Memorial Human Rights Centre: Defendants from Penza and St. Petersburg in the case of the banned anti-fascist organisation Network are political prisoners

posted 20 Dec 2019, 10:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Dec 2019, 11:17 ]
Правозащитный центр «Мемориал»9 December 2019

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

The defendants have not been involved in terrorist activities; the criminal case against them has been fabricated and is based on testimony given under cruel torture

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ recognises Maksim Ivankin, Vasily Kuksov, Mikhail Kulkov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, Arman Sagynbaev, Andrei Chernov, Ilya Shakursky and Igor Shishkin as political prisoners. We demand their immediate release and that all charges against them for alleged involvement in a terrorist group be dropped.

Charges against the Penza anti-fascists

Penza anti-fascist activists Dmitry Pchelintsev and Ilya Shkursky have been charged under Article 205.4, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Creation of a terrorist group’) for setting up the Network organisation, banned in Russia, which in the view of the investigators is a terrorist and anarchist association, and Maksim Ivankin, Vasily Kuksov, Mikhail Kulkov, Arman Sagynbaev and Andrei Chernov have been charged under Article 205.4, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Participation in a terrorist group’) for membership of this organisation.

In addition, Pchelintsev, Shakursky and Kuksov have been charged under Article 222, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Illegal possession of weapons and ammunition’), while Ivankin, Kulkov and Chernov have been charged under Article 30, Section 3, in association with Article 228.1, Section 4, Part d, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Attempt to commit large-scale illegal dealing in drugs’). Shakursky has also been charged under Article 222.1, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Illegal possession of explosives’), while Pchelintsev has been charged under Article 30, Section 3, in association with Article 167, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Attempt to commit intentional destruction of property belonging to others motivated by hooliganism’) respectively. The defendants have been held on remand since the autumn of 2017, except for Maksim Ivankin and Mikhail Kulkov who were arrested on 4 July 2018. None of the defendants has a criminal record.

Why we believe the charges related to the banned Network organisation to be fabricated and politically motivated

There is much testimony that all the defendants and at least four witnesses in the Penza case of the banned Network organisation were subjected to torture. The use of torture in the work of the investigators was not exceptional but a general rule and one of the main instruments used during the investigation in the criminal case. The torture of defendants Viktor Filinkov, Yulia Boyarshinova and Igor Shishkin in the St. Petersburg case of the banned Network organisation has also been documented by the Public Oversight Commission. The Network case, both in Penza and St. Petersburg, has been wholly built on the testimony of defendants and witnesses obtained by the use of torture. All the ‘self-incriminatory statements’ obtained by this means are inadmissible in court and cannot even theoretically be used as evidence for the guilt of the defendants.

This case is an example of reality being fitted to the conspiracy theories of operational and investigative officers from the Penza FSB. The description of training, division of responsibilities and the structure of Network, set out at the trials in Penza and St. Petersburg, was much more like information about a group of strike ball players, divided into teams, and their friends, than a terrorist organisation intending to use force or having serious plans to otherthrow the current government. The version according to which a small group of young people with left-wing views, living in Penza, seriously decided to violently overthrow the current political regime in Russia is extremely unrealistic and fantastical.

Evidence gathered by the investigation, presented at the trial that began on 14 May 2019 in the Volga District Military Court, is extremely unconvincing and consists of the classified testimonies of witnesses who are either hostile to the defendants or who wish to avoid prison, two planted pistols, one improvised explosive device, the doctored recordings of telephone conversations and anarchistic views contained in documents of the ‘terrorist group,’ very crudely fabricated from the correspondence of the young women.

The defendants are in fact not accused of having committed any real actions or attempts to commit such actions. All the offences they allegedly were going to commit, even according to the investigators, are concerned with an indeterminate, distant future. Moreover, initially the FSB asserted that the participants in Network had prepared to carry out acts of terrorism during the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2018. However, the final charges contained no mention of this. Even those defendants who pleaded guilty stated that the purpose of the training and joint activities in Network was nothing other than self-defence in case of attack by radical nationalists during possible disturbances, and not preparation to seize some buildings or other, or the commission of terrorist acts.

The episodes of drug trafficking with which Maksim Ivankin and Mikhail Kulkov have been charged, and to which they pleaded guilty in court, cannot prevent them being recognised as political prisoners on groundless charges of terrorism. At the same time we believe that these episodes must also be objectively investigated because of the violation of the defendants’ rights during the preliminary investigation. There is a strong likelihood that the charges against Chernov under Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code were fabricated given that he was charged almost a year after his detention and the investigatory authorities gained access to the smart phone found on him at the time of arrest. Neither his fingerprints nor other biological traces were found on the packets containing drugs.

It is obvious that the prosecution of the anti-fascist activists in Penza, part of on-going repressive measures against anarchists and anti-fascists that sharply increased in 2017-18, is politically motivated. Government bodies cultivate the image of anarchists as people who are participants in terrorism and who are seeking to destabilise society and the political system. Detained anarchists are, moreover, routinely and blatantly tortured. At the same time, all extra-systemic, informal self-organisation in society, especially of young people, is closed down.

Others prosecuted for participation in the banned Network organisation are also political prisoners

The charges against participants in the branch of the organisation allegedly set up in St. Petersburg, who have been recognised by Memorial as political prisoners, also would appear to have been fabricated. In studying the case files of the St. Petersburg anti-fascist activists, charged wtih taking part in Network, which is banned in Russia, we found no evidence that their actions constituted any danger to the public. Memorial initially could not take a decision whether to recognise a third defendant in the St. Petersburg case, Igor Shishkin, as a political prisoner because he had pleaded guilty to all charges and it had not been possible to examine his case file. However, since the law enforcement agencies’ assertion that the Penza anti-fascist activists allegedly founded a terrorist organisation is a complete fabrication, we consider that Shishkin, convicted only of participating in Network, must also be recognised as a political prisoner since there is no evidence that he committed any crime.

More information about the case of the Penza anti-fascist activists is available here.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

Address for letters:
440039, Penza,
Karakozova Street,
Building No. 30,
Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 1 of the Federal Penitentiary Service for Penza region,
Maksim Sergeevich Ivankin, born 1995,
Vasily Alekseevich Kuksov, born 1998,
Mikhail Alekseevich Kulkov, born 1994,
Dmitry Dmitrievich Pchelintsev, born 1992,
Arman Dauletovich Sagynbaev, born 1992 (NB before entering into correspondence with A. Sagynbaev, Memorial strongly recommends reading the material here),
Andrei Sergeevich Chernov, born 1989,
Ilya Aleksandrovich Shakursky, born 1996.

It is also possible to send an e-mail using the system ‘FSIN-pismo’ [Federal Penitentiary Service - Letter] ( for which there is a charge, or for free via the Rosuznik website (

Donations to support the defendants can be made to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal at (please indicate currency in euros and note the donation is for the Network case).

A petition to stop the prosecution in the Network case can be found at:

Donations to provide assistance to all Russian political prisoners can be made via PayPal at

Republished by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre