oD Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3513/author/stopwar.org.uk/news/www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/world/europe/www.hromadske.tv en To the victors, the ruins: the challenges of Russia’s reconstruction in Syria https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/neil-hauer/to-victors-ruins-challenges-of-russia-s-reconstruction-in-syria <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">From rebuilt mosques to new oil contracts, Russian firms are cashing in as the Assad regime gains the upper hand in Syria.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-31431389.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Waer district, Homs, after rebel fighters evacuate in May 2017. (c) Omar Sanadiki/Reuters/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Over the past eight months, Russia has increasingly seized the initiative in charting the political and military course of events in Syria. With the United States focused on the fight against Islamic State in Raqqa, Moscow has engineered, with Ankara’s cooperation, a number of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/how-moscow-gaining-upper-hand-post-islamic-state-syria-1617659604">“de-escalation zones”</a> in the country, covering the four primary areas of regime-rebel contact. At the same time, Russia has loudly trumpeted the rebuilding of several prominent mosques in Syria as flagship projects aimed at demonstrating its benevolent intentions. Recently-uncovered documents have also revealed that Russian firms have made major strides in securing economic boons for the immediate postwar period. Despite this, the Kremlin continues to face profound issues in projecting its influence across regime-held Syria, a problem that demands ever-growing resources even as major combat in the country declines.</p><p dir="ltr">Russia is significantly expanding its forces in Syria. In contrast to announcements of success and subsequent withdrawal made by Vladimir Putin in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/15/world/middleeast/putin-syria-russia-withdrawal.html">March 2016</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/06/russia-aircraft-carrier-mediterranean-syria-admiral-kuznetsov">January 2017</a>, Russia continues to deploy ever-more ground troops to Syria. Around the time of the latest round of international negotiations in Astana in early July, Moscow spent roughly a month reconstituting and preparing its new ranks of military police destined for Syria, with no reliable reports of these units emerging for most of July. Suddenly, 24 July saw a flurry of activity, beginning with the deployment of&nbsp;<a href="https://riafan.ru/894026-dara-na-yuge-sirii-razvernuty-podrazdeleniya-voennoi-policii-rossii">roughly 400 Russian personnel</a> to the Daraa de-escalation zone in southwest Syria, where they set up<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvJGJfUE-hI"> two checkpoints</a> and ten observation posts near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.</p><p dir="ltr">The next day, video emerged of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tvc.ru:8021/news/show/id/120606">Russian checkpoint operating in East Ghouta</a>, establishing a Russian ground presence in the second of four de-escalation zones in the country. On 26 July, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed a major development, stating that Russia presently had&nbsp;<a href="https://ria.ru/syria/20170726/1499204361.html">four military police battalions</a> operating in Syria, eclipsing the previous total of two to three such units. Shoigu also <a href="http://www.mk.ru/politics/2017/07/26/shoygu-v-sirii-deystvuyut-chetyre-batalona-voennoy-policii-rf.html">stated</a> that these battalions were from Russia’s Southern Military District, a region which includes the North Caucasus, thus indicating the Sunni Muslim composition of most or all of the units. This marked growth shows Moscow’s seriousness in implementing its painstakingly-negotiated ceasefire regimes in western Syria.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/841.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>25 July: Russian military police reported to man checkpoint in East Ghouta, an outlying district of Damascus. Source: <a href=http://www.tvc.ru:8021/news/show/id/120606#274841>TV Center</a>.</span></span></span>Further developments along the western front occurred in early August. On 3 August, Russian military police&nbsp;<a href="https://ria.ru/syria/20170803/1499666426.html">established two checkpoints</a> north of Homs city to enforce that province’s ceasefire regime. By 10 August, these checkpoints were&nbsp;<a href="https://riafan.ru/894026-dara-na-yuge-sirii-razvernuty-podrazdeleniya-voennoi-policii-rossii">running at full capacity</a>, enough to invite numerous Russian journalists to inspect the area. While a framework for Idlib province has yet to be established, three of Syria’s four de-escalation zones now have a Russian ground presence and are functioning to various degrees.</p><p dir="ltr">Freezing the situation along rebel-regime frontlines in western Syria has allowed Russian assets to aid with a push towards their new military objective — securing oil and gas resources in the country’s east. Syrian government forces have advanced against the Islamic State in recent weeks, looking to secure outlying desert areas and relieve the four-year siege imposed on the eastern city of Deir Ezzor. While there is no hard evidence of Russian advisors in this push, numerous Russian reporters are<a href="https://twitter.com/NeilPHauer/status/894675876557852674"> embedded alongside regime forces</a>, stationed on the frontlines in the recently-captured town of<a href="https://twitter.com/SyriaWarReports/status/895217387607339008"> Sukhna</a>. Russian aerial assets have also supported this offensive,<a href="http://iswresearch.blogspot.ca/2017/07/russian-airstrikes-in-syria-pre-and.html?utm_source=Russian+Airstrikes+in+Syria:+Pre-+and+Post-Ceasefire&amp;utm_campaign=Russian+Airstrikes+in+Syria:+Pre-+and+Post-Ceasefire&amp;utm_medium=email"> shifting since 9 July</a> to focus on Islamic State territory near Sukhna and<a href="https://isis.liveuamap.com/en/2017/8-august-russian-warplanes-carry-airstrikes-on-maadan-and"> along the Euphrates River</a>. These efforts dovetail with recently-revealed economic interests secured by Russia in the area.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Leading Russia’s reconstruction efforts in Syria is a seemingly unusual actor: the restive North Caucasus republic of Chechnya</p><p dir="ltr">While Russian political and military efforts aid Assad in stabilising frontlines and reclaiming ground around the country, Moscow is also increasingly claiming economic benefits in Syria. The first signs of potential profits emerged in October 2015, when a Russian delegation visiting Damascus announced that Russian companies would&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rt.com/business/319974-russia-syria-contracts-construction/">lead Syria’s postwar reconstruction</a>. From these negotiations emerged a pair April 2016 deals worth<a href="https://vz.ru/news/2016/4/25/807298.html"> at least €850m</a> total. While the full details of these were not made public, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi implied that more agreements were also in the offing. A further Russian parliamentary visit to Syria in November 2016 resulted in Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem reportedly&nbsp;<a href="http://www.euronews.com/2016/11/22/syria-offers-russia-priority-in-reconstruction-contracts-following-civil-war">offering Russia firms priority</a> in rebuilding Syria.</p><p dir="ltr">Leading Russia’s reconstruction efforts in Syria is a seemingly unusual actor: the restive North Caucasus republic of Chechnya. The Chechen government is financing some of Moscow’s most prestigious projects in the country, most notably the rebuilding of Aleppo’s prominent <a href="http://www.atimes.com/article/russia-strives-present-rebuilder-aleppo/">Ummayad Mosque</a> at a cost of $15m. The Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation, named in honour of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s late father, is also rebuilding the <a href="https://www.stripes.com/news/europe/chechnya-becoming-major-player-in-rebuilding-war-torn-syria-1.478652#.WZSSClGGPIU">Khalid ibn Walid mosque</a> in Homs. Chechnya has become a <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/contents/articles/originals/2016/11/chechnya-kadyrov-russia-mideast-diplomacy.html">key player in Moscow’s outreach efforts</a> to the Sunni Muslim world in recent years. By allowing Grozny and Kadyrov to spearhead activity in Syria, the Kremlin hopes to win back some of its legitimacy among Syria’s majority-Sunni population.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-16072990.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 2013: Free Syrian Army "Al Tawhid" brigade patrols in the old market and the Umayyad Mosque. (c) Abd Rabbo Ammar/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The most significant Russian economic coup to date came in the form of an<a href="http://www.fontanka.ru/2017/06/26/084/"> agreement revealed by the St Petersburg daily Fontanka</a> in June 2017. </p><p dir="ltr">According to documents recovered by the outlet, in December 2016 an agreement was concluded between Syrian Oil and Gas Minister Ali Ghanem and a Russian firm under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Energy. This agreement allegedly awarded 25% of Syria’s entire oil and gas production to Russian firm Stroitransgaz, which was entrusted with providing services regarding the “defence, production and transportation” from the fields in eastern Syria. Another Russian firm involved with these dealings, EuroPolis, is closely linked to both Stroitransgaz head Evgeny Prigozhin, himself a close Putin ally, and Dmitry Utkin, the leader of the <a href="http://www.fontanka.ru/2016/03/28/171/">well-known Russian private military contractor Wagner</a>. With an estimated 2,500 Wagner personnel in Syria, the group seems likely to carry out security duties for Stroitransgaz-operated wells in the country’s centre and east, including participation in the ongoing offensive from Palmyra to Deir Ezzor.</p><p dir="ltr">Maxim Suchkov, the editor of <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/russia-mideast">Al-Monitor’s Russia-MidEast Pulse</a>, urged caution over judging these recent deals as a decisive victory for Russia in Syria’s economic environment, as Fontanka is prone to “overstretch[ing] things.” Nevertheless, Suchkov emphasised, via email, the interests held by Moscow regarding Syria’s oil sector and their willingness to utilise PMCs to safeguard Russian firms operating in the country, a tactic which allows a degree of political insulation for the Russian government for any potential casualties incurred.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/11752487_834067823356083_8719272867385917458_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: Syrian Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources. </span></span></span>Beyond the east, the most complicated issue facing Russia in Syria presently lies in the country’s northwest. Russia is currently seeking to determine, alongside Turkey, the plans for a much more ambitious de-escalation zone in Idlib province, which will likely require far more than the <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/04/putin-has-a-new-secret-weapon-in-syria-chechens/">1,000 or so military police previously deployed</a> by Moscow.</p><p dir="ltr">Idlib, which constitutes the most formidable remaining opposition stronghold, with tens of thousands of rebel fighters, presents a far greater challenge than Homs, East Ghouta or southwest Syria. For this reason, Moscow is seeking additional manpower and political buy-in not only from Ankara, but from a number of Central Asian capitals as well.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Russia currently has its&nbsp;highest number of personnel in Syria to date, despite combat being at a relative low</p><p dir="ltr">Intense negotiations are currently underway to secure a contingent of peacekeeping troops from the Collective Treaty Security Organisation (CSTO), a military alliance comprised primarily of Russia and Central Asian republics.<a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-kyrgyzstan-troops-monitor-syria-de-escalation-agreement/28573810.html"> Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan</a> have been specifically mentioned by Russian and Turkish officials in such an operation, and while there is little political will among either governments or civil society in Astana or Bishkek, Russia does have significant leverage, particularly with the latter, whose debts of $240m were<a href="http://kabar.kg/eng/news/russia-writes-off-all-kyrgyzstans-debts/"> recently written off</a> by Moscow. Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, views such deployments as unlikely. “I don’t expect these troops to be deployed any time soon… there are many obstacles,” Kortunov said. “In theory, this could occur… but I don’t see any rapid deployments.”</p><p dir="ltr">Despite Russian successes in capturing territory and enforcing ceasefires, all is not well with Moscow’s campaign in Syria. Attempts to secure international peacekeepers reflect the difficulties the Kremlin faces in enacting leverage over its erstwhile Syrian and Iranian allies, who continue to pursue their own goals regardless of international agreements brokered by Moscow that would ostensibly constrain their actions. Russia currently has its<a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/04/putin-has-a-new-secret-weapon-in-syria-chechens/"> highest number of personnel in Syria to date</a>, despite combat being at a relative low compared to the large-scale battles fought in Aleppo and elsewhere since Russia’s September 2015 intervention. Iran, in particular, has <a href="http://al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/08/russia-relationship-iran-syria-military-situation-moscow.html">proven problematic</a>. Maxim Suchkov mentions that Tehran is increasingly upset by Russia’s deals with the opposition, Turkey, Jordan, Israel and the US, which it sees as being made “behind their back”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-29007027_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>October 2016: Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff speaks at a briefing at the Russian Defense Ministry's headquarters in Moscow. (c) Ivan Sekretarev AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Russian-Iranian disagreements over how to conclude the battle for Aleppo in December 2016 were the catalyst for the initial insertion of Chechen military police into the country that same month. The inverse relationship between Russia’s increase in personnel deployed to Syria and the intensity of conflict in the country, while seemingly paradoxical, is in fact a measure of the scale of resources Moscow must deploy in order to secure its political objectives: a drawdown and resolution of the ongoing conflict.</p><p dir="ltr">Amid these increased deployments, regional media has halted coverage of the matter. North Caucasian media sources and officials have gone completely silent on this latest round of deployments, in stark contrast to the intimate<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJx4cWjTGlY"> documentary</a><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXwfbFcKPow"> coverage</a> and<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTUCorH91BQ"> triumphant medal ceremonies</a> that accompanied the initial military police campaign. The last specific mention of the Chechen military police battalions deployed to Syria came as the second rotation of these units<a href="https://grozny.tv/news.php?id=21142"> returned home</a> on 24 June. Ingush soldiers likewise have been absent from media discussion since<a href="https://www.kavkazr.com/a/ingushi-vernulis-iz-sirii/28531838.html"> finishing their first deployment</a> around 5 June.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Russia faces a daunting and fundamental task as it attempts to maneuver itself as the dominant actor in Syria: rebuilding the shattered Syrian state’s authority</p><p dir="ltr">This could indicate that the Kremlin, realising the contradiction between its narrative of<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-E2HiiMXqs"> “victory over terrorism”</a> in Syria and its increasingly widespread ground presence, is wary of drawing further public attention to these growing deployments and the subsequent risks these carry. While the regional governments of the North Caucasus may be happy to send soldiers to Syria, their populations, themselves Sunni Muslims, are significantly more averse to potential deaths incurred while fighting their coreligionists far beyond Russia’s borders. More ethnic Russian soldiers may also be involved in the presently-active battalions, a fact belied by interviews with military police officers in Syria bearing such names as<a href="https://www.1tv.ru/news/2017-08-10/330462-podrazdeleniya_rossiyskoy_voennoy_politsii_obespechivayut_soblyudenie_peremiriya_v_zone_deeskalatsii_v_provintsii_homs"> Vitaliy Afanasiev</a>. Whatever the case, discussion of these units in the North Caucasus has been reduced to social media rumours.</p><p dir="ltr">Even beyond these issues, Russia faces a far more daunting and fundamental task as it attempts to maneuver itself as the dominant actor in Syria: rebuilding the shattered Syrian state’s authority. Russia has not yet sought to seriously improve governance in recaptured areas, as doing so would necessitate an even greater number of ground forces than it presently has in Syria. Analysts have<a href="https://warontherocks.com/2016/08/the-decay-of-the-syrian-regime-is-much-worse-than-you-think/"> long noted</a> the increasing breakdown of the Syrian state, as local governance and security functions are<a href="http://warisboring.com/whats-left-of-the-syrian-arab-army/"> largely outsourced</a> to militias outside the control of the state. </p><p>Russia’s efforts, however, have so far stopped short of restraining pro-Assad Syrian militias and Iranian-backed foreign armed groups from ruling through extrajudicial thuggery in reclaimed areas.<a href="https://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2017/06/22/aleppo-militias-become-major-test-assad"> Reports of abuses</a> by pro-regime militias in<a href="http://en.aleppo24.com/civilians-are-subjected-to-murder-rape-and-arbitrary-arrest-by-shabihahs-amid-a-security-breach-in-aleppo"> Aleppo</a> since its return to government control have highlighted that the posting of several hundred Chechen military police there in early 2017 changed little. More worryingly, Moscow appears either unwilling or unable to engage with and bring to heel various autonomous actors wielding power in government-held regions of Syria. Russia is largely attempting to deal with Syrian state structures and institutions, while ignoring (either willfully or via ignorance) that the country is de facto a patchwork of fiefdoms controlled by local elites and warlords.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">As its diplomatic efforts progress, expect to see more Russian soldiers and military police in Syria in the coming months</p><p dir="ltr">Moscow will thus face major difficulties in reaping the rewards of its lucrative reconstruction efforts, which are likely to be challenged by local actors and elites enforcing their influence. Even the presence of several thousand military police will likely prove insufficient for exerting control, with Iranian-backed and autonomous pro-regime formations retaining effective control of nearly the entirety of government-held territory in Syria.</p><p dir="ltr">Moving forward, Russia’s focus is likely to continue to remain on the Astana process and its initiatives. Maxim Suchkov notes that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, the Kremlin’s point man on Middle East issues, is presently attempting to engineer unity among Syrian rebel groups and acceptance among them of the de-escalation zones. Andrey Kortunov believes that Moscow will focus heavily on further engaging the US in the Astana talks, adding further legitimacy and international consensus, while also seeking to continue to defuse conflict in the country.</p><p dir="ltr">While these goals may be realistic, Russia continues to face wide-ranging problems regarding the construction of true stability in Syria, and will likely be drawn ever further into ground-level engagement in the country. As its diplomatic efforts progress, expect to see more Russian soldiers and military police in Syria in the coming months.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This article is the outcome of an ongoing partnership between <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/en/" target="_blank">SyriaUntold</a> and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia">oDR</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/leila-al-shami/tyrants-bring-invaders">The tyrants bring the invaders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/syriauntold-editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/why-are-russians-indifferent-to-syrian-conflic">Why are Russians indifferent to the Syrian conflict?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/pavel-k-baev/russia-is-spoiling-for-fight-in-middle-east">Russia&#039;s short-termism in the Middle East</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-matveev/russia-inc">Russia, Inc.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-davidis/why-aren-t-russians-protesting-against-war-crimes-in-syria">Why aren’t Russians protesting against war crimes in Syria?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Syria Neil Hauer Russia Fri, 18 Aug 2017 05:28:24 +0000 Neil Hauer 112901 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the women affected by Abkhazia’s abortion ban https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/marianna-kotova/meet-women-affected-by-abkhazia-s-abortion-ban <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A year and a half ago, the authorities in Abkhazia banned abortions in nearly all circumstances. These women have paid the price.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/hospital-sukhum.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/hospital-sukhum.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A hospital in Sukhumi, Abkhazia. Photo via Sputnik Abkhazia / OC Media. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="http://oc-media.org/the-women-affected-by-abkhazias-abortion-ban/" target="_blank">Open Caucasus Media</a>, in partnership with <a href="http://www.civil.ge" target="_blank">Civil.Ge</a>. We are grateful for their permission to republish it here.</em></p><p>A year and a half after Abkhazia banned abortion, reportedly to increase the number of births, reports of women’s deaths and pregnancy complications have became more numerous, yet the number of babies being born has not increased. Local activists have called on parliament to change the controversial new law, which they say discriminates against women.</p><p>The amendment to the Law on Healthcare passed in early 2016 banned abortions in the South Caucasus territory in almost all circumstances. It has provoked heated discussion in Abkhazian society, with local activists still raise the issue periodically, arguing either for or against the law citing various arguments.&nbsp;</p><p>oDR’s partners at <em>OC Media </em>spoke&nbsp;with three women who have been directly affected by the ban. All three asked to remain anonymous; they said that their problems were too sensitive to bring up in public — but that they could not remain silent.</p><p>One mother of two who said that when her husband found out that the family was expecting one more member, he simply left. “He told me I should have just not got pregnant if I didn’t want to. He said that he couldn’t cope with family responsibilities anyway and he just left,” the woman recalls, with tears in her eyes. “I approached a charity and asked them to help me have an abortion, but they persuaded me to keep the child, promising to provide help after the birth.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“If mothers were given higher allowances, we would have children. But the state doesn’t want to help us, all they do is to forbid things”</p><p>The woman says that financial difficulties were the only reason she didn’t want to give birth to the child. “If mothers were given higher allowances, more than 500 roubles (£6.50) a month, we would have children. But the state doesn’t want to help us, all they do is to forbid things,” she sighed.&nbsp;</p><p>Abkhazia’s de-facto president Raul Khadzhimba signed the law banning abortion on 9 February 2016. Two months later, the law was enshrined in Abkhazia’s constitution. The original author of the law was Vice Speaker of Parliament Said Kharaziya.&nbsp;</p><p>Supporters of the law talked of demographic fears in Abkhazia and the supposed “sinfulness” of abortion. According to Khazariya, no one has the right to take the life of an “unborn soul”. Before the law was adopted, there were suggestions that the ban should apply only to ethnic Abkhaz people. However parliament dismissed the approach as discriminatory, deciding to ban abortion altogether, even in the event of serious medical complications.</p><p>During the session of the parliament when the amendment was adopted, Said Kharaziya said that “everything was in God’s hands.”</p><h2>Not everyone can afford a child</h2><p>Our second respondent found herself in a similar situation, she already has three children and is unemployed. Her husband only has irregular work, and their social benefits are barely enough to buy school supplies for the couple’s older children.&nbsp;</p><p>She told <em>OC Media</em> that she couldn’t afford to pay for a trip to Russia to have an abortion. Despite childbirth being free under the Abkhazian law, she will still have to give the doctor a huge bribe.</p><p>“I received 1,000 roubles (£13) in benefits for two children and came to [the territory’s capital] Sukhumi for a scheduled examination with the doctor. This money is not enough. I have to pay 1,500 roubles (£19.60) for the tests alone, and then I have to pay the doctor. So that’s how I’ll spend my whole pregnancy, not knowing if my child is fine, and I also need to save money for childbirth. Until the doctor receives 20,000 roubles (£261), the newborn won’t be released from the hospital. They come up with different problems, like the child has jaundice, but the moment they see the money, the baby is suddenly alright. I already went through it three times,” she exclaims.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00130148.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00130148.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Children play in a courtyard in Sukhumi, capital of the unrecognised Republic of Abkhazia, 2006. Many buildings in the city remain derelict following the bloody 1992-1993 war with Georgia. Photo (c): Alexey Nikolsky / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Our third respondent, determined not to have a fourth child, went to Sochi, right across the Abkhazian–Russian border. Even there she encountered difficulties, as a number of Russian doctors were refusing to terminate the pregnancies of Abkhazian women. She was categorically rejected by several doctors, yet in the end, managed to find one who agreed to go through with the procedure. She had to pay about 3,000 roubles (£39).&nbsp;</p><p>“I was told at a clinic in Adler [district of Sochi] that women with Abkhazian passports can’t be given abortions. Some kind of order had come from above. But this one doctor felt sorry for me and sent me to another clinic in Sochi. There I was also coldly received. They said they had also been instructed not to give Abkhazians abortions. They said that they have 700–800 Abkhazians terminating their pregnancy each month. But it was my goal to remove the foetus, and I wasn’t going to stop at anything. Maybe this doctor noticed and felt sorry for me,” she remembers.&nbsp;</p><p>These are the reasons Viktoriya Vorobyova, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at the Sukhumi Maternity Hospital, is categorically against the ban on abortion. She told <em>OC Media</em> that someone who really wants to have an abortion will find a way, while economically disadvantaged and often poorly informed women will continue to give birth, including to sick children.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Two pregnant women have died since Abkhazia’s abortion ban was introduced</p><p>“Women order pills for chemical abortion online, they administer them themselves, even in late pregnancy. We have had women with severe complications at our hospital. One patient, after taking such a ‘miracle pill’ had her uterus seam loosen and the foetus fell into the abdominal cavity. We barely saved her,” Vorobyova recalls.&nbsp;</p><p>Two pregnant women have died since the ban was introduced. Their children were saved, but their two large families were left without mothers.&nbsp;</p><p>“These women came to the hospital early in their pregnancy to terminate them, but they were turned away due to the ban. One died from eclampsia — a severe condition that occurs only in pregnant women. The second shouldn’t have give birth either,” the doctor said.&nbsp;</p><h2>“Women need explaining how to behave”&nbsp;</h2><p>Member of Parliament Alkhas Dzhindzholiya mentioned the need to soften the ban in his parliamentary election programme, saying that abortion should be legal when there are medical complications. But even now, as he says, women have the opportunity to have an abortion without violating the ban.&nbsp;</p><p>“If developmental defects in the foetus are diagnosed, or the woman herself is sick, then a consultation meeting between several doctors is held. A record of the consultation goes to the Ministry of Health and there they decide whether it is possible to let the woman have an abortion. There are already precedents for this,” Dzhindzholiya told <em>OC Media</em>.</p><p>As for changes in the legislation, he said that more work was needed.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Abkhazia_Woman_Orchard.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Abkhazia_Woman_Orchard.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Woman in a walnut orchard in Gali district, southern Abkhazia, 2011. Photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0: Dmitriy Medlev / Nonviolent Peaceforce / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>“We should not approach this issue categorically. You can’t allow full permission for abortion, but at the same time, you can’t put [women’s] lives at risk. That’s why we consult with the public. In general, we need to work with women. They need explaining how to behave, so they don’t need to have abortions later,” Dzhindzholiya said.&nbsp;</p><p>Dzhindzholiya discussed only medical factors. Social aspects, such as the financial situation of families, are routinely ignored by Parliament. Politicians say that there are always ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Any woman can receive a free consultation and various contraceptives at the state-funded Centre for Reproductive Health.</p><p>Doctor Viktoriya Vorobyova told <em>OC Media</em> that condoms, contraceptive pills, and the contraceptive coil are always available at the centre and are always free.&nbsp;</p><p>“Maybe we don’t inform the public well enough about the activities of the centre,” Vorobyova admits. “We need to work with young people, explain to them that [contraception] is nothing to be ashamed of.”</p><p>There is currently only one such centre in Abkhazia, in Sukhumi. Outside of the capital, international organisations occasionally implement programmes offering contraceptives, or to educate people about how and why to use them, both to protect their health and prevent unwanted pregnancies. These are all, however, sporadic at best.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“<a href="https://chai-khana.org/en/banning-abortion-in-abkhazia-1" target="_blank">Banning abortion in Abkhazia</a>” - a short video on <em>Chai Khana</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/regina-jegorova-askerova/breaking-cycle-ending-underage-marriage-in-georgia">Breaking the cycle: ending underage marriage in Georgia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-kosterina/love-north-caucasus-style">Love, North Caucasus style</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/stories-you-weren%E2%80%99t-meant-to-hear-women-tradition-and-powe">Stories you weren’t meant to hear: women, tradition and power in Russia’s North Caucasus </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasia-ovsyannikova/how-should-we-talk-about-abortion-in-russia">How should we talk about abortion in Russia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/dagestan-who-owns-women-s-bodies">Who owns women’s bodies in Dagestan?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia 50.50 oD Russia Marianna Kotova Rights for all Health Caucasus Abkhazia Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:18:19 +0000 Marianna Kotova 112905 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Honour killings” in Russia’s North Caucasus https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-klimova-yulia-sugueva/honour-killings-in-russia-s-north-caucasus <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">When women in the North Caucasus are murdered by their families for “immoral behaviour”, justice is rarely done. &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/06d14c1c59f7298af61c7cd2e3b087ee_1400x850.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: (c) Maria Tolstova / MediaZona.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>We translate this article with permission from <a href="https://zona.media/">MediaZona</a>, a media platform that focuses on Russia’s judicial and prison system. Find the original <a href="https://zona.media/article/2017/07/28/honour">here</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr">“You can’t say that Sultan Daurbekov ended his daughter’s life, that he killed her.” This is how Ilyas Timishev began his defence of his client. “What you have to say is that he took her away from life, so that she couldn’t bring shame to herself, her father and her entire family. That’s the correct description.” Timishev’s client, Sultan Daurbekov, a resident of Chechnya, was on trial for the murder of his daughter, Zarema. In April 2015, this “honour killing” case, held in Grozny’s Staropromyslov District Court, was drawing to a close, and the public prosecutor had already requested an eight year sentence in a high security prison colony.</p><p dir="ltr">According to witnesses, Zarema Daurbekova “led an immoral life”. Reflecting on whether Zarema’s father deserved to be punished for killing her, Timishev remarked that the man was being judged under laws which belonged in a different cultural tradition.</p><p dir="ltr">“Our lawmakers are, in general, members of the Russian-speaking population. They will find this father’s actions unacceptable. Why is this?’ asked the defending counsel before immediately answering his own question: “Because they don’t have any traditions.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">&nbsp;“A father who killed his child after enduring 20 years of humiliation from her, the amoral behaviour of a Muslim daughter, cannot, in principle, face responsibility for murder”</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, as Timishev claimed, the Daurbekov case involved not only legal issues, but ethical and cultural ones as well, and these needed to be properly resolved, “taking into account the mindset and traditions of the Chechen people.” Despite the annoyance of the judge, who tried to return Timishev to the facts of the case, the defence counsel continued to describe in great detail Chechen traditions and the differences between Muslim and Christian “cultural codes”.</p><p dir="ltr">“On the one hand, we have the Criminal Code. On the other, traditions, good ones. The honour and dignity of women,” Timishev continued. “This is why I believe, Your Honour, that we need to find a fair balance between the interests of the state, the penal system, law enforcement and the interests of the defendant.” Timishev insisted that Daurbekov killed his daughter in a state of “intense spiritual conflict”, and so his actions couldn’t be classed as murder. “A father who killed his child after enduring 20 years of humiliation from her, the amoral behaviour of a Muslim daughter, cannot, in principle, face responsibility for murder.”</p><h2>“I don’t remember where the rope came from”</h2><p dir="ltr">On the evening of 24 November 2013, Zarema Daurbekova, a resident of Grozny, was returning home from work. She and her husband had recently divorced, she had found herself a job in a hairdressing salon and she and her 10 year old son were living with her parents. But that evening, Zarema decided to visit her sister, who lived nearby, and spend the night there. When she got off the bus, she phoned her mother to say that she was on her way from the bus stop, but she never arrived at her sister’s home and didn’t phone again. Her family called the police, thinking she might have been abducted.</p><p dir="ltr">Nothing further was heard of Zarema Daurbekova for almost a year, and then, in September 2014, her father turned up at a police station and confessed to her murder. On the day she disappeared, Sultan Daurbekov had been waiting for her at the bus stop where she alighted and asked her to get into his car, to talk. He drove her off into some wasteland, where he stopped and started accusing his daughter of “indecent behaviour”. A row broke out between them. At a certain point Daurbekov grabbed a length of rope, wrapped it round his daughter’s neck and pulled it and held it tight until she died. Then he hid her body in a hole dug in the wasteland and covered it with rubbish.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“There are no reliable statistics on killings of women whose families believe they have brought shame on them”</p><p dir="ltr">The witnesses called by Timishev — the Daurbekovs’ neighbours and relatives — discussed Zarema’s private life in every detail. They said that the divorced woman drank alcohol, wore her hair uncovered and got into strangers’ cars. Her mother got her share of criticism as well: according to the neighbours, she covered up for her daughter. In court, Nina Daurbekova did indeed deny that Zarema behaved “immorally” and asked people not to shame the deceased. At the same time, however, she said that he didn’t want her husband sent to prison.</p><p dir="ltr">“I just wanted to frighten her,” said Sultan Daurbekov in court. “But the way she was threatening me, I lost control and blanked out. I don’t remember where the rope came from and how I slung it round her neck. I was sitting in the back of the car. I don’t even remember how long it took to kill her. She held up her hand and I thought she had the rope in it, so that’s why I held it so tight. It was only when she fell that I realised I’d killed her. I’d never done anything bad to anyone, never said a cross word to my children. I don’t know how it happened… I’m ready to take my punishment.”</p><p dir="ltr">“She threatened her father with her boyfriends. She said: ‘If you touch him, you’ll disappear’,” Timishev told us. “They all deserved that, but you couldn’t punish them all. After all, she was partying and Sultan couldn’t go after them all with an axe. A lot of them were cops anyway. We questioned them in court, but they wouldn’t talk. None of them admitted [to being close to the deceased]. They said they were just friends. They’d go to her salon to have their hair cut.” The counsel for the defence believes that a Caucasian man who kills a female family member for her “licentious” way of life cannot be, in principle, tried for deliberate murder.</p><p dir="ltr">We were told by Timishev that the prosecuting counsels and judges, as Chechens themselves, understood and sympathised with Daurbekov, and that the two detectives who led the investigation admitted privately that they would have done the same thing in the defendant’s place. Talking to us, the defence counsel echoed the thought he had expressed in court: “If it were up to me, there would be no penalty imposed, but as we live in a constitutional state where the laws are made not by Muslim, but by Russian lawmakers who find our customs alien, then we need to find an appropriate charge to try him on.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/f6e7794a89cf0c5e54302dcef0abb81b.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: (c) Maria Tolstova / MediaZona.</span></span></span>In April 2015, Daurbekov was sentenced to seven years in a high security prison for murder. His counsel argued that at the moment of the crime he was “in the heat of passion”, aroused in him by the “indecent behaviour” of his daughter and the threats she made, but expert witnesses did not accept this as a defence.</p><p dir="ltr">Daurbekov’s lawyer is not satisfied with the sentence. After all, Timishev believes that Zarema’s father was “forced” to commit the crime. “They didn’t regard him as a proper man any more. They didn’t criticise him directly, but when he came to a funeral, for example, they would say: ‘Sultan, go back home, we don’t need you here,’” says Timishev. “He felt like an outcast. Murder is a tragedy, of course, but everybody will know that it wasn’t a fair conviction. Or should he have just got used to everyone laughing at the very sight of him and passing him by without a word? Now, nobody thinks he’s a hero. It’s a normal thing to happen. He killed his daughter. He did the right thing and that’s it. But nobody will laugh at him any more.”</p><h2>“He did what I should have done”</h2><p dir="ltr">In May 2015, Abdulaziz Abdurakhmanov, from the village of Chirkey in Dagestan’s Buinaksk district was tried for the same offence as Sultan Daurbakov: he killed his cousin Asiyat for “immoral behaviour”.</p><p dir="ltr">In court, Abdurakhmanov told the judge that he had seen on the internet a video “of an intimate nature” involving his cousin and an unknown man. What exactly it showed is unknown, but after watching it he went to his cousin’s house and demanded to hear who the man on the video was and who was the father of Asiyat’s second child, born just two weeks earlier. According to his testimony, his cousin refused to explain anything and just said that the video showed her with the man she loved and nobody had the right to poke their nose into her private life.</p><p dir="ltr">The cousins got into an argument, with Abdurakhmanov screaming that Asiyat had brought shame on the whole family and her telling him to get out of her house. Then, according to Abdurakhmanov, she grabbed a kitchen knife and went for him, but he managed to snatch the knife out of her hand and stabbed Asiyat in her side. In court, Abdurakhmanov repeatedly stated that when he left, she was still alive. He then told his family about what had happened and turned himself in to the police, still unaware that his cousin was dead. Doctors found nine stab wounds on her body. Like Daurbekov, Abdurakhmanov claimed that he had killed his cousin “in the heat of passion”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Honour killings” don’t happen spontaneously — these crimes are planned by members of the women’s families in advance</p><p dir="ltr">Zulfiya Isakadzhiyeva, the lawyer who defended Abdurakhmanov in court, <a href="http://chernovik.net/content/inye-smi/v-dagestane-nachat-sud-po-delu-ob-ubiystve-chesti-v-sele-chirkey">hoped</a> to have the charge reduced from murder to manslaughter. The client, Isakadzhiyeva said, had no intention of killing his cousin and couldn’t even remember the details of what happened. At his trial, Abdurakhmanov repented of his actions, asked his victim’s mother to pardon him and promised to support her children, and the families of Abdulaziz and Asiyat (whose fathers were brothers), made peace with one another. The victim’s father supposedly even told his brother, “I have nothing against Abdulaziz: he did what I should have done.” And Asiyat’s mother asked the court not to send Abdurakhmanov to prison, supporting the defence’s appeal for a psychological-psychiatric examination of the defendant.</p><p dir="ltr">In conversation with Mediazona, Isakadzhiyeva said that the court tried to avoid any discussion of Asiyat’s private life. All that was known was that she was divorced from her husband. “Asiyat’s mother said that she had been married to her husband as a second wife,” the lawyer said. “Her mother thought that her two children had been born in that marriage, but her ex-husband told the court that he couldn’t be sure he was the father. And rumours were flying around the village. But family members didn’t openly approve of Abdurakhmanov’s action and many couldn’t believe him capable of such a thing. He himself made a partial confession, denying that he had meant to kill her. He couldn’t even remember stabbing her so many times, he said: he thought he had only knifed her twice.”</p><p dir="ltr">The forensic psychiatric examination, which took place in Astrakhan, didn’t corroborate Abdurakhmanov’s claimed state of mind at the time of the killing. The court found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to six years in a high security prison colony.</p><h2>The Shariatisation of violence</h2><p dir="ltr">“Honour killings” don’t happen spontaneously — these crimes are planned by members of the women’s families in advance, says Svetlana Anokhina, editor-in-chief of <a href="http://www.daptar.ru/">Daptar.ru</a>, a website devoted to women’s rights in Dagestan: “As a rule, the decision is taken by the family together and more than one person is involved in the actual murder.”</p><p dir="ltr">Anokhina also tells us that there is no correlation between “honour killings” and a family’s devoutness or lack of it: “It’s difficult to say why these ‘traditions’ arose, Dagestan is a very diverse society. I know a village where there are ‘swingers’ among the inhabitants. And next door you have a family where there have been four ‘honour killings’.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“As a rule, the decision is taken by the family together and more than one person is involved in the actual murder”</p><p dir="ltr">It is often members of the extended family — uncles, cousins — who initiate the murder of a young woman for unacceptable behaviour. In the winter of 2010, for example, police officers arrested Tarkhan Ozdoyev, a resident of Ingushetia, whom they suspected of killing his cousin and her two daughters. The bodies of Madina Ozdoyeva, 42, Zarema Ozdoyeva, 20, and Fatima Ozdoyeva, 18, were found by passers-by on the outskirts of the village of Ali-Yurt. Their corpses, which had been dumped in the woods, had been practically beheaded and were covered in bruises and abrasions — before being killed they had been badly beaten.</p><p dir="ltr">Ozdoyev <a href="https://www.stav.kp.ru/daily/25769/2753851/">admitted</a> to murdering his relatives: they had, in his opinion, behaved in an immoral fashion — walking along the street with their faces uncovered, smiling and talking freely with other villagers. He was convicted of multiple murders and sentenced to 12 years in a high security prison colony.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/5ea06088654812740a2a7c191030fa4c.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: (c) Maria Tolstova / MediaZona.</span></span></span>“Fathers often take pity on their children. That’s only natural. But less close relatives can raise the subject and go around spreading the word. And in the end the woman gets killed,” says Svetlana Anokhina. “Male relatives can theoretically intercede for a women accused of ‘immoral behaviour’: in that case, several men have to agree to stand surety for her in front of other family members. But I’ve never actually heard of men trying to save a woman in this way.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Honour killings” are often a front for banal, mercenary aims — there is a well-known case where a brother murdered his sister for an inheritance, but excused his crime by claiming that she had an immoral lifestyle. And these killings are also useful for covering up the traces of incest, for example, says Anokhina: “So each of these crimes have to be studied closely, to uncover the real reasons behind them.”</p><p dir="ltr">The concept of family honour occupies a special place in the general value system of the peoples of the Caucasus. As Naima Neflyasheva, a specialist in Caucasus history at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ African Studies Institute explains, the behaviour and reputations of girls and women was always of importance to the whole family. “Under local customary law, a married woman who slept with another man could face corporal punishment — 19th century oral sources talk about 100 strokes of the birch; or she could have the tip of her nose cut off and be sent in shame back to her father’s house with her hair loose or cut short,” Neflyasheva says. “Some written sources mention that an unfaithful wife may be killed. But ethnographers’ field studies suggest that both physical punishments and killing were rare occurrences.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I’ve heard of young women being expelled from their village, but I don’t know of any cases of their being whipped in today’s Caucasus”</p><p dir="ltr">According to Neflyasheva, a bride whose husband discovered she was not a virgin would be returned by his family to her father’s house on a cart with her back turned towards the horse. And if a young woman who was not yet betrothed was found to be “impure” she was usually despatched to relatives in another village, to be married as soon as possible to an elderly widower or the “village idiot”.</p><p dir="ltr">“However, these customs had generally died out by the 1930s-1950s”, says Neflyasheva. “And as for the Shariat penalty for premarital sexual relations, that is ideally decided by a Shariat court — a qadi and imams — not by the young woman’s family.” Shariat Law makes a distinction between licentiousness and premarital and adulterous sexual relations – for unmarried women the punishment is a certain number of lashes with a whip and expulsion, as far away as possible, from the village.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’ve heard of young women being expelled from their village,” says Neflyasheva, “but I don’t know of any cases of their being whipped in today’s Caucasus. Islam condemns the taking of someone’s life. I feel that the so-called ‘honour killings’ that have taken place in the last few years in the Eastern Caucasus (I want to stress that this practice is region specific) should be regarded as the shariatisation of violence, where everyday violence becomes identified with Sharia Law and is seen as such by the people who commit these crimes.”</p><h2>“In the majority of cases, it isn’t registered as murder”</h2><p dir="ltr">Of course, by no means all divorced women are persecuted by their families, Svetlana Anokhina tells us. Nonetheless, some realise that their relatives won’t let them live a quiet life in Dagestan and try to leave the republic. This was the case with Maryam Magomedova, from the village of Nechayevka in the Kizilyurt District, who was forced to move to Moscow with her mother and sister because of continual rows with relatives. Then in August 2010 she was invited to a wedding back in Dagestan and agreed to go.</p><p dir="ltr">“When she arrived in the village, Kasum Magomedov, her uncle on her father’s side, summoned her for a chat,” says Salimat Kadyrova, who represented the interests of the dead woman’s mother in court. “At his trial, he said that he had long wanted to talk to her, as he had heard that she and her husband had split up after she was unfaithful to him. Magomedov was also annoyed that her hair was uncovered. He drove her off to the edge of the village to talk to her. She told him to stay out of her life, and he lost his rag. He claimed that he had blanked out and when he came to his senses she was already strangled to death.”</p><p dir="ltr">Magomedov buried his niece in the village cemetery himself. When a search for her began Murtazali Abdulmuslimov, her uncle on her mother’s side, discovered that she had been last seen getting into a car with Magomedov and his nephew. After talking to them he suspected foul play, and later noticed a fresh grave in the cemetery and took Magomedov to task again. The same evening, members of Magomedov’s family called for Abdulmuslimov and asked him to go with them to visit Kasum, their oldest brother. There he was told that Kasum had wiped out the stain of shame they bore for Maryam’s unseemly behaviour and proposed that the whole thing be hushed up and Maryam re-buried with all proper funeral rites. Abdulmuslimov, however, didn’t agree and the victim’s mother, Kusum Magomedova, also <a href="http://www.daptar.ru/article/128/chest-semi-magomedovyih">refused</a> to be reconciled with the family of her daughter’s killer.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“In ‘honour killing’ cases, once the defendant’s guilt is established, he will be convicted, but there remains the question of the length of his sentence”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“Although Kasum’s relatives also condemned his actions, at his trial they still tried to stick up for him and wouldn’t admit that he had met up with Abdulmuslimov and confessed his guilt,” Kadyrova recalls. During Magomedov’s first trial, the defendant denied his guilt. In April 2013, the Kizilyurt District Court acquitted Magomedov and released him from custody in the courtroom. However, his victim’s mother appealed against the verdict and Dagestan’s High Court overturned it.</p><p dir="ltr">“Maryam’s mother said that if it had been a real ‘honour killing’, she might have let it go, but she was sure that her daughter was being slandered,” says Kadyrova. “And indeed, witnesses testified that Maryam was a modest young woman.” In the autumn of 2013, the case was reopened, and in spring 2014 Kasum Magomedov made a partial confession, but claimed he killed his victim “in the heat of passion”. An expert examination concluded that the defendant was of sound mind and he was sentenced to seven years in a high security prison colony.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01277879.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01277879.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Two women walk through an underpass in the Grozny-City shopping centre, Grozny, Republic of Chechnya, 2012. Photo (c): Ramil Sitdikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“In ‘honour killing’ cases, once the defendant’s guilt is established, he will be convicted, but there remains the question of the length of his sentence,” the lawyer tells us. “I think the sentences are sometimes too short, but most killings like this manage to be passed off as suicides or accidents. Or the whole thing is hushed up: a young woman disappears and no one will ever know that she was murdered. And even if they know, even their mothers rarely tell. If [the young woman’s “improper” behaviour] is confirmed, her mother has to share the blame — she didn’t bring her up right — so she has to keep silent and hold it all in. But these men are supported by society, sympathised with and their crimes absolved. They’re seen as something like orderlies, cleaning up mess.”</p><p dir="ltr">In 2015 Marem Alieyeva, a resident of Ingushetia, also <a href="https://zona.media/article/2017/19/01/marem">tried to escape</a> from a husband who beat her, but gave in to her family’s persuasion and returned to the republic. Two weeks later, some relatives of her husband Mukharbek Evloyev gathered at their home. Marem could see on the CCTV screen that they were having a discussion about something, and told her sister, just in case. Alieyeva disappeared the same day and has never been seen since, alive or dead.</p><p dir="ltr">“The only people they try hard to find are potential suicide bombers,” says Daptar.ru’s Svetlana Anokhina. “But for a search to begin, someone has to report a missing person, and this doesn’t always happen. And the police themselves are very unwilling to open cases of disappearance, so it collapses at the first hurdle. The cops just don’t look for women who have disappeared. They tell the families that the young woman probably just decided to run away. And here it’s a question of: ‘no body: no case’.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Why do the dead women’s mothers so frequently keep silent about it? Because they don’t want to get their other children into trouble”</p><p dir="ltr">“Sometimes cases are opened because they find a body,” says defence lawyer Timishev. “Although then you can say: ‘They deserved all they got’. Seven or eight women have been found in various parts of Chechnya with bullet holes in their heads, killed five to seven years ago. But they were all ‘tramps’.” The lawyer was evidently referring to the case in November 2008 <a href="http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/144611/">where six women were killed at the same time</a>, in various districts, by shots to the head. Nothing was stolen from them — neither jewellery, nor cash — so the investigators came up with the idea of “honour killings”. Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov <a href="http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/85366">said</a> at the time that they were women of easy virtue who had been punished by their families. As Kadyrov said, “In our culture, if a woman lives like that, if she sleeps with a man, her family kills both of them.” He also admitted, however, that the killings couldn’t be justified by any appeal to tradition.</p><p dir="ltr">“Why do the dead women’s mothers so frequently keep silent about it? Because they don’t want to get their other children into trouble,” says <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/svetlana-anokhina">Svetlana Anokhina</a>. Also, the murder of a supposedly morally compromised daughter gives her family greater authority in their community. “It means that this family is pretty influential, and has a concept of honour and connections that might protect it from criminal charges. A family like this is afraid of nothing.”</p><p dir="ltr">“There are no reliable statistics on killings of women whose families believe they have brought shame on them,” concludes Olga Gnezdilova, a lawyer working for the Netherlands-based<a href="http://www.srji.org/"> Justice Initiative Foundation</a>. “In most cases their deaths are not even registered as murders. The young women are just buried, either with a proper funeral or just in a hole somewhere. The neighbours, of course know about it, but don’t report it, of course.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translated by Liz Barnes.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/victoria-gurevich/inequality-of-women-keeps-north-caucasus-vulnerable">The inequality of women keeps the North Caucasus vulnerable</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda-sergei-smirnov/inside-ingushetia-anti-extremism-torture-extortion">Inside Ingushetia’s anti-extremism centre: torture, extortion, murder</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-kosterina/love-north-caucasus-style">Love, North Caucasus style</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/stories-you-weren%E2%80%99t-meant-to-hear-women-tradition-and-powe">Stories you weren’t meant to hear: women, tradition and power in Russia’s North Caucasus </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/convert-and-love-russia-s-muslim-wives">Convert and love: Russia’s Muslim wives</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-anokhina/makhachkala-citizen-city">Makhachkala: citizen city </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Yulia Sugueva Maria Klimova Russia Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:50:04 +0000 Maria Klimova and Yulia Sugueva 112882 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Five years of Russia’s Foreign Agent law https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/daria-skibo/five-years-of-russia-s-foreign-agent-law <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Russia’s Foreign Agent law has made the existence of many NGOs practically impossible. But solidarity is rising among organisations that are working against these restrictions. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/daria-skibo/foreign-agents-pravila">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/13226639_1319541111407184_8351641239543711452_n_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Valentina Cherevatenko is the first rights campaigner in Russia to be charged with evading the 2012 law on "foreign agents". Source: Facebook.</span></span></span>Russian civil society received July’s news happily: the case against <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-volosomoeva/valentina-cherevatenko-i-am-convinced-that-war-will-affect-us-all">Valentina Cherevatenko</a>, the first person to face criminal charges under Russia’s Foreign Agent law, was <a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-valentina-cherevatenko">dropped</a>. In June 2017, Cherevatenko, head of the Women of the Don human rights organisation, faced court proceedings for “maliciously evading the requirements of a Foreign Agent”. The Rostov-based rights defender faced not only a fine and community work, but a potential prison sentence of up to two years. She was accused of trying to circumvent Russia’s Foreign Agents law and “having a criminal intention” in registering a non-commercial foundation under the same name. The case against Cherevatenko was eventually curtailed due to “lack of evidence of a crime”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">If we unpack the legal details of this case, then it becomes clear that Women of the Don did, in fact, create a new foundation under the same name. There were concrete reasons for this: in 2013, as the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office conducted a wave of inspections at <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2013/10/23/56891-171-i-predostavte-spravku-o-privivke-ot-kori-187">over 300 NGOs</a> across the country, they found signs of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/law-beyond-improvement">“political activity”</a> in the activities of Women of the Don. Although Women of the Don did not receive any foreign funding (the second condition that ensures any non-commercial organisation is placed on the register of Foreign Agents), the General Prosecutor’s Office requested the immediate inclusion of Women of the Don on the register for their “political activity”.</p><p dir="ltr">The General Prosecutor’s Office found another violation: Women of the Don is registered as a regional organisation in Russia’s southern Rostov region, but its work <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-volosomoeva/valentina-cherevatenko-i-am-convinced-that-war-will-affect-us-all">travels far beyond its borders</a> — including, for example, Ukraine. The new organisation was thus created in order to work outside of Rostov, but was added to the Foreign Agents register in 2015.</p><p dir="ltr">One more event with a possible positive outcome occurred in May 2017: the Levada Center, the polling centre that was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oksana-bocharova/why-russia-needs-levada-center">placed on the Foreign Agents register in September 2016</a>, filed a complaint to the Russian Constitutional Court. The centre plans to appeal against the law’s provision that categorises sociological surveys (and their publication) as “political activity”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The five years of the Foreign Agents law’s existence allow us not only to analyse how this legislation has been applied, but how Russia’s NGOs have adapted to these new rules</p><p dir="ltr">Russia’s Foreign Agent law — or, more accurately, the packet of amendments presented in the Federal Law on Regulating the Activities of Non-Commercial Organisations — was passed in July 2012. The first draft proposed that non-commercial organisations registered in Russia should voluntarily join a register (specially created by the Ministry of Justice) and officially receive the status of “Foreign Agent” if two conditions were met: the presence of foreign financing and evidence that the organisation was conducting political activity. Given that none of the main players in Russia’s civil society decided to join the register, in 2013 the General Prosecutor’s Office conducted a series of inspections with the aim of forcing NGOs to join the register en masse. If the law has been passed, it should work. Thus, in 2014, 29 organisations joined, in 2015 - 81, and in 2016 - another 43. Over the past five years, 162 Russian organisations have become Foreign Agents.</p><p dir="ltr">The five years of the Foreign Agents law’s existence allow us not only to analyse how this legislation has been applied, but how Russia’s NGOs have adapted to these new rules, and which strategies they’ve used to stabilise their situation and continue working. </p><h2>A black mark against your name</h2><p dir="ltr">Right from the very beginning of the Foreign Agent era, the pressure on Russia’s third sector has been quite severe. Organisations that were placed on the register weren’t permitted to leave it until 2015. Even after (self-)liquidation, an NGO’s name would remain on the Justice Ministry’s website.</p><p dir="ltr">The procedure of leaving the Foreign Agents register is described in a <a href="http://www.garant.ru/news/611748/">March 2015 law</a>. It proposes that an organisation’s management files a special document to the Ministry of Justice, which then conducts an inspection to decide whether the organisation has received foreign financing and or carried out “political activity”. On the basis of evidence gathered during this inspection, ministry officials then decide whether the NGO should keep its Foreign Agent status or not. Over the past five years, 72 organisations have left the register — though 33 have either self-liquidated, are in the process of liquidation or have been liquidated by a court decision.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.49.52_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Russian Ministry of Justice's <a href=http://unro.minjust.ru/NKOForeignAgent.aspx>Foreign Agent register</a>. Source: Ministry of Justice. </span></span></span>The status of “Foreign Agent” has acquired both a legal and a social character. On the one hand, organisations placed on the register have had their rights restricted in comparison with other kinds of NGOs (for instance, organisations that perform socially useful services, such as working with the elderly, disabled or homeless). These organisations have to undergo an annual audit (paid for out of their own budgets), or provide the Justice Ministry with information about events they’ve carried out, their management teams (every six months), how they spend funds received from foreign sources (every quarter), as well as publishing this information on special websites run by ministry officials.</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, an NGO’s work can be studied in detail once a year as part of a planned inspection by the General Prosecutor’s Office. In reality, though, the General Prosecutor’s Office can visit an organisation and request any form of documentation any number of times a year if they receive a complaint from a Russian citizen. Oleg, who works for one of the rights defence organisations in St Petersburg, characterises the effect of bureaucratic pressure on Russia’s third sector as a “move several years back in time”:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“The passing of the law on Foreign Agents has had a chilling effect on the entire development of civil society. Even if you look at the statistics from the Justice Ministry on registered organisations, you can see that people simply prefer not to register as a non-commercial organisation, in order not to attract the attention of the inspecting institutions. The number of registered NGOs has come down by roughly 30% in total. I know that many rights defence organisations prefer to shut down.”</p><p dir="ltr">If a Foreign Agent organisation doesn’t mark all the documents it produces and distributes (whether on paper or online) as “published by a Foreign Agent”, then it can be fined up to 300,000 roubles (£3,800). Indeed, fines await future Foreign Agents for practically everything: for not joining the register, for not observing deadlines on filing audits, and for not marking their materials. And in 2012, another new article was introduced into Russia’s legal system — this time, into the Criminal Code.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">If the pressure on Russia’s Foreign Agents hasn’t <em>decreased</em> over the past 18 months, then at least it hasn’t <em>increased</em></p><p dir="ltr">According to Article 330.1 of Russia’s Criminal Code, if you do not present evidence about a Foreign Agent organisation to the Ministry of Justice, you are maliciously evading the law. This article carries a punishment of a fine, community work or imprisonment up to two years. According to lawyers who work in the NGO sphere, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/19/russia-rights-activist-interrogated">Article 330.1 is superfluous</a>, given that the crime it qualifies cannot be committed in principle. The fact that the case against Valentina Cherevatenko was dropped shows this to be the case.</p><p dir="ltr">If the pressure on Russia’s Foreign Agents hasn’t <em>decreased</em> over the past 18 months, then at least it hasn’t<em> increased</em>. The fact that several organisations have managed to leave the register — after applying to the Ministry of Justice and undergoing additional inspections — and that the number of new additions to the register is gradually coming down, is testament to this. Organisations are taking victories in the courtroom: for instance, the <a href="https://cisr.ru/en/">Centre for Independent Social Research</a>, together with the help of professional lawyers, managed to reach the Supreme Court, where it successfully contested the fines it received for not joining the register.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-31672632 (1) (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>12 June saw mass arrests at anti-corruption rallies across Russia. (c) NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The decrease in attention towards Russia’s third sector is largely connected with the switch in the focus of political pressure, rather than signs of a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/pavel-chikov/russia-s-managed-thaw">“thaw”</a> for Russian civil society. The mass detentions at protests on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/don-t-call-him-dima-russia-s-anti-corruption-protesters-face-repression">26 March</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/1720-people-detained-at-russia-s-anti-corruption-protests">12 June</a> show that the Russian state is ready to act decisively and brutally against its own citizens, refusing to grant people rights which, in the opinion of the repressive machine, impede the defence of “national security” or threaten “traditional values”. Over the past five years, the General Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Justice have indeed achieved certain aims — destabilising the country’s third sector, interfering into the work of ordinary employees at NGOs, making it impossible to plan both on a project- and organisation level, dividing the ranks of NGO representatives and stopping/impeding foreign financing.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, more organisations are leaving Russia’s Foreign Agent register than are joining it. But, so far, these NGOS come from already existing groups (rights defence, environmental organisations, local associations and so on), rather than new targets. &nbsp;</p><h2>In for a penny</h2><p dir="ltr">The majority of Russian organisations that, at the moment when the law was passed in 2012, received financing from abroad, have felt it necessary to develop a plan of action regarding the threat of registration.</p><p dir="ltr">One possible course of action was to take Foreign Agent status voluntarily. For this, an organisation had to file a declaration with the appropriate institution. This scenario allowed an organisation to save 300,000 roubles (£3,800) in fines that were handed down to organisations registered by the Ministry of Justice, General Prosecutor’s Office or a court decision. However, receiving Foreign Agent status led not only to legal consequences, but a whole other set of consequences outside the legal framework. According to surveys conducted by the <a href="https://iz.ru/news/531239">Russian Public Opinion Research Center in 2012</a> or <a href="https://www.levada.ru/en/2017/03/20/foreign-agent/">Levada Center in 2017</a>, Russian citizens surveyed view the term “foreign agent” negatively. For the majority, this phrase was associated with “spies”, “representatives of foreign security services”, “undercover agents” and the “fifth column”. This range of associations illustrates well how effective the propaganda machine operates in Russia.