If Harassing Jehovah’s Witnesses Were an Olympic Sport, Russia Would Win a Gold Medal

Cupolas of the Cossack Exaltation of the Holy Cross Cathedral, St. Petersburg, November 18, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader
Cossack Exaltation of the Holy Cross Cathedral, St. Petersburg, November 18, 2016. Billboard in foreground reads, “The Pink Bunny, A Store for Fortifying the Family, Ligov Shopping Center.” Photo by the Russian Reader

Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religion, including the right to profess individually or together with other any religion or to profess no religion at all, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious and other views and act according to them.
Constitution of the Russian Federation, Chapter 2, Article 28

Police Search Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls in Smolensk and Sochi, Disrupting Services in Both Cases
SOVA Center
December 19, 2016

On December 17 in Sochi, police officers and Cossacks came to the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, blocked all the doors, drove all the worshippers from the auditorium except two people, and conducted a search. During the search, a publication included in the Federal List of Extremist Literature was confiscated.

According to the worshippers, one of the official witnesses accompanying the police helped them knock down the gate.

On December 18 in Smolensk, police and prosecutors, accompanied by armed riot police, arrived at the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, where about sixty people were assembled. A search was also conducted. During the search, an extremist pamphlet was discovered in the toilet.

According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the extremist literature was planted by those conducting the searches in both cases. In both cases, the worship services were disrupted.

In addition, on December 18, a search was carried out in a private home in Smolensk where Jehovah’s Witnesses live. According to them, the police officers were rude and used force against women. When one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses felt sick, the law enforcement officers kept them from summoning medics for a long time.

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Silence of the Lambs, Part 2: The Case of Valery Brinikh

Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh
Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh

Adygean Environmentalist Charged with Extremism
November 17, 2015 | Republic of Adygea
SOVA Center

Environmentalist Valery Brinikh accused of ethnically motivated humiliation for writing an article about the problems caused by pig farming in Adygea

On November 17, 2015, it transpired that a new charge has been filed against Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh under Article 282.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (humiliation of a group of persons on the grounds of ethnicity and origin, committed publicly using the Internet). Earlier, the 51-year-old director of the Institute of Regional Biological Research had been accused only of aiding and abetting the distribution of extremist matter, the article “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Now the Investigative Committee considers him the author of this article,” explained Alexander Popkov, the environmentalist’s attorney.

Criminal charges were filed against Brinikh on December 11, 2014, for publishing the article on the website For Krasnodar! [Translator’s note. The website now seems to have been removed; it was still functioning in April 2015, when I first posted on this case.] The article deals with the environmental pollution caused by the pig-breeding facility Kievo-Zhuraki JSC. On December 17, 2014, the Maykop City Court ruled “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist, and the Adygean Supreme Court upheld this ruling in March 2015. In court, Brinikh denied both that he had written the article and that he had posted it on the website. On October 1, 2015,  the environmentalist was charged for the first time (under Articles 33.5 and 282.1  of the Criminal Code).

The author of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” accuses residents of Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District, where the polluting facility is located, of giving in to the authotiries and failing to defend their own interests vigorously. Nevertheless, his remarks are not grounds for a criminal prosecution: they contain no evidence of incitement of hatred. As for the phrase on which the article ends (the author quotes Voltaire’s remark that God helps those battalions that shoot better), given the context it should be interpreted as a rhetorical device rather than a call for extremist action. Obviously, local authorities could have been using the article to put pressure on Brinikh. We should note that the owner of Kievo-Zhuraki JSC is Federation Council member Vyacheslav Derev. On March 5, 2015, the Maykop City Court fined Brinihkh 100,000 rubles [approx. 1,400 euros] for slandering Derev.

Source: Diana Gutsul, “Environmental Brinikh Faced with New Extremism Charges,” RAPSI, November 17, 2015 (in Russian)

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Our Swimmer
Our Swimmer

I would bet 99.99% of Russians could not find Adygea on a map, and 99.99999% of Russians have not heard of Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh, but Putinist power exists there, too, and it is being used to crush Mr. Brinikh into the dirt for stating the obvious too loudly. (Meaning he committed “extremism,” of course.)

So here is that map (courtesy of russianlessons.net).

Adygea (in red) on map of Russia
Adygea (in red) on map of Russia

The Case of Ekaterina Vologzheninova: Watch What You “Like”

Click on the Button and Get a Sentence
Latest “Extremist” Reposting Case Goes to Court
Margarita Alyokhina
October 14, 2015
Novye Izvestia

Ekaterina Vologzheninova
Ekaterina Vologzheninova

The first hearing on the merits of the criminal case against Ekaterina Vologzheninova, who has been accused of extremism for reposts she made on the social network VKontakte, will take place on October 27. In addition to distributing “inflammatory” matter (consisting, in fact, of pictures and poems, supporting Ukraine, that are freely available on the Web), the 46-year-old single mother [from Yekaterinburg] has been accused of associating with “undesirable persons,” which included activists from Memorial and International Amnesty.

Vologzheninova has been charged under Article 282.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as humiliation of human dignity”). The authorities began pursuing Vologzheninova after she shared several items on VKontakte. These items, we should note, have not been included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials.

Experts from the SOVA Information and Analysis Center have commented on the case against Vologzheninova on their website.

“The poem ‘Katsaps,’ whose main idea is that Ukraine’s ethnic Russians will defend it from Russia, contains accusations that the Russian authorities have attacked Ukraine, but there are no aggressive appeals in it. As for the poster, it obviously calls on Ukrainian citizens to defend the country from occupation.”

As usual, the preliminary hearing in the case was held in closed chambers.

“The prosecutor read out the indictment. But she read it out in an interesting way, omitting the most absurd paragraphs,” Vologzheninova’s attorney Roman Kachanov told Novye Izvestia.

During the hearing, the defense moved to send the case back to the prosecutor’s office, since, according to Kachanov, the indictment did not meet the requirements of the law. It did not make clear what the charges were.

“The conclusion states that [Vologzheninova] committed acts aimed at inciting hatred and enmity on the basis of race, ethnicity, and origin. As for race and origin, we did not understand that at all. But as for ethnicity, the indictment turns on the social group ‘Russians,’ although in the items at issue, ethnic Russians, on the contrary, are assessed positively; it is argued that it is wrong to oppose Russians to Ukrainians. In one text, Russians fighting in the Armed Forces of Ukraine are mentioned proudly,” Kachanov told Novye Izvestia.

According to Kachanov, the indictment accuses Vologzheninova of inciting hatred toward the social group “Moscow occupier” [sic]. It also features the phrase “ethnic hatred and enmity toward the public authorities.”

Earlier, during the investigation, Vologzheninova had also been reproached for associating with “undesirable persons,” human rights activists from Memorial and Amnesty International.

“Formally, such charges were not brought against her, because there is no such crime. At the very end of the investigation, however, [Vologzheninova was interrogated] by a FSB field officer by the name of Khudenkikh. And he, apparently wanting to generate a negative psychological atmosphere, accused her of having dealings with Memorial, which is a ‘foreign agent,’ and with Open Russia, which is funded from the west,” Kachanov told Novye Izvestia.

According to him, on the eve of the court hearing, it transpired that Vologzheninova’s bankcard had been blocked.

“The situation is this. By law, if a person is suspected of extremist or terrorist activities, his or her name is put on Rosfinmonitoring’s black list. A court sentence is not needed for this. But it does not always happen this way. I know people convicted of extremist crimes who have continue to have use of their bank accounts,” the lawyer explained.

According to him, a person who goes on the Rosfinmonitoring list stays there practically in perpetuity. For example, the slain terrorists Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduyev are still on it. And since the list is openly accessible, for “extremists” like Vologzheninova it is an additional humiliation. As Novye Izvestia ascertained, Ekaterina Vologzheninova is indeed listed among terrorists and extremists on Rosfinmonitoring’s website.

Svetlana Mochalova, a linguist with the FSB’s crime lab in Sverdlovsk Region, performed the forensic examination in the case. As Novye Izvestia reported earlier, a whole string of verdicts in controversial “extremism” cases in the Urals have been based on her findings. Among them is the verdict in the case of Pervouralsk resident Elvira Sultanakhmetova, who was sentenced to 120 hours of community service for calling on Muslims not to celebrate New Year’s because it was, in her opinion, a pagan holiday. Mochalova identified “incitement of hatred and enmity towards persons who do not celebrate New Year’s, whose customs and festivals are manifestations of a lack of faith” [sic] in what Sultanakhmetova had written. In 2010, Mochalova found “statements calling for social strife and the violent overthrow of the Russian Federation’s constitutional order an integrity” in the article “Patriotism as a Diagnosis,” written by the attorney Stanislav Markelov, who had been murdered [by Russian neo-Nazis] a year earlier. The article was examined as part of the proceedings against civic activist and Tyumen State University lecturer Andrei Kutuzov. He was prosecuted for, allegedly, handing out leaflets calling for an end to political crackdowns. According to Mochalova, these leaflets incited hatred against the authorities and aroused social discord. Mochalova refused to reveal her examination procedure to the court on that occasion, claiming that it was marked “for official use only.”

In July, teacher Alexander Byvshev, who had posted a pro-Ukrainian poem on a social network (unlike Vologzheninova Byvshev had written the poem himself), was sentenced to 300 hours of community service in the Oryol Region. Sentences for “likes” and reposts have practically become the norm this year. Thus, on September 28, Chelyabinsk blogger Konstantin Zharinov, who had reposted material from the banned Right Sector, was found guilty and immediately pardoned. On September 15, Krasnodar activist Sergei Titarenko was fined 100,000 rubles [approx. 1,400 euros] for reposting a political post. On September 17, the Lenin District Court in Cheboksary sentenced Parnas opposition party activist Dmitry Semyonov [and immediately pardoned] for reposting a caricature of Dmitry Medvedev.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Radio Svoboda

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A Currenttime.tv report about the criminal case at Yekaterinburg resident Ekaterina Vologzheninova, accused under Article 282 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code of inciting ethnic hatred and enmity against the Russian public authorities, residents of Southeast Ukraine who do not support modern Ukraine’s political course, volunteers from Russia fighting on the side of the Donetsk People’s Republic, and other absurd things. Posted on October 17, 2015. Thanks to Sergey Chernov for the heads-up

Andrei Marchenko: Closing Statement in Court

The Closing Statement of Andrei Marchenko
Industrial District Court, Khabarovsk, September 30, 2015
Grani.Ru

Exactly one year and two months ago, I had a knock on the door around this time of day. The people knocking identified themselves as election campaigners, but then a huge crowd of people with a video camera turned on burst in as soon as I opened the door. Because of one sentence on the social network Facebook, the FSB had come in connection with the criminal investigation opened against me.

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Andrei Marchenko. Photo by Alla Viktorova. Courtesy of Grani.Ru

It was my first search and a lesson for the rest of my life. You should never be afraid of anything, and must know and defend your rights.

Let us start with the fact that I was shown the search warrant in passing, as well as IDs. Apparently that is why I still do not know the first names or surnames of the men who came to search my place. Next, I was denied a telephone call and not allowed to ask neighbors to act as official witnesses during the search. (The official witnesses were soldiers brought by the FSB themselves.)

Naturally, pressure was put on me during the search. But it lasted only until they had checked everything and realized that what they had come for was not in my house (nor could it have been there). There was no money from foreign sponsors, no extremist literature, nothing.

The only thing that gladdened my visitors was the business card of Elizabeth Macdonald, a US consul in Vladivostok, although I do not understand why it is forbidden to communicate with foreigners. In a daze, I signed the search record (which was also a mistake), and they left. They departed, leaving me with a summons to an interrogation.

May it please the court to know that from the outset I considered this criminal case political, and I still do. The charges were filed only to silence me and force me not to voice my personal opinion about the current political situation in the country and the world.

May it please the court to learn that when they were conducting their investigation before criminal charges were filed, the investigators from the FSB Khabarovsk regional office during their so-called private chat with me were intensely and primarily interested in my role in organizing a flash mob in Khabarovsk six years in a row to protest the homophobic policies of the Russian leadership. They asked about my friends from the Khabarovsk LGBT community (both generally and about specific people). They asked about my meetings with a representative of the US Consulate in Vladivostok during her visit to Khabarovsk. I stress it was this aspect of my life that primarily concerned the investigators.

The investigators were also interested in my political views and my personal opinion about the anti-terrorist operation in the east of Ukraine.

I venture to guess that the FSB was investigating me as a “gay foreign agent.”

But after searching my home and questioning witnesses, the investigators at the FSB’s Khabarovsk regional office decided, nevertheless, to charge me with extremism under Article 280, Part 1 [of the Russian Federal Criminal Code].

May it please the court to hear that the forensic examinations made it clear I am not a terrorist and extremist but a simple Russian citizen who takes to heart all the news happening both to Russian citizens and other peoples.

Your honor, when rendering the verdict, I ask you to take into account the propagandistic hysteria that the Russian state media fanned during the summer of 2014.

It was in May and June 2014 that round-the-clock hysteria about “Ukrofascists,” “Banderites,” “crucified boys,” and so on wafted from every TV set. Russians were really being zombified. But I had and have the opportunity to get accurate information from different sources, including Ukrainian, European and American news and analysis channels, and programs on the independent Russian TV station Rain and the radio stations Echo of Moscow and Radio Svoboda.

It was then that my freedom-loving mind (my whole life has been a struggle for justice, for compliance with human rights and freedoms) revolted against all this, and I decided I could freely express my value judgment among like-minded people and friends on the American social network Facebook, which is not subject to Russian laws.

But it turned out (this is in the case file) that my behavior and statements had been monitored for a long while. Although, as a popular blogger, I had heard about total surveillance, it was a shock to me when I learned I was on the list of those being monitored.

Your honor, when I posted the statement for which I have been charged, I was not inciting anyone to carry out acts of violence. It was my impulsive and, perhaps, overly emotional response to the rubbish broadcast that night (Far Eastern Time) by Russian state television.

And, as follows from the results of the forensic examination (volume 2, pages 9–15), the post was my way of expressing my negative attitude towards a specific group of people in Russia who are supporters of fascism and terrorism, and who forcibly seized the territory of another country, Ukraine. I think that, just like me, every honest Russian citizen has a negative attitude towards this group of so-called volunteers. I should emphasize that, according to legal experts at the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, the current prosecution under Article 280 is unlawful. “Citizens of Russia [who are] supporters of fascism and terrorism and forcibly seized Ukrainian territory” are not a group protected by anti-extremist legislation and, therefore, the use of violence against this group cannot constitute foul play as stipulated by Article 280.

Your honor, I would also like to emphasize that publication of the post mentioned in the charges was nothing more than an expression of my personal point of view. I just wanted to draw attention to the news, to the lies of the propagandists on state television (using their own way of putting things), and to my [Facebook] page.

Your honor, as I have said, this case is purely political and was initiated not because of extremism, but because I, being openly gay and a media figure, have been very civically active and express my opinion, which differs from the general ideological line in Putin-era Russia.

Translated by the Russian Reader


Editor’s Note. According to Grani.Ru, Judge Galina Nikolayeva adjourned the trial until ten o’clock tomorrow morning, Thursday, October 1. It is expected she will announce a verdict in the trial then.

