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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Nikolai Kavkazsky: Condemnation for one’s sexuality [Radio Svoboda]

posted 20 Mar 2017, 05:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Mar 2017, 05:52 ]

13 March 2017

By Nikolai Kavkazsky, human rights activist, politician and former defendant in the "Bolotnaya Square case" 

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

In Russia the phrases “Victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming” are almost unknown, but they should be known, since the phenomenon that they represent is widespread in our country.

“Slut-shaming” is the condemnation of a woman for her sexuality. In fact, it represents a double standard. If a man has an active sex life, almost no one condemns him, but, for her sexuality, a woman can be subject to insults, disgrace and hate. It is normal to be sexual and to have sex by mutual consent. And no one should be condemned for it.

With regard to “victim-blaming”, my university teachers taught me about victimization, that is, the capacity of somebody to become the victim of a crime. From the standpoint of the proponents of this concept, if somebody takes out an expensive smartphone late at night on public transport, or if a woman in a mini-skirt goes to an industrial zone, then these people are provoking someone to commit crimes against them. In actual fact, however, the assumption that the offence may result from the behaviour of the victim is simply a means of accusing the victim, since the guilt of the offender is transferred to the victim. This situation is illustrated very well by Ivan Krylov's fable "The Wolf and the Lamb"

The wolf tried to justify its violence towards lamb, but then admitted: "You're to blame too because you want me to eat you." In those countries where women are forced to wear the burqa (so that they will not appear provocative), their rights are tenfold more violated!

The public hounding of rape victims, especially of women, creates a social prejudice against them. Girls and women see the harassment and obstruction to which these victims of violence are subjected and how they are blamed by the slanders of "honest" people. Because of these underlying attitudes, they are simply afraid to inform the police when and if, God forbid, they are raped. This plays into the hands of criminals, who receive a virtual carte blanche for sexual violence.

I believe that the tradition of failing to punish rapists is closely associated with the criminal subculture, because, according to the “law of the underworld” a person who is raped descends into the lowest caste of the prison hierarchy. Criminal subculture is steeped in sexism. In addition, in accordance with criminal traditions, a person against whom the crime was committed and who appealed to the police for protection of their rights, was contemptuously called a "weakling” [terpiloi]. This word is often used by the police, who instead of fighting crime, take bribes and beat up dissidents.

“Victim-blaming”, like “slut-shaming”, is heaving with double standards. Even women often say: "Why did you go out with men for a drink? Why were you provocatively dressed? You were asking to get raped!” In the future, such words will be considered to be roughly the same as if today someone condemned an African-American who was beaten up by the Ku Klux Klan, saying, “He only has himself to blame,” because, perhaps, in the unhappy days of the past, he sat down on a bench designated “for whites only ". Blame racism and apartheid for violence, rather than the "defiant " behavior of people whose skin is a dark colour. On the contrary, racism and apartheid were crushed when black people began to rise up against such bans and defiantly violate them!

All sorts of bigots say: "Why didn’t she resist?" As if to be beaten or even killed in addition to being raped is somehow better than just being raped?! Sadly, in Russia we have seen a shift of the criminal subculture not only into society as a whole but also into the activist community and opposition movement. What alternative can we represent if we are stricken with the evils of the existing system, living not by law and justice, but by the “law of the underworld”? Our criminal, sexist and chauvinistic system must be broken, and not supported. And delete the phrases and words "only herself to blame”, ”whore", “slut”,"bitch", and "tart" from your lexicon!

Translated by Graham Jones

Anna Yarovaya: "The Dmitriev Affair" [7x7 - translation by The Russian Reader]

posted 20 Mar 2017, 03:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Mar 2017, 03:40 ]

1 March 2017

Source: The Russian Reader [original source: 7x7]

Photo: Wikipedia

March 12 is, technically, the last day of historian Yuri Dmitriev’s term in police custody during the investigation of the accusations made against him. The 61-year-old researcher has spent nearly the last three months in Pretrial Detention Facility No. 1 in Petrozavodsk. During this time, solo pickets supporting Dmitriev have been held on the streets of the Karelian capital, his case has been discussed at a traveling session of the Presidential Human Rights Council, and the republic got a new governor. According to Dmitriev’s attorney, the historian will probably be indicted and his case sent to court. Yuri Dmitriev has been accused of producing pornography. Neither his colleagues, friends or people who have worked at some time with Yuri Dmitriev believe the charges are true. Many link his arrest to the work he has done his whole life: searching for the places where political prisoners were shot, compiling lists of victims of political crackdowns during the Soviet period, and heading Memorial’s Karelian branch. [Read the full text on The Russian Reader]

Valentina Cherevatenko: "They haven’t broken us yet” [BBC Russian Service]

posted 16 Mar 2017, 08:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Mar 2017, 09:28 ]

10 March 2017

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: BBC Russian service]

On 11 March in London Valentina Cherevatenko, the head of the Russian NGO 'Women of the Don,' is to receive the Anna Politkovskaya award for supporting victims of armed conflicts. The International NGO RAW in War ("Reach All Women in War") is to mark the efforts of Women of the Don to support the civilian population that continues to suffer from armed conflicts in the North Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. Meanwhile, in Russia, Valentina Cherevatenko may become the first head of an NGO to be prosecuted for malicious non-compliance with the foreign agent law. In an interview with correspondent of the Russian service of the BBC Olga Ivshina, Valentina Cherevatenko talked about the problems she faces, and about her plans and hopes for the future.

