Solidarity? (The Case of the Penza and Petersburg Antifascists)

fil_0Viktor Filinkov, Petersburg antifascist, torture victim and political prisoner

Solidarity? No, They Haven’t Heard about It
The Security Services Are Using the Case of the Antifascists to Test Society: If We Keep Silent, the Torture and Arrests Will Continue
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
March 22, 2018

On Election Day, March 18, which was simultaneously Paris Commune Day and Political Prisoner Day, Theater.Doc in Moscow staged a performance entitled Torture 2018, a reading of the interrogation transcripts and diaries from the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case.

The case has disappeared amid the flood of political and election campaign news, so I should briefly summarize it.

In October 2017, a group of young antifascists was detained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Penza. They were accused of organizing a terrorist community code-named The Network. They were allegedly tortured. Nearly all of them confessed to the charges, telling the FSB what the FSB wanted them to say.

Recently, for the first time in history, FSB officers admitted they used electric shockers when interrogating Petersburg antifascist Viktor Filinkov. In their telling, however, it was not torture, but a necessity: the detainee allegedly tried to escape.

The arrestees are kindred souls of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, murdered by neo-Nazis in downtown Moscow in January 2009. A march to honor their memory has been held on the Boulevard Ring every year since then.

Less than ten years have passed since their deaths and we are confronted by a relapse, an attack on antifascists by the Russian state.

The harsh language of the interrogation protocol is more expressive than any op-ed column. Dmitry Pchenlintsev was tortured day after day: he was hung upside down and different parts of his body were shocked with electrical current. Vasily Kuksov was badly beaten: his face was a bloody pulp, his clothes torn and blood stained. Doctors in Petersburg discovered a fracture to the lower wall of Igor Shiskin’s eye socket, as well as multiple abrasions and bruises. They noted numerous injuries, including burns from an electric shocker. FSB officers took Ilya Kapustin to the woods, tortured him with an electric shocker, and threatened to break his legs.

We heard similar reports from Chechnya and Donbass, but this is the first time something like this has occurred in the middle of Russia and on such a scale.

The young arrestees in Penza, none of whom is over thirty (the oldest is twenty-nine) played airsoft, listened to independent music, and read anarchist books, like thousands of other young people. Now, given the will, any of them can be arrested on terrorism charges.

Alexei Polikhovich, who spent three years in prison as part of the Bolotnaya Square case, and produced the performance at Theater.Doc, did not have to make up anything, no monologues or dialogues. What has happened in reality is not something you would make up.

“I was panicking,” leftist activist and former political prisoner Alexei Sutuga says, reading Viktor Filinkov’s statement aloud. “I said I didn’t understand anything, and that is when they shocked me the first time. It was unbearably painful. I screamed and my body went straight as a board. The man in the mask ordered me to shut up and stop twitching. He alternated shocks to my leg with shocks to my handcuffs. Sometimes, he shocked me in the back or the nape of the neck. It felt as if I was being slapped upside the head. When I screamed, they would clamp my mouth shut or threaten to gag me. I didn’t want to be gagged, so I tried not to scream, which wasn’t always possible.”

“It’s probably the worst thing happening now in Russia,” Polikhovich told me after the performance. “But we have no means of putting pressure on them. Complaints filed against the FSB are redirected to the FSB, meaning they are supposed to keep tabs on themselves. Naturally, they are not about to do this. The only thing that can save the guys is public pressure.”

“But for several months there were no attempts to pressure the FSB. Why?” I asked.

“Location is vital in this case,” replied Polikhovich. “There are tried and tested support methods in Petersburg and Moscow. There are independent journalists and human rights activists. There is nothing of the sort in Penza. The environment also makes a difference. The Bolotnaya Square case, in which many leftists were sent to prison, meant something to the entire liberal democratic opposition. It was a story the average Moscow reporter could understand.”

“In this case, however,” Polikhovich continued, “the accused have been charged with very serious crimes. They are not liberals. They are not Moscow activists. We have to break through the prejudice towards them.”

While Moscow was silent, brushing the case aside by mentioning it in a few lines of column inches, the case, which originated in Penza, had spread to Petersburg, then to Chelyabinsk, and finally, in March, to the capital itself. Several people were detained after a protest action in support of the Penza antifascists. (OVD Info reports that nine people were detained.)

“They put a bag over my head. Then they shocked me, constantly increasing the intensity and duration of the electric charge, and demanding I make a confession,” Moscow anarchist Svyatoslav Rechkalov, released on his own recognizance, told Novaya Gazeta.

The protests against the FSB’s use of torture in this case have mainly followed ideological lines: anarchists and antifascists have been doing the protesting. Solidarity protests have been held in Copenhagen, Toronto, Berlin, and New York. Finnish anarchists and antifascists held a demo outside the Russian embassy in Helsinki. In Stockholm, the way from the subway to the Russian embassy was hung with Filinkov’s diary and posters bearing the hashtag #stopFSBtorture.

A concert in support of the arrested antifascists was held at a small bar in Petersburg. The organizers were able to collect 42,500 rubles in donations. By way of comparison, a year ago, at a similar concert in support of Ildar Dadin, who was tortured in a Karelian penal colony, organizers collected 29,000 rubles in donations. But there no incidents at that event, while there was an incident at the Petersburg concert. Ultra-rightwing thugs burst into the bar and started a brawl.

In Moscow, the riot police or the security services would have telephoned the club’s owner and insisted he cancel the event, as happened with the anti-war Deserter Fest. In Petersburg, however, the rightists showed up.

“The situation has come to resemble the mid-noughties,” said Maxim Dinkevich, editor of the music website Sadwave, “when every other punk rock show was attacked.”

Pickets in support of the antifascists have been held both in Moscow and Petersburg, and there will probably be more pickets to come. But this story has not yet made a big splash. The public is more interested in discussing the falling out between Sobchak and Navalny, while anarchists draw a blank.

This case is not about anarchism or antifascism, however. It is about the fact that tomorrow they could come for you for any reason. Electric shockers do not discriminate.

The regime has been testing us, probing the limits of what is possible and what is not. If we keep silent now, if we do not stand up for each other, it will mean they can continue in the same vein. It is clear already that the case of the antifascists will expand. The arrests will stop being local, becoming large scale. We have no methods for pressuring law enforcement agencies that torture people, no authorities that could slap them on the wrists. The only methods we have are maximum publicity and public pressure. They are the only ways to deter the security service from making more arrests and keeping up the torture.

There is a group page on Facebook entitled Project No. 117, named for the article in the Russian Criminal Code that outlaws the use of torture. It is a clearinghouse for news about the Penza case and other anti-antifascist cases. It also features six videtaped messages in support of the arrested men, as recorded by the well-known Russian cultural figures Dmitry Bykov, Andrei Makarevich, Dmitry Shagin, Kirill Medvedev, Artyom Loskutov, and Artemy Troitsky.

I would like to believe that, in the very near future, there will be six thousand such messages, not six. Otherwise, we will be crushed one by one.

Dmitry Bykov (writer)

“Absolutely Gulag-like scenes of strangulation, beating, and abduction. Stories like this have become frighteningly more frequent. The return to the practice of torture is a relapse into the roughest, darkest period of Russian history.”

Andrei Makarevich (musician)

“If the authorities are trying to pass young antifascists off as terrorists, it begs the question of who the authorities are themselves. Have you lost your minds, guys?”

Dmitry Shagin (artist)

“I experience this as torture myself. By torturing these young men, they are torturing all of us.”

Kirill Medvedev (poet, political activist, musician)

“The Russian authorities have been posing as the most antifascist regime in the world for several years now, and yet they are cracking down on antifascists. Is this not hypocrisy?”

Artyom Loskutov (artist, political activist)

“If you arrested me and tortured me with an electric shocker, I would confession to terrorism, satansim, and anything whatsoever. And if the FSB officers were tortured, they would also confess to anything. Antifascism is not a crime, nor is anarchism a crime. But torture is a crime, a very serious crime indeed.”

Artemy Troitsky (writer, music critic and promoter)

“Torture is a sure sign the case doesn’t hold water. If they have evidence, they wouldn’t torture the suspects.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Autonomous Action. Videos courtesy of Project No. 117 and Novaya Gazeta. If you have not heard about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, you can read the following articles and spread the word to friends, comrades, and journalists.

Ping, Ping, Ping: The Remand Extension Hearing of the Penza “Terrorists”

Ping, Ping, Ping: A Report from the Remand Extension Hearing of the Defendants in the Penza “Terrorism” Case
Yegor Skovoroda
Mediazona
March 16, 2018


Ilya Shakursky. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

Yegor Svokoroda traveled to Penza, where, over the course of three days, the Lenin District Court considered whether to extend the remand in police custody of the antifascists who, according to the FSB, were part of a “terrorist community” known as The Network.

FSB Senior Investigator Valery Tokarev blushes gradually: first the tip of his nose, then his ears, and finally the bald patch that covers half his head. He is arguing with a lawyer, insting on a closed hearing in order to ensure “investigatory privilege.” The lawyer objects.

“The case is at the evidence gathering stage. We have not finalized all the witnesses or the defendants. A number of parties to the crime have not been identified or are on the wanted list,” says Tokarev, his forehead covered with sweat.

This scene was repeated several times in Penza’s Lenin District Court, where, between March 13 and March 15, the arrest in police custody of five antifascists apprehended and charged with involvement in a “terrorist community” was extended. Time after time, Judge Svetlana Shubina closed the hearings to the public and the press.

Ordering that yet another of the accused be remanded in custody to the local remand prison until June 18, Judge Shubina time after time bases her ruling by referring to the particularly complicated nature of the case and the allegation that each of the young men was a member of a “stable, highly secretive criminal group,” and that “firearms and ammunition” were involved. Shubina notes investigators had to finish their numerous forensic examinations and interrogations, and finally indict Sagynbayev, Pchelintsev, Shakursky, Chernov, Zorin, Kuksov, Ivankin, and Kulkov.

