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Memorial Human Rights Centre: Charges against activists Evgeny Kurakin and Nataliya Lutovinova politically motivated

posted 22 May 2017, 06:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2017, 06:57 ]

16 May 2017


Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared that activists Evgeny Kurakin and Natalia Lutovinova, both from the town of Reutov near Moscow, are being prosecuted for political reasons.

Human rights defenders consider that the two activists from the 'Parkovaya no.8' co-ownership housing association in Reutov in the Moscow region are being prosecuted in connection with their activism to protect residents' rights and the rights of their neighbours.

Evgeny Kurakin was charged under the Russian Federation's Criminal Code, Article 159, Part 4 (especially large-scale fraud) and is waiting for his case to have a repeat hearing in court. He was in custody from 28 February 2014 to 9 July 2015, after which he was released on bail. On 16 March 2017 Natalia Lutovinova was sentenced to 302 hours of compulsory labour under Article 330, Part 1 (forcible assertion of private rights). On 1 March 2017 she was taken into detention and on 6 March she was released, having signed a written undertaking not to travel.

Memorial Human Rights Centre, having analysed the criminal investigation into Evgeny Kurakin and his case file, has concluded that the prosecution was politically motivated. All the evidence suggests that Evgeny Kurakin is completely innocent of the crime with which he is charged.

"The fact that the court decided to send the file back to the prosecutors after an unprecedentedly long hearing of the case can be seen as a de facto acquittal of Kurakin. In effect, the court admitted that Kurakin was held in a pre-trial detention centre for 18 months and that for 3½ years he has had the status of being a defendant, even though there has not even been a formal investigation into exactly which of his actions could be found to be fraudulent".

"As for Natalia Lutovinova, the pre-trial detention imposed on her on 1 March 2017 was disproportionate to the danger to society represented by the crime of which she was accused. According to her defence lawyer, Lutovinova was given a short-term detention solely in order to obtain evidence against Evgeny Kurakin while she was in the detention centre, given that Kurakin's file had previously been sent back to prosecutors", comments Memorial Human Rights Centre.

"The outrageous thing is the fact that the accused [Lutovinova] was held in custody despite her alleged offence being minor and not one generally punishable by imprisonment. We should note that Lutovinova had not attempted to go into hiding from the court: she had answered telephone calls and provided medical certificates on occasions when she has been unable to attend court sessions, so her arrest is absolutely ungrounded", say experts at Memorial.

"In our view, disputes over issues such as the regulations governing payment of communal services, the housing association's competence to reach decisions and the question of who should have leadership status, should be decided without involving the security forces and criminal law", they state.

Recognising people as political prisoners or as people who are charged for political motives does not signify that Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with their views or statements, nor that it approves of their statements or actions.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Memorial considers case against Ruslan Kutayev fabricated

posted 22 May 2017, 03:46 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2017, 03:47 ]

15 May 2017


The civic activist Ruslan Kutaev, who is serving a sentence in prison colony No. 2 at Chernokozovo in the Naurovsky district of the Chechen republic, has applied for parole.

On 7 July 2014 the Urus-Martanovsky court in Chechnya had found Kutaev guilty of the possession of narcotics (under Article 228, Part 2, of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to 4 years in a general-regime prison colony, and imposed a further one-year prohibition on his participation in public events or involvement in civic activities.

On 31 October 2014 the Chechen Supreme Court’s collegium for criminal cases heard the appeal against Kutaev’s conviction, lodged by his lawyers, and reduced the sentence to 3 years 10 months.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) includes Ruslan Kutaev in its list of political prisoners. In the view of the human rights activists at Memorial, the criminal case against him was a fabrication.

On 10 March 2017 his case for parole was heard in the Naurovsky district court. Ten statements in support of Kutaev were submitted, and also the fact that he had received no reprimands for breaking prison regulations. However, on the day of the hearing of the case, the court received notification to the effect that the day before Ruslan Kutaev had not turned up for the evening inspection and had in this instance broken the prison rules. No documents providing evidence of such an infringement were presented to the court. However, the Naurisky district court refused the request for parole on the basis of this notification.

The defence lawyer for Ruslan Kutaev appealed the decision in Chechnya’s Supreme Court. arguing that the refusal was not grounded in fact and the infringement, cited by the district court, had not occurred. On 11 May 2017 the Supreme Court of the Chechen republic turned the appeal down. Kutayev was refused permission to attend the

Translated by Mary McAuley

Human rights defenders fear a 'Bolotnaya Square case-2'

posted 10 May 2017, 06:18 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 May 2017, 23:38 ]

28 April 2017

By Vera Vasilieva


On 26 March 2017 peaceful street protests took place in various Russian cities at which upwards of 1,000 people were illegally (according to independent experts) detained.

At a press conference to discuss the latest protests in Russia and the state of freedom of assembly in the country, a number of human rights activists came together, including: Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the movement For Human Rights; Oleg Beznisko, lawyer for that same nonprofit; Denis Shedov and Dmitry Borko, members of the Memorial Human Rights Centre; Aleksandr Cherkasov, chair of the board of Memorial; Anna Frolova and Aleksei Polikhovich, representing the OVD-Info human rights project; and Oleg Elanchik, civil activist of the ‘14%’ movement.

Speakers at the press conference said the civic protests on 26 March had been peaceful. It was noted that a number of police officers did not have lapel badges on them for identification. They used physical coercion on the crowd, which is unacceptable given how dense it was. They carried out illegal and unmotivated arrests without showing any credentials and without any chance of redress.

This not only affected those involved in the event, but also the journalists who were covering it, as well as ordinary passers-by, said the human rights defenders.

According to Lev Ponomarev, in the lead-up to the protest set to take place on 6 May to mark the fifth anniversary of the Bolotnaya Square Case it is important, "that the authorities don't repeat the same mistakes".

As the human rights defender recalls, the Protest Committee submitted an application to hold the event, but it has not yet been approved by the Mayor's Office in the capital.

"We really don't know how things will play out. It is possible that they will go the same way as before," feared Lev Ponomarev.

Anna Frolova read out some statistics collected by OVD-Info on the 26 March arrests: "We have been monitoring the situation since 6 am when the protests began in Vladivostok. According to our figures, protests took place in 84 cities, excluding Moscow. Around 1,500 people were detained across the country, including 1,043 in Moscow. The sheer magnitude of the numbers of these arrests is unprecedented in recent times. Following the protests in five cities, a number of criminal cases were filed, and 150 investigators are now working on them.

According to the expert, "all of the administrative cases are one hundred percent fabricated. There is no telling what will happen in these criminal cases. It's repression, and it's still happening, even now, to everyone – those who have or have not been arrested, parents, directors, teachers... They have started calling minors in for questioning again.”

A typical example of the sort of offences being recorded by human rights defenders is the case of Oleg Elanchik. On 26 March he was on Pushkinskaya Square as a volunteer assisting those who had been arrested, when he himself was arrested. According to Elanchik, the police officers did not present their credentials and did not explain why he was being detained. By that point there were already around 10 people in the police van in which the civil society activist was placed, and a little while later a few more were brought in.

“We repeatedly asked them to explain where we would be taken, why nobody was taking us anywhere, why we were being detained. The police officers did not react to our questions. The police vehicle we were in stood on Pushkin Square for about two hours—from six in the evening till about eight. After that we were driven to the Presnensky police station.

“They didn’t take us into the station and instead continued to hold us in the bus. Likewise there was no reaction to requests to escort us to the toilet or hand us food people had brought for us. They only began to escort us out, two by two, after we called the duty station of the Presnensky police department; the main police station for Moscow's central administrative district; and 112, the emergency service.

“In the station, they began to book us under Article 20.2, Part 5, of the Administrative Code (“Violation of the established procedure for holding a gathering, rally, demonstration, march, or picketing by a participant of a public event”)—even those, who were arrested for smoking. We were booked neither by the police officers who arrested us, nor by those who took us to the station. That is, the officers who booked us couldn’t know what actually happened there.

“I was only able to find out about the case personally after 1 am. I saw the official reports about me and the others who had been arrested. These reports did not vary in the slightest, even down to grammatical mistakes. They were typed up and printed on the computer. This is forbidden by the law “On Police.” Official reports should be written in one’s own hand. They simply added our surnames, initials, and years of birth,” testified civil activist Oleg Elanchik.

To Elanchik’s story, Denis Shedov added information on the events that later took place in court. The cases against most of those arrested, according to Shedov, were heard in Moscow's Tverskoi district court.

“There were violations not only during the arrests, not only in the police station, but also in the courts. On average, the judges allowed about five minutes to review the materials of a case. In that time it was necessary to carefully read through all the case materials and understand what you’re being accused of. It’s extremely little time to form a legal position, but it’s enough time to be horrified at the violations of procedure contained in those materials.

“For example, I was representing the interests of people who were accused of crimes supposedly committed at nonexistent addresses. An address was given that simply does not exist in Moscow.

“One and the same police officer could indicate in the official report one set of circumstances, and in the explanation—other circumstances. In particular, the slogans that a person was accused of shouting, or the place where they were arrested, varied.

"The judges did not react at all to any of these inaccuracies, to any of these violations," Denis Shedov said.

Oleg Bezinsko, a lawyer from the movement For Human Rights, believes that the detentions at peaceful protests, beginning with 20112, are unlawful. "An appeal to the courts should be made in the case of each and every arrest. The human rights movement should see this as one of its main tasks," he said.

As Oleg Bezinsko said, the legal team at For Human Rights has developed and made public detailed advice for the protection of civil society activists facing charges under administrative law. All this advice is available on the organization's website.

For five years Dmitry Borko has been following the Bolotnoe case, as a journalist, as a member of an independent investigative team, and as a public defender in court. He draws a parallel between the Bolotnoe case and the events of 26 March: "Now the term 'the second Bolotnoe case' has become quite widespread."

The main thing in the history of the Bolotnoe case was that from the vast amount of data gathered about a very large number of people it was possible to select out any individual - and that is what they did. We never knew who would be chosen for the next criminal prosecution. It was like this because in fact the Bolotnoe case had the character of propaganda. They didn't need to send everybody to jail. They didn't need to carry out mass repressions. They needed to hold individual show trials for the purpose of demonstrating and making plain that taking part in demonstration can be put on trial.

"It is precisely the activities of our law enforcement officers as propaganda that makes it possible to foresee what will happen regarding the 26th March," Dmitry Borko says.

Aleksei Polikhovich, who was prosecuted in the Bolotnoe case and served three years in prison on an unjust conviction, also believes that it is not hard to see a parallel between how the authorities reacted to the events of 6 May 2012 and how they are reacting to what happened on 26 March 2017.

"The Bolotnoe case began with Maksim Luzyanin, a person of whom, based on video from the Square, it can be said that he did use a certain element of force in relation to the police (what degree of force this was is another question). After that, it was our turn, those of us who had some contact with the police, who were pushed away, had their arms twisted. And the Bolotnoe case ends with Dmitry Buchenkov who wasn't even on Bolotnaya Square that day. I see a certain degradation in the work of the country's investigative authorities, although it would seem that they could not get any worse," the civil society activist pointed out bitterly.

Thanks to Lindsay Munford for assistance with the translation

Human rights defenders urge measures against politically-motivated violence in the country

posted 8 May 2017, 03:18 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 May 2017, 03:24 ]

4 May 2017


Open letter by a group of Russian human rights activists to members of the Presidential Human Rights Council

In Russia in the spring of 2017 the number of physical attacks against members of opposition groups and civic activists increased. These are events that took place over just three days:

In Moscow on 27th April Aleksei Navalny was attacked. He had disinfectant thrown over him, intended for his face, causing serious eye injury. This was by no means the first attack on an opposition politician.

On 28th April in Moscow a chemical substance was splashed in the face of Natalya Fyodorova, an activist from the Yabloko party, resulting in a threat to her eyesight. This was just one of many incidents of violence against activists opposing illegal high rise construction and the plans for the mass demolition of housing in Moscow.

On 29th April in Ekaterinburg disinfectant was poured on the face of the blogger from Pervouralsk, Artem Izgagin. Glasses saved his eyesight.

The purpose of this illegal street violence is intimidation, the creation of an atmosphere of fear, in other words terror. For a long time now we have seen how pro-government hooligans have moved from threats against independent journalists and opposition activists to violence.

We see how they have moved from symbolic actions to criminal offences, fraught with serious consequences for their victims’ well-being. Sometimes the attackers do not hide themselves – like the “Cossacks” who attacked Navalny on 20th April in Krasnodar. Sometimes they deny their involvement – like the members of the SERB Movement, proof of whose participation in the 27th April attack on Navalny has been published. But more often the attackers have remained unidentified. We see how the authorities do not simply not react, but how they slow down the investigation of these attacks. We see how a similar practice is becoming widespread and permeating down to regional and local levels.

The dangers of this tendency are obvious: impunity for street violence against those in opposition legitimises this violence in principle.

In turn, this violence not only in essence destroys peaceful forms and instruments of public and political life, but it also leads to a radicalisation of society in general. And we need to understand that in this situation nobody can feel secure.

In order to discuss ways of combating this growing politically-motivated terror, we propose that in the near future a session of the Human Rights Council be held with the participation of the human rights ombudsperson and representatives of interested human rights organisations.

The leading officials of the General Procurator’s Office, the Investigative Committee, the MVD and the FSB should also be invited.

Members of the Council of Human Rights Defenders of Russia:
Liudmila Alekseyeva, chair of Moscow Helsinki Group
Valery Borshchev, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of Civic Assistance committee
Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of Golos Movement for Voters’ Rights
Oleg Orlov, member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre
Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the movement For Human Rights
Natalya Taubina, director of Public Verdict Foundation
Aleksandr Cherkasov, chair of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Translated by Frances Robson

"We were living witnesses of the Gulag." Book night at the Sakharov Centre

posted 8 May 2017, 02:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 May 2017, 02:48 ]

24 April 2017


By Vera Vasilieva

On 20 April 2017, a book night was held at the Sakharov Centre in Moscow. It included a meeting with a unique individual – Elena Vladimirovna Markova (née Ivanova) – once a prisoner in the Vorkuta labour camp, later a Doctor of Technical Sciences and a witness, custodian and researcher into resistance in the Gulag. Elena Markova spoke on the topic of “Spiritual Resistance by Young People in the Gulag.”

