School Daze

olimpiada_po_himii(21)Moscow schoolchildren were smart enough to win the All-Russian Chemistry Olympiad in 2017, but the Moscow police department thinks they are not smart enough to know and speak their own minds when it comes to politics. Photo courtesy of Mos.ru, the official website of the Moscow mayor’s office

Policewoman Tells Moscow Schoolchildren “You Are Kaput” and Threatens Criminal Charges If They Attend Protest Rallies
Mediazona
September 6, 2019

​On condition of anonymity, a pupil at a school in Moscow has told Mediazona that today, during a lesson, a woman in a police uniform who identified herself as an inspector for minors came to his class. She threatened the schoolchildren with criminal charges if they attended protest rallies and said they would be unable to go to university.

Our source recorded the policewoman’s monologue on his telephone.

“As you know, protest rallies have been going on here in Moscow. People who attend them face administrative charges for this and then criminal charges. When people say they just happened to be in the same place, it makes no impression on me. I just put them on the watch list, and they get visits not only from beat cops but also from detectives,” she says at the beginning of her speech.

The policewoman then says she plans to put children on the watch list without bothering to figure out what happened.

“I do not care whether you there or not there, whether you went to a rally or were on a ‘stroll,’ whether you were just going to the toilet or not. I am going to put you on the watch list and that is that: you are kaput,” she says.

On a second recording, made in a parallel class at the same school, the policewoman goes into more detail about the dangers of being placed on the watch list of the police’s commission for the affairs of minors.

“When you are put on the watch list you can forget about your future and your plans for the future because you will not be able to get into any university. I am not talking about not being able to buy cigarettes or [inaudible] on a park bench. This is really serious. [. . .] I think your parents could also have a rough time at work. And basically, it is no fun being on the watch list, something everyone finds out later. Because we alert everyone that their employee’s child has been put on the watch list for this reason and that,” she says.

The school’s deputy headmaster then addresses the pupils.

“The main thing you have to understand is that the people who try to get you involved in this are just manipulating you. They could not care less about your civic stance. You are just numbers to them. They count you up and say that a hundred people, a thousand people came out for the rally. During the war, people like this were called ‘cannon fodder,'” he says.

“Remember that every so-called stroll in quotation marks—because, unfortunately, all children say they were strolling there—can bounce back on you in the sense that your entire educational trajectory and all your plans can be ruined very bitterly. We just worked together to try and save a pupil in the eleventh form after this situation because he was planning to go to a higher education institution connected with the law enforcement authorities. A lawyer was hired to defend him and he managed to get the charges dropped because the kid really had participated in so many academic competitions that it played a decisive role. But I would not wish what he went through on anyone. So don’t do it. Be smart and realize that the money they [inaudible] will later turn into tears of blood shed by your parents in the form of heavy fines,” he says.

According to our anonymous source, the preventive talks took place in the ninth and tenth forms at his school. He speculated they had probably taken place in other forms, too.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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If All Else Fails, Threaten to Sodomize Him

dmitriev-frenkelYuri Dmitriev. Photo by David Frenkel. Courtesy of Kommersant

Defense Lawyer Reports Cellmates Tried to Force Karelia Memorial Head Yuri Dmitriev to Pen Confession
Mediazona
May 30, 2019

His cellmates in the Petrozavodsk Remand Prison tried to force Yuri Dmitriev, historian and head of the Memorial Society in Karelia, to submit a written confession, defense lawyer Viktor Anufriev told Kommersant.

According to Anufriev, in late April, the inmates threatened to sodomize Dmitriev if he did not confess.

“It went on for four days. Dmitriev told the remand prison’s wardens  if it continued, he would have to defend his life and honor, and someone might end up dead,” said Anufriev.

Ultimately, Dmitriev was moved to another cell.

Dmitriev has been accused of sexually assaulting his foster daughter. Last year, a court acquitted the historian of sexually abusing the girl and producing pornography. The verdict was soon quashed, however, and Dmitriev was sent back to remand prison.

Dmitriev is best known for unearthing mass graves of victims of the Stalinist Great Terror at Sandarmokh in Karelia and establishing a memorial on the site, where over nine thousand people were executed. Dmitriev has argued the criminal cases against him were provoked by his efforts to memorialize the victims of political terror in the Soviet Union.

Translated by the Russian Reader

How the FSB Tortures Detainees: Stories of the Victims

How the FSB Tortures: The St. Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission’s Report and the Stories of the Victims
Team 29
October 25, 2018

Torture victims and activists say violence has become a common practice in the security services. Anyone whosoever can become their victim: Muslims and atheists, anarchists and entrepreneurs, industrial climbers and police officers. The victims are afraid to talk about what happened to them, while family members, physicians, and eyewitnesses are threatened into staying silent. Members of the St. Petersburg Public Commission for Monitoring Conditions in Places of Detention (hereafter, PMC) have written a report on how the FSB tortures detainees and witnesses in FSB offices, remand prisons, vehicles, forests, and garages. We have excerpted the highlights of their report in what follows, as well as publishing a video (above) in which the victims and their relatives tell their own stories.

“Writhing from the Electrical Current, He Lifted the FSB Officer and Himself into the Air”
In December 2017, the FSB’s Saint Petersburg office announced it had prevented a terrorist attack on Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral, in downtown Petersburg. Seven people were detained on suspicion of involvement in planning the attack. Five of them were remanded in custody. What happened to the other two suspects is still not known.

One of the detainees, Aliskhan Esmurziyev, says his torture began in a minivan, in which FSB officers, their faces covered, kicked and tasered him. He was then taken to an FSB office, where he could hear the other detainees screaming. After he was interrogated by an investigator, he was taken to a separate room, where, according to Esmurziyev, he was handcuffed, a sack was pulled over his head, and crocodile clips were attached to his feet. Esmurziyev was electrocuted while an FSB officer sat astride him. His body writhing from the electrical current, Esmurziyev lifted the FSB officer and himself into the air.

Another detainee, Shamil Omargadzhiyev, was beaten in front of his pregnant wife. According to the PMC’s information, FSB officers broke into his home, which they searched while beating and kicking him, knocking out one of his teeth and demanding he confess to planning the terrorist attack. When he was delivered to court, he fainted several times. In the compartment of the paddy wagon in which he had been transported, it had been difficult for him to breath. Six feet five inches tall, Omargadzhiyev had had his hands tied back in a way that made it impossible for him to sit down and thus breathe.

Both detainees are accused of illegal possession of weapons (punishable under Article 222 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). Esmurziyev filed a complaint with the Russian Investigative Committee about the crimes committed against him, but later rescinded the complaint for “procedural” reasons. Omargadzhiyev’s defense counsel also filed a complaint with the Investigative Committee, but it refused to open a criminal investigation while also not allowing him to see the written judgment that explained the reasons for the refusal.

“If I Didn’t Know the Answer, I Was Electrocuted”
Eleven young men in St. Petersburg and Penza were accused of involvement in a “terrorist community” and arrested. Most of them are antifascists and anarchists. The FSB claims they were members of an underground organization known as the Network, which planned “to incite the popular masses in order to subsequently destabilize the political circumstances” in Russia during the March 2018 presidential election and this summer’s 2018 FIFA Football World Cup, held in Russia. The case is currently under investigation. Most of the suspects have been in remand prisons since October 2017 and January 2018, respectively, and several of them have reported being tortured.

Novosibirsk native Arman Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg in November 2017. He would later recount that he had been put in a minivan and had a sack pulled over his head. Two wires were attached to his hands, and he was electrocuted while being beaten over the head with something resembling a day planner.

“The torture lasted approximately four hours, but I cannot say for certain, because I had no way of telling the time and I was in a lot of pain,” Sagynbayev recounts.

Petersburg resident Yuli Boyarshinov was jailed in an overcrowded cell at Remand Prison No. 6 in Gorelovo, located just beyond the Petersburg city lines in neighboring Leningrad Region. In the cell, which had 110 cots for 150 prisoners, the “senior” inmates, who cooperated with the wardens, routinely beat up the other prisoners. Boyarshinov was also beaten. He was called to the kitchen, which is not outfitted with CCTV cameras, and quizzed about the circumstances of his arrest. He was beaten in such a way that no traces of the assault were left on his body. He was also threatened with rape.

FSB officers detained Viktor Filinkov at Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport in January 2018. He was taken to an unknown location, where the FSB officers commenced interrogating, beating, and electrocuting him right in the vehicle.

Subsequently, members of the Petersburg PMC noted numerous wounds on his thigh in the shape of paired, evenly spaced dots, such as a taser would have left behind.

“If I didn’t know the answer,” says Filinkov, “I was electrocuted. If my answer was not what they expected, I was electrocuted. If I thought for too long or took to long to give an answer, I was electrocuted. If I forgot what I had been told, I was electrocuted.”

Filinkov’s defense counsel filed an official request for a criminal investigation, but his request was rejected. In September 2018, he filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Members of the Petersburg PMC visited Igor Shishkin, another suspect in the Network case, on January 27, 2018. Since he was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and trousers, they noted only the injuries they could see, including

  • a large bruise around his left eye all the way to the bone;
  • blood in the corner of his left eye;
  • an abrasion in the middle of his left cheek;
  • marks from handcuffs on both hands;
  • a split lower lip;
  • a bruise around his right eye;
  • scratches on his left cheek;
  • a burn on the back of his left hand.

Later, similar burns were noted on Shiskin’s back and the back of his thigh.

Ilya Kapustin was not a suspect in the Network case. Nevertheless, he was interrogated as a witness and tasered for four hours in a car before being taken to FSB headquarters, where the interrogation was resumed.

The Malvina Taser
Major Ilya Shchukin, head of the property crimes desk at the Tosno District Police Precinct, and Field Investigator Sergei Laslov are suspected of official misconduct and falsifying evidence. They allegedly replaced Suprastin with amphetamines in a pack of cigarettes confiscated from a detainee. Prior to this, they had allegedly been involved in planting drugs on people to bolster clearance rates.

On April 12, 2017, FSB officers detained Shchukin and two of his colleagues in the town of Kirishi. Shchukin was dragged from his car and immobilized. The hood of his jacket was pulled over his head, and he was taken to a van. In the van, he was asked what he was doing there. When he replied, officers of the FSB’s special weapons and tactics division Grad (“Hail”) told him he was lying and tasered his fingers several times. He was asked more questions and electrocuted several times. Shchukin was tortured for approximately an hour and a half. He was electrocuted in the groin and anus. The Grad officers told Shchukin he would have no more children.

“The door of the van would open from time to time. I would hear a man saying I was talking shit and the Grad officers should keep working me over,” Shchukin recounts.

Shchukin was then taken to another van and forced to kneel with his hands cuffed behind his back for approximately an hour. Only then was Shchukin driven to an FSB office. He refused to plead guilty. During interrogations, Shchukin told his interrogators on several occasions that he had been tortured. His burns were examined by a specialist, but the specialist was, supposedly, unable to establish whether the wounds were typical of a taser, since he did not the taser’s model. Shchukin knew it was a Malvina brand taser, but his appeal for a second forensic examination was rejected.

