9 November 2016
Sarah Hurst has translated an interview with Anastasia Zotova, wife of Ildar Dadin, by Gleb Yarovoi, a correspondent for the media outlet 7X7
This translation was originally published on the website xSovietUnion. Permission to republish is gratefully acknowledged
Photo of Anastasia Zotova, who married Ildar Dadin when he was in prison in Moscow: XSovietUnion
The wife of convicted activist Ildar Dadin, Anastasia Zotova, was able to visit her husband on November 9 in colony No. 7 in the Karelian town of Segezha. After talking to her husband she told a 7x7 correspondent about what she was able to see in the correctional institution.
Anastasia Zotova: My only impression was the total shock, hell and surrealism of what was happening, because on August 22 when I saw Ildar, he was a completely different person – cheerful, lively, talking about how they practically sunbathed in the jail.
That was in Moscow?
Yes, the windows opened and they lay down and sunbathed. But when I saw this, it was a hell: his hands were shaking, his lips were twitching – one side, then the other... His cheek was twitching, a constant nervous tic. He tried to talk and choked. I was afraid he was going to have some kind of seizure. While we were talking he constantly said into the receiver through the glass, “Quiet, quiet, calm down, it’s OK.” It’s very frightening. And he said that despite all this fuss that’s been kicked up, people are still being beaten exactly the same way. Did you read the interview with [human rights defender] Kalyapin in Novaya gazeta?
Kalyapin described how they stopped him from talking to people, how they told him “don’t gossip”, how people who tried to go out with signs were taken away to another colony and rights defenders weren’t allowed to meet them. So it’s clear that the prison service is interfering in every way. Ildar said they continue to beat people in exactly the same way, he can hear shouts in the mornings. They don’t beat him but they put him in a cell for the ultra-violent and he’s in there with a man who’s genuinely crazy. They continue to put pressure on him they still don’t feed him.
Did you talk to him about transferring to a different colony?
I talked to him about transferring to another colony. He says he doesn’t want to be transferred because other people are still being beaten and he can’t abandon them because he has some connections with the media through me and his lawyer, and if he leaves there, they won’t have any. In the interview Kalyapin said that eight people tried to get the attention of the rights committee, they climbed out onto the roof with signs, but they were taken away to another colony. And Kalyapin asked if he could go there. No, you can’t. Can they be brought back? No, they can’t. That was it. Thosepeople were trying to attract attention, but now we don’t know what’s happened to them. I, for example, don’t know who those people are. Thanks to what has happened, Ildar now has the opportunity to attract attention to this problem to some degree. For example, he dictated a statement to the Investigations Committee. He himself can’t send a statement to the committee. He’s basically banned from writing anything. The day’s schedule is like this: at this time you clean up, at this time you do something there. Physically there’s no time to sit down and write something. So he said it and I recorded it all. As soon as I get to Moscow to the internet I’ll send his statement to the Investigations Committee.
What do I plan to do? I’ll ask, despite everything, for him to be transferred out of that colony, to be transferred just to hospital, because, damn, this isn’t normal. Ildar looks exactly like my 80-year-old grandpa after a stroke. The shakingmouth, those lips, all of it... He’s 34, it’s not normal. If he stays in that colony, I don’t know how this will end.
Did he have a lawyer? Is there any progress on that front?
He had a lawyer yesterday, but I didn’t talk to her, because she was on a plane and then I was on a plane. “You’re on land, I’m at see, there’s no way we can meet” [she laughs]. I’ll get to Moscow and I’ll talk to her. She also promised to call a lawyer lady tomorrow from Segezha so that Ildar has contact with a local lawyer who can go there once a day, because Ildar says, “I can’t write complaints. I need a lawyer to see me who can write all these complaints.” He has to complain about all these spells in the punishment cell, because it’s clear that they were completely illegal.
We talked for four hours, I sat there, I wrote it down... I didn’t understand half of what he said. I have to put all that on the computer too now and, I don’t know, translate it into English, publish it all, because it’s so hellish. He even said the same things that were in his letter, but it’s all much more hellish in the details. It’s just unbelievable.
Do they monitor your conversation via the phone? Does anyone listen to it?
All conversations on the phone are monitored, of course. I think all the leaders of the colony listened to our conversation. But they can’t ban him from talking about all that.
What help do you need, what actions?
I don’t know yet. I’ve been asked what people who aren’t Russian citizens can do – from Europe, the European Union... I tell them all the same thing: you have to write letters, you have to write to the Investigations Committee and demand that they investigate the case. You have to write, I don’t know, to [Putin’s ombudsman] Moskalkova, write to the whole leadership of the prison service, write demands to transfer Ildar to hospital because of the condition of his health. Raise this problem as much as possible, because now they’re trying to sweep this whole case under the rug. I don’t know if you’re aware, from Kalyapin’s interview I know that a man with the name Fedotov took them to the colony. He’s the former head of the “seven” [the colony]. In 2012 he was the head of the “seven”, and then there were also reports of torture. Then all those reports were happily covered up, Fedotov was promoted, and Kossiev became the head of the “seven”. It’s clear that they’ll protect Kossiev, they’ll do whatever they want so that this doesn’t get out.
Everyone who has a brain should admit that torture shouldn’t exist. The whole world should fight this. I don’t know if we can win this in all colonies. In this particular colony all the people who took part in torture should be punished, and I mean criminally prosecuted, not just disciplined. This is just as clear as day.
So you need the maximum publicity that can be done, that’s the most important thing.
Yes, because if there isn’t that publicity they can do anything they want. And our only chance is to attract attention, above all, in Moscow. Because in Karelia they’re all connected with each other.
How often can you get to see Ildar now, and what about sending things?
In the strict conditions they’ve put him in illegally, obviously, parcels can be sent once every four months, and a short visit every six months and a long one every six months – so four visits a year. He promised to write a request for a long one. But it’s a problem because he can’t write there, as I said, they don’t give him time to write. I need to go to the colony and say give me a long visit. I can’t guarantee they’ll give me one.
* * *Activist Ildar Dadin was the first person in Russia to be convicted under article 212.1 of the Criminal Code (“Multiple violations of the established order of organising or holding gatherings, meetings, demonstrations, marches or pickets”). [He was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison.]
In September 2016 he was transferred to Karelia’s corrective colony No. 7 in the town of Segezha, where his lawyer told his wife about torture. Members of the Russian President’s Council on Human Rights Igor Kalyapin and Pavel Chikov went to see Dadin in the colony and came to the conclusion that his complaints were “confirmed on the site”. After a meeting with Dadin, federal human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova recommended transferring him to a different colony.
Dozens of actions have taken place in Russia and abroad in support of Dadin. The international human rights organisation Amnesty International recognised the activist as a prisoner of conscience.