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"This time they tracked me down". Grigory Pasko speaks about the attack on him in Barnaul (Meduza)

posted 3 Oct 2016, 05:41 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Oct 2016, 05:43 ]
28 September 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group (original source: Мeduza)

On September 27 the journalist Grigory Pasko was beaten up in the Siberian town of Barnaul. In his words, threats against him appeared in the local press on September 27, and the attackers followed him from the moment he arrived at his hotel. Two unknown men attacked Pasko when he was returning from a class he is teaching at the School of Investigative Journalism run by the Czech organization The Association of Investigative Journalists. One of the attackers struck Pasko on the temple, after which the unknown men fled. Meduza spoke to the journalist.

Grigory Pasko was originally a military journalist who has since worked at Novaya Gazeta, as well as the publications Ecology and Law, Heads or Tails, and City of the Five Seas. In 1997 he was arrested on suspicion of treason: when he was boarding a flight to Japan, documents were found on him that were said to contain state secrets. In 1999 he was sentenced to a year in prison under Article 285 of the Russian Criminal Code (Misconduct in public office). A year later the sentence was revoked and put under review. In 2001 Pasko was sentenced to four years in prison for espionage, and less than a year later he was granted conditional early release. He currently works with the Czech Foundation The Association of Investigative Journalists - 19/29 Foundation which organizes journalism schools in Russia.

-- Are you still in Barnaul?

-- Yes. Maybe it would be the proper thing to abandon the seminar and the students who are participating in it, but it's not right for me. I don't want to show that I'm afraid of those lumps. I'm a Russian citizen and I consider myself no less patriotic than those mutts. But the problem is that after me, other colleagues of mine from the foundation are coming: Aleksei Simonov, Igor Korolkov, Galina Sidorova -- journalists well known in their field. They also conduct classes in the framework of the seminar. If there are any provocations in relation to any of them... For now, no one has assured us that we are safe here.

-- Who did you turn to?

-- To the hotel administration: they have their own security here, but even so there are various shady characters hanging around in the lobby, I've already been followed for two full days. I put in a report with the Barnaul central district police department. I gave them exact descriptions of the attackers, connected the attack with a post yesterday by a local "patriot" (the author of the post was Andrei Maevich, chairman of the Barnaul trade union "Siberian Solidarity") who called on people to deal with me. I also told them where they could find witnesses to the attack.

-- How is the investigation going?

-- Nobody has lifted a finger so far. I called the police in the evening to ask them if they'd spoken to any witnesses -- they said they hadn't.

-- Do you have any means of self-defense?

-- I of course advise my students to carry pepper spray. But we all understand it's no real defence. If they decide to kill us instead of beating us up, they will.

-- Seriously?

-- Why not? Read that post about me, it's written with such hatred. It's literally a call to destroy Pasko, that American lackey and Japanese spy. The author is a nationalist and a patriot. It's not hard to guess who is protecting nationalists and patriots in our country.

-- Who then?

-- The FSB! No mystery about that.

-- You connect the attack with actions by the FSB?

-- Yes, I do, and I have reason to. When we conducted a similar seminar in Perm in April 2016, the man who rented us the space was approached by FSB officers and insistently told not to have anything to do with me. But the seminar took place anyway, and the man suffered no consequences, because he dealt with them politely and responsibly. Generally speaking I've been persecuted so insistently in cities all across the country that it's inevitable you start thinking there's a single centre of coordination.

-- Have you ever been attacked before?

-- There were attempts to sabotage the schools we ran in Petrozavodsk, in Nizhnevartovsk, Tomsk, Moscow region and Moscow city... Maybe I'm leaving out one of the cities. Everywhere there have been nasty articles, obstruction of us conducting seminars, surly chaps following us around. This time they tracked me down. I don't know what tomorrow will bring.

Translated by Alissa Valles