BBC: Valentina, how do you feel about the award?

Valentina Cherevatenko: I must say I don’t have a sense of joy. Instead, my inner feeling is more one of tension and a certain sadness. It was announced that I would receive the award back in October. On Saturday it will be the official ceremony. It is one more reason for me to think about what it is that I am doing. About the place that this work has in one’s life, the life of one’s family, the community, the country. There are a great many problems...

BBC: In your letter to Anna Politkokvskaya you wrote that this prize is ‘support on the road along which we yet have very far to travel. And we must not weaken, or rest, because again they will shoot, kill, destroy and torture people.”

Valentina Cherevatenko: Yes, this is part of the award-giving procedure. The organizers ask the winners to write a letter to Anna. I knew Politkovskaya personally and address Anna as she was when I knew her.

BBC: Was it hard to write?

Valentina Cherevatenko: Yes, very hard. I even asked my colleague, a journalist, to help me. I said in the letter everything I hadn’t managed to say to Anna while she was alive. We met many times in many different places. But we were always in a rush. We always told each other that we really must meet up in a quiet moment and discuss the issues that concerned us both. Recently, in one of my old diaries, I found Anna Politkovskaya’s address and phone number written in her own hand... But while she was alive we never managed to sit down together and have a good long talk.

"Walking with cats' paws along a razor's edge"

BBC: Do you often remember Politkovskaya?

Valentina Cherevatenko: I can’t say that I think about her every day. But from time to time on Facebook her photograph appears. Her face is beautiful with very sad eyes. Then, of course, you begin to remember and think about how unjust everything that happened, and happens, in life is. And you are filled with admiration for Anna because she did not lose faith in the hope that everything can be changed.

BBC: Аnd do you believe that everything can be changed?

Valentina Cherevatenko: If I didn’t believe that, then I couldn’t carry on this work. Today the situation is extraordinarily complicated and difficult. The work of conflict resolution is very difficult. One of my colleagues called our work ‘walking with cats' paws along a razor’s edge.’ In other words we must act with great gentleness and be squeaky clean, while the wounds are still dripping blood.

Our work on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, for example, is very, very difficult. You are always in a situation of being ‘a friend among strangers, a stranger among friends.’ But we continue to work. We have managed to create a dialogue between activists from Ukraine and from Russia, and from the territories that are not under Kiev’s control. These people have things in common, but there are also differences.

The main thing is that we are looking for ways to resolve the problems that face us in a peaceful way.

"Reading the materials of the case, I am horrified"

BBC: Would you like to tell us more about the projects that Women of the Don is working on at the moment? 

Valentina Cherevatenko: Our work has become far more difficult because of the ‘foreign agent’ law. The community of strong and active organizations, the institutions of civil society with which we would like to compare ourselves, organizations which it is always an honour to work with – all these people have now been added to the list of ‘foreign agents.’

This label makes our life much harder. But we continue our work. People continue to come to us, asking for help. Our public advice centre has been working now for 23 years, and continues to function. I cannot praise highly enough those lawyers who continue to work with us without asking for any money. This is very hard work.

Doing this work has had negative consequences for many of these lawyers. As for other projects, we continue to develop a Ukraine-Russia dialogue. We have a host of ideas, a great deal of knowledge and many possibilities. But some of these ideas we simply pass on to colleagues from other NGOs so that they can do the work. We don’t have enough money for many projects. Although we try to raise funds from our supporters.

BBC: What is the current situation concerning the criminal case against you?

[On 27 June 2016 Cherevatenko received a copy of the official decision to instigate a criminal investigation against her in connection with alleged ‘malicious non-compliance with the obligations of NGOs that carry out the functions of a foreign agent.’ This was the first instance of the prosecution of a human rights defender for alleged violation of the law on foreign agents, adopted in Russia in 2012 – BBC.]

Valentina Cherevatenko: It is taking its course…The time given for the investigation has been extended until 22 March. The case has been in the works for 10 months already now. It’s exhausting, of course.

BBC: Are you often called in for questioning?

Valentina Cherevatenko: You know, it's not because of this that it's difficult. I can’t say that I’ve been called in for questioning many times. I can’t say that anyone has been rude to me. But what worries me is that a huge number of people with whom I am connected are being called in for questioning. The investigator ordered that experts make assessments of our documents – from technical, financial and political points of view.