Yegor Zorin, a fourth-year student at the Belinsky Pedagogical Institute, was the first person detained in the investigation of the “terrorist community.” The FSB has alleged its members planned, during the March 18 presidential election and this summer’s FIFA World Cup, to “agitate the masses in order to further destabilize the political situation in the country” by setting off bombs; when the H-hour came, they would lead an armed insurrection. Zorin was apprehended on October 17, 2018. There are unconfirmed reports he signed a confession, which was the basis of Criminal Case No. 11707560001000036, concerning organization of and involvement in a terrorist community, per Article 205.4 Parts 1 and 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code.

Zorin’s time in the remand prison was not extended. He was jailed there until December 18 and subsequently transferred to house arrest. The press service of the Lenin District Court told Mediazona, however, that after December 18, investigators had not petitioned the court to extend his arrest.


Arman Sagynbayev. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

The next to be apprehended were Zorin’s classmate Ilya Shakursky and their common friend Vasily Kuksov during the wee hours of October 19, 2017. On October 27, Dmitry Pchelintsev was detained; he knew Shakursky through the leftist activist scene and because they shared a hobby: airsoft. On November 6, Arman Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg. He had been to Penza several times for airsoft practice sessions. He was transferred to the Penza Remand Prison. On November 9, Andrei Chernov, another airsoft player and an old friend of Pchelintsev’s was detained.

A passion for airsoft and a sympathy for leftist ideas, anarchism, and antifascism were what all the detainees had in common. The case files contain videos of training sessions in the woods outside Penza, sessions during which the young men used fireworks. The FSB has alleged that the group training sessions were preparation for the insurrection, while the hikes the young men took in the woods constituted “illegal mastery of survival skills in the woods and rendering of first aid.”The airsoft teams in which the antifascists played, Voskhod (“Sunrise”) and 5.11 (“November Fifth”), were cells of a terrorist organization known as The Network (Set’). Aside from Penza, The Network was alleged to have underground cells in Moscow, Petersburg, and Belarus.*

The FSB has alleged the Penzans divided up the roles in their “terrorist community.” Pchelintsev was the leader and ideologue. His deputy, nicknamed Redhead, handled reconnaissance and recruiting, while Sagynbayev, nicknamed Andrei Security, was the engineer and sapper, Shakursky (aka Spike), the tactician, Chernov (aka Twin), the signalman, Zorin (aka Grisha), the sniper, while a certain Boris was also a coordinator and ideologue.

Redhead is Maxim Ivankin, mentioned in the court’s new custody ruling, while in all likelihood the Boris referred to by the security services is M.A. Kulkov. According to our sources, both men have left Russia and are on the wanted list.

The Lenin District Court occupies a three-storey nineteenth-century mansion whose interior has been modernized. The courtroom where the custody extension hearings take place is located in a wing of the building accessible only through doors outfitted with an electronic lock. To gain access to the hallway leading to the courtroom you have to place a card on the lock, which sets off an obnoxious pinging sound. The squeaky alarm goes off constantly. Ping, ping, ping: terrorist community. Ping, ping, ping: investigative privilege. Ping, ping, ping: extend the arrests.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.


Dmitry Pchelintsev and his wife Angelina. Photo courtesy of relatives

A broad-shouldered FSB guard escorts 25-year-old Dmitry Pchelintsev into the room, not taking his eyes off him the entire hearing. Guards just like him also escort the other detainees. Some of them wear balaclavas to conceal their identities, some wear Buff scarves over their faces. Viktor Filinkov, detained in Petersburg, and Pchelintsev himself recounted how they were tortured by men wearing such masks. Pchelintsev recalled how the officers who tortured him later escorted him to the remand prison.

“When I was tortured with electrical shocks, my mouth was full of ‘crushed teeth’ due to the fact I gritted my teeth since the pain was strong, and I tore the frenulum of my tongue. My mouth was full of blood, and at some point one of my torturers stuck my sock in my mouth,” Pchelintsev told his lawyer in order to explain why he had signed a confession.

Soon, after he was beaten again, Pchelintsev recanted his testimony about being tortured. Pchelintsev, who has thick, kinky eyebrows and slightly protruding ears, worked as a target practice instructor after serving in the army. He wears a checkered shirt whose collar he constantly buttons and unbuttons. Cautious at first, he thaws by the end of the hearing, when he manages to chat with his wife Angelina through the glass of the so-called fish tank in which defendants are held during trials and hearings.

Dmitry laughs, talking about books and Alina Orlova songs. He jokes that during the last hearing he was in handcuffs because “Arman was sitting next to me, and they thought I would attack him.”

Alina Orlova sings “I Stroll Around Moscow,” IKRA Club, Moscow, September 29, 2008

“What should I do with your car?” Angelina asks. The FSB claims to have found two grenades under the seat of the old Lada. Pchelintsev said they were planted there.

“Burn it,” says Dmitry, joking once more.

“I’m afraid I’d be arrested.”

“Yeah, you’d also go to jail for terrorism,” Pchelintsev quips. “Actually, I was told we should take it to the junkyard and sell it for scrap.”

Angelina presses her nose against the glass of the fish tank.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.


Vasily Kuksov. Photo courtesy of relatives

29-year-old design engineer Vasily Kuksov appears to be the most confused and indifferent of all the prisoners. His wife Yelena says Vasily was cheerful and life-affirming prior to his arrest. He enjoyed drawing and was into music, performing a year ago at a Vladimir Vysotsky memorial festival at the Penza Philharmonic. Now his case file describes him as an “individual who leads an isolated lifestyle characterized by antisocial behavior.”

Vasily Kuksov performing at the Penza Philharmonic on January 25, 2017

Kuksov has not complained that FSB officers were violent with him, but his friend Ilya Shakursky recalled that, when they were taken to the FSB building in Penza, first he heard Kuksov’s groan and then later saw him, his face badly mangled. Nevertheless, Kuksov avoided testifying by invoking his right not to incriminate himself under Article 51 of the Russian Constitution.

A pistol was confiscated from his car. According to his loved ones, the gun had been planted there.

Kuksov is the only prisoner whom the investigator allows to talk with his mother for a long time during the recess [sic].

As he listens to the judge’s ruling, Kuksov zips and unzips the zipper of his black winter jacket.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

“They blindfolded me, tied my hands, and stuck a sock in my mouth. Then I thought they wanted to leave my fingerprints on something, but later they attached wires to my big toes. I felt the first surge of current, and I could not hold back the moaning and shaking. They repeated the procedure until I promised to say what they told me to say. After that, I forgot the word ‘no’ and said everything the officers told me to say,” recalled 21-year-old antifascist Ilya Shakursky.

Shakursky was a classmate of the first person arrested in the case, Yegor Zorin. Both of them were studying to be physics teachers.

Shakursky is a thin young man with a shaved head and a deep wrinkle on his forehead. He is a well-known activist in Penza. He used to be involved with Food Not Bombs, and he was himself always organizing everything from lectures to trips to the woods to pick up trash. Before the antifascist rally held annually on January 19, he sent friends a letter in which he wrote, “If I were on the outside, I would definitely attend the memorial event for two great heroes, Nastya Baburova and Stas Markelov.”

Recently, relations between him and Pchelintsev had been strained. The young men had fallen out over Shakursky’s ex-girlfriend Victoria Frolova. They had fought several days before Shakursky’s arrest. The FSB officers who were staking out the alleged terrorist group were surprised to see two members of the “stable” group brawling.

When the judge reads out the ruling, Shakursky, dressed in a gray track suit, lifts his left eyebrow slightly and folds his hands behind his back.

Shakursky’s mother sobs.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

When questioning 28-year-old Andrei Chernov’s mother after her son was arrested, the investigator wondered aloud whether she knew he had a secret nickname, Twin.

“He’s had the nickname since he was a kid,” Tatyana Chernova says, recalling her outrage. Next to her is Alexei Chernov, Andrei’s twin brother.


Andrei Chernov. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

The Chernov brothers studied in the same department at the pedagogical institute as Zorin and Shakursky, but they dropped out before the other young men had enrolled there. Subsequently, Andrei went to work at a factory where he assembled water heaters. He was apprehended on the shop floor.

According to his defense attorney, Stanislav Fomenko, Chernov had not been subjected to violence by the FSB. Tatyana Chernova adds that her son signed a confession after Dmitry Pchelintsev, who had been tortured, spoke with him. Chernov has now recanted his testimony.

Andrei wrote to his mother that after human rights activists spoke out about the plight of the young men and the press published articles about the so-called Penza Case, the guards and wardens at the remand prison often visited his cell to perform spot checks, videotaping everthing he did.

Chernov was finally examined by an ophthalmologist (there were suspicions he had a detached retina). The doctor for some reason prescribed him antibiotics.

Chernov smiles the most of all the defendants. If it were not for the fish tank, it would be impossible to tell him apart from his brother.

“My son is not guilty of anything. Sure, he played airsoft and studied survival skills, but lots of people are into that. I will fight for my son till the end of my days,” says Tatyana Chernova.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

No one has come to the courtroom [sic] to support 25-year-old Arman Sagynbayev, transferred to Penza from Petersburg,** and yet he is cheerful and talkative.

Arman was born in Novosibirsk, where his mother, stepfather, ex-wife, and their five-year-old daughter still live.

He has spent the last several years in Petersburg, where he was convicted of petty theft (Article 158 Part 1 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to a fine of 6,000 rubles. When Sagynbayev’s room was searched, the security services allegedly found a bucket of aluminum powder, four kilograms of ammonium nitrate, two alarm clocks, and various radio components.

After his arrest, Sagynbayev fully acknowledged his guilt. He is still cooperating with investigators. He has no objections when Deputy Prosecutor Sergei Oskolkov moved to extend his arrest.

“He has no complaints. He has not claimed he was tortured. He cooperates with the investigators and gets privileges in return for his cooperation. He was now given the chance to speak with his mother. He spoke with her the entire recess [sic]. Arman has a separate cell,” says his lawyer, Rakhmanova [sic].

