Fundraising evening in support of political prisoners held in Moscow

posted 6 Jun 2016, 05:29 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Jun 2016, 05:36 ]
30 May 2016


By Vera Vasilieva
On May 28th 2016, a fundraising evening was held at the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Community Centre in support of political prisoners.

It's an ongoing tradition that has been running for several years. The main aim of these concert events is to raise funds for political prisoners.

Writer and comedian Viktor Shenderovich performed as well as singer-songwriters Vladimir Turiyansky and Evgeniya Lantsberg. In addition civil activists, lawyers and former political prisoners spoke about those currently in need of aid.

Guests had the opportunity to make donations for those incarcerated as well as write cards to show their support.

The evening host and co-organiser Sergei Davidis, who is a member of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre and of Solidarnost, explained that funds are needed to cover legal costs, family visits, and additionally support prisoners' families left without breadwinners.

Guests also had the opportunity to read information leaflets containing short biographies of political prisoners. White ribbons that read “Free political prisoners” were also handed out along with badges for “6 May prisoners” and former Yukos employee Aleksei Pichugin.

Memorial Human Rights Centre recently published an updated list containing the names of 87 political prisoner. Since the publication of the previous list on 30th October 2015 eight political prisoners were released. During the same period 45 new people were added to the list. The event organisers made efforts to draw attention to those less known to the general public.

In particular Sergei Davidis spoke about activist and blogger from Tomsk Vadim Tiumentsev, who was sentenced to five years at a low-security penal colony for “inciting extremism over the Internet” and “inciting hatred and hostility”. In a video message in January 2015 Tyumentsev encouraged locals to attend a rally that did not have official permission in protest against the rising prices for minibus taxis, their diminishing safety and corruption among local government officials.

Another political prisoner Gennady Afanasyev from Simferopol was sentenced to seven years high security prison for “terrorist activities”. Allegedly he joined a terrorist group organised by Oleg SentSov and under his command was involved in two arson attacks (on the offices of the Russian Community of Crimea and the United Russia political party). He also, allegedly, coordinated preparations to blow up a Lenin monument. The Memorial Human Rights Centre believes that the evidence in this case was partially fabricated.

Sergei Davidis stressed that the lesser-known individuals are “also in need of support”.

A representative of Agora Human Rights Association, Olga Dinze, spoke about the so-called ZOV case and her defendant, RBK journalist Aleksandr Sokolov. According to Dinze, Sokolov was investigating corruption during the construction of the Vostochny rocket launch site. His PhD thesis on “The impact of rent-seeking behaviour on the investment of Russian state corporations” contains criticisms of the ruling elite.

The initiative group ZOV is also accused of extremism due to its calls for a referendum for “An accountable government”. There has as yet been no judgment in the case.

A member of the band Pussy Riot, former political prisoner and co-founder of the projects Mediazona and Zona Prava, Maria Alekhina spoke about what each individual can do to help.

“There is a lack of simple actions. People can attend court hearings and write about them. Live reactions during court hearings and detailed factual accounts are important,” Alekhina stressed.

These are the goals of the project Mediazona. According to its founders it “reports on reality in Russia and follows the developments in society.” Meanwhile the project Zona Prava is providing legal support and advice to prisoners and defendants.

Former Bolotnaya Square political prisoner Aleksei Pokhilovich spoke about the importance of timely professional legal assistance and distribution of information. He highlighted that “the first hour following an arrest is crucial in order to spread the word and help the detained individual.”

Another former Bolotnaya Square case defendant and coordinator of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia (Otkrytaya Rossiya) Maria Baronova talked about the financial aid for political prisoners provided by this organization.

On this occasion the organisers of the event, apart from directly collecting cash donations, employed other ways of fundraising for political prisoners.

Viktor Shenderovich and journalist Viktoria Ivleva donated their books for the cause with all proceeds going into the main donations box. Viktor Shenderovich chose his books “My friend Ali, offspring of Mohammed” and “Reptilion” for this occasion. Viktoria Ivleva’s book “Mandryvka or A Facebook Worm Travels Round Ukraine” documents through photos and Facebook comments her journeys through Ukraine in 2014.

In addition, Victor Shenderovich acted as auctioneer for a painting by a Petropavlosk-Kamchatka based artist Denis Lopatin, who made the trip especially for the occasion. The painting featured a portrait of Sergei Syrtsov who is the hero of Shenderovich’s book titled “Solo on the Flute”. The painting, initially valued at 5,000 roubles, was sold for 16,000 roubles, again with all proceeds going towards political prisoners’ needs.

Lastly, Vladimir Turiyansky and Evgeniya Lantsberg received a wealth of applause for their songs accompanied on guitar.

The event raised a total of 158,850 roubles and $300. According to the organisers, those who could not attend the event can provide support for Russian political prisoners at any time by donating to the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via the Yandex Wallet number 410011205892134.

To see more photos, click HERE