This is Yana Antonova, a pediatric surgeon. Today at six in the morning, police and security services came to her home, which she shares with her eleven-year-old son, and searched it. They did not let her call a lawyer.
Yana has been charged with engaging in the work of an “undesirable organization.”
It is easy to dismiss this news, to pay it no mind. We can say they knew what they were getting themselves into. They had no business joining “undesirable” organizations and so on. But while some will shrug, I would draw their attention to the fact that Russia’s law books contain laws that give the authorities the ability to bring criminal proceedings against people for their political activism, of whatever stripe, and the authorities can do this shamelessly, openly, and without standing on ceremony.
I copied down the “crimes” allegedly committed by Yana, as listed in her charge sheet. They include two pickets, three Facebook posts, a seminar, and attendance of a political rally.
There was no “extremism” whatsoever in the posts and pickets, nor any calls to illegal actions of any kind. The only thing they had in common was the logotype of a movement that has now been banned. It was banned because the prosecutor’s office decided it was British and “undesirable,” without producing a shred of evidence.
Just read what these officials write. I am not a big fan of raising a ruckus about 1937 whenever something like this happens, but the Russian law enforcement officials who ban “undesirable” organizations and arrest people like Yana nowadays are obviously the heirs of the folks who once upon a time persecuted people for “anti-Soviet” and “counterrevolutionary” actions.
What did Yana Antonova do?
She unfurled and displayed three yellow flags emblazoned with the words “Open Russia.”
She held a solo picket demanding that construction of a swimming pool be completed. (The picket was actually, the police claim, a news hook for filling the media with coverage of the local Open Russia cell.)
Antonova also held a seminar for opposition activists at which Yevgeniya Chirikova was the keynote speaker. Flags and clothing emblazoned with the logo of the Open Russia movement were featured at the event.
She published a video featuring the Open Russia logo. [The video was actually about the lack of schools in Krasnodar.]
With criminal intent, as the police put it, she published information about Open Russia in open access that featured appeals to an unlimited number of people to attend a political rally. [It was a rally in memory of Boris Nemtsov.]
With criminal intent, she held a solo picket in memory of opposition politician B.E. Nemtsov [sic] and covered the event on the internet.
This is the third criminal case against Open Russia, this time brought to us by the famous rough justice system in Krasnodar Territory. You heard me right: the very same place where crime boss Aydin Shirinov kicked up his heels at a meeting with Putin. It is the same place where the Tsapkov Gang, who murdered twelve people, and previous to that terrorized the village of Kushchevskaya for years, had personal connections with high-ranking officials in the Russian Federal Prosecutor’s Office. It is the very same part of the country where police officers tortured detainees, and the Committee Against Torture made the documentary film Extreme South about these goings-on in Anapa. It is the very same place where the murderer Vyacheslav Tsepovyaz used his connections thousands of kilometers from home and dined on delicacies in a penal colony in the Far East. It is the home of the notorious Judge Yelena Khakhaleva. It is also the place where grown men dress up as Cossacks and attack political activists, blogger, journalists, and even Baptists with whips. (It was reported just today that in Novorossiysk, men dressed as Cossacks, police officers, and officials from city hall broke up a private worship service, accusing the Baptists of causing a schism in the otherwise homogeneous spiritual world of Russians.)
In this gigantic criminal cesspool, a tumor of lawlessness on the country’s body, law enforcement has finally figured who the really dangerous criminal is. Her name is Yana Antonova, and she has been accused of doing the work of Open Russia. Despite the fact Yana lives in Russia, she has been linked to the Open Russian Movement in Britain. An Englishwoman, basically, is making trouble in Krasnodar Territory. The region has such a great future ahead of it, and not as a hotbed of crime and lawlessness on a nationwide scale, but the bloody English have screwed that up.
Joking aside, the last misdemeanor case against Yana, which opened the way to her criminal prosecution, was for reposting a video on Facebook dealing with the lack of schools in Krasnodar Territory. Law enforcement justified their concocted case against Yana by pointing to the tiny yellow logo in the video, Open Russia’s logo.
In this case, yet another ridiculous concoction and a completely absurd reason (just imagine: she reposted a video on Facebook!) were grounds for filing criminal charges against Yana.
The criminal charges against Yana Antonova are a flagrant attempt to force Russian society to keep its mouth shut and swallow its outrage. The takeaway message is: bear it in silence and don’t complain, otherwise you’ll have real problems.
One more thing. Yesterday, the entire Runet laughed openly at a video in which former riot police (OMON), men who had served in “hot spots, as well as Manege Square and Bolotnaya Square” (how shameful to compare special forces troops who risked their lives in battles and special operations with those who dispersed legal political rallies by their fellow Russians), complained they were being evicted from their government-subsidized apartments.
I have the feeling that, five or ten years from now, we will see a similarly amazing appeal for help from law enforcers in Krasnodar Territory.
“We smashed up art shows, assaulted reporters, chased the Baptists away, and sent Open Russia supporters to jail, but now we have nothing to live on,” they will say.
Since there are so many slackers and fellows with hefty foreheads, dressed up as Cossacks or wearing real uniforms, armed with whips or sporting epaulettes, it is bound to happen. But the government’s coffers are not bottomless.
I was just unfriended on Facebook by an actual friend and comrade, and a person for whom I have boundless respect. Apparently, I said too many bad things in electronic print about their chosen candidate for president, Dr. Jill Stein of the US Green Party.
Pro-Putinism of the Steinerian or Trumpian variety should be a make-or-break issue if you call yourself a democrat, a leftist, a left-liberal, an anti-imperialist, an anti-fascist, a progressive, pro-labor, pro-human rights, a pacifist, a democratic socialist, a socialist, a communist, a liberal, a republican or (in fact) a conservative.
On the merits of his now very long stint in office, Putin should appeal only to extreme right-wingers, dyed-in-the-wool fascists, neo-Nazis, racists, and massively deluded fundamentalist Christians (because Putin isn’t actually spearheading a worldwide revival of “conservative Christian values”; he is just using the Church and the churchly to advance his own personal and political ends), as well as members of various organized criminal groups around the world, who probably can’t help admiring how a “party of crooks and thieves” have taken over an entire country, the world’s largest, and started running it like the mob runs a chunk of turf on the Jersey shore.
Oh yes, and Bashar Assad loves Putin. And Silvio Berlusconi does, too.
So this is a US presidential election in which all the choices are very bad? Then please, at least don’t imagine one of the candidates has qualities she really doesn’t have, and please don’t whitewash or blatantly ignore her glaring deficiencies.
Being “soft” on Putin is a damning quality, because it means (as has become clear from Dr. Stein’s limp, weasel-worded response to the open letter written by the brave, exiled Russian environmentalists Yevgeniya Chirikova and Nadezhda Kutepova) you feel no solidarity with the thousands, hundreds of thousands, and maybe even millions of Russians who have either fought back against Putin’s seventeen years of tyranny or suffered very badly from it.
It also means you have funny ideas about “effective leadership,” as Trump seems to have. Just as Trump is probably no great shakes at “business,” his idol Putin is actually a crummy politician when it comes to implementing any of the things held dear by the sort of people, who occupy most of the known political spectrum, I listed above. In fact, he is slowly leading his country to economic, social, moral, environmental, industrial, aesthetic, and ideological ruin.
Or it means you have funny ideas about “world peace” and “imperialism.” Meaning, you think only the US, NATO, and EU are imperialists, while Russia, China, the other BRICS countries, and more or less the rest of the world are, mysteriously and without having done much of anything to merit the merit badge, “anti-imperialists.”
I am going to go out on a limb and say (without arguing the point further here) that while Russia has the most going for it in terms of natural and human resources, it is the BRICS country least likely to succeed because of its ruinous, criminal governance. I have more confidence that South Africa and India will turn things around than I do Russia will.
And China has lots of “negatives,” as they say about the candidates these days, but despite them I never get the sense the country is run by haughty criminal lunatics. Or maybe the Chinese Communist Party are haughty and corrupt sometimes, but they seem to have a plan of sorts and are capable of rational thought and acting collectively (and dictatorially) to advance rational interests, whether or not those rational interests are ones their own people or the people of Hong Kong or Taiwan or we ourselves would approve.
When a candidate is soft on Putin, it doesn’t mean she or he is unqualified to lead the US military-industrial complex or “advance our country’s interests” by attacking countries no one asked us to attack.
It just means they’re hopelessly stupid. TRR
Apropos the article below. Pobrecitos! Thank God no one in Russia has been trying to tarnish the image of the US or its less-than-effective president. That would be so uncool. Image of the label for Abama craft beer, produced by a microbrewery in Putin’s hometown of Petersburg, courtesy of Comrade EO
Putin Talks of Attempt to Recreate “Evil Empire” Image in US Elections
Olga Nadykto and Polina Khimshiashvili RBC
September 17, 2016
Using the topic of Russia and the Russian president in the US presidential campaign is an attempt to manipulate public opinion within the country, said Vladimir Putin. According to him it is an attempt to “recreate the image of an evil empire.”
Speaking to journalists at the end of the CIS summit in Bishkek, Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on the use of Russian topics in the US election campaign.
