Russian Media

This section features occasional translations by Rights in Russia of materials published in the Russian-language media on human rights issues and featured here with due acknowledgement to the original sources.

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Zoya Svetova: 'More important than justice. Sergei Bulatnikov died under guard in a Moscow hospital without regaining consciousness' [Radio Svoboda]

posted 3 Jan 2017, 11:27 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Jan 2017, 11:41 ]

14 December 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Radio Svoboda]

By Zoya Svetova, journalist, human rights activist, recipient of a Moscow Helsinki Group award for the defence of human rights and former member of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission

On 11 December, 58-year-old Sergei Bulatnikov died in one of Moscow’s hospitals without regaining consciousness.

He had been transported to the hospital under guard from Butyrka Prison. Bulatnikov had been remanded in custody by Meshchansky court one month before his death, even though his lawyer had supplied evidence that he was suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure.

Bulatnikov was charged with fraud on the grounds that he had apparently helped someone to produce documentation for an apartment. Since his registered address was in the nearby region of Podmoskovye, he could have been placed under house arrest or travel restrictions.

Bulatnikov spent less than a week in Butyrka Prison before suffering a stroke. He was admitted into a civilian hospital, where he lay in a coma for almost three weeks without regaining consciousness, and then died.

We found out about this case from employees of the Moscow Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service, who raised the alarm by writing to the investigative department in charge of Bulatnikov’s case requesting that the pre-trial detention measures be lifted immediately. They did not write out of humanitarian concern or charity, but because four guards on rotation were required to stand watch day and night over Bulatnikov throughout his stay in the intensive care ward of the civilian hospital, as per the instructions. They did at least take off his handcuffs, a luxury not granted to the YUKOS lawyer Vasily Aleksanyan, who was also held under guard in a civilian hospital. This horrified Nikolai Svanidze and Genri Reznik, members of the Public Chamber who visited him in hospital, and the handcuffs were removed after they expressed their outrage.

Valery Zuyev, the investigator from the “Meshchansky” branch of the Department of Internal Affairs in charge of Bulatnikov’s case, did not pay any attention to the letter from the Moscow Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service, and did not deem Bulatnikov worthy of release from custody, even though the doctors explained that he might remain in a coma for several months. Zuyev did not allow the dying man’s wife to visit him on the intensive care ward, and Bulatnikov died with agonising bedsores.

Even though the death of a detainee under guard while he lay in a coma prompted several articles in the press, there is no hope whatsoever that anyone will be punished for Sergei Bulatnikov’s death in custody. The investigator Zuyev did not technically break the law – he lodged an arrest warrant with the court on the grounds that Bulatnikov was likely to “go into hiding to avoid the investigators, exert pressure on witnesses or destroy evidence of the crime”. In point of fact, Valery Zuyev was simply making his job more straightforward, since any investigator finds it easier to “work” with an alleged offender being held in a pre-trial detention facility and to persuade him to make a confession – the “queen of evidence”, without which Russian investigators are entirely powerless.

When Bulatnikov suffered a stroke and then fell into a coma, there was once again no legal imperative for Zuyev to remove the guards keeping watch over him, since neither stroke nor coma appear on the list of serious illnesses which allow prisoners to be released from detention.

This list was ratified by Government Decision No 3 of 14 January 2011, and was drawn up at the instigation of human rights activists following the scandal of Sergei Magnitsky’s death in a pre-trial detention facility. Unfortunately, strict adherence to this list means that only terminally ill people are eligible for release, and in principle this is exactly what happens. The detainees suffering from advanced cancer, whose release I myself secured when I was a member of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission, died very quickly after returning home.

Yet list or no list, the real question we should be asking is what the investigators and judges can possibly be thinking when they travel to a pre-trial detention facility to attend the examination of a seriously ill patient, but then refuse to grant their release. Are they blind to the patient’s suffering?

In late October, I went to the hospital wing of the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention facility to visit a man accused of trafficking migratory birds, who had been diagnosed with stage four cancer by oncologists. Judge Vereshchagina of the Solntsevsky Court was forced to travel to Matrosskaya Tishina, since the prison doctors refused to transport the terminally ill cancer patient to court. This made no impression on the judge, however, who refused to release him on grounds of illness.