In the remand prison, her client, who suffers from a serious illness, receives timely medical care, she emphasizes, without specifying what the illness is

At the beginning of the week, Sagynbayev was sent under armed guard to Saratov, where he was examined at the St. Sophia Regional Clinical Psychiatric Hospital. He is the only suspect in the case who has been made to undergo an inpatient forensic examination.

“He said lots of things to our experts about anarchy and social revolution. They said he was deluded and refused to render an opinion, recommending he be hospitalized,” Rakhmanova explains.

According to the attorney, the doctors in Saratov concluded Sagynbayev was mentally competent.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

* The name of the airsoft team 5.11 had nothing to do with the revolution allegedly scheduled by nationalist Vyacheslav Maltsev for November 5, 2017. According to various sources, the name refers either to a popular brand of tactical clothing and equipment or to the date when seventeen-year-old Penza anarchist Nikolai Pchelintsev was hanged in 1907. Historians Alexander Kolpakidi and Gennady Potapov write that Pchelintsev took the blame for the murder of a gendarme during a shootout, counting on the court’s mercy towards him as a juvenile, but instead was sentenced to death. His burial site in the Abrekov Woods near Penza is marked by a monument to fallen revolutionaries. Mediazona has been unable to ascertain whether Dmitry Pchelintsev is a distant relative of Nikolai Pchelintsev.

** The FSB apprehended antifascists in Petersburrg late January 2018. According to the FSB, the city was home to two cells of The Network, code-named Jordan and Field of Mars. The investigation of the Petersburg case, Case No. 11807400001000004, is supervised by FSB investigator Gennady Belyayev. After they were detained, Igor Shishkin and Viktor Filinkov confessed their guilt. Filinkov soon recanted what he claimed had been rehearsed testimony and gave a detailed account of how FSB officers had tortured him with an electric shocker. Shishkin has said nothing about torture, but doctors recorded bruises, abrasions, and a fracture to the lower wall of his eye socket, while members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission found numerous traces on his body that resembled burns made by electric wires.

Translated by the Russian Reader

If you have not heard about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and the related crackdown against Russian grassroots and political activists on the eve of the March 18 Russian presidential election, you need to read the following articles and spread the word.

 

“The Blacklist” Rewrites Recent Russian History (The Murder of Stanislav Markelov)

Watching the third season of my favorite crime thriller, The Blacklist, starring the scintillating James Spader, I was surprised when the show’s other star, Megan Boone, launched into a briefing for her FBI colleagues about the real-life Russian human rights lawyer and antifascist Stanislav Markelov, murdered by Russian neo-Nazis in broad daylight in downtown Moscow on January 19, 2009.

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The show’s Wiki reinforces this revisionist history by describing the sinister Karakurt as follows.

“Known in the intelligence community as ‘the Left Hand of the SVR,’ Karakurt (Turkic languages: kara (black) and kurt (wolf)), whose real name remains unknown, is an assassin employed to silence Russian dissidents and known high-profile critics of the Russian regime. He specializes in making his murders look like non-criminal causes, such as accidents, suicides, or the actions of other criminals. He has at least [two] assassinations to his name. The first was Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer who was shot to death in Moscow in January of 2009. The murder was blamed on a Neo-Nazi youth group. The second is Boris Berezovsky, another critic of the Russian regime, who died in a staged suicide in 2013. Karakurt is also known to have lent his skills to the Cabal.”

I don’t know how teachable this odd plot twist in The Blacklist‘s lethal fairytale spy-versus-spy kingdom is, but it is worth recalling the real life and death of Stanislav Markelov, as reflected on this website and its predecessor, Chtodelat News.

Although it sounds fun on TV, it’s ludicrous to suggest the SVR would have had anything to do with Markelov’s murder. It is not, however, ludicrous to suppose his real killers, the neo-Nazi group BORN (Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists), had ties with high-ranking government officials.

As artist Victoria Lomasko wrote in her graphic reportage of their 2015 murder trial, “Only one thing was forbidden in [presiding Judge Alexander] Kozlov’s courtroom: mentioning that the criminal case had obvious political overtones, that the ultra-rightists had been communicating with people from the presidential administration through a series of intermediaries, and that BORN itself was a project that could not have been conceived without their involvement. Kozlov ruthlessly barred all attempts to discuss this.”

So, The Blacklist is not as far from the truth as we might have imagined at first. TRR

Petersburg Remembers Markelov and Baburova

On January 19, Petersburg, like its older sister to the south, Moscow, remembered murdered anti-fascists Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, as well as other fallen comrades in the struggle against grassroots and state-sponsored fascism and racism.

Events included an “exhibition” of posters, commemorating the dead, on the city’s main street, Nevsky Prospect; an unauthorized march to the Field of Mars to lay carnations on the Eternal Flame; and a punk rock concert at a local club to benefit the Anarchist Black Cross and imprisoned Russian anti-fascists such as Alexei Gaskarov and Alexei Sutuga.

Veteran journalist and photographer Sergey Chernov was on the scene to chronicle all these events. I thank him for letting me share some of his photographs with you here.

Picketer holds portrait of slain lawyer on Nevsky Prospect, January 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Sergey Chernov
Picketer holds portrait of slain lawyer on Nevsky Prospect, January 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Sergey Chernov
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Picketers hold portraits of Stanislav Markelov, Timur Kacharava, Anastasia Baburova, and other slain anti-fascists on Nevsky Prospect, January 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Sergey Chernov
"I don't want to dive into a fascist whirlpool." Photo courtesy of Sergey Chernov
“I don’t want to dive into a fascist whirlpool.” Photo courtesy of Sergey Chernov

Continue reading “Petersburg Remembers Markelov and Baburova”

Vlad Tupikin: Why We Take to the Streets Every Year on January 19

"Remembering Means Fighting," January 19, 2014, Moscow. Photo by Comrade Anatrrra
“Remembering Is a Way of Fighting Back,” January 19, 2014, Moscow. Photo by Comrade Anatrrra

Vlad Tupikin
Why We Take to the Streets Every Year on January 19
Facebook
January 19, 2016

Why do I go to the antifascist demonstration every year on January 19 and call on you to do the same? There are several obvious reasons, but of one of them is deeply personal, and I do not mention it often.

I am not a religious person, but in a sense you might say this is my way of praying to God.

Seven years ago, on the night before January 19, many activists, like today, were sitting in chat room, only they were not on Facebook but on Gmail, although real activists should avoid both Gmail and Facebook, but I will save that conversation for another time.

Seven years ago they were sitting in chat rooms, and so was I. Two events of importance to the Moscow anarchist and antifa community had been scheduled for January 19. The most important was a counter picket against pro-Kremlin youth protesting the arrival of migrants at Moscow’s Kazan Station. To put it more simply, the pro-Kremlin youth were going to frighten newly arrived migrants by citing the severity of Russian laws and their rigorous application, and strongly suggest to the migrants that they were a priori uncultured mugs who wanted to roast a sheep carcass at the drop of a hat, while we anarchists and antifascists believed these accusations were at least latently racist and at most wretched in so many ways that it is a pain to list them all. So we decided to respond to their frightening leaflets with our own welcoming anti-picket.

The second important event on January 19, 2009, was a press conference called by lawyer Stanislav Markelov at the Independent Press Center in downtown Moscow. We paid attention to nearly every public appearance by Stas Markelov, because . . . Because, if you remember, in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s novel Beetle in the Anthill, when the KGB-like COMCON-2 ask the Golovan Embassy (the Golovans are a race of intelligent dog-like creatures) about the character codenamed Beetle, the embassy sends this definitive response: “The Golovan people know the Beetle in the Anthill.”

The same thing could have been said about Stas: “The antifa know Stas Markelov.” Was it any wonder. Markelov knew the antifa, loved the antifa, was a friend of the antifa, defended the antifa in court, promoted the antifa, and tried to raise the way the antifa thought and acted to a higher level. (See, for example, his article “Red Book of the Antifa.”) But when the time came, the antifa were unable to save Stas Markelov, just as the Golovans could not protect the Beetle in the Anthill.

Although earlier they had protected him. They had guarded him at pressers before, and had actually prevented an armed attack on Markelov in autumn 2008.

Personally for me, a person whose occupational hazard was calluses from gripping a ballpoint pen and banding on a keyboard, there was not much of a choice on January 19, 2009, although I wavered. It was clear there would be some kind of action at Kazan Station, that it should be described, and so it was better to witness it with my own eyes. It was clear that Stas was holding a routine presser on the Colonel Budanov case (Colonel Yuri Budanov was a Russian military officer who had murdered a young Chechen woman), although it had been occasioned by the extreme circumstances of Budanov’s sudden release from custody. Obviously, I had to go where the action would be, especially since reportage was my favorite genre. But what was there to report about a presser? That a colleague had scratched his ear at some point?

And yet, I hesitated, because I had not seen Stas in a long time, and every encounter with him was a joy. He radiated optimism, cheerfulness, and invincible confidence in the future, something that I, a historical optimist but everyday skeptic, sorely lacked, and so sometimes I basked in Markelov’s rays. And the Budanov case was politically important: it had to be written about, too. Whatever, I thought. First, I would take in the action at Kazan Station, then file a story about the action at Kazan Station, and only then would I read the reports colleagues had filed about Stas’s presser, and if need be I would get Stas on the phone to clarify some details, and then I would write about it, too.

No sooner said than done. I went to watch the protest and counter protest at Kazan Station and, as it turned out, try and save a female anarchist activist from being abducted by the pro-Kremlin crowd. She was thin and light as a feather, and so they had grabbed her and raced off with her down the platform.

Basically, a good time was had by all. I then traveled to the nearest computer (at a girlfriend’s office) and sat down to type it all out. That was when I heard the news. A man had been shot and killed in broad daylight on Prechistenka in Moscow, near the Kremlin. A woman who was with him had also been shot.

A colleague had also spent half the night in a chat room persuading another anarchist journalist to go to Kazan Station the next day. But he was unable to persuade her, and she went to Stas Markelov’s press conference. Now everyone knows this journalist’s name, Anastasia Baburova.

But that was a personal digression.

