What is it like, to live in Russia today?

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What is it like, to live in Russia today? There are three possible
ways of living in Russia.

First is - being a part of the System: it means, that you have an access to state resources and may use them in any way you like. The only thing you need to do to keep your sinecure is doing whatever your Master (Mr. Putin) says. And don’t get caught on stealing. This kind of living in Russia is accessible to a very limited circle of persons. They all send their children to live and to study abroad as they understand very clearly, that soon, all because of their “work”, there will be nothing valuable left in Russia.

The second way had been chosen by the major part of the Russians. And this is the way of total obedience. Those, who had chosen this way, live hard, but very quiet lives. They blindly obey absurd laws that contradict to the International Human Rights Convention and even to Russia’s own Constitution. They pray for the ghostly “stability” once promised them by Putin, they believe every word they hear from the government-controlled media and hate those, who had chosen the third
way.

And those, who had chosen the third way, live in the constant fight for Freedom. They see the situation perfectly well. They have no illusions about Putin and his clan. They often even have no hope left. But they keep fighting because this is the only possible way of life for them. They risk their lives and lives of their relatives every day. They stand against Putin’s regime to death. They won’t give up. They won’t abandon their country. They know, that neither European Union, nor USA will support their liberation movement. They have nothing to rely on. But this Tuesday, May’12, the whole wide world will see them sacrifice themselves for Freedom they deserve.

Today the president of Russia Vladimir Putin has signed up the new law about meetings. It has already been published in the Russian press and by that it came into effect. It literally means, that since today, every group of Russian citizens of more than 3 persons can be equated to lawbreakers. The world community keeps diplomatic silence about that. But I won’t. And you, my reader, can also affect the result of fighting for Freedom in Russia. Wherever you are, no matter how many
of you, even if you are alone, - come to the Russian embassy in you town and support those brave Russians that fight for their rights with no hope to win, but because they see no other way of life for themselves.

By Tatyana Shulga

Pussy Riot vows no let-up in Russia human rights fight at Asia awards

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Members of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (R) and Maria Alyokhina (L) arrive at a preview of the nominees for the inaugural Prudential Eye Awards in Singapore on January 17, 2014. Photography: Sorlan Rahman

Two Pussy Riot members on Friday vowed no let-up in their campaign against human rights abuses inside Vladimir Putin's Russia as they made their first overseas trip since being released from jail.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who were freed from prison last month, are in Singapore for a video awards ceremony where they said they would keep using creative art to promote their cause.

A video of the group’s controversial protest stunt inside Moscow’s top church, the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, has been shortlisted for an award in the digital/video category of the inaugural Prudential Eye Awards in the city-state.

The stunt, which the band described as a denunciation of political ties between Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, led to three members being convicted on hooliganism charges.

"Right now we are mostly concentrated on human rights work which involves a huge amount of legal work," band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said through an interpreter at a media event Friday.

She said they will continue to use “video and other creative forms” to get their message across.

"We’ll definitely continue our political activities and right now we are concentrated on a project which helps prisoners’ rights because any such work in Russia is a political activity," said Tolokonnikova, clad in a black dress and dark tights.

Asked what the band would do with any prize money if they win, she said: “We will use our resources… including money to put (towards) this human rights project to defend prisoners’ rights.”

Their video has been nominated alongside works of China’s Yang Yong Liang and Baden Pailthorpe and Daniel Crooks, both from Australia. The award ceremony will take place on Saturday.

Under the awards, which are sponsored by the Prudential insurance giant, the winner of each category will receive a $20,000 prize. The overall winner receives a further $30,000 and a chance to exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in London later this year.

Pussy Riot’s church protest came just ahead of Putin’s re-election to the Kremlin in March 2012 and video footage of the stunt uploaded online was later banned in Russia.

Tolokonnikova on Friday credited the Russian government for the international attention the band has received, and sarcastically suggested that a state representative should be invited to share the award if they won.

But the duo said they would pursue their cause under their own names rather than as Pussy Riot members.

"We have to speak for ourselves", - Tolokonnikova said.

By Stefanus Ian

(Source: AFP)

Two Russian anti-Putin activists jailed over clashes

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A Moscow court has sentenced two protest leaders to four-and-a-half years in jail for inciting “mass riots” against President Vladimir Putin.

Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev were found guilty of co-ordinating protests which turned violent on the eve of Mr Putin’s inauguration for a third presidential term in May 2012.

Prosecutors had sought eight years.

The pair deny the charges and say Russian police provoked the clashes at Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square.

Razvozzhayev was also ordered to pay a 150,000-rouble fine (£2,520; $4,286).

Lawyers for both activists - who denied the charges - said they would appeal against the sentences, including to the European Court of Human Rights.

Udaltsov, a radical leftist, also announced he would go on a hunger strike. He and his supporters shouted “Freedom!” in court on Thursday.

Controversial TV footage

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Leonid Razvozzhayev alleges that Russian agents kidnapped him in Ukraine

"Udaltsov, Razvozzhayev… agreed between themselves repeatedly on the organisation of mass disorder," the judge said.

Before his arrest in October 2012 Razvozzhayev was an aide to opposition MP Ilya Ponomarev.

Razvozzhayev said he was abducted in Ukraine, smuggled into Russia and forced into signing a confession, which he later disavowed.