Three other Stalin-era political prisoners, all of whom have now passed away, were remembered at the event. They were Semyon Samuilovich Vilensky, Izrail’ Arkadyevich Mazus and Vadim Kononovich Yasny. All three were arrested when they were students.

Semyon Samuilovich Vilensky
was a student in the philological faculty of Moscow State University when he was arrested in 1948 for writing poems condemning the punitive policies followed by the Soviet authorities. Found guilty of "terrorist intentions," he spent three months in Sukhanovo special-regime prison, one of the most terrible Soviet prisons, considered a death camp. Vilensky came out of Sukhanovo alive because, throughout the time he was there, and in an effort to stay sane, he muttered poetry to himself. As a result, he was assessed as insane and sentenced to ten years in prison. He was sent to Kolyma where he remained until 1956. He was released in 1955, but denied the right to return to central Russia.

In 1963, Vilensky returned to Moscow where he set up the Kolyma Fellowship, later registered as the Moscow Historical and Literary Society, and the publishing house "Return," which was awarded the Golden Pushkin Medal for its contribution to the preservation of historical memory.

Vilensky’s goal in life was enlightenment. He edited and published many books by people who had suffered political repression. He compiled an anthology entitled There is Light Everywhere. The Individual in Totalitarian Society. He often met with schoolchildren and students at the Sakharov Centre. He organised international conferences on resistance in the Gulag, and the stage-show The Roads We Did Not Choose was based on his memoirs.

Izrail’ Arkadyevich Mazus
was an engineer, builder, writer and member of an anti-Stalinist youth group set up in 1948. He spent six years in the Vyatsky forced-labour camp and wrote a short novel Where Were You? about his experiences there. In the camp he worked as a digger, carpenter and planning-department dispatcher and, after training, for three years as a machinist in the camp power-station.

Mazus was released in October 1954 and returned to Moscow. He was soon amnestied. He graduated from the All-Union Correspondence Polytechnic and went on to work as a civil engineer on several major industrial and military projects. He also worked on the development of automated control-systems for construction.

In 1994 Mazus became co-chair of the Society of Repressed People of Moscow. He compiled and published the book Muscovites in the Gulag. This contained the first lists of victims of political repression published in our country. He was also the author of The History of an Underground, Prospects, Berezina and many other books.

Mazus devoted his final years to researching and publishing documents about the resistance of young people to Bolshevism. He began with a book entitled Democratic Union. An Investigation. 1928-1929, followed by a short reference book, Underground Youth Organisations, Groups and Circles (1926-1953), which drew on investigative files in the Central Archive of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and provided biographical data relating to some 50 prisoners.

Mazus died at the age of 87. But the staff at the Sakharov Centre remember that, up until his last days, he remained young in soul and strong in spirit. He recalled in an interview that “I spent six years in the camps. I have to say, it was a very interesting time.”

In memory of his years in prison, Mazus kept an accordion that had been sent to him there by his parents. Playing the accordion and being able to be creative saved his life. During one of his meetings with schoolchildren at the Sakharov Centre, he donated his accordion to the museum. His student card is also kept there.

“When Elena Vladimirovna Markova was arrested she was twenty years old. She had managed to complete high school, but not to enroll in university, where she dreamed of studying mathematics. Instead she ended up not only in the Gulag, but in a hard labour camp. It was the harshest and most shameful article that at that time existed in the Criminal Code in our country. This was connected to the fact that Elena Vladimirovna was condemned as a fascist collaborator because she worked for [Nazi] occupants at the public employment service.

“With her own hands, she hid wounded Soviet soldiers in her neighbours’ homes. In order for these people to be able to survive, for the families who hid them to survive, it was necessary to make German documents for the Red Army soldiers. Elena Vladimirovna knew German perfectly, found a job at the public employment service, and stole identification forms. She made false documents and, in doing so, saved human lives.

“All of these soldiers survived. Later, in accordance with the request of Elena Vladimirovna’s mother, they gave testimony and asserted that events were exactly thus. After that, Elena Vladimirovna’s sentence was shortened from 15 years to ten.

“Elena Vladimirovna was first introduced to higher mathematics in the camp barracks. An old man, a professor, made this possible. In the same barrack as this old man lived a young mathematician, who was dying of depression. He’d come back from work and lie down with his back to the room. And past him would run this girl, who deeply wanted to study mathematics. The wise old man made the young mathematician work with the girl,” said Natalya Samover, coordinator of exhibition projects at the Sakharov Center.