Generally, of course, such crimes must not go unanswered. The answer is not to respond with deadly force. (None of us wants a civil war). The answer is the clearly expressed civic will to stop such crimes and prevent their repetition in the future. That is why there is a demonstration every year on January 19.

It is like our May first holiday, a holiday celebrated round the world in memory of murdered workers, workers who were murdered a long, long time ago, in 1886. But people still remember them.

May the memory of Stas and Nastya live forever!

Those who remember them know what to do. Today, January 19, we gather at Novopushkinsky Square in Moscow at 7 p.m, and then we march in demonstration down the boulevards to Kropotinskaya. And people will also be laying flowers at the murder site on Prechistenka. But there it is everyone for themselves, and the spirit of antifa for all.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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

__________

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

Victoria Lomasko: The BORN Trial

for_prigovor
Defendants Isayev, Baklagin, Volkov, and Tikhomirov

BORN: A Graphic Reportage by Victoria Lomasko
How the most brutal nationalist gang in Russia was tried
Apri1 21, 2015
Meduza

On Tuesday, April 21, the Moscow Regional Court will render its verdict in the trial of the Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists (BORN), one of the most violent nationalist gangs in Russia. They have a series of murders of immigrants and antifascists to their credit, as well as numerous attempted murders. In addition, BORN members murdered a federal judge, Eduard Chuvashov. A jury tried the members of the gang. In their verdict, the jury acquitted one of the defendants, Yuri Tikhomirov (who continues to serve a sentence, handed down earlier, for involvement in the murder of antifascist Ilya Dzhaparidze). The three other defendants—Mikhail Volkov, Vyacheslav Isayev, and Maxim Baklagin—were declared wholly or partially guilty, but deserving of leniency for most of the counts of the indictment. However, prosecutors have requested life sentences for Baklagin and Isayev, and twenty-five years in a maximum-security facility for Volkov. The final decision is now up to the judge.

Throughout the trial, artist Victoria Lomasko worked in the courtroom. Meduza presents her graphic reportage on the BORN trial. Meduza special correspondent Andrei Kozenko, who also followed the trial, has annotated the drawings.

01_10 dec
Isayev, Baklagin, Volkov, and Tikhomirov. December 10, 2014

Photography was strictly forbidden at the trial. It was Tikhomirov who petitioned the court to ban photography; he was the only of the four who completely denied involvement in the gang. The other defendants supported his claim. They said that Tikhomirov was “slow on the uptake,” and was of no use at all in serious matters, such as planning murders.

02_10 dec
Judge Alexander Kozlov. December 10, 2014

Moscow Regional Court Judge Alexander Kozlov presided over the trial. Overall, he was exceptionally tactful and pointedly polite.

“I understand nationalism and all that, but why did you have to kill?” he asked at one point.

Only one thing was forbidden in Kozlov’s courtroom: mentioning that the criminal case had obvious political overtones, that the ultra-rightists had been communicating with people from the presidential administration through a series of intermediaries, and that BORN itself was a project that could not have been conceived without their involvement. Kozlov ruthlessly barred all attempts to discuss this.

03_10 dec
Baklagin: “I came to the conclusion that the state weasels out when immigrants commit crimes.” December 10, 2014

 

Baklagin is a lawyer by training. He honestly testified that one of the murders was committed on a particular day, because on other days he had to be in court early in the morning. Baklagin was charged with six counts of murder, accessory to murder, and attempted murder. He said that he committed the crimes to restore the justice that was absent in the Russian state.

04_22 dec
Volkov: “I regarded my actions as self-defense in the broadest sense, as an attempt to put the thugs tormenting my people in their place.” December 22, 2014

 

Mikhail Volkov is a veteran football hooligan and member of the skinhead gang OB-88. He did hard time for a nationalist pogrom at the Tsaritsyno Market in 2002. Several times he was forced to explain he got neo-Nazi tattoos when he was “young and stupid,” but had later changed his views. Volkov was charged with one murder committed on his own and another murder committed with an accomplice. He himself said that his motives were about the same as those of Robin Hood.

05_22 dec
Goryachev: “I have never seen these people before. Until I was arrested I had never heard their names.” December 22, 2014

Ilya Goryachev’s testimony was billed as one of the key episodes in the whole trial, but it did not turn out that way. Educated as a historian, nationalist and spin-doctor Goryachev is regarded by investigators as the organizer of BORN. His case is being tried separately; it has only just been sent to trial. He served as a witness at the main BORN trial. He was expected to name the names of people close to the Kremlin who had in some way been involved in the Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists. But Goryachev denied everything. He allegedly did not even know any of the defendants.

06_12 jan
Tikhomirov: “I do not consider myself guilty, and was not a member of BORN. FSB officers cajoled Isayev and Baklagin into testifying against me.” January 12, 2015

The testimony of the defendants was riddled with inconsistencies. Judge Kozlov occasionally accused them of trying to shield themselves and evade responsibility. One of their main arguments was that BORN did not exist. Volkov, in particular, insisted he had heard the acronym only after he had committed the crimes.