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-16572157-2 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>For 28 years, the Levada Center has remained one of the <a href=https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oksana-bocharova/why-russia-needs-levada-center>most important research institutes in Russia</a>. (c) Mikhail Metzel / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Unfortunately,the majority of NGOs entered into Russia’s Foreign Agents register have not been able to counteract the public distrust generated by the <a href="http://www.vesti.ru/videos/show/vid/703434">numerous programmes and exposes</a> aired on Russian television. Public relations and positioning have not been the main aims of Russian NGOS involved in programmes targeted at helping individual clients, organising education, cultural, social projects, as well as rights defence.</p><h2>Keep calm and carry on</h2><p dir="ltr">That said, some organisations have managed to continue their work as usual after being placed — or facing the possibility of being placed — on the register.</p><p dir="ltr">Such a choice forces the management and staff of NGOs to live in a situation of increased uncertainty. Over the five years of its existence, the Foreign Agents law has been amended and expanded on more than 10 occasions. Moreover, Russian NGO workers have to constantly observe the law’s conditions: ensure that materials are marked correctly, file audit forms to the Justice Ministry correctly and on time, prepare for sudden inspections (such as the inspections that paralysed the work of many offices in 2013) or unexpected additions to the legislation. There’s little point in waiting for the Foreign Agents law to be revoked. Organisations registered as Foreign Agents also have to decide whether it’s worth contesting their registration or court-ordered fines. Any court battle requires significant investments of time and finances (without a guarantee of success), and the fight for justice can be very costly.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2014, the Ministry of Justice even drafted a law banning state employees from participating in the activities of Foreign Agents, but this law, fortunately, was not passed. Foreign Agents are not permitted to be involved with political parties, and in order to conduct election monitoring at any level, they have to register as international observers.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Leaving the register doesn’t reverse reputational damage, as Foreign Agent organisations are informally banned from entering certain spheres</p><p dir="ltr">There’s cases where organisations, concerned that they might be placed on the register, have turned down foreign financing, any contacts with foreign partners, foundations and international organisations. This is understandable: it allows them to remain within the boundaries of the law. After the procedure of leaving the register was described, many organisations took advantage of this opportunity. At the same time, not every NGO has managed to find substitute funding in Russia (where the charity sector remains underdeveloped), putting both specific projects and the existence of the organisations themselves under threat. Leaving the register doesn’t reverse reputational damage either, as Foreign Agent organisations are informally banned from entering certain spheres, such as state service, the military-industrial complex and others.</p><p dir="ltr">Registering a new organisation instead of or in parallel with an “old” organisation already on the register can also have a range of consequences. First, there’s cases where parallel organisations have been entered into the register anyway. Created by more or less the same people, these organisations are often registered at the same address as the old NGO, which carries a risk of being entered into the register. Second, the cases of Golos and Memorial show that Russian law enforcement is quite successful when it comes to pursuing different branches of the same organisation. Memorial has suffered several times when the actions of one organisation (the historical association) have been assigned to the other (the rights defence centre), and then used as part of an administrative case against the organisation.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-15239185 (1)_3_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>If an NGO registered as a Foreign Agent does not mark materials it publishes as "produced by a Foreign Agent", it can face a fine of up to 300,000 roubles. (c) Ivan Sekretarev / AP/ Press Association Images. Все права защищены.</span></span></span>In cases where the management of an organisation registers a separate commercial legal entity, it’s likely they’ll find it impossible to work with foundations or international organisations: the majority of them cannot make grants to commercial organisations according to their charters.</p><h2>Legal harikiri</h2><p>It might seem that Foreign Agent status is a kind of curse, and that every organisation that receives it will inevitably fall victim to an infectious disease. However, this is not the case.</p><p dir="ltr">True, the past five years have seen NGOs registered as Foreign Agents encounter restrictions or bans on working with Russian state structures. Right now, this work is regulated via an informal ban, and there are no guarantees that this ban won’t be formalised. Counter-agents and partners have often refused to work with organisations registered as Foreign Agents in case they encounter unpleasant consequences of their own. Russia’s third sector has become more uncertain and unpredictable, which has demanded its members introduce additional guarantees and evidence that work on joint projects will be completed. Foreign Agents do not deny the emergence of self-censorship in their organisations, which arose suddenly during the mass prosecutor inspections in 2013, and required significant efforts to overcome. </p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, being a Foreign Agent turned out to be not only inconvenient, but expensive: a single audit, outside of an organisation’s project budgets, can cost between 30,000-520,000 roubles (£300-£6,700) at market rates.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The Foreign Agent label has become a sign of quality, a marker of belonging to a consolidated, professional community that is actively fighting for human rights</p><p dir="ltr">But one of the consequences of the Foreign Agent law has been the development of extensive legal practice in defending the rights of NGOs and their representatives. The wave of administrative cases against Foreign Agent NGOs has led to a professionalisation of a new community of legal professionals, who have now specialised in defending NGOs. For instance, in 2016, the Club of Third Sector Lawyers released a report on “Development of Civic Activism: Russian NGOs after Foreign Agent legislation”, and the Resource Rights Defence Centre also published a report on the legislation. Every new attack on Russian civil society, whether it’s a campaign against <a href="http://www.mk.ru/social/health/2016/08/29/kleymo-za-borbu-s-vich-chto-stanet-so-spidservisnymi-organizaciyami-posle-priznaniya-inostrannymi-agentami.html">HIV organisations</a> or <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oksana-bocharova/why-russia-needs-levada-center">pressure on independent polling organisations</a>, attracts attention to the country’s third sector, making it visible and creating opportunities to mobilise and coordinate people’s efforts.</p><p dir="ltr">To be a Foreign Agent today means that you have certain achievements, you’re recognised as a professional and dangerous opponent who needs to be disarmed. Together with the defamatory labels such as “fifth column”, “national traitor”, “spy”, “grant eater” and “enemy of the people”, the Foreign Agent label has become a sign of quality, a marker of belonging to a consolidated, professional community that is actively fighting for human rights.</p><h2>What’s next</h2><p dir="ltr">In March 2017, the European Court of Human Rights united petitions from 61 Russian NGOs, which had all appealed against the application of the Foreign Agents law. ECHR sent a series of clarifying questions to Russia’s Ministry of Justice, concerning the definition of the concept of “foreign agent”, “political activity”, and the details of receiving financing from abroad. The Ministry should have answered these questions by 19 July 2017, but ministry officials requested an extension, citing the volume of the material. A new deadline was set for 19 September.</p><p dir="ltr">Potentially, the actions and position of the ECHR will lead to corrections in Russian legislation. But given that the restriction and increase in level of control over foreign funds for NGOs is a global trend, it’s too early to talk of liberalisation for the third sector.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/law-beyond-improvement">A law beyond improvement</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oksana-bocharova/why-russia-needs-levada-center">Why Russia needs the Levada Center</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-volosomoeva/valentina-cherevatenko-i-am-convinced-that-war-will-affect-us-all">Valentina Cherevatenko: “I am convinced that the war will affect us all”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia-lev-gudkov/dissent-in-russia-festival-of-disobedience">Dissent in Russia: a festival of disobedience?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-gukovsky/helping-hand-at-russia-s-protests">A helping hand at Russia’s protests</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Daria Skibo Russia Mon, 14 Aug 2017 05:50:50 +0000 Daria Skibo 112813 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “This trial turned out to be unique and dystopian in the Orwellian sense” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/this-trial-turned-out-to-be-unique-dystopian-in-orwellian-sense <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This week, Russia’s anti-extremism legislation took another four casualties.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/3defa6017392c935353dbc27c9c9e19b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>10 August: Kirill Barabash, Alexander Sokolov, Valery Parfyonov in Moscow's Tverskoi District Court. Source: Alexei Abanin / RTVI. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly. <br class="kix-line-break" /></strong><br class="kix-line-break" />This week, the Moscow trial against the “Army of the People’s Will” <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/10/sud-vynes-prigovor-po-delu-armii-voli-naroda">ended</a> with the defendants given jail terms of up to four years. The four defendants — Yuri Mukhin, ex-chief editor of the newspaper Duel, and his associates RBK journalist Aleksandr Sokolov, Valery Parfenov and Kirill Barabash — had been <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elizaveta-pestova/alexander-sokolov-four-years-for-utopia">charged with continuing the activities of the banned Army of the People’s Will </a>organisation under cover of a group advocating the holding of a referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Parfenov and Barabash were both sentenced to four years in a general regime prison colony. Mukhin was given a four-year suspended sentence, while Alexander Sokolov was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in a prison colony. The Army of the People’s Will was banned in 2010 for a publishing a leaflet advocating the holding of a referendum and an amendment to the Russian Constitution to provide for the public accountability of government officials. Three of the defendants had been held in pre-trial detention for almost two years.</p><p dir="ltr">Pavel Nikulin, co-chair of the Union of Journalists, <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/opinions/2017/08/07/chto-nuzhno-znat-o-zhurnaliste-aleksandre-sokolove">has spoken</a> about the prosecution of the Army of the People’s Will and his belief that Sokolov should be released immediately. We have also published Sokolov’s <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/stories/2017/08/10/okazalsya-process-unikalnym-i-po-oruellovski-antiutopichnym-poslednee-slovo">final address</a>, where he reflected that the “trial had turned out to be unique, dystopian in the Orwellian sense”, to the court.</p><p dir="ltr">Andrei Kosykh, charged in the 26 March case, has been <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/09/figuranta-dela-26-marta-andreya-kosyh-prigovorili-k-chetyrem-godam-kolonii">sentenced</a> to four years in a general regime prison colony. Kosykh was found guilty of using force against a police officer at a demonstration on 26 March 2017 in Moscow. According to the prosecution, Kosykh, as he emerged from Tverskaya metro station, struck a police officer Sinegubov with his fist on the helmet the officer was wearing. Kosykh also struck a warrant officer “in the neck and the lower jaw on the right hand side with his foot.”<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />In his final address to the court, Kosykh said that it was “hard for him to imagine that he could cause significant physical injury to a riot police officer who was wearing full protective gear.” <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Many colleagues, former teachers, fellow students and neighbours had given positive character references for Kosykh. He has organised events for orphans and donated 80 books to the local library. His mother has been a member of the district council and a member of the United Russia party. She said that her son travelled around by hitchhiking and was a vegetarian. &nbsp;<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Moscow City Court ruled that the deportation of journalist Ali Feruz should be <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/08/sud-apellyacionnoy-instancii-priostanovil-ispolnenie-resheniya-o-deportacii">halted</a>. Earlier, the European Court of Human Rights had <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/04/espch-zapretil-rossiyskim-vlastyam-deportirovat-zhurnalista-ali-feruza-v">banned</a> Russia from deporting Feruz. Until the European Court of Human Rights issues its final judgment in his case, Feruz will be located in a Temporary Detention Centre for Foreign Citizens. According to his lawyer, the case may last for more than a year. Eight years ago the journalist Ali Feruz left Uzbekistan after that country’s security services had sought to persuade him to collaborate against his will. Feruz was subjected to torture before he managed to escape.</p><p dir="ltr">Ali Feruz’s request for temporary asylum in Russia was refused. His appeal against this refusal has yet to be heard in court, and therefore the refusal has yet to enter into force. For this reason, Feruz may lawfully remain on Russian territory.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Political prisoner Sergei Udaltsov has been <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/08/iz-kolonii-v-tambovskoy-oblasti-osvobodilsya-sergey-udalcov">released</a> from prison. The leader of Left Front had been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for organizing riots that allegedly took place on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in 2012. On 10 August, <a href="https://openrussia.org/notes/712540/">speaking</a> at a press conference, Sergei Udaltsov <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/08/10/73437-pod-ezd-kraskoy-oblili-predatel-rossii-vernulsya-iz-zony-ya-posmeyalsya-mobilizuet-sergey-udaltsov-o-navalnom-putine-bolotnom-dele-donbasse-i-kryme">talked</a> about his time in prison, the Bolotnaya Square prosecutions, Donbass and his attitude towards Alexei Navalny and Putin.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">This week, judges and police demonstrated a special degree of ingenuity even in minor cases. In Crimea, an elderly man with Parkinson’s disease was <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/10/new-low-russian-authorities-crimea">sentenced</a> to ten days in prison for allegedly refusing to follow the instructions of police officers during a single-person picket. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />A Buddhist symbol similar to a Nazi swastika was cause for a trial in Omsk. The court <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/09/v-omske-hudozhnika-oshtrafovali-za-religioznyy-simvol">fined</a> an artist for a photograph of a tattoo with the religious symbol. He was charged with “public demonstration of a Nazi symbol.” <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />In Solovki, police officers decided to <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/09/policiya-reshila-proverit-zakonnost-mitinga-v-dni-pamyati-zhertv-repressiy">investigate</a> whether a rally to mark the Memorial Day for Victims of Political Repressions had official permission. The event has been held on the islands for the last 29 years, but it is the first time the authorities decided to conduct such an inquiry. Surprisingly, the investigation found there had been no <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/10/policiya-poschitala-chto-akciya-pamyati-zhertv-politicheskih-repressiy-ne">violations</a>.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Thank you!</h2><p>Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can help us <a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This week we are announcing a small innovation. We’re now running online reports from court hearings via <a href="https://twitter.com/ovdinfo?lang=en">our Twitter account</a>. Each trial has its own hashtag, and this will enable you to keep up with our ongoing coverage from the courtroom. This week we visited three trials. Their hashtags are: #суднадАли (case of Ali Feruz), #судвамнедимон (case of Andrei Kosykh) and #судАВН (case of the Army of the People’s Will).</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://ovdinfo.org/"><img src="https://ovdinfo.org/sites/all/themes/ovdinfo/img/logo-ovdinfo.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p><p>OVD-Info is a crowdfunded organisation. Find out how you can help them&nbsp;<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elizaveta-pestova/alexander-sokolov-four-years-for-utopia">Four years in prison for utopia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openeconomy/william-echols/alexey-navalny-and-moral-pillars-of-democracy">Alexey Navalny and the moral pillars of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/deportations-harassment-beatings-this-week-s-challenges-for-russian-civil-society">This week’s challenges for Russian civil society: deportations, harassment, beatings</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexei-kozlov/what-can-we-learn-from-russia-s-spring-of-protest">What can we learn from Russia’s spring of protest?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia OVD-Info Russia Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:14:22 +0000 OVD-Info 112812 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The burning land of Lenin-Aul https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/burning-lands-leninaul-dagestan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a remote corner of Dagestan, a vicious land dispute has erupted between Avars and Chechens. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/goryachaya-zemlya-leninaula-dagestan" target="_blank">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Leninaul-Kalininaul_view.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Leninaul-Kalininaul_view.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lenin-Aul and neighbouring Kalinin-Aul, two villages near Dagestan’s border with Chechnya, 2006. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Umar Dagirov / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Lenin-Aul is a town of some 10,000 in the Republic of Dagestan, in Russia’s North Caucasus. Chechnya is not far from here, and in recent weeks its presence has been very keenly felt. A land dispute in Lenin-Aul has almost transformed into an interethnic confrontation between the local Avar population and Akkins (a subethnos of Chechens). While peace was easily restored to the village after unrest in late July, the roots of this conflict lie deeper — mistrust still lingers.</p><p>The bone of contention is the historic ownership of these lands, for which both side has its own justification.&nbsp;</p><h2>Thin red lines&nbsp;</h2><p>Lenin-Aul straddles the border between Dagestan’s Kazbekovsky and Novolaksky districts. Until Stalin uprooted and deported the entire Chechen people from their historic lands in 1944, the settlement was known as Aktash-Aukh, and many of its inhabitants were ethnic Chechens. In those years, some 28,000 Chechens were deported from Dagestan, including 15,400 Akkins. Following their exile to Kazakhstan, ethnic Avars from the village of Almak moved into the Chechens’ empty homes. With the stroke of a pen, Aktash-Aukh received the resonant name of Stalin-Aul, and the Aukhovsky district to which it had belonged was disbanded.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Chechens_AukhYurt_1957_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Chechens_AukhYurt_1957_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chechens deported from the village of Aukh-Yurt, Dagestan (now Kalinin-Aul) at a railway station in Soviet Central Asia, after being permitted to make the long journey back to their homeland. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 1957. Photo CC BY-SA 4.0: Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>By 1961, Stalin-Aul had been renamed to Lenin-Aul, and the deported Chechens had started to return to their homeland, but not to their homes — barred from resettling their ancestral villages. Nevertheless, some Akkin Chechens made it to Lenin-Aul, buying their old homes from the Avars who now occupied them.&nbsp;</p><p>To the right of Lenin-Aul, behind a small mountain, lies the neighbouring village of Novolakskoye — administrative centre of the neighbouring Novolakovsky district. According to a decision made on 23 June 1991, this area should have been reformed into the Aukhovsky district. Concurrently, a new Novolaksky district was to have appeared not far from Dagestan’s capital of Makhachkala, where the predominantly Lak population of Novolakskoye village would have been encouraged to settle (ethnic Laks also came to occupy former Akkin Chechen villages after 1944).&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">For other ethnic groups who moved here after 1944, the ancestral lands of deported Chechens have become their home, and they’re not willing to give them up so easily</span></p><p>The 1991 decision allows for the resurrection of the Aukhovsky district within its previous borders, and the full return of Akkin Chechens to their ancestral lands — but it’s little succour for the Chechens of Lenin-Aul and neighbouring Kalinin-Aul, who wish to return home. Following the dissolution of the Aukhovsky district, these two villages were transferred to the neighbouring Kazbekovsky district, meaning that they cannot return there.&nbsp;</p><p>Local authorities have dragged their heels over resurrecting the old Aukhovsky district, to put it mildly. Not only do the deported Akkin Chechens have the biggest claim to stake — for other ethnic groups who moved here after 1944, these lands have become their home, and they’re not willing to give them up so easily.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 13.19.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 13.19.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Click to make this partial map of Dagestan and Chechnya larger. Lenin-Aul is marked. Source: Google Maps. </span></span></span></p><p>This impasse has led to today’s state of affairs, which has grown into Dagestan’s most heated confrontation in recent years. I headed to Lenin-Aul to hear both sides.</p><h2>A fight of federal importance&nbsp;</h2><p>On 7 July, an anonymous appeal spread across social networks, calling on Chechens to travel to Lenin-Aul and support their compatriots. This was to take the form of a “people’s gathering” to be held after Friday prayers outside the central mosque in Chechnya’s capital of Grozny, and in the village of Lenin-Aul itself.&nbsp;</p><p>The gathering in Grozny never took place — in today’s Chechnya, such spontaneous public meetings are nigh on impossible. Whether in Chechnya, Ingushetia or Dagestan itself, people who were interested headed to Lenin-Aul. The response was so strong that it certainly surprised the “organisers” of the appeal, whoever they were. Lenin-Aul is 18km from the city of Khasavyurt, Dagestan’s largest city along the border with Chechnya. A convoy of cars stood just 10 km away — each of them packed with people determined to enter Lenin-Aul.&nbsp;</p><p>The convoy was halted at the edge of the village of Novo-Danukh, where riot police vans and cars from Chechnya’s Special Rapid Response Team awaited them, alongside URAL trucks from Dagestan’s military. Five kilometres on stood two armoured personnel carriers. While the local clashes between groups of Avars and Chechens occurred on 25 June, it was only by 7 July that the situation had escalated into an inter-ethnic dispute, in which Chechens from Chechnya itself now participated. Attempts to resolve the situation quietly, without bringing in the authorities, came to naught.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02950203.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02950203.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Magomed Daudov, chairman of Chechnya’s parliament, speaks with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov at an event in honour of the latter’s father Akhmat-Hadji in Grozny, 2016. Photo (c): Said Tsarnaev / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>This convoy of cars, bearing the letters “KRA” on their numberplates (the initials of Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov) was led into Lenin-Aul by the chairman of the Chechen parliament Magomed Daudov, known by his moniker “Lord”. Only Daudov’s motorcade was allowed to proceed further; ordinary Chechens were kept waiting.&nbsp;For its part, Dagestan also dispatched several significant government officials, including the Avar Saygitpasha Umakhanov, minister of transport and energy and former mayor of Khasavyurt.&nbsp;</p><p>Rumours grew around Daudov’s arrival, chief among them that stones had been thrown at him. It’s difficult to believe that this really happened; in a region like the North Caucasus, and even beyond it, everybody knows what the possible consequences of such an act could be.&nbsp;</p><p>Another rumour held that there were no Chechen police in the Lenin-Aul region. In actual fact, nearly all of the security services’ vehicles arrived from Chechnya itself — and after they set off from Khasavyurt in the afternoon, nobody tried to conceal that fact. When they arrived at their destination, Chechen security operatives walked past civilians with guns at the ready — and only left once Daudov’s motorcade, with its tinted windows, had departed for Chechnya.&nbsp;<span>Upon leaving Dagestan, all the cars returning to Chechnya were greeted by mass applause from a huge crowd of people. </span></p><p><span>Head of the Republic of Dagestan Ramazan Abdulatipov visited Lenin-Aul only a few days after the events described above, leading locals to accuse him of leaving Lenin-Aul and its problems “at the mercy” of a neighbouring republic.&nbsp;</span></p><h2>A Chechen story&nbsp;</h2><p>The lower part of Lenin-Aul is inhabited by the descendants of Akkin Chechens who were deported from these lands in 1944. They returned here in the 1960s, despite the ban on their doing so. In the 1990s, following the decision on restoring the Aukhovsky district, their numbers grew considerably.&nbsp;</p><p>The town’s division is quite apparent. Everybody will tell you where the “Avar neighbourhood” begins. You’ll hardly meet any Avars while walking through the narrow streets of the “Chechen neighbourhood”. It’s said that after the recent incidents, they’ve even been barred from entering Chechen-run shops.</p><p>The Chechens have two working mosques in this part of town. The newest, a large building, was built a year ago with funds the community raised itself. It’s called the “Heart of Aukh”. The house opposite bears a memorial plaque to Akhmad-Hadji Kadyrov, the former president of Chechnya and father of Ramzan Kadyrov after whom the street is named.&nbsp;</p><p>The street is calm, tranquil — occasionally we encounter a group of schoolchildren. But on 7 July, you couldn’t squeeze through the crowd here; for this mosque is where Magomed Daudov met with local Chechen elders.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kadyrov_Street_Mosque.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kadyrov_Street_Mosque.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The newly-built Heart of Aukh mosque in the Chechen neighbourhood of Lenin-Aul, on Akhmat-Hadji Kadyrov street. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>Murad Zakayev, local Chechen youth leader in Lenin-Aul, was a direct participant in these events. Everybody knows Murad here — he’s something of a local authority. His car can be easily spotted by the word “AUKH” on its numberplate. “On 25 June, a fight broke out between young Avar and Chechen guys. The elders broke them up. We thought that the conflict had been settled, but then we heard that all the Avars were meeting up at the petrol station. A few of our guys walked past them, and the Avars just pounced on them. A police patrol car was right there, but they didn’t lift a finger. They just stood and watched. All the policemen on the beat are Avars,” recalls Murad.&nbsp;</p><p>“There were only five or six of us, and around 200 Avars. They were clearly enraged. We told the police to put a stop to it, to calm their guys down. And finally, a few policemen showed up — but the crowd just trampled over them.”&nbsp;</p><p>Only with the arrival of riot police, who fired rounds over their heads, did the crowd settle down.&nbsp;</p><p>“We then found out that another crowd had gathered at a checkpoint,” says Murad. “The police had blocked the entrance — if you were Avar, they’d let you pass, if a Chechen — they wouldn’t. Yet on that day, many people were travelling out of town to visit their relatives for a festival. A big traffic jam had already built up, and then the riot police and armoured personnel carriers arrived from Khasavyurt.”&nbsp;</p><p>In his words, law enforcement constantly provoked the Avar crowd and detained young Chechens who tried to get through the police cordon. Murad was among them.</p><p>“I saw some badly injured people, one of them had lost consciousness. We begged the police to call an ambulance, but they refused. They only released us after a request from the head of the local interior ministry. While there, we wrote a declaration, but three of our guys who had been at the petrol station and hadn’t even been involved in the fight were detained for seven days. We didn’t panic, as we thought that would be the end of it,” remembers Murad.&nbsp;</p><p>Following these events in Lenin-Aul, the leader of Dagestan’s security committee Abdulmuslim Abdulmuslimov and deputy leader of the office of the head of the Republic of Dagestan Alexey Gasanov arrived, and urged the local population to peacefully settle their conflict. Everybody agreed, but the story would soon have an unexpected sequel.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Chechen_Boys_LeninAul.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Chechen_Boys_LeninAul.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Defend Grozny: two boys on the streets of the Chechen neighbourhood of Lenin-Aul. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>“Shortly before 7 July, I received an SMS message asking me to record a video message to Putin and Kadyrov. I haven’t a clue who the sender was, but they certainly weren’t from our town. Afterwards, a group appeared on WhatsApp which started calling on people to gather in Grozny and Khasavyurt. I phoned the administrator’s number, but nobody answered me. I wrote to them saying that I was from Lenin-Aul myself, and asked them to please call off their meeting.”&nbsp;</p><p>On 7 July, Zakayev headed to Grozny, in an attempt to stop the gathering of Chechen youth. While there, he found out that the activists had already departed for Lenin-Aul, so hurried back home. “There was another crowd at the checkpoint — mostly Chechens from Dagestan. The event at the mosque, at which Daudov presided, was already in full swing,” says Murad.&nbsp;</p><p>Zakayev believes that Daudov’s arrival may have been agreed in advance with Dagestan’s leadership. “If that was so, then it was a wise decision. This case demonstrated that the Chechen authorities have influence not only over ordinary people, but over law enforcement,” believes Murad.</p><p>Local disputes over land frequently occur across Russia — but in Lenin-Aul, they easily become catalysts for inter-ethnic confrontation. Once again, these clashes revolve around the possible resurrection of the Aukhovsky district. “I live in a newly-built house, while my grandfather’s old house now lies in the Avar part of town,” Zakayev tells me. “If you want to truly witness this conflict, then let’s go up there and ask whose house it really is. They’ll immediately answer that ‘it’s mine — Stalin gave it to me’.”&nbsp;</p><p>“Their upper mosque was built in the yard of a house owned by a Chechen man. After he was deported, an Avar settled there, who then donated the land for the construction of the mosque. Now Avars go there to pray. But nobody has asked that Chechen, the original owner of the land, for permission to do so — as they are mandated to do by Sharia law. That Chechen passed away last year, and until his last breath said that he would never forgive them.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“If you want to witness this conflict, let’s go and ask an Avar whose their house really is. They’ll respond that ‘it’s mine — Stalin gave it to me’.”&nbsp;</p><p>Local Chechens fear that Lenin-Aul, and their families’ former homes in its Avar district, won’t be included in the new Aukhovsky district. For them, it’s a matter of principle. “We haven’t yet seen any documents confirming that Lenin-Aul or Kalinin-Aul will be included within the district’s borders. But we want historic justice, and we want our lands. After all, throughout Dagestan there are ethnic groups far less numerous than the Chechens who have their own districts,” explains Murad.</p><p>“We don’t want to kick the Avars out. Let them stay here. We tell them: ‘let’s be friends, let’s become brothers, but just return to us what is ours.’ They say that they understand what happened in our history and can work with us to resolve the issue. But no.”</p><p>Recent events have led to a breakdown in the already rare lines of communication between the Avars and Chechens of Lenin-Aul. “The Avar side hasn’t even approached us since 7 July. And why should we make overtures to them? We didn’t start this!” exclaims Zakayev.&nbsp;</p><h2>An Avar story</h2><p>The Avar part of town couldn’t be more different from the Chechen neighbourhood. Winding, narrow passageways snake around the courtyards and flow into each other like mountain streams. Once upon a time, Akkin Chechens lived here. In the centre stands a historic Chechen mosque — it’s said to be over 200 years old. The building is in poor condition — it’s been used as an agricultural warehouse since the 1930s and Chechens have only recently obtained permission to renovate it, albeit with their own funds.&nbsp;</p><p>The Avars have built three other mosques. Opposite one of them, I meet with a deputy in the local town council, Batirkhan Musichov. Like most of the population of Lenin-Aul, he’s originally from the village of Almak.</p><p>“Around 1989, various provocations began. Graffiti appeared on Avar-owned buildings, even on school desks, telling Avars to ‘return home to Almak’.”</p><p>Musichov adds that nowhere in Russia other than Dagestan is there a law on the territorial resolution to the problems of ethnic groups repressed during Soviet rule. “The Chechens lobbied for a territorial resolution. So now both the Avars, Laks and others have to be resettled to accommodate them. But we never agreed to any of their territorial claims. We’ve lived here in the Kazbekovsky district for 70 years, while their Aukhovsky district has only existed for three and a half months!” He reminds me that the Akkin Chechens already received compensation for their lost lands — 28 hectares in the lowlands of the Khasavyurt, Kizilyurt and Babayurt districts.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Chechen_Mosque_LeninAul.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Chechen_Mosque_LeninAul.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The historic Chechen mosque in the Avar district of Lenin-Aul. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>The current dispute is a continuation of 1991. “Back then, the Chechens built a camp in an apple orchard, brought their relatives and simply settled there. Then parliamentary leader (and ethnic Chechen) Ruslan Khasbulatov came to speak with them, and so did Ramazan Abdulatipov. The ethnic Avar Duma deputy from Dagestan, Gadzhi Makhachev, also came along. So did Saygitpasha Umakhanov. They were able to resolve the situation, if only temporarily,” says Musichov. And resolved it had to be, for the Akkin Chechens’ protest demanding the restoration of the Aukhovsky district led to a state of emergency being introduced in the Kazbekovsky district in September 1991.&nbsp;</p><p>“Back then, we even signed a document vowing to live together peacefully, but things just went back to the way they were. They’re still building the same camp.” Musichov is convinced that the current clashes occurred under the direction of Chechnya’s authorities. “Ramzan Kadyrov has begun to lay claims on neighbouring republics — both Dagestan and Ingushetia. He thinks he can come here and restore order on his own terms. Kadyrov is an ambitious neighbour; he wants to rule the entire North Caucasus — all the land until the Sulak River, an outlet to the Caspian Sea!”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Around 1989, graffiti appeared on Avar-owned buildings, even on school desks, telling Avars to ‘return home to Almak’”</p><p>“But we can resolve our conflicts on our own. We have police, a village head, a district, a republic. But no, the [Akkin Chechen] leaders decided to appeal to Ramzan Kadyrov, to go to Grozny and call on the people to go to Lenin-Aul. And who did they decide to dispatch here? Some “Lord” [Daudov] who has nothing to do with Dagestan whatsoever! Chechnya is a neighbouring subject of the Russian Federation, but they come over here and bring their own security services!” exclaims Musichov.&nbsp;</p><p>According to Musichov’s sources, Daudov believed that the Avars would turn up and discuss the matter with him. “But none of us did. Who is he to us? Some guy with fake medals he was awarded. We would never come to talk to him. We — deputies and heads of the village — waited for him at the local administration building. Had he turned up here, we’d have met with him.”</p><p>Musichev stresses that the opinion of the Chechen community is taken into account in all important decisions regarding village life, adding that the local council comprises of nine Avars and six Chechens. Batirkhan concludes: “Four of my neighbours are Chechens. Three petrol stations belong to Chechens, as do five shops. The school director is a Chechen, the deputy head of the local administration is a Chechen. They even run the local shared taxi business. The deputy head of the Kazbekovsky region is a Chechen. The head of the local pension fund is a Chechen. Any talk of discrimination against them is absurd.”&nbsp;</p><h2>In search of a compromise&nbsp;</h2><p>The disagreement about the Aukhovsky district lies at the root of the tensions in Lenin-Aul. Sooner or later, the issue will have to be resolved — but at the moment, nobody can compromise. Konstantin Kazenin, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences and Gaidar Institute, believes that the first moves have to start small — establishing normal interaction between ethnic communities and their leaders.&nbsp;</p><p>Many Avars in Lenin-Aul genuinely fear the eventual integration of the Aukhovsky district into Chechnya itself. However, Kazenin believes that such a move is implausible, and very difficult from a legal point of view. He adds that conspiracy theories are widespread in the North Caucasus, and Lenin-Aul is no exception.&nbsp;</p><p>Kazenin adds that fears over a newly mono-ethnic Aukhovsky district are groundless. “It’s very important that the leaderships of Dagestan and Chechnya, as well as the federal authorities, reassure everybody that the district will be ethnically mixed, and interests of all sides will be taken into account — including those of Avars,” he says.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kazbekovsky_Region.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kazbekovsky_Region.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>What hope for a shared home? “I love the Kazbekovsky district” - reads this sign. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>So why has it taken so long to resolve the question of the Aukhovsky region, and which villages belong to it? Kazenin believes that frequent changes in power in Dagestan’s authorities are partly to blame. Of crucial importance is also the issue of where to resettle the Lak population. “The ambiguity around that question suits plenty of people just fine — we know of several corruption schemes related to it. But unless that question is fully resolved, a solution to the problem of the Aukhovsky district will be impossible,” explains Kazenin.&nbsp;</p><p>As concerns interference from Chechen officials, Kazenin reminds me that powerful Dagestanis have also played a role — not least Saygitpasha Umakhanov, who is hugely influential among Avars in and around Khasavyurt. The expert also dismisses opposition to Daudov’s involvement in the dispute. “In terms of keeping the peace, his intervention had a positive effect,” Kazenin stresses. “Certainly, some Chechen officials have great influence on the Chechens of Dagestan. And if they can leverage that to positive ends in situations like this, then that’s excellent.”&nbsp;</p><p>At the moment one can only be relieved that the situation hasn’t deteriorated further, though Kazenin adds that the root of the conflict still remains. “It’s naive to think that everybody will start living peacefully regardless, there’s a lot of work to be done,” he admits.&nbsp;</p><h2>Keeping the calm&nbsp;</h2><p>Finger-pointing over the Lenin-Aul conflict is doomed to failure, as both sides of this dispute are informed only by facts which confirm their righteousness. And the amount of “evidence” only increases with the years, deepening yet another conflict for the regional authorities’ desk drawers.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s unlikely that this issue can ever be resolved on a local level. Even the influence and best efforts of Dagestan’s politicians are not enough — confidence in them has practically dried up. Indeed, it could be time for the federal authorities to take an active role in the dispute over the Aukhovsky region, concerning as it does territorial borders.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Finger-pointing over Lenin-Aul is doomed to failure, as both sides of this dispute are informed only by facts which confirm their righteousness.</p><p>Another realistic option is that the external dimension to this conflict heats up. To see how likely that is, one need only have been in Lenin-Aul on 7 July and to see the impact of the call to arms (whose author still remains unknown). Decisionmakers would have to deal with hundreds of grateful locals escorting cars bound back to Chechnya. Their applause mingled with shouts of “Allahu Akbar,” and the foreboding sense of a coming victory.</p><p>This form of civic unity hasn’t been seen among the Chechens for many years — and we’ll probably witness it again, if the burning dispute over Lenin-Aul isn’t solved.</p><p><em>Translated by Maxim Edwards</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://oc-media.org/chechens-in-daghestan-we-must-help-people-overcome-the-mistrust-interview/" target="_blank">“We must help people overcome their distrust” - an interview with Mairbek Vachagaev on the conflict in Lenin-Aul</a>, <em>OC Media</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-anokhina/makhachkala-citizen-city">Makhachkala: citizen city </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/kalmykia-s-long-goodbye">Kalmykia’s long goodbye</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/fatima-chumakova/five-bloody-days-in-north-ossetia">Five bloody days in North Ossetia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/big-government-is-back-in-dagestan">Big government is back in Dagestan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-yalovkina/decorative-deputies-of-north-caucasus">The decorative deputies of the North Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/varvara-pakhomenko/russia-s-north-caucasus-lesson-in-history">Between dialogue and violence: the North Caucasus&#039;s bloody legacy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ekaterina Neroznikova Russia Dagestan Chechnya Caucasus Fri, 11 Aug 2017 11:38:47 +0000 Ekaterina Neroznikova 112807 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Alexey Navalny and the moral pillars of democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/openeconomy/william-echols/alexey-navalny-and-moral-pillars-of-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Will the restoration of democratic institutions in Russia usher in a liberal paradise? The answer could very well be “no”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Navalny-Mayor-Sticker.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“For Navalny! Let’s change Russia, starting with Moscow!” reads this sticker. Pro-Navalny rally in Moscow, during the opposition leader’s campaign for Moscow Mayor in 2013. Photo CC BY-NC 2.0: Vladmir Varfolomeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Liberal eschatologists have long been convinced the end times belong to them. It’s hard to romanticise those who fight for the status quo — after all, history is moving forward. What could possibly be positive about putting the brakes on progress?&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Whatever their politics, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and anyone else worth a Hollywood biopic have been firmly ensconced in an idealised discourse. When figures rise up to reinforce the messianic narrative of hope and transformation, a certain class is primed to raise that stranger’s banner, however distant the land (or cause) is from their own. Cue Alexey Navalny, the Russian anti-corruption campaigner and presidential hopeful <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-arutunyan/who-ll-make-russia-great-again">hoping to take on Vladimir Putin for the throne</a>. Just mentioning Navalny’s name sets off accusations and recriminations. Woe to the naive westerner looking to pour their own ideas into Navalny’s distinctively conservative casting, the critics say. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The critics may have a point. For the screenwriter already writing the first draft of Navalny’s triumph over tyranny, one key point is in order: a democratically restored Russia without Vladimir Putin (or Navalny, for that matter) will likely remain a conservative country. Take the work of Jonathan Haidt, who outlined the social-psychological roots of man’s moral intuitions in <a href="http://righteousmind.com/">“The Righteous Mind”</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">Maybe, in the “post-truth” era, the progressive’s enemy is not on the other side of the political divide, but the institutional one</span>While not a complete determinist, Haidt argues that our political leanings stem from our genetics, shaped in a millennia-long waltz with group adaptation. He believes that human beings are equipped to exist in dominance hierarchies, though not in the alpha male “might makes right” model. We are social creatures who cooperate to survive. Rights forgone for the sake of the hierarchy also imply responsibilities for those who rise to the top, lest they be overthrown from within, or are crushed by more cohesive groups from without. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />According to Haidt, human civilization is based on six moral foundations: Care, Fairness, Liberty, Loyalty, Sanctity and Authority. Adherence to this moral matrix can explain our “spectacular rise to planetary dominance”. It might also illuminate the creeping shadow of revanchist conservatism worldwide. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Why? Because it appears that liberals, especially those in the west, have forsaken loyalty, sanctity and authority in their political messaging. For those with high levels of threat sensitivity but little predisposition to novelty, diversity and variety, progressives appear to be razing the very foundations that make broad social cohesion possible.</p><h2>Russia as testing ground for Haidt’s ideas</h2><p dir="ltr">Haidt’s theories, of course, aren’t some perfect perfect tool for decrypting human cognition, but a mélange of social scientific theory, western philosophy and evolutionary psychology. Critics call him a conservative masquerading as a liberal, cagily trying to turn social norms into empirical truth. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />With those caveats in mind, Russia might prove the perfect place to put Haidt’s theories to the test. A power-obsessed nation where the state narrative <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-polouektova-krimer/unearthing-russia-s-dead-over-and-over-again">sacralises the military fetes of its forefathers</a>, idolises the iron fist and mythologises itself as the “Third Rome” certainly demonstrates the role of loyalty, authority and sanctity in politics.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">Any new leader will have to reclaim the Great Patriotic War and the arch of Russian history, girded by the Orthodox Church, “conceived” on the Crimean peninsula, as their own</span>Perhaps one need look no further than the punk rock group Pussy Riot, who called themselves “the children of Dionysus, sailing in a barrel and not recognising any authority,” to bring that point home. Pussy Riot’s punk rock prayer, staged in Russia’s main Orthodox cathedral in 2012, gambled on stomping on sanctity, loyalty and authority for the sake of care, liberty and fairness. According to the Levada Center, It managed to attract the sympathy of <a href="https://www.levada.ru/2013/09/12/otnoshenie-k-bolotnomu-delu-kirovlesu-i-aktsii-pussy-riot/">six percent of Russians</a> one year after the women were locked up in a quasi-ecclesiastical show trial. The Russian authorities, for all of their love of graft and general incompetence, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/nelli-babayan/truthiness-in-russia">cannot be accused of not knowing their own people</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">That isn’t to say that Russian citizens are mere supplicants at the altar of power. Appeals to care and fairness also have weight, as seen through the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aida-mirmaksumova/dagestan-s-truckers-are-out-to-fight-russia-s-predatory-state">underreported truckers’ protests in Russia</a> or growing unrest over the <a href="http://intersectionproject.eu/article/politics/renovation-politics-moscow">enormous demolition and resettlement scheme</a> slated for Moscow. But for anyone seeking democratic reform, whereby care, liberty and fairness are respected (if not through equal rights for minorities, then at least through less corruption and the rule of law), one thing is abundantly clear: other moral foundations will have to play a critical role in propping up one’s political platform.</p><p dir="ltr">Any new leader will have to reclaim the Great Patriotic War and the arch of Russian history, girded by the Orthodox Church, “conceived” on the Crimean peninsula, as their own. They cannot merely seek to turn Russia into another European-style democracy. Rather, they will have to “make Russia great again,” projecting authority, engendering loyalty and safeguarding the sacred.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/uchiel-bastui.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Teachers at a May Day demonstration in St Petersburg. Photo (c) “Teacher” Inter-regional trade union of education workers. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Only then can the authorities properly be targeted for neglecting fairness through the systematic elimination of democratic institutions and civil society; for letting the country’s healthcare, social services and infrastructure be degraded for the sake of their laundered money and European villas.</p><h2>Who is Navalny, really?<br class="kix-line-break" /></h2><p dir="ltr">This brings us back to Alexey Navalny, who, it seems, has his finger on the pulse of the nation, setting off alarms among his peers along the way.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Prominent journalist Oleg Kashin <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/03/opinion/russia-putin-aleksei-navalny.html?_r=0">has warned</a> on the pages of the New York Times that Navalny, with an authoritarian leadership style and past participation in nationalist causes, may actually be another iteration of Putin rather than his foil. Leftist Ilya Budraitskis has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/alexei-navalnys-campaign-effective-management-or-grassroots-movement">argued</a> that Navalny’s “vertically organised” protest movement is like a “political machine” coldly indifferent to input from the little guy. Alexey Sakhnin and Per Leander went as far as to brand Navalny <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/07/alexey-navalny-putin-opposition-movement-trump">“the Russian version of Donald Trump”</a>. Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky has likewise referred to his political platform as <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-12-14/a-populist-challenge-to-putin">“Trump-like”</a>.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />So what does Navalny actually believe? A bizarre <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjbQdbJUibc">recent debate with Igor Girkin</a> — a key figure in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and a dyed in the wool monarchist — left that question mostly unanswered. Navalny skirted the hard questions during the debate, all the while attempting to recast Russian nationalism as less of a 19th century imperial redux syndrome and more of a “corruption is undermining our ability to be great” crusade. Who cares if we have Donetsk if hospitals are crumbling in Saratov, Navalny asks. This, however, does little to clarify whether Navany believes Donetsk should remain under Russian-backed rule if the price is right. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 11.59.37.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="241" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexey Navalny and Igor Girkin hold a debate online. Source: Youtube. </span></span></span>Navalny seems content to leave the big questions within the purview of European technocrats and not moral necessity, hoping, vaguely, that the Minsk Agreement will sort the Ukraine situation out. He is equally vague on Crimea. The Syrian intervention is portrayed by Navalny as a waste of financial, and not moral capital. Navalny, in short, takes a utilitarian approach that is right in Haidt’s wheelhouse.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />To be fair, Navalny is clearly stuck between scylla and charybdis. What is demanded of Navalny from his nebulous western supporters is likely antithetical to what would put him in power back home, if he is actually allowed to run.</p><h2>Good people are divided by politics, not institutions</h2><p dir="ltr">Maybe the true slant of Navalny’s political leanings are not the most important matter at hand anyways. Maybe, in the “post-truth” era, the progressive’s enemy is not on the other side of the political divide, but the institutional one. It may be less important if Navalny believes in gay adoption and more important if he’d respect a court’s ruling to that effect; whether such a court would be allowed to exist in the first place under his government.</p><p dir="ltr">Haidt, after all, argues that good people are divided by politics, not their belief in institutions. And it appears that robust institutions, in Russia and elsewhere, are the key to a brighter future. A successful Navalny presidency would reassert the independence of the judicial and legislative branches, reduce wealth inequality, fix crumbling infrastructure in the regions, invest in education and pensions, significantly reduce graft, relinquish state control of the fourth estate, respect Russia’s neighbors within a 21st (rather than 19th) century framework, significantly develop the role of civil society, focus on leading through soft power and seek to bolster the sclerotic post-war global order rather than disrupt it.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Political voices relegated to the wilderness would be allowed back in from the cold, onto the airwaves, and relatively free from state-sponsored harassment. More importantly, the exact date on which he would step down would be known and constitutionally determined.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />But Navalny’s rule could also result in the type of curb on immigration that Trump could only dream of, with issues related to LBGTQ rights being left to die on a regional level. The gay propaganda law might go, but will there be gay marriage? Don’t count on it yet. A secular state will be enshrined, but the Orthodox Church, cleaved from the state’s grip but cosseted by officials all the same, might end up taking a larger role in society than ever before, granted people actually start believing in society again.</p><p dir="ltr">In reality, however, Putin is likely primed to lay the foundations for his third decade in power next year. Navalny will likely become a footnote in history — a Decembrist rather than a Bolshevik to inform the next generation of rebels to come. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />But the issue of Russia’s future, political and otherwise, <a href="https://jacobinmag.com/2017/08/russa-alexey-navalny-anticorruption-movement-left">goes far beyond Navalny</a>. Activists looking to prioritise gender equality, minority rights and protection of the most vulnerable members of society in Russia today will probably not succeed tomorrow. For those issues to have their day in court, an institutionally sound Russia will first have to be built on foundations not reflecting what Russia “should” be, but rather, what it is. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-and-gudkov/in-russia-sociology-not-just-figures">In Russia, sociology isn’t just about figures</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/alexei-navalnys-campaign-effective-management-or-grassroots-movement">Alexei Navalny&#039;s campaign: effective management or grassroots movement?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexei-kozlov/what-can-we-learn-from-russia-s-spring-of-protest">What can we learn from Russia’s spring of protest?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nelli-babayan/truthiness-in-russia">Truthiness in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tom-junes/russian-youths-are-taking-to-streets-but-lets-not-over-hype-revolt-of-putin-gene">Russian youths are taking to the streets, but let&#039;s not over-hype the revolt of the “Putin generation” just yet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/odr-editors/fighting-back">Fighting back, in the back of beyond</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia William Echols Russia Fri, 11 Aug 2017 05:02:46 +0000 William Echols 112787 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dissent in Russia: a festival of disobedience? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia-lev-gudkov/dissent-in-russia-festival-of-disobedience <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What kind of freedom do the latest wave of protesters want? Has a new kind of Russian emerged since the collapse of the USSR? The conclusion of our interview with one of Russia’s leading sociologists, Lev Gudkov. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/lev-gudkov/prazdnik-neposlushaniya" target="_blank">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Protest_Russia_Party (1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="274" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"It doesn’t matter what party you’re for – you’re certainly against thieves!” reads this placard at a protest in Moscow, 26 March. Image still via Radio Svoboda / YouTube. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>For the last 28 years, The <a href="https://www.levada.ru/en/about-us/" target="_blank">Levada Center</a> has been one of Russia’s most important surveyors of public opinion, but in 2016 the Putin government, having no use for independent sociology, added it to its list of “<a href="https://www.hrw.org/russia-government-against-rights-groups-battle-chronicle" target="_blank">foreign agents</a>”. oDR editors Polina Aronson and Mikhail Kaluzhsky met the center’s director Lev Gudkov to discuss solidarity, political protest, freedom and the role of sociology in a divided country. We are publishing his interview in two parts: in this, the second part of the interview, we discuss the post-Soviet mindset and ideas of freedom: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-and-gudkov/in-russia-sociology-not-just-figures" target="_blank">you can read the first part here</a>.</p><p><strong>How has Russia’s economic crisis affected people’s readiness to defend their own interests? Could people finally be realising that you need to confront the authorities if you want to stand up for something? </strong></p><p>Prior to the second half of 2015, Russia was in a state of political euphoria, but when sanctions were introduced, to be followed by counter-sanctions and a collapse in oil prices, everyone realised that the crisis was serious and systemic. It hit everybody, but two groups were particularly affected: on the one hand, the poorest – residents of villages and small towns in the depressed provinces who were nostalgic for the Soviet era with its cradle-to-grave welfare; and on the other – the most prosperous inhabitants of the big cities. </p><p>The latter found the value of their savings plummet and their salaries halve; those few of them who were protest-minded and saw no future for themselves in Russia began to contemplate emigration. This was a different wave of migration from previous ones: the migrants were well-off, successful, and highly educated – people who already had links abroad and experience of interaction with foreigners. </p><p>This haemorrhage exacerbated the general decline in intellectual and ethical standards in the “urbanite class” that had taken part in the protest movement. And if we add the effect of government propaganda, we can say that the degradation of Russian society is not just tangible, but is rapidly increasing. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Not only protest, but unity and solidarity are “signs of life” </p><p>Other groups – the long-distance truckers, farmers and so on, for whom protest is a means of survival – are a different matter. And not only protest, but unity and solidarity are, <a href="http://bg.ru/society/sociologi_bolshogo_goroda_aleksey_levinson-10305/" target="_blank">in the words of my colleague Aleksey Levinson</a>, evidence of “signs of life”. When there are no others. We see people deceived on their mortgages protesting, we see people protesting against property development, we see people cheated out of their investments protesting, people protesting against hazing in the army, the “rationalisation” of hospitals and schools; a crisis in the Academy of Sciences; the problems of farmers, of housing stock and so on. </p><p>But <a href="//opendemocracy.net/od-russia/odr-editors/fighting-back" target="_blank">protests by these groups have a very local character</a>, rather like peasants during the Russian Civil War: they end at the edge of the village. It’s a matter o: “just sort out our concrete problems – that’s all: we’re not anti-Putin; we’re not rebelling against the government; we’re just against “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-shkurenok/in-st-petersburg-long-distance-truck-drivers-are-holding-out-for-victory" target="_blank">Platon</a>” [a recently introduced electronic toll system for HGV traffic on Russian motorways – ed], Tkachev [Alexander Tkachev is <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-bolotnikova/pitchforks-are-coming-russia-protests">Russia's Minister of Agriculture</a>] and so on.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/0073_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>April 2017: <a href=https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aida-mirmaksumova/dagestan-s-truckers-are-out-to-fight-russia-s-predatory-state>Striking truck drivers at Manas Circle</a>, Dagestan. Image courtesy of Aida Mirmaksumova.</span></span></span>So, levels of dissatisfaction and anger may be high enough in themselves, but tension is highest in those groups that are generally passive: people who don’t protest. And the key factor is an absence of any organisation or leaders who could represent the interests of this group in the public arena and make them a subject for general debate and part of the political parties’ agendas. There is no concept of the representation of different social groups — what, in short, is meant by the word “society”.</p><p>Western journalists often ask me why the crisis hasn’t led to popular outcry. People have seen their income drop, their standard of life fall: they have lost much access to healthcare, education, tourism, consumer goods and so on. Why are there no mass demonstrations? The answer is that these people’s structural demands haven’t ever changed. This society is a poor one. The period of growing affluence (approximately 2003-2004 to 2012) was notable for both support for the Putin regime and a sense of real prosperity, since it chimed with aspirations cherished by the public during the long years of shortages. This prosperity satisfied the collective unconscious, but when it passed, the old mindset re-emerged: “We’ll just have to have patience a while longer.”</p><p><strong>How does the practical absence of mass protests fit with the planned demolition and mass rebuilding of much of Moscow’s housing stock? </strong></p><p>The <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrwlk7_GF9g" target="_blank">housing renovation scheme</a> is a more complex issue, because some of the residents of the slums that are slated for demolition seriously expect to get better accommodation for free out of it. It’s difficult to guess the relative numbers of those who will thank Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin for his grandiose plans and those who will categorically reject them. We should soon have the results of our <a href="https://www.levada.ru/2017/07/25/renovatsiya-v-moskve/">own survey on the matter</a>, then we’ll see. But I think those who are unhappy and protesting against the plans will be in the minority; the level of discontent with the scheme has been exaggerated.</p><p>What’s more likely is that those who expect better housing conditions will be disappointed. There will be the same financial pyramid as there was with the Chara bank – the first people to sign up will get a real improvement in their housing; the rest will be swindled. But the very hope of new housing for free is very important. I think about a third of those who get ripped off will be furious and protest. But they will find it very difficult to stand up against the system. How the courts work is just a mockery of justice and fairness. So we think that people’s disillusionment and admission of defeat will appear very soon. </p><p><strong>The hashtag <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/we-vehadenough-anti-putin-protesters-face-pressure-on-street-and-at-school">#FedUp</a>, is that a good summary of what’s happening? </strong></p><p>Probably. By the start of 2017, the post-Crimea patriotic bubble had burst, but the dissatisfaction remained and was even growing. Furthermore, mechanisms for shifting the social discontent and blame for the situation from Putin to other people and officials lower down the power ladder were gearing up again: we have a habit of laying our negative feelings at the feet of Duma members, the Duma as a whole, governors, ministers, the courts, political parties and so on. Medvedev, in that sense, is a very convenient scapegoat. Navalny’s film, “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrwlk7_GF9g" target="_blank">Don’t call him Dimon</a>”, really hit a sore spot. His earlier films – about <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXYQbgvzxdM" target="_blank">the criminal connections of Russia’s Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika’s sons</a> and others – created a certain furore, but nothing compared to his demolition of Medvedev.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 09_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A resident of Mansurovo, the location of one of Dmitry Medvedev's country residences featured in Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation film, "Don't Call Him Dimon". Source: FBK.</span></span></span>Still, criticism of corruption or abuse of power is still not an actual political agenda. It only becomes “political” in an authoritarian regime where, with democracy suppressed, any public activity, including criticism of corruption, takes on the nature of an anti-regime declaration.</p><p><strong>Why has this agenda become so relevant to young people? </strong></p><p>This year (unlike 2011 and 2012, when we ran polls at rallies), we haven’t been able to describe protesters in sufficient detail. What I’m going to say now is more an instinct based on an analysis of data from polls in Moscow and other places, as well as my general observations. My view is that there were not many more young people than usual demonstrating on 26 March and 12 June. </p><p>But given that these demos were illegal, there were fewer people of the sort who usually formed the main mass of protesters, i.e. people aged between about 45 and 55. Most of the protesters at the Sakharov and Bolotnaya rallies of 2011 and 2012 came from this age group — mature people who to some extent drew on their experience of resisting propaganda and their memory of the Soviet years, so understood the threat posed by the government. But it was clear on 12 June that the police would be beating and arresting protesters, so they stayed at home, and that’s why <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-davydov/russia-s-latest-protests-are-no-child-s-play" target="_blank">the younger people who did come stood out</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-30706717 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>They’ve been dismissed as a “teenage rebellion”, but the protests that started in Russia on 26 March suggest the country’s youth is slipping through the state’s fingers. (c) Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>They weren’t just school kids, they were older – mostly 25-35 year olds, although there were high school and university students among them. Why did they come? Because the ideological pressure on the young (lessons on combating western values and liberalism, an obligatory course on the foundations of Orthodox Christian culture and so on) have provoked a backlash. They have started to “come out” – although not with political concepts: they have none. They have very vague ideas about what “needs to happen” (fair elections, governmental responsibility, etc.); what the government should do to make things “good” – but very general suggestions that are out of tune with the status quo that they have to endure.