After liberation, Elena Markova lived in exile in Vorkuta [in the Komi region of Russia]. She described her life’s story in the book Vorkutian Notes of Forced Labourer E-105.

Having been rehabilitated, Elena Vladimirovna returned to Moscow and became an academic, a doctor of technical sciences and a cyberneticist.

“In 1960, a cyberneticist was a scholar taking a step into the future in which we now live,” Natalya Samover commented.

Elena Markova: 

I feel like a dinosaur from the Stalin era who’s still alive and wants to tell some story. Today there are hardly any of the immediate participants in our country’s drama to do with the Gulag still alive. It’s probably a rare thing when someone who actually experienced the Gulag tells their story. Living witnesses are becoming fewer and fewer, and their witness, of course, is highly valuable, because each one speaks of their personal experience.

The topic is boundless because the gulag was boundless in its extent. There were different facets to the tragedy and different aspects. I can’t speak even of all the facets of the tragic repression of young people. The Gulag was diverse in terms of the professions of those who ended up there, as well as in terms of age and social origins. It’s important to somehow cut up this multi-dimensional structure to make something in particular clear, to put an accent on one facet of the Gulag.

This is difficult as well as poorly understood, for in modern society there’s a kind of unidimensional understanding of the Gulag. There is talk of a ‘typical Gulag.’ I’ve heard such words even from those who are engaged in this topic: ‘Here we present a typical barrack, a typical camp zone.’ And probably about a ‘typical’ prisoner? That will already be far from life.

We decided to limit ourselves to the topic of “Spiritual resistance by young people in the camps.” Why spiritual? Because there were other ways of resistance in the Gulag. There were strikes. There were mass escapes. There were uprisings.

Maybe there will be a notion that it’s connected to religion. But we understand spiritual resistance in the broader sense of the word. This resistance might come from those who were involved in science, literature, the theatre.

For prisoners of the Gulag did not live by bread alone. They needed some kind of spiritual life too. But creating any kind of spiritual life, in the broad sense, was excluded by the Stalinist Gulag system. The person as a human being had to be destroyed.

The Gulag destroyed your mental capabilities, and your psyche, and you were already stripped of the title of human being. Such is the root of the matter why even spiritual resistance was a significant kind of resistance to the Gulag.

To stand up in the Gulag. To be a human. And moreover to still be capable of some kind of creative work. This is what is important to me. It’s human material resistance.

Eyewitnesses of this tragedy may be asked: and what allowed the spiritual to survive? Chess helped. People survived, remained human, because they had the ability at least to play chess. It wasn’t the only islet of salvation, but it’s important to understand what exactly allowed people to survive. 

Poems. Camp poetry. I am a witness of this.

Vadim Kononovich Yasny
also wrote poetry. He was born on 7 March 1917, in the same year that our country underwent a revolution. There are many highly distinctive aspects of his fate which make it typical for our country. I dislike the word “typical”, but in this case it fits perfectly.

His father died in a concentration camp in 1940. Vadim Kononovich Yasny was among the children of the repressed, which naturally meant that he himself was also doomed to imprisonment.

In 1935, motivated by a passion for Spanish literature, he became a student at the Faculty of Western Philology of the Institute of Philosophy and Literature, which closed down during in the war.

Vadim Kononovich’s studies came to an end in his third year, when he was among the victims of a mass repression of students at the Institute of Philosophy and Literature. All the victims of this repression had parents who themselves had been repressed, and naturally paid the price for not having denounced their parents as “enemies of the people”. Pavlik Morozov was the moral hero of the entire country at that time.

Vadim Kononovich was first sent to Monchegorlag, a camp on the Kola Peninsula whose inmates undertook forced labour in a copper and nickel processing complex which was of a significant size for the time. Luckily for us, Vadim Kononovich wrote a memoir entitled called “Born in Nineteen Seventeen”; he always attached great importance to the date of his birth.

As far as I know, this is the only memoir of its kind which describes the Kola Peninsula and Monchegorlag, since the camp was destroyed upon the outbreak of war in 1941 due to its proximity to the border. The industrial complex was blown up, and the camp was evacuated.

Vadim Kononovich then joined the gangs of prisoners building the railway line between Kotlas and Vorkuta.

It’s important to remember that all camps were not created equal. Fixed-location camps provided inmates with at least a certain degree of safety. The prisoners working on the railways were at much greater risk, and mortality rates were much higher for this group.

The safest camps of all were the “sharashkas” [secret research laboratories within the Gulag system], and the prisoners working in these sharashkas regarded themselves as very fortunate. Their camp experience – their food, their living conditions – was very different, not to mention the fact that they were engaged in intellectual endeavours which allowed them to remain creative human beings; the latter played a vital role in their survival.

