Do Tajik Lives Matter in Petersburg?

The Explanation Remains the Same: “No One Is to Blame
Nina Petlyanova
November 9, 2015
Novaya Gazeta Saint Petersburg

Forensic experts have identified the cause of death of five-month-old Umarali Nazarov, who died at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital in the early hours of October 14

The two initial hypotheses advanced by physicians—upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—have been rejected. Now a third hypothesis emerged: the infant was laid low by Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. Allegedly, it could have developed while the baby was still in his mother’s womb. The parents and their attorneys have nothing to say to this for the time being. They have been officially recognized as injured parties in the case of the baby’s death, but at the same time they are the only ones who have not been apprised of the outcome of the forensic examination.

Rustam Nazarov displays a photo of his late son Umarali on the screen of his telephone. Photo: Elena Lukyanova
Rustam Nazarov displays a photo of his late son Umarali on the screen of his telephone. Photo: Elena Lukyanova

Two news agencies, TASS and Fontanka.Ru, announced the cause of Umarali Nazarov’s death on the evening of November 6. How and why journalists were informed before his mother, father, and their defense attorneys is a question for police investigators. The reporters quoted finding reaches by experts from the Petersburg Bureau of Forensic Medicine (BSME), but did not identify where they had received the information. Sources at the BSME told Novaya Gazeta they had not leaked any documents to the media.

“No one besides certain journalists has seen the conclusions of the forensic experts,” Olga Tseitlina, an attorney for the injured parties, told Novaya Gazeta in an interview. “We have not formally reviewed them, but we have announced that this is another violation of the rights of the injured parties. At the same time, on both November 5 and November 6, Zarina Yunusova (Umarali’s mother), Rustam Nazarov (his father), and their defense attorneys were at the investigative department for a long time, but investigators said not a word about the fact the findings of the forensic examination were ready. Until we have the official report of the experts, we cannot even petition the court to conduct an independent investigation. We have not been apprised not only of the findings but also of the official decision to order a forensic examination, meaning that we were deprived of the opportunity to ask additional questions and propose our own forensic experts.”

On the morning of October 13, 2015, the Federal Migration Service raided a rented flat at Lermontov Prospect, 5. They detained Zarina Yunusova, a 21-year-old citizen of Tajikistan and her young son, who were both taken to Police Precinct No. 1. There, Yunusova was separated from the infant, transported to court, and released only in the evening. The child was handed over to ambulance brigade medics and sent to Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital, where he died in the early hours of October 14.

At first, doctors said the preliminary cause of death was URTI. Later, members of the Human Rights Council (HRC), who conducted their own inquiry into the infant’s death in Petersburg from October 26 to October 31, said the cause of death was SIDS. According to the findings of forensic experts, as reported on November 6, the boy died from a CMV infection.

The news agencies published the following quotation from the report: “The cause of Umarali Nazarov’s death was a disease, a generalized (CMV) infection. The infection was complicated by the onset of cardiopulmonary disease. No traces of ethyl alcohol, narcotics or powerful medicaments were found in the child’s internal organs.”

As sources at the Petersburg BSME explained to Novaya Gazeta, a generalized (CMV) infection attacks nearly all the vital organs. According to the tests carried out, the virus did not incubate in Umarali overnight. It had already managed to attack his respiratory, cardiac, and gastrointestinal systems. The baby was diagnosed postmortem with pneumonia, dystrophy of the liver, dystrophy of the pancreas, stomach dysfunction, alterations of the adrenal gland, chronic inflammation of the small intestine (enteritis), cerebral edema, and spinal edema. The pathologists stressed that the child could have contracted the CMV infection even in his mother’s womb.

Umarali’s parents do not believe the findings as reported. They assure us their son was never ill and had no health problems. Nazarov’s medical chart shows that he had received all the necessary vaccinations for a five-month-old child. There is also written confirmation that until the moment of his death the baby looked healthy: the entries in his medical chart, in the report filed by the ambulance medics, and in the logbook at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital.

Doctors from Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital have now been making mutually exclusive claims in the media, for example, that CMV infection is not amenable to visual diagnosis, that it can be diagnosed only after a comprehensive examination, and that outwardly CMV infection can manifest as URTI. So was it possible to notice the symptoms of the disease or not? Why, then, did none of the doctors notice anything for ten hours, that is, until the baby died?

“I want to remind everyone,” says Ilya Shablinsky, a member of the HRC commission that investigated Umarali Nazarov’s death, “that we have the intermediate results of several examinations of the children, by the paramedics from the ambulance brigade when the boy was hospitalized and twice by doctors at the hospital, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Everywhere they write that the baby is healthy, his temperature is normal, and he has a good appetite. The parents have every reason not to trust [doctors and police] and be afraid. What happened to their son between 2 p.m. and midnight, after which time he died? Regardless of what gets written now in the autopsy report, this has no impact on the accountability of police officers. The main conclusion that the HRC commission reached was that police officers exceeded their authority by removing the child from his mother and should be brought to justice. Umarali died not in his mother’s arms, but twelve hours after he was separated from her. This is a crime, and it is mentioned in the HRC’s report, which will be sent to President Vladimir Putin in the coming days.”

Petersburgers expressed their condolences to Umarali Nazarov's family by bringing flowers to the Tajikistan Consulate on Fonarnyi Pereulok in Petersburg. Photo by the Russian Reader, October 30, 2015
Petersburgers expressed their condolences to Umarali Nazarov’s family by bringing flowers to the Tajikistan Consulate on Fonarnyi Pereulok in Petersburg. Photo by the Russian Reader, October 30, 2015

“There still has been no procedural decision on the actions of the police officers who removed the child from the mother, although all the deadlines for this have come and gone long ago,” continues Olga Tseitlina. “Aside from their own standing orders, the police officers at the very least violated the Family Code and the European Convention, which prohibit separating parents and children in such cases. We have never stated that the police killed the child, but we do claim that it removed him illegally and that this certainly caused harm. If the child had been with his mother, we do not know whether he would have died or not. And even if he was infected with a deadly virus, the question remains as to how long he would have lived. The state failed to protect the infant’s life, and now it is not investigating [his death]. The investigation is not looking for the perpetrators but attempting to establish the parents’ guilt. First, they attempted to prove that the child was poorly looked after, that he lived in poor conditions, and had caught cold. When that hypothesis did not pan out, they said the child died of a virus. All the efforts of the investigators we have seen so far have been directed towards finding an explanation that suits everyone involved in the tragedy. The reported findings of the cause of death completely jibe with the original position adopted by the police, the FMS, and the doctors: no one is to blame. I do not know whether the true causes of Umarali Nazarov’s death will ever be established, but I am ready to go to the European Court of Human Rights to prove that the investigation has been improper.”

Police investigators have failed to inform the parents not only of the findings of the forensic medical examination but also of the outcome of the autopsy done at the city morgue in October. Because of this and many other actions taken by investigators, the Tajikistan Honorary Consulate in Petersburg sent a note of protest to the city prosecutor’s office and the Main Investigative Department of the Petersburg Office of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee. The Tajikistan Consulate voiced its dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in the criminal investigation of five-month-old Umarali Nazarov’s death.

Direct Quotation

Rustam Nazarov, Umarali’s father:

We do not believe the child had this disease. There was nothing that would indicate [he had] any disease all his life. Umarali was never ill. We understand why this is happening. The authorities cannot take responsibility for the child’s death, but they torment us. They shift the blame on us: we have a bad apartment; we have bad blood. But I do not think those are their problems. They have one problem: to find out how and why our child died. And we want only one thing: to find out how and why our son died. We do not believe that anyone will be punished for this. We just want to know.

________

Parents of deceased Tajik boy forcibly taken to hospital
November 10, 2015
Fontanka.Ru

Parents of the five-month-old Tajik boy who died in St. Petersburg [in October] were forcibly taken to the Botkin Memorial Hospital for Infectious Diseases.

Tajik diaspora lawyer Uktam Ahmedov has informed Fontanka.Ru that today the police forcibly took the parents of the deceased Tajik infant Umarali Nazarov, Rustam Nazarov and Zarina Yunusova, from [their flat] on Lermontov Prospect to the Botkin Hospital for tests. Ahmedov said that police wanted to check them for the presence of the her

Ahmedov said the virus is present in ninety percent of the population, but police want to use this alleged piece of evidence to blame the parents for infecting the boy.

According to Akhmedov, no charges have been filed under Article No. 156 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (dereliction of duty in the upbringing of a minor).

Why Such Hatred? (The Death of Umarali Nazarov)

Откуда такая ненависть?
Why Such Hatred?
Nina Petlyanova
October 22, 2015
Novaya Gazeta Saint Petersburg

The parents of a dead five-month-old child from Tajikistan do not understand

When a Tajik family was in the process of being expelled from Petersburg, their baby son was taken from its mother. Umarali Nazarov (born May 20, 2015) spent almost five hours at a police station [on October 13, 2015]. He was in the hands of strangers, and deprived of food and warm clothes. No one was allowed to dress or feed the baby. He screamed and cried. The baby was then taken to hospital, where he died the same night. The causes of death are still unknown. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case only a week later.

Federal Migration Service (FMS) employees, police officers, and doctors are suspected of “negligent homicide owing to the improper discharge by a person of his professional duties.” However, neither the boy’s parents nor members of the Petersburg Tajik diaspora believe the guilty parties will be found and punished. Moreover, Umar’s father and mother, Rustam Nazarov and Zarina Yunusova, are themselves currently under suspicion. Police have carried out searches at the flat where they live. The authorities are now attempting to prosecute the couple for allegedly failing to discharge the duties of bringing up a minor.”

Federal Children’s Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko, and the Tajikistan Embassy in Russia have promised to monitor the investigation.

FMS officers raided the flat rented by the Nazarovs at Lermontov Prospect, 5, at around ten in the morning on October 13. The head of the family, Mehriniso Nazarova, the mother of five children (ranging in age from seven to twenty-seven), had already accompanied her youngest son, a first former, to school and had gone to work: she washes dishes at a café near the house. Nazarova’s 17-year-old son Daler and 21-year-old daughter-in-law Zarina were at the flat with Umar. Zarina’s husband, 25-year-old Rustam Nazarov, works at a construction site and was also not nearby when the FMS paid its visit.

Zarina Yunusova

Zarina does not speak Russian at all. Her account of what happened is translated by her mother-in-law.

“Three unknown men burst into the flat. They grabbed Daler, Zarina, and the baby. Although Daler is a minor,” Mehriniso adds, “and they had no right to touch him. They were all taken to a police station. They were not even allowed to dress Umar: he was taken as he was, in a blue woolen unitard. They didn’t even let them put a hat on him.”

“Around 10:30 a.m., I got a call from Daler,” continues Nazarova. “He said they were at Police Precinct No. 1. I hurried there, grabbing a bottle of milk formula for the baby at home on the way there. I was at the police station around twelve. I went up to the on-duty window, and they kicked me out into the hall. I could hear Umar screaming. The child was screaming and crying the whole time at the precinct. I begged and pleaded to feed him. The formula was still warm. An on-duty officer took the bottle from me and put it in the window. I was crying and saying, “He is tiny and hungry.’ ‘I could care less,’ the policeman replied. There was a young woman there, a senior lieutenant: I begged her. No one fed the child.  They mocked and laughed at me: ‘We don’t understand you; we need a translator.’ They called me a wog [chernozhopaya] and said, ‘Wogs have no rights.'”

Around 2:30 p.m., according to Nazarova, an ambulance arrived at the police station, and the police handed the baby over to medics.

“I was scared,” says Nazarova. “I asked the doctors what was a happening with my baby. Had he fallen ill? He had never been ill. Just the day before, he had been healthy. I begged them to hand over my boy or take me along! But two women in white jackets pushed me away, got into the vehicle, and drove away.”

“Come tomorrow”
Zarina and Daler were delivered to court around 3 p.m. They were tried by 9 p.m. Each was fined 5,000 rubles and ordered to leave Russia in fifteen days.

As soon as they left the court, the Nazarovs rushed to the police station to find out where the child was. They were told he was at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital and to pick him up the next day. The parents did not accept this and said they were coming right away.

“It’s already late, they won’t let you in,” the police objected.

The Nazarovs called the hospital and were told the same thing: “Come tomorrow.”

Rustam Nazarova and Zarina Yunusova

“Around 8 a.m., Mom took my youngest brother, a first former, to school,” says Rustam Nazarov. “We called a taxi to go to the hospital and pick up Umar. But right then we got a telephone call: ‘You need not come: your son has died.'”

The family was at the hospital within half an hour. But they were too late: the baby had already been transported to the morgue. Nazarov went there. At the morgue, however, he was not shown the child. Nazarov began going to the morgue every day.  It was only on the fourth day, after the autopsy, that he was able to take a look at his son.

“I didn’t even recognize him,” admits Nazarov.

Routine and lawful
As the FMS Petersburg and Leningrad Region Office explained to Novaya Gazeta, the raid had been routine. At the request of the district administration, several addresses were checked that day.  District officials had informed the FMS about the Nazarovs. The illegal immigrants were living, allegedly, in a resettled house with no water or electricity.

Rustam Nazarov looks out the window of the ostensibly resettled house at Lermontov Prospect, 5

Novaya Gazeta‘s correspondents spent half a day in the two-room flat the Nazarovs rent for 25,000 rubles [approx. 360 euros] a month. The place has water and electricity, and is so warm that all the vent panes in the windows are opened. We saw offices on the first floor of the building, and quite habitable flats on the upper floors.

“The citizen of Tajikistan discovered at Lermonotov, 5, could not explain her relationship to the child, so he was also taken to the police station,” Darya Kazankova, press secretary for the FMS Petersburg and Leningrad Region Office told Novaya Gazeta. “However, FMS staff do not work with minors and children, so we handed both [Daler and Umar] over to juvenile affairs inspectors and subsequently dealt only with Yunusova.”

Kazankova insists the FMS officers had an interpreter with them. Zarina did not notice any interpreter.

Zarina Yunusova’s papers are really not in order. The young woman arrived in Petersburg from Tajikistan little over a year ago to be treated for infertility. The treatments were successful. The long-awaited Umar was born on May 20, Rustam’s birthday. It was a gift for both the mom and the dad.

Rustam Nazarov shows a picture of his son on his mobile phone

“According to the law on immigrants [Federal Law No. 115, July 25, 2002], foreign citizens can stay temporarily in Russia without a visa for no longer than ninety days [if they are from countries whose citizens do not require a visa to enter the Russia — RR],” explained Tajik diaspora lawyer Uktam Akhmedov in an interview with Novaya Gazeta. Akhmedov is now defending the Nazarov family in all legal proceedings. “But when the ninety days ran out and legally she should have gone back to Tajikistan, Zarina was pregnant. The doctors did not recommend traveling. Besides, pregnancy is a reasonable excuse for staying. We are going to challenge the court’s decision to expel her,” said Akhmedov.

Rustam and Zarina looking at pictures of their son

The case will not be solved soon
The five-month-old child’s death has shocked the Petersburg Tajik diaspora.

“Every day since October 14, between fifty and eighty people have gathered outside Police Precinct No. 1,” Uktam Akhmedov told Novaya Gazeta. “The most massive grassroots gathering happened on October 17 at the Tajikistan Consulate in Petersburg. Around a hundred people came. They demanded justice and punishment for the perpetrators. People were very agitated. We could hardly contain their emotions.”

Assistant Consul Manouchehr Hamzayev came out to address the protesters. He asked them not to engage in provocations and promised to keep them updated.

Umar’s grandmother Mehriniso Nazarova meets workers from the Tajikistan Embassy in Russia

On October 18, the Tajik diaspora sent official appeals to Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Ella Pamfilova and Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko.

On October 19, Pavel Astakhov reacted to the incident in the Northern Capital. Besides a surprised entry on Twitter (“A five-month-old baby has died suddenly”), he asked the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office to “conduct a thorough investigation of the actions of the FMS and police.”

On October 20, the Petersburg Office of the Investigative Committe’s Central Investigation Department opened a criminal case under Article 109.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Negligent homicide owing to the improper discharge by a person of his professional duties”).

“According to the preliminary investigaton, the boy died in the early hours of October 14 from an acute respiratory viral infection,” the Central Investigation Department informed Novaya Gazeta. “But the forensic examination will ultimately establish the cause of death.”

Doctors at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital, where the city prosecutor’s city has been carrying out an inspection since October 20, declined to comment. According to Novaya Gazeta‘s sources, doctors have explained to investigators that the child had many diagnoses [sic], and in addition, he had been born prematurely.

The parents do not deny this. Umar had been born in the thirty-fourth week with a weight of 2,2000 grams. But he had been steadily growing and gaining weight. By five months he had weighed about eight kilos. The Nazarovs likewise claim the child had regular visits from the district nurse, and had been examined by doctors at a clinic. They had not referred Umar to any specialists: no serious ailments had been detected.

Looking for a bomb in a cradle
On October 21, the day after the criminal case was opened, the Interior Ministry’s Petersburg and Leningrad Region Office took countermeasures.

“Police officers are conducting a preliminary investigation concerning the deceased boy’s parents, in whose actions there is evidence of a crime as stipulated by Article 156 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Failure to discharge the duties of bringing up a minor”),” the regional office of the Investigative Committee’s Central Investigation Department informed Novaya Gazeta.

“Now they come here and do searches nearly every day,” the Nazarov brothers tell us. “Two times they came with dogs. Why? Are they looking for a bomb in the cradle?”

“Why such hatred? Why such hatred?” Rustam repeats like a mantra and waits for a response.

Zarina says nothing and cries.

Mehriniso Nazarova next to her grandson Umar’s cradle

Mehriniso is not crying. She is sobbing over the cradle, which Rustam built for his son and which she just cannot bear to remove from the room.

“This city has now taken a second boy from me.”

The Nazarovs have lived in Petersburg for fifteen years. In 2004, persons unknown armed with knives attacked Mehriniso’s 12-year-old-son near their house. He died from stab wounds to the chest and neck. The child’s murder remains unsolved to this day.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photos by Elena Lukyanova

See also: “Tajikistanis Hold Gathering Outside Consulate in Petersburg over Death of Detained Immigrants’ Son,” Rosbalt, October 17, 2015 (in Russian)