The case against them was based on a documentary broadcast by the pro-Kremlin television channel NTV, which purported to show them discussing efforts to topple the Russian government with an official from neighbouring Georgia - Givi Targamadze - and seeking financial support.

Udaltsov said the footage was a sham and the documentary “dirt and lies”.

Anti-government protests erupted in December 2011 amid allegations that the parliamentary elections that month were rigged.

In the Bolotnaya Square investigation seven other protesters have been jailed and 11 acquitted. Eight others are still held on remand or under investigation. An arrest warrant has been issued in Russia for Givi Targamadze.

(Source: BBC News)

Russia denies visa to U.S. journalist critical of Putin

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Russia has barred a U.S. journalist critical of President Vladimir Putin from the country for five years, in a move that could upset relations with the United States and has echoes of the Cold War.

Moscow’s treatment of David Satter could fuel concern about freedom of speech before the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month, although Putin has tried to appease critics by freeing former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of the Pussy Riot protest group in the run-up to the Games.

"I was expelled from the country," Satter wrote on his personal website. "This is an ominous precedent for all journalists and for freedom of speech in Russia."

The Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Satter, author of three books on Russia and the Soviet Union, had been prevented from returning to Russia last month after grossly violating visa regulations.

In a website entry, he dismissed the official version of events, saying he had followed all instructions, and he blamed the foreign ministry, which handles foreign journalists’ media accreditation, for causing delays that led to his expulsion.

In Washington, the State Department said it was disappointed that Russia had denied Satter a visa and had raised the issue with the authorities in Moscow.

"The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has raised our concerns on this case and the treatment of journalists and media organizations in general with Russian authorities," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a daily briefing. "We’ll continue to monitor the case."

Satter said that he had flown to Kiev to receive a new letter of invitation but instead received only a statement read to him by a Russian diplomat there declaring him persona non grata.

"The competent organs have decided that your presence on the territory of the Russian Federation is undesirable. Your application for entry into Russia is denied," the statement said.

Such expulsions have been rare since the end of the Cold War and collapse of the communist Soviet Union in 1991. But the ministry dismissed suggestions by Western media that the move against Satter was politically motivated as “tendentious”.

A former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, Satter was back in the Russian capital last year and advising Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a broadcaster funded by the U.S. government.

BOOK ON BOMBINGS

In one of his books, “Darkness at Dawn”, Satter accused the Federal Security Service (FSB), a successor of the Soviet-era KGB, of being responsible for bombings of Russian apartment buildings in 1999 which killed more than 300 people.

The FSB, which was headed by Putin before he became prime minister and then president, has denied the charge. Russian authorities blamed the attacks on separatists from Chechnya in the volatile North Caucasus. The crimes were never solved.

The Foreign Ministry in a statement said Satter had failed to report to the federal migration service as required when he last arrived in Russia on November 21.

"In fact, from November 22 to November 26 this U.S. citizen stayed on Russian territory illegally," the ministry said, and a Moscow court had ruled on November 29 that he should be expelled. A court spokeswoman confirmed the ruling.

Satter said the ministry had delayed giving him an invitation, causing him to go to court and pay a fine before flying to Kiev to start the visa process again.

The ministry said Satter had left Russia on December 4 and was refused a visa when he wanted to return. He was just one of about 500,000 foreigners barred from Russia for periods of three to 10 years for breaking the law, the ministry added.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said the U.S. embassy in Moscow had sought an explanation from the Russian authorities, without success.

Relations between Moscow and Washington improved during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first-term push to “reset” ties.

But they have deteriorated again amid disputes on Iran, Syria, human rights and Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to American fugitive spy contractor Edward Snowden.

Russia expelled a U.S. diplomat in Moscow last year, accusing him of working as a spy and trying to recruit a Russian agent for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Public announcements of such expulsions have become rare since the end of the Cold War.

Satter is currently in London.

By Timothy Heritage and Gabriela Baczynska

(Source: Reuter)

Strategy 31 will hold a meeting outside the Russian Embassy in London, in memory of all those murdered by the Putin regime

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On Friday, August 31 between 6 and 7 pm Strategy 31 will hold a meeting outside the Russian Embassy in London, in memory of all those murdered by the Putin regime. This will be a non-party event, organized by a group of concerned citizens in solidarity with Russian political prisoners (politzeki).

Here is the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/events/349470348468174/

In defence of Putin’s regime we often hear a somewhat paradoxical phrase: “Putin may be a thief but he is not a murderer at least”.

There is some truth in that. The system Putin built during his first presidential term did not turn out to be as bloody as had been expected. This system of policed liberalism was first created by Yeltsin during the shooting up of the Parliament and finalized during the two Chechnyan wars and it carries within itself the probability of political force though until now it avoided mass repression. It can be described as a system of precision repression and joint responsibility.

During Putin’s first and Medvedev’s single presidential terms political trials became the norm as did the torture of political prisoners in police stations and sentences issued in accordance with phone calls from above. If any oppositioner was killed during interrogation in “Centre E” (Centre for the Fight Against Extremism) or died in prison, those responsible were invariably protected. Let us list the deaths in prison: Chervochkin, Stradymov, Shaygalimov, Magnitsky and Aleksanyan. Protection of those guilty of murder and the suppression of truth were always part of the plans for the elimination of Putin’s opponents. The only crime for which there was any punishment meted out at all was the murder of Yevloyev. The officer in charge of security for the head of the MVD in Ingushetiya was found guilty of careless gun handling and given two years.