Update. According to an article on the news website Vostok-Media, on October 1, 2015, the Industrial District Court in Khabarovsk found Andrei Marchenko guilty as charged and sentenced him to a fine of 100,000 rubles, but immediately amnestied him as part of a general amnesty celebrating the seventieth anniversary of victory in the Second World War.

Andrei Marchenko celebrating his virtual victory in court. Photo courtesy of Vostok-Media
Andrei Marchenko celebrating his virtual victory in court. Photo courtesy of Vostok-Media

“Smash the Kikes and Save Russia!”

Smash the Kikes and Save Russia (2015)
Hard on the heels of migrants and gays, another minority has begun to fear for its safety: Jews. Svetlana Reiter spoke with two women who feel directly threatened
Svetlana Reiter
March 2, 2015
Colta.ru

Leokadia Frenkel
Program Coordinator, St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center
I set up a volunteer program to help the children of migrants three years ago, in May. Basically, we teach Russian to children of migrants from Central Asia, primarily from Uzbekistan, but there are children from Kyrgyzstan and a few from Georgia. Twice a week, they have Russian lessons, and every Sunday in the summer we go to a museum, take a trip to Pavlovsk or Peterhof, or just walk around the city. The younger group, preschoolers and first graders, we teach conversational language through games. We teach the older children, who already know how to read and write, Russian as foreign language. There are fourteen children in the younger group, and eight in the older group. I cannot say that they attend constantly. Some get ill, while others leave the country.

I myself am a philologist by training. Previously, I taught Russian language and literature in schools. I am Jewish.

detailed_pictureLeokadia Frenkel

When we opened, practically no one was working with migrant children. There were no classes: it had occurred to no one that something needed to be done with them. Naturally, when we opened, various media visited us to shoot segments and write articles. When I read the comments to these articles, I often felt uneasy: people wrote very harshly about migrants and their children. But I could scarcely have foreseen what has happened now.

I posted an ad for volunteers in Facebook and VKontakte. We cannot take just anyone: we need professional philologists, people able to work with children. We cannot take the average person who just feels sorry for migrants, and real teachers are few and far between. So I am constantly posting ads in social networks: look at what wonderful children we have, come and help us.

Not long ago I posted two more ads. A group on VKontakte calling itself Morality reposted one. I had a look. Morality’s moderator, Mikhail Kuzmin, put together an album containing 161 photos of me and published a post in which he wrote that the kike-liberal public goes to protest rallies and teaches Russian to “black” (chernye) children. This group is absolutely fascistic and anti-Semitic. They are constantly writing that migrants commit the majority of crimes in Russia. That “black” children attend our schools and spoil our children, the migrant children are wild animals who are uneducable. And those are the mildest things they write.

When this community was informed that a Jewish woman was teaching migrants, they were faced with what they understood as pure evil. Three and a half thousand people gladly lashed out at me. Kuzmin posted information about my son and my husband, and published an additional post about my family. He was outraged: how could it happen that kikes were teaching savages?! There is no place for either group in our society. Down with the kike-liberal opposition! Moreover, judging by his photographs, Kuzmin himself goes to LGBT rallies and beats up gay activists. He has an athletic physique: he practices boxing and fisticuffs at Sosnovka Park. In one photo, he is wearing a police uniform and sporting a badge. I don’t know whether he is really a policeman, but the photograph exists, just like snapshots where he is giving the Hitler salute or standing next to Deputy [Vitaly] Milonov [author of Petersburg’s infamous homophobic law].

The worst thing, of course, is that he not only haunts the social networks but that he walks the streets. I complained to the administration of VKontakte. They replied that if I didn’t like this group, I shouldn’t look at their postings, and that they close only those groups that directly threaten someone’s life.

I have said nothing to the migrant children. I am a good teacher; I know how to work with children. Ultimately, my job is to help those who have it worse than I do, not to make their lives even more unbearable. You see, in the schools these children accumulate hatred: teachers don’t like them and classmates fear them. These things give rise to reciprocal aggression.