07_12 jan
Tikhomirov and his lawyer. January 12, 2015

Yuri Tikhomirov sat quietly and spoke the least of all. He had never heard of any such gang, had been involved in only one point of the indictment, and had received a ten-year sentence for that crime before the others had been charged. The jury believed him.

08_12 jan
The court views a video recording. January 12, 2015

A significant part of the evidence against the defendants consisted of photos and video. In particular, thanks to surveillance cameras, prosecutors were able to prove that Volkov had committed one of the murders.

09_11 feb
Prosecutor (addressing jurors): “The BORN members were not in the habit of verifying information. Unverified information served as grounds for murders.” February 11, 2015

Prosecutors repeatedly attacked the ideological aspect of the BORN case. The nationalists did not want Russia to become like France, which was “swamped with immigrants.” However, they themselves had never been to France. And yet they sought information about future victims on ultra-rightist websites and in the media.

10_11 feb
Prosecutor (standing behind BORN’s attorneys): “As you have seen yourselves, the gang had more than enough weapons.” February 11, 2015

The hearing during which the physical evidence—the weapons seized from the gang—was presented was like a trip to a theme park. The BORN members used sawed-off hunting rifles and pistols, manufactured in the early twentieth century. They came by these weapons, apparently, through people who illegally excavate battlegrounds.

11_11 feb
Donara Dzhaparidze, mother of a murdered antifascist (Yuri Tikhomirov is seated to the left): “I can’t go into the apartment: Ilyusha is not there.” February 11, 2015

The mother of antifascist Ilya Dzhaparidze left Moscow for Georgia after her son was murdered. She could not go back to the flat where she lived with her son. Few cursed the defendants as she did. The defendants only looked away.

12_16 feb
Isayev’s attorney: “Baklagin has correctly pointed out that the antifascists are just another gang, but with different ideas. They were involved in a turf war.” February 16, 2015

Another mitigating argument mustered by the defense was that contemporary antifascists are nothing like the ones we saw in Soviet films about World War Two. They are an aggressive subculture with whom the nationalists would fight, including on the streets. It sounded plausible, but still did not answer the question of why it had been necessary to commit murder.

13_16 feb
Volkov (his mother seated in the foreground): “What sort of bandit am I? I have a family, kiddies… I read them to sleep at night.” February 16, 2015

The defendants’ relatives rarely came to the hearings and never together. They sat with the reporters, glancing occasionally at the ultra-rightists as they gave testimony. They flatly refused to talk to the press.

14_16 feb
Baklagin: “When the war in Ukraine began, I immediately applied in writing to join a penal battalion.” February 16, 2015

Baklagin asked to be sent to fight in the Donbas: his blood would atone for what he had done. BORN is closely linked to Ukraine. Volkov had escaped there before being extradited back to Russia. One of the most violent members of BORN, former FSB officer Alexei Korshunov, had escaped to Zaporozhye and died when a grenade he was carrying exploded. Finally, another suspect is still in hiding in Ukraine. According to unconfirmed reports, he is even fighting against the separatists.

16_20 feb
Tikhomirov’s lawyer: “Khasis and Tikhonov called each other ‘bunny rabbit’ and ‘kitty cat.’” February 20, 2015

Nikita Tikhonov and his common-law wife Yevgenia Khasis gave the most detailed testimony against the BORN members, which visibly irritated the latter. Tikhonov is serving a life sentence for the murders of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. Khasis is serving eighteen years as an accessory to the murders. On the sidelines, the lawyers did not rule out that Tikhonov was taking responsibility for more than what he had done so that he could stay in a Moscow remand prison—near the crime investigation scene—rather than in the transpolar prison for lifers with its incredibly poor living conditions. Khasis just wants to get out early.

18_30 mar
Judge Kozlov: “If you decide that Isayev, Baklagin or Volkov deserve leniency, the court cannot sentence them to life in prison.” March 30, 2015

It took a very long time to empanel the jury in the BORN trial. Ordinary residents of Moscow Region were not chomping at the bit to serve on the jury. The defendants themselves rejected several candidates for “looking like antifascists.” Nevertheless, a jury was seated and they produced a verdict in the trial. The defendants were found worthy of leniency. But not Baklagin and Isayev, who had shadowed Judge Chuvashov. (The late Korshunov was deeemd to be his killer.) The chance of a life sentence for them persists.

19_31 mar
Jury forewoman: “Has it been proven that Tikhomirov was a member of BORN? No, it has not been proven. Six jurors voted yea; six, nay.” March 31, 2015

Those who followed the trials called the jury’s verdict a little too soft on some counts. But be that as it may, only Tikhomirov was acquitted.

20_
The jurors

Court juries have this peculiarity: all parties to the trial focus the attention of jurors less on the legal aspects and try more to play on their emotions. No lawyers are empanelled, after all. Both the prosecutors and the defense asked the jury to be fair. It rendered its verdict. The judge will turn the verdict into specific sentences for the BORN trial defendants.

Editor’s Note. I thank Victoria Lomasko and Meduza for their permission to translate this article and reproduce Ms. Lomasko’s reportage here. All illustrations courtesy of and copyright Victoria Lomasko and Meduza.  Translated by the Russian Reader