Putin’s third term began with a sharp increase in repression. Every single prisoner is at risk as, should he die in prison, his murderers will never be held responsible under this regime.

That is why we shall be demonstrating on August 31, 2012 outside the Russian Embassy in London. We want to remind everyone of what happens when Putin’s minions cross a certain line in behaviour. We shall remind everyone of the fate of the hostages of Beslan and “Nord-Ost”, sacrificed to brutal image-making; of the murder of National Bolsheviks in Centre E, which has introduced into central Russia methods employed against the Caucasian underground; of Magnitsky, murdered by corrupt officials and of Aleksanyan who became the victim of his own refusal to give evidence that was demanded from him; of Politkovskaya and Estemirova who were riddled with bullets and Litvinenko who was poisoned; of all those victims whose names add up to a list that is far longer than it ought to be which proves beyond any doubt that at the very least Putin protects murderers and covers up for them.

By Raymond Krumgold, former political prisoner, political refugee, United Kingdom

Court remands Greenpeace activists for two months

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Denis Sinyakov was the first to be remanded

A Russian court has remanded seven Greenpeace activists in custody for two months for allegedly trying to seize a Russian oil platform.

Two Russian nationals, a Frenchman, a Pole, a New Zealander, a Canadian and the US captain were all ordered to be held pending the “piracy” inquiry.

A further 23 activists, including six Britons, are waiting to hear of their fate in the court in Murmansk.

Greenpeace says the activists were staging a legal, peaceful protest.

Coastguards arrested them on suspicion of piracy after two scaled an offshore drilling platform.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the activists are obviously “not pirates” but did not criticise their continued detention.

The BBC’s Daniel Sandford: “This is the first time that Greenpeace have found themselves at the criminal end of the piracy law”

The charge of piracy carries a prison term of up to 15 years in Russia.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee - its equivalent of the FBI - said there was a possibility that the remand orders would be lifted early.

'Absurd' charge

Under Russian law the prosecution can ask a judge to detain people pending further investigation.

Denis Sinyakov, a Russian freelance photographer, and Greenpeace spokesman Roman Dolgov were both ordered to be held in pre-trial detention for two months.

Photos showed Mr Sinyakov, whose photographs of the arrest have been used by Reuters among others, inside a metal cage, still wearing handcuffs, in a room of Murmansk’s Lenin district court.

The other five to be remanded are French deckhand Francesco Pisanu, Polish activist Tomasz Dziemianczuk, New Zealand crew member David John Haussmann, Canadian crew member Paul Douglas Ruzycki and the US captain, Peter Willcox.

The court’s decisions were met with dismay among journalists and photographers in Russia. A protest has been called outside the office of the Investigative Committee - Russia’s equivalent of the FBI - in Moscow, the Guardian’s Shaun Walker said in a tweet.

The 30 activists were being heard in groups, in six different rooms of the courthouse.

Dmitry Artamonov, a Greenpeace co-ordinator, told the Associated Press that the charges were “absurd”. “There can be no other decision except for the release of all the people, including the crew members and all passengers,” he said.

Greenpeace says that all of the activists have now been questioned in the presence of lawyers.

Sue Turner, mother of UK detainee Iain Rogers, told BBC News on Thursday she had not heard from her son since Monday.

"I can’t understand why Putin says they’re not pirates but they’re now in this position," she added.

"Greenpeace are updating me but they’re saying he might be in custody for two months. He’ll be extremely annoyed. He was doing a job and he didn’t cause any damage. It’s a very, very worrying time."

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The drama began a week ago, when two activists successfully climbed on to the side of a platform operated by Gazprom, Russia’s state gas monopoly.

They were detained after a short skirmish in inflatable dinghies in which armed Russian FSB officers in balaclavas fired warning shots into the water.

The ship, the Arctic Sunrise, with all its crew was then towed to Murmansk.

Russia views its huge fossil fuel deposits under the Arctic as vital to its economic future, which is why it takes any threat to their exploitation very seriously, the BBC’s Daniel Sandford reports from Moscow.

The campaigners on the ship are from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Russia, the UK and the US, Greenpeace said.

Detainees by nationality

  • Argentine: Activist Camila Speziale, second mate Miguel Hernan Perez Orz
  • Australian: Radio operator Colin Russell
  • Brazilian: Deckhand Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel
  • British: Communications officer Alexandra Hazel Harris, videographer Kieron Bryan, logistics co-ordinator Frank Hewetson, activist Anthony Perrett, activist Philip Ball, 2nd engineer Iain Rogers
  • Canadian: Bosun Alexandre Paul, first mate Paul D Ruzycki
  • Danish: Third mate Anne Mie Roer Jensen
  • Dutch: Campaigner Faiza Oulahsen, chief engineer Mannes Ubels
  • Finnish: Activist Sine Saarela
  • French: Deckhand Francesco Pisanu
  • Italian: Deckhand Cristian D’Alessandro
  • New Zealand: Boat mechanic Jonathon Beauchamp, electrician David John Haussmann
  • Polish: Activist Tomasz Dziemianczuk
  • Russian: Spokesman Roman Dolgov, photographer Denis Sinyakov, Dr Yekaterina Zaspa
  • Swedish: Campaigner Dima Litvinow
  • Swiss: Activist Marco Weber
  • Turkish: Volunteer assistant cook Gizhem Akhan
  • US: Captain Peter Henry Willcox

Note: only 28 names available

(Source: BBC News)

Anti-Putin protesters face trial over Bolotnaya clashes

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Activists protest in Moscow ahead of the trial

Twelve Russians are set to appear in court in Moscow over clashes at an anti-Vladimir Putin rally in 2012.

Critics of the president say the Bolotnaya case - named after the Moscow square where the clashes occurred - is a throw-back to Soviet-era show trials.

The clashes erupted the day before President Putin’s swearing-in.

Activists say the trial is another example of a crackdown on dissent. The police say protesters turned on them with metal bars and flagstones.

'Shed blood'

The charges include mass disorder and violence against the police. Some of the defendants could face eight-year jail terms.

Georgy Satarov, a former aide to ex-President Boris Yeltsin, told Reuters: “This is a Stalin-style trial. This is revenge. It’s an attempt to use fear to stop the growth of the protest movement.”

Mr Putin has said people can protest peacefully but that it is unacceptable to commit violence against the police.

Ahead of the trial, state television broadcast footage that it said showed the protests were organised by opposition leaders and a Georgian lawmaker, with US money.

The deputy chairman of the lower house, Sergei Zheleznyak, said: “The goal was to shed blood, to provoke mass unrest and lots of deaths.”

But rights campaigner Lev Ponomaryov told the Associated Press: “This is the first big political trial of Putin’s Russia. It has to set a precedent to wipe out political opposition.”

The Bolotnaya rally on 6 May 2012 was the culmination of a wave of protests, begun in December 2011, that followed Mr Putin’s election victory.

Tens of thousands of people had marched to the square.

Mr Satarov said police pushed protesters into a confined area, causing panic.

Police say dozens of officers were hurt by rioting protesters.

Hundreds of people were arrested.

Two activists have so far been jailed for plotting to foment unrest.

Since returning to the Kremlin, President Putin has signed a string of laws apparently designed to stamp out dissent and weaken civil society, including tougher punishments for unsanctioned protests and legislation that broadens the definition of state treason.

(Source: BBC News)

Russia: ‘The Bolotanaya case’: no further forward

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Moscow City Court. Photograph: Yuri Timofeyev, RFE/RL

On 11th July, Moscow City Court declared the arrests of the five key figures in the Bolotnaya Square riots case to be lawful.

Even though no charges have been brought against Aleksandr Kamensky, his arrest was still deemed lawful. The conditions of his release prevent him from leaving Moscow. Legal action is currently being taken against 14 people in connection with ‘the Bolotanaya case’. Most of them have been remanded in custody. Human rights activists are demanding their immediate release, pointing out that the legal proceedings are politically motivated.

Denis Lutskevich, Artem Savelov, Vladimir Akimenkov, Oleg Arkhipenkov, charged with taking part in the mass disturbances on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow, are to remain in custody. Moscow City Court judges were unable to find reasons to revoke their colleagues’ earlier decisions who had warranted the arrest of the key players in ‘the Bolotnaya case’. The defence were outraged, although admittedly this came as no surprise that. According to the lawyers, the judges made no attempt to listen to the arguments they put forward. Aleksei Orlov who is representing Oleg Arkhipenkov’s interests said that his client was not even at Bolotnaya Square on 6th May. He was arrested by the police at Theatre Square where he had gone to run personal errands:

‘Oleg was somewhere else altogether. He was not at Bolotnaya Square. Even the charges the prosecution put forward do not mention these circumstances according to which he is supposed to have been charged in keeping with article 212 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. In the written charges, it even says that he did not commit any violent offences. The fact that he has a valid alibi, is in employment and the very nature of Arkhipenkov’s personality allowed the court to choose alternative pre-trial restrictions other than detention. The court was within their legal rights to do this.

Lawyer Aleksei Orlov is now placing any hope of freeing his client with the judge who will have to consider whether to prolong Oleg Arkhipenkov’s arrest in early August: ‘By then, the investigators will have access to his mobile phone records and video surveillance footage from the metro station, both of which will prove that he had gone straight to Theatre Square and not via Bolotnaya Square. Presented with this evidence, the court should release Oleg; that is, if they do not release him earlier. Still, I hope that the investigatory organs exercise common sense, that they will see all of this and decide to drop the legal proceedings held against him, and of course, release him from custody.’ The lawyers of Aleksandr Kamensky, another key figure in ‘the Bolotnaya case, aren’t expecting to get a fair trial. The Other Russia activist Aleksandr Kamensky suspected of having taken part in the 6th May disturbances was arrested and was put in a detention centre. However, since no formal charges were brought against him within ten days of his arrest, he was released on the condition that he does not leave Moscow. Later, the Basmanny court of Moscow issued his arrest warrant, deemed lawful by Moscow City Court on 11th July despite the fact that no charges have been brought against him to date and he is no longer in custody.

‘I think that absurdity has taken over the Appeals Board,’ said Kamenski’s lawyer Evgeny Arkhipvov. They needed to somehow wiggle their way out of the situation, to show the lawfulness of the justice system. They did not have many options to choose from: either to give into the demands of those campaigning for their release and admit that the Basmanny court’s decision was unlawful, or to take the case beyond the point of sheer absurdity, pretending that the authorities have the right to lock up the opposition. Any attempt to appeal or to somehow try to uphold your rights is hopeless. What happened today with Kamensky is absurd. There is no logic whatsoever behind this decision. It clearly demonstrates the hopelessness of all other appeals. ‘We may look stupid but we are going to stand our ground’, said Evgeny Arkhipov.

At present, legal action is being taken against 14 people in connection with the mass disturbances on Bolotnaya Square, 11 of whom are in prison, one under house arrest and two are not allowed to leave Moscow. The arrested activists are being called political prisoners. A corresponding statement was released by the Memorial Centre on 9th July. The director of Memorial’s program supporting political prisoners and coordinator of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners, Sergei Davidis has stated:

‘People are being charged even though there is no evidence. This is at least true for the overwhelming majority of them. It is clearly a one-sided investigation. Not one of the statements given to various individuals concerning the crimes committed by police officers on 6th May was not only not processed, but not even looked at. Video footage has even been presented to the Investigatory Committee in which you can clearly see that the police officers are the ones committing crimes. The investigation is evidently bias. Certain cases are examined outside their proper context. Factors such as the police officers’ actions and self-defence are not taken into account, nor is the fact that people were clearly emotionally disturbed when police officers attacked them using specialist methods. All of this is accompanied by declarations which establish the identity of the actual culprits involved in the disturbances and the organisation thereof. The Investigatory Committee shamelessly suspects people of having organised these disturbances without having any actual evidence. The combination of all of these factors suggests that the case is of a political nature.

The director of the Public Verdict Foundation Natalia Taubina said that the way ‘the Bolotanaya case’ investigation is being conducted and how decisions are being made, including those of judges, clearly demonstrates the bias and political undertones of the case:

‘There is an unprecedented number of investigators (almost 200) working on this case, who are all trying to find those guilty of participating in the mass disturbances and of committing acts of provocation on 6th May at Bolotnaya Square. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that there can be no talk of justice when one takes into account the fact that the detainees’ arrest warrants are now being extended and the way that the courts are examining the defence’s arguments. Let’s take the case of Mikhail Kosensko, for example. He is mentally disabled and is given the medical assistance he requires. The defence has argued that, if released from custody, he will not flea, can in no way influence the investigation but these arguments have been ignored. Nonetheless, the court rattles off its standard response that this could in some way influence the investigation and pre-trial restrictions are being extended until November. Bakhovy also finds himself in the same situation.’ Natalia Taubina is not ruling out the possibility of further arrests in connection with ‘the Bolotnaya case’. She thinks that this is the authorities’ way of showing people what they think of protestors and the possible implications this might have for them:

‘There are lists of names going around on the internet which could very well implicit people in the case, a sort of leak of information from the law enforcement organs. And if they use this, then the lists will get longer, but for the time being no further arrests have been made. The purpose of this, in my view, is to demonstrate to people that protest activities and dissatisfaction with the authorities are not forms of peaceful protest. Rather, they are forms of protest which are accompanied by mass disturbances and threaten the safety of the general public. And the guilty ones here are the leaders of the opposition movement.’

Out of the fourteen people charged in connection with ‘the Bolotnaya case’, only Maksim Luzyanin has pleaded guilty and has asked not to be counted as a political prisoner.

(Source: Radio Liberty)

Translated by Jonathan Bridges

Member of Russian band Pussy Riot falls ill at trial

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One of the three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, on trial for an anti-Putin protest at Moscow’s main cathedral, has been given medical treatment in court, a lawyer says.

Medics were called when the women said they felt unwell on the third day of the trial on Wednesday, the court said.

The defendants say they are being deprived of sleep and are poorly fed, according to a defence lawyer.

They deny hooliganism charges in the case, which has divided Russia.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were taken into custody in February after performing a protest song against President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

The song outraged the Russian Orthodox Church, which accused them of blasphemy. Supporters say the case reflects the state’s growing intolerance of government opponents.

The first prosecution witness called on Wednesday testified that he was not in the cathedral during the performance and had only seen it on video, the BBC’s Daniel Sandford reports from the courtroom.

'Punishing regime'

Proceedings were interrupted for several hours to allow Ms Alekhina to be given treatment after a fall in her blood sugar levels, defence lawyer Nikolay Polozov told Russian media. He added that Ms Alekhin was a vegan and needed a special diet.

Later on Wednesday, there was a further interruption when Ms Alekhina again repeatedly complained about feeling poorly, according to media reports.

Mr Polozov told the Interfax news agency that the defendants have been subjected to a punishing regime since the start of their trial.

"For a third day running, the girls have been woken at 5am, held in a 1sq m (11sq ft) unventilated room, after which they are taken to court," he said.

"They are not fed, and court sessions last up to 12 hours, during which they are only given 20-30 minutes for a small snack of dry rations. They are then taken back to remand after midnight. They are also denied an evening meal and can only sleep for small number of hours."

The women are facing the charge of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility and could face up to seven years in prison.

At the start of their trial on Monday, the three pleaded not guilty, but apologised for the offence their performance had caused.

The case has divided Russia, with many feeling the women are being made an example of as part of attempts to clamp down on the opposition.

(Source: BBC News)

The Pussy Riot trial exposes a Russian court system in crisis

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Maria Alekhina, left, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot, in a Moscow court. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/AP

Russia’s judges may be Putin’s puppets but the Pussy Riot and Alexei Navalny cases could play into the opposition’s long game.

The crisis of Russia’s criminal justice system, as exemplified by the circus-like trial of punk rockers Pussy Riot as well as the charges that are being brought against the top opposition figure Alexei Navalny, is not just bad for the people caught in the system’s jaws – it’s also bad for the country as a whole.

We imagine that such high-profile cases must be decided at the highest levels, by President Vladimir Putin; but first and foremost the system is failing at the local level. The Russian courts today represent a Soviet anachronism – and are mistrusted by most people, not just oppositionists.

An acquaintance of mine, let’s call her Irina, voted for Putin – “because he is much better than the only other viable candidate, [the Communist leader Gennady] Zyuganov” – in the last presidential election. She also saw her boyfriend taken to court on trumped-up assault charges this spring. Four witnesses were ready to testify that the police had got the wrong man. The judge would not let them do so – which is something that happens often. “Anyone in Russia can be jailed – anyone at all,” Irina told me recently.

Russia’s criminal courts vehemently resist transparency. In a high-profile case, the judges often wait for oblique “signals” from the top – and interpret them as they see fit. Investigators are usually granted free rein to hold the accused in pre-trial detention no matter what their circumstances are – which was the case with the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who perished while awaiting trial in 2009. Within this system, you are treated as guilty before any verdict has been reached.

In the case of Pussy Riot, who have been charged with hooliganism after performing an anti-Putin song in the country’s main cathedral, the judge has not granted any of the defence’s motions so far, while the prosecution is being waited on hand and foot. If the prosecutor asked the court to burn Pussy Riot at the stake, I can just picture the courtroom staff running around, gathering twigs and lighter fluid.

Russia is a secular state, but as lawyers for the three Pussy Riot members on trial have pointed out, the accusations against their clients read like a manifesto cobbled together from medieval tracts on piety, as opposed to a legal document. Pussy Riot’s song-and-dance number shocked many people, myself included – yet it seems that their performance has exposed a genuine truth about the dismal failings of the criminal justice system.

No less disturbing is the criminal case against Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader who has waged a high-profile battle against the ruling United Russia party. Charged with deliberately defrauding a state company in the Kirov region in 2010, Navalny has taken a number of pot shots at Alexander Bastrykin, the investigative committee chief, who had angrily demanded that the case against Navalny be reopened after initial investigations found no evidence against him.

Even those opposed to Navalny’s activities see the Kirov case as a personal vendetta – and believe that such cases are the price the opposition pays for being, well, the opposition. In a country such as Russia, where some people criticise their leaders for not being authoritarian enough, judicial vendettas are still tolerated by many – but if a genuine economic crisis hits Russia and the opposition’s ranks grow further, we may be in for a wild ride.

Considering Russia’s turbulent past, it pays to play a “long game” – to think about consequences down the road. The court has already made martyrs out of Pussy Riot. And a jailed Navalny would be on the fast track to becoming a sort of Nelson Mandela. It seems that at the top there are differences of opinion as to how this period in Russia’s history should be handled. But discussions on Mount Olympus are moot if the system that is meant to protect the rights and interests of citizens is outdated and broken.

Russia’s criminal justice system needs drastic reforms and it needs them right now.

By Natalia Antonova

(Source: The Guardian)

STOP THE CRACKDOWN ON THE OPPOSITION IN RUSSIA!

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Call for an International Day of Action on July 26

The protest demonstration that took place on May 6, 2012, in Moscow was one of the most massive and assertive during the past several months. Despite pressure from the authorities and societal depression after Vladimir Putin’s alleged election victory, ten of thousands of people took to the streets of Russia’s capital. The May 6 demonstration showed that the protest wave that rose in December 2011 had not only not subsided, but had taken on a new impetus and a new, more radical and decisive direction.

The most striking outcome of this legal, peaceful march was the harsh detention of more than 600 people. Police assaulted an even greater number of marchers.

The fact that the actions of police were illegal is borne out by a large number of photos, videos, eyewitness accounts, and medical examinations. However, despite numerous appeals by citizens and human rights advocates to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, the Russian Investigative Committee and other bodies, not a single criminal case on abuse of power by police officers or obstruction of a legal mass event has been initiated.

On the contrary, the authorities have used the events of May 6 to launch an unprecedented crackdown on the Russian opposition. During May and June, twelve people were arrested as part of an ongoing criminal investigation of the “riots,” and two more people were placed under house arrest. All fourteen people have been charged with organizing and participating in mass riots, and violence against police officers.

Their names are Vladimir Akimenkov, Oleg Arkhipenkov, Andrei Barabanov, Maria Baronova, Fyodor Bakhov, Yaroslav Belousov, Alexandra Dukhanina, Stepan Zimin, Alexander Kamensky, Mikhail Kosenko, Maxim Luzyanin, Denis Lutskevich, Artyom Savelov and Rikhard Sobolev.

There is no doubt that the authorities are now fabricating the most massive political case in recent years. Thus, according to the Investigative Committee, 160 investigators are working on the case, and more than 1,250 people have been questioned so far. The number of detainees could rise, according to certain sources, to several hundred people.

Only concerted action by thousands of concerned people around the world can stop this from happening!

The May 6 Committee has now been launched in Moscow: this grassroots initiative demands an end to the crackdown and closure of this shameful “criminal case.” The committee’s activists, who represent various human rights, civic and political organizations, are in constant contact with the lawyers of the accused, have launched a public awareness campaign, and are organizing protests against this political crackdown.

We are calling for an International Day of Action on July 26. We appeal to human rights organizations and progressive groups around the world: the fate of dozens of innocent, peaceful protesters, people already in prison or who soon might find themselves in prison, depends on your solidarity and your active stance. Distribute information about the case, hold rallies and solidarity concerts, picket Russian embassies and consulates in your cities and countries, and send letters and petitions to Russian authorities. The future of the new protest movement in Russia now depends on whether we are able to stop this crackdown by the authorities.

SOLIDARITY IS OUR STRENGTH!

For more information or to contact us:

Telephone: +7 926 305-2823

Web site: www.6may.org

E-mail: help6may@gmail.com
Twitter: @help6may
Live Journal blog: 6mayorg.livejournal.com
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Комитет-6-мая/
Vkontakte: vk.com/6mayorg

London - from 17:00 till 18:30, at the Russian Embassy at Bayswater Road. In Facebook.

Paris - from 19:00, Fontaine Saint-Michel, 11 Place St Michel. In Facebook.

(Source: 6 Maya Org)

Moscow: one of the organisers of ‘the March of Millions’ called in for questioning

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Sergei Davidis, one of the organisers of the 6th May rally (‘The March of Millions’) on Bolotnaya Square, was called into the Prosecutor General’s Office today in Moscow.

A member of the opposition movement ‘Solidarnost’ told the radio station ‘Echo of Moscow’ that he was the first of the rally’s organisers to be called in for questioning.

During the authorised opposition rally in which many thousands participated on 6th May, demonstrators clashed with police. Hundreds of people were arrested and dozens injured. 14 people are being charged in connection with the matter.

The members of the opposition from the ‘6th May Committee’ had planned to stage another protest march along the city’s boulevards and the Krymskaya quay on 13th July, but Moscow authorities refused to authorise it.

Translated by Jonathan Bridges

(Source: Radio Svoboda)

Russia: A “White Stroll” and a Rally against Police Oppression in St Petersburg

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There were two protest actions in St Petersburg on June 3: a rally in Pioneer Square against police oppression with a concert and another “Test Stroll” in the city centre. About 150 - 200 people were involved in each action.

There were various slogans at the rally, such as “Long live workers’ solidarity!”, “Freedom for political prisoners!” and others. Speakers repeatedly made the point that lawlessness in the police is likely to increase in the near future and demanded that police sections set up for the fight against extremism be disbanded as these are most likely to show lawless behaviour. There was a performance by the musician Vadm Kurylev and by the group “Surfing above the abyss”.

The “Test Stroll” began on St Isaac’s Square, continued along the Nevsky, then took in Arts Square where there was a reading of Pushkin’s poems and Malaya Sadovaya where Tsoy’s songs were sung and finished in one of the cafes on Dumsky street. According to a statement by the leader of the United Civic Front, Olga Kurnosova: “It was a highly cultural stroll. We also discussed the demonstration on June 12 for which we have already been given permission by Smolny and which we are planning now.

According to Radio Liberty correspondent Tatyana Voltskaya, experts have been explaining the low turn-out for the more recent strolls by the fact that they were organized by the opposition instead of the city’s intelligentsia

(Source: Radio Liberty)

Russia: The Logic Of Putting A Corpse On Trial



The posthumous prosecution of Sergei Magnitsky must make sense to someone senior here - the will of the Russian courts tends not to stray far from that of those in power.

The official narrative is that Mr Magnitsky was being investigated for tax fraud at the time of his death, death is not a bar to prosecution in Russia, and in the interests of justice the case should continue.

To the rest of the world it looks like they are putting a corpse on trial.

This case perhaps perfectly illustrates the apparent disconnect in thinking between those inside the Kremlin and the international community.

To understand the logic on the Russian side, you need to understand the background.

Mr Magnitsky was a Moscow lawyer hired to work on the account of British-based investment fund Hermitage Capital.

In 2008 he believed he had uncovered a massive tax fraud, organised by senior police and tax officials, targeting Hermitage and the Russian state.

It was as much an alleged crime against the Russian taxpayer as it was against his company.

But instead of being commended, he was locked up, held for almost a year in increasingly squalid conditions, and denied medical treatment.

He was found dead on his 358th day in custody, having repeatedly refused to withdraw his allegations.

Mr Magnitsky was not a human rights activist, he was not a campaigner, he was a lawyer - and so he documented, in detailed, dispassionate notes, what was happening to him, and his rapidly deteriorating health.

He had faith that justice would eventually be done.

No-one in Russia has been convicted over his death, but his former colleagues have compiled a dossier of evidence against those they believe were responsible.

Late last year the US passed a law banning all those suspected of involvement with his death (and others suspected of serious human rights abuses) from travelling to, or holding assets in the States, and his supporters are campaigning for a similar law in the EU.

Russia’s elite hates this. First, they see it as meddling in their domestic affairs and being preached at, second, they don’t want any other countries following America’s lead and imposing similar sanctions.

The Duma retaliated in December with a ban on American citizens adopting Russian children, named after a young Russian boy who died whilst in the care of his American adoptive parents.

The message is not subtle - that America is capable of human rights abuses too - and every case of suspected child abuse or neglect in the US is currently getting primetime billing on state-controlled nightly TV news here.

