Network Case Suspects Go on Hunger Strike

Network Case Suspects Go on Hunger Strike
OVD Info
December 2, 2018

andrei chernovAndrei Chernov in court. Photo courtesy of Mediazona and OVD Info

Dmitry Pchelintsev and Andrei Chernov, residents of Penza and suspects in the so-called Network case, have gone on hunger strike, claiming remand prison officials and FSB officers have intimidated them during their review of their criminal case file, something to which they are entitled by Russian law. Several Penza suspects in the case have claimed they have been put in solitary confinement, handcuffed to radiators, and threatened with violance.

Pchelintsev and Chernov went on hunger strike on November 29, as reported by the Parents Network, a support group established by the mothers and fathers of the young men, who have been accused of involvement in a “terrorist community” that, allegedly, was planning an armed uprising during the March 2018 presidential election and 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in Russia this past summer.

It was on November 29 that wardens put Pchelintsev in solitary, demanding he admit to breaking the rules by talking with other inmates during yard time. He responded by going on hunger strike, and Chernov joined him as a token of support and solidarity. On November 30, wardens again tried to bargain with Pchelintsev and threaten him.

The Parents Network notes that the pressure on their sons has increased now that the suspects are officially reviewing the case file.

Lawyer Anatoly Vakhterov told the group that Network case suspect Ilya Shakursky had been been visited by Penza Remand Prison Warden Oleg Iskhanov, who asked him how quickly he was reviewing the file. On November 20, immediately after the incident, Shakursky was reprimanded for greeting other inmates during yard time. The alleged violation was written up, and the same day Shakursky was issued a special uniform for his upcoming stint in solitary confinement. He managed to avoid going there by filing a complaint with Penza Regional Prosecutor Natalya Kantserova.

Earlier, Maxim Ivankin spent five days in solitary. This was proceeded by a visit from Warden Iskhanov, who likewise asked Ivankin how quickly he was reviewing the case file.

As the defense lawyers explained to the Parents Network, the suspects had been reviewing the case file not only at the remand prison but also at the local FSB office. Under Russian law, suspects may review case files for up to eight hours a day. Allegedly, the Network suspects were handcuffed to radiators and stairway railings the entire time. Vasily Kuksov and Arman Sagynbayev were handcuffed to each other. As the Parents Network has noted, the suspects not only experienced physical discomfort but were also unable to examine the case file freely and take notes.

Shakursky and Pchelintsev refused to go through the procedure in such conditions. In turn, they were threatened with violence. According to them, the man who threatened them was a certain A. Pyatachkov, who had been involved in torturing them when they were initially detained in the autumn of 2017.

Mikhail Kulkov said that after handcuffing him to the staircase, FSB officers videotaped him. As they filmed him, they said, “Look at Network terrorists reviewing the case file.”

The suspects requested their lawyers be present during the review. Consequently, the authorities stopped taking them to the FSB office. Currently, all case file materials are brought directly to the remand prison.

kuksov and pchelintsevVasily Kuksov and Dmitry Pchelintsev in court. Photo courtesy of Rupression and OVD Info

“Obviously, all these measures are methods of mental and physical violence,” argues Vakterov. “There are signs that the group of FSB investigators, led by Senior Investigator Valery Tokarev, have been putting pressure on the suspects. Why? To speed up the review process and make it impossible to verify the complaints of torture made by the suspects. They want to intimidate the lads, who are fighting back any way they can under the circumstances.”

These events have spurred the Parents Network to issue a communique, which we publish here in an abridged version.

We, the parents of the suspects in the Penza Case, bear witness to the numerous violations suffered by our children during their review of the case file.

To avoid allowing the time necessary to investigate the claims made by our sons that they were tortured by FSB officers, the group of investigators, led by Valery Tokarev, has done everything possible to speed up the process of reviewing the Network case file. To this end, the investigators have engaged in daily acts of emotional and physical violence against the suspects, to wit:

  1. Our sons have been prevented from reviewing the case file with their lawyers present. When they have attempted to refuse lawfully to review the case file, they have been subjected to physical preventive measures: they have been handcuffed to whatever metal structures came to hand and handcuffed to each other. During the review of the case file, at least one hand of each suspect has been handcuffed. These actions have prevented them from concentrating on reading the file and thoughtfully preparing to defend their rights in court. This testifies to the fact that investigators have doubts about the case, and so they would like to hand it over to the court as quickly as possible. 
  2. FSB field officers who were involved in torturing our sons have been among the people allowed to be present during the investigative case file review. They have been brought to the review to exert pressure on our children. The FSB officers in question have threatened them with physical violence if they refuse to continue with the case file review. The point of their actions is to speed up the review process, intimidate the suspects, and interfere with a potential investigation of the acts of torture they perpetrated. 
  3. Our demands that a lawyer be present during the proceedings and that the act of reviewing the case file not be hindered by handcuffing the hands of the suspects to tables, chairs, radiators, and stairways have led to our children being placed in solitary confinement, where they have once again been visited by FSB officers and investigators, who have tried to speed up the review process by threatening them. 