In the penal camps I myself experienced, a mere prison camp held practically the same status as a sanatorium.

Luckily Vadim Kononovich’s camp record included a reference to the fact that he had completed training within the ZIS factory’s training centre before becoming a student at the Institute of Philosophy and Literature. This saved Vadim Kononovich’s life because it meant that he qualified as a skilled labourer, which was a fortunate position to hold in the Gulag.

Vadim Kononovich was sent to Pechzheldorlag, in the village of Abez, to work on a power plant. This power plant happened to be located next to a theatre, where Vadim Kononovich’s services as an electrician were often in demand.

The theatre was a remarkable and intriguing institution – a civic theatre for the local population, but staffed by prisoners. Vadim Kononovich started working at the theatre as an electrician whenever they needed him, and finally ended up there on a full-time basis, helping to put on literary plays. In a certain sense, he had resumed the studies he had begun at the Institute of Philosophy and Literature, and it was a great fortune and success for him to become involved with literature again.

Spiritual resistance depends on a prisoner’s spiritual life. Vadim Kononovich was saved by amateur dramatics, theatre and camp poetry.

He was in an environment in which he was surrounded by other clever, intelligent and interesting people. When I moved from Vorkuta to Moscow after 17 years, after my Moscow-born husband was given an apartment there, I was astonished by the people I met. Without meaning any offence to Muscovites, I could not help but think, “What dull and superficial people! In Vorkuta….” The people in Vorkuta really were different.

I have always carried Vorkuta with me in my soul. I am nearing the end of my life, and this was the period which shaped it. It is paradoxical that I met such incredible people with such astonishing fates in prison camps. Yet the people I talked with there gave me strength and saved my soul.

Vadim Kononovich was a living witness to the GULAG, just as I am. Our memories of Vorkuta stayed with us all our lives, and they will stay in my heart until I die. I do not need any notes to talk about Vorkuta; I will always remember everything.”

Translators include: Joanne Reynolds and Elizabeth Teague

Developments in the Dmitry Bogatov Case

posted 4 May 2017, 07:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 May 2017, 07:04 ]

25 April 2017


Moscow City Court has ruled that 25-year-old mathematician Dmitry Bogatov be kept in pre-trial detention. He is accused of publishing appeals to terrorism and riot on a forum of systems administrators. While that was happening, the account from which the appeals were published was restored on the very eve of the court session, when Bogatov was already in a pre-trial detention centre.

According to the Investigative Committee’s version of the story, Dmitry Bogatov posted, under the pseudonym Airat Bashirov, appeals on a forum on to bring “rags, bottles, gasoline, turpentine, styrofoam, and acetone” to an unsanctioned April 2 protest, and published “video recordings showing insubordination towards lawful demands of the police and showing mass disturbances.” The mathematician himself denies he is guilty, according to the BBC.

During the court session it became known that the president of the Association of Veterans of the Anti-Terror Unit “Alpha,” Sergei Goncharov, vouched for Bogatov. The only evidence presented by the investigation was that the network address (IP), which “Airat Bashirov” had once used, belonged to Dmitry Bogatov. The defence points out that Bogatov set up on his computer an exit node of the Tor network, i.e. made his address available to anyone seeking anonymity on the internet.

In a presentation to the court session, the investigator in the case spoke against the release of Bogatov and for him to be placed under house arrest. On the eve of the trial, “Airat Bashirov” restored his account on the forum, from which he had earlier published the appeals. The owner of the account confirmed to the BBC that he was their author. He had earlier accessed the network from other accounts under the same name; even so, in the interview with the BBC, he used the very same account which figures in the case.

“Airat Bashirov” called Bogatov an accidental victim of political repression. He once again posted to his account material critical of authority, and in the signature replaced an image of Bogatov with Nazi symbols.

The Tor network convolutes an internet junction, randomly distributing it among nodes around the world. It also allows one to gain access to the “Deep Web,” a segment of the internet not accessible to search engines.

When using Tor, the owner of a site, or a monitoring authority, sees only the last web address in a chain, the exit node. Dozens of exit nodes are situated in Russia.

Translated by Mark Nuckols

Darya Poliudova denied parole: "She hasn’t mended her ways and she hasn't admitted her guilt"

posted 27 Apr 2017, 08:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Apr 2017, 08:56 ]

19 April 2017


The Leninsky district court of Novorossiysk has denied parole to the political prisoner Darya Poliudova.

This has been reported by the lawyer for Public Verdict Foundation, Irina Biriukova. As grounds for this the Court pointed out that Poliudova, "has not mended her ways, nor has she admitted her guilt and her crimes". Human rights defenders intend to appeal today's ruling by the court, including in relation to procedural irregularities.

