'Secret' searches in St Petersburg library

posted 19 Sept 2016, 03:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Sept 2016, 03:16 ]
14 September 2016

Source: HRO.org

Boris Vishnevsky, a journalist and a deputy in the St Petersburg Legislative Assembly, has received a response from prosecutors concerning the reasons why FSB officers carried out searches in the Mayakovsky Library where, as part of the library's 'Dialogues' project, Nikolai Solodnikov was holding public discussions with well-known people about varied topics.

"I have now received a response from prosecutors, having complained to them about the FSB, asking what grounds FSB officers could possibly have had for carrying out a search at the Mayakovsky Library. If the search was under Article 159 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, which concerns fraud, this matter should have been dealt with by the Interior Ministry, not the FSB. I asked prosecutors to tell me exactly what was being searched for.

"The response is unbelievable: it turns out that investigative activities are classified as 'top secret', and so it is absolutely impossible to tell me anything about them.

"Top secret investigative activities in a library of all places! Not on a military base, not in an espionage centre, not at a potential base for training terrorists – no, in a library! It's total nonsense, and more to the point, it's a cynical way to reply. Clearly, they simply have no desire at all to tell me the real reason why they shut down the 'Dialogue' project", Boris Vishnevsky posted on Facebook.

According to the website Zaks.ru, Nikolai Solodnikov, who organised the ‘Dialogues’ in his role as the library's deputy director responsible for communications, announced at the end of June 2016 that the 'Open Library' team was no longer able to organise gatherings at the library, which is situated on Fontanka embankment. He also stated that searches had been carried out at the library.

Solodnikov subsequently resigned from his post and had to leave Russia.

A few days later, Boris Vishnevsky, the well-known St Petersburg journalist who represents the Yabloko party in the Legislative Assembly, contacted the head of the St Petersburg and Leningrad district branch of the FSB, Alexander Rodionov, asking him to explain the reasons why the Mayakovsky Library was searched. In particular, he wished to find out whether FSB staff had really talked to the library's management about the project's 'undesirability' and, if so, on what legal grounds. He questioned why the FSB should grant itself the right to determine the 'undesirability' or 'desirability' of public cultural projects and whether this means it is acting as a political police force.

Translated by Suzanne Eade-Roberts