</p><p>In other words, this reaction is simply a sense of being fed up. They feel a growing irritation with the endless lies and demagogy, and it’s strongest among the children of people belonging to Russia's proto-middle class, who have listened in on family conversations or their parents’ get-togethers. So taking part in protests is more a case of counter-cultural behaviour or an aspect of a youth subculture than a political movement. </p><p><strong>I’d like to pick you up on that point. You regularly carry out research on Russians’ concept of freedom, and this is probably one of the most interesting questions asked by the Levada Center. What freedom are people, including young people, taking to the streets for? Is it still a question of “freedom from” or is the idea of “freedom for” quietly taking shape? </strong></p><p>It’s still “freedom from”, of course. It’s an idea not of freedom, but of liberation: distancing oneself from the present power system, because there is no clear agenda for suggesting “what is to be done?” and still less a perception of “how to do it?” </p><p>This is just how social discontent can express itself. But the very presence of young people at the protests on 26 March and 12 June could trigger an acceleration of political socialisation. The experience of protesting; the memory of being beaten by the police because you have acquired a sense of self-respect and an aversion to all the lies that TV feeds the Russian populace – that alters your consciousness pretty quickly.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-29029832_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The transformation of Soviet ideology happened through the gradual disappearance of that “ideology” in Soviet life. (c) Alexander Zemlianichenko AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>But we must bear in mind that these young people belong to a very small social group growing up in Moscow or other large cities. Teenagers from the provinces are depressed, poor, envious young men and women for whom Putin is an exemplary specimen of machismo, a symbol of social success and prototype for a collective identity. Their sole source of information is TV: the internet barely exists as a medium for social reality – this use of it is only just beginning to develop. Far from Moscow, the internet is only used for entertainment: for chatting, downloading music and films. It has no connection with issues of social significance.</p><p>Today’s young people have also grown up during the Putin years. They have no concept of what was the most significant marker of social standing in the Soviet years - shortages (limited or intermittent access to banned books, entertainments, food products and much more). Now you can have everything, as long as you can afford it. So young people are the most optimistic and happiest members of the population in terms of age group. But then again, if you look at young Muscovites, students or children in families with a high cultural level – i.e. those with better off, better educated parents – it’s a different story. In these families, the parents’ experience, discontent with the status quo, lack of prospects, hostility towards growing militarism and anti-western propaganda are easily absorbed by their children, creating potential for protest in the future. </p><p>In general, however, young Russians today have a very different attitude to life from those of the 90s. They are limited in their aspirations, with a narrower perception of what’s going on in the world and so hostage to the relative stability of Putin’s “consumer society”. They are perfectly satisfied with the conceptual frame of the life they ended up with, and I can’t see any signs of them wanting to change anything fundamental. Their compensatory nationalism can build cultural barriers to provide psychological isolation and protection from today’s world, as well as removing the frustration caused by their inferiority complexes. </p><p><strong>So we lack what western literature refers to as the Self – an autonomous, reflective personality, ready to stand up for its interests? </strong></p><p>Yes. Perhaps this will appear with time – but, as far I can see, not in the near future. The children of today’s young people will be a little different.</p><p><strong>What conditions are required for the development of the Self? </strong></p><p>A particular way of life, and a different institutional setting, for a particular type of person to be born. People are always talking about how we have weak or defective institutions. But they’re not defective, they’re just different. It’s a big mistake to think of them in terms of the norms that belong with democracy and a free market economy. Post-Soviet institutions work differently. They are very stable and very effective in their way (once you take into account the functions they fulfil in a post-Soviet regime). It’s absurd, for example, to say that Russia has a defective judicial system. It’s not defective: it’s punitive or repressive - this is its function, not its weakness. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">It’s absurd to say that Russia has a defective judicial system. It’s not defective: it’s repressive - this is its function, not its weakness </p><p>Homo Post-Sovieticus, the modern Russian man or woman, has learned from their experience of repression and constant pressure to separate their private life from the collective one. That was something <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/yuri-levada-425264.html" target="_blank">Yuri Levada, the founder of our center</a>, gave much thought to. He said – I paraphrase his idea – that the main characteristic of Soviet citizens was their ability to adapt to their repressive regime. It was a constant effort at self-abasement. People adapt to a system of control and restrictions by demonstrating loyalty to their government, entering into a tacit relationship of trade-offs, cronyism and informal connections, thus forcing their rulers to make concessions and turn a blind eye to all kinds of irregularities. This isn’t a change in the system, but its slow degeneration. </p><p>The existence of these trade-offs didn’t create a new kind of person, who could assert their own values, sense of dignity and potential for action. On the contrary, it forced people to be content with their lives and get along with the system – always at the price of lowering their own aspirations. So the regime, having abandoned its planned economy for market forces and removed many elements of the Soviet system, became much more flexible and stable. Homo Sovieticus, thanks to their ability to adapt, didn’t engage with politics or other forms of participation (i.e. with changing the system), and handed over the right to decide how the country was governed to other people – “reformers”, “honest politicians”. As a result, a generation later we have Putin rule, replicating many elements of the previous regime. </p><p>Thanks to their adaptability, people could make some changes in their lives. My colleague <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mUmaBQAAQBAJ" target="_blank">Boris Dubin described this development</a> as: “Some crouched; others stretched or stood on tiptoe”. This led, and is still leading, to the homogenisation, the sterilisation of everything new and different and of the creative elite. But it will not spawn free people. All social change requires the presence of a new kind of person, whereas all we can see now are modified Soviet people. </p><p>These people can show loyalty and to some extent admit it, as we saw with “Crimea is Ours”, but they are not keen to pay for the consequences or the actions of the government. There’s no doubt that the annexation was a fantastically intensive experience, a moment of mass collective euphoria. We’ve witnessed serious conflicts and fights in our focus groups. Some say that we have finally regained our perception of ourselves as a real Great Power and forced everyone to respect us… People have really identified with this new political stance, while realising at the same time that Russia was infringing international law. And they ignore the uncomfortable fact that the reason we are having to lower our incomes and accept a drop in the government’s social welfare budget is to pay for the annexation of Crimea. The typical reaction is: “what’s it got to do with me? Let the government pay for it!”</p><p>It’s a crisis about recognising reality, and it’s serious. The protest movement exists, but it turns out to be somewhat blind – it’s more an aesthetic gesture. Maybe it’s a kind of party: a festival of disobedience, not a political organisation.</p><p><em>Translated by Liz Barnes.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-and-gudkov/in-russia-sociology-not-just-figures">In Russia, sociology isn’t just about figures</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexei-kozlov/what-can-we-learn-from-russia-s-spring-of-protest">What can we learn from Russia’s spring of protest?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/odr-editors/fighting-back">Fighting back, in the back of beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tom-junes/russian-youths-are-taking-to-streets-but-lets-not-over-hype-revolt-of-putin-gene">Russian youths are taking to the streets, but let&#039;s not over-hype the revolt of the “Putin generation” just yet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/alexei-navalnys-campaign-effective-management-or-grassroots-movement">Alexei Navalny&#039;s campaign: effective management or grassroots movement?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/death-of-post-soviet-project-in-russia">The death of the post-Soviet project in Russia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Lev Gudkov Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia Uncivil society Russia Thu, 10 Aug 2017 19:10:30 +0000 Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia and Lev Gudkov 112781 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A new Chernobyl at your doorstep? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/lidia-kurasinska/new-chernobyl-at-your-doorstep <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Three decades after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, Belarus is building its first nuclear power station. Concerns about the project’s safety aren’t deterring the authorities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Belarus_NPP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Belarus_NPP.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bad timing: Belarus’s first nuclear power plant at Astravets is being built not long after the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Photo: Belta.by. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Speaking near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the 31st anniversary of the accident this April, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/ukraine-belarus-leaders-mark-chernobyl-anniversary/a-38604092" target="_blank">remarked</a> that “both Belarusians and Ukrainians know that the Chernobyl catastrophe knows no borders”, in reference to the fact that 70% of the radioactive dust created in the 1986 chemical explosion descended on Belarus. Following the same logic, the authorities of neighbouring Lithuania are trying to raise the alarm about Belarus’s construction of its first nuclear power plant, which they believe to be the next nuclear disaster in waiting.</p><p>One of the major complaints concerns the choice of location. Set near the small town of Astravets, less than 50km from Vilnius, the site also falls within an earthquake-prone area. Lithuanian authorities <a href="https://www.urm.lt/default/en/news/lithuanias-foreign-minister-chernobyl-catastrophe-reminds-us-of-importance-of-nuclear-safety-standards" target="_blank">allege</a> that Belarus did not conduct a cross-border environmental impact assessment, in breach of the <a href="http://www.unece.org/env/eia/welcome.html" target="_blank">Espoo Convention</a>, and that in an event of a large-scale accident at the nuclear plant, the Lithuanian capital, as well as a third of the country’s population, could face catastrophic consequences.&nbsp;</p><h2>Chain reactions&nbsp;</h2><p>Fears of a nuclear accident at Astravets are not baseless — they have been fuelled by a string of technical mishaps at the construction site, and a Soviet-like culture of secrecy.&nbsp;</p><p>According to Mikhail Mikhadyuk, the Deputy Energy Minister of Belarus, there have been 10 incidents, including three fatalities, since construction began in 2013. Mikhadyuk claimed it was a “<a href="http://belarusfeed.com/belarus-and-lithuania-talk-belnpp-construction-10-incidents-3-deaths-replacement-of-reactor-vessel/" target="_blank">reasonable figure</a>” given the scale of the project. However, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry alleged that there were <a href="https://www.urm.lt/default/en/news/lithuanias-foreign-minister-discusses-issues-related-to-astravets-npp-with-iaea-director-general-" target="_blank">six incidents in 2016 alone</a>. One incident on 10 July 2016, when a <a href="https://charter97.org/en/news/2016/7/27/215441/" target="_blank">330-tonne reactor casing fell from a height of between two and four metres</a>, drew particular condemnation. The accident was only acknowledged by the Belarusian authorities after it was reported in the local press two weeks later. Initially, the Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom, the main contractor for the project, denied the shell had been damaged, and agreed to replace it only following a media uproar. The handling of the incident drew comparisons with the Chernobyl catastrophe, where first reports of the disaster didn’t emerge until 36 hours after the explosion, and led to concerns about transparency and safety of the project.&nbsp;</p><p>Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, <a href="https://urm.lt/default/en/news/minister-linkevicius-it-is-very-difficult-for-rosatom-to-earn-confidence-by-hiding-the-incidents-at-the-astravets-nuclear-power-plant-" target="_blank">noted at the time</a> that “the fact that we find out about the incidents from their website or press (…) indicates a tendency to either hide certain events or try to understate them once they become apparent. For this reason, it becomes very difficult to earn confidence.” As part of Lithuania’s accession agreement with the EU, it agreed to start shutting down its own nuclear power plant at Ignalina from 2004.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This culture of secrecy, in which the project has been shrouded since its inception, cannot continue unchallenged&nbsp;</p><p>According to Andrey Ozharovsky, a Russian nuclear engineer and member of the Belarus Anti-Nuclear Campaign, Minsk has been <a href="http://greenbelarus.info/articles/17-03-2017/zayavlenie-ekologicheskoy-obshchestvennosti-po-povodu-zhestokogo-zaderzhaniya-i" target="_blank">trying to silence activists and members of the public opposed to the construction of the plant</a>. In an interview with openDemocracy, he claimed that the Belarusian government has tried to orchestrate public hearings on the project by preventing activists from joining in, and refusing to give the floor to those who managed to get in. Ozharovsky, who has been arrested twice in relation to his activism and <a href="http://spring96.org/en/news/55029" target="_blank">banned from entering Belarus for 10 years</a>, noted that the activists who attempted to raise awareness of the dangers of the project have faced harassment and intimidation from the state.&nbsp;</p><p>Trust in the safety of the project has been undermined further following the publication of an <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0UL5WF3b2s" target="_blank">investigative TV programme</a> about Rosatom by Belsat, an independent Belarusian news channel headquartered in neighbouring Poland. Belsat revealed that, in 2012, the Russian nuclear corporation took over Atommash Volgodonsk, a Soviet-era nuclear equipment giant, after it went bankrupt and was privatised. The move was intended to allow Rosatom to start producing its own equipment. The nuclear reactor for the Astravets plant (also referred to as BelNPP) was the first the revived Atommash produced in 30 years.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Contamination_Zone_31.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Contamination_Zone_31.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A warning sign on a road leading to the Chernobyl fallout contamination zone, in the vicinity of the Belarus-Ukraine border, 2006. Photo CC-by-2.0: Ilya Kuzniatsou / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>An article on the company’s own website <a href="http://www.aemtech.ru/en/mediacenter/news-aemtech/reactor-vessel-for-the-first-byelorussian-npp-was-delivered-to-the-site.html" target="_blank">appears to confirm</a> Belsat’s findings. It says that “during the post-Soviet period the enterprise almost lost its competences in manufacturing equipment for nuclear industry. Atommash was incorporated in the machine-building division of the State Corporation ‘Rosatom’ in 2012. The recovery program of the production facilities for manufacturing of nuclear power plants equipment then has been launched at the plant.”&nbsp;</p><p>On its website, Rosatom <a href="http://www.rosatom.ru/en/rosatom-group/engineering-and-construction/modern-reactors-of-russian-design/index.php?sphrase_id=126994" target="_blank">claims that VVER-1200</a>, the reactor built for Astravets, “is a flagship nuclear reactor and a core product of Rosatom's integrated offering”. The company states that “many modifications have been made to reactor internals (core barrel, core baffle, protective tube unit and sensors) to prevent accidents and extend the service life to 60 years” and that “VVER-1200 combines reliability of time-proven engineering solutions with a set of active and passive safety systems compliant with post-Fukushima requirements.” The reactor blocks will also be contained by an outer containment shell made of concrete and steel.&nbsp;</p><p>However, Ozharovsky stressed that he believes that new, untested reactors cannot be branded safe, despite manufacturers’ assurances, and pointed to an <a href="http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-01-russia-fixes-a-reactor-it-initially-refused-to-say-was-broken" target="_blank">unexpected technical fault</a> that shut down a brand new VVER-1200 at the Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant in Russia. Ozharovsky also noted that both <a href="http://www.atomstroyexport.ru/about/projects/current/tyanvan_3_4/" target="_blank">China</a> and <a href="http://www.atomstroyexport.ru/about/projects/current/kkudankulam/" target="_blank">India</a> refused to buy the VVER1200, the type destined for Astravets, for their own nuclear power plants, instead choosing units that had been previously tested.&nbsp;</p><h2>Good-neighbourliness&nbsp;</h2><p>To sweeten the deal, Minsk was offered a <a href="http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/belarus.aspx" target="_blank">Russian credit line of up to $10 billion</a> to finance the construction. Under the terms of the agreement, the loan from Moscow will provide 90% of the funding necessary to complete the construction, with Belarus having to foot only 10% of the bill. Russia will also be the sole supplier of fuel once the plant becomes operational. Although Belarusian authorities claim that the sale of energy from BelNPP will give the impoverished country a financial boost, there are fears that the project is being used by Russia to expand its influence in eastern Europe.</p><p>The Lithuanian authorities maintain that the Astravets plant is “<a href="https://www.urm.lt/default/en/news/statement-by-the-ministry-of-foreign-affairs-on-astravets-nuclear-power-plant-under-construction-in-belarus-" target="_blank">a geopolitical project devoid of any economic logic</a>”, given that Lithuania and Poland, both of which are wary of growing Russian leverage, have ruled out purchasing energy from the BelNPP in a bid to further synchronise their energy systems with Europe. The Latvian government, however, recently stated that the country will not introduce legislation prohibiting the purchase of electricity from Astravets. With other neighbouring countries still weighing their options, a collective refusal to purchase energy would undermine the project’s profitability given that one of the two units of the plant is intended to produce for export.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Belarus_AES_Mockuo.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Belarus_AES_Mockuo.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A mockup of the planned Astravets nuclear facility in western Belarus. Photo courtesy of Interfax / Fair Use. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>According to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/vladimir-slivyak" target="_blank">Vladimir Slivyak</a>, co-chairman of Ecodefense, a Russian environmental organisation, the main incentive behind the project might not have been a financial one. Speaking to openDemocracy, he said he believes that “the original idea behind the Astravets plant was to replace Russian gas consumed in Belarus by nuclear energy. As Russia wanted to sell more to the west, Moscow decided to build a two-reactor plant in Belarus: one would replace gas supplies from Russia, and the other would produce for export. But now, with Gazprom selling less abroad and with Belarus’s neighbours threatening boycott, the profitability of this enterprise is questionable.”&nbsp;</p><p>Slivyak added that “as with other Russian nuclear power deals, this one is widely believed by campaigners to be a geopolitical project aimed at making Baltic states dependent on the Russian supply. Once the Baltics resist, the whole project becomes useless.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Once the Baltics resist, the whole project becomes useless”&nbsp;</p><p>As part of its campaign to draw international attention to the violations of standards in the construction of BelNPP, Lithuania <a href="https://wetransfer.com/downloads/b49dfc8c8d299bc214aa130ddbf0b11520170807194026/e1b217" target="_blank">drafted a resolution</a> to be adopted during the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session, held on 5-9 July 2017 in Minsk. The draft urged the international community to demand that “transparent and independent transboundary environmental impact assessment is made and that risk and safety assessments (so called stress-tests) are carried out or the construction of the nuclear power plant should be suspended”. The resolution also called for an end to human rights violations and a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Belarus.&nbsp;</p><p>Despite collecting the required number of signatures, the draft resolution was removed from the agenda at the initiative of Swedish Socialist MP Kent Harstedt. However, the <a href="https://cohen.house.gov/sites/cohen.house.gov/files/documents/Swedish%20Resolution.pdf" target="_blank">Resolution on the Situation in Eastern Europe</a>, criticising the human rights records of the governments of Belarus, Russia and Azerbaijan, authored by another Swedish MP, Christian Holm Barenfeld, was adopted, fuelling <a href="https://belarusinfocus.info/international-relations/minsk-deflected-harsh-criticism-over-npp-and-agreed-discuss-human-rights" target="_blank">speculation</a> that Lithuania’s criticism of the BelNPP was a more sensitive issue for Minsk than the condemnation of its human rights violations, which could be deflected more easily.&nbsp;</p><p>According to Virginijus Sinkevičius, head of the Lithuanian delegation to the OSCE PA session, these assumptions are unwarranted. Sinkevičius told openDemocracy that he was surprised by the fact that Lithuania’s draft resolution was rejected, but he stressed that this meant the country needed to step up its efforts to galvanise the international community into action: “The EU must stick together on this question because the border the Astravets nuclear power plant is built on is not only a Lithuanian border — it is also an EU border.”</p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/jan-haverkamp" target="_blank">Jan Haverkamp</a>, an expert on nuclear energy, believes Belarus’s failure to consult its neighbour before choosing the location for the plant was a grave omission — and one that will override Belarus’s efforts to show that it takes safety seriously. In an interview, Haverkamp stressed to me that Russia wants to been seen as able to build nuclear power stations outside of its borders, and the construction of the Astravets plant is being closely watched by Finland and Hungary, as both countries have signed agreements with Rosatom for the construction of their own reactors.&nbsp;</p><h2>Dicing with déjà vu&nbsp;</h2><p>The fate of BelNPP draws parallels with the Kaliningrad Nuclear Power Plant, located in the Russian province just six kilometres from the Lithuanian border and 60km from Poland. Plans to complete the construction of the plant, which began in 2010, were <a href="https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2013-06-12/russia-freezes-construction-nuclear-power-plant-kaliningrad" target="_blank">quietly shelved three years later</a>, after it emerged that both Germany and Poland, two of the biggest potential markets, ruled out purchasing energy from the unit. At the time, Polish media branded the project a Russian attempt at gaining energy and geopolitical dominance.</p><p>Concerns about growing Russian influence and a lack of accountability were raised further after Belarusian authorities <a href="http://belsat.eu/en/news/belarus-bars-meps-from-visiting-astravets-npp-construction-site/" target="_blank">refused to grant permission</a> for a European Parliament delegation to visit the BelNPP construction site in April. Rebecca Harms, a German politician and member of the European Parliament, wrote on her website that the Belarusian ambassador in Belgium declined the request for administrative reasons, and <a href="http://rebecca-harms.de/post/refusal-of-meetings-in-minsk-regarding-nuclear-safety-43913" target="_blank">noted</a>: “We are disappointed that the visit has been postponed. We are ready to travel to Minsk and Astravets at any time if authorities are willing to meet us and to facilitate the visit on site.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-31086398.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-31086398.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka gives a speech on the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 2017. (c) NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>In a sign of growing concern over the safety of the project, Frans Timmermans, the Deputy Head of the European Commission, <a href="https://charter97.org/en/news/2017/7/3/255104/" target="_blank">urged Belarus to conduct a stress test at the Astravets site</a> under the supervision of international experts. In June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe <a href="http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=23935&amp;lang=en" target="_blank">adopted a resolution</a> calling to suspend the construction of the plant due to “numerous violations of international nuclear safety standards.”&nbsp;</p><p>Despite the fact that BelNPP is <a href="https://www.urm.lt/default/en/news/statement-by-the-ministry-of-foreign-affairs-on-astravets-nuclear-power-plant-under-construction-in-belarus-" target="_blank">in breach of four articles of the Espoo Convention</a> and the date of the planned launch of the first unit is set for November 2018, the recent Meeting of the Parties to the convention, which took place in Minsk, concluded without any decision regarding the project. Due to a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dana-marekova/nuclear-safety-in-europe-decision-making-behind-closed-doors" target="_blank">lack of consensus</a> over this and other issues, it was decided that an extraordinary meeting would be called next year. Ironically, the unproductive summit fell on the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the convention.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Belarus’s own experience has shown that a nuclear accident can have far-reaching consequences with a cross-border impact</span></p><p>In the meantime, the EU must continue to take decisive action to address the grave nuclear safety breaches on its eastern flank, as well as the <a href="http://greenbelarus.info/articles/17-03-2017/zayavlenie-ekologicheskoy-obshchestvennosti-po-povodu-zhestokogo-zaderzhaniya-i" target="_blank">allegations of harassment and intimidation against activists and members of the public critical of BelNPP</a>. Given that the first unit is scheduled to become operational in 2019, and the second one a year later, the response must come promptly. The culture of secrecy, which the project has been shrouded in since its inception, cannot continue unchallenged, or else Europe might face another nuclear catastrophe. Belarus’s own experience has shown that a nuclear accident can have far-reaching consequences with a cross-border impact, and the safety risk posed by the BelNPP must be seen as a continental threat — not just a local dispute on the European periphery.</p><p>With the Chernobyl catastrophe still within living memory, Europe must not lose one more generation to a nuclear tragedy.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-slivyak/rosatom-climate-s-new-best-friend">Rosatom: climate’s new best friend</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/russia-s-eco-activists-not-out-of-woods-yet">Russia’s eco-activists: not out of the woods yet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/daniel-voskoboynik/russia-tinderbox-in-struggle-for-safe-climate">Russia: the tinderbox in the struggle for a safe climate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tatyana-ivanova/belarus-s-chernobyl-taboo">Belarus’s Chernobyl taboo</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia-vladimir-slivyak-nailya-ibragimova/atomic-energy-and-polit">Atomic energy and political power in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dana-marekova/nuclear-safety-in-europe-decision-making-behind-closed-doors">Nuclear safety in Europe: decision-making behind closed doors?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-slivyak/sergey-kirienko-from-nuclear-to-political-power">Sergey Kirienko, from nuclear to political power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Lidia Kurasinska Green Eurasia Belarus Thu, 10 Aug 2017 05:09:06 +0000 Lidia Kurasinska 112758 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What is the meaning of journalism in Ukraine today? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aleksey-matsuka/what-is-meaning-of-journalism-in-ukraine-today <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/13631576_10210200367591722_204667795520323865_n.jpg" alt="13631576_10210200367591722_204667795520323865_n.jpg" width="80" height="126" />Ukraine’s journalists are often told we need to react in kind to information warfare. But let’s not forget what we can do to de-intensify this conflict.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_5695 (1) (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Donbass Media Forum, Svyatohirsk, 2017. Source: DMF. More details on the forum <a href=https://donbassmediaforum.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/the-3d-donbas-media-forum-was-held-in.html>here</a>. </span></span></span>When armed conflict broke out in Ukraine’s Donbass in spring 2014, many Donetsk journalists found themselves on the frontline by chance. Some of the city’s editorial offices changed their addresses, while others had to close down their operations entirely. Other editors and journalists have stayed in their profession, but are now bound by the demands made by the new rulers of Donetsk and Luhansk. Since the beginning of the “Russian Spring,” the new authorities’ main rule of thumb has been to suppress independent media. Indeed, there are no local journalists in the Donbas whose fates did not change after April 2014. In order to figure out what’s become of our profession in the region — and to retain our ties — we’ve been holding the <a href="https://donbassmediaforum.blogspot.com/">Donbass Media Forum </a>for several years now.</p><p dir="ltr">Facing aggression from the authorities of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic,” the editorial staff of the <a href="http://novosti.dn.ua/en">News of Donbas</a> left Donetsk in small groups. Our first reaction to this situation was: we need to tell the truth about what’s happening in Donetsk, and the truth about those people who had suddenly declared a republic in our region. In our broadcasts for Donbas Public Television, we shed light on the “DNR” and its leaders, in order to inform as many people as possible about the situation.</p><p dir="ltr">At some point, I started receiving invitations to appear on every TV programme imaginable, as an “expert on the Donbas”. On air, I’d hear the same information which I’d published elsewhere. It seemed as though some media outlets weren’t interested in my knowledge of the current situation, but instead my interpretation of information which I’d been collecting since 2006, and my status as a witness in a criminal case into the activities of the “Donetsk Republic” organisation, which was banned in 2007.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s when I decided to conduct an experiment of my own. When I was invited to speak on Ukrainian television channels, I started asking uncomfortable questions on topics which are often considered taboo in our media. For example, why do Ukrainian newsmakers have a critical attitude to any peace process (if there were people clearly antagonistic toward this idea in the studio) or how they view the realisation of the Minsk Agreements (if there were people calling for peaceful reintegration on air). That is, I changed the tone of the debate from the affirmative (transmitting new facts about the “DNR” and my interpretation of the situation in Donetsk) to the interrogative. Because that’s a journalist’s job. After all, if I’m already sitting beside the country’s VIPs, when why shouldn’t I use them just as other journalists have used me in their own talk shows?</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_MG_9445.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>I started asking even more questions and, every time, I observed how the reactions of the guest speakers and hosts changed towards me. As a result, one of the presenters declared me to be “working for <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/0972792c-1e96-11e7-a454-ab04428977f9">Viktor Medvedchuk</a>”. She continued that my interest in “such issues” as Minsk or even worse, the peace process, amounted to clear evidence for my close ties to “strange circles” and apparent desire for the “capitulation of Ukraine” to Russia. This TV presenter, whom I know well, later took me to one side and told me that since it was “so clear” why “we” don’t need Minsk, there was simply no point discussing them on the air. That is to say, as it seemed so “clear” to her, she believed it must be the same for everybody else.</p><p dir="ltr">Well, as a journalist, I always have my doubts. Doubt courses through my entire life. Perhaps that’s the reason why I decided to become a journalist in the first place, rather than a political analyst, a course which was always open to me given my Master’s degree in political science.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Was it right for our editors to insist on calling those on the “DNR” side “terrorists”? Was it right to react to the conflict solely with excessive patriotism that flooded our newsfeeds?</p><p dir="ltr">I also had my doubts in 2014. Was it right for our editors to insist on calling those on the “DNR” side “terrorists”? Was it right to react to the conflict solely with excessive patriotism that flooded our newsfeeds? What will actually change from the media’s employing the terminology used by Ukrainian military commanders, soldiers or simply online haters? Will the war really grind to a halt if some strive to make their insults twice as potent as their opponents?</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, a wonderful book fell into my hands, published by the OSCE and <a href="http://www.osce.org/ukraine/254526?download=true">freely accessible</a> on their website. It concerns conflict-sensitive journalism, and I still read it once a week, whenever I look back over the content produced for <a href="http://novosti.dn.ua/en">News of Donbas</a>. I almost remember it by heart. That very year at the Donbas Media Forum in Mariupol, one of the speakers called on journalists working in the conflict zone not to “make things worse than they already are.” That phrase, and the OSCE’s book, allowed me to answer those questions I raised earlier.</p><p dir="ltr">By following its recommendations, as well as the experience of journalists from other countries who lived through other events, I like to think that I’m helping the media outlets I work for to become more balanced and produce work of a higher quality. This in turn opens them up to wider audiences on both sides of the frontline, which after all is at the very heart of the goal which the Donetsk Institute of Information has set for itself. The institute, which administers News of Donbas and Donbas Public Television, promotes the establishment of democratic, humanistic values across Ukraine through the dissemination of fact-checked news and quality analysis.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/58495d2cd06a9-lives-on-the-line_1200_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="233" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Scenes from Maryinka, a town just east of Donetsk which is under Ukrainian state control. Source: <a href=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q8pSM6LiQc>"Lives on the Line"</a> film by Iryna Solomko / <a href=http://civiliansinconflict.org/>Center for Civilians in Conflict</a>.</span></span></span>The result of all the discussions, debates and, of course, arguments we’ve held over the past three years has drawn me to the following question: is it possible for journalists to dial down the toxicity of their work? If my hypothesis is correct, this could lead to a dialling down in the aggression which has swept society — an aggression which divides society ever more with each passing year, along various “lines of discord”.</p><p dir="ltr">The longer this war drags on, the deeper the sense of frustration and alienation. This can be easily seen in discussions in social media and among journalists themselves. My colleagues even receive threats simply because they, as journalists, permit themselves to consider and pose uncomfortable questions, to put journalistic ethics into practice and perfect what they produce, which is becoming more and more critical.</p><p dir="ltr">For some reason, many now appear to feel that media has a duty to serve a certain position on current affairs. That is to say, their position. “I’ll only trust sources which view things as I do.” Why, then, can’t media outlets become trusted for every audience? They don’t even have to be trusted 100% — the doubting reader is the most valuable kind of reader. How can a media outlet become the kind of resource that provokes confidence in its readers (even if they may disagree with some of its materials), one which does not countenance distortions and sticks to standards and dedication to balanced reporting? That is to say, a truly mass media organisation? Only journalists themselves can answer this question, by producing high-quality materials, generating and maintaining an impeccable reputation.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The key question that must be asked regarding the last three years of war in the Donbas is this: what can the media do to de-intensify this conflict that has engulfed our country?</p><p dir="ltr">We’re often told that this war was “unleashed by the media,” that the media’s role in this conflict is greater than ever before, and that we “must react” to the wave of “information aggression” before us. But to my mind, the key question that must be asked regarding the last three years of war in the Donbas is this: what can the media do to de-intensify this conflict that has engulfed our country?</p><p dir="ltr">I ask myself this question every day, and my search for a compelling answer continues. All I can repeat to myself in response is this: “Don’t make the situation worse than it already is.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article <a href="http://detector.media/blogs/article/128069/2017-07-18-smysl-tepereshnei-zhurnalistiki/">originally appeared</a>&nbsp;at News of Donbas.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">Disconnected society: how the war in the Donbas has affected Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">Critical thinking at (the) stake: Ukraine’s witch hunt against journalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/liberal-democracy-hard-choice-for-ukraine">Liberal democracy: a hard choice for Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/donbas-we-re-used-to-shelling">Donbas: “We’re used to the shelling”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-burdyga/where-now-for-ukraine-s-brave-new-journalism">Where now for Ukraine’s brave new journalism?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Aleksey Matsuka Ukraine Conflict Beyond propaganda Wed, 09 Aug 2017 12:24:59 +0000 Aleksey Matsuka 112746 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Аполітичне дорослішання в зоні воєнних дій https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/isobel-koshiw-anastasia-vlasova/apolitical-growing-up-frontline-ua <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Війна, пропаганда та брак порозуміння: підлітки в українських прифронтових містечках ростуть в умовах неймовірного стресу. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/isobel-koshiw-anastasia-vlasova/growing-up-apolitical-in-ukraine-s-war-zone">English</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_3237 copy1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>24 червня. Учні школи № 2 міста Щастя Луганської області йдуть до центрального майдану міста — Площі Миру — щоб відсвяткувати випускний. (c) Анастасія Власова. Усі права захищені. </span></span></span>Одного спекотного червневого дня весь одинадцятий клас школи № 2 міста Щастя, вдягнений у бальні сукні та костюми, вирушив до центру міста, що знаходиться десь в 15 хвилинах їзди від українського фронту і окупованого Луганська. Підлітки з Щастя у супроводженні батьків, учителів і друзів пройшлися ходою по зелених вулицях містечка, уздовж яких стояли сотні людей, що прийшли привітати їх. Ті, хто був не в змозі вийти з дому, дивилися з балконів. Після промов, що тривали понад годину, клас станцював вальс на центральному майдані під оплески майже всього міста.</p><p>У 2014 році, коли почалася війна між українськими військовими силами та сепаратистами, що їх підтримує Росія, цим випускникам (які зараз вступають у добу повноліття) було по 12-13 років. Це болюча тема, її обговорюють рідко, і навіть коли обговорюють, то не надто детально. Ці підлітки презирливо ставляться до розмов про політику — вона, на їхню думку, не рахується зі звичайними людьми і не здатна їх зрозуміти.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Цей випускний вечір був рідкісною, радісною подією. Минулого року люди не збиралися на свято, бо чули грім артилерії</p><p dir="ltr">Як це зазвичай буває в Україні, клас святкував свій випуск з батьками та вчителями цілу ніч до сходу сонця в актовому залі місцевого технічного коледжу. «Ми так пишаємося нашою дочкою, – каже Раїса Векслер, мама Діани - одної з трьох цьогорічних золотих медалістів міста. – Це тільки початок».</p><p dir="ltr">Цей випускний вечір був рідкісною, радісною подією. Минулого року люди не збиралися на свято, бо чули грім артилерії. Обстріли відбуваються нерегулярно - то один раз за півроку, а то кілька разів протягом одного тижня. Снаряди падають головним чином на околицях міста, але рівень влучності в артилеристів низький, тож може статися що завгодно.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_2165 copy1 (1).JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>23 червня. Учні школи № 2 міста Щастя танцюють вальс на Площі Миру. (c) Анастасія Власова. Усі права захищені.</span></span></span>У серпні 16-річний Ілля Гудзоватий (для друзів — Ґудзик) їхав через місто на своєму мотоциклі разом із другом. Раптом перед ними почали падати снаряди. Ґудзик стрибнув у найближчий кущ, а його друг ліг на землю, намагаючись сховатися за мотоциклом. «Коли я ходжу містом, – каже Ґудзик, – то думаю: те, що я живий — це, мабуть, доля».</p><p dir="ltr">Ці підлітки не висловлюють просепаратистських настроїв. Але їхні патріотичні почуття стосовно України тепер назавжди будуть затьмарені досвідом життя під владою батальйону «Айдар», який відкинув війська сепаратистів назад у червні 2014 року. Десятикласник Ілля Шликов згадує, що одного разу бійці з «Айдару» почали стріляти в повітря через те, що касир у головному супермаркеті міста відмовився продавати їм алкоголь.</p><p dir="ltr">Згідно зі <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/EUR50/040/2014/en/">звітом</a> Міжнародної Амністії, батальйон діяв «практично без наглядy та контролю», вчиняючи воєнні злочини у Щасті та навколишніх містах. За словами мешканців Щастя, ця діяльність тривала до весни 2015 року, тобто до того часу, поки добровольчі військові формування не включили до української армії. Генеральний Прокурор України розслідував діяльність батальйону на підставі показань свідків про пияцтво, грабування пустих квартир та свавільні затримання людей, але дату судового засідання так і не було призначено. Яна Капуста, офіцер групи цивільно-військового співробітництва у Щасті, каже, що стосунки батальйону з місцевим населенням трохи покращилися: «Я думаю, тепер з нами погодяться розмовляти 40 відсотків людей».</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_6964 copy1_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>1 червня. Дівчата зі школи № 2 сидять біля каналу, святкуючи закінчення школи. (c) Анастасія Власова. Усі права захищені.</span></span></span>Події 2014 року розгорталися з неймовірною швидкістю. Мешканці Донбасу здебільшого були спантеличеними, розгубленими спостерігачами, що чіплялися за різні наративи (у тому числі російську пропаганду) в пошуках пояснень. Як розповіла мені за обідом Юлія, мама Іллі, коли все це почалося і обстрілів було дуже багато, вони абсолютно не розуміли, що відбувається. Вони спали на простирадлах у коридорі та дзвонили всім сусідам, щоб дізнатися, куди влучив снаряд.</p><p dir="ltr">Але саме такі містечка, як Щастя, були засуджені українськими ЗМІ за «гостинність» до Путіна у 2014 році. На думку журналістів, місцеве населення не змогло запобігти перевороту тому, що воно саме як мінімум підтримувало — якщо не допомагало підготувати — російське вторгнення. Цю репутацію місту частково створив батальйон «Айдар»: він затримував місцевих жителів, якщо йому здавалося, що вони воюють на боці супротивника.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">Cаме такі містечка, як Щастя, були засуджені українськими ЗМІ за їхню «гостинність» до Путіна у 2014 році</span></p><p dir="ltr">І все ж учителі школи № 2 запрошують «Айдар», і досі розташований у місті, на святкування Дня Волонтера. Роблять вони це, за словами підлітків, тому, що відчувають себе зобов’язаними демонструвати свою проукраїнську орієнтацію. Випускниця Анастасія Саранча каже, що спілкування між вчителями та військовими проходить ніяково та вимушено. Ось як вона описує День Волонтера у грудні минулого року: «Вони прийшли з собаками та автоматами. Вони просто стояли в вестибюлі і змушували нас відповідати на їхні вигуки «Слава Україні».</p><p dir="ltr">Після уроків найбільш хвацькі підлітки міста беруть участь у військово-спортивній грі «Джура», протягом якої вони виконують вправи, марширують з українським прапором і співають патріотичні пісні. Ця гра почала набувати популярності в школах з того моменту, як почалася війна. Це можна частково пояснити президентським указом і деякими рекомендаціями міністерства освіти від 2015 року, які заохочували навчальні заклади проводити цю гру «з метою удосконалення змісту, форм та засобів патріотичного виховання учнівської молоді». Учні міста Щастя кажуть, що вони беруть участь у цій грі тому, що це хоч якась розвага у містечку з обмеженим Інтернетом та мобільним покриттям, а не тому, що вона є проявом патріотичних почуттів.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_5251 copy1_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ілля Ґудзоватий та його шкільні приятелі марширують, готуючись до військово-патріотичної гри «Джура». (c) Анастасія Власова. Усі права захищені.</span></span></span>Хоча підлітки уникають розмов про війну, але деякі з них зізналися, що приймають заспокійливі засоби, щоб заснути. Властиві їхньому віку стреси, пов’язані з плануванням майбутнього, ускладнюються війною та думкою про розлуку з родиною. Вони скаржаться на журналістів, які питають про їхні погляди на Україну і на іншу сторону конфлікту, або ж просять розповісти про травматичний досвід. Від таких питань вони почуваються ніяково.</p><p dir="ltr">Більшість місцевих підлітків планує навчатися в Україні, але дехто, можливо, поїде до Росії. Алім Алімов хоче вивчати фотографію в Києві, але його мати не цікавиться мистецтвом. Вона хоче, щоб він вивчав економіку у Москві, де в нього, як і в багатьох інших мешканців Луганщини, є родичі. «Вона сказала, що я ніколи в житті не вивчу українську. Вона знає моє слабке місце», – жартівливо каже він, маючи на увазі мовні вимоги вступу до українських університетів.</p><p dir="ltr">Катя, двоюрідна сестра Іллі, живе в Луганську. Вона приїхала до Щастя на літо. Коли почалася війна, вони з мамою оселилися в Луганську, щоб жити разом із маминим партнером. Катин опис шкільної програми у так званій Луганській Народній Республіці здивував нас. Як і можна було очікувати, судячи з відео ЛНРівської пропаганди, учні співають національний гімн ЛНР та цілий рік займалися історією Луганської області, а також протягом семестру вивчали історію Батьківщини, тобто Росії. Але вони також мають три години української мови на тиждень; крім того, школа віддала їм вже неактуальні підручники з історії України.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_6355 copy1_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>31 червня. Місто Щастя. Аліна Тарасенко, Діана Фоменко та Адель Красовська перевдягаються перед початком вистави до Дня дітей. (c) Анастасія Власова. Усі права захищені.</span></span></span>У якомусь сенсі життя юнаків у ЛНР є дзеркальним відображенням життя їхніх ровесників по інший бік кордону. Катя, яка мріє вільно мандрувати, каже, що вона та її друзі найчастіше гуляють південною частиною Луганська, більш віддаленою від лінії фронту. Ілля та його друзі гуляють північними районами Щастя. По обидва боки кордону діє «комендантська година» — десята вечора, — і щоб кудись піти, їм доводиться витрачати кілька годин, отримувати письмовий дозвіл батьків та проходити через десятки блокпостів.</p><p dir="ltr">Коли ми спитали Катю, чи бойовики ЛНР патрулюють вночі, вона відповіла: «Бойовики? Ви маєте на увазі солдатів? Так, здебільшого так».</p><p dir="ltr">Цього року відбулися перші всеукраїнські дебати про майбутнє територій, які контролюють сепаратисти. Президент Петро Порошенко та секретар РНБО Олександр Турчинов стверджують, що Україна мусить домагатися реінтеграції цих територій і що якщо Україна визнає їх окупованими, як запропонували інші учасники, вона ще сильніше штовхне їх у «руки Росії». Враховуючи те, як<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/donbas-we-re-used-to-shelling"> реальний досвід людей, що живуть у зоні воєнних дій</a> (навіть на боці, який контролює Україна), відрізняється від уявлення про війну, поширеного в усіх інших регіонах України, реінтеграція буде нелегким завданням.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/olesya-khromeychuk/de-mistse-zhinok-ukrainska-politika-pamyati">Де місце жінок в українській політиці пам’яті?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-donbas">Разрозненное общество: как война на Донбассе повлияла на украинцев</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetyana-bezruk/liberalnaya-demokratia">Либеральная демократия. Трудный выбор для Украины</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vitaly-atanasov/status-neopredelen">Статус не определен</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Анастасія Власова Ізобел Кошів oDR Українська Tue, 08 Aug 2017 16:04:44 +0000 Ізобел Кошів and Анастасія Власова 112726 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Russia, sociology isn’t just about figures https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-and-gudkov/in-russia-sociology-not-just-figures <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is solidarity possible in Russia? How has the relationship between Russia’s government and its citizens panned out in the last few years? An interview with one of Russia’s leading sociologists, Lev Gudkov. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/lev-gudkov/sociologia-eto-ne-cifry" target="_blank">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01478392.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01478392.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Center, during a broadcast of “Mr. Good”, a popular news programme on Dozhd TV. Photo: Valery Levitin / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The <a href="https://www.levada.ru/en/about-us/" target="_blank">Levada Center</a> is one of Russia’s most important surveyors of public opinion. Its regular polls on every possible subject — from Russian citizens’ level of material satisfaction to their concept of freedom — are not only invaluable data sources for sociologists, political analysts and journalists, but a red rag to the country’s rulers. In 2016, the center was awarded the status of “<a href="https://www.hrw.org/russia-government-against-rights-groups-battle-chronicle" target="_blank">foreign agent</a>”. It seems the picture of Russian society Levada provides doesn’t suit those who would like to govern this society single-handed (and, if possible, forever).&nbsp;</p><p>oDR editors Polina Aronson and Mikhail Kaluzhsky met the center’s director Lev Gudkov to discuss solidarity, political protest, freedom and the role of sociology in a divided country. We are publishing his interview in two parts: in this, first part we discuss the main trends in Russian society since the collapse of the Soviet Union; the second part will be devoted to the post-Soviet mindset and ideas of freedom.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Lev Dmitrievich, in your publications and interviews you often return to the topic of atomisation and the Russian public’s unwillingness to take risks in order to stand up for their interests. In a <a href="http://echo.msk.ru/programs/year2017/1929232-echo/" target="_blank">radio interview</a> on Echo Moscow, for instance, you summed up the results of the polls you’d run in 2016 and spoke a lot about society’s passivity; the fact that young people in Russia see the world in terms of “us” and “them” and that it was impossible to imagine them being ready to take risks. And then, in the course of the following months we suddenly see the emergence of mass social movements and protests. And it’s not just young people who are out on the streets: it’s also long distance truckers, and in St Petersburg we see the public come together in the wake of the metro bomb attack. How do you see these developments? Are these some new forms of solidarity or something else?</strong></p><p>I don’t think this is solidarity. I’m pretty sceptical about it all, because our society really is divided, and the situation in the country has changed fundamentally since the mass protests of 2011-2012.&nbsp;</p><p>In my view, the regime has entered a completely different phase. How should we define it? There’s a temptation to dub it “<a href="https://www.svoboda.org/a/28047747.html" target="_blank">soft fascism</a>”, as many people do, but I’m not happy with that term — not just because it sets up a superficial analogy with Mussolini’s Italy, but because the prerequisite negative assessment that lies behind it makes an explanation of the nature of Putinism redundant. Attaching a label to the regime avoids the need to analyse its structure and the institutional changes happening now. And these changes are fundamental.&nbsp;</p><p>Over the last few years, the Putin administration has taken control of the entire judicial system. The influence of the secret police, the military top brass and the law enforcement agencies has sharply increased. All the security structures have been strengthened and given carte blanche to carry out repressive measures in key areas of the economic, social and intellectual life of the country. They decide not only who gets what job (in other words, they control the social mobility and social structure of society) but also the country’s political direction — and thus its future.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The “opposition” as such, if it can be called such a thing, has turned out to be incapable of creating any kind of political organisation&nbsp;</span></p><p>This strengthening of the role of the “organs” [Russia’s power bloc] was a response to the fall in the government’s legitimacy after the 2008-2009 crisis triggered a decrease in Putin’s popularity and trust in his government. The lowest point in his popularity came in late 2011, when, according to our polls, a massive 47% of Russians didn’t want to give Putin a further presidential term, and an even larger number stated that they were tired of waiting for him to fulfil his pre-election promises. Public anger, mainly at unresolved social problems, corruption scandals and arbitrary rule, rose to a peak, and the attempt to smother this frustration with cash wasn’t particularly successful.&nbsp;</p><p>Areas of social conflict and tension began to multiply, but they had a local and limited character — labour disputes, strikes, protests by cheated investors and so on, although in many cases they took the form of inter-ethnic or religious clashes and attacks. This kind of unrest rarely made the pages of national newspapers or social media.</p><p>Protest actions became newsworthy only at the end of 2011. But the “March of the Millions” on 6 May 2012, as well the rallies on Sakharov Square, Bolotnaya Square and so on — that wasn’t a political movement, but a moral protest against lies and manipulation, with a “declaration of the will of the majority”. On the one hand, it was basically an appeal to the government from law-abiding citizens, asking, “Have you no shame?”; on the other, it was a carnival where people suddenly recognised themselves as “society” and not dumb plasma. But, still more, as petitioners, almost supplicants to the Tsar, and not fully fledged citizens with a sense of their own dignity and strength.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6494843233_9a17c80bdd_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6494843233_9a17c80bdd_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A demonstration against rigged Duma elections. Moscow, 10 December 2011. Photo CC-by-2.0: Evgeny Isaev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The Russian “opposition” as such, if it can be called such a thing, has turned out to be incapable of creating any kind of political organisation. And without that, the protest went into decline and disillusion quickly spread, because the government had made no concessions, nothing had been gained; a state of disorientation enveloped opposition circles. This is an important factor in the situation: it’s not just a question of leadership of opposition parties, but in the very ideas behind the protest movement. The general mood of “we’re not engaged in politics”, “we just want free and fair elections”, and so on led to the movement’s just running out of steam. The noticeable upsurge of interest in emigration in the urban classes who had supported the protest movement can be seen as a symptom of this failure.&nbsp;</p><p>But the government, as it turned out, was terrified by this unexpected and seemingly irrational movement, which it after a while decided was a prelude to the “colour revolutions” inspired by the west — such as those that had taken place, if you believe Kremlin propaganda, in Ukraine and Georgia. The Putin administration’s reaction was a resort to more hardline, repressive policies. I’m not going to go into the detail, but it was a question of large scale amendment of legislation; increased censorship and monopolisation of the media and a squeeze on the internet, as well as on the spot or pre-emptive penalties, show trials and a campaign to discredit civil society organisations. As Putin put it in 2009: “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghQXYvZbmTg" target="_blank">Where are the arrests?</a>”&nbsp;</p><p>The annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and the confrontation with the west have not just halted Putin’s decline in popularity, but have sparked a massive wave of patriotism and consolidation with the authorities on the basis of reactivated Soviet and anti-western, anti-liberal and distinctly anti-democratic ideas. Since the spring of 2014, Russia’s mood has altered completely. Russia’s proto-middle class that was a factor, resource and agent of change — approximately 18-15% of the population — has split.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and the confrontation with the west have not just halted Putin’s decline in popularity, but sparked a massive wave of patriotism and consolidation</span></p><p>It was this proto-middle class that was most concerned about the then state of affairs, seeing no prospect of a life for themselves under Putin’s authoritarian rule. It’s clear from our polls that the larger half of this class has joined Putin’s “majority”, while the remainder, an obstinate seven percent, has retreated into a complete rejection of his rule. But this relatively small population group is, socially speaking, extremely important. They are not simply the most educated, enterprising and informed members of the public, but people with a strong moral compass and understanding of their responsibility for the future of their country. But most people have joined the majority.&nbsp;</p><p>The recent explosion of Russian imperial nationalism is in itself evidence of the fact that propaganda has uncovered underlying strata of perception and consciousness that are much more archaic than they appear at first glance. These are not even Soviet perceptions: they are much older and deeper. Imperial pride and vanity merely masked a concept of the state as the unquestioned owner of the country, with power over the life and property of its subjects. At its heart are perceptions of power typical of the 17th, or at the latest, the 18th century. So the idea of politics as a clear necessity that allows people to take part in decision-making and has meaning for everyone, the idea of common good, is more or less absent in Russia.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/34152739690_6d4958b412_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/34152739690_6d4958b412_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A member of the “Immortal Regiment”. Photo CC-by-2.0: Elizaveta Khodarinova / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>There is no civic consciousness of the “No taxation without representation” kind — rulers can do what they like with their people (within the bounds of the possible, of course)! As a representative of the Ministry of Justice said in the courtroom where the Levada Center was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oksana-bocharova/why-russia-needs-levada-center" target="_blank">challenging its status as a foreign agent</a>, “the state may limit the constitutional rights of its citizens”, so negating the very idea of a constitution. This is why Russians see themselves as dependents, or even serfs, able only to ask indulgence or compassion from their rulers, and not free people who see the state as hired functionaries responsible to them.&nbsp;</p><p>Without a clear understanding of the reasons for this political passivity, we can tell little from the daily life of the Russian public. So everything we observe corresponds to the elements of the classical totalitarian syndrome, as described 60 years ago by Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski: the coalescence of the political police with the apparatus of government; the subjection of the economy to political goals; the cult of the leader; terror; propaganda; a decline in the number of non-governmental organisations; the establishment of complete control of the media.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Everything we observe corresponds to the elements of the classical totalitarian syndrome</span></p><p>You don’t need me to tell you that the media world has been completely subordinated to the Kremlin. The forced change of ownership of media companies; the crackdown on the Lenta.ru news agency; the closure of several TV channels — this is all part of the establishment of complete control of the media.</p><p>This is particularly bad for the provinces, where two thirds of Russians live, because the only sources of information open to people living in villages or small towns are, either because of poverty or for technical reasons, TV and their local radio station or paper. But it’s not even a question of information, but of interpretation, understanding of events, the construction of reality forced on people by the central channels. All that is missing for a complete parallel between Putin rule and the totalitarian paradigm are signs of missionary “ideology”.</p><p><strong>Last September you gave a presentation at the opening of the <a href="http://www.n-ost.org/65-media-conference-2016-on-the-tightrope" target="_blank"><em>N-Ost </em>media conference in Moscow</a> and spoke about the importance of remembering that while state media campaigns and government propaganda are unideological by definition, the aim of government propaganda is destroy horizontal relationships in society. Now you believe that an ideology has appeared?&nbsp;</strong></p><p>It’s appeared, yes. Since after Crimea. The last two to three years have seen the creation of the ideological doctrine of Putinism in its definitive form: its key components are myths of an Orthodox “Russian World” or “special Russian civilisation” claiming its own space and place among numerous other cultural-historical or geopolitical areas.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s different from the ideology of the Soviet years: it doesn’t promise a bright future; it’s entirely focused on the past, the heroic periods of Russian militarism; the era of Stalin’s achievements; the symbolic attributes of a “great power” nourishing the national pride and self-respect that justify the need to consolidate our strength against the eest and our politics of confrontation with the developed world. The central idea is the mystic body of our thousand-year-old Russia.&nbsp;</p><p>What lies behind this? In the first place, it means the sterilisation and rejection of ideas about a differentiated society: the thinking behind that embodies very poor and sordid ideas about the social structure of society — here there will be no concept of autonomous or self-sufficient groups with their own vision of reality, interest, views, ethical precepts, models of the past and future; there will also be no classes or social strata, no significant regional divisions — there will be a single space of mass one-dimensionality.</p><p><strong>A state of “communitas,” you might say?&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Yes, but that is what totalitarianism is — “unity” as the absence of cultural or intellectual diversity and social pluralism. It’s no coincidence that an image of “United Russia” comes into your mind here. Absolutely no coincidence, just like the image of a “national leader”, whether Führer, Duce, permanent and plebiscitary “president” — a functional figure who embodies all the values of this collectiveness. “Putin is Russia,” as Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin put it. So let me repeat that since 2014, this country has existed in a completely new, or different, state of being.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1242385107_95f30f159e_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1242385107_95f30f159e_b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>We say “Putin” and mean “United Russia.” Photo CC-by-2.0: Kirill Afonin / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>There are, of course, certain social groups who refuse to accept this, and who have a well-known, although limited, immunity to propaganda. They are not completely immune, because propaganda is extremely effective in terms of its cynicism, and while it still can’t force feed new stereotypes of perception of reality, it can break down old moral and ethical norms. Its power lies in the fact that it really does destroy the foundations of humanity and universal ethics and the potential for solidarity (which may be built on foundations other than national and tribal ones).&nbsp;</p><p>Appeals to a mythical national past are always linked to, or reproduce concepts of, an undifferentiated togetherness of rulers and ruled: “We are Russia”. But at the same time it defines the idea of a super individual transcendent power that inspires both awe and devotion: an oriole of the sacredness of the state appears and together with it the archaic concept of an image of far-sighted and wise government, a fatherly caring, strict and fair state protecting the people from all adversity.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Propaganda is both very cynical and very effective: it really does destroy the foundations of humanity, ethics and solidarity&nbsp;</p><p>In other words, the mythology of Russia’s great past justifies the existence of Putin’s power vertical. This view of society has no room for any concept of representation, no perception of different interests, no need to take into account the various classes and groups making up that society. But at the same time this construct itself gives rise to a negative – an incompatibility between the ruling elite and this mystical archetype: the government is seen as a shameless, corrupt Mafia-like “system” (which, however, doesn’t alter the one-dimensional concept of society itself).</p><p>This one-dimensional nature of society is extremely significant; it wasn’t like that in the 1990s. And, of course, the populist rhetoric about the glorious past denies the importance of inter-group connections and communications, a view of society as unity in diversity and, consequently, the value of a social recognition of other people, the significance of social imagination and ability to mix with others, the quality of sociability, a readiness to compromise with your opponent, rather than attacking, crushing and eliminating them.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>At the end of June, <a href="https://www.levada.ru/2017/06/26/vydayushhiesya-lyudi/" target="_blank">the results of a poll to name the greatest historical figure of all time</a> made headline news: Stalin came out on top. How representative was this poll?&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Absolutely representative. These polls form part of our longest term project (which has been running since 1989). Back then, Stalin wasn’t even in the top ten. He was seen as a purely negative figure: a sadist, dictator, pathological personality whose psychological defects explained both the Great Terror and the mass repressions of the 1930s. There were no other systems for analysing the specific characteristics of the Soviet years at that time. </p><p>This superficial criticism of the Soviet period reproduced to some extent the prejudices of the ideology known as “socialism with a human face” that were widespread in the early Perestroika years. This simplistic idea boiled down to the following: bad leaders should be removed, and then good, democratic ones will come along and everything will be fine…</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/22500453025_73582e30ac_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/22500453025_73582e30ac_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="715" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lacquer Stalin - a central figure in the new ideology. Photo CC-by-2.0: Patrick Lauke / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>But the transformation crisis of the 1990s led to disillusionment with reform, deep frustration and a state of disorientation: people’s daily lives had been disrupted, unemployment was rising and living standards falling steeply. There was a strong reaction and retaliatory aggression towards the reformers. It was at that point that the idea arose of the US State Department, the CIA and so on being behind the reforms. There had been no anti-western sentiments in the first half of the 1990s: 40% of Russians believed we should join NATO and become part of the EU, if they would have us. It was a very interesting situation.&nbsp;</p><p>But then came the backlash: nostalgia for the USSR with its guaranteed minimum wage, pensions and other social benefits — not to mention the loss of Great Power status. The promotion of this complex of feelings and ideas became the basis for a new legitimacy represented by Putin rule. Stalin’s popularity began to grow when Putin came to power.</p><p><strong>Was that down to Putin’s personal efforts, or did the collective unconscious push Stalin to the top of the heap?</strong></p><p>It began with a simultaneous process involving the centralisation of power, taking control of television and celebrating Victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. Putin was expressing this mass need for self-respect when he proclaimed: we have no need for shame; we are a great country; every country’s history has had its dark chapters, its skeletons in the cupboard. We must educate our people in patriotism, pride in their country and so on: we basically need a new attitude to our history.&nbsp;</p><p> It was then, at the start of the 2000s, that war was declared on the falsification of history: there was a demand for a new approach to education and a new history textbook for schools. If you remember, Leonid Polyakov, a professor of Political Science and the man behind the new textbook, was always saying that we needed a happy obliviousness of the past, in order not to create conflict between generations.&nbsp;</p><p>This ideological trend rested on the emotional trauma of the collapse of the USSR, Russians’ mass perception of themselves as victims, people who had lost out from all the changes, losers. It was a very deep trauma. It’s hard to imagine how deep it ran, the feeling that: “we’re the worst”; “we’re a nation of cockroaches”; “we’re an example of how not to live”; “we’re Upper Volta with rockets” (as Margaret Thatcher famously described the USSR). It’s important to remember that these were the clichés used by people to define themselves, their place in life and their attitudes towards themselves.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s no surprise that the only reaction to all this had to be a need for positive affirmation rooted in pride. So the hype around the 60th anniversary of VE Day and the adoption of the Great Patriotic War as the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-polouektova-krimer/unearthing-russia-s-dead-over-and-over-again" target="_blank">central symbol of national identity</a>, a symbolic shift in mass consciousness from revolution to victory, was a response to the need for self-consolation and self respect.</p><p>But what was important was the fact that people were being offered as compensation not the recognition of individual achievement, but a collective, almost imperial, triumph. The foundations for this already existed in the past, in the valorous deeds of previous generations. So this pride or self respect takes on a quasi-moral value. This is best seen at “<a href="http://www.bbc.com/russian/features-39858380" target="_blank">Immortal Regiment</a>” celebrations and Ribbon of St George demonstrations — but what is the source of their pride? They have absorbed the triumph and glory of their parents’ generation and made their own capital out of them and a reason for demonstrations of strength.&nbsp;</p><p>Take all the graffiti that you seen on Russian cars — “To Berlin”, “We’ll do it again if we have to” and so on. It’s a compensatory mechanism: the appropriation of someone else’s glory for your own ends. In a certain sense it’s real piracy in relation to the previous generation. But it has worked very well before and still does — just look at what’s happened in Crimea and the Donbas. Propaganda would be useless if it didn’t have a basis in real structures and complexes of mass consciousness, and an appeal for respect.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/26817035516_bd8223784b_h-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/26817035516_bd8223784b_h-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Акция "Бессмертный полк", Москва, 2016. Присвоение символов - или попытка найти свое место в истории? Фото CC BY 2.0: Владимир Варфолемеев / Flickr. Некоторые права защищены. The “Immortal Regiment” parade in Moscow, 2016. Simply assuming comfortable symbols, or an attempt to find one’s place in history? Photo CC-by-2.0: Vladimir Varfolomeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>For us Russians, it’s not individual figures that are important, but a change in the whole configuration of symbolic names and ideas. The last 25 years have seen the disappearance of all the symbols of revolution and Soviet ideology: Marx and Engels have simply vanished, and Lenin has dropped in the poll of the greatest figures from history from first to fourth place (after Stalin, Putin and the poet Pushkin): in the first poll, in 1989, he took 72% of the vote; now he has a mere 32%. The old Bolsheviks and other figures from the early Soviet years have been forgotten, replaced by imperial symbols, with Peter the Great at number five in the chart. But then the rehabilitation of Stalin began: by 2012 he was at number one, with 42% of the vote, having become the symbol of the grandeur of Soviet power and pride, the very model of a decisive ruler overseeing the rapid modernisation of his country and bringing it glory.&nbsp;</p><p>One factor in this is a critical assessment of the present (the contradiction between powerful state and corrupt rulers), but, more importantly, an inability to come up with a moral assessment of the past and the wiping from history of the destruction that took place before our time. The most interesting thing is that people know that there were mass executions and imprisonments (although in the last few years there has been a tendency to underestimate their scale). We keep being told that Stalin is undoubtedly responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people, but we are told just as often that without Stalin there would have been no victory in 1945.</p><p>And when we put the next question, whether Stalin should be seen as a state criminal, people say: “No”. Otherwise, the logical next step would be to recognise the entire Soviet system as criminal. And that would contradict all the collective identity, military glory and so on. So we are left with the answer: “We don’t know who is good and who is bad: we don’t have all the facts, so let’s just turn over this page of history and get on with our lives.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A lack of understanding of the past is a crime committed by intellectuals against a society that has no interest in unravelling its history&nbsp;</p><p>In some sense, a lack of understanding of the past is a crime committed by intellectuals against a society that has no interest in unravelling its history. It’s not a question of individuals, but of the stance of the academic community as a whole. There are fine books by historians about the Stalin era; there is a series of publications brought out by the academic publishers ROSSPEN. There is, finally, Memorial. But they are all ignored by the media and therefore not in the public eye, so their work goes unnoticed.</p><p><strong>In this situation, what role can be played by the social sciences? There are scholars who believe that sociology has a responsibility to the public, that sociological findings arrived at through research should be fed back into the public sphere and that people who have taken part in polls should be able to read about themselves not in a scientific paper, but somewhere more accessible. What opportunity do you have for conversations with the public, particularly since the Levada Center now has “foreign agent” status?&nbsp;</strong></p><p>That’s a difficult question. We, as you know, are criticised from all sides: the Kremlin claims that we work for the Pentagon, while the opposition says that we corrupt the public by publishing data on politicians’ popularity.</p><p>From my point of view, the Russian intellectual community’s main problem is a lack of understanding and an extremely poor perception of the Russian public, the nature of our country and the character of support for our system of government. There are no channels for understanding. Sociology could provide those channels, despite the fact that what we usually mean by the term here — that is, mass public opinion polls — are mostly used to legitimise our rulers. But that isn’t sociology: it’s merely surveying procedures and methods that have been built into a system of political technology.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">What we usually mean by “sociology” here — that is, mass public opinion polls — are mostly used to legitimise our rulers&nbsp;</p><p>Sociology isn’t a matter of figures. Putin’s popularity rating, if properly analysed, would be revealed as a very interesting thing, because it would uncover an ambiguous attitude to him. The “us” and “them” model, if turned the other way around and provided with a colon, works perfectly here. The indicators of approval of, and trust in, him, currently stand at 80-83%, having changed very little since the annexation of Crimea.</p><p>At the same time, Putin is regarded by a large proportion of respondents (around 55-60%) as the head of a corrupt, mafia-style state. It’s important to realise that these two ideas exist simultaneously in the same heads (I’m not even going into the persistence of an attitude to the Russian government as an absolutely corrupt, totally corrupt mafia structure, lacking in any sense of responsibility to the Russian people and totally unashamed of itself. And changes of government have not changed this perception: it has remained stable since the 1990s.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6818287471_53238bc1a8_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6818287471_53238bc1a8_b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Attitudes to the authorities in Russia today are more complex than you might think. Photo CC-by-2.0: cea+ / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>So we need to try to understand this split consciousness, this doublethink. Sociology as a science, as a means of understanding reality, having been imported into the USSR from a fundamentally different society, has turned out to be much more complex in its structure and potential for understanding than our academic community.&nbsp;</p><p>Sociology was, basically, born out of a multitude of new social forms that arose out of a process of modernisation. When the German sociologist, philosopher, and critic Georg Simmel wrote his “Large Cities and Spiritual Life” here in Berlin (one of the first works from which the American Chicago School developed) and Talcott Parsons was a magistrate in Heidelberg, they saw these new forms with their own eyes, the diversity of social strata and groups, the transformation of a closed hierarchical system into an open society with new institutions and intellectual movements. Here, in our one-dimensional post-socialist era with its conscious policy of erasing class differences, there is none of this.&nbsp;</p><p>So the idea of sociology is reduced to polls and ratings that describe the Russian population as one amorphous whole. If people can’t see any complexity in the social arrangement and structure of society or in the character of state institutions, they must either regard their country as a single organism or see only what is before their eyes, individual elements: here’s the protest movement; there are the truckers; that’s Pikalevo over there and so on.&nbsp;</p><p>The reason why the opposition is so ineffectual is that it only represents itself, as it is incapable of recognising the problems being faced by the vast majority of its fellow citizens and seeing them as a subject for political work. Does anyone here talk about the problems that really worry ordinary Russians? From the start, the reformers have only represented that proto-middle class that was supposed to support them.</p><p><em>Check out the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia-lev-gudkov/dissent-in-russia-festival-of-disobedience">second part of this interview</a>, where we talk to Lev Gudkov about Russian ideas of freedom and post-Soviet identity.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/putinist-majority-could-fast-become-anti-putinist">“The Putinist majority could fast become anti-Putinist”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oksana-bocharova/why-russia-needs-levada-center">Why Russia needs the Levada Center</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tatyana-dvornikova/young-people-in-russia-today-don-t-have-it-easy">“Young people in Russia today don’t have it easy”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/roots-of-russia-s-atomised-mourning">The roots of Russia’s atomised mourning</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-polouektova-krimer/unearthing-russia-s-dead-over-and-over-again">Unearthing Russia’s war dead, over and over again</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/behind-russian-mirror">Behind the Russian mirror</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Lev Gudkov Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia Uncivil society Russia Mon, 07 Aug 2017 21:09:00 +0000 Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia and Lev Gudkov 112731 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Stop GOK: how residents of Chelyabinsk are resisting plans for a new copper plant https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia-andrei-talevlin/stop-gok-chelyabinsk-copper-enrichment-tomino <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Plans for a new copper mining and enrichment plant outside the Urals town of Chelyabinsk are pitting Russian citizens against regional oligarchs. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-talevlin/gok-stop">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/thumb_uploads_images_BlogPost_3714_5ebf05e3516f7d1b62687d4b751cd895__.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The tree-felling operation at Tomino has already started, despite protests by residents. Source: <a href=https://vk.com/stop_gok>Stop GOK</a>. </span></span></span>Twelve kilometres from the city of Chelyabinsk, the Russian Copper Company (RMK) is planning to build a new ore mining and enrichment plant. This Urals city, where local residents claim there’s already nothing to breathe, is protesting how it can. But so far, they haven’t been successful in stopping RMK’s advances.</p><p dir="ltr">Most of all, residents of Chelyabinsk and its surrounding villages are concerned by the tree-felling that’s already happening near the construction site — the green zone that allows <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-38247455/pollution-devastating-industrial-russian-city">one of Russia’s most polluted cities</a> to breathe. Thus, in 2017, nearly 4,000 residents filed a suit with the Chelyabinsk regional government to revoke the act permitting the zoning change that transferred these forests into a different category (which allows the company to cut down the trees near the site). But on 1 August, the Chelyabinsk regional court decided against the residents, and the forest will continue to fall.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps the struggle against the Russian Copper Company is doomed to fail because it’s so hard to identify its real owners — a situation <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/konstantin-rubakhin/ecology-of-sanctions">familiar to many environmental activists</a>. RMK’s shareholders are offshore firms registered in Cyprus, and the company is directed by Igor Altushkin (Russia’s 47th richest businessman, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/profile/igor-altushkin/">according to Forbes</a>). Indeed, many residents of the South Urals call RMK the “Cyprus Copper Company”. Despite the fact that the levels of copper at Tomino, the proposed site for the mining and enrichment plant, are very low, RMK pursues its commercial interests fiercely. It seems in the long term the company intends to expand into mining silver and other precious metals. RMK is clearly attracted by the developed industrial infrastructure, which has long been in place in the region.</p><p dir="ltr">Supported by local authorities, RMK is acting against public opinion and refusing to enter into dialogue with ecological organisations. As part of our coverage of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/russia-s-eco-activists-not-out-of-woods-yet">Russia’s Year of Ecology</a>, we talked to Andrei Talevlin, chairperson of<a href="http://za-prirodu.ru/"> For Nature</a>, an environmental organisation based in Chelyabinsk — to find out more about the ecological threat posed by the Tomino mining complex, and why there’s grounds to doubt the legality of the project.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Andrei, how did it happen that the plant is going to be built so close to the city limits? How will this proximity affect Chelyabinsk?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The Tomino copper ore repository was opened back in 1957. And seeing as the environmental situation in Chelyabinsk was already poor, it was decided to assign Tomino reserve status — that is, until the Russian Copper Company started developing it.</p><p dir="ltr">In terms of the impacts, first, the construction will entail felling forests at Tomino. In 2013, the chairman of the Chelyabinsk regional government Sergei Komyakov contacted Rosleskhoz [the federal executive body responsible for oversight of forestry issues] with a request to remove the protected status of the forests near the Tomino site. The federal agency approved this request, without any consultations with the local authorities. And now 15 square kilometres of Chelyabinsk’s suburban forest are to be cut down.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/gok1.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="437" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>November 2016: scenes from a rally against the copper enrichment plant, Chelyabinsk. Image: Andrei Talevlin. </span></span></span>Second, the territory planned for the plant’s construction is currently the only complete green zone near Chelyabinsk. The enrichment plant will work through 28m tonnes of ore a year, and will operate for 50 years. This is the biggest project of its type in Russia today, and the only one next to a city with a population over a million.</p><p dir="ltr">What threat does this pose for city residents? Well, imagine this: everyday, thousands of tonnes of dust will be pushed up into the air from quarry explosions, the enrichment plant and adjoining facilities. This dust will spread over many kilometres via air currents. And there’ll be nowhere for polluting materials to settle — the nearby forests will have been cut down. Western winds predominate in this climatic zone, and so this dust will naturally gravitate towards Chelyabinsk.</p><p>The plant’s waste will also, of course, present a danger to the environment — we’re talking about various acids, arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and several dozens of other harmful substances.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Does the project contain any provisions for preventing ecological risks?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">More like the other way round. It’s clear from the project at hand that the risks will be huge — and there are, as yet, no plans to deal with them systematically.</p><p dir="ltr">Right now, RMK plans to build two huge quarries, an enrichment plant, a hydrometallurgical factory and a huge tailing pond. A tailing pond is a big lake filled with liquid waste products, chemical products left over after enrichment. When a similar tailing pond burst open at Ajka, in Hungary, in 2010,<a href="http://e360.yale.edu/features/hungarys_red_sludge_spill_the_media_and_the_eco-disaster"> it led to an ecological catastrophe</a>, with toxic waste poisoning a significant area — the harm still hasn’t been fully accounted for.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/9552632d81e4cc2b2794ec884959af3d.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>June 2017: public hearings at Voznesenka village, Chelyabinsk. Source: <a href=https://vk.com/stop_gok>Stop GOK</a>.</span></span></span>The way the Tomino tailing pond has been designed so far presents a real threat. In terms of size, it’ll be three times the size of the only water source for the 1.5m people who live in this district, the Shershi reservoir. Given the quarries will be next to this reservoir, leaks from various sides of production are likely to find their way into the main water artery for Chelyabinsk.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the dams planned for it is to be nearly 100m high. Representatives of RMK claim that they’ll review the project — but there’s no new project as such yet, and the old version has been approved by all the necessary ministries.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do residents of Chelyabinsk and the region think about this new plant?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In my opinion, the majority are categorically against it. This is obvious if you look at the opinion surveys.</p><p dir="ltr">Even the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) was <a href="https://wciom.ru/index.php?id=236&amp;uid=115579">forced to recognise</a> in 2016 that the majority of people surveyed in the region do not support the Tomino project (and that’s with the loyal position of that particular centre in mind). Another survey, carried out on the initiative of the local authorities of Poletaevo village district is even more revealing. The residents of Poletaevo and other nearby villages were asked about their attitudes to the copper enrichment plant. The majority responded negatively. A similar survey was carried out in the village of Voznesenka, which will also be influenced by the plant. The response was also negative. It’s worth noting that these were official polls, as dictated under municipal legislation, and the results were confirmed by the local authorities.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"The villagers, country-house owners and even the city people feel intuitively that the result of this development will be catastrophic"</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the public hearings on this issue have been constantly moved around. The first hearings were held in Tomino in June 2012. Out of the villagers present, no one understood a thing — even their official representatives. Back then, no one suspected that the project would reach the scale that it has, or that the consequences would be as damaging. The initial hearings were quiet. As soon as it became clear what RMK were up to, the local population’s attitude turned, obviously, negative. Since then, the investors have done everything to suppress any dissent at its core.</p><p dir="ltr">For instance, big public hearings on the plant’s plan were planned in 2015 for the middle of the working day and a location that is impossible to reach via public transport. The documents destined for public consumption were practically impossible to access — they were kept in the Tomino village administration building, and were not uploaded to the internet. So basically, the only way you could get them was to go during the day, during the week — and you were banned from taking copies. Moreover, you need to understand that it’s the institutions of local self-governance that organise these hearings officially. And legally they have no link to the client behind them, RMK. Yet in the case of the Tomino plant, the authorities have clearly taken the side of the offshore company.</p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/aFYD7X_637g" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><em>Group "UltraSi" perform a protest song against the Tomino Mining Complex. Source: "UltraSi" / Youtube.</em><p dir="ltr">There have been other manipulations of public opinion. All the petitions by independent civic organisations to be included on the public hearing organising commission have been refused straight off. And meanwhile, otherwise unknown representatives of civil society arrive at the hearings, together with security guards from RMK, in a very organised manner. These representatives of pseudo-public opinion, as a rule, are following exclusively their own personal — and often profitable — interests. And these “representatives” never get into the problems facing Chelyabinsk. State institutions actively support and use these figures and their organisations. In essence, this is the expansion of ignorance, rudeness and lack of principles into the healthy forces of society.</p><p dir="ltr">But even these artificial barriers failed to guarantee legitimacy for the approval of the project via public hearings in 2015. People managed to get to the hearings location (after taking four different buses) and made their opinion heard forcefully. This is understandable: not everyone is ready to hand over thousands of hectares for barbaric destruction.</p><p dir="ltr">The villagers, country-house owners and even the city people feel intuitively that the result of this development will be catastrophic. And no fancy films (shown to them during the hearings), nor overtures from RMK representatives to the effect that everything will be fine – have convinced them. The threat to the Shershnev reservoir, ground pollution for many kilometres, additional air pollution was clearly there in the hall next to the flowers and birch trees that were shown on the screen. The majority of those present said no to the plant. Even with people specially bussed in, when the question was posed to the audience, the majority of people were against the Tomino plant.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How has RMK managed to get this project confirmed?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It seems that the client behind RMK’s project, and Russian state institutions, are obliged to stop the project. This is demanded from Article 2 of the Russian Constitution: the duty of the state to defend the rights and freedoms of its citizens. But instead, the authorities and RMK have come up with another move: an ecological audit. According to legislative norms, an ecological audit — an independent evaluation of how ecological demands will be observed — can only be carried out at an already operating production site. And in our case, it’s been decided to evaluate the project, which isn’t guaranteed by law. It seems they just liked the name.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1188f6d2d465d29519ee4c9b6efd09d0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>1 August: citizens gather at Chelyabinsk regional court after a record number of citizens filed a case against the Tomino forest re-zoning decision. Source: <a href=http://activatica.org/blogs/view/id/3758/title/chelyabinskiy-sud-otklonil-rekordnyy-isk-po-tominskomu-goku>Igor Yadroshnikov / Activatica</a>.</span></span></span>It was the governor of Chelyabinsk region, Boris Dubrovsky, who initiated the audit. The Mining Institute of Ekaterinburg won the tender — and the institute, by a strange turn of circumstance, enjoys, among others, the sponsorship of RMK. The auditors have given their overall approval to the project, and recommended that the client ditch the hydrometallurgical plant, as well as proposing to situate part of the waste cycle in another quarry. These recommendations have so far remained on paper, and haven’t been included in the project yet.</p><p dir="ltr">RMK, which doesn’t yet have building permission, is planning to fell more trees very shortly. The Chelyabinsk regional prosecutor’s office has already told local residents that “everything is lawful”. And on 11 July, the director of RMK Igor Altushkin, together with the regional governor and Russia’s minister of industry and trade Denis Manturov, announced the launch of the project at Innoprom-2017, an international industrial expo.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How is your organisation fighting against this project?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In December 2013, For Nature conducted the first open public hearings. We just used the norm written into national legislation. And we had representatives not just from Chelyabinsk region, but Kurgan, Sverdlovsk regions too. RMK, it should be said, ignored these hearings.</p><p dir="ltr">After these hearings, there emerged a civic movement called “Stop GOK” — and their representatives started promoting information for the active part of the local community. There was a big response. People came out to rallies, organised pickets, asked for help from the local authorities — but so far, it’s been unsuccessful.</p><p dir="ltr">Back then, 108,000 people signed a petition against the plant addressed to the President. And we received a response from the presidential administration that the project had passed all the stages and there were no violations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Once again, as has happened in the past, the law is becoming a weapon of Russia’s ruling class, and the state is transforming into a tool to destroy nature"</p><p dir="ltr">For Nature tried to conduct a public ecological inquiry of the entire project. We legally registered an expert commission, and informed the local administration as necessary. However, RMK did not present the design to independent experts. Civic activists appealed to the regional arbitration court, and won the case. So, there is a court decision that enforces RMK to present documentation to For Nature, but a year on, this decision still hasn’t been enforced. Moreover, at the end of 2016, our organisation was liquidated by decision of the regional court, after a case was put by the local ministry of justice. Two violations were found, and we were liquidated instantly without any demands or communication.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, activists from Stop GOK are conducting court cases against the legal decisions made by the authorities and the oligarchs (which, in Russia today, are unfortunately the same thing). There are cases from citizens and civic organisations sitting in the Chelyabinsk regional court and Supreme Court. But in the current conditions, there’s not much point relying on the courts to defend the rights and interests of citizens.</p><p dir="ltr">The example of how ecological rights are violated in Russia shows us how society is gradually moving away from the principle of the rule of law. Once again, as has happened in the past, the law is becoming a weapon of Russia’s ruling class, and the state is transforming into a tool to destroy nature.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/our-city-our-space-ekaterinburg-residents-come-out-against-plans-to-construct-new-church">Our city, our space: Ekaterinburg residents come out against plans to construct a new church</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/odr-editors/fighting-back">Fighting back, in the back of beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-anokhina/makhachkala-citizen-city">Makhachkala: citizen city </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-shkurenkok/st-petersburg-protests-solidarity">St Petersburg: in search of solidarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-arutunyan/who-ll-make-russia-great-again">Who will make Russia “great again”? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Andrei Talevlin Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia Cities in motion Russia Mon, 07 Aug 2017 05:21:47 +0000 Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia and Andrei Talevlin 112703 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Four years in prison for utopia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elizaveta-pestova/alexander-sokolov-four-years-for-utopia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Russia’s fight against "extremism" is a convenient pretext for restricting freedom of expression — and journalist Alexander Sokolov is paying the human cost. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elizaveta-pestova/alexander-sokolov-utopia">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/20160824_sokolov2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian journalist and economist Alexander Sokolov is facing prison time for his activist and journalist investigations. Source: <a href=rotfront.su>Rot Front</a>. </span></span></span>Since November 2016, the corridors of Moscow’s Tverskoy district court have been filled with elderly citizens, loudly discussing conspiracy theories, the fate of the Soviet Union and the significance of Stalin. Waiting outside the courtroom, they exchange comments with officers of the court before finally being allowed inside, when they promptly occupy all the seats. Two tall women, dressed in their prosecutor blues, follow them into the court, where three men — Kirill Barabash, Valery Parfyonov and Alexander Sokolov — are standing trial. Yuri Mukhin sits next to them, and this is the case against “Army of the People’s Will”.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Mukhin is a prominent political writer, who <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/knocking-back-russia%E2%80%99s-nationalists">began his career back in the early 1990s</a>. In 1995, he began publishing the<em> Duel</em> newspaper, which, in its various iterations, took Stalinist and anti-Zionist approaches to Russia’s political and social problems. Later, Mukhin’s most active followers joined his organisation “Army of the People’s Will” (AVN), which sought to, among other tasks, enforce the direct responsibility of Russia’s politicians to the people: AVN tried to conduct a referendum on changes to Russia’s Constitution permitting public officials and parliamentarians to be punished, should the people wish it. It’s completely legal to want a referendum, but in 2010 AVN was declared an extremist organisation and banned. In effect, this court decision meant that any further activity by AVN was subject to criminal prosecution.</p><p dir="ltr">At one point, though, an initiative group on conducting a referendum (under the name “For responsible authorities”, or ZOV) was set up in parallel with AVN — this group had the same basic idea and the same people behind it. If you compare the leaflets they published, the symbols they used and their demands, these two organisations were similar to the point where you couldn’t tell them apart.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1ea660832a0a997abca7394787e0056a.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="216" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yuri Mukhin, speaking in 2009. Source: Denis Lobko / Wikipedia. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">You can interpret Mukhin’s clear intention to continue the activities of AVN under a new guise in various ways. </p><p dir="ltr">The officers of the Moscow Centre for Combating Extremism and police investigators interpreted it clearly, however — and in line with Article 282.2 of Russia’s Criminal Code (“Continuing the activities of an extremist organisation, banned by a court decision”). </p><p dir="ltr">In summer 2015, the Russian security services searched apartments belonging to members of the organisation, and detained Mukhin, who was sat in his trunks on a Crimean beach at the time. (Mukhin, who admires the USSR, supported the annexation of Crimea in 2014.) Two of Mukhin’s followers, Valery Parfyonov and former military officer Kirill Barabash, also wound up in custody.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">What’s important here is the fact that a journalist is being prosecuted for his activist past</p><p dir="ltr">Enter Alexander Sokolov, a journalist for leading Russian politics and business news agency RBC — and a strange addition to this cast. Just before his arrest, Sokolov, who covered Russia’s state corporations, published a <a href="http://www.rbc.ru/investigation/society/06/07/2015/55958a469a794774f0921542">lengthy investigation into corruption</a> at the Vostochny cosmodrome, a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/unpaid-wages-halt-progress-at-russia%E2%80%99s-flagship-space-project">flagship project for the Kremlin</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">It soon became clear that Sokolov does have some past involvement with Mukhin and his organisation — though, truth be told, it’s not clear how closely he really knows them. The criminal case assigns Sokolov the role of administrator for the initiative group’s website, which apparently promoted extremist materials online. Indeed, the final prosecution documents devote only a single sentence to Sokolov.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/amur trip putin kremlin ru_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vostochnyi Cosmodrome, visited here by Vladimir Putin in September 2014, has been plagued by <a href=https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/unpaid-wages-halt-progress-at-russia’s-flagship-space-project>wage arrears</a> and allegations of embezzlement at the subcontractor level. Source: Kremlin.ru. </span></span></span>During the investigation and trial, the RBC journalist has insisted that he left his activist days behind him in 2013, when he <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=el57MTaPAwQ">defended his PhD</a> and began working as a journalist. Sokolov’s dissertation focused on the inefficient use of funds during projects carried out by some of Russia’s major state corporations — Rosnano, Olimpstroi, Rosatom and Rostec. The management of Rostec, a powerful state corporation that is closely allied to the Kremlin, studied Sokolov’s work — and, according to the journalist, they were not pleased with its contents. Sokolov insists that he was arrested because of his journalistic and research work.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, the investigators knew that Sokolov’s views and acquaintances have changed. He himself could have tried to put some distance between himself and the strange Stalinists he’s being tried with, but he didn’t surrender his former comrades — even when they called themselves “citizens of the USSR” and spoke about the emergence of a fascist regime in Russia. The trial, which is due for sentencing on 10 August, has been long and difficult: hours were spent discussing absurd petitions raised by the defendants; dozens of requests for the judge and prosecutors to recuse themselves; a vocal support group that, on occasion, came to (minor) blows with officers of the court; the judge’s voice often rising to a shout.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Russia’s fight against “extremism” is being conducted so successfully that anyone, even someone who believes in utopia, can wind up in court</p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, Alexander Sokolov faces up to eight years in prison on extremism charges, and now the trial is at an end he’s been mostly forgotten — though not by his colleagues. At the end of 2015, RBC journalist Mikhail Rubin <a href="http://www.rbc.ru/politics/17/12/2015/56729c0c9a794709f623882a">asked Vladimir Putin about the fate of Sokolov</a>. The editorial team were concerned about the effect on freedom of expression. The president promised to look into, though no change in the prosecution has been registered. A year later, Putin was asked <a href="http://tass.ru/politika/3901608">once again about Sokolov</a>. He responded: “Most likely my administration has looked into it, and if the case has made it to court, then that means everything isn’t quite so simple. But I’ll look into it again.”</p><p dir="ltr">Prior to the pleadings, when the prosecutor’s office asked for Sokolov to be sentenced to four years in general regime prison, Russia’s independent Union of Journalists <a href="http://www.colta.ru/articles/society/15404">published an open letter</a>, in which 282 signatories (after the number of the article of Russia’s Criminal Code) called the case against the journalist “uncivilised”, and requested it to be closed. The Memorial Human Rights Center has <a href="http://old.memo.ru/d/248767.html">declared</a>&nbsp;Mukhin, Parfyonov and Sokolov political prisoners.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">To assert that the charges against Alexander Sokolov are connected with his journalism would be an exaggeration. What’s more important here is the fact that a journalist is being prosecuted for his activist past. Nevertheless, Russian law enforcement has long worked to restrict freedom of expression in society — the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-yudina/got-tagged-get-fined-russia-s-battle-against-digital-extremism">numbers of criminal cases for reposts on social media</a> and offhand comments on blogs speaks to this. </p><p dir="ltr">Russia’s fight against “extremism” — which is, on the whole, the fight against freedom of expression — is being conducted so successfully that anyone, even someone who believes in utopia, can wind up in court. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Update: on 10 August, Alexander Sokolov was <a href="https://themoscowtimes.com/news/russian-journalist-sokolov-jailed-for-extremism-after-calling-for-referendum-58629">sentenced to four years in prison colony </a>on extremism charges, alongside Kirill Barabash (four years), Valery Parfyonov (four years) and Yuri Mukhin (four years conditional sentence). The European Court of Human Rights has stated it will examine the case against Alexander Sokolov.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/knocking-back-russia%E2%80%99s-nationalists">Knocking back Russia’s nationalists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nataliya-rostova/regulating-moscow-hack-pack">Regulating the Moscow hack pack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-yudina/got-tagged-get-fined-russia-s-battle-against-digital-extremism">Got tagged? Get fined! Russia’s battle against “digital extremism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/writing-poetry-in-russia-is-dangerous-profession">Writing poetry in Russia is a dangerous profession</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/pavel-chikov/russia-s-managed-thaw">Russia’s “managed thaw”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nataliya-rostova/could-trade-union-do-anything-to-protect-russian-journalists">Could a union do anything to protect Russian journalists?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Elizaveta Pestova Russia Beyond propaganda Sat, 05 Aug 2017 16:33:47 +0000 Elizaveta Pestova 112686 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Eastern Ukraine: “We need new ways of organising” https://www.opendemocracy.net/gabriel-levy/eastern-ukraine-we-need-new-ways-of-organising <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Amid military conflict and industrial collapse in eastern Ukraine, activists are feeling their way towards new models of worker organisation.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/d0bbd0b8d181d183d0b3d0bed0bbd18c_d0bfd0b5d180d0b5d0b3d0bed0b2d0bed180d18b-700x400.jpg" alt="" title="" width="450" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lysychanskugol miners waiting outside Ukraine's energy ministry during negotiations last month.</span></span></span>In eastern Ukraine, factories, steelworks and mines, whether in government-controlled or separatist-controlled territory, have shut down, gone on short time, or laid workers off on reduced pay. Military violence has hastened the shift from steady employment to precarity. Workplace-based trade unions have struggled to cope.</p><p dir="ltr">The Eastern Human Rights Group (EHRG) — a lawyers collective that gives support to individuals, workplace collectives and community groups — is working with other activists to set up territorially-based workers’ organisations that will embrace employed, unemployed and precariously employed people in the region.</p><p dir="ltr">Some of the largest factories just stopped paying wages, and thousands of workers are owed six months’ back pay or more, Pavel Lisyansky of the EHRG said in an interview. “In these circumstances, people of course start looking for another job. Then the management doesn’t pay them the back pay that they are owed. Why settle up with them, if they are leaving?</p><p dir="ltr">“Nobody is interested in defending such workers’ rights,” he added. Trade unions, traditionally industry- and workplace-based, and close to management, are indifferent to such workers’ problems. “And it makes no sense for that worker to hire a lawyer independently; the cost might well be as great as the back pay he is owed.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This could be the beginning of the end for Ukraine’s old post-Soviet trade unions — not only the old “official” unions, which originated in quasi-state Soviet structures, but also the post-Soviet “independent” unions set up to compete with them</p><p dir="ltr">Lisyansky reckons this could be the beginning of the end for Ukraine’s old post-Soviet trade unions — not only the old “official” unions, which originated in quasi-state Soviet structures, but also the post-Soviet “independent” unions set up to compete with them. Indeed, membership is falling: a worker who has been ignored at his time of need in his old workplace is unlikely to sign up in his new one.</p><p dir="ltr">In response, the EHRG is working to establish territorially-based organisations, provisionally called “working people’s unions”, that will bring together all workers — at any workplace or none — in a particular locality. This will be “a sort of alternative to trade unions […] to address the need for additional instruments for defending people’s rights in Ukrainian society.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/20265077_1380620368691925_6090567293603744759_n.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="355" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pavel Lisyansky of the EHRG, which is funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the German Consulate in the Donetsk region. Source: Facebook. </span></span></span>“The principle of solidarity is being lost,” Lisyansky continued. “If there are two workplaces, near to each other, that both build up debts to their workers, both groups of workers will stand a better chance of success if they join together.”</p><p dir="ltr">The EHRG has pursued claims for back pay by workers who were <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vitalii-atanasov/faded-glory-ukraines-miners">effectively abandoned by their unions</a> at some of the largest workplaces, including the Severodonetsk Azot chemical plant, whose 5,000 workers are owed six months’ wages; Lysychanskugol coal company, with 5,000 employees at four pits; Toretskugol coal company, with 2,500 employees at four pits; and the Donetsk railway network. Workers have protested with strikes — and, at Lysychanskugol, with an underground sit-in and lobby of the energy ministry — and cases have been taken up by the EHRG and some union officials.</p><p dir="ltr">Until the military conflict erupted in 2014, the Donetsk and Lugansk regions were Ukraine’s industrial heartland, accounting for about one-tenth of overall economic output, and a larger proportion of iron, steel, metallurgical products and chemicals production.</p><p dir="ltr">Now Russian-backed “People’s Republics” have been formed in both regions, and the front line cuts straight through what used to be a highly integrated industrial complex. Supply chains have broken down, even between factories owned by the same companies. A trade blockade, initiated earlier this year by Ukrainian nationalist politicians and then taken up by Kyiv, has made things worse, leaving power stations short of coal.</p><h2>Wartime militancy: the practicalities</h2><p dir="ltr">The immediate impulse for the EHRG’s formation — on 27 July 2014 by a group of lawyers, themselves internally displaced persons, at Debaltsevo — was “the large number of breaches of human rights in the area of military operations”, Lisyansky told me. He had himself had spent the previous decade in independent trade union organisations.</p><p dir="ltr">The EHRG set up four offices to provide civil liberties advice and support, but those at Debaltsevo and Uglegorsk were destroyed after Russian-backed separatists took control of those areas. Since January 2015, the group has been based at Lysychansk, in the part of Luhansk controlled by the Ukrainian government. There are smaller offices at Toretsk and Svitlodarsk.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The military activity is quieter, but hasn’t ended by any means. People live in a state of permanent stress. Shots and explosions can be heard at all times, the whole region is militarised”</p><p dir="ltr">On top of the campaigns over back pay, Lisyansky believes the EHRG can count as one of its successes the release from prison in the Lugansk People’s Republic of Aleksandr Yefreshin, who had fallen into a legal no-man’s land. In 2013, Yefreshin was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years for his part in the theft and burning of a minibus — a drunken prank. He began to work in prison, under a scheme that allows sentences to be cut by two-thirds for those who do so. But with the outbreak of war in 2014 <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37512356">he found himself in a separatist prison</a> where Ukrainian law did not apply, and detainees were effectively used as slave labour. The EHRG, after publishing a <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7oLXom125V-am1ZZ3pvU2hkRDg/view">report on the slave labour scandal</a> in October 2016, was instrumental in securing Yefreshin’s release in March this year.</p><p dir="ltr">“Not a day goes by without people asking for help [from the EHRG’s lawyers]”, Lisyansky said. “Just recently we restored pension payments for a girl who lost her father, a miner, but [the pension fund] didn’t want to pay her a pension, although the law requires that they do so. There are many, many similar cases.”</p><h2>On the Ukrainian side</h2><p>In response to my question about how ordinary people in the frontline areas are faring now, Lisyansky said:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“The military activity is quieter, but hasn’t ended by any means. People live in a state of permanent stress. Shots and explosions can be heard at all times, the whole region is militarised, there are soldiers, weapons, checkpoints everywhere. So people are desperate, they hardly even think about day-to-day problems, they just want the war to end. [The factories are open, but people don’t get paid, the back pay debts keep growing, but] people don’t go out and protest, because the law enforcement agencies immediately accuse them of trying to destabilise the situation in the region.”</p><p dir="ltr">I asked Lisyansky about the<a href="https://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/ukraine-trade-unionists-and-communities-oppose-donbass-rail-blockade/"> opposition by community activists to the railroad blockade</a> inspired by right-wing nationalists earlier this year. There was very little support for the communities, he replied:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“It was only us, and a group of trade unions and community organisations in the localities who spoke out against the armed right-wing radicals. We said no [to the blockade] emphatically, and called for people to sit and negotiate [to allow trade links to continue]. A storm of criticism and threats was unleashed against us. I was accused a puppet of bandits who were against the ‘Ukrainian patriots’ [who started the blockade]; some of my co-thinkers were simply threatened. But the state supported the blockade nonetheless, and that put industry in eastern Ukraine on its knees. In the territory not under Ukrainian government control, many of the factories laid off workers and stopped paying wages. The separatists implemented ‘nationalisation’ of factories belonging to the Ukrainian state, and those are now in a mess.”</p><p dir="ltr">The EHRG has participated in a widespread protest against pension reforms being undertaken by the Ukrainian government<a href="https://uawire.org/news/imf-and-world-bank-approve-pension-reform-plan-in-ukraine"> at the behest of the IMF</a>. The<a href="http://www.intellinews.com/ukrainian-pensioners-sing-the-blues-120763/"> reform</a> will strengthen the link between the level of contributions and what people receive, and effectively raise the statutory retirement age, by increasing the term over which a person must contribute from 15 to 25 years. Lisyansky said: “Yes, I spoke out and will keep speaking out against this reform, which I think breaches people’s rights.” Both “official” and independent unions had protested, but this had had “little effect” on the political process, he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Like other worker activists, Lisyansky is also concerned about the labour law reform now under discussion in parliament. “This will give employers one more instrument to use against workforces. It is another means of driving working people into a corner. I think it may cause a general protest movement across the whole country.”</p><h2>In the separatist-controlled areas</h2><p dir="ltr">I asked Lisyansky, who maintains contact with worker militants in the separatist-controlled areas, about reports that living conditions there are very bad. He commented:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“Yes, they live in very bad circumstances. There is no law, no rights, people are defenceless. A person can be arrested for some contrived reason, for having a different political position, for insisting on his rights, because he competes somehow with someone [in power]. In the prisons [in the separatist-controlled areas] there is real slavery. Completely arbitrary rule. … It makes me sick that this is happening in the place that I come from. I cannot return there. I am on hit lists, and if I went to the so-called ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ [LPR] I might just be shot. I very much want to visit the grave of my father, who was a workers’ leader – but I haven’t done so for three years. I worry a great deal about this.”</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">There are no trade unions [in the separatist controlled areas]. There are just some structures designed to win international influence, to legalise those republics. Did you hear of any trade union protests in the LPR? I know of very small-scale protests that were put down by the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ [DPR]’s armed forces. […] The level of pay is going down, up to 60% of the workforce has been laid off in the factories. They are either closing all together, or temporarily. New trade unions have been formed at these enterprises to control workers. It’s painful to answer these questions.”</p><h2>Looking forward</h2><p dir="ltr">The EHRG, like many civil society organisations in Ukraine, relies on funding from western Europe. Lisyansky said:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“We are carrying out several projects on human rights that are supported by the German consulate in Donetsk region and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin. Support from these international donors is very important for us. In the first case, with the consulate, we run an integrated human rights project that includes monitoring breaches of human rights, offering legal advice, and the running of events highlighting human rights and organising to defend rights. In the second case [with the Rosa Luxemburg foundation] the project is directed at legal education for workers, trade union activists and leaders, and legal officers in trade unions in eastern Ukraine. […] We hope that by raising the level of legal understanding among ordinary people in this way, that we can resist the attacks on labour rights and social-economic rights.”</p><p dir="ltr">EHRG’s strategy is to develop legal advice and representation, to develop human rights defence organisations; to continue to monitor breaches of human rights in the areas where military conflict continues; to support the rights of internally displaced persons; and to develop conflict resolution in communities.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s clear that the EHRG, and other activists struggling with the consequences of the military conflict, need solidarity and support — over the long term — from other workers’ organisations in Europe. Lisyansky has made some links with German trade unionists and asked me, through this interview, to offer his hand of greeting to workers’ organisations elsewhere.</p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine is not so far away. If international solidarity means anything, it means building relationships with organisations such as this.</p><p><strong><em>How has the war in the Donbas changed Ukrainian society? Check out Kateryna Iakovlenko's <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">essay on the "disconnected society"</a>.&nbsp;</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is a partner post with <a href="https://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/">People&amp;Nature</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/donbas-we-re-used-to-shelling">Donbas: “We’re used to the shelling”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/isobel-koshiw-anastasia-vlasova/growing-up-apolitical-in-ukraine-s-war-zone">Growing up apolitical in Ukraine’s war zone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nikita-pidgora/ukraine-s-displaced-universities">Ukraine’s displaced universities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andreas-umland/kyiv-s-leadership-is-on-its-way-to-reinvent-ukraine-s-patronalistic-regime">Kyiv’s leadership is on its way to reinvent Ukraine’s patronalistic regime</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">Disconnected society: how the war in the Donbas has affected Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vitalii-atanasov/faded-glory-ukraines-miners">Undermined: how the state is selling out Ukraine’s coal workers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Gabriel Levy Ukraine Conflict Sat, 05 Aug 2017 11:49:59 +0000 Gabriel Levy 112655 at https://www.opendemocracy.net This week’s challenges for Russian civil society: deportations, harassment, beatings https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/deportations-harassment-beatings-this-week-s-challenges-for-russian-civil-society <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Attacks on rights activists, harassment of Alexei Navalny's campaign and the slow-motion terror of deportation to Uzbekistan.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ae8214e13644feba3.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Novaya Gazeta journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov <a href=https://en.hromadske.ua/posts/ali-feruz-uzbekistan>faces deportation to Uzbekistan</a>. Source: Ali Feruz's Facebook page.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>We continue our partnership with <a href="ovdinfo.org">OVD-Info</a>,&nbsp;</strong><strong>an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly.&nbsp;</strong></p><p dir="ltr">This past week has been a difficult one for Russian civil society, with assaults on activists, fake news and a number of new criminal prosecutions.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The authorities are seeking to deport Novaya gazeta journalist Ali Feruz to Uzbekistan where his life is in danger. Feruz was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/01/zhurnalista-novoy-gazety-ali-feruza-zaderzhali-ryadom-s-redakciey-v-moskve">detained</a> on the afternoon of 1 August, the same day a court <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/01/basmannyy-rayonnyy-sud-prinyal-reshenie-o-deportacii-zhurnalista-novoy">ruled</a> the journalist should be forcibly deported to Uzbekistan. After the court hearing Feruz attempted to <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/02/zaderzhannyy-zhurnalist-novoy-gazety-ali-feruz-popytalsya-pokonchit-s-soboy">commit suicide</a>. The journalist said he would rather die than return to Uzbekistan. Court bailiffs prevented him from cutting his veins; they also later <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/08/03/zhurnalista-novoy-gazety-ali-feruza-izbili-sudebnye-pristavy">beat</a> him as he was being transferred to the Temporary Detention Centre for Foreign Citizens in Sakharovo (Novaya Moskva). In Uzbekistan, Feruz was tortured and the security services had sought to make him an informer, after which he left the country in 2009. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Four people were detained in single-person pickets in support of Ali Feruz on Thursday in Moscow. Those detained were charged with administrative offences under Article 20.2, Section 5, of Russia’s Administrative Law Code and released. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />This week a number of activists were assaulted. In addition, there was an attempted murder. On 24 July, Vladimir Burmistrov, a member of the “Nation and Freedom Committee” and a candidate in Moscow’s forthcoming municipal elections, almost <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/28/na-glavu-moskovskogo-otdeleniya-komiteta-naciya-i-svoboda-soversheno">died</a> when unidentified persons unscrewed the bolts on one of the wheels of his car, as a result of which he was involved in a crash. Previously, Burmistrov had been threatened by officers from the anti-extremism police. <br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">On 27 July in Ufa an unidentified person <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/28/v-ufe-izbili-aktivista-anvera-yumagulova-emu-slomali-rebra-nos-i-chelyust">assaulted</a> civic activist and journalist Anver Yumagulov. In hospital Yumagulov’s injuries were recorded as including broken ribs, nose and jaw. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 14.53.21.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anver Yumagulov, a rights activist from Ufa, after a brutal beating on 27 July. Source: Instagram. </span></span></span>A court extended the pre-trial detention of Dmitry Krepkin by six months. Krepkin has been charged with using force against a National Guard officer at the 26 March protest in Moscow. His prosecution is the fourth to have reached the courts following the break-up by police of the protest on Moscow’s Tverskaya Street. Krepkin has maintained his innocence of the charges. He also says he was assaulted at the time of his arrest. Doctors at the emergency medical centre recorded very extensive bruising resulting from at least six blows. The National Guard officer who allegedly was injured as a result of Krepkin’s actions did not seek medical treatment and did not make an official report about the alleged offence. OVD-Info attended the preliminary hearing in Krepkin’s case and <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/report/2017/07/31/chetvertyy-martovskiy-nachalsya-sud-nad-dmitriem-krepkinym">spoke</a> with his mother about her son and his conditions in the pre-trial detention centre.</p><p dir="ltr">New charges — albeit very different from each other in nature — have been brought against two individuals currently serving terms in prison. Anarchist activist Ilya Romanov has been charged with incitement of terrorism on grounds of a video with Hebrew subtitles in which a woman from Chechnya calls for “combating kaffirs [unbelievers in Islamist terminology].” Romanov, a 50-year-old anarchist from Nizhny Novgorod, is currently serving 10 years in prison on charges of terrorism. Romanov’s “crime” consisted in the fact that in the autumn of 2013 a firework exploded in his hands, causing severe damage to his wrist. OVD-Info has learned the <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/articles/2017/07/28/novoe-delo-ili-romanova-vagina-kafiry-i-planshet">latest details</a> of the new prosecution.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Rinat Galiullin, convicted in the 2013 Hizb ut-Tahrir case in Chelyabinsk, for which he has served five years in prison, is facing a new <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/30/na-figuranta-chelyabinskogo-dela-hizb-ut-tahrir-posle-5-let-v-kolonii-zaveli">prosecution</a>. On the day his prison term ended, Galiullin was not released. People in civilian clothes arrived in a car at the prison colony, some of whom proceeded to film events with a video camera. Subsequently, a police investigator telephoned Galiullin’s wife to say that her husband was now being prosecuted under Article 205.5, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (“participation in the activity of a terrorist organisation”). According to the investigator, while in prison Galiullin had conducted “collective and individual discussions” with prisoners and had sought to involve them in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Galiullin has served a prison sentence for organizing the activity of an extremist organization and preparing activities aimed at the violence seizure of power.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 14.59.31.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>31 July: Alexei Navalny's Krasnodar campaign office is attacked by a "Putin brigade". Source: Twitter.</span></span></span>The <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/story/presledovanie-uchastnikov-predvybornoy-kampanii-navalnogo">persecution</a> of participants in Alexei Navalny’s election campaign continues. Moscow’s Simonovsky district court fined Navalny himself and the head of his election campaign, Leonid Volkov, 300,000 roubles each, while the head of the Moscow campaign headquarters, Nikolai Lyaskin, was fined 250,000 roubles, for urging the public to take part in a “campaigning weekend” on 8 and 9 July. At the end of July, members of the “Putin Brigades” <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/31/otryady-putina-zakolotili-vhod-v-krasnodarskom-shtabe-navalnogo">boarded up</a> the entrance to the Navalny campaign’s headquarters in Krasnodar. </p><p dir="ltr">In various cities Navalny supporters have been refused permission to organise campaigning in the streets. For example, in <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/31/v-mariy-el-i-krasnoyarske-vlasti-ne-soglasovyvayut-agitacionnye-kuby">Krasnoyarsk</a> campaigning was banned on the grounds of events celebrating the baptism of Rus, the cleaning of municipal fountains, the “July Heat” marathon, and the restoration of a clock tower.</p>Thank you!<p>Thanks to everyone who continues to support us.&nbsp;<strong>Find out how you can help us</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong><a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a>.</strong></p><p><em>For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/grigory-okhotin/crowdfunding-to-bypass-russia-s-civil-society-crackdown">here</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><br class="kix-line-break" /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://ovdinfo.org/"><img src="https://ovdinfo.org/sites/all/themes/ovdinfo/img/logo-ovdinfo.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p><p>OVD-Info is a crowdfunded organisation. Find out how you can help them&nbsp;<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-leonova/just-passing-by-kremlin">Just passing by the Kremlin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/elizaveta-pestova/alexander-sokolov-four-years-for-utopia">Four years in prison for utopia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/bolotnaya-20">Bolotnaya 2.0?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexei-kozlov/what-can-we-learn-from-russia-s-spring-of-protest">What can we learn from Russia’s spring of protest?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia OVD-Info Fri, 04 Aug 2017 13:59:59 +0000 OVD-Info 112705 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Четыре года тюрьмы за утопию https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elizaveta-pestova/alexander-sokolov-utopia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Журналист Александр Соколов может быть осужден за активистскую деятельность, которую он прекратил несколько лет назад. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elizaveta-pestova/alexander-sokolov-four-years-for-utopia">English</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/20160824_sokolov2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Источник: "Рот Фронт".</span></span></span>С ноября прошлого года несколько раз в неделю Тверской районный суд Москвы заполнялся пожилыми людьми, которые громко обсуждали всевозможные теории заговора, судьбу Советского Союза и значение личности Сталина. Они толпились и толкались у небольшого зала заседаний, переговариваясь с приставами. Через долгие минуты стояния их пускали внутрь, где старики занимали все скамейки. Вслед за ними в кабинет входили две высокие девушки в синей прокурорской форме; в клетке у стены зала их ждали трое обвиняемых — Кирилл Барабаш, Валерий Парфенов и Александр Соколов; рядом на скамейке сидел Юрий Мухин.</p><p dir="ltr">Мухин — известный публицист, начавший политическую деятельность еще в начале 90-х. В 1995 году он стал издавать газету "Дуэль", которая в разных своих ипостасях писала о сталинистских и антисионистских подходах к общественным и политическим проблемам. Впоследствии наиболее активные поклонники Мухина вступили в его организацию "Армия воли народа", одной из главных концепций которой была идея о прямой ответственности политиков перед народом: последователи АВН добивались проведения референдума для внесения изменений в Конституцию о наказаниях для чиновников и депутатов по решению народа. Мечтать о референдуме вполне законно, но "Армию воли народа" суд признал экстремистской организацией и запретил. По сути это означает, что любая дальнейшая ее деятельность криминализуется.</p><p dir="ltr">В какой-то момент параллельно с "Армией воли народа" появилась инициативная группа по проведению референдума "За ответственную власть" (ИГПР “ЗОВ”) с той же основной идеей и теми же действующими лицами. Обе организации были похожи до степени смешения, если сравнивать листовки, символику и требования.</p><p dir="ltr">Очевидное желание Мухина продолжить деятельность АВН под видом ИГПР "ЗОВ" можно оценивать по-разному. Оперативники московского Центра по противодействию экстремизму и следователи расценили такие действия однозначно — по статье 282.2 Уголовного кодекса (продолжение деятельности экстремистской организации, запрещенной судом). Летом 2015 года силовики провели задержания и обыски, Мухина задержали в плавках на пляже в Крыму (сам публицист, с трепетом относящийся к СССР, восторженно поддерживал присоединение полуострова к России). Вместе с ним под стражу попали его давние соратники — активист Валерий Парфенов и бывший военный Кирилл Барабаш.</p><p dir="ltr">Странной фигурой среди участников уголовного дела стал журналист Александр Соколов, который работал в РБК, авторитетном издании о политике и бизнесе, и писал заметки о деятельности госкорпораций. Незадолго до ареста у Соколова вышло<a href="http://www.rbc.ru/investigation/society/06/07/2015/55958a469a794774f0921542"> большое расследование</a> о коррупции на одной из самых грандиозных строек последнего времени — космодроме "Восточный".</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Во время следствия и суда корреспондент РБК настаивал, что оставил активистскую деятельность в 2013 году, защитил диссертацию и стал работать журналистом</p><p dir="ltr">Вскоре стало ясно, что Соколов действительно раньше имел отношение к мухинцам и их организации — правда, не до конца понятно, насколько близко он с ними общался. В рамках уголовного дела ему приписывают администрирование сайта ИГПР "ЗОВ", через который якобы распространялись экстремистские материалы. Преступлению журналиста в обвинительном заключении уделили ровно одну строчку. Во время следствия и суда корреспондент РБК настаивал, что оставил активистскую деятельность в 2013 году, защитил диссертацию и стал работать журналистом. В своей диссертации Соколов затрагивал тему неэффективного использования средств при реализации проектов госкорпораций "Роснано", "Олимпстрой", "Росатом" и "Ростех". Руководство "Ростеха" изучало работу — и, по словам Соколова, осталось недовольно ее содержанием. Соколов настаивает, что стал обвиняемым именно из-за своей журналистской и исследовательской работы.</p><p dir="ltr">Конечно, следователи не могли не знать о том, что взгляды и круг общения Соколова изменились. Он и сам мог отмежеваться от странноватых сталинистов, с которыми его судят, но не стал бросать бывших товарищей — даже когда они называли себя "гражданами СССР" и говорили об установившемся "фашистском режиме". Процесс шел долго и сложно: на заседаниях часами обсуждались нелепые ходатайства подсудимых, суд рассматривал десятки отводов судье и прокурорам, шумная группа поддержки то и дело вступала в перепалки с приставами. Зачастую председательствующий судья Алексей Криворучко срывался на крик.