In today's proceedings the prison colony presented testimonials and conclusions of the Commission that were produced for January’s trial on commuting the sentence (which the court then also denied Poliudova). In response to a question by the defence counsel, representatives of the correctional facility said that during this period, "nothing has changed, so there are no new testimonials". A prison colony representative practically admitted that the testimonial had been copied from the previous case because, "the person's character hasn’t changed."

Darya Poliudova was convicted in December 2015 for ironic posts on social media (calling for people to take part in marches for the 'federalisation of Kuban'). The court characterised Poliudova's statements as calls to commit extremism. The activist was sentenced to two years at an open prison colony.

Poliudova turned to the Public Verdict Foundation with complaints that she was facing pressure from the administration of the prison colony, as well as harassment, to which other prisoners are subjecting her with the complicity of the administration.

Translated by Lindsay Munford

The case of Yury Dmitriev: “He always expected an attack”

posted 24 Apr 2017, 08:38 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Apr 2017, 08:41 ]

18 April 2017

By Elizaveta Mayetnaya, Radio Liberty

Source: [original source: Radio Svoboda]

A criminal investigation concerning Yury Dmitriev – the 61-year-old historian who heads the Karelian branch of the Memorial human-rights NGO -- has been completed. The case has been referred to the prosecutor's office before being sent to the court. Dmitriev is accused of child pornography (taking photographs of his adopted daughter when she was a minor), obscenity, and illegal possession of a firearm. Since his arrest in December 2016, Dmitriev has been kept in pre-trial detention.

Dozens of international and Russian human rights organisations have spoken in Dmitriev’s support. However, the court has not only ordered that the distinguished historian must remain in custody until mid-May; it has also placed a limit on the time allowed [for his defence] to study the case against him.

As Radio Liberty has learned, European historians and cultural figures have appealed to Karen Gabrielyan, Karelia’s chief prosecutor, not only to release Dmitriev from detention but also to ensure "the observance of his rights in accordance with Russian and international human-rights law and, above all, his right to a fair trial." Otherwise, the signatories write in their appeal to the Prosecutor, of which Radio Liberty has a copy, they will launch a campaign “to include those involved in Dmitriev’s prosecution on the Magnitsky Act list.”[1]

"Yury Dmitriev’s arrest and detention on improbable charges have aroused great concern among academics, historians and cultural figures in Poland and other European countries. We are alarmed by reports that the state-controlled mass media are presenting Dmitriev's case in a way that is aimed at harming not only his reputation, but also that of the authoritative NGO Memorial,” wrote members of Poland’s KARTA Centre, which studies modern European history, maintains substantial archives and engages in educational activity.[2]

In August 2015, on the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, Poland’s Ambassador to Russia, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, presented Yury Dmitriev with the Gold Cross of Merit, both for his work to preserve memory, and for his services to the Polish people.

“Sandarmokh”,[3] “Solovki”,[4] "Memorial Lists of Karelia"[5]—these are the words that best sum up the life and work of Yury Dmitriev. Dmitriev was among those who discovered the Sandarmokh cemetery, the largest burial-ground of victims of political repression in Karelia. Its ten hectares were used by the NKVD [the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, responsible for political repression under the rule of Joseph Stalin] as a secret firing-range where over 9,500 people, of sixty nationalities, were shot and buried in 1937-1938. With his own hands, Dmitriev dug up the corpses and recorded the names of the prisoners buried on Mount Sekirnaya in the Solovki prison camp.[6]

According to his fellow historians, Dmitriev has a unique ability to discover things. He also did a great deal to discover many other cemeteries, which have been made into memorial sites. “People, do not kill one another!” – these words, voiced by Dmitriev, are engraved in stone at the entrance to the Sandarmokh memorial complex.

[Read more in Russian here  or here

[1] For background information, see and

[2] For information, see



[5] [in Russian]

[6] Described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn as “the mother of the GULag,” the Solovki prison camp was located on the Solovetsky Islands in north-western Russia. It was used as a forced labour camp for political prisoners both in Imperial Russia and later in the Soviet period. Source:

Translated and annotated by Elizabeth Teague 

Federal Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova on the arrests of 26 March in Moscow

posted 24 Apr 2017, 05:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Apr 2017, 05:13 ]

19 April 2017


Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsperson, has said that the administrative penalties imposed against 35 people arrested in Moscow during anti-corruption protests on 26 March 2017 were inconsistent with their offences.

She explained that all of the violations had already been dealt with, reports Radio Svoboda.

According to Moskalkova, no bodily injuries were inflicted against those arrested. She also stated that she had not been contacted by protesters, although she received appeals from human rights organisations including For Human Rights.

On 26 March 2017, anti-corruption protests took place in a number of Russian cities and more than 1,000 people were arrested at the protest in Moscow.