We speak constantly of incidents of torture. They say there is no smoke without fire. We are unfamiliar with the contents of the criminal investigative case file due to the nondisclosure agreement signed by all the defense lawyers. If our children have violated the law, they will answer to society to the full extent of the law. In the present circumstances, however, they are unable to answer to society. They answer to people who believe that physical violence, beatings, and electric shock torture can be legally used to make other people’s lives conform to the canons and stories that will get them new assignments and promotions.

It is impossible to defend the rights of our sons in the current circumstances. We cannot prove they were tortured. We have exhausted all the legal resources we have in Russia. But we, our sons, the Public Monitoring Commissions, reporters, civil rights activists, and politicians must and will go on fighting for the sake of one big goal: making the Russian legal and justice system more humane.

We call on Russian Federal Human Rights Ombusdman Tatyana Moskalkova, Mikhail Fedotov, chair of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human  Rights, and Yevgeny Myslovsky, a member of the council, to visit the Penza Case suspects. You are our last hope for help in combating torture in Russia. This joint task is our primary responsibility to society.

As we face the inevitability of double-digit sentences for our sons, we hope that all of us will have someone whose example will inspire us. It will be not the people who tortured our sons. Then none of this would make any sense at all.

The lawyers of the Penza suspects in the Network case say their clients have reached out to Tatyana Moskalkova and Mikhail Fedotov, asking them to visit and requesting their help in investigating the incidents of torture. Moskalkova and Fedotov have not yet replied to their appeals, although in November a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights did visit the Petersburg suspects in the Network case.

[…]

Translated by the Russian Reader

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What can you do to support the Penza and Petersburg antifascists and anarchists tortured and imprisoned by the FSB?

  • Donate money to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal (abc-msk@riseup.net). Make sure to specify your donation is earmarked for “Rupression.”
  • Spread the word about the Network Case aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case. You can find more information about the case and in-depth articles translated into English on this website (see below), rupression.com, and openDemocracyRussia.
  • Organize solidarity events where you live to raise money and publicize the plight of the tortured Penza and Petersburg antifascists. Go to the website It’s Going Down to find printable posters and flyers you can download. You can also read more about the case there.
  • If you have the time and means to design, produce, and sell solidarity merchandise, please write to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters and postcards to the prisoners. Letters and postcards must be written in Russian or translated into Russian. You can find the addresses of the prisoners here.
  • Design a solidarity postcard that can be printed and used by others to send messages of support to the prisoners. Send your ideas to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters of support to the prisoners’ loved ones via rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Translate the articles and information at rupression.com and this website into languages other than Russian and English, and publish your translations on social media and your own websites and blogs.
  • If you know someone famous, ask them to record a solidarity video, write an op-ed piece for a mainstream newspaper or write letters to the prisoners.
  • If you know someone who is a print, internet, TV or radio journalist, encourage them to write an article or broadcast a report about the case. Write to rupression@protonmail.com or the email listed on this website, and we will be happy to arrange interviews and provide additional information.
  • It is extremely important this case break into the mainstream media both in Russia and abroad. Despite their apparent brashness, the FSB and their ilk do not like publicity. The more publicity the case receives, the safer our comrades will be in remand prison from violence at the hands of prison stooges and torture at the hands of the FSB, and the more likely the Russian authorities will be to drop the case altogether or release the defendants for time served if the case ever does go to trial.
  • Why? Because the case is a complete frame-up, based on testimony obtained under torture and mental duress. When the complaints filed by the accused reach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and are examined by actual judges, the Russian government will again be forced to pay heavy fines for its cruel mockery of justice.

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If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and other recent cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other arms of the Russian police state, read and disseminate recent articles the Russian Reader has posted on these subjects.

