“Fun times” today at the trial of Olga Borisovna Smirnova. The escort guard pushed the defense lawyer, Zyryanova, and ripped a phone from her hands, injuring her fingers. As soon as the ambulance arrived, the doctors took Olga’s defense attorney downstairs to the vehicle and drove her away.
At the trial itself, the prosecutor read out a bunch of papers for three hours regarding the searches of the homes of Olga’s associates. In each instance the investigator wrote that none of this evidence was entered into the case file, whereas earlier she herself had insisted on urgent searches without a court order, which were carried out.
The only variety in these boilerplate search and inspection reports was provided by the descriptions of apartments and rooms. And, for some reason, the prosecutor always says “kitCHEN table,” with the stress on the second syllable.
But there is nothing [“incriminating” in these reports?] except literature in Ukrainian (the prosecutor reads the title in Ukrainian and then the Russian translation, as supplied by Yandex Translate) and placards whose slogans the prosecutor was occasionally ashamed to read aloud, claiming that the slogan “Free political prisoners” was “obscene,” and the slogan “Putin resign” was “illegible.” What sort of sharp practice is it to fill the criminal case file, under the guise of evidence, with stuff that has nothing to do with the case and even according to the investigator is not evidence? Is the prosecutor trying to generate an overall fogginess?
While there is a break in the trial, people wait in the hallway. More than twenty people have come to hearing, including a group of supporters and journalists.
When Olga is escorted out now, the bailiffs close the door to the stairs, where people are standing, apparently so that they won’t be able to shout out words of support to her.
As our correspondent reports, at the latest hearing in the trial of activist Olga Smirnova, in the Kirovsky District Court, the prosecution made public the contents of the nine posts on VKontakte which occasioned criminal charges of disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army.
The posts listed by the prosecution were made on the public social media page of the movement Democratic Petersburg.
A post with a link to a video titled “We will never be brothers,” in which it is reported that the Russian army is “reducing Ukrainian cities to ruins.”
A post with a link to a video that concludes with the words [in Ukrainian], “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the defenders, death to the enemy.”
A post with a link to a video titled “We show Russians photos from Ukraine. The reaction of Russians to the war in Ukraine.” In the video, “the assertion is made” that the photos show Ukrainian cities destroyed by Russian shelling.
A post featuring a photo of a placard on which “the assertion is made” that the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center was damaged by Russian bombing.
A link to a video titled “No war with Ukraine.”
A post titled “Chronicles of the war, March 9,” in which it is reported that over 1,300 civilians were killed in Mariupol, most of whom were Russian-speaking.
A post titled “Chronicles of the war, March 9, continued,” which reports that Russian troops continue to bomb Kharkiv’s civilian infrastructure facilities.
A post which”sarcastically” reports on a battle between Kadyrovites and Ukrainian National Guardsmen on the premises of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, claiming that goal of the Kadyrovites is to seize the nuclear power plant in order to “blackmail the whole of Europe with radioactive contamination.”
A post titled “Anti-war pickets: greetings and glory to Ukraine,” which reports that supporters of peaceful resistance in Petersburg came out to protest against the criminal war which Russia is waging against Ukraine.
Due to the absence of witnesses, the prosecution moved to postpone the trial until March and the court granted the motion.
Olga Smirnova is a grassroots activist. She is one of the founders of Strategy 18, an ongoing campaign in support of the Crimean Tatars. She is also a a member of the Petersburg movement Peaceful Resistance, which, according to its own description, “spreads the truth about the Russian Federation’s large-scale criminal war against Ukraine.”
Until 2014, Smirnova worked as an architect, but after Crimea was occupied, she devoted herself to grassroots activism. In 2021, her home was searched due to Strategy 18’s protest campaign, as part of a criminal investigation into “condoning the activities of a terrorist organization banned in Russia.”
The Petersburger faces up to ten years in prison if convicted. You can write to Olga Smirnova in jail: Bumagaexplains how to do it.
A criminal case against Zhlobitskaya was launched in December. She was released on her own recognizance after being charged with “publicly condoning terrorism,” per Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code. The charge was triggered by posts she had made in November and December 2019 on VKontakte. Among them are reposts of poems from the website stihi.ru, as well as two reposts from the group page of the People’s Self-Defense with information about the bomb blast at the FSB.
According to the prosecution’s expert witnesses, Mikhail Zhlobitsky’s actions in the posts in question were deemed “correct, worthy of support and imitation,” and he himself was characterized as a “good guy.”
17-year-old student Mikhail Zhlobitsky detonated a homemade bomb in the lobby of the FSB’s Arkhangelsk directorate on [October 31,] 2018, killing himself and injuring three security forces officers. A few minutes before the blast, a warning about the attack from Zhlobitsky appeared in the chat of the Telegram channel “A Rebel’s Speech.” The message said that his act, in particular, was motivated by the fact that the FSB had been fabricating criminal cases.
Another criminal case has been opened against the Orthodox church deacon from Kirov who opposed the war, and he has been put on the federal wanted list.
On September 7, a new criminal case was opened against Deacon Dmitry Bayev, this time on charges of “exonerating Nazism” (per Article 207.3.4 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). The charges were occasioned by a video entitled “Thank you grandfather for the victory” and the comment to it (“The last parade in the Russian Federation is a parade of samovars”) which the deacon posted on the VK group page Kirov Online on May 9.
The investigators argued that these publications “offend[ed] the honor and dignity of veterans.” Bayev was placed on the federal wanted list.
The 33-year-old deacon of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kirov left Russia after he was charged with disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army due to his anti-war posts on VKontakte. On March 17, by decree of the Diocesan Bishop, Metropolitan Mark of Vyatka and Sloboda, Deacon Dmitry Bayev was banned from the ROC clergy.