Sergei Laslov was detained on July 6, 2017, in his police precinct. He was driven in a bus to nearby garages. It was there, Laslov recounts, that an FSB officer demanded he confess to the crime, and a Grad officer tasered him. Laslov refused to confess his guilt, and so he was driven to a forest on the outskirts of Tosno. There, says Laslov, a senior FSB officer ordered he be bent forward head towards the floor, and a Grad officer beat him, delivering taser blows to his crotch and groin.

A short propaganda film about the Petersburg FSB Grad unit, broadcast on Russian television and posted on YouTube in 2014. This video is not part of the Petersburg PMC and Team 29’s report, but it nicely characterizes the extreme militarization of policing under the Putin regime.

Laslov was tortured for over two hours. The first taser went dead, so the Grad officer was given another, larger taser. Ultimately, Laslov agreed to tell how, allegedly, he had committed the crime so they would stop torturing him. He was driven to an FSB office, where he signed a typewritten statement.

Laslov told his defense counsel about the torture. A medical forensics expert noted the injuries from the tasers on Laslov’s body. Laslov filed a criminal complaint. In October 2017, an investigator with the Military Investigative Committee issued a decision refusing to initiate criminal proceedings. A military prosecutor overruled the refusal, but the investigator reissued it.

“I Felt Unbearable Pain”
Igor Salikov is accused of sexual assault. He believes his ex-wife paid the security services to charge him with the crime.

Salikov says that on the early morning of May 7, 2018, police investigators, an FSB officer, and a masked man came to the home he shares with his common-law wife Olga Smirnova in the village of Ogonki, Leningrad Region, for the latest in a series of searches. Later, Salnikov would identify the masked man as the officer with the FSB’s economic security service in Petersburg’s Petrograd District who searched his house in October in connection with a weapons possession investigation.

It was the masked man, Salikov says, who handcuffed him and repeatedly struck Olga Smirnova with a truncheon. She was then driven away by plainclothes FSB officers, while Salikov was interrogated. When the FSB officer did not like his answers, he hit Salikov with a truncheon and tasered him. Salikov’s female housekeeper called the police, but when they arrived, the FSB officer and one of the investigators went outside to talk with them, and they soon left.

After Salikov again refused to incriminate himself, he was pushed in the back and fell face first on the floor. Salikov recalls that the FSB officers took one of the rifles Salikov kept in the house and used it to strike Salikov in the anus.

“The blow was so strong the rifle barrel penetrated me, ripping through my trousers, and nearly nailing me to the floor. I felt unbearable pain.”

An ambulance was summoned. Salikov was first taken to the district hospital, and then to Petersburg, where he was able to get the medical attention he needed. He was diagnosed as having suffered a ruptured bladder, ruptured anus, ruptured colon, and other injuries.

Salikov’s request to have a criminal torture investigation opened was turned down, since it was, allegedly, impossible to establish the involvement of specific officers in the Petrograd District office of the FSB’s St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Directorate.

The members of the St. Petersburg PMC argue torture has become an integral part of the investigations and inquiries carried out by officers of the FSB’s St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Directorate. As the PMC members point out, however, local FSB officers enjoy absolute impunity, since neither the Military Investigative Committee nor the military courts do their jobs. The PMC members suggest disbanding the FSB’s St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Directorate and prosecuting all FSB officers involved in torture without transferring the directorate’s functions to another organization.

Authors: Yana Teplitskaya and Yekaterina Kosarevskaya, Members of the St. Petersburg Public Commission for Monitoring Conditions in Places of Detention 
Legal Consultant: Daryana Gryaznova
Video: Anastasia Andreyeva
Editors: Nikolai Ovchinnikov and Tatyana Torocheshnikova

Translated by the Russian Reader

Crimean Farmer and Political Prisoner Vladimir Balukh Has Been on Hunger Strike for 104 Days

Vladimir Balukh’s 100 Days: The Crimean Euromaidan Supporter Has Been on Hunger Strike in Remand Prison for Over Three Months
Anna Kozkina
Mediazona
June 27, 2018


Vladimir Balukh. Photo by Anton Naumlyuk. Courtesy of RFE/RL

Today [July 1, 2018] is the [104th] day of a hunger strike by Vladimir Balukh, who awaits a verdict in his third criminal trial in Simferopol Remand Prison. In 2014, he refused to accept Russian citizenship, raising the Ukrainian flag over his house in solidarity with the Euromaidan protests. The first criminal case against Balukh was opened in 2015. It would be followed by two more case. In the article below, Mediazona catalogues the persecution the Crimean activist has endured and describes his hunger strike, during which he has lost at least thirty kilos.

On June 22, 2018, Balukh, who is imprisoned in Simferopol Remand Prison, said he was returning to the harsher form of hunger strike and would now only be drinking water. Balukh had been drinking fruit drink for some time.

Olga Dinze, Balukh’s defense attorney, said the cause was increased pressure from prison wardens. In court, Balukh had spoken of regular searches of his cell, including at night. According to him, prison wardens and guard have hinted it was time for him to “go down in the hole,” i.e., be sent to solitary confinement.

The following day, Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova requested Pierre-Emmanuel Ducruet, head of the International Red Cross’s Simferopol office, visit Balukh at the remand prison and secure professional medical care for him.

The Flag, Heaven’s Hundred Heroes Street, and the Insulted FSB Agent
In late 2013, Crimean farmer Vladimir Balukh raised a Ukrainian flag over his house in the village of Serebryanka in solidarity with the Euromaidan demonstrators. The flag stayed there after the March 2014 referendum. Balukh did not recognize Crimea’s annexation by Russia and refused to apply for a Russian passport.

Police and Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents first paid him a visit in the spring of 2015. Balukh was not home when they arrived. When he heard about the visit to his home by the security services, he stayed with friends for several days. The police and FSB searched Balukh’s house and also paid his mother a call.

The security services visited Balukh for the second time in November 2015. Claiming he was suspected of auto theft, they searched his house again. After the search, the farmer was charged with insulting a government official, a violation under Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code. Allegedly, Balukh had used “foul, insulting language when addressing field agent Yevgeny Baranov, which the latter found unpleasant.” Balukh did not deny he could have sworn at the field agent, since FSB officers had punched him in the kidneys and stepped on his head after throwing him on the ground.

In February 2016, the Razdolnoye District Court found Balukh guilty, sentencing him to 320 hours of community service. Subsequently, the Crimean Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court for review, but in June the district court reaffirmed its original guilty verdict, again sentencing Balukh to 320 hours of community service.

The Ukrainian flag was torn down from the farmer’s house again and again, but he put it back up every time. On November 29, 2016, the third anniversary of the Euromaidan protests, Balukh hung a sign on his house, identifying the address as “Heaven’s Hundred Heroes Street, 18.” Two weeks later, police and FSB carried out yet another search of his house. This time, they allegedly found eighty-nine rounds of ammunition and several TNT blocks in the attic. After the search, the flag and the street sign were removed from Balukh’s house. Balukh was detained and later remanded to police custody.

Balukh was charged with illegal possession of weapons and explosives (Article 222 Part 1 and Article 222.1 Part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code). The farmer claimed his innocence and said his political stance was the reason for the criminal prosecution. He claimed the rounds of ammo and explosives were planted during the search. Police allegedly found them in the presence of a single official witness.

The Memorial Human Rights Center designated Balukh a political prisoner. It noted that he had received clear threats after hanging the street sign on his home memorializing the murdered Maidan protesters.

“It was after this that the chair of the village council and his deputies visited Balukh’s home and threatened that his independent behavior would have unpleasant consequences, including the ‘discovery’ in Balukh’s house of weapons or narcotics. He demanded  Balukh take the sign down,” wrote Memorial.

Memorial argued that the prosecution had not proven the ammunition actually belonged to Balukh, since his fingerprints were not found on the items.

Vladimir Balukh’s House. Photo courtesy of hromadske.ua

“Go to Ukraine and Treat Your Back There”
On August 4, 2017, the Raznodolnoye District Court sentenced Balukh to three years and seven months in a medium security penal colony and a fine of ₽10,000 [approx. €136] for possession of the ammunition and TNT.

A week after Balukh was sentenced, he had a run-in with Valery Tkachenko, warden of the Razdolnoye Temporary Detention Facility. According to Balukh, Tkachenko punched him in the shoulder and tried to kick him as well. He also, allegedly, made insulting remarks about the ethnicity of Balukh and his parents. Balukh’s attorney filed a complaint with the police.

Two weeks later, the Investigative Committee opened a case against Balukh himself, claiming he had violated Article 318 Part 1 of the Criminal Code (violence against a state official). Subsequently, Balukh’s alleged actions were reclassified as a violation of Article 321 Part 2 (disrupting the operations of penitentiary facilities). According to police investigators, on the morning of August 11, 2017, Balukh had elbowed the warden in the stomach while his cell was being inspected. He then, allegedly, entered his cell and struck Tkachenko’s arm.

In November 2017, the district court commenced its review of the ammunition possession case, and in December Balukh was transferred from the remand prison to house arrest.  After complaining of pain in his back and groin, Balukh was soon taken to hospital straight from the courtroom.

At the district hospital, medical staff merely measured his blood pressure and gave him a cardiogram. After listening to Balukh’s complaints, the local doctor said, “My back hurts, too. Should I not go to work or what?”

Balukh asked the court permission to travel to Simferopol or Feodosia for a medical examination, but his request was turned down. During his December 27 court hearing, the ambulance was called several times due to Balukh’s temperature, high blood pressure, and back pain. According to the news website Krym.Realii, the head physician of the local hospital’s emergency department, Nadezhda Drozdenko, told Balukh, “Go to Ukraine and treat your back there.” When the hearing went on for ten hours, Balukh lay down on the floor due to the severe pain.

In early 2018, the court again found Balukh guilty on the ammunition possession charge and sentenced him to three years and seven months in a work-release penal colony. The verdict was upheld on appeal, although the sentence was reduced by two months.

Balukh was again sent to the remand prison. He has continued to complain of back pain, whose cause doctors have never been able to diagnose.

“He Has Adopted a Stance of Hopelessness”
After the Crimean Supreme Court upheld the verdict in the ammunition possession case, Balukh went on an indefinite hunger strike as of March 19, 2018. He gave up all food, only drinking water and tea, protesting what he regarded as the illegal verdict against him.

In late March, Balukh was assaulted in the remand prison and hospitalized in the infirmary, as reported by Aktivatika, who quoted defense attorney Olga Dinze.

“The hunger strike has been difficult for him. Besides, the prison wardens have engaged in constant provocations. They have brought him delicious food, enticing him to eat. It destabilizes him a bit, but he has hung and kept his word,” said the lawyer.

Vladimir Balukh on June 22, 2018. Photo by Zair Semedlyaev. Courtesy of crimeahrg.rog

In mid April, his social defender, Archbishop Kliment of Simferopol and Crimea, reported Balukh had been assaulted by guards.

A month later, Vladimir Chekrygin, an expert with the Crimean Human Rights Group, told Krim.Realii Balukh was under pressure in the remand prison.

“We know the guards at the remand prison have periodically threatened Balukh for his actions. They have told him that sooner or latter he would be punished for his willfulness. They have been doing searches in his cell night and mornings. Searches are permitted, but at certain hours and under extraordinary circumstances. They are not letting him rest,” Chekrygin explained.

On May 18, Russian human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova visited the Simferopol Remand Prison. She wrote to her Ukrainian colleague, Lyudmila Denisova, that Balukh had no complaints either about the conditions of his incarceration or cruel treatment.

In May, the Raznodolnoye District Court began hearing the third criminal case against Balukh, involving his run-in with the temporary detention facility warden. During the trial, even the prosecution’s witnesses, guards at the facility, testified Balukh did not assault the wardeb. During the investigation, the alleged victim refused to take part in a face-to-face confrontation with Balukh, who described his behavior in great detail to the judge.

“He would come to my cell and try to insult me, to humiliate me for being Ukrainian and thus, as he thought, for being a member of Right Sector. He would say us Ukrainians should be murdered as a species, and so on,” said Balukh.

On June 10, Balukh was again transferred from Razdolnoye to the Simferopol Remand Prison. There he was put in the “glass,” a narrow cell in which one can only stand or sit, for two hours, Crimean human rights defenders reported.

The following day, it transpired the remand prison wardens no longer believed Balukh was on hunger strike. The guards had learned Balukh was drinking not only water but also oatmeal kissel. Archbishop Kliment had persuaded Balukh to make the compromise a month after he started his hunger strike.

“Vladimir agreed. We know  he began consuming only kissel. Sometimes, he has honey and bread crumbs at most. At some point, the prison wardens found out about the kissel and decided not to recognize his actions as a hunger strike. There are special rules when wardens decide a prisoner has gone on hunger strike. They have stopped following these rules when it comes to Balukh, since they believe he is no longer on hunger strike. But Vladimir has continued his protest. He has lost thirty kilos of weight. The doctor from the remand prison infirmary has stopped making regular checkups of Balukh, although he is obliged to do so when inmates go on hunger strike,” explained Olga Skripnik, head of the Crimean Human Rights Group.

Protesting constant inspections in the remand prison, Balukh returned on June 22, 2018, to the original form of his hunger strike. He has again been only drinking water. Olga Dinze explained the frequent searches of Balukh’s cell as a consequence of Balukh’s having filed a motion to be paroled for his first criminal conviction.

On June 25, Dinze told Mediazona her client’s condition had taken a turn for the worse.

“I think Balukh has suffered a pinched nerve. It is a quite serious case. He has been experiencing severe pain in his chest, neck, and shoulder blades. He feels unwell all the time,” Dinze said, adding the new symptoms were probably due to long-term back pain.

According to Dinze, Balukh was not receiving medical care.

“He refuses cares from the doctors in the remand prison. They cannot give him the medical care he needs, diagnose him, and prescribe him appropriate treatment. He has requested doctors from the Red Cross,” said Dinze.

The defense attorney added that, after Balukh stopped drinking oat kissel, he was transferred to a cell in the general population, but the conditions there were decent. He currently has no complaints against the wardens.

Earlier, Dinze told Krym.Realii Balukh had been hoping for a prisoner exchange.

“Vladimir is quite weary. He is emotionally exhausted. He has adopted a stance of hopelessness. He says no one will ever release him from prison. If they cannot keep him in prison on the current convictions, there will be new charges. So now he is finally talking. For the last few months we have been talking about how, if there is a prisoner exchange and everything goes well, he would really, really like to go to mainland Ukraine,” said Dinze.

The Ukrainian authorities have recently repeatedly stated their readiness to exchange Russian convicts for the sixty-four Ukrainian nationals imprisoned in Russian remand prisons and penal colonies, including Balukh and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who has been on hunger strike since mid May.

Closing arguments in Warden Tkachenko’s case against Balukh have been scheduled for July 2.

Thanks to Yegor Skovoroda for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

“Are You a Bitch Yet?” FSB Makes New Threats to Framed and Tortured Antifascist Viktor Filinkov

“Are You a Bitch Yet?”: Man Accused in The Network Case Talks about Mores of FSB Officers
OVD Info
April 24, 2018

Viktor Filinkov. Photo courtesy of his wife, Alexandra, and OVD Info

On April 20, 2018, the Russian Investigative Committee officially declined to open a criminal case on the basis of a complaint filed by Viktor Filinkov, one of the young men accused in The Network case, who alleged he had been tortured by FSB officers. Moreover, these very same FSB officers are permitted to visit him in remand prison. OVD Info has published, below, the account Filinkov gave to his lawyer of how the secret service officers who tortured him now talk to him.

At around eleven o’clock on April 19, 2018, I was escorted from my cell in the supermax wing of Gorelovo Remand Prison and taken to a holding area before being led out of the prison, where I was handed over to two men, one of whom I recognized as Konstantin Bondarev, a special agent in the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Office of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). I have known Special Agent Bondarev since January 23, 2018, when he supervised my apprehension at Pulkovo Airport and then, along with other local FSB officers, subjected me to physical and emotional violence for approximately thirty hours while also depriving me of rest, sleep, and food.

When I was escorted out of the holding area, one of the FSB officers meeting me ordered me to put my my hands behind my back, which he handcuffed extremely tightly. I was placed in a silver-colored Škoda. Before putting me in the car, Special Agent Bondarev asked me a question.

“Well, well, Filinkov. Are you a bitch yet?”

“What’s the point of your question?” I asked.

“You’re the point, fuckhead!” Special Agent Bondarev answered aggressively.

He then got behind the wheel of the car. I was put in the backseat. After a while, the car drove through the gates of Remand Prison No. 6. During the entire ride to St. Petersburg, the FSB officers said nothing to me, but I was genuinely afraid that, at any moment, they could drive me to a deserted place and subject me to violence.

We were on the road for about an hour. Finally, I was brought to the local FSB building and taken to the office of Investigator Klimov, where my defense attorney, Vitaly Cherkasov, was waiting for me.

Mr. Cherkasov and I had a one-on-one private conversation during which I informed him I was in a depressed state, since I had been forced to travel for a long time in the same car as Special Agent Bondarev, who had been negative and aggressive towards me, using criminal slang to threaten me with possible rape in Remand Prison No. 6.

In addition, I explained I had recognized Investigator Klimov as one of the officers who on January 24, 2018, after I was brought to the FSB building, had taken part in a prolonged attempt to coerce me mentally into signing a confession. I assume Investigator Klimov could see I had been beaten, and I also needed rest, sleep, water, and food.

It was on this basis that, when Investigator Klimov asked me whether I was willing to testify, I said I would not refuse to testify, but I was currently in a stressful state of mind due to my encounters with Special Agent Bondarev and Investigator Klimov, whom I did not trust, either. Moreover, I had been brought to the FSB building, which is linked in my mind with the torture and bullying I endured there on January 24 and January 25, 2018. For this reason, I told the investigator I could give detailed and thoughtful testimony only in Remand Prison No. 6, where I felt calmer and more secure. I put this explanation in writing in the comments section of the interrogation report.

The investigative procedure was thus completed. Investigator Klimov summoned guards, and two men in plain clothes wearing balaclavas over their heads entered his office. They handcuffed my hands behind my back. They led me out of the room and took me outside, where I was placed in the backseat of the silver-colored Škoda. Special Agent Bondarev was at the wheel.

On the way back to Gorelovo, the officers continued to pepper me with questions.

“Well, bitch, is your asshole raw yet?” Bondarev asked.

Then he said the following.

“Now I’m going to methodically drag you through the mud. Cherkasov is trying to make a name for himself, but you and Agora are all going to rot in prison, and you are to going to do your time in the Arctic Circle, in Murmansk or Karelia. Life taught you a lesson, and it gave you a chance. Do the guys in Remand Prison No. 6 know your lawyer defends LGBT?”

One of the special agents in the car responded, “He didn’t learn his lesson, apparently.”

“It didn’t get through his head, but it will get through his legs,” Bondarev replied.

“It will get through his asshole!” the other special agent added.

They laughed merrily after this remark.

I also remember that one of the special agents said, “You can find a good husband in Gorelovo.”

Bondarev and his colleagues insulted my human dignity, emotionally injured me in a profound way, and put me in a stressful state by saying these and other things. In addition to being humiliated, I finally realized that in the ranks of the local FSB off there are unworthy officers who employ prison notions for their own purposes in their attempts to pressure inmates.

Chatting with me in this vein, the FSB officers took around two hours to drive me back to the remand prison. We got in the car outside the local FSB building around 1:30 p.m. and arrived at Remand Prison No. 6 at 4:00 p.m. I kept track of the time on the clock in the car.*

After talking with the FSB special agents, I returned to my cell in a depressed state, and I was completely sweaty from the nervous atmosphere and heat in the car. My heart ached, I lost my appetite, I refused supper, and my psoriasis acted up due to the stress. When I combed my hair I felt psoriatic plaques on my head.

I take the threats made to me by Bondarev and his colleagues completely seriously. I am afraid for my safety, health, and life itself.

My verbal statement has been recorded faithfully, and I have read it over. I give my permission to publish it in the media.

* A directions search on Yandex Maps reveals that the drive from the local FSB building (4 Liteiny Prospect, Petersburg) to Remand Prison No. 6 in Gorelovo should take one hour and thirteen minutes, at most, if there are no traffic jams, and thirty-six minutes, at least, if the traffic is good and the driver takes the optimal route. This would suggest that Special Agent Konstantin Bondarev deliberately drove in circles for a long time in order to bully and threaten Mr. Filinkov. TRR

road to gorelovo

Thanks to George Losev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and related cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian police and secret services, please have a look at some of the recent articles I have published on these subjects.

A New Face in Hell: Yuli Boyarshinov

“We Made It Worse for You, So Speak”: A New Defendant Emerges in The Network Case
OVD Info
April 11, 2018

30173702_10213690256883419_2044878347_1Yuli Boyarshinov, 2015. Photo by Maria Shuter. Courtesy of OVD Info

A new defendant has been added to the case of the so-called Network, Petersburger Yuli Boyarshinov. In the following article, OVD Info reports what it knows about how Mr. Boyarshinov was charged in the case, and about the pressure put on him in the remand prison where he is currently jailed.

Mr. Boyarshinov’s defense attorney Olga Krivonos told OVD Info that he was charged with involvement in The Network on April 11. Ms. Krivonos cannot discuss the particulars of the case, since she was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement concerning the preliminary investigation. Mr. Boyarshinov has been charged with involvement in a terrorist community (Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 205.4 Part 2) and illegal possession of explosives (Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 222.1 Part 1).

27-year-old Yuli Boyarshinov has worked the last several years as an industrial climber. From 2010 to 2015, he was a co-organizer of the Free Fair in Petersburg, events where people donated and took home all kinds of things free of charge. He [CENSORED BY REQUEST OF THE RUSSIAN ANARCHIST CENTRAL COMMITTEE]* volunteered at animal shelters.

yulik.jpgYuli Boyarshinov. Photo courtesy of Mr. Boyarshinov’s friends and OVD Info

Arrest
Mr. Boyarshinov was detained on the evening of January 21, 2018, in Petersburg’s Primorsky District, most likely accidentally. Several local residents told OVD Info that anti-drugs raids occured there frequently and police regularly stopped passersby.

Mr. Boyarshinov recounted that police from the 53rd Precinct struck him in the face and stomach several times: they did not like the fact the young man had refused to talk with him, citing Article 51 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees an individual’s right not to incriminate himself. The beating ended when another policeman entered the room, was outraged by what was happening, and asked his fellow officers not to “cause mayhem.”

Police found 400 grams of smoke powder, a relatively weak explosive obtained by mixing saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur, on Mr. Boyarshinov’s person. Smoke powder is now most often employed in the manufacture of fireworks, as well as by hunters and sport shooters who pack their shells manually. Mr. Boyarshinov has a hunting license, but not a firearms permit. Ms. Krivonos could not say why Mr. Boyarshinov needed the smoke powder, since it fell under her nondisclosure agreement.

On January 22, police searched the home the young man shares with his parents. Law enforcement officers confiscated equipment, books, and the anarchist magazine Avtonom.  He was then taken in a police cruiser to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. Hospital staff did not ask him for either his internal passport or insurance policy. The detainee was given an MRI scan of the brain, and his blood was drawn. Mr. Boyarshinov told his lawyer the physician who administered the MRI scan was quite worried about his condition. After the examination, the young man was transported to the Temporary Detention Center. In conversation with his lawyer, Mr. Boyarshinov suggested he was taken to the hospital first so that it would be impossible to say he had been injured in the Temporary Detention Center. The doctors noted bruises on his face.

On January 23, Primorsky District Court Judge Yelena Tsibizova ordered Mr. Boyarshinov remanded in custody for thirty days. His relatives were not informed of the court hearing. Ms. Krivonos had not yet taken the case, and so Mr. Boyarshinov was represented by a state-appointed attorney. At that point, he had only been charged with illegal possession of explosive substances.

1523224346412_1Yuli Boyarshinov. Photo courtesy of Mr. Boyarshinov’s friends and OVD Info

Pressure in the Remand Prison
After the hearing, Mr. Boyarshinov was incarcerated in Remand Prison No. 1 aka The Crosses Two, where doctors noted his injuries: blows to the stomach and head, and a black eye.

As the young man told his lawyer, his cellmates immediately tried to chat him up.

“I’m also in for Article 222.1. I’ll tell you what’s what,” one cellmate said to him.

The anarchist symbol had been traced on the dusty glass in the cell’s window.

On January 31, Mr. Boyarshinov was visited by two men who gave only their first names, Kostya and Dima. Kostya had been present during the search at Mr. Boyarshinov’s home. When he asked where they were from, Kostya and Dima gave him their work number at the Petersburg office of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The supposed FSB officers listed the names of defendants in the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and many other names, promising Mr. Boyarshinov that if he did not talk to them, “things would get worse” for him. The young man refused to speak with the FSB officers, again invoking his rights under Article 51 of the Russian Constitution.

“You’re making things worse for yourself, and you’ll go to prison,” the security service officers told him.

On February 12, Mr. Boyarshinov was transferred to Remand Prison No. 6 in the village of Gorelovo, Leningrad Region, on the orders of an investigator in the Primorsky District office of the Interior Ministry, allegedly, “for the purpose of conducting investigative procedures.” Ms. Krivonos said that then, after she filed an appeal against the extension of Mr. Boyarshinov’s remand in custody, staff at the Primorsky District Court telephoned her and asked her client’s whereabouts. They were looking for him to fill out papers. Ms. Krinovos argues the transfer to another remand prisoner violated her client’s rights. The Gorelovo Remand Prison is a former medium security correctional labor colony, and the conditions there are considerably worse than in The Crosses Two Remand Prison, which was built to satisfy the requirements of current legislation.

Mr. Boyarshinov told his lawyer he was placed in a cell where there were forty inmates, although it was designed for thirty-five. When he moved into the cell, his cellmates beat him up for no reason. They forced him to clean the cell, and because of this he was not let out for walks outside in the yard.

On February 13, FSB officers again came to talk with Mr. Boyarshinov.

“We made things worse for you. Now talk, or conditions will get even worse.”

Mr. Boyarshinov again refused to speak with them.

photo_2018-02-19_19-27-57.jpgYuli Boyarshinov and defense attorney Olga Krivonos at a custody extension hearing on February 19 in Primorsky District Court. Photo courtesy of Ms. Krivonos and OVD Info

On March 2, the remand prison was inspected by members of the Leningrad Region Public Monitoring Commission (PMC). Mr. Boyarshinov told his lawyer the Leningrad PMC members summoned the inmates one by one to chat with them in the office of a warden, who was present during their conversations.

FSB officers visited Mr. Boyarshinov again immediately after the PMC’s inspection. The very same day, he and another inmate (who had not spoken to the PMC) were transferred to a cell that held approximately 150 inmates: the number of inmates constantly changed. There were only 116 bunks in the cell, which was reserved for men charged with murder, rape, and robbery, and who had served time before. However, the inmates who smoked were not segregated from the nonsmokers. At first, Mr. Boyarshinov had to sleep on the floor.

“During the nearly two months of his incarceration in Gorelovo, no investigative procedures involving Yuli have been carried out. Due to the fact the conditions of my client’s imprisonment in terms of cell assignment and personal safety have been violated, his state of mind has deteriorated considerably,” said Ms. Krivonos.

On March 16, Sergei Shabanov, human rights ombudsman for Leningrad Region, and his staff member Sergei Gavrilovich visited the Gorelovo Remand Prison.

“There were no complaints and statements from the persons held in custody,” reads a report of the visit, posted on the remand prison’s website.

“He has not been tasered, but the conditions in which my client is being held are tantamount to torture,” argued Ms. Krivonos.

She also said that Mr. Boyarshinov has chronic tonsillitis, which has been aggravated by his living conditions.

9ac654e24a7baa41f22dbfeb5e102410Visit by Leningrad Region Human Rights Ombudsman Sergei Shabanov to Gorelovo Remand Prison. Yuli Boyarshinov sits with his back turned to the camera. Photo courtesy of Remand Prison No. 6 website and OVD Info

Petersburg industrial climber Ilya Kapustin was a witness in The Network case. He claimed FSB agents tasered him, after which he left Russia, requesting political asylum in Finland. Kapustin told OVD Info that, during his interrogation, investigators had asked him whether he knew Boyarshinov, when they had last met, and why he had telephoned him on the day he was detained.

“We had a professional relationship. I telephoned him around the time of his arrest to ask him whether he wanted a job shoveling snow off rooftops,” Kapustin explained.

  • Novaya Gazeta writes that the Gorelovo Remand Prison is considered a torture chamber. According to the newspaper, inmates are tortured and raped by order of the wardens. This was the reason Vladimir Malenchuk, former head of the local office of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service was dismissed, and his deputy, Vyacheslav Tippel, who was involved in the torture, was sentenced to seven years in prison. However, the beatings and abuse of inmates at the remand prison have not stopped.
  • On March 16, antifascist Viktor Filinkov was transferred to Remand Prison No. 6. Mr. Filinkov has been charged with involvement in the terrorist organization The Network (Criminal Code 205.4 Part 2). The FSB claims members of The Network were preparing for the outbreak of unrest in Russia. Mr. Filinkov confessed his guilt, but later claimed he had done so under torture. Members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission noted numerous taser burns on the antifascist’s body. Businessman Igor Shiskin was charged in the same case. He did not complain of torture, but the Petersburg PMC likewise noted injuries on his body. The criminal investigation and arrests in St. Petersburg were sanctioned by a district court in Penza.
  • In October 2017, five young men were arrested in Penza. A sixth man was arrested in Petersburg, transferred to Penza, and also remanded to custody there. All of them have been charged with involvement in a terrorist community. The FSB claims the young men were also involved in The Network, which, allegedly, has cells in Moscow, Petersburg, Penza, and Belarus. The defendants in the terrorism case in Penza have spoken of psychological pressure, torture by electrical shock, being hung upside down, and having weapons planted by FSB officers in their cars and flats.

* There is no “Russian Anarchist Central Committee,” of course, but I was asked—twice—to expunge a perfectly trivial, innocent passage because it supposedly endangered Mr. Boyarshinov’s safety in remand prison. I dared to doubt out loud that the wardens at Gorelovo Remand Prison read my website and much less that they would happen on this passage. The anarchist authoritarian “we” was forced to repeat its peremptory request, referring to the meaningless fact that it was a “common decision.”

This is what you will discover about 99% of Russian “anti-authoritarian” leftists if you spend enough time with them. They do not understand that solidarity is a two-way street. So, God forbid, for example, that any of them would take the time and then have the guts to speak out against the Russian government’s crimes in Syria. But if something untoward happens with any of their own kind, you can be sure they will demand the world’s attention, because, at the end of the day, they are good “white people,” like the good “white people” in Europe and North America, so they imagine they do not deserve to be treated the way the FSB has been treating their antifascist comrades in Penza and Petersburg.

Of course, they should not be treated this way, but nor should anyone else on God’s green earth be treated this way, even if they do not happen to be good “white people.” 

The other thing you discover is that the mindset of most Russian “anti-authoritarian” leftists is completely authoritarian, which is no surprise because Russia has been an authoritarian country for most of its thousand-year history. There has been the odd decade here and there down through the centuries when Russia was not an authoritarian country, and Allah be praised, how sweet it was to live during one of those rare decades, as your humble servant did during the 1990s. 

Now, however, the country has endured nearly two decades of increasingly oppressive authoritarian rule, so it should be no surprise that people who nominally espouse democratic, progressive, “anti-authoritarian” beliefs would revert to authoritarian type when push comes to shove. 

During the ten-plus years I have been translating, editing, and writing this website and its predecessor, Chtodelat News, I have been clubbed over the head, slandered, and bossed around by my putative Russian “anti-authoritarian” leftist allies so many times I have lost count. On the contrary, the number of times I have been thanked for what I do or encouraged and vigorously supported by these selfsame so-called anti-authoritarians has been much less numerous.

They really don’t get it. Until they do, most of their efforts will be doomed to failure. Despite what Putin and his junta have done to Russia and its people, the country and its people are way past the point where they have the time of day for authoritarians of any stripe, whether nationalist, leftist, rightist, centrist, neoliberal, Anglican or Presbyterian. When and if they rise up to overthrow their oppressors, it will be a democratic revolution. Or it simply won’t happen at all. TRR

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade NN for correcting a typo.

Read more about the insane FSB frame-up of the wholly fictional Network aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” and related current cases involving torture and framing on the part of the security service once chaired by President Vladimir Putin and in which he proudly served as an officer for many years. It is their increasing dominance of politics and the economy that has pushed the world’s largest country to the brink of toxic governance and administrative insanity.