oD Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3513/all cached version 18/01/2019 22:28:24 en The Living Front of Stanislav Markelov https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-medvedev/living-front-of-stanislav-markelov <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/Screen%20Shot%202019-01-18%20at%2010.58.51.png" alt="Screen Shot 2019-01-18 at 10.58.51.png" width="80" />Ten years ago, activist lawyer Stanislav Markelov was murdered in Moscow. His legacy tells us why anti-fascism remains vitally important in Russia today. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-medvedev/zhivoy-front-stanislava-markelova">RU</a></strong></em></p><p><br /><br /></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/54203_900.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/54203_900.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>On 19 January 2009, Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were murdered. Every year since, Russian anti-fascists hold a march in their memory. Source: anatrrra / Livejournal.</span></span></span>Ten years ago, Stanislav Markelov was murdered in Moscow. He defended anti-fascists and ecologists, mothers trying to defend their sons serving in the army and citizens of Blagoveshchensk brutalised at the hands of the riot police, the relatives of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Elza_Kungayeva">Elza Kungayeva</a> (murdered by a Russian soldier in Chechnya) and journalist Mikhail Beketov, who was <a href="https://cpj.org/blog/2009/12/beketov-still-recovering-from-attack-a-year-later.php">brutally assaulted</a> for covering the construction of a new highway near Moscow. That day in January, the Neo-Nazis also killed his companion <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anastasia_Baburova">Anastasia Baburova</a>, a like-minded journalist. The killers were <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13307560">eventually sentenced to long prison terms</a>. Some of their friends and sympathisers are now working for government bodies or pro-regime mass media, whereas others have fought and still fight on both sides of the conflict in Ukraine. As a figure, Markelov feels so necessary in Russia today, yet so hard to imagine.</p><p dir="ltr">Starting in the hippie subculture of the perestroika era, Markelov went on to join the Student Defence trade union and Defenders of the Rainbow eco-movement. Later, he was a legal representative in some of the country’s most dangerous and high-profile cases — and a proponent of Russia’s new anti-fascism.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">Looking back, this healing of wounds and applying of stitches on the streets of Moscow in 1993 feels like an attempt to symbolically unite two parts of a broken society</p><p dir="ltr">In the 1990s, Markelov was among those who appealed to the non-Bolshevik traditions of the Left, caught between aggressive free marketeers and Soviet revanchists. During the Constitutional Crisis in October 1993, he joined the Voloshin Medical Brigade, who helped everyone in need of medical assistance, no matter what side they took amidst the bloody conflict. Looking back, this healing of wounds and applying of stitches on the streets of Moscow in 1993 feels like an attempt to symbolically unite two parts of a broken society. On the one hand, the enthusiasts of 1991, the people who, in 1993, still believed in the imminent triumph of liberal democracy. On the other, the people who believed that the near future would bring nothing good, but had no counter-agenda except a fanatical anti-liberalism and their memories of the USSR.</p><p dir="ltr">This rupture is yet to close, and Markelov — who mixed liberal human rights work with left-wing values — was the living embodiment of the attempt to overcome it. This combination is something very unusual in Russia. Ever since Soviet times, the majority of Russian liberals who have believed in human rights have shown skepticism towards any discussion of social justice and equality. Leftists, on the contrary, often interpret the rhetoric of human rights as a cover for the economic aggression of neoliberalism. However, the fact remains that liberals in Russia cannot survive without a serious shift to the left (a truth that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-medvedev-oleg-zhuravlev/how-can-russia-s-left-work-with-navalny">Alexey Navalny has understood all too well</a>), while leftists, who easily turn to liberal human rights organisation for free assistance, and then brand them as enemies of the working class, look simply ridiculous in this instance.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-36347668.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-36347668.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Riot police surround people during a demonstration against Vladimir Putin in Moscow, on 5 May 2018. Photo: NurPhoto / SIPA USA / PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Laughing bitterly at this absurd situation, the unique nature of Markelov’s experience is clear. Markelov came to work as a lawyer through his political activism, and then, for the sake of defending the most vulnerable and powerless people in society, disdained both a steady professional career and every stereotype on why the personal, political and professional should not be mixed in legal work. </p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, Markelov demonstrated another important fact, and one that sounds outlandish in Russia: an engaged lawyer, just like an engaged journalist, is not someone who performs a client’s requests for money, but someone who follows his civic and political convictions and the norms of their professional community.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">Markelov’s distinct place within and on the borders of several milieux, in the midst of activists and as their public representative, at social forums and academic debates, freed him from paralysing group stereotypes</p><p dir="ltr">Realising how important a network of engaged lawyers was for the survival of left-wing and social movements, &nbsp;and focusing on the rich global (and our own pre-revolutionary) experience, Markelov created the Institute of the Rule of Law — a group of lawyers who were ready to defend activists and victims of arbitrary violence for free.</p><p dir="ltr">Markelov’s distinct place within and on the borders of several milieux, in the midst of activists and as their public representative, at social forums and academic debates, freed him from paralysing group stereotypes. It &nbsp;allowed him to act in a courageous, paradoxical and innovative manner, bringing him closer to that truth which is bigger than the truth of the “correct political statement” and to a transformative practice that is more than defending people’s rights. It allowed him to make precise and audacious conclusions on past experience — and to predict important global trends.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Bumb-1996-1239-13-768x482.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Bumb-1996-1239-13-768x482.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Student Defence march, 12 April 1995, in Moscow. Source: Student Defence archive / <a href=http://maoism.ru/7728>Maoism.ru</a>. </span></span></span>Along with <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stanislav-markelov/times-change-but-the-stagnation-remains">highly critical and far from nostalgic reflections on the Soviet Union</a>, Markelov reminds us that the dismantlement of odious Soviet symbols in the 1990s, seemingly deprived of any content was followed not by democratic socialism, as left-wing dissidents naively expected, but “an open and broken society… which in combination with the ideas of Hayek and Friedman became like a roadside tavern during a plague epidemic.” “What did they cast away first? Precisely the symbols with all their substance. They began to say that it was not shameful to be rich. And what is getting rich quickly if not speculation? They began to say that defending the rights of workers was not serious, they began to laugh about this…”</p><p dir="ltr">Even in the 1990s, Markelov was well aware that while people were being dished up a tale of the struggle against communist revanche, egalitarian values and the structures of the social state were being liquidated. Pavel Kudiukin, historian and trade union activist, recalls: </p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">“Stas in the ranks of the left-wing faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party consistently defended the position that social democracy, if it wants to exist not in words alone but in reality, must focus its energies on the workers’ movement, must take up the position of defending democracy not so much from the forces of ‘communist revanchism’ as that of the new regime.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In this sense, we can understand Markelov’s reasoning at the end of the 1990s that, against the backdrop of general anti-communist sentiments, &nbsp;the tolerance of most liberals towards the far-right spawns the monster of national-liberalism, the danger of the 21st century. This, in Markelov’s opinion, was comparable to Nazism in the 20th Century. During the same period, he forecast the division amongst the liberal camp between those who moved left, towards social democracy, and those who preferred an alliance with nationalists.</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">“Nationalism can only be countered by internationalism, but, as always, by renouncing the Soviet past we throw the baby out with the bath water. And in terms of the national question we then trample this child in the dirt with our heels…” (The Red Book of Anti-Fa)</p><p dir="ltr">A desire and ability to bring together different milieus over made-up and real barriers, as well as a programmatic belief that far-right groups present a threat to democracy always and everywhere — Markelov’s position wasn’t only heroic (alas, later proved by the course of events). There was also a rare political maturity to this position, and one which stands out against the sectarianism and tactical lack of principles among Russia’s political opposition (two extremes, which easily combine together). “Of course, I’m against fascism, but please don’t hurt anyone,” as the Russian version of Phil Och’s song <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw&amp;fbclid=IwAR2BvBYS0ixIAQ-_L5iAm4pn-huuffn1GQrA9io5idF5SjC5ikPTXxgMfF4">“Love me, I’m a Liberal”</a> goes, a parody of the political tolerance inherent in liberalism. A progressive civil society and the left-wing movement should push back against Nazis, Markelov believed, otherwise they, together with the rich and powerful, can harm everyone else sometime in the future.</p><p dir="ltr">When the fights between Nazis and anti-fascists, including the demonstrative murders of the latter, became part of everyday life in Russia during the mid-2000s, and a significant part of the Russian intelligentsia looked on this as two broadly identical groups having spun out of control, Markelov decidedly took the side of the anti-fascists. He pointed the finger at the street-level killers and their high-placed patrons, wrote the famous text <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stanislav-markelov/patriotism-as-a-diagnosis">“Patriotism as a Diagnosis”</a>, and, most likely, the anonymous brochure “The Red Book of Anti-Fa”.</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">“Anti-fa is way of remaining human in a crowd where the concepts of nation, power, money, income, empire and hierarchy dominate. Anti-fa is a way of defending our own equality and our own freedom. If society is fighting back against fascism, then that society is alive, and that fight is a fight to the death, not for life. This is a living front, where it’s being decided whether this life will continue.” (The Red Book of Anti-Fa)</p><p dir="ltr">Here, Markelov explains his rather anarchist understanding of the “home front” — the commune, the squat and other self-organised spaces where a life without exploitation and hierarchy is possible, and a completely socialist understanding of the “front”, as a public and political fight with fascism in power and in society.</p><p dir="ltr">We should recognise that Markelov tragically overestimated the capacities of the anti-fascist subculture movement. And perhaps this is why he underestimated his own irreplaceable role in it — in effect, the role of the movement’s only public persona, its main advocate and unifying ideologue. Only in his last public speech do we hear a penetrating, near fatalistic alarm that sounds for us all: “This isn’t work anymore. It’s a question of survival. We need to defend ourselves against Nazis. We need to defend ourselves against the Mafia-like authorities. Even from law enforcement, which often just serves their interests. We all need to defend ourselves.”</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">Outbursts of anti-migrant and generally nationalist hysteria, tactical connections between street Nazis and the state, street-level struggle — all of this can return at any moment</p><p dir="ltr">Soon after Stas died, and with various challenges in full swing — repression, 2011-2012 protests, events in Ukraine — the anti-fascist movement in Russia more or less came to an end. But its story isn’t finished. Hopes that young people, dissatisfied with the system, would become involved in trade union, worker and other social struggles rather than street battles between left and right have not, so to speak, come to full fruition. This is natural: the less protection working people enjoy, the less chances there are for professional and class solidarity. And the more chances ideological aggression has for pure blood, pure nation, pure culture, for this or that heroic version of history. An aggression that irrevocably pours out onto the streets, provokes reaction and pushes everyone into new and bloody conflicts.</p><p dir="ltr">And so, outbursts of anti-migrant and generally nationalist hysteria, tactical connections between street Nazis and the state (and, on occasion, the opposition too), street-level struggle — all of this can return at any moment. Will we prepare ourselves better this time?</p><p dir="ltr">Markelov showed that, with public speakers and dedicated lawyers, anti-fascism can be bigger than a fashionable subculture or an ideology abused by the state. It can become the basis of a new civic community. Or perhaps not: Stas’ speeches sound like a reproach to those who, in recent years, have used the memory of the victory over fascism in 1945 to justify external aggression, and others who denied the completely real street violence of Nazis in Ukraine in 2014 and their structural links with the new authorities.</p><p><iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YYxGlIIpUH0" height="259&quot;" width="460"></iframe><em>"I'm tired of seeing my friends in the criminal news... I'm tired of opening up criminal case files and seeing the first point of an individual's guilt as being a member of the anti-fa movement." Stanislav Markelov at a protest against political terror, 0 November 2008. Source: Grani.</em></p><p dir="ltr">“Of course, he would have been among the participants of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/dissecting-russia-s-winter-of-protest-five-years-on">Fair Elections protests</a> [in 2011-2012],” says historian Yaroslav Leontiev, a friend of Markelov. “As his assistant in the Duma, he would have helped Oleg Shein during the elections in Astrakhan and his <a href="https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2012/04/oleg-shein-and-supporters-in-hunger-strike-in-protest-against-election-results/">famous hunger strike</a>. Almost definitely he would have been one of the legal team on the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolotnaya_Square_case">Bolotnaya Square Case</a> — from <a href="https://libcom.org/tags/alexandra-dukhanina">[Alexandra] Dukhanina</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolay_Kavkazsky">[Nikolay] Kavkazsky</a>, <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-bolotnaya-defendant-gaskarov-released/28077939.html">[Alexey] Gaskarov</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatyana-dvornikova/man-in-black-interview-with-russian-anarchist-dmitry-buchenkov">[Dmitry] Buchenkov</a> to <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/udalstov-razvozzhayev-trial-verdict-guilty-bolotnaya/25468624.html">[Sergey] Udaltsov and [Leonid] Razvozzhayev</a>.”</p><p dir="ltr">It is clear that in those new and difficult situations — the ones that Markelov did not live to see — he would have tried with all his might to find a common platform for the opposition in Russia, fighting off aggressive and destructive extremisms. A platform that would be anti-imperialist, anti-fascist and truly democratic.</p><p dir="ltr">An important final detail: the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/dissecting-russia-s-winter-of-protest-five-years-on">Bolotnaya Square</a> and <a href="https://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/mattia-gallo-interview-with-a-russian-comrade/">Occupy Abay </a>movements were not only attempts to unite various political forces. They became the peak of integration of different forms of activism, the politicisation of intellectual and creative efforts. In the aftermath, as disappointment and economic downturn set in, the specialisation and depoliticisation began. Many people turned to their careers or their private lives, leaving behind their attempts to combine the uncombinable. To even attempt this today, we need even more selfless drive than people had during Markelov’s time.</p><p dir="ltr">Ten years after the death of Stas, his front — the struggle of a public intellectual, anti-fascist and democrat who stood for human dignity and justice — awaits us all. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><i>Translated by Giuliano Vivaldi and Tom Rowley.&nbsp;</i></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/stanislav-markelov/patriotism-as-a-diagnosis">Patriotism as a diagnosis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-medvedev-oleg-zhuravlev/how-can-russia-s-left-work-with-navalny">How can Russia’s left work with Navalny?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/dissecting-russia-s-winter-of-protest-five-years-on">Dissecting Russia’s winter of protest, five years on</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/stanislav-markelov/times-change-but-the-stagnation-remains">Stanislav Markelov: Times change but the stagnation remains</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/russian-nationalism-can-be-deadly">Russian nationalism can be deadly</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/i-was-on-russian-nationalist-hit-list">I was on a Russian nationalist hit list</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Kirill Medvedev Russia Fri, 18 Jan 2019 09:00:59 +0000 Kirill Medvedev 121338 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Stanislav Markelov: Times change but the stagnation remains https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stanislav-markelov/times-change-but-the-stagnation-remains <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ten years ago this month, activist lawyer Stanislav Markelov was murdered in Moscow. We publish his reflections on Russian society’s nostalgia for the Soviet period here for the first time in English.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Milovice_soviet_shop.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Milovice_soviet_shop.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anatoly Savin / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ten years ago this January, activist lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova were murdered in downtown Moscow. As it became clear later, this was a pinnacle moment in Russian ultra-nationalists’ campaign of terror. As a human rights lawyer, Markelov defended a series of high-profile cases throughout the 2000s, often connected to police and security force violence.</p><p dir="ltr">But what has been left out of the picture is Markelov’s engagement as a public intellectual. In particular, Markelov was committed to making a new left-wing tradition in Russia – one that departed from Bolshevism and could channel the pain caused by the socio-economic shocks of the 1990s. At the same time, he was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stanislav-markelov/patriotism-as-a-diagnosis">concerned with the rise of national feeling in Russia</a> – and the way it could be abused by those in power. </p><p dir="ltr">The following 2008 text (“Never-ending stagnation, or the almost-nostalgia for Soviet shops”) was one of a series that Stanislav Markelov wrote during the very productive period before his death, where he sought to analyse both current events and wider historical issues. Markelov’s wrapping of contemporary considerations into wider historical contexts are aspects of a number of his most fruitful articles. </p><p dir="ltr">Here he reflects on Russian society’s nostalgia for the Soviet 1970s, the so-called “stagnation” era. Although the comparison of the Brezhnev and the Putin eras has since become something of a cliche in the 2010s, Markelov brings a new perspective, focusing on everyday material realities. Indeed, for Markelov, “socialist realism” and “capitalist realism” become dreams of calm and oblivion wedded to a iniquitous and constraining system with deep roots.</p><p dir="ltr">***</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, you remember Druzhba [Friendship] processed cheese for 20 kopecks? Or rather you will if you’re over 30.</p><p dir="ltr">There’s an interesting psychological experiment which I have often conducted on acquaintances of mine. With people slightly older than me, we have the same memories, the same set of joys, deficit goods, common interests and even same places to hang out. As soon as I find someone two or three years younger than me, then a time gap emerges. The children of perestroika recall things in a completely different way, as if they had lived in a completely different state.</p><p>Today, as you pick over your rosy dreams about Rubin television sets, Finnish smoked salami and Viola processed cheese, you suddenly find out that nostalgia does not correspond to what life was like back then.</p><p dir="ltr">Memories of one’s youth not only amongst the average citizen, but also scholars and politicians have long departed from reality. As if [the 1970s] were not a period of stagnation, but a lollipop, just like those ones, their watercolours shining, which Gypsies sold at the market.</p><p dir="ltr">Nostalgia for the stagnation era is the eternal dream of a Russia of calm and unity, when the day after tomorrow will be the same as yesterday and the only achievement is the change of seasons: “spring has passed, summer has arrived – thanks to the Party for this!”</p><p dir="ltr">But in fact, Soviet society during the stagnation era was far from uniform. Like the Soviet shops of those times, it consisted of three different and irreconcilable parts, with people living in completely different worlds which almost never overlapped. So, let us start our excursion of memories into the shops of our childhood.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The nomenklatura of the stagnation period was a reserve for the rich and powerful, a separate caste, which you couldn’t get into even if you stolen a lot of money</p><p dir="ltr">First of all, we encountered the shop window. Unlike today’s shops, the shop window of the stagnation era always had more goods in it than the shop itself. The external picture should advertise not the goods themselves, but a way of life. This means it should be more attractive than life itself.</p><p dir="ltr">In our country, slogans replaced the adverts, much like capitalist countries, and with the same aim of brainwashing. Presentations of goods for foreign tourists were like the wrappers of western goods, where behind a beautiful and bright label there was just some tasteless synthetic material.</p><p dir="ltr">Hungary may have had its <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/opinion/the-aftertaste-of-goulash-communism.html">“goulash socialism”</a>, but Hungarian goulash, along with chicken and lecsó, were deficit goods in Soviet Russia. The Soviet bloc needed a window display for the West and Hungary, the GDR and partly Czechoslovakia played the role of shop windows for the Soviet good life. Moscow was the window display for the Soviet Union. Each individual lucky enough to travel to the capital from other regions was obliged to bring a sack of presents for all their relatives, just as when they were on Soviet business trips abroad. Each capital of the Soviet republics would also act as window displays. But even the shop window would differ from that of a normal shop. If, by definition, sample goods were supposed to be on on public view, then the Soviet bloc also gave rise to closed shops, where the elite could go shopping behind a window impenetrable from prying eyes. Special rations, special dachas, special cars and special vacations in special resorts – these were obligatory aspects of the way of life of the Soviet elite living behind their darkened windows. They were few, and unlike today’s oligarchs, they did not put their privileges on display. The nomenklatura of the stagnation period was a reserve for the rich and powerful, a separate caste, which you couldn’t get into even if you stolen a lot of money.</p><p dir="ltr">After the shop window, the main shop awaits us, with that same Druzhba processed cheese, the bottle of freshly diluted kefir and, if one is lucky, Soviet spam. The majority of people had their joys, but these joys were always small, domestic and the same throughout the country. The hockey team were victorious; one managed to obtain a deficit good; finally, after five years of waiting, you could move from an anthill-like communal apartment to a separate cell in a panel block.</p><p dir="ltr">Remembering those years, people say, barely concealing their joy: there was a certainty that a family would receive an apartment in three years’ time, all the while forgetting that another family was completely certain that there was no hope for them for the next decade. Of course, memory filters out the worst: the endless queues, chasing deficit goods and squabbles in the communal kitchen are forgotten because they are not worth remembering. All that’s left is to look at old photographs where everyone is dressed in the same grey clothes, as if they’ve just come out of an incubator, where they have the same hairstyles and barely differ from a soldier who stands to attention and goes to bed at the instruction of the television at the end of the evening.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Everyone who was just a little bit different, and weren’t members of the official nomenklatura, was served under the counter</p><p dir="ltr">The most interesting part, of course, was not in the general [shop] hall. Everyone who was just a little bit different, and weren’t members of the official nomenklatura, was served under the counter. It is interesting that the present generation doesn’t really understand the meaning of this word and can’t even imagine the straightforward meaning of what to “put something under the counter” means. It was precisely in these storerooms where those special interest clubs formed, where real life was bubbling away. You could get in there in any number of ways – through connections, money, an overactive mind, a curiosity that verged on insistence. Given that there were many locations, albeit small, the groups were divided into small atomised communities which sometimes even did not know of the existence of each other. When someone went too far or became too public, then this provoked repression and the common discontent of the majority, who with no access to these places.</p><p dir="ltr">This cliquishness in the back rooms of Soviet society is different from an underground. People were not punished for their presence there alone. But the very possibility of access was clear evidence that you are other, at least someone not completely Soviet and that you can be proud of at least some measure of your own independence. Indeed, it was here that deficit goods reigned, in the form of goods from the west, or the no less forbidden ideological delights – samizdat, tamizdat, spetsizdat and reprints from a typewriter, in a barely legible sixth carbon-copy. Life in these back rooms offered that very romanticism completely absent from official Soviet life. Even today one can become nostalgic watching Brezhnev with his lisp, but I have never met anyone crazy enough to call the congress of senile old men of the CPSU romantic.</p><p dir="ltr">Apart from the classic middle-aged memories of one’s youth, the most interesting thing here is that those who experience the most nostalgia today were, in fact, members of the majority, the people who enjoyed their Druzhba processed cheese and their holiday shopping orders, with a block of undrinkable third-rate Georgian tea to go with, of course, a tin of red caviar. Clearly, what’s at stake here is not just stability and the absence of radical changes. The archetype of stagnation goes much deeper. This is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblomov">Ivan Olbomov</a>’s dream of a nightly bowl of borsch, his greatest joy, it is [Saltykov-Shchedrin’s] <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Saltykov-Shchedrin">Old Years in Poshekhonye</a>, which became old well before their time, it is [Gogol’s] <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old_World_Landowners">Old World landowners</a> rejoicing over a screeching door which they never contemplate oiling. If [folk hero] <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilya_Muromets">Ilya Muromets</a> lay on a stove for 30 years [until being cured by pilgrims], then this 30 years of lying down fully fits the image of the Russian bogatyr. If the [folk hero] <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foolish_Emilyan_and_the_Talking_Fish">Emelya </a>awaited a miracle, laying on the same stove, then why would one even want to get up? After all, a miracle somehow comes by itself and if it does not come then there will be some catastrophe like a nuclear war. At that point we will all get up, and it will not matter whether it is to die or gain a new victory. Indeed, a miracle is needed so that Emelya may “reign while laying on his stove”.</p><p dir="ltr">Stagnation is endless, and in the shiny lights of today’s supermarkets I can once again see that some “three-part formula” splitting our society into non-contiguous sections.</p><p dir="ltr">One part, like in the window display, mainly lives in the West, laundering their money, and sending their children to study in the best Western universities, so that they do not die of boredom here and return to the sinful motherland only to participate in further squabbling for a place in the trough of power. This is all done quietly, behind the scenes in order not to disturb “stability”, which has become the main criteria of all the activity of today’s authorities. The last eight years all that the state has done has been for the sake of self-reinforcement, stability and that which is elegantly named “strengthening the power vertical”, forgetting that over-strengthening deprives any structure of flexibility. But the oligarchic state’s display window has already been created. For us, it is just as inaccessible as the cortege of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GAZ_Chaika">Chaika</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GAZ_Volga">Black Volga cars</a> was for the common Soviet person.</p><p dir="ltr">You can’t say that the current authorities do not think about the people. They are, leaving them those same everyday joys they had 30 years ago. The Sport television channel with those obligatory victories of ours, even if they have been purchased on corporate money, the Eurovision Song Contest and as a culminating pleasure a beach trip to Turkey or Egypt if there’s enough money. Yes and, of course, I forgot about Druzhba cheese, but insofar as our society has been modernised and no one remembers the term “stagnation” then we will replace Druzhba with Snickers, although, to my mind, that processed cheese was tastier and healthier than that repulsive sticky stuff thrust onto us by advertising.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Now instead of jeans and retyped copies of Mikhail Bulgakov, people offer each other real information as the most valuable thing</p><p dir="ltr">Everyone who is not satisfied with the kitschy pop music crawling to us from the telebox are scattering back into those same old back rooms. Again, this is no underground. No-one ousts them from the stuffy bug-infested dives – there they are trivial and pose no risk. The conditions themselves do not permit one to gather in large groups and unite with other similar gatherings. Those who climb too high, shout out too loud or attempt to unite everyone get bashed over the head, at times literally. The sole achievement so far is that the idea of “deficit” is no longer about goods and materials, but marginal circles’ interest in information. Now instead of jeans and retyped copies of Mikhail Bulgakov, people offer each other real information as the most valuable thing, which supports the embers of communication for like-minded people. Indeed, times change but the stagnation remains.</p><p dir="ltr">The question remains: is this the most stable system for Russia? There’s room for reflection, especially given there is going to be a very long time for discussion. The important thing is not to shout your conclusions too loudly, not to crawl out of your bug-infested back rooms – after all, it’s a good place to hunker down during our new endless era of stagnation.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translated by Giuliano Vivaldi.</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/stanislav-markelov/patriotism-as-a-diagnosis">Patriotism as a diagnosis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tom-rowley/russia-s-wild-decade-how-memories-of-1990s-are-changing">Russia’s wild decade: how memories of the 1990s are changing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love">Cold war, hot love</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/who-killed-markelov-baburova">Who Killed Markelov &amp; Baburova?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/russian-nationalism-can-be-deadly">Russian nationalism can be deadly</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Stanislav Markelov Russia Thu, 17 Jan 2019 12:10:22 +0000 Stanislav Markelov 121326 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Russia’s security services try to recruit opposition activists https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-klimova/how-russias-security-services-try-to-recruit-opposition-activists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For Russian law enforcement, informal connections with the opposition can be anything from genuine information-gathering to ticking boxes in their monthly reports.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2019-01-15 at 11.22.22.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2019-01-15 at 11.22.22.png" 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'>Illustration: <a href=https://www.behance.net/VladMilushkin>Vlad Milushkin</a> for OVD-Info. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>For Russia’s security services, establishing informal contact with opposition activists has become an essential part of investigative work over the past few years. I surveyed several Russian activists to find out more about how people can avoid forced cooperation and what to do if you cross paths with the Centre for Combating Extremism or Federal Security Service.</p><h2>Pros and cons</h2><p>Ivan Smirnov, a left-wing opposition activist, weighed up all the pros and cons before he agreed to meet with “Alexey” from the Moscow branch of Russia’s Centre for Combating Extremism (often referred to as <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/grigory-tumanov/dark-doings-of-russia%E2%80%99s-centre-e">“Centre E”</a>). On the telephone, the Centre E officer – whom Smirnov had already seen twice – promised to tell the activist something important.</p><p dir="ltr">Smirnov arrived at the cafe where Alexey was waiting for him, wondering what exactly the agent was planning to tell him. Alexey bought Smirnov a coffee, and then proposed have dinner and a drink together. Ivan thanked him but said he wasn’t hungry, and Alexey ordered a meal and a cocktail.</p><p dir="ltr">The conversation with the Centre E officer was quite trivial, Smirnov remembers. Alexey thought out loud about the political situation in the country, shared his family problems. “My son is finishing 11th grade, he doesn’t want to study and is messing about,” he complained. “I tell him: you need to prepare for university admission, otherwise you’ll go to the army. We understand that a normal person doesn’t want to go to the army, right?”</p><p dir="ltr">After several failed attempts at starting a relaxed conversation with Smirnov, Alexey got down to business: he proposed that Smirnov start cooperating with the Moscow police. According to Smirnov, he was supposed to give his “expert opinion” on political processes in the country. During the conversation, the agent even made a vague reference to financial compensation in exchange for regular meetings. Ivan refused the offer. </p><p>“Then we can do this badly,” the Centre E officer warned him.</p><p>“How’s that?”</p><p dir="ltr">“There will be hockey on all fronts,” Alexey said ambiguously, without explaining what he meant.</p><h2>“Hockey on all fronts”</h2><p dir="ltr">The police first contacted Ivan Smirnov (whose name has been changed here) in 2003, prior to a public protest that had been approved by the authorities. Smirnov was one of the organisers of the public protest, and when Russian Interior Ministry officials suggested that they meet to discuss security issues at the action, he wasn’t put off. “I was young and inexperienced back then. I thought that perhaps it was worth meeting them,” he explains. “I invited two of the other official organisers to the meeting, so that there was no precedent of individual interaction with these people.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Interior Ministry officials were unpleasantly surprised when Smirnov arrived at the meeting with other people. The conversation was vague and lasted no longer than 40 minutes. The police officers thanked the organisers and left.</p><p dir="ltr">A few months later, one of the police officers present at the meeting, Alexey, contacted Smirnov. He suggested meeting informally to discuss something. “I agreed. I thought that he could tell me something important. And I went after telling my comrades about the meeting.”</p><p dir="ltr">On this first occasion, the two men met in a cafe. The police officer asked the activist in a friendly and unforced manner about his plans for the future and life in general, as well as sharing his thoughts about communism and the problems of globalisation. “Then he asked me suddenly whether I would inform him if there was some kind of threat to the country. I promised him that if people’s lives were in danger, and that I knew about it, then I would definitely tell him,” the activist remembers.</p><p dir="ltr">After a few more months passed, the Centre E agent rang Smirnov again and proposed “making their meetings regular”. Smirnov replied that he wasn’t interested in that.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2019-01-15 at 11.26.11.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2019-01-15 at 11.26.11.png" alt="lead lead " 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'>Illustration: Vlad Milushkin for OVD-Info. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The activist last saw Alexey in 2010 in a cafe. On that occasion, Smirnov recorded their conversation on a dictaphone hidden in his coat pocket. He recalls that he was slightly surprised when Alexey began vaguely threatening him and talking about “hockey on all fronts”. “Through all these conversations, excluding the last, where there were elements of light blackmail, the officers behaved well towards me,” the activist says. After this meeting, their interaction ceased. Despite the officer’s threats, Smirnov faced no problems at work or elsewhere.</p><p dir="ltr">Now Ivan believes that he shouldn’t have meet Alexey at all. “Actually, there was nothing of any use in those conversations. There was just an attempt to establish contact built on mutual trust.” If this kind of situation came up again, Smirnov says, he would refuse to talk to the officers without an official summons.</p><p dir="ltr">“I didn’t notice any real interest from the siloviki [law enforcement officials] in those conversations. They were carrying out some kind of formal assignment, a task,” Smirnov says. “But what seemed funny to me back then is the fact that the officer tried to order more expensive drinks and food, and then took the receipts with him. Apparently, to claim expenses.”</p><h2>“Everything can end badly”</h2><p dir="ltr">People who “defend the constitutional order”, as Russian law enforcement is known, have got the wrong idea about opposition activists, lawyer Sergey Badamshin believes. And this mistake is what gives rise to attempts at total control, as well as provocations – such as the one organised in the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/interview-anna-pavlikova-new-greatness-case">“New Greatness” case</a>. [In this 2018 case, FSB officers <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/interview-anna-pavlikova-new-greatness-case">provided</a> funds, stimulus, direction and a meeting space for a minor political group in the Moscow area, before declaring it an extremist organisation and detaining its members.]</p><p dir="ltr">“Police search activities aren’t necessary for monitoring, as is the case in Russia, but only if there are grounds to believe that a crime has been committed recently or in the past. To simply go around carrying out investigative activities is unacceptable,” Badamshin explains.</p><p dir="ltr">In October 2018, unknown persons hung a banner reading “FSB to court” outside the Tver Federal Security Service building. After noticing the banner, FSB agents removed it, and the media hardly reported the incident.</p><p dir="ltr">Two weeks later, Tver resident Roman Akimov, who had participated in city protest on several occasions, exited a supermarket and headed towards his car. He placed his shopping in the boot and got in. At that moment, an unknown man came up and knocked on the window.</p><p dir="ltr">“Roman, hi! Do you remember me? We studied together.”</p><p dir="ltr">Akimov didn’t recognise him. “At first I thought maybe this was one of my coursemates. Perhaps I just don’t recognise him,” he says. Surprised, Akimov opened the door and suggested the man join him in the car. The man got into the car and introduced himself as Alexander, an officer in the local FSB. He didn’t show his ID to Roman. “You’re not going to do anything stupid?” Alexander asked. When Akimov said he wouldn’t, Alexander waved to another officer, standing on the street near Akimov’s car, who then left. “It seems he brought backup just in case,” Akimov suggests.</p><p dir="ltr">“Tell me, what motivated you to hang that banner next to the FSB?” Alexander asked. According to Akimov, the FSB officer was completely convinced of the activist’s role in the action. Alexander admitted that he’d already made inquiries about Roman and knew that he hadn’t served in the army due to problems with his spine. The FSB officer asked Roman about his political views and protests organised by supporters of Alexey Navalny. </p><p>“I didn’t think it was necessary to answer his questions. He offered to leave his phone number, he said that we can talk again. He was very interested in who I speak to, which groups I’m in,” Akimov says. He remembers that the FSB agent was initially polite, but after Akimov refused to work with him, he began to make threats. “I said that I don’t see the reason to talk to him, I didn’t need that at all. If they want to speak to me officially, then let them send me a summons,” the activist explains.</p><p dir="ltr">“Then everything can end badly,” Alexander warned him. He threatened that if Roman continued his political activities, then law enforcement could detain him later and then, perhaps, the activist would face a criminal investigation. After this, Alexander said goodbye and left.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2019-01-15 at 11.27.27.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2019-01-15 at 11.27.27.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Vlad Milushkin for OVD-Info. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ivan Zhdanov, legal director for Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, says that he’s heard stories about how Russian law enforcement tries to make informal contact with activists before. According to Zhdanov, this practice is far from new – security services have been trying to find people “open for cooperation” for many years.</p><p dir="ltr">“They approach you, propose a discussion in an informal environment. They have different ways of convincing and pressuring [you]: either via promises to help you up the career ladder or attempts to frighten you with problems at work,” Zhdanov says. “It’s not worth going to these informal meetings. First, they tend to deceive people, and second, cooperating with them is shameful.”</p><p dir="ltr">Activists should make these informal offers from the FSB and Centre E public, says Zhdanov. “I wouldn’t say that they have an order from the very top to recruit activists and our volunteers. No, this is a private initiative, including by regional investigators who believe that they can manipulate people and receive information this way.”</p><h2>“Trivial problems”</h2><p dir="ltr">Russian federal law <a href="http://www.consultant.ru/document/cons_doc_LAW_7519/47aac26a496a446d1681e533bd01a04c3e9bb5f4/">permits</a> investigators to use citizens “in the preparation or conduct of investigative actions, and, if they wish, their assistance to agencies can be kept confidential.” Anyone over 18 can become an informer, regardless of their nationality, sex, property, work or social position. That said, there are several limitations: investigators cannot recruit deputies, judges, prosecutors, lawyers or priests.</p><p dir="ltr">FSB agents tried to recruit Bogdan Titov (name changed on request) through his older brother, a businessman from the Moscow area. “We were organising an animal rights protest in 2009 in Moscow. I was detained there and then put under arrest for a few days. Back then, law enforcement viewed these kind of actions with far more suspicion than neo-Nazi actions,” Titov says. “To them, animal rights actions seemed like something incredibly pro-western and unclear. They easily found out where I was from, but first sent an officer to talk to my brother.”</p><p dir="ltr">In order not to cause further distress for his family, Titov agreed to meet the agent in a cafe, and then visit the local FSB office. According to Bogdan, he didn’t have much of a choice – his interlocutor instantly let him know that if he refused, then his brother would have serious problems.</p><p dir="ltr">“They forced me to explain what animal rights activists do, to tell them with whom we organised the action and so on,” Titov says. “It seems they got these questions from the FSB in Moscow. I told them some nonsense about how I met the other guys at the action and don’t know what their names are. They noted this down. I thought at the time: oho, how simple this all is, you can tell them nonsense and that suits them fine.” Later, Bogdan filled out a survey form on the agents’ request, writing down his place and date of birth, place of work, study and home address.</p><p dir="ltr">Even a few years after the action, FSB agents would regularly, if “by accident”, meet Titov outside his home, the hospital or supermarket. The agents would ask him about what was new in his life, work and interests. “Understand, I don’t give a ****, you’re just in our database now,” one of the FSB agents told him. In order to avoid these meetings, Titov moved to live in Moscow full time and stopped visiting his hometown.</p><p dir="ltr">Russian law enforcement agents can often make “trivial problems” for activists who refuse to work with them, says Ivan Zhdanov. “But most of the time we’re talking about unpleasant thing, which, again, can be made public.”</p><p dir="ltr">Maxim Ivanov (who requested his name be changed after “everything had quietened down”) said that his meeting with FSB agents took place at university, in the office of the security team, where he was invited without any explanation. Maxim, a fourth-year student, didn’t remember the surname of the man who questioned him – though the agent did show him an ID card, he only managed to look at the photograph.</p><p dir="ltr">In autumn 2018, Maxim, a resident of a large Siberian town, had given out leaflets at a protest action ahead of elections to the city council – one of the people he gave them to turned out to be a member of the local FSB.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Ivanov, the security service officers spoke to him calmly and politely. “As if I was a hooligan who’d broken a window, and they were having a preventative conversation with him.” Maxim’s interlocutor questioned him widely about his interests, friends in anarchist groups and opposition protests, and then suggested he become an informer for the security services. The agent handed him a document, in which Maxim’s codename was stated. This contract forbid Maxim from uncovering information that he passed on to law enforcement. The student signed the document. “At that moment I didn’t see any other option to just get out of there,” he explains. “I hadn’t warned any of my friends and I didn’t know what those people could do with me. That’s why it was a move I was forced to make.”</p><p dir="ltr">Ivanov agreed with the FSB agents about a meeting. The day before the meeting, one of the FSB agents wrote to Maxim on Telegram to congratulate him on his birthday. Despite his promises, Ivanov didn’t attend the meeting, and it seemed that the agents forgot about him. “After that, I’ve been trying not to attract attention from the media,” he says.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Sergey Badamshin, any activist who receives a proposal to cooperate, should listen to the agents and understand what refusing to speak to them might entail. “If this kind of situation has arisen, then it’s important to listen more and talk less. Secondly, it’s important to delay and take legal advice. These offers can be anything, from a provocation to a prank.”</p><p dir="ltr">For lawyer Dmitry Dinze, there’s only reason an activist should meet FSB agents informally: to find out whether there are circumstances that could influence a future criminal case. </p><p>“I recommend going on these meetings and recording the whole conversation, in order to have future evidence that there were provocations from law enforcement. Of course you should do that,” the lawyer explains. According to Dinze, Centre E officers are unlikely to create real problems for activists – they don’t have the powers. FSB agents are a different matter, as they can put pressure on people.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Dinze, recruitment is an important part of an investigators’ work. “This is another ‘stick’ in the <a href="http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/pdfs/RAD-151-5-8.pdf">stick system</a> of an investigator [“stick system” refers to a quota system of judging performance]. If they have few agents, then they can’t write normal memos about what they’ve found out from their sources. There might not be a real informer, they could be made up. The more informers an investigator recruits, the better for him. That’s why they sometimes make up informers, and sometimes they have real ones.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/articles/2018/11/20/mozhem-i-po-plohomu-kak-siloviki-predlagayut-aktivistam-sotrudnichat-s-nimi">originally published</a> on OVD-Info. We translate and publish it with their permission here.</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>This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia.</p><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/maria-klimova-egor-skovoroda/how-ingushetia-got-rid-of-its-independent-media">How Ingushetia&#039;s independent media and opposition were harassed, exiled and murdered out of existence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/interview-anna-pavlikova-new-greatness-case">“I wanted to wail, to scream at them: ‘What in the world are you doing to my daughter? Are you human or not?’”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-inside-story-of-russias-failed-social-media-revolution">The inside story of Russia’s failed social media revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maria Klimova Russia Tue, 15 Jan 2019 10:20:58 +0000 Maria Klimova 121288 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “They are collecting information on people involved in social activism”: Ukrainian anarchists targeted in series of searches https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexey-arunyan/ukrainian-anarchists-targeted-in-series-of-searches%20 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In December, Ukrainian law enforcement searched a series of activists' homes in connection with a violent assault on a Ukrainian war veteran. Activists believe this is part of a wider campaign against anarchists in Ukraine.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/25122018-news-1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/25122018-news-1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="275" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>7 December 2018: picket in support of anarchists outside Ukraine’s Security Service building. Source: Zaborona.</span></span></span><span>This article was originally published in Ukrainian media outlet </span><a href="https://zaborona.com/zbyraiut-dani-na-liudej-iaki-zajmaiutsia-sotsialnoiu-aktyvnistiu-sbu-provodyt-obshuky-v-anarkhistiv-zaborona/?fbclid=IwAR3ApuigyZnFp-vNdN2tZI9rsPk-2Ig5yEoosxhx_z9ymcG-nkOWABPIg0Y">Zaborona</a><span>. We translate it with their permission here.</span></p><p dir="ltr">In December 2018, Ukraine’s Security Services (SBU) conducted searches at the homes of seven anarchists. According to the activists, SBU officers forced two anarchists to sign a cooperation agreement, and one of the activists had her passport confiscated.</p><h2>Who have you come for?</h2><p dir="ltr">Early on the morning of 6 December, officers of the National Police, Prosecutor’s Office and SBU searched the homes of anarchists in Kyiv, Brovary, Dnipro and Lviv. In Lviv, west Ukraine, investigators visited three addresses – Taras Bohay (Ecological Initiative), Oleh Kordiyaka (Black Banner) and a woman who asked for her name not to be published for security reasons.</p><p dir="ltr">In Kyiv, investigators searched the home of Khrystyna, 19, and in Brovary, a town outside the Ukrainian capital, law enforcement visited the official place of residence for Roman, 20, though they only found the activist’s mother at home (he does not live there). In Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk), the police visited the apartment of Natalya and Maksym, both 20.</p><p dir="ltr">Khrystyna, Roman, Natalya and Maksym say that they are not members of any organisation, and call themselves “autonomous participants of the anarchist movement”. They don’t give out their surnames, as they are concerned about possible attacks by radical nationalist groups. As in the case of other anarchists, they believe it’s best to act anonymously: they use false names in social media and cover their faces at public protests.</p><p dir="ltr">Previously, only the searches of the apartments Lviv activists, who are publicly active, were reported in the media. The remaining activists did not report the searches, but later they agreed to share their stories with Zaborona.</p><h2>Grounds for search</h2><p dir="ltr">Kyiv’s Podil District Court issued the warrants for all six searches, which state that these investigative actions are being conducted as part of a investigation into an attack on a former Right Sector volunteer fighter, Dmytro “Verbych” Ivashchenko.</p><p dir="ltr">On 2 May 2018, Ivashchenko was <a href="https://www.unian.info/society/10106774-sbu-detains-a-group-of-four-suspected-of-attack-on-ukraine-s-cyborg-photo.html">attacked</a> in the Podil district of Kyiv. Three men and women wearing masks assaulted him, stabbing him in the back. Ivashchenko spent an extended period of the time in hospital as a result. </p><p>The police established the identities of only two of the attackers – Kseniya Lapynska from Chernihiv and Vyacheslav Lukichev. Lapynska, 25, was arrested almost immediately after the incident, and was given a three year suspended sentence. The second likely attacker, Lukichev, 24, is a Russian anarchist – he managed to leave Ukraine before being detained. In November 2018, he was arrested in Kaliningrad on suspicion of “justifying terrorism online”. The investigation into Lukichev was opened after he called Mikhail Zhlobitsky, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46043424">who set off a bomb at an FSB office in Arkhangelsk</a> on 31 October, a “hero” online.</p><p dir="ltr">The court decisions regarding the 6 December searches state that the activists whose homes were searched could be complicit in the attack on Dmytro Ivashchenko. The warrants do not clarify on what grounds law enforcement have these suspicions.</p><h2>Questoning, detention, attempts at recruitment</h2><p dir="ltr">In the process of searching the activists’ apartments, Ukrainian law enforcement confiscated computers, telephones, flash drives and hard disks belonging to the activists. Several of them also had clothes, paint and posters confiscated.</p><p dir="ltr">After the searches finished, the activists, apart from Roman (Brovary), were taken to police stations for questioning. According to them, they were questioned for several hours about what they know about the attack on Dmytro Ivashchenko. Investigators were also interested in the civic and political activity of the activists and their acquaintances. After questioning, they were released without charge.</p><p dir="ltr">Khrystyna, from Kyiv, complained that while she was in Podil District Police Station, an SBU officer forced her to sign an agreement to cooperate.</p><p dir="ltr">“He said: let’s cooperate, then we’ll let you go,” she says. “I was really afraid, I didn’t know if anyone else knew they’d detained me. I realised I could be there for 24 hours and that no one would know about it. So I signed the paper that said I will cooperate with the SBU.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">After questioning, the police did not return Khrystyna her passport – they only returned her papers on 21 December, after she made a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office</p><p dir="ltr">According to Khrystyna, after the investigation, SBU officers called her several times and proposed meeting, but she refused. She says that she signed the agreement only in order to be released, and she didn’t want any further contact with the security services. Afraid of persecution, Khrystyna changed her apartment and telephone number, and created new social media accounts. After questioning, the police did not return Khrystyna her passport – they only returned her papers on 21 December, after she made a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office.</p><p dir="ltr">Maksym, from Dnipro, also stated that SBU officers forced him to sign a cooperation agreement. According to his wife Natalya, SBU officers were rude to them during questioning, pressuring and trying to force them to stop their civic activities. Natalya says that several days after the search, an SBU officer summoned Maksym for an informal chat, to which the activist agreed. During the meeting, the SBU officer asked the young man for information on other activists in Dnipro. Natalya says that they no longer answer calls from their “curator” as they call him, and have changed their place of residence.</p><h2>What the Prosecutor’s Office and SBU believe</h2><p dir="ltr">In response to an official information request by Zaborona, Kyiv’s Prosecutor Office stated that these searches were conducted to identify all persons complicit in the attack on Dmytro Ivashchenko. At the same time, the ministry’s press office did not explain how these seven anarchists are connected with this crime, citing the need to keep investigation materials confidential. On this basis, the Prosecutor’s Office refused to comment on the results of the searches and did not report what status the activists have in the investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">The Prosecutor’s Office states that no one was detained after the searches, including Khrystyna from Kyiv.</p><p dir="ltr">“Khrystyna [...], who was mentioned in your request, came to Podil Police Station in order to give an explanatory statement, although she could not provide information towards evidence for the criminal investigation, in connection with which she was not questioned as an evidence. Her passport was not confiscated. According to information from Podil Police Station, she left the document in the investigator’s office.”</p><p dir="ltr">As to the activists in Dnipro, the Prosecutor’s Office stated that they had not received a complaint of possible unlawful actions by law enforcement officers.</p><p dir="ltr">In response to an information request by Zaborona, the SBU stated only that “SBU officers operated within the framework of current legislation”. The agency refused to give any other comment, stating that “information of a pre-trial investigation cannot be publicised”.</p><h2>The activists’ position</h2><p dir="ltr">All seven activists whose homes were searched insist that they bear no relation to the attack on Dmytro Ivashchenko&nbsp;– and they don’t know who did. According to them, they are involved in legal civic activity – they organise ecological and animal rights demonstrations, campaigns against development and in support of trade unions, as well as lectures and film screenings.</p><p dir="ltr">The anarchists believe that the SBU has used the attack on Ivashchenko as a pretext to pressure them and collect information on participants in their movement.</p><p dir="ltr">“They came to me because I’ve been involved in activism for a long time, and I don’t hide my views,” says Taras Bohay. “I think that they knew that I had nothing to do with the attack. They were just interested in my correspondence, chats. They collect information on people involved in social activism.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“They came to me because I’ve been involved in activism for a long time, and I don’t hide my views”</p><p dir="ltr">Bohay and his comrades are yet to get used to increased attention from law enforcement. For example, in September this year, the police dispersed an animal rights action by Ecological Platform in Lviv, and earlier this year the SBU raided the organisation’s summer camp in the Carpathian mountains, recording all the participants’ personal details in the process.</p><p dir="ltr">“There were also regular attacks by the far right on Ecological Platform activists and other anti-authoritarian organisations, as well as people with anti-fascist views. In some instances, the attacks took place with assistance from the police – as was the case in the attack after the feminist march on 8 March, when the police blocked the route of a tram in which activists were traveling, and the far right then attacked them,” says Bohay.</p><p dir="ltr">Bohay believes that these recent attacks on activists in Lviv and the searches conducted on 6 December are connected, and considers this an act of repression.</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/denys-gorbach/anarchism-in-makhno%E2%80%99s-homeland-adventures-of-red-and-black-flag">Anarchism in Makhno’s homeland: adventures of the red-and-black flag</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach/entrepreneurs-of-political-violence-ukraine-far-right">Entrepreneurs of political violence: the varied interests and strategies of the far-right in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/aleksei-arunyan/how-kyiv-and-budapest-fell-out-over-zakarpattya">How Hungary and Ukraine fell out over a passport scandal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maksym-kazakov/how-workers-in-ukraine-metal-industry-are-fighting-for-wages-rights-democracy">How workers in Ukraine’s metal industry are fighting for wages, rights and democracy</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Aleksei Arunyan Ukraine Fri, 11 Jan 2019 07:35:53 +0000 Aleksei Arunyan 121223 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Abnormal normality: Alexander Hug about the present and future of Donbas https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stefan-melle-yulia-erner/eastern-ukraine-alexander-hug-on-peacebuilding <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What role can civil society play in creating the dialogue necessary to end the war in Donbas? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stephan-melle-yulia-erner/alexandr-hug-o-nastoyaschem-i-buduschem-donbassa" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_hug_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_hug_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexander Hug. Source: OSCE.</span></span></span>The armed conflict in Donbas has been going on for over four years now, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths, forcing roughly two million people to flee their homes and disrupting relations within and between neighbouring societies. Attempts to implement sustainable peacebuilding solutions in the region have so far been unsuccessful: the Minsk Agreements were signed in September 2014 and February 2015, but not a single provision has been implemented in full. The ceasefire is violated every day and the local population remains exposed to shelling, shootings and other forms of violence on a daily basis.</p><p dir="ltr">Alexander Hug, the former Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine <a href="https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/112-ua-hug-steps-down-as-osce-smm-deputy-head.html">from March 2014 to October 2018</a>, has observed the armed conflict closely since its inception. Over the last four and a half years, Hug has repeatedly called for more attention to the conflict, for stronger efforts to protect the people in the region and for the Minsk Agreements to be implemented.</p><p>Stefan Melle and Yulia Erner from <a href="https://www.austausch.org/en/">German-Russian Exchange</a> (<a href="https://www.austausch.org/ru/">DRA e.V.</a>) spoke to Alexander Hug about the prospects and need for conflict resolution, about the potential role of civil society in general and the NGO platform <a href="https://civilmplus.org/en/about-us">CivilM+</a>, a new international civil society initiative, in particular. CivilM+ seeks to streamline civic actors’ efforts in spheres like human rights protection, peacebuilding, humanitarian work, etc., and to rebuild the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as peaceful, integrated and developed regions of a democratic Ukraine and united Europe. CivilM+ seeks to promote the involvement of the regions’ population and of displaced persons in these activities.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Mr Hug, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission systematically registered inconsistencies and violations in the implementation of Minsk agreements. In your opinion, how could civil society contribute to resolving the Donbas conflict? To which extent does it already fulfill this role and what limitations is it facing?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In general, solutions for sustainable peace should be elaborated in consultation with society and with institutions of civil society, in particular. The implementation of a solution is more effective and sustainable if all elements of society can identify themselves with these solutions. A crucial role in this process is played not by international organisations alone, but also by local communities, which makes the involvement of civil society indispensable.</p><p>This is already happening in this conflict, but not to the extent that all topics developed by political elites are picked up by society in general. Many people, including in Europe, are turning away from the conflict. In this respect, civil society could do more, it could raise awareness about difficult topics.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Do you think that Russian civil society has a special role here?