The investigator is trying to establish whether we were engaged in political activity. All of our documents and equipment were seized. The documents were returned to us literally last week. But they still haven’t returned our equipment.

It's important to understand that we work with ordinary people. And these people, from the best of intentions, wanting to help and to protect me in some way, sometimes say things that are quite horrifying. For example, people say things about some conferences at which they had not been present, they invent things…I can’t even imagine what I’ll see in the final materials of the case.

Not long ago I was shown the results of the financial evaluation of our accounts, and I was horrified. There were hysterics, tears, pain and resentment. At this, my husband said to me: "So you see, they have already destroyed you.” I pulled myself together. This is a criminal case. It is something that can really destroy us. But they haven’t broken us yet.

"I don't believe this is a thaw"

BBC: Recently opposition activist Ildar Dadin was released. Еvgeniya Chudnovets was set free and Oksana Sevastidi was pardoned. What do you make of this series of releases?

Valentina Cherevatenko: I most likely treat this as an illusion. They are putting on the appearance of a thaw, but it is not the thaw itself.

BBC: What do your family and friends make of your work?

Valentina Cherevatenko: They have different points of view. I can’t really say that they completely support everything I do, but we discuss all the questions that arise.

BBC: They don’t say that it’s time to give all this up?

Valentina Cherevatenko: Some do. Of course they do. But we are all adults, and I have the right to my convictions, my point of view. And the members of my family have that right too, I try not to force my views on them. So far we manage to accept our differences and get along.

"My mother was always an inspiration to me"

BBC: And are there human rights defenders whose example inspires you in your work?

Valentina Cherevatenko: Anna Politkovskaya, of course, is an obvious example. Natasha Estemirova. I remember them. And now prizes are being named after them. When people start talking about this, I always feel uncomfortable... I must say my mother is a great inspiration to me. For a long time I knew very little about her, like many of us. But gradually some information came to light. For example, I found out quite by accident that in 1962 she saved the life of a person – a police officer – during the shooting of the workers' demonstration in Novocherkassk, where we were then living. She was only 23 years old at the time. She had a very hard life. She grew up in a children’s home, even though her father was still alive. My mother is someone who helped me to become a strong person.

BBC: Аn what would be your advice to those activists and human rights defenders who are just beginning their careers?

Valentina Cherevatenko: Begin! 

Valentina Cherevatenko is the head of the NGO ‘Women of the Don.’ The organization carries out projects related to conflict resolution in the North Caucasus and Ukraine, and also organizes public advice centres where members of the public can receive advice on social and legal questions. Women of the Don also works to protect women’s rights in the region, giving special attention to the problems of violence against women and gender-based discrimination. In 2011 Valentina Cherevatenko was awarded the human rights prize of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

Aleksandr Cherkasov: Freedom for political prisoners - on 8 March and every day, for women and for men [Ekho Moskvy]

posted 16 Mar 2017, 05:50 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Mar 2017, 06:58 ]

9 March 2017

By Aleksandr Cherkasov, chairperson of Memorial Human Rights Centre 

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

On the eve of 8 March it became known that the Russian President had issued a decree pardoning the political prisoner Oksana Sevastidi.

The past few weeks have brought more good news: also released were Evgeniya Chudnovets (sentence overturned) and Taisiya Osipova (released on parole). The Memorial Human Rights Centre previously included Osipova, along with Sevastidi, in the list of political prisoners.

Whatever the reasons for the release of innocent women who should not even have been behind bars in the first place, this is a welcome development, as is the release of political prisoner Ildar Dadin.

But dates come and go. Meanwhile, the far from complete list of political prisoners of the Memorial Human Rights Centre still contains 101 people, including two women: Zarema Bagavutdinova and Darya Polyudova.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre is calling for the release of all Russian political prisoners. 

Translated by Lindsay Munford

Dmitry Bykov: The Mystery of Ildar Dadin as a Precedent [Ekho Moskvy]

posted 13 Mar 2017, 04:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Mar 2017, 04:02 ]

1 March 2017

By Dmitry Bykov, writer, poet, and journalist

- An extract -

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

Yes, all legal correspondents and armchair analysts are trying in vain to unravel the mystery of why the story of Ildar Dadin (born in 1982, unemployed, the first Russian convicted under Article 212-1 - repeated violations in organizing rallies and picketing, released by the Supreme Court in the absence of corpus delicti) seems like a chain of gloomy absurdities and what the point of them is.

First, Dadin was put in jail, clearly and demonstratively ignoring Russian citizens’ constitutional right to peaceful protest. Then, he was beaten in prison and crushed in every way, which made Major Kossiev, the head of Segezha Correctional Facility No. 7, notorious on social media for his unreasonable and similarly demonstrative cruelty. Dadin’s head was submerged in a toilet, he was threatened with sexual assault, he was hung up by his wrists, he was chained with handcuffs, and so on; the whole nine yards. Dadin managed to pass to his common-law wife, Anastasiya Zotova, a letter about all the things they did to him. His case became the subject of a detailed investigation by the Presidential Human Rights Council.

Actually, of course, Dadin’s fate was decided on November 4, 2016, when the head of the Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, reported to Vladimir Putin on the situation. After this, Dadin, despite his protests, was transferred from Segezha to Rubtsovsk, in the Altai Republic, on the initiative of the Ombudsperson, Tatyana Moskalkovaya. He was released by a Supreme Court decision on February 26. Moreover, the Supreme Court plans to review the case of Evgeniya Chudnovets, the mother of a young child who was put in prison for reposting a video of abusive treatment of another child.

Meanwhile, as I write this, Oleg Navalny’s request for parole is being considered by another court in the Orlel region and, if Navalny Junior is released, it will really be cause to talk about serious changes. If not, then Dadin and Chudnovets’s cases will remain curious special cases and nothing more. But their special cases are nonetheless curious, and it’s worth puzzling them out. There are, basically, three questions, and they intersect as infrequently as, for Nabokov, questions about God and immortality. The first is, “Why Dadin?” The second is, “Why was he imprisoned?” The third is, “Why did they set him free?”

The answer to the first question is simple. Dadin is dangerous for the precise reason that because of his background he ought to have been a typical Crimea-Is-Ours person, a representative of the so-called (roughly, of course) pro-Putin majority. He studied at a technical college, he’s a boxer, he served in the Navy, he worked as a guard. But he goes to rallies, and he causes scenes in police vans, makes a fuss about his rights. He belongs to the same type of people as Anatoly Marchenko, who died on the eve of Gorbachev’s large-scale release of political prisoners in 1986, during a hunger strike. (Dadin also declared a hunger strike in prison.) The biggest danger from the point of view of the government is when the proletariat enters the dissident movement, because, firstly, at that point the intelligentsia’s ideas have affected the minds of the majority.

And secondly, it’s much more difficult to break the proletariat. Those who were grabbed and shoved into police vans at peaceful demonstrations remember: It was tough in the police van with Dadin. He upset the usually sluggish and “all knowing” police provoked them into a true rage, which was released not only on Dadin but on everyone else. The proletariat wave their rights around, they’re intolerant of physical violence, having endured it. It is generally not good for the system when the fight for civil rights includes those to whom these rights, it would seem, are not entirely needed. It is precisely their mass arrival in politics (and don’t doubt that politics is really done on the streets) which means that, yes, in terms of numbers the protests have been quelled, but at the same time in terms of quality there has been a change: a core has emerged that can’t be intimidated. […]

Andrei Babushkin: Human-rights defender Andrei Mayakov faces death in prison [Moskovsky komsomolets]

posted 13 Mar 2017, 02:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Mar 2017, 09:34 ]

5 March 2017

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Moskovsky komsomolets]

By Andrei Babushkin, head of the Moscow-based human rights organisation Committee for Civil Rights, member of the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, honorary chairman of the fourth convocation of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission (ONK), and member of the third convocation of the Moscow ONK

They say there is no death penalty in Russia. And most people believe that our justice system is truly humane. It’s possible that my deputy, Andrei Mayakov, believed that at one time.

But on 15 September 2016 Ms Mamaeva, a judge at Moscow’s Babushkinsky court, sentenced Andrei to six years in prison. She sentenced him in the full knowledge that he suffers from diabetes and a severe form of hypertension, that his spleen and gall bladder have been removed, and that he suffers from sleep apnoea (a condition leading to interrupted breathing during sleep). Life for someone with these disorders is not easy even in freedom. In a remand centre or a penitential colony, he simply won’t survive.

Andrei was arrested with great fanfare [on 16 September 2015]. A team of journalists from the NTV television channel was hiding in a car in the bushes. Police officers from the economic crime department and undercover officers were waiting to pounce. The day after Andrei’s arrest, the then spokesman of the Russian Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, announced the event in a very public manner.

According to the investigators, fraudster/human-rights defender Mayakov had been about to receive a million roubles from a certain Denis, a drug addict with many criminal convictions who had served years behind bars. Mayakov had allegedly demanded a million roubles in return for promising to bribe the prosecutors to rule in Denis’ favour. But in fact Mayakov had refused to meet with Denis. Denis came to Mayakov’s office without an appointment. He waited an hour in reception, until all of Mayakov’s other visitors had left. Then Denis went into the office of the human-rights defender, threw the wad of money onto the desk, and gave an agreed sign. At that moment, the NTV team and the police officers burst into the room.

In the early stage of the investigation, the prosecutors tried to identify people who had suffered as a result of Mayakov’s actions. They found only one: Mrs M., wife of a convict with the status of “thief-in-law” [a professional criminal with elite status within the organised crime community]. Mayakov had indeed received money from her, having written over twenty complaints and appeals, submitted piles of documents, and even persuaded me, when I was visiting Kirov Region, to visit M. in prison. "I expected that, as a result of Mayakov’s activities, my husband would be released,” Mrs M. told the court, “but he was not.” “I’ll find a way to return your money,” Mayakov promised. And he found a way. And he returned the money. And even so, the court found him guilty of fraud.

The investigators’ failure to come up with more complainants, Mayakov’s refusal to cooperate, and the weakness of the evidence gathered against him explain the conditions in which he was detained. At first, Andrei was placed in remand in a special block in detention centre No 4 together with a “thief-in-law.” Then he was transferred to federal detention center №1 and placed in the sort of cell where any inmate becomes the hero of a thousand or more publications.

Mayakov’s case has seen dozens of violations and procedural and substantive law. Many people – including his former clients and colleagues as well as such nationally renowned figures as Lyudmila Alekseeva, Vladimir Lukin, Boris Kravchenko and Sergei Mitrokhin – have signed petitions in his defence.

I still have some, faint hope that justice will be done and that the verdict will be reversed. My hopes have repeatedly been disappointed. Even so, I continue to hope: What if?

See also:

Translated by Elizabeth Teague

Stefania Kulaeva: 100 Years Without the Pale of Settlement [Radio Svoboda]

posted 9 Mar 2017, 05:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Mar 2017, 05:52 ]

22 February 2017

By Stefania Kulaeva, expert at the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre  

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Раdio Svoboda

The Russian Orthodox Church’s attempt to wrest St. Isaac’s Cathedral away from Petersburg in February in the anniversary year of the Russian Revolution reminded many of events of a hundred years ago. Here the patriarch has gone and considered the round date—the centenary of the Revolution—the appropriate moment for taking full possession of the cathedral, even hinting at this being a form of compensation for the church’s sufferings, and stating that "the aura of peace around returned churches should become one embodying a sense of accord and mutual forgiveness." An anecdotal illustration of this vision of “peace between the Reds and the Whites” was the appearance of church activists with badges saying “Red Guard diocese” at the 19 February religious procession around St. Isaac’s. There is obviously no accord among our contemporaries as to whether it should be a museum or simply a church (accord on combining the functions of museum and temple was achieved long ago, and the centenary has absolutely nothing to do with this): city residents are rebelling, museums are trying to resist, and even the government is wavering on this issue.

I’m afraid forgiveness comes even harder. During the heated disputes over the fate of the cathedral-museum, we have been asked forgiveness twice already. First, Petr Tolstoy, having had to dodge due to the Jewish community’s reaction to his famous comment about those who had “sprung from the Pale of Settlement,” said, “If this hurt someone, I regret it.” Then it was Vitaly Milonov’s turn to regret, having picked up on the idea about the alleged perpetrators of the persecutions against Christians being the ancestors of the Petersburg opposition deputies. The regrets of both State Duma deputies are unconvincing, as are their assurances that they didn’t mean Jews at all but some other people from the Pale who were equipped for some reason with guns and arenas in order to feed Milonov’s ancestors to wild animals. I think that those whom the suggestions of Tolstoy and Milonov really did hurt will not find it so easy to forgive these loquacious politicians for their “awkward comments.” They themselves aren’t forgiving anyone anything. They are certainly far from any reconciliation with the journalists and bloggers they accuse of an “inaccurate interpretation” of their innocent attempts to defend the church from “enemies.”

Each of us, evidently, has our own “personal memories” of days long past and our own personal scores to settle with February 1917. For me, the main event from a hundred years ago is the lifting of discrimination. The tsar had still not abdicated, the Provisional Government had still not been created—but the first document of the revolutionary authorities, a program worked out jointly with representatives from the Provisional Committee of the State Duma and the Petrograd Soviet, announced the lifting of all “class, confessional, and ethnic restrictions.” A little later, the lifting of state discrimination against ethnic, religious, and social groups was approved by the Provisional Government, and then (in the spring of 1917), Russia’s women were given rights, including the “right to vote, without distinction of gender.”

My ancestors—although without the guns and arenas—won rights they had been deprived of under the former regime. My two great-grandmothers were able to practice their chosen profession: one became a lawyer, the other a doctor. In 1917, both were already grown women and had graduated from higher education courses, but before the revolution they could not obtain either a university diploma (which was not given to women before 1917) or the right to work in a court or a state hospital.

Later, many frightening things happened. Their fathers were stripped of their civil rights (class discrimination was lifted for only a short while). There was the famine, the horror of the Civil War, the loss of her lawyer status and her son’s arrest in the 1930s for one, and superhuman efforts in the hospital throughout the blockade for the other—and both their untimely deaths. In their short lives, a little over fifty years each, they saw two world wars and one civil war, the terror and famine, the blockade and the Gulag. And in their childhood and youth—discrimination, insulting inequality in “rights and dignity,” and the impossibility of following their chosen path due to these same “restrictions,” which 1917 lifted.

Obviously, some people still don’t like this “achievement of February,” and we see politicians loyal to the regime trying to waffle, stating that they were “misunderstood,” that they definitely did not mean the “ethnic context,” and one wonders whether they meant religious confession? After all, even the prerevolutionary “restrictions” formally concerned religious confession, not ethnicity. The Pale of Settlement was defined specifically on the basis of religion. But for many even then, the issue rested not on faith but on the problem of human dignity and the impossibility of repudiating one’s own fate and misfortune and the impossibility of converting to Christianity for the sake of advantage.

Ethnic and religious discrimination are things so similar that the difference frequently simply goes unnoticed. There is the opinion that, before Hitler, discrimination against Jews was always specifically religious, and only the Nazis brought to the fore “blood,” or, in other words, “heredity” (put simply, “ancestors”). This opinion is erroneous. Even during the Spanish Inquisition’s persecution against Jews, the “blood” of the persecuted was of great interest, even for families that had professed Christianity for many generations and frequently were exposed for hiding their Jewish ancestors, for which they were subject at best to exile.

Obviously, even present-day anti-Semites do not make much of a distinction between the religious and ethnic “context” (according to Milonov’s well-aimed word). Generally, they confuse not just museum and church but even the parliament of a Federation subject and the cultural capital with a place for conducting religious services. In order to familiarize myself with Milonov’s apologies, I had to look at his Facebook page, where he indicated that before he became a deputy he was the “chaplain for the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly.”

Translated by Marian Schwartz

Appeal by Tatyana Moroshkina, mother of a political prisoner, in defence of her son. Chelyabinsk

posted 2 Mar 2017, 06:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Mar 2017, 03:34 ]

9 February 2017

By Tatyana Moroskhina

Photo of Aleksei Moroshkin:

My son, Aleksei Moroshkin, has been recognised as a political prisoner by the Memorial Human Rights Centre on the grounds that criminal proceedings (resulting in imprisonment) were instigated against him solely because of his political beliefs, contravening his right to non-violent freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Constitution of the Russian Federation. As if that were not bad enough, psychiatrists diagnosed his dissenting views as a symptom of “schizophrenic reformist nonsense”, and a court decided that the social activist should as a result be subjected to compulsory treatment in a “closed” psychiatric hospital, all of which is highly reminiscent of the struggles between dissidents and the authorities back in the Soviet era.

I, along with lawyers from human rights organisations, am the legal representative of my son. In my opinion and in the opinion of legal professionals, neither the materials of the criminal case nor the court’s ruling supply any evidence that Aleksei Moroshkin poses a risk to society, and his isolation in a closed hospital – which constitutes unlawful imprisonment – is therefore unwarranted.

Neither the courts, nor the psychiatrists, nor officials working for the law-enforcement agencies, including the Federal Security Service, have made any effort to conceal the fact that my son is being persecuted for his oppositionist activities in the public sphere and for speaking out against Russia’s policy on Ukraine. As evidence of his guilt, the court’s judgment refers to the statement of a certain witness who was “outraged” at the fact that Moroshkin had, “called on people to speak out against the lawful actions of the authorities and attempted to blame the incumbent leaders of our country for the events in eastern Ukraine.”

Aleksei Moroshkin was sent to the Chelyabinsk Regional Clinical Mental Hospital No. 1 in the city of Chelyabinsk for compulsory treatment and has been there for over one year.

The case against Aleksei was based on allegations that he had incited violations of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, in connection with posts on the social media network Vkontakte in which he discussed the need to establish a Republic of the Urals and proposed various options for the territorial restructuring of Russia. These options included the establishment of a Republic of the Urals, either within or outside the Russian Federation, or of a confederation of the Ural and Siberian Republics and others, all aimed at creating a more democratic society. As well as his posts on the Republic of the Urals, my son is accused of holding a pro-Ukrainian position and criticising the Russian authorities for their role in events in eastern Ukraine.

Aleksei has admitted writing the posts, but does not agree that their publication constituted a criminal offence.

Yet another criminal case has now been instigated against my son, this time under the legislation on vandalism, since he is accused of “desecrating” a memorial to Lenin by allegedly painting it blue and yellow. Aleksei maintains his innocence.

After familiarising themselves with the case file, lawyers asked for the criminal case to be dropped given the lack of any evidence of guilt on the part of the accused. The only material evidence which could be supplied by the investigators was photographs of dubious quality (the rest had allegedly been lost during the investigation), and only copies of the expert reports were available instead of the originals. The case was referred back for further investigation three times, and six of the investigators were replaced, but the case has not been closed and I have been warned that Aleksei will once again be sentenced and forced to undergo compulsory treatment.

Both I and his defence lawyers are concerned about the outcome of these new proceedings against Aleksei Moroshkin.

He is being kept in prison-like conditions in the hospital, since he is not allowed to go for a walk and has no opportunity for contact with the outside world. His health has greatly deteriorated, and he is suffering from dyspnoea, apnoea and chest pains. The doctors are attempting to use pharmaceutical drugs to alter his mindset, in particular his political beliefs, which they believe to be nonsense. They do not even attempt to conceal this fact, and refer to Aleksei’s “willingness to continue active political and social campaigning” as grounds for continuing his compulsory treatment.

The case against my son has been instigated for purely political motives, and he is being made an example of in order to instil fear among others. My son has suffered and continues to suffer for exercising his right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech and for daring to hold dissenting views. It is entirely possible that his compulsory treatment will continue without limit.

My son was humiliated, threatened and beaten when he was arrested, and he was held in pretrial detention centres for several months. He has been deprived of his freedom, the opportunity to engage in creative activities and the right to express his views and thoughts. And as if this was not bad enough, he is completely dependent on the hospital staff and subject to constant moral coercion and threats that he will be treated with highly potent pharmaceutical drugs.

My son and I have encountered and continue to encounter cruelty, lies and injustice from the modern machinery of state repression. We are in a difficult situation as a result of seeking help from human rights activists, refusing to admit Aleksei’s guilt and continuing to fight.

We are asking for help and support.

All the relevant documents can be forwarded upon request.

With best regards and in hope of a positive outcome 

Tatyana Moroshkina

+79514423944 – my mobile number – my e-mail address 

NOTE: Alexei Moroshkin (b.1980) was arrested on 26 September 2015 and charged under Article 280.1, part 2 of the RF Criminal Code, "Appeal to disrupt the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation". On 19 November 2016 the court ruled him of unsound mind and committed him, under Article 97, part 1 (item "a"), for compulsory psychiatric treatment.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Zoya Svetova: Dadin’s Law-2; Why it's important to shout about injustice [Open Russia]

posted 2 Mar 2017, 05:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Mar 2017, 12:51 ]

22 February 2017

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Open Russia]

By Zoya Svetova, journalist and human rights activist, winner of the Moscow Helsinki Group prize for the protection of human rights, and former member of the Moscow Public Monitoring Committee

The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court has overturned the verdict in the case of activist Ildar Dadin, who was convicted of repeated infringements of the law on public assembly. It has ordered his release, and also recognized his right to rehabilitation following the quashing of his sentence.

This decision is unique. For one thing, on 6 December 2016 this same Supreme Court refused Dadin’s lawyers when they filed a complaint to the Presidium, pointing out that there were no grounds for revising the sentence. And now, two months later grounds have somehow appeared.

It is important to understand that such cases, where the Supreme Court cancels a sentence and releases the convicted person from custody, are extremely rare. The most recent case of this kind is the Supreme Court ruling on the release of businessman Aleksei Koslov, and the review of his case – although, true, the sentence resulting from the review turned out to be similar to the previous one, and Kozlov was sent back to jail.

By law, the Supreme Court has the right to acquit the convicted person and release him from jail. But it very rarely uses this right, preferring to cancel the sentence and refer the case for retrial. Things then go round in circles: the case goes back to the district court. There, as a rule, a sentence is passed that is similar to the first one, and then there is an appeal, cassation and, perhaps, at the level of the Moscow City Court Presidium, when the convicted person has already served most of their sentence, they are released.

It also happens that the case comes before the Supreme Court again, and the Supreme Court passes a new guilty verdict, forgetting that a few months ago their own judges had canceled that verdict and sent the case for review.

What happened in the Ildar Dadin case? Why did the Prosecutor General support his release, and the court listen to the Prosecutor, recognizing the right of the civic activist, political prisoner and passionate opponent of the authorities to rehabilitation? What’s going on, a thaw?

I repeat, this is a purely political decision.

First, the Constitutional Court recognizes problems with the article on criminal liability for repeated participation in rallies, demands that it be clarified, and refers Dadin’s case to the Supreme Court. And then the Supreme Court recalls that it can release the innocent, and does so.

To be honest, I was sure that the Supreme Court would do this. I even wanted to bet a bottle of champagne with someone that it would, but unfortunately didn’t have time.

Why was I confident things would turn out in precisely this way?

I’ll try to explain.

Firstly, following Ildar’s letter about torture in prison, this case has garnered a great deal of attention. We must pay tribute to Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatiana Moskalkova, who visited Ildar in prison in Karelia. The organization For Human Rights, the Council for Human Rights, all the human rights organisations, newspapers, and internet sites wrote screeds about Dadin, his case, his torture. And something had to be done about that. Just then, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Russian government will not pay money to Yukos, in spite of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. The Constitutional Court badly needed to make a more “just” decision on a significant issue, and so it did.

We have to take into account the fact that Dadin was due to remain in jail until summer, and the politically expedient thing would have been to release him in order to diffuse the tension around him, his case and the endless conversations about the system of torture in Russia.

In any case, there has been no good news from the justice system since the release of Nadezhda Savcheko, Gennady Afanasev and Yury Soloshenko, On the contrary, there have been continuous arrests: people have been jailed for several years for treason for sending a text message, Evgenia Chudnovets was jailed for reposting an item on a social media site, and when she caught a cold she was put in solitary confinement.

Arrests in high-profile cases continue non-stop: high-ranking FSB officers are sent to Lefortovo prison for treason, ex-governor Nikita Belykh is getting all kinds of bad treatment on remand, where they deny him the right to marriage and medical treatment. In general, the courts and prison system are giving us nothing but reason for concern. Hence the decision in the presidential administration that a positive news story was required.

So that’s what they did.

What does all this mean? Dadin's case makes it clear that have learned from the examples of Pussy Riot, the Bolotnaya Square case, the Savchenko case, the Pavlensky case: if you or someone close to you is unjustly imprisoned, in defiance of the law, then, if you are certain of this, don’t be afraid, nothing worse can happen: speak about it, write about it, call the press and human rights activists, and it’s entirely possible  the system will back down under pressure from the media and civil society.

Especially if your story happens to attract attention at a timely moment, as happened with Dadin.

I’m not saying my version is the only truth. Maybe everything was completely different and let’s say someone like Sergei Kirienko, or maybe even Putin himself, decided that the regime had to soften and throw a bone to civil society, so they free Dadin and allow a march in memory of Nemtsov. After all, the presidential elections are coming very soon.

But of course, all these suppositions are based on very little real knowledge. Yet that’s not what’s most important.

The main thing is that Ildar Dadin will be free tomorrow. He will return a hero to Moscow.

We will see what happens next.

Translated by Anna Bowles

"Madness!" Genri Reznik on the case of the blogger Sokolovsky []

posted 26 Feb 2017, 11:05 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Feb 2017, 11:07 ]

16 February 2017

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source:]

Genri Reznik, a distinguished Russian lawyer, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and Vice-President of the Federal Bar Association has commented on the case of Ruslan Sokolovsky. Sokolovsky, a blogger from Ekaterinburg, is under investigation for playing the video game Pokémon Go in a church.[1] Reznik made his remarks at a legal forum, the "Kovalev Readings," held at the Yeltsin Centre in Yekaterinburg.

“I don’t normally comment on cases that I’m not involved in” Reznik said. But in Sokolovsky’s case, he made an exception: “This is an example of madness!”

Reznik said the Sokolovsky case was being “played out from above” not by politicians, but by “not very smart people from the executive.” “There are worthy people there, but there are also people who act dishonestly,” Reznik said. “The situation with [Aleksei] Navalny is another example of what happens when politics puts pressure on the law. And Sokolovsky’s case is being played out stupidly and cynically as a political card, in order to pander to certain sentiments in society."

Reznik also spoke against a proposal to introduce legislation criminalising acts that offend the honour and dignity of the Russian President. "Who needs such a law?” Reznik demanded. “The authority of the President is inviolable. This proposal reflects either fawning toward the authorities, or stupidity, or both. New criminal norms should be introduced only in the case of extreme necessity—if something represents a real danger to the public, and if it cannot be countered using other means (civil or administrative law)."

It will be recalled that, in early August 2016, [21-year-old] Ekaterinburg blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky filmed himself playing Pokémon Go in Ekaterinburg’s Orthodox Church on the Blood [so named because it is built on the spot where, in 1918, the Bolsheviks shot the last tsar and his family]. The video aroused a storm of indignation among Orthodox believers and attracted the attention of the law-enforcement agencies. After that, Sokolovsky released a film called “The Ideal Orthodox Marriage?” in which he openly trolled law-enforcement officers and the Russian Orthodox Church. A criminal investigation was opened against him under two articles of the Criminal Code – insulting the feelings of believers, and inciting hatred. The case was recently sent to court.

Genri Reznik [born 1938] is a distinguished lawyer who worked both in the Soviet period and in today’s Russia. He has represented [Soviet dissident and liberal politician] Valeriya Novodvorskaya; the Prime Minister of Uzbekistan; KGB General Yury Plekhanov, in a case relating to the abortive putsch of August 1991; conscientious objector Aleksandr Pronozin, who refused to do military service; journalists Vadim Poegli and Andrei Babitsky; Olga Kirova; the author Vladimir Sinyavsky; Vladimir Gusinsky, Boris Berezovsky and many other well-known figures. In civil cases, he has represented Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, the “father of privatisation” Anatoly Chubais; Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin and President Boris Yeltsin. 

Translated by Elizabeth Teague
[1] Sokolvsky is accused of “insulting the feelings of believers” (Article 148, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and “inciting hatred or enmity, as well as degrading human dignity” (Article 282 of the Criminal Code).

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