Person of the Week: Ilya Varlamov

posted 1 May 2017, 09:39 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 May 2017, 11:13 ]
On 26 April 2017 the well-known photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov was attacked shortly after arriving in Stavropol  by unidentified people with green antiseptic. Caucasian Knot has reported that Varlamov, who is one of the organizers of the "City Projects", an NGO that works on urban issues, wrote in his blog about the attack: "I left the airport. Outside, there was a group of people with flowers and some other guys. I did not even understand what happened. Some people immediately attacked me, poured brilliant green, iodine and something else incomprehensible into my eyes... They did not say anything, they just once shouted: 'Go to your America!', and then they ran away." Varlamov recounted that the incident occurred in front of police officers: "The policemen were very surprised and said that they had such an incident for the first time and that they announced the plan for 'interception' of the criminals... I am going to the OVD (Interior Division) now, and I will file a complaint, since they have spoiled my equipment." A video of the attack can be seen on Varlamov's blogCaucasian Knot also reports that later Varlamov said the same people again poured green antiseptic on him and rammed his car: "The man to whom I talked near the housing complex 'Perspektyvny' (just before the attack) was identified as a deputy of the Stavropol City Duma." 

A number of civil society activists have recently fallen victim to similar attacks. On 27 April 2017, and for the second time in recent months, opposition leader Aleksei Navalny was victim of an almost identical attack in Moscow as he got into his car. There are concerns his eyesight may be permanently damaged. On 28 April 2017 Natalya Fedorova, a Yabloko activist who has campaigned against the Moscow government's housing policy, was hospitalized, The Moscow Times reported, after an attacker threw a chemical in her eyes. On the morning of 26 April, Galina Sidorova, a staff member of the School for Investigative Journalism, had had a jar of green antiseptic thrown at her back in Yoshkar-Ola, where her organization was about to conduct one of its regular training seminars. Reflecting on the attack on her, Galina Sidorova said:

"I think our intelligence agencies have been keeping a close eye on us for a few years now. In any case, after the aggression began in Ukraine, this kind of pressure was clearly stepped up in various ways. So all these incidents, these forms of intimidation that are going on, they’re all happening with the full knowledge of the Moscow authorities, primarily Russia’s intelligence agencies. Because judging by the fact that these people know where to find us, our telephones are being tapped and we are evidently under surveillance. And this comes as absolutely no surprise to us. It just proves, yet again, what is happening in our country right now to our independent press, to civil society and to the opposition. It’s all just links in the same chain.”

Photo of Ilya Varlamov: Caucasian Knot

Ilya Varlamov, 'Как на меня в Ставрополе бандиты напали: все подробности и лица!,' LiveJournal, 27 April 2017
'In Stavropol, unidentified peoples attack blogger Ilya Varlamov,' Caucasian Knot, 27 April 2017
'Ilya Varlamov identifies deputy of Stavropol City Duma among attackers,' Caucasian Knot, 27 April 2017
Shaun Walker, 'Alexei Navalny on Putin's Russia: "All autocratic regimes come to an end",' The Guardian, 29 April 2017
'В Йошкар-Оле напали на журналиста "Школы расследований",' Radio Svoboda, 27 April 2017
'Staff member from School of Investigative Journalism attacked in Yoshkar-Ola. "The situation is becoming ever more insane and the level of repression ever harsher" [Radio Svoboda],' Rights in Russia, 27 April 2017
Matthew Kupfer, 'Someone Is Blinding Russian Opposition Activists With Chemicals,' The Moscow Times, 1 May 2017]