</p><p dir="ltr">Хотя Соколову грозит до восьми лет колонии по обвинению в экстремизме, к концу процесса о нем практически все забыли — кроме коллег. Спустя несколько месяцев после ареста, в конце 2015 года, журналист РБК Михаил Рубин <a href="http://www.rbc.ru/politics/17/12/2015/56729c0c9a794709f623882a">спрашивал</a> на ежегодной пресс-конференции Владимира Путина о судьбе Соколова. В редакции считали, что речь может идти о давлении на свободу слова. Президент пообещал разобраться, но никаких изменений в деле или обвинении не произошло. Через год — уже во второй раз — Путина снова <a href="http://tass.ru/politika/3901608">спросили</a> о Соколове. "Наверняка после таких публичных вещей администрация этим занималась, и раз дело дошло до суда, значит, не все так просто. Но я посмотрю еще раз", — заверил он.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Борьба с "экстремизмом" ведется так хорошо, что обвиняемым может стать любой - даже последователь утопической идеи</p><p dir="ltr">Перед прениями, в которых представительницы прокуратуры запросили дня Соколова четыре года колонии общего режима, независимый Профсоюз журналистов <a href="http://www.colta.ru/articles/society/15404">выступил с открытым письмом</a>, в котором назвал дело против корреспондента РБК "диким" и потребовал прекратить преследование; обращение подписали 282 журналиста — по номеру статьи обвинения.</p><p dir="ltr">Утверждать, что обвинения против Соколова связаны с его журналистской деятельностью, будет преувеличением — более важно здесь, что журналиста преследуют за активистское прошлое. Тем не менее российские силовые органы уже давно слаженно работают над тем, чтобы в обществе стало как можно меньше свободы слова — неисчислимы уголовные дела за репосты в социальных сетях и высказывания в блогах. Борьба с "экстремизмом" — под которым, по большому счету, подразумевают свободу слова — ведется так хорошо, что обвиняемым может стать любой - даже последователь утопической идеи. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/teatr-solidarnosti">Несколько персонажей в поисках солидарности</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tatyana-dvornikova/interview-buchenkov">Тень человека в черном. Интервью с обвиняемым по &quot;болотному делу&quot; анархистом Дмитрием Бученковым</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-rostova/censorship-silence">&quot;Цензура во многих СМИ существует по умолчанию&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-rostova/profsoiuz-pomozhet">Российские журналисты: поможет ли новый профсоюз?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-yudina/anti-extremism-v-seti">Антиэкстремизм в виртуальной России</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Елизавета Пестова oDR Русский Fri, 04 Aug 2017 11:06:21 +0000 Елизавета Пестова 112701 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Growing up apolitical in Ukraine’s war zone https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/isobel-koshiw-anastasia-vlasova/growing-up-apolitical-in-ukraine-s-war-zone <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">War, propaganda and misunderstanding — teenagers in Ukraine’s frontline towns are growing up under incredible stress.&nbsp;<em style="color: #434343; font-weight: bold;"><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/isobel-koshiw-anastasia-vlasova/apolitical-growing-up-frontline-ua" target="_blank">Українська</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_3237 copy1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>24 June: students of School No. 2 walk to the central Peace Square for prom celebrations in Shchastya, Luhansk area. (c) Anastasia Vlasova. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On a hot June day, dressed in ball gowns and suits, the eleventh class from Shchastya’s School No. 2 set off towards the centre of town, some 15 minutes drive from Ukraine’s frontlines and the occupied city of Luhansk. Parents, teachers and friends in tow, Shchastya’s teenagers led the procession down the town’s leafy streets, which were lined with hundreds of well-wishers. Those too infirm to descend looked down from their balconies. After over an hour of speeches, the class danced the waltz on the central square to the applause of nearly the entire town.</p><p dir="ltr">Those coming of age in Shchastya were 12 and 13 years old when the war began between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in 2014. It is a painful subject, rarely discussed and never in much detail. These teenagers disdain talking about politics, which they feel has little regard for normal people and fails to understand them.</p><p dir="ltr">In the reception hall of the local technical college, as is tradition in Ukraine, the class partied with their parents and teachers until the sun rose. “We are so proud of our daughter,” said Raysa Veksler, the mother of Diana who was one of the town’s three national gold medalists this year. “This is only the beginning.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">This year’s leavers ceremony was a rare, joyous gathering. Last year, the thud of artillery fire put people off attending</p><p dir="ltr">This year’s leavers ceremony was a rare, joyous gathering. Last year, the thud of artillery fire put people off attending. The frequency of the shelling is random. It can occur once every six months and then several times in one week. The shells mostly land on the outskirts, but artillery aim is poor and anything is possible. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_2165 copy1.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>23 June: students of Shchastya's School No.2 train waltz dancing on Peace Square. (c) Anastasia Vlasova. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In August, 16-year-old Ilya Gudzovatiy (Gudzyk to his friends) was driving his motorcycle through town with a friend when shells started falling in front of them. Gudzyk jumped into a nearby bush and his friend lay on the ground, attempting to shield himself behind the bike. “When I'm walking around,” Gudzyk told me, “I think to myself that if I’m alive, it must be fate.”</p><p dir="ltr">These teenagers don’t express pro-separatist sentiments. But their patriotism towards Ukraine will forever be marred by their experiences of living under the Aidar volunteer battalion, which pushed back separatist forces in June 2014. As 10th grader Ilya Shlykov recalls, there was one time when members of Aidar started shooting into the air because the cashier at the town’s main supermarket refused to sell them alcohol.</p><p dir="ltr">According to a<a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/EUR50/040/2014/en/"> report</a> by Amnesty International, the battalion acted with “virtually no oversight or control,” committing war crimes in Shchastya and other nearby cities. This behaviour continued, according to the town’s residents, until the volunteer fighters were incorporated into the Ukrainian armed forces in spring 2015. Ukraine’s General Prosecutor investigated the battalion on the basis of eyewitness accounts alleging drunkenness, looting of empty apartments and arbitrary detentions, but no court date has been set. Yana Kapusta, a Ukrainian army community support officer in Shchastya, said that relations with the population have improved slightly: “I’d say 40 percent will speak to us now.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_6964 copy1.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>1 June: Girls from School No. 2 sit by the canal as they celebrate the end of school in Shchastya. (c) Anastasia Vlasova. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The events of 2014 unfolded at incredible speed. The majority of Donbas residents were confused and bewildered observers, grasping at various narratives, including Russian propaganda, for explanations. As Ilya’s mother Yulia told me over lunch, when it began and the shelling was intense, they had no idea what was happening. They would sleep on their bedding in the corridor, ringing round to see where had been hit. &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Yet it was towns like Shchastya that were chastised in the Ukrainian media for “welcoming Putin” in 2014. The assumption was that the locals’ failure to prevent the takeover by rebels meant that they were at least supporters of, if not complicit in Russia's intervention. This reputation was in part bestowed by the incoming Aidar battalion, who detained locals they believed were involved in fighting for the other side.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">It was towns like Shchastya that were chastised in the Ukrainian media for “welcoming Putin” in 2014</span></p><p dir="ltr">Now, though, the teachers at Shchastya’s School No. 2 invite the Aidar battalion, which is still stationed in the town, for National Volunteers Day. They do so, say the teenagers, because they feel obliged to demonstrate that they are pro-Ukrainian. These interactions are awkward and forced, Anastasia Sarancha says, as she describes last December’s celebrations: “They came with dogs and guns. They just stood in the hall making us answer their calls of ‘Glory to Ukraine’,” Anastasia told me. The standard response to this greeting, which originates from the civil war era, is “Glory to the nation!”</p><p dir="ltr">The town’s sportiest teenagers take part in the after-school military-style game “Dzhura”, where they do drills, march with the Ukrainian flag and sing patriotic songs. The game, which borrows the word for 16th century students of Cossack elders, has become increasingly popular in Ukrainian schools since the war began. This can in part be attributed to a presidential decree and several recommendations by Ukraine's Education Ministry from 2015, which encouraged schools to introduce the extra-curricular game in order to “improve national patriotic education”. The kids in Shchastya say they participate because it’s something to do in a town with limited mobile signal and internet connection, rather than because it reflects any strong patriotic feelings.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_5251 copy1.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>lya Gudzovatiy marches with his school mates as they get ready to participate in the military patriotic game, Dzhura. (c) Anastasia Vlasova. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Though they avoid talking about the war, some of the teenagers we spoke to admitted to taking sedatives to sleep. The teenage stresses of making decisions about their futures is compounded by the ongoing war and the idea of leaving their families. They complained about journalists who asked them what they thought about Ukraine or the other side or who asked to tell them stories about their traumatic experiences. It made them uncomfortable, they said.</p><p dir="ltr">Most teenagers here plan to study in Ukraine, but a few may go to Russia whose capital is equidistance away. Alim Alimov wants to study photography in Kyiv, but his mother is not keen on liberal arts. She wants him to study economics in Moscow, where he, like many others in the Luhansk region, has relatives. “She said that there’s no way in hell I'll learn Ukrainian. She knows my weak spot,” he said jokingly, referring to language requirements for Ukrainian universities. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">In some ways, for young people, life in the Luhansk People’s Republic mirrors the experience of those the other side of the contact line</p><p dir="ltr">Ilya’s cousin Katya who lives in Luhansk, is staying in Shchastya for the summer. Katya and her mother moved there after the war began to be with her mother’s partner. Her description of what they learn in school under the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic is surprising. As one would expect from the LNR propaganda videos, she says that they sing the LNR national anthem and spent a year studying the history of the Luhansk region. They spent also another term studying the history of the Fatherland, i.e. Russia. But they have three hours of Ukrainian language lessons a week and were given now redundant textbooks about the history of Ukraine to take home. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/VLS_6355 copy1.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>31 June: Alina Tarasenko, Diana Fomenko, and Adele Krasovskaya get dressed to their performance at Children's Day celebration in Shchastya. (c) Anastasia Vlasova. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>In some ways, for young people, life in the Luhansk People’s Republic mirrors the experience of those the other side of the contact line. Katya, who says her main wish is to be able to travel freely, says her and her friends tend to hang out on the south side of Luhansk city, away from the frontline. Ilya and his friends stick to the north side of Shchastya. Both cousins have curfews of 10pm, and it takes several hours, written parental permission and crossing dozens of checkpoints to go anywhere.</p><p>When asked if the LNR militants (Ukraine’s term for the Russian-backed separatists) patrol at night, Katya replied: “Militants? You mean soldiers. Yes, most of the time.”</p><p dir="ltr">This year has seen the first nationwide debate over the future of the separatist-controlled territories. President Petro Poroshenko and head of the National Security Council Oleksandr Turchynov argue that Ukraine should aim for the reintegration of the territories and that declaring them as occupied, as others have suggested, will push the them further into “Russia's hands”. Given how the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/donbas-we-re-used-to-shelling">experiences of those living in the war zone</a>, even on the Ukrainian-controlled side, differs from the popular understanding of the war in the rest of Ukraine, reintegration will be a difficult task.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/donbas-we-re-used-to-shelling">Donbas: “We’re used to the shelling”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nikita-pidgora/ukraine-s-displaced-universities">Ukraine’s displaced universities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/how-eastern-ukraine-was-lost">How ‘eastern Ukraine’ was lost</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">Disconnected society: how the war in the Donbas has affected Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/liberal-democracy-hard-choice-for-ukraine">Liberal democracy: a hard choice for Ukraine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Anastasia Vlasova Isobel Koshiw Ukraine Conflict Mon, 31 Jul 2017 05:52:25 +0000 Isobel Koshiw and Anastasia Vlasova 112596 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Donbas: “We’re used to the shelling” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/donbas-we-re-used-to-shelling <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The situation in Ukraine's Donbas is tense as ever. While politicians play at diplomacy, civilians spend their lives under artillery bombardment, walking along blown-up roads and burying family members killed by tripwires. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatiana-goncharuk/ATO-donbas" target="_blank">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/ мины_Луганская оласть_апрель_2017JPG.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/ мины_Луганская оласть_апрель_2017JPG.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Luhansk landscape, 2017. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>The war in Ukraine’s Donbas is now in its fourth year. This is mostly thanks to Russian military and financial support for separatist forces, and because of the ineffectual policies of the Ukrainian government, which has been unable to come up with a strategy to free the country from an external aggressor and end the crisis.&nbsp;</p><p>In the Donbas, local people are tired and disillusioned: “I don’t see how anything can change,” Natalya, a resident of the village of Zolote, in the Luhansk region, tells me. “Life’s pretty bad here. When there’s shooting, we hide in the cellar. There was a sniper firing around here yesterday. When the fighting got worse, I went to stay with relations in Belarus, but my neighbour stayed here the whole time, hiding in her cellar. I was away for 14 months, but I came back because houses are houses; houses and walls are a help. But life’s really hard now. All the prices have gone up — electricity, water… They bring food supplies for us in trucks, we’ve had them from both the Red Cross and the UN. And pensioners like me get ‘humanitarian aid’ payments. But it’s worst for the young people. There’s no work, nor help for them.”&nbsp;</p><p>Russia’s border with Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions runs for 923km, 409km of which are occupied. <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56110#.WW-xK58yo8p" target="_blank">UN figures as of June 2017</a> put the death toll over the last three years at more than 10,090, 2,777 of them - civilians. Another 23,455 people have been wounded and 1,600 residents of Donbas have had to leave their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We’re so used to hearing the fighting every night, that when there’s a quiet night the children can’t sleep: they’ve got used to the gunfire”&nbsp;</p><p>As well as human casualties, Ukraine is suffering economic losses. The Donbas is an industrial area in the eastern part of the country, with 127 coal mines, 97 of which have been in occupied territory since the start of the war; <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vitalii-atanasov/faded-glory-ukraines-miners" target="_blank">coal is now being mined there illegally</a>. The Donetsk region also has access to the Sea of Azov, creating a problem over Ukraine’s sea border with Russia. With these assets, Donetsk’s attraction for Russia is obvious.&nbsp;</p><h2>Is this war or terrorism?&nbsp;</h2><p>From the moment when Russian troops invaded Ukrainian territory in April 2014, the Ukrainian government has officially referred to its neighbour’s aggression as an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” (ATO), and the area where military operations are taking place as the ATO zone. Thus, the government’s interpretation of what was happening in its eastern regions was ambiguous from the start — effectively there was a war going on, but there was no open recognition of this fact.&nbsp;</p><p>The reason was the forthcoming presidential election, after the fall of Viktor Yanukovych’s regime in February 2014. This, at any rate, was the explanation given by acting president Oleksandr Turchynov. And it was only recently, on 13 June 2017, that Ukraine’s leadership officially announced its intention to adopt a new strategy for its defence and liberation of the occupied territories and reclassify the situation from “anti-terrorist operation” to the more explicit “military operation”. This announcement was also made by Turchynov, who now holds the post of Secretary to Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council. And 20 June saw the publication of a draft bill on “State Policy for the Restoration of Ukrainian Sovereignty over the temporarily occupied Donetsk and Luhansk Regions”.&nbsp;</p><p>This bill states that Ukraine officially acknowledges the fact that the Russian Federation is engaged in armed aggression on its territory and has occupied part of the Donbas region. The bill then proposes the restoration of humanitarian and cultural links with people living in the occupied areas, guaranteeing them humanitarian and legal aid and access to the Ukrainian media. This would also include the introduction of a special legal regime for crossing the borders between the two zones, legal arrangements, guaranteeing human and civil rights and freedoms.</p><p>It is also intended that Ukraine’s resident should have the right to take decisions on the use of the armed forces and other paramilitary formations to counter Russia’s armed aggression, as well as the right to introduce martial law. Ukrainians have been expecting these decisive measures from their government for a long time now. Whether the bill will pass into law is still unclear: the Verkhovna Rada deputies are off for their summer break so no further debate can take place before autumn. If the bill is passed, it will be the first sign of the Ukrainian government’s official recognition that Russia’s actions are an armed invasion.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/ детской площадки сегодня блокпостJPG.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/ детской площадки сегодня блокпостJPG.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Children’s playground converted into a military checkpoint, Donetsk region, 2017. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>Despite the abundant proof of Russian forces’ engagement in the war in eastern Ukraine, Russia has never officially admitted to invading. A large part of the ATO zone was retaken by Ukrainian forces during the counter-offensive of summer 2014. And today’s ATO zone comprises both that area, now under Ukrainian control, and the area currently occupied by illegal armed groups coordinated by the Russian government.</p><p>Overall, the zone encompasses about 40,000 sq.km and includes most of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and a small part of its Kharkiv region (the town of Izyum and its outlying villages), with a demarcation line between the liberated and occupied areas. The occupied cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, which form the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR), are largely reliant on Russian economic support.&nbsp;</p><h2>Local people and the war&nbsp;</h2><p>From Ukraine, you can enter the ATO zone by rail, via Slovyansk or Lysychansk, for example. Once in the zone, however, you need a car: the railway lines are closed, and buses, where they exist at all, run once a week at best. You can take a taxi, but they are expensive and unreliable.&nbsp;</p><p>You then need to get through the control points you’ll encounter every five-seven kilometres along the roads. Here, Ukrainian troops check your papers and the contents of your car, and ask questions such as: “where are you going? Why are you going there? What are you carrying?” The checks can take anything from a couple of minutes to several hours, and the more tense the situation along the demarcation line, the harder it is to get through the checkpoints. Ukrainian soldiers can turn you back, citing security issues.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/_очередь в ЛНР.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/_очередь в ЛНР.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A queue at the crossing between Kyiv-controlled Donbas and the self-declared “Luhansk People’s Republic.” Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>Popasna is a town in the Luhansk region and an administrative centre of its eponymous administrative district. At the moment, the area is under Ukrainian control, but despite the Minsk Agreements, shelling can be heard in the town daily. “They’re firing at us every day,” a local woman tells me, “but nobody talks about it. There is no public transport; the roads are completely destroyed, and we can’t even pasture our cattle because all the fields are mined.” Food is expensive in Popasna — it’s hard for trucks to negotiate the bad roads, not to mention having to constantly stop at checkpoints, so the prices in the shops are high. And despite the fact that the demarcation line runs through the town, the locals are not getting the compensation due to them for living in a combat zone.</p><p>“We’re so used to hearing the fighting every night, that when there’s a quiet night the children can’t sleep: they’ve got used to the shells going off,” says the mother of a seven-year-old, a resident of the town of Zolote, in Popasna. Zolote is a mining town that has had no local government for over three years — no one runs it anymore. There’s no money coming in from central government either: the locals tell us that if there’s no mayor, then there’s no finance.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">“All we can do is believe in God and hope for a miracle. We have no one else to turn to”&nbsp;</span></p><p>In Soviet times, the town was one of the largest coal producers in the area, constantly growing and developing and a magnet for miners and their families. Now it’s more of a ghost town and makes a horrific impression, with bombed and bullet-holed buildings and rubbish strewn all over the streets.&nbsp;</p><p>People living in Zolote used to go on foot to visit their friends and relatives in Pervomaysk, the next village, but they can’t now. Pervomaysk is now occupied by the separatists, and the roads and meadows between the two settlements are now minefields. So the old links between families and friends are broken.&nbsp;</p><h2>The grey zone</h2><p>Stanitsa Luhanska is a small town, eight kilometres from the “LNR”. It is now the only place you can cross on foot from the area under Ukrainian forces’ control and that part of Ukraine controlled by the “LNR” illegal armed units. The distance between them is a mere 500-700m.&nbsp;</p><p>There are also Ukrainian army emplacements here. Some streets are completely in ruins, disappearing beneath fragments of bombed out buildings and shell craters. It’s risky to walk there — you could step on a mine or be blown up by a tripwire. Although Stanitsa Luhanska was liberated from the Russian troops and separatist fighters in August 2014, a lot of houses and some streets have been left unrestored and uncleared of mines. In three years of war, more than 3,000 residential buildings have been badly damaged and 260 of them are unsuitable for restoration. Most of this damage happened in 2014, when the most intensive fighting was going on here.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/2JPG.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/2JPG.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Residential building in Zolote. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>Anyone who for some reason needs to cross from the area under Ukrainian control to the area controlled by the pro-Russian forces must join a long queue to have their ID papers checked by Ukrainian border officers. They then have to walk across a neutral strip (the road bridge was blown up) before being checked again by the pro-Russian side.&nbsp;</p><p>About 15,000 Ukrainians cross this “border” daily. They come here from the “LNR” to pick up their Ukrainian pensions from Oshchadbank, the Ukrainian state savings bank, use ATMs and do their shopping. The war has created a whole new caste of people who transport goods and foodstuffs by hand cart across the demarcation line, just like in the 1990s. Seventy five kilogrammes of food products can be taken in one go, and private minibuses will transport them, for 250 hryvnya (about eight Euros), along the road with its surface shattered by tank tracks to the nearest railway station at Rubizhne. There are plenty of transporters —they stand with their placards and offer their services to all and sundry.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Some have to stay in Luhansk — not because they support the idea of “Novorossiya” but because they don’t have any choice</p><p>Before the war, Stanitsa Luhanska provisioned Luhansk and the towns around it with fresh vegetables, but the war has shattered these economic ties. The regional administrative centre is no longer Luhansk, but Severodonetsk, and there’s no point in transporting fresh produce there, as it’s more than 100km away along broken roads, not to mention the queues at the 10 checkpoints on the way. Meat is also cheaper in Ukraine, but these days you can’t take meat products into the “LNR” — the pro-Russian militias that control the checkpoint at the entrance to the self-styled republic have declared war on African Swine Fever, which they claim is now widespread in Ukraine.&nbsp;</p><p>There are a number of reasons for this daily migration from one side of the line to the other. Many residents of Luhansk take out residence papers in Stanitsa Luhansk, where they receive temporary registration as “temporarily displaced persons”, but in fact continue living in Luhansk. This means they can cross the “border” between the Ukrainian controlled area and the area controlled by illegal armed formations practically without hindrance.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/jpg._0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/jpg._0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Crossing back into Ukrainian government-controlled territory at Stanitsa Luhanska. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>Some members of the population, however, have to stay in Luhansk — not because they support the idea of “Novorossiya” (as the two self-styled Peoples’ Republics would like to be known), but because they don’t have any choice. Pensioners, for example, can’t leave the “LNR” because they wouldn’t be able to pay their rents and feed themselves in other parts of Ukraine on a monthly pension of 100 Euros. Others stay in the “LNR” because they have property and real estate that they don’t want to leave.</p><p>Some residents of Luhansk were forced to leave it in 2014: activists involved in the local Euromaidan, journalists and everyone who wanted Viktor Yanukovych’s government overthrown left the city as fast as they could. Now none of them can go back to Luhansk, even for a short time, to call on relatives or collect their things — the separatist militias will either imprison them, try them on charges of treason against the “LNR”, or simply kill them.&nbsp;</p><h2>An information vacuum&nbsp;</h2><p>Although the war in the Donbas is in its fourth year, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions exist in an information vacuum. Most of the area controlled by Ukraine, for example, can’t receive Ukrainian TV and radio — there isn’t a tower to transmit the signal. The local population has to make do with Russian radio and TV, which comes with an excellent signal. There is a similar problem with mobile networks and the internet. The Ukrainian government ignores these issues; it has never developed any information strategy to counter Russian propaganda.&nbsp;</p><p>“I don’t know whether our government is doing anything to block Russian TV,” says Aleksandr, a resident of the town of Shchastya in the Luhansk region. “Lots of people watch it and they’re beginning to believe what they see.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/_перевозчики предлагают свои услуги.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/_перевозчики предлагают свои услуги.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Drivers offer their services in Stanitsa Luhanska, 2017. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>Meanwhile, the residents of some towns and villages have taken the matter into their own hands and set up their own local internet connection. And in some places a loudspeaker tuned to a Ukrainian radio station has been set up in the town or village’s central square, although, as people in Shchastya point out to me, it’s closed down at weekends.&nbsp;</p><p>The Ukraine-controlled area also has deliveries of newspapers printed in the “LNR”, but financed by Russia. The newspaper Respublika, for example, follows Russian practice in the terms it uses for the Ukrainian army (“Ukraino-fascist aggressors”, “pro-Bandera nationalist-motivated structures”, “the Ukrainian occupiers, just like the fascists, cut down our forest and take our black earth away from us” and so on).</p><p>Across the Donbas, people tell me how tired they are of the war, and how they hope it will end soon. “The most interesting thing for me now is information silence. I don’t believe anyone,” one woman in Shchastya tells me.</p><p>The residents of the Donbas area have become very superstitious, which they never were before. They give one another amulets, stuffed faceless dolls in traditional costume (a traditional Ukrainian talisman), and paint crosses above their doors to ward off shells. It’s highly unlikely that they will be rid of war in the near future. “All we can do is believe in God and hope for a miracle. There’s no one else we can count on,” concludes Natalya from Zolote.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Translated by Liz Barnes.</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/ukraine-s-ministry-of-internal-hatred">Ukraine’s ministry of internal hatred</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/how-eastern-ukraine-was-lost">How ‘eastern Ukraine’ was lost</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nikita-pidgora/ukraine-s-displaced-universities">Ukraine’s displaced universities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/little-russia-big-dreams-0">Little Russia, big dreams</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/valeria-costa-kostritsky/ukraine-sex-work-in-times-of-war">Ukraine: sex work in times of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">Disconnected society: how the war in the Donbas has affected Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vitalii-atanasov/faded-glory-ukraines-miners">Undermined: how the state is selling out Ukraine’s coal workers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tetiana Goncharuk Ukraine Conflict Fri, 28 Jul 2017 16:42:58 +0000 Tetiana Goncharuk 112568 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Just passing by the Kremlin https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-leonova/just-passing-by-kremlin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">How a Russian tourist went to look at the Kremlin — and ended up behind bars. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-leonova/sluchainiy-prohozhiy" target="_blank">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/leonova pic .png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="231" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Antonii Pavlov at the place where he was detained by Moscow police.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>This week, we start a joint project with <a href="http://ovdinfo.org">OVD-Info</a> and <a href="http://romb.tv/">RombTV</a> on people detained during Russia’s new protest wave.</em></p><p dir="ltr">For the last five years it’s not just political activists who are detained by Russian police at protest rallies — passers-by are also picked up, charged with administrative offences and forced to pay fines.</p><p dir="ltr">Here is the story of Antonii Pavlov, 20, from the Black Sea resort of Tuapse, who came to Moscow to look at the Kremlin — and wound up behind bars.</p><h2>Leukaemia</h2><p>I don’t know how I happened to get detained. I was just passing by — I’d come to Moscow to go on a guided tour of the Kremlin. But, you know, I like it when there’s freedom. Maybe that’s the problem?</p><p dir="ltr">I’m from Tuapse, on the Black Sea, about 100-150km from Sochi. I’m 20 years old. My mother doesn’t work; my father drives a bus. My granny named me Antonii in honour of St Antony. I’ve also heard that there’s a book about Antony and Cleopatra, but I haven’t read it. I don’t have a lot of education, to be fair. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"The main thing I realised when I was in hospital was that I didn’t want to spend every day working from 6am to 8pm"</p><p dir="ltr">I fell in love with freedom when I was diagnosed with blood cancer. I was 16. I was walking home one day after I’d be training my hand-to-hand fighting, when I suddenly started staggering. My mum even asked me if I was drunk. I went to bed and woke up the next morning with a nose bleed, a neck ache and spots all over my body – small bruises in a kind of rash. They turned out to be haematomas that had formed because my blood wasn’t coagulating properly.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Tuapse,_Krasnodar_Krai,_Russia_-_panoramio_(38).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="350" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tuapse, Krasnodar. CC A 3.0 Maxim Ulitin / WikimediaCommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>I spent six months in oncology units — first in Tuapse and then in Krasnodar and St Petersburg. I was in constant need of white corpuscles, and my father went all over the town sticking up homemade posters asking for people to donate blood. They attached me to a machine, drained me of blood, added the white corpuscles (they’re actually yellowish) and pumped it all back in. When they do that, you actually feel your life energy returning. I had been so sad, tired and depressed — and there I was, full of energy again.</p><p dir="ltr">Every day they would bring me a whole saucer full of pills — red ones, yellow ones — it was like being in a restaurant. Sometimes they made me sick, and sometimes they made me tense and bad-tempered. Someone would say something to me and I would feel really hurt. And I got so fed up with them that I refused to take them any more. The nurse had to insist – “you’ll die if you don’t take the pills,” she would scream.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"I’m not going to croak so don’t even go there!" Everyone cracked up: "That’s the right attitude!" And after that I started getting better</p><p dir="ltr">So I shouted and swore back at her: “I’m not going to croak, you bitch, so don’t even go there!” And everyone cracked up: “That’s the right attitude!” And after that I started getting better.</p><p dir="ltr">The worst bit was when they took some brain cells from me, without anaesthetic: they would stick this enormous needle right into your skull, and it would make this awful sucking noise as well. And it was awful when other people I knew died: some of them little kids and some people my age. I don’t even want to remember it. But since the hospital, I haven’t cared what happens to me — nothing could be as bad as that. If something bad happens, I think: “That’s nothing, I don’t give a damn.”</p><p dir="ltr">After getting out of hospital I had two years on supportive care at home and home teaching. The home teaching was a drag — I had no contact with anyone, so social life. You’re free for the whole day, you’re on a beach: live, be happy, have fun! But there was nobody to have fun with – everybody else was at school.</p><p dir="ltr">The doctors wouldn’t let me do a lot of things, of course. I wasn’t allowed to be out in the sun for a long time, for example, or lift things. But I can tell you — I don’t want to live wrapped up in cotton wool, in a space suit. I want to live just like everybody else.</p><h2>Freedom</h2><p dir="ltr">The main thing I realised when I was in hospital was that I didn’t want to spend every day working from 6am to 8pm. I don’t want to have a mortgage and a flat. And I don’t want to sacrifice my health so that some old guy can get rich at my expense. So I finished school, enrolled in a meteorological college and set up my own small business.</p><p dir="ltr">It was a kind of advertising agency: we designed banners and websites and so on. I did some of the work myself and farmed some of it out to other people. I was just 17, so I didn’t register as a sole trader and didn’t pay any tax, and I was earning OK — about the same as my dad.</p><p dir="ltr">Before my 18th birthday I was able to buy my mum a car, a Zhiguli 7. It cost 50-60,000 roubles [£640-£770]. And I bought myself an old BMW from the 80s, although hadn’t taken my driving test. In our town everybody knows where there’ll be cops standing with their striped batons, waiting to flag you down, and in any case there’s a general chat room where you can find out whether they’ve moved anywhere else, so you can avoid them – no problem. And you can always slip them some cash. If you’re caught without a licence on you, you get a fine of 50,000, plus 5,000 as a bribe — but you can talk them into reducing that to two or three thousand. Although I haven’t driven the BMW much: it kept breaking down so I dumped it, it’s still rusting in the garage.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"I don’t want to sacrifice my health so that some old guy can get rich at my expense"</p><p dir="ltr">They threw me out of the college because I was always working. I re-enrolled, but then I started travelling around between cities – I wasn’t just not at college, I wasn’t anywhere in town. So they threw me out again. I wasn’t even travelling for work — it was just for myself.</p><p dir="ltr">I was bored at home. It’s a small place, only 50,000 people. If you go out you always know everybody you meet. But here in Moscow you don’t know anybody; you don’t know what’s round the next corner — it’s fun. Late one evening some friends called for me and asked me to come out with them. Somebody said: Let’s go to Gelendzhik. So we drove for 80km, but there was nothing much to do there at night so we just wandered around for two or three hours, looked at the quay, which is quite nice, and went back home again. That’s how you need to live and travel.</p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/q9eIVeU5DKc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p dir="ltr">I’ve never counted the number of towns I’ve been in, and don’t remember their names. But I’ve been to all the towns in the Krasnodar region — I don’t know how many they are — and all around Rostov as well. And naturally I wanted to see Moscow.</p><h2>Moscow</h2><p dir="ltr">So when a friend who had moved from Tuapse to Moscow invited me to come and stay, I didn’t hesitate for a moment and set off immediately. My friend, it turned out, didn’t live in Moscow itself, but in the suburb of Lyubertsy, 30km outside the capital. It took me two hours to get to central Moscow, first on a bus and then the Metro.</p><p>Moscow amazed me – it’s so huge! But I didn’t get to explore it properly. There was unusually bad weather when I arrived – the worst rains for several years, people told me. It was cold as well. I’m from the south, of course, but it seemed like indecent weather for the summer. I really wanted to see the Kremlin, but it wasn’t working out for me — the first time I came it was shut and the second, there was some kind of book exhibition going on.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"I was never interested in protests. There was one we had in Tuapse, along the sea front, when they built a chemical plant right on the water. I didn’t go"</p><p dir="ltr">The day of the rally was sunny and warm and Pasha, one of our friends, wanted to go to the city centre. It took just an hour by car, which was great, and I asked him to drop me off. Pasha went off to the rally (back in Sochi he was already involved in something) and another friend, Kamal, and I headed off in the direction of the Kremlin. Third time lucky, I was thinking. </p><p dir="ltr">I was never interested in protests. There was one we had in Tuapse, along the sea front, when they built a chemical plant right on the water. I didn’t go. People were always protesting about something, but the plant’s still there.</p><p dir="ltr">But once someone protested with a banner addressed to Dmitry Medvedev “Dima, don’t be a coward!” Of course, I’d heard that people gather with placards in Moscow — I’d seen pictures on the internet. That they’re protesting against corruption and for Alexei Navalny. But it seems to me that people have always taken bribes, and they’ll continue to do so. I can’t imagine a person who’d refuse money in Russia.</p><p dir="ltr">So anyway, we set off in the direction of the Kremlin. Everything was blocked off, in some places - construction sites, in others - cops. We wandered down side streets for ages. And then Pasha phoned us and said he’d been detained. Kamal and I laughed, and carried on walking about. Then we set off for the metro, I don’t remember which, and saw people on their way back from the rally. They were just walking, not bothering anyone, and then the police started to grab them. Mostly people who looked alternative. Who weren’t dressed the same as everyone else, they were detained first.</p><p dir="ltr">One guy, we later met in the riot van, was detained because he took a picture with police in the background — they didn’t like it, they turned their backs to him. Another guy was detained because he was laughing too loudly, although he wasn’t even going to the rally, but, as it turned out, a birthday celebration.</p><p dir="ltr">I was watching all this, watching and — honestly — laughing. And then a cop came up behind me, took me under the arm and says: “Come on, let’s go”. And I think “Oh shit”, put my hands up as if to say: I’m not resisting. I’d seen how forcefully they detained those who resisted a little. I was searched and put in the back of the van.</p><h2>Jail</h2><p>I basically thought that they’d detain us and let us go: they just want to scare us a little. But no. They took us to the station and started procedures. I asked a hundred times: there definitely won’t be a criminal case? There definitely won’t be anything on my personal file? The officers said that everything will be fine, that it’s just their job, and they don’t particularly like sitting here either. And so it happens that one cop detains you, another writes you up, and no one is responsible for anything. It’s you that’s committed the offence, and it’s you who has to pay the fine.</p><p dir="ltr">It was ridiculous at the police station. They wrote everybody up on exactly the same report and just asked us to sign it. “You xxx were walking down xxx and were detained legally.” That’s on paper. And then they said: below that you write “I don’t agree” and give your own version. I said that I won’t write anything, I have Article 51 of the Constitution, and I don’t have the right to give evidence against myself and my family members.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"I said that I won’t write anything, I have Article 51 of the Constitution, and I don’t have the right to give evidence against myself and my family members"</p><p dir="ltr">Before that, I’d had a fair amount to do with the police. In Tuapse, we have a law that prevents teenagers from being out unsupervised after nine in the evening. Of course, we still went out, and negotiated with the police. Besides that, my girlfriend and I once took a drunk into the police station. That’s when the police told me about Article 51 of the Constitution.</p><p dir="ltr">But the Moscow police went berserk when I mentioned Article 51. He just looks at me as if to say: you think you’re clever, right? He tore up that report, printed a new one stating that I’ve refused to give evidence. You can photograph it, he said. And my phone was rather simple, I don’t have a camera. When they saw that, they realised that I can’t record them if something happens, and started swearing at me, that I’m mocking them somehow. One of them shouted: “I’ll shoot you dead, we’ve had enough of you.” I understood that there was a bunch of people there, cameras — what will they do to me?</p><p dir="ltr">On departing, one of the cops asked me: “Do you have a wife?” I said: “No, I’m not married. Why?” “You’ve got a difficult character.” I started laughing — how many times have I heard that from girlfriends before!</p><h2>Afterwards</h2><p dir="ltr">In the end, I didn’t tell my parents that I’d been detained. There’ll be the court procedure, then we’ll see.</p><p dir="ltr">Before this, I’d heard that people get paid to attend these kind of rallies. Maybe some people do, but the majority, 90%, I’m sure, come out because they want to. I read about 1,700 detentions across Russia. So many people. How is this possible?</p><p dir="ltr">I don’t think that I’d travel to Moscow to attend a rally. But if I’ll be near, then I’d go now.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://ovdinfo.org/"><img src="https://ovdinfo.org/sites/all/themes/ovdinfo/img/logo-ovdinfo.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p><p>OVD-Info is a crowdfunded organisation. Find out how you can help them&nbsp;<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/bolotnaya-20">Bolotnaya 2.0?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/alexei-navalnys-campaign-effective-management-or-grassroots-movement">Alexei Navalny&#039;s campaign: effective management or grassroots movement?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexei-kozlov/what-can-we-learn-from-russia-s-spring-of-protest">What can we learn from Russia’s spring of protest?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/odr-editors/fighting-back">Fighting back, in the back of beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-davydov/russia-s-latest-protests-are-no-child-s-play">Russia&#039;s latest protests are no child’s play</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ksenia Leonova Russia Fri, 28 Jul 2017 14:01:57 +0000 Ksenia Leonova 112591 at https://www.opendemocracy.net New US sanctions bill on Russia threatens to further erode Minsk agreement https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mortiz-pieper/new-us-sanctions-bill-on-russia-threatens-to-further-erode-minsk-agreement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The diplomatic spat over new US Russia sanctions risks eroding a common US-EU position on Ukraine conflict.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-32186986.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Signs of tension between EU and US sanctions regimes could impede conflict regulation in Ukraine's Donbas. (c) Evan Golub/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 14 June 2017, the US Senate passed a new bill calling for new sanctions on Russia, followed by a House bill on 25 July, while the European Union extended its existing sanctions regime on Russia on 28 June. On the face of it, both American and European sanctions regimes are linked to Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, yet the Senate bill has generated much more heat because it would also penalise European companies doing business with Russia. What are the differences between these sanctions regimes, and what explains the current rift between the US and EU administrations on Russia?</p><p dir="ltr">On 28 June 2017, the EU Council formally extended European Union sanctions imposed on Russia. These <a href="//www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/sanctions/ukraine-crisis/">“restrictive measures”</a>, in the EU’s terminology, were adopted in the summer of 2014 and freeze assets of and impose travel restrictions for individuals “over their responsibility for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”. In July and September 2014, the EU additionally imposed sector-specific economic sanctions that limit Russian access to capital markets, impose an arms-trade ban, an export ban for dual-use goods that could be used for military purposes, and curtail Russian access to technologies that can be used for oil production and exploration. The state-owned oil firms Rosneft, Transneft, as well as the oil unit of Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, are affected, while the gas, space technology, and nuclear industry remain excluded from these sanctions.</p><p dir="ltr">In addition to these sanctions that are linked to Russia’s role in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the EU Council, in June 2014, adopted economic sanctions that affect European economic interactions with Crimea following Russia’s annexation of the peninsula in March 2014. These sanctions include an import ban on goods from Crimea, as well as investment bans in economic sectors. The export of equipment for the production and exploration of oil, gas and mineral resources is also banned.</p><p dir="ltr">In March 2015, the EU aligned the existing sanctions regime to the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement — a ceasefire agreement that was supposed to end in December 2015. Since this did not happen, EU sanctions are now being extended for a six-month period. This has happened on 1 July 2016, 19 December 2016, and on 28 June 2017. The German government reportedly wants to urge the EU to add more Russian nationals and companies to the sanctions blacklist following the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-crimea-siemens-eu-excl-idUSKBN1A9138">illegal delivery of Siemens gas turbines to Crimea</a>. The additions could include Russian Energy Ministry officials and the Russian company that moved the turbines to Crimea.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Linking the implementation of Minsk to the lifting of Russia sanctions exposes a logical error: Russia will not suddenly assume a responsibility that it does not formally have&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Yet the Minsk agreement is dead in the water. Russia is not named once in the agreement, allowing Moscow not only to continue its policy of denying involvement in the conflict, but also to deny direct responsibility for the implementation of any ceasefire agreement. Linking the implementation of Minsk to the lifting of Russia sanctions therefore exposes a logical error: Russia will not suddenly assume a responsibility that it does not formally have (according to Minsk). This begs the question on what grounds EU leaders can ever lift these sanctions and maintain the credibility of their own rhetoric. It seems more likely that the six-month renewal mechanism risks running out of steam and lose ground to skeptical EU member states. Since these are Council sanctions adopted under the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, they need to be extended by unanimity, and maintaining such a sanctions momentum is difficult in the mid-term.</p><p dir="ltr">US sanctions on Russia, in a coordinated policy move with the EU in March 2014, also <a href="https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/ukrainerussia/">imposed</a> travel bans “on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people”. Additional so-called targeted sanctions designate a number of defense companies and restrict the financing of economic projects in Russia in the Arctic offshore, deepwater and shale industries. Economic investments in Crimea by US individuals are <a href="https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/ukraine_eo4.pdf">prohibited</a>, and the import of goods originating from as well as the export of goods to Crimea banned. These sanctions were imposed in the form of Executive Orders signed by president Obama in 2014, and the US is also officially committed to the implementation of the Minsk agreement.</p><p>What has generated a lot of heat in European capitals was a draft bill that was passed by the US Senate on 14 June 2017, and in a modified version by the House of Representatives on 25 July. This bill codifies existing sanctions (and makes it harder for the President to weaken them) and calls for the imposition of new ones. The bill passed by the House (suggestively labeled “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”) also adds new sanctions <a href="//www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr3364/BILLS-115hr3364ih.pdf">targeting North Korea and Iran’s ballistic missile programme</a>. </p><p>Importantly, some of the new proposed sanctions are restrictions with extraterritorial effect. Such unilateral sanctions with extraterritorial effect are called “secondary sanctions” because they do not stop at sanctioning the target state directly, but also aim to punish third country entities’ dealings with the target state. This extraterritoriality distinguishes US sanctions from EU “restrictive measures”. In Russia’s case, the new sanctions would not only target Russian entities and individuals, but also any third-country companies that <a href="http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/the-senate-just-passed-a-monumental-new-russia-sanctions-bill-here-s-what-s-in-it">invest in Russian Arctic offshore, deepwater and shale oil projects</a>. US secondary sanctions are a powerful instrument because of the ubiquity of the US dollar as international reserve currency.</p><p dir="ltr">The bill also includes an option for the Treasury Department to levy fines against any companies investing in Nord Stream II, a pipeline that would connect Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. Section 232 of the House bill adds that such a move should happen “in coordination with allies of the United States”, but this caveat is legally weak and politically negligible. If the bill became law (if the White House does not oppose it, that is, or if a presidential veto is not overridden by Congress), it would not only affect Russia’s energy sector, but force European investors to consider abandoning the project. Nord Stream II is controversial even within the EU, as Germany considers it a bilateral economic project, while the EU Commission <a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1571_en.htm">seeks to monitor its implementation</a> with a view to EU competition law and the ambition to create a European Energy Union.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Adopting sanctions out of actionism is easy, coming up with clear preconditions and mechanisms for their lifting is not</p><p dir="ltr">Poland, circumvented by Nord Stream II, has been especially critical of the project. The US State Department, meanwhile, <a href="//www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2017/06/271956.htm ">defended</a> its policy of US shipments of liquefied natural gas to Poland as a way for Poland to diversify its energy imports. Here, the lines between different policy domains become blurred. It is not clear how the export of American LNG to the European energy market is related to the conflict in Ukraine. Mixing signals of economic pressure on Russia with commercial interests of US energy companies risks further obfuscating whatever little is left of the Minsk objectives.</p><p>Other EU leaders have been adamant in their criticism of this new proposed sanctions policy. A joint German-Austrian statement on the June Senate sanctions bill <a href="http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Infoservice/Presse/Meldungen/2017/170615_Kern_Russland.html">reads</a>:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“The draft bill of the US is surprisingly candid about what is actually at stake, namely selling American liquefied natural gas and ending the supply of Russian natural gas to the European market. The bill aims to protect US jobs in the natural gas and petroleum industries.” </p><p>It emphatically adds (verbatim): “Europe’s energy supply network is Europe’s affair, not that of the United States of America!”</p><p dir="ltr">The publicly vented anger at US unilateral sanctions threatens to erode the common transatlantic position on Russia sanctions that was generated by the conflict in Ukraine. On a positive note, however, the rift may help to trigger a substantive debate about the strategic purpose of Russia sanctions. EU and US sanctions are being upheld until Russia changes its policies in a way that would justify the lifting of sanctions. Until EU and US administrations continue to stick to their official rhetoric on the link between sanctions and the Minsk agreement, the policy changes expected are not clearly spelt out.</p><p dir="ltr">Adopting sanctions out of actionism is easy, coming up with clear preconditions and mechanisms for their lifting is not.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/moritz-pieper/iranian-nuclear-crisis-and-dialectic-of-world-order">The Iranian nuclear crisis and the dialectic of world order</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vasil-jaiani/russians-are-not-bothered-by-western-sanctions">Russians are not bothered by Western sanctions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mark-kramer/sanctions-and-regime-survival">Sanctions and regime survival</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ian-bateson/ukraine-s-eastern-front-trump-card-in-bigger-game">Ukraine’s eastern front: a Trump card in a bigger game?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Moritz Pieper Ukraine Russia Thu, 27 Jul 2017 06:43:44 +0000 Moritz Pieper 112548 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “The Putinist majority could fast become anti-Putinist” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/putinist-majority-could-fast-become-anti-putinist <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An interview with left activist and historian Ilya Budraitskis, on dissent, politics left and right, and the “patriotic majority” in Russia today.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Putin_With_You.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Putin_With_You.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Putin, we are with you!” reads this banner at a pro-government rally. Image courtesy of PravdaReport. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>This interview originally appeared in Russian at <a href="https://www.yuga.ru/articles/society/8101.html" target="_blank">Yuga.ru</a>. An English translation by Adam Leeds was then published by <a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/the-putinist-majority-could-fast-become-anti-putinist-an-interview-with-ilya-budraitskis/" target="_blank">LeftEast</a>. We are grateful to the latter for their permission to republish it in full.</em></p><p><strong>How would you describe the ideology of the ruling regime in contemporary Russia? On what values rests that which some call “Putinism”? What is behind the facade of all this speech about “spiritual bonds” and “our glorious past”?</strong>&nbsp;</p><p>The conventional idea has become that from the beginning of Putin’s third term we have been experiencing a conservative turn. If in the 2000s the regime presented itself as technocratic, standing above politics and simply ensuring the integrity of the country, stability, etc., then in the 2010s we have observed an ideological evolution.</p><p>The conservative orientation to traditional values and aggressive anti-Western rhetoric have made many, including the oppositionally-minded, believe that the Russian regime has accomplished a revolution of values, and now opposes the world order, which is exemplified by the policies of Western countries. It is often asserted that were are undergoing a phantasmagoric reincarnation of the Stalinist, Soviet, imperial project, for which it is characteristic to deny the values of the contemporary global world.&nbsp;</p><p>It seems to me that this understanding of an ideological evolution represents a trap. I do not believe that Russia has, from the beginning of this conservative turn, transformed into a space isolated from the rest of the world, where other laws obtain, other values reign, where even the people themselves have mutated into one or another anthropological type— <em>sovki</em> [derogatory term for people still “stuck” in the Soviet past, for surviving members of <em>Homo Sovieticus</em> - ed.] , zombies, <em>vatniki</em> [literally, “quilted jackets,” a derogatory term for lower class nationalistic Russians -ed.]&nbsp;</p><p>Despite Putin’s Russia’s attempt to transform itself on the level of rhetoric into an alternative to the contemporary world, it remains fully a part of that world. Despite the conservative turn, Russia has not even for a minute ceased to be a part of the world capitalist order ruled by the laws of the market. In this sense, conservative rhetoric is an important constitutive part of the spirit of Russian capitalism. This spirit not only does not contradict basic market values, but gives them a new form, and a new disguise.</p><p><strong>So it turns out that we do not have any special values that differentiate us from the West?&nbsp;</strong></p><p>You can often hear it said — indeed Putin himself has said it more than once — that Russians have different values than Western people, and these values are collectivististic, the opposite of Western individualism. But if you actually think about this claim, which is often reproduced, then the question arises: what sort of collectivism is actually meant? </p><p>From our own life experience we know that Russia is a country of aggressive social inequality, with a fairly atomized and unintegrated society, in which people habitually think of their own interests and take their neighbors and other inhabitants of their cities for suspicious competitors, from whom one can expect only scams and dirty tricks, and who implicitly or explicitly covet our place in the sun. In this sense, Russian society is even more individualistic than Western society, in which various forms of self-organisation are incomparably more developed.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">In some ways, Russia is actually at the vanguard of some global or pan-European tendencies</span></p><p>But still, there is a certain sense behind this semi-official dichotomy: it suggests that Western individualism is the desire to take into account the interests of the minority (for example, the “self-satisfied gays” or “lazy migrants”) claiming some kind of explicit representation, who ought to be provided for by the state at the expense of others. According to the rhetoric of the Russian media, Western states support manifestations of individuality at the expense of taxpayers. But the Russian state defends the interest of the majority, expressed as the desire of people to receive for their money that product in culture and education that corresponds to their traditional ideas. </p><p>The principle of collectivism in this interpretation is simultaneously a market principle. The collective here is understood not as a community, all members of which provide support to each other, but as the majority of buyers who vote with their rubles for certain values, the dominance of which the state thus assures. The conservative state is no more nor less than a successful and attentive seller in the market of moral and cultural values. Its law is the client’s desire.</p><p>In this version of the conservative turn, there is no special “Russian way.” Of course, we encounter this combination of the market with a veneer of conservative values in other countries. Just such a symbiosis of nationalism, conservatism, religious obscurantism, and a severely pro-market policy (albeit with local specificities and in different proportions), for example, is widespread in Eastern Europe. The same trend reflects the evolution of American Republicans over the past decade. In this sense, Russia is not only not unique, but even the opposite—it stands at the vanguard of some global or pan-European tendencies.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>The architecture of the modern Russian media field is built in such a way that actors who do not agree with the ideology of the ruling regime are all but automatically labeled liberals. But how, generally, do contemporary Russian liberalism and its adepts present themselves? And how can you describe its relationship with the current ruling regime?</strong></p><p>Yes, in recent years, thanks to state propaganda, the very word “liberal” has become a synonym for the internal enemy. Of course, this phantasmagoric figure is necessary for the ruling power. In order to insist on the organic unity of the people and government, it is necessary to point to those who are trying to destroy that unity. Used in this sense of a subversive minority, the term “liberal” has completely lost touch with its real meaning, with the political definition of liberalism. From the point of view of power, anyone who opposes new repressive laws, attacks on human rights, or restrictions on freedom of speech, is automatically numbered among liberals.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Budraitskis_Pic.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Budraitskis_Pic.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ilya Budraitskis. Image courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>The other side of this false opposition is that if all of the enemies of the existing system are liberals, then the system itself can not be in any sense liberal itself. However, with the very notion of a liberal collective enemy, as with the rejection of liberalism by the system itself, we face two serious problems.&nbsp;</p><p>First, liberals in Russia are by no means the only opposition movement. It is not at all necessary to be a liberal to criticize government’s actions, including its suppression of civil liberties.&nbsp;</p><p>Second, the current government’s policy is grounded in part on economic liberal principles. If we understand the logic of the government’s reforms in education, health and culture, we will find that it largely corresponds to what is commonly called neoliberalism: the dominance of the principle of profitability, of economic “efficiency” over the interests of society.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">“One side of this false opposition is that if all of the enemies of the existing system are liberals, then the system itself can not be in any sense liberal itself”</span></p><p>Finally, we have confusion among those who actually express adherence to liberalism. Factually, by “liberal,” in the Russian political tradition, is normally understood both those who advocate a free market and see political democracy as its simple consequence, and those for whom liberalism is first and foremost civil liberties and human rights.</p><p>It is important to separate the supporters of civil liberties from the supporters of economic freedom. These are different conceptions of freedom, which actually come into conflict with each other. The propagandistic designation of all opponents of the regime as liberals prevents, among other things, the clarification of positions both within the opposition as a whole, and among the self-described liberals themselves.</p><p><strong>I would like to discuss one remark of Alexei Navalny, which he made in an interview with Ksenia Sobchak on <em>TV Rain</em>. He said that for contemporary Russian politics, the right-left dichotomy basically does not function. How would you respond to this?</strong>&nbsp;</p><p>On the one hand, I agree with Navalny’s position. The concepts “right” and “left” really do not matter if we are talking about the official imitation of politics. If we take the spectrum of parliamentary parties, the notions “right” and “left” do not have much meaning. These parties are not really right and left, because they lack political independence. Their actions are determined not by political convictions and values, but by curators from the presidential administration who are neutral to any values. But yes, it does not make much sense to say that Mironov is left and Zhirinovsky is right.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Navalny-Mayor-Sticker.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Navalny-Mayor-Sticker.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“For Navalny! Let’s change Russia, starting with Moscow!” reads this sticker. Pro-Navalny rally in Moscow, during the opposition leader’s campaign for Moscow Mayor in 2013. Photo CC BY-NC 2.0: Vladmir Varfolomeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>However, this does not mean that in general the notions “right” and “left” have no significance in the Russian context. Here I can not agree with Navalny. If we want politics to be not just a cynical means of manipulation, but a space in which we uphold certain principles and views on the development of the country, self-identification in the ideological spectrum is extremely important. Even if today it is represented by small groups that are not in parliament.&nbsp;</p><p>Of course, in Russia there is a real left, and a real right. They’re just outside systemic politics. Why Navalny denies this is also understandable. His goal is to include all people who are oppositional to the current regime in his own election campaign as volunteers. And technically for him it is not important who they are — left or right.</p><p><strong>Is Crimea really rallying Russian society around Putin? Is his 84% support, as measured by the polls, an accurate expression of reality?</strong>&nbsp;</p><p>One of the main system-forming myths of the modern Russian political regime is the myth of the identity of the country, the state, and the people. A myth expressed through the famous formula “Russia is Putin. Putin is Russia.”&nbsp;</p><p>The main and defining feature of this mythical majority is its passivity. It is assumed that this majority is not able to assemble and express itself independently, and therefore its only representative, its only voice, is Putin. And this is the strong point of this myth: it insists that everyone by him- or herself is powerless. Therefore, we need to recognise ourselves, via television, in Putin, to contemplatively accept his active will, his activity, as the positive side of our own inactivity and impotence. This pessimistic philosophy has, of course, an impact on the consciousness of many people in Russia.