According to information from the Federal Penitentiary Service, the prisons department lodged applications with the courts for the release of 2,568 people on grounds of illness during the first nine months of 2016, but the judges released only 1,193, or less than half.

The reason behind this lack of compassion when dealing with detainees is not so much an absence of charity, which – in the words of the famous cinema director Aleksandr Sokurov, citing one of the fathers of the Church when urging President Vladimir Putin to release Oleg Sentsov from prison – is “more important than justice”. The main reason is that the individuals concerned enjoy complete impunity.

In recent years, thousands of seriously ill prisoners being held in prisons and penal colonies, whose release was dictated not only by law but also by conscience, have died through the fault of Russian investigators and courts. The investigators did not bother to lift the pre-trial detention measures because that was “not the custom”. The judges did not take the trouble to read the diagnoses or medical findings. And when they travelled to the pre-trial detention facilities and the detainees were brought out to them on gurneys, pale and close to death, they “looked down at the table” rather than at the patient, in the words of Aleksei Navalny, and refused to grant their release, effectively condemning them to death.

Is there any way of putting an end to this downright inquisitorial system? Yes, there is. Firstly, the “list of serious illnesses” which allow prisoners to be released from detention must be revised as soon as possible. Human rights activists have been attempting to bring about such a revision for a number of years, but the government and the legal department of the presidential administration have delayed publication of their conclusions on this document.

Secondly, the investigator Valery Zuyev should be dismissed from the Meshchansky branch of the Department of Internal Affairs for having effectively sentenced Sergei Bulatnikov to death before he had even been convicted. Perhaps if just one investigator or judge were punished in some way for the death of a detainee before sentencing, their colleagues would be guided by a philosophy of self-preservation in similar situations.

I will not even mention the concept of charity, which is out of favour in modern-day Russia.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

'Movement of the 14%' on the cases of Viktor Chirikov and Aleksei Knedlyakovsky [Facebook]

posted 1 Jan 2017, 09:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Jan 2017, 10:02 ]

28 December 2016

Source: Facebook page of Movement of the 14%

Remember how we marked Chekists’ Day on 20 December? We wanted to release balloons (which were not balloons at all) next to the FSB building, but we were detained as we walked along the road. And Pierre Haffner, our friend and supporter, a citizen of France, was attacked by FSB officer ‘Zhenya-FSB’. Then we were driven around for three hours in a police bus.

But we weren’t the only ones who merrily celebrated the ‘holiday’. On 20 December someone in Krasnodar marked the day by mounting a wooden cross on the memorial to Feliks Dzerzhinsky. Two Krasnodar environmentalists – activists from Environmental Watch Viktor Chirikov and Aleksei Knedlyakovsky – have been accused of doing this.

In March 2016 they had proposed removing the memorial or moving it to another place. Trees would be planted at the location instead, and the green zone would be called Square in Memory of Victims of Politcal Repression. Environmental Watch issued a statement saying: "This political leader of the early Soviet period not only had no relation to Krasnodar, but became famous as one of the initiators of the Red Terror.” 

Viktor Chirikov and Aleksei Knedlyakovsky themselves state they had nothing to do with the mounting of the cross on the memorial. Despite that, on 22 December the two men were detained by the police. They were charged with ‘petty hooliganism’ under Article 20.1 of the Russian Administrative Code. The trial lasted a mere four minutes. The main evidence was a very faded photo in which Judge Stanislav Burenko said he recognized Knedlyakovsky and Chirikov. He handed down the maximum possible sentence.

The environmentalists were sent to a special police detention centre in Krasnodar to serve their sentences. Two days ago Viktor Chirikov spoke with the deputy coordinator of Environmental Watch, Dmitry Shevchenko, by phone and said that the conditions in which the activists were being detained were not only close to torture, but essentially were torturous. They are held in a small cell that does not meet regulation standards. There are 11 people in the 11 square metre cell, in other words each person has one square meter of space. There is no access at all to fresh air in the cells and most of those detained are continuously smoking. The detainees have limited access to drinking water, and this at a time when the two men have been on hunger strike since the first day of their detention, and already are into their sixth day without food.

Today it became known that an ambulance was called to Viktor Chirikov because of a sudden deterioration in his health.

Aleksei Knedlyakovsky’s health also continues to deteriorate, and the conditions of detention remain inhuman.

In connection with the above, we are starting a 'One Good Deed' marathon. We ask people to phone Krasnodar Public Oversight Commission or send them an e-mail. We are also asking people to write an appeal to the electronic address of the Krasnodar prosecutor’s office.

The text of the appeal reads as follows:
I have learned from the media that persons subjected to a jail term under administrative law are being kept in torturous conditions. They are detained in a cell that is smaller than the legal minimum. There are 11 people held in a cell measuring 11 square metres, in other words one square metre for each person. There is no access to fresh air in the cell. The detainees have limited access to drinking water. For these reasons, we ask you to conduct an inspection of the Special Police Detention Centre for the detention of persons subject to a jail term under administrative law in the city of Krasnodar.


Electronic address of Krasnodar Public Oversight Commission:

Electronic address of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Krasnodar city:…/obrashchenie-k-prokuroru-…

Form for submitting appeals via Internet to the FSB of Russia via the Public Oversight Commission's website:

The Public Oversight Commission can be contacted by phone to demand that an inspection be conducted of the Special Detentioin Centre:
Mardyko Valery: +7928-410-68-80;
Pastor Belikov Viktor +7918- 633-14-96, +7952-852-82-82;
Popova Natalya Mikhailovna: +7918-360-87-47

"When intelligent people leave, it's a tragedy for the country" - An interview with Dmitry Zimin [Radio Svoboda]

posted 29 Dec 2016, 05:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Dec 2016, 05:07 ]

19 December 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Radio Svoboda] 

Below is an extract from 'Головы повернуты назад', Радио Свобода, 19 December 2016

In summer 2015 the Dynasty Foundation of Dmitry Zimin was declared a foreign agent and a year ago practically stopped all its activity. The festival of popular science literature, “Illuminator”, was organised last season for the first time without the direct participation of Dynasty, even though it continued to be funded by Dmitry Zimin, who promises to fund the prize even in the years ahead. Despite the closure of Dynasty, Dmitry Zimin continues to support educational and social projects, the last of which is the documentary biopic film about Boris Nemtsov “The Man Who Was Too Free” by Mikhail Fishman and Vera Krichevskaya, which was recently premiered during the Artdocfest festival.

Philanthropist, educationalist and the honorary president of Vimpelkom, Dmitry Zimin seldom gives an interview and has latterly only rarely appeared in the media. According to him, after Dynasty was defined as a foreign agent, Dynasty's founder was subjected to rather peculiar form of harassment from some state media outlets. One year on Dmitry Zimin has agreed to answer a few questions in an interview with Radio Svoboda.

One of the rumours doing the rounds after Dynasty was declared a foreign agent and the Foundation closed down was that you have emigrated. Allegedly you have already gone off somewhere or other and are not planning to return.

I did in fact leave. For a week. Generally speaking emigration can be the solution for a person, and even the only one possible, but it is always a human tragedy, without even mentioning that when intelligent people leave, it's a tragedy for the country. In London, in Berlin where I was recently, it is possible to meet many really intelligent people who cannot come to Russia. This is a crying shame.

But you didn’t leave. Despite the harassment.

I cut back, and though I did not stop completely, my philanthropic activity. I stopped funding Dynasty. Everyone was happy and the harassment ceased. In fact I can go leave the country to go wherever I want. But I am bored there. I belong here.

But in recent days, hasn’t it become boring in Russia?

It hasn’t become boring. It has become sickening from time to time. People who are genetically active in the social sense, are forced to act less openly. There is a limited number of active public figures left, people who have maintained their passion and rhetoric. Recently Alfred Koch published an article in which he says that serious criticism of the regime from within is just about impossible, while calling on others to fight the regime, sitting somewhere or other far away, is immoral. Nobody knows for how long this will go on. But it is obvious that the situation is unsustainable. I don’t remember who said that one of the indicators of the level of stability of a country is the degree of its autonomy from the personality of the leader. And, let’s add, the existence of procedures to regularly change the leader.