According to OVD-Info, on 11 April, courts in Moscow examined more than 300 administrative cases against anti-corruption protesters.

Sixty-five people were placed jailed under administrative law and around 200 people were fined between 10,000 and 20,000 roubles.

Translated by Nicky Brown

Cultural figures and academics speak out in support of Novaya gazeta and Echo of Moscow

posted 24 Apr 2017, 05:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Apr 2017, 05:03 ]

17 April 2017


Journalists, writers and academics have published a declaration of solidarity with journalists from Novaya gazeta and Echo of Moscow, Sergei Parkhomenko, editor and civil society activist has reported. “Take a look at the signatures – you’ll see so many well-known names. It seems to me it is an important event that all these people should unite to speak out on something that has become important for each of us – and at a moment that they all consider decisive,” said Sergei Parkhomenko. 

The statement is the first joint action of the association with the working name “Free Speech”, whose purpose will be to defend free speech in Russia. 

Open Letter 

We, as members of the “Free Speech Association” – writers, journalists, public figures in the arts, academics – are extremely disturbed by threats aimed at our colleagues, journalists working at “Novaya Gazeta”, who have published on their pages material on mass arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings carried out against people living in Chechnya. 

We believe that the threatening and aggressive reaction to the journalists’ work that was seen on 3rd April at a rally of many thousands at the Central Mosque in Grozny, is unacceptable in a civilised society and should be evaluated from the point of view of Russian law. 

The absence of a proper reaction on the part of the law enforcement agencies and the country’s authorities triggered the usual threats – this time against the journalists from “Echo of Moscow” who spoke out in support of their colleagues at “Novaya Gazeta”. 

We remember too well how threats of this kind end. The uninvestigated murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova, the failure of investigators and the court to conduct a rigorous trial in the case of the murder of Boris Nemtsov compel us to follow the development of this situation with special trepidation. 

We demand that law enforcement agencies and the Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation deliver a full legal evaluation of actions intended to incite hatred and enmity towards journalists carrying out their professional duties, and to decisively put a stop to regularly recurring recent attempts to substitute the legal foundations of the Russian Constitution with some sort of vestiges of customary law or religious dogmas. 

Nadezhda Azhgikhina, journalist 
Svetlana Aleksievich, writer
Alexander Arkhangelsky, writer 
Dmitry Bavilsky, writer 
Elena Baevskaya, translator, teacher 
Irina Balakhonova, Publisher 
Nune Barseghyan, writer, psychologist 
Leonid Bakhnov, writer 
Irina Bogatyreva, writer 
Tatyana Bonch-Osmolovskaya, writer
Marina Boroditskaya, poet, translator, children's writer
Alla Bossart, writer
Olga Varshaver, translator
Dmitry Vedenyapin, the poet
Marina Vishnevetskaya, writer, screenwriter
Vladimir Voinovich, writer
Sergey Gandlevsky, writer
Alisa Ganieva, writer
Alexander Gelman, playwright
Kristina Gorelik, journalist
Varvara Gornostayeva, publisher
Mark Greenberg, translator
Natalia Demina, journalist
Vitaliy Dixon, writer
Olga Drobot, translator
Eugene Ermolin, critic, cultural historian
Victor Yesipov, poet, literary critic
George Efremov, poet, translator
Natalia Ivanova, writer, critic
Alexander Illichevsky, writer
Igor Irtenev, writer
Gennady Kalashnikov, the poet
Pavel Kataev, writer,
Irina Kravtsova, Publisher
Gennady Krasukhin, literary critic, writer
Maya Kucherskaya, writer
Alexander Livergant, translator
Natalia Mavlevich, translator
Alexey Motrov, writer
Vladimir Moshchenko, writer
Anton Nechaev, writer
Leonid Nikitinsky, journalist
Sergey Parkhomenko, journalist
Grigory Pasko, journalist
Nikolay Podosokorsky, philologist, literary critic 
Alexander Podrabinek, journalist 
Alyosha Prokopiev, poet, translator 
Maria Rybakova, writer 
Zoya Svetova, journalist 
Olga Sedakova, writer 
Alexey Slapovsky, writer 
Vladimir Sorokin, writer 
Vladimir Sotnikov, writer
Tatyana Sotnikova (Anna Berseneva), writer
Irina Staf, philologist, translator
Lyubov Somm, translator
Lev Timofeev, writer
Lyudmila Ulitskaya, writer
Elena Fanailova, poet, journalist
Igor Kharichev, writer
Alexey Tsvetkov, writer, essayist
Grigory Chkhartishvili (Boris Akunin), writer
Alla Shevelkina, journalist
Tatiana Shcherbina, poet, essayist
Sergey Yakovlev, writer
Alexander Yarin, translator

Translated by Frances Robson 

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