational activities. The local must submit a report on how the money is spent, but as soon as it is credited to the trade union’s account, under Russian law the money belongs to the trade union local.

The DUR has a special independent audit commission for checking the financial activities of its local branches. It had audited Tikhonov and concluded he had not allowed funds to be misused.

Thus, the trade union did not consider itself a victim. And under Russian law only the person or organization to which the funds in question belonged can be recognized as the injured party in embezzlement cases. Vostochny Port management is completely irrelevant in this instance.

The lack of a proper injured party eliminates the possibility of criminal prosecution. But charges were filed, and precisely at the insistence of port management.

Why did this happen?

* * *

Criminal charges were filed against Tikhonov in the wake of an active campaign by the trade union, including mass rallies and public protests by port workers, in June 2012.

On June 2, 2012, port workers held a rally demanding a rise in base pay and salaries for all grades of workers at the port, because freight turnover and shareholder dividends had been increasing there for quite a long time.

The trade union also sought an end to the practice of transferring dockers to fixed-term employment contracts (more than a thousand such contracts were signed at the port annually) and recruiting an ever-increasing amount of workers through subcontractors. Fixed-term contracts and casualization mean that dockers lose supplemental pay and additional holidays, earn less money, and are stripped of benefits. However, this means additional income for shareholders, and additional bonuses for port managers.

A mere two weeks later, on June 19, 2012, authorities searched the trade union’s offices at Vostochny Port and seized financial records. And on June 22, 2012, as we recall, charges were filed for the “misuse” of funds on New Year’s gifts.

Isn’t it curious that port management showed its concern over the New Year’s gifts—purchased with money not belonging to it and without any complaints by those who received the gifts—in June 2012, right after the trade union rally?

* * *

The Dockers’ Union of Russia has no doubt that Leonid Tikhonov is innocent.

The trade union’s members, dockers at the ports of Vostochny, Nakhodka, and Vladivostok, also have no doubt of his innocence. They all came to support Tikhonov at the court hearings.

“Leonid Tikhonov is innocent. The charges against him are farfetched and amount to nothing more than persecution for trade union activities.” This is the position of the fraternal trade unions of the Confederation of Labor of Russia (KTR) and dockworkers’ unions in other countries affiliated with the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

“We are shocked by Leonid Tikhonov’s sentence and imprisonment,” says the DUR’s executive committee. “Our lawyers are currently seeking a review of this harsh decision and the release of the trade union leader. We will appeal the verdict, of course.”

The trade union is also preparing a complaint to the International Labor Organization.

* * *

Leonid Tikhonov’s colleagues and comrades have not wavered in their support of him.

We hope to secure Leonid’s release and restore his good name. We will keep fighting for this until we have won. The trade union does not abandon its members.

Together we are strong!

* * *

Leonid Tikhonov

Leonid Tikhonov is chair of the Dockers’ Union of Russia (DUR) local branch at Vostochny Port in Primorsky Krai.

Tikhonov was born on March 25, 1963, in the city of Sarapul in Udmurtia, where he grew up. At the age of sixteen, he went to work as an equipment tuner at the local radio equipment factory.

In September 1983, Tikhonov arrived in the Soviet Far East, where he enrolled in Vocational School No. 30, in Vrangel, near Nakhodka. The school then trained specialists for the entire region.

A year later, Tikhonov was drafted into the army. He served with a radar unit in Chukotka.

After the army, in 1986, he returned to Nakhodka and continued working as an equipment operator at Vostochny Port.

In March 1988, Tikhonov was married. His wife, Svetlana, works as an electronic engineer at the Ship Traffic Control Center in Nakhodka Bay. They have a daughter, who was born in December 1988.

Tikhonov founded the Vostochny Youth Residential Complex and chaired the Vrangel Youth Residential Complex Council.

Tikhonov worked for fifteen years as an equipment operator at Universal Handling Terminal No. 1 in Vostochny Port. In 1998, he was elected deputy chair of the Vostochny Port JSC trade union committee of the Dockers’ Union of Russia. He has been chair of this same local since 2003. During his tenure, he received a law degree so as to defend the interests of workers more intelligently.

Tikhonov’s hobbies include sports and camping. He took first place in his weight category at the European Powerlifting Championship in 2012 and the World Championships in 2013. He has also won a number of other prizes.

His friends, colleagues, and trade union comrades know Tikhonov as an open and communicative but also infinitely principled, resilient, courageous man, intolerant of injustice and always ready to come to the rescue.


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