Don’t you think that adding Dynasty to the register of foreign agents was part of the battle with enlightenment? That today’s regime has no need for a large number of intelligent and independent-minded people, while the activity of the Foundation actually contributed to that?

I don't think the question has been put in that way. Although, of course, in principle there is an element of that in today’s politics: all education should be directed to so-called patriotic, even Orthodox-patriotic upbringing. We see how this expresses itself – in the cancellation of stage productions and the closure of exhibitions. [Read more in Russian

Translated by Frances Robson

Interview with Svetlana Gannushkina [Radio Svoboda]

posted 23 Dec 2016, 09:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Dec 2016, 09:10 ]

18 December 2016

This is an extract from: 'Ustanovka na vydvorenie,' Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty)]

18 December is International Migrants Day. On 18 December 1990, the UN’s General Assembly adopted a convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their family members. In Russia, according to human rights defenders, the situation concerning incomers’ rights is not improving. Moreover, over recent years the number of migrants deported from the country has increased significantly.

According to statistics from the Federal Migration Service (FMS), in 2015 in Russia there were 117,000 court decisions on deportation. Neither migrant workers nor displaced persons in the country are regarded with favour. Thus over the entire period of Russia’s participation in military conflict in Syria, only two Syrians have received refugee status in Russia, as Chair of the Civil Assistance Committee Svetlana Gannushkina told Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty) in an interview. In her opinion, the increase in the number of deported migrant workers is due to political factors and is not at all related to an increase in the number of newcomers.

On the contrary, fewer migrant workers are coming to Russia because it’s become harder here to find work, because the dollar rose sharply and, accordingly, the rouble fell. Of course these migrant workers are sending money home, but there’s less and less money. In fact there are now fewer [migrants], not more. It’s true that in recent years [the authorities] have begun to deport people more energetically. This is because the fight with illegal immigration is considered yet again the main thing for the Migration Service to work on. They are deporting not only migrant workers; they are also deporting asylum seekers and those who have not yet managed to submit applications for asylum. A strange new tradition has arisen: people come to apply for asylum, and straightaway they’re seized and dragged to the police department. So it’s a kind of political order.

For what reasons are migrant workers deported—are there actual crimes or thought-up reasons?

It is almost without exception under Article 18.8 of the Code on Administrative Violations, which reads: “Violation of the Procedure for Residence within the Territory of the Russian Federation,” that is to say, lack of a visa, which is entirely normal for a refugee, or lack of registration even with a visa. In general, not all rules are feasible. There’s also Article 18.10, which refers to violations of procedure for employment. This article is also used quite frequently. For example, we’ve encountered absolutely unbelievable things. People have been literally seized at work. It’s discovered that they don’t have their documents with them, and they’re dragged off to court. The court then makes the decision about deportation. We’ve encountered situations when a wife who’s a Russian citizen (and the idea of deportation is supposed to be off the table if one has a Russian wife and children) brings all the documents to the court, and they’re all in order. Just that the person didn’t have them in the pocket of his work uniform. But a practice has developed by which the migrant should have all documents on hand at the moment of verification. You’ve gone to work repairing the plaster on the outside of a home, and you’re supposed to have all your documents in your pocket while doing that? And what about in the bathhouse? In all likelihood you’re supposed to have them in there too.

Is this in accordance with the law in general?

You must understand, it’s a practice they have developed. If Moscow City Court says this is the case, then this means they probably consider it a regulation. The law says that a person should keep some documents. For example, the registration card. They should keep it, but that doesn’t mean they should carry it on them. We don’t even have a rule that a person should have a form of identification on them when walking around outside, as some countries do. And what happens? I went outside, didn’t take my passport with me. They check my documents. I don’t have my passport. And on top of that I’m not a Russian citizen? Of course it’s illegal. [Read more in Russian

Translated by Caroline Elkin

Aleksei Navalny: Dadin was tortured, and for speaking out about it, they extended his term in jail [Ekho Moskvy]

posted 14 Dec 2016, 14:39 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Dec 2016, 14:53 ]

2 December 2016

By Aleksei Navalny

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskvy]

The Human Rights Council has finally published its report on its visit to Karelian penal colony no. 7, where Dadin was tortured – is being tortured? – while serving out his time for conducting one-man protests.

