Team 29: Summer is ending and there is no more hope (in fact there is)

posted 2 Sep 2019, 05:01 by Translation Service   [ updated 2 Sep 2019, 05:02 ]

31 August 2019

Hi, this is Natasha Korchenkova

The last week of summer is ending and of course everyone wants to take a breather before diving into a nine-month stint of cold and gloom. So I’ll start with the only encouraging news.

For several days already I have been watching with bated breath as Russia and Ukraine prepare to exchange prisoners. Officially the parties have only confirmed that negotiations are taking place. Otherwise, there are still more mysteries than there are clear facts: neither the lists, nor the estimated date, nor the conditions for a possible exchange are known. On Friday night Ukrainian officials announced the exchange, and journalists gathered at Kiev Zhuliany airport, but in the morning the Ukrainian Security Service officially denied this information: the exchange was postponed, but negotiations are continuing.

If the exchange does go ahead,  the Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov might return home –  at any rate, he has already been transferred from the prison colony in Labytnangi to a pre-trial detention centre in Moscow. Sentsov was sentenced for 20 years for, according to investigators, creating a “terrorist network” in Crimea. While in prison he has lost five years of his life (during which time he has become practically a household name), his health and 20kg (as a result of a 145-day hunger strike). While everyone is waiting for some kind of certainty, read our new text on international exchanges: there we talk about how the dissident Vladimir Bukovsky was released in return for the release of the head of the Chilean Communist Party, Luis Corvalan, and the Soviet Intelligence Officer Rudolf Abel for the American pilot Francis Powers.

On all other fronts – no positive change at all. The authorities rejected all applications for the release of political prisons and fair elections on 21 August. Independent university organisations are not even allowed to hold a public discussion about political life at their institutions: the police have already declared the event illegal, and the location has been fenced off. If you thought that was all, it’s not: it’s possible that Cossacks and veterans of the fighting in the Donbass could be involved in breaking up rallies. The Moscow authorities suggested they should “lay into Navalnyites”. If you are planning to go onto the streets this weekend, re-read our notes on how to behave if something goes wrong.

The first shock from the mass arrests in the “Moscow case” has already passed and it seems the furore has died down. Yet the repressions continue: the other day in Minsk a new defendant was detained: Nikita Chirtsov, who is going to be sent to Moscow. The cases of several of the acccused will be examined in a special court sitting next week. Inevitably, the further events recede into the past, the less painfully they are perceived. But it’s all the more important not to forget about the people who have been arrested: help and support are needed long-term, not just in the first days and weeks. Our friends at the volunteer project “Prisoners of Case 212” continue to raise funds to help the accused and their families. They have already managed to raise about 400,000 roubles and help the family of Yevgeny Kovalenko, one of the prisoners. They took over his prison transfer and the replenishment of his bank account, and also transferred 40,000 roubles from the monies raised to his mother for living expenses. Additionally, this week the guys lauched a Telegram bot that helps illustrate the absurdity of this case. You can upload your photo here too – the more ridiculous, the better.

Have a good weekend and don’t forget anything.

Natasha, K29

Translated by Anna Bowles