It is hard to say whether the folks from Morality are threatening my life. If they practice fisticuffs at Sosnovka Park, what prevents them from visiting our Jewish center? Maybe one of their three and a half thousand subscribers will decide to harm me directly. And you know, I am less afraid to read things like “the black-assed bastards are uneducable, ask any teacher” and “the kike lady is out of her mind for black-assed goys” than to read what Kuzmin wrote about my son and my husband. I’m really afraid for my family.

The level of aggression is now completely crazy. Some moron could show up when I am teaching the children. We have no security guard armed with a machine gun at our center. The only thing I can do to protect myself somehow is talk about it publicly.

I always remember that the migrants have it worse off than I do. Their children have no beds. They sleep on the floor, and they are lucky if they have a mattress. And yet they go to school and study as much they can until they leave for home.

I have noticed that if I really come to like a pupil, he or she leaves immediately. Rarely do they study with us longer than two years. There were two lovely girls, half Kyrgyz, half Uzbek. They drew beautifully and sang beautifully. They were here for three years, now they have gone back home. I still correspond with one girl from Uzbekistan, Sitora, who is now seventeen years old. I remember she once told me she had never been to the theater in her life. Not once, can you imagine? But we take the children to the theater when we get free or discounted tickets.

During the winter break, we went to the Kunstkamera. Some Uzbek girls later asked why the Chinese have such strange, narrow eyes. And I told them, “Well, I have a big nose. What’s strange about that? All people are different.”

Tamriko Apakidze
Former lecturer at the Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies
I moved to Germany this fall. I am trained as an Orientalist and religious scholar, and I taught at the Institute of Jewish Studies in Saint Petersburg. I encountered the Morality group quite by accident. A year ago, on March 14, I went to a demonstration at Kazan Cathedral. I had two small placards with me: “Crimea is Ukraine” and “Make love, not war.” Despite the warnings, I took the placards out periodically, not realizing that they turned my actions into a solo picket, especially because there were other people with placards.

fileTamriko Apakidze. Photo by Nikolai Simonovsky

The police nabbed me fairly quickly, at first along with my husband, but he was soon kicked out of the paddy wagon, and I spent four hours in the company of seven rather rude, in my opinion, police officers. It was they who took me to the station.

I had never been to a police station before, so at first I thought it was fun. But when they confiscated my internal passport and did not let me make a phone call, I was not amused. Aside from the rude cops, there was a nondescript young man who was quite polite. He listened courteously and attentively to the questions the police were asking me. He got quite excited when he heard I worked at the Institute of Jewish Studies. He asked what I taught there and whether I had worked there long. Then this guy was released, and I was given an arrest report and told to wait for a summons to court.

I left the police station late at night, believing I had got off very lightly. The next day, acquaintances sent me a link to the group Morality. It turned out that my companion at the cop shop had been Mikhail Kuzmin, the group’s moderator. He had posted his report, where he wrote something to the effect that he had being going to God’s temple to pray, but the police took him for a liberast and arrested him. The report was entitled correspondingly: “Who attends liberast rallies.” My entire biography was there. What surprised me most was that there were details there that he could not have found out from our conversation. He quite obviously had access to other sources.

Naturally, it said there that I worked at the Institute of Jewish Studies but that I pass myself off as a Georgian, although it is not clear who I am. There was this phrase: “The young woman herself is not involved in homopiggery, but she supports homos.” And the best part was an album of photos of me, twenty-five of them: one from the protest rally, and the rest pilfered from Facebook. This was so that the comrades would know their enemy by sight. The album’s crowning touch was a screenshot from the Institute of Jewish Studies website containing my schedule. I felt sick.

I looked at the pictures of Kuzmin himself: he was giving the Nazi salute and wearing a Nazi uniform. My husband wrote, “You shitty Nazi, remove the photographs of my wife immediately.” “I’m not a Nazi, because all Nazis are kikes,” Kuzmin eagerly replied. There was no more discussion with him, but his comrades in the struggle wrote comments under the photographs of me: how many Banderites had fucked me, and stuff like that. I never thought that I would encounter something like this in life. We sent a complaint to the management of VKontakte, but the group was not shut down.

For a while, I was very afraid. Of course, this was not the reason we left for Germany, but when I saw that screenshot of my schedule at the institute, I was quite scared to go to work. I became paranoid that I would be assaulted on the street or that our dog would be poisoned. I suspect that Kuzmin works in tandem with the police. First, I think he was with me at the police station as a provocateur. Second, when I was in the paddy wagon, the cops uttered his surname several times.

We moved to Germany at the end of August. We had been planning to do this for a long time, but had kept delaying and putting it off. After last March, my husband immediately found a job and we left Russia. I haven’t heard anything more about Kuzmin.

The community Morality has been active on the VKontakte social network for a year and a half. At present, the group numbers around four thousand subscribers. The group’s founder and moderator, Mikhail Kuzmin, was born April 12, 1986. He is married, a graduate of the Northwest Branch of the Russian Academy of Justice, and a member of the Petersburg branch of the Great Russia party.

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VKontakte group close for inciting hatred
Ethnic strife flares up on the social network. Petersburg woman with Jewish surname fears for her life
Polina Khodanovich
March 4, 2015
Metro

Petersburger Leokadia Frenkel, who teaches Russian to migrant children, has been victimized by the social network group Morality and its administrator Mikhail Kuzmin.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 1

Mikhail Kuzmin. Screenshot courtesy of Metro newspaper

“He reposted 161 photographs of me and wrote a text to accompany them entitled ‘The Kike-Liberal Opposition,” Frenkel told Metro. “That Jews were teaching migrants was the ultimate source of indignation for him.”

According to Frenkel, openly threatening comments appeared under photographs of her, and she seriously feared for her life.

“But when my friends complained to VKontakte management, they got evasive replies to the effect that if you don’t like this group, don’t look at it.”

Mikhail Kuzmin himself likes to do the Nazi salute and have his picture taken in Nazi uniform. He invariably refers to Jews as “kikes,” and conducts surveys on topics such as “Should migrants be sterilized?” The group consists of about 3,500 active participants. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach Mikhail Kuzmin for comment.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 2

“Morality” group  page on the VKontakte social network. The highlighted passage reads, “Reminder: only the total deportation of ALL the Central Asians and Сaucasians who have overrun the country in recent years can solve the problem. For us there is no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants. For us there are only occupiers.” Screenshot courtesy of Metro newspaper

Metro asked the Saint Petersburg office of the Investigative Committee’s Investigative Department to comment on the situation. Sergei Kapitonov, head of their press service, was terse.

“Anything is possible anywhere. I don’t understand what the matter is. I suggest you send an official inquiry addressed to our general and explain what you want to him.”

Roskomnadzor told Metro that they could do nothing themselves.

“The law on extremism in the Internet is administered by the Prosecutor General’s Office,” press secretary Vadim Ampelonsky said. “Only they can send us a request to block the group.”

Ultimately, Metro had no choice but to personally ask VKontakte’s press secretary Georgy Lobushkin to pay close attention to the controversial group Morality. And soon the newspaper received the following reply: “Good day. Our moderators are now checking this group for violations of website rules and Russian federal laws.”

On the evening of March 3, the group was temporarily blocked “for incitement to acts of violence.”

Vera Alperovich, expert on nationalism and xenophobia, SOVA Center for Information and Analysis:

“Any incitement to ethnic violence is covered by Article 282 of the Criminal Code. The activities of this group and its administrator should definitely be investigated. That the Investigative Committee is paying no attention to this group means they are waiting until someone is killed. In addition to a criminal complaint, one could start with a warning, which can facilitate getting the offending content deleted. Aside from the Criminal Code, there are also ethical norms. Such groups should cause a wave of public outrage.”

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The Fall of “Morality”
A neo-Nazi group on VKontakte that has bullied a Jewish woman was closed only after public pressure
Veronika Vorontsova
March 5, 2015
Novye Izvestia

Yesterday, after repeated requests by users, administrators at the social network VKontakte blocked the group Morality. The community had positioned itself as a platform for instilling “Slavic values,” but in fact it contained a lot of material prohibited by law, including neo-Nazi material. The group’s closure had long been sought by a female Saint Petersburg resident against whom group members had organized a genuine hate campaign. For a long while, administrators at the social network had turned a blind eye to her complaints, and she succeeded in having the group blocked only after broad publicity and intervention by the media.

The group Morality, which allegedly promotes “moral education based on historical Slavic values,” has been closed for a month for calls to unlawful actions, VKontakte spokesman Georgy Lobushkin informed Novye Izvestia. If the community’s creators do not remove the illegal content within thirty days, the group will be blocked in perpetuity.

The cause of the group’s closure was the campaign of persecution its members organized two week ago against Leokadia Frenkel, program coordinator at the Saint Petersburg Jewish Community Center, whose activities include teaching migrant children and helping socially adapt.

1425494405051Leokadia Frenkel

It all started when Frenkel placed an ad on the social network recruiting volunteers to work with the children at the center. The call was copied to the Morality group, where it was commented in an abusive and illegal manner. As Frenkel told Novye Izvestia, a genuine campaign of persecution was unleashed in comments to the post: group members insulted her ethnicity, and some threatened her with violence. Later, the group’s moderators made a selection of photographs featuring not only Frankel but also her husband and her son, placing it in open public access.

Frenkel decided to send a written request to VKontakte to close the group. Many of her friends followed suit. They soon received a rejection letter. The social network’s administrators explained there was nothing illegal in the information contained in the community. “If you do not like the group, do not look at their materials. We close only those groups which directly threaten someone’s life.” This was the response from VKontakte management.

This explanation did not hold water, says Frenkel. She notes that VKontakte’s published rules contain a list of actions prohibited by company management. Paragraph “e” disallows the “incitement of racial, religious, and ethnic hatred, as well as the promotion of fascism or racial supremacist ideology.” In the group Morality, which was completely open to the public, one could see many images of swastikas and direct calls for violence. Examining group moderator Mikhail Kuzmin’s personal page, Novye Izvestia also found many images of Nazi symbols. In some photos, he was posed in a Wehrmacht uniform; in others, in front of a Russian imperial tricolor.

Initially, VKontakte administrators really did see nothing illegal about the group, the social network’s press secretary Georgy Lobushkin explained to Novye Izvestia.

“There are many discussion communities where users discuss various issues. We do not block them, even if some comments are outside the scope of the Constitution,” he said in conversation with Novye Izvestia. However, “after a more thorough study of this group, experts nevertheless concluded that it contains incitements to violence.”

Two weeks passed between the time of Frenkel’s complaint and the group’s closure. She believes the reason for a more thorough review of her complaint was several reports in the media and the broad publicity they generated.

Although the group Morality has been closed, Novye Izvestia has found a number of similar communities where Frenkel’s identity and ethnicity continue to be discussed to the hilt.

As Novye Izvestia reported yesterday, early in the week, a court ordered Smolensk journalist Polina Petruseva to pay a fine of 1,000 rubles for “promoting Nazi symbols.” The court case was occasioned by Petruseva’s publishing a photograph of her own building’s backyard during World War Two on her social network page. The photograph shows German soldiers standing in formation next to the flag of the Third Reich. On Tuesday, the Russian Constitutional Court confirmed the ban on displaying any Nazi paraphernalia or symbols.

But law enforcement agencies have not yet responded to the controversy involving Leokadia Frenkel. The police are reluctant to accept such complaints, because there is almost no mechanism for working with such cases, Mikhail Pashkin, chair of the Moscow Police Union’s coordinating council, told Novye Izvestia. According to him, criminal charges are filed in such instances only to make an example of someone, “which is probably what happened in the case of the journalist from Smolensk.”