Read it. It is not that long, and is written in plain language:

[See excerpt]

The text is impartial and ‘non-confrontational’, but the main points are clear:

1. The penal colony’s administration and the Federal Penitentiary Service more generally refused to cooperate, and hid (read: destroyed) the relevant footage.

2. Since there is no video footage, it is impossible to conclusively confirm or disprove Dadin’s allegations. There are marks on Dadin’s wrists, which corroborate his claim that he was hung by them.

3. The kind of torture described in detail by Dadin has been reported by other prisoners as well, prisoners whom Dadin does not know and whose accounts he is not familiar with. Ex-convicts have also claimed to have endured similar torture.

4. All in all, some sort of insane fascist crap is taking place—even with the small things. Muslims being stupidly forced to eat cutlets, tortured if they don’t. Why? Have society and the state tasked the Federal Penitentiary Service with feeding pork to Muslims? How does that help re-educate a criminal? It doesn’t even work as a punishment – such people just end up leaving penal colonies as kooky psychopaths.

What’s interesting is that the Federal Penitentiary Service, and indeed the whole Karelian mafia covering up this torture (the prosecutor’s office, the Investigative Committee), have selected the tactic of the offensive as the best defensive.

The Investigative Committee says that it is unable to confirm accounts of torture.

The prosecutor’s office has identified no violations.

The Federal Penitentiary Service put Dadin in a cell with a convict who provoked a fight with him, and then made a formal complaint against him.

Today, the Federal Penitentiary Service is already saying that it plans to prosecute Dadin for libel.

They seek to extend his sentence because he publicly told the truth about them.

Why this is happening is obvious. Any episode, involving Dadin or otherwise, that is included in a Human Rights Council report ought to lead to inspections of the Federal Penitentiary Service, the Investigative Committee, and the prosecutor’s office, and then to the opening of cases against their employees.

The alternative is simple: either Dadin and all the others are lying without any coordination, or the penal colony’s leadership and half of the Karelian Federal Penitentiary Service end up going to jail. It’s a question of saving one’s skin.

I repeat: do not believe a single word of what the Federal Penitentiary Service says. It’s very simple. Let us see the footage. That’s it. If it’s out there, we’ll believe it. If it was ‘not preserved’ – we’ll believe Dadin.

Translated by Lincoln Pigman

Andrei Babushkin on Valery Borshchev: His Mark on History (LiveJournal)

posted 12 Dec 2016, 05:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Dec 2016, 05:59 ]

3 December 2016

Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: LiveJournal]

By Andrei Babushkin, director of the Committee for Civil Rights, member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, honorary chair of Moscow’s fourth Public Oversight Commission (POC), and member of the Moscow’s third POC

Photo of Andrei Babushkin: Moscow Helinski Group

This piece was written on 1 December on the Moscow-Petersburg train. I thought about sending it to Moscow and posting it on my blog from the Dostoevsky Hotel. Unfortunately, wi-fi hasn’t worked in that hotel since Fyodor Mikhailovich’s day (actually, lots of things don’t work there: the hairdryer, the refrigerator, etc.). That is why I am only now posting this text.

Valery Borshchev was born into the family of a brigade commander originally from Tambov Province. His mother was a Don Cossack. The mixture of military and Cossack blood led to the birth of a Christian democrat and human rights activist.

Due to the nature of his service, Valery Vasilievich’s father was often transferred from place to place. So Borshchev started school in Bolshoi Nymnyr (Yakutia), then studied in Irkutsk, and graduated in Rostov-on-Don. The desire to be free and act at his own discretion led Borshchev to becoming a “hipster.” The participants in this youth movement stood out from others their age by their style of clothing (bright-colored bellbottoms, etc.). And although the difference in clothing didn’t seem to hurt anyone, the authorities cast a baleful eye on the movement and persecuted the hipsters.