</p><p>But its weakness stems from the same source as its strength — from passivity. Support for power is not measured by anything other than sociological surveys. How, for example, do we know that the people trust Putin? We can no longer learn this from elections, since turnout is constantly decreasing, and their results do not represent the actual opinion of the majority. Also, naturally, we do not know anything about the majority’s support of Putin through mass demonstrations, rallies, etc. We see that people do not participate voluntarily in these rallies of celebration and unity with the regime. Administrative power has to be put to work to gather a more or less sizeable demonstration of support for any state actions.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">“This is the strong point of the Putin myth: everyone is powerless. Thus, we must accept Putin’s active will as the positive side of our own inactivity and impotence”</span></p><p>The only way to confirm the support of the people remains the sociological survey. But these questionable surveys do not focus on what specific elements of public policy people support. The main paradox of Putin’s “Crimea Is Ours” majority is that people who support Putin can simultaneously be extremely critical of all the concrete manifestations of the state that are present in their own lives.</p><p>At the level of personal life experience they are not satisfied with current social policy, they do not like the police, they do not believe in the independence of the courts, they are extremely unsatisfied with the situation in health care and education, and so on. But at the same time they support Putin. And these people are included in the 86% that, according to the pro-Kremlin mass media and sociologists, support Putin.&nbsp;</p><p>And it is very likely that at some point this qualitative, concrete discontent connected with people’s real life experience will pass to the abstract figure of the leader with which this state associates itself. Therefore, it is possible to imagine that one day this phantom-like 86% pro-Putin majority could suddenly and swiftly turn into an 86% anti-Putin majority.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“<a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/scratch-a-russian-liberal-and-youll-find-an-educated-conservative-an-interview-with-sociologist-greg-yudin/" target="_blank"><em>Scratch a Russian liberal and you’ll find an educated conservative</em></a>” - an interview with Russian sociologist Greg Yudin at&nbsp;<em>LeftEast</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/alexei-navalnys-campaign-effective-management-or-grassroots-movement">Alexei Navalny&#039;s campaign: effective management or grassroots movement?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/odr-editors/fighting-back">Fighting back, in the back of beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-alyukov/how-does-russian-tv-propaganda-really-work">How does Russian TV propaganda really work?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/roots-of-russia-s-atomised-mourning">The roots of Russia’s atomised mourning</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tom-junes/where-does-key-to-political-change-in-post-soviet-space-lie">Where does the key to political change lie in the post-Soviet space?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-matveev/russia-inc">Russia, Inc.</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ilya Budraitskis Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:58:27 +0000 Ilya Budraitskis 112499 at https://www.opendemocracy.net For Russia’s students, the price of protest can be high https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vladislav-lobanov/for-russia-s-students-price-of-protest-can-be-high <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Students have featured prominently in Russia’s latest wave of anti-corruption protest, and now they're facing repression as a result.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1." alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>12 June: Police detain Oleg Alexeev during an anti-corruption protest in the city centre of Kaliningrad, Russia. (c) Private.</span></span></span>Two weeks ago, a third-year law student In Kaliningrad, at the western end of Russia, learned he was being expelled from his university. The management of the Kant Baltic Federal University denied that Oleg Alexeev’s role in organising a public protest on 12 June had anything to do with their decision. However, the sequence of events that led to Alexeev’s expulsion suggests otherwise.</p><p dir="ltr">In early June, Alexeev, 21, filed a notification with the Kaliningrad municipality for a public protest in the city centre for 12 June, when major anti-corruption rallies were planned for numerous Russian cities. The authorities refused to authorise it and proposed another, remote site, which the organisers found unacceptable. An official from local anti-extremism police unit called Alexeev and invited him for a “conversation”. The young man refused.</p><p dir="ltr">On 8 June, the dean of law school, Oleg Zayachkovsky, asked to see Alexeev in his office. Zayachkovsky was joined by a police official and a supposed representative of the university’s “security department”. The two men refused to introduce themselves by name but listened closely as the dean berated the student and asked him questions about the planned rally. Then they joined the dean in trying to convince Alexeev to move the rally to a park on the outskirts of the city.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Many Russian students&nbsp;have come under pressure&nbsp;for their participation in the protest rallies this spring and summer. University officials threatened some with expulsion, directly or indirectly</p><p dir="ltr">Alexeev refused to be intimidated. He <a href="https://www.newkaliningrad.ru/news/community/13845724-net-moralnykh-osnovaniy-kak-v-bfu-ubezhdali-ne-khodit-na-aktsiyu-navalnogo.html">secretly recorded the conversation</a> with his smart-phone and shared the audio with journalists. He also went to court to appeal the municipality’s decision about the protest site. On 10 June, the court ruled against him and he criticized the hearing on social networks, saying the court was <a href="https://vk.com/teamnavalny_kld?w=wall-140293827_2938">“full of brazen ignorance”</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">On 12 June, 200 to 300 Kaliningrad residents <a href="https://www.newkaliningrad.ru/news/briefs/politics/13856000-v-kaliningrade-politsiya-zaderzhala-uchastnikov-shestviya-storonnikov-navalnogo-foto-video.html">gathered</a> in the city center for a peaceful protest. Police <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/06/12/v-kaliningrade-zaderzhivayut-uchastnikov-akcii-protiv-korrupcii">arbitrarily detained dozens of them</a>, including Alexeev. A court fined him 10,000 rubles (about £130) for violating regulations on public gatherings, as happened to hundreds of other peaceful protesters across the country.</p><p dir="ltr">During the next few weeks, as Alexeev kept busy with exams and other university work, the audio of his conversation with the dean and two unidentified security officials was getting quite a bit of media coverage. On 10 July, the university suddenly informed Alexeev that he was being expelled. The young man immediately linked it to his activism but the university claimed he had violated the school’s “moral and ethical norms” by paying a “bribe”.</p><p dir="ltr">As Alexeev explained to Human Rights Watch, he was indeed among dozens of students at the university who cheated on their physical education requirement by paying someone to change the university’s attendance database to show they had attended physical education classes when they in fact had not. In May, the university discovered this cheating system and Alexeev received a reprimand and had to take on extra physical education classes to make up for it.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">It seems that Alexeev has indeed become the&nbsp;first student&nbsp;actually to be expelled for his protest activity. Alexeev&nbsp;will try to find justice&nbsp;in a court of law</p><p dir="ltr">Alexeev showed me the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/IKBFU/photos/pcb.1941945652718939/1942426776004160/?type=3&amp;theater">explanatory note</a> he filed with the university at the time. He said he wasn’t proud of cheating, especially as cheating did not bode well with his anti-corruption activism, but the university had not even mentioned a possibility of expulsion at the time and he was allowed to continue with his studies. Also, the head of the university’s legal affairs directorate <a href="https://www.newkaliningrad.ru/news/politics/14239060-vospitatelnyy-effekt-kak-i-za-chto-otchislili-studenta-bfu-olega-alekseeva.html">told</a> a local media outlet that although numerous students were involved in that cheating debacle, none of them were punished and that Alexeev’s expulsion had nothing to do with it.</p><p dir="ltr">Likewise, the university communications officer told journalists that Alexeev’s cheating earned him a reprimand, but that then he “exacerbated” his situation by publicly expressing his “lack of respect for a court of law” and “unlawfully recording” the conversation he had in the dean’s office. She said that these actions by Alexeev “on top of the reprimand” compelled the university to expel him.</p><p dir="ltr">Many Russian students <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/11/russia-children-students-targeted-after-protests">have come under pressure</a> for their participation in the protest rallies this spring and summer. University officials threatened some with expulsion, directly or indirectly. However, when commenting on the issue, Senator Andrey Klishas from the country’s ruling party, United Russia, <a href="https://ria.ru/society/20170503/1493608763.html">stated</a> that expelling students or punishing them otherwise for their civic activism was unacceptable. Yet, it seems that Alexeev has indeed become the <a href="https://www.newkaliningrad.ru/news/politics/14201607-prenebrezhenie-poryadkom-povedeniya-pravda-li-chto-v-rossii-otchislyayut-za-uchastie-v-mitingakh.html">first student</a> actually to be expelled for his protest activity. Alexeev <a href="https://www.newkaliningrad.ru/news/briefs/community/14294126-otchislennyy-student-alekseev-nameren-otsudit-u-bfu-im-i-kanta-2018-rubley.html">will try to find justice</a> in a court of law.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tatyana-dvornikova/three-teachers-monologues">&quot;I don&#039;t falsify elections and I don&#039;t spread propaganda. But I&#039;m still a teacher, I exist&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-davydov/russia-s-latest-protests-are-no-child-s-play">Russia&#039;s latest protests are no child’s play</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elena-platonova/in-russia-propaganda-starts-in-preschool">In Russia, propaganda starts in preschool</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tatyana-dvornikova/young-people-in-russia-today-don-t-have-it-easy">“Young people in Russia today don’t have it easy”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia dissent Vladislav Lobanov Russia Education Tue, 25 Jul 2017 05:26:31 +0000 Vladislav Lobanov 112473 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Attacks on Russian journalists must stop https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/attacks-on-russian-journalists-must-stop <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A series of assaults on Russian journalists this week&nbsp;accompany a continuing campaign against anti-corruption activists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/-el8gtafuda_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stanislav Zimovets was sentenced to 2.5 months in prison for violent conduct towards a police officer at an anti-corruption rally in Moscow on 26 March. Source: VKontakte.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>We continue our partnership with OVD-Info,&nbsp;an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly.&nbsp;</strong></p><p> Stanislav Zimovets, a defendant in the 26 March case, has been <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/20/figuranta-dela-26-marta-stanislava-zimovca-prigovorili-k-2-godam-i-6"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">sentenced</span></a> to 2.5 years in a general-regime prison colony. The prosecution had <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/18/obvinenie-zaprosilo-tri-goda-kolonii-dlya-figuranta-dela-26-marta-stanislava"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">asked</span></a> for three years. Stanislav Zimovets was charged with using force against a police officer during a rally against corruption. An OVD-Info correspondent attended the final court hearings in the case and we have <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/report/2017/07/18/advokat-krasavica-podsudimyy-vazhnyy-tut-reportazh-s-preniy-po-delu-zimovca">published</a> her article that includes Stanislav Zimovets’ final words in court, the arguments of the defence and the prosecution, and also a description of the unforgettable atmosphere in the courtroom.<br /> <br /> This week the Russian police and the Investigative Committee refused to open an investigation into assaults on journalists. In Orenburg, a pro-Kremlin activist <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/17/prokremlevskiy-aktivist-obyasnil-napadenie-na-zhurnalista-bolyu-v-zube"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">explained</span></a> that he had attacked a journalist because he had toothache, and police officers would agree only to make an official record of part of the journalist’s complaint. Meanwhile, in Petrozavodsk, the Investigative Committee <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/16/sledstvennyy-komitet-v-karelii-ne-stal-vozbuzhdat-delo-ob-izbienii-policiey">refused</a> </span>to bring charges against a police officer who assaulted a journalist working for the online-journal <em>Chernika</em> at the 26 March rally against corruption. During the rally the police officer struck the journalist in the face, breaking his glasses. At the time the journalist was wearing a press badge on his chest. And the attacks continue. In Moscow, assailants <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/19/dom-yulii-latyninoy-opryskali-edkim-veshchestvom"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">sprayed</span></a> an acrid gas of unknown chemical composition into the home of journalist Yulia Latynina. <br /> <br /> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/iDvnYk5FklQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><em>Petroavodsk: Footage of journalist Alexei Vladimirov being assaulted at an anti-corruption rally on 26 March.</em></p><p> Intimidation against the campaign offices of politician Alexei Navalny and his supporters continue. For example, in Gatchina police <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/19/v-lenoblasti-otkazalis-vozbuzhdat-delo-o-napadenii-s-lopatoy-na-storonnikov"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">refused</span></a> to launch a criminal investigation into an assault on supporters of Navalny with a spade. In Omsk, police officers <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/17/policiya-v-omske-trebovala-obyasnitelnye-u-prohozhih-poluchivshih-listovki-o"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">demanded</span></a> that passers-by who accepted Navalny campaign leaflets should write explanations for their action. In Khabarovsk, Navalny’s election headquarters were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/14/shtab-navalnogo-v-habarovske-nochyu-zalili-kraskoy"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">covered</span></a> with paint, ostensibly in retaliation for putting up election materials in the entrance halls of apartment buildings. In Astrakhan, unidentified people <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/20/v-astrahani-neizvestnye-razbili-mashinu-s-nakleykoy-navalnyy-208"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">smashed</span></a> the windows of a car parked in the courtyard with a “Navalny 20!8” sticker. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>And, in completely absurd news, in Kurgan a 14-year-old teenager blogger with anarcho-capitalist views was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/21/v-kurgane-podrostka-vyzvali-v-policiyu-iz-za-kolobka-v-nemeckoy-furazhke-so"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">summoned</span></a> to the police because of a meme of a gingerbread man in a German army cap with a swastika. Blogger Dmitry Morozov was summoned to the police station because of a comment posted by another individual on his VKontakte page. “They say that I am inciting hatred under Article 282 [<em>of the Russian Criminal Code</em>] and have violated Article 20.3 of the Administrative Law Code, since I did not DELETE A POST IN GOOD TIME AND ASSISTED IN ITS DISSEMINATION. That’s me, and not the person who posted the comment,” the videoblogger wrote.<br /> <br /> We have published two descriptions of arrests – one by a Soviet dissident, the other by a supporter of Navalny. The <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/documents/2017/07/14/administrativnyy-arest-fabrika-svoboda-pushkin-i-mylo"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">first text</span></a> was written by Irina Ratushinskaya, a poet and an inmate of political prison camps in the 1980s. She tells how she was jailed for 10 days for taking part in the annual traditional dissident protest on 10 December on Moscow’s Pushkin Square: how at 6pm people came and stood in silence, bareheaded. The author of the <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/stories/2017/07/17/zaderzhanie-po-telefonu"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">second text</span></a>, who is an activist in Navalny’s election campaign, has asked to remain anonymous. In his case, both in his arrest and in his release, a key role was played by a smartphone.</p> <h2 class="western"> <strong>Thank you</strong></h2> <h2 class="western"> </h2> <p>Thanks to everyone who continues to support us.&nbsp;<strong>Find out how you can help&nbsp;</strong><strong><a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a></strong><strong>.</strong></p> <p><em>For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/grigory-okhotin/crowdfunding-to-bypass-russia-s-civil-society-crackdown">here</a></em><em>.</em></p><p><em>&nbsp;</em>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://ovdinfo.org/"><img src="https://ovdinfo.org/sites/all/themes/ovdinfo/img/logo-ovdinfo.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p><p>OVD-Info is a crowdfunded organisation. Find out how you can help them&nbsp;<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/bolotnaya-20">Bolotnaya 2.0?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/little-russia-big-dreams-0">Little Russia, big dreams</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/alexei-moroshkin-forced-psychiatry-russia">“Worse than prison”: Russian political prisoner Alexei Moroshkin on punitive psychiatry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/madeline-roache/punitive-psychiatry-how-russian-leaders-deal-with-their-opponents">Punitive psychiatry: how Russian leaders deal with their opponents</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia OVD-Info Fri, 21 Jul 2017 11:27:16 +0000 OVD-Info 112431 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An ideal conflict on the Dniester https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vladimir-soloviev/ideal-conflict-on-dniester <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Twenty five years after the end of the war, a resolution to the frozen conflict over Transnistria seems no closer. This situation suits plenty of people at the top just fine. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/25">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_00008406.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="333" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 1992: Members of a pro-Transnistrian militia at Dubăsari. (c) RIA Novosti / I. Zenin. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 21 July 1992, the armed conflict in Transnistria came to an end. A Russian peacekeeping mission was introduced to this self-declared republic on the east bank of the Dniester river, internationally recognised as Moldovan territory. After a quarter of a century, Chișinău and Tiraspol still haven’t agreed on a final settlement to the conflict. Nevertheless, both Moldova and breakaway Transnistria often interact with each other as though they were still one state.</p><p dir="ltr">The war along the Dniester river, the bloodiest moment of which occurred in June 1992, ended with the signing of the “Agreement on the principles of a peaceful settlement of the armed conflict in the Transnistrian region.” The agreement was signed by the then presidents of Moldova and Russia, Mircea Snegur and Boris Yeltsin, in the presence of Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov.</p><p dir="ltr">This document launched a peacekeeping operation on the banks of the Dniester that continues to this very day. Contingents from Moldova, Russia and unrecognised Transnistria all participate in it. As a result, the operation is frequently referred to as “unique” — soldiers who had formerly fought one another now man the same roadblocks, sporting the same blue helmets.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Barely a day or two passed after the conflict’s end before participants on all sides returned to visit each other’s houses as welcome guests</p><p dir="ltr">From Transnistria’s perspective, the peacekeeping operation was important for another reason. It kept the conflict ticking over, albeit frozen, allowing the territory’s elites to rebuild working institutions of state and effective power structures, including an army and security services.</p><p dir="ltr">These days, the ongoing negotiations between Chișinău and Tiraspol are carried out in the spirit of a civilised, but final, divorce with Moldova. It’s worth pointing out that the very formula of a “civilised divorce” was the brainchild of Evgeny Shevchuk, who ruled Transnistria from 2011 to 2016. In a stroke of irony, he and his wife Nina Shevchuk (neé Shtanski, she served as the territory’s de-facto minister of foreign affairs) now comfortably and peacefully live in Moldova, a state which both had routinely criticised in the strongest possible terms.</p><p dir="ltr">The kind of transformation undertaken by Shevchuk would surprise only those who know little about the often-overlooked Transnistria dispute. Barely a day or two had passed after the conflict came to an end before participants on all sides returned to visit each other’s houses as welcome guests.</p><h2>A frozen settlement</h2><p dir="ltr">Twenty-five years have passed since the end of the war, but Moldova and Transnistria seem no closer to a political settlement to the conflict. Both sides are conducting drawn-out negotiations under the 5+2 format (in which Moldova and Transnistria are recognised the conflicting parties, the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine as mediators, and the EU and US as observers), in which they generally discuss economic and humanitarian issues. So far negotiators haven’t even pressed the key matter: whether Transnistria will be included in a united Moldova.</p><p dir="ltr">The position of the conflicting parties is as follows. Moldova stands for the full restoration of its territorial integrity. Chișinău’s approach is shared by all mediators and observers, including Russia. Although Moscow supports Transnistria economically and politically, it does recognise that a settlement to the conflict can only be achieved through negotiations, which would result in Transnistria receiving some special political status.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Dodon_Putin.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moldovan president Igor Dodon's visit to Moscow in January came during a period of diplomatic tension between the two powers. Source: Kremlin.ru. </span></span></span>What exactly that status should be has also not been established. Officially, Chișinău doesn’t even have a concrete answer. The Moldovan government promises that this year, it will finally finish developing its approach to resolving the conflict. That is to say, some 25 years after the end of the war in Moldova, Chișinău will finally have some view of how to settle matters.</p><p dir="ltr">However, against the backdrop of a bickering and undecided government, Moldova’s pro-Russian president Igor Dodon appears to have taken a determined and strong stance for the return of Transnistria to Moldovan jurisdiction.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The geopolitical divergence doesn’t prevent either side from finding points of common interest, particularly in business</p><p dir="ltr">This position has already caused a rift between Dodon and Transnistria’s new leader Vadim Krasnoselsky. The fact remains that Tiraspol is the only participant that insists that negotiations must end with the recognition of Transnistria’s independence. Krasnoselsky stresses that at every available opportunity. In June, he even took the opportunity to say so on British soil, after an invitation to speak from the Oxford Union. The Transnistrian authorities also speak of the unrecognised republic eventually becoming part of Russia, on the basis that over 90% of the territory’s residents voted for such a move in a 2006 referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Moscow prefers not to recognise Tiraspol’s dream of annexation. But negotiations for a settlement to the conflict stand still. Their dynamic can be summed up with one simple fact: since the beginning of this year, not one summit for negotiations in the 5+2 format has been held. Russia and Tiraspol have called for another round of negotiations on several occasions, but Austria, which presides over the OSCE this year, is categorically against. Vienna believes that negotiations should not be held for their own sake, insisting that they must end with concrete agreements. And that’s a result nobody can guarantee.</p><h2>Separately, but together</h2><p dir="ltr">If you ignore the rhetoric of Moldovan and Transnistrian politicians, their attacks on one another, you realise that Moldova and Transnistria have far more in common than you might expect at first glance.</p><p dir="ltr">The geopolitical divergence between the two — Chișinău is covered in EU flags, Tiraspol - the Russian tricolour — doesn’t &nbsp;prevent either side from finding points of common interest, particularly when it comes to business.</p><p dir="ltr">The most scandalous examples is energy. Right-bank Moldova and Transnistria both use Russian gas. Tiraspol, however, doesn’t pay its debts to Gazprom, and, given that Transnistria remains just another Moldovan district for Russia, Moscow views the debt that forms as a result as belonging to Moldova. The size of the debt has long tipped over the $6 billion mark, and 90% of this is down to Transnistria.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Beyond the rhetoric of Moldovan and Transnistrian politicians, both sides have far more in common than you might expect</p><p dir="ltr">A no less interesting situation has emerged with electricity production. Chișinău buys it from the Cuciurgan power plant, which is in Transnistrian territory, and thus provides a much-needed source of currency for Transnistria to survive. Under Evgeny Shevchuk, Transnistria began selling Chișinău electricity via intermediaries. This opaque scheme of delivery quickly attracted the attention of the media and experts, who connected the middlemen to Shevchuk and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-levcenco/vlad-plahotniuc-moldova-s-man-in-shadows">Vladimir Plahotniuc</a>, the influential oligarch and leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova.</p><p dir="ltr">This might explain why Shevchuk recently <a href="https://jamestown.org/program/former-transnistrian-leader-finds-refuge-moldova-amid-growing-tension-region/">fled to Moldova</a> (and not anywhere else) when the Transnistrian authorities opened a criminal investigation into corruption, contraband and abuse of power against him. Here, the ex-president of Transnistria lives in an elite apartment block in the centre of Chișinău (where a flat will cost you 1300 Euros per square metre) and is driven around town in a luxury red Mercedes together with his bodyguards. It’s hard to imagine this kind of scene in other countries <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/olesya-vartanyan-magdalena-grono/armenia-and-azerbaijan-s-collision-course-over-nagorno-ka">locked in “frozen” conflicts</a> across the post-Soviet space.</p><p dir="ltr">There are other examples that show how Moldova and Transnistria are actually cooperating with one another effectively, and without problems. Trade is one such sphere. Tiraspol trades with the outside world, including the EU, via Chișinău: Transnistrian producers get their goods certified in Moldova, and register them in Moldovan customs offices. Indeed, since 2016, the Association and Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Moldova has basically been in effect in Transnistria.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Transnistria_Flag.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>On 21 July, the Moldovan parliament <a href=http://www.eurointegration.com.ua/news/2017/07/21/7068828/>voted</a> for a declaration to demand Russia remove its peacekeepers from Transnistria. CC BY-2.0 Marco Fieber / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>There are more than 300,000 Moldovan passport holders on the left bank of the Dniester, and this number is constantly rising, given that Moldova entered into a visa-free regime with the EU in 2014. Even Transnistrian public officials take Moldovan citizenship. Transnistrian athletes participate in international competitions under the Moldovan flag, and are members of the national team. Tiraspol’s football club, Sherif, has won the Moldovan league several times over. For landlines and mobile, Transnistria uses the Moldovan international telephone code.</p><p dir="ltr">Recently, Chișinău took another important step in Transnistria’s direction. On 17 July, the first joint Moldovan-Ukrainian border and customs post opened at the international border crossing at Cuciurgan-Pervomaisk. At the same time, with Kyiv’s help, Moldova has launched the process of establishing control over the Transnistrian section of the border with Ukraine, which has been out of its control for 25 years. Now, Moldova plans to open 13 border and customs posts — five international and eight intergovernmental.</p><p dir="ltr">The many years of the Transnistrian conflict have shown that Chișinău and Tiraspol have completely adapted to co-existing in the status quo. And elite groups on both sides of the Dniester have even learned how to extract mutual benefit from the situation.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-soloviev/for-moldova-s-journalists-surveillance-is-new-norm">For Moldova’s journalists, surveillance is the new norm</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maria-levcenco/vlad-plahotniuc-moldova-s-man-in-shadows">Vlad Plahotniuc: Moldova’s man in the shadows</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nadine-gogu/who-really-rules-airwaves-in-moldova">Who really rules the airwaves in Moldova?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/eleanor-knott-mihai-popsoi/our-man-in-moldova-plahotniuc">Our man in Moldova</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexander-litoy/between-real-and-imitation-democracy-elections-in-transnistria">Between real and imitation democracy: elections in Transnistria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/marina-shupac/all-eyes-on-moldova">All eyes on Moldova</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-markedonov/transnistria-west-berlin-of-postsoviet-world">Transnistria: West Berlin of the post-Soviet world</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Vladimir Soloviev Moldova Conflict Fri, 21 Jul 2017 11:11:51 +0000 Vladimir Soloviev 112430 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Moscow will never get a museum of migration https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-grinko/why-moscow-will-never-get-museum-of-migration <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russian museums tend to avoid the subject of migration at all costs. For curators, it seems the people and history embodied in migration processes are invisible. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-grinko/musey-migratsiy" target="_blank">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02270490.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02270490.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian museums, much like Russian society in general, perceives migrants as mere “gastarbeiters” whose stories are not worthy of their curiosity. Photo (c): Maxim Blinov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Three years ago&nbsp;<em>Izvestiya</em> trumpeted the news that Moscow was scrapping its “Museums for Migrants” project. “Gastarbeiters,” apparently, just didn’t want free visits to the capital’s museums. The article didn’t, of course, mention that the scheme had never got off the ground in the first place. Meanwhile, exhibitions and entire museums devoted to migration are springing up across the world. This year has not only seen new developments in museums across America, but a greater civic role. The <a href="aam-us.org/about-us/media-room/2017/american-alliance-of-museums-statement-on-the-travel-ban-imposed-january-27-via-executive-order" target="_blank">American Alliance of Museums released this strong statement</a> in response to Donald Trump’s executive order on restricting immigration to the USA:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“History, art, science, and culture don’t stop at our borders, nor should the people who dedicate their lives to sharing and explaining these foundational elements of our society. By helping us to understand this broader world, they help us to understand each other. We are gravely concerned that this executive order runs counter to these objectives.”</p><p>Russia has had the largest rate of net migration alongside Germany and the USA, but not a single museum has appeared here to reflect that fact. If you search for the words “migrant” or “migration” on Russia’s largest museum website, you will not find a single hit.&nbsp;</p><h2>The migration that wasn't</h2><p>Even if we ignore migrants from outside Russia, this silence looks more than strange. The latest figures from the Internal Ministry’s Main Directorate for Migration reveal that 88% of migrants in fact resettle within the Russian Federation, and only 12% come from other states. But from the legendary invitation of the Varangians to rule Kievan Rus’ in the 9th century to the mass waves of emigration throughout the 20th century, migration has played an immense role in Russian history.</p><p>To say that the subject is entirely ignored woul be a gross generalisation. There are private and public museums that do deal with migration, as it's an integral part of their story: one example is <a href="https://www.jewish-museum.ru/en/" target="_blank">Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center</a>.</p><p>Recently, museum projects connected with local identity have started to focus on migration, as the history of many towns and cities can’t be understood without it. The <a href="tomskmuseum.ru/about_mus/" target="_blank">regional history museum in Tomsk</a>, for example, ran a project on “Siberians Free and Unfree”, while Izhevsk’s award winning <a href="http://www.centrgalereya.ru/" target="_blank">Gallery exhibition centre</a> is working on a project entitled “The Izhevsk Decalogue.” These initiatives are, however, the exception. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">If you search for the words “migrant” or “migration” on Russia’s largest museum website, you will not get a single hit </p><p>So, where all the other other migration stories?&nbsp;</p><p>We can look at the question from three different angles: migrants’ narratives about museums; historical narratives connected with museums and migration and finally, museum narratives about migration. </p><p>Let’s start with the abstract concept of migrants, since it’s evidently all their fault. All over the world, people who have left their homes and moved to pastures new enjoy visiting museums – except in Russia, where they supposedly have no desire to visit museums or recognise their worth. Here’s an example of their mentality, as seen by a <a href="http://echo.msk.ru/programs/poehali/828015-echo/">show</a> on the <em>Ekho Moskvy</em> radio station: “You suggest that migrants should find out about our country by going to museums. But there are a lot of young people coming here; why not take them to football matches or discos instead – wouldn’t that make it easier for them to assimilate in our country? Will they really want to go to museums?” Or, “Viktor is on the line with another question for us: ‘If a migrant doesn’t speak even two words of Russian, what can a museum do for him?’” </p><p>I would like to ask Viktor a question: how do Russian tourists manage in the Louvre, if they don’t speak two words of French? But in the end, museums’ interest in the subject of migration is hardly surprising: they work with artefacts and works of art, which speak to us in a universal language that everyone can understand (so long as the museum is doing its job). And a focus on migration doesn’t necessarily mean a focus on migrants themselves: it can sometimes be more important to bring the locals’ attention to the concept itself. Although, not necessarily Viktor’s.</p><h2>Invisible visitors </h2><p>But we have got distracted from the main question – do migrants in Russia go to museums? </p><p>A <a href="https://www.academia.edu/29366786/%D0%9C%D0%A3%D0%97%D0%95%D0%99%D0%9D%D0%90%D0%AF_%D0%9A%D0%90%D0%A0%D0%A2%D0%90_%D0%9C%D0%9E%D0%A1%D0%9A%D0%92%D0%AB_%D0%93%D0%9B%D0%90%D0%97%D0%90%D0%9C%D0%98_%D0%9C%D0%98%D0%93%D0%A0%D0%90%D0%9D%D0%A2%D0%9E%D0%92_Museum_map_of_Moscow_migrants_view">field study</a> carried out in 2014-2017 revealed that fewer than 20% of migrants had never been to a museum. The researchers had individual conversations with migrants (both citizens of other countries and stateless people) as part of a formal procedure where the Moscow committee of the Internal Ministry’s Main Directorate for Migration <a href="http://www.consultant.ru/document/cons_doc_LAW_36927/1084d905fa1d14c68e8d6dc599631d0bc6614241/">determined</a> whether individuals in these categories could be categorised as Russian speakers. The committee meets twice a month and has so far assessed 358 people, 11.4% of the total number of aspirants.</p><p>But what was much more interesting were the answers given by respondents to the question, “What Russian museums have you been in?”</p><p>Some answers fitted standard stereotypes: </p><p class="blockquote-new">“The Central House of Artists (more than 10 times – we were fixing the window panes), the Paleontology Museum, the Darwin Museum, the Biological Museum – also for work, you get to see everything (on the sly) at one go; it’s very interesting”.</p><p>Others shattered expectations: </p><p class="blockquote-new">“The museum-flat of the ballerina Galina Ulanova, the Gulag museum…Why those? I just worship the great dancer’s art. I also love Stalinist imperial architecture, especially the high rise buildings – I dream of visiting them all. I haven’t managed to visit Moscow University’s main building – isn’t there a museum there too? But I don’t know when it’s open. I also visited the Gulag museum with a friend: it was very interesting. You need to know your history, so as not to repeat it”. </p><p>And a few reminded Russia’s museums of the meaning of the word “competition” and their place in the world:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“The Italian courtyard in the Pushkin Museum. I’ve been to Venice and seen the frescoes there. What is there to see here?” </p><p>In all, these migrants, who “don’t go to museums”, in fact mentioned 137 Russian and world museums they had collectively visited. We would probably not have had a better response from “indigenous” Muscovites, 70% of whom, according to the <a href="http://miscp.ru/en/" target="_blank">Moscow Institute For Social and Cultural Programmes</a>, never go to museums. Admittedly “migrant”, and indeed “Muscovite” are rather abstract definitions that encompass dozens of social strata and population groups. The museum world shows no interest in recognising and studying either category – just look at the description of “target groups” in most projects and schemes run by Russian museums. </p><p>Nonetheless, if some of these “generic migrants” go to museums, then the passivity shown by the museums can’t be explained by a lack of demand for their services.</p><h2>Catherine the Great: gastarbeiter</h2><p>Perhaps this ignorance on the subject of migration has more prosaic roots – that museums just have nothing to work with. They’d love to tackle the topic, but their collections don’t allow it.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s an interesting hypothesis, but in Europe, museums of more or less every kind – from Italian palaces and Barcelona’s Maritime Museum to Athens’ Byzantine Museum – run projects on migration. Even Tenerife’s unique underwater Atlantico museum has tackled the subject.</p><p>Russia’s museums perhaps believe that their collections are so homogeneous as to exclude any reference to migration. But the facts show otherwise. The luxurious palace and grounds of Tsarytsino are in the Top Ten of migrants’ favourite Moscow museum complexes. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Tsaritsino_BW_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Tsaritsino_BW_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Visitors to the Tsarytsino park and museum complex in suburban Moscow. Photo CC-by-2.0: Alex1 / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>You might wonder how should an 18th century palace address “migration”. But you need to remember whom it was built for — not Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow’s former mayor, but his favourite heroine Catherine the Great. </p><p>And Catherine, a minor German princess, started off in her own way as an immigrant worker, brought to Russia as a diplomatic pawn with concrete responsibilities, albeit aristocratic ones. The initial function of the palace also had nothing to with a settled existence, but, on the contrary, with the Empress’s constant shuttling between Moscow and St Petersburg. The estate later fulfilled a similar ritual-seasonal purpose in its “dacha” period in the 1870s.</p><p>While we’re about it, we can even see the palace’s architecture as a fine example of the migration of styles – the Gothic is not native to Russia. And we mustn’t forget the migration of collections: the museum holds mainly works of applied art from former Soviet republics – that’s right, the same ones that our awful “migrants” come from (we don’t mind their <em>objets-d’art</em>). And let’s not forget the grounds and park – the natural world is an example of regular migrations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center"> Tsarytsino’s collection comprises mainly works of applied art from former Soviet republics – that’s right, the same ones that our awful “migrants” come from </p><p>Indeed, we have to recognise that it is only the theme of migration that allows us to conceptually and consistently weave Tsarytsino’s numerous strands into a single narrative.</p><p>It is the same with the State Literary Museum, which was intended as one of the main elements in the Moscow government’s “Museum for Migrants” project mentioned at the start of this article. </p><p>On the one hand, what have migrants to do with great Russian literature? But migrants have provided three out of Russia’s five Nobel Prizes for literature – and the last winner, Belarusian writer Svetlana Aleksievich (who writes in Russian) is no exception. Even if we turn from national pride to more prosaic subjects, we still can’t deny that journeys (i.e.migration) are at the heart of all traditional literature, whether folk tales, myths or epics. This goes back to the Odyssey and is as true for literature today. </p><p>In this context it’s interesting to look at the museum devoted to the life and work of the brilliant poet Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841), a descendent of Scottish immigrants who became one of Russia’s national treasures. This fact may be regarded as both a motivating force for people with an immigrant background and something to ponder for the “indigenous” population. But it is not only famous names who have left their mark on national life: there has been practically universal migration. To see all the places where Lermontov lived and worked you need to go by air. And the themes he chose for his works are full of this migrant reflex – one of his most famous lyric poems begins, “A lonely sail is flashing white/ Amidst the blue mist of the sea!”. </p><p>There is, by the way, a mass of useful themes for an anthropologist or museum educator in Lermontov’s work: take, for one, the voluntary/involuntary migrant Pechorin, who, like his creator, was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/jun/27/hero-our-time-lermontov-review">exiled to the Caucasus</a> where he tried various ways of establishing contact with the local population. </p><h2>Refined racism</h2><p>We have to admit here that the problem lies not in the migrants or the art collections, but in peoples’ heads. </p><p>The hosts of the Ekho Moskvy radio show began their discussion of this issue with a remark that illustrates beautifully the average Russian’s idea of migrants: “And now they’ve dreamed up a scheme called ‘Migrants in Museums’. I must say that when I read the brief for it, I thought I had stumbled on some comedy script…”</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">This imperial myth gets in the way of our museums not only engaging with the subject of migration, but of any interaction with real people</span></p><p>The museum community, supposedly among the more enlightened members of our society, should have a totally different view of this issue. But, no. This humorous take on the subject of migration is in fact one of the more harmless ones. Museum workers are not laughing - here are some of their other remarks on the issue, as <a href="https://www.facebook.com/museumaudit/posts/1883155761941719">posted</a> on Facebook: </p><p class="blockquote-new">“Museum workers fear and envy migrants. What good does it do to a museum to get involved in this dangerous subject of migrants? How can we protect the museum from the migrants that, as we know, get everywhere and sneak their homies in after them?”</p><p>In closed museum workers’ groups on social media you can find such “conceptual” suggestions as: “we should have asked these ‘guests of the capital’ to augment our collections: they’re so good at smuggling illegal stuff!”</p><p>And in any case, engagement with the subject doesn’t eliminate the “refined racism” in their attitudes to people with an immigrant background. </p><p class="blockquote-new">“We had a really positive experience. We held an exhibition of Armenian artists living in St Petersburg and you know, it was a real hit! We had full galleries every day! And the migrants did come – quite a diaspora (they’re easy to recognise). They, of course, understood their own art, and we’re thinking that maybe if you begin with something familiar, then they can start getting to know…well, less accessible stuff. More contemporary, say – things they’re not familiar with. We could use projects like that to attract and educate them…” </p><p>It’s difficult to think of St Petersburg’s Armenian diaspora as migrants, since it has been in existence since 1710, just seven years after the founding of the city. </p><p>But even that’s not the point. We still feel the need to teach and educate people of other countries and ethnicities, to raise their cultural level to our own, even when a museum is working with people whose culture it is exhibiting. This imperial myth gets in the way of our museums not only engaging with the subject of migration, but of any interaction with real people. How would you like it if you were always in the role of a pupil?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Moscow Centre of Museum Development brought out a calendar that repeated every possible stereotypical view of migrants</p><p>Even when attempts are made to draw attention to this issue, the narrative stays the same. </p><p>The Moscow Centre of Museum Development brought out a supposedly “humorous” calendar in an attempt to illustrate the subject of migration and inform the public about “the openness of our capital’s museums to every actual and potential visitor”. But it presented all migrants in the form of “Maksud”, a manual worker who speaks Russian badly and knows nothing about contemporary art. When some museum specialists called the cartoon illustrations chauvinist, other members of their professional community complained.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Maksud_Museum_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Maksud_Museum_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moscow’s Centre of Museum Development published a calendar displaying more or less all the prejudiced views about migrants. Here, a Tajik labourer called Maksud is at the contemporary art gallery. Noticing than a conceptual installation features rubber bricks, he cries “Hey! Let me fix that for you!” Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span></p><p>The Russian state is traditionally seen as the most “European” element of our country, but in this area it is resoundingly at one with the public. Moscow’s Department of Culture <a href="https://iz.ru/news/549717">analysed</a> the failure of the “Museums for Migrants” project in the following words: “We also ran an experiment: we invited a few Tajiks to a museum, but they all said they would only come if we paid them 300-500 roubles [£4 - £6.50]”. So here we have another fine image of the migrant manual worker from Tajikistan.</p><p>It’s no surprise that even the few exhibition projects devoted to the subject of migration are incapable of rising above this level. The introduction to the “Migrant Moscow” exhibition created by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration states that “in general, these are people from poorer countries who come to Russia on a temporary basis, to take up work not requiring high qualifications of any kind”. Once again, the subject of migration is displaced by the subject of migrants, and we end up with yet another reiteration of the same old story – that migration equals migrants, and migrants are temporary unskilled workers, criminals and terrorists. </p><p>Russian museums are afraid of the subject of migration and avoid it at all costs, even when it is obvious and natural. And despite successful projects curated by the Museum of the History of Religion, the Museum of Street Art and the Museum of Moscow, this fear stops them creating a unified narrative of migration – something that concerns every one of us.</p><p><em>Translated by Liz Barnes.</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/strangers-in-village">Strangers in the village </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach-ilya-budraitskis/dreams-of-europe-refugees-and-xenophobia-in-russia-and-ukra">Dreams of Europe: refugees and xenophobia in Russia and Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kaja-puto/second-hand-europe-ukrainian-immigrants-in-poland">Second-hand Europe: Ukrainian immigrants in Poland</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-zavadsky/we-re-all-strangers-here">We’re all strangers here</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ivan Grinko Migration matters Russia Fri, 21 Jul 2017 05:44:12 +0000 Ivan Grinko 112403 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No home, no work, no family: the difficulties of rehabilitation for Russia’s ex-prisoners https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatyana-dvornikova/no-home-no-work-no-family-difficulties-of-rehabilitation-for-russia-s-e <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Confiscation of property, slave labour, deceit, despair. What else do Russian ex-cons face when they leave prison?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_01287021.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>People coming out of prison are often open to fraud of all kinds. (c) Kirill Kalinnikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Russia has one of the highest recidivism rates in the world. According to the Federal Penitential Service, more than half of Russia’s prison population at any moment <a href="http://fsin.su/structure/inspector/iao/statistika/Xar-ka%20lic%20sodergahixsya%20v%20IK/">consists of people who have done time before</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Committing a second offence and going back inside can be the result of a number of factors. Among them are the nature of the prison system itself, the lack of any effective rehabilitation programmes, financial difficulties after release and the stigmatisation of ex-offenders. People who have served a prison sentence have problems finding work, often can’t return to their families and often have no permanent home or steady income.</p><p dir="ltr">They may have learned a skill or trade in prison, but find it useless in the job market outside. They have also lost their social connections. Women coming out of prison have even more problems: they have often lost custody of their child or children, who have been taken into care, and it’s not easy to get them back if you have no home or income. Left without adequate support, not to mention cash, someone might well commit another crime and end up with a stiffer sentence as a repeat offender. But the government does little to address the problem of rehabilitation.</p><p dir="ltr">oDR asked Polina Mazunina, a psychologist working at Perm’s State Social Adaptation Centre, to explain how the support system for ex-offenders works and why in its present form it can do very little to solve their problems.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What does the Social Adaptation Centre do?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We have several sections, and in one of them we offer help to able bodied homeless people. Most of our clients are people who, for whatever reason, can’t live in their own home, or don’t have a home, and about 90% of them are ex-prisoners. Some come to us by themselves some time after their release, but many are referred to us immediately on leaving prison.</p><p dir="ltr">Some people have no home of their own — before they went to prison they worked and rented a flat. Others have somewhere to live, but it’s unfit for habitation. One man had a house on the outskirts of Perm, but while he was inside it was burgled and had all its windows smashed, so it was uninhabitable.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What other difficulties do offenders face then they leave prison?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Many of our clients have no ID papers. They often leave prison without them: theoretically this is legally impossible, but it happens all the time. Sometimes they have their ID papers, but not the other documents they need to get a proper job. Many arrive in prison with a full set of documents, but leave with just their basic ID. The prison administration people don’t even try to explain this: they’ll tell you that they haven’t been able to find them — the prisoner was moved between camps and probably lost them in transit.</p><p dir="ltr">Our main aim is to find people temporary accommodation, sort out their papers and help them into work if they are having difficulties with that. Most of them are not officially registered at any address, so we give them temporary registration somewhere so that they can at least sign on at a jobcentre. Without a registered address, it’s pretty much impossible to find any official employment.</p><p dir="ltr">Another group at risk are disabled people of working age. They’re usually placed in the lowest disability category, even if they can’t really work. Russia has very stringent requirements for disability benefits, but it’s difficult to rent accommodation on these benefits. Sometimes we find placements for people in private shelters, because the bureaucracy will only provide funds for state shelters for those of pensionable age. Accommodation in these shelters is funded out of residents’ pensions — by law, they can take up to 75% of their benefits, depending on the services they offer. But often private homes take the entire amount.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02209791.LR_.ru__0_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Officers at Vladimir Central prison. (c) Alexey Kudenko / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>We had a case where a shelter in the Perm region burned down. A number of residents died in the blaze; others were badly burnt. The rest were referred to us, and talking to them, we realised that all their benefits were taken from them to fund their accommodation. But they weren’t particularly complaining. Some had mental health problems and weren’t bothered about benefits; others were happy with their lives — they lived in a barracks in the countryside, surrounded by nature; they were more or left to their own devices, with no strict rules to follow. After a couple of days the reason for the fire became clear: the inmates had started smoking en masse in their rooms.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How quickly do ex-offenders find work through your centre?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">If there are no admin problems (they have all the papers they need) it depends on how much their skills (if they have any) are in demand. Women usually have fewer problems finding work because they’re less fussy. They can get jobs washing, cleaning or working in restaurants. Their time behind bars matters a lot less in jobs like this, even if they were convicted for theft.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"The problem is that most of our clients are afraid of leaving the centre and encountering the unfriendly world beyond"</p><p dir="ltr">We had one young woman who had been in prison for theft and had difficulty finding work because her skills were very specific — she was a sewing machine technician. She’s good at her job, but it’s difficult to find a vacancy in that particular area. She has started to work at the centre, in an admin role, but I think she has a lot more potential and could in principle find work outside and move on.</p><p dir="ltr">But the problem is that most of our clients are afraid of leaving the centre and encountering the unfriendly world beyond.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>And what about male ex-offenders?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I think they have more difficulty finding work. If they are skilled workers (welders or frame-saw operators, for example) they have a good chance. But if they don’t have a specialist skill, it’s down to handling freight or working as a security guard, and not every employer wants to hire an ex-con for that. The security service checks them out, and if they were convicted of theft, they’re less likely to get a job. Which just leaves construction work: off-the-books, cash in hand and no guarantees. That doesn’t solve their problem.</p><p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/I4mparupPFE" frameborder="0"></iframe><em>A Russian-language broadcast on the problems of "adaptation" for former prisoners. Source: SGU TV.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Security guard work isn’t ideal either: people can go months without being paid, or get an advance of 200 roubles [£2.56] a day, to cover getting to work and having something to eat. They’re never given a contract: there’s always an excuse — the printer’s on the blink, the bookkeeper’s not around, people are on holiday and so on. Naturally, they’re not going to stop working: they hope they will get paid and have some stability. They’re just thankful for any job: after being turned down dozens of times they now have some hope again, even though they wouldn’t have chosen this one.</p><p dir="ltr">People who have been in prison are always open to fraud of all kinds. Just about every man who has tried to find a security job through our centre has been “ripped off” in some way at least five times.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How are these situations resolved?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">They leave, in a variety of circumstances. Some try to get the money they’re owed, and some of these are even successful. Some appeal to the courts, but that doesn’t always help. Even if a client wins his case, it doesn’t mean he’ll get his money. The people that go through the courts are those with “justice-seeker” personalities, who will fight to the end, whatever the odds. But most people just give up in the end and go off to look for happiness elsewhere.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happens when a client finds work?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Our clients can stay at the centre for a while after they have found work. We sign an agreement with them for two-three months with a possibility of extension. If someone finds a job as a watchman, or where there is accommodation, he disappears pretty fast. Unfortunately we have no way of finding out where he’s gone and what happens to him afterwards. Many people who go elsewhere disappear after a short time – either they’ve found work somewhere else, or something has happened to them, or they’re back behind bars. Anything could have happened.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02589344.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A prisoner at work in Primorsky krai. (c) Kirill Kalinnikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>We have many returning clients, including some that have come back to us after completing another stretch in jail. Some haven’t got on with employers; others have been cheated by estate agents – that can happen too. If someone applies for a place at the centre but we are full up, we ask them to phone regularly and check if a place is free. Some just need a temporary registration address, rather than actual accommodation, so they too are hard to keep tracks on. There are also people who are officially registered with us but never appear. If a person disappears for three days without giving a reason, we can cancel the agreement, so we have a high turnover.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What relations do you have with clients’ families? Do they try to reconnect with them?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Usually they have lost all contact: most of our clients feel very bitter and hurt, but they have a certain pride at the same time – people aren’t ready for any contact; they think their relative might be trying to cadge something. If family members have illegally de-registered or sold a flat in which the client had a share (but didn’t sign any papers) — not many clients will take it to court. It’s an attitude: I don’t need anything from you, I’m nothing to you and you’re nothing to me.</p><p dir="ltr">With serial offenders it’s more complicated. If there’s a second offence and it’s connected with drugs or theft, relatives are rarely keen to reconnect – they might be ashamed of the person or distrust them. Also, a man with a record in a family is often taken for a scrounger: he drinks; he’s unemployed; you can’t ask anything of him, he won’t help with the housework. What’s he good for?</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"At counselling sessions we put aside some time for this particular aspect of their experience. But the law and nationwide standards make no distinction between cases"</p><p dir="ltr">A woman might re-integrate with her family quite quickly. Problems mainly arise with people who are heavily dependent on narcotics or alcohol. But at the same time, older women without any criminal record, who have just been thrown out by their families, often turn up at the centre.</p><p dir="ltr">Women ex-offenders can also be in trouble: almost all of them have health issues and they are often HIV positive and have lost custody of their children. They try to get the children back, but it’s not easy: they have to register with a narcotics specialist and they are often homeless. If the children are not in care, they are being looked after by aunts and grannies, who often keep them away from their delinquent parent. But once they are grown up, children sometimes try to find out about their parents and get into contact with them again.</p><p dir="ltr">One person who stayed with us here after leaving prison was a woman of around 50 who wanted to find her daughter, who would have been 16 or 17 at the time. We found her VKontakte [social media] account, and they had a pretty dramatic online chat. The daughter reminisced about how her mum used to treat her: she would beat her and then she abandoned her, and the girl felt a lot of hurt and hatred, but love and attachment at the same time. In the end, the daughter left her phone number. The woman was an alcoholic and herself a victim of domestic abuse who was often severely beaten by her partner. In the end, she killed him, hence the prison sentence. The daughter had her own child at the age of 17, remained a single mother and her life was more or less a repetition of her mother’s.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Have many of the women who come to you experienced violence?</strong></p><p>Many of the women have experienced violence, both at home and outside it. We recently had a client who had left her husband after he had beaten her badly and broken her arm. We talked about various options, about her getting a job, but she’s now in depression and totally apathetic. There are many women like this, who literally run away from home because of violence. Many of the female ex prisoners who come to us have also killed their partners after being violently treated by them. We have had a lot of stories like this over the last two years. We also have a section for women and children who have been in an abusive situation.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is the social rehabilitation of women ex-offenders different from that of others who have just been through difficult times?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Yes, of course. Their prison experience definitely leaves its mark, especially if they had a long sentence. At counselling sessions we put aside some time for this particular aspect of their experience. But the law and nationwide standards make no distinction between cases. Every client has the right to one or two counselling sessions a year, regardless of their circumstances, because our section allows an overnight stay. You arrive, you stay the night and you get your records updated, but for the rest — be good at your own expense. In the end we decide for ourselves how to work with each client and we give them a psychological check up, although we’re not supposed to. We also have no leisure or cultural programmes for clients. The goal is to get the person into work. There are books and a TV in the centre, that’s your leisure time taken care of.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"Formal procedures are particularly stressful for ex-convicts, and sometimes job hunting can turn into a disaster area. Filling in forms becomes an unbearable ordeal"</p><p dir="ltr">I believe that it should all be different. I would put more emphasis on counselling, especially if the client has been in prison for 20, if not 30 or 40 years. These people are completely unsocialised, in every way. Have you any idea how they talk to potential employers? A man who has spent a cumulative 40 years in prison rings an employer, doesn’t even say hello or introduce himself, but gets straight to the point: “I want work”. That’s no way of making contact with an employer. There’s no question of him being given a job after that.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How are situations like this resolved and do the staff at the centre help clients talk to potential employers?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Of course. We have to set up trips to construction projects or simple interviews here at the centre. Everything has to be done through an intermediary. The man I mentioned above just passed me the phone during the call, saying: “I don’t understand a word.” These people have lost the habit of talking about such things on the phone. It’s much easier for them to turn up and say, “Give me a spade, I’ll get on with the work.”</p><p dir="ltr">Formal procedures are particularly stressful for ex-convicts, and sometimes job hunting can turn into a disaster area. Filling in forms becomes an unbearable ordeal, and they complain to me whenever they are asked to fill in anything. If they are told to expect a call in a few days, they assume they have been turned down: they don’t understand that employers need time to think and select. We support them, of course, which includes explaining that although they might be turned down for something because of their criminal record, they shouldn’t give up hunting for a job.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is there contact between the people staying at the centre?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Yes, it’s a friendly place; everybody gets chatting in the kitchen and smoking room. You also have a lot of people pairing off. A couple, married with two children, recently asked us for help — they lived on the outskirts of Perm but some road works started nearby and it was difficult for them to get into the city. They had to move house, and meanwhile the children were put into care and the parents came to stay here. And it turned out that they had actually met at the centre 10 years ago, and been together ever since. And that isn’t an isolated case. A lot of people meet here and go off to live together or find someone to share a flat with. It’s mostly heterosexual relationships, though.</p><p dir="ltr">There’s generally a lot of mutual support among our clients, although there are always some who try to sponge off everyone else or introduce some kind of prison set up in the room. People can be permanently traumatised by their prison experience, especially if they have had a long sentence, and this defines their entire life and behaviour. If they have acquired some kind of authority in the prisoners’ hierarchy and occupied a certain social status in their barrack room, they’re very hard to work with. They drink and take drugs here in the centre, tear the place apart and make life difficult for everyone else.</p><p dir="ltr">This kind of behaviour is of course clamped down on. But we don’t throw them out – that’s not what we’re here for. In the worst cases we might try to revoke their agreements, but we start by talking to them and moving them to other rooms. These are also the people who are forever complaining to the ombudsperson or the public prosecutor’s office, where nobody has a clue – they just phone us and tell us to extend their agreements.</p><p dir="ltr">There’s a certain peer pressure involved: the guy feels uncomfortable, it’s an unpleasant situation, and he tries to deal with it by adding whatever aggression he can to the mix. But sooner or later everything comes to a head and he just leaves the centre.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Are there other centres working with people in difficult circumstances in Perm or its surrounding area?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There are similar centres in Berezniki [the second largest city in the Perm region] and another town, Tchaikovsky. There are also private homes and rehabilitation centres that work with homeless people and those who are alcohol and drug dependent. But they are generally aimed at people of working age, whom they often use as cheap labour.</p><p dir="ltr">These centres have contracts with various organisations and fix their clients up with jobs in construction, where they work without pay, just for food and lodging. If they are lucky, they might also get help with their ID papers. The people who agree to these conditions are in desperate situations — they have no alternative and they at least get a roof over their heads to see them through the winter. The only people they won’t take are those who can’t work: the sick and the elderly. I have a lot of doubts about these so-called rehabilitation centres, do they even deserve the name?</p><p dir="ltr">We recently had a man of 50 come to us: after he got out of jail he lived in various rehabilitation centres. He couldn’t work and just helped out around the building, but eventually they threw him out and he ended up on the street. He has quite severe mental health issues, is now in hospital for tests and the most he can hope for is registration as disabled, which will give him some benefits but won’t solve his homelessness problem.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"Most so-called rehabilitation centres are basically workhouses, and part of some large private network. They almost always have some religious connection, but communing with god doesn’t suit everyone"</p><p dir="ltr">Effective rehabilitation centres do, however, exist. They have detoxification and other therapeutic programmes, give people guidance after their initial treatment and look after their welfare for a long time. Their families also get involved and provide what financial support they can. I have seen this system working in St Petersburg but I’ve never found anywhere working along these lines in Perm. Most so-called rehabilitation centres are basically workhouses, and part of some large private network. They almost always have some religious connection, but communing with god doesn’t suit everyone: there is a need for normal psychotherapy as well.</p><p dir="ltr">People also come to us after detox treatment in state run clinics. Again, I haven’t seen this approach working, any record of sustainable remission from dependency. People come straight to us out of the detox clinics and start celebrating their liberation — they see the clinics as a temporary stopover where they can eat and sleep.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why are you unable to follow your clients up after they have left your centre?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We have such a turnover of clients that all we can do is document it. We don’t have a specialist who could follow people up after they’ve left the centre. We can take someone’s phone number, but they might change it. I don’t even really know how we could keep tabs on former clients. In the first place, it’s not something the government takes any interest in. We work to certain standards and regulations, but there’s nothing in them about follow-up. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-lebedev/kicking-habits-kicking-back">Kicking habits, kicking back</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/isabelle-magkoeva/we-ll-be-living-with-this-for-long-time">We’ll be living with this for a long time</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/artur-asafyev/outrage-and-outsourcing-in-russian-healthcare">Outrage and outsourcing in Russian healthcare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-gukovsky/state-society-and-individual-in-russian-courtroom">State, society and the individual in the Russian courtroom </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/bulat-mukhamedzhanov/russia-s-prison-service-is-keeping-its-abuses-under-lock-and-key">Russia’s prison service is keeping its abuses under lock and key</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-borozdina/natural-birth-in-russia">Natural birth in Russia: the costs of “keeping it real”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/gulnar-salimova/walking-free-in-azerbaijan">Walking free in Azerbaijan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tatyana Dvornikova Russia Thu, 20 Jul 2017 05:52:59 +0000 Tatyana Dvornikova 112347 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why are Russians indifferent to the Syrian conflict? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/syriauntold-editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/why-are-russians-indifferent-to-syrian-conflic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Russia’s on-the-ground involvement in the Syrian conflict is increasing, but there’s still little in the way of interest from the Russian public.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-31505398.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May 2017: Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin hold a joint press conference following their meeting at Versailles. (c) Alain Apaydin/ABACAPRESS.COM. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/sergei_davidis?lang=en">Sergei Davidis</a> is a Russian opposition politician and rights defender. He is a member of the council of <a href="http://memohrc.org/">Memorial Human Rights Center</a>, and a member of the Federal Coordination Council of the<a href="http://5dec.ru/"> 5th of December Party.</a></p><p dir="ltr">SyriaUntold sat down with him to understand how Russian civil society positions itself on the Syrian conflict. This dialogue is the outcome of a partnership between SyriaUntold and<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia"> openDemocracy Russia (oDR)</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>It's been more than six years that Syrian civilians are subjected to unprecedented violence, why is the Russian civil society silent about it? Are there underreported solidarity initiatives?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergei: </strong>I don’t think there are any particularly significant solidarity initiatives that the world doesn’t know about. Sometimes there are solitary pickets, sometimes there are slogans of solidarity at general opposition demonstrations — particularly those regarding Ukraine. After the Kremlin decided to deploy troops in Syria, there was a demonstration against it, two to three thousand people attended. There was an attempt to hold a solidarity demonstration at the height of the storm of Aleppo in November 2016 — this had a certain resonance in society, but the city authorities didn’t allow it to go ahead. Back then, there were some protest actions in a few Russian cities, although they didn’t get much in the way of numbers. There’s some solidarity with the Syrian people on Russian social networks, but it’s quite quiet.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-29007027_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>October 2016: Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff speaks at a briefing at the Russian Defense Ministry's headquarters in Moscow. (c) Ivan Sekretarev AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The reasons why Russian society is silent on this issue are complex, and probably can’t be explained exhaustively. I suspect that the following factors are at play:</p><p dir="ltr">- the coverage of the situation in Syria by media outlets under state control. If this coverage mentions violence against civilians, then it will be acts of violence committed by IS or the Coalition. Russia is presented as the defender of the civilian population;</p><p dir="ltr">- the conflict in Syria doesn’t fit into the dichotomy of the battle between the democratic west with the autocratic Putin regime;</p><p dir="ltr">- the general lack of information on the situation in Syria, and the complexity of this situation for Russian citizens — to figure out what is going on, especially on the basis of fragmentary and unbalanced information, and therefore understand who should be supported and why, is very difficult;</p><p dir="ltr">- the Syrian context itself is culturally alien and incomprehensible for Russian citizens (in contrast to Ukraine), and the level of empathy for the Syrian people is low;</p><p dir="ltr">- the threat of Islamic terrorism and, in first place, Islamic State, is seen as real, and the Russian public finds it hard to distinguish the fight against IS and other military conflicts in Syria.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What about the Russian opposition to the current government? Where does it stand on the Syrian conflict?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergei: </strong>The real opposition to the Russian authorities — the non-system opposition — views Putin’s war in Syria negatively. This concerns the so-called “liberal” opposition too, as well as a considerable section of the Russian nationalist opposition and the Russian left. But the main theses of Russian opposition groups are pragmatic rather than humane — Russia is using funds for a distant and unnecessary war, funds that are needed to solve the numerous internal problems at home.</p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RsXgT4tm06s" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><em>November 2016: Prominent opposition politician Alexei Navalny complains about the amount of money spent on fuelling Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov air carrier. </em><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, the idea that the Putin regime is waging war in Syria to support Bashar Assad, to oppose the west and satisfy his own geopolitical ambitions, rather than really confronting IS and other terrorist groups, is seen as more or less self-evident by the opposition.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is indifference towards Syria somehow related to the poor status of civil liberties in nowadays' Russia?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergei: </strong>It’s difficult to judge the connection between the two exactly. But there’s definitely something. At a minimum, the numerous problems with rights and freedoms in Russia suck up a lot of time from the section of Russian society that is, in principle, ready to express its concern with these domestic issues, which doesn’t leave energy for problems taking place far from Russia. Moreover, the constant limitations on freedom of assembly and expression make getting your position across to the rest of society all the more difficult.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>To what extent can apathy towards the Syrian cause be ascribed to general indifference towards remote conflicts and to what extent is it a signal of widespread support for the Russian government's policies in Syria?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergei:</strong> Both factors are present here, but to understand their contribution, a comparison with the annexation of Crimea and aggression towards Ukraine is telling. According to polls, these actions by the Russian authorities had far more support from society. However, the protest against state aggression and solidarity with the Ukrainian people was significantly more noticeable in Russian society. So, in terms of Syria, support for the Russian authorities’ actions is extremely passive. Indeed, it is precisely indifference to a distant, foreign and incredibly complex conflict that is key here.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>To what extent are reliable and diversified sources of information on Syria available in Russian in the country? What is the general perception of the Russian media's coverage of Syria? What about the prevailing view on how western media are covering the conflict?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergei: </strong>It’s hard to say, at least in Russia, what sources of information about events in Syria are absolutely reliable. But of course, it’s impossible to talk about diversification of information resources in Russia. In official media, which are more or less the main source of information for the majority of Russian citizens, the coverage is purely propagandistic and prejudiced. In the few oppositional media and the internet, diversification comes down to refuting official information, drawing attention to the Russian casualties, expenditure of funds on the war, foreign policy and military failures of Putin and Assad, rather than an attempt to paint a real, holistic picture of what’s going on in Syria.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-29368805_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The taking of Aleppo left many questions over war crimes and human rights abuses. (с) Hassan Ammar AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The picture of the Syrian conflict, which you can see in the mainstream western press, is practically inaccessible to the Russian viewer — the kind of information paradigm (not only in its relationship to Syria, but in terms of attention paid) isn’t available in Russian, including in opposition media. The picture you see in Russia’s official and pro-government media is principally different, opposite, from its western counterpart — and it’s the same in the alternative press.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is there any Syrian civil actor, intellectual, artist who has managed to reach the Russian audience? Because of the historical relations between the Assad regime and the URSS-Russia, a significant number of Syrians have have lived in Russia, some of them even speak Russian fluently. What is the role of this Russophone Syrian community in Russia and abroad? Does it have any impact on how the narrative on Syria is shaped in Russia?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergei: </strong>I can’t think of any successful examples where Syrians have appealed to the Russian public, or any role played by Russian-speaking Syrians. The only instance I can think of is, perhaps, the statements made by Muhammed Faris, the first Syrian cosmonaut. Faris, who conducted a mission on the Mir space station in 1987, joined the opposition in 2012 and eventually fled to Turkey. In November 2015, Faris<a href="https://www.svoboda.org/a/27375320.html"> called</a> on the Russian people to support the fight against Assad — and this had a certain resonance in society.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Some have argued that Islamophobia has played a role in decreasing empathy with the Syrian cause (especially in comparison with the Ukrainian cause). If so, do Russians look at Syria in the same way they look at Chechnya, therefore sharing the same prejudices on an allegedly "Islamic" cause? What about Russian Muslims? Are they vocal about Syria or is mobilisation limited to Islamist hardliners?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergei:</strong> I don’t think that Islamophobia is crucial to understanding the indifference of Russian citizens to Syria. It plays a certain role. Society doesn’t want to understand the internal confrontations or waste energy on distinguishing IS terrorists and other groups fighting in Syria, thereby risking the possibility of being wrong. But a comparison with Chechnya shows that Islamophobia isn’t key. The level of empathy for the Chechen people during the first and even second Chechen wars was far higher. This was probably connected to the geographical, cultural and historical closeness of Chechnya (and the casualties, terror attacks, mass involvement in military actions from across Russia, and because the war was so physically close).</p><p dir="ltr">I’m not well informed enough about how Russian Muslims feel about this situation, but what I do know tells me that their positions are defined by their relationship to the Russian authorities. Supporters of the regime tend to support its position, including Syria, whereas opponents are more likely to sympathise with IS. But as far as I know, there’s been no actions in support of Syrian civilians, actions against Assad or Russia’s role in the war, by Russian Muslims.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In Europe, siding with the Syrian regime has become a common trend among wide segments of the traditional left (under the "anti-imperialist" guise) and the far right-wing (for Islamophobic reasons and in the hope of curbing the unwanted waves of refugees through stable "secular" dictatorships). A growing number of decision-makers are also rehabilitating the Asaad regime under the pretext that, in their view, it's the lesser of two evils (the latter being Sunni jihadism) and its collaboration is helpful in restabilising global security. Are there any similarities with the Russian political landscape and, if not, how does it differ from Europe with regards to Syria?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergei: </strong>The Russian authorities, and the “experts” and media who support them, use elements of similar rhetoric. But with the absence of public politics and public discussion in the western understanding, these arguments remain instruments of building support for the authorities’ actions, rather than a subject of substantive political and civic debate.</p><p dir="ltr">The support for the Assad regime and the military operation in Syria is based on the public position of the Russian authorities, which is passively shared by a significant section of Russian society. This position can be explained as follows:</p><p dir="ltr">- This support is the most effective and natural means of fighting IS and terrorist groups like it, and a chance to stop them far from Russia’s borders;</p><p dir="ltr">- The Assad regime, which is a legal, democratically elected regime that is realising Syria’s sovereignty, defending it against external aggression, international terrorism and colour revolutions from outside, is legally and morally justified;</p><p dir="ltr">- Participation in the military operation in Syria, the support and maintenance of a friendly regime in the Middle East allows Russia to oppose its geopolitical enemy — the west, and, in particular, the US, as well as to show the might and importance of Russia, test new military equipment, and give practical military experience to the Russian army.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-davidis/why-aren-t-russians-protesting-against-war-crimes-in-syria">Why aren’t Russians protesting against war crimes in Syria?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/elena-volkava-maciej-bartkowski/russians-resisting-war-and-repression">Russians resisting war and repression</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-sorokin/pacifism-and-patriotism-in-russia">Pacifism and patriotism in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/leila-al-shami/tyrants-bring-invaders">The tyrants bring the invaders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/pavel-k-baev/russia-is-spoiling-for-fight-in-middle-east">Russia&#039;s short-termism in the Middle East</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/boris-filanovsky/bach-among-palmyra-s-ruins">Bach among Palmyra’s ruins</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia North-Africa West-Asia oD Russia Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia Syria Untold Thu, 20 Jul 2017 05:17:25 +0000 Syria Untold and Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia 112369 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Little Russia, big dreams https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/little-russia-big-dreams-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The “Donetsk People’s Republic” has declared itself part of another union — Malorossiya. Is it a serious project, or just a pointed gesture?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/DNR_Flahs.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/DNR_Flahs.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Great to Little: from Novorossiya to Malorossiya. Photo via VK.com/NovostiDonbasa. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Another breakaway state has been born in eastern Ukraine. At least in theory.</p><p dir="ltr">This week, leader of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Alexander Zakharchenko<a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/07/18/73155-zaharchenko-podal-signal-sos"> declared</a> the Federation of Malorossiya. The state-in-waiting is to encompass all provinces comprising today’s Ukraine (some sources say just 19 of them), with the important exception of Crimea. Its capital will remain Donetsk, with Kyiv as a centre of “historical-cultural importance” without official status.</p><p dir="ltr">Zakharchenko’s first priority is to declare a<a href="https://tvrain.ru/articles/malorossija-439838/?utm_source=safari&amp;utm_medium=push&amp;utm_campaign=articles&amp;utm_term=439838"> three-year state of emergency</a> to “avoid utter chaos” and to launch an investigation into “the crimes committed in the Donbas, on the Maidan and in Odessa.” Once drafted, a referendum will be held on the Malorossiyan constitution.</p><p dir="ltr">While the internal politics of both the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics are tightly controlled by Moscow, apparently even Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s man for overseeing the Donbas, was<a href="http://www.rbc.ru/politics/18/07/2017/596de6549a794753426d8657?from=main"> caught off-guard</a>. As presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov put it, Russia’s leadership came to know about “Malorossiya”<a href="https://tvrain.ru/news/kreml_sformuliroval_svoju_pozitsiju_po_malorossii-439886/?utm_source=safari&amp;utm_medium=push&amp;utm_campaign=news&amp;utm_term=439886"> through the news</a>.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">Malorossiya is to encompass all provinces comprising today’s Ukraine, with the important exception of Crimea</p><p dir="ltr">Whether that’s at all plausible depends to a large extent on whether “Malorossiya” really matters — after the failure of the <a target="_blank" href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/04/17/novorossiya-is-back-from-the-dead/">Novorossiya project, which set its sights on all eastern and southern Ukraine</a>&nbsp;and resurrected another moniker from Russian imperial history, this successor seems farcical at best. Even Luhansk isn’t convinced. The Chairman of the LNR’s national council Vladimir Degataryenko<a href="http://www.rbc.ru/politics/18/07/2017/596dd99a9a7947477d1db82b"> says</a> he and his colleagues would’ve dismissed the idea even earlier, had they only known about it. Strelkov, who is soon to debate Russian opposition leader Navalny, curtly <a href="https://vk.com/wall347260249_165048">remarked</a> that the whole story was a “sad farce.”</p><p dir="ltr">Zakharchenko couldn’t have chosen a more delicate moment for his announcement. This week has seen the third anniversary since flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on board. Meanwhile in Kyiv, there’s talk in the Rada of plans to<a href="http://www.apple.com"> abolish</a> the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) zone, as Kyiv refers to those areas of the Donbas under its control. And today, another round of peace talks commenced in Minsk.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1-zdwS1wIBAsqi1C3XjnkdhQ.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1-zdwS1wIBAsqi1C3XjnkdhQ.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flag of “Malorossiya" introduced on 18 July. Source: vesti-ukr.com.</span></span></span></p><h2>Cut from whose cloth?</h2><p dir="ltr">Malorossiya translates as “Little Russia”, and much like “Novorossiya” (New Russia), it’s a historically and politically charged term. Tsarist administrators often applied the term to what was once the Cossack Hetmanate and what is now the Republic of Ukraine, referring to the local inhabitants as “Little Russians”.</p><p dir="ltr">By the late 19th century, the term became newly politicised against the backdrop of a growing Ukrainian national movement. In response to the Polish Uprisings of the 1860s and the tide of nationalism sweeping Europe, the concept of a triune Russian nationdeveloped — an attempt to make a pseudo nation-state of a disparate and diverse empire. That’s a project many believe to be unfinished in Russia to this day.</p><p dir="ltr">Little Russia was the well-behaved Ukraine of this imaginary, and one of three inseparable members of a supranational Russian identity alongside White Russians (Belarusians) and Great Russians (guess who).</p><p dir="ltr">Apart from its name, the only other thing we know of the symbolism of this nascent “state” is its flag. Zakharchenko has <a href="https://medium.com/dfrlab/from-malorossiya-with-love-8765ed30242d">decreed</a> it to be a variant of that flown by Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the famous Cossack leader who led a revolt against Poland-Lithuania in the mid-17th century. Khmelnytsky features prominently in both Ukrainian and Russian tales of glory, though complicates both. Any visitor to Ukraine will have seen his face on the azure five hryvnia banknote, and passed his monument in central Kyiv.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1024px-Poselstwo_Jakuba_Śmiarowskiego_do_Bogdana_Chmielnickiego_1648.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jakub Śmiarowski, envoy of Polish King John II Casimir to Bohdan Khmelnytsky, near Zamość in 1648. Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons. </span></span></span>While Khmelnytsky may have freed what is now Ukraine from the Polish nobility, his reputation in Ukraine is not entirely untarnished. In 1654, Khmelnytsky concluded the Treaty of Pereyaslav, in which his Cossack Hetmanate vowed allegiance to the Russian Tsar. Unsurprisingly, this goes down well in Russian statist-nationalist historiography, in which Khmelnytsky is seen as a unifier of Eastern Slavic lands.</p><p dir="ltr">The Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky, who called for his rehabilitation in a 1907 essay,<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=MZcRbSQgu9wC&amp;pg=PA307&amp;lpg=PA307&amp;dq=khmelnytsky+ukraine+hero&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=AgIO8vqVWk&amp;sig=C9VIr8GHzTG9Kse45rDDUQBLrNQ&amp;hl=ru&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjcrt_0-JPVAhWjAMAKHT_lBaYQ6AEIdjAO#v=onepage&amp;q=khmelnytsky%20ukraine%20hero&amp;f=false"> struggled to turn Khmelnytsky into a national hero</a> and eventually relented — other Ukrainian cultural figures such as Taras Shevchenko were appalled at the prospect from the start. Khmelnytsky’s role in the slaughter of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Jews further complicates his glorification.</p><p dir="ltr">Come Soviet rule in Ukraine, Khmelnytsky was derided as a “traitor of the Ukrainian peasantry,” who sold them from one feudal lord to another. He was later rehabilitated by Stalin, who stressed that Ukraine’s annexation by Russia was a lesser evil, thus restoring to favour the Russian imperialist approach.</p><h2>A vivid imagination</h2><p dir="ltr">This is rich historic symbolism. Political scientist Alexei Chesnakov<a href="http://tass.ru/politika/4421414"> told</a> TASS named the project “more literary than political,” predicting that despite the furore, “in a month’s time, everybody will have forgotten about Malorossiya, including the authors of the idea.”</p><p dir="ltr">There may well have been some literary input; Ukrainian academic Vladimir Fesenko<a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/07/18/73155-zaharchenko-podal-signal-sos"> believes</a> that the “Malorossiya” declaration was mostly concocted by ultranationalist Russian writer Zakhar Prilepin, an outspoken supporter of the DNR and erstwhile participant in the conflict. In a candid interview, Prilepin<a href="http://www.penza.kp.ru/daily/26705/3731002/"> says</a> that he and Zakharchenko genuinely “wanted to create a surprise” for Moscow, Kyiv and Washington with the declaration.</p><p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZDeLxKTeH0U" frameborder="0"></iframe><em>Zakhar Prilepin visits the Donbas in February 2017. Source: Komsomolskaya pravda.</em></p><p>As Prilepin put it, “factually, we can’t be called separatists anymore, since we’re actually standing up for united statehood within the borders of what used to be called Ukraine.” A spokesperson for the DNR, Alexander Timofeyev,<a href="http://www.apple.com"> </a>even went as far as to <a href="https://lenta.ru/news/2017/07/18/gosustroistvo/">declare</a> that the Malorossiya project is in complete agreement with the Minsk Accords, as it respects the principle of Ukrainian territorial integrity. “Malorossiya is a multi-ethnic state which respects regional rights and whose official languages are Russian and Malorossiyan,” he continued.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“The Donbas may never join Ukraine, but the rest of Ukraine can join the Donbas” - Alexander Zakharchenko</p><p dir="ltr">In a Facebook post elaborating on the project, Prilepin suggested that Malorossiya would continue the legal personality of Ukraine prior to the events of EuroMaidan. The new state would assume no responsibility for loans taken out by the post-Maidan leadership, though strangely would “keep the visa-free regime with the EU (on the latter’s agreement.)” Among many other proposals, Malorossiya would also commit to “neutrality” and re-apply for membership in the CIS.</p><p dir="ltr">Zakharchenko put it the most succinctly, with the<a href="https://vz.ru/news/2017/7/18/879155.html"> formulation</a> that “the Donbas may never join Ukraine, but the rest of Ukraine can join the Donbas.” Today, Surkov also <a href="http://www.rbc.ru/politics/19/07/2017/596f28ef9a7947f60dfcbd63?utm_source=pushs">commented</a> on the project, hailing it as a “movement for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, not its disintegration.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-22042288_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>January 2015: the Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, poses with two students after a press conference at a Donetsk University. (c) James Sprankle/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is at the heart of the matter: the Malorossiya project is not solely a renaming of the DNR and LNR, nor is it an attempt to forge an alternative statehood based on a supposed regional identity, as in the case of Novorossiya. It’s the most grudging admission of Ukrainian distinctiveness which Russian imperialism can muster.</p><p dir="ltr">The Kremlin is gearing up for presidential elections in 2018, and as always there is a strong ethnic nationalist presence among Russia’s opposition. If Moscow does decide to endorse Malorossiya, a move Zakharchenko still awaits, it’s not inconceivable that there’d be some electoral benefit in a tired contest which has even Putin’s most skilled political technologists <a target="_blank" href="https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2017/07/17/723958-obraza-buduschego-putina">scratching their heads</a>.</p><h2>The Ukraine you want me to be</h2><p dir="ltr">Few will buy Prilepin’s argument that by virtue of this sleight of hand, Zakharchenko is no longer a “separatist”. Even Boris Gryzlov has stated that “Malorossiya” <a href="https://tvzvezda.ru/news/vstrane_i_mire/content/201707181552-xnet.htm">clearly goes against the principles of the Minsk negotiations</a>, in which he is Russia’s representative.</p><p dir="ltr">As I wrote in 2014, the DNR’s leaders <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/symbolism-of-donetsk-people%E2%80%99s-republic-flag-novorossiya">evoked</a> Russophone, neo-Soviet and Donbas regional identities in the symbolism chosen for their “state”. Coal-miners, Cossacks and neo-Soviet patriotism held sway over this decidedly “non-national” territory, whose strong local identity was rooted in the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation of the early Soviet period.</p><p dir="ltr">In the standoff between irreconcilable narratives of the events of 2014, some pro-Russian citizens in the Donbas played around with the marginal identity of “little Russian-ness”. Pavel Gubarev, the former “people’s governor” of Donetsk, <a href="http://www.historians.in.ua/index.php/en/avtorska-kolonka/1839-hiroaki-kuromiya-pavel-gubarev-as-a-little-russian">was an avowed “little Russian,”</a> using a contradictory bricolage of symbols from both Tsarist and Soviet history to voice his hatred of what he saw as “Galician Fascism” of the Ukrainian state.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">The irony is that due to its actions in Crimea and the Donbas, Moscow has lost the possibility of the pliant “friendly Ukraine” it so craves</p><p dir="ltr">Particularly in the worldview of western Ukrainian intellectuals and politicians, the Donbas and its residents have long played the role of a lumpen “Homo Sovieticus,” preventing the remainder of the country from achieving its European destiny. As oDR has shown, these attitudes have been <a target="_blank" href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">keenly felt by IDPs from Ukraine’s east</a>. By 2016, some commentators had begun to openly wonder whether the loss of Donbas might be a <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/12/let-it-go-ukraine-russia-donbass/">blessing in disguise</a> for Kyiv.</p><p dir="ltr">The idea that Ukraine has always been <a href="http://www.eurozine.com/the-myth-of-the-two-ukraines/">cleft in two irreconcilable halves</a> is <a href="https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/a-divided-ukraine-europes-most-dangerous-idea" target="_blank">simplistic at best</a>. But as the war drags on, it’s not without some traction in Donetsk, Kyiv and of course, Moscow. Malorossiya, then, is in its way an <a href="http://nv.ua/opinion/oleschuk/5-prichin-zapuska-proekta-malorossija-1505868.html">admission</a> of “friendly Ukraine” — albeit one palatable to Russian nationalists.</p><p dir="ltr">The irony is that due to its actions in Crimea and the Donbas, Moscow has lost the possibility of the pliant “friendly Ukraine” it so craves — whether it’s known as Malorossiya, or by another other name.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/symbolism-of-donetsk-people%E2%80%99s-republic-flag-novorossiya">Symbolism of the Donetsk People’s Republic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/how-eastern-ukraine-was-lost">How ‘eastern Ukraine’ was lost</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/liberal-democracy-hard-choice-for-ukraine">Liberal democracy: a hard choice for Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/richard-sakwa/ukraine-and-postcolonial-condition">Ukraine and the postcolonial condition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/crossing">The crossing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/review-zakhar-prilepin%E2%80%99s-%27sankya%27-national-bolsheviks">Book review: Zakhar Prilepin, &#039;Sankya&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maxim Edwards Ukraine Wed, 19 Jul 2017 15:03:31 +0000 Maxim Edwards 112383 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Uzbekistan, the World Bank is masking labour abuses https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/jessica-evans/in-uzbekistan-world-bank-is-masking-labour-abuses <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/150041816632022.jpeg" alt="" width="80" />Uzbekistan has often used forced labour to bring in the cotton harvest. A new report shows that the World Bank’s continuing investment may only prolong the practice.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><br /> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Cotton_Uzbekistan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Cotton_Uzbekistan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cotton pickers in a field outside Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo CC-by-NC-ND-2.0: Matthew Goulding / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Companies around the world involved with the cotton industry have increasingly been feeling pressure to steer clear of crops produced with forced and child labour. Apparently, the World Bank hasn’t gotten the message. It has actually <a href="http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/uzbekistan/projects" target="_blank">boosted its investments in projects</a> benefiting the large cotton sector in Uzbekistan’s economy, where the government oversees a massive program of forced labour to harvest the crop. In doing so, the World Bank has provided cover for the government’s abuse and created a muddled picture about Uzbekistan’s dismal rights record, even while claiming to support reforms.&nbsp;</p><p>European consumers should keep the reality of the situation at the forefront of their minds as they make decisions about buying clothing and household goods made of cotton following a recent European Parliament decision to extend a trade agreement with Uzbekistan to include textiles.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The authorities ordered schools in some areas to force children as young as 10 to pick cotton</span></p><p>In a <a href="https://www.hrw.org/node/305381/" target="_blank">new report</a>, <a href="http://www.hrw.org/" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch</a> and the <a href="http://www.uzbekgermanforum.org/" target="_blank">Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights</a> documented forced and child labour in a World Bank project area. The report also casts light on systematic forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector and incidents of state-organised child labour, implicating all of the bank’s public and private sector investments in the country’s agriculture sector. These labour abuses contravene international law, national law, and the government’s own agreements with the World Bank.</p><p>In 2015 and 2016 the Uzbek government forced enormous numbers of people to work in its cotton fields. In the spring it required people to plant cotton and weed the fields, typically for no pay. In the autumn, people had to leave their regular jobs, schools, universities, or homes to pick cotton for weeks. The government threatened to fire people, including teachers, medical workers, and other public sector employees, to withhold social welfare benefits, to close down the shops of small-business owners, and to suspend or expel students who refused to do their “duty” to work in the fields. Following government orders, schools in some areas forced children as young as 10 to work in the fields.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Uzbekistan_Protest.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Uzbekistan_Protest.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protest against the World Bank’s investment in Uzbekistan’s agricultural sector in 2015. Photo CC-by-2.0: Stephen Melkisethian / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2013, the World Bank was belatedly compelled to recognise the problem of forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry after victims <a href="uzbekgermanforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/RESP-II_complaintEnglish.pdf" target="_blank">complained</a> that a bank investment was perpetuating these abuses. The bank’s internal accountability body found that the investment in question, which funded farmers and agribusinesses through commercial banks, <a href="ewebapps.worldbank.org/apps/ip/PanelCases/89-Eligibility%20Report%20and%20Recommendation%20(English).pdf" target="_blank">may be helping perpetuate the use of forced and child labour</a>. Rather than setting preconditions to convince the government to end this practice prior to it investing, the bank increased its investments in the agriculture industry to about half a million Euros.</p><p>The bank adopted measures to “mitigate” the risk of forced and child labour that were doomed to fail. It tapped the <a href="http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/lang--en/index.htm" target="_blank">International Labour Organisation</a> (ILO) to monitor bank projects.&nbsp; But the final arrangement resulted in the Uzbek government being intimately involved in monitoring even though it is the government that is forcing people to work in the fields. Unsurprisingly, in both 2015 and 2016, the ILO monitoring scheme did not identify forced or child labour in World Bank project areas, though it noted indicators of forced labor in 2015 and the ongoing risk of forced labor in 2016.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The World Bank has done a great service to those in the Uzbek government who want to use forced labour</span></p><p>Meanwhile, <a href="http://www.sourcingnetwork.org/the-cotton-pledge/" target="_blank">274 companies</a> worldwide have responded to the international campaign about the use of forced and child labour in Uzbekistan by boycotting its cotton sector. On the other hand, the European Parliament, ostensibly relying in part on the credibility of the ILO monitoring, went ahead and <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20161109IPR50615/meps-back-trade-in-textiles-with-uzbekistan" target="_blank">extended a trade agreement</a> with Uzbekistan to include textiles in December 2016.</p><p>Following the 2015 cotton harvest, when the government abusively cracked down on activists who documented forced labour in the cotton fields, the World Bank continued to reward the Uzbek government. In December 2015, the bank’s private sector lending arm, the <a href="http://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/corp_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/home" target="_blank">International Finance Corporation</a>, agreed to loan Indorama Kokand Textile, one of Uzbekistan’s leading cotton yarn producers, $35.8 million Euros to expand its textile plant.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Mirziyoyev_7.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Mirziyoyev_7.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the president of Uzbekistan. Despite high hopes for reform following the death of his predecessor Islam Karimov in 2016, the country remains highly authoritarian and many violations of human rights endure. Photo: kremlin.ru. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The World Bank has done a great service to those in the Uzbek government who want to use forced labour instead of attracting voluntary pickers by paying a fair wage and improving working conditions. But that is a great disservice to people living in poverty, whom the World Bank says it exists in order to serve.</p><p>European Union governments should use their significant stake in the World Bank and the IFC, with a combined voting share just shy of a third, to ensure that the projects in Uzbekistan linked to these labour abuses are halted immediately, and only resumed once the forced labour system is dismantled. Furthermore, the European Parliament must reverse its decision in light of this recent evidence and only open its doors to cotton products from Uzbekistan once the government has entirely ceased using forced and child labour to plant and harvest cotton.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nate-schenkkan/what-would-open-uzbekistan-look-like">What would an open Uzbekistan look like?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/surat-ikramov/walk-free-for-two-million">“Two million soms and we’ll let you go”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/john-heathershaw-alexander-cooley/dictators-without-borders">Dictators without borders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Jessica Evans Uzbekistan Central Asia Wed, 19 Jul 2017 14:00:12 +0000 Jessica Evans 112349 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Riot Days” brings back Pussy Riot songs https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-muchnik/revolution-brings-back-pussy-riot-songs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina on theatre, prison and the power of examples.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-30522128.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot during a performance of their new music theatre show "Riot Days" in Los Angeles. (c) Ronen Tivony/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Freedom doesn’t exist if you don't fight for it every day and I'm riding in a car that's speeding up,” Maria Alyokhina, of Pussy Riot fame, read her last lines. She then paused and added: “Guys, our concert wasn't sabotaged, this is really awesome!”</p><p dir="ltr">In March 2017, Pussy Riot Theater’s performance “Riot Days” premiered at <a href="http://www.calvertjournal.com/articles/show/3616/Elektrozavod-artists-moscow-studios">Moscow's largest art squat</a>. Produced by Teatr.doc, Moscow's documentary and often politically themed theatre, “Riot Days” was shown just once, on an invite-only basis, to avoid the attention of the authorities. The production is based on Maria Alyokhina’s upcoming book <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/306607/riot-days/">“Riot Days” </a>and describes her involvement in Pussy Riot, arrest and jail time. “Riot Days” isn’t a traditional theatre production, it incorporates a lot of video footage and live music performances, including several Pussy Riot songs.</p><p dir="ltr">Together with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich, fellow Pussy Riot band members, Alyokhina was sentenced to two years in jail in 2012 for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPDkJbTQRCY">performing</a> inside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. She spent 21 months in jail, and was released in December 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">I talked to Alyokhina about “Riot Days”, her book and life after prison.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What is Pussy Riot today?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Pussy Riot is a rather large punk collective that does all kinds of different things, I think MediaZona is definitely a Pussy Riot project.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><a href="https://zona.media">MediaZona</a> (MediaZone), a reporting platform dedicated to the Russian justice system, was one of the first projects you got involved in after being released. How did that come about?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">While serving my sentence at Berezniki colony in Perm Region, I sued the colony's management for various infractions and won. When you win a fight against those who wear epaulets and wield power, it's an indescribable feeling. I wanted to use this experience to help other inmates. </p><p dir="ltr">Prison is a mirror of the government itself, an institution that truly reflects what's going on in the country. So when we got out, we decided that what started behind bars should be continued on the outside.</p><p dir="ltr">Nadya [Nadezhda Tolokonnikova] and I started thinking about new ways of expression. Together with Pyotr Verzilov [Tolokonnikova’s husband and Pussy Riot's unofficial spokesperson during their time in jail] we established MediaZona.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Katsiyev_Torture.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>MediaZona regularly publishes <a href=https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda-sergei-smirnov/inside-ingushetia-anti-extremism-torture-extortion>evidence of unscrupulous and brutal methods inside Russian law enforcement</a>. (c) Sergei Smirnov / MediaZona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The new “patriotic boom” in the wake of East Ukraine and Crimea conflicts of 2014 dramatically changed the situation in the country, both in terms of political and social context. Many mass media were closed down or their editors-in-chief and journalists were fired due to the fact that censorship got stronger in a way I haven't seen before. We decided to launch a media project that would cover all topics related to freedom: violence at the police stations, violence in prison, political trials, etc.</p><p dir="ltr">In just two years MediaZona became one of the key media in the country, because we have a great team of journalists and the political agenda in the country became focused on political trials. There's practically no opposition activist who doesn't have a criminal case against him.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Both your book and theatre performance start with you wanting to do a film about revolution. What does revolution mean to you?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We talk a lot about revolution in Russia and I just wanted to specify what I mean by that. The world “revolution” was originally used in astronomy, it means “a turning.” Revolution can be internal and it is the basis for a political or cultural revolution.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>“Riot Days” was not your first experience with theatre, right?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In 2015 I took part in a performance by the Belarus Free Theatre. They've been around for about 12 years, it's an underground theatre in Minsk that performs mostly outside of its home country. Belarus Free Theatre are the only people doing political art in Belarus. It was my first experience working with political theater or theater in general. I like to explore new forms of expression.</p><p dir="ltr">The production is called <a href="http://www.belarusfreetheatre.com/productions/burningdoors/">“Burning Doors”</a> and it's based on three personal stories, my own and those of Petr Pavlensky [Russian performance artist famous for setting FSB headquarters doors on fire] and Oleg Sentsov [Ukrainian film director who was convicted of terrorism acts against Russian presence in Crimea]. It’s not a documentary production, it’s more of a physical theater, similar to Theater of Cruelty by Antonin Artaud. We have toured extensively abroad with this performance, just last month we were in Hamburg.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/20179745_1839564229392107_1655006715_n.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="239" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A shot from "Revolution". </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“Burning Doors” is part of the campaign to free Oleg Sentsov, which in my opinion is one of the key criminal cases in today's Russia and one of those cases where geopolitical situation ruined a man's life. </p><p dir="ltr">Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in the coldest region of Russia, where temperature reaches -52 C in the winter. </p><p dir="ltr">That pretty much equals to a death sentence and if we don't succeed in getting him out, it's not clear whether he'll be able to make it to the end of his sentence.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did experience with “Burning Doors” prompt you to conceive of “Riot Days”?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Yes. “Riot Days” is also not quite a regular theatre performance. It’s somewhere between theatre and a concert. I wanted to bring back Pussy Riot songs, to sing them again, along with the audience. That's why “Riot Days” has elements of a concert. We use three Pussy Riot songs in our performance. I want them to be played everywhere again and the words of the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPDkJbTQRCY">“Punk Prayer”</a> to come true.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Who are the other participants of “Riot Days”?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There's Nastya and Maksim from the band <a href="https://asianwomenonthetelephone.bandcamp.com/album/awott">AWOTT</a>, which stands for “Asian Women on the Telephone.” Nastya and I have been friends since elementary school and she was the one to introduce me to Pussy Riot. Nastya is the one singing on the famous “Punk Prayer” song, but she decided not to take part in the actual performance at the Church of Christ the Saviour. There’s Kiryl Masheka from Belarus Free Theatre and Vasily Bogatov who filmed Pussy Riot performances on Red Square and the Church of Christ the Savior. And Olga Borisova, editor of the book, which became the basis for the show. </p><p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dXctA2BqF9A" frameborder="0"></iframe><em>Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sing "I can't breathe". Source: wearepussyriot / Youtube.</em></p> <p dir="ltr">Our producer is Alexander Cheparukhin [famous for organising tours of major western artists in Russia, as well as some music festivals]. We met during my hunger strike in Berezniki. Alexander came along with Petya [Petr Verzilov] to cheer me up. We talked about different bands Cheparukhin can bring to Berezniki and decided that Swans would be a perfect fit.</p><p dir="ltr">Cheparukhin found the director for the play, Yury Muravitsky [known for some outstanding work at Teatr.doc]. Marat Guelman [a famous Moscow gallerist and a former Director of PERMM contemporary art museum in Perm], invited the crew to his studio in Montenegro for rehearsals.</p><p><strong>How was “Riot Days” received in the US?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We performed at very different venues, from a historic pub in Seattle where Nirvana played to proper theaters in Los Angeles and Brooklyn. We asked the audience to stand up to make it feel more like a concert, some people were dancing next to the stage. There appeared to be no language or national barrier. Tobi Vail [drummer from one of the most important feminist bands <a href="http://bikinikill.com/">Bikini Kill</a>] said the performance has a “cerebral effect” and explained that it had “both emotional and intellectual impact.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Are you planning on showing it elsewhere?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We've had one more invite-only performance in Moscow, we might be able to arrange performances in other Russian cities, but I won't talk about the dates or venues, because it might put these performances at risk. We will have a tour in Australia in August, Germany in September and the UK in November.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>"Riot Days" is based on your upcoming book of the same name. From the bits we saw at the play this looks like a diary or a memoir?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In 2014 Nadya and I toured around the world, presenting and fundraising for MediaZona, from universities to various conventions in the US and Europe. We also studied penitentiary systems in the countries we visited. An extension of this work was an idea of a book that we decided to write together.</p><p dir="ltr">We ended up writing two books of our own. My book is not a memoir, I am too young for that. It's more of a manifesto that should be comprehensible to a 12-year old girl in Argentina, who knows nothing about Russia, Putin or Pussy Riot or protest. Since I've always liked fairytales I wanted to make this book interesting and fun.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">There's no fate, you can actually change things. People often only believe in the power of example, you can show them what they can do</p><p dir="ltr">I wrote this book so that its readers will remember that they have an option to choose. There's no fate, you can actually change things. People often only believe in the power of example, you can show them what they can do. The story in my book is one such example.</p><p dir="ltr">It's not just my story, it's also a story of Pussy Riot and in certain sense, Russia. There's a whole bunch of characters: police investigators, prison guards, my fellow prisoners. These are all people who made their own choices.</p><p dir="ltr">This book is not about me, it's about the choices I've made that anyone can make. My story is not unique, it's just a chain of events that made it known around the world. Every person makes choices every day and his story is built depending on those choices. From each individual story, a story of our country and the world is built.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>When will it published?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">“Riot Days” is coming out in English in the UK in September and in the US a bit later. It's also been translated into French. There's an anonymous printing house in St Petersburg that's not afraid to publish books by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/on-prison-and-liberty-interview-with-pyotr-pavlensky">Pyotr Pavlensky</a> and the like. I've ordered a certain number of Russian copies of the book there. It's true “samizdat”, I published it with my own money and will distribute it myself.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What's the role of gender/feminism in your work?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Feminism is a term that appears only where there's inequality. In a situation of perfect equality, feminism simply won't be needed. Talking about my work, about 2/3 of my book takes place at female correctional facilities. It was at the first colony that I initially thought that there's almost a total absence of protest or riots at female colonies compared to the male ones. At the latter, there's a system of criminal protest, which is based on a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bulat-mukhamedzhanov/everyday-violence-in-russia-s-prison-system-has-to-stop">rigid hierarchy</a> [among the inmates]. At female colonies, on the other hand, the system is much more horizontal and the hierarchy of power is non-existent.</p><p dir="ltr">A woman who ends up at a correctional institution, in a female community, doesn't see the need to fight for herself and tries to find a shoulder to lean on at the facility's administration. The absence of a culture of protest is not defined by gender, but by cultural context. We don't have much in terms of role models when it comes to politically active women. We have Stalin to thank for this. Right after the revolution women played a huge role, take Nadezhda Krupskaya or Alexandra Kollontai for example. Women were active in politics back then.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The absence of a culture of protest is not defined by gender, but by cultural context. We don't have much in terms of role models when it comes to politically active women</p><p dir="ltr">When I moved to my second colony, we got together a group of girls who didn't just want to talk about how much work we did or who was dating whom. I was receiving the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and New Times magazine and I shared that with the girls, plus the books I got sent. In two months I noticed a real interest from the people who never cared about politics before.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, these girls started talking to the human rights officials about the things they were unhappy with. These words come with a big price tag, you lose the chance getting out on parole, which means two, three, four extra years at the colony. You can also end up in isolation or lose your visiting and phone call rights, and so on.</p><p dir="ltr">But people start realising that telling the truth is awesome and not keeping silent is awesome and that's exactly the kind of freedom they are trying to deny you.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Theatre is one of the few open spaces in Russia. What do you make of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/freemalobrodsky">recent crackdown on Moscow’s Gogol Center</a>?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I came to the Gogol Center to protest [the criminal case against it]. I think that this case should be viewed within the context of everything that's been happening in Russia. I mean this gradual silencing and pushing out of the country of everyone whose activities demonstrated their disagreement with the authorities. I'm not familiar with the details of the case but I believe he [Kirill Serebrennikov] didn't steal anything.</p><p dir="ltr">Serebrennikov’s award winning production of Shakespeare's “Midsummer Night's Dream” is mentioned in the case as something that was never staged in reality. In my opinion this is just a new level of absurdity. And if cases like this are pursued in Moscow it's a signal for the regions. Regional authorities are trying to curry favour from Moscow by building similar cases in their jurisdictions. This is why there’s pressure on the last few remaining independent platforms [for expression]. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elizaveta-spivakovskaya/what-russian-theatre-critics-won-t-tell-you">What the Russian theatre critics won’t tell you</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-zotova/inside-russia-s-new-gulag">Inside Russia’s new Gulag</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/they-made-this-man-invalid-can-you-imagine-how-they-crippled-my-soul">“They made this man an invalid. Can you imagine how they crippled my soul?”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/freemalobrodsky">#FreeMalobrodsky</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda-sergei-smirnov/inside-ingushetia-anti-extremism-torture-extortion">Inside Ingushetia’s anti-extremism centre: torture, extortion, murder</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-zotova/this-is-karelia-tortured-voices-from-russia-s-prison-system">This is Karelia: tortured voices from Russia’s prison system</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Andrei Muchnik Wed, 19 Jul 2017 10:27:40 +0000 Andrei Muchnik 112338 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Chechnya: dead Europeans are only sometimes news https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dominik-k-cagara/chechnya-dead-europeans-are-only-news-sometimes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IMG_2095.JPG" alt="" width="80" />Twenty-seven Europeans were executed en masse in a single night earlier this year. The lack of international reaction to this reveals not only what’s wrong with humanity, but even more acutely — the media.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kadyrov_Interview.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kadyrov_Interview.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="261" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“We don’t have any gays!” exclaims Ramzan Kadyrov in a recent interview with HBO, adding that if any were found in Chechnya, Canada should take them, so as to “purify our blood.” Image still via YouTube / NSBC. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov has managed to troll us all again. In a sneak peak of an <a href="http://www.rferl.org/a/kadyrov-dismisses-us-too-weak-be-russia-enemy-hbo-interview-bashes-gays/28617697.html">interview</a> with American TV channel HBO, he said that there were no gays in Chechnya, but if there were, Canada should take them in order to purify Chechen blood. He also said that Russia had nukes and was ready to <a href="https://www.outsports.com/2017/7/14/15973178/chechnya-gay-mma-ramzan-kadyrov">“screw the whole world from behind”</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Every time Kadyrov does something stupid, it’s a Christmas gift to the international media. Kadyrov’s antics are reported over and over again, with each outlet trying to outdo each other with wittier and catchier headlines. This clickbait frenzy sends their readership stats through the roof. Kadyrov’s outbursts are horrific, but their sheer absurdity makes them all the more irresistible.</p><h3 dir="ltr">Crickets</h3><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, Russian newspaper <em>Novaya Gazeta</em> <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/07/09/73065-eto-byla-kazn-v-noch-na-26-yanvarya-v-groznom-rasstrelyany-desyatki-lyudey">reported</a> that on the night of 25&nbsp;January, security forces secretly <a href="http://oc-media.org/twenty-seven-people-secretly-executed-in-chechnya/">shot to death</a> 27 young Chechen men. The men were detained illegally: they weren’t officially registered or charged, but instead placed in the cellars and ancillary premises of Chechen police stations.</p><p dir="ltr">Their bodies were hurriedly buried in local Christian and Muslim cemeteries. The newspaper <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/07/09/73065-eto-byla-kazn-v-noch-na-26-yanvarya-v-groznom-rasstrelyany-desyatki-lyudey">published</a> a list of names and personal details of the victims to substantiate its claims.</p><p dir="ltr">Chechen authorities were quick to slam <em>Novaya Gazeta</em>’s claims as politically motivated, while the Kremlin <a href="http://oc-media.org/kremlin-questions-reports-of-mass-killing-in-chechnya/">has shrugged them off</a>, as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The Kremlin has shrugged off these latest mass killings; western politicians have yet to mention them at all</p><p dir="ltr">In April, <em>Novaya Gazeta</em> <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/01/71983-ubiystvo-chesti">reported</a> that the Chechen authorities were <a href="http://oc-media.org/mass-detentions-and-killing-of-queer-men-reported-in-chechnya/">rounding up</a> men suspected of being gay en masse with more than 100 detained and at least three killed. Despite the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/brothers-be-careful-don-t-meet-up-with-anyone-in-grozny">overwhelming evidence</a> of state-backed mass persecutions, the federal authorities <a href="http://oc-media.org/kremlin-denies-reports-of-queer-persecutions-in-chechnya/">denied</a> that this was taking place, parroting Kadyrov’s line that it’s impossible to oppress queer people in Chechnya because they don’t exist — the argument which he reiterated in his interview with HBO.</p><p dir="ltr">These reports shook Chechen society — where many people genuinely <a href="http://oc-media.org/mass-detentions-and-killing-of-queer-men-reported-in-chechnya/">weren’t aware</a> that queer people existed in their republic — as well as the international community. The issue received widespread coverage in the media and prompted firm reactions from global leaders and institutions, including <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21501&amp;LangID=E">the United Nations</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/02/angela-merkel-vladimir-putin-russia-investigate-lgbt-torture-claims-chechnya">Angela Merkel</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/EmmanuelMacron/status/851906365446606848">Emmanuel Macron</a>, and <a href="https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/04/269628.htm">the US State Department</a>. The idea of “gay purges” resonated in the West, where queer rights have been one of the most hotly debated social issues for decades.</p><p dir="ltr">The 25&nbsp;January massacre received a fraction of this attention. I looked hard and it seems that no western politician has even mentioned it. Several western media outlets <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/russia-paper-chechnya-killed-these-27-men-in-anti-gay-purge">misreported</a> that the killings were a part of the anti-queer campaign, despite the Russian LGBT Network (a rights group that has been directly assisting persecuted queer men on the ground) <a href="https://lgbtnet.org/en/content/news-update-persecution-lgbt-people-chechnya-july-11">refuting</a> these claims.</p><h3 dir="ltr">From Syria to the North Caucasus</h3><p dir="ltr">The local and global wave of support for the persecuted queer men was phenomenal. The Russian LGBT Network coordinated evacuations, with Dagestani activists <a href="http://oc-media.org/daghestani-activists-offer-help-amidst-chechen-anti-gay-purge/">organising shelters</a> — clearly demonstrating that there is a lot of nuance belying the mainstream narratives of social conservatism, homophobia and lack of civic activity in the North Caucasus.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/content_map.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/content_map.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="152" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Former military offices in Argun, Chechnya - the supposed site of the secret prison for Chechen gay men. Image courtesy of Novaya Gazeta.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The men murdered on 25 January, who may have been suspected by the Chechen authorities of militant activity or of as little as fostering dissenting sentiments — we will never know, because no charges were ever pressed — will soon be forgotten. This will be a success of the age-old Russian policy of presenting North Caucasian dissent as terrorism. If you’re glad that Russia <a href="https://www.rbth.com/news/2017/05/09/putin-urges-world-community-to-unite-in-war-on-terror_759106">has joined</a> the global “war on terror”, congratulations — you, Putin and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/02/donald-trump-vladimir-putin-conversation-syria-civil-war">Trump</a> are playing for the same team.</p><p dir="ltr">The widespread argument one could <a href="http://oc-media.org/chechens-alienated-amidst-gay-persecutions/">often hear</a> in Chechnya throughout the spring was that “the whole world only cares when gays are being persecuted, while everyone turns a blind eye if the same is happening to the rest of us.” The global silence over the January mass murder will only reinforce this homophobic sentiment. It seems, however, that even in Chechnya, this mass killing provoked little debate. For Chechens, who have for years been struggling to overcome post-war trauma and adapt to Russia’s criminal order on the ground, this is business as usual.</p><h2>The McDonaldisation of mass media</h2><p dir="ltr">It’s also been business as usual for the global media, which has failed to properly report on and contextualise the fact that in 2017 people are being mass murdered by a shot to the head — in Europe!</p><p dir="ltr">The information revolution has deeply affected not only the traditional news cycle (nowadays, day-old news is already a fossil),&nbsp;but also business models and sources of income. Commercial media outlets, all struggling with their finances, need to go lengths to secure sustainability, which often means desperate pursuit of a story — at the expense of context, depth, and fact-checking — as well as catering to popular taste instead of guiding the public debate to the right track.</p><p dir="ltr">Under capitalism, there is endless demand for quick and easily digestible information, so commercial media supplies the market with large quantities of fast food for thought. In today’s world, commercial media employs some of the brightest journalists we have — like <em>Novaya Gazeta</em>’s Elena Milashina, who broke both of these stories from Chechnya. It is, however, difficult to resist the accelerating commodification and even the world’s best media often has to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/16/bottling-smell-dead-people-olfactory-comfort-perfume-scent">diversify their product</a> to survive.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Papers_Chechnya.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Papers_Chechnya.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Scrubbed clean and hung out to dry – newspapers on sale in Grozny, Chechnya. Photo CC-by-2.0: Vladimir Varfolomeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The situation is not all roses for donor-funded newsrooms either. While the editorial independence of <a href="http://www.oc-media.org/"><em>Open Caucasus Media</em></a> — the outlet which I co-founded in January — is non-negotiable, we are held accountable for our viewership stats. Just like in commercial media outlets, readership stats translate into funding, in the guise of donors’ smiles when they read our reports. So, we do try to make our headlines sexier in order to attract more readers to issues we think are critically important, but fighting public indifference and the media noise at the same time &nbsp;is challenging.</p><p dir="ltr">Also, the outcomes of the increasingly vocal far-right campaign to discredit donor-funded NGOs are impossible to predict at this point. One can hardly be very optimistic seeing that the <a href="https://www.hrw.org/russia-government-against-rights-groups-battle-chronicle">“foreign agent” narrative</a> has already <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/world/europe/hungary-law-ngo-soros.html">caught on</a> throughout Central and Eastern Europe, with dissent being increasingly squeezed out not only by corrupt governments, but also rapidly radicalising public opinion.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The “foreign agent” narrative seems to have caught on beyond Russia; throughout Central and Eastern Europe</p><p dir="ltr">The way out of this stalemate is to bring back dignity to our public broadcasters. We must fiercely push our governments to ensure broadcasters’ independence, financial security, and freedom to act on their mission of public service. We cannot remain silent when the Georgian government plans to <a href="http://oc-media.org/private-tv-stations-denounce-planned-changes-in-georgias-broadcasting-law/">put its public broadcaster at the mercy of the market</a> or when Poland’s public TV <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35257105">has plummeted</a> to the level of Russia’s propaganda tube <em>Russia-24</em>. Our freedom is non-negotiable.</p><p dir="ltr">There are no perfect solutions — no human, including journalists, is perfect — but democracy, solidarity and a persistent fight for truth and balance are the best we have.</p><h2>Resist</h2><p dir="ltr">Chechnya, arguably Europe’s most brutal regime, is not an easy place to obtain verified information from. The practice of <a href="http://oc-media.org/collective-responsibility-in-chechnya-an-ineffective-method-of-influence/">collective responsibility</a> has been used to terrorise the population into refraining from any meaningful civil activity. At worst, reprisals can reach family members and even distant relatives: <a href="http://oc-media.org/chechen-woman-apologises-to-kadyrov-for-false-claims-about-her-husbands-abduction/">public humiliation</a>, <a href="http://oc-media.org/chechen-victim-of-expulsion-denied-burial-in-his-homeland/">expulsion</a>, houses burnt down, fake trials, torture, disappearance in secret prisons. I have heard of such cases first-hand.