Source: Andrey Churakov, Facebook, 10 September 2022, who cites “@ASTRA” as his source, which I have been unable to locate. Translated by the Russian Reader
Citing sources in the agency, Newslerreports that the Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into disseminating “fake news” about the Russian military (as defined by Article 207.3.d.2 of the Criminal Code) against Dmitry Bayev, a 33-year-old priest in the Orthodox parish of the Church of John the Baptist in Kirov.
The criminal case was opened on March 23. According to the investigation, Bayev published posts in support of Ukraine and its army on his VKontakte page. In his posts, Deacon Bayev claimed that the Ukrainian military had “dispatched 17 thousand 500 orcs to the next world.” According to him, the Russian armed forces — he called them “Russian occupiers” — have suffered significant losses of equipment every day. Bayev’s page was blocked at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office on March 24.
After the charges were filed, the deacon did not delete the entries against the war in Ukraine from his social media page.
“The purpose of the posts is the hope that before my page is blocked, at least one person will have been able to escape the intoxication of propaganda or at least doubt it, begin to understand the real state of affairs, and put things in order in their head after reach the right conclusions,” Bayev said in a comment to Idel.Realii.
If the deacon’s guilt is proven, he faces a fine of three to five million rubles, five years of community service, and five to ten years of imprisonment.
On Forgiveness Sunday, Priest Ioann Burdin delivered an anti-war sermon in the Orthodox church in the village of Karabanovo, Kostroma Region. After one of the parishioners filed a complaint, Burdin was summoned to the police. The Krasnoselsky District Court found Burdin guilty of “discrediting” the Russian army (per Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation) and fined him 35 thousand rubles [approx. 560 euros]. At the very outset of the war, about 300 members of the Russian clergy published an open letter condemning the war in Ukraine.
In June, the prosecutor’s office asked the court to sentence the artist Yulia Tsvetkova to three years and two months in a penal colony for “distributing pornography.” She was charged with this crime for posting drawings of vulvas on the Russian social media website VKontakte.
If I had to make a list of the methods used by the Russian state to make the life of grassroots activists unbearable, the list would be long. It would include such dirty tricks as endlessly postponing court hearings, delaying investigations, forensic examinations, and official inquiries, and encouraging right-wing “morality watchdogs” to persecute activists by telephoning them, threatening them, and intimidating them. And then the police throw up their hands, because, allegedly, they do not see anything criminal in the actions of these pseudo-Orthodox (but in fact criminal) figures.
All these methods also nicely illustrate the fact that the authorities are not content with merely complicating, or even paralyzing, the work of civil society in Russia.
The current Russian regime also finds it vital to avoid responsibility. Rather than punishing people directly for dissent, it seeks = far-fetched grounds to punish them. Rather than imprisoning them immediately and for a long time, it draws out investigations as much as possible, so that, on paper, the number of political prisoners is not too large, but their persecution considerably discourages other activists.
Even if I listed all these methods, the list would not be long enough to describe everything that the artist and activist Yulia Tsvetkova from Komsomolsk-on-Amur has faced. Children from her theater workshop were summoned for questioning, her home was searched, she was under house arrest, her lawyers were not admitted into the courtroom to defend her, and recently she was declared a “foreign agent,” although it is completely unclear how an activist from a small provincial town could work as a “foreign agent” and in the interests of which foreign countries she could do this work. This campaign of political persecution has been going on for three and a half years, and Yulia has been accused of violating several laws, including “promoting LGBT” among minors and “distributing pornography” by posting schematic drawings of genitals on a educational outreach community page on Vkontakte.
It is quite difficult to believe that all this has been happening in reality, that it is really for her work in a children’s theater workshop and for body-positive and educational pictures that Tsvetkova has faced such an unprecedented onslaught. I cannot get my head around the fact that an entire army of civil servants (police officers, forensics experts, judges, prosecutors, social workers, etc.) have spent so much time trying to find evidence of the artist’s guilt. At this point, of course, it is a pity that we don’t have access to the files in the government accounting office. How interesting it would be to find out how many man-hours have been spent on this “job.” How much paper has been wasted on all the absurd paperwork? What are the salaries of all the officials involved in this political case, and how have they directly benefited from it? Who got a promotion? Who got an apartment? A new office? A bonus?
No one can give back the most valuable thing that the artist and her mother have lost — time. Three and a half years spent in endless court hearings, under house arrest, under travel restrictions, under relentless pressure — it is impossible to compensate them for this time lost by making apologies or giving them money.
But the most terrible thing is that this story has not ended and the court has not yet made a decision. The prosecutor’s office has asked it to sentence Tsvetkova to three years in prison.
It is a wildly inappropriate sentence for pictures that no one would label pornography.
Everyone who has ever heard about the Yulia Tsvetkova has has probably asked themselves: why her? And why have the authorities pursued the case with such cruelty? How has it happened that a huge repressive apparatus has dispatched so many forces to persecute a female activist from a distant provincial town?
It is very important to closely examine the work of Yulia Tsvetkova, because this is a rare case when the authorities have been extremely honest. The Russian government does not like what feminist activists do, because their work is aimed at emancipating women and sexually educating young people, so that the country’s culture of violence weakens, and respect, tolerance, and acceptance of different people within the same community becomes the new cultural norm.
The state-sponsored system of patriarchy opposes sex education, because it does not want young people to grow up independent and capable of making decisions about their sexuality and choosing whether to become parents or not.
But the most important point is that the modern Russian government is against any form of self-organization, because it sees self-organization as a threat to its legitimacy. Free, educated people naturally want the authorities to represent their interests and share their values. The Putin regime does not like independent people, and it opposes grassroots initiatives and diversity.
So, the question of why the Russian authorities targeted Yulia Tsvetkova to demoralize and frighten the grassroots community is useful for thinking about what exactly we can oppose to the Russia’s self-reproducing system of state violence. Feminism, LGBT activism, sex education, and outreach work with teenagers — this is what the state patriarchate fears and this is what will enable us to defeat it.
Source: Darya Apahonchich, “‘The State Is Afraid of Feminism and Sex Education’: Why a Female Artist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur Has Been Targeted for Persecution,” Moscow Times, 17 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. Ms. Apahonchich is an artist and feminist activist who was herself declareda “foreign agent” by the Russian Justice Ministry in December 2020. She has lived in exile since the summer of 2021.
“I demand an immediate cessation of all hostilities and an international investigation of all crimes committed. […] I call on all Russians to fight for their rights and against the dictatorship, and do everything to stop this monstrous [war],” a young woman named Victoria Petrova says confidently and clearly on the screen in courtroom 36 at the St. Petersburg City Court. The members of the public attending the hearing — they are thirty-three of them — applaud.
A month ago, Petrova was an “ordinary person,” a manager in a small family-owned company. Now she is a defendant in a criminal case, charged with disseminating “fake news about the army,” and has been remanded in custody in the so-called Arsenalka, the women’s pretrial detention center on Arsenalnaya Street in Petersburg. The case against her was launched after she posted an anti-war message on the Russian social media network VKontakte. If convicted, she could face up to ten years in prison. In the following article, The Village explains how, thanks to Petrova’s lawyer, the case of this unknown “ordinary person” has resonated with the public, why Petrova’s mother is not allowed to visit her, and what the prisoner herself has to say.
On the sixth of May, at seven in the morning, Center “E” and SOBR officers came to Petrova’s rented apartment on Butlerov Street with a search warrant. They seized phones, laptops, and seven placards on the spot. The next day, the Kalinin District Court remanded Petrova in custody in Pretrial Detention Center No. 5 for a month and twenty-five days.
“The investigator said that, if he had his way, he would have released Vika on his own recognizance. But he was instructed to petition the court to place her under arrest,” Anastasia Pilipenko, Petrova’s lawyer, told The Village.
A case was opened against Petrova under the new criminal article on “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” According to the new law, any information on the so-called special operation in Ukraine that does not come from official Russian sources can be deemed “fake.” In Petrova’s case, the grounds for the criminal charges were a post on VKontakte, dated 23 March 2022, and the nine videos that she attached to it, featuring journalists Dmitry Gordon and Alexander Nevzorov, and grassroots activist and blogger Maxim Katz.
Who else has been arrested in Petersburg on criminal charges of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army?
Nearly 32,000 Victoria Petrovas are registered on VKontakte, and more than 1,800 of them live in Petersburg. The Victoria Petrova in question is depicted on her VKontakte pages as a woman wearing a light beanie, glasses, and makeup in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. She has 247 friends and eighty-nine followers.
Her post dated March 23 was deleted by VKontakte at the request of Roskomnadzor two days after it was published. But she made other anti-war posts, in which, among other things, Petrova recounts how she was jailed for ten days for taking part in a protest at Gostiny Dvor. In total, since the start of the “special operation,” she was detained twice on administrative charges.
When Center “E” [Center for Extremism Prevention] and SOBR [Special Rapid Deployment Force] came for Petrova on May 6, she thought at first that she would be charged once more under the Administrative Offenses Code. Realizing that now it was a matter for the Criminal Code, Petrova wrote her mother a detailed note explaining what to do with her apartment and her cat, and what things to send to the pretrial detention center, said Petrova’s attorney Pilipenko.
Pilipenko is now the only link between Petrova and the world: no one is allowed to see the prisoner except the lawyer.
Pilipenko’s mother has her birthday on February 24. On the evening of the 24th this year, she and her daughter were going to drink tea and eat cake. But [the war] started early that morning.
“People who are also opposed to [the war] are taking to the streets. The police are putting them in paddy wagons. They face fines and arrests. Cake is canceled — I have work to do […] I am spending the night at a police station,” the lawyer wrote in her Telegram channel. She spent a month and a half working this way.
Pilipenko is thirty-five years old. She graduated from the Northwestern Branch of the Russian State University of Justice. For a year she worked as a clerk in the Leningrad Regional Court. “It was like going into the army,” she says. Usually clerks eventually become judges, but Pilipenko first became a lecturer, then a barrister. “I would never have become a judge, I would not have been able to make decisions that changed people’s lives,” she says.
“But it happens that you can get a case dropped at the investigation stage. Or get the charges reduced to less serious ones. By today’s standards, that is tantamount to success for a defense lawyer,” says Pilipenko.
Pilipenko was not acquainted with Petrova until May 6, when the woman’s apartment was searched. The lawyer was asked to take the case by the Net Freedoms Project. The case is being handled by the Russian Investigative Committee’s central office.
“This means that there is no one investigator, that the entire investigative department is working on the case,” Pilipenko explains.
It was the lawyer who drew public attention to Petrova’s case by writing the following on May 11 on social media:
“Vika is an ordinary young woman. […] She has an ordinary life, goes to an ordinary gym, and has an ordinary cat. She has an ordinary job in an unremarkable company. […] Perhaps the only unusual thing about Vika’s case so far is just her ordinariness. She’s just like us. She’s not an activist, not a journalist, and not the voice of a generation.”
Victoria Petrova is twenty-eight years old. She was born in Petersburg, where she graduated from St. Petersburg State University’s Higher School of Management.
“Vika had a long braid, was very serious, gave the impression of an intelligent person, and got good grades. Intuitively, I feel that Vika is childish in a good sense, unspoiled,” Sofia, a classmate of Victoria Petrova’s, told The Village.
Another friend from school, Daria, in a comment to Mediazona, described Vika as a “born A student,” a “battler in life,” and a person who “was the most organized of all.”
“And her heart always aches over any injustice,” Daria said.
Pilipenko says that Petrova is “a very calm and organized person.”
“I was amazed by this at [the May 7 bail] hearing. People behave differently when they are arrested for the first time. Vika behaved with great dignity,” Pilipenko says.
Before her arrest, Petrova lived alone with her cat Marusya. The animal is now living with the heroine’s mother, while Maruysa’s owner is now at Pretrial Detention Center No. 5.
Pretrial Detention Center No. 5 is located on Arsenalnaya Street, which is a deserted place dotted with small manufacturing facilities and the premises of the shuttered Krasnyi Vyborzhets plant, which was going to be redeveloped as a housing estate. A banner sporting the prison’s name and an image of the Bronze Horseman is stretched above the entrance to the Arsenalka. From the street side, the complex consists of a typical rhombus-shaped concrete fence, reinforced with mesh and barbed wire. A tower sheathed in corrugated iron juts out above it. On the right, behind an old brick wall, there is a a building in the shape of a cross — a psychiatric hospital “for persons who have committed socially dangerous acts in a state of insanity.” The old Crosses Prison itself, a remand prison for men, is about a kilometer away. Five years ago, all the prisoners were transferred from there to a new facility in Kolpino. The women remained in the pre-revolutionary red-brick Arsenalka complex.
Businesswoman Natalia Verkhova has described life at Pretrial Detention Center No. 5.
“The meter-thick walls and the thick iron doors outfitted with peepholes and bolts. The mattresses a couple of centimeters thick. The prison-baked loaves of bread, often burnt. The broken toilets. The concrete floors in basements where the ladies wait for many hours to be shipped out [to interrogations, court hearings, and other prisons]. The queues at the care packages office and for visiting inmates. The duffel bags chockablock with romance novels in the corridors.”
Former inmate Elizaveta Ivanchikova describes the largest cell in the Arsenalka (for eighteen inmates), to which Petrova, like all newcomers, was first assigned.
“There were nine bunk beds in [the cell]. There were bedside tables next to the beds. In the middle of the cell there was a large iron table with wooden benches. All of this was bolted to the floor. There was also a refrigerator, a TV, a sink next to the toilet, and the toilet itself, behind an ordinary door, without a lock.”
Pilipenko says that Channel One is constantly turned on in this cell and there are many unspoken rules for maintaining cleanliness.
“For example, you can only comb your hair in one place, because if eighteen ladies do it in different places, the hair would be everywhere,” says Pilipenko.
A head inmate keeps order, and at first Vika did not get on well with her. The head inmate did not like that the new girl did not know how to behave in the detention center.
“For example, when the guards come to toss the cell, you need to stand up and lock your hands behind your back,” says Pilipenko.
The conflicts were quickly settled, however, and Petrova was subsequently transferred to another cell.
This, according to Pilipenko, was preceded by an incident in the second part of May, during which plaster fell directly on the imprisoned women.
“Vika said that the girls were sitting and drinking tea when part of the ceiling collapsed on the table. Vika was not injured, but one inmate suffered bruises,” Pilipenko says.
The Telegram channel Free Sasha Skochilenko! reported that the plaster collapsed due to severe leaks: “The residents of the cell gathered the pieces of the ceiling, the largest of which weighed about three kilograms. The pieces were wrapped in sheets and the floor was swept.”
Petrova is currently in a cell for six inmates. During their last visit, when Pilipenko asked her how she was doing, Petrova replied, “You know, okay.” Petrova was surprised by her own answer.
“The letters she receives play a big role. Without them, she would not have any way to keep herself busy. This is the biggest problem in remand prison,” says Pilipenko.
Petrova has received hundreds of letters, mostly from strangers, including from other countries. Petrova has told Pilipenko that she received a letter from a person who works in management at VKontakte. “He is upset that the social network played a role in my criminal case,” she told her.
“Vika definitely replies to all the letters. Except for those whose senders marked them with Z-symbols,” Pilipenko promises.
Petrova can correspond with other “ordinary people,” but it seems she cannot correspond with journalists. The Village sent her questions through her lawyer, but the sheet of paper with the answers was confiscated from Petrova right in her cell. Our correspondent then wrote to Petrova through the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s online FSIN-Pismo system. All three attempts that the The Village made to communicate with Petrova were not approved by the censor, and the negative responses came within a few hours, although the standard processing time is three days. Then, on the advice of Petrova’s lawyer, our correspondent sent all the same questions via FSIN-Pismo, but did not indicate that they were from the media. On the day this article went to press they were delivered to Petrova, but there has been no response from her yet. According to our information, other journalists have also failed to make contact with Petrova.
Petrova’s mother is also not allowed to see her daughter. According to the lawyer, one of the investigators said that “permission to meet with Mom will depend on the results of Vika’s interrogation as the accused party.” The investigators want Petrova to admit wrongdoing.
Victoria’s mother Marina Petrova lives in a three-room flat on Lunacharsky Avenue. Pilipenko filed an appeal against the order to remand her client in custody, hoping that “on grounds of reasonableness, legality, and humaneness” Petrova would be transferred to house arrest at her mother’s residence.
On the eighth of June, a hearing on the matter was held in the City Court. During the hearing, Pilipenko stated that her client was “actually being persecuted for voicing her opinion about the special military operation.” She also said that Petrova does not have a international travel passport and presents no flight risk, that there are no victims or witnesses in the case [whom the defendant theoretically thus might attempt to pressure or intimidate if she were at liberty], and that she had been charged with a nonviolent offense.
The defendant participated in the court hearing via video link from the Arsenalka. In her seven-minute closing statement, she explained what, in her opinion, had been happening for the last three and a half months in Ukraine.
Among other things, she said, “As a result of eight years of brainwashing by propaganda, Russians for the most part did not understand that [a war] had begun. Meanwhile, the completely immoral Z movement, ‘zedification,’ has been spreading across the country that once defeated Nazism. […] I do not feel any ideological, political, religious or other enmity towards the state authorities and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation as institutions. In my anti-war posts, I said that people who gave and carried out criminal orders and committed war crimes should be punished for it.”
Judge Tatiana Yaltsevich denied the defense’s appeal. Petrova will remain in jail at least until the end of June.
On the evening of June 8, subscribers to the Telegram channel Free Vika Petrova! were warned that reposting her speech in court “could lead to criminal prosecution” — probably also under the article on “fake news” about the army.
The next day, Petrova commented on her speech to her lawyer.
“She says that since she has already become a political prisoner, she cannot help but use the court hearings as a means to talk about what is happening. She has not remained silent before, and she has even less desire to be silent now that many people will hear what she has to say,” reports Pilipenko.
Source: “‘An ordinary person’: the story of Vika Petrova, who wrote a post on VKontakte and has been charged with spreading ‘fake news,’ but refuses to give up,” The Village, 9 June 2022. Thanks to JG for the story and the heads-up. Translated by Thomas H. Campbell. Ms. Petrova’s support group has a Telegram channel and is circulating an online petition demanding her release.
Center “E” sifts through Petersburger’s social network posts: they’ve already found one that merited a criminal charge Fontanka.ru
December 10, 2021
Center “E” field officers have detained a 40-year-old Petersburg man on suspicion of whitewashing Nazism. A post that the man published a year ago on the social network VKontakte (VK) triggered the criminal investigation.
As Fontanka.ru learned on December 10, the text denied the crimes of the Nazis and also contained lies about what the USSR did during the Second World War.
In late November 2021, the investigative department for the city’s Krasnoe Selo district launched a criminal case under Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. On December 8, the author of the post was detained. Investigators are currently trying to establish whether there were other violations by scrutinizing the social media posts of the Petersburger, who, judging by his VK page, is an ordinary working stiff [rabotyaga].
Dec 10, 2021 at 5:36 p.m.
When will people realize that “Kontakt” [VKontakte] and “Telega” [Telegram] are the Okhrana’s mousetraps? They can fill a lot of quotas this way. What matters is that it’s all safe: it doesn’t involve chasing down armed bearded men.
Dec 10, 2021 at 1:32 p.m.
History is going in circles. We’ve gone back to telling political jokes in the kitchen. But soon we’ll have to think about whether even that is safe…
At a local Communist Party meeting in 1937 a parrot suddenly flies in the window and shouts, “Down with the Communists, down with the Soviet government!” before flying away.
The local NKVD freaks out. They go on an apartment-by-apartment hunt for the talking parrot.
Entering yet another apartment, they ask the man who lives there whether he has a parrot.
“Yes!” he says.
“Does it talk?”
“Yes,” the man answers.
The man opens the refrigerator, whence they hear a parrot shout, “Long live Comrade Stalin! Long live the Communist Party!”
The NKVD officers see they have the wrong parrot and leave.
The man opens the refrigerator door again and says, “Well, bitch, do you understand now what Siberia is like?!”
PETERSBURG MAN DETAINED FOR SOCIAL NETWORK POST He was released on his own recognizance
Darya Medvedeva 78.ru
December 9, 2021
A Petersburg man was detained for a post on the social network VKontakte, a source in law enforcement has told 78.ru.
As the police found out, no later than May of this year the man posted in the public domain a text denying the criminal wrongdoing of the Nazis and misinformation about what the USSR did during the Second World War.
The 50-year-old “blogger” was detained on 2nd Komsomol Street on December 8. A criminal case has been launched against him on suspicion that he tried to rehabilitate Nazism. The police assume that he was involved in other crimes. He has been released on his own recognizance.
The emphasis is mine. Translated by the Russian Reader
Sergei Usoltsev, a resident of Sverdlovsk Region, was fined 60 thousand rubles [approx. 716 euros] for “insulting the authorities” (punishable under Article 20.1.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code).
The Sverdlovsk Regional Court rejected the defense’s appeal against the decision of the Shalya City Court, which in June ordered Usoltsev to pay 60 thousand rubles for a comment he made on the social network VKontakte. According to the prosecution, the comment insulted the authorities, specifically, Vladimir Putin and Valentina Tereshkova.
Activists have launched a fundraiser for Usoltsev, who lives in the village of Gora, 40 kilometers from the town of Shalya, Sverdlovsk Region. Recently, Usoltsev’s seriously ill wife, whom he was caring for, died.
The Ministry of Social Policy was paying Usoltsev a social pension of 1,380 rubles [approx. 16 euros] a month as a caregiver, but now he no longer has this income either. Usoltsev will soon be sixty years old, but, according to the new laws, he is eligible to retire only in 2024. He has also been unable to get a job: he is near retirement age, and there is not enough work even for young people in his village.
If Usoltsev does not pay the fine within 60 days, either the fine will be doubled or he will be placed under administrative arrest.
Mother-in-law of Rostov woman who left Russia to avoid criminal charges denied custody of her children, who are left in orphanage Mediazona
September 6, 2021
The administration of Rostov-on-Don’s Lenin District has formally denied a request by the grandmother of the children of Rostov resident Alyona Sukhikh to take custody of them and collect them from an orphanage in Taganrog. Mediazona has a copy of the refusal at its disposal.
Mediazona has previously written in detail about the case. In the spring of 2021, 33-year-old Alyona Sukhikh was accused of financing terrorism: according to investigators, eight years ago, she transferred 2,360 rubles [approx. 27 euros] to a militant who was going to go to Syria to join Islamic State, an officially recognized terrorist organization.
Soon after the criminal case was launched, Sukhikh left for Turkey along with her youngest child and her husband. Her mother-in-law, Ekaterina Sadulayeva, was supposed to take the remaining children to them. The police took the children — a ten-year-old boy and two girls aged six and five — from their grandmother and placed them in an orphanage in Taganrog.
Sadulayeva tried to arrange preliminary custody of the children even before they were removed, but the local authorities dragged their feet, according to her. After the children had been taken away and placed in the orphanage, the pensioner was refused custody. Officials cited the fact that she is the biological grandmother of only one of the girls. Also, she does not have a residence registration permit for Rostov-on-Don, and her living conditions are allegedly “unpropitious.”
Among the reasons for the refusal, a letter from the local FSB field office was also cited: the security forces claimed that the grandmother had tried to “illegally remove the children from the Rostov region.”
Alyona Sukhikh has told Mediazona that other close family members would now seek custody of the children.
Ufa court sentences pensioner to probation for financing extremism: she transferred six thousand rubles to political prisoner’s mother Takie Dela
September 6, 2021
Idel.Realiireports that Ufa’s October District Court of Ufa has sentenced pensioner Ilmira Bikbayeva to three years of probation for financing extremism: the woman had transferred money to the family of political prisoner Ayrat Dilmukhametov.
According to the FSB’s Bashkiria field office, Bikbayeva made two payments to the bank card of Dilmukhametov’s mother in the amounts of 1,500 and 4,500 rubles [approx. 17 euros and 52 euros, respectively] in 2018 and 2019. According to the security forces, Bikbayeva thus “provided funds deliberately earmarked for the preparation and commission of extremist crimes by Dilmukhametov.”
Investigators also concluded that Bikbayeva had supported Dilmukhametov by publishing materials on Facebook aimed at raising money for extremist crimes.
A criminal case was opened against Bikbayeva on suspicions of financing extremism, and the charge was filed in December 2020. The pensioner admitted no wrongdoing. According to her, she was helping Dilmukhametov’s mother, who experienced financial difficulties after her son’s arrest.
Bikbaeva explained that, in 2018, she transferred money to pay for a trip by Dilmukhametov and her father, the Bashkir writer Zigat Sultanov, to the village of Sunarchi in the Orenburg region, where they were supposed to erect a monument to victims of the genocide of the Bashkir population in May 1736. The second transfer was made as Bikbayeva’s contribution to the installation of the memorial.
Bikbayeva noted that she made the transfers after Dilmukhametov had been arrested. He was in solitary confinement and, as the pensioner said, could not have engaged in extremism.
The FSB detained Dilmukhametov on March 14, 2019, charging him with calling for separatism. The occasion was his on-air statement, broadcast on the radio station Echo of Moscow in Ufa, that it was necessary to create a “Fourth Bashkir Republic.” In April 2019, Dilmukhametov was charged with publicly calling for extremism and terrorism. In January 2020, charges of financing extremist activities were filed for a post on VKontakte containing the details of his mother’s bank card.
In August 2020, Dilmukhametov was sentenced to nine years in a maximum security penal colony.
Photo courtesy of RFE/RL. Translated by the Russian Reader
The man in the photo is Dmitry Nadein, a grassroots political activist from Irkutsk. He’s not just an activist, but was once a volunteer at Alexei Navalny’s local headquarters. Russian law enforcement agencies could not overlook such a dangerous criminal, of course, and, putting aside all their other business, they rushed into battle with him.
Nadein was arrested on February 4 on charges of “condoning terrorism,” in a case launched by FSB investigators. Taiga.Inforeported that, on November 21 of last year, Nadein published on his Vkontakte page the news that a military court had sentenced Lyudmila Stech, a Kaliningrad resident, to pay a large fine for “condoning” the “Arkhangelsk terrorist.”
In early April, Nadein was forced to undergo a forensic psychiatric examination: he was diagnosed with “sluggish schizophrenia” and labeled “especially dangerous to society.” And today, thanks to OVD Info, it transpired that [on July 19] the First Eastern District Military Court had ordered Dmitry to undergo compulsory psychiatric treatment.
I’ll take this opportunity to note that there is no such thing as “sluggish schizophrenia” at all. It is a typical Soviet diagnosis, dreamed up by Andrei Snezhnevsky back in 1969 by analogy with Eugen Bleuler’s “latent schizophrenia,” which today is listed as one variety of “schizotypal disorder” (coded as F21 in the ICD-10). Beginning in the 1960s, many ideological opponents of the Soviet Communist Party found themselves under this psychiatric stigma. About a third of all political prisoners were forcibly “treated,” crippling their lives. By the way, this treatment was applied not only to political dissidents per se, but also to “deviants” more generally, as well as to many homeless people and those who avoided military service. Need I mention how many of their civil liberties were violated and how their health was ruined?
Today, step by step, the Soviet model of punitive psychiatry is being restored and modified to new realities. After all, no holds are barred when it comes to “mopping up” the political landscape.
“I realized that the country was over”: a “terrorist” electrician from Toropets flees to Lithuania Radio Svoboda
June 28, 2021
Vladimir Yegorov, 54, from Toropets, Tver Region, was an ordinary electrician, but he has now become a political refugee in Lithuania. He fled there because in Russia he was threatened with up to ten years in prison on two criminal charges: “condoning terrorism” and “calling for extremism.” “I outfoxed the FSB: I lived under their nose for four months while they were looking for me everywhere,” Yegorov tells Radio Svoboda. “They can only steal, torture and invent criminal cases. They are no match for real terrorists.”
On June 27, Vladimir Yegorov posted these photos on his Facebook page, writing, “[My] final days in Russia. It’s a pity. It could be such a [great] country. But we are the people, and we fucked it all up. And it’s our fault that Putin exists here. Now all I can do is run. I did what I could.”
Yegorov says that he was not very interested in politics until the war in Ukraine began.
“My mother was seriously ill. She was a doctor, the head of the medical clinic, a respected person in the town. And then came the war, the seizure of foreign territory by Russia, the dead, the prisoners of war: my mother read all about it and could not believe that such a thing was even possible. And before that, holding her heart, almost crying, she told me how our entire healthcare system had been ruined,” Yegorov recalls. “Before the war with Ukraine, I still somehow hoped that all was not lost, but then I finally realized that the country was over.”
Yegorov worked at a sawmill and earned money on the side as an electrician. Then he joined the opposition Yabloko party and moderated (first at the party’s request, then on his own behest) Citizens of Toropets, a social media community page that was popular in the area.
“Of course, we have mass media there, but they only write what suits the authorities, while I, though I’m a simple electrician, was like an independent journalist. I wrote on the community page about our ‘crooks and thieves.’ In our wildest fantasies, we expected that three hundred people would read it, but the page was quite popular: we had more than a thousand subscribers, nearly every resident of the district read it! Sand was being stolen from quarries there by the tons and hauled out in KAMAZ trucks, but the local police and administration covered up the whole thing. After I wrote about this in May 2017, windows were broken in my house. A stone was thrown into the room where my little daughter was sleeping, and a canister of gasoline was found lying nearby.”
Yegorov was not intimidated and sent the evidence of theft at the sand quarry to Moscow. But instead of investigating the theft and the attack on his family, the authorities opened a criminal case against Yegorov himself over an old post on the social network VKontakte. In 2016, Yegorov had bluntly commented on a statement made by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who suggested that a teacher who had complained about a low salary “earn some more” and go into business if he wanted a high income. “We need to understand that all these ‘statements’ in public by these morons with zero popularity ratings, who occupy high-ranking posts, are nothing more than part of a special operation by the KGB to whitewash the main culprit of all the troubles and his closest cronies,” Yegorov wrote. His post was accompanied by a photo of President Vladimir Putin.
Police investigators interpreted the expressions used in the post as “extremist.” One of their forensic linguistic experts deemed it a call for the physical destruction of the Russian leadership, and a witness in court said that he read the post as an appeal to overthrow the government. Consequently, Yegorov was sentenced to two years of probation and forbidden from moderating websites. Memorial recognized him as a political prisoner.
Fearing criminal prosecution, Yegorov fled to Ukraine, where he applied for political asylum. The Ukrainian authorities denied him refugee status and took him to a neutral zone near the border with Russia. Yegorov left for Belarus, but he was detained there and sent back to Russia. He spent several months in jail before getting a suspended sentence.
“My wife left me and took my daughter with. No one anywhere would hire me because I was immediately put on Rosfinmonitoring’s list of extremists; my bank accounts were blocked, and the house was also impounded. When I would go to the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) to check in, they mocked me, telling me to get a job! But no one anywhere would hire me. I went all over town many times, applying for all the vacancies, even the lousiest ones, which no one at the unemployment office would apply for, but I was turned down everywhere,” he says. “I, a healthy man who can do anything with my own hands, whom the whole town used to ask to fix things, was an outcast. I ate only potatoes and noodles for four years, and lived with boarded-up windows, because I had no money to replace the windows broken by those gangster. I didn’t go anywhere much: it was almost like being in prison, only at home. And the court had ruled that I could no longer moderate the community page, either.”
The patriarchal town of Toropets is, as it were, a dead end. Moscow is 400 kilometers away, and Tver is 350 kilometers away. Yegorov’s house stands almost in the center of the town, and is perfectly visible from the highway, where hundreds of cars pass every day. In March 2019, Yegorov hung a Ukrainian flag over his house, which he had ordered for 167 rubles on AliExpress. He posted a photo of it on social networks along with a list of political demands: “Putin, liberate the occupied territory of Ukraine! Release [Oleg] Sentsov, the [imprisoned Ukrainian] sailors and all prisoners of war! Don’t meddle in the affairs of a neighboring country! Take care of your own people! I am a simple Russian man, I don’t want my country to be like this.”
“The Ukrainian flag didn’t make [the local authorities] happy, of course, but according to the law, I can do what I want on my 2,200 square meters, and you can’t touch me. Basically, I made a nuisance of myself,” says Yegorov. “During that time, I figured out computers and learned how to use a VPN. When it comes to modern technology, those [FSB] field officers are just kids compared to me.”
Nor did the law enforcement agencies leave Yegorov alone: several times his home was searched, and in December 2019 and July 2020 his computer was seized. In December 2020, Yegorov was named the defendant in two new criminal cases: he was charged with “publicly condoning terrorism on the internet” (punishable under Article 205.2.2 of the Criminal Code) and “publicly calling for extremism” (punishable under Article 280.2 of the Criminal Code). This happened after the security forces had again searched his home on December 4.
“I supported Katya Muranova from Medvezhegorsk in Karelia on social networks. She is still very young, she has a sick child on her hands, and she was also convicted, fined and put on the Rosfinmonitoring list, allegedly for condoning terrorism [Ekaterina Muranova of Medvezhegorsk was accused of “condoning terrorism” in 2019. For commenting on a social media post about the suicide bombing at the FSB’s Arkhangelsk offices by the 17-year-old anarchist Mikhail Zhlobitsky on November 4, 2018, she was sentenced to pay a fine of 350 thousand rubles. Several dozen people in Russia have also been convicted on the same charge for commenting on the bombing — Radio Svoboda.] I feel very sorry for Katya, who also can’t get a job anywhere because of this stigma. She and I became friends, and I wrote a post about the anarchist Zhlobitsky. According to the FSB, it contains ‘statements condoning terrorist activities and creating a positive image of terrorists,'” says Yegorov.
Actually, it was this post that led to the charge of “condoning terrorism” against Yegorov. Law enforcement agencies detected “publicly calling for extremism” in another post, which Yegorov allegedly made on January 1, 2020, in the VK group Toropets Realities, referring to a news item published on Ura.Ru, “District head blown up near Voronezh.” There was a note under the news story: “All of them should be blown up.” The FSB believes that it was Egorov who posted this comment from someone else’s account, accessing the page from a virtual Ukrainian number.
“At first I denied everything, but then, during the search, they showed me some kind of knife. I had never had such a thing in my life, and they said that they could find something worse. Consequently, I dismissed my lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina and confessed to everything. In exchange, they promised to leave me on my own recognizance until the trial. I didn’t want to go to prison again,” says Egorov. “I was then actively corresponding on social networks with one person who promised to help me. He also had problems with his wife: it was our common ground. So I decided that I would let [the authorities] think that they had broken me, and I would hide and run away from them. On February 10, I left.”
In the evening, Yegorov lit a stove in his house and left his mobile phone there. Under cover of darkness, he got into the car of his new acquaintance, whom he had never seen before, and left with him for Moscow.
“I helped him with electrical work and did a lot of other things around the house, and then he took me to his dacha,” Yegorov recounts. “All those four months they were looking for me. They hassled my wife’s relatives: they thought that she was hiding me, but no one knew anything. And all that time we were reading everything we could about the border and the best places to cross it. We were on different online chat groups, carefully gathering information. Then we went to Belarus by car. My friend took his family along so the authorities would not suspect anything. We even went to a restaurant, like we were ordinary tourists. And then for seven thousand rubles illegal guides took us to the border. At the lake that divides the border in half, I jumped out of the car and immediately dove into the water. I was wearing swim fins, and had a hermetically sealed bag and sat nav with me. I was supposed to swim 400 meters under water, but I surface at the wrong spot: the water had risen, and there was grass and swamp all round. I ended up swimming 1,200 meters, paddling for a very long time along the Lithuanian shore. Nothing was visible, and I didn’t turn on the flashlight to avoid being detected. I got out on the shore: there was no one in sight. I quickly changed my clothes and went to the road to take a minibus to Vilnius. I came to the road and everywhere there were signs, in Russian, advertising houses for sale. I was afraid that I had come ashore in Russia.”
In Vilnius, Yegorov turned himself in to the police.
“I told them: you’d better me shoot here than hand me over to Russia! They would put me away for ten years for nothing, and then they would me kill me prison. They would hang me like Tesak, and then they say I did it myself,” Yegorov argues.
At first, Yegorov was housed in the transit zone at Vilnius Airport.
“I have never seen a Boeing, I have never flown anywhere on airplanes, only by helicopter when I was in the army. Basically, I haven’t been anywhere: I’ve been to Moscow, to Tver for interrogations, and to Velikiye Luki. I fled unsuccessfully to Ukraine, but they sent me back… So my whole life has been lived in Toropets: I have graves of relatives there that are 300 years old. I didn’t think that I would go on the run in my old age, but I didn’t have much choice, ” says Yegorov.
After several days in the transit zone, Yegorov was transferred to a quarantine camp. He now lives in a tent for twenty-two people.
“The food here is quite tasty: they give us cheese and pears. After my long life of semi-starvation in Toropets, I feel like I’m at a health spa now,” Yegorov says, smiling. “Most of the refugees here are Iraqis, Sri Lankans, and Arabs. The staff treat us well. All of them speak Russian, and I communicate with the other refugees using an online translator: somehow we understand each other. They are all in transit to Europe via Belarus, where it is now a well-established business. This, however, has turned out to be in my favor.”
On June 6, 2021, Agnė Bilotaitė, Lithuania’s interior minister, said that the situation with migrants in her country was getting worse.
“We live next door to an unpredictable terrorist regime,” she said. “After Lukashenko’s threats about unleashing an unprecedented flow of migrants, we are seeing an increase in illegal migrants. Four times a week, flights from Istanbul and Baghdad arrive Minsk, whence the migrants head for Lithuania. At least 600 people fly from these destinations every week. The price of transporting people illegally across the border is as much as 15 thousand euros per person, and 30 thousand euros per family.”
This year, over 400 illegal migrants have arrived in Lithuania from Belarus, which is five times more than during the whole of 2020.
“The flow of refugees is huge, and they spend a lot of time vetting everyone. I was given [refugee] status five years ago after waiting a month and a half, but the folks who came after me waited for six months,” says Irina Kalmykova. Criminal charges were filed against Kalmykova in Moscow for her repeated participation in solo pickets and protest rallies, and she was fined 150 thousand rubles. Instead of waiting until she was arrested again and faced a second set of criminal charges, she and her son fled to Belarus in January 2016, and from there they went to Lithuania, where she was granted political asylum.
Kalmykova was one of the co-founders of the Russian European Movement, which was organized to bring together Russian political refugees in Lithuania.
“We have a very friendly Russian diaspora here now,” says Kalmykova. “We help each other out because, until recently, we ourselves were in the same situation: no money, no clothes, no documents, nothing at all. The guys have already found an apartment where Vladimir can stay, and they will help him find a job. Lithuania is considered one of the poorest countries in Europe, but, you know, people here are quite responsive and kind, and everyone knows Russian, so it is much easier to adapt here than in some other countries The main thing is that Vladimir already has support, because it is quite important that a person doesn’t feel unwanted in their new home. I have no doubt that Lithuania will grant him political asylum: criminal charges have been filed against him, and he has been persecuted for his political stance.”
Yegorov says that he really hopes that his life will finally get better in Lithuania.
“Maybe when I can work here, my wife and daughter will move here to join me. I would really like that,” he says.
Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. In my “real life” as a professional translator, I would have earned around 170 euros for translating a text of this length. Instead, I have provided translations of this and thousands of other compelling texts for free over the last fourteen years here and at Chtodelat News. So, please consider donating money via PayPal or Ko-Fi to help support this work and encourage me to continue it. You’ll find “Donate” and “Buy me a coffee” buttons in the sidebar on the left of this page. Click on one of them to make a donation. Thanks! ||| TRR