After graduating from Moscow State University’s Journalism Department, Borshchev began work at Komsomolskaya Pravda. His main topic was unusual people who stood out from the crowd because of their love of freedom, their decency, their convictions, their ideals. People like that became the heroes of his articles.

As a sign of protest against the expulsion from the Soviet Union of A.I. Solzhenitsyn, whom Valery Vasilievich knew, Borshchev resigned from Komsomolskaya Pravda and went to work for Sovetsky Ekran, where he worked for three and a half years. Among those he interviewed were Stanislaw Lem, Oleg Tabakov, Maya Plesetskaya, Alla Pugacheva, Rollan Bykov, and Bulat Okudzhava. Thanks to Borshchev, Okudzhava’s song “Let’s Pay Each Other Compliments,” was published for the first time. Okudzhava couldn’t write music, so Borshchev took him to a musician who could write musical notation.

When the persecution of dissidents increased, Borshchev left the Party and resigned from the magazine. After this, he worked as a carpenter, a high-rise painter, and a floor finisher. In 1976, he joined the Committee for the Defence of Believers’ Rights. To keep from getting arrested, Borshchev left Moscow and took odd jobs for a few years. In Moscow, he also worked at an underground printing press publishing religious literature, where he did bookbinding. He also worked in the defence of prisoners’ rights, making trips to Chusovaya station, where he passed on letters, food, and money for political prisoners through a prison colony employee sympathetic to the politicals. In his travels, Borshchev gathered information on violations of prisoners’ rights. Later on, the publication of this information helped more than a dozen prisoners.

Unfortunately, in this brief post I cannot describe Borshchev’s entire biography (although I wish I could hold in my hands and read a detailed biography of him). I think a book should be written about him— entertaining, interesting, and instructive.

I will only write that I met Valery Vasilievich in 1990, when he and I were deputies to Moscow City Council (Mossovet). In the beginning there were problems with our relationship, and in 1993 he and I found ourselves on opposite sides of the barricades. Later, though, our devotion to human rights won out. In 1995, Borshchev convinced me to reexamine my attitude toward the death penalty. In 1996, he included me in the Presidential Human Rights Chamber, which he headed up. There was such a body at the time, an analogue to today’s Presidential Human Rights Council. In 1999, Borshchev became one of the people who led me to join Yabloko.

Between 1996 and 2008, Borshchev fought for the passage of a law on public oversight over human rights in places of incarceration. In 2008, he became head of the Moscow POC, which he led for five years.

At present, Valery Vasilievich is an expert for the Human Rights Council, honorary chair of the Moscow Oblast POC, and co-chairman of the Association of Independent Observers. I want to wish Valery Vasilievich not only health, long life, and new successes, but also that in his life to come he leaves an even greater mark on our country's destiny than he has so far.

1 December is the birthday of human rights activist and Moscow Helsinki Group member Valery Borshchev.

Translated by Marian Schwartz

Anastasia Zotova: They didn't find any violations in the concentration camp [Ekho Moskvy]

posted 5 Dec 2016, 08:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Dec 2016, 08:59 ]

28 November 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group  [original source: Ekho Moskvy]

By Anastasia Zotova, journalist and wife of Ildar Dadin

Photo of Anastasia Zotova: Moscow Helsinki Group

The Federal Penitentiary Service has finally announced the results of their own investigation: ‘There were no violations.’ It’s very funny that I knew about the creation of this official document two weeks ago.

It’s stupid to expect that the Gestapo would find violations in a concentration camp. And this wasn’t what I was waiting for. I was waiting for them to make public their document. We’re lucky that they’ve published it now.

Because now the Investigative Committee is conducting its own investigation. Because now at prison colony No. 7 there are people who have been beaten up and have broken ribs, people whom it will be impossible not to notice. Because those who are not afraid are making public the fact that they have been tortured, and those who have not spoken about their torture yet will do so when they cease being afraid.