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/ZGeriyev.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/ZGeriyev.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Imprisoned Chechen journalist Zhalavdi Geriyev. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br />My colleague Zhalavdi Geriyev, a Chechen journalist for <a href="http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/"><em>Caucasian Knot</em></a>, was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dominik-k-cagara/disappearing-journalists-of-north-caucasus">imprisoned on trumped-up drug charges</a> in September 2016. His friends and relatives are happy that at least he’s alive. I fear every day that something could happen to <em>OC&nbsp;Media</em>’s reporters in Chechnya and other republics of the North Caucasus. The risks which they are taking are beyond comprehension. I can’t stand that their bravery is being systematically reduced to a number of clicks and likes on social media.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">The risks reporters in the North Caucasus take are beyond comprehension – I can’t stand that their bravery is systematically reduced to a number of clicks</span></p><p dir="ltr">We need to reclaim what’s ours. The first step is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Listen to critical and reputable Chechnya watchers, such as <a href="http://www.twitter.com/KarenaAv">Karena Avedissian</a>, <a href="http://www.twitter.com/KSokirianskaia">Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya</a> or <a href="http://www.twitter.com/ZidanSports">Karim Zidan</a>. Support independent media. Call the propagandists out. Dare to speak up. With every report, ask yourself whether you’re being informed about real issues or being fed cheap media pap.</p><p dir="ltr">Don’t let real people’s lives be served to you as entertainment. Indeed, I hope my headline caught your attention: Chechens would have been less click-baity than Europeans, just like a Syrian refugee’s life costs less than an American, or our western comfort in general. And the latter is more illusory than you might think.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Want to know more about how not to write on the Caucasus region? Read the author’s reflections on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dominik-k-cagara/way-down-in-" target="_blank">what attracts western journalists in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge&nbsp;</a><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dominik-k-cagara/way-down-in-" target="_blank">– and how the locals came to resent them</a>.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/brothers-be-careful-don-t-meet-up-with-anyone-in-grozny">“Brothers, be careful. Don’t meet up in Grozny”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/anti-lgbt-violence-in-chechnya-when-filing-official-complaints-isn-t-option">Anti-LGBT violence in Chechnya: when filing “official complaints” isn’t an option</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/karena-avedissian/like-me-im-autocrat">Like me, I&#039;m an autocrat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-leonova/life-in-chechen-closet">Life in the Chechen closet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ali-gubashev/chechens-alienated-amidst-gay-persecutions">Chechens alienated amidst gay persecutions</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/karena-avedissian/ramzan-kadyrov-john-oliver-and-power-of-ridicule">Ramzan Kadyrov, John Oliver and the power of ridicule</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Dominik K. Cagara Chechnya Mon, 17 Jul 2017 18:00:04 +0000 Dominik K. Cagara 112328 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Inside Ingushetia’s anti-extremism centre: torture, extortion, murder https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda-sergei-smirnov/inside-ingushetia-anti-extremism-torture-extortion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russia’s anti-extremism centres are notorious for their brutal torture. Here are the stories of its victims in Ingushetia, where for the first time, some of the organisation’s operatives face trial for their crimes.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Doliev_Magomed.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Doliev_Magomed.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Magomed Doliev, murdered at Ingushetia’s Centre E. Photo (c): Sergei Smirnov / MediaZona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong><em>This article <a href="https://zona.media/article/2017/06/20/eshechki " target="_blank">originally appeared in Russian on MediaZona</a>. We are grateful for their permission to publish a translation of it here.</em></strong></p><p>At the end of March 2017, Yunus-Bek Evkurov, head of the Republic of Ingushetia, a region in Russia’s North Caucasus, visited a pre-trial detention centre in Karabulak. As the website of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service <a href="http://www.fsin.su/news/index.php?ELEMENT_ID=308614" target="_blank">puts it</a>, Evkurov “visited the main buildings of the detention facility and spoke with suspects, detainees and convicts [incarcerated there].” Evkurov was apparently “interested in issues of access to medical treatment, nutrition and whether the rights and lawful interests of those held in custody were being respected.”</p><p>It’s unclear who exactly Evkurov spoke to. Timur Khamkhoev, former head of Ingushetia’s Centre for Combating Extremism (“<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/grigory-tumanov/dark-doings-of-russia%E2%80%99s-centre-e" target="_blank">Centre E</a>”), and several of his subordinates are currently behind bars at Karabulak. They face charges of extorting and torturing people in detention.&nbsp;</p><p>Ingushetia’s Centre E has long had a reputation for torture and murder. The notorious Timur Khamkhoev has led it since October 2013. “I swear — you won’t find anybody worse, anybody dirtier in this republic than that jackal. Did they know about it? I swear on all that’s holy — they all did. From the head [of the republic] to the janitors, they knew all about it!” seethes Akhmed-Bashir Aushev, elder of the Aushev <em>teip </em>(Chechen and Ingush clan - ed.) Two of Aushev’s relatives suffered at the hands of Khamkhoev and his men, both named Magomed Aushev.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“I swear on all that’s holy — they all knew. From the head of the republic to the janitors, they knew all about the torture!”</p><p>Relatives of the victims of Ingushetia’s Centre E say that they complained to Evkurov about police brutality more than once, but he dismissed their concerns. Akhmed-Bashir Aushev claims that in 2014, he personally showed the head of Ingushetia photographs of Magomed Aushev, who then lay in hospital after a severe beating.</p><p>“He told me that I should tell the story again when I turn up in court for slandering our police! Imagine that, the head of our republic said this, Yunus-Bek Bamatgireyevich!” Such was Evkurov’s response, in the words of Aushev, when confronted with evidence of torture by the republic’s Centre E. Three years passed before, in May 2017, the Investigative Committee finally brought charges against Centre E’s 44 year-old director Timur Khamkhoev and departmental head Andrei Beznosyuk, on suspicion of using extreme force against Magomed Aushev.</p><h2>“They never took a break”: the Aushev family</h2><p>Magomed Aushev, 25, came to the attention of the republic’s Centre E after his cousin’s wedding, at which he, in his own words, fired two or three shots into the air with a non-lethal pistol. “Rumours soon started that I had fired rounds from a gilded machine-gun,” says Aushev, finding the right words in Russian with difficulty. This, Aushev believes, explains the police’s interest in him. On 20 December 2014, Magomed and his lawyer entered the police station and presented his non-lethal pistol, upon which Aushev was interrogated in connection with illegal arms trafficking. “They just said ‘Hey, why have you brought us a <em>travmat</em> pistol, where’s the machine gun?’ And I told them that I didn’t have one,” continues Aushev.&nbsp;</p><p>Night fell, and investigator Akhmed Kotiev told Aushev that he was being detained for 48 hours and would now be taken to a temporary detention facility. At the back door of the police station, Kotiev handed the young man over to two people in masks. “They immediately put a bag over my head, shoved me into a car and brought me straight to Centre E.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Aushev.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Aushev.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Magomed Aushev, one of Centre E’s victims in Ingushetia who now demands that his torturers be brought to justice. Photo (c): Sergei Smirnov / MediaZona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Ingushetia’s Centre E is located in Nazran, the former capital of Ingushetia. Number seven Ozdoev Street is an unassuming two-storey structure, surrounded by a ten metre high metal mesh fence higher than the building itself. This was where they started beating Aushev, “demanding to see the gilded machine-gun.” “They beat me all night — they never took a break. They electrocuted me, they beat me in the groin, on the head. They beat me in the kidneys, they beat me in the knees. At times, I caught a glimpse of them through the bag over my head. At one point, they removed it to give me some water.” And now, three years on, Magomed Aushev has identified Timur Khamkhoev and several of his subordinates as those who tortured him.</p><p>On the second day, he was taken to a prison cell, and from there to the court, where Aushev started to feel unwell. He was then hospitalised. “I could barely walk. I passed out and only regained consciousness in hospital,” he remembers. He’s none the wiser as to the criminal case concerning his “gilded machine-gun”, which was the pretext for his torture. After being discharged from hospital, Aushev spent another two months in prison and was then simply released. In January 2015 he was recognised as a victim of a violent abuse of authority (Section three, Article 286 of Russia’s Criminal Code), but the investigation into his cases was suspended. It was only resumed this January, after several operatives of Centre E had already been arrested.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“They came to his mother’s house&nbsp;— with three armoured personnel carriers! On leaving, one of the armed men told her to ‘complain less’”</p><p>After this, Magomed Aushev was questioned once again, and identified five operatives who had tortured him. However, Aushev’s family was intimidated in an effort to scare him into silence. “They came to his mother’s house — and brought three armoured personnel carriers with them! They were masked, armed, in front of small children! They started to search around, frisking everybody. His poor family was terrified — they never expected anything like this!” exclaims Akhmed-Bashir Aushev. He states that upon leaving, one of the armed men said “you should complain less.”</p><p>The other Magomed Aushev wound up at Centre E on 16 June 2016, on suspicion of involvement in a car bomb which targeted Ibragim Belkhoroev, one of the leaders of the “Batalkhadzhintsy”. </p><p class="blockquote-new"><strong>Who are the Batalkhadzhintsy?<br /></strong><br />The Batalkhadzhintsy are an Ingush Muslim religious group mostly residing in the village of Surkhakhi, infamous for their close ties to the leadership of neighbouring Chechnya. The current leader of the movement, Sultan Belkhoroev, has described Chechnya’s dictator Ramzan Kadyrov as a “messiah and imam who will lead [his people] out of darkness.”<br /><br />The group came to international notoriety when their involvement in the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/10/journalists-beaten-and-bus-torched-on-chechnya-tour-say-activists" target="_blank">attack on a bus of journalists and human rights defenders</a> on 9 March 2016 at the Chechnya-Ingushetia border became known. The vehicle was set ablaze, killing everybody inside. According to <a href="https://russiangate.com/person/samyy-blizkiy-drug/" target="_blank">one source</a> in the Russiangate dossier, the attack was ordered by Adam Delimkhanov, a cousin and close associate of Kadyrov and member of the Duma.</p><p>Magomed Aushev’s mother, Aza Ausheva, recalls how the police came knocking early in the morning, though they didn’t find anything incriminating during a search of the house. They then headed down to a ditch behind the house, where they found “some kind of package” (which Aza believes to be the components of a detonator planted there by the security services). Magomed was taken away. “Later that evening we discovered that he had been taken to Centre E, and were told that he had been electrocuted. His head and body were swollen, the bridge of his nose broken,” says Ausheva, describing her son’s condition when she saw him in hospital.&nbsp;</p><p>“He told us that a guy started jumping on him, and because you’ve got a bag over your head, you don’t know when to brace. You just exhaust yourself,” says Ruslan Aushev, Magomed’s father. After this torture, the young man, who still hadn’t confessed to anything, was twice released under house arrest, but is now again behind bars. His case is now being <a href="https://magassky--ing.sudrf.ru/modules.php?name=sud_delo&amp;srv_num=1&amp;name_op=case&amp;case_id=730291&amp;delo_id=1540006&amp;case_type=0&amp;hide_parts=0" target="_blank">examined</a> by the Magas city court.&nbsp;</p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/f1BZ_hyQEnc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><em>Relatives of torture victims speak out (Russian). Source: MediaZona.</em><p>As Magomed Aushev was being tortured at the building on Ozdoev Street, another prisoner, Magomed Doliev, was subjected to the same cruel treatment. In Doliev’s case, the operatives of Centre E certainly didn’t “take a break.” Aushev’s father says his son considered himself lucky. Due to Doliev’s death, his torturers went a little easier on him. “I could hear his cries,” remembers Magomed, “and just perhaps, he could also hear mine.”&nbsp;</p><p>It’s possible that Doliev’s death in custody saved Aushev from facing further torture. The corpse of a detainee at Centre E spelt the beginning of the end for Timur Khamkhoev’s team of torturers.</p><h2>“They put a plastic bag over my head and began to choke me”: the Doliev family&nbsp;</h2><p>Magomed Doliev, 49, graduated from a police academy in Almaty, and then went on to work in the police and general prosecutor’s office in Kazakhstan. After his family returned to Ingushetia, Doliev was offered a job in law enforcement, but he refused. In recent years, he worked in Moscow where, according to his brother Nazir, he led a “brigade of Azeris and Uzbeks”. Still, Magomed returned home to Ingushetia fairly often. Meanwhile, his wife Maryem worked as a cashier at a bank in the city of Sunzha.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>On the morning of 11 July 2016, an unknown masked man entered the bank. He laid a grenade, which later turned out to be a dud, on the desk where Maryem Dolieva was working that day. Terrified, she opened the safe, and the criminal made off with over 12m roubles (£155,000). “Why didn’t she press the button to sound the emergency alarm? She told me that she was so shocked she couldn’t think of a course of action, and still can’t remember exactly what happened. She feared that the grenade would go off,” explains Nazir Doliev.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Magomed Doliev was at home at that time, and both husband and wife were questioned by the police. The case was investigated by the Sunzha district branch of the interior ministry, led by Magomed Bekov. On 15 July, Alisher Borotov (now acting deputy head of Ingushetia’s interior ministry, but in 2016 - the republic’s deputy head of police) ordered operatives from Centre E to investigate.</p><p>On that very day at around one o’clock in the afternoon, investigator Timur Khamkhoev from Centre E phoned Maryem at work and told her to go immediately to the police station. Upon arrival, she was led into Magomed Bekov’s office, where Bekov, Borotov, and Khamkhoev were waiting for her. “I wasn’t even able to collect myself before they started bellowing at me,” she recalls. The men demanded to know where Maryem’s husband was (Magomed was at home), and that she confess to orchestrating a theft at the bank with his assistance (Dolieva denies the charge.)</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Doliyev_Family.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Doliyev_Family.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The brother and mother of Magomed Doliev, murdered at Centre E. Photo (c): Sergei Smirnov / MediaZona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>“They started to shout at me,” she repeated, “and Khamkhoev sprung up and struck me in the face. Then Magomed Bekov took a plastic bag. There was a room nearby, a rest room. He approached me from my right and jammed the bag over my head; he tightened it from the side and started to choke me.”</p><p>When the polythene plastic stuck to her face and she started to suffocate, Bekov removed the bag and let Maryem take a breath. “As soon as they put the bag on me, they started hitting my face and head. I couldn’t see a thing. They beat me with their fists and their open hands,” she says. When Bekov became tired, other people present took part in the torture. Khamkhoev and Bekov took turns tightening the bag and choking Maryem.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>But despite the torture, Maryem refused to confess and incriminate herself. After a while, the ordeal stopped. “They removed the bag and I began to straighten my headscarf, at which point Bekov remarked that ‘you won’t be needing that anymore.’ Five minutes passed. As soon as I had come to my senses, two Russians appeared, who turned out to be Beznosyuk and Sergei Khandogin — guys from Centre E,” recalls Maryem.</p><p>The two men took Maryem to the courtyard, where a Lada Granta awaited them. Beznosyuk put another plastic bag on her head, which he’d taken from the office of the local interior ministry branch. Throughout the entire ride to Cenere E’s building in Nazran, her captors once again tried to convince Maryem to confess. “As soon as the car stopped, they wrapped tape tightly around the bag, all the way up to my nose. As soon as I raised my hands to straighten it a little, they beat me. They were afraid I’d remove it,” remembers Dolieva.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 1.2em;"><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-size: 13px;">Later one of the Centre E investigators asked Maryem whether she could recognise her husband’s voice. “Do you want to hear his cries?” he jeered</span></span></p><p>Maryem was taken to an office on the second floor of the building, where she was put in a chair, her hands bound behind her with tape. She remembers hearing one of the employees insisting that “the chair is too weak, it won’t hold out.” They replaced the chair with another, and attached “some kind of wires” to her fingers, through which she received an electric shock. The 40-year old Dolieva begins to weep as she retells the torture. “Then one of the guys said ‘that’s not enough for her, you need to increase the dose a little.’” Her captors then removed the wires from her hands, took off her shoes and socks, and attached them to her toes. “The pain was so intense, it hurts to remember it,” she says.</p><p>Maryem says that the electric shocks and beatings continued for between six and seven hours, with occasional breaks. Later one of the Centre E investigators asked her whether she could recognise her husband’s voice. “Do you want to hear his cries?” he jeered. Magomed Doliev was still alive at this point. He had also been taken to the Centre E building in Nazran, from his home in Karabulak.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Maryem Dolieva then remembers how one of the men poured half a glass of vodka and offered it to her. “I told them that I don’t drink. That I can’t drink. They grabbed me, slightly lifted the plastic bag and poured it into my mouth. I guess they wanted me to come to my senses,” says Dolieva. Not long prior, another Centre E employee had removed the engagement ring from Maryem’s finger and pocketed it. They didn’t torture her any more after that.</p><p>“It turned out that my husband had just been killed. They were probably scared, so left me be,” supposes Dolieva.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>“I think that with the theft of her engagement ring, Dolieva’s fate was sealed,” believes the lawyer Andrei Sabinin. “I think that they wanted to murder her, take away the body and bury it somewhere. I was afraid that it could end that way.” Dolieva remembers that during the car ride with Centre E operatives, she was told that she “wouldn’t ever return from where we’re taking you.”</p><p>But Dolieva did return, to the town of Sunzha where, not far from the local interior ministry headquarters, the bag was removed from her head and she was given a napkin to wipe a blood from her face. Maryem was picked up from the police station by one of her brothers, who immediately took her to hospital. She didn’t yet know of her husband’s death at Centre E — her brother told her only the following morning.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Nazir, brother of Magomed Doliev, remembers how he couldn’t locate Magomed the entire day. “Towards the evening, my cousin called me to say that my brother was lying in the morgue. How could that be?”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The following day, after all the wounds on his tortured body had been photographed, Magomed Doliev was buried. The cause of his death was initially recorded as a heart attack. Then the forensic experts acknowledged that Doliev had died of asphyxiation, most likely strangled by a plastic bag in the manner experienced by anybody who has experienced Centre E.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_03031183.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_03031183.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Head of the Republic of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Evkurov during an interview in Moscow, 2017. Photo (c): Mikhail Voskresensky / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>After the funeral, Magomed and Maryem’s relatives approached Yunus-Bek Evkurov and demanded a meeting. Evkurov accepted, but “said that he’ll deal with it when the relevant papers land on his desk. He’ll deal with it then. But what document does he need? They killed my brother! I don’t get it,” says Maryem Dolieva’s brother, exasperated.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Magomed Doliev’s relatives from the Barkinkhoy <em>teip</em> declared a blood feud against Centre E operative Alikhan Bekov. They were hardly the first family in Ingushetia to have wanted vengeance against Centre E due to the brutal torture their relatives suffered. “They declared a blood feud immediately, right on that very day,” says Nazir, casually. “And well, declaring a blood feud means that, sooner or later, you have to carry it out — you’ll have to bring him down. [Bekov] in particular. Because he’s responsible for my brother’s death.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 1.2em;"><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-size: 13px;">“Evkurov said he’ll deal with it when the relevant papers land on his desk. But what document does he need? They killed my brother!”</span></span></p><p>We’re talking in the yard of the Doliev family home, where Nazir and Magomed’s mother are receiving guests out in the open. The mother chooses her words with some difficulty, and frequently leaves us to attend to her seriously ill husband — Magomed’s father cannot speak, and is given ten jabs every day. But upon hearing the conversation about his deceased son, he comes out in his pyjamas and sits beside us.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>“I don’t believe in our courts,” sighs Nazir.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The father tries to say something, but he can’t. All he can manage is a terrible, almost inaudible, wheezing sound. He is brought a notebook, over which he labours with a pencil for a long time. The big letters spell out: “Now it’s simply fascism.”</p><h2>An Azerbaijani with connections<span style="font-size: 1.2em; font-weight: normal;">&nbsp;</span></h2><p>The arrest of Timur Khamkhoev and his team was connected not so much with torture — though their involvement in many violence-related criminal cases over the years has left many witnesses — but extortion. It appears that the criminal case against Khamkhoev was not initiated by the Investigative Committee, but the FSB. In its reporting on the detention of Khamkhoev, <em>RIA Novosti</em> underlined the fact that the operation was “conducted by the Republic [of Ingushetia] division of the FSB and the central apparatus of the security department of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>According to the investigator, on 9 November 2016, Timur Khamkhoev and his subordinates in Karabulak forcibly detained a citizen of Azerbaijan and forced him into a Lada Priora. They then brought him to Centre E where, “with physical violence, they took possession of his Audi A6 and iPhone 5.” The man was freed, but there was a catch: he had a month to pay 800,000 roubles (£10,000) to recover his property and prevent Khamkhoev’s men from publicising evidence of “his romantic relations with a woman of Ingush ethnicity.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The victim, Amil Nazarov, 35, appealed to the law enforcement agencies. In this case, they reacted with unexpected diligence. Khamkhoev and several of his men were detained at the start of December 2016. During a search of one of the policemen’s homes, investigators found several dozen bullets, and at another’s, the stolen Audi A6. At first, the detainees were charged with theft — then the case against them was changed to extortion and exceeding their official authority.</p><p>The word in Ingushetia is that Amil Nazarov worked for Abubakar Malsagov, who served as the Republic’s Prime Minister between September 2013 and November 2016. “Khamkhoev wasn’t arrested for Doliev’s murder, I’ll tell you that much,” says Akhmed-Bashir Aushev. “So they shook down some Azerbaijani guy or committed a theft, whatever. But this particular Azerbaijani had the Prime Minister’s protection, and maybe even worked for him. And when that kind of thing comes to light over here, people get scared. So they were frightened, and detained Khamkhoev.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 1.2em;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Magas_View.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Magas_View.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, by night. Photo CC-by-2.0: Shaliec / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></span></p><p>A former employee at Ingushetia’s Ministry of the Interior, Hasan Katsiev, claims that the woman with whom the Azerbaijani had relations was specially “sent” by Khamkhoev to set up a blackmail. “Her name is Aza Gadieva, and this is the number one fraud in the republic. The department for fighting corruption and economic crimes at the local interior ministry developed cases against her several times, but none of them reached their logical conclusion — because Timur Khamkhoev personally covered for her. Khamkhoev had her back and, according to some, she lived in a rented flat in Magas. Allegedly this flat was provided to her by Timur Khamkhoev,” says Katsiev.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Several people who wished to remain anonymous said that operatives of Centre E blackmailed the Azerbaijani citizen with video recordings of his meeting with Gadieva. These “fighters against extremism” then threatened to send these recordings to the woman’s relatives which would, in their words, inevitably lead to Nazarov’s murder.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Aza Gadieva was accused of fraud and involvement in a criminal organisation, which illegally gained possession of and cashed maternity capital certificates to the value of 42m roubles (£543,000). In April 2016, the prosecutor general sent her case to court, noting that Gadieva had pleaded guilty and so had began discussions for a pre-trial cooperation agreement with the authorities. Yet in November, with investigations well underway, Gadieva suddenly disappeared, and the <a href="http://magassky--ing.sudrf.ru/modules.php?name=sud_delo&amp;srv_num=1&amp;name_op=case&amp;case_id=481031&amp;delo_id=1540006&amp;case_type=0&amp;hide_parts=0" target="_blank">trial resumed only three months later</a>. “Khamkhoev was brazenly corrupt,” concludes Katsiev. “That’s how he was able to extort the Azerbaijani, but there are many more such cases.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p style="text-align: left;">Centre E was also engaged in another form of extortion. Several sources of <em>MediaZona</em> said on condition of anonymity that Centre E employees also scoured Ingushetia for LGBT people and then threatened to out them were their demands not met.</p><h2>Centre E behind bars: a team to the end<span style="font-size: 1.2em; font-weight: normal;">&nbsp;</span></h2><p>A criminal case on the death of Magomed Doliev and the use of violence against his wife Maryem began almost immediately, in June 2016. However, the operatives of Centre E were initially treated only as witnesses. It was not until December that charges were brought against Timur Khamkhoev, who was already in pre-trial detention accused of extortion, and Alikhan Bekov. This January saw charges against deputy director of Ingushetia’s Centre E, Sergei Khandogin and director of Sunzha district’s department for internal affairs Magomed Bekov. Andrey Beznosyuk, departmental head of Centre E, was finally charged in February.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>All these men are accused of exceeding their authority and using violence. All of them apart from Alikhan Bekov participated in the torture of Maryem Dolieva. Alikhan Bekov who, according to the investigation, strangled Magomed Doliev, is also accused of murder.</p><p>None of the accused has admitted their guilt. In the words of the victims’ relatives, these former employees of Centre E are bold and stick together, threatening to “sort things out” when the charges against them are dropped. “Even during questioning [by the investigators], they’re smug and impertinent. They felt that they were strong, and above the law. Even now when the writing is on the wall, they still won’t give up,” says Maryem Dolieva. At times her voice shudders. Her eyes well up with tears.</p><p>Her brother says that the relatives of the accused offered money in exchange for refusing to testify in court, and “sent the family elders” who said they were ready to swear on the Koran that their relatives didn’t touch Maryem. “They can do anything. They wouldn’t think twice before telling bare-faced lies while swearing on the Koran,” he insists.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Even behind bars, Khamkhoev feels invulnerable. He promised me that if I wrote a word about him, he would tear off my arms and legs”</p><p>“Even behind bars, Khamkhoev feels invulnerable,” says the human rights defender Magomed Mutsolgov. “In February I approached him in his cell, in my capacity as a member of the Public Monitoring Commission [a formerly independent prison watchdog active in over 80 Russian regions] and the first thing he said was ‘Why have you brought him to me? As if this place is supposed to be a sanatorium!’ He also promised me that if I wrote a word about him, he would tear off my arms and legs. After that, I filed a declaration with the investigative committee that I had been threatened with violent reprisal. They refused to accept it, saying that Khamkhoev’s words had just been a figure of speech.”</p><p>For a long time, Magomed Bekov was held under pre-trial detention, unable to leave. However, at the end of March after a complaint by lawyer Andrei Sabinin, he was placed under house arrest instead. “So, why did they let Bekov return home? The investigator demanded it, as their boss [Khamkhoev] apparently wouldn’t leave his subordinates alone,” supposes Maryem Dolieva’s brother.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Sergei Khandogin, who became Khamkhoev’s deputy in April 2016, had been transferred to Ingushetia from the odious Centre E branch in Nizhny Novgorod. After his detention, Khandogin was also confined to pre-trial detention, but the investigator also released him on house arrest. Khandogin subsequently went into hiding and was wanted for two months.</p><p>No charges were brought against Alisher Borotov, who gave the order for his Centre E colleagues to provide operational support for the robbery or Rosselkhozbank. Yet Dolieva confirms that he was also present during her torture at the Sunzha district’s department for internal affairs, and helped others to choke her with a plastic bag. Following the arrest of Timur Khamkhoev, Borotov has even got a promotion — he is now Ingushetia’s acting chief of police, thus deputy to the republic’s new minister of internal affairs Dmitry Kava, whose predecessor Alexander Trofimov resigned after arrests began in Centre E.</p><h2>A policeman’s torture. “Take him away and get to work on him”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Hasan Katsiev, who worked in the anti-corruption department of Ingushetia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, also fell victim to torture at Centre E. On 21 February 2014, Katsiev recalls, he was summoned for a meeting by deputy chief of police Alisher Borotov in the ministry of internal affairs in Magas. When he entered Borotov’s office, he found Timur Khamkhoev waiting for him with four subordinates. “Take him away and get to work on him,” ordered Borotov, with a nod to Centre E’s notorious director.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Khamkhoev’s men took Katsiev through the cellar, across the courtyard and into a waiting car, which drove him to Centre E’s premises in Nazran. “It began there and then, on the first floor of that building,” remembers Katsiev. The Centre E operatives viciously beat the policeman and smashed his head against the concrete floor, all the while demanding that he sign a confession that he “extorted money from certain persons.” At one moment he heard a command from Khamkhoev to “get our shovels and our jeep ready!”. “It seemed to me that this wasn’t the first time they’d buried a body,” says Katsiev.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>But the policeman wasn’t facing an open grave. As Katsiev sat with a bag over his head, a group of people came who introduced themselves as members of the Interior Ministry’s own security services, or USB. Once again, Katsiev refused to incriminate himself, nor to answer their questions. “Timur, this guy isn’t telling us what we need. Get to work,” Katsiev heard the men to Khamkhoev. The torture continued.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Borotov walked out into the corridor, saw me covered in blood, burst out into laughter, and walked away”</p><p>Towards the evening of the next day, having had no success with the policeman, his torturers took Katsiev back to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Magas. “Borotov walked out into the corridor of the security services, saw me, burst out into laughter, and walked away,” he recounts. There, the USB once more demanded that Katsiev sign either a confession or an agreement to cooperate with them. When it turned out that Katsiev was again destined to return to Centre E, he was able to quickly send an SMS message to a friend in the police force. After the friend intervened, Katsiev was released.</p><p>Katsiev lost consciousness in the courtyard of the Interior Ministry, where two security guards dragged him to his brothers’ car which was waiting at the gates. He only came to in a hospital in Grozny, capital of neighbouring Chechnya. Katsiev’s relatives had taken him there, fearing that members of Ingushetia’s Centre E could have undue influence on the doctors at home.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Katsiyev_Torture.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Katsiyev_Torture.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The police officer Hasan Katsiev demonstrates how he was tortured at Ingushetia’s Centre E. Photo (c): Sergei Smirnov / MediaZona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The now former police officer Katsiev stresses that he signed no documents, but was dismissed from his post “at his own will” during the month spent in hospital. Katsiev says that his conflict with the leadership of the anti-corruption department was sparked by his investigations into corruption scandals. While working on a criminal case, he says, he discovered that his department’s leadership was implicated in an extortion scheme “under the protection” of Ingushetia’s Minister of Internal Affairs Alexander Trofimov.</p><p>Furthermore, Katsiev discovered that construction firms were paying kickbacks to high-ranking police officers. He also confirms that the report in which he described this corrupt scheme, as well as audio recordings which confirmed bribe-taking, disappeared from his safe after being tortured at Centre E.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>“My son fell out of favour,” says the ex-policeman’s father Magomed Katsiev, “[His superiors] decided that if he stayed in the police force, then every last one of them could be implicated somehow. Katsiev had to be kicked out. And why was he put into Centre E’s hands? Because my son divulged to his department and its employees that Timur Khamkhoev of Centre E frequently ‘extorted money from certain persons.’”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>A criminal case on Katsiev’s torture has since been filed, though nobody has yet been brought to justice — despite the fact that in one of his resolutions, the investigator officially named the scene of the crime as the premises of Centre E in Nazran, Ingushetia.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><h2>“They’ve been kidnapping people for many years, right?”</h2><p>“It seems to me that these people have never answered for anything,” says Magomed Mutsolgov, a prominent human rights defender in the republic.</p><p>“Impunity. They felt themselves to be above the law acted with impunity. Carrying out these acts… that didn’t require official orders of any sort, just some informal instructions. After all, they’ve been kidnapping people for many years, right? These crimes were committed on an enormous scale — you wouldn’t believe it, but 236 people have been abducted here in Ingushetia and none of them has yet been found.” In Mutsolgov’s words, these years of impunity and criminality by the security services demonstrate that “the regional authorities don’t even demand that they adhere to the law — in fact, they just pander to them.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Mutsolgov fears that “there will be attempts to hinder and even freeze” the ongoing case against the Centre E operatives. “Here there’s the understanding of ‘people of the system’ — of an ostensible system of government. But that’s not true; what system is meant? These officials, particularly in the regional authorities, build their own power structures beneath them and apply the systems of law enforcement and legal authority as they see fit.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>“You can’t try and make a mark on these people, to shame them into being better,” laments Akhmed-Bashir Aushev. “Take these 30 guys from Centre E, and I swear that you won’t find one of them without sin.” The number of accused has now risen to more than ten operatives of Centre E, under Timur Khamkhoev’s leadership.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>At the end of May, Ingushetia’s Investigative Committee combined the five criminal cases brought against Centre E’s men into one. Andrei Sabinin, the lawyer who is representing some of the victims on the initiative of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, adds that now the cases of Magomed and Maryem Doliev(a), the Azerbaijani citizen Amil Nazarov, the two Magomed Aushevs, Zelimkhan Mutsolgov and Adam Dakiev will all be investigated as one.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“In a small republic like Ingushetia, these actions would have been impossible without the Investigative Committee’s inaction and protection from the regional leadership”</p><p>Adam Dakiev was abducted and tortured in 2012. He says that upon being released from Centre E, Timur Khamkhoev told him that he should be thankful to leave alive — few are so lucky. Mutsolgov himself was tortured in 2010. “Well, how did you like our Taekwondo?” his torturers apparently asked him.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Sabinin also complains that as of yet, nobody has been brought to justice “for the torture of former police officer Hasan Katsiev, even though he identified his assailants on several occasions.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>“Over the course of several years, those at the higher echelons of Ingushetia’s police have tortured their own citizens with utter impunity, and despite their obvious culpability, continued their criminal activities. There is no doubt that in a small republic like Ingushetia, such actions would have been impossible without the clear inaction of the Investigative Committee and a level of protection from the regional leadership,” concludes Sabinin. He stresses that victims appealed to Yunus-Bek Evkurov on several occasions, but the Ingush leader “took no steps whatsoever to establish the identity of the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”</p><p>“Why the judgements of the Investigative Committee’s investigative department are so selective remains unclear,” notes the human rights defender. “It still hasn’t provided a legal assessment of the actions of Lieutenant Borotov, who was identified by Dolieva as one of her torturers. Even more worrying was the decision of the supreme court of Ingushetia to release Sergei Khandogin under house arrest, despite the fact that the accused’s name is still on a federal wanted list.”<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>“Some of these police have completely lost their minds. And I hope that soon, we can cut the tentacles of their criminal organisation out of the law enforcement agencies,” remarks Sabinin.<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>Translated from Russian by Maxim Edwards</em><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/they-made-this-man-invalid-can-you-imagine-how-they-crippled-my-soul">“They made this man an invalid. Can you imagine how they crippled my soul?”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture">Crimea: peninsula of torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/grigory-tumanov/dark-doings-of-russia%E2%80%99s-centre-e">The dark doings of Russia’s Centre E</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-zotova/this-is-karelia-tortured-voices-from-russia-s-prison-system">This is Karelia: tortured voices from Russia’s prison system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-slavina/new-casualties-of-russia-s-war-on-terror">The new casualties of Russia’s war on terror</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Sergei Smirnov Yegor Skovoroda Russia Ingushetia Human rights Caucasus Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:35:20 +0000 Yegor Skovoroda and Sergei Smirnov 112300 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Armenia and Azerbaijan’s collision course over Nagorno-Karabakh https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/olesya-vartanyan-magdalena-grono/armenia-and-azerbaijan-collision-course-over-nagorno-karabakh <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sound principles for conflict resolution over Nagorno-Karabakh exist. But mistrust, a gulf between mediators and the parties involved, as well as Baku and Yerevan's appetite for military gains render the current formula impossible.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-31564498.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May 2017: Soldiers of Nagorno Karabakh army make a patrol close to Martakert frontline, less than 300 meters of the Azerbaijan army positions. (c) NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Twenty-three years after Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire deal that ended a bloody war over Nagorno-Karabakh, a steady drumbeat of armed escalation is making a return to large-scale violent conflict more likely than ever before.</p> <p>Last April, a four-day flare-up killed at least 200 people. Further skirmishes continue to inflict casualties along the Line of Contact (LoC), the 200km frontline which separates Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. Both sides intermittently employ heavy artillery and anti-tank weapons against each other. In May this year, there were reports of self-guided rockets and missiles falling near densely populated areas. On 4 July, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40504373"><span>a </span><span>two</span><span>-year-old girl and her grandmother</span></a> in the Azerbaijani village of Alkhanli were killed.&nbsp;</p> <p>Years of military build-up have been propelled in Azerbaijan by oil and gas windfall and in economically weaker Armenia by Russia’s preferential prices of weaponry. Alongside <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/nagorno-karabakh-azerbaijan/looming-dangers-one-year-after-nagorno-karabakh-escalation"><span>highly-mobilised, bellicose societies</span></a> on both sides, these developments risk escalating tensions into an unprecedented larger-scale conflict. The fallout of a headlong collision would likely cause immeasurable destruction and exact an enormous civilian casualty toll far worse than April’s flare-up. Such developments could even prompt the intervention of regional powers Russia and Turkey, who have defence commitments with Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively.</p> <p>At present, Baku and Yerevan say they have little faith in the stalled conflict settlement process led by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group. Meetings in May and June last year between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan produced no tangible results. Baku’s frustration with the status quo is at odds with Yerevan’s efforts, in the absence of security, to cement it.</p> <p>Yet after the April 2016 escalation, both sides ultimately share the conviction that the use of force may be a better means to their ends than the defunct political talks. This heightens the temptation to try and use it, or to be ready to respond decisively.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>The </strong><strong>a</strong><strong>ftermath of April’s </strong><strong>e</strong><strong>scalation</strong></h2> <p>The April 2016 flare-up stoked up both parties’ appetite for conflict. Despite heavy casualties on the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides, waves of pro-war sentiment swept into all segments of society. The four-day escalation amplified voices calling for a necessary decisive moment in the two-decades long conflict. Many in both societies now believe that another war is not only inevitable but may be the best way to end the perpetual, stalemated tension.</p> <p>Azerbaijani society, buoyed by its sense of victory after reclaiming two strategically significant heights from Armenian side’s control, felt new confidence in its armed forces. By altering the much-resented status quo on the ground, it dispelled a myth of Armenian invincibility built up in the 1992-1994 war. Baku’s heavy investment in its armed forces since 2006 gives it the feeling of a technological edge that could tip the balance. In 2015, Baku spent $3bn on its military, more than Armenia’s entire national budget. Many in Azerbaijan consequently believe that a full reconquest of Nagorno-Karabakh is feasible.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The turbulence after April 2016 was most heavily felt in Nagorno-Karabakh society itself. Although the ethnic Armenian-controlled territory retains close links with Armenia and relies on its military support, much of the population remains relatively isolated</p> <p>In contrast, in the aftermath of the April escalation, Armenians questioned their leadership’s ability to protect Nagorno-Karabakh and its ethnic Armenian population. At the same time, the escalation galvanised the Armenian society, which is fully behind a decisive response to any military challenges. But throughout 2016, with an upcoming election in Spring 2017, dissatisfaction about the post-April fall out was directed at politicians. A two-year constitutional transition from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary republic, due to be completed in Spring 2018, has only increased the ruling elite’s vulnerabilities and restricted its room for manoeuvrer. The political elite feels itself under significant pressure not to repeat their performance and to stand tall in the face of heightening tensions.&nbsp;</p> <p>The turbulence after April 2016 was most heavily felt in Nagorno-Karabakh society itself. Although the ethnic Armenian-controlled territory retains close links with Armenia and relies on its military support, much of the population remains relatively isolated. It harbours a distinct identity shaped by its experience as a society under siege. The local de facto Nagorno-Karabakh leadership has in the past years prioritised economic and administrative reforms through embarking on programs designed to stimulate the agriculture, energy and foreign investment sectors, all of which generate local income. Yet following April’s clashes the local authorities, with Armenia’s support, reoriented priorities. They shifted local financial resources toward military purposes, such as the construction of roads and tunnels; purchasing high-tech equipment; refurbishing trench structures; and improving surveillance.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Risks of renewed war</strong></h2> <p>With increasing militarism on both sides of the Line of Contact, the relative stability that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone once knew is vanishing. The danger for both sides is that another flare-up could easily spiral out of control. In the event of a full-scale outbreak of violence, neither Baku nor Yerevan are likely to secure their objectives but rather inflict severe destruction on each other.&nbsp;</p> <p>Summer-Autumn 2017 is viewed by both sides as a critical period during which their enemy could intensify military operations. Yerevan believes that the Azerbaijani public has high expectations after last year’s gains and thinks Baku’s goal is to re-establish full control over at least some of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh (which are now held by ethnic Armenian forces) if not all of the conflict region. For its part, Baku believes Yerevan might provoke a fight to regain the land it lost in April 2016, or otherwise improve its standing. In the absence of military communications or any dialogue between the sides, a fateful misinterpretation of both sides’ intentions and activities is ever-easier to imagine along the front line.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/7290290884_453961d142_z_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A resident of Shusha displays a photo of a family member killed in the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1991-1994). CC Marco Fieber / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A new consensus emerged in the Nagorno-Karabakh’s society in the winter of 2016. In the event of an Azerbaijani attack, it is likely that <a href="http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83821"><span>Armenian forces will advance fifteen kilometres</span></a> beyond the LoC into Azerbaijani territory in order to establish a larger buffer zone and secure new bargaining chips for eventual negotiations. Armenians believe such a move would break their enemy’s will to fight once and for all. Yet this would be a highly risky strategy. Baku is keen to make use of its technical and quantitative advantage in weaponry and equipment supplied by Russia, Israel, Pakistan and Turkey, as well as its ever-expanding military numbers, to inflict heavy costs.&nbsp;</p> <p>Keeping another flare-up remote, limited and local will be difficult. In the event that either side comes under heavy pressure, their <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/armenias-new-ballistic-missiles-will-shake-the-neighborhood-18026"><span>possession of ballistic missiles</span></a> – absent during the 1990s conflict – all but guarantees widespread destruction of civilian, economic and military infrastructure. Neither side can necessarily prevent triggering regional tripwires that might cause a far larger war. While Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO) led by Russia and also has bilateral defence commitments with Russia, Azerbaijan in 2010 signed an Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Support with Turkey.</p> <p>A sudden escalation will quickly have major humanitarian impact, widespread displacement and an unprecedented number of casualties. An Armenian advance into the Azerbaijani side of the LoC would impact numerous densely populated settlements of ethnic Azerbaijanis. Estimates suggest that anywhere between 300,000 to 600,000 residents would be displaced in the event of open conflict. Moreover, war would put the 150,000 inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh itself under huge strain. Soviet-era bomb shelters are locked or decrepit and many residents remain unclear of what to do in the event of war. Basic medicinal supplies and foodstuffs are limited.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Unlocking the settlement process</strong></h2> <p>The April 2016 hostilities clarified the <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/azerbaijan/nagorno-karabakh-new-opening-or-more-peril"><span>risks as well as heavy costs</span></a> of renewed conflict. But far from spurring the two parties to cooperate and reinvigorate the moribund negotiation process, two subsequent high-level meetings in Vienna and St</p> <p>Petersburg were unable to reach any agreement. Negotiations ground to a halt in September 2016, with some indications in Spring 2017 that another meeting between presidents is being considered for later this year.&nbsp;</p> <p>Public opinion on both sides appears increasingly entrenched, bellicose and uncompromising. Respective leaders tread a fine line between appeasing hawkish domestic constituencies and compromising just enough to move the settlement process forward – or at least to prevent the blame for failure falling on their own shoulders. Ironically, Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders face the same dilemma. Mutual concessions that might benefit the two countries and lower tensions in the longer term could in the shorter run threaten internal stability and the survival of ruling elites. There is thus little incentive for compromise. The tactical use of force remains the dominant modus operandi to gain advantage at the negotiating table.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-21302794.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>October 2014: French president Francois Hollande hosts talks with his Azerbaijan' counterpart Ilham Aliyev as part of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Summit over Nagorno-Karabakh. (c) Pool/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Further compounding the stalemate is Yerevan and Baku’s deep mistrust of international mediators who they perceive as guided by the interests of major powers and incapable of ensuring the region’s security. In theory, both sides seek a more proactive mediation role of the OSCE Minsk Group. In practice, both sides want the Minsk Group to criticise and assign responsibility for stalled talks and the deteriorating security situation on the other party. So far the Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, Russia, the US and France, have remained highly cautious and only the Russian co-chair has had backing by the country’s leadership.&nbsp;</p> <p>The cause of peace has suffered from waning western interest over the past decade. Russia is the sole country consistently demonstrating high level political will to engage, at the same time as selling weaponry to both parties. Both Baku and Yerevan suspect that Moscow is using this leverage to buttress its geopolitical presence in the South Caucasus, an area it considers a “sphere of privileged interests”. The absence of western leadership has left the two parties at the mercy of Russian mediation. Although Moscow has been active in forwarding proposals, they have gained little traction or support. The Lavrov Plan of late 2015, predicated on the return to Azerbaijan of five or seven Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh, security arrangements and interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh, sparked Armenian anger and fears that Russia’s position was shifting toward Baku.</p> <h2><strong>Outstanding issues</strong></h2> <p>So long as the conflict’s core sticking points remain unaddressed, both sides treat war as a real option. Three main issues have remained unresolved on the negotiating table since the end of the 1990s war. Resolution of these are the only way to build a solid foundation for a durable peace.&nbsp;</p> <p>First, seven Azerbaijani districts outside Nagorno-Karabakh itself have been held by ethnic Armenian forces since 1994. While Baku insists these territories are under “occupation” – the term used in UN Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 from the 1992-1994 war – Yerevan says the territories can only be returned within a larger agreement, which will also take into consideration security arrangements and the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In order to address the outstanding conflict issues, a first stepping stone will be to combat the profound lack of trust between leaders and the societies</p> <p>Second, principles of self-determination and territorial integrity are far from a black-and-white issue. Azerbaijan insists on self-rule for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, thus guaranteeing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Armenia calls for self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh outside of Azerbaijan, which would in practice lead to independence for the territory, even if that may be a prelude to a union with Armenia.The precedents of Kosovo’s recognition by the West, and Russia’s unilateral recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014 have particular resonance in Nagorno-Karabakh. These cases stoke fears that discussions of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status might make the conflict’s parties pawns in a larger geopolitical chess game.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-18396229_1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>For all sides, state-led propaganda has entrenched public opinion against concessions. (c) Sergei Grits / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Third, peacekeeping forces and broader international security agreements are a precondition for return of the territories around NK under Azerbaijani control, as well as for the return home of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azerbaijanis, displaced by the 1990s war. Aside from the two sides’ general lack of faith that international guarantees will be respected, much debate exists on the composition and mandate of such a security force. Only Russia has expressed willingness to send military personnel. But in a rare example of mutual agreement, neither Baku nor Yerevan wish to see Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone.</p><p>Troop deployment by any outside power, particularly Russia, is a hard pill to swallow for <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/isolation-post-soviet-conflict-regions-narrows-road-peace"><span>post-Soviet Armenia and Azerbaijan</span></a>, who have both recently celebrated a quarter century of sovereign independence.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>A way forward?</strong></h2> <p>In order to address the outstanding conflict issues, a first stepping stone will be to combat the profound lack of trust between leaders and the societies. </p><p>Since the 1990s, negotiations have become the prerogative of the two sides’ presidents and foreign ministers. While all alternative channels of communications are closed, the rhetoric since April 2016 has grown increasingly provocative. The hyper-personalisation of the process means substantive positions are the sole responsibility of the individual rather than broader institutions. When relations are frosty between leaders, as present circumstances demonstrate, negotiations cannot be divorced from the prevailing political climate.</p> <p>Progress will also partly depend on restoring faith in international diplomatic mediation, <a href="http://en.apa.az/nagorno_karabakh/the-co-chairs-of-the-osce-minsk-group-released-statement-on-the-recent-escalation-in-nagorno-karabakh-conflict-zone.html"><span>namely the Minsk Group</span></a>. Negotiations are the only way out of the current impasse and the best way to avert another war. Sound principles for conflict resolution exist, but pervasive mistrust, a gulf between outside mediators and the parties involved, and Baku and Yerevan’s current appetite for maximal military gains render the current formula incapacitated.&nbsp;</p> <p>Western powers, particularly Washington and Paris, will need to reinvigorate their interest in conflict. High-level coordination with Moscow to kickstart substantive discussions on the unresolved issues is pivotal. In the short term, the Minsk Group can work on enhancing monitoring, implementing an investigative mechanism and increasing cross-party communication between political elites and militaries. Such proposals were discussed in Vienna and St Petersburg and need to proceed, but must be accompanied by the more substantive discussions of outstanding issues.&nbsp;</p> <p>While Yerevan favours security confidence building measures before substantive talks, Baku will balk at their implementation without the prospect of discussions. Pressure from high-level powers here is capable of bridging the divide. They can also push Armenia and Azerbaijan to tone down their hostile rhetoric, soften their negotiating position, and acknowledge – privately and publicly – that this conflict ultimately will only be resolved through negotiations. Ultimately, the mentality that currently persists, namely that stalemate, even war, are better options than compromise and negotiation, must be overcome.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-zhamakochyan/armenia-in-trap-of-national-unity">Armenia in the trap of “national unity”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-de-waal/armenia-s-crisis-and-legacy-of-victory">Armenia’s crisis and the legacy of victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/karabakh-rules-armenia">“Karabakh rules Armenia”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sergey-rumyantsev/behind-azerbaijan-s-facades">Behind Azerbaijan’s facades</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/gulnar-salimova/walking-free-in-azerbaijan">Walking free in Azerbaijan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Magdalena Grono Olesya Vartanyan Caucasus Azerbaijan Armenia Fri, 14 Jul 2017 17:07:55 +0000 Olesya Vartanyan and Magdalena Grono 112263 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russian authorities take aim at supporters of opposition politician Alexei Navalny https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/russian-authorities-take-aim-at-supporters-of-opposition-politician-alexei-navaln <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Interference with the Russian opposition's nationwide campaign is reaching new heights.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/gatchina.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activists ran into problems setting up their stage in Gatchina, near St Petersburg. Image: OVD-Info. </span></span></span></p><p><strong>We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/ovd-info">latest information on freedom of assembly</a>.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>We recently launched a new project entitled <a href="https://formalist.info/"><span>Forma</span><span>l</span><span>ist</span></a>. It enables you to quickly draft appeals, statements and complaints relevant to the courts and the criminal justice system. <a href="https://formalist.info/">Formalist</a> is designed for those who work in NGOs and for civil society activists, it helps save time and effort in drawing up various documents. We also remind you of our <a href="https://t.me/OvdInfoBot"><span>Telegram-bot</span></a> that gives legal advice on what to do if you are arrested. <br /> <br /> Last weekend, all over Russia, supporters of politician Alexei Navalny held a campaigning day event. On the Saturday and Sunday police detained at least 165 activists. Information about those detained by police in Moscow on Saturday and Sunday can be read <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/news/2017/07/08/moskva-zaderzhaniya-na-agitacionnom-subbotnike">here</a> and <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/news/2017/07/09/zaderzhaniya-na-voskresnom-agitacionnom-subbotnike-v-moskve">here</a>. Some activists also fell victim to physical assaults. For example, in Gatchina unidentified individuals <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/08/v-gatchine-na-agitacionnyy-kub-navalnogo-napali-neizvestnye"><span>attacked</span></a> Navalny supporters with spades. In addition, police searched Navalny’s campaign headquarters in several cities. You can read more about how the campaign day passed off throughout Russia <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/news/2017/07/08/zaderzhaniya-na-agitacionnom-subbotnike-navalnogo"><span>here</span></a>.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/19787244_1415188835215594_3647354380647175017_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexander Turovsky at the Sklifosovksky Institute. Image: Sergei Vasilchenko.</span></span></span>On the night of 5-6 July police occupied Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, detaining the volunteer who was on call, Alexander Turovsky. </p><p>Turovsky was beaten by police apparently for refusing to show his passport. The police wrote out a charge sheet under Article 19.3 of the Administrative Law Code for failing to obey police instructions. Later, Turovsky was taken from the courthouse to the Sklifovsky Institute where he was hospitalised. There he underwent a cerebral centesis [<em>removal of fluid</em>] and was diagnosed with concussion. Despite this, it was only with great difficulty that Turovsky was able to insist on his right to stay overnight in the hospital, where he was kept under police guard. We <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/stories/2017/07/07/v-polvtorogo-nochi-v-palate-sidyat-tri-menta-izdevayutsya-oskorblyayut-ne-dayut"><span>cite</span></a> the words of Sergei Vasilchenko, a lawyer with the Party of Progress, who accompanied Alexander Turovsky to the hospital. The next day the police <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/07/izbitogo-volontera-moskovskogo-shtaba-navalnogo-uvezli-iz-bolnicy-v-ovd"><span>moved</span></a> Turovsky from the hospital to a police station, and thence to court where he was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/07/izbitogo-volontera-shtaba-navalnogo-v-moskve-sud-oshtrafoval-na-500-rubley"><span>fined</span></a> the sum of 500 roubles.</p><p> New information has appeared about the case of politician Vyacheslav Maltsev, who left Russia last week. His supporters say that criminal charges have been brought against him for <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/11/po-dannym-storonnikov-malceva-na-oppozicionera-vozbudili-delo-za-prizyvy-k"><span>inciting separatism</span></a>. It had been reported earlier that Maltsev was under investigation for creating an extremist organisation. On 11 July a “community hall” belonging to Vyacheslav Maltsev in the village of Lokhino outside Moscow was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/07/11/v-narodnom-dome-vyacheslava-malceva-prohodit-obysk"><span>searched</span></a> by police.&nbsp;</p> <p>A court refused to allow Valery Parfenov, a defendant in the People’s Will Army case, to have a medical exam. Currently held on remand, Parfenov is losing his eyesight. Of the four defendants in the case, Parfenov, RBK journalist Alexander Sokolov, and military officer Lieutenant-Colonel Kirill Barabash have been remanded in custody. Only one defendant, writer and journalist Yury Mukhin, is under house arrest. <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2016/03/18/srok-aresta-obvinyaemym-po-delu-armii-voli-naroda-prodlen-do-21-iyunya"><span>According to the prosecution</span></a>, Sokolov, Mukhin, Parfenov and Barabash were continuing the activities of the banned organization People’s Will Army (ruled by a court to be extremist in the autumn of 2010) under cover of a campaign to hold a referendum “for accountable government”. The People’s Will Army had been banned on the basis of a <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2016/05/13/mosgorsud-otklonil-zhalobu-na-arest-zhurnalista-rbk"><span>leaflet</span></a>, entitled “You elected them, you should judge them!” which called for the holding of a referendum to add to the Constitution an article providing for the public accountability of government officials.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/hh_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Igor Stenin, leader of Russians in Astrakhan.</span></span></span>On 2 June Igor Stenin, leader of the nationalist Russians of Astrakhan movement, was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/06/02/igor-stenin-vyshel-na-svobodu"><span>released</span></a> from a prison colony in Tambov region. On 16 May 2016 he had been <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2016/05/16/nacionalista-na-2-goda-otpravili-v-koloniyu-poselenie-za-repost"><span>sentenced</span></a> to two years in a low-security prison colony for a publication on the VKontakte social networking site. According to the prosecution, Stenin reposted an article containing extremism, and added his own comment, “Death to the Kremlin occupiers, hands off Ukraine!” Activist Igor Stenin speaks <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/interviews/2017/07/11/neudachnyy-skrinshot-intervyu-s-liderom-russkih-astrahani-igorem-steninym"><span>here</span></a> to OVD-Info about his prosecution, his time in prison, and his release.</p> <h2 class="western"> <strong>Thank you</strong></h2> <p>Thanks to everyone who continues to support us.&nbsp;<strong>Find out how you can help&nbsp;</strong><strong><a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a></strong><strong>.</strong></p> <p><em>For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/grigory-okhotin/crowdfunding-to-bypass-russia-s-civil-society-crackdown">here</a></em><em>.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://ovdinfo.org/"><img src="https://ovdinfo.org/sites/all/themes/ovdinfo/img/logo-ovdinfo.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p><p>OVD-Info is a crowdfunded organisation. Find out how you can help them&nbsp;<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/bolotnaya-20">Bolotnaya 2.0?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/alexei-moroshkin-forced-psychiatry-russia">“Worse than prison”: Russian political prisoner Alexei Moroshkin on punitive psychiatry</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/madeline-roache/punitive-psychiatry-how-russian-leaders-deal-with-their-opponents">Punitive psychiatry: how Russian leaders deal with their opponents</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/they-made-this-man-invalid-can-you-imagine-how-they-crippled-my-soul">“They made this man an invalid. Can you imagine how they crippled my soul?”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia OVD-Info Russia Fri, 14 Jul 2017 11:06:46 +0000 OVD-Info 112277 at https://www.opendemocracy.net