Putin expressed the hope that the “use of Russia and the Russian president” in the US election campaign was “was also due to Russia’s growing influence and significance.”
“But I think it is mainly due to attempts to manipulate public opinion within the country. We are witnessing an attempt to recreate the image of the so-called evil empire and scare the average citizen. It is quite sad. It is a fairly crude attempt and counterproductive,” said the Russian president [sic].
Replying to a question about which of the candidates he supported in the US presidential elections, Putin said he had “nothing new” to say.
“We support anyone in any country who wants to work towards neighborly relations and partnerships with us,” he stressed.
“We are sympathetic to those who speak out publicly about the need to build relations with Russia on an equal basis and see a lot of sense in this for their country,” Putin concluded.
Earlier, on the NBC program Commander-in-Chief Forum, Donald Trump, the US Republican Party presidential candidate, said of the Russian president, “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”
Trump also predicted he would have “very, very good relations” with Putin if he became president.
Trump’s statement was criticized by US President Barack Obama, who supports the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Clinton herself had earlier accused the Russian secret services in the attacks on the Democratic Party’s servers. She has also commented on an article in the Washington Post, claiming that Russia was possibly planning to disrupt the US elections. She said it was a serious threat that had to be eliminated quickly.
Open Letter to Dr. Jill Stein, 2016 Green Party Candidate for President of the United States
Dear Dr. Stein,
We are writing to you in the spirit of green values and principles, which include fighting for a sustainable future, defending the environment and human rights, and engaging in international solidarity. We are also writing to you as eco-activists, women and mothers.
In November of this year, you will face an important challenge which will have an impact all over the world, even far from the US. As Russian eco-activists, we are following the US presidential election with curiosity and fear. Curiosity for your democratic system and fear for the impact that the result of this election could have on our lives and the lives of our children.
As environmentalists and human rights defenders, we often support Green candidates all over the world when they run in local, national or continental elections. However, we are asking ourselves if we can support your candidacy for the Presidency of the United States of America. We have carefully read your program and your website, and we have to admit that we are deeply shocked by the position you expressed during your visit to Moscow and your meeting with Mr. Vladimir Putin.
During the last few years, the Russian authorities have continued the destruction of the rich and unique Russian environment. The Kremlin is heavily contributing to global climate change and the destruction of global biodiversity by overexploiting Russian natural resources and promoting unsafe nuclear energy. The corruption and anti-democratic behavior of the current Russian government have also led to negative impacts on Russia’s unique forests and natural heritage. Russian eco-activists and human rights defenders are also facing an increasingly repressive system which was constructed under Putin’s regime. The list of the victims of this system is unfortunately becoming longer and longer. Russian environmentalist Yevgeny Vitishko spent 22 months in prison for a non-violent action. Journalist Mikhail Beketov was violently attacked in 2008, suffered serious injuries, and died in 2013. Our personal cases are also symbolic: because of our activism, and in order to protect our children, we were both forced to leave Russia and to seek political asylum in the European Union.
After your visit to Moscow and your meeting with Vladimir Putin you said that “the world deserve[s] a new commitment to collaborative dialogue between our governments to avert disastrous wars for geopolitical domination, destruction of the climate, and cascading injustices that promote violence and terrorism.” We agree with you. But how can this new “collaborative dialogue” be possible when Mr. Putin has deliberately built a system based on corruption, injustice, falsification of elections, and violation of human rights and international law? How is it possible to have a discussion with Mr. Putin and not mention, not even once, the fate of Russian political prisoners or the attacks against Russian journalists, artists, and environmentalists? Is it fair to speak with him about “geopolitics” and not mention new Russian laws against freedom of speech, restrictions on NGOs and activists or the shameful law that forbids “homosexual propaganda”?
By silencing Putin’s crimes you are silencing our struggle. By shaking his hand and failing to criticize his regime you become his accomplice. By forgetting what international solidarity means you are insulting the Russian environmental movement.
Dr. Stein, you still have several weeks before the election in order to clarify your position on the anti-democratic and anti-environmental elements of Putin’s regime. We sincerely hope that our voices will be heard and that our questions will not go unanswered.
Yevgeniya Chirikova is a Russian environmental activist who gained renown as one of the leaders of the fight to save the Khimki Forest, outside of Moscow. She currently lives in Estonia. Nadezhda Kutepova, an anti-nuclear activist from the small town of Ozyorsk in the Urals and founder of the NGO Planet of Hopes, was forced to flee the country last year with her four children after being accused on state TV of “espionage.” Photos courtesy of East West Blog and RFE/RL, respectively. NB. This letter was very lightly edited to make it more readable. TRR