Because now it is possible to bring to justice those people who ‘carried out the investigation’. More accurately, did not investigate what actually happened, but made a clever imitation.

And if you want to know how they torture people in Segezha, watch the broadcast.

No, I’m serious! Election fraud, corruption, failed health service reforms, killing off the media – all this we can survive. But I cannot tolerate it when there are concentration camps in my country.

Anastasia Zotova: Latest News on Combating Torture in Prison Colony No. 7 in Segezha [23 Nov. 2016 - Ekho Moskvy]

posted 5 Dec 2016, 07:54 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Dec 2016, 08:09 ]

23 November 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [Original source: Ekho Moskvy]

Photo of Anastasia Zotova: Moscow Helsinki Group

This is what I think:

1. About Ildar Dadin. First, a formal request for him to be transferred to a hospital, at least for an examination, has been submitted. Second, it is obvious he was put in the punishment cell illegally, and a complaint has to be lodged about this, just as about his being put in a strict-regime cell. If the penaities and strict-regime are droppped, then it will be possible to ask for parole. In addition, I put my hopes in the cassation review by the Supreme Court and that the Constitutional Court will repeal Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code on the grounds it violates the Constitution.

2. About prison colony No. 7 and the administration there. The results of the investigation must show that the reports of torture were accurate, and the top officials at the colony must be correspondingly punished. All the prisoners at prison colony No. 7 who complained about torture must be either taken to hospital or to another prison colony in another region. Applications should be made to the European Court of Human Rights on the basis of all the complaints of torture – the current ones as well as those made by former prisoners.

3. Since the problem is systemic and exists in other prison colonies as well, a system of reaction to complaints of torture has to be introduced that involves human rights defenders, lawyers of the European Court of Human Rights and the press.

4. As Mikhail Fedotov correctly pointed out in conversation with Vladimir Putin, the system of Public Oversight Commissions has to be reformed. But I think that what should happen is not just the extension of the powers of the Public Oversight Commissions, but a change in the principles by which members of the Public Oversight Commissions are selected. At the moment only organizations that meet certain criteria (length of work, and so on) can put forward candidates, and this makes the process of putting forward young human rights defenders who are really ready to change the way the penitentiary service works significantly harder. 

5. Two important points: the length of time a video recording from CCC TV has to be kept, and the way a prisoners' relatives are informed, both have to be changed by law.  

The length of time a video recording has to be kept, it seems, is decided by internal regulations of the penitentiary service, and it is set at 30 days. This time period must be doubled, at least, and laid down in law. If this time period at prison colony No. 7 had been 90 days, then it would be easy to find the prison officers guilty of torture and beatings.  

So far as the way relatives are informed about a prisoner being sent to serve their sentence in a particular prison colony is concerned, then I can say that I wrote formal requests about this, and Ildar also indicated the address where the official document should be sent. I can say that at present (three months after he was transferred) neither I (his wife), nor any other of Ildar's relatives (mother, brother, sister) have been formally told where he has been sent. I propose making it compulsory for the penitentiary service to inform relatives by a telephone message on their request. 

Torture of Ildar Dadin Not Imagined (Dozhd)

posted 5 Dec 2016, 05:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Dec 2016, 05:21 ]

28 November 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Dozhd]

Human rights activists and the wife of Ildar Dadin, Anastasiya Zotova, responded to a declaration by Valery Maksimenko, deputy director of the Federal Penitentiary Service, who called Dadin a “talented impressionist.” In the activists’ opinion, the torture truly had occurred. They gave their statement at a press conference on the situation in prison colony No. 7, held on 28 November in the Sakharov Centre. Victims’ relatives and former prisoners of the prison colony spoke at the event.

Valery Borshchev, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Moscow Region Public Oversight Committee, who visited Ildar Dadin in the penal colony along with Human Rights Commission members Igor Kalyapin and Pavel Chikov: “I spoke with Dadin for almost five hours and can tell from my experience what’s made up and what’s real. Of course I would never advise anyone to throw around such words. I think that, fundamentally, Dadin laid out the facts correctly. We asked him about the details, asked him to name the place where he had been hung up by his handcuffs. He drew a diagram of this place for us. We went into the corridor. We found this place. We looked around to see whether he could have been hung up there. That is, we verified his specific evidence and facts."