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The responsibility to resolve this conflict clearly lies in Moscow, as can be seen in the role the Russian Federation took on itself in various Minsk agreements. The OSCE refers to this conflict as the conflict in and around Ukraine, and Russian society is affected by it directly or indirectly. Given that Russia signed the Minsk Agreements, the solution for peacebuilding should be elaborated and implemented in consultation with its society for it to be sustainable.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The responsibility to resolve this conflict clearly lies in Moscow”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What possibilities do civil society organisations have to provide help to people on territories not controlled by Ukraine, the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic”?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It is difficult, because access to the population over the contact line, in non-government-controlled areas, is limited. Nevertheless, unlike in similar conflicts elsewhere, a significant part of the civilian population travels frequently across the contact line, and on the government-controlled side it is easier to get in touch with them, talk to them, facilitate dialogue between communities on both sides of the contact line.</p><p dir="ltr">Also, we certainly should not forget social media and other means of communication. For the civil society on the government-controlled side these could be tools to reach out directly to the population in non-government controlled areas.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How would you generally estimate the situation of people on the non-government controlled territories? What do they need most? Is it possible to reintegrate them and what would be the best way to do it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We must bear in mind that integration or reintegration is not a task for people in one part of the country alone, it concerns people on both sides of the contact line. It must be a mutual process for the result to be sustainable.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_20_D0_B4_D0_B5_D1_82_D1_81_D0_BA_D0_BE_D0_B8_CC_86_20_D0_BF_D0_BB_D0_BE_D1_89_D0_B0_D0_B4_D0_BA_D0_B8_20_D1_81_D0_B5_D0_B3_D0_BE_D0_B4_D0_BD_D1_8F_20_D0_B1_D0_BB_D0_BE_D0_BA_D0_BF_D0_BE_D1_81_D1_82JPG_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_20_D0_B4_D0_B5_D1_82_D1_81_D0_BA_D0_BE_D0_B8_CC_86_20_D0_BF_D0_BB_D0_BE_D1_89_D0_B0_D0_B4_D0_BA_D0_B8_20_D1_81_D0_B5_D0_B3_D0_BE_D0_B4_D0_BD_D1_8F_20_D0_B1_D0_BB_D0_BE_D0_BA_D0_BF_D0_BE_D1_81_D1_82JPG_0.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: Tetiana Goncharuk. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The perpetual threat to life, well-being and material possessions is particularly pertinent to those who live close to the contact line or have to move across it in order to go to school or work or to visit their relatives. People told me on many occasions very clearly that their greatest wish is for this conflict to be over. At the same time, they make it clear that it is not their conflict and they don’t understand the reasons why it continues. This is something I did hear consistently on both sides of the contact line.</p><p><strong>What do you think is a key to resolving this conflict?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Arguably, a comprehensive and sustainable solution will not be found at the contact line alone but where decisions are taken, to pursue the steps agreed upon in the Minsk agreements. That is, the solution can be found in Moscow, in Kyiv, in certain areas of Donetsk and in Luhansk regions. These Minsk signatories need to ensure the implementation of provisions that are meant to stabilise the situation. This is crucial. And while civil society should do its job, the sustainable decision is a political decision, and it needs to be made in the centres of power in Moscow and Kyiv.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>This means that civil society needs to keep an eye on international negotiations and on ways the agreements are being met. Which is the role of civil society in these negotiations?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I am convinced that civil society could play a meaningful role in peace negotiations. I said earlier that the implementation of conflict resolution mechanisms will be more effective if there is a general understanding about these mechanisms in the society in general. It is crucial and helpful for civil society to be involved in implementation of the solutions in order for them to be sustainable and effective.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Does civil society have a realistic chance to contribute to these negotiations with any suggestions or ideas?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We need to find a way to involve civil society in order to make sure that some groups are not given preference over others. This requires some coordination, and the international community could play a role in this process. The civil society must be empowered and supported (also financially). I believe that suggestions and ideas from civil society and the general population could have their place in this format to ensure plural and multifaceted contributions to the discussion.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/jpg._0_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/jpg._0_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: Tetiana Goncharuk. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Certainly, the role of the civil society could be an increased participation in decision-making and implementation of agreed measures on one hand and holding decision-makers accountable on the other hand. Participation would ensure that the concerns and needs of the societies affected by the conflict are at the core of the negotiations. Accountability would ensure that the question about the responsibility for all the suffering is not merely asked for the purpose of further fuelling the conflict.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>You have been familiar with the <a href="https://civilmplus.org">CivilM+ initiative</a> from the moment of its conception. We are very grateful for your support. What role, in your opinion, could these kind of platforms play in efforts for conflict resolution, with NGOs from Ukraine, Russia and third countries involved. What would you wish for this platform to achieve?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I am firmly convinced that this conflict can only be resolved through dialogue. The more dialogue – whatever topics may be involved – the greater the likelihood of finding a solution. The discussions facilitated in the framework of the platform may also help to raise awareness about the conflict among those who are not directly involved in it. The conflict is often perceived as a normal state of affairs and not as a situation which requires resolution. The dialogue that you are setting into motion with your platform is crucial to encourage those who have signed the Minsk Agreements to further implement their commitments, to make them aware about concerns of the people affected by the conflict. The understanding that the population needs to be given protection must remain at the core of the discussion.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How long do you think it will take to resolve and overcome the conflict? Are we talking about years, decades, perhaps?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The use of weapons can be stopped in a few hours, as the SMM had a chance to observe on several occasions since the beginning of the conflict. It is a question of political will and political motivation to make these decisions and to implement them on site. All necessary procedures for implementing these decisions have already been elaborated.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Previously you said that the population in the region believes it is not even their conflict. Whose conflict is it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The main responsibility to end the conflict lies in Moscow and Kyiv, as can be seen in the role they took on themselves in various Minsk agreements. The fact is that the signatories of the Minsk Agreements have collectively established to carry on with conflict resolution efforts – and collectively is the keyword here. That is the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions that put their signatures under seven different agreements. They have realised that there is a problem which is pending a solution.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Does it mean that another, functioning compromise needs to be established?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine itself cannot be made subject to a compromise. There is, however, an urgent need to elaborate a mechanism for common inquiries into violations of the Minsk Agreements and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable. At the same time, mechanisms for the prevention of violations need to be developed as well. Currently, these mechanisms are not fully provided for in the Minsk Agreements, and without them there is no responsibility and no accountability for the lack of their implementation. Violations more often than not go unpunished. There are little political costs, and no coherent mechanism to hold those to account who pull the triggers at the contact line. I am firmly convinced that a mechanism for common inquiries and sanctions for violations of the Minsk Agreements is necessary to implement the solutions in a sustainable way.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Having been deeply involved in peace-building process in Donbas for several years, you have now left your position at the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. Will you be able to contribute further to this process?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I will certainly be following the situation in and around Ukraine, and if requested, also contribute my experience where possible so that a solution may be found as quickly as possible. I will continue to support Ukraine and Ukrainians in whatever form that may be possible.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="https://www.austausch.org/en/">Russian-German Exchange</a> is a non-commercial, non-governmental organisation based in Berlin. Since 1992, it has been working on promoting democratic values in Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe by collaborating with Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian and other European NGOs, as well as with independent media. The DRA offers exchange programmes for political education, democracy and active citizenry, as well as working on establishing connections with Western partners. Moreover, the DRA is also involved with the European Voluntary Services, hosting volunteers from Eastern and Western Europe.</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/yulia-abibok/the-growing-gap-between-ukraine-and-russia">The growing gap between Ukraine and Russia – and the people trying to bridge it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ganna/sokolova/yevgen-zakharov-on-investigating-war-crimes-in-eastern-ukraine">“It’s very difficult to investigate anything while the war continues”: Ukrainian human rights activist Yevgen Zakharov on investigating war crimes </a> </div> <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/maria-lipman-serhiy-kudelia/ways-to-end-the-conflict-in-ukraines-donbas">Ways to end the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas: an interview with Serhiy Kudelia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/gabriel-levy/eastern-ukraine-we-need-new-ways-of-organising">Eastern Ukraine: “We need new ways of organising”</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Yulia Erner Stefan Melle Ukraine Mon, 07 Jan 2019 09:09:55 +0000 Stefan Melle and Yulia Erner 121111 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Electric shock is our way of doing things” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatyana-likhanova/electric-shock-is-our-way-of-doing-things <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">A number of Russian anti-fascists and anarchists have been&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">tortured by the country's security services</a>. The official investigation into this torture is yet to turn up results. <em>Warning: graphic</em>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/0sC3j0lOoO4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/0sC3j0lOoO4.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>18 December 2018: Andrey Chernov and Dmitry Pchelintsev, defendants in the "Network" case, at Penza courthouse. Source: VKontakte / Green Block Penza. </span></span></span>Since autumn 2017, the Russian security services have been conducting an investigation into alleged terrorism offences by Russian anarchists and anti-fascists. As a result, eleven people in St Petersburg and Penza have been arrested and charged in what is now known as the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“Network” case</a> — the security services claim that these men were part of an underground terrorist group seeking to sow disorder ahead of the 2018 Presidential Elections and Football World Cup. All eleven men are currently detained awaiting trial in 2019.</p><p dir="ltr">Several of those detained claim that they were subject to torture by the Federal Security Service (FSB). For example, Viktor Filinkov describes how he was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">tortured with an electric shocker</a> after being detained at St Petersburg Pulkovo Airport in January 2018. After being detained, Filinkov states that FSB officers placed him in a minivan, and then drove him around the city while torturing him into learning a forced confession.</p><p dir="ltr">This article by Tatyana Likhanova details the reaction by the Russian security services and other officials to the claims that these men were tortured into confessing to terrorism charges. It reports on investigations into the defendants’ claims of torture by the Russian Investigative Committee, the St Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission, and the defendants’ lawyers. It was <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/12/16/78961-shoker-eto-po-nashemu?utm_source=novaya&amp;utm_medium=fb&amp;utm_campaign=regular&amp;fbclid=IwAR3B4ugs6Ev_q6CsyPDro5OjMOjvB49H24lpT9pm6qVOCxQr8Q1o9vvH0h0">published</a> in <em>Novaya Gazeta</em> on 16 December 2018. We translate it here with the author’s permission.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">***</p><p dir="ltr">“FSB officers don’t work in those minivans. They aren’t there. Physically.” This is how Russian president Vladimir Putin <a href="https://ria.ru/20181211/1547827438.html">reacted</a> to a statement by Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, that defendants in the “Network” case claim they were subjected to electric shock torture in state security service minivans. But Putin admitted that what Fedotov had said was “really disturbing” and that it was “absolutely impermissible”, and promised to “look into it”.</p><p dir="ltr">Let’s note straight away: only St Petersburg victims of the “Network” case — Viktor Filinkov; <a href="https://therussianreader.com/2018/01/31/ilya-kapustin-they-said-they-could-break-my-legs-and-dump-me-in-the-woods/">Ilya Kapustin</a>, who was questioned as a witness; and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/media-zona/arman-sagynbayev-network-case-russia-torture">Arman Sagynbaev</a>, who was transferred from St Petersburg to Penza after arrest — have reported that they were tortured by the FSB in a minivan. The men detained in Penza were tortured in an investigative detention centre.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/photo_2018-04-14_21-12-51-550x426_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/photo_2018-04-14_21-12-51-550x426_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="356" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arman Sagynbayev was <a href=https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/media-zona/arman-sagynbayev-network-case-russia-torture>arrested and tortured</a> in St Petersburg in November 2017. Source: Personal archive. </span></span></span>The St Petersburg FSB officers do not deny that they “work in minivans” and that they use electric shockers while doing so. Their explanations are in documents compiled during an inquiry into Viktor Filinkov’s and Ilya Kapustin’s statements by the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investigative_Committee_of_Russia">Investigative Committee</a>’s Western Military District division.</p><p dir="ltr">According to statements by FSB officers K.A. Bondarev and S.E. Kotin, they arrested Viktor Filinkov together with three other members of a special FSB unit — one of whom “twice applied to V.S. Filinkov special equipment — an electric shock baton (once in the area of the right thigh, once to the torso)”. This was done when Filinkov allegedly tried to escape from an official service vehicle, a Volkswagen Transporter. Then, “the driver broke sharply, as a result of which V.S. Filinkov fell on the floor, cutting his face on protruding plastic elements of the seating, from which he received an abrasion on his chin.”</p><p dir="ltr">In his own statement, Viktor Filinkov said that while in the minivan he was subject to “no less than ten blows from the palm of a hand, to the back of the head; no less than 50 blows from an electric shocker in the areas of the right thigh, the groin, the wrists and the neck; and no less than 20 punches in the chest, back, back of the head and the left side of the face.”</p><p dir="ltr">The medical examination of Filinkov when he arrived at St Petersburg Investigative Detention Centre No. 3 mentioned bruising, abrasions and wounds to the top layer of skin, with a note reading “done with an electric shocker?”.</p><p dir="ltr"><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_2018-02-26_at_13.13.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen_Shot_2018-02-26_at_13.13.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A sketch of the Volkswagen Transporter where FSB officers tortured Viktor Filinkov in January 2018. Image by <a href=https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexandra-filinkova/its-important-not-to-give-into-panic>Alexandra Filinkova</a>, according to Viktor Filinkov's description. </span></span></span>Yekaterina Kosarevskaya and Yana Teplitskaya, members of the St Petersburg <a href="https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/how-the-state-hijacked-russias-only-independent-prison-watchdog-55988">Public Monitoring Commission</a> (PMC), who visited Viktor Filinkov in the detention centre three days after the events that have been described, noted “a large number of traces of injuries caused by an electric shocker across the whole surface of the right thigh, bruising to the right ankle, and burns from an electric shocker around the rib cage”.</p><p dir="ltr">Kosarevskaya and Teplitskaya counted more than 30 pairs of bruise marks, characteristic of the shock batons. Filinkov said that he was tortured in a nine-seater blue Volkswagen Transporter, where he was placed by FSB officers who detained him at St Petersburg Pulkovo airport. He was ferried around and tortured for roughly five hours, during which he was forced to learn and recite a confession.</p><p dir="ltr">Kosarevskaya and Teplitskaya inspected and questioned Filinkov in the presence of a detention centre officer, in a cell equipped with a video camera (the video camera was turned on). Yana and Yekaterina, as well as Filinkov’s lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov, immediately lodged a statement requiring that the video recordings be kept and included in the case file. But they were destroyed — allegedly due to the expiry of the “specified storage period”, as the directors of Investigative Detention Centre No. 3 said in the inquiry materials. This is despite the fact that the detention centre supervisor confirmed in writing that “there are no rules covering the period for which video recordings are stored”.</p><p dir="ltr">The same thing happened with other video recordings — from CCTV footage at Petersburg Pulkovo airport and the police station where Filinkov was taken “to take fingerprints” — that could shed light on what happened from the moment Filinkov was detained up until his arrival at the St Petersburg FSB building on Shpalernaya Street. Filinkov’s bloodstained hat and trousers, which the defence had also demanded were included in the investigation materials, also disappeared.</p><p dir="ltr">Almost 30 hours “vanished”, too: the time between Filinkov’s actual arrest and the time given by the investigating officers.</p><p dir="ltr">A statement by Vitaly Cherkasov, legal counsel for Viktor Filinkov, said: </p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“In a report by K.A. Bondarev, senior FSB criminal investigator for St Petersburg and Leningrad oblast [region], there is an incorrect statement that V.S. Filinkov was arrested on 24 January 2018 at 21.35 at 25 Shpalernaya Street. Neither this, nor the statement by senior investigator G.A. Belyayev in the arrest report that suspect Filinkov was detained on 25 January 2018 at 00.15, correspond to the actual time at which he was arrested.”</p><p dir="ltr">In addition, Filinkov’s boarding pass, which is included in the investigation materials, indicates that he checked in on the 20.45 flight to Minsk from St Petersburg on 23 January 2018. The explanations of FSB officers also state that they arrived at Pulkovo airport on 23 January, where they suggested that Filinkov “delay his departure and participate in search procedures”.</p><p dir="ltr">Based on Bondarev’s account of Filinkov’s “escape attempt”, the inquiry by the military Investigative Committee established that “during the period from 03:30 to 07:00 on 24/01/2018, on being brought to the investigative service of St Petersburg and Leningrad oblast FSB Directorate for investigation, V.S. Filinkov, while in an official minivan, attempted to escape...”</p><p dir="ltr">Nonetheless, all these inconsistencies in the reported times did not disconcert the investigators: the request to open a criminal investigation into Filinkov’s torture was rejected.</p><p dir="ltr">An inspection into Ilya Kapustin’s witness statement on torture proceeded in a similar manner — and ended with the same result. Kapustin also apparently tried to escape from an official minivan and was also hurt when the driver braked suddenly. In order to stop Kapustin escaping and avoid “consequences related to a person falling out of a moving vehicle”, FSB officers also shocked him several times with an electric shocker. This was described by FSB officers as an “operational necessity”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/e2ab89760aea3542c9bc0c25bd4095eb-768x511.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/e2ab89760aea3542c9bc0c25bd4095eb-768x511.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Burns left by an electric shocker on Ilya Kapustin’s body. Photo courtesy of Kapustin's attorney and MediaZona.</span></span></span>Needless to say, there are no video recordings of these events. As the official investigation states: “On the corner of Seventh Sovetskaya [Street] and Grecheskiy Avenue [where the arrest took place], there are no CCTV cameras.”</p><p dir="ltr">This begs the question: why did FSB investigator P.A. Prudnikov “working in a five-person operational group” travel to this destination “with the aim of establishing Kapustin’s location”? Why did they not wait closer to Kapustin’s house? Could it be because there is a cafe on the ground floor of Kapustin’s apartment block, and across the road there is a bank and an hi-tech electronics shop? There’s no shortage of CCTV cameras there.</p><p dir="ltr">The inquiry did not investigate what happened to Kapustin in the three-and-a-half hours after the moment of arrest (21:30) to the beginning of the interrogation at the FSB building (01:00 the next day). The inquiry did not question specialists at the Bureau of Forensic Medicine [a regulatory agency, part of the state health care system], who examined Kapustin and attested that he suffered bruising to the top eyelid of his right eye, and to the areas around both shoulders and knee joints, and also no less than 80 abrasions on the upper limbs, belly, around the right hip joint and right buttock, and the genitals. The experts’ statement concluded that the abrasions “could have resulted from the usage of an electric shock device, which is confirmed by their morphological features: mainly rounded or oval shapes; their sizes; the presence of hyperaemia (redness) at the edges of the abrasions and reddish, swollen ‘undermined’ edges.”</p><p dir="ltr">At the meeting with Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Fedotov recounted how he, together with Evgeny Myslovsky, a colleague from the Presidential Council on Human Rights, spoke to the management of the regional military Investigative Committee — but “they couldn’t answer a single question”. Myslovsky, who worked for 25 years as a senior major case investigator attached to the RSFSR Prosecutor’s Office, evaluated the quality of the inquiry into Filinkov and Kapustin’s account of torture in a <a href="http://president-sovet.ru/members/blogs/post/3559/">blog post</a> on the website of the Council on Human Rights:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“...the inquiry was conducted with deliberate carelessness. The following remained outside the scope of the inquiry: the basis for conducting the FSB investigative actions; the identities of the special forces officers who used the special methods [of restraint]; the identities of the minivan drivers; and the routes that were used. The minivan itself was not examined to determine whether an ‘escape attempt’ was possible or the risk of injury whilst falling as a result of sudden braking. Even without examining the torture itself, it can be concluded that there were gross violations of the Russian Criminal Procedural Code during the initial operational search activities in both cases, which is indicative of either an extremely low level of legal preparation of the investigators in the St Petersburg FSB or of an intentional disregard for current legislation.”</p><p dir="ltr">Evgeny Myslovsky also referred to information about other defendants in the “Network” case having been tortured. Arman Saginbayev was <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/media-zona/arman-sagynbayev-network-case-russia-torture">tortured</a> during a search of his St Petersburg flat and in a car whilst being transported to Penza. In Penza, defendants <a href="https://avtonom.org/en/news/arrested-penza-antifascists-talk-about-torture-remand-prison">Ilya Shakursky and Dmitry Pchelintsev</a> made statements that they had been subject to torture.</p><p dir="ltr">After Vladimir Putin promised to “look into” what happened, the parents of the defendants in the “Network” case have made a new appeal to the Russian president. This appeal notes that existing forensic methods allow for it to be established whether or not torture by electric shock was used even after a very long time. In Penza, the defendants’ legal counsel applied for this kind of examination to be carried out, but Penza garrison court refused to approve this request.</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/media-zona/arman-sagynbayev-network-case-russia-torture">“They told me that if I didn’t become more cooperative, they could do whatever they wanted to me”: anarchist Arman Sagynbayev reveals torture by Russian law enforcement </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/on-prison-life-after-torture">“You’re a normal guy, you understand everything”: Russian anti-fascist Viktor Filinkov on prison life under threat of torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandra-filinkova/its-important-not-to-give-into-panic">“It’s important not to give into panic”: how I found out my husband was being tortured by the Russian security services </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tatyana Likhanova Russian anarchists and anti-fascists in the crosshairs Thu, 03 Jan 2019 05:00:51 +0000 Tatyana Likhanova 121143 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov receives an EU prize, what prospects for solidarity? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-open-democracy-russia/what-prospects-for-solidarity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was recently awarded the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. This should put more pressure on the EU to rethink their relations to Russia, says Green MEP Rebecca Harms.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/images_DKPXCu9DgHEE1F1d_XL.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/images_DKPXCu9DgHEE1F1d_XL.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'>Rebecca Harms. Image: Rebecca Harms / Jurgen Olczyk.</span></span></span>In December, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sakharovprize/en/home/the-prize.html">awarded</a> the 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Sentsov, an outspoken opponent of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for terrorism offences.</p><p dir="ltr">The Sakharov Prize is <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sakharovprize/en/home/the-prize.html">awarded</a> to individuals “who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause”. Oleg Sentsov is certainly among these people. In May 2018, Sentsov <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/this-is-why-ukrainian-film-director-oleg-sentsov-is-on-hunger-strike">started</a> a 145-day long hunger strike, asking for the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. He was forced to end his hunger strike in October 2018. But even in prison, Sentsov continues to fight for his convictions – and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/sentsov-oleg-play">his work</a> as a filmmaker.</p><p dir="ltr">The award ceremony took place in Strasbourg on 12 December 2018. Held in a prison in Russia’s Far North, Sentsov was not only unable to attend the ceremony (Natalia Kaplan, his cousin and legal representative, accepted the prize instead), he is even illegally prohibited from collecting parcels of warm clothing. “It is a strange feeling to be pressured to survive on boiled water and thin soup, while the whole world is supporting you,” Sentsov wrote in an address to the Sakharov Prize Committee.</p><p dir="ltr">What will Sakharov Prize mean to Sentsov and other political prisoners in Russia? oDR speaks to <a href="https://rebecca-harms.de/">Rebecca Harms</a>, a Green MEP (Germany) closely involved in Sentsov’s case.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Oleg Sentsov is, in the first place, an artist – a filmmaker and playrighter. What do you make of his film and theatre productions?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I saw his 2011 film<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4Ym2BSgWIk"> Gamer</a>. I come from a family of filmmakers. My husband and all the people I live with in my house in the countryside are involved in producing films –writers, directors, editors. It is probably because of this personal background, that I feel a specific responsibility.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">I think that for Oleg it was very important that solidarity with a colleague in prison spread among filmmakers at a time when his case had already been forgotten in Europe. What happened here in Berlin during the Berlinale, in Cannes and at other film festivals – all this was very important. I was also pleased that the film academy helped to produce<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-kozak/trial-continues-askold-kurov-on-his-visit-to-oleg-sentsov"> The Trial: State of Russia against Oleg Sentsov</a>, by Russian filmmaker Askold Kurov, and that this film was presented first in Germany at the Berlinale.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“For Oleg it was very important that solidarity with a colleague in prison spread among filmmakers”</p><p dir="ltr">Natalia Kaplan’s speech during the award ceremony and in many briefings in Strasbourg – with different groups and people from different political background as well as with representatives of the European Commission – has shown us the artist Oleg Sentsov, who needs his work and tries to continue under the most awful circumstances. I hope that European governments and diplomats will become more involved in Oleg‘s case. The Sakharov Prize makes it a duty for us to work for Oleg’s freedom. But since we don‘t know whether we will see him soon becoming a free man again, we have to support Oleg’s capacity to work as a filmmaker even in prison.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is this support already being provided in any way?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Oleg continues to work, but not yet with our support. We have learnt during Natalia Kaplan’s visit to Strasbourg that he is already working on a new movie. It could, potentially, become a very good co-production: Ukrainian, Polish, German, French. That would strengthen the artist and hopefully his way to survive in prison.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why do you think Oleg Sentsov’s case is so important for other people in the European Union?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Right now there is a<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/this-is-why-ukrainian-film-director-oleg-sentsov-is-on-hunger-strike"> group of Ukrainians</a>, 70 people, who are imprisoned in Russia. They are<a href="http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/News/News-View-EN.asp?newsid=7144&amp;lang=2"> recognised as political prisoners</a> according to international standards. When you have this kind of a situation, with such a large group of prisoners, you never know who will be the face of the group, the face representing all of them. There are others who also became very visible, like Nadiya Savchenko, Roman Suschenko or Akhtem Chigoz, the Crimean Tatar leader, who was released already some time ago. But last year – when Oleg went on hunger strike when the world came to visit Russia for the FIFA football championship –his face became the face of all of them. Oleg Sentsov risked his life for the freedom of all the Ukrainian political prisoners. He connected his fate to their fate and therefore became the exemplary case. We have to understand this and this doesn‘t allow us to forget the others.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We have to support Oleg’s capacity to work as a filmmaker even in prison”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps another reason is that he is not a Crimean Tatar, he is a Ukrainian from Crimea, a sort of a bridge between different Ukrainians. Together with some colleagues in Strasbourg we recently have produced a little video in which we read the names of all the Ukrainian political prisoners. When listening to the names you understand that most of them are Crimean Tatars.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Do you think that the situation with<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alona-savchuk/crisis-in-the-azov-sea"> Ukrainian prisoners of war</a> in Russia will change in any way after the events in the Azov Sea?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">These sailors are clearly prisoners of war, an undeclared but ongoing war which is now in its fifth winter. In the European Union, we aim to put pressure on the Russian side to free those Ukrainian servicemen immediately. It is completely illegal that these men were not only detained, but were also accused of illegal border crossing in a Russian court. I don’t know whether we will be successful in their cases. My proposal to introduce personalised sanctions against all Russian navy officials and judges involved in this case has been adopted in the Resolution of the European Parliament, but the European Council has not yet decided to follow this proposal.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We need more pressure and more engagement from the West”</p><p dir="ltr">The documentary by Askold Kurov, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFohGYNapj0">The Trial</a>, shows that Sentsov is Putin’s personal hostage. When Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov has begged Putin even twice to free Sentsov and gave good reasons for this, Putin rejected twice in a very clear and a very cold way. We need more pressure and more engagement from the West, supporting also Russian filmmakers, because I know that many Russian filmmakers are also asking to free Sentsov. My own husband and a young filmmaker from our family have been invited to a film festival in Saratov this year and won a prize. In the opening of this festival, the speaker talked about Sentsov and asked to free him. And he got a lot of applause for this. I think there is hope. Sokurov repeated recently and publicly his request. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How do you imagine those sanctions? What are the possibilities that could be used? Will those be personal sanctions as you mentioned or will they have a broader scope?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Personalised sanctions against Russian officials responsible for illegal detention, illegal trials, Stalinesque sentences and ill-treatment or torture should include the following: banning them from entering the European Union, freezing their accounts in European banks and also not permitting them to use the services of European Union like hospitals, schools or universities. I am convinced that the Magnitsky Act, which has been passed in several countries already, is a very important reaction against systematic violations of human rights. We need to establish such a legal instrument at the EU level.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Oleg Sentsov is not the only artist detained in Russia today. Alongside him there are other artists who are being prosecuted and put on trial, such as<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-damberg/serebrennikov-attack"> Kirill Serebrennikov</a> or<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valery-pecheikin/there-is-direct-threat-to-life-russian-theatre-manager-alexey-malobrodsky"> Alexey Malobrodsky</a>. Is there anything the European Union can do to further protect the rights of Russian artists, or at least to provide them with some sort of refuge in the EU, in the worst case scenario?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There is a lot we need to improve. We should not leave the responsibility of organising exile and a secure life outside of Russia to Ukraine or the Baltic states alone. There is a growing crowd of Russian artists, journalists and political activists, who do not have an official exile status, but they work and live in Russia‘s neighbouring countries. We should contribute to improve the conditions for them to work. They have already an impact on people in Russia even when working from outside their country.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Oleg_Sentsov,_Ukrainian_political_prisoner_in_Russia,_2015.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Oleg_Sentsov,_Ukrainian_political_prisoner_in_Russia,_2015.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'>Oleg Sentsov. Photo CC BY-SA 4.0: Antonymon / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In Germany, everybody, as a rule, wants a good relationship with Russia. So do I. However, having good relations with Russia cannot mean doing business as usual. We need a dialogue. But not a dialogue to cover the truth about Putin’s war against Ukraine or his support for anti-EU far right movements. We need good relations with Russian civil society. And this needs to be taken very seriously, otherwise we fall into the trap of what is promoted by people such as Alexander Rahr [German historian and political analyst] or Gerhard Schröder [former German Chancellor and <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-rosneft-egm-schroeder/russias-rosneft-elects-former-german-chancellor-schroeder-as-chairman-idUKKCN1C426Q">now Rosneft chair</a>] – who suggest that Putin’s authoritarian system is tailor-made for the Russian people. It is not, as we know from many people, from Russian civil society and from Russian citizens.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How do you feel this climate of relations with Russia is changing in the EU, among your colleagues, with the influx of conservatism in European politics? Is there more pressure on you?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The climate in the debate is becoming increasingly tense on all Russia-related issues. I see more and more clearly how far the Kremlin is involved in these success stories of the right wing, anti-democratic and anti-European camp.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Will the EU sanction its own politicians for visiting Crimea?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I have always advocated that colleagues should respect Ukrainian laws. There are reasons for these laws. However, I am also encouraging Ukrainian authorities not to make a visit to Crimea a mission impossible. I believe that Crimea can and should be visited – but only if laws of Ukraine are respected. Those who visit Crimea illegally in violation of Ukrainian law, they face criminal charges in Ukraine. In the EU we should continue to advocate for respect of Ukrainian law and should reject to follow the rules or the invitations of the occupying force [Russia]. I think Ukrainians have to accept that independent journalism is not anti-Ukrainian, and to investigate the situation in Crimea, also in the other occupied territories, is to the advantage of Ukraine.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Ukrainians have to accept that independent journalism is not anti-Ukrainian”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do you think of the possibility of an OSCE mission being placed in Crimea and whether Ukraine could become a part of this mission?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Since the very beginning, it has been clear that this peninsula is confronted with the most awful human rights violations in Europe. You also see it when you look at the list of political prisoners that Crimean Tatars have not only lost their minority rights, which were achieved in Ukraine, but are being treated extremely badly. We know that every week the Russian security services search the houses of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians in Crimea. Despite several requests and due to Russia’s reluctance, neither the UN, nor the OSCE have been allowed to deploy an observation mission in Crimea. Russia always tells us that Crimeans wanted to be reunited with Russia, but if this is true, why are they hiding the peninsula from international observation?</p><p dir="ltr">Over the years I have followed the reports of a German NGO called <a href="https://www.gfbv.de/en/">Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker</a> (Society for Threatened Ethnic Groups), a well-known human rights organisation with a lot of experience in similar situations like in Crimea. They describe the deterioration on the peninsula very well in their annual reports. In addition, the UN reports reflect the worsening human rights situation.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is there any possibility for the EU to cooperate with Russian civil society sector to implement at least some form of monitoring in Crimea?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There should be more attempts by the European Parliament to invite Russian civil society activists to Brussels, and also more efforts especially by Western EU countries to invite them to Berlin, Vienna and Paris. This could also change the view on Russia, and could debunk the mantra of the pro-Putin camp and the Gazprom lobby in EU that says all Russians are comfortable with Putin and his system.</p><p dir="ltr">I admire those Russian citizens who go to the streets, sometimes alone, to show solidarity with Sentsov or Crimean Tatars. I find it incredibly strong what these people are doing and we in the West should at least pay much more attention to Russian civil society.</p><p dir="ltr">From what I have experienced in my work in post-Soviet states over the last 15 years is that change always comes from the inside. It is a preposterous idea from Russian propaganda that CIA organised EuroMaidan in Kyiv. The Maidan was so strong because it was a Ukrainian movement that came from the very heart of Ukrainian citizens. </p><p>I advocate to take civil society in Russia very seriously. If we have no dialogue with Russian civil society there is no serious dialogue. And I am convinced that we should, even if this became more difficult thanks to Putin‘s NGO laws, support Russian civil society. Change can and will happen if Russian citizens want it.</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/ganna-grytsenko/this-is-why-ukrainian-film-director-oleg-sentsov-is-on-hunger-strike">Why Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov is on hunger strike</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-kozak/trial-continues-askold-kurov-on-his-visit-to-oleg-sentsov">The trial continues: Askold Kurov on his visit to Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-kozak/directors-of-kyiv-and-moscow-documentary-theatres-speak-on-documentary-theatre-war-and-co-participation">“Propaganda disintegrates on contact with these things”: Kyiv and Moscow directors on the power of documentary theatre to create dialogue </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/director-sergei-loznitsa-on-his-new-film-about-the-conflict-in-eastern-ukraine">Director Sergei Loznitsa on the conflict in eastern Ukraine: “This is disintegration”</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia Ukraine Russia Sat, 22 Dec 2018 04:36:09 +0000 Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia 121110 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Phantom foreign investors for an open new Uzbekistan https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/opendemocracy-investigations/tashkent-city-project-uzbekistan-phantom-foreign-investors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">A high-profile <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/atkhan-akhmedov/dispossession-and-urban-development-in-the-new-tashkent">urban development project in Tashkent</a> is designed to showcase the country for western capital. Our investigation suggests principal investors are from much closer to home.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><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 2018-12-21 at 10.20.32.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 10.20.32.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="321" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Project design for Tashkent City's Lot 3, a shopping centre with two 30-storey buildings. Source: <a href=http://www.tcibc.uz/page/zone3>Tashkent City</a>.</span></span></span>Two years after the death of Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s first president, the once impenetrable country has shown interest in opening up to international investors.&nbsp;<a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/06/21/uzbekistans-new-era-might-just-be-real/">Enthusiasts</a> regard this as the <a href="http://www.ponarseurasia.org/memo/how-western-disengagement-enabled-uzbekistans-spring-and-how-keep-it-going">“Uzbek spring”</a>, a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/01/world/asia/uzbekistan-reform.html">new beginning</a> for the country under its new leader, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Others have&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/luca-anceschi/modernising-authoritarianism-in-uzbekistan">pointed</a> to the sluggish and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bernardo-teles-fazendeiro/soft-power-under-mirziyoyev">inconsistent pace</a> of liberal reforms in the Central Asian state, which could just be used as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-buketov/the-democratic-future-of-uzbekistan">façade</a> to attract foreign capital.</p><p dir="ltr">Take Tashkent City, a government-sponsored project that aims to develop a high-tech business hub in Uzbekistan’s capital at a total cost of around $1.3 billion. British, Korean and German companies were awarded the main lots for construction. This flagship project seeks, in the <a href="http://voicesoncentralasia.org/who-is-tashkent-city-for-nation-branding-and-public-dialogue-in-uzbekistan/">words of analyst Dilmira Matyakubova</a>, to “rebrand Uzbekistan as a country interested in political reform, economic investment, and friendly relations with the rest of the world”. As Mirziyoyev, who is overseeing the project, <a href="https://regnum.ru/news/2339804.html">stated</a> in October 2017: “Tashkent City is a project which we will use to announce ourselves to the international community.”</p><p dir="ltr">But closer scrutiny into one of the foreign investors into Tashkent City reveals a complex network of companies and individuals closely linked to Central Asia, casting doubt on the positive news that Uzbekistan’s official media initially&nbsp;<a href="https://uznews.uz/ru/article/11932">trumpeted</a>. Hyper Partners GmbH, though heralded as a German investor for Tashkent City’s Lot 3, seems to belong to a network of Uighur businessmen, partnering with a Kazakh entrepreneur currently facing fraud charges. Neither this company, nor others associated with its public directors, has any record of experience of large-scale construction projects.</p><p dir="ltr">The Uzbek government’s desire to showcase its friendliness to foreign investors led journalists to <a href="https://ca-news.org/news:1471404">investigate the ownership of the companies that won the tenders</a> to develop Tashkent City, unveiling a complex network of companies and individuals which operate without a clear financial rationale. With the help of legal experts in Germany, we were able to disentangle the threads and highlight the network behind Hyper Partners GmbH, one of Tashkent City’s main investors and foreign contractors.</p><h2>The German front</h2><p dir="ltr">Hyper Partners, a company registered in Germany and contracted to develop Tashkent City’s Lot 3 – a shopping centre with two 30-storey towers – is everything but German. </p><p dir="ltr">Financial data shows that since 3 August 2018 the company’s sole owner has been Mustafa Palvan, who was 18 when he assumed the company’s directorship and 100% of the shares. The company’s capital amounts to €25,000, the minimum amount required to register a company in Germany. Research suggests that relatives and their business partners, not young Mustafa, could be the ones really in charge of Hyper Partners. There seems to be little justification or rationale for the Tashkent City project management in awarding a tender on a large project to a 19-year-old.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 12.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 12.png" alt="" title="" width="160" height="234" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shareholder list for Hyper Partners GmbH shows Mustafa Palvan, now 19, as the main shareholder. </span></span></span>The founders of Hyper Partners are Waleri Wolf, 54, and Evgueni Rosenberg, 61. It’s not clear what nationality Wolf and Rosenberg hold, but the spelling of their names suggests a Russophone origin. Wolf and Rosenberg registered the company on 26 February 2018. </p><p dir="ltr">The two had previously founded two other companies,<a href="http://wr-sector.de/"> W&amp;R Handelsgesellschaft GmbH</a> in November 2008 and<a href="https://statuswest.de/"> Statuswest GmbH</a> in August 2016. Since October 2018, all three companies have been registered at the same address: Assar-Gabrielsson-Straße 10-14, in Dietzenbach, Germany.</p><p dir="ltr">Judging by the financial statements of W&amp;R, the decade-long partnership between Wolf and Rosenberg has been a rocky road. The company mainly sold bathroom supplies. Data from the German State Trade Registry of Companies shows that W&amp;R piled up debts. </p><p dir="ltr">A German legal expert, who agreed to analyse the data on condition of anonymity, said that W&amp;R appeared to be on the brink of bankruptcy until a Kazakhstani shareholder appeared three years ago.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 1.png" alt="" title="" width="160" height="225" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Data from German Trade Registry shows that Baurzhan Baimukhanov took a third of the shares in W&R Handelsgesellschaft GmbH in 2015. </span></span></span>In 2015, Baurzhan N. Baimukhanov, a Kazakhstani national, became a shareholder in W&amp;R, acquiring one-third of the shares. Following Baimukhanov’s investment, the company’s troubled finances were saved by a loan. </p><p dir="ltr">According to the records of the German State Registry, the company declared a €78,419 debt, marked “740 VB gg. Gesellschaftern”. The company’s previous debts towards Wolf and Rosenberg were always marked “730 VB gg. Gesellschaftern”. A shareholder (Gesellschaftern in German) provided the new loan.</p><p dir="ltr">While W&amp;R kept logging growing debt in its balance sheets in 2015, the following year the debt was slashed by around €70,000, without clarification in the income tables of the company’s balance sheet. According to the legal expert, this warrants further analysis:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“There are two possible scenarios here: either a shareholder gave the company a ‘credit’ of at least €78,419, or a contract was signed, without a cash transaction, but a promise of repayment. If a credit was given, it's strange that the money never showed up on the balance sheet. If this scenario is correct, the credited amount must have been spent immediately.”</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, W&amp;R’s debt was reduced to €156,336 from €245,462 the previous year.</p><p dir="ltr">“The company did not have the capital to reduce the debt in 2016, so the question remains: who paid in €89,126 to settle the debt? In other words, almost €90,000 circulated through the company without a public trace,” the expert concluded.</p><p dir="ltr">Wolf and Rosenberg’s associate Baimukhanov is a Kazakhstani businessman with close relations to Chinese business interests. In 2015-2016, Baimukhanov’s small construction company&nbsp;<a href="https://tenderplus.kz/organization/too-bazis-alatau">Bazis Alatau</a>, registered in Kazakhstan, worked with a Chinese company, Zhongfu, to bid for a <a href="http://kostanay.gov.kz/kz/akim-oblasti/intervyu/intervyu.php/?id_elem=142">regional government project</a> in Kazakhstan. We can confirm Baimukhanov’s identity from the Kazakh state registry of taxpayers, where his date of birth is consistent with the documentation from the German Trade Registry.</p><p>Earlier this year, Baimukhanov was&nbsp;<a href="http://prokuror.gov.kz/rus/novosti/press-releasy/moshennichestvo-na-territorii-mcps-horgos">arrested</a>. On 20 February he was detained together with his business partner G. Nabiyeva and charged with fraud of one billion tenge (€2.4 million) in relation to building contracts and leasing land, and with attempting to issue illegal gambling permits in the <a href="http://www.mcps-khorgos.kz/en">Khorgos International Centre for Border Cooperation</a>, a joint business project that stretches over both sides of the Chinese-Kazakh border. On 26 February 2018, Baimukhanov’s business partners Wolf and Rosenberg founded Hyper Partners GmbH.</p><h2>The Uighur connection</h2><p dir="ltr">Here, this story turns towards the border between Xinjiang and Kazakhstan, the geographic crux where ethnic identities merge and business connections intertwine.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2016, a Dubai resident, Kazakhstani national and ethnic Uighur with the name Abdukadyr Khabibula became a major shareholder in W&amp;R. Khabibula and Baimukhanov each took control of 40% of the company, leaving Wolf and Rosenberg with a 10% stake each. Two weeks after this transaction, Wolf and Rosenberg registered a new company, Statuswest GmbH, together with a resident of the German town of Dietzenbach by the name of Palvan Habibullah. The company was registered at the same address as W&amp;R. Palvan Habibullah owned €20,000 of the shares, or 80%, and Rosenberg and Wolf controlled €2,500 worth of shares each.</p><p dir="ltr"><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_2018-12-17_at_12.28.10 (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen_Shot_2018-12-17_at_12.28.10 (1).png" alt="" title="" width="457" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The new Tashkent City project from above. Source: <a href=http://tcibc.uz>Tashkent City</a>. </span></span></span>Palvan Habibullah not only has a strikingly similar surname to Abdukadyr Khabibula, who took over W&amp;R – he was also born on the exact same day, 16 February 1964. Cross-referencing through different jurisdictions and the matching date of birth suggest that Palvan Habibullah and Adukadyr Khabibula could be the same person, though differences and mistakes in spelling in the German business registry make it difficult to establish this with any certainty. Several iterations of this person’s name appear in business registries around the world. Here we chose to use the official spelling of the Kazakhstani citizen Abdukadyr Khabibulla, as registered in the UK Companies House database.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, Khabibulla founded a new company,&nbsp;<a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09268531">Palwan Limited</a>, in London. Palwan is the German spelling of the name Palvan, the name Khabibulla may be using as a German resident. But in the UK registry, Khabibulla figures as a UK resident. Palwan Limited has remained dormant, and counts possible relatives of Khabibulla among its shareholders: Aibibula Paliwanmuhaimaiti (born August 1991), a UK resident and Chinese national; Rezi Maliya (born April 1967), UK resident, Chinese national; Aibibula Yamimaiti; and Aibibula Nuerbiya.</p><p>Two of the shareholders in Palwan Limited, Abibulla Paliwanmuhaimaiti and Rezi Maliya, are also shareholders and directors of another company,&nbsp;<a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09847893">AKA London Trading Limited</a> (later renamed AKA London Limited). This company was registered on 29 October 2015 in the British town of Kingston upon Thames. Abibula Nuermaimaiti (born June 1989), a UK resident and Chinese citizen, is also listed among the company’s shareholders.</p><p>With companies registered in Dubai, Kyrgyzstan, London, Germany and Turkey, holding Chinese and Kazakh passports, and with a variety of residencies, these directors and major shareholders are part of an international <a href="http://respub.kg/2018/02/09/xitroumnyj-gorod-chast-ii/">Uighur community</a> that makes use of different jurisdictions and investment options across Europe and Asia. According to <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09847893">public accounts</a>, some time between in 2015 and 2016, AKA London Trading borrowed around £2 million from a man named Abdurkadyr Khabibula, in all probability a spelling mistake of Khabibulla’s full name, since it was disclosed in the accounts that he was a “related party to the directors” of AKA London Trading Limited.</p><p dir="ltr">This UK company also borrowed around £7.1 million from Palvan Insaat Turizm Lojistik San. TIC. Ltd, a Turkey-registered company related to the Uighur group, between 2015 and 2016. Aibibula Paliwanmuhaimaiti, a director of the UK company Palwan Limited, is registered as the head of this Turkish company, according to information from Turkey’s Yellow Pages business directory. The Palvan Insaat company is located in a residential area of Istanbul. A cursory look through Google Street View and a thorough search failed to return any details of business activity at the address.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 9.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 9.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'>The business address of Palvan Insaat Turizm Lojistik San. TIC. Ltd. Source: Google Streetview. </span></span></span>A Dubai subsidiary, AKA International DMCC, owned by Khabibulla and two other Palwan Limited shareholders, appears to be the only company among this network with an actual real estate portfolio. Indeed, this company invested in a high-tech project in Kyrgyzstan,&nbsp;<a href="http://central.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_ca/newsbriefs/2018/02/09/newsbrief-02">Bishkek Smart City</a>. This government-led project aimed to install cameras for road safety and surveillance, utilising facial recognition technology to identify people of interest to the authorities. According to the Kyrgyz government, a Chinese state investment fund, Beijing China Veterans Lingxin Capital Management, is acting as the main investor, with Huawei Technologies providing implementation. According to the January 2018 deal, the Beijing China fund will provide $51 million of the investment. The Kyrgyz government was due to provide the remaining funds ($9 million), but backed out at the last minute. According to the director of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agency of Kyrgyz Republic, Huawei identified a new partner ready to invest these funds: a Kyrgyz-registered company, AKA Invest.</p><p dir="ltr">At this time, AKA’s investment and ownership came under scrutiny by <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/01/25/investor-umnogo-goroda-s-ofisom-v-kafe-chto-izvestno-o-kompanii-aka-invest/">Kyrgyz investigative websites Kloop.kg</a> and <a href="http://respub.kg/2018/02/09/xitroumnyj-gorod-chast-ii/">Respublika KG</a>. When contacted by Kloop, AKA Invest admitted to being a subsidiary of the Dubai company AKA International DMCC, and stated that it is owned by three ethnic Uighurs: Abdukadyr Khabibulla from Kazakhstan and Aibula Nuermaimaiti and Aibula Palivanmukamiati, both from China. At the time, AKA Invest’s office was located at the address of a cafe in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital. The company’s clerk&nbsp;<a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/01/25/investor-umnogo-goroda-s-ofisom-v-kafe-chto-izvestno-o-kompanii-aka-invest/">told</a> Kloop journalists: “You can ask your questions there [in the cafe] and they will pass them on to us.” It seems an unlikely base from which to make a $9 million investment in a high-tech urban development project, still more so given that these Uighur businessmen are also investing in another – Tashkent City.</p><p dir="ltr">While Wolf and Rosenberg served as the public directors for the German companies, Palvan Habibullah obtained 60% of the shares in Statuswest in 2016. According to data from the German State Registry of Companies, Statuswest took a loan of €500,000 in 2016 from an unknown source. Given the paucity of their assets, it is unlikely that the loan came from Wolf and Rosenberg. After the loan, Khabibulla/Habibullah appeared in the company’s documents as a 60% shareholder.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 5.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 5.png" alt="" title="" width="160" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shareholders in W&R Handelsgesellschaft GmbH, according to German Trade Registry. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Between 2017 and 2018, control of these companies was ceded to family members of Khabibulla, Wolf and Rosenberg. W&amp;R is now owned by two men in their thirties named Wolf and Rosenberg. After the August 2018 buyout, Hyper Partners’ main shareholder is now 19-year-old Mustafa Palvan.</p><p dir="ltr">Thomas Mayne, an anti-corruption campaigner and author of a <a href="https://corruptionandhumanrights.org/app/uploads/2018/07/A-Case-of-Irresponsible-Return-Summary-Report.pdf">recent report on asset recovery and return</a>, said: </p><p dir="ltr">“This shows how easily it is to obscure the true owners of a project – the beneficial owners – using companies registered abroad. The project certainly raises many red flags: the source of the funds is unclear, and a 19-year-old is unlikely to be the true beneficial owner of the company responsible for the Tashkent City shopping centre project.”</p><p dir="ltr">With complex rounds of loans and cash, this network of German companies could be used as a shell for opaque investments. The difficulty of identifying the investors and shareholders of Hyper Partners GmbH, Abdukadyr Khabibulla and the other businessmen may be no accident. </p><p dir="ltr">Concealing their identity and affiliations in relation to this project would have been a plausible response to the scrutiny that arose following the investigations from Kloop.kg and other watchdogs. Similarly, Baimukhanov’s initial role in W&amp;R and the fact that Hyper Partners was founded less than one week after he was arrested on fraud charges in February this year could suggest that his role as the middleman between the project and the unknown beneficial owners of these companies was spoiled.</p><p dir="ltr">An expert with over a decade of experience in major financial crime cases in Europe and Central Asia, who agreed to comment on the case on the condition of anonymity, said the German front companies raised suspicion:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“The commercial rationale for funding a Germany-based company through unsecured personal loans originating from a high-risk jurisdiction raises eyebrows. Looking at the data, the money from such unsecured loans would then go from Germany to Uzbekistan. What would be the benefit of [this circle of transactions] other than guaranteeing a degree of anonymity for the ultimate beneficiaries of the investment?”</p><p dir="ltr">Funds are transiting from Central Asia through German companies back into Central Asia. These funds are now poised to be funnelled back into Uzbekistan through Hyper Partners’ investment in Tashkent City. Two key questions remain: why did the Uighur businessmen set their companies up in this way? And are these men the end of the chain or are they another front for other figures behind the money flows?</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/DSC_0736_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/DSC_0736_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Destruction of an apartment block for Tashkent City project. </span></span></span>Tim Stanley, senior partner for Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States at Control Risks, a global risk consultancy, said: “This investigation into a potentially fraudulent investment scheme involving a flagship investment project is a timely reminder to investors and the donor community of the risks they run if they fail to conduct adequate due diligence or take the required steps to identify and mitigate their third-party risks.”</p><p dir="ltr">Thomas Mayne further stated: “[This information] also poses many questions for the German authorities, who should investigate the funds flowing through the German companies in question. If the Uzbek authorities are serious about attracting foreign investment, they should not only collect and verify full beneficial ownership information of companies bidding for such projects, but also make that information available to the public.”</p><p dir="ltr">In sum, it appears that not only did Tashkent City accept a teenage investor, the project also chose to work with a company closely associated with a Kazakh businessman currently facing significant fraud charges for 1 billion Kazakh tenge (€2.4 million) – and with Uighur investors representing a group of active and dormant companies, which issue personal loans of several million pounds. It might be high time to request a public audit of Rosenberg and Wolf’s companies. </p><p dir="ltr"><em>Open Democracy contacted Hyper Partners GmbH, Statuswest GmbH, W&amp;R Handelsgesellschaft GmbH and International Business Center Tashkent City for comment, but did not receive a response.&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Tashkent City is having human impacts on the ground. Read a personal account of dispossession <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/atkhan-akhmedov/dispossession-and-urban-development-in-the-new-tashkent">here</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><p dir="ltr"><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/atkhan-akhmedov/dispossession-and-urban-development-in-the-new-tashkent">Dispossession and urban development in the new Tashkent </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/jessica-evans/in-uzbekistan-world-bank-is-masking-labour-abuses">In Uzbekistan, the World Bank is masking labour abuses</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/luca-anceschi/modernising-authoritarianism-in-uzbekistan">Modernising authoritarianism in Uzbekistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alisher-ilkhamov/how-to-return-one-billion-dollars-stolen-from-the-people-of-uzbekistan%20">How to return one billion dollars stolen from the people of Uzbekistan </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-buketov/the-democratic-future-of-uzbekistan">The democratic future of Uzbekistan doesn’t depend on the politicians, but whether workers can mobilise </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"> Uzbekistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> China </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Kazakhstan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tashkent </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tashkent Kazakhstan China Germany UK Uzbekistan Economics investigations openDemocracy investigations Uzbekistan Fri, 21 Dec 2018 09:52:31 +0000 openDemocracy investigations 121105 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dispossession and urban development in the new Tashkent https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/atkhan-akhmedov/dispossession-and-urban-development-in-the-new-tashkent <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new $1.3 billion development in Uzbekistan’s capital is meant to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/opendemocracy-investigations/tashkent-city-project-uzbekistan-phantom-foreign-investors">rebrand this Central Asian state as open for business</a>. But the costs of this project are turning out to be all too human. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/athan-ahmedov/gorod-ne-dlya-zhiteley">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ МДЦ - фото с официального сайта.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ МДЦ - фото с официального сайта.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Project design for Tashkent City. Source: <a href=http://www.tcibc.uz/>Tashkent City</a>. </span></span></span>The massive Tashkent City business centre project is designed to transform the Uzbek capital’s city centre, enhancing the lives of its people and its visitors. At least, that’s what the project’s official website <a href="http://tcibc.uz/page/relise">promises</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Tashkent City will occupy a central area of Uzbekistan’s capital bordered by Alisher Navoi, Almazar, Islam Karimov and Furkat Streets. There used to be a residential district (the Uchka and Almazar neighbourhoods, or mahallas) here, but now it has been demolished and its residents scattered around various outlying parts of the city.</p><p dir="ltr">Plans for a new grandiose project in the area have been <a href="https://www.fergananews.com/articles/6447">planned</a> since 2006, when the Tashkent city authorities and its ancient Shaikhantaur district decided to hand the land over to a joint Uzbek-Korean enterprise, Jisong Korea Industrial, for the construction of the “New City” project at a cost of $470 million. Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s first president, supported the initiative and approved it as part of the country’s trade relationship with South Korea.</p><p dir="ltr">The project was, however, put on hold, and it was only in November 2016 that Uzbekistan’s then acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced its renewal as a means of introducing himself on the world stage. The fact that the former director of the Tashkent City state enterprise, Jaxongir Artikxodjaev, <a href="https://uzreport.news/politics/mirziyoyev-appoints-entrepreneur-khokim-of-tashkent-city">became the khokim</a>, or mayor, of Tashkent in May 2018 speaks to the importance of this project.</p><p dir="ltr">According to open sources, the Tashkent City project <a href="https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2018/06/05/tashkent-city/">will cost $1.3 billion</a>, and the project has acquired investors and a construction schedule. By 2021, the area will have business centres, hotels, shopping and leisure complexes, a congress hall and high-rise residential districts, as well as parks, pedestrian precincts and even an artificial lake.</p><p dir="ltr">However, in building this grandiose project, Uzbekistan’s leaders are breaking their own country's laws and infringing the rights of regular citizens.</p><h2>Evicted from their own homes</h2><p dir="ltr">In December 2017, construction works on the new project led to the <a href="https://www.fergananews.com/articles/9887">mass eviction</a> of residents of the Ukcha-Almazar mahalla of Tashkent, who were literally thrown out onto the street, having been promised new housing in the suburbs or the chance to buy existing housing stock elsewhere in the city.</p><p dir="ltr">Residents <a href="https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2017/10/25/ukchi-olmazor/">told</a> the Gazeta.uz newspaper that local officials visited them more than once to inform them about the forthcoming demolition of their homes. In December 2017, the Fergana news agency <a href="http://www.fergananews.com/articles/9687">reported</a> that it had received complaints from the area’s residents, and the Shaikhantaur district administration, headed by local community leader Bakhodir Gaibnazarov, ordered the occupants of several housing blocks to leave their homes within ten days, before demolition started. When the dejected locals asked where they should move to, they were told: “Go wherever you like”. And if they didn’t move out in time, they were told they would be forcibly evicted by the police. Now the area of the two districts has been totally cleared, and building work on the new project has started.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/DSC_0740.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/DSC_0740.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Advert for Tashkent City. </span></span></span>An ex-resident of the demolished mahalla offered to share his experience of these events on the basis of anonymity. For the last 15 years, “Nazim Sidorchuk”, 26, says, people from the council would warn him that “you’re due for demolition this year. We’ve got an investor for this site.” The locals were promised homes in new housing developments on nearby Navoi Street.</p><p dir="ltr">“We weren’t allowed to sell our homes, as our district was in the ‘red zone’ [buildings slated for demolition – author]. When I was born, my father got me and my mother officially registered in our house – with difficulty and the help of a bribe. That was 27 years ago,” he says. </p><p dir="ltr">According to Sidorchuk, in winter 2017, local officials informed residents that their neighbourhood would be the site of the new Tashkent City complex. Sidorchuk’s father refused to sign a document agreeing to the demolition of his house, but later his signature nevertheless appeared on the relevant document. Flats, replacing the old buildings, have now sprung up in new housing developments in Shumilovskiy township and near the UzBUM paper factory district, roughly seven or eight kilometres from the centre.</p><p dir="ltr">“I went to look at the new housing while it was going up,” says Nazim. “It was really slipshod work – I wasn’t convinced by it. It was all the usual brick-faced concrete shoeboxes. We were told that they would be renovated to European standards, with parquet flooring, fridges and ‘winter/summer’ air conditioning. And it wasn’t just us who were having the wool pulled over their eyes – it was everybody. But my dad and I refused to live there and asked for existing housing, preferably near the demolition zone, as that was the city centre and we didn’t particularly want to live further out. The officials were supposedly looking for something for us, but until the bulldozers moved in and began demolishing the houses, they didn’t move a muscle.”</p><h2>Caught in limbo</h2><p dir="ltr">As three members of the Sidorchuk family have died over the last five years, Nazim and his father are the only ones left, and all they were offered by the housing people was two one-room flats, one for each of them, as a replacement for 300 square metres of land and two houses.</p><p dir="ltr">“In terms of space we’ve really lost out,” he tells me. “The houses were slated for demolition, so we couldn’t sell them as bona fide housing with adjacent land. In March-April the valuation companies offered me 600 million som [$7,350]. For both houses. The law states that you can sell the right to a plot of land. According to the land registry, we have that right – the registry has it down as our property.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screenshot 2018-10-30 at 17.32.00.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screenshot 2018-10-30 at 17.32.00.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Indeed, land can’t in fact be sold in Uzbekistan, but the right to it can. If a house is demolished, its owners <a href="http://www.lex.uz/acts/1004599">should receive</a> “the market value of the demolished house/flat and other buildings, structures and plants, as well as the full right to the plot” says Nazim – this is what he and his father are attempting to get hold of.</p><p dir="ltr">The Sidorchuk family looked into the value of the plot of land and the two houses. Estate agents put it at no less than $60,000. Once most of the houses in the area had been demolished, the family was offered a rented flat. According to Nazim, they were offered $150 per person per month while the house was being demolished, as well as a search for a suitable existing flat. But the authorities turned down the Sidorchuks’ conditions and started trying to force them out.</p><p dir="ltr">“We were even inundated with threats from the local authority, claiming that we ‘were hindering the development of the Tashkent City business centre’,” says Nazim.</p><p dir="ltr">“But we simply didn’t want to live in the new high rise flats we had refused at the start. Later, I was talking to old neighbours who had already moved out to the low rent buildings on the city outskirts. They were complaining that there hadn’t been any ‘European-style’ renovation. Just a bit of redecoration and electric kettles. It was the same for everybody: they all lost out — 374 families, more than 2,000 people.”</p><h2>A matter of zeros</h2><p dir="ltr">According to Nazim, in the middle of April 2018 the leader of the Shaikhantaur district told a residents’ meeting that he had no need of the houses – people could do what they liked and sell them however they could. In other words, the khokim refused, in defiance of <a href="http://lex.uz/docs/106134">Article 27 of Uzbekistan’s Residential Code</a>, to repay the market value of the property to be demolished. But if a house was slated for demolition, no one would buy it. It was only worth the value of its bricks, a third or a quarter of its market value.</p><p dir="ltr">In the end, a committee of five people (a district judge, a municipal judge, a district head and two lawyers) was set up to examine the case. As soon as the Sidorchuks announced their desire to move into existing housing, flats suddenly appeared.</p><p dir="ltr">“The sum of money tacitly allocated by the state was no more than $20,000 – that’s what our estate agent whispered in our ear,” says Nazim. “But our plot of land is worth $60,000-80,000. They didn’t seem to want to take that into account. They just said, ‘there are just the two of you? You can choose any existing flats – just pick any and move in.’ They remained tactically silent on the issue of the actual budget allocated by the state. This creates certain doubts about the legality of their actions.”</p><p dir="ltr">What does $20,000 buy in Tashkent? It’s a one-room flat in a poor condition, or one in a reasonable condition but on the outskirts of the city (10-15 km from the centre) and with hardly any local infrastructure.</p><p dir="ltr">“On 24 May my father and I went to sign a document stating that we were moving out and that we would be provided with flats.</p><p dir="ltr">“On our way home, we discovered that the roof of our old house was already being dismantled. We were given 24 hours to leave, from the moment we signed the document. For the six months since December we couldn’t find any housing or suggest any possibilities... We had to fight for a day to at least move our stuff: we were being told that the bulldozers would be arriving that evening to demolish the house and we should have left by then.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Destruction building.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Destruction building.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The destruction of the Sidorchuk's building. Source: Nazim Sidorchuk. </span></span></span>Up to the very end, according to Sidorchuk, the authorities tried to avoid resolving the question of compensation for the house, claiming they didn’t have a budget for it.</p><h2>Who is paying for the feast?</h2><p dir="ltr">The site of the Tashkent City business centre is divided into eight sections or lots, each with its own completion deadlines, investors and construction companies. The concept of the project, developed by British Arup Group engineers and designers, was chosen by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev himself, and its investors include companies from Germany, South Korea and the UK, such as Hyper Partners GmbH, OOO Bomi Engineering &amp; Construction and Corso Solutions LP, as well as such Uzbek companies as OOO Lotus Gaz Investment (with its Real House brand), OOO Universal Packing Masters (Murad Buildings), Akfa Dream World and others. A recent Open Democracy investigation has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/opendemocracy-investigations/tashkent-city-project-uzbekistan-phantom-foreign-investors">raised concerns about the transparency of investment in Lot 3</a>, a shopping centre complete with two 30-storey buildings.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">According to open source data, the construction of a skyscraper in Lot 4 is <a href="https://uznews.uz/ru/article/12117">valued at no less than $150m</a>, and a high-tech building in Lot 6 has been initially <a href="https://telegra.ph/Na-chyom-planiruet-zarabotat-yuzhnokorejskij-investor-v-Tashkent-City-10-24">evaluated at over $50m</a>. No information has leaked out about investment in the remaining sections. Is this secrecy deliberate, or has Tashkent City’s management just not questioned its investors yet?&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Dr Alisher Ilkhamov, a research associate at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), has <a href="https://ca-news.org/news:1471404">carried out his own research</a> into Tashkent City’s construction and accused its official site with lack of transparency. Ilkhamov is also calling for the management of the business centre to reveal information about its principal contractors, as he suspects the likelihood of shady deals going on. And in this situation, silence is a sign of consent.</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/DSC_0736.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/DSC_0736.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Clearing an apartment block to make way for Tashkent City. Source: author. </span></span></span>Tashkent’s residents are divided on the project. Some say that Tashkent City is a normal and necessary part of Uzbekistan’s development that will help improve the city centre. It will increase the flow of tourists and should in the future attract more and more foreign investment.</p><p dir="ltr">“Projects like Tashkent City and the renewal of the town of Toytepa [a regional town 25-30 km from Tashkent; in August 2017 it was renamed Nurafshon] are needed to promote our country and create a new image for it that will increase its attraction in the future – which will in its turn lead to greater investment. A prime example of this process is Dubai. As soon as this mechanism powers up, you can be sure that the Tashkent region will lead the way in Uzbekistan’s development,” Tashkent resident Ravshan told Gazeta.uz.</p><p dir="ltr">Others, however, see the $1.3 billion project as a complete waste of investment, owing to the country’s lack of infrastructure – tourists and investors aren’t going to come just for the sake of fine offices and expensive restaurants.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s stupid to spend $1.3 billion on building Tashkent City, when our infrastructure is in a terrible state,” a Tashkent resident tells me on condition of anonymity. “Nothing has changed here, despite a change of leadership – it’s still a Vanity Fair, unfortunately. Neither the government nor the public want change – which is why we end up with projects such as Tashkent City.”</p><p dir="ltr">An architect from Tashkent gives me his thoughts on the building of the new complex: “In architectural terms, Tashkent City perhaps represents the new face of the capital, with a new look and lifestyle. The project is designed mainly to demonstrate that Tashkent is developing, renewing itself, keeping up with technology on a level with first world countries and aiming to attract foreign investment. But if you have solid investment, you expect a solid return on it, and if you raise prices you won’t have a buyer. The average Uzbek earns a mere $150 a month: not many people will be able to buy an apartment in this district.”</p><p dir="ltr">Uzbekistan has a long history of tourism based on its ancient monuments, its natural beauty and its unique cuisine. But tourists often complain about problems they encounter here. A French visitor, for example, complained that on his last visit, he had difficulties finding a reasonably priced hotel in Tashkent. Another problem is the temporary registration regulation: registration (which involves a fee) is not necessary, but if you spend a month in Uzbekistan, with not more than three days in each town or city, and the average hotel stay costs $30 a day, it all adds up.</p><p dir="ltr">So is it necessary to concentrate Tashkent’s entire potential on one project, if the city’s infrastructure is already in trouble and there are practically no bio-toilets or ramps for wheelchair users. Or is Tashkent City intended as pure window-dressing for foreign investors?</p><p dir="ltr">Independent journalists who have tried to cover the issue of residents being resettled away from the area that will be Tashkent City have found themselves harassed by the law enforcement agencies. Nazim tells me that in early May, the perimeter of the construction area was ringed by police and every passerby was checked for ID and the contents of their bags. It turned out that this was in aid of catching a journalist who had found his way into the area of the two now demolished neighbourhoods, and the authorities didn’t want anyone to know about it.</p><p dir="ltr"><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_2018-12-17_at_12.28.10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen_Shot_2018-12-17_at_12.28.10.png" alt="" title="" width="457" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The new Tashkent City project from above. Source: Tashkent City. </span></span></span>At the end of December 2017, independent Uzbek journalist Sid Yanyshev was arrested by the police for “agitation among the public for unknown reasons”; in other words trying to talk to residents of the area and take photos of the demolition process. The journalist was in fact, he said, only doing his job, but his attempt to reveal what was happening turned into six hours in a police cell, and he was only released when he deleted his photos and his tape recordings of conversations. Yanyshev had, after all, “no right” to take photos and make recordings, and, according to the police, the concept “independent journalist” doesn’t exist in Uzbekistan.</p><p dir="ltr">Obstructing the work of independent journalists who have no need for advice from higher authorities about which events can be reported (and how to do so) is breaking the law. But unfortunately the two years that have passed since the death of Islam Karimov have not been enough to remove all traces of his regime.</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/kirill-buketov/the-democratic-future-of-uzbekistan">The democratic future of Uzbekistan doesn’t depend on the politicians, but whether workers can mobilise </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alisher-ilkhamov/how-to-return-one-billion-dollars-stolen-from-the-people-of-uzbekistan%20">How to return one billion dollars stolen from the people of Uzbekistan </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/luca-anceschi/modernising-authoritarianism-in-uzbekistan">Modernising authoritarianism in Uzbekistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/jessica-evans/in-uzbekistan-world-bank-is-masking-labour-abuses">In Uzbekistan, the World Bank is masking labour abuses</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/opendemocracy-investigations/tashkent-city-project-uzbekistan-phantom-foreign-investors">Phantom foreign investors for an open new Uzbekistan</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Atkhan Akhmedov Uzbekistan Fri, 21 Dec 2018 07:59:19 +0000 Atkhan Akhmedov 121040 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Propaganda disintegrates on contact with these things”: Kyiv and Moscow directors on the power of documentary theatre to create dialogue https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-kozak/directors-of-kyiv-and-moscow-documentary-theatres-speak-on-documentary-theatre-war-and-co-participation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Documentary theatre makers from Russia and Ukraine recently held a theatre festival in Kyiv. Here, two directors speak on documentary theatre, war and co-participation. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatiana-bezruk/net-bolshe-nikakoi-orientazii-krome-cheloveka" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Novaya_Antigona_2_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Novaya_Antigona_2_0.jpeg" 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'>Performance “New Antigone”. Photo: Maria Boteva. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>In mid-November, the Moscow-based documentary theatre Teatr.doc, in collaboration with PostPlay Theatre, held a theatre festival in Kyiv in memory of its artistic directors <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/obituaries/gremina-and-ugarov-russia-teatr-doc-die.html">Elena Gremina and Mikhail Ugarov</a>. As part of this festival, testimonies of detainees, prisoners and people who have experienced war were performed for Kyiv audiences.</p><p dir="ltr">Directors Zarema Zaudinova (<a href="http://www.teatrdoc.ru/">Teatr.doc</a>) and Den Gumenniy (<a href="https://ru-ru.facebook.com/postplaytheater/">PostPlay</a>) discuss the politics and principles of documentary theatre.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Do you call your theatres “political theatre”?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Zarema Zaudinova: </strong>I don’t consider Teatr.doc political theatre. There are no politics in Russia – there’s just the total power of the security services.</p><p dir="ltr">We are talking about a reality that the authorities seek to eliminate: our rulers tell us that people are not important and their lives have no value. But we talk about something different: we know, for example, about Beslan and those who besieged it. But there is another context, when the school was stormed and the children who died there. We also know about the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/01/five-beslan-mothers-detained-anti-putin-protest-memorial-ceremony-russia">mothers’ protest</a> there. The authorities are rapidly trying to forget it all, but we go out and tell people about it.</p><p dir="ltr">Our <em>New Antigone</em> show, based on the events of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/01/five-beslan-mothers-detained-anti-putin-protest-memorial-ceremony-russia">2016 protest</a> in Beslan, includes monologues by journalist Elena Kostyuchenko, who was with the mothers at that time. Elena Gremina inserted pauses between the fragments of monologue, to allow them to sink into the audience’s consciousness – otherwise it would be impossible to absorb it all. It’s as though they shot a slow motion film for you and you let it run through yourself. Any propaganda splinters and disintegrates on contact with these things.</p><p dir="ltr">The fact that Teatr.doc is a tiny Moscow theatre for marginals and intellectuals is another question. But there is the internet, and we give our audience open access to all our shows online. So yes, it is political theatre – depending of course on what you understand by the word “politics”.</p><p><strong>Den Gumenniy:</strong> PostPlay is, first of all, a critical theatre. There is a particular discourse in society, we are immersed in it and work with it. Our aim is to give our audience a good shake. People who go the theatre in Kyiv are a little well-off, a little dozy and very tired of war. What we present to them on the stage is designed to wake them up. And our little theatre is beginning to disturb our audiences’ world views. They are starting to show signs of dissent, their thought processes are beginning to work.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 15.50.41_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 15.50.41_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Den Gumenniy. Source: Facebook.</span></span></span>In our show <em>Militiamen</em>, we hear a monologue of a Donetsk fighter, who headed the security team for the <a href="https://pressroom.rferl.org/a/dpr-militants-who-are-they-and-what-are-they-fighting-for-aseyev/29528181.html">Oplot battalion</a>, and, I’m sure, killed Ukrainians and tortured them in cellars, and here he is pronouncing this monologue in the centre of Kyiv. That’s a political story in itself. There’s no deliberate provocation on our part here. When we create a show, we don’t think about how it will work, and how audiences will find it provocative and the press will write about it. We are simply telling the story of a man. But the story becomes political simply by default. It can’t leave its audience indifferent.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Would your theatres be able to do the same thing in a conventional theatre, with a large audience?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ: </strong>Life is effort in time. This effort is concentrated on the stages of PostPlay Theatre and Teatr.doc, as on any other stage. For us, Teatr.doc is a civic theatre. It is first and foremost about people in the context of time, the context of reality, the context of the story we’ve all stumbled into. And we call this “the Department of Pain”. Life is always painful for everyone. That’s something we need to remember. People are alive; they’re not just a function. Pain intensifies our questions to the universe; the area of the complex and unknown expands. And the more it expands, the more complex it becomes. The world isn’t black and white.</p><p dir="ltr">Classic theatre is also about pain, but this pain is inert. We take 19th century pain and talk about it as 19th century pain. So why does this bother us today? Not because we were told that this was a classic and made us watch it when we were 16, and not because it was on the school syllabus. This is a problem not only for theatre, but also for education and for the language used by theatre to talk to its audience. It’s like the Soviet media – there was the&nbsp;<em>Komsomolskaya Pravda </em>newspaper&nbsp;the organ of the official Soviet youth organisation, and at the same time there was samizdat, which spoke to everyone in ordinary human language. And it’s the same today.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The only difference between our theatre and a traditional theatre with curtains and a backstage is how people communicate with one another”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG:</strong> Any theatre is a means of communicating with an audience. The only difference between our theatre and a traditional theatre with curtains and a backstage and so on is how people communicate with one another. In conventional theatre, communication is always vertical, whereas we are very horizontal and the people who put the shows together are on an equal footing with the characters on stage and the audience. I’m always nearby, I never allow myself to rise above these characters and view this “animal parade” from above. Look at these happy homeless people, these girls who volunteer, and these women from Beslan. The main thing is how I talk about these people, and then it doesn’t make any difference whether I’m in a big 300-seater auditorium or a tiny 40-seater one.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>That’s not important: what’s important is the position that I, as the author, take when I speak.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ: </strong>Theatres with wings and so on always give conventional answers to everything.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG:</strong> The best theatre is never only about today, it can show me my direction for tomorrow. When I talk about the here and now, it’s also a conversation about the future. Let’s do a show about Crimea. Let’s talk about when Crimea returns to Ukraine. Or what to do when the war in Donbas ends. We can at least begin this dialogue. Geopolitics can change in an instant. When did the USSR collapse? On 19 August 1991. I don’t believe that on 16 August 1991 people were ready for the collapse and thinking about the future.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Are your audiences also co-participants in this future?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ:</strong> I don’t believe in the future. There is no future, you never know what will happen tomorrow. I have a different relationship with my shows. I always had Elena Gremina and Mikhail Ugarov beside me: you could talk to them and discuss things and you’d always know that was important to them too. I didn’t have such an enormous number of questions as I have now.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 15.48.09_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 15.48.09_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zarema Zaudinova. Source: Facebook.</span></span></span>I made my first animated documentary about Chechnya at a documentary animation workshop in Kazan. A member of the audience wrote to me: “You know, I really liked your film. We have a literary workshop: could you come and tell us how to talk to yourself?” And you sit in disbelief: after all you did this thing for yourself. For yourself, in the first place, as a writer. But then someone else is also interested. And that’s always surprising. When audience members say “What’s happening?” they are co-participants in a lack of understanding. Whether their questions coincide or not, doesn’t matter – a lack of convergence is also a form of interaction. I’m interested in finding out who our audience members are. It’s always interesting.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG:</strong> When people visit Teatr.doc or PostPlay Theatre, it’s not usually for entertainment. They have already prepared themselves: “I’m going to have to do some work here.” How does PostPlay Theatre work? It simply makes a theatre-goer a proposal. I propose that we talk about where we are through the subject of female volunteers and soldiers and their stories, a story reshaped by war, and still being reshaped because the war is still going on. And then let’s find out who we are, and the questions, “Who am I?” and “Where are we going?” surface of their own accord.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do we consider participation, partnership? If someone comes to one of our shows, they have to sit, work hard and think, and this is clear from the start. Otherwise, why come here? If you want entertainment, Kyiv has enough beautiful bourgeois theatres to be going on with. It all depends on the individual, and the way they think and work.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ:</strong> Thinking is a pleasure. </p><p><strong>DG:</strong> But it can be dangerous: you can find yourself saying, “We’re so independent and cool, and you’re not”, and that’s very egotistic. It’s important that we don’t distance ourselves from the common cause or say: “Our theatres are different, and you’re doing your nut about it.” We’re connected.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We are just creating a little planet of lack of understanding on the 'sole of the policeman’s shoe'”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ:</strong> You said mentioned horizontal theatre yourself. This is a horizontal world. When we were having some organisational problems with the festival in Kyiv, people helped us: within an hour and a half later they’d sent a banner we needed printing for a show. It was printed for pennies, someone sitting in a courtroom helped do everything. There’s your horizontal world for you. </p><p><strong>DG:</strong> And the communication of the future.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ:</strong> Yes, that’s what we’re talking about. Not about us being cool and you not, or us being contemporary and you being old hat.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Perhaps this is the communication of a crisis period, when people in Ukraine got used to coping with different tasks very quickly?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG:</strong> I think everything here is like <em>Alice in Wonderland</em>: we need to run very fast just to stand still.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ:</strong> There will never be a world where someone isn’t in need of help. The whole world is in crisis, it’s the end of an era. Why is everyone up in arms over gender issues like feminine word endings? Because relationships are changing along with the era. So now you’ll hear people asking, “Who never had their bum grabbed?” And everyone’s bum will be up for grabs. It’s a change in era and human consciousness. Ok, we’re in a time of crisis, but a story about people coming along to help out is a classic moment that has nothing to do with crisis.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Perhaps this is about trust?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG:</strong> We’re living through a new humanism, when the means of communication puts the individual at the centre of attention. We don’t need the old constraints any more. I remember being on the Maidan on 20 February 2014, when we were carrying the dead and injured to the fountain from the farthest barricade, on Instytutska Street. What do you think I was thinking about? The fact that I had just one autumn coat, and I had to be at work the next day. I had to make sure I didn’t get any blood on my coat because I had an appointment at a newspaper office and it would look very odd if I turned up in a blood-stained coat.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We’re living through a new humanism, when the means of communication puts the individual at the centre of attention”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ:</strong> And if you had written that you needed a coat, someone would have brought you one. There’s no other guiding light apart from the individual. </p><p><strong>DG:</strong> It’s a means of identification. You are the same. Not because your skin is the same colour as mine: you are the same because you are a human being.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do your theatres have in common?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG:</strong> They are both horizontal theatres, with similar ethical positions. </p><p><strong>ZZ:</strong> I was taught to love horizontal theatre. I was recently at a conference in Oxford and something very strange happened: I was talking about how Teatr.doc works with political prisoners and someone in the audience said: “But Russian theatre is a patriarchal institution; how can you work in it?” And I had to think how do I work in it? But I live in the country, not the theatre. We are entering a horizontal world where there is no vertical of theatrical issues. But problems around new drama and how to produce it haven’t gone away.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG:</strong> It’s not so much that Teatr.doc and PostPlay Theatre don’t engage with these issues: it’s just that they don’t define us. They do always exist in the background, but they don’t destroy the horizontal nature of our work.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Where does the war fit into your theatres?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ: </strong>War occupies its own space. That is to say, we talk about it and do it regularly. It’s not a taboo subject, which is already quite something. Because if we stay silent about it, it means we accept it – that was a central pillar of Elena Gremina’s principle of “If we stay silent, it means we agree”. But we don’t accept that people being tortured, and that Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko and all the others are behind bars. And even one show – and we have several – is already an enormous statement, given that the subject of war is rarely explored in our theatres.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG: </strong>Human rights activists got our actors and directors out of Crimea because the FSB had them fully in their sights: they were being called in for questioning and all they could do was flee. That defines theatre as well. The present situation, as I see it, is that there is a war in Donbas, but Kyiv, on the one hand, actively avoids any discussion of it and does all it can to ignore it, while on the other, its propaganda machine is beginning to exploit it. The human factor is lost in both situations.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Our show <em>Girls-girls</em> consists of 12 stories of women soldiers and volunteers. It’s not about the war, but about these young women, how people change and what war does to them. We ditch the rhetoric and talk about the people.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ: </strong>War in a theatre’s repertoire is one thing. War in the life of someone who works in theatre is quite another.</p><p dir="ltr">There are two thousand answers to the question of what space it occupies: it occupies everything or nothing, it has corroded the whole left side of our internal organs. I keep talking about it all and don’t understand any of it: neither the war, nor the torture. But I feel the need to speak about it, and speak loudly. Torture and war are my whole life now. I’d like to read newly translated books, but I have to write an article about torture, Chechnya and something else as well. The war never ends. My father is Chechen, he experienced torture in both the First and Second Chechen wars. I can’t talk to him about it, I just don’t have the words.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Journalists Egor Skovoroda and Alexey Polikhovich perform in our show <em>Torture</em>, which we put on on the day of the Russian presidential elections. They both write exclusively about this issue: one of them works for <a href="http://ovdinfo.org">OVD-Info</a>, the other for <a href="https://zona.media">MediaZona</a>. What do they do? They describe total horror, and they talk about this horror on stage, which is a different medium and requires a different technique. This technique makes your life a little easier – you have spoken aloud and that’s already a lot.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG: </strong>We are also looking for ways to speak about it all – not because we are so cool, but as a way to get our heads around it. I can’t say we are bringing order to this chaos.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Pravozashitniki_2_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Pravozashitniki_2_0.jpeg" 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'>The play "Human Rights Defenders". Photo: Maria Boteva. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><strong>ZZ:</strong> We are just creating a little planet of lack of understanding on the “sole of the policeman’s shoe”.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>One of the shows at Teatr.doc is a reading on the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolotnaya_Square_case">Bolotnaya Square case</a>, where people who served prison sentences in connection with the 2012 protest tell the stories of their arrests, trials and prison experiences. PostPlay Theatre has a one-person show called <em>The Identity Card</em>, which is performed by a Crimean director who moved to Kyiv from Simferopol. Do the actors and audience members use these to work through their own traumas?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ:</strong> It makes me cross when a person is reduced to the concept of “trauma”. It’s a word I hate, just as I hate the phrase, “theatre as therapy”. Theatre is a mass of things. The people who served prison sentences for Bolotnaya talk about themselves on stage. But they don’t say “I have experienced trauma”, they say “I’m bigger than my trauma”. They talk about how they were thrown into prison and about how, once you’re there, they try to turn you into an informer. I must avoid reducing our complex and fantastical world to a single concept.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG:</strong> We need to define our “toolkit” – not just what we say, but how we say it. I am not a trauma: I have one but it doesn’t define me.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>ZZ:</strong> For me, having a witness on stage is the best thing in documentary theatre. An actor can distance themselves as they say “Here I was an idiot, and here I was in pain”. In our Bolotnaya Square show the person on stage has no training in acting, not even a minimal actor’s toolkit – and that means there’s no distancing from the events. And when both eyewitnesses and actors come onto the stage you immediately see the difference. It’s a really strong moment and it works for these people themselves. It says: “You are someone interesting, people are listening to you, you are valued.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>I wanted to ask you about <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/this-is-why-ukrainian-film-director-oleg-sentsov-is-on-hunger-strike">Oleg Sentsov</a>. How can you cope with your powerlessness regarding his release? We all know that his fate depends on just one person, but the whole world is in solidarity. </strong></p><p><strong>ZZ:</strong> I can’t cope at all. The theatrical world, the world of writers and directors... it’s dreadful. He began his hunger strike two days before Elena Gremina’s death. I remember those two days: Ugarov had just died, Sentsov had begun his hunger strike and Elena Gremina was in hospital. The old world had passed away. You are nothing, you are powerless. You had nothing to help. There was no Gremina, who had talked been talking about this for four years, and no Ugarov, who had said that 2014 was a watershed for everything, the year when the abyss became only too obvious. And it made no difference whether you lived in the world of the theatre or not, you were powerless.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DG: </strong>I am very grateful to Oleg for not becoming a hero, for not turning into a living monument.</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/alexey-krizhevsky/new-drama-in-moscow">A new drama in Moscow</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/molly-flynn/justice-for-magnitsky-at-least-on-stage-0">Justice for Magnitsky, at least on stage?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexey-polikhovich/torture-missing-evidence-and-procedural-violations">Torture, missing evidence and procedural violations: how to make a terrorism case against 21 Russian Muslims</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/mikhail-ugarov/russia-s-young-people-are-not-angry-but-furious">Russia’s young people aren’t angry, they’re furious</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-rowley/diy-magazine-taboo-topics-russia-moloko-plus">How this DIY magazine is making space for taboo topics 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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia Can Europe make it? oD Russia Tetiana Bezruk Russia Thu, 20 Dec 2018 10:31:51 +0000 Tetiana Bezruk 121085 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “We don’t need the State Department to hold a revolution” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/hanna-liubakova/interview-svetlana-gannushkina <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russian rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina has been defending the rights of refugees and displaced persons for years. Here she talks about the decay of the judicial system in Russia, Chechnya and pessimism. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-lubakova/dlya-revoluzii-nam-ne-nuzhny-gosdepy" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/RIAN_1018736.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/RIAN_1018736.LR_.ru__0.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'>Human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina. Photo: Kirill Kallinnikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Russian human rights campaigner Svetlana Gannushkina has spent several decades defending the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced persons. She is the Chair of Russia’s<a href="https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=https://refugee.ru/ob-organizatsii/&amp;prev=search"> Civic Assistance Committee</a>, heads<a href="https://www.mott.org/grants/memorial-human-rights-center-migration-rights-network-199900469-02/"> Memorial’s Migration Rights Network</a>, and until 2012 was a member of Russia’s Presidential Council on the development of civil society and human rights.</p><p dir="ltr">During a recent trip to Grozny, I spoke to her about Russia’s “merciless revolt”, her own anarchic nature, Chechnya and why the Russian Constitution resembles mathematics.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>You have a copy of the Russian Constitution on your desk.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Yes, I carry it around with me everywhere. This is my third copy – the first two fell apart from wear.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>When did you first read it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I’m still reading it. I’m convinced that you always need legal texts before you.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>But the Constitution is difficult to change.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It’s easy, however, to change your reading. I’m a mathematician by profession, and in maths, if you’ve learned a theorem and know its proofs no one can shake your knowledge. But laws are subject to different interpretations. Article 81 of the Russian Constitution states clearly that no single person can occupy the post of President of the Russian Federation for more than two consecutive terms. But linguists have been found, who interpreted to suit the authorities’ needs.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Does the problem lie in an insufficiently stringent law?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Do you mean that the relevant article was not formulated clearly enough? Yes, it seems there can be different readings. The Constitution encompasses the essential concepts of how a legal system should work. In mathematics, these basic concepts are known as axioms.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>I remember: an axiom is a truth that doesn’t requires proof.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">What does that mean: “doesn’t require proof”? That means that it is impossible to prove, since we ourselves build a theory on the basis of the specific qualities that describe our object – in this case, our system of government. A system of legal axioms – that’s what the Constitution is. And what do we require of an axiom? That it contain no internal contradictions.</p><p dir="ltr">As for truth, that’s irrelevant here. We can require our axiomatics to contain the abolition of the death penalty, gender equality and minority rights – and that will give us one legal system. Or we could require other principles and have another one. So what does that make truth?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What would a law contradicting the Constitution be in mathematics?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">A theorem, an assertion which is incorrect.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>“You are our pride”, “You are our figurehead”, “A person of honour and conscience”, “Thank you for your selfless life” – these are a few of the comments on your social media pages. Many people value you.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">People write different things. The best poster about me that I ever saw read: “Gannushkina is the mother of anarchy”. If anarchy is the mother of order, I must be its grandmother. My father always said that I had an anarchic nature. He was right!</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Where did that poster come from?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It was from a rally outside the High Court in Grozny: a protest action against us, in fact, as we are now involved in a court case with the Chechen Interior Ministry, which is suing us over defence of its business reputation. Admittedly, afterwards one of the protesters who were portraying an angry crowd came up to me and said: “Our apologies: they made us do it”.</p><p dir="ltr">People do remember<a href="https://cpj.org/data/people/anna-politkovskaya/"> Anna Politkovskaya</a>,<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jul/23/chechnya-natalia-estemirova"> Natalya Estimirova</a> and<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Popkov"> Viktor Popkov</a>. But they are afraid to talk about things openly, because Ramzan Kadyrov and his associates have sown fear and obsequiousness all around. But there is also a new generation, some of whom see Kadyrov as a model of masculine strength, power and money, while women are becoming second-class creatures.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>You wrote in 2008 that during the Chechen War it was women who “saved their sons, husbands and brothers” and who “helped our people survive”. But you also write that women are repressed in today’s Chechnya. It seems there’s a paradox here.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It’s not a paradox. And unfortunately it’s not a purely Chechen situation.</p><p dir="ltr">In wartime, women raise their social status, change their role in society, they shoulder all the responsibility for their entire family. It was Chechen women who blocked roads, held up tanks, demanded the return of their husbands. When there was a real campaign against Chechens in other Russian regions, when men were afraid to leave their homes, their wives drove around the markets, sold things, cleaned rooms and earned the money to feed their families. And then...then men take revenge on their wives because they were unable to protect them.</p><p dir="ltr">This thought occurred to me when I read about how the most civilised French men behaved towards women accused of collaborating with the Germans after France’s liberation in 1944. They beat them and shaved their heads, to punish them for their own humiliation.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>It’s 2018 now. Are you still working on Chechnya and Nagorno Karabakh?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Not a single wave of refugees has been completely integrated in Russia, and not a single conflict is over. The housing problems of refugees from Azerbaijan who fled to Russia in the early 1990s have still not been resolved.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Have there been changes in Chechnya?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Well, here we are, in the centre of Grozny. You can see how the streets are lit up, how many pleasant cafes there are, how people are relaxed as they stroll along. We know it’s not completely safe, even here, but there’s no comparison with what it was like during the war. Back In 2002, Lida Yusupova [the former Grozny head of the historical and civil rights organisation Memorial] and I were wandering around these streets, still chaotic after the Second Chechen War, and she suddenly said calmly, as though there was nothing odd about it, “Hold your breath, there are corpses lying in the cellars here.” People here are prepared to put up with a lot to avoid that happening again – they are ready to pay for peace with silence.</p><p><strong>Are you still an optimist?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Actually, I’m pretty pessimistic about the future. But you have to believe in the success of whatever project you’re engaged in, otherwise how else can you work?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Oyub Titiuev, the head of Memorial’s Chechnya office, is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/no-defence-in-chechnya">currently on trial on drug possession charges</a>. Do you believe in the possibility of success in this case?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Titiyev’s lawyers are working brilliantly, but the verdict isn’t in their hands. But if Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] was to talk to Ramzan Akhmatovich [Kadyrov], and he were to tell the trial judge that it was time to wind the case up, we could perhaps expect a relatively positive result.</p><p>If he is acquitted, however, it won’t be thanks to the brilliant work done by his defence team, but only if Vladimir Vladimirovich has a word with Ramzan Akhmatovich.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Previous trials on drugs charges in Chechnya have ended with real prison sentences.</strong></p><p>Yes, I feel really guilty — we basically missed two previous cases because we didn’t make enough noise. These were the trials of human rights campaigner<a href="https://themoscowtimes.com/news/human-rights-activist-arrested-on-drug-charges-in-chechnya-60145"> Ruslan Kutayev</a>, who was also tortured, and journalist&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dominik-k-cagara/disappearing-journalists-of-north-caucasus">Jalaudi Geriyev</a>, who was supposedly arrested in a cemetary in possession of marijuana, which he was going to smoke, even though he had a flight booked that day. No one seems to believe in our courts anymore; it’s just that in Chechnya the lies are even more blatant and preposterous.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>200 grammes of marijuana found on Titiyev, a former PE teacher?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Everyone knows Oyub is innocent. All he’s done is defend people and permit himself to criticise the authorities. He wouldn’t have anything to do with drugs.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/201801europe_russia_chechnya_titiev_memorial_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/201801europe_russia_chechnya_titiev_memorial_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The arrest of Oyub Titiyev has provoked international outcry. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center.</span></span></span>What’s interesting here is the dynamic: the higher the quantity of a drug required before a criminal charge is brought, the more the cops have begun to find. So it’s clear that it’s all a complete fabrication.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>You also don’t believe in the Russian judicial system.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">When the judicial system is in a state of total collapse, the guarantor of the Constitution is its chief violator and parliament is completely subjugated to the executive power, an explosion is inevitable.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Who will be in charge of lighting the fuse?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Those who created this system. We don’t need any external pressure, any “State Departments” to hold a revolution.</p><p dir="ltr">I feel – and this is to my great disappointment – that our rulers lack all sense of self-preservation. Because any destabilisation becomes a trigger for groups who are inclined to use violence – nationalists and the police. Neither of these factions will hesitate to employ force and extreme measures.</p><p dir="ltr">“God forbid that we should see a Russian revolt, senseless and merciless” – Pushkin’s words are as relevant today as in his time.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>“Everything is falling apart,” that’s one of the first things you said to me when we were arranging this interview. Is this your pessimistic forecast?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The governmental system is in a state of collapse. And this is called “Russia rising from its knees”. I don’t know when it ever was on its knees – this is some complex that Putin has.</p><p dir="ltr">Our government thinks that it has the right to decide what’s good and what’s bad, no matter what the law says. Take the education system, for example: migrant children are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anastasia-platonova/russia-refugee-children-school">being excluded from schools</a>, even though Article 43 of the Constitution guarantees, among other things, a universal right to education. And what can we expect from these children, for whom Russia is a hostile environment that rejects them?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>President Putin recently promised to simplify the process for receiving a Russian passport and offer asylum to people experiencing persecution.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">And on the other hand, he proposed passing a law that would remove someone’s citizenship if they were convicted of terrorism, extremism or other criminal charges. Or, to be exact, it wasn’t even a question of loss of citizenship, but of the annulment of the original decision to offer citizenship. The official logic runs like this: if someone has sworn to uphold the Constitution, and then committed a crime, then that is a question of “knowingly fraudulent information” which can declare their citizenship null and void.</p><p dir="ltr">This is like calling a calling a marriage fictitious on the grounds that the couple promised to love one another and then one of them cheated on the other.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is this a false theorem?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It is ignorance of Einstein’s theory of relativity: first, there has to be a cause, and then an effect. But our lawmakers work in the opposite direction.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Do you feel you have support from other people (and not just commentaries on social media)?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Of course. We have more volunteers than we know what to do with. Our work also attracts the attention of the foreign press and we have endless invitations to conferences. But unfortunately, we’re better known abroad than we are in Russia.</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/ekaterina-neroznikova/no-defence-in-chechnya">No defence in Chechnya: Oyub Titiyev and the grim future of human rights in Russia’s North Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasia-platonova/russia-refugee-children-school">Not in my classroom: Russia’s refugee children struggle to get to school</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-grinko/why-moscow-will-never-get-museum-of-migration">Why Moscow will never get a museum of migration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/strangers-in-village">Strangers in the village </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Hanna Liubakova Russia Human rights Thu, 20 Dec 2018 10:04:24 +0000 Hanna Liubakova 121082 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rough justice in Kyrgyzstan https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-kapushenko-savia-hasanova/rough-justice-in-kyrgyzstan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">New data shows that 96% of people who find themselves before a Kyrgyz court receive a guilty verdict (unless they are state officials, that is).</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/sud_main.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/sud_main.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Kamilla Khalilova for Kloop.kg. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Over New Year 2018, Rustam, 42, was <a href="http://act.sot.kg/act/download/83392.pdf">arrested</a> in south-east Bishkek by two police officers, who searched him in the presence of two witnesses and found a bag containing four grammes of hashish on him.</p><p dir="ltr">In court, Rustam admitted to buying the drugs for personal use, but asked the judge not to give him a custodial sentence, as he was the sole breadwinner in his family — a married man with two children. He had no previous convictions and his colleagues and neighbours spoke well of him.</p><p dir="ltr">The judge had two options: for this offence, Kyrgyzstan’s Criminal Code provided for a 20,000-50,000 som fine, or a three to five year sentence in a prison colony. The judge chose the latter and sentenced him to three years in prison.</p><h2>Pro-prosecution stance</h2><p dir="ltr">Rustam’s case is a good example of how Kyrgyzstan’s legal system works. First, judges tend to hand out guilty verdicts. Second, it’s not serious criminals, who are actually a danger to society, that suffer, but one-off minor offenders such as Rustam.</p><p dir="ltr">To get their heads round the workings of the system, journalists from Kloop news agency downloaded and analysed 26,000 criminal cases tried in different level courts over the last six years.</p><p dir="ltr">Their first conclusion was that the overwhelming mass of defendants in lower level courts are found guilty, and in three out of four cases they receive custodial sentences. Just <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1upBMPYZGfp6UbMnbG0xIcuXHb2z5TvSK4ytRy_4d0fo/edit#gid=8716098">four percent</a> of defendants are found innocent.</p><p><iframe id="datawrapper-chart-fUNG0" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/fUNG0/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" height="360"></iframe></p><script type="text/javascript">// <![CDATA[ if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["fUNG0"]={},window.datawrapper["fUNG0"].embedDeltas={"100":640.0208339999999,"200":410.020834,"300":341.020834,"400":314.020834,"500":314.020834,"700":287.020834,"800":287.020834,"900":287.020834,"1000":287.020834},window.datawrapper["fUNG0"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-fUNG0"),window.datawrapper["fUNG0"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["fUNG0"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["fUNG0"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("fUNG0"==b)window.datawrapper["fUNG0"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"}); // ]]></![cdata[></script><p dir="ltr">The judges in Kyrgyzstan’s appeal courts and at the Supreme Court usually show solidarity with their colleagues and confirm their sentences, although the odd appellant has had their conviction overturned — 6.6% are <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1U-fEdHhDemcJxu16C8w-TnzQdOw9tTeUR8NlHEp4ygA/edit#gid=1795401615">declared innocent</a> at this point.</p><p>Kloop’s analysis also shows that convicted defendants usually receive custodial or suspended sentences, usually of three to five years.</p><p><iframe id="datawrapper-chart-znlxu" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/znlxu/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" height="360"></iframe></p><script type="text/javascript">// <![CDATA[ if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["znlxu"]={},window.datawrapper["znlxu"].embedDeltas={"100":717.0208339999999,"200":523.0208339999999,"300":454.020834,"400":427.020834,"500":400.020834,"700":400.020834,"800":400.020834,"900":374.020834,"1000":374.020834},window.datawrapper["znlxu"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-znlxu"),window.datawrapper["znlxu"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["znlxu"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["znlxu"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("znlxu"==b)window.datawrapper["znlxu"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"}); // ]]></![cdata[></script><p dir="ltr">Many articles of the Criminal Code provide for other types of penalty, but judges mostly ignore those. Only 0.4% of the cases analysed, for example, have ended in community service or <a href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/centralasia/Accessibility_of_HIV_prevention_treatment_and_care_services_for_people_who_use_drugs_and_incarcerated_people_in_CA_countries_and_Azerbaijan_Summary_Reports_and_Final_Recommendations_2_Eng.pdf">a threefold ayip (compensation of damages)</a>.</p><h2>Inquisitorial justice</h2><p dir="ltr">Rights campaigner and lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov says that Kyrgyzstan’s judges hand down so many guilty verdicts because the country has inherited the Soviet Union’s system of “inquisitorial justice”, where judges see irregularities on the prosecution side, but take a relaxed view of them and “fills in the rest with a bias to the prosecution.”</p><p dir="ltr">“[Judges] don’t notice prosecution irregularities and pay little attention to the arguments of the defence, as they have already decided that the defendant is guilty,” Toktakunov says.</p><p dir="ltr">He sees a number of reasons for this: judges are subordinate to other branches of government, including the president; they are corrupt and afraid of the law enforcers — and they also have a condemnatory mindset.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/sud_01.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/sud_01.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Kamilla Khalilova for Kloop.kg. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Rita Karasartova, a rights campaigner, believes that this situation, where judges generally hand down guilty verdicts, leads to impunity on the part of the law enforcement agencies, who “feel themselves to be masters in a police state”.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s a terrible thing when an innocent person becomes a criminal simply because of someone’s whim or desire to make money,” Karasartova says. “It also leads to higher costs for the state, as prisoners have to be housed, fed and guarded.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to both Karasartova and Toktakunov, judges tend towards custodial sentences because they are “sources of income” for them. “It’s a source of dirty money, because freedom can be bought and sold. If people are set free or shown clemency, where will the judges get their money from? Freedom has to be paid for,” says Toktakunov.</p><h2>Drug users stay behind bars</h2><p>Among Kyrgyzstan’s lawbreakers it’s drug users, and certainly not the most dangerous offenders, who suffer the most. The country’s legal system punishes users a lot more harshly than dealers, and this tendency has been increasing over the last ten years.</p><p><iframe height="360" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/XFz3u/1/" id="datawrapper-chart-XFz3u"></iframe></p><script type="text/javascript">// <![CDATA[ if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["XFz3u"]={},window.datawrapper["XFz3u"].embedDeltas={"100":664.0208339999999,"200":523.0208339999999,"300":454.020834,"400":427.020834,"500":400.020834,"700":400.020834,"800":400.020834,"900":374.020834,"1000":374.020834},window.datawrapper["XFz3u"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-XFz3u"),window.datawrapper["XFz3u"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["XFz3u"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["XFz3u"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("XFz3u"==b)window.datawrapper["XFz3u"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"}); // ]]></![cdata[></script><p dir="ltr">Our research confirms this: “Illegal preparation, acquisition, possession, transport or shipment of narcotic substances without intent to sell” is the article of the Criminal Code <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1upBMPYZGfp6UbMnbG0xIcuXHb2z5TvSK4ytRy_4d0fo/edit#gid=8716098">most frequently used against defendants</a> in Kyrgyzstan. And drug users have the highest rate of conviction in the courts: 14%, as opposed to dealers, of whom only 3.5% are convicted and imprisoned.</p><p dir="ltr">Rights campaigners believe that the reason for so many drug convictions is that these cases are the easiest to initiate and investigate, while boosting detection rates at the same time.</p><p>Sergei Bessonov, the CEO of Kyrgyzstan’s Harm Reduction Association Network, works with drug users and thinks the police set up the people who buy drugs from them, to show how they bring results.</p><p>“A police officer can earn money, climb the career ladder and acquire information — all without doing a thing,” Bessonov says. “People are not usually detained at random: it generally happens immediately after they’ve scored some drugs, because the cops know who is selling and where.”</p><p>According to Bessonov, a lot of users are arrested and sentenced for thefts, which they carried out in order to buy drugs.</p><p>“It is stupid to send users to jail, thinking that they’ll come off their drugs — there are even more drugs available there, and they’re cheaper. We are all paying for people to be sitting behind bars,” says Bessonov.</p><h2>While the officials go free</h2><p>Kyrgyzstan’s judicial system may be harsh to some people, but others get a free pass. In August 2015, the Kyrgyz security services detained a police officer by the name of Bakyt red-handed in possession of a $1,000 bribe – he was reported by his acquaintance, Zakir (names have been changed). According to Zakir, the cop extorted $8,000 out of him, as well as beating him up at the police station and threatening to plant 50 boxes of hash on him.</p><p>In court, Bakyt pleaded innocent and stated that Zakir owed him $2,000. The court believed the police officer for lack of any proof against him, although he could actually have been convicted of extortion, accepting bribes and abuse of his functions.</p><p>Data from <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1U-fEdHhDemcJxu16C8w-TnzQdOw9tTeUR8NlHEp4ygA/edit#gid=1113926868">Kloop’s analysis</a> show that in lower courts, the highest rate of innocent verdicts (18%) come from cases of “abuse of functions” and “extorting a bribe”.</p><p>Rights campaigners feel that the courts use the law selectively when trying civil servants, officials and police officers, which is why they are so often found not guilty.</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/sud_02.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/sud_02.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Kamilla Khalilova for Kloop.kg. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Klara Sooronkulova, a former Constitutional Chamber judge and now rights campaigner, believes that it is not just police and officials who are absolved in court, but judges themselves.</p><p>“There have been cases when a judge has been caught red-handed for a corruption offence, but then gets off scot free in all three courts,” Sooronkulova <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4u3Qw1zHSo">said</a> at a roundtable event in October this year.</p><p> Rita Karasartova also monitors the work of Kyrgyzstan’s courts and feels that there are categories of crime where it’s forbidden to issue guilty verdicts. For example, according to Karasartova, most torture cases against police officers rarely make it to court. And when they do, the judges usually take the side of the law enforcement.</p><h2>The Supreme Court stays silent</h2><p>The Supreme Court’s reaction to Kloop’s analysis is still unknown: its members didn’t respond to queries and requests for comment for a whole month, and then announced that “we have no material or documents on these issues”. We tried to contact the president of the court, or their deputy, to clarify the issues, but to no avail.</p><p> The court made its position somehow public in June this year, when Kachyke Esenkanov, then Supreme Court Deputy Chair, <a href="http://www.blive.kg/video:389871/">declared</a> that “in criminal cases there should be no ‘not guilty’ verdicts in principle”.</p><p>“Given that the investigators work in accordance with the law, they should bring a case to court if guilt has been conclusively proven,” &nbsp;Esenkanov said. “It shouldn’t happen that an innocent person is subject to investigation and then brought to court. This just shouldn’t happen, although admittedly it sometimes does.”</p><p>The Supreme Court described its Deputy Chair’s statement as “his personal opinion”, but refrained from declaring its own position on the Kyrgyzstan legal system’s pro-prosecution stance.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article was&nbsp;<a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/12/07/vy-predstali-pered-sudom-v-kyrgyzstane-sochuvstvuem-skoree-vsego-vy-poluchite-srok/">originally published</a>&nbsp;on Kloop, a Kyrgyz investigative website. We translate it here with their permission.</em></p><div><em><br /></em></div><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/kyrgyzstan-survives-on-money-made-by-migrant-workers-but-it-doesn-t-know-how-to-spend-it">Kyrgyzstan survives on money made by migrant workers, but it doesn’t know how to spend it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/elnura-alkanova/what-happened-at-bishkek-power-plant">Abuse of power? On the trail of China&#039;s mystery millions in Kyrgyzstan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/zhyldyz-frank/double-discrimination-in-kyrgyzstan">Double discrimination: why Uzbek women in Kyrgyzstan are a minority within a minority</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Savia Hasanova Anna Kapushenko Kyrgyzstan Tue, 18 Dec 2018 17:18:44 +0000 Anna Kapushenko and Savia Hasanova 121030 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Don’t let Russia leave the Council of Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yuri-dzhibladze-konstantin-baranov/don-t-let-russia-leave-council-of-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those who wish to punish the Kremlin for its aggressive actions in Ukraine and elsewhere are missing the target: it is not the Russian government, but the Russian public who will suffer if the country leaves the Council of Europe.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Bundesarchiv_B_145_Bild-F023908-0002,_Straßburg,_Tagung_des_Europarates.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Bundesarchiv_B_145_Bild-F023908-0002,_Straßburg,_Tagung_des_Europarates.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Session of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in the former House of Europe in Strasbourg, 1967. CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia / Bundesarchive / Engelbert Reineke. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>After the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alona-savchuk/crisis-in-the-azov-sea">Kerch Strait incident</a>, proponents of pushing Russia out of the Council of Europe seem to have got additional justification for their position in a discussion that rages in the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). In fact, the potential costs of this departure appear to be too high and far-reaching – not only for the Russian society, but for the whole of Europe.</p> <p lang="en-GB">More than four years since its delegation has been deprived of voting and participation rights in the PACE, Russia is now a step away from leaving the Council of Europe – either at its own initiative or as a result of expulsion for non-payment of its membership fees. In recent months, the situation has reached a deadlock due to an uncompromising position of both the Russian authorities and their critics in the PACE.&nbsp;</p> <p> Those who wish to punish the Kremlin for its aggressive actions in Ukraine and elsewhere miss the target: it is not the Russian government, but the Russian public who would suffer the most, should the country leave the Council of Europe. Since 1996, when Russia joined the organisation, for millions living in the country (including nationals of other states), the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has been an ultimate hope for justice, which they cannot find in Russia. In this period, almost 2,500 judgements have been delivered to Russia. In 2017 alone, the state paid over 14.5 million euros as just satisfaction to victims. The judgments have had a significant positive impact on Russian laws and judicial practice, despite their <a href="https://rm.coe.int/russian-factsheet/1680764748S">implementation being far from ideal and counting to roughly one-third of cases</a>. Should Russia depart from the Council of Europe, the scope of human rights problems in the country will grow exponentially, including a threat of speedy reinstatement of the death penalty.</p> <p> The potential consequences would go far beyond the deterioration of the internal situation. This move would not resolve the issue of the annexed Crimea or put an end to the armed conflict in Donbass. On the contrary, expelling the violating country would demonstrate the weakness of the European system of protection of human rights and the rule of law in dealing with such gross violations.</p> <p> What is more, Russia’s withdrawal would definitely worsen conditions of citizens of Ukraine and other countries who are held in Russian prisons and face unfair trials, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. It would also result in a denial of the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to inhabitants of Russia-controlled Crimea. It would eliminate effective guarantees from deportation for refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Finally, the practice of expulsion of a member state might trigger other countries to leave the Council and deter Belarus from returning to a special observer’s status at the PACE.&nbsp;</p> <p> Politicians should assume full responsibility for making the choice that may define Europe’s future and work towards a solution that would preserve the common European legal framework and space for critical dialogue aimed at promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law on the entire territory of Europe, including Russia.&nbsp;</p> <p> We do not demand to "give in to blackmailing". Lifting all restrictions on the Russian delegation in the PACE would be indeed unprincipled. However, finding a reasonable solution, in our view, would be a courageous decision to take responsibility and to advance the core values of the organisation by allowing the critical dialogue to continue. Amending the PACE rules of procedure – restricting national delegations’ rights only within the Assembly itself and not depriving them of the voting rights in elections of non-PACE mandates – including ECtHR judges, Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary General – appears such a legally sound and reasonable solution.&nbsp;</p> <p> Threats by Russian officials to leave the Council of Europe are not just a bluff to raise the bargaining stakes. There are many influential people in the Russian political establishment in favour of isolationist policies who actually want the country to withdraw. If a reasonable solution is not found before next spring, Russia’s authorities will not wait for the official discussion of its potential expulsion at the Committee of Ministers in June 2019 and will announce the withdrawal from the Council before.&nbsp;</p> <p>It should be clear to everyone: Russia’s departure from the Council of Europe would not stop human rights violations and halt the authoritarian backslide in our country, or prevent the Kremlin’s aggressive behaviour in the international arena. Instead, it would put an end to a difficult struggle of Russian civil society to make Russia an important part of Europe on the basis of shared norms and values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. It will turn a large territory in Europe into a legal "grey zone" for decades to come.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p> <em>The authors represent a group of Russian human rights defenders who recently issued a <a href="https://mhg.ru/addressing-crisis-relations-between-council-europe-and-russia-uphold-values-and-fulfil-mission">Memorandum</a> on the crisis in relations between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation.</em></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/oleksandra-matviychuk-volodymyr-yermolenko/why-russia-should-not-enjoy-impunity-in-council">Why Russia should not enjoy impunity in the Council of Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/volodymyr-balukh-crimea-fabricated-case">How the Russian authorities fabricated criminal charges against Crimean farmer Volodymyr Balukh</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ruslan-minich/the-story-of-pavlo-hryb">Abducted and illegally detained: the story of Pavlo Hryb, another Ukrainian prisoner of the Kremlin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-gukovsky/making-them-pay-for-maidan">Making them pay for Maidan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/oksana-trufanova/why-russian-prison-officers-can-kill-with-impunity">Why Russian prison officers can torture with impunity</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Konstantin Baranov Yuri Dzhibladze Russia Thu, 13 Dec 2018 11:49:06 +0000 Yuri Dzhibladze and Konstantin Baranov 120984 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Crisis in the Azov sea: the fate of Ukraine’s naval personnel in Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alona-savchuk/crisis-in-the-azov-sea <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What happened in the Black Sea on 25 November, and what awaits the Ukrainian personnel held in Russia? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alena-savchuk/delo-ukrainskih-moryakov" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/PA-39926668_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/PA-39926668_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kerch Strait. Photo: Bai Xueqi / Xinhua News Agency / PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Early in the morning of 25 November, three Ukrainian vessels – the Nikopol gunboat, the Berdyansk gunboat, and the Yany Kapu tugboat – set sail from the Black Sea port of Odessa and advanced towards Mariupol, on the Sea of ​​Azov, via the Kerch Strait. The Ukrainian Navy would subsequently describe this as a “planned movement” of ships.</p><p dir="ltr">In accordance with international norms, the Ukrainian navy had given the Russian side advance warning of their intentions, notifying a coast guard post of the FSB’s Border Service, as well as the seaports of Kerch and Kavkaz, that the vessels would be passing through the Kerch Strait. Though the information was received, no response followed. The FSB later declared that the Ukrainian vessels had “violated Russian territorial waters” and dispatched four ships to confront them. One of these ships, the border guard patrol ship Don, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcTSDaCg5xA">rammed</a> the Yany Kapu tugboat (according to an investigation by Bellingcat, Russian ships <a href="https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-europe/2018/11/30/investigating-the-kerch-strait-incident">rammed the latter at least four times</a>). Russian ships then blocked passage under the Kerch Bridge by running aground a tanker on the ​​Azov side, and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkrz4I5ni0Q">scrambled</a> two missile-armed combat helicopters to escort the Ukrainian ships.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-06 um 14.51.32_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-06 um 14.51.32_0.png" alt="" title="" width="160" height="214" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Berdyansk gunboat after the damage. Source: Franak Viačorka / Twitter.</span></span></span>The blocking of the passage to the Azov Sea continued until the evening. At 19:00 Kyiv time, the Ukrainian ships made to exit the Kerch Strait and return to Odessa, only for Russian vessels to set off in pursuit with demands that they stop their engines. The Ukrainian ships had already left the 12-mile (22.2-kilometre) territorial zone around Crimea when the Russian ships opened fire on the Berdyansk, damaging it. The Nikopol and the Yany Kapu were forced to stop, and all three ships were subsequently seized by Russian special forces.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://news.liga.net/politics/video/ruki-vverh-strelyaem-liganet-publikuet-peregovory-na-azove">Audio recordings of the exchanges</a> between the two sides have captured shoot-to-stop threats issued to the crew of the Berdyansk by the Russian coast guard ship Izumrud, with crew members ordered to appear on deck with their hands up. In response, Roman Mokryak, the Ukrainian vessel’s captain, requested assistance, informing the Russian side that there were wounded men on board and reiterating that the ship had already left the 12-mile zone and wasn’t engaging in armed aggression or violating passage rules.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Command lost contact with the Ukrainian personnel after midnight. “The fate of the sailors isn’t known to us,” said Viktor Muzhenko, chief of the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. Later, the FSB reported that the border patrol boat delivered the wounded Ukrainian sailors to Kerch City Hospital No. 1, following which Russian ships escorted the captured Ukrainian vessels to the port of Kerch along with the rest of the crew.</p><h2>“This is economic aggression”&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr">The Kerch Strait situation began to deteriorate six months ago. In late April 2018, the FSB Border Service’s Coast Guard began selectively detaining and inspecting both Ukrainian and foreign merchant ships en route to and from Mariupol and Berdyansk. The weeks after the opening of the Kerch Bridge saw a steady proliferation in the number of such incidents, with all passing vessels being stopped for inspection since the end of June.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">According to Andriy Klimenko, editor-in-chief of BlackSeaNews, 110 inspections <a href="https://www.blackseanews.net/read/142725">took place between 17 May and 31 October</a>. These inspections would unfurl along the following lines: under cover of night, a coast guard boat would approache a large ship carrying tens of thousands of tonnes of cargo and demand that it stop its engines. Armed balaclava-clad individuals then board the ship, herd the sailors into the mess and proceed to check their documents, paying particular attention to any Ukrainian citizens. Claiming that they’re on the lookout for weapons and explosives, this group then set about inspecting the cabins, the hold and the crew’s luggage.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Ships cannot pass under the Kerch Bridge simultaneously in both directions – they must do so in sequence. First a number of vessels from the ​​Azov Sea to the Black Sea, then vice versa. The FSB inspections meant a significantly longer waiting period. By October, ships would be waiting three days for clearance to enter the Azov Sea and four to leave it – a circumstance that entailed the disruption of delivery schedules and additional expenses for the shipowner to the tune of $5,000 to $15,000 a day. It was only to be expected that demand for entry to Ukrainian ports diminished, while the competitiveness of the ports themselves tailed off.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The detention of ships in the Sea of ​​Azov constitutes pressure on the economic system of Ukraine”</p><p dir="ltr">“The detention of ships in the Sea of ​​Azov constitutes pressure on the economic system of Ukraine. Their goal is to exert the greatest possible influence on the activities of Ukrainian ports in two seas through exports and currency supply, and, in so doing, to exacerbate the economic situation in Ukraine. This is economic aggression,” <a href="https://www.liga.net/politics/articles/pole-boya---voda-kak-moskva-davit-na-ukrainu-azovskom-more">insisted</a> Boris Babin, the permanent representative of the Ukrainian president in Crimea, as early as June of this year.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/643_205">2003 Ukraine-Russia agreement</a> regarding the common use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait defines the Azov Sea as “internal waters” of both countries and stipulates that it may be freely used by both countries’ military and commercial vessels. Since the annexation of Crimea, however, the rules of passage through the Kerch Strait, which is also the sole entrance to the Azov Sea, have been arbitrarily determined by Russia. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In an attempt to reverse the course of events, Ukraine undertook a dual strategy, doing its utmost to draw attention to Russia’s actions and enlist the support of international institutions while simultaneously strengthening its positions on the Sea of ​​Azov.</p><p dir="ltr">In late October, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in which it condemned Russia’s actions in the Sea of ​​Azov, denounced the construction of the Kerch Bridge and called for an intensification of sanctions against the Russian Federation if the conflict were to develop further. The European Parliament’s censure was echoed by the US.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/PA-39263373.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/PA-39263373.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'>Mariupol sea trade port. Photo: Ivanov Stanislav / Zuma Press / PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“These aggressive actions in the Sea of ​​Azov, where Russia is obstructing access to Ukrainian ports, are violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and undermining international law,” US diplomat Jonathan Cohen told the UN Security Council at the time.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Navy had begun transferring its ships to the Sea of ​​Azov, with two small Gurza-M-class armoured artillery boats transported there by land in September. The Gurza-M ships immediately began escorting merchant ships from Mariupol and Berdyansk to the Kerch Strait. The number of FSB inspections instantly declined: there were eight in September, two in October, and none at all in November.</p><p dir="ltr">In late September, two more naval vessels, the Donbas command ship and the Korets tugboat, crossed the Strait en route from Odessa to Mariupol. This came as a surprise for the Russian side, who hadn’t been asked to green-light the crossing; nonetheless, they neglected to respond. But on 25 November, when the Ukrainians decided to replicate this earlier manoeuvre with three further ships, their attempt to do precipitated an armed attack against, and subsequent capture of, the vessels and their crew.</p><h2>Criminal proceedings in occupied Crimea</h2><p dir="ltr">Immediately after the Ukrainian ships were captured, the FSB announced that it had opened a criminal case against the Ukrainian personnel on charges of illegal border crossing. The FSB also <a href="https://riafan.ru/1125046-stali-izvestny-lichnosti-zaderzhannykh-ukrainskikh-voennykh-v-kerchi">publicised details</a> about the Berdyansk’s three wounded crew members (all of whom were taken to the traumatology department of Kerch City Hospital) via pro-regime media. The crew members were named as Andriy Artemenko, Vasyl Soroka (subsequently confirmed to be a Ukrainian security service officer by the SBU), and 18-year-old Andriy Eider (the youngest of the captured servicemen). “They have been given medical treatment and are not in mortal danger,” RIA Novosti <a href="https://ria.ru/world/20181126/1533503358.html">reported</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">By that time the Ukrainian navy had already lost contact with the ships’ crews and wasn’t providing any information about the sailors’ identities. Moreover, the Russian and Ukrainian sides differed in their claims regarding how many people had actually been taken prisoner: while Russian ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova reported that 24 servicemen had been captured, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces put the number at 23.</p><p dir="ltr">On the evening of 26 November, the FSB published a video showing the interrogation of three Ukrainians – captain Volodymyr Lisovoy, sailor Serhiy Tsybizov and SBU counterintelligence officer Andriy Drach. The videos show the sailors repeating formulas used by the Russian security services: “I recognise that our actions were provocative in nature”; “we entered the territorial waters of the Russian Federation”; “we were repeatedly warned about acting in contravention of Russian legislation”. Ukrainian Navy Commander Ihor Voronchenko responded by affirming that the sailors had “provided false testimonies under psychological and physical duress”, including testimony regarding Drach’s affiliation with the SBU. On the morning of the next day, however, the agency’s press service <a href="https://ssu.gov.ua/ua/news/1/category/2/view/5463#.3khEKwK6.dpbs">confirmed</a> that two SBU officers were present on board the ships.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-06 um 14.57.30_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-06 um 14.57.30_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Volodymyr Lisovoy. Photo: Kommersant Photo Agency/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Lawyers subsequently passed on to the sailors a letter of support from Admiral Voronchenko. “I understand how hard things are for you now. The Navy’s combat sailors all have an understanding attitude towards the so-called testimony currently being demanding from you. After all, the working methods of the Russian special services are a secret to no one,” the commander wrote. “You acted legally, professionally and in accordance with the norms of international maritime law and existing treaties. The law is on our side – and the whole world understands that.”</p><p dir="ltr">At roughly the same time the FSB broadcast the sailor’s tesitmony, reports emerged that that the Kiev District Court of Simferopol would choose the form of pre-trial restraint against the Ukrainian sailors on 27 November. Over a dozen Crimean lawyers involved in various political trials on the peninsula began working on the case, scouring the peninsula in an effort to find their clients – but to no avail.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The lawyers managed to discover some initial details about the incident, and about the psychological and physical condition of the Ukrainian servicemen, immediately before the start of court proceedings in Simferopol. At the same time, the total number of captured sailors (24) was definitively established, as were their identities. According to the lawyers, not a single serviceman mentioned being beaten to the defence counsel, but some did confirm that they were “subjected to psychological duress to elicit the necessary testimonies”. A case in point was Serhiy Tsybizov, one of the sailors filmed for the FSB video, who explained what happened to lawyer Oksana Zheleznyak and gave her a handwritten note to pass on to his family: “All’s fine with me. Don’t worry. Love and kisses to everyone!”</p><p dir="ltr">On 27 November, the Kiev District Court of Simferopol remanded twelve Ukrainian sailors into custody at a pre-trial detention centre until 25 January; another nine sailors were remanded on the following day, with no exception being made even for Simferopol resident Denys Gritsenko. Gritsenko’s parents attended his hearing and confirmed that if he were to be placed under house arrest, they would be ready to provide him with accommodation and care.</p><p dir="ltr">“If [he] remains at large, fearing the severity of the punishment, having no permanent residence in the Russian Federation, being citizens of another state, [the suspect] can conceal himself from the preliminary investigation and the court, threaten witnesses, destroy evidence” – it was in these terms that the FSB investigation argued for the necessity of keeping every one of the sailors in custody at the detention centre.</p><p dir="ltr">A similar ruling was made by Kerch City Court vis-à-vis the three wounded sailors. Yet lawyer Alexey Ladin learned about the previous court hearings in the late evening from the Russian media.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Under interrogation, POWs are obliged to provide nothing more than their surname, name, rank, date of birth and personal number – Russian investigators had no right to ask any additional questions</p><p dir="ltr">“For a whole day I was unable to ascertain the exact whereabouts in Kerch of my client Vasily Soroka,” said Ladin. “I spent the whole day trying to get through to the investigator so I could ask about the upcoming hearing regarding the imposition of pre-trial restraint against him. The investigator got five missed calls from me along with a text message and a voicemail.” Such conduct on the part of the investigation, added Ladin, would suggest that “impermissible measures of some kind” have been used against the sailors.</p><p dir="ltr">In his motion for the arrest of the Ukrainian servicemen, Sergei Kulakov, Deputy Head of the Investigation Department of the Crimean FSB, accused them of “crossing the state border of the Russian Federation without proper permission,” and doing so as an “organised group” (punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment as per Article 322.3 of the Russian Criminal Code). The investigation insists that the sailors acted “jointly and in concert, undertaking dangerous manoeuvres that posed a danger to ship navigation”. None of the Ukrainian servicemen pleaded guilty in court.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-06 um 15.03.22_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-06 um 15.03.22_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yany Kapu before the incident. Source: FSB.</span></span></span>“Yuri [Budzylo, the Yany Kapu’s midshipman] said he had no access to any documents or information regarding the vessel’s route and lacked the authority to issue orders to other crew members. All he knew was that they had to sail from the port of Odessa to the port of Mariupol,” said Ayder Azamatov, Budzylo’s lawyer.</p><p dir="ltr">“We were stood there, waiting for the pilot, and then we were attacked. We didn’t violate anyone’s border. I don’t consider myself guilty,” Edem Semedlyaev, lawyer of Oleh Melnychuk, the Yany Kapu’s captain, quoted his client as saying. “He understands that these are political actions being pursued by Russia in an attempt to discredit Ukraine.”</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the fact that the Russian Federation has repeatedly described the captured sailors as having violated rules on crossing the state border and is “processing” them under its Criminal Code, Ukraine has consistently communicated its position: Russia’s actions constitute armed aggression, the captured sailors are prisoners of war and, as such, are entitled to the protection of the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war.</p><p dir="ltr">“The detained Ukrainian sailors were all on-duty Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel and they were all wearing appropriate identification tags – a fact contested neither by Russia nor Ukraine. There is therefore no doubt that the Ukrainian sailors are combatants and that they acquired the status of prisoners of war following their detention,” <a href="https://ru.krymr.com/a/pochemu-zaderzhannie-ukrainskie-moryaki-voennoplennie/29625551.html">explains</a> international law expert Evgeniya Andreyuk.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Russia was obliged to inform Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross about any actions undertaken in respect of the sailors immediately after detaining them, and to grant Red Cross representatives access to them. Under interrogation, POWs are obliged to provide nothing more than their surname, name, rank, date of birth and personal number – Russian investigators had no right to ask any additional questions. Furthermore, the Russian side was obliged to provide the sailors with living conditions comparable to those enjoyed by Russian servicemen; under no circumstances should they have placed them in pre-trial detention or temporary holding facilities.</p><h2>Custody in Crimea: solidarity and support</h2><p dir="ltr">It became evident after the first day of court proceedings that the Ukrainian sailors would all be held in pre-trial detention for two months. While the Ukrainian agencies busied themselves with making statements and threatening Russia with sanctions, Crimea’s activists swung into action. Close to midnight on 27 November, Nariman Dzhelyalov, an activist from the Crimean Tatars national movement, announced a collection of essential items, clothing and money for the sailors. “They’ve nothing on them save their military uniforms,” the lawyers explained.</p><p dir="ltr">At this point, the 12 Ukrainian servicemen arrested on the first day were already confined in Simferopol pre-trial detention centre. Other detainees had collected some tea, coffee and a few odds and ends of clothing for them.</p><p dir="ltr">The morning of the next day saw people from all over Crimea bringing toiletries, clothing, shoes and food to the courthouse in Simferopol. Furthermore, the volunteers amassed over 200,000 roubles’ worth of donations. In Kyiv, meanwhile, Ukrainian journalist Osman Pashayev announced that he’d be collecting funds for the sailors – and raised over 400,000 hryvnia within three days.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The morning of the next day saw people from all over Crimea bringing toiletries, clothing, shoes and food to the courthouse in Simferopol</p><p dir="ltr">“Someone wrote in my comments recently, ‘Ukrainians, where are you?’ And an ordinary Ukrainian [from Crimea] has just passed on 44 pairs of trainers [to the captured sailors]. They’re all brand new,” said Crimean Tatar activist Riza Asanov.</p><p dir="ltr">Working late into the evening of 29 November, volunteers carried on collecting and buying essentials and clothes. Parcelling up and weighing food in accordance with the requirements of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service, they prepared care packages for the detained Ukrainian sailors. With this work in full swing, the servicemen’s lawyers received initial reports regarding their clients’ relocation from Crimea.</p><p dir="ltr">It wasn’t until midnight that all the lawyers’ and activists’ sources concurred that the Ukrainian sailors, the wounded ones included, had been relocated to Moscow. After this was confirmed in the capital, Russian journalist Victoriya Ivleva announced another fundraiser for the Ukrainians, raising just short of 400,000 roubles in three days.</p><p dir="ltr">On 3 December, Crimean Tatar activists delivered care packages they’d put together on the peninsula to Moscow. “My friends and I took it upon ourselves to bring over the items and food we collected for them in Crimea, and to get the care packages to them with the help of local friends to give them a bit of normality in such a depressing place,” explained Dzhelyalov. The Crimeans were assisted in their endeavour by Moscow-based activists and human rights defenders.</p><h2>Moscow: “standard conditions”</h2><p dir="ltr">On the morning of 30 November, Lyudmila Lubina, Commissioner for Human Rights in Crimea, officially confirmed that the crews of the three ships had, to a man, been relocated from the peninsula to Moscow “for the duration of the investigation”. By lunchtime, representatives of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission had found 21 sailors in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention centre, and the three wounded in the medical unit of the Matrosskaya Tishina detention centre.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“The detainees are living in standard conditions – that means cells 1.5 metres across and 2 metres long, iron beds, mattresses, wool blankets, green-painted walls. Later they’ll be transferred to cells with cellmates – these will have fridges and possibly TVs. The Ukrainians said they’re feeling fine. They ate buckwheat porridge in the morning and were given an hour of yard time. They’ll be given books to read after lunch,” <a href="https://tvrain.ru/blog/blog_kogershyn_sagievoj/zhalob_na_uslovija_soderzhanija_net_kogershyn_sagieva_posetila_ukrainskih_morjakov_v_lefortovo-494/">reported</a> Moscow PMC member Kogershyn Sagiyeva following a visit to Lefortovo. Though the sailors voiced no complaints about their detention conditions, she added, they were unhappy at the fact that they’d been deprived of contact with their relatives.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We can definitively state that absolutely nothing is decided in the Russian courts. The courts’ job is to translate the political will of the regime into procedural form”</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, Sagiyeva’s fellow PMC member Pavel Pyatnitsky reported on the wounded sailors. They’d all sustained fragment wounds, he said: Vasily Soroka and Andriy Artemenko to the arm, Andriy Eider to the legs. Artemenko had also suffered damage to his sclerae.</p><p dir="ltr">“Immediately upon admission, all three were examined by the therapist, surgeon, neuropathologist and infectious disease specialist. They underwent ECGs and ultrasound scans and had their bloods taken. Artemenko will also be examined by an ophthalmologist. The hospital’s head doctor has assessed the condition of all three patients as being stable and satisfactory,” said Pyatnitsky. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Russian lawyer Nikolai Polozov, who’s defending Captain Denys Gritsenko and coordinating the overall defence of the Ukrainian sailors, stresses that all information regarding the sailors’ health and detention conditions requires official confirmation. As of yet, the FSB’s Investigative Department has neglected to grant the lawyers access to the detainees; nor have Ukrainian diplomats and ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova been given permission to visit them. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“A practice has evolved in Lefortovo whereby the investigator must approve lawyers’ access to their clients,” explains Polozov. “The FSB’s Investigation Department has so far failed to respond to my applications for access to the pre-trial detention centre. And it remains unclear who the case investigator is, whether an investigation team has been put together, and whether the case has been transferred from Simferopol to Moscow.”</p><p dir="ltr">That said, Polozov believes that the defence can and should use this pause (“taken for some reason by the FSB agencies”) to coordinate their position. At the moment, the primary objective is to assemble a team of lawyers from a list featuring “50-odd people”: “It’s imperative that there aren’t any special service moles in this team.” Polozov notes that this tactic of undermining the defence is quite standard in serious political trials.</p><p dir="ltr">On the evening of 7 December, Mammet Mambetov, who represents Ukrainian seaman Andriy Oprysko, reported that he was contacted by a Russian investigator, who planned to conduct “investigative tasks” relating to Oprysko on 11 December in Moscow. </p><p dir="ltr">On the same evening, Ukraine’s human rights commissioner Lyudmyla Denisova stated that the Ukrainian consul in Moscow had visited three injured seamen in the Matrosskaya tishina prison, and four seamen in Lefortovo prison. According to Serhiy Pohoreltsev, the condition of the wounded men is satisfactory: the injuries are from shrapnel, the men’s bones and joints are intact. The Ukrainian seamen held in Lefortovo have not made any complaints about conditions, and asked about their wounded comrades and passed on greetings to their families. Pohoreltsev confirmed that the Ukrainian prisoners had received parcels from activists in Crimea, and reported that he was planning to visit the remaining naval personnel on Tuesday and Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr">As regards the development of events in the case, Crimea’s Supreme Court is imminently due to consider the sailors’ appeals against their detention. The detainees will most likely take part in hearings via video link.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the active involvement of lawyers in the case of the Ukrainian sailors, Nikolai Polozov is convinced that their fate depends “utterly and entirely” on the Kremlin’s political will: “We can definitively state that absolutely nothing is decided in the Russian courts. The courts’ job is to translate the political will of the regime into procedural form. The decision will depend on the political lie of the land: if the latter’s unfavourable, a decision regarding an exchange will materialise earlier, and if not, then why even bother with the issue? Let them stay in jail.”</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-bezruk/crisis-in-azov-sea">The crisis in the Azov Sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alona-savchuk/how-russias-security-services-target-crimean-tatars-as-islamic-terrorists">How Russia’s security services target Crimean Tatars as “Islamic terrorists”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture">Crimea: peninsula of torture</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Alona Savchuk Ukraine Wed, 12 Dec 2018 13:18:16 +0000 Alona Savchuk 120970 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “It’s very difficult to investigate anything while the war continues”: Ukrainian human rights activist Yevgen Zakharov on investigating war crimes https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna/sokolova/yevgen-zakharov-on-investigating-war-crimes-in-eastern-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Four years since the war in eastern Ukraine started, issues over qualification and investigation of war crimes are coming to the fore. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-sokolova/nelzya-sidet-slozha-ruki-i-zhdat" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/229916.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/229916.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'>Photo CC BY ND 4.0: OSCE / Evgeniy Maloletka. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Two Ukrainian civic organisations, the <a href="http://khpg.org/en/">Kharkiv Human Rights Group </a>and <a href="https://mb.net.ua/en/">Shore of Peace</a>, recently <a href="http://khpg.org/files/docs/1541515430.pdf">published a report</a> into violent crimes committed in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014-2018.</p><p dir="ltr">Examining the destruction of residential neighbourhoods and infrastructure, unlawful arrests, torture and arbitrary executions, rights campaigners see signs of violent crime and crimes against humanity as defined by the 1998 Rome Statute. And in parallel with the report, these organisations are compiling a presentation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is due to be sent to The Hague in the near future.</p><p dir="ltr">I talked to Yevgen Zakharov, director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, about the prospects of these crimes being investigated.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Do you believe the ICC will investigate the crimes described in your report?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine is now at the stage when the question of whether the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) will open a preliminary investigation is being decided. This is why it makes sense to present the information that should convince the court that there are grounds for investigation. I think the OTP will begin an investigation: it seems to me there is enough proof that crimes have been committed.</p><p dir="ltr">The ICC only examines these kind of cases when a state isn’t doing so. It is the state’s job to investigate and prosecute such crimes and hold those responsible accountable before its national courts. When the Court decides that a state cannot or will not do this, it opens an investigation. This is the principle of complementarity, and, so far as I know, it hasn’t come up in previous submissions relating to the conflict in Ukraine – investigations on the basis of these submissions still haven’t been started. </p><p><strong>The ICC prosecutes individuals who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Do you name the people you consider guilty of these crimes?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In our submission, we talk about violent crimes, such as extrajudicial execution, the torture of POWs and unlawful detention and captivity in inhuman conditions. We present our view of how and by whom these crimes were committed and lay out the evidence proving this. We also include information on civilian deaths and civil buildings that have been destroyed, and have set up a database of civilians who have been killed or injured. We have a list of over 3,000 names of casualties, complete with full names and dates and the location and circumstances of their death.</p><p><strong>Ukraine has not yet ratified the Rome Statute, the basis for the ICC’s work. Does this place obstacles in the way of investigations?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Not in this case. The issue is that the Ukrainian government has made two statements: in the first, it requested the ICC to investigate the events that took place between 21 November 2013 and 22 February 2014 – this is Euromaidan. In the second, it extends this request to cover the period after 22 February 2014.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/JevgenZakharov.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/JevgenZakharov.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yevgen Zakharov, 2011. CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia / Natalka Zubar. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is enough for the ICC OTP to begin an investigation into the conflict in Ukraine. Although, of course, Ukraine will need to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute. There is in fact provision for this in Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the European Union and changes to its Constitution. However, these changes have now been postponed for three years.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why do you think the Ukrainian government hasn’t ratified the Rome Statute?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The government is afraid to face accusations that its representatives, its lawful military formations, have committed crimes of the kind being prosecuted by the ICC. But this is, in fact, a mistake: if they have committed such crimes and this is proved, the guilty parties can be prosecuted, whether or not they have ratified the Statute.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What is happening with submissions to the ICC over the events of the Euromaidan?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There have been submissions claiming that actions by national forces can be regarded as crimes against humanity, but for the moment the ICC OTP has not accepted this argument and believes there are no grounds for initiating a preliminary investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">For a crime to be considered a crime against humanity and a war crime, you have to prove that these were crimes of a large-scale and systematic nature. If you look at the practice of the ICC, they usually understand “large-scale” as the deaths of more than 1,000 people. During Euromaidan, the death count was much lower. And as for a systematic nature, these events happened in Kyiv and although there were similar events in other cities, they couldn’t be regarded in the same light as there were practically no casualties. But this issue remains open – the OTP is ready to hear additional argumentation and can change its point of view.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Some people believe that investigation of these crimes should be left until after the end of the conflict. What do you think?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It’s very difficult to investigate anything while the war continues. How can you investigate crimes committed in areas outside governmental control, if the relevant agencies have no access to them and it is impossible even to inspect their location, collect evidence or question the people involved? Once the conflict is put on hold, all the dead will be identified and buried – at present there are masses of unidentified casualties on both sides of the demarcation line – only then can we start talking about amnesty and reconciliation.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">We have to recognise that we can’t just sit and wait until the war comes to an end. As time passes, evidence disappears</p><p>On the other hand, we have to recognise that we can’t just sit and wait until the war comes to an end. As time passes, evidence disappears. So we need to do what we can. Unfortunately, this means talking about the lack of action on the part of Ukraine’s government authorities – the police, the prosecutor’s office and the security services, who have carried out hardly any investigations into these crimes.</p><p>Meanwhile, the military prosecutor’s office is investigating crimes against POWs and civilian hostages who have been held captive under appalling conditions, tortured and denied medical help. Hundreds of people have been killed in captivity. To investigate this part of the picture, we need to at least question everyone who has since been released (official figures put their number at 3,244). The military prosecutor’s office is now quizzing each one of these people, trying to identify lawbreakers – torturers, people who held others captive. This should have been happening a long time ago, from the very start of the conflict.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Apart from the military prosecutor’s office, what other official bodies are engaged in documenting violent crimes taking place during the conflict in Eastern Ukraine?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The problem is that until 30 April this year, the conflict was officially regarded as an “Anti-Terrorist Operation”, so if a shell fell on a house during a rocket attack, its destruction, or the deaths of anyone living in it, were seen as an act of terrorism, rather than a war crime. And terrorist acts fall under the jurisdiction of the Security Service of Ukraine, which does not have the resources to investigate such an enormous number of crimes (40,000 residential buildings have been destroyed during the conflict). In order for them to be investigated, they would first have to be reclassified as war crimes.</p><p dir="ltr">The Security Service, in its turn, is responsible for handling crimes linked to separatism and treason. But mass phenomena such as injuries, civilian casualties and the destruction of property are simply not investigated. When the question arises of crimes committed in areas that are not under government control, the authorities usually fall back on the excuse that they have no access to them. But in fact, even crimes committed in areas that are under government control aren’t being investigated. But things are finally changing – the national police’s Central Investigation Department has set up investigation teams to look into the issue.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>A <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/crisis-in-azov-sea">State of Emergency</a> was recently imposed in Ukraine’s border regions. How might this affect its citizens’ access to their constitutional rights?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I don’t think it will have any effect. There’s an old Soviet joke about how government apparatchiks would answer any question from Western journalists with the statement: “but this will have no effect on the prosperity of Soviet citizens”. It’s the same thing now: we’ve reduced Ukrainians’ pay, but this will have no effect on their prosperity; we’ve raised utilities charges by 30%, but this will have no effect on citizens’ prosperity; we’ve imposed a State of Emergency, but this will have no effect either. But, to tell the truth, we could hypothetically expect this measure to be used to limit the public’s rights. It’s hard to say yet. They’ve made verbal promises that it won’t happen, but their written statements are more ambiguous. In other words, it all depends on whether the government decides to do it, or not. I don’t think it should seriously affect the situation.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Do you think<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/the-murder-of-activist-kateryna-handzyuk"> the large number of attacks on civil rights activists</a> is linked to revolution and conflict in Ukraine?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Indirectly, yes, because in general there is now a greater tolerance of violence. But attacks on activists are more often to do with local property disputes, when the warring sides look for allies in the voluntary sector. And when we talk about attacks on activists, we need to look at each instance individually. I don’t think the situation is as black and white as it is often portrayed. Each case is different, and you can’t just say that they’re not being investigated. I have checked the information on the 12 cases with the most serious consequences, and they have all been investigated, although admittedly, none of the perpetrators have been found.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>As well as attacks on activists, we have seen an increase in<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-sokolova/can-integration-help-ukraines-roma"> pogroms against Roma settlements.</a> Would it be right to say that Ukrainian law enforcement is not interested in qualifying these crimes as a violation of Ukrainian citizens’ equality?</strong></p><p>That’s hard to say, because you have to prove criminal intent. Here, the concept of intent is interpreted somewhat simplistically – someone would have had to find an order to destroy the Roma settlement. It was more as though someone said, “Boss, your instruction to burn the Roma settlement has been carried out.” That’s why there are very few cases brought here under the criminal charge of violating citizens’ equality. Moreover, the Roma don’t <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-sokolova/can-integration-help-ukraines-roma">want to participate in the investigation</a>. On the other hand, we can see <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/yevgenia-belorusets-interview">society’s attitude to Roma</a>, we can see xenophobia. It’s wrong to think that representatives of the police are much different from other members of society.</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="/gabriel-levy/eastern-ukraine-we-need-new-ways-of-organising">Eastern Ukraine: “We need new ways of organising”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ganna-sokolova/can-integration-help-ukraines-roma">Could integration help Ukraine’s Roma?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maria-lipman-serhiy-kudelia/ways-to-end-the-conflict-in-ukraines-donbas">Ways to end the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas: an interview with Serhiy Kudelia</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> </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ganna Sokolova Ukraine Tue, 11 Dec 2018 20:36:45 +0000 Ganna Sokolova 120945 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gay life in Stalin’s Gulag https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-guskov/gay-life-in-stalins-gulag <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The sprawling system of Soviet camps contained many untold stories. I spoke to one of the few historians researching the experiences of gay men and lesbians in the Gulag to find out more. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-guskov/kviry-kotorye-proshli-cherez-gulag" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/5032970082_7c24cd9b67_b_0_0_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/5032970082_7c24cd9b67_b_0_0_0_0.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'>The Museum of the History of Political Repression Perm-36. Photo: Nikolay Losev / Flickr. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The list of publications about Stalin’s Gulag might be long, but what do we know about the lives of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/artem-langenburg/interview-with-ira-roldugina">queer people in Soviet concentration camps</a>? This interview introduces the work of acclaimed historian Dan Healey, who sheds light on how gay men survived the Soviet Gulag, their life afterwards and different attitudes in the USSR to gay men and lesbians.</p><p dir="ltr">Dan Healey, Professor of Modern Russian History at Oxford University, has explored the history of homosexuality in tsarist and Soviet Russia, the nature of masculinity under socialism, the problems of sexual disorders and sexual violence in the USSR and the history of medicine in Stalin’s Gulag. Healey is the author of the only published monograph on the history of homosexuality in Russia: Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent.</p><p dir="ltr">Kirill Guskov spoke to Dan Healey after the launch of his latest book: <a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/russian-homophobia-from-stalin-to-sochi-9781350000797/">Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do we know about gay/queer people in Gulag? Who were they?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We know from FSB archives and publicly accessible court papers that homosexual inmates of the Gulag were generally men aged between 25 and 50, most of them urban dwellers. We also know that 30% of these men had some connection with culture and the arts: they worked in worked in theatres or libraries or had literary occupations. The other 70% was made up of manual workers and people in “white collar” jobs. That gives you a kind of snapshot of the composition of the group of people imprisoned for their homosexuality under Article 154-a of the RSFSR Penal Code.</p><p dir="ltr">Sexual relations between men were punishable by imprisonment of between three and five years, and sexual relations between men with the use of violence or the subjugation of one party to the other were punishable by imprisonment of between five and eight years.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The subjects of your book were not only people arrested under Article 154-a. You talk about homosexual relations between prisoners convicted of other offences. What do we know about this second category?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/jpg_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/jpg_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dan Healey's latest book: Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi.</span></span></span>In the first place, we need to be careful when we talk about what it meant to be a homosexual in the Gulag. We don’t know for certain whether the prisoners analysed were actually gay or lesbian, or whether they just accommodated themselves to a particular culture. It’s hard to talk about this without any personal stories that could provide an idea of what these people thought.</p><p dir="ltr">In the second place, I can say that single sex relationships have existed in prisons at all times and in all countries. We have to remember that in most prison systems, men and women do not share accommodation. So in this kind of system, there are always people of a sexually active age who will try to enter a same-sex relationship. They existed in Russia as well as anywhere else. We know about this from Dostoevsky’s House of the Dead, Chekhov’s Journey to Sakhalin and numerous other pre-revolutionary memoirs. There were same-sex relationships between women as well: these relationships were documented in the 1920s by Soviet criminologist Mikhail Gernet. </p><p><strong>How did guards in the camps relate to these two categories of prisoner?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In different ways, but I want to answer your question by first talking about something else. We still don’t really know why Stalin decided to criminalise homosexuality. There are two theories about this. The first concerns the social purging of the cities, the second that Stalin had political reasons connected with the issue of national security. Soviet leaders feared that homosexual groups could make a pact with Germany or other powers to destabilise the USSR.</p><p dir="ltr">We can, however, offer a circumstantial explanation about the political nature of the decision. It’s known that in 1933 Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the Soviet secret police, wrote a letter to Stalin in which he said that “homosexuals are being arrested, but we have realised that we don’t have an article to charge them under. We think they are planning a plot.” Gays had their own groups, and this put the Soviet government on edge. Also, “outing”, the public disclosure of information about gays’ sexual orientation, could, in an atmosphere of public homophobia, become a potential risk for blackmail by foreign intelligence services.</p><p dir="ltr">The political interpretation of this “crime” was the reason for the severity of sentences under Article 154-a, as “politicals” were “socially hostile” inmates in the Soviet prison camp system. Homosexuals were treated even more harshly than prisoners convicted under Article 58 (anti-revolutionary activity), as everyone knew that “political” charges were often fabricated. This leads to the conclusion that those convicted under Article 154-a were the lowest of the low in the prison system, although homosexual criminals were treated less harshly, especially under Stalin.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Homosexuals were treated even more harshly than prisoners convicted under Article 58 (anti-revolutionary activity)</p><p dir="ltr">The second reason for the severity shown to gays was to do with public homophobia. Agents of the OGPU/NKVD (as the Soviet secret police was known at different times), the police and other bodies that dealt with these matters knew exactly what “crime” they were arresting homosexuals for. They feared and hated the arrestees, or at least showed hostility to them.</p><p dir="ltr">There’s one more important factor here: We know that Stalin personally corrected the draft law in 1934, and added the stipulation that the minimum sentence should be three years. People with sentences of less than three years were sent to penal colonies for “social correction”. These were usually to be found in the European part of Russia and close to towns, and their inmates were “socially close” and were expected to have become model Soviet citizens by the end of their sentence. But gays didn’t fall into that category. They were sent to camps in remote parts of the country and with inhuman conditions. Stalin seemed to be giving a “sign”: “They are the lowest of the low, they can’t be reformed”.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What kind of harsh treatment were they subjected to?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Homosexual prisoners were humiliated both physically and psychologically, separated from other inmates, forced to use separate toilets and kitchen equipment. They were also sometimes subjected to rape. Here the rapist, taking the active role, was not regarded as gay: he was a person asserting his power over a “degraded element”. We have, however, very few documents from this period, and no access to the ones that could provide us with more information. The “politicals” were mostly educated people who left memoirs behind them. The “ordinary” criminals were not educated people and had little desire to write autobiographies.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do you know about other types of gay relationships in the Gulag? Is there anything known about prison guards, for example?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Kozin_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Kozin_0.png" alt="" title="" width="160" height="223" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The singer Vadim Kozin. Source: Wikipedia. Public domain.</span></span></span>It’s nearly impossible to answer these questions, because few even amongst the most educated of Gulag inmates left any written documentation behind, given the homophobia of Soviet society and the all-embracing fear in the population. When ex-prisoners began to write about gay relationships in the Gulag, they would always talk about them as someone else’s experience, not their own. The singer Vadim Kozin spent five years in the camps, between 1945 and 1950, convicted partly under Article 154-a and partly under Article 58 (for making anti-Soviet remarks during the war). Kozin’s case is interesting because he left a diary which he had kept all his adult life, and part of it, the entries for 1955-1956, has been published.</p><p dir="ltr">But even Kozin doesn’t speak about his own homosexual experiences, if he had any, in the camps. He writes about “homosexuals in the theatre”, i.e. “them”, not “me”. Kozin worked in his local theatre with a pianist called Kabanov, whom he describes as “a tall, good-looking man”. When they went on tour around Siberia, Kabalov would always find a new “friend”. Kozin’s diary then records a conversation between him and Kabanov and a third, straight man, where Kabalov talked openly about his sexuality. Kozin was, of course, staggered by this frankness, as his diary entry shows.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>You write in your book that the most open gays in the camps belonged to the “criminal” population. What do you mean by this?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The memoirs written about homosexuals in the camps are mostly about common criminals. We have fewer reminiscences of members of the intelligentsia, because they saw their sexual and romantic lives as private and not to be “shown off”. They were also just plain ashamed of their sexuality. The prison management “loved” the criminals and didn’t particularly interfere with their activities. We know from the works of Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov that they had quite a lot of freedom: they could spend the whole day playing cards in their barracks and send their slaves out to work. This wasn’t a universal situation, but it was pretty widespread.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Could gay men and lesbians hold hands, for example, without anyone bothering about it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I would say that no one would make any fuss about it, because the “masculine” half of the couple would have a knife and could defend himself. Some memoirs talk about whole barracks-full of lesbians who worked together as couples and “controlled”, as you might say, the situation. Sometimes these couples would divide work between them: the “femme” would cook and clean while her “butch” partner would do the tree felling. It’s also known that protection from a mature, experienced partner was a big advantage for a younger woman. The younger partner in a male gay relationship would sometimes become more feminine and even take a female name, and an equivalent development might take place in a lesbian relationship.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did society become more homophobic after the Gulag was closed down?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">That’s a difficult question. On the one hand, there were a lot of “visible” gays returning from the camps. On the other, the 1950s and 1960s were years when the average Soviet citizen began to pay more attention to his or her own private life. People escaped from communal flats into housing estates. And what do we see? I noticed that in the Leningrad region, people realised that some of their neighbours were in gay relationships but paid no attention to it: it was just other people’s private lives. In 1988-1989 I brought a group of American tourists to Leningrad. Our guide was Sasha, a tall blond with several layers of makeup on his face. He would do his face right in front of our tour bus, as he told us about the city’s sights. The tourists were, of course, just amazed.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened to homosexuals after their release from the camps? Might they be open in Moscow?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In Moscow, no, but definitely in other places! The question is more about how successfully they could “pass” for the opposite sex when they, for example, smoked or had typical male or female haircuts, clothes and so on. After 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, doctors and people in the Gulag administration started talking openly about the issue at various conferences.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Were people punished for having gay relationships in the Gulag?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It did happen, but we have very little evidence of what happened to them because the relevant documents have been kept in camp archives, which are deposited in a kind of multi-layer matryoshka of OGPU-NKVD archives. Take the case, for example, of a paediatrician named Titov who was imprisoned in the Solovki prison camp (from which the entire Gulag grew) in Russia’s far north in the 1930s. From what I remember, he was convicted on Article 154-a but then given an additional 10 year sentence for being caught “in flagrante” in the camp. There are similar examples in various memoirs.</p><p dir="ltr">Things like this happened throughout the Soviet period for various reasons, including political ones. One famous case was that of filmmaker Sergey Paradjanov, who was arrested and imprisoned several times for his homosexuality, the first time in 1948.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>It’s well known that there were gays and bisexuals in the political and cultural elites of the Stalin era. Could you say that there was one law for the elite?