The conviction of Sergei Magnitsky (and let’s face it, no-one expects an acquittal) is the next ‘logical’ step - it enables them to say, look, he is not a human rights hero - he is a convicted fraudster.

And to get there they need to prosecute him, even if they have to do it posthumously.

There is provision under Russian law to continue a case after death, but only at the request of the relatives - if they choose to try to clear the defendant’s name.

That is categorically not the case here - Mr Magnitsky’s widow and mother have repeatedly written to the court stating their opposition to this trial and pleading with them to stop it, but the court has simply assigned a defence team to represent Mr Magnitsky and the case is going ahead.

Critics of this trial have pointed out that even at the height of Stalin’s show trials, at least the defendants were alive.

Amnesty has condemned the case as a sinister new chapter in Russia’s record on human rights, and a complete denial of, not least, Mr Magnitsky’s fundamental right to defend himself in person.

But then Western liberals and human rights groups aren’t the target audience here - they don’t vote in elections or march in the streets.

Few people in Russia have heard much about Sergei Magnitsky - there won’t be extensive coverage here of his posthumous trial - and his story, if and when they hear it, will be that he was a criminal who died from a health condition, who has since been convicted of fraud.

By Kate Stallard
(Source: SkyNews)

Russia: Kremlin intensifies crackdown on dissent

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Russian authorities have launched a crackdown on a radical anti-Kremlin group in an apparent effort to dismantle it, part of a heavy-handed approach to combating the country’s street protest movement.

A member of the Left Front opposition group was snatched off the street in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Friday.


A UN official was quoted in the Russian press saying that the activist, Leonid Razvozzhaev, had come to the UN refugee agency’s office in Kiev to request political asylum after authorities said they were seeking his arrest.

Mr Razvozzhaev went out for lunch and did not return, the official said.

In a video shot as he was being stuffed into a police van in Moscow after a court sanctioned his arrest on Sunday, Mr Razvozzhaev told journalists he had been tortured in police custody. “Tell everyone they tortured me. For two days. They smuggled me in from Ukraine,” he is heard shouting.

The prosecutor’s office denied the use of torture, saying a medical examination of Mr Razvozzhaev had revealed no injuries.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said Mr Razvozzhaev had turned himself in on Sunday and written a 10-page confession to inciting mass disturbances and receiving foreign funds.

Ukraine’s security service denied taking part in Mr Razvozzhaev’s capture, according to an anonymous comment on news service Interfax Ukraine.

Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front, wrote in a blog post on Monday that the actions of the authorities represented “the start of a terror campaign against dissidents. It is not just arrest and searches, it is torture, kidnapping and detention on the basis of fabricated proof”.

Mr Udaltsov is the target of a police investigation into inciting mass disturbances during a demonstration on May 6, where a number of demonstrators and police were injured. No charges have been filed against him, although his deputy was also arrested last week and is being held for two months on charges of incitement.

The increasingly tough tactics underline the regime’s determination to end the protest movement, but analysts questioned why the Kremlin was so desperate to crush the Left Front organisation.

“A bunch of leftwing radicals does not present any danger to the government,” said Masha Lipman, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think-tank. “It seems, though, that they do not want to take the risk of finding out what would happen if these guys are left to their own devices. Perhaps they would become more popular.”

Mr Udaltsov was the subject of a documentary film shown on state TV earlier this month, which accused him of accepting money from foreign intelligence agencies. Grainy footage showed him allegedly meeting a Georgian government official identified as Givi Targamadze, who promised him funds and suggested far-fetched actions such as taking over the Russian city of Kaliningrad.

Mr Udaltsov and Mr Targamadze deny such a meeting took place, though Mr Udaltsov did say he met a Georgian man in Minsk, Belarus, and discussed “legal” methods of financing his movement.

Soon after the film was shown, the police investigated Mr Udaltsov and his followers on charges ranging from terrorism to inciting mass disturbances.

By Charles Clover

(Source: Financial Times)

Watch on politzeki.tumblr.com

A meeting in support of the three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot and other Russia’s political prisoners (Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Daniil Konstantinov, Sergei Arakcheev, Taisiya Osipova) and of Strategy-31 took place outside the Russian Embassy in London on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

Politseki is a new term for most people outside Russia and it had to be explained. Constantly updated list of political prisoners:

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samusevich, Maria Alekhina, Taisiya Osipova, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, Dmitri Velichko, Aleksei Kurtsin, Vladimir Malakhovski, Aleksei Pichugin, Sergei Shimkevitch, Sergei Arakcheev, Pavel Zherebin, Mikhail Pulin, Olga Shalina, Alyona Goryacheva, Igor Berezyuk, Kirill Unchuk, Ruslan Khubayev, Yuri Shutov, Valentin Urusov, Valentin Danilov, Sergei Vizir, Igor Reshetin, Vladimir Vlasov, Zara Murtazaliyeva, Lors Khamiyev, Ravil Gumarov, Timur Ishmuratov, Maksim Kalinichenko, Daniil Konstantionov, Grigori Torbeev, Grigori Chekalin, Vladimir Akimenkov, Oleg Arkhipenkov, Andrei Barabanov, Fyodor Bakhov, Yaroslav Belousov, Alexandra Dukhanina, Stepan Zimin, Mikhail Kosenko, Maxim Luzyanin, Denis Lutskevich, Artyom Savelov and Rikhard Sobolev.

Video: Andrei Korchagin

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