Vyacheslav Lukichev: Interrogated for 36 Hours and Beaten

DSCN3140

Lawyer: Kaliningrad Anarchist Interrogated for 36 Hours and Beaten
OVD Info
November 8, 2018

Maria Bontsler, defense attorney of Kaliningrad anarchist Vyacheslav Lukichev, who has been charged with public vindication of terrorism on the internet, said her client had been beaten, according to a post published by Valentina Dekhtyarenko, manager of the human rights advocacy program at Open Russia, on her Telegram channel.

Bontsler claimed Lukichev had been beaten by six riot police (OMON) officers. She noted the police officers beat Lukichev in such a way as to leave no traces on the anarchist’s body. According to Bontsler, the beating occured on November 4, immediately after Lukichev was detained, in a room in which Lukichev’s [original,] state-appointed defense attorney was present.

Bontsler also claimed Lukichev had been interrogated for thirty-six hours.

Lukichev, 24, is suspected of publicly vindicating terrorism (a felony under Article 205.2 Part 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code) after allegedly publishing a screenshot of the suicide note allegedly left by [17-year-old Mikhail Zhlobitsky].

[Zhlobitsky] has been alleged to have bombed the FSB’s regional office in Arkhangelsk [on October 31], killing himself and injuring three FSB officers.

Several minutes before the blast, a message about the attack was posted on Telegram in the open chat channel Rebel Talk [Rech’ buntovshchika].

The authorities have been investigating the incident as a terrorist attack.

Investigators claim Lukichev published a post on the Telegram channel Prometheus [Prometei] in which he called [Zhlobitsky] a hero.

At a court hearing, Bontsler said the phrase had been taken out of context.

Political activists in Perm, Krasnodar, Arkhangelsk, and Arkhangelsk Region have said police officers came to their homes or they received summons to police stations in the wake of the October 31 attack.

On November 3, the home of Danil Pinzhenin, second secretary of the Sochi municipal Komsomol [Communist Youth League] committee, was searched by police in connection with the incident.

Translated by the Russian Reader. The article has been edited to make it more readable and informative.

Mikola Dziadok: When You Are Scared, It Is Better to Remain Silent

vera zasulich street, 46-permVera Zasulich Street, 46, in Perm, hardly seems a fitting monument to the fearless Russian revolutionary, but the street is, apparently, the only Vera Zasulich Street in Russia. Photo courtesy of perm.vsedomarossii.ru

Mikola Dziadok
Facebook
November 3, 2018

When You Are Scared, It Is Better to Remain Silent

Ever since the events in Arkhangelsk, I have been waiting for the decent Russian media to publish a sensible portrait-cum-analysis of the new would-be member of the People’s Will, Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who blew himself up at the local FSB office. My wait is over. Novaya Gazeta has published an article about him. It is a vile, shameful article, which I might have expected from anyone else, but not from Novaya Gazeta. Every quotation you can pull from the article, not to mention the conclusion, is a specimen of feeblemindeness compounded by fear.

“Unfortunately, now many people could come to regard [Zhlobitsky] as an icon, a martyr, a hero.”

That “unfortunately” tipped me off to the fact that nothing good lay ahead.

“Perovskaya and Zasulich: their forgotten names still grace street signs marking alleys.* Strictly speaking, nearly every municipality [in Russia] is thus guilty of excusing terrorism. Their ‘heroic deeds’ have never been duly judged. So, they have returned: a second-year student at a vocational college assembles a bomb at home in the evenings from available materials.”

Thanks to Sophia Perovskaya, Vera Zasulich, and people like them, people whom Novaya Gazeta‘s reporter [Tatyana Britskaya] considers reprehensible, Russia overthrew the tsarist autocracy, a realm in which the reporter’s great-grandfathers were whipped for not doffing their hats in the presence of their masters and were dispatched as cannon fodder to distant lands for the Empire’s glory. That was only a small fraction of the woes visited upon the heads of the common folk. The reporter, however, is still sad that streets are named after these heroines and heroes, and she brackets their heroic deeds in quotation marks.

“However, the three Arkhangelsk Chekists [sic] wounded by shrapnel were unlikely to be directly involved in the torture about which Mikhail Zh. wrote [in his farewell message on Telegram].”

This is really a masterpiece. According to the reporter, only a tiny group of FSB officers, a group that exists only in her head, has been involved in torture. All other FSB officers wear white gloves, compose poems, dance at balls, and have preventive discussions with schoolchildren, urging them not to become “extremists.” They also catch drug barons and ISIS fighters, interrogating them solely by looking at them sternly. Apparently, the reporter has forgotten about “repeat interrogations using an electrical memory aid” and the complaints by cops (!) accused of corruption that they were tortured by FSB officers.  The reporter must think that Zhlobitsky should have first approached [the three FSB officers he wounded] and asked them, “Do you torture people by any chance? No? Well, okay, then, I’ll go blow up somebody else.”

“Apparently, we never were able to assess or correct mistakes, and now history is taking us back for another go-round. This is facilitated quite readily by the fact that adults notice unhappy, confused children only when the latter perish while activating homemade infernal machines.”

What mistakes is she talking about? She is not condemning the butchers of the NKVD or the enslavement of entire nations, first by Imperial Russia, then by the Soviet empire. No, the “mistakes” were the members of the nobility who were among the organizers of the People’s Will and the members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, people who died martyrs’ deaths to liberate their own people from bondage.

Because reading it only provokes disgust, there is not pointing in parsing this libel any further. I would only note that the reporter is Novaya Gazeta‘s [Arctic Circle] correspondent, meaning she is a local reporter. This, apparently, is the reason for her condescending, judgmental tone and her attempt to turn a hero into a “confused child.” If you write too bluntly, you have unexploded FSB officers to deal with, as well as their colleagues and relatives. But she has keep working and get comments from the security service when she needs them. So, she will continuing putting a good face on a bad game, denouncing “violence of any kind.” My ass.

It is true what they say: scratch a Russian liberal and, deep down, you will find a statist and conservative. You want to live in a just society, but you think it can be achieved by pickets and petitions. You want the regime to respect you, but you condemn people who force it to respect them. You want freedom, but you are afraid to take it. You condemn the bravest people, thus projecting an image of victims, not fighters. In today’s stinking Russia, ninety-nine percent of you will end up hightailing it abroad. But not everyone has the opportunity, you know?

So, if you are scared, it is better to remain silent than to yap encouragingly at the butchers, who, for a change, suffered for their crimes.

I would like to emphasize I do not consider individual insurgency an acceptable or proper means of political militancy, nor would I advise anyone to engage in it. I believe everyone has the right to live, even a fucking FSB officer. But not everyone can adhere to the same beliefs I do while living amidst a terrorist dictatorship. I understand such people perfectly well, too.

* Translator’s Note. While there are a couple of dozen Sophia Perovskaya Streets extant in post-Soviet Russia, there seems to be only one Vera Zasulich Street—in Perm.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Special thanks to Mikola Dziadok for his kind permission to translate and publish his comments on this website.

Convoyed

convoyedHow is the all-too-common Russian verb etapirovat’ translated into English? Screenshot of the relevant page from the website dic.academic.ru

Yekaterina Kosarevskaya
Facebook
October 30, 2018

Viktor Filinkov has arrived in Petersburg. He’s now in Remand Prison No. 4 on Lebedev Street, but apparently he will be transferred from there to Remand Prison No. 3 on Shpalernaya Street. Yana Teplitskaya and I chatted with him for two hours until lights out.

And yesterday Roma and I chatted with Yuli Boyarshinov.

Viktor’s in a very sad state healthwise.

He took ill at every stop along the way during his convoy without having recovered from the previous stop. In Yaroslavl on Friday, before the last leg of his journey, Viktor was suddenly unable to walk. He doesn’t understand what it could have been, and he has never had anything like it before. His cellmates summoned the doctor. Viktor was taken to the dispensary. He was brought to his senses with smelling salts, given a injection of something, and left there until it was time to go.

It took three days for Viktor to get to Petersburg. They were on the road from Saturday to Tuesday, traveling only at night. During the day, the train car in which he was convoyed stood unheated and idle on the tracks.

He says he was really glad to go to Penza and hang out with [all the other prisoners in the Network case], although he did not enjoy the trip itself. The Penza Remand Prison was at such pains to show that none of the suspects in the Network case was being tortured anymore that every evening all ten suspects were inspected. They were forced to strip and undergo a full look-over, after which they were told to sign their names in a notebook. Viktor got tired of signing his name, so he took to drawing smileys, but no one followed his lead.

I wonder what it will mean when the wardens stop keeping this notebook.

Viktor told us about other remand prisons as well. He told us about Larissa the rat. He thought one inmate had made friends with her, but then he woke up and, finding the rat at the foot of his bed, he moved to a top bunk.

It transpired that the censor at the Nizhny Novgorod Remand Prison expunged not only the phrase “Public Monitoring Commission” from Yana’s letters but everything else he found unfamiliar, including “vegan,” “Homo sapiens,” and “transhumanism.”

Viktor also told us Yegor Skovoroda had written to him in a postcard that he was a nudnik. Viktor wrote a three-page letter proving it wasn’t the case, but then he thought better of it and didn’t mail the latter.

Yana and I tried to recall the latest news. We told Viktor about Saturday’s protest rallies, about our latest report, about who had successfully defended their dissertation (it wasn’t me), and who still hadn’t defended their dissertation and could thus invite Viktor to their defense (that would be me).

Yuli is in Remand Prison No. 3 on Shpalernaya Street and is fine. The only thing is that the prison’s censor has again gone on holiday, so Yuli doesn’t get any letters. So far he hasn’t received a single letter on Shpalernaya.

The censor at Remand Prison No. 4 has also gone on holiday.

UPDATE. I forgot to write that when we were traveling to Remand Prison No. 3 yesterday, Yana and I agreed that if I found out Viktor was there, I would exit the prison and telephone her so that she could travel there, too. I was worried I would waste a lot of time getting my telephone out of the box at the entrance to the prison, turning it on, and entering all the passwords. It transpired that Viktor was not there, but someone had made sure I didn’t waste any time. My telephone was turned on, and the password entry window was on the screen.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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What can you do to support the Penza and Petersburg antifascists and anarchists tortured and imprisoned by the FSB?

  • Donate money to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal (abc-msk@riseup.net). Make sure to specify your donation is earmarked for “Rupression.”
  • Spread the word about the Network Case aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case. You can find more information about the case and in-depth articles translated into English on this website (see below), rupression.com, and openDemocracyRussia.
  • Organize solidarity events where you live to raise money and publicize the plight of the tortured Penza and Petersburg antifascists. Go to the website It’s Going Down to find printable posters and flyers you can download. You can also read more about the case there.
  • If you have the time and means to design, produce, and sell solidarity merchandise, please write to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters and postcards to the prisoners. Letters and postcards must be written in Russian or translated into Russian. You can find the addresses of the prisoners here.
  • Design a solidarity postcard that can be printed and used by others to send messages of support to the prisoners. Send your ideas to rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Write letters of support to the prisoners’ loved ones via rupression@protonmail.com.
  • Translate the articles and information at rupression.com and this website into languages other than Russian and English, and publish your translations on social media and your own websites and blogs.
  • If you know someone famous, ask them to record a solidarity video, write an op-ed piece for a mainstream newspaper or write letters to the prisoners.
  • If you know someone who is a print, internet, TV or radio journalist, encourage them to write an article or broadcast a report about the case. Write to rupression@protonmail.com or the email listed on this website, and we will be happy to arrange interviews and provide additional information.
  • It is extremely important this case break into the mainstream media both in Russia and abroad. Despite their apparent brashness, the FSB and their ilk do not like publicity. The more publicity the case receives, the safer our comrades will be in remand prison from violence at the hands of prison stooges and torture at the hands of the FSB, and the more likely the Russian authorities will be to drop the case altogether or release the defendants for time served if the case ever does go to trial.
  • Why? Because the case is a complete frame-up, based on testimony obtained under torture and mental duress. When the complaints filed by the accused reach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and are examined by actual judges, the Russian government will again be forced to pay heavy fines for its cruel mockery of justice.

***************

If you have not been following the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and other recent cases involving frame-ups, torture, and violent intimidation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and other arms of the Russian police state, read and disseminate recent articles the Russian Reader has posted on these subjects.

Yevgenia Litvinova: October 28, 2018

october 28Petersburg democracy activist Pavel Chuprunov, holding a placard that reads, “‘Yes, we tasered them, but it wasn’t torture. We were doing our jobs!’ Admission by the Soviet NKVD Russian FSB, 1938 2018.” Nevsky Prospect, Petersburg, 28 October 2018. Photo by Yevgenia Litvinova

Yevgenia Litvinova
Facebook
October 29, 2018

October 28 was the day chosen for publicly supporting people accused of extremism and locked up in jail, i.e., the suspects in the Network and the New Greatness cases. Petersburgers had no choice but to be involved in this international event, since some of the suspects in the Network case are from Petersburg.

The day before, I had listened to Yekaterina Kosarevskaya and Yana Teplitskaya’s brilliant but very heavy report about the use of torture in the FSB’s St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Directorate. In particular, the report recounts how the young men accused in the Network case were tortured. All we can do is constantly talk about these people publicly, about what happened to them over the last year (they were arrested nearly a year ago), and what is happening to them now.

The rally in support of the young folks locked up in remand prisons on trumped-up charges was not approved by the authorities, although the organizers—Open Russia, Vesna, and Bessrochka (Endless Protest)—suggested a variety of venues in the downtown area. Everywhere was off limits.

You can protest in Udelny Park, in the far north of Petersburg, that is, in the woods. It’s a great place to have a stroll and get some fresh air, but who would be there to see your protest? The squirrels? This proposal is better than the garbage dump in Novosyolki, which the authorities always used to suggest as an alternative venue, but it’s not a suitable place for a political rally.

All that remained was the only form of political protest that doesn’t require prior approval from the authorities: solo pickets.

The protesters had different placards, but all of them were quite persuasive. They got to the heart of these frame-ups, which crush and maim people in order to earn promotions for the policemen and security services officers who dream them up.

Solo pickets had always been safe in Petersburg, unlike in Moscow, Krasnodar, and so on. That was why many people found them monotonous and boring.

“Oh, solo pickets again,” people would complain.

The plan was to take it in turns to stand holding placards on the corner of Nevsky and Malaya Sadovaya. But the folks from NOD (National Liberation Movement) read announcements for the upcoming protests and got there early. We had to move away from Malaya Sadovaya and closer to the pedestrian underpass to the subway. It’s an uncomfortable, narrow spot.

NOD has been a little sluggish lately. What happened to their weekly vigils? When there’s no money, there’s no NOD. But suddenly they had reappeared, which meant they had been asked to take to the streets by people whose offer you can’t refuse.

Recently, solo pickets have ceased to be “boring,” but there’s no reason for rejoicing. Solo pickets started becoming a staple of news reports around a month ago, when Alexander Beglov was appointed Petersburg’s acting governor. Since then, police have made a habit of detaining people at solo pickets. They make up excuses for their actions on the fly.

I knew this, of course, but I naively counted on logic and common sense winning the day. I compiled and printed out a number of laws proving that I and other “favorites” of Lieutenant Ruslan Sentemov, a senior police inspector in the public order enforcement department of Petersburg’s Central District, had to the right to speak out via solo pickets. I was planning to hand these papers to Sentemov on camera. But I didn’t see him at the rally. I thought he hadn’t come at all. Nor did he see me.

I got lucky. Because what logic had I imagined? What common sense? What laws? What right to hold solo pickets?

Sentemov did see another of his “favorites,” Dmitry Gusev. He pointed at him and said, “Detain him.”

Dmitry was not holding anything at all, much less a placard. He had no plans to be involved in the picketing. But that was that, and now he is detained at a police precinct, like dozens of other people. I counted over thirty detainees. But Alexander Shislov, Petersburg’s human rights ombudsman, writes that around fifty people were detained. Around one hundred people were at the protest.

Several detainees were released without charges, while others were charged with violating Article 20.2 Part 5 of the Administrative Offenses Code, but most of the detainees will spend the night in police stations. They have been charged with violating Article 20.2 Part 2, which is punishable by jail time.*

The detainees were dispersed to different police stations, some of them quite far away. They needed food, water, and toiletries. Police stations usually don’t have any of these things, although they are obliged to provide them if they detain someone for more than three hours.

Over ten people who were present with me at the protest traveled the police stations to check on the detainees. The rest came from the Observers HQ at Open Space. We constantly called and wrote each other, makingsure no one had been left without assistance. I hope that was how it worked out. The detainees should have everything they need for this evening, overnight, and tomorrow morning.

Natalia Voznesenskaya and I had planned to go to the 28th Police Precinct, but all the detainees there had been released.

We went instead to the 7th Precinct. The internet told us it was near the Kirovsky Zavod subway station. We wandered for a long time amidst the nice little houses built after the war, supposedly by German POWs. We arrived at the police station only to find that its number had recently changed. It was no longer the 7th Precinct, but the 31st Precinct.

We went to the real 7th Precinct, on Balkanskaya Street. Elena Grigoryeva, Dmitry Dorokhin, and two other men were detained there. (One of the men had been taken away by ambulance.) Unexpectedly, the 7th Precinct was a decent place. It was no comparison with the 76th and 78th Precincts, in the Central District. The police officers on duty there accepted our food packages and spoke politely with us.

We ran into Alexander Khmelyov at the station. Wielding a power of attorney as a social defender, he had come to see what kind of mattresses and linens had been issued to the detainees. There were no bedbugs. What was more, the police officers brought the detainees supper from a nearby cafe. They were obliged to do it, but their colleagues at other precincts never do it, and detainees usually don’t even get breakfast.

So, now the stomachs of the detainees were full, and they could take the food we had brought with them to court. Court hearings can last eight hours or more, although it happens that fifteen minutes is all the time a judge needs. There is usually no difference. The court’s rulings have been written in advance.

Before leaving the house to go the protest in support of the suspects in the New Greatness and Network cases, I listened to a program on Echo of Moscow about the case of Elena Kerenskaya, sister of Alexander Kerensky, chair of the Provisional Government in 1917. Kerenskaya was executed by the NKVD in Orenburg on February 2, 1938.

I don’t want to blow things out of proportion, but it has become easier and easier to under how the trials of the 1930s happened the way they did.

* Article 20.2 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code covers “violation[s] of the established procedure for organizing and holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets.” Part 2 stipulates punishments for people who organize or hold rallies without notifying the authorities in advance. They can be jailed for up to ten days or fined up to 30,000 rubles (400 euros).

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

Andrey Loshak: What the Krasnodar Police Did to Lawyer Mikhail Benyash

mikhail benyahsMikhail Benyash. Courtesy of Andrey Loshak’s Facebook page

Andrey Loshak
Facebook
September 24, 2018

Achtung! Uwaga! Attention! Yet another outburst of lawlessness is underway in Krasnodar, an experimental region of Russia where the authorities test ever more repressive techniques and see whether they can get away with them or not. When I was making a film about volunteers in Navalny’s presidential campaign, it was Krasnodar where I encountered the gnarliest fucked-up shit. Provocateurs in hoods and masks attacked young people attending an “unauthorized” protest rally, and the cops, who stood nearby, claimed not to see anybody in masks attacking anyone. It was really frightening. The provocateurs assaulted the activists and assisted the cops in loading them into paddy wagons. I was also detained then for the first time in my life, despite my attempts to prove I was a reporter. I was quickly released, however. They were still afraid of causing a stir in the Moscow liberal media.

Afterwards, my cameraman and I stood outside the gates of the police station until one in the morning filming the activists, who were mainly really young men and woman, as they were let go after they were formally charged and written up. The whole time this was happening, the lawyer Mikhail Benyash was trying to get into the police station, but the police kept him out. He stood by the gate, writing down the names and numbers of the released detainees. He sadly reported that, due to the court hearings of the detainees, whom he would be defending, he would not be making it back to his hometown of Gelendzhik anytime soon, although there he was in the midst of civil court cases involving hoodwinked investors in unbuilt cooperative apartment buildings.

I asked him why he bothered with all of it when no one paid him for his work. His answer stunned me. It transpired he and I had the exact same motives. He also liked the young people who had been detained, and he also saw them as a source of hope. He was the first romantic lawyer I had ever met. (Unfortunately, I did not know Stanislav Markelov personally.) It was no wonder I took a shine to him. Later, in our correspondence, he suggested titling the series The Ugly Swans, after the novel by the Strugatskys, and wrote me a detailed explanation of why I should do it.

Here is an excerpt from his letter.

“These were the kind of young people with whom you spoke on October 7: quite сheerful, cool, and kind. Unspoiled. Clever, a little naive, and free of feigned helplessness. They grew up on the internet, in the chats on VK and Telegram.

“Instead of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, they imbibed fantasy novels and movies about superheroes, and they fashioned all of it into a model for doing the right thing.

“Instead of Dostoevsky’s subservience, they absorbed the humor of Marvel Comics and a primitive albeit correct sense of right and wrong from movies about Batman, the Flash, and Iron Man. They fire back at priests of all types with quotations from Sheldon Cooper.

“Now I have been watching all these crazy comics serials, but not for entertainment or by way of procrastinating, but in order to understand the young people who grew up on them and so I can speak their language. I’m holding my own for the time being, but the kids are evolving rapidly.”

On September 9, which the Navalny Team had declared a day of protests nationwide, Benyash arrived in Krasnodar as usual to defend activists detained at the march, which, as usual, had not been authorized by the authorities. On the eve of the protest, nearly all Navalny staffers in Krasnodar had been arrested on a ridiculous pretext: all of them were jailed for, allegedly, disobeying police officers. There was not anything like this preventive crackdown in any other city in Russia.

On the way to Krasnodar, Benyash got a telephone call informing him he was under surveillance by the police. The caller also told him his exact location. Mikhail does not scare easily, so he did not turn around. Once he was in Krasnodar, he headed with a female acquaintance to the police station where the detainees would be taken.

Suddenly, a Mazda stopped next to him. Several brutes in plain clothes jumped out of the car, grabbed Mikhail, and tossed him into their car, where they forcibly confiscated his telephone as he was trying to telephone colleagues. The men beat him, choked him, and pressed his eyes with their fingers.

At the police station, he was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and dragged to the fourth floor. In Krasnodar, experienced opposition activists know the fourth floor is the location of the CID and that if you are taken there, it means the police will put on the pressure and try and beat a confession out of you.

All of these events were witnessed by Mikhail’s female companion, whom the cops also brought to the station.

On the fourth floor, they beat the living daylights out of Benyash. Several blows to his face caused him to fall and hit his head on the corner of a safe.

Meanwhile, the news got out that Benyash had been detained. Lawyer Alexei Avanesyan tried to get into the station to see him, but the police would not let him in. At some point, the cops donned helmets and armor before announcing the station was going into lockdown mode, which happens when a police state is threatened by an armed attack from the outside. In fact, the police in Krasnodar go into lockdown mode every time they don’t want to let lawyers into the station to consult with detained opposition activists. When Avanesyan learned Benyash had been beaten, he summoned an ambulance crew to examine Benyash, who recorded and certified his injuries. By ten p.m., i.e., eight hours after Benyash had been detained, the lockdown was called off and Avanesyan was let into the police station.

There Avanesyan encounted Deputy Chief Papanov, who lied, telling Avanesyan Benyash was not at the station. Avanesyan is not the shy and retiring type, either. He took advantage of the confusion to make a break for the fourth floor, where he found the beaten Benyash in a room and three field agents huddled over him. Avanesyan was then allowed to consult with the detained lawyer Benyash. The police were trying to frame him on two charges: organizing an unauthorized protest rally and resisting the police!

Avanesyan alerted their colleagues via social media, asking them to come to Banyash’s court hearing. Seven lawyers showed up. Although the hearing was scheduled for nine in the morning, it didn’t kick off until ten in the evening. Apparently, none of the local judges wanted to get dirt on their hands.

The court clerk, who was drunk, didnot want to let the lawyers into the hearing, but she was forced to back off, but ordinary members of the public were not admitted into the courtroom.

Judge Buryenko denied all the motions made by the defense. He did not ask police officers to testify. He did not admit the video recordings into evidence, and he even refused to view them. He did not call Benyash’s companion to testify, although she was standing in the hallway.

Benyash was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to forty hours of community service and fourteen days in jail. Although the lawyer had nothing to do with organizing or running the protest rally, he was given the harshest punishment for his non-involvement in it, despite the fact that the number of detainees in Krasnodar also broke all records: around one hundred protesters were hauled in by the police on September 9.

I quote Mediazona, who cite the court’s written verdict.

“According to the police officer’s report, Benyash got into the car voluntarily in order to go to the police station and have charges filed against him, but in the police station parking lot the lawyer banged his head against the car window of his own accord and kicked open the door in an attempt to escape. The police officer claims Benyash refused to stop hitting his head against the wall [sic], which was grounds for charging him with violating Article 19.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code.”

But there is more. Benyash was supposed to be released from jail yesterday. Avanesyan arrived at the special detention facility, seventy kilometers outside of Krasnodar, where Benyash had been jailed, to pick him up. But instead of picking up his released colleague, he was shown a new indictment against Benyash, this time on criminal charges. Benyash was alleged to have violated Article 318 Part 1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code: “engaging in violence against the authorities.” Medical certificates attesting to the finger bites allegedly suffered by police officers and the enormous suffering they endured as a result have been admitted into evidence.

Benyash has again been detained: for forty-eight hours for the time being. Tomorrow, he will go to court.

Dear colleagues from Novaya Gazeta, TV Rain, and other independent media, please cover this case. Otherwise, the experiment in Krasnodar will very quickly  expand nationwide. Even the Brezhnev-era KGB did not stoop to beating up and imprisoning dissident lawyers.

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

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