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_хили_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_хили_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="181" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dan Healey. Source: history.ox.ac.uk</span></span></span>The USSR was no different from other countries in that sense. Yes, members of the elites were treated differently from the common crowd, because they were valued for their other talents. But there was another factor involved. Stalin definitely had problems with talented people. His relations with film director Sergey Eisenstein and composer Dmitry Shostakovich show that as soon as someone became world famous, they couldn’t be sent to the Gulag, although some – the renowned botanist and geneticist Nikolai Vavilov and writer Isaac Babel, for example – were made exceptions to the rule. Stalin’s logic was not always easy to understand. Eisenstein was bisexual (we know this from numerous sources) but Stalin didn’t touch him. He may have had compromising material on him. There was definitely compromising material on Vadim Kozin; the NKVD had him under surveillance. They knew he hung around with young men in the Metropole Hotel, where he lived, and which was of course a careless thing to do.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is there any evidence of workers, peasants and other groups which were not part of the intelligentsia being punished for homosexuality?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">That’s a good question, but we don’t have enough information on the subject to be able to talk about it. None of them kept diaries or wrote memoirs. When historians interested in the history of the LGBT community get into the archives, they will be able to find some material: researchers from Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Latvia have already begun to write about this, but they are still in the early stages of their quest.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why has there been no public forum or media campaign around all this? It would be an easy target for inciting hatred and rallying the people around their leader and party.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I think they were working on that scenario. A document shedding light on your question was discovered in the 1990s. It is a letter written in 1934, with the heading: “An open letter from Moscow and Kharkiv homosexuals to Mr Marinus van der Lubbe”. Van der Lubbe was a Dutch communist who was accused by Germany’s Nazi government of setting fire to the Reichstag in that year. He was also known to be an active homosexual. The letter seems in fact to have been a piece of provocation on the part of the OGPU, designed to justify arresting gays in the interests of national security.</p><p dir="ltr">In another letter to Stalin, the OGPU proposed more severe sentences for public expressions of homosexuality and for payment for sex between men. Stalin singled out the word “public” and crossed out the whole paragraph. That suggests to me that public discussion of this issue would have been extremely detrimental to Soviet prestige. There is another document from 1939 in the archives of Andrey Vyshinsky, the USSR’s General Prosecutor at the time, which talks about the organisation of a show trial, but this didn’t happen because it would have been politically inexpedient.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>So Stalin was worried about prestige?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Yes, of course, especially in the years before 1939 when the USSR was looking for friends and trying to become accepted by the global community via the League of Nations and talks with European powers in order to avoid war with Germany. If Stalin wasn’t worried about the prestige of his country, why should he have produced a purely ornamental Constitution in 1936? This constitution claimed that the USSR was the most democratic state in the world, with normal, civilised laws. And in any case, public trials were more of an exception than a rule: people were just quietly arrested and that was that.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>I looked up the figures for people imprisoned for their homosexuality. There weren’t that many. Did some avoid the Gulag?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There are a number of reasons for that. The law didn’t inevitably run its course in every case in other countries either. Also, the Soviet Security Services had enough on their plate without looking for homosexuals to arrest.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Was there a demand from “below”?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We don’t know. One document from the Stalin era (discovered by historian <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/artem-langenburg/interview-with-ira-roldugina">Irina Roldugina</a>) talks about the fact that when in 1932-1933 open gay men in Leningrad suggested having relations with straight men, the latter responded with violence and aggression. There is also a known case where gay and straight sailors got into a fight with one another. But there has been no systematic research on public homophobia.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why were lesbians immune from prosecution?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It’s a question of comparative gender attitudes. Most countries never introduced laws against lesbianism because women were traditionally restricted to the private sphere and were under the control of their husbands. Stalin and his circle did not approve of women’s emancipation: there was not a single woman in the Politburo, for example. I think that for Stalin, homosexuality was a “male” issue, connected to national security.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Stalin and his circle did not approve of women’s emancipation: there was not a single woman in the Politburo</p><p dir="ltr">Women, on the other hand, didn’t serve in the armed forces and weren’t particularly active in the security organs, so they were less of a risk. I also think that Stalin and his associates also believed that a good “seeing-to” by a man would cure them of any lesbian tendencies.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How did you find your sources? What difficulties did you face?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I didn’t set out to study homosexuality in the Gulag. My project was to be about health and medical care in the Gulag. But my initial work was on homosexuality, so I was immediately able to get into that area. I call this ability “a queer eye for the archive”. I found essential documents on homosexuality while working on my original subject. Sometimes people sent me stuff: they knew about me because I had published several pieces on the subject.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_Баркова_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_Баркова_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anna Barkova. Source: bessmertnybarak.ru</span></span></span>The difficulties I faced? As the saying goes, “the more haste, the less speed”. I think that when we talk about homosexuality, and especially when you are a foreigner, you can’t just go into the archives and ask for material on the subject directly. Most Russian archivists, apart from anything else, have no clear idea of what is in there. They believe inventories that were made ages ago. And the last thing is that you need a bit of imagination and a comparative approach. I would ask myself, “Where would the Germans and Americans have looked?” When I was doing research on health, I interviewed people who observed homosexual relationships. They were very old.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How did they react? Did their expressions change?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">No. I think that when you are over 80 in Russia, you couldn’t give a damn. I interviewed a doctor in Canada who had worked in the Magadan region between 1949 and 1989, and she, without my asking, described the venereal diseases in the camps where there were lesbians. And she used specific terms that would sound pretty homophobic to Canadian ears now: “All kinds of sexual perversions would take place”, and so on. But then she said, “Nowadays, of course, we would use a different, more positive language to describe lesbians and gay men”. She first heard about homosexuality during the war, when she was at medical school. Then she told me how she understood homosexuality: for her, it’s a biological mistake. She believes that some men become homosexual under the influence of “real” gays. This is a pretty widespread attitude towards homosexuality among educated Soviet doctors and experts.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did your research produce anything surprising or shocking, or give you any hope?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">My source of inspiration was the stories of people who managed to survive. One of them was the openly lesbian poet Anna Barkova. She was convicted on a political charge and was in and out of prison three times between 1930 and 1966, in other words her entire adult life. Vadim Kozin’s story is also tragic: the singer was refused permission to follow his profession to the end of his life. On the other hand, his diaries describe a world without homophobia, a world where human dignity will be respected. And that instils optimism in me.</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/artem-langenburg/interview-with-ira-roldugina">The inner lives of queer comrades in early Soviet Russia </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-fomina/igor-yasin-lgbt">Igor Yasin: “If there’s no freedom of assembly for LGBT, there’s none for anyone else”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexander-kondakov/putting-russia-s-homophobic-violence-on-map">Putting Russia’s homophobic violence on the map</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-guskov/i-spoke-to-four-russian-gay-men-on-discrimination-rights-and-vladimir-putin-">&quot;You have to start improving yourself to improve Russia&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/marina-shupac/lgbt-lives-in-moldova">LGBT lives in Moldova</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/evgenij-shtorn/the-future-of-russias-one-and-only-lgbt-film-festival%20">The future of Russia’s one and only LGBT film festival </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Kirill Guskov Russia Tue, 11 Dec 2018 07:36:56 +0000 Kirill Guskov 120808 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fighting for clean air in Kamianske, Ukraine https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/serhiy-guz/fighting-for-clean-air-in-kamianske-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This town in eastern Ukraine suffers from serious emissions thanks to its metallurgical plant. But rounds of public negotiations over pollution have revealed what it’s lacking most: accountability. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/serhiy-guz/ukrainskiy-gorod-v-zalozhnikah-u-kombinata" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/IMG_6779_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/IMG_6779_0.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'>Kamianske, formerly known as Dniprodzerdzyinsk, has a population of 300,000, and is close to the wider industrial area around the city of Dnipro. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Petrovsky family have a house of their own, with a small yard, in the town of Kamianske in eastern Ukraine. The house stands in an old district of the city centre, where some buildings date back to the early 20th century or even earlier. Admittedly, not many survived two world wars; those buildings that did are now designated historical monuments.</p><p dir="ltr">These days, the Petrovsky family only open their windows slightly, to air out the rooms. If they were to leave them open all day, the window ledges and everything nearby would be covered in a layer of black dust. Doing the laundry is another nightmare: the family don’t have a dryer, so they hang their damp clothes in the yard and then shake the graphite out of them afterwards.</p><p dir="ltr">In the summer, three generations of the Petrovskys like to gather in the little yard and dine on kebabs – after, of course, they have washed the graphite from the bench, table and chairs.</p><p dir="ltr">“I remember once going for a walk with my little nephew Timokha,” Yana Petrovskaya tells me. “We were outdoors for just over an hour, and then we had to wash all the graphite off him – it had clung so hard to his skin that a damp cloth wasn’t enough to remove it.”</p><h2>Life next door to the plant</h2><p dir="ltr">The Petrovsky family live in the Sanitary Protection Zone of the Dneprovsky Metallurgical Plant (DMK). The zone stretches for approximately a kilometre around the plant, and here housing construction is banned by law. People have, however, been living here for decades, as the plant is located near the city’s historic and administrative centre, including the city hall, central park, historical museum and Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches, as well as dozens of shops, banks, a pre-school nursery and two schools, a vocational college and many other facilities – not to mention hundreds of people’s homes.</p><p dir="ltr">Back in Soviet times, there were plans to re-house all the residents of the areas affected by metallurgical plant, and afterwards the relevant regulations were incorporated in Ukrainian law and <a href="https://gorod.dp.ua/dz/news.php?id=61667&amp;page=1&amp;co=up">re-housing plans even drawn up in 2011</a>. The only difference was that now the plant’s shareholders, rather than the state, would be responsible for the re-housing costs. But over the last few years, no one has been re-housed, and this year, when a new row arose over the increasing amount of toxic waste being produced by the plant, its owners claimed that nobody had asked to be re-housed outside the sanitation zone.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/IMG_1532_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/IMG_1532_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'>April 2017: for the first time in many decades, clear skies over the city. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>When I mentioned this to the Petrovskys, they merely laughed: they claim they haven’t been offered re-housing for many years. And they don’t believe that they will receive an equal trade in terms of a new apartment or adequate financial compensation – they’ve invested considerable financial and material resources into their house over the years. But they can’t afford to move to a cleaner area, so they have had to get used to the graphite dust and other emissions falling from the sky.</p><p dir="ltr">The Petrovskys aren’t the only people affected by pollution in Kamianske. Housing values have fallen steeply in this neighbourhood over the last few years, and it is now impossible to sell your house for a decent amount of money and move to a cleaner district. Industrial pollution is, in other words, no longer just an environmental problem – it is a social problem as well. And a rapidly growing one.</p><h2>Toxic waste in the wind</h2><p dir="ltr">The metallurgical factory has always been Kamianske’s main source of atmospheric pollution. The locals have jokingly christened their city “Dniprodym” (“Dniprofumes”, in reference to the city’s old name Dniprodzerdzyinsk) because of the permanent smog that hangs over its outskirts.</p><p dir="ltr">In the late 1980s, there were attempts to designate the city as an official environmental catastrophe zone, but the Soviet authorities didn’t agree. Then, when Ukraine became independent, the plant went through a bad patch, with a significant drop in production and a corresponding drop in toxic emissions. The mass environmental protests gradually died down too.</p><p dir="ltr">The local authorities and the plant’s shareholders would periodically dream up various projects to modernise production and lower toxic emissions, but most of them remained on paper, deadlines for their implementation constantly came and went and no one, except the local environmentalists, was bothered about it. The most recent project, the <a href="http://so.kam.gov.ua/ua/treezas_so/pg/374077690_d1/tpviewr/2/">“Kamianske Environmental Plan for 2016-2020”</a>, was signed off in 2015, after the Euromaidan revolution. This plan foresaw the <a href="https://www.5692.com.ua/news/1939073/vybrosy-na-dmk-obesaut-sokratit">complete reconstruction</a> of the complex’s sinter plant, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinter_plant">main source of the dust and graphite</a> that coats the city. But in 2017, something happened to change and exacerbate the situation in the city: production at DMK closed down for several months.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/sbor_podpisi_DMK3_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/sbor_podpisi_DMK3_0.jpg" alt="lead " 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'>Collection of signatures against emissions of DMK.</span></span></span>As a result, workers were temporarily laid off and their wages sharply cut. The local papers were soon full of job ads for metal workers at other firms, including the Interpipe factory in nearby Dnipro. Staff began to move to these other plants, leaving DMK with a shortage of trained staff, although this would only become apparent when the plant started operating again.</p><p dir="ltr">Thus, in spring 2017, residents saw a clear sky above the city for the first time in decades. Entire generations had grown up with industrial smog as normal a phenomenon as sunrise and sunset. Now they could fill their lungs with clean air.</p><p dir="ltr">Their joy was, however, short-lived. In August 2017, the plant returned to full-scale operations again, with graphite and dust emissions even worse than before the standstill. According to laboratory tests of emissions in both the sanitation zone and two kilometres away, the maximum permissible dust concentration was being exceeded four- or five-fold. The city was also periodically covered by an orange-coloured cloud from the complex’s.</p><p>At this point, locals and active citizens reacted, and petitions started landing on official desks, demanding that something be done.</p><p dir="ltr">It turned out that no reconstruction had even begun at the sinter plant, and the converter facility had been rebooted despite a faulty waste treatment plant. By mid-autumn 2017, the mass protests had started again, with picket lines and burning tyres outside the plant’s management offices. It seemed as though it wouldn’t take much to spark a real social revolt.</p><h2>Public unity</h2><p dir="ltr">“Although I don’t live in the worst area, I realise that the city’s future depends on its environmental state,” says Andriy Ivanchenko, a city council member and activist in the Strength of Community Kamianske organisation, which is trying to tackle the emissions issue. “For us, it’s less a question of fighting the company than trying to influence its owner, to get him to invest in the environment.”</p><p dir="ltr">After six months of protests and several inspections of the plant, the Kamianske city authorities signed a memorandum with DMK management, detailing the environmentally oriented changes that it needed to introduce. Instead of a complete reconstruction of the sinter plant, for example, there would be a reconstruction of its gas purification system instead. And the plant assumed responsibility for repairing the waste-heat recovery units in the converter plant.</p><p dir="ltr">But no one was going to hold up the work of DMK for the sake of eliminating the excessively high emissions. The company, in fact initiated a series of pseudo-public hearings, where they tried to justify amendments to the proposed environmental projects. It was only the principled position of civil society activists that partially blocked the process.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_dmk_konverter_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_dmk_konverter_0.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'>Emissions from the DMK converter plant, 2017. Source: 5692.com.ua.</span></span></span>The environmental activists noticed that the new financial obligations imposed on DMK were five times lower than the previous ones: the city council, having agreed to these terms, were in fact saving the company more than two billion hryvnya (£56m). In return, the company announced that they would give the city authorities a grant of initially 40 million (£1.1m), and later another 20 million hryvnya (£562,000) to finance civic projects designed to decentralise Kamianske’s heating system.</p><p dir="ltr">“We discovered that DMK received an<a href="https://www.iso.org/iso-14001-environmental-management.html"> ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management Certificate</a>, which also covers strategic environmental management,” Andriy Ivanchenko tells me, referring to a voluntary standards framework that organisations can sign up to. “But we see a discrepancy between the certificate and the actual operation of the metallurgical plant. We’ve just started a campaign to draw public attention to this breach of universally recognised standards, and perhaps we can get international environmental organisations to get involved in this issue.” </p><h2>Nobody’s toxic emissions</h2><p dir="ltr">Voice of Nature is Kamianske’s oldest environmental organisation (and one that I’m a member of). Its members also take part in various protest actions, but believe that they should concentrate their pressure on the state and local authorities, which have the power to affect the situation and monitor toxic emissions.</p><p dir="ltr">“We’d be wrong to imagine that DMK has no future,” says Yevhen Kolishevskyi, director of Voice of Nature. “The fact that the company’s owner is not implementing the company’s environmental programme or investing in modernising production saddens me. It’s possible that they, or those who manage the complex, are squeezing the last juices out of it, to then leave it to the winds of fate.” </p><p dir="ltr">Kolishevskyi’s NGO <a href="http://voice.dp.ua/ru/article/sobytija/238.htm">believes</a> that for jobs to be protected and environmental projects implemented, the city authorities should ask the Ukrainian government to re-acquire DMK, so that it then can then be sold to other investors who would be prepared to develop it.</p><p dir="ltr">The situation with the toxic waste emissions is complicated by the murky question of DMK’s ownership. Official registers name the Industrial Union of Donbas corporation as the company’s main shareholder, but Russia’s Vnesheconombank is registered as the corporation’s main shareholder. Many people in Kamianske believe that the Russian shareholders should bear responsibility for the factory.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Many people in Kamianske believe that the Russian shareholders should bear responsibility for the factory</p><p dir="ltr">“In 2015, when the Kamianske Environmental Plan was adopted, the complex was owned by Vnesheconombank. What would Russia want with us and our environment, given that they are fighting us and killing our people?” asks Mykola Kolyuchy, head of the Metallist trade union at DMK. “But there is another question: who should get the owner to cough up? There are certain legal provisions in the country; there are environmental services that should be monitoring the situation, demanding that deadlines be met and toxic emissions eliminated. Why do they treat their responsibilities this way, why aren’t they making demands of those that are polluting?”</p><p dir="ltr">Since April 2017, DMK has been managed by the<a href="https://metinvestholding.com/en"> Metinvest</a> mining and steel group. It belongs to Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who appointed DMK’s top managers and sources its raw materials.</p><p dir="ltr">Metinvest has won several lawsuits against the Industrial Union of Donbas corporation, to the tune of 20 billion hryvnya (£56 million), which the corporation is in no state to replay. The official sale of the DMK complex is also complicated by ISD’s enormous debts towards its other creditors. In the end, a semi-transparent deal has been done to allow DMK to be transferred to Metinvest without this transfer being recorded in any official registers.</p><p dir="ltr">Given this situation, many Kamianske residents are asking the reasonable question: “who is going to implement all the environmental obligations that DMK took on itself?” After all, at the end of the agreed periods, today’s Metinvest managers may just abandon the company if its ownership has not been officially transferred.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The steel workers have to endure dangerous environmental conditions both at work and at home</p><p dir="ltr">The factory’s unknown future also makes hostages of all its workers, who have played little part in the anti-emission protests. The steel workers have to endure dangerous environmental conditions both at work and at home, although no one ever complains to the union about it.</p><p dir="ltr">“You have to understand people who were scared by last year’s standstill at the plant: that could happen again, and then where would you find 10,000 jobs?” Mykola Kolyuchy asks. “Here, the state needs to take the lead in both environmental issues and the stability of the company. But have you noticed the state taking on that role? No one has. So people tell themselves that conditions might be appalling, but at least my family will have food in their stomachs.”</p><p dir="ltr">The city authorities and DMK are now promising to completely eliminate the excessive toxic emissions from the converter plant by the end of next year, and to modernise the cleaning facilities at the sinter plant by 2021.</p><p dir="ltr">Many people are of course unconvinced that these plans will come to fruition. In the next two years Ukrainians will go to the polls three times: to elect a president, a parliament and local councils. After this election cycle, a completely new set of people may be walking the corridors of power – and there will be no one left to keep the promises made.</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/vitalii-atanasov/kryvyi-rih-needs-alternative">Kryvyi Rih needs an alternative</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maksym-kazakov/how-workers-in-ukraine-metal-industry-are-fighting-for-wages-rights-democracy">How workers in Ukraine’s metal industry are fighting for wages, rights and democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/brian-milakovsky/a-frontline-factory">A frontline factory, an embattled oligarch and Ukraine’s industrial drift </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/gabriel-levy/eastern-ukraine-we-need-new-ways-of-organising">Eastern Ukraine: “We need new ways of organising”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/left-in-dark-inside-georgia-s-chiatura-mines">Left in the dark: inside Georgia’s Chiatura mines</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Serhiy Guz Ukraine Mon, 10 Dec 2018 22:17:44 +0000 Serhiy Guz 120733 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Renegade research”: hierarchies of knowledge production in Central Asia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mohira-suyarkulova/renegade-research <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For those researching the global south, fieldwork needs to be reimagined as a collaborative process which can help overturn structures of oppression.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/38875504285_d9855c50b3_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/38875504285_d9855c50b3_z.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'>Call to prayer in Karategin, Tajikistan. Photo CC BY-NC 2.0: Rohan Shenhav / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In the past couple of years a lively discussion has been taking place on the ethics and safety of conducting research in authoritarian states, including in Central Asia. Some of these exchanges were published on the pages of openDemocracy and EurasiaNet: earlier this year, a <a href="https://eurasianet.org/academic-freedom-in-tajikistan-endangered-what-is-to-be-done">piece</a> on Tajikistan by John Heathershaw and Edward Schatz was followed by responses from <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/malika-bahovadinova/academic-freedom-in-tajikistan-boycotts">Malika Bahovadinova</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/karolina-kluczewska/academic-freedom-in-tajikistan">Karolina Kluczewska</a>. This discussion is illustrative of the stakes involved.</p><p dir="ltr">In their article, John Heathershaw and Edward Schatz highlighted deteriorating academic freedom in Tajikistan. First, they considered and then dismissed as unacceptable a full boycott or “blacklist” of Tajik academic institutions. Instead, they called for “critical engagement and solidarity” with Tajik scholars. Malika Bahovadinova and Karolina Kluczewska took issue with Heathershaw and Schatz’s allegation that any research conducted in collaboration with Tajik institutions would be academically and ethically suspect, citing their own experiences of doing fieldwork in the country. They added that calls for boycotts and blacklists are counterproductive, disingenuous and conceal the contradictions of how research is conducted in the region.</p><p dir="ltr">In their response, Heathershaw and Schatz <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/john-heathershaw-edward-schatz/academic-freedom-in-tajikistan-critical-engagement-and-soli">rejoined</a> that</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">The debate on these questions is a hard one and must continue. But it must begin from a recognition that we as an academic community are all at risk from authoritarian regimes like Tajikistan which host our research.</p><p dir="ltr">Risks, however, are not equally distributed among researchers. The political economy of knowledge production shifts risks to some researchers while privileging others. The question then remains: How can research be conducted critically, ethically and in solidarity with local scholars?</p><p dir="ltr">This year, critical development scholar Japhy Wilson <a href="https://www.journals.uio.no/index.php/JEA/article/view/5942">published</a> an article entitled “Sabotage of Development: Subverting the Censorship of Renegade Research” in the Journal of Extreme Anthropology. The article was originally meant to become a chapter in his book on renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, but, according to the article itself, was removed by the publishing house out of fear of legal action. In the article, Wilson spells out seven principles of what he defines as “renegade research”, which may be used to undertake fieldwork under difficult circumstances in order to uncover the “things that power does not want you to know”.</p><p dir="ltr">This “renegade” agenda is certainly relevant to the ongoing discussion on research in Central Asia, especially in terms of engaging in critical research while building international scholarly solidarity. My fear, however, is that turning it into a principle does little to subvert the injustices inherent in the hierarchies of knowledge production between the “West” and the “Rest”.</p><h2>Uncovering the “hidden truth” in Uganda and elsewhere</h2><p dir="ltr">Wilson’s article is fascinating. It details the author’s fieldwork experience in Uganda, where he researched Jeffrey Sachs’s <a href="http://millenniumvillages.org/">Millennium Villages Project</a> (MVP), an ambitious development project financed by some of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions and corporations in the world. Wilson writes that contrary to “MVP’s extravagant claims of success”, his research uncovered mismanagement and corruption. He also describes his own experience of brief detention and pursuit by the Ugandan secret police on suspicion of “sabotage of development”, which were followed by threats of litigation made by Sachs’s foundation against him.</p><p dir="ltr">Apart from publishing censored material, the article criticises the institutionalised control over the conduct of research, often framed as “ethical research” protocols and institutional review boards’ approval requirements. Wilson argues that these institutions “function to shield power from scrutiny”, making critical and vigorous investigations impossible. Not only does the author discuss the “state-capital-academia” nexus based on his experiences in the field, but also articulates the principles of “renegade research”, which are as follows:</p><ol><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Do not seek ethical approval from your university</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Do not apply for a research visa from the host government</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Do not ask for clearance from the institution being studied</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Do not request informed consent from research participants</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Tell lies whenever convenient</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Pay bribes whenever necessary</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Steal information whenever possible.</p></li></ol><h2>Is there anything wrong with “renegade research”?&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr">These principles are deeply problematic, not simply because they go against the established norms of ethical conduct in conducting research, but because the author fails to acknowledge his own privilege and situatedness in the deeply unequal global political economy of knowledge production. The article also reads like a kind of heroic self-narrative that celebrates a (white, Western, male) scholar-adventurer, who parachutes into a country using the privileges of his passport and nationality, as well as his ability to pay bribes if needed and get out without any real consequences for his safety, career and reputation.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, we are not given any clue as to what happens to the author’s local research assistant – whose position and nationality obviously make him vulnerable to repercussions by the authorities – when Wilson is forced to flee the country. One is reminded of the fate of researcher <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28019761">Alexander Sodiqov</a>, who was detained in Tajikistan in 2014 while carrying out research, and then accused of espionage and high treason by the authorities. Sodiqov’s British counterpart – who was also the lead of the research project that employed him – was able to leave the country. Following an <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/david-w-montgomery/tajikistan-free-alexander-sodiqov">international campaign</a> and continued pressure on the Tajik authorities, Sodiqov was eventually released after four months of detention, but his case put the vulnerability of local researchers into stark relief.</p><p dir="ltr">Local academics work on the global periphery of knowledge production, are underfunded, and often have to accept exploitative working conditions. Central Asian scholars who are regularly recruited as data collectors for foreign-funded projects are alienated from their labour on many levels: they are excluded from the decision-making process concerning the formulation of the research question(s) and research design, as well as their work conditions and the final product.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Local academics work on the global periphery of knowledge production, are underfunded, and often have to accept exploitative working conditions</p><p dir="ltr">The risks of undertaking research on sensitive topics are also shifted onto local researchers, who bear the brunt of potential state persecution. At times, they even face the hostility of respondents with whom they have little opportunity to build a rapport given the usually short research timelines, as well as their lack of control over working conditions (transportation, accommodation and the duration of stay in the field site). During collaborations between foreign and local scholars, the intellectual division of labour often assumes that only the (usually Western) former are capable of analysis and theorising, while the latter are relegated to the task of data collection, as Malika Bahovadinova <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/malika-bahovadinova/academic-freedom-in-tajikistan-boycotts">argues</a> in her article on researching Tajikistan.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, Wilson does not address the possible resistance of local activists against the MVP in Uganda, as his self-centered narrative strips local actors of agency. The goal of the author does not seem to build an equal partnership and alliance with local progressive forces in a kind of activist-scholar show of solidarity. Instead, the study reproduces the all too common power dynamics and inequality in living and work conditions between foreign “researchers” and native “assistants”. In this sense, Wilson is very much rooted in the global hierarchies of knowledge production, which is often exploitative and extractive in that it sees the sites of research as a place characterised by a problem, whose solution can be found only by outsiders.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">However, we should challenge the construction of “authoritarianism” as exclusively located in countries outside North America and Western Europe. Rather than a parochial phenomenon, authoritarian tendencies are transnational, as the rise of the political right across the world indicates. Still, the fact that it is almost inconceivable to imagine a Central Asian scholar studying forms of authoritarianism in Great Britain or the United States is a testament to the asymmetry in the global infrastructure of knowledge production. Such studies are non-existent – or can only be satirical, as in <a href="https://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/nick.megoran/iFrame/MEGORANCAS2005.pdf">this wonderful</a> piece by Nick Megoran – precisely because of the existing power-knowledge structures.</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, the principles of “renegade research” prioritise the researcher’s interests above all other considerations. There seems to be a sense of entitlement on the part of the researcher to have access to the field in order to know “the truth”. While it is laudable to pursue the truth concealed by power, one ought to question their own motivations: why do you need to know? Who is this scholarship for? Whose needs does it serve? In the case of Central Asia, all too often scholarship serves outside audiences, with most of the findings published in a foreign language in obscure academic journals hidden behind a paywall, thus making them virtually inaccessible to the region’s citizens.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">If the purpose of “renegade research” is to overturn the structures of oppression and use academia to affect social change, then we should consider fieldwork as an essential part of this emancipatory agenda. Liberation cannot just be what happens after the findings of a study are published, but rather something built into the design and process of undertaking the research itself.</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/karolina-kluczewska/academic-freedom-in-tajikistan">Academic freedom in Tajikistan: western researchers need to look at themselves, too</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/malika-bahovadinova/academic-freedom-in-tajikistan-boycotts">Academic freedom in Tajikistan: why boycotts and blacklists are the wrong response </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/john-heathershaw-edward-schatz/academic-freedom-in-tajikistan-endangered">Academic freedom in Tajikistan endangered: what is to be done?</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mohira Suyarkulova Tajikistan Education Mon, 10 Dec 2018 08:14:16 +0000 Mohira Suyarkulova 120810 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we talk about when we talk about gender in Armenia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-bianca-roach/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-gender-in-armenia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Armenia votes in a new parliament after the revolution earlier this year, it seems the new authorities’ political opponents are uniting in an anti-LGBT campaign.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/C907_SyKkiI" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">“I’m asking you a simple question: Do you have any responsibility towards the LGBT community?” This was one of many inflammatory questions addressed to Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan during a <a href="https://youtu.be/C907_SyKkiI?t=13755">historic televised debate</a> this week ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Pashinyan and Vigen Sargsyan, the first deputy president of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), engaged in a vitriolic exchange about national values.</p><p dir="ltr">The conversation touches on one of the election’s hot-button issues: gender. The term “gender” does not refer to an identity marker, but rather acts as a dog whistle for anything that falls outside of gender norms. The prospect of liberalising gender norms, which for Armenia’s militaristic and traditionalist culture is seen as an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-nikoghosyan/in-armenia-gender-is-geopolitical">existential threat</a>, has caused some hand-wringing in the lead up to elections. A homophobic attack <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/lgbt-activists-reportedly-attacked-in-southern-armenia/29412726.html">that left nine people injured</a> in August and <a href="https://www.aravot-en.am/2018/09/07/218395/">draft legislation to ban “homsexual propaganda”</a>, put forward by the RPA, are but a few of the events that have catapulted the issue to the forefront of the political conversation.</p><p dir="ltr">Nikol Pashinyan’s stance remains ambiguous, but he has found himself associated with the LGBT movement. Many of Armenia’s human rights activists <a href="http://www.pinkarmenia.org/en/2018/11/hate-propaganda/">report</a> that this association was fabricated in another instance of the RPA and other powers using the fear-mongering power of “gender” to manipulate public opinion. Meanwhile, the anti-gender stance often depicts queerness as something wholly un-Armenian, an import from the West to undermine the country.</p><p dir="ltr">But while politicians argue over their positions in front of a largely conservative electorate, the threat of violence and stigmatisation that LGBT+ Armenians face is all too real.</p><h2>Gender and politics in Armenia: a troubled past</h2><p>The recent history of Armenia’s organised anti-gender movement starts in 2012, with <a href="https://armenianweekly.com/2012/05/15/hate-crime-targets-gay-friendly-bar-in-yerevan-mps-bail-out-assailants/">the bombing of Yerevan’s DIY Rock Pub</a> just two days before parliamentary elections in May that year. It was targeted because its owner, Armine Oganesova, was a lesbian and an active member of the LGBT community.</p><p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PvGtqaEqmhc" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">Discussions surrounding the attack immediately entered the theatre of politics when two MPs of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) bailed out the assailants. The days and weeks following the bombing saw a flurry of discussions about homophobia and national values that was capitalised on by members of all parties, including the RPA. Among the politicians who justified the attack was Republican Party spokesperson Eduard Sharmazanov, who <a href="https://eurasianet.org/armenia-a-blurry-line-in-yerevan-between-hate-crime-and-defense-of-national-interests">called</a> the bombing “completely right and justified”. Many of those who spoke up in support of Artsvik Minasyan, the ARF MP who bailed out the assailants and called LGBT people “destructive to Armenian society”, suddenly received a great deal of <a href="https://eurasianet.org/armenia-a-blurry-line-in-yerevan-between-hate-crime-and-defense-of-national-interests">popular support</a> on social media. The assailants were <a href="https://epress.am/en/2013/10/24/amnesty-granted-to-brothers-accused-of-bombing-gay-friendly-bar-diy.html">given</a> full amnesty later that year.</p><p dir="ltr">The following year saw another bout of “gender hysteria”. In May 2013, the Armenian parliament held hearings for <a href="http://www.parliament.am/drafts.php?sel=showdraft&amp;DraftID=28173">Law no. 57</a> about “Equal Rights and Opportunities for Men and Women,” which was to institutionalise additional mechanisms to ensure gender equality. The bill was a slightly adapted version of a law proposed in 2009, which <a href="https://armenianweekly.com/2013/09/20/the-gender-equality-law-hysteria-in-armenia/">came up</a> again regularly throughout following years. It provoked no backlash until its reintroduction in 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2013, Armenia <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/armenia-chooses-russia-over-eu/">completed</a> technical talks over a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, paving the way towards an Association Agreement. But in September 2013, then-President Serzh Sargsyan drastically altered the course of negotiations when he <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/armenia-eu-customs-union/25095145.html">announced</a> that Armenia would instead join the competing Russian-led Customs Union. “It basically dooms projects for greater economic integration with the European Union,” Caucasus analyst Thomas de Waal <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/armenia-customs-union-eu--association-agreement/25095833.html">told</a> RFE/FRL at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">It is within this context that Arman Boshyan co-founded the Pan-Armenian Parent Committee (PAPC), an anti-gender group which organised a public campaign in support of national values in 2013 — just as Armenia’s leadership were occupied with geopolitical choices. The Parent Committee is no longer active, but Boshyan explains that it has left a legacy. “We created the Pan-Armenian Child and Parent Coalition in 2015,” says Boshyan, referring to a network of NGOs in Armenia committed to fighting LGBT activism and promoting traditional values.</p><p dir="ltr"><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 2018-12-08 at 12.57.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 12.57.44.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arman Boshyan, 2014. Source: YouTube. </span></span></span>“I understood that gender identity norms were going to be implemented in Armenia, and I wanted to stop that,” says Boshyan on his reasons for founding the PAPC, referring to the 2013 equal opportunities legislation. Boshyan, a software developer, describes himself as “not pro-Russian, but pro-Armenian” – but for him, the safety of Armenia can only be provided by Russia. Outside of his involvement with the anti-gender movement, Boshyan has <a href="https://az.sputniknews.ru/radio/20170622/410803873/Arman-Boshyan-propaganda-izvrashcheniy-stalo-chastyu-nashey-kultury.html">written</a> extensively about “homosexual propaganda” spread by western agents, including for the Russian government-owned news agency Sputnik. The <a href="http://geoclub.info/">Yerevan Geopolitical Club</a>, which Boshyan also founded, is a Russian-language platform that hosts a staunch, if conspiratorial criticism of Europe and the United States in favour of Russia. “In the world today, there is a clash between two geopolitical poles, one is the west and the other is the Russian Federation with its allies […]. Today, only this eastern bloc has in this or that way presented a challenge to the values of dehumanisation,” he <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dG9S9U4TUw">told</a> TV channel Poznavatelnoe TV in 2015.</p><p dir="ltr">Boshyan claims that the PAPC was always entirely self-funded, contradicting the <a href="http://www.womensupportcenter.org/publications/generalcommunity">assertions</a> of many gender activists, like FRIDA board member Anna Nikoghosyan, who strongly believes that it is backed by the Russian government. It was modelled off of the All-Russian Parental Resistance started by Sergey Kurginyan, a Russian public figure and founder of the nationalist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essence_of_Time_(movement)">Essence of Time movement</a> who spoke with anger about <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=169&amp;v=p-VSj08r6Lk">Russia’s lack of control over Armenia’s Velvet Revolution</a> earlier this year. Mamikon Hovsepyan, the Executive Director of PINK Armenia, says of the founding of the PAPC in 2013: “We found the same information, the same statements and articles [posted by the PAPC] in Russia. […]&nbsp;Then we found similar groups in <a href="http://rodkom.org">Ukraine</a>, Moldova, <a href="https://vk.com/club31866738">Belarus</a> – all with the same logos and the same information.”</p><p dir="ltr">In all these different countries, like in Armenia, local variations on the All-Russian Parental Resistance have popped up at times of critical negotiations with the EU. For Armenia in 2013, this meant that by the time &nbsp;Sargsyan unexpectedly <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/armenia-customs-union/25094560.html">rejected</a> the free trade agreement in favour of the Customs Union, the gender discussion had taken the forefront in political conversation. According to Hovsepyan, “very few people” were involved in protests against Sargsyan’s decision to go against the EU agreement in 2013. “We were 14 people and six or seven planners. […] The rest of society was not paying attention.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><h2>A New Armenia: hope at last?</h2><p>Armenia’s gender turmoil has not disappeared after 2013: public homophobic sentiment <a href="http://www.pinkarmenia.org/en/2016/06/prejudice-tolerance/">persists</a>, and there have been periodic outbursts of violence against queer people. In February 2018, a trans woman was <a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/member-right-side-ngo-physically-attacked">brutally attacked</a> in her Yerevan apartment, which the assailant then locked her in and set on fire. In another case in April 2018, a man who <a href="https://armenpress.am/eng/news/929471.html">confessed</a> to stabbing a teenage boy who he believed to be gay. Both attackers have been <a href="https://epress.am/en/2018/04/05/demonstrators-in-yerevan-demand-fair-and-unbiased-investigation-into-hate-crimes.html">released</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The organised anti-gender movement in Armenia, however, has remained mostly stagnant until the Velvet Revolution this year. Since the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, Anna Nikoghosyan says, violently homophobic sentiments have grown more common on social media, often linking homophobia to a nostalgia for Republican Party rule. “I’ve seen so many comments saying: ‘Of course I hated Serzh Sargsyan’s regime, but at least during his time nobody would dare to talk about LGBT rights.’”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/protest1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/protest1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>5 April 2018: a group of demonstrators, who held posters reading "We Demand a Fair Investigation," "No to Discrimination" and "Hatred Kills" gather outside the Armenian General Prosecutor’s Office in Yerevan to demand unbiased and comprehensive investigations into hate-motivated crimes and incidents. Source: <a href=https://epress.am/en/2018/04/05/demonstrators-in-yerevan-demand-fair-and-unbiased-investigation-into-hate-crimes.html>epress.am</a>. </span></span></span>As the revolution gained traction in April, and finally ended in a regime change in May, many queer Armenians had hope for a more egalitarian society. Yet the promise of a newly progressive society was definitively broken on 2 August, when roughly 40 residents in the southern village of Shurnukh broke into the home of queer activist Hayk Hakobyan. They then proceeded to <a href="http://oc-media.org/nine-queer-rights-activists-attacked-by-mob-in-armenia/">violently attack</a> Hakobyan and his guests, injuring nine people and sending two to the hospital. Police arrived an hour and a half later. “It seemed we would not survive,” Elvira Meliksetyan <a href="https://epress.am/ru/2018/08/04/%D0%9A%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%8C-%D1%87%D1%82%D0%BE-%D0%BD%D0%B5-%D0%B2%D1%8B%D0%B6%D0%B8%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BC-%D0%92-%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BC%D1%8F%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BC.html">told</a> Epress.am. “It was the first time that a big group of people were beating up LGBT people, and were not allowing them to escape,” says Nikoghosyan.</p><p dir="ltr">Hakobyan, who, like Armine Oganesova, has left Armenia after the attack, sees political motives behind the attack. He reports that the main assailant throughout the attack was Hakob Arshakian, the RPA-aligned village mayor, and his immediate relatives. Hakobyan’s family, a well-known family that had long opposed the RPA in Shurnukh and its surrounding region, had filed a complaint against Arshakian for corruption.</p><p dir="ltr">This was not the first time that Arshakian attacked Hakobyan. During the revolution earlier this year, Hakobyan and several other gender activists had organised a talk at the nearby Goris Press Club, where they previously held events featuring LGBT activists and representatives. The Press Club cancelled unexpectedly after Hakobyan posted a Facebook status calling his friends to the city around that time to protest against Serzh. At the same time, Hakobyan’s father and other relatives started receiving phone calls from Arshakian, who threatened them to stop Hakobyan from holding the rally. It was later revealed that the Goris Press Club had been threatened as well. The assailants from both the Shurnukh and the Goris attacks have since then been given collective pardon, and the investigation has been <a href="https://epress.am/en/2018/12/05/shurnukh-criminals-to-advantage-from-the-collective-pardon.html?fbclid=IwAR2v4lUiAwvZQLnC8axnCZQWASI3TfJICSpCbCNNcy3r7gvZikzil-j2LaA">closed</a>. Pashinyan has not spoken about the attacks.</p><p dir="ltr">Following the attacks, on 12 August, a rally was held in support of the villagers of Shurnukh, organised and attended by many supporters of the RPA. “I know it was an RPA event,” says Hakobyan, “because they were all there. Hakob [Arshakian], Pigh [conservative blogger Tigran Kocharyan], Artur Danielyan and Narek Malyan [both from the RPA-aligned online programme <a href="https://www.facebook.com/adekvadism/">Adekvad</a>] – they were all there.”</p><p dir="ltr">Throughout fall 2018, Yerevan has also witnessed several different protests that drew the link between the gender movement and Pashinyan’s government. “There were two,” says Women’s Rights Centre director Lara Aharonian. “There was one at Republic Square,” of about 50 people, including members of the Church, “and then a smaller one,” of around 30 or 40 people. A large anti-gender protest was planned for 15 November, the day that a Christian LGBT forum was to be held in Yerevan. The forum was cancelled when the Chief of the Police <a href="https://eurasianet.org/ahead-of-elections-armenias-opposition-attacks-lgbt-rights">announced</a> that he didn’t “consider it appropriate” to host the summit in Armenia, and the police released an official statement that it was not prepared to guarantee the security of the event. Only then was the anti-gender protest cancelled.</p><p dir="ltr">November also saw the appearance of rainbow stickers featuring Pashinyan’s face throughout Yerevan, with the slogan: “The gays support Pashinyan.” These stickers linked the viewer to the very scant website of an organisation called <a href="http://noahpride.org/">Noah Pride</a>, which boasts the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=37&amp;v=AVc81khoV8Y">organisation of a pride parade on 17 November</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><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 2018-12-08 at 13.12.24.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 13.12.24.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A still from the Noah Pride video of a pride action in central Yerevan. Source: YouTube. </span></span></span>Investigating for Media.am, journalist Gegham Vardanyan <a href="https://media.am/en/fact-check-noah-pride">uncovered</a> that Noah Pride’s website was made on 1 November 2018, despite claiming to be founded in 2016. Neither PINK Armenia nor USAID, which the organisation lists as partners, have any existing links to it. It lists no names of team members or employees, and does not have any social media. It quotes an unnamed Noah Pride activist: “It is difficult to cope with a radically homophobic society, but there is no other way except a consistent and persistent explanation, appealing to the mind and sense of justice.&nbsp;[…] I am very pleased that the new head of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, perceive and implements this.” Activists and members of the LGBT community are highly suspicious of the organisation, which has had no history until now, and which nobody had heard of.</p><h2>The anti-gender movement united against Pashinyan</h2><p dir="ltr">“In Armenia, whenever there is an intense political situation, it is always the issue of gender and LGBT that are rising,” says Anna Nikoghosyan, and this has certainly been the case as the country leads towards elections. Though “gender” (and its anti-Armenian ramifications) have come up many times over the months since the revolution, they can be tied back each time to a party that benefits from discrediting Nikol Pashinyan. “It’s the same people who are leading [all the anti-gender movements], ever since 2013,” says Lara Aharonian.</p><p dir="ltr">In recent months, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/emil-sanamyan/saint-nick-of-armenia-how-nikol-pashinyan-rescued-armenia-and-made-it-merry">Nikol Pashinyan</a> has made statements that have ruffled feathers on both sides of the debate. “The LGBT issue is always a headache for a government,” he <a href="https://eurasianet.org/ahead-of-elections-armenias-opposition-attacks-lgbt-rights">said</a> in a recent speech. Pashinyan acknowledged the existence of LGBT Armenians, a radical step for those who consider queerness inherently unnatural to the country. Then, just a few minutes later, he also spoke about the USSR, referring to “sending [queer people] to prison,” or having them “hanged or shot” as at least “a solution” – as opposed to Armenia’s current atmosphere of denial.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-36280309_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-36280309_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>1 May: Nikol Pashinyan speaks in parliament. (c) Gevorg Ghazaryan/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“I’m not against minorities having rights,” says Boshyan, referring to gender and sexual minorities. “If you ask [them], if they are truthful, they will say that they are not oppressed, because the Armenian Constitution protects them.” Yet a deeper look at the various gender scandals throughout the years, and especially leading up to the elections, demonstrates both a great deal of homophobic violence, as well as a consistent trend of impunity for attackers.</p><p dir="ltr">Vigen Sargsyan’s question to the Prime Minister during this week’s pre-election debate hit on a sensitive issue. “Gender” has been ramped up to appear a serious threat to what many people consider to be defining Armenian values. In discussing the use of gender as a political tool, we must ask: Who is responsible for violence and impunity? Who has the most to gain from pulling the strings behind the hate?</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/anna-nikoghosyan/in-armenia-gender-is-geopolitical">In Armenia, gender is geopolitical</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/armine-ishkanian-maro-matosian/heated-debates-around-domestic-violence-in-armenia">Heated debates around domestic violence in Armenia </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anahit-chilingaryan/restoring-faith-in-armenia-s-criminal-justice-system">Restoring faith in Armenia’s criminal justice system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-nikoghosyan/armenian-womens-place-protest">An Armenian woman’s place is at the protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ashot-gazazyan/on-border">On the edge: how rural Armenia is responding to the country&#039;s &quot;Velvet Revolution&quot;</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia 50.50 oD Russia Anna Bianca Roach Armenia Sat, 08 Dec 2018 12:59:30 +0000 Anna Bianca Roach 120911 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Central Asian valley where borders dissolve in grassroots cooperation https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/diana-mamatova/cross-borders-cooperation-in-the-ferghana-valley <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sandwiched between three&nbsp;Central Asian states, people living on all sides of the Ferghana Valley are overcoming securitisation – through everyday cooperation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/14300781411_6302e000f5_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/14300781411_6302e000f5_z.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'>Andijon, Uzbekistan. Photo CC BY.20: Slava Myronov / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><a href="https://bit.ly/2RAZfMT">Kanysh-Ai</a> is an apricot-grower in Gaz village, in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken province bordering Tajikistan. Like for many others living in the border areas of the Ferghana Valley, apricots are the primary source of Kanysh-Ai’s domestic income. She picks apricots when the fruit change from green to orange in color and feel slightly softened but still firm to the touch. Once the apricots are washed, dried for a couple of days, and sorted, Tajikistanis come from the district centre of Isfara city in northern Tajikistan to purchase it for its further processing. While Tajikistanis often dominate the commercial apricot market, Uzbekistanis travel to the border bazaar in Hushiar village on the Uzbek side of the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border to buy apricot pits, which they then fry and salt to sell at their local market.</p><p dir="ltr">Located at the heart of Central Asia between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the Ferghana Valley brings together an ethnic mix from these states born out of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As the imaginary borders of Soviet times became real after independence, fragmentation has led to tension and even conflict. In the two decades between 1989 and 2009, some <a href="https://bit.ly/2Qri2dm">20 conflicts took place in the valley</a>. A <a href="http://bit.ly/2n03vIe">recent academic study</a> speaks of 164 border incidents between 2010 and 2013, while over the course of 2014 alone, the Kyrgyzstan Border Troops Information Department registered a total of 37 border incidents in the region.</p><p dir="ltr">Various explanations have been advanced to explain conflict dynamics in the Ferghana valley, including competition over natural resources, growing nationalism in the region and the securitisation of borders. The latter has an enormous impact on daily life for many people living in the valley. Since the establishment of a new border regime, communities have experienced a constant “sense of danger” while crossing borders. As a villager from Ak-Sai on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border said, the Kyrgyz government <a href="https://bit.ly/2RAZfMT">started putting up all sorts of posts</a> – customs posts and border posts – and all those stop people from living.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, cross-border interaction between community members is almost unavoidable in the Ferghana valley. Border dwellers like Kanysh-Ai, the apricot grower, find ways to continue everyday interaction at the grassroots level in response to their needs, which include trade, common use of water and joint pasture use. These interactions build trust between community members, improve relationships and forge cross-border networks.</p><h2>Everyday peacebuilding in the Ferghana Valley</h2><p dir="ltr">Local border communities manipulate borders as they trade for a living. <a href="https://bit.ly/2RAZfMT">Mohammed</a>, an ethnic Kyrgyz resident of Uzbekistan, works in a small daily market in Batken town in southwestern Kyrgyzstan. He buys up to 300kg of chocolate, white sugar, sweets, pasta, oil and tea in Ferghana city bazaar in eastern Uzbekistan, which he then sells at Batken bazaar on the other side of the border. The crossing usually takes place via a chernyi vkhod, an informal parallel crossing point where goods are handed over through a house located right on the border. In the meantime, Mohammed goes through the official border crossing, giving customs officers a cigarette or two in order to maintain friendly relations, and then meets his goods on the other side. The homeowner also collects a fee, and so allegedly do customs officers and border guards.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://bit.ly/2zque7d">Elmira</a>, a resident of a border village in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken province, regularly travels to the Tajikistani side to purchase cheap household goods to sell in the market on the Kyrgyzstani side. Many others like her smuggle small amounts of produce and goods across the border, while avoiding the customs regime which Kyrgyzstan joined after entry into the Customs Union and then the Eurasian Economic Union with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia in 2015. The same phenomenon can be observed in the Dostuk area, near Kyrgyzstan’s southern city of Osh on the border with Uzbekistan, where men on bicycles smuggle salt from Uzbekistan into Kyrgyzstan while women take aluminium into the country.</p><p>Water distribution is another important area of informal cross-border cooperation. Located in the administrative district of the city of Isfana in southern Kyrgyzstan’s Batken province, the village of <a href="https://bit.ly/2ALO4LW">Myrza-Patcha</a> is not included into the hydrographic zone administered by the city Water User Association. Instead, it relies on water from the Isfana River, which divides and unites communities on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, as it is also a major source of water for people living in the Navruz neighborhood of neighboring Korgoncho village in Tajikistan. In the event of a mudslide, residents of both communities organise cross-border ashar, or collective labour, to clean the river-bed.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Cross-border interaction between community members is almost unavoidable in the Ferghana valley</p><p dir="ltr">The village residents also cooperate on joint pasture use. As villagers in Tajikistan do not have pastures attached to their territory, they graze their cattle in the pastures of Myrza-Patcha. Informal arrangements are made between border dwellers, heads of pasture committees, and even between heads of villages. It is not entirely clear who on the Kyrgyzstani side creates grazing opportunities for Tajikistani shepherds and receives payment for this, but these informal arrangements are often discussed in the mosque located in Myrza-Patcha, which is attended by individuals from both countries. As one resident on the Kyrgyzstani side said, <a href="https://bit.ly/2ALO4LW">elders from Navruz come to us asking for permission for their cows to graze with ours</a>.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Beneath this grassroots-level cooperation – be it over water and irrigation, pastures, trade or apricot production – lies a desire to address common everyday needs, such as access to water, goods, and services across the borders. This enables border dwellers to get on with their daily lives despite government-level securitisation.</p><p dir="ltr">Often, cooperation is a function of interdependent needs, as people living along the borders use the same water sources, share infrastructure, or mutually benefit from joint use of pastures. This daily need-based day-to-day interactions at and across borders help to build cross-border networks and trust between community members, often facilitating and sustaining peace on the ground.