Lev Ponomarev, director of the For Human Rights movement, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, co-chair of the Foundation for Defence of Prisoners’ Rights: “When the investigation arrived, when a month had already gone by, his bruises had already gone away, but then handcuff marks were still noticeable. An educated medic would have said: these handcuff marks have remained over the course of a month, so that means the violence was quite serious. Essentially we ended up in a situation of one person’s word against others’. Therefore it’s extremely important to verify the extent to which his words correspond with the words of other prisoners." 

Anastasiya Zotova, journalist, wife of Ildar Dadin: "The relatives of other inmates in the prison colony say exactly the same thing. About all these sprains, about how they’re beaten with a hammer, how their faces are stomped on. All this we know. It’s not Ildar’s imagination. Many people can attest to it."

On 28 November, Valery Maksimenko, deputy director of the Federal Penitentiary Service, called Dadin a “very talented impressionist with great artistry and an amazing imagination.” In this way the senior official commented on the results of an official investigation into allegations of torture at prison colony No. 7, located in the town of Segezha in the Karelia region, where the opposition member Ildar Dadin is serving his sentence.

One month ago, Dadin spoke of the torture to which he was subjected in the penal colony. Maksimenko declared that the investigation had not confirmed the allegations of torture made by Dadin.

Translated by Caroline Elkin

A letter from Ruslan Sokolovsky [Open Russia]

posted 28 Nov 2016, 06:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Nov 2016, 06:58 ]

21 November 2016

By Olga Borisova

Source: Open Russia

Ruslan Sokolovsky, a blogger from Ekaterinburg charged with insulting religious feelings by playing Pokémon Go in a church, has replied to Open Russia’s letter. Here is Sokolovsky’s letter, brought straight from pre-trial detention centre no. 1 in Ekaterinburg:

‘Hello, Olya! 

'I was pleased to receive your letter. It is fortunate that it was not lost among the many thousands I receive from my [online] followers. Just in case, I remind you that the most expedient way to contact me is the “FSIN letter” [an email system operated by the Federal Penitentiary Service - Open Russia]. By the way, send my regards to Polina, you two are equally wonderful. I am grateful for the assistance that has been provided to my mother, especially since I had been paying for her apartment. With me under arrest, things would have been tough for her had it not been for you. My walk in the church has made me poorer than the church mice and the elderly women who give up their pensions so that the Patriarch can buy a new yacht. Thank you for each rouble. It will help with food, and not just spiritual nourishment. Another three months of house arrest would have bankrupted me, whereas in this detention centre, at the very least, I am fed.

'I agree with the assessment of my situation. I do not seek society’s pity, only its support. There is power in the truth, and I would sooner leave this prison in a body bag than betray cosmopolitanism, atheism, and libertarianism. Thanks to the hundreds, the thousands of letters that I’ve received from my supporters, I feel as if there is a legion of free-thinking allies behind me. I do not believe that I will be set free in peace, since, in my videos, I often denounced delusional laws such as the Yarovaya package, supported Charlie Hebdo, and was evidently in opposition to the government.

'For the informational support you have provided, I give my thanks. Not too long ago I would have been able to offer you far more informational support than you to me.

'I do not plan to compromise my ambitions—not at all. Sitting here in prison, I am writing a book in the genre of social fantasy. In addition, I am preoccupied with a whole series of journalistic articles.

'My pen is with you and has been made sharper than a misericord [a long, narrow knife that was used to kill one’s wounded enemy in the Middle Ages – Open Russia].

I impatiently await your reply, Olya.’

A reminder: Polina Nemirovskaya and I travelled to Ekaterinburg on behalf of Open Russia to provide material assistance to Ruslan Sokolovsky’s mother. We stated that Open Russia was ready to put up money for bail, should an opportunity to do so emerge. However, there is no talk of this at the moment, and Ruslan Sokolovsky is due to remain in detention centre no. 1 until 23 January 2017.

Translated by Lincoln Pigman

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