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>If you want to know more about this subject, you can consult the following material on which the article is based:</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nick Megoran, “For Ethnography in Political Geography: Experiencing and Re-imagining Ferghana Valley Boundary Closures,” Political Geography 25 (2006): 622-640.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Madeleine Reeves, Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia (New York: Cornell University, 2014).</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Elizabeth Dusik and Mayya Nurmamedova, “Inter-State Cooperation and Joint Planning and Management of Transboundary River Basins–The Example of the Isfara River Basin,” GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences Policy Brief 02/2015.</em></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/kyrgyzstan-survives-on-money-made-by-migrant-workers-but-it-doesn-t-know-how-to-spend-it">Kyrgyzstan survives on money made by migrant workers, but it doesn’t know how to spend it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-buketov/the-democratic-future-of-uzbekistan">The democratic future of Uzbekistan doesn’t depend on the politicians, but whether workers can mobilise </a> </div> <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/edward-lemon/transforming-tajikistan-islam">Transforming Tajikistan: how the Rahmon regime turned religion into a site of struggle</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/bakhtiyor-sobiri/long-echo-of-tajikistan-s-civil-war">The long echo of Tajikistan’s civil war</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"> Kyrgyzstan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Uzbekistan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Tajikistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tajikistan Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan Democracy and government International politics borders Diana Mamatova Uzbekistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Fri, 07 Dec 2018 10:58:59 +0000 Diana Mamatova 120770 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The womanly face of war: the agency and visibility of Ukraine’s female soldiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/marta-havryshko/agency-ukraine-female-soldiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Women have played an active part in the war in Ukraine’s Donbas. But their role is yet to be recognised on its own terms.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IqdrAe9csnc" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr"><i>"Goddess in epaulettes" competition in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Source: Ukrainian Military TV / Youtube.&nbsp;</i></p><p dir="ltr">For the second year running, Ukraine’s women military medics are participating in the “Goddess in epaulettes” (<em>Berehynia u pohonakh</em>) beauty pageant. Promotional materials show young women in evening dresses, bright makeup, painted nails, high heels and elaborately styled hair. Scantily clad competitors <a href="http://veterano.com.ua/foto/5052-v-zoni-osoblivoji-uvagi-ukrajinki-v-pogonakh-foto">dance before a mostly male jury</a>. According to the <a href="http://www.na.mil.gov.ua/index.php/2018/06/08/sogodni-finalistky-konkursu-beregynya-v-pogonah-2018-dovely-shho-vony-ne-lyshe-krasyvi-a-j-sylni-vytryvali-ta-spravzhni-profesionaly-svoyeyi-spravy/">organisers</a>, this event is designed to “turn society’s attention to our women, to the fact that they are protecting the independence of our state alongside men.” But does the idea that the experience of war in Donbas &nbsp;is identical for servicepeople of both sexes mean that we will see similar beauty competitions for men in the Ukrainian military? The question, of course, is rhetorical.</p><p dir="ltr">There are more than 7,000 servicewomen who have served or are serving officially in the conflict zone in Donbas — and who have been officially recognised as “participants of military operations”. The army has become an attractive labour market for women, as shown in their rising numbers in recent years: more than 55,000 women serve and worked in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and 25,000 of them have a military rank. But while advocacy campaigns such as the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/invisible-battalion-ukraine">“Invisible Battalion”</a> have had noticeable success, and the principles of gender equality in the armed forces are <a href="https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2018/10/12/7194977/">now reflected in official legislation</a>, women serving in the Ukrainian military still face significant challenges. These challenges concern access to military education and training, combat and management positions, officer ranks, defence of reproductive rights, access to gender-sensitive psychological and medical help, combating sexism and gender-based violence.</p><p dir="ltr">In other words, this is a struggle for equal rights and opportunities regardless of sex and gender identity — and one aspect of this struggle is increasing the visibility of women’s roles in the national security sector. But are beauty pageants the best way to do this?</p><h2>Constructing images of female soldiers</h2><p dir="ltr">Official military agencies are taking steps to raise the profile of serving women, and beauty competitions for women who have served in the conflict in eastern Ukraine are part of their campaign. The pageants have titles such as “Glory to the heroines” (2016), “Goddess in epaulettes” (2017, 2018) or “Miss Military Fantasy” (2018), and are run by the military’s press office, military medical department and a military centre for psychological assistance.</p><p dir="ltr">“Miss Military Fantasy” was the most popular yet, with 124 participants this year. Each participant could send up to five images and a short biography to the jury. To be sure, the male commanding officers responded to this initiative from above: they involved themselves in the selection process directly, creating and approving the application forms. As Olha Benda, a participant, <a href="http://pravda.vn.ua/2018/03/09/osoblyva-vinnychanka-stala-miss-military-fantasy/">stated</a>: “Everyone checked out my digital photos, even my commanding officer, a military commissar. They chose the best ones.” In Vinnytsia, central Ukraine, a local military unit <a href="http://vlasno.info/suspilstvo/8/dozvillya/item/22929-zhinky-viiskovosluzhbovtsi-vinnychch">contracted the services of a photo studio</a> in order to draw up its candidates’ portfolios. Voting took place online, on the Facebook page of the “Born Free” (<em>Narodzheni vilnymy</em>) newspaper. First place was awarded to the contestant with the most number of likes, and the winner <a href="https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%87%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%BA-%D0%B3%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D1%88%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B1%D1%83-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%83%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%87-%D0%B7%D0%B1%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B9%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%85-%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%BB-%D1%83%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%97%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D0%B3%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BB-%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BC%D1%96/945762135593044/">received</a> her award from the Chief of the Ukrainian General Staff, General Viktor Muzhenko.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-38171532_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-38171532_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>24 August 2018: Independence Day, Kyiv. Photo: Jaap Arriens / SIPA USA / PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Despite the desire to demonstrate the professionalism of female soldiers, beauty pageants in the military are shot through with what we might call chivalrous sexism. Aside from the very names of the competitions, the pageants’ formats (suggestive images, cooking competitions, parade in evening gowns, rating women’s appearance), and the general discourse surrounding it (“our charming candidates”, “beautiful amazons”, “a wonderful figure”, “keepers of the home fires”) all speak to this. Furthemore, the stereotypical portrayal of servicewomen as mothers, wives, lovers, and symbol of the nation reinforces essentialist constructions of domestic/vulnerable/peaceful femininities in contrast to aggressive/warrior masculinities.</p><p dir="ltr">Why are these pageants held? What do they mean for different actors – participants, audience and organisers, as well as for military gender regime in general? How do representations of female soldiers in official military discourse contribute to the state’s war effort?</p><h2>The risks of objectification</h2><p dir="ltr">The body plays an important role in construing women’s identities. The desire to achieve hegemonic ideals of beauty, as promoted in popular culture, often lead women to engage in traumatic practices (fasting, plastic surgery) or difficult relationships with their own bodies (anorexia, compulsive overeating, bulimia). Indeed, the fact that women can now work traditionally male jobs (particularly in the military) doesn’t liberate them from social control over their bodies. Indeed, society <a href="https://nyupress.org/books/9780814735480/">forces them to prove that they haven’t lost their femininity</a> on joining the military, that they haven’t become an “undefined” sex or gender.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, for many female soldiers “remaining a woman” becomes an internal demand as they try to balance between their identities as soldiers and women. In this context, beauty pageants become a means of adapting to everyday life in the military and the frontline — conditions which restricts the space for performing one’s femininity. These pageants thus create an attractive image of army life for women who perceive military service as a threat to their femininity.</p><p dir="ltr">Here, women’s individual rank and experience are of secondary importance. “We want to show the whole country how charming and beautiful our women serving in the military are,” reads the announcement for the “Miss Military Fantasy” competition. Sexualised images of women holding weapons and wearing uniform <a href="https://www.facebook.com/350122962046015/photos/pcb.598895147168794/598895037168805/?type=3&amp;theater">accompany the promotion</a>, suggesting not only the organisers’ intention, but also that military women shouldn’t be ashamed of their sexuality.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, the glamour and eroticism of this pageant is clearly aimed at heterosexual men, who are led to understand that the army isn’t just about subordination, but a place where you can find a lover, partner and wife. Images of women’s bodies become an effective tool to attract male recruits. “The fact that more and more young and beautiful educated women are joining our army is definitely the best advert for the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” reads an <a href="http://www.na.mil.gov.ua/index.php/2018/06/08/sogodni-finalistky-konkursu-beregynya-v-pogonah-2018-dovely-shho-vony-ne-lyshe-krasyvi-a-j-sylni-vytryvali-ta-spravzhni-profesionaly-svoyeyi-spravy/">article</a> by a Ministry of Defence newspaper.</p><p>Given the high-level of tolerance to sexual harassment in the military, this message is problematic. Female veterans <a href="http://uamoderna.com/blogy/marta-havryshko/sexual-violence-women-ato-upa">admit</a> that women in the army encounter expectations of sexual services from their commanding officers, or <a href="http://womo.ua/elena-mosiychuk/">sexual violence</a>. The objectification of women in these pageants also encourages stereotypical attitudes towards women, the perception of them as sex objects. No less important here are the myths that <a href="http://tyzhden.ua/Columns/50/219631">female soldiers are promiscuous</a>, and that they join the army to find sexual partners and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Ranok.Ukraina/videos/2161817693851859/UzpfSTEwMDAxMTU1NDUwNTU1Mzo2NDE1NjcyNDI5MDUwODc/">husbands</a>.</p><h2>Space for empowerment</h2><p dir="ltr">Despite the complexity of military beauty pageants, these events do leave space for servicewomen to express their agency in wartime. Photos of women posing next to the Ukrainian national flag or symbol, with ribbons in the national colours in their hair, emphasise the political motives of women’s engagement in the war. In certain instances, participants also use these images to <a href="https://www.facebook.com/350122962046015/photos/pcb.621466374911671/621466234911685/?type=3&amp;theater&amp;ifg=1">demonstrate their military training</a>, and the captions tell us about their successfully completed missions, questioning the myth — often used as an argument against integration — that women are too physically weak to serve in the army.</p><p dir="ltr">These representations of women confirm the fact Ukraine’s army is modernising and attempting to break through the archaic discourse about men’s exclusive right to defend the country. Ukrainian media, which often operate according to concepts of “heroines” and “defenders”, <a href="http://www.mil.gov.ua/news/2016/10/12/laureatom-konkursu-krasun-u-pogonah-slava-geroinyam!-u-luganskij-oblasti-stala-uchasnik-ato-starshij-soldat-olesya-vorobej/">pick up this gender parity</a> in their representation of women, who “improve life in eastern Ukraine with their work and service” and are making “an important contribution to building a free and democratic Ukraine”.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the most important themes found in the “Miss Military Fantasy” competition is connected with the transformation of the female body in war. Olha Benda, 26, who won the 2018 competition, served in the 72nd Brigade. In spring 2017, her leg was cut to shreds by shrapnel, and it had to be amputated as a result. “You can’t even imagine how many tears were shed,” Benda <a href="http://www.na.mil.gov.ua/index.php/2018/02/24/utratyvshy-na-vijni-nogu-ya-zapytala-kohanogo-yak-teper-nam-zhyty-nichogo-troshky-povilnishe-progulyuvatymemosya/">told</a> a military newspaper. “It was hard to wake up in the morning and realise that part of your body wasn’t there and that you have to learn how to live all over again.” She had to undergo five intense operations and learn how to walk with a prosthetic leg, and is now preparing to participate in the international Invictus Games.</p><p dir="ltr">Benda’s story draws our attention to the serious physical traumas female soldiers can face — and not only those fighting on the frontline (she worked as a cook). Her participation speaks to how wounded female soldiers learn to accept and love their changed bodies, and the fact that she won the competition shows that Ukrainian society isn’t indifferent to its servicewomen.</p><h2>Moving towards gender (in)equality</h2><p dir="ltr">These pageants are a part of official military discourse about gender transformations in the Ukrainian Armed Forces as a response to the challenges of the time — an attempt to emphasise the growing importance of women, who are changing the face of the army.</p><p dir="ltr">In a broad sense, these competitions are but one part of a national vision of militarised femininity — yet many aspects of this remain problematic. First, the very format of the beauty pageant means that servicewomen’s physical appearance becomes, by default, a precondition for their military experience to become visible. This makes the competitions a discriminatory practice: cultural ideas about beauty cannot and should not be a criteria for judging a soldier’s professionalism, not least their contribution to defending their country. (After all, should male soldiers be judged on their looks?) Second, representing female soldiers in gender stereotyped roles can reinforce scepticism towards their ability to serve in the army, particularly in combat and leadership positions. These images strengthen traditional masculine military culture instead of transforming it in line with the principles of gender equality.</p><p dir="ltr">In this culture, women are largely consigned to symbolic, secondary roles as men’s assistants in war, and not “true warriors” themselves. They are pictured as “other” in terms of the normative image of a soldier, and thus can be perceived as “hostile” actors who might challenge combat brotherhood and military effectiveness, and therefore should be removed or marginalised. This directly correlates to rising tolerance towards sexism, misogyny, and gender-based violence against women in the army.</p><p dir="ltr">Beauty pageants are thus a symbolic manifestation of women’s literal subordination to men in the army. After all, men occupy the absolute majority of commanding positions in the Ukrainian military, while not a single woman holds the rank of general. Beauty pageants, initiated and conducted by men, demonstrate their vision of female soldiers as “beautiful”, “tender” and “charming” first and foremost — i.e. as a group that does not challenge the male monopoly on the status of defender/hero, and the privileges (power, resources) that back this position up. This vision pushes out the experiences of women who fight every day for the opportunity not only to serve in the army, but to be perceived as part of the army. They fight so that courage, bravery and strength can have a woman’s face. </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/olesya-khromeychuk/memory-politics-history-and-gender-in-ukraine">Militarised society: memory politics, history and gender in Ukraine </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-nikoghosyan/armenian-womens-place-protest">An Armenian woman’s place is at the protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/invisible-battalion-ukraine">“Invisible battalion”: how Ukrainian women secured the right to fight on a par with men</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Marta Havryshko Wed, 05 Dec 2018 16:07:58 +0000 Marta Havryshko 120865 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No good choices in Georgia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/wojciech-wojtasiewicz/no-good-choices-in-georgia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Georgia’s presidential election has demonstrated, once again, that the country’s two dominant political platforms have little to offer regular citizens.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-39929493.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-39929493.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>(c) Kommersant Photo Agency/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>After presidental elections on 28 November, Salome Zurabishvili became the fifth president of Georgia. The independent candidate, who was backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, received the support of nearly 60% of the electorate in the second round of voting.</p><p dir="ltr">This high a margin of victory for Zurabishvili was no doubt a surprise for Georgia’s opposition. Grigol Vashadze, the opposition candidate in the second round, has declared that he doesn’t accept the election results. He stated that the election results had been falsified, with the Georgian government bribing a huge portion of the voters.</p><h2>Salome the winner</h2><p dir="ltr">According to Georgia’s <a href="http://agenda.ge/en/news/2018/2523">Central Election Commission</a>, 59.52% of the Georgian electorate voted for Salome Zurabishvili, and 40.48% for Grigol Vashadze. Turnout in the second round was close to 10% higher than in the first round of voting, and came to 56,23 %.</p><p dir="ltr">After voting finished, the two main television stations — Imedi (pro-government) and Rustavi 2 (pro-opposition) — issued their exit polls, which indicated victory for Salome Zurabishvili. Commenting on them, Vashadze said that he would wait for the official voting results. However, former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who remains a driving force in Georgia’s United National Movement despite living outside of the country for the past five years, <a href="https://www.kyivpost.com/world/saakashvili-urges-his-supporters-in-georgia-to-protest-on-december-2.html">called</a> on Georgians to come out onto the streets in protest against electoral falsifications. Saakashvili claimed that the government had bought voters, and had permitted beatings and persecution of opposition activists. Initially, Grigol Vashadze distanced himself from Saakashvili’s words, stating that he would make a decision concerning his next steps the following day, after consultations with his supporters.</p><p dir="ltr">It might have seemed as if Vashaze, the candidate of the United Opposition - United National Movement, would concede his loss and choose the so-called “opposition long march” scenario, i.e. peaceful preparations for parliamentary elections in 2020. Yet the next day, Vashadze <a href="http://oc-media.org/opposition-refuses-to-concede-calls-for-protests-and-snap-elections/">announced</a> that he didn’t recognise the results of the presidential election, which, in his assessment, had been subject to falsifications. Additionally, Vashadze demanded that early parliamentary elections be called, and declared that a huge demonstration would take place in Tbilisi on Sunday against election falsification.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, Georgian Dream’s leader Bidzina Ivanishvili thanked his supporters for backing Zurabishvili. The winner herself addressed her opponents with a conciliatory message, emphasising that Georgia is a small country whose society must be united. Zurabishvili was congratulated by the outgoing president, Giorgi Margvelashvili, who at the same time <a href="http://agenda.ge/en/news/2018/2526">expressed his concern</a> with what he saw as a considerable lowering of democratic standards during the presidential elections. Margvelashvili stressed that this is a bad direction on Georgia’s democratic path. </p><p>Similar tones were struck by the OSCE international observation mission to the elections in Georgia, which wrote in its <a href="https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/georgia/404642?download=true">initial published report</a> that candidates were able to conduct a campaign in a competitive and unrestricted manner, yet underscored that it was also incredibly polarised, full of aggression and attacks on opponents, as well as uneven — the government deployed “administrative resources” in its support of Zurabishvili.</p><h2>Saakashvili must go</h2><p dir="ltr">The reasons for such an unexpectedly high margin of victory for Salome Zurabishvili over Grigol Vashadze are several.</p><p dir="ltr">What won, first of all, was that a large portion of Georgian citizens still fear a UNM return to power. This anxiety was effectively fueled by Georgian Dream, who reminded the public of the persecution of the opposition, violations of human rights and other abuses under Mikheil Saakashvili’s governments. Secondly, the ruling party tried to force public sector workers to vote for Zurabishvili, threatening them with the loss of their jobs if they didn’t. Moreover, cases of voters being paid off were noted. It was reported that around 20-30 lari was paid for a vote for Zurabishvili. Finally, the government administration was utilised in support of the favored candidate. Such practices also took place under the United National Movement.</p><p dir="ltr">Additionally, before the second round of voting, Georgian Dream <a href="http://oc-media.org/pm-promises-to-write-off-1-5-billion-in-debts-for-600-000-georgians/">promised</a> to annul debts of up 2,000 lari for roughly 600,000 Georgians, who were unable to pay off their bank loans. In Georgia, many people <a href="http://georgiatoday.ge/news/6880/In-Debt-%26-Broke-in-Georgia">live in punishing debt</a>. These are often loans for food, clothing and other products of primary need. The necessity of taking them is the result of many Georgians’ low incomes, or lack thereof. Bidzina Ivanishvili, the party’s billionaire backer, announced that he would finance this gift out of his own assets, through the Cartu foundation.</p><p dir="ltr">Former president Saakashvili also contributed to his party’s defeat. Instead of laying low and ceding the stage to his candidate, Saakashvili displayed excessive activity in the media several days before the second round of voting, threatening to bring his supporters onto the streets in the case of a loss for Vashadze. This may have aroused concerns in his opponents that a Vashadze victory would lead to a “destabilisation of the situation” in the country, and raise the threat of a new revolution — a repeat of the scenario from 2003. Indeed, this concern was amplified by the message of Georgian Dream, whose leaders warned against the opposition’s political disorderliness.</p><p dir="ltr">However, Salome Zurabishvili’s victory isn’t a stunning success for Georgian Dream. The true barometer of social moods were the results of the firsts round of voting, in which Zurabishvili received only one percent more votes than Vashadze. Many Georgian citizens are tired of Georgian Dream governments and their failure to fulfill campaign promises concerning economic and social issues. The ruling party is going to have to fundamentally reshape their politics, if it wants to &nbsp;remain at the nation’s helm after 2020.</p><p dir="ltr">If the opposition wants to achieve success two years from now, it will have to get rid of Mikheil Saakashvili. Misha’s negative political legacy is incredibly repellent to a vast majority of Georgians. The single reason that some of them voted for Zurabishvili, despite their dissatisfaction with Georgian Dream, was to prevent Saakashvili’s return to Georgia. In the case of a Vashadze victory, Saakashvili would have been pardoned by the new president. Saakashvili himself declared that he has no desire to fulfill any official functions in the country, but there were few who believe his assurances. Beyond that, no formal titles would be necessary for him to wield true power. He could govern Georgia from the back seat, just like Bidzina Ivanishvili.</p><p>The majority of Georgian citizens have sincerely had enough of both political camps. In recent weeks, there have been <a href="http://www.messenger.com.ge/issues/4272_november_15_2018/4272_tea1.html">media reports</a> about plans for the establishment of a new political party, called Law and Justice. One of its future leaders is rumoured to be Aleko Elisashvili, the centrist and independent candidate for mayor of Tbilisi during the 2017 city election. Elisashvili took second place in the elections, with 17.5% of the vote. The new energy could certainly bring the burst of fresh air into Georgian politics that so many await.</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/tako-svanidze/georgia-growing-cultural-divide">Georgia’s growing cultural divide: a sign of far-right populism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/marta-ardashelia/bidzinas-back">Bidzina’s back</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/bakar-berekashvili/mayor-or-manager-tbilisi-chooses-its-kingpin">Mayor or manager? Tbilisi chooses its kingpin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sopiko-japaridze/georgia-s-new-constitution-keeps-real-change-in-check">Georgia’s new constitution keeps real change in check</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tatuli-chubabria/in-georgia-labour-exploitation-still-pays">In Georgia, labour exploitation still pays</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tornike-zurabashvili/waiting-for-misha-s-second-coming">Waiting for Misha’s second coming</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Wojciech Wojtasiewicz Georgia Wed, 05 Dec 2018 13:37:30 +0000 Wojciech Wojtasiewicz 120863 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Christian conservatives are trying to influence the media in Ukraine https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tetiana-kozak/christian-conservatives-media-influence-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Novomedia forum in Kyiv offered an up-close look at the communications strategies of internationally-connected ultra-conservatives.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-39788983.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-39788983.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>LGBT rights are under attack from Christian conservatives in Ukraine. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>At the entrance to the Kyiv conference and event centre, copies of the New Testament were on sale along with a handbook for followers of Ruslan Kukharchuk entitled “The Mandate”, and several books on journalism and “eternal values”, published by his organisation, Novomedia.</p><p>Kukharchuk, a Protestant minister, is a prominent “pro-family” figure in Ukraine who has led an anti-LGBT campaign in the country since the early 2000s. In early November, he opened the annual forum of <a href="http://novomedia.ua/">Novomedia</a>, an association of Christian media workers in Ukraine.</p><p dir="ltr">Journalism, he told his audience of around 350 current and future media workers, is “a civic profession, which is why values are important for it. These are eternal values — the values of truth, facts, goodness, Christian traditions and a balance of opinion that serves the search for truth”.</p><p dir="ltr">He contrasted a “fight for a balance of opinions which serves the search for truth” with “propaganda and popularisation of deviations and unhealthy inclinations”, giving as examples interviews “with both victims of violence and maniacs”, or “with a paedophile who says that’s his sexual orientation”.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“You know this is a new trend”, Kukharchuk elaborated. “Paedophilia is starting to be seen as a sexual orientation! And believe it or not, in five years time they’ll prove it! Then we have to save and preserve our children”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We have to save and preserve our children”</p><p dir="ltr">Conservative and far-right voices have become louder in Ukraine since the 2014 EuroMaidan revolution and the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych. Defending “universal” or “traditional” values, they’ve attacked proposed laws they don’t like, artists, feminists and LGBT rights activists.</p><p dir="ltr">Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and war in Donbass, also in 2014, these groups have increasingly looked west for ideas and support, from the US and other European countries where conservative and far right movements enjoy growing power.</p><p dir="ltr">The Novomedia forum in Kyiv offered an up-close look at the communications strategies of these internationally-connected movements – and how they’re trying to influence journalism, and politics, in Ukraine.</p><p dir="ltr">Along with frequent references to Christian values, speakers echoed US President Donald Trump’s obsession with “fake news”.</p><p dir="ltr">Kukharchuk claimed that few people in journalism, as in academia, are searching for truth anymore – referencing the recent case of three US researchers who published fake research in sociology journals to expose what they saw as <a href="https://phys.org/news/2018-10-real-fake-hoodwinks-journals.html">ideological bias</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">He also shared supposed examples of “fake science” – for instance, ideas he summarised as “we need to abolish all gender roles and differences between men and women. They are all the same, and daring to say that boys and girls are different is flagrant obscurantism”.</p><p dir="ltr">Further ridiculing struggles against gender stereotypes, he asked the assembled participants: “What has more value for an audience, a real event or the personal emotions and concerns of someone who interprets events?”</p><p dir="ltr">Answering his question, he said: “For men, as I understand it, it’s a question of events; for women, it’s interpretations. Of course, what I’ve just said is a blatant gender stereotype of the type that we need to ‘fight against’”. </p><h2>Preaching “eternal values”</h2><p dir="ltr">Novomedia was founded more than a decade ago, in 2004. It has preached about “eternal values” at its annual forum in Kyiv since 2011.</p><p dir="ltr">More than 100 media experts and journalists have attended these events, including those from leading Ukrainian publications. In 2017, the headliner was Seva Novgorodtsev, a former BBC radio presenter legendary in the Russian-speaking world.</p><p dir="ltr">This year’s programme mixed sermon-like talks from figures like Kukharchuk with popular master classes by prominent TV or radio hosts on how to become a professional radio DJ; live presentation techniques; conducting interviews; and working as a multi-platform journalist.</p><p dir="ltr">Discussions at the forum also touched on topical themes like the safety of journalists, freedom of speech, and war and political journalism – increasingly relevant subjects in Ukraine.</p><p dir="ltr">But the event’s links to Christian conservative movements were not hidden. On registration, participants received folders containing the conference programme along with “pro-family” advertisements, leaflets and magnets bearing the words “All together for the family”.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www1.cbn.com/">CBN</a>, a US evangelical TV and radio network, was among the forum’s sponsors along with a Ukrainian construction and investment company, NovaBudova, whose director-general Yevhen Savochka has <a href="https://www.epravda.com.ua/news/2018/02/13/634041/">participated</a> in the annual US National Prayer Breakfast.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-29956487.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-29956487.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Donald Trump the National Prayer Breakfast, 2017. Photo: Win Mcnamee/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>After Kukharchuk took the stage, the forum was blessed by Mykola Myshkovsky, a Roman Catholic priest and editor of a <a href="https://credo.press">Vinnytsa-based religious media outlet</a>. As the audience stood for the prayer, the room was filled with the sound of people repeating Myshkovsky’s words.</p><p dir="ltr">This year’s headliner was well-known Ukrainian TV presenter Olha Freimut, whose recent book (<a href="https://vivat-book.com.ua/non_fiction_literatura/etiket-shkola-pani-freymut">“Miss Freimut’s Etiquette School”</a>) was published to scandalous reception. Commenters on social media have slated Freimut’s advice on how to become a “real lady” as misleading and potentially harmful.</p><p dir="ltr">Brushing over this, Freimut talked at the forum about the long road from her childhood in a small village in western Ukraine to stardom in national journalism. It took more than hard work and daring to get there, she said.</p><p dir="ltr">“I always knew that I was being led by a higher force. And what is impossible for people is possible with God. Everyone has their own source of strength, but I have always followed my path with help from heaven”. </p><h2>“A global right-wing renaissance”</h2><p dir="ltr">A whole panel session was devoted to conservatism and the media, with Kukharchuk, Ukrainian MP Ihor Lutsenko, and editor-in-chief of the Vgolos news agency Yury Gritsyk. They talked about the need to create conservative media or the possibility that some existing outlets could swing to the right.</p><p dir="ltr">“The global right-wing renaissance is a revolution”, said Lutsenko, himself a former journalist and <a href="https://www.kyivpost.com/article/content/euromaidan/lutsenko-recounts-kidnapping-beating-by-death-squad-with-political-agenda-335605.html">prominent figure</a> in the 2014 EuroMaidan protests. This “sharp confrontation”, he said, “could also have quite an interesting future” in Ukraine, where there are “a wide range of possibilities”.</p><p dir="ltr">“But we lack the ability to translate these ideas into reality”, continued the MP, whose parliamentary advisor is Serhiy Mazur, a coordinator of the far-right C14 group which <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/26/ukraine-fatal-attack-roma-settlement">human rights activists say</a> is one of several radical groups that have recently attacked Roma settlements and LGBT people.</p><p dir="ltr">“And since this confrontation is already before us, in this context these media can give us an opportunity to reduce the level of hate and even prevent violence”, Lutsenko said, clicking through his presentation slides which included a portrait of Donald Trump.</p><p dir="ltr">“We know that there have been <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-lgbt-march/kiev-police-detain-56-far-right-protesters-against-gay-pride-march-idUSKBN1JD05H">attacks on Gay parades</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-sokolova/can-integration-help-ukraines-roma">inter-ethnic clashes</a>”, he said, “but this was because these were the only possible form of protest and expression of Ukraine’s conservative renaissance”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Lutsenko.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Lutsenko.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ihor Lutsenko, 2012. Photo: Leonst/Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.</span></span></span>Lutsenko read out a list of left-liberal opponents for Ukrainian conservatives, starting with independent TV and radio station <a href="https://en.hromadske.ua/">Hromadske</a> (which was ironic, as its programmes have <a href="https://news.liga.net/all/pr/vosem-jurnalistov-i-redaktsiy---laureaty-novomedia-awards-2018">received</a> several Novomedia awards for their coverage of Christian themes). </p><p>Other named “agents of left-liberal influence” included the <a href="http://www.irf.ua/en/about/irf/">International Renaissance Foundation</a>, part of the Open Society Foundations network, “thousands” of sexual and reproductive rights organisations “with massive budgets”, and Ukraine’s <a href="http://www.cje.org.ua/en">Commission on Journalist Ethics</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">“This is a kind of lobbying industry, copied from the Western model”, Lutsenko claimed. Along with Kukharchuk, he accused left-liberals of vanity, antagonism towards dissenting views, and “double standards”.</p><p dir="ltr">“A particular model of thought is being promoted as an absolute truth which rejects any alternative thinking”, Kukharchuk said.</p><p dir="ltr">“We haven’t even got to the stage of creating a national education system, but we’re already readily accepting that which others are trying to force on us, those things that Europe itself is now starting to reject”, added Gritsyk.</p><p dir="ltr">Universities are dropping history and other courses that could raise responsible parents and “defenders of our fatherland”, he said, replacing them with those teaching tolerance of “sexually depraved minorities”.</p><p dir="ltr">“Liberalism is destroying Europe,” the Vgolos editor continued. “We are all being brainwashed into thinking that traditions are bad… We will all quietly, imperceptibly turn into liberals”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We are all being brainwashed into thinking that traditions are bad”</p><p dir="ltr">The specific, “pro-family” and evangelical rhetoric of the forum was hardly surprising, given Kukharchuk’s public and political activities.</p><p>In addition to leading the Novomedia association, Kukharchuk heads the “Love versus Homosexuality” movement, which holds counter-demonstrations during Kyiv’s annual March of Equality (for the fifth time this year), and the ‘pro-family’ <a href="https://vsirazom.ua">“All Together”</a> (<em>Vsi razom</em>) movement.</p><p dir="ltr">The “All Together” movement – which defines families narrowly, excluding those with LGBT parents – organises a “Marathon of Family Festivals” in cities around Ukraine. Its activists have also lobbied local and central government to pass laws protecting “traditional family values”.</p><p dir="ltr">This fall, more than 50 local councils <a href="http://vsirazom.ua/council">called on the Ukrainian government</a> to criminalise “homosexual propaganda”; delete the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the Labour Code; and preserve the constitution’s definition of marriage as between a man and woman only.</p><p dir="ltr">A recent draft bill, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/ukraine-targets-same-sex-relationships">aiming to implement most of these changes</a>, cited the work of “All Together” as evidence of social demand for them.</p><p dir="ltr">The Novomedia association has also <a href="https://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/zhdanov/5b2e985935318/">defended</a> Hanna Turchynova, a head of faculty at the National Pedagogical Dragomanov University, after she wrote a controversial series of articles against “gender ideology”, which prompted calls for her dismissal from human rights campaigners.</p><p dir="ltr">“The main aim [of gender ideology] is overcoming heterosexuality”, <a href="https://censor.net.ua/blogs/3070251/gomodiktatura_chastina_1_yak_rozbeschuvati_dteyi">wrote</a> Turchynova, who is married to Oleksandr Turchynov, the current Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council (who recently became <a href="https://nv.ua/ukraine/events/protestantskie-tserkvi-ukrainy-obedinilis-v-edinyj-obshchestvennoe-dvizhenie-kto-eho-budet-koordinirovat-2496206.html">coordinator of the country’s Union of Protestant Churches</a>).</p><p dir="ltr">As the Zaborona media outlet <a href="http://zaborona.com/interactive/radical-discriminators/8/">reported</a>, before the EuroMaidan revolution and the war in eastern Ukraine, Kukharchuk had also enjoyed friendly relations with Christian activist organisations in Russia, although later these groups supported the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass.</p><p dir="ltr">In his opening remarks, amid references to “His Excellency, the Fact”, Kukharchuk showed off his pastor skills, reproving his audience (“you’re missing the places where you need to clap”).</p><p dir="ltr">Several of the journalists who spoke at the forum, however, privately admitted they hadn’t realised quite what sort of event it was, and have no intention of attending again.</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="/5050/claire-provost/anti-abortion-propaganda-cinemas-america">This is how anti-abortion propaganda gets into US cinemas</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"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 oD Russia Ukraine Culture Equality International politics Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash gender Tetiana Kozak Wed, 05 Dec 2018 09:58:31 +0000 Tetiana Kozak 120847 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hopeless but happy: Azimjon Askarov and the discontents of Kyrgyzstan’s post-2010 order https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valerian-stefanov/hopeless-but-happy-askarov-kyrgyzstan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new memoir by Kyrgyzstan’s most prominent political prisoner takes readers back to the violence and impunity that followed the country’s 2010 revolution.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/IMG-20181123-WA0002.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/IMG-20181123-WA0002.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Azimjon Askarov in prison. Photo courtesy of Khadicha Askarova. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>A review of Azimjon Askarov, I am happy… (2017).</em></p><p dir="ltr">“I am truly happy because today the cause of Azimjon Askarov has become a symbol of the great battle for freedom, freedom of thought and justice in Kyrgyzstan.” This is how the memoirs of Askarov, Kyrgyzstan’s most prominent political prisoner, end, offering at least some closure and inspiration for struggle next to fatalism in the face of hopelessness. But this only comes after a nightmarish journey through the suffering, grief and injustice that gripped the lives of the protagonist, his family and friends – and the thousands of other people affected by the 2010 conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan.</p><p dir="ltr">In April 2010, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was toppled in a revolution. But it was followed in June by a bloody conflict,&nbsp;now known as the “June events”, which erupted in the country’s south in the ensuing power vacuum. Kyrgyzstan had already endured the ouster of its first post-independence president Askar Akayev in 2005. In the aftermath, various commentators <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/david-gullette/kyrgyzstan-components-of-crisis">argued</a> that the violent events of 2010 represented the climax of an already messy democratic transition.</p><p dir="ltr">The ordeal of Azimjon Askarov, however, is a stark reminder of how Kyrgyzstan eludes facile explanations. The book tells the story of an ordinary citizen and his extraordinary pursuit of justice in the face of seemingly untouchable law enforcement and judicial institutions. That Askarov is eventually sentenced to life in prison – despite the lack of evidence and domestic and international pressure for a fair trial – by the very state machinery he tried to hold to account is ironically tragic.</p><p dir="ltr">In a sense, this book epitomises the disillusion and despair that resulted from the failure of the Kyrgyzstani state and its international partners to acknowledge the suffering of the victims of the dramatic events of 2010, bring perpetrators to justice, and begin the painful but necessary process of national healing and reconciliation.</p><h2>A life dedicated to the fight for justice</h2><p>The book opens with Askarov’s “cloudy” childhood on a collective farm in the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic. This early life was marked by the constant struggle to make do with the little his farm worker family received in return for their hard work in the fields. After serving in the Red Army, Askarov, born in 1951, graduated with an arts diploma in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.</p><p dir="ltr">Throughout the 1980s, he earned a good living as a layout artist producing visual campaigning and propaganda material in the official Artists’ Association. His activism was initially sparked in 1990, when <a href="http://archive.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/uu12ee/uu12ee0d.htm">inter-ethnic clashes</a> broke out between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities in southern Kyrgyzstan. After a confrontation of nationalist groups from both sides over the redistribution of farmland and political representation, violent clashes spread to the cities of Osh and Uzgen, claiming up to 600 victims.</p><p dir="ltr">In the aftermath of these tragic events, Askarov noticed the increasingly frequent “abuse and violence towards local residents” by police in his hometown of Bazar-Korgon and neighbouring villages in the Jalal-Abad province in south-western Kyrgyzstan. He helped to uncover and bring to justice such incidents including through newspaper publications that prompted the district or even the provincial-level internal affairs administration to correct their wrongdoings. As a member of a Jalal-Abad-based human rights organisation and a journalist with a column in the monthly paper Justice for all – which soon became notorious among local law enforcement – Askarov advocated the concerns of people in the region, as well as fellow Uzbeks who were accused of religious extremism on the other side of the border in Uzbekistan.</p><p dir="ltr">In the 2000s, Askarov’s conflict with local law enforcement and the judiciary was only exacerbated by his investigations into murders in his hometown district police station, which the local department of internal affairs tried to cover up. Among other cases, Askarov and his colleagues helped to bring to light the death of local trader Tashkenbai Moidunov during police interrogation, or the <a href="http://fergana.mobi/articles/5007">systematic rape and resulting pregnancy</a> of Zulkhumor Tokhtanazarova, who was imprisoned for 7 months for alleged involvement in petty theft. These revelations resulted in local law enforcement and prosecution personnel losing their jobs and being brought to justice, which let the “anger of the police against [Askarov] grow hundredfold.” Thus, when deadly clashes between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities erupted in June 2010, it seemed like Askarov’s tragic fate had already been sealed .</p><h2>Emblem of the injustice surrounding the June 2010 "events"</h2><p dir="ltr">Askarov’s story exemplifies that of many people who suffered from the “June events” in south Kyrgyzstan. In the aftermath, hundreds of people were wrongly accused, detained and sentenced on fabricated charges. According to Askarov’s account of events, however, others who shot at peaceful inhabitants in and around Bazar-Korgon were not arrested by law enforcement or prosecuted by the judiciary, nor were those who looted and burnt private property. To this day, the perpetrators of these crimes walk free.</p><p dir="ltr">The narrative meticulously reconstructs how Askarov was summoned to the District Department of Internal Affairs while he was documenting the casualties and damage wrought to Bazar-Korgon, including the burnt-down office of his Justice NGO. Here, Askarov was presented with false accusations of instigating a crowd of people to attack the local police station on 4 June,&nbsp;when he was actually in Moscow, as well as of colluding in the murder of a police inspector, Myktybek Sulaimanov, on 13 June on a bridge just out of town.</p><p dir="ltr">The events that followed are suitably referred to as “steps into hell”. Askarov refuses to confess to crimes he has not committed, as well as to falsely implicate his neighbours in handing out automatic weapons. He is first abused and kicked until he loses consciousness, while his brother is brought to the police station and heavily beaten. He is then put in pre-trial detention, and in turns beaten and interrogated by investigators, who force him to refuse a medical examination under pain of death. His lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov and fellow rights activists document the bruises and injuries left on his body by the beatings. Askarov enjoys only brief respites from abuse while in detention; his lawyer Toktakunov is physically and verbally assaulted, and receives death threats. Despair creeps in and Askarov attempts, but fails, to take his own life. At this point, he confesses to having lost the “will to live.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Askarov’s story exemplifies that of many people who suffered from the “June events” in south Kyrgyzstan</p><p dir="ltr">This is followed by the first court hearing on 2 September 2010, where Askarov and seven other defendants face murder charges relating to the death of Sulaimanov, the inspector. The session is preceded and followed by beatings from policemen in the police station courtyard, with the defendants’ “screams being heard by our relatives and lawyers on the street.” When a special commission is formed to investigate these incidents, Askarov is once again forced to deny having been beaten. He tells commission members that he fell on the floor, an explanation “they readily accepted” in order to “close the case with the formulation: ‘The facts could not be verified.’”</p><p dir="ltr">In the end, despite the lack of evidence against Askarov and the continuous abuse and death threats against his lawyers, the Bazar-Korgon District Court sentences five of the eight defendants, including Askarov, to life in prison. While the verdict is based on false statements extracted from the accused under duress and torture, it is nonetheless upheld by the Jalal-Abad provincial court. After more beatings and abuse in various detention centres, which he tries to escape in several more suicide attempts, Askarov is finally transferred to Prison No. 47 in Bishkek to serve his sentence.</p><p dir="ltr">Askarov dissects the contradictory case made against him and the other defendants. He argues that the authorities’ failure to collect, preserve and analyse evidence, as well as the absence of traces at the crime scene, point to a cover up by the police and other authorities. The gunshot wound at the back of Sulaimanov’s head, for example, appears to indicate that he was killed by his own colleagues with two key purposes: first, to silence their “disobedient” colleague, who threatened to report an incident that led to the death of an Uzbek man in the district police station on 4 June 2010; and second, to put the blame on the Uzbek population for the violence and crimes it suffered. “That way,” argues Askarov, “the siloviki came up with supposedly ‘serious grounds’ for the justification of crimes against the peaceful inhabitants of the town, and torture and ransom, specifically.”</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, argues Askarov, the murder of Sulaimanov “was also useful for some politicians in order to distract attention from the desperate situation of Uzbeks, who were killed and robbed by armed people in June 2010”. He backs up his claim with the fact that former interim President Roza Otunbayeva <a href="https://knews.kg/2016/07/11/roza-otunbaeva-dala-pryamoe-ukazanie-sudam-prigovorit-azimzhana-askarova-k-pozhiznennomu-zaklyucheniyu-bajbolov/">put pressure</a> on prosecutors to sentence Askarov. Then Interior Minister Azimbek Beknazarov also made press statements justifying Askarov’s arrest with alleged evidence in the form of a video recording from the interrogation, which, however, has never been presented to this day.</p><h2>The dark side of Kyrgyzstan’s post-2010 political order</h2><p dir="ltr">The remainder of Askarov’s narrative deals with life in Prison No. 47, where he lives through the death of his mother and survives yet another suicide attempt. However, the fact that Allah once again “did not allow [him] to die”, the support from his wife Khadicha and his family, from fellow human rights activists and lawyers, as well as the attention of several diplomats and representatives form international organisations, give him new hope and help him to find some peace in the study of the Quran and in daily prayers. From this support comes also his desire to provide legal help to other prisoners and bring their cases to public attention.</p><p dir="ltr">Askarov survives the resentment from the camp’s personnel and solitary confinement thanks to Allah and to the “letters with words of support from friends from all over the world”. In 2015, he is awarded the <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-us-rights-award-askarov/27128860.html">Human Rights Defenders Award</a> from the US State Department which, unfortunately, brings him back to the attention of the security services and the authorities, who use it as a pretext to terminate the Kyrgyzstan-US cooperation agreement.</p><p dir="ltr">This, and the fact that Askarov’s wife was apparently followed on her way to a 2015 film festival in Bishkek in which his life work was honoured, are only some reminders of the de facto authoritarian order that has emerged in Kyrgyzstan after 2010. The consistent attempts of international actors such as the EU or the UN Human Rights Council to prompt the Kyrgyz authorities to review Askarov’s case and release him from prison have proven ineffective over the years, as authorities like former President Almazbek Atambayev have hidden behind a rhetoric of rule-of-law and non-interference into the judiciary. Even parliamentary opposition leaders like Omurbek Tekebayev – himself sentenced to eight years in prison in 2017 – have opposed proposals to act upon international pressure to ensure a fair trial for Askarov.</p><p dir="ltr">I am happy ends in the anticlimax of Askarov’s case revision by the Chui regional court in Bishkek in the winter of 2016-2017. Again, blatant procedural mistakes, inconclusive evidence and contradicting statements by various policemen and other involved parties, as well as reports of torture and abuse inflicted on the defendants and witnesses, do not lead to the overturning of Askarov’s life sentence. On the contrary, he details how the verdict mimics the unjust decisions of the district, provincial and Supreme courts in 2010 and 2011.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">What is the peace in today’s Kyrgyzstan worth if it is built upon the suffering of many innocent people, and the impunity of the perpetrators who remain at large?</p><p dir="ltr">The final scene, in particular, is surreal: the judges look down in shame, the main judge’s face blushes as he sweats and fails to finish reading out the verdict. It is at this precise moment that Askarov feels like “an absolute victor.” Following the verdict, Askarov comes close to dying from the hunger strike he declares in protest, but is convinced to desist by the pleading of his family, friends, and medical personnel.</p><p dir="ltr">Azimjon Askarov’s story poses uncomfortable yet inevitable questions. How is it possible to resume a normal life for people who suffered so much in the “June events”? What is the peace in today’s Kyrgyzstan worth if it is built upon the suffering of many innocent people, and the impunity of the perpetrators who remain at large? How is it even possible to <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1050-ldquoeverything-can-be-tolerated-ndash-except-injusticerdquo">build</a> sustainable peace in the country when justice has not been done?</p><p dir="ltr">So far, the elites have followed the logic of everyday pragmatism, excluding questions of justice and reparation from the smallest common denominator of social ordering in Kyrgyzstan, and many people have followed suit. This book exposes the short-sightedness and inherent violence of such an approach, for Askarov and on behalf of many others like him, urging people to reconsider the legacy of the 2010 conflict in Kyrgyzstan and for the future of the country.</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/zhyldyz-frank/double-discrimination-in-kyrgyzstan">Double discrimination: why Uzbek women in Kyrgyzstan are a minority within a minority</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/zukhra-iakupbaeva/minorities-in-kyrgyzstan">Minorities in Kyrgyzstan: changed by revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/franco-galdini/islam-in-kyrgyzstan-growing-in-diversity">Islam in Kyrgyzstan: growing in diversity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/georgina-rannard/in-osh-flames-have-died-down-but-not-discontent">In Osh, the flames have died down, but not the discontent</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Valerian Stefanov Kyrgyzstan Wed, 05 Dec 2018 07:28:17 +0000 Valerian Stefanov 120805 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In pre-election move, Moldova takes aim at civil society-opposition nexus https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/evghenii-ceban/in-pre-election-move-moldova-takes-aim-at-pro-european-ngo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">As the European Union calls out state capture in Moldova, the authorities in Chișinău are rewriting the rules of the game for civil society and opposition politics. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/evgeniy-cheban/v-chem-vinovat-open-dialog" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_31804881018_6b5722c9c6_h_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_31804881018_6b5722c9c6_h_0.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'>16 November: Investigation commission presents its final report into the activities of Open Dialog foundation. Source: parliament.md.</span></span></span>Moldova’s parliament recently accused two influential opposition parties of engaging in subversive anti-government activity, and the parties themselves of illegally accepting foreign funding. The formal grounds for this accusation was the opposition’s collaboration with the European <a href="https://en.odfoundation.eu/">“Open Dialogue Foundation”</a> NGO, which parliament claims is being financed and led by the Russian security services. The Moldovan government is now proposing to review the regulations on the funding of political parties and NGOs, and initiate a criminal investigation into opposition activities.</p><p dir="ltr">The Moldovan parliament’s official report into the activities of Open Dialogue is the authorities’ response to the European parliament’s latest criticism of the government and its de facto head, oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc. </p><h2>What happened? </h2><p dir="ltr">On 16 November, the Moldovan parliament examined the final report of its own investigative commission, which had researched the “circumstances behind the intervention of the Open Dialogue Foundation in Moldova’s internal politics”. This document, unprecedented in both essence and content, was approved by members of the Democratic Party of Moldova’s parliamentary majority, which is controlled by Vladimir Plahotniuc. Members of both the Democratic Party and the Party of Socialists, a pro-Russian party which works in collaboration with the authorities, were represented on the investigative commission. </p><p dir="ltr">The commission’s report contains categorical allegations against Open Dialog by opposition politicians including Andrei Năstase, leader of the Dignity and Truth Platform (PAS), and Maia Sandu, head of the Action and Solidarity party (DA), as well as a number of civic activists. </p><h2>What is Open Dialogue? </h2><p dir="ltr">The Open Dialogue Foundation was founded in Poland in 2009 by Lyudmyla Kozlovska, who is still the president of the organisation today. The foundation works on human rights in the post-Soviet space, and has permanent offices in Warsaw and Brussels. </p><p dir="ltr">In August 2018, the Polish government entered Lyudmyla Kozlovska into the Schengen Information System’s “blacklist”, together with a request to ban her from entering EU member states. The Polish government did not explain the reasons behind entering Kozlovska on this list. Kozlovska says that the Polish authorities’ request is revenge for the political activities of her and her husband, Polish opposition activist Bartosz Kramek. A month after this request, Kozlovska received special visa from Germany, Belgium, France, and was able to enter the United Kingdom freely. The Polish authorities did not present any claims against the work of the Open Dialogue Foundation itself.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_44321739_2220780511297333_4016469414525272064_o_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_44321739_2220780511297333_4016469414525272064_o_0.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'>Lyudmyla Kozlovska. Source: Open Dialog Foundation / Facebook.</span></span></span>The Moldovan investigative commission bases its accusations against the Open Dialogue Foundation on publications in Ukrainian and Polish media. The commission also cites funding sources for the foundation, which it believes could be connected to Russian state companies.</p><p dir="ltr">The Open Dialogue Foundation is referred to in the report as “a sophisticated strategic weapon”, and is charged with:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">- receiving funding through a money laundering scheme known as the <a href="https://www.occrp.org/en/laundromat/the-russian-laundromat-exposed/">“Laundromat”</a>, as well as resources and money from the “heist of the century” – the theft of a billion dollars from three Moldovan banks in 2014<br /><br />- lobbying various European structures in the interests of people with a suspicious past<br /><br />- having links with Russian intelligence agents, including <a href="https://en.crimerussia.com/financialcrimes/laundromat-18-years-of-imprisonment-for-platon/">businessman Vyacheslav Platon</a>, who is now serving an 18 year prison sentence for embezzlement and whom the Moldovan authorities believe to be at the centre of the “heist of the century”. According to Moldovan MPs, Kozlovska and Open Dialogue have been lobbying Platon’s interests in various European countries, which has led to a worsening of relations between the Moldovan government and European politicians<br /><br />- undermining the national security and discrediting the image of Eastern European states (Poland, Ukraine and Moldova) in the interests of Russia</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">If this report is to be believed, just about all the criticism levelled at Moldova by the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and other European agencies and politicians has no basis in the Moldovan government’s ignorance of the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law. Instead, according to the report, this criticism is the product of activities of Open Dialogue.</p><p dir="ltr">The condemnation of “invented” abuses by the prosecutor’s office and courts towards human rights and civic activists, the suspension of EU macro financial aid and changes to Moldova’s electoral system – all these are described in the report as results of lobbying by Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s Foundation. The Moldovan authorities also accuse Open Dialogue of lobbying the interests of Kazakh oligarch <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2018/02/the-ablyazov-affair-fraud-on-an-epic-scale/">Mukhtar Ablyazov</a>, who is cited as one of their major financial sponsors.</p><p>Kozlovska believes that Moldova’s ruling party is trying to discredit her organisation in response to her support for the “Magnitsky Law” and adding Vladimir Plahotniuc to the EU sanction list.</p><h2>Accusations against the opposition</h2><p dir="ltr">According to the investigative commission, Moldovan opposition leaders Andrei Năstase and Maia Sandu were recruited into Open Dialogue’s subversive activities, and the parties they lead were financed by the foundation. The report’s conclusion particularly stresses the idea that these activities were financed and coordinated by Russia’s security services (all foreign funding for political parties is in fact illegal in Moldova).</p><p dir="ltr">The commission also concludes that participation in “subversion” boils down to criticising the Moldovan government at events run by the foundation and other European platforms.</p><p dir="ltr">As for the “illegal funding” of DA and PAS, the parliamentarians have concluded that this consisted of payment of the transport costs of the leaders of these party leaders. There is no mention of the parties themselves receiving any funding from a foreign organisation.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Andrei_Năstase_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Andrei_Năstase_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andrei Năstase. CC BY-SA 4.0 Andy.redbrick / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>In other words, the charges against Open Dialogue come down to a few airline tickets bought for Moldovan politicians. The commission also cites <a href="https://www.ziarulnational.md/doc-probele-care-ar-demonstra-ca-pas-si-ppda-a-avut-beneficii-de-pe-urma-colaborarii-cu-fundatia-open-dialog-raspunsul-dat-de-partidul-maiei-sandu/">media reports</a> stating that in May 2017, the foundation paid for flights to Brussels by Năstase and Sandu to attend a conference entitled “Moldova at the Crossroads”. This event was organised by Open Dialogue itself, and was attended not only by Moldovan politicians, human rights campaigners and journalists, but also by members of the European Parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">Members of the investigative commission, citing the Central Executive Committee, have confirmed that there are other foreign organisations operating in the country that pay Moldovan politicians’ travel expenses. These include the <a href="https://www.iri.org/">US’s International Republican Institute (IRI)</a>, the <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/congress">Council of</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/congress">Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities</a> and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Adenauer_Foundation">Konrad Adenauer</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Adenauer_Foundation">Foundation</a>. It is, of course, telling that only members of opposition political parties receive financial help from foreign foundations.</p><h2>Why now?</h2><p dir="ltr">Moldova’s pro-government media were already <a href="https://www.timpul.md/articol/investigaie---fenomenul-ablyazov-calul-troian-pentru-europa--razboaiele-politice-dinexportate-est--in-instantele-parlamentele-si-mass-media-occidentale-120941.html">writing</a> about Open Dialogue’s funding of opposition leaders’ trips abroad in October 2017, but this information failed to attract official attention. </p><p dir="ltr">Up until mid-2018, the ruling Democratic Party was, in its relations with its western partners, keen to position itself as the main proponent of Moldova’s pro-European policies. For the sake of EU and US support, the Democrats were ready to accept criticism and charges of usurping power from the pro-European opposition, declare its willingness to cooperate with its chief critics and opponents, DA and PAS, lend formal support to Maia Sandu in the 2016 presidential elections and talk about the necessity for the unification of all Moldova’s pro-European forces.</p><p dir="ltr">The situation changed radically, however, after Chișinău’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vitalie-sprinceana/victory-for-real-politics-chi-in-u-s-mayoral-elections-in-perspective">snap mayoral election</a> in June this year. The city courts refused to confirm the victory of Andrei Năstase, the candidate from the united right-wing opposition who is one of the government’s chief critics. As a result, the European Parliament <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-moldova-protests-eu/eu-freezes-aid-to-moldova-as-row-over-mayoral-election-festers-idUKKBN1JU2FV">froze 100 million euros of macro-financial aid</a> to the country. Since then, relations between Brussels and Chișinău have soured completely. Although the Moldovan government has formally maintained its pro-European stance, it has ceased to pay any attention to Brussels when taking internal policy decisions. </p><p dir="ltr">The first charge directed at Open Dialogue and Lyudmyla Kozlovska by the Democratic Party appeared in August, two months after the mayoral election debacle. A group of Democratic Party parliamentarians demanded that the General Prosecutor’s office check for a possible connection between the DA and PAS parties and Lyudmyla Kozlovska. A week earlier, media controlled by the ruling Democratic Party <a href="http://newsmaker.md/rus/novosti/smi-dempartii-rasskazali-o-deportatsii-iz-es-lobbistki-pas-i-da-za-svyaz-so-spetss-38713">announced</a> that Kozlovska had been deported from the EU “for links with the Russian security services”. These media reports also mentioned close links between Kozlovska and opposition leaders.</p><p dir="ltr">A month later, in mid-September, Vladimir Plahotniuc announced that his ruling party was adopting a new set of politics (“For Moldova”), and was refusing to engage in geopolitics. He promised that his party would concentrate on Moldova and its citizens “regardless of their geopolitical preferences”.</p><p dir="ltr">In October, on the initiative of the Democratic Party, a parliamentary commission was set up to investigate “the intervention of the Open Dialogue Foundation and its founder Lyudmyla Kozlovska in Moldova’s internal affairs”. </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, on 14 November, the European Parliament examined a report into Moldova’s implementation of its EU Association Agreement, and <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/european-parliament-slams-moldova-as-a-state-captured-by-oligarchic-interests-/29600720.html">issued a strong resolution</a> on Moldova as a “state captured by oligarchic interests”. The resolution discussed clear issues around Moldova’s ability to observe democratic principles, as evidenced by electoral changes, the revocation of the Chișinău mayoral election results, the absence of an independent judiciary, the botched investigation into the missing one billion dollars and politically motivated cases against opposition and human rights activists, as well as pressure on journalists and government monopolisation of the media. </p><p dir="ltr">In the light of this situation, the European Parliament recommended that the Council of Europe restrict financial aid to Moldova and explore the possibility of introducing personal sanctions against people involved in the billion dollar theft. </p><p dir="ltr">Two days later, the Moldovan parliament approved a “retaliatory” document – a report by the investigative commission on Kozlovska’s case, where the aforementioned European Parliament resolution was referred to as the result of lobbying by a foundation controlled by the Russian security services. And the opposition politicians keenest on integration within the EU were represented as recipients of money stolen from Moldovan banks. </p><h2>So what next? </h2><p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://lex.justice.md/index.php?action=view&amp;view=doc&amp;lang=2&amp;id=378062">report</a> approved by the Moldovan parliament contains an extensive list of recommendations for the widest possible range of governmental bodies. </p><p dir="ltr">Parliament is charged with producing an overview of all the current draft bills relating to political parties’ and NGOs’ funding and removing any risk to national security. The government must make proposals to parliament on these issues. In 2017, the government already attempted to ban foreign funding to NGOs, but was forced to abandon the idea under pressure from foreign diplomats and civil society. It’s unlikely that this will stop from them doing it now. </p><p dir="ltr">Moldova’s Central Election Commission is now due to check political parties’ financial affairs.</p><p dir="ltr">The General Prosecutor’s office is recommended to give a legal evaluation of the activities of Open Dialogue and its associate organisations which are subverting Moldova’s national security (the first draft of this point, as proposed by the commission, also listed the articles under which suspects could be charged: “Treason”, “Espionage”). Immediately after the parliamentary session where the commission report was accepted, the parliamentary speaker, Andrian Candu, declared that if the opposition politicians Năstase and Sandu took part in deliberately “subversive activity” against Moldova, they could be charged with high treason. </p><p dir="ltr">This document, written in true Stalinist style, may well lead to stricter legislation in the area of party and NGO funding, as well as a further rollout of repressive measures against opposition politicians and human rights campaigners. And MPs could certainly use accusations of this kind to ban the opposition PAS and DA parties from putting candidates forward in the upcoming parliamentary elections. In 2014, it was in fact an accusation of foreign funding that led to the <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/moldova-court-rejects-patria-appeal-ban/26713787.html">removal of the Patria political party</a>, which had a very good chance of winning seats in parliament, from the election lists.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Moldova’s judiciary, parliament and Central Election Commission have been under direct control by the ruling Democratic Party for a long time now</p><p dir="ltr">Moldova’s judiciary, parliament and Central Election Commission have been under direct control by the ruling Democratic Party for a long time now. The question of which of the report’s recommendations will be translated into action will depend on their political price, as well as the will of Vladimir Plahotniuc himself.</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2019, Moldovans will go to the polls in parliamentary elections. The government has prepared for these as thoroughly as possible. Democrats and socialists have <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mihai-popsoi/changing-rules-of-game-in-moldova">changed the electoral system</a> in their own interests, replacing proportional representation with a mixed system. They have also removed the ban on campaigning on election day and are initiating criminal cases against civil activists, opposition MPs and local council members. The only influential opposition parties still in the mix are the PAS/DA bloc. The hysteria around the idea that members of the opposition are enemies of the state, as well as the cleared fabricated charges of subversion and treason being levelled at these parties’ leaders indicate once again that February’s parliamentary elections will not be free and fair. Everybody, both in Moldova and outside it, knows it. </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/maria-levcenco/vlad-plahotniuc-moldova-s-man-in-shadows">Vlad Plahotniuc: Moldova’s man in the shadows</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vitalie-sprinceana/victory-for-real-politics-chi-in-u-s-mayoral-elections-in-perspective">A victory for real politics? Chișinău’s mayoral elections in perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nicolai-paholinitchi/moldovas-battle-against-russian-propaganda">Why Moldova’s battle against Russian propaganda isn’t what it seems</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mihai-popsoi/moldova-s-civil-society-braces-for-another-attack">Moldova’s civil society braces for another attack </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Evghenii Ceban Moldova Fri, 30 Nov 2018 23:14:04 +0000 Evghenii Ceban 120763 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Chechnya, a partial triumph for international justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/diederik-lohman/in-chechnya-partial-triumph-for-international-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By taking their cases to the European Court of Human Rights, hundreds of Chechen men and women have thwarted the powerful Russian state’s efforts to sweep its abuses in Chechnya under the rug.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Estamirovy.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Estamirovy.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Toita Estamirova. Source: Estamirov family. </span></span></span>It had been months since Russian riot police shot five members of Ruslan Yandarov’s wife’s family, including a pregnant woman and a one year-old boy, in a bloody rampage in Grozny, Chechnya. The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/feb/23/chechnya.ameliagentleman" target="_blank">incident</a>&nbsp;had shocked many in Europe and the US, eliciting a reluctant promise from Russia to investigate.&nbsp;</p><p><span></span></p><p>Yet, Ruslan told me, Russian investigators had never even bothered to contact the family, take statements from the people who discovered the bodies, or collect bullets and other evidence from the crime scene. A gentle, soft-spoken lawyer in his forties, Ruslan was dejected. The thought that this horrific crime would go unpunished was too much to bear.</p><p>It was the year 2000 and I was working at Human Rights Watch in Moscow. Along with our partners at&nbsp;<a href="https://memohrc.org/en" target="_blank">Memorial</a>, a Russian rights group, we had documented several massacres, including that of Ruslan’s in-laws, widespread&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2000/10/25/chechen-detainees-face-hell-russian-captors" target="_blank">torture</a>, and indiscriminate&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/1999/11/02/evidence-war-crimes-chechnya" target="_blank">bombardments</a>&nbsp;of civilians by Russian forces in the early months of the Chechen war. While Russia had initially denied all allegations, the international outcry had been so strong that it eventually felt compelled to promise to investigate.</p><p>The story of what happened next and the eventual outcome all these years later is a cautionary tale both for those responsible for the devastating crimes in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere and the international community trying to stem the abuses. Sooner or later, the truth will come out but real justice may be elusive.&nbsp;</p><p><span></span></p><p>We were skeptical of those promises from Russia and decided to investigate its investigation. So I traveled to Ingushetia, the region neighboring Chechnya, a few months later to go back to the same people we had interviewed previously about the most egregious incidents that had occurred. Each person I visited on that trip gave me an account similar to Ruslan’s. No, federal investigators had not contacted them. No, nobody had come to take their testimony. No, nobody had come to collect evidence from the crime scene.</p><p>It became crystal clear that Russia had not been sincere about its&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/eca/chechmemo-0213.htm" target="_blank">investigations</a>. It had not even taken the most elementary steps.&nbsp;</p><p><span></span></p><p>That finding was not unexpected. What did surprise me, however, was how forcefully many of the families I interviewed spoke about their desire for justice, even if they were also fearful of retaliation. None believed Russia would ever open an effective investigation, but they had high hopes for the European Court of Human Rights, which Russia had recently joined. I was also struck by the strength of the evidence many of the families had showing that government soldiers or police had committed the abuses. In one&nbsp;<a href="https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#%7B%22dmdocnumber%22:[%22807138%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-76493%22]%7D" target="_blank">case</a>, a mother showed me video of a Russian general ordering the execution of a young Chechen who had subsequently vanished without a trace.</p><p>But how could these men and women, many of whom had lost their homes, were living in temporary accommodations, and had no jobs, possibly succeed in holding Russia accountable for its abuses? The European Court, despite its promise, seemed impossibly remote.</p><p>As it turned out, there was a way. An organization I helped found after that trip,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.srji.org/en/" target="_blank">Russian Justice Initiative</a>&nbsp;(now Justice Initiative), recently won its 200th&nbsp;case in the European Court on behalf of victims of abuses in Chechnya and neighboring regions, including Ruslan’s&nbsp;<a href="https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#%7B%22fulltext%22:[%22%22CASE%20OF%20ESTAMIROV%20AND%20OTHERS%20v.%20RUSSIA%22%22],%22documentcollectionid2%22:[%22GRANDCHAMBER%22,%22CHAMBER%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-77396%22]%7D" target="_blank">family</a>. Memorial, which started helping Chechens seek justice around the same time, has won another 73 cases. The court has now considered the complaints about abuses by federal forces of more than 1,000 individual Chechens and has ordered Russia to pay more than 20 million euros in compensation to these plaintiffs.</p><p>Justice, however, remains incomplete. Being a civil court, the European Court cannot hold individual wrongdoers to account and, while Russia has paid compensation as ordered, it has stubbornly&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/03/20/update-european-court-human-rights-judgments-against-russia-regarding-cases-chechnya" target="_blank">refused</a>&nbsp;to prosecute the people responsible for these abuses. In the case of Ruslan’s family, for example, the unit responsible for the killings is known but has not been investigated. Russia has also refused to make the systematic changes that could prevent these abuses from happening again.&nbsp;</p><p><span></span></p><p>Even so, for the plaintiffs this is a remarkable achievement. A thousand courageous but powerless Chechen men and women have thwarted the powerful Russian state’s efforts to sweep its abuses in Chechnya under the rug. Thousands of pages of court documents will ensure that Chechnya will forever be a stain on Russia’s record. But for Ruslan and many other plaintiffs, perhaps the most significant victory is the vindication of their loss by an international court.</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/abdul-itslaev/the-second-chechen-war">The Second Chechen War: Testimony of an Eyewitness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/no-defence-in-chechnya">No defence in Chechnya: Oyub Titiyev and the grim future of human rights in Russia’s North Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tamara-grigoreva-ismail-djalilov/new-era-of-crimes-against-humanity-in-eurasia">A new era of crimes against humanity in Eurasia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dominik-k-cagara/chechnya-dead-europeans-are-only-news-sometimes">Chechnya: dead Europeans are only sometimes news</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Diederik Lohman Chechnya Thu, 29 Nov 2018 15:25:02 +0000 Diederik Lohman 120655 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The crisis in the Azov Sea https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/crisis-in-azov-sea <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">How did this happen and what can we expect further?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-39926668.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-39926668.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kerch Strait. (c) Bai Xueqi/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>On 25 November, two Ukrainian gunboats, the Berdyansk and Nikopol, accompanied by the raid tug Yany Kapu, were making a routine maneuver from Odesa, on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, to the city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. In accordance with a <a href="http://www.mid.ru/foreign_policy/international_contracts/2_contract/-/storage-viewer/bilateral/page-169/46287?fbclid=IwAR3vlkcHwGEISs3cjCr2p3RbEtFH-EJsbe7qiXLjSSeXx-PNBSjO1c9m5ko">2003 treaty</a> between Ukraine and Russia, non-commercial and naval vessels of both countries have freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait that cuts between Crimea and Russia. This same treaty also permits vessels belonging to third countries to enter the Azov Sea’s waters and use the Kerch Strait when entering and exiting Ukrainian and Russian ports.</p><p dir="ltr">As they approached the Azov Sea, the Ukrainian side reported their intentions to the Russian navy. But at the Kerch Strait, Russian naval vessels committed an act of military aggression on the Ukrainian ships. A Russian border guard cruiser, the Don, rammed the Yany Kapu, damaging the Ukrainian tugboat’s engine and piercing the ship’s plating. After the collision, the warships continued their voyage across the Azov Sea.</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFaeOvngCb8">footage</a> released by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, you can see how the Don’s Russian commanders drive their ship towards the Yany Kapu, hitting it on the starboard side. Russian naval vessels then began blocking the Berdyansk and Nikopol, hampering their attempts to help the Yany Kapu. According to the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/navy.mil.gov.ua/posts/1075314699338466?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARDpc5dqEi2atvAFg2kxAoHKzgQ4DLTYclbJO_qD01_lTVr2EvMdAz0PPlqEuHYUG-FhQx6ZNgYeIfKqJ6lr3wzX3slQFso0vPb8IwvnCOj8G-CUVv9Uz34scgKcNhkaMnsZ8MA8b6TSjmdO5WHuQGQxOdbN-n9shYvar-Qj96zVaQ_wqvY1o82wRhHQHN-51ck8zVQl792gfgHEHYr7IRL3aaw5XV4fQ7qIBW69QgMgNrpThBwLPIBNPou21yhv7tqMplbvoXBbsr01FjMREmp6c2FxBpC5z_qKkKcbLnjAvU2x6H37r85JPJ_KN-Ubpr0E05MfPN9rrHkE2p-_sA&amp;__tn__=-R">Ukrainian Navy</a>, the Berdyansk attempted to contact a Russian FSB Border Service coastal station to report its intention to cross the Kerch Strait at about 4am, but received no response from Russian dispatchers. Later, negotiations with the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s anti-submarine ship Suzdalets took place in Kerch’s port, but the Ukrainian Navy’s message still went unanswered. </p><p dir="ltr">By early afternoon on 25 November, the Ukrainian warships had approached the Kerch Strait, where they were blocked by Russian vessels as they entered and left the strait. Meanwhile, at 1.50pm, the Russian warship Admiral Zakharin and two Raptor launches <a href="https://www.facebook.com/navy.mil.gov.ua/posts/1075456582657611?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARCvhGcAcdmlJfjXvkHlLShZnwqmYwcPX4VLTpfc0GtIlqrrI6AgnUOXJdmJDHPiAGPvW_hcOyICTcgUwiQMGWK2kczLuCD2DF_0nkMsa2ydQrb83jfLKMUFNPxbSwyMRranUsaFKsoCdr-Bhawk03f48G0zwkjgHcO6OdkR8bVdkF-qA-CHt5ZdVskjODt42lIdgngn1Dl8tPI0Pn0kr0hPRRd2FyAy7oo9PsiPf02GoE26IpUnK9A36z8Z0j3d2YgajSPER0PTTiKbal57VVztFsMfDWCpo_EfnX7IM0Q-eBhTz9QGSqsQQYXGJhRyuRYaZ1KFwuGJN-ICIcsojA&amp;__tn__=-R">sailed through the strait</a>, and Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters were <a href="https://www.facebook.com/navy.mil.gov.ua/posts/1075342492669020?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARBO_5jOfDN7s0mL8bU4ru6H1MXMcOswvGbK2X-XBaHLocxbLQFu1wj6Q76QfbI04F8SQyc9sD4OD3nUDcs50Q9sjPOUap9cKqfsktqE6q7lA1twJJ3FqhcUkV50Y1kccZnVSBSqI9fnSHx4mupDVs7UXePFnRNImHYC2By4a5xuZ29sh8Kv-myDBGrhIbdYo9-_T-PFkjTkEtUc5aqUW9QZ4PVr5iZvonhGb0WKg89Q8aQqCf1VXmSb3jPe7ZERFA_ox0mdED6G1HYpSHStWEbef7a8fiaAzXaaxBNeUleCyyCG5V683STT2aad8Xfq40AJ4e2hDus_AKH9u9DCXQ&amp;__tn__=-R">observed</a> in the sky in the vicinity of the Ukrainian vessels. By 7pm, the Ukrainian naval vessels began to move out of the strait, but found themselves followed by Russian naval launches, which ordered them to stop or be fired on. At the same time, reports of a Russian special forces unit boarding the Don began appearing in the media. </p><p dir="ltr">At 8pm, the Russian FSB Border Service opened fire on the Ukrainian naval vessels. The Berdyansk and part of its crew were fired on before Russian special forces seized the Ukrainian ships. In recordings of talks between Ukrainian and Russian forces on the Ukrainian <a href="https://news.liga.net/politics/video/ruki-vverh-strelyaem-liganet-publikuet-peregovory-na-azove?fbclid=IwAR1kNqZqqASWFpQUAoMJ2qSiRBfDBP0thPZmDwInqJ0OB2Z9qTuMMqbvJW4">LIGA.net</a> website, the Ukrainian naval personnel can be heard telling their Russian counterparts that their intentions are peaceful, and informing them about their wounded. The attack and detention of the Ukrainian naval forces were also <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/2018/11/26/147065-fsb-podtverdila-zaderzhanie-i-obstrel-treh-ukrainskih-korabley-v-chernom-more">confirmed</a> by the FSB, which also opened a criminal investigation into an illegal border crossing. </p><p dir="ltr">On the morning of 26 November, the Kerch.fm TV channel <a href="https://kerch.fm/2018/11/26/na-genmole-v-kerchi-prishvartovany-zaderzhannye-korabli-vms-ukrainy.html">broadcast</a> a video showing the Berdyansk, Nikopol and Yany Kapu tied up in Kerch harbour. Twenty three Ukrainian seamen were also detained in Crimea, and three out of the six wounded sailors — Andriy Artemenko, Vasyl Soroka and Andriy Eider‚ are <a href="https://hromadske.radio/news/2018/11/26/roszmi-opublikuvaly-imena-zatrymanyh-poblyzu-kerchenskoyi-protoky-ukrayinskyh-moryakiv?fbclid=IwAR1rSH4XLPlCdGYI9qdefTzZbUfxoM0uKDGCCfvydXStY_iOb5aKEw_cP30">now being treated</a> at Kerch’s No.1 Pirogov Hospital. Ukraine’s Security Service has opened an investigation into this act of aggression by the Russian military under Article 437 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code: “On the Planning, Preparation, Initiation and Conduct of a War of Aggression”. </p><p dir="ltr">Immediately after the events in the Kerch Strait, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko <a href="https://www.unian.net/politics/10351518-poroshenko-sozyvaet-voennyy-kabinet-iz-za-zahvata-rossiey-ukrainskih-korabley.html">announced</a> that he was convening a war cabinet. This cabinet then decided to convene the National Security and Defence Council (SNBO), where the president, along with the military and security chiefs, <a href="https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2018/11/26/7199271/">proposed </a>the imposition of martial law, and Poroshenko, at an extraordinary session of the Verkhovna Rada, called on MPs to consider introducing this measure for 60 days. The president stressed, however, that this measure was being taken purely for reasons of defence and did not imply any military action. And at the same time, <a href="https://twitter.com/NATOpress/status/1066796714672222210">NATO’s principal spokesperson Oana Lungescu called on the Russian government</a> to allow free movement of Ukrainian warships in the Azov Sea.</p><p dir="ltr">During his speech to the National Security and Defence Council, Poroshenko remarked that the imposition of martial law would not restrict the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. In a 26 November <a href="https://www.unian.net/politics/10352748-poroshenko-predlagaet-rade-vvesti-voennoe-polozhenie-v-ukraine-do-25-yanvarya.html">directive </a>(“On extreme measures to ensure the national sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and the introduction of martial law in Ukraine”), the president stated that martial law would run from 26 November 2018 until 26 January 2019. He also listed a number of constitutional rights, including freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of thought and speech and freedom to elect governmental bodies, that would be <a href="https://www.unian.ua/politics/10352979-voyenniy-stan-v-ukrajini-stalo-vidomo-yaki-prava-ukrajinciv-hoche-obmezhiti-prezident-spisok.html">restricted</a> during this period.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The imposition of martial law, in a country that has already been at war for over four years, has not come to symbolise the official start of the conflict</p><p dir="ltr">Russian aggression in the Azov Sea has triggered a wave of street protests in Ukrainian towns and cities. A spontaneous rally developed outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, with people bringing tyres and paper boats to symbolise the seized ships and throwing smoke bombs into the Embassy grounds. A car with diplomatic number plates was also <a href="https://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2018/11/26/7199285/">set on fire</a>. Nor were the protests confined to the capital: they also took place in Lviv, Odesa and Kharkiv. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Poroshenko’s directive is being implemented via a new draft bill, <a href="http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/zweb2/webproc4_1?pf3511=65008">“On the introduction of Martial Law in Ukraine”</a>. The National Security and Defence Council has supported it and recommended it be passed by parliament. After the president announced the directive, he made a speech announcing that in the interests of avoiding a setback to the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergii-leshchenko/ukraine-is-being-handed-a-false-choice%20">presidential election due to take place on 31 March 2019,</a> he would <a href="https://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2018/11/26/7199380/">propose </a>limiting martial law to 30 days. The previous proposal, for a 60 day period, would mean it coinciding with the start of the presidential campaign and possibly leading to the postponement of the election. Poroshenko’s announcement was also made after the People’s Front parliamentary fraction had <a href="https://lb.ua/news/2018/11/26/413421_narodniy_front_reshil.html">announced</a> its demands for the introduction of martial law: its MPs proposed a 30-day period, to be agreed in all the country’s regions, and the formalisation of 31 March 2019 as the date of the presidential election.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-39900693.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-39900693.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Oleh Lyashko, leader of Ukraine's Radical party, blocks the rostrum in the Ukrainian parliament, 26 November. (c) Serg Glovny/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Before the parliament could begin voting on this issue, MPs from the Radical Party and Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc blocked the parliamentary speaker’s platform, and a recession was called. The martial law bill was put to the vote at 9.30pm and approved by 276 members (out of 423). The measure is now being introduced in 10 regions (out of 27): Kherson, Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Volyn, Odesa, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhets, Vinnytsia and the Azov-Kerch water zone. After the law is passed, the Ukrainian Cabinet will need to develop a plan for its introduction and the measures required for its implementation. And the Ukrainian government will also need to plan how to release 23 Ukrainian seamen, six of them wounded, from Russian detention.</p><p dir="ltr">During the vote in the Verkhovna Rada, video footage, made by the FSB, of the Ukrainian seamen admitting to their crimes was released. Vice Admiral Ihor Voronchenko, who heads Ukraine’s navy, <a href="https://ru.krymr.com/a/news-vms-prokommentirovali-opublikovannye-rossiiskimi-spetssluzhbami-pokazaniya-zahvachenyh-ukrainskih-moryakov/29623082.html">told TV viewers</a> that these statements were given under physical pressure.</p><p dir="ltr">The imposition of martial law, in a country that has already been at war for over four years, has not come to symbolise the official start of the conflict. The focus of attention has shifted towards how the Ukrainian state observes citizens’ rights and freedoms, which could be reduced significantly. </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/sergii-leshchenko/ukraine-is-being-handed-a-false-choice%20">Ahead of next year’s presidential elections, Ukraine is being handed a false choice </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/the-murder-of-activist-kateryna-handzyuk">Why Ukraine needs an investigation into the murder of activist Kateryna Handzyuk</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture">Crimea: peninsula of torture</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/maria-lipman-serhiy-kudelia/ways-to-end-the-conflict-in-ukraines-donbas">Ways to end the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas: an interview with Serhiy Kudelia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/how-ukraine-is-selling-out-pensioners-from-crimea">Trading sovereignty: how Ukraine&#039;s Pension Fund co-operates with the Russian authorities</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tetiana Bezruk Ukraine Thu, 29 Nov 2018 08:55:09 +0000 Tetiana Bezruk 120749 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ahead of next year’s presidential elections, Ukraine is being handed a false choice https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergii-leshchenko/ukraine-is-being-handed-a-false-choice%20 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" src="https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u564053/Leshchenko.png" alt="" width="80" />Working in tandem, Ukraine’s ruling groups are creating an election cycle that will only benefit themselves. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-leschenko/lozhniy-vybor-prezidentskih-vyborov" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p><br /><br /> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/PA-39438090_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/PA-39438090_0.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'>“A strong army is a guarantee of peace”. Pre-election advertising for President Petro Poroshenko, Sloviansk. Photo: Gregor Fischer / DPA / PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>The seizure of Ukrainian ships in the Kerch strait on 25 November is not only yet another act of Russian aggression, as we understand it in Ukraine. It is reminder to the world that the annexation of Crimea is gradually becoming the new status quo in global politics; and western leaders have basically accepted this injustice. In turn, this is feeding the hawks in the Ukrainian authorities, who are trying to conserve power for the current kleptocratic elite by raising the stakes. This week, Ukraine’s parliament stopped the potential scenario of Ukraine sliding into authoritarianism, after the Security Council proposed introducing martial law across the country. This would, in effect, have cancelled the upcoming presidential elections on 31 March 2019. This situation has shown once again that Ukraine is like a swinging pendulum, where the prospect of reforms and strengthening democracy are constantly subject to risk of revanche and corrupt affairs.</em></p><p dir="ltr">The fate of democracy is being decided in Ukraine, a country that has undergone two revolutions in ten years, the reality of Russian occupation, and where the high-profile case against US political fixer Paul Manafort began.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Next spring will see Ukraine hold presidential elections, followed by parliamentary elections in autumn. They will give an answer to the question: can the overthrow of an authoritarian leader, mired in corruption and who cooperates with Russia, build a democratic society that professes western values? Or are all “colour revolutions” doomed to revanche, and is the west’s support for values of the free world in transition states destined to fail?</p><p dir="ltr">The Ukrainian authorities are trying to force the whole country into facing a binary choice: either President Petro Poroshenko, who declares his support for the EU and NATO, remains in power, or he will be ousted by pro-Russian politicians who are less open to negotiation.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />But as always, the real situation is more complex. A victory for Poroshenko, just like his defeat, has little in common with Ukrainian citizens’ decision to build a European democracy. Ukraine is at a crossroads. But my country isn’t simply choosing between different surnames, but between a politics that could put an end to Ukraine’s chances or a politics which could give Ukraine a chance to be reborn.</p><h2>Poroshenko’s reincarnation</h2><p>In 2014, Petro Poroshenko began his current presidential term with a clear idea. After disgraced ex-president Viktor Yanukovych fled the country, Poroshenko proclaimed his allegiance to European and liberal values. But now his term in power is coming to an end and he needs to report back on his promises, the incumbent president is changing his views on the fly. Today, his rhetoric makes no mention of the fight against corruption, about the rule of law and the need to attract foreign investment, which Ukraine badly needs.</p><p dir="ltr">Poroshenko is currently ignoring the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-kozak/who-is-ordering-attacks-on-activists-in-ukraine">wave of violence which has swamped civic activists in Ukraine</a>. When activist Kateryna Handzyuk, based in the southern city of Kherson, was doused in acid in July 2018 in retaliation for her corruption investigations, Poroshenko waited until her death on 4 November before making any comments. And when journalists at Nashi Hroshi (Our Money) <a href="https://bihus.info/nerukhomist-na-200-milyoniv-rosiyski-pasporti-ta-200-smertey-taemnici-kerivnika-kontrrozvidki-sbu">revealed</a> the astronomical sums of hidden wealth belonging to Serhiy Semochko, the first deputy head of Ukraine’s foreign intelligence service, the president chose not to dismiss him from his post. In fact, he didn’t comment on this development at all.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/PA-37393723_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/PA-37393723_0.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'>President Petro Poroshenko at Police Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, 2017. Photo: NurPhoto / SIPA USA / PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Thus, Poroshenko strongly adheres to the public relations strategy laid down for him by his political technologists to help him win a second term. It contains just three messages: “Language, Faith, Army.” Poroshenko doesn’t talk about other issues at all, while promoting a law on the <a href="https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/new-language-law-could-kill-independent-media-ahead-of-2019-elections.html">obligatory use of the Ukrainian language in media</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrii-fert/spiritual-capital-ukraine-orthodox-church">conducting a campaign in favour of autocephaly</a> for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.</p><p>Today, Poroshenko, together with half a dozen other candidates with roughly the same approval rating, is lagging far behind challenger Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister. But Poroshenko’s goal is not to convince the whole country to elect him. Instead, the president wants to position himself before a certain part of society in order to make it into the second round. Given that Tymoshenko’s negative approval rating is significantly higher than her positive one, Poroshenko believes that if he goes head-to-head with her in a second round, he will win. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko also sees Poroshenko, who is surrounded by a series of corruption scandals, as her ideal candidate, whom she can beat with her fiery social rhetoric.</p><h2>The war on anti-corruption</h2><p><span>Alongside the struggle for power, the pre-election period is accompanied by attempts to destroy the fragile anti-corruption bodies established in recent years with the participation of the US government.</span></p><p dir="ltr">The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) has proven itself to be independent and principled in exposing the misdeeds of Ukraine’s ruling class. As a result, NABU’s head Artem Sytnik, deputy director Gizo Uglava, and the entire bureau have been subject to constant attacks, which are only increasing in intensity. One possible scenario for what happens next involves removing Sytnik from office on the ridiculous pretext that he was <a href="https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2018/08/21/7189808/">excessively talkative with journalists</a>, to whom he allegedly made public secret information from an investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">This pressure on Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency has its own rationale: the stakes in the struggle for power are simply too high. If Petro Poroshenko loses the presidential election and his portfolio next April, then from that moment on he will be open to investigation by NABU. Under current Ukrainian law, NABU only has the authority to investigate the actions of an incumbent president, not a serving one.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">This pressure on Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency has its own rationale: the stakes in the struggle for power are simply too high</p><p dir="ltr">Therefore, while Poroshenko remains president, he is preparing a plan of action in case of defeat. First of all, he needs to discredit NABU and split the supporters of Ukraine’s fight against corruption, in order to ensure that the Romanian scenario of mass anti-corruption protests is not repeated in Ukraine. And in order to do that, he has to ensure that nobody comes out in defence of NABU.</p><p>Is Poroshenko right to be wary of NABU? Ukrainian and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/world/europe/ukraine-corruption-military.html">international media</a> have reported on the alleged abuse of funds for the Ukrainian military, whose overseas arms deals are negotiated with dubious shell companies. In <a href="https://magazine.nv.ua/journal/3075-journal-no-13/sluzhili-dva-tovarishcha.html">one investigation by Ukrainian media Novoye Vremya</a>, the Bogdan company, which was owned by Poroshenko before being transferred to a longtime companion, was revealed to have become a major producer of military equipment for the army. The investigation showed that this company then began producing an array of military equipment on secret government contracts, which were closed to the normal tender process. NABU has also actively investigated political corruption, including accusations of bribing parliamentary deputies, and has recently questioned Serhiy Berezenko and Ihor Kononenko, two of the president’s closest advisors, on the matter.</p><p>Another high-profile case concerns possible abuses in Ukraine’s thermal energy market. State officials under Poroshenko’s control <a href="http://neweasterneurope.eu/2018/04/09/rotterdam-plus-investigation-gone/">raised tariffs for electricity</a> on the basis that power plants now use coal which is allegedly imported to Ukraine from the North Sea port of Rotterdam. NABU head Artem Sytnik <a href="https://www.rbc.ua/rus/news/sytnik-prokommentiroval-hod-sledstviya-delu-1538573028.html">declared</a> that unconfirmed costs included in the sales price have already led to the embezzlement of half a billion dollars.</p><p dir="ltr">An<a href="https://biz.nv.ua/publications/formula-uspeha-zachem-ahmetov-i-poroshenko-pridumali-rotterdam-pljus-rassledovanie-1249297.html"> investigation by Novoye Vremya</a> alleges that Ukraine’s richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov is the main beneficiary of the scheme. After his fellow party member Viktor Yanukovych fled the country, it seems that Akhmetov was able to find a common language with the new president. Opponents of the government <a href="https://gordonua.com/ukr/news/politics/onishchenko-zajaviv-shcho-vid-shem-rotterdam-pljus-poroshenko-otrimuje-50-237298.html">allege</a> that Poroshenko personally receives a share of what Akhmetov pays for the scheme to run smoothly, and that the president is using the ICU investment company as a means of concealing the money.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The Poroshenko administration’s attempts to sabotage the completion of anti-corruption reforms have led to a situation where even completed investigations do not end in court sentences. For example, courts have been waiting 18 months to examine the case against the former head of the state fiscal service (and associate of Poroshenko) Roman Nasirov, who is in jail on corruption charges brought by NABU. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Furthermore, Nazar Kholodnitsky, the special prosecutor who supervises NABU investigations, is now embroiled in allegations of corruption: he was <a href="https://dt.ua/internal/direktor-nabu-artem-sitnik-rizik-zberezhennya-holodnickogo-na-posadi-perevischuye-vsi-inshi-riziki-273730_.html">revealed</a> to have been transmitting information to the suspect of an investigation to help them evade punishment. Even though all these facts were recorded on a secret device hidden in an aquarium in Kholodnitsky’s office, the justice system released him and allowed him to remain in his post. Vitaly Shabunin, chairman of the board of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, a Kyiv-based NGO, <a href="https://zik.ua/ru/news/2018/07/24/shabunyn_uveren_chto_holodnytskyy_zakril_delo_ryukzakov_v_obmen_na_zashchytu_1372885">alleges</a> that in return for this lenience, Kholodnitsky <a href="https://www.ukrinform.ru/rubric-society/2527489-holodnickij-sap-zakonno-zakryla-delo-rukzakov-v-otnosenii-avakova-i-cebotara.html">closed cases</a> against Oleksandr Avakov, the son of the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, and several parliamentary deputies from the country’s ruling parties. Shabunin claims that Kholodnitsky also refused to investigate one of the most odious officers of the Ukrainian security services, and another member of the president’s inner circle.</p><h2>A time of disappointments</h2><p dir="ltr">This gloomy picture may dismay both residents of Ukraine and international partners who have rallied behind our country in recent years in the face of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. According to a recent survey, nearly 80% of Ukrainian citizens <a href="https://www.unian.ua/society/10335912-mayzhe-80-gromadyan-vvazhaye-shcho-ukrajina-ruhayetsya-u-nepravilnomu-napryamku-opituvannya.html">now believe</a> that the country is moving in the wrong direction.</p><p dir="ltr">What’s happening now actually has a simple explanation: after the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, state power was seized by politicians with exactly the same values as the fugitive – but with a better command of English. The answer to the question of how Ukraine can avoid revanche does not lie in the victory of a given candidate. In fact, the revanche is happening on a daily basis, with every million dollars stolen from the state budget. A budget, no less, for which Ukraine asks the US and international organisations to replenish.</p><p dir="ltr">This situation could be changed by adopting systemic reforms across the board. First of all, Ukrainian politics needs a new rulebook. This presupposes a new electoral law that would forbid candidates from simply buying a deputy’s mandate for three million dollars. Ukrainian politics is saturated with money, and that could be changed by banning paid television advertising for politicians and investigating all potential conflicts of interests when parties funded by oligarchs become lobbyists in support of laws which favour their benefactors.</p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine must launch a large-scale fight against corruption in order to free business from shadow rentiers. Ukraine needs privatisation and a <a href="https://www.kyivpost.com/business/world-bank-value-ukraines-land-triple-farmland-sales-permitted.html">market for land</a>, the sale of which could provide the impetus for economic recovery. A true judicial reform is also needed; previous attempts were implemented only on paper, meaning that over the past four and a half years of Poroshenko’s rule, the courts have failed to become independent. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">The answer to the question of how Ukraine can avoid revanche does not lie in the victory of a given candidate</span>The Ukrainian secret services should be deprived of the right to harass businesses or <a href="https://pressroom.rferl.org/a/in-ukraine-rferls-schemes-journalists-roughed-up-by-presidential-guard/28741762.html">spy on journalists and civic activists</a>. During Poroshenko’s years in power, all attempts to reform the secret services have ended in fiasco. A way must also be found to limit the flow of money into offshore companies through “transfer pricing”, which facilitates the loss of <a href="https://www.epravda.com.ua/publications/2018/10/5/641307/">more than half a billion dollars</a> in budget revenue in the agrarian and metallurgical sectors of the Ukrainian economy alone. The customs system must also be reformed, as the shadow economy turns over billions of dollars every year.</p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine must be made attractive for foreign direct investment. Today’s situation is paradoxical in the sense the investment rates mostly do not reflect investment by European companies, but <a href="https://nv.ua/opinion/fursa/nenastojashchaja-zrada-rossija-krupnejshij-investor-v-ukrainu--2491347.html">Russian capitalisation of banks</a> in Ukraine. The IMF’s painful requirements for a balanced budget and market prices for gas must be met.</p><p>Unless it takes these measures, Ukraine will not just fail to catch up with the living standards of neighbouring countries, but rather chase after those of its recent past under Yanukovych’s rule. The result of postponing these reforms is all too clear: Ukraine <a href="https://www.fraserinstitute.org/economic-freedom/map?geozone=world&amp;page=map&amp;year=2016&amp;countries=UKR">ranks 134 out of 162 countries</a> in a rating of economic freedom by Canadian thinktank Fraser Institute. This puts Ukraine alongside such countries as Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. According to recently updated IMF data, Ukraine turns out to be the poorest country in Europe, lagging behind even Moldova.</p><h2>Optimistic and pessimistic scenarios for Ukraine</h2><p dir="ltr">A victory for Yulia Tymoshenko or Petro Poroshenko would be risky for Ukraine in different ways. If Yulia Tymoshenko is elected president, the country could spiral into populism; fulfilling her election promises would mean a reduction in gas prices. Tymoshenko speaks about a “special path for Ukraine,” which entails refusing to comply with the demands of the IMF and a rupture in ties with various financial organisations. This could culminate in a financial default. </p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, the election of Tymoshenko would also provoke further speculation about her secret agreements with Russia, rumours of which have circulated ever since she was investigated for business schemes of the 1990s.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Yet there are grounds for optimism in the case of Tymoshenko’s victory: her tendency to follow the political fashion of the day will require a generational change in Ukrainian politics. She will be forced to attract a new cadre of young people into government positions. In addition, Tymoshenko will certainly want to satisfy popular demands for the punishment of thieving members of today’s ruling authorities, creating a further precedent for their comeuppance. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The re-election of Petro Poroshenko for another presidential term will serve to deepen the internal crisis in Ukraine. By exploiting divisive topics in the course of the election, Poroshenko could further provoke the distaste towards him felt across many regions of the country.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Poroshenko’s remaining in office will spell a more overt struggle with Ukraine’s anti-corruption bodies and the preservation of the status quo when it comes to the plundering of money from state coffers. Instead of real reforms, the country will see their pale imitation, and social benefits will be distributed to the benefit of oligarchic clans. These clans will be strengthened, and develop political structures which in turn will invest in election campaigns. Moreover, Poroshenko’s opposition to a new law on parliamentary elections means a death sentence for any changes to Ukraine’s political culture and its renewal with the coming of a new generation to political life.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">The re-election of Petro Poroshenko for another presidential term will serve to deepen the internal crisis in Ukraine</span>In other words, a Tymoshenko presidency would bring unpredictability, while Poroshenko is predictable in his desire to preserve the current corrupt status quo.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />An optimistic scenario for Ukraine would mean the victory of representatives of the liberal reformist camp. Today there are several candidates who embody these values, chief among them Minister of Defence Anatoly Hrytsenko came third place in opinion polls this summer. The lack of real competitors have made Hrytsenko the only alternative for those in society who want change. However, his position may be rocked by the nomination of another reform candidate, mayor of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi.</p><p dir="ltr">Famous Ukrainian rock singer Svyatoslav Vakarchuk has also kept up the intrigue surrounding his possible participation in the elections. On the one hand, Vakarchuk is not a politician – he is not implicated in any corruption scandals. And on the other, Vakarchuk has unparalleled visibility in Ukrainian society, packing stadiums with hundreds of thousands of fans, and spent the last year studying at Stanford University. He turned his back on an earlier foray into politics; having been elected to parliament in 2007, he soon renounced his deputy’s mandate due to disillusionment with politics.</p><p dir="ltr">But the main surprise might be the popularity of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian who plays the president of Ukraine in the popular TV series, Servant of the People. Many are fond of his rhetoric, so much so that they are prepared to believe in Zelenskiy’s ability to act the same way in real life as he does on screen. One problem is Zelensky’s ties to the runaway oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who is currently hiding in Israel following an FBI request, but still owns TV channels in Ukraine.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />It still seems unlikely that the former supporters of runaway president Viktor Yanukovych will get their revenge. These days, Russia relies on Viktor Medvedchuk, who has personal ties to Vladimir Putin and is striving to unite all pro-Russian forces in order to take a leading position in the new parliament. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Ukrainian society, which has survived many shocks over the past few years, deserves an honest government. Ukraine’s international partners, who have invested financial aid in our country and put their reputations on the line in doing so, also deserve an honest partner – one which is not engaged in corruption and which will do more than just imitate reforms.</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/yulia-abibok/decentralising-ukraine">Decentralising Ukraine: the view from Khmelnytsky</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/ukraine-targets-same-sex-relationships">Draft legislation in Ukraine targets same-sex relationships</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergii-leshchenko/defending-ukraines-revolution-against-ukraines-leaders">Defending Ukraine’s revolution against Ukraine’s leaders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maria-lipman-serhiy-kudelia/ways-to-end-the-conflict-in-ukraines-donbas">Ways to end the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas: an interview with Serhiy Kudelia</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"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ukraine Democracy and government Sergii Leshchenko Ukraine Wed, 28 Nov 2018 06:54:58 +0000 Sergii Leshchenko 120709 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to think about Russia without Putin https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/karine-clement/how-to-think-about-russia-without-putin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">“Russia without Putin” is more than a slogan. It’s an analytical claim.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/1280px-2018_FIFA_World_Cup_opening_ceremony__282018-06-14_29_14.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/1280px-2018_FIFA_World_Cup_opening_ceremony__282018-06-14_29_14.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'>Vladimir Putin, 2018. Photo CC BY 4.0: Kremlin.ru. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><em>A review of Tony Wood, <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2839-russia-without-putin">Russia Without Putin: Money, Power and the Myths of the New Cold War</a> (Verso Books).</em></p><p dir="ltr">Given the hysterical climate surrounding Vladimir Putin’s power in Russia and the wider world, the publication of a book entitled <em>Russia without Putin</em> brings fresh air to a debate spoiled by stereotypes and fashionable brands of Russia and Putin The Bloody Dictator. <em>Russia without Putin </em>should be recommended to anybody interested in understanding contemporary Russia – and, in particular, a more nuanced analysis of the country’s social reality. Indeed, not only inside Russia, but outside the country as well, the figure of Putin is a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/why-we-don-t-publish-articles-about-putin">convenient way of explaining everything that happens</a> in the country and, more importantly, casting Russian society out of our thoughts. In this version, Russian society is oppressed and alienated by Putin and thus, except for a tiny enlightened minority, incapable of thinking and acting autonomously – not to mention resisting. </p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, this black and white picture might be convenient, but it is far from reality. Tony Wood’s new book has moved beyond stereotypes in an effort to explore the multiple social dynamics taking place in Russia. Here, it is worth clarifying that “Russia without Putin” is not a reference to a well-known slogan of the Russian opposition that calls for Putin’s dismissal. Instead, it is an analytical claim: Russia and Russian society should not be reduced to Putin’s personality and presidency. In a sense, it is quite ridiculous that this argument has to be made in the first place, since nobody associates the agency of all American citizens with Donald Trump. However, it is the kind of generalisation that scholars, political leaders and journalists like to apply to non-western countries, supposedly less advanced than the US or other self-declared democratic states. </p><p dir="ltr">Actually, <em>Russia without Putin</em> focuses less on Russian society than on the ruling system, which cannot be categorised as a pure dictatorship or authoritarianism, though both aspects can be part of it. The system is a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-matveev/russia-inc">mix of democratic appearance and capitalist substance</a>, a clever and intimate intertwining of business and the state, profit and power, with “each sustaining and defending the other”. Despite all the critiques <a href="https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/putins-conservative-state-capitalism-30594">denouncing the comeback of the Soviet economic order under Putin</a>, the truth is that Putin continues Yeltsin’s policy of liberalising the economy for the benefit of a few leading capitalists. If the names of some of these happy few may have changed in recent years, the principle remains the same: Russia’s power structures serve as an instrument for people close to them or some of the powerholders to exploit the wealth of the country for their own benefit. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Russia’s power structures serve as an instrument for people close to them or some of the powerholders to exploit the wealth of the country for their own benefit</p><p dir="ltr">Wood’s second thesis is unusual, and concerns the continuation of the Soviet legacy. For pro-reform scholars and politicians, this legacy is viewed as hindering the development of the market economy and capitalist democracy in Russia. This legacy is often presented as having been revived under Putin (who often addresses his speeches to “hard working and patriotic common people”), while Yeltsin is supposed to have struggled against the Soviet order. By contrast, Wood argues that the Putin regime is far from being the triumph of statism. If the state is more present in Russia today, it is more as a kind of private corporation that extracts profit from national economic resources. Wood also argues that a second false evidence is that the Soviet past hinders market reforms. A closer look shows a different picture. In fact, the Soviet past, according to Wood, can “facilitate the construction of the new capitalist order”. For example, the traditional role of trade unions in the Soviet Union as a transmission belt and instrument of discipline explained why they did not play an active role in resisting liberal reforms during the 1990s. I would also point to the role of the discredited past in deconstructing and rejecting all social identities ascribed under the Soviet system, such as the unmaking of Russia’s working class, which in turn hindered the potential of workers’ resistance to impoverishment and labour exploitation. </p><p dir="ltr">The book also shows the inadequacy of clichés concerning Russia’s mythical “passivity”. Based on solid knowledge of multiple new studies devoted to social mobilisations in contemporary Russia, Wood deconstructs the myth of a passive Russian society (which is already difficult to defend, given that numerous research demonstrates the vivacity of grassroots social initiatives in the country). What remains problematic, the author argues, is the gap between <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/odr-editors/fighting-back">mobilisations around social concerns and mobilisations for political goals</a>, particularly the 2011-2012 “For Fair Elections” movement. This explains why the anti-Putin opposition remains so weak and lacks support from ordinary people, particularly in Russia’s regions. </p><p dir="ltr">In this vein, Wood devotes several pages to analysing the political positions of Alexey Navalny, who is now Russia’s most prominent opposition leader. He concludes that Navalny’s programme is also far from the aspirations and concerns of ordinary Russian citizens. While this thesis may be right, it is not enough, in my view, to demonstrate the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/alexei-navalnys-campaign-effective-management-or-grassroots-movement">neoliberal essence of Navalny’s programme</a> or his chauvinist positions on internal affairs (Navalny has come out strongly against illegal immigration, for a visa regime with Central Asian states, and previously participated in the annual “Russian March” event). It remains necessary to explain why a capitalist and chauvinist anti-Putin programme lacks popular support, as this is not obvious at all. Moreover, to be fair, we should recognise that Navalny is one of the opposition leaders who actually speaks about social issues and social inequalities. He is one of the few who travels around the regions and demonstrates consideration for ordinary people. Indeed, Navalny is among those who could bridge the gap between the social and the political agendas in Russia – though after two successful (in terms of audience) national days of protest against corruption and social injustice in 2017, he is now turning more narrowly political.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/49283b2b0d70e98984cc8711851dc8c9_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/49283b2b0d70e98984cc8711851dc8c9_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Navalny protest in Chelyabinsk, July 2018. Source: Navalny.com. </span></span></span>In any case, it is true that Russia needs a left-wing political platform that embraces social concerns and proposes an attractive political alternative. Moreover, in my view, there are some conditions already existing for the development of a left-wing movement, since the demand for social and economic justice is <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14747731.2018.1479014?journalCode=rglo20">one of the most widespread claims</a> that can be observed in Russia today, and one that is deeply rooted in the everyday life of ordinary people. However, one has to note that, for the moment, there is no left-wing political movement able to articulate these claims.</p><p dir="ltr">To continue with critical remarks, <em>Russia without Putin </em>would have benefited from a more detailed analysis of what is currently happening in the depth of the Russian society, which is politicising and changing at a surprising speed. But one can hardly complain about this: grasping social changes as they are happening is not easy, and requires long and time-consuming ethnographic studies. In any case, the purpose of the book is not to show a changing society, but to demonstrate that Russian society actually exists, and that the country is more than Putin’s kingdom. The book does this successfully, although readers could have benefited from more insights into the social fabric and real lives of flesh-and-blood people. However, this would have been the focus of another book.</p><p dir="ltr">For Russia without Putin, the purpose was also to deconstruct certain clichés about the anti-western position of Putin’s Russia. Most western and Russian media, as well as popular commentators, increasingly discuss a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anton-shekhovtsov/this-is-not-new-cold-war">“New Cold War” between Russia and the west</a>. But Wood argues that, while there are increasing tensions between Russia and the west, the situation should not be categorised as a “Cold War” as there is no longer any ideological divide: neoliberal capitalism dominates on both sides of the divide. The author makes another important point when he shows that these tensions arose not because of Russia’s aggressive policy, but because of the west’s disrespectful ignorance of Russia international interests. It is already well known that the west did not respect any of its <a href="https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2017-12-12/nato-expansion-what-gorbachev-heard-western-leaders-early">promises regarding NATO expansion into former Soviet state</a>s, especially towards Russia’s borders. The author also reminds us that Putin, in continuity with Yeltsin’s policy, long displayed pro-western, and especially pro-European, positions. It is the 2014 Maidan revolution in Ukraine that convinced Putin to change his policy. He reacted offensively to the threat of western intervention at Russia’s borders by annexing Crimea, thus demonstrating the country’s sovereignty to the Russian population, and denouncing the western “double-standards” discourse as the west acted in the same way in Kosovo. Yet what’s missing in Wood’s account of 2014 is the unpredictable role of mobilisation on the ground in Ukraine.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">It is true that Russia needs a left-wing political platform that embraces social concerns and proposes an attractive political alternative</p><p dir="ltr">Wood warns us that although Russia may no longer be a great power comparable to the Soviet Union, the country still represents a major factor of destabilisation in international relations. Despite the obvious unbalance of power between Russia and the west, particularly the United States, Russia is still willing to act as a powerful international actor. This means that popular and institutional forms of resentment are likely to provoke more, rather than less, unpredictable operations such as the annexation of Crimea. However, I agree with Wood that there is no ground for demonising Russia and its power to interfere in international affairs. As a kind of semi-joke, Tony Wood seems to warn the Americans to bother less about the Russians and Russian interference in their own elections, and more about their own society and the deeper reasons why Trump won the 2016 presidential elections.</p><p dir="ltr">The book ends with a chapter devoted to the uncertainty of Russia’s future role on the international stage. Russia may lack the necessary resources to resist the current hegemony of the US, but it still claims a leadership role. Indeed, the current state of affairs in Russia is likely to last a while longer given the popularity of the ruling elite’s nationalist rhetoric and the convenience of using the “foreign threat” to explain internal difficulties. That said, the author predicts that the very nature of the system (“a predatory, authoritarian elite presiding over a vastly unequal society”) will lead to the deepening of internal conflicts, regardless of patriotic discourse.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz__D0_BF_D0_BB_D0_B0_D0_BA_D0_B0_D1_82_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz__D0_BF_D0_BB_D0_B0_D0_BA_D0_B0_D1_82_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'>“Return tax revenues to Karelia” – protest in Segezha, Karelia, February 2018. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>While this observation is obvious and the appreciation of the current Russian system as weak or under threat is widely shared among informed scholars, one assertion is worth further discussion. The author, like many progressive intellectuals, univocally associates nationalism with conservatism, xenophobia and support for the national leader. However, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14747731.2018.1479014?journalCode=rglo20">my own research on everyday nationalism</a>, as well as <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09668136.2014.986964">many others</a>, shows that nationalism in Russia, much as anywhere else, is far from having only one form aligned with the ruling elite’s nationalist project. In Russia today, it appears that everyday nationalism “from below” differs strongly from the ruling elite’s version of nationalism, and takes many different forms and standpoints. Here, two remarks can be made if discussing the potential for social change. One is that the development of nationalism is also a channel of politicisation. The second is that the reinforcement of national sentiment can also open the horizon for a kind of social critique from below.</p><p dir="ltr">If I had to raise some problematic points in this convincing analysis, it would be the lack of detailed and nuanced material on Russian people’s everyday life, concerns and aspirations. A second semi-critique would be that the arguments would have benefited from a more systematic and nuanced account of the opposing arguments, which are not all as blown out of proportion as suggested by the author. The proponents of the Putin’s Russia thesis have, on occasion, subtler arguments that go beyond Putin’s demonic character. </p><p dir="ltr">On the whole, I would strongly recommend the book to anyone eager to learn more about the real, rather than mythic, Russia, as well as readers looking for ways of thinking about possible alternatives to the current global neoliberal order.</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/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/why-we-don-t-publish-articles-about-putin">Why we don’t publish articles about Putin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch/putin-s-regimes">Putin’s regimes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-matveev/russia-inc">Russia, Inc.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/is-anti-corruption-agenda-all-that-it-s-cracked-up-to-be">Is the anti-corruption agenda all that it’s cracked up to be?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/dissecting-russia-s-winter-of-protest-five-years-on">Dissecting Russia’s winter of protest, five years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/how-conservative-is-the-russian-regime">How conservative is the Russian regime?</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/odr-editors/fighting-back">Fighting back, in the back of beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andreas-umland/preparing-for-a-democratic-russia">Preparing for and working towards a democratic 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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Karine Clément Russia Tue, 20 Nov 2018 07:58:37 +0000 Karine Clément 120615 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Director Sergei Loznitsa on the conflict in eastern Ukraine: “This is disintegration” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/director-sergei-loznitsa-on-his-new-film-about-the-conflict-in-eastern-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sergei Loznitsa talks about his new film on the Donbas conflict, societal collapse and the post-Soviet individual. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/katerina-yakovlenko/eto-paspad" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_sergei_donbass_1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_sergei_donbass_1_0.png" 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'>Sergei Loznitsa. Photo from personal archive.</span></span></span>Inspired by propaganda videos about life in the unrecognised republics in Ukraine’s Donbas, Sergei Loznitsa’s feature film <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBoKGgx9UTk"><em>Donbass</em></a> is Ukraine’s nomination to the 2019 US Academy Awards. </p><p dir="ltr">In comparison with <a href="http://www.finalcutforreal.dk/distant-barking-of-dogs/"><em>The Distant Barking of Dogs</em></a>, a Danish film that tells the tale of a young boy from a village outside the southeastern city of Mariupol, these two films narrate the conflict in the Donbass in diametrically opposed ways. If <em>The Distant Barking of Dogs</em> is a life-affirming story against all odds, then <em>Donbass</em>, in the words of Loznitsa himself, is a story about disintegration: “These are all consequences of the Soviet Union. We are talking about disintegration. We are living through a breakdown – of the individual, of morality. And we are trying in some way to resist it.”</p><p dir="ltr">Many Ukrainian critics saw Loznitsa’s film as a vivid illustrative tale of hatred and propaganda, a film that shows the surrealism of war and the surrealist reality it provokes.</p><p dir="ltr">The Ukrainian release of<em> Donbass </em>virtually coincided with that of Loznitsa’s new documentary <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRmHRFwQZBk"><em>Victory Day</em></a> and a series of master classes which the director gave under the general title of “Theatre of War”, curated by the <a href="http://www.dovzhenkocentre.org/eng/">Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre</a> as part of their “Culture Film” project. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>I’d like to start our conversation with your 1998 documentary work<em> <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8IFBAfl-Lw">Life. Autumn</a></em>. In my view, what you have done in cinema since then is portraiture – portraying not so much separate individuals, but time and generations. In this sense, I would compare your documentary work with the project of German photographer August Sander <a href="https://photopoint.com.ua/0313725-lyudi-20-go-veka-avgusta-zandera-august-sander/">“People of the Twentieth Century”, </a>who, throughout his life, made portraits of people. And if I’m not mistaken, then the question arises as to why you felt an affinity to this genre previously and why you have since abandoned it. </strong></p><p dir="ltr">No matter how and what you shoot, there will always be people in the frame. You will end up shooting portraits of people. I prefer not to ask people about what they think, I prefer not to talk with them, but simply film them. I have always tried to make films without dialogues, films which, using the language of cinema, bore witness to the lives of these people. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking of Sander, I would have brought to mind another film of mine, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsCOKnylwpw"><em>Portrait</em></a>. When I shot that film, I knew nothing about Sander’s photography. Sander’s idea was to capture a memory of all living people. He photographed the people he saw around him, and left behind a colossal photographic legacy. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_sergei_odessa_july2018_0_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_sergei_odessa_july2018_0_0.png" 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'>Sergei Loznitsa. Photo from personal archive.</span></span></span>I was driven by completely different motives. In expeditions, in journeys around Russia in search of filming locations I encountered some amazing characters. I began to shoot them on film and soon became aware that when they began to pose in front of the camera, when they stood motionless and without saying a single word, they “dropped out” of the ordinary course of life. This was a condition of collapse and timelessness. I tried to capture this. Sometimes I succeeded but not always. It seemed interesting to make a film from these portraits. But, of course, this film has another theme – abandoned space. In it there’s a kind of a piercing note for me, a kind of muffled scream. A kind of unceasing sorrow that lasts for 30 minutes. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In your most recent films you show the masses, society, a human collectivity. But you show this connection between people differently in each film. What, for you personally, is the difference in this collectivity between your films<em> Maidan</em> and <em>Victory Day</em>?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Maidan</em> and <em>Victory Day</em> are two completely different films, connected only by the theme of history. One film records history, taking place before our eyes. The second deals with a ritual. A ritual of remembrance emerges after the historical moment has ended. <em>Victory Day</em> is about a place where nothing happened, and the memorial was created afterwards. Nothing special actually happened in Treptower Park. The location was simply considered suitable for a memorial site. The remains of Soviet soldiers were brought there. They were exhumed elsewhere and then buried in Treptower Park, creating the Tomb of the “Unknown Soldier”. </p><p dir="ltr">“Unknown Soldier” sounds rather strange because the troops that marched on Berlin were regular Soviet army forces. The names of these soldiers were known. Why, then, did they need to introduce this term, the “Unknown Soldier”? For the simple reason that anyone can imagine oneself becoming this anonymous “unknown soldier” and being in his place. This is rather theatrical – like the use of mask in Greek theatre. Ancient Greeks made actors cover their faces with masks, representing various human emotions, so that any member of the audience imagine themselves in the place of the actor. This very same method of identification was employed in creating the monument. </p><p dir="ltr">I wanted to explore the ways in which this tradition of memorialisation is maintained, and how people try to recreate it anew. On the one hand, this whole ritual is akin to a carnival or a folk play. We see real mummers in the film: different people put on military uniforms, including Germans. On the other hand, some of the visitors are driven by genuine feelings: they bring flowers to the graves and mourn the dead. It is both tragic and absurd because all this is happening at one and the same time. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“My films are always about tragedy”</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>In your films you often address the theme of memory, especially traumatic memory. That memory is particularly fresh and painful for people living in the post-Soviet space. Cinema can make the suffering greater, or, alternatively, it can work therapeutically. In your view, how can documentary cinema work with this subject matter, how careful should it be and how detached should the director be? Can a director be deliberately provocative or, let’s put it this way, can the film be a personal statement? Basically, I’d like to hear your thoughts about the limits of documentary, the need for detachment and the authorial position. </strong></p><p dir="ltr">Cinema, like any other art form, does not owe anything to anyone. Above all, it is a question of absolute freedom and creation. I make films about the subjects, which I’m passionate about. One could ask why I’m preoccupied with these issues. Of course, comic motifs and comic episodes do exist in my films, but, in general, my cinema is predominantly about constant suffering and tragedy. Perhaps, it’s the destiny of this place. Look in the eyes of the people. Look around, at the scars in the city. In Kyiv they are everywhere. I don’t know how one could film otherwise. Everything speaks of trauma here. One should do something about this because this is closing in upon us. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_0000002-jpeg_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_0000002-jpeg_0.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'>Still from the film “Donbass”. Source: Pyramide Films. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>We are sitting and talking in a country where a war is going on, and this war is visible everywhere: listen to people’s conversations in the street. War is all around us, we cannot pretend it is not happening. In my opinion, this chain of events was rather predictable. Back in 2008 I could “smell” war in this territory. When we filmed <em>My Joy</em> in the Chernihiv region in 2009, I talked to the drivers working for us. Most of them earned their living from smuggling. I asked them: what will you do if the Russians try to occupy this territory? They replied, laughing and twisting their fingers to their temples saying they would surrender. In that case, I replied, you will lose your income if there is no longer a border. This made them think… </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>You work with found footage. How does the selection of material take place? What motivates you to choose your material? How does the editing take place?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">If we’re speaking about <em>Donbass</em>, which is based on amateur videos, there were several selection criteria. The first criterion is that the episode chosen should describe the different sides of corruption, that strange phenomenon. Corruption not only in its narrow sense when someone bribes someone else, but also in a wider sense, the corruption of morals, the corruption of the individual, the corruption of society, its disintegration. </p><p dir="ltr">I was looking for scenes and episodes, which could be presented as diverse manifestations of humiliation, degradation and disintegration. For example, I chose a scene at a basement where people take shelter during the war; a temporary boss (as we now see, they change these bosses like gloves); Cossacks; looters robbing others of their property, money, cars. I built up a palette describing the state of affairs in this place. What sits at the core of all these phenomena is plunder. Everything else only covers this plunder up, camouflages it with the idea of a struggle for peace in the world (be it the <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/russian-world-moscows-strategy">“Russian World”</a> or some other), the struggle against non-existing fascists and so on. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Edited films often generate a debate about the ethics of using these materials (archival clips, found video). How far can this material be manipulative?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">If we’re talking about feature films, it is all the product of imagination, of course. How can you discuss fantasy from an ethical point of view? You can give a moral judgment of my behaviour in life but the characters in <em>Donbass</em> are not subject to this judgment. They are only shadows on the screen.</p><p dir="ltr">In documentary the situation is different. For example, if I film three bastards beating someone up, then I am behaving unethically, because I should be defending the victim, not filming it. This is an act of life, not of cinema. Here, then, we can no longer talk about cinema, the whole illusion of cinema falls apart. If I use such a scene in a documentary, the viewer could (justly) accuse me of cruelty – how could I stand by and observe someone getting beaten up! My unethical behaviour in life would have destroyed the illusion of cinema. But if I manage to obtain material not violating social conventions, it makes no sense to apply any further ethical criteria. I will do with the material whatever I want.</p><p dir="ltr">It is cinema, not reality. Unfortunately, many still confuse these two things and believe that documentary cinema represents “reality”. This is not the case in actual fact. Even news items are manipulations. Because where the camera is, life ends, and cinema begins. You see only what people have allowed to show- after all, someone placed the camera in that location, set the frame, took the decision when to begin shooting and when to say “cut”.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>But people very often expect to discover the “truth” from directors of documentary cinema…</strong></p><p dir="ltr">One should not justify idiotic expectations. Unfortunately, many directors of documentary cinema pander to these expectations, play these games. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did you watch other films about the Donbas filmed before you started preparing this film?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">This wasn’t necessary for me. I read people’s stories, the journals and interviews of those who found themselves in captivity, I watched YouTube videos. I studied the video material shot both by Ukrainians and by separatists.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Would your film have happened without the support of Ukraine’s State Cinema Committee?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I’m very grateful to Goskino. Without their funding it would have been difficult for us to shoot. If I want to film in Ukraine (and I wanted to shoot in Ukraine), it is necessary to have at least some money from here insofar as I cannot fully spend money here received from Germany, France, Romania, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania. There are certain obligations regarding the expenditure of state funds. The filming period cost about $800,000-900,000. The sum allotted by Goskino was about $500,000. We spent another $400,000 or so we received from European funds. This money was spent in Ukraine and from this point of view it turned out to be a big plus for Ukraine. Here lies the reason to co-produce.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“One should not direct art” </h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do you think of the term “patriotic cinema”? Can one adopt this formula to the films of today? What should one now incorporate into this term? Can one consider your film in this vein?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I’m rather wary of the term “patriotism”, as I see it there has been a vulgarisation of this notion. What do people have in mind when they call some film or other “patriotic”? I am a patriot of the planet Earth, of the city of Kyiv. I can make a film declaring my love for the city of Kyiv, but this will not be a “patriotic” film as state propaganda sees it. Probably Soviet times poisoned us with all such talk. The people who nowadays call their films “patriotic” continue working in that old Soviet tradition. One should not speculate on all this. There should be no attempt to direct cinema ideologically, it should simply be funded. Art as a whole should not be censored or ideologically guided, there are talented people who know perfectly well how they wish to proceed with their art. They should not be censored or restricted. Under the right conditions, new films and new directors will emerge. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In 2010 your film <em>My Joy</em> was released, two years later saw the release of Aleksei Balabanov’s film <em>Me Too</em>. It seems that these two films are connected in some way…</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I don’t feel that there is any affinity between these films. Balabanov’s film is very strange, as was the author himself. I am really wary about what he did in his later years. His <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-jUHvjQf6s"><em>Cargo 200</em></a> is a bizarre film… It’s undoubtedly a hard-hitting film, but there are episodes in the film where I experience a sense of real discomfort. For example, the conversation “Where’s the truth, brother?” (a well-known phrase from Balabanov’s 2000 film<em> Brother-2</em>). These strange, “philosophical” conversations between gangsters, presented with such a degree of seriousness, that one feels rather awkward, as though the whole of world philosophy never existed.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In <a href="https://seance.ru/blog/austerlitz-interview/">one of your interviews</a> you said you began to shoot your film&nbsp;<em>Austerlitz</em> out of a sense of discomfort.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">That is a different type of discomfort. Here it is about not knowing how to behave in the situation I found myself in. How should I, as a tourist, look at a crematorium? There arises a feeling of discomfort, of cognitive dissonance. Is it possible, for example, to tell of the horror of Soviet concentration camps? You read the works of Varlam Shalamov, of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, but do you understand anything? You think that you feel something? And what does the word “understand” mean at all here? Because if you really grasp this horror for once, you would never be able to return to the status quo. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_still-8-donbass_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/rsz_still-8-donbass_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="191" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Still from the film “Donbass”. Source: Pyramide Films. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is what it is about, how impenetrable is this impenetrable wall. Is it at all possible to transmit this kind of experience? Before me there sits a person who has gone through all this, looking at me with understanding eyes. This person knows and understands that which is inaccessible. And between us there is a wall. These are the ideas, which lay at the basis of <em>Austerlitz</em>.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“A nation cannot be defined by language”</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is it right to say that you shoot films about the post-Soviet individual?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">But what does post-Soviet mean? How does it differ from the Soviet? I do not see any changes. The fundamental things have not changed. Just as we were not able to speak with each other before, just as we were not able to respect each other, things have remained the same. This is particularly noticeable when a person who grew up in the Soviet Union finds himself in Europe, when the context changes. Then, as one wise woman once said, you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. </p><p dir="ltr">The problems of Ukraine are being resolved in the same way as they were in the USSR: let’s forbid, let’s fight, let’s expunge! Did you read the <a href="https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-polytics/2552057-parliament-passes-bill-on-ukrainian-language-at-first-reading.html">last law on language</a>, adopted at its first reading? There they write that language defines nation. This is, in my view, archaic and, furthermore, this text confuses the idea of the nation with that of the people. A nation arises when a state emerges, and various peoples can exist within a state. In Switzerland, for example, there are four state languages. Why shouldn’t we take the same path? Why should we have a norm imposed dividing people rather than uniting them? What will happen to the 15 million citizens of Ukraine whose first language is Russian? I am a citizen of the country of Ukraine, but now I cannot consider myself a representative of this nation.</p><p dir="ltr">There is also a large paragraph on cinema in this legislation. For example, if 19% of the action in the film takes place in the Ukrainian language and 81% in Russian this film is considered to be of a foreign origin. How can one measure a work of art in percentages! Again, one can see a completely mindless, prohibitionist, Soviet approach. </p><p dir="ltr">A nation cannot be defined by language, this is wrong. What does “speaking in the language of the enemy” actually mean? It’s not the fault of the Russian language that it’s being spoken by the criminals. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The making of a film is often a strident political statement. But if one is to speak of the active civic participation of those working in film, how strong is the voice of a filmmaker? Can they be heard? For example, take the case of Oleg Sentsov – the entire film community appealed to Vladimir Putin, but this voice is yet to be heard. </strong></p><p dir="ltr">You know Salvador Dali once staged a performance entitled “The Rhinoceros is stronger than Reason”, where he lowered a statue of a rhinoceros onto a bust of Voltaire. I think it’s a rather good metaphor of the influence filmmakers really have in the contemporary world. You wanted to know how much the opinion of well-known people, and not only filmmakers, can influence the fate of Oleg Sentsov? I believe you know the answer to your question – not at all! Something is wrong in this world. Those in authority simply thumb their nose at filmmakers who act in Sentsov’s support, demanding the release of an innocent man. No one fears that the filmmakers will turn their backs on the authorities that ignore them.</p><p dir="ltr">We live in very alarming times. Even in the Soviet period there was a possibility of getting people out from behind the Iron Curtain. There were politicians like Gerald Ford who could call Brezhnev and ask him to set someone free. One should not only talk about filmmakers. Ukraine has a government, there is a Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are different agencies, which should make this cause their absolute priority and lobby the politicians in power. Do you know what is going on now? I am not privy to what is going on and am not sure anything is happening at all. </p><p dir="ltr">I have my point of view, I have already proposed solutions, but no one listens to them. If Ukraine’s demands aren’t considered at all, then one should find a country that does count. One could give Oleg Sentsov citizenship of another country. For example, the freeing of a US citizen from a Russian detention centre is completely different from freeing a Ukrainian citizen. Why not talk with the USA so that they’d give Sentsov honorary citizenship and then sit down at the table with Russia to discuss the release of a US citizen? Just as Russia gave him Russian citizenship. He did not ask for it, Russia imposed it on him. One needs to file a lawsuit with an international tribunal. A country does not have the right to change the citizenship of a person – this is an international precedent. </p><p dir="ltr">The political prisoner Oleg Sentsov is testimony to the weakness of the Ukrainian state. A president cannot lay claim to a second term if he cannot free one a single citizen. He has made that pledge. Oleg is imprisoned in Russia because he has become a symbol. Everyone knows that. If Putin hands him over (and only he can decide this), then he would expect something very significant in return, he would want us to pay a very high price for Sentsov’s freedom. It is up to the politicians to negotiate this price. </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/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/tetiana-kozak/trial-continues-askold-kurov-on-his-visit-to-oleg-sentsov">The trial continues: Askold Kurov on his visit to Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/yevgenia-belorusets-interview">“We can’t use the war to justify anything”: photographer Yevgenia Belorusets on documenting Ukraine&#039;s most vulnerable groups</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Kateryna Iakovlenko Ukraine Russia Mon, 19 Nov 2018 08:30:32 +0000 Kateryna Iakovlenko 120597 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Ukraine needs an investigation into the murder of activist Kateryna Handzyuk https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/the-murder-of-activist-kateryna-handzyuk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Handzyuk's death has led Ukraine’s parliament to create a temporary commission to investigate violent attacks on civic activists. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/komissiya-vypolnima-katerina-gandzuk" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_Гандзюк_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_Гандзюк_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kateryna Handzyuk. Source: Wikipedia. Public domain.</span></span></span>Ukrainian civil society organisations are calling for an effective investigation into the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46091074">death of Kherson-based anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk</a>, who was the target of a contract killing in July 2018. She was doused with sulphuric acid and, despite all efforts to save her, died on 4 November. </p><p dir="ltr">The Ukrainian parliament has now set up an interim investigative commission to monitor the work of the police in the case, but its creation has turned into a political scandal. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Contract hooliganism</h2><p dir="ltr">“She was murdered,” this is what activists and people who knew Kateryna Handzyuk stated publicly after the Kherson campaigner died in Kyiv City Hospital №2 on 4 November. The official reason for Handzyuk’s death was multi-organ failure and chemical burns over 40% of her body, the result of an acid attack on 31 July. She was moved from Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to Kyiv for treatment and underwent 11 operations, but doctors didn’t manage to save her life. </p><p dir="ltr">The case of Kateryna Handzyuk has become a litmus test for the Ukrainian authorities’ response to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-kozak/who-is-ordering-attacks-on-activists-in-ukraine">attacks and killings of civic activists</a>, of which there have been over 50 in the past two years. The figures are beginning to mount up in towns and cities far from the front line, and each new attack becomes possible due to the lack of investigation of the attack that preceded it. And all this is taking place on the eve of the fifth anniversary of EuroMaidan, whose participants counted observance of the law among their demands.</p><p dir="ltr"><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_2018-08-21_at_11.53.01_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen_Shot_2018-08-21_at_11.53.01_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>CCTV shot of the alleged attacker of Kateryna Handzyuk. Source: Kherson regional police. </span></span></span>The reluctance of law enforcement to see a political motivation behind the attack on Kateryna Handzyuk is clear, if only because the charge against the attackers has been changed several times. After being classified as “hooliganism”, “grievous bodily harm with the intent of intimidation” and “attempted murder”, it has ended up as “deliberate murder for self-serving motives, committed with extreme cruelty and carried out on a contract basis by a group of persons acting in collusion”. This frequent re-classification is linked to activists’ demands for an effective investigation of not only Handzyuk’s killers, but the people who ordered the attack.</p><p dir="ltr">The investigation is being carried out by Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) and, until recently, the National Police Service. The SBU is responsible for tracking down those who ordered the attack, while the police have been looking for the killer and whoever organised the attack. On 3 August, the police arrested Ukrainian citizen Mykola Novikov on suspicion of carrying out the attack on Kateryna Handzyuk. The courts sentenced Novikov to be held under arrest for two months, but he spent a mere 19 days in pre-trial detention before being released: the investigators had found no grounds for a charge. On the day when Handzyuk was attacked, Novikov was relaxing on the coast with friends, but the police tried to persuade him to sign a statement saying that he had walked past the site of the attack – Novikov was only detained as a result of the wide media coverage given to the case and protests by activists demanding the arrest of the perpetrator. </p><h2 dir="ltr">A commission is set up</h2><p dir="ltr">The investigation was handed to the SBU after Handzyuk died. The activist herself had <a href="https://humanrights.org.ua/material/preview/vbivstvo_kati_gandzjiuk_aktivisti_vimagajiut_vidstavki_lucenka_i_avakova?fbclid=IwAR0XKlFtuEsh1sMAOCfK4Ovy7_fSKH2pFXIdByGKpm79QpuChN-usXMkxMI">doubted</a> the effectiveness of law enforcement bodies given that she had previously exposed their corruption schemes. </p><p dir="ltr">According to Ukraine’s General Prosecutor Yury Lutsenko, the investigation <a href="https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2018/11/6/7197395/">carried out</a> 367 interrogations and 21 expert assessments. But Lutsenko accused activists of leaking information about one of the suspects, referring to a post on a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/gandziukgate/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&amp;eid=ARAtdOoo2hgKT-9RRtu5sdFYEls_CyvZTRqSdmStrIHaWAadZfEI6rYUHlKk1WbJekeYHqx6ykjLiUxQ">Facebook page</a> run by Handzyuk’s friends, who are conducting their own parallel investigation. According to <a href="https://www.facebook.com/gandziukgate/posts/330614741073516?hc_location=ufi">this version of the attack</a>, the contact between the crime’s contractor and perpetrators was Ihor Pavlovskiy, who currently works as an adviser to Ukrainian parliament deputy Mykola Palamarchuk, a member of the president’s political party. The activists also claim that Pavlovskiy was prepared to reveal the person who ordered the attack, since after the arrest of the men who carried out the attack, he expected to be arrested himself. But Pavlovskiy was only <a href="https://nv.ua/ukraine/events/ubijstvo-handzjuk-palamarchuk-prokommentiroval-arest-pavlovskoho-2506628.html">arrested</a> on 12 November. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/1024px-Yuriy_Lutsenko_2018_Vadim_Chuprina_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/1024px-Yuriy_Lutsenko_2018_Vadim_Chuprina_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yury Lutsenko. Photo CC BY-SA 4.0: Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The information about Pavlovskiy’s possible involvement in Handzyuk’s murder emerged on 5 November, the day that Ukrainian parliamentarians began actively discussing the creation of an temporary investigative commission to monitor the work of law enforcement agencies, which would, in turn, be accountable to it. But the process of setting the commission has dragged on: by law, all the groupings in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, were supposed to nominate candidates for the commission. The order creating it was registered in October, but only the Samopomich and Batkivshchyna parties had chosen their appointees. </p><p dir="ltr">The parties that initially ignored the temporary investigative commission included the presidential party Petro Poroshenko Bloc, which informally monitors the General Prosecutor’s Office, and the People’s Front, one of whose members, Arsen Avakov, is currently Ukraine’s Minister for Internal Affairs. But by the evening of 5 November they too had appointed their candidates for membership. Mustafa Nayem, the commission’s instigator, failed to be proposed for membership by his colleagues from Poroshenko Bloc. According to Iryna Herashchenko, the First Deputy Chair of the Verkhovna Rada and Ukraine’s envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group’s (TCG) humanitarian subgroup, Nayem was not delegated by his fraction co-members since he took no active part in its activities. Herashchenko also drew the Rada’s attention to the commission’s lack of powers and means to investigate Handzyuk’s murder. Nevertheless, Nayem was later appointed to the commission. </p><h2 dir="ltr">False retirement </h2><p dir="ltr">Parliamentarians voted for the creation of an interim investigative commission on 6 November, the day when they heard the progress reports of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the director of the SBU, the Interior Minister and the head of the National Police. During his speech from the platform, General Prosecutor Yury Lutsenko, among others, announced his intention to retire. Andriy Parubiy, the Verkhovna Rada’s Speaker, put Lutsenko’s declaration to the vote and 38 members voted in favour. Neither Lutsenko’s announcement, nor the vote, nor its results have in fact any legal force, as standing procedures require him to announce his intention to the President, who then, having agreed it, passes it to parliament – and only after this can members vote on it. This was not Lutsenko’s <a href="https://nv.ua/ukraine/politics/lutsenko-anonsiroval-sobstvennuju-otstavku-2496027.html">first attempt at retirement</a> – he mentioned leaving his post in September 2018 – but he intends to return to politics after the upcoming presidential elections.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-39514757_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-39514757_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="271" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>4 November: to protest against the death of Kateryna Handzyuk, several hundred people gather outside the Ukrainian Interior Ministry in Kyiv. (c) Sergii Kharchenko/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>After hearing statements by the heads of Ukraine’s law enforcement bodies, the MPs approved, by 255 votes, the creation of a commission to investigate Handzyuk’s death. MP Anton Gerashchenko, a former advisor to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, joined the interim investigative commission as a delegate from the People’s Front party. In response Evgeniya Zakrevskaya, Handzyuk’s lawyer, said that the MP had received information from the investigators before the victim herself. Zakrevskaya had earlier filed a petition, on Handzyuk’s behalf, to establish who had passed on information on the pre-trial investigation to Gerashchenko, and on what grounds, given there was a direct embargo on passing information on the investigation of the case through third parties, including Gerashchenko.</p><p dir="ltr">The commission held its first session on 8 November. MP Boryslav Bereza, the commission’s chair, <a href="https://zn.ua/UKRAINE/vsk-rassmotrit-samye-rezonansnye-sluchai-napadeniy-na-aktivistov-bereza-299644_.html">announced</a> that commission members couldn’t bring more than five cases of attacks on activists to its attention. Mustafa Nayem <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Mustafanayyem/posts/10213794780809779">proposed</a> examining cases in Odessa and Kharkiv, cities where attacks were systemic, to the list. The next day, activists announced they would carry out an action called <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/1405898892874453/?active_tab=discussion">“Avakov, leave!”</a> Interior Minister Avakov should retire, they claim, because of the unsolved murders of journalist <a href="https://www.occrp.org/en/documentaries/killing-pavel/">Pavel Sheremet</a> and lawyer <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valeria-costa-kostritsky/who-killed-irina-nozdrovska">Iryna Nozdrovska</a>, as well as that of Kateryna Handzyuk, and for sabotaging investigations and fostering an atmosphere of fear and hatred towards campaigners. </p><p dir="ltr">The commission is an opportunity to monitor law enforcement’s progress on investigations into the cases of Handzyuk and others on its list. For those who have encountered attacks and pressure, it’s a chance to bring the guilty to justice and promote public awareness of the violence covered up by Ukrainian law enforcement. </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-kozak/who-is-ordering-attacks-on-activists-in-ukraine">Who is ordering attacks on activists in Ukraine? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach/entrepreneurs-of-political-violence-ukraine-far-right">Entrepreneurs of political violence: the varied interests and strategies of the far-right in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/valeria-costa-kostritsky/who-killed-irina-nozdrovska">Who killed Iryna Nozdrovska?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/where-is-ukraines-new-police-force">Where is Ukraine’s new police force?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/yevgenia-belorusets-interview">“We can’t use the war to justify anything”: photographer Yevgenia Belorusets on documenting Ukraine&#039;s most vulnerable groups</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> </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tetiana Bezruk Ukraine Wed, 14 Nov 2018 08:59:52 +0000 Tetiana Bezruk 120562 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russian anti-fascist reveals violence, humiliation and threats in pre-trial detention https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mediazona/yuly-boyarshinov-network-case-russia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Russia, the security services have <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">arrested 11 anarchists and anti-fascists on terrorism charges</a>. Yuly Boyarshinov, a defendant, describes the conditions in pre-trial detention – where prisoners beat, bully and humiliate others in league with investigators.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/dscf7688_1_0_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/dscf7688_1_0_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Investigative prison, Penza. Source: OVD-Info.</span></span></span>Since October 2017, 11 people have been arrested as part of the&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“Network” case</a> – a terrorism investigation led by the Russian security services into anti-fascists and anarchists. According to investigators, these men were allegedly members of an organisation that planned to “destabilise the political climate in the country” during the Russian presidential elections and Football World Cup via explosions and riots. Cells of the organisation were allegedly operating in Moscow, St Petersburg, Penza and Belarus.</p><p dir="ltr">Several of the men detained have reported that the FSB tortured them into confessing to the charges against them. For example, software engineer Viktor Filinkov, who was abducted from St Petersburg Pulkovo airport in January 2018, has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">described</a> in detail how he was tortured with electric shocks into learning a false confession in a minivan on the outskirts of the city. Arman Sagynbayev, who previously ran a vegan food business, has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/media-zona/arman-sagynbayev-network-case-russia-torture">stated</a> that he underwent similar torture in November 2017 in St Petersburg. Other people detained as <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/anti-fascist-torture-russia-alexey-poltavets">suspects</a> and <a href="https://therussianreader.com/2018/01/31/ilya-kapustin-they-said-they-could-break-my-legs-and-dump-me-in-the-woods/">witnesses</a> in this case have also reported brutal torture. </p><p dir="ltr">Yuly Boyarshinov, an antifascist, industrial climber and “free market” organiser from St Petersburg, was arrested on 21 January 2018. Boyarshinov later stated that city police officers beat him after he refused to answer their questions, citing his right not to incriminate himself. Four hundred grams of gunpowder were then discovered in his possession. On 23 January, a district court ordered his arrest for 30 days on a explosives possession charge. Boyarshinov was then visited by two FSB agents, who listed the names of defendants in the “Network” case and promised that if he did not talk, it “would get worse”. After he refused to talk, he was transferred to Pre-Trial Detention Centre No.6 at Gorelovo, in the outskirts of St Petersburg. On 11 April 2018, Boyarshinov was officially accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation. </p><p dir="ltr">In total, Boyarshinov spent five months in Gorelovo Pre-Trial Detention Centre — throughout this time, the FSB tried to make him confess to the charges against him. In a <a href="https://zona.media/article/2018/11/09/gorelovo-press">publication</a> by Russian media outlet MediaZona, he describes the atmosphere of isolation, violence and doom in the prison.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/-2_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/-2_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yuly Boyarshinov. Source: Personal archive, via <a href=https://rupression.com>Rupression</a>. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">***</p><p dir="ltr">Detainees in Gorelovo Detention Centre are subject to systematic physical violence and humiliations by other prisoners, who carry out the orders of the prison administration. Those prisoners call themselves “elders” or “seniors”, but other prisoners call them “reds” or “activists”.</p><p dir="ltr">These same people extract money from detainees for individual places to sleep, places next to the television, the right to sleep during the day and other “privileges”. For example, in Cell 3/14, I had to sleep in a twin-bed with four more prisoners. And in Cell 1/2, where I was from 1 March 2018 until 20 July 2018, I had to sleep either on the floor or the top bunk of a double bed with two, three, four more people.</p><p dir="ltr">More than a half of all prisoners in the cell do not have their own sleeping place, but this is not only due to overcrowding. In Cell 1/2, which has room for 116 people to sleep, there usually were 120-140 people, sometimes even 150. But, regardless of the overcrowding, there were always free beds in the “Kremlin”.</p><p dir="ltr">The “Kremlin” is a large space, separated by a curtain, where the “activists” live. In Cell 1/2, three or four people occupied 12 sleeping places in the “Kremlin”, while at the other end of the same cell regular prisoners had to share a twin bed between five people.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">More than a half of all prisoners in the cell do not have their own sleeping place, but this is not only due to overcrowding</p><p dir="ltr">A new arrival into the cell is met by “orderlies”, usually sporty young men. They shout at the newbie to run to the other side of the cell, then tell him to stand there and wait until he is called. The prisoner acting as a clerk writes down the new prisoner’s personal details: his name and surname, date of birth, charge/conviction and prison term (if he already has one). In Cell 1/2, as in many others, both convicted prisoners and those under investigation are detained together. People who are first-time prisoners and “second-timers”, as well as people who are facing charges of different severity, are all mixed together. When I was in Cell 1/2, there were detainees investigated under Articles 105, 111, 126, 127, 131, 132, 134, 135, 158, 159, 161, 162, 163, 205, 222, 228, 264, 210 and others.</p><p dir="ltr">The new arrival is forced to wait standing from anywhere between 20 minutes to one and a half hours, without talking to anyone. Then he is called to the “kitchen”, which is a small room at the far end of the cell, where no one is normally allowed in. This is where the “activists” eat, and a designated person cooks food for them on a stove throughout the day. Fresh meat and eggs are brought to them in a soup tureen. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/16be933fde22b51cb34e4c631e068801.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/16be933fde22b51cb34e4c631e068801.jpeg" alt="lead " 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'>Yuly Boyarshinov. Source: David Frenkel / MediaZona. </span></span></span>Two or three “activists” talk to the newcomer in the kitchen, explain to him that one has to pay 5,000-10,000 roubles [roughly £60-£110] a month for a separate bunk, sometimes they extract a one-off payment for “moving in” – tens of thousands of roubles [up to £500]. If he refuses [to pay], they shout, hit him in the stomach or the back of the head. They threaten to beat his buttocks or heels with a stick, but this they do rarely in order to avoid leaving traces.</p><p dir="ltr">They also force the newcomer to clean the floor, sometimes non-stop, four or five times per hour from lunch until dinner, and then from dinner until lights-off. They threaten that if a prisoner cleans the floor, this will affect his social status and later he will be forced to do that permanently in the correction colony. In other words, cleaning is turned into a humiliating punishment.</p><p dir="ltr">Those who face charges under Articles 131-135 of the Russian Criminal Code [crimes related to sexual violence] are forced to clean the latrines, wash clothes for the “seniors” and pay much higher sums of money.</p><p dir="ltr">Sometimes, as an alternative to monthly payments, the “activists” propose these detainees become a “helper” – that is, to serve one of the “activists”, wash their clothes, bring food to the “Kremlin”, put up the curtain that separates the “Kremlin” from the rest of the cell and take it down when it’s likely that prison guards may visit, although they don’t remove it in the presence of the regular guards responsible for the block.</p><p dir="ltr">When one of the “activists” goes to the toilet, the helpers kick out everyone from there in advance, roughly 10 minutes or so before. The same happens if one of the “activists” takes a shower. There is no hot water in the first and third blocks. The water for “activists” is warmed up with an immersion heater in a big barrel – a designated person has to look after it the whole day. Only “activists” can wash with hot water.</p><p dir="ltr">Regular prisoners are only allowed to use one lavatory out of three in the toilet, two others are reserved for the “elders”. Because of that and the fact that they close the toilet so often, there was always a queue of four-five people there.</p><p dir="ltr">There are two “clerks” in Cell 1/2. These are the prisoners who read both in- and outgoing letters of other prisoners and check that nobody complains to their relatives about violations in the cell. They can block a letter or order you to cross out particular sentences. You are not allowed to put letters in the letterbox yourself. The clerks also sign to receive letters, sometimes also for food parcels and shopping for other detainees. They also pass statements and requests to detention centre officials. Almost all interactions with the guards, including during the morning inspection, are mediated by the clerks and elders, and you are prohibited from addressing [the guards] directly, which creates isolation and a sense of doom.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_D0_AE_D0_BB_D0_B8_D0_B0_D0_BD-_D0_B2-_D1_81_D1_83_D0_B4_D0_B5-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/_D0_AE_D0_BB_D0_B8_D0_B0_D0_BD-_D0_B2-_D1_81_D1_83_D0_B4_D0_B5-2.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'>Yuli Boyarshinov and defense attorney Olga Krivonos at a custody extension hearing, 19 February 2018. Source: OVD-Info / Olga Krivonos. </span></span></span>I was beaten up several times: on the day I moved in to Cell 3/14, on the first day in Cell 1/2, and on the second day there too, and on the several more occasions from time to time when I was called in for a “conversation” in the kitchen. These “conversations” usually happened after my lawyer applied to transfer me to another cell or complained about the conditions of my detention and so on.</p><p dir="ltr">From the first day, I was told that “this can’t be solved with money” and that there was a special request on me from Ivan Prozarevsky, an agent, to create especially difficult conditions for me.</p><p dir="ltr">The first few months I was forced to clean the floor non-stop, then slightly rarer after that. During my whole time in Gorelovo I was barely allowed out to exercise, only a couple of times per month.</p><p dir="ltr">After I applied to be transferred to a non-smoking cell, I was called in to the kitchen. Two “activists”, Roman and Konstantin Makarov (“Makar”), were there. They said that they would not allow me to be transferred to another cell and that I now had to have a photo taken while holding a cigarette. I didn’t want to do it, Roman tried to persuade me and then threatened me with violence. From time to time, Denis Rymov, a “senior”, entered the kitchen. He shouted at me, threatened me and hit me several times on the face with an open hand and then left. This “conversation” lasted for about an hour and a half, then Denis entered again and said that if I didn’t take the photo with a cigarette he would rape me , record it on video and send it to the [prison] colonies. Kostya stood beside me and held me down, while Denis put his hand on my crotch and asked “Are you ready?” – after which I agreed to take the photo.</p><p dir="ltr">In Cell 1/2, I was forced to write a statement confirming that I was not subject to any pressure on at least three occasions. The first note was dictated to me by Konstantin Makarov, who was told to do so by agent Prozarevsky. The second note I wrote in Prozarevsky’s office after the detention centre received a collective letter from citizens concerned with conditions of detention in the prison. Prozarevsky didn’t show me the letter itself, he only gave me a list of approximately 180 names and instructed me to copy them into my note, and confirm that I did not know any of them and that I was not under any pressure in my cell.</p><p dir="ltr">This was not true at all. One of the “seniors”, Dmitry Smirnov, was in the room with us. Prozarevsky and Smirnov threatened that if I did not write this statement, they would create unbearable conditions not only for me, but also for my cellmates – for example, they would take away all mobile phones and shoelaces, thus aiming to provoke violence against me from other detainees. I had to write the third note when Prozarevsky entered the cell, sat down in the “Kremlin” and called me in there. The prisoners who sleep near the “Kremlin” were forced to move to the other end of the cell, so that they could not see us. After me, a few more prisoners were called in to write explanatory notes.</p><p dir="ltr">The “activists” in Pre-Trial Detention Centre No.6 carry out the orders of prison officers who, in turn, can follow the orders of agents investigating detainees. They may instruct the “activists” to “burn” certain detainees: beatings, threats, endless cleaning – in general, they create unbearable conditions. They say openly that to stop all of this, you have to give the required testimony in your case, “to solve the issue with your agents” – as it was in my case. </p><p dir="ltr">One evening, around eight or nine pm, I was called by agent Evgeny Vladimirovich and asked whether I would talk to the agents who were going to visit the detention centre the next day. I replied that I would, but only in the presence of my lawyer, after which I was sent to my cell and one of the “seniors” was called out. When he returned, he started shouting at me and forced me to do 1,000 squats. This punishment is used quite often, but usually only 500 times. After so many squats, one barely can move one’s legs for a week and it’s difficult to walk.</p><p dir="ltr">The basic conditions in Gorelovo are truly nightmarish: not enough space, around two square metres per person, overcrowded cells, a necessity to share the bed with many people, the lack of hot water, constant queues for the toilet and sink, one 12-seater table is used for 130-140 people, broken windows (prisoners break the glass during summer when it is too hot), so there is a cold draft for people sleeping on the top bunks during winter months. In winter, prisoners often sleep in coats.</p><p dir="ltr">But the hardest thing is surviving the atmosphere of isolation, systematic violence and the sense of doom. Often, “seniors” or “orderlies” are shouting at someone near you, threatening someone, administering beatings. It was routine to hear cries and pleas to stop from the “kitchen”, where somebody was being beaten on the buttocks or heels. It’s hard to avoid your fear of winding up in their place. </p><p dir="ltr">It was obvious that this didn’t happen on the initiative of individual “activists”, but an order from prison officers. Prisoners who try to complain or ask to be transferred to another cell are subjected to even more violence.</p><p dir="ltr">Various inspections and commissions often visit Gorelovo. When I was there from 1 March until 20 July 2018, approximately twice per month there was an inspection by the General Prosecutor’s Office, the human rights ombudsman or the Public Monitoring Commission. As a rule, they don’t find so many violations, because their visits are announced in advance, and an impression is created that there are no violations. </p><p dir="ltr">For example, before a visit from the Public Monitoring Commission, when they were planning to record the overcrowding of the cells, half of all prisoners (70 people or so) were taken out to exercise yard. Another time, the cell clerk simply lied to them, saying that there were 110 people in the cell, although there were many more. Before an inspection that was supposed to verify whether different categories of prisoners are kept separately, the “activists” announced at the morning check that if you were asked, you should reply that the cell held people who had not been previously convicted for serious offences. And everyone had to choose an appropriate article [of the Criminal Code]. During the day, the orderlies checked that.</p><p dir="ltr">If a detainee was called for a meeting with the Public Monitoring Commission or the representatives of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “activists” had a “conversation” with him first, explaining that he could only say that “everything is alright in the cell”, that it was pointless to complain, and made threats. During any meetings with the Public Monitoring Commission in a separate office, the head of the centre’s operational section or deputy head of the detention centre would be present, and they would always tell the “elders” when the detainees said something bad about the cell.</p><p dir="ltr">[As a punishment] for complaints, detainees could be moved from a paid-for separate bunk to a five-persons bed, deprived of access to the telephone, beaten up or forced to clean the floor endlessly.</p><p dir="ltr">There was also a “tax” on parcels in Cell 1/2. The “activists” would take two packets of cigarettes from every block and a bag of sweets (cookies, chocolates). </p><p dir="ltr">In Cell 1/2, I got infected with scabies. I received the diagnosis in Pre-Trial Detention Centre No.1 in Penza, where I was transferred from Gorelovo. Treating scabies requires the patient to be isolated, disinfection of your personal possessions, mattress, bedding and cell. Nothing of the sort is done in Gorelovo: people infect each other every day in the overcrowded cells. When I left Cell 1/2 in July, every second person in the cell was suffering from scabies and was scratching all the time. There was no treatment for scabies.</p><p dir="ltr">Officers investigating a case can threaten suspects with a transfer to Gorelovo. There, following investigator’s instructions, people under investigation are pressured in order to force them to give evidence necessary for the investigation. </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/ovd-info/russian-authorities-target-anti-fa">Russian authorities take aim at anti-fascists in St Petersburg</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/media-zona/arman-sagynbayev-network-case-russia-torture">“They told me that if I didn’t become more cooperative, they could do whatever they wanted to me”: anarchist Arman Sagynbayev reveals torture by Russian law enforcement </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/anti-fascist-torture-russia-alexey-poltavets">Anti-fascist teenager reveals how Russian security services brutally beat and tortured him</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandra-filinkova/its-important-not-to-give-into-panic">“It’s important not to give into panic”: how I found out my husband was being tortured by the Russian security services </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/svyatoslav-rechkalov/anarchists-don-t-have-leaders-svyatoslav-rechkalov-on-torture-at-hand">&quot;They put a bag on my head, cuffed my hands behind my back and tortured me with a taser&quot;: anarchist Svyatoslav Rechkalov on torture at the hands of Russian law enforcement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/od-russia/bulat-mukhamedzhanov/everyday-violence-in-russia-s-prison-system-has-to-stop">The everyday violence in Russia’s prison system has to stop</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-zotova/inside-russia-s-new-gulag">Inside Russia’s new Gulag</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Media Zona Russian anarchists and anti-fascists in the crosshairs Wed, 14 Nov 2018 05:19:06 +0000 Media Zona 120552 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Could integration help Ukraine’s Roma? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-sokolova/can-integration-help-ukraines-roma <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Ukraine, civil society campaigners are trying to stop discrimination against Roma communities by helping them organise and integrate. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-sokolova/kto-i-zachem-integriruet-romov-v-ukrainskoe-obshestvo" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 11.47.13_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 11.47.13_0.png" 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'>Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Since the beginning of 2018, there have been five attacks on temporary Roma settlements in Ukraine. After people arrived in Kyiv, Ternopil and Lviv areas for seasonal work from other areas of the country, mostly Zakarpattya in the southwest, nationalist extremist groups evicted Roma from their camps, setting fire to tents and household goods. These far-right groups were angered by the fact that Roma set up camp in parks and wooded areas, while the police “did nothing about it”. </p><p dir="ltr">In most cases, the attackers were charged merely with “hooliganism”, although the additional charge of “infringement of the equal rights of citizens in connection with their racial or ethnic origin or religious identity” was <a href="https://hromadske.ua/posts/rozsliduvannya-napadiv-na-romski-poselennia">added</a> in relation to attacks in Kyiv and Lviv after pressure from activists. In the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44593995">most recent attack</a>, in the Lviv area, a 24-year-old man, David Pap, was murdered, and four more were injured. </p><p dir="ltr">Civil society remained unsatisfied with Ukrainian law enforcement’s reaction on the attacks against Roma settlements. Attacks on Roma aren’t only offences under the criminal charges of hooliganism, murder and infringement of equality. This kind of persecution contravenes Article 24 of Ukraine’s Constitution, which states that “there can be no privileges or restrictions on grounds of race, colour of skin, political, religious or other principles, gender, ethnic or social background, material position, place of residence, language or any other factor”. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s not, however, easy to investigate attacks on Roma as racially-motivated offences. While the government and law enforcement have no particular position on the issue, victims of the crimes are disinclined to press charges, given that the police are representatives of the state. </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, Ukrainian civil rights campaigners are drafting a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the lack of effective investigation of events that took place in 2016 in the village of Loshchynivka in the Odessa region, when local residents <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-tucker/old-hatreds-rekindled-in-ukraine">attacked a settlement</a> after a member of the local Roma community was accused of killing a child.</p><p dir="ltr">“The police in Izmail [the nearest town] and the Odessa region prosecutor’s office overstepped the mark and created grounds for an appeal to the ECHR,” <a href="https://humanrights.org.ua/material/pravozahisniki_gotujiut_skargu_do_jespl_cherez_nerozsliduvannjia_pogromiv_u_loshhinivci?fbclid=IwAR1dv5tQ96isTSQgmTWsGzmtzOTjLgl703vZ3QE3UM_gvdTntaBoF_HXVjU">says</a>&nbsp;lawyer Yulia Lisovaya, who represents the Loshchynivka Roma community. “The police tried to close the case, the courts would force them to re-open it and they would close it again. This tells us that, at the very least, there has been no effective investigation under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights [the right to a fair trial – ed.], so we are preparing our submission to the ECHR”. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Roma communities need to get organised </h2><p dir="ltr">One of the reasons that Roma face persecution in Ukraine is the lack of systematic work with this community, Mykola Burlutskyi, who heads the Kharkiv-based <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chachimo.kh/">Chachimo</a> NGO, tells me. </p><p dir="ltr">“Working with Roma in our region, I’ve found one problem&nbsp;– there is a desire to integrate Roma, but the Roma community itself is quite passive,” Burlutskyi says. “That’s why you need to start by organising them into a community that can effectively react to issues arising both internally and in Ukraine as a whole.” </p><p dir="ltr">In Merefa, a town in the Kharkiv region, civil society activists have been organising meetings for Roma representatives to talk to lawyers, migration and social services personnel and health professionals, where they learn how to interact with state institutions and stand up for their rights. </p><p dir="ltr">“The idea is to find ten or so people who can be trained to take on active civil responsibilities. Then, in the future, they can represent their community in local administration and hold a dialogue with the authorities,” Burlutskyi tells me.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 11.59.08_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 11.59.08_0.png" 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'>Mykola Burlutskyi. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Mykola decided to begin his project in Merefa, since he knows the local Protestant community and, as a pastor, has some sway within it. “We can run a pilot project here with minimal loss,” he says. After Merefa, the civic activist team plans to expand its work to the two other places in the region with the largest Roma population – Vovchansk and Vilshany. </p><p dir="ltr">At the sessions in Merefa, Burlutskyi acts as mediator between lecturers and the students. But first he has to persuade the Roma that they can trust the police and social services staff. And during the meeting he explains unfamiliar words to participants, repeating the points they need to remember in more accessible language. </p><p dir="ltr">“Around ten years ago, the police arrested me and tried to pin a charge on me, and demanded money from me in return for being released,” says Oleksandr, a local Roma resident. “So I’ve tried to avoid them ever since. But I’m now trying to get over my prejudices.” Burlutskyi sees Oleksandr as a future leader of Merefa’s Roma community and has already started introducing him to representatives of local government.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">One of the reasons that Roma face persecution in Ukraine is the lack of systematic work with this community</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, the village of Vilshany was the site of a <a href="http://www.mediaport.ua/konflikt-so-strelboy-v-posyolke-pod-harkovom-fotoreportazh">dispute</a> that ended in a shooting and the death of a local Roma resident. The day before, the village head had had an argument with a local Roma. He and his father, a former village head and member of the regional council, as well as other armed villagers, then demanded a meeting with the entire Roma community to settle the argument. It was only a year later that charges of murder and rioting were brought by the courts. And Andriy Mukha, a lawyer with the Romen organisation and counsel to one of the injured parties, <a href="https://lb.ua/society/2018/05/25/398614_advokat_postradavshih_olshanah.html">stated</a> that he had been beaten up by the local public prosecutor and three other men in his own office. He believes that the attack was a result of his professional activity; the prosecutor’s office has called it an attempt to discredit them. </p><p dir="ltr">“The man’s death could have been avoided if there were active members of the Roma community in Vilshany – people who knew their rights,” Mykola Burlutskyi tells me. “They would have called the police and got in touch with civil activists and the media, and the dispute could have been resolved peacefully.” </p><p dir="ltr">This was not the first dispute involving the Kharkiv region’s Roma community. There were two incidents in 2016 and 2017, when some of the residents of the town of Lozova and the village of Sheludkovka demanded the expulsion of the Roma. In both cases, the conflict began with claims that the Roma were responsible for an increase in crime, although there was no official confirmation of any such rise. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Public advisers</h2><p dir="ltr">In addition to heading Chachimo, Mykola Burlutskyi is also a paralegal: he helps people in the Kharkiv region solve common legal issues, as a mediator between them and the local authorities. Last year he and other civil society activists from other areas underwent training in setting up state institutions dealing with safety, the protection of human rights, finance and communications. </p><p dir="ltr">“As a paralegal, I have two aims connected with Roma communities,” says Mykola. “The first is the security that results from realising constitutional rights, when a state provides protection for its citizens. The second is building a dialogue with the government and law enforcement, in order to develop preventive and reactive measures.”</p><p dir="ltr">Paralegals, also called public advisors, are a new institution in Ukraine. The rationale for its creation is that most Ukrainian citizens, especially those who live in small communities, have no easy access to legal help of any kind. At the same time, Ukrainians tend to distrust the state judicial system, <a href="https://www.pravda.com.ua/columns/2017/11/9/7161092/">says</a> Olha Halchenko, one of the instigators of the idea and a coordinator of the Human Rights and Justice programme of the International Renaissance Foundation. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 12.01.02_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 12.01.02_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Natalya Andreyeva. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Any active citizen can become a public advisor: you don’t need a law degree; you just have to go through a competitive selection process and a training programme. Natalya Andreyeva, a resident of Babay, a small town in the Kharkiv region, has signed up for the course. She used to work at home, but after war broke out in Eastern Ukraine she began working as a volunteer, helping Roma who had moved to the region. </p><p dir="ltr">“I am a Roma myself. Lots of people in my community are uneducated, and this makes it hard for them to integrate. How can this situation be changed? Who will they listen to? Not to the authorities – to their own people,” she tells me. Natalya, like Burlutskyi, sees self-organisation of her community as a priority. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Creating Roma self-government </h2><p dir="ltr">In Zakarpattya, southwestern Ukraine, civic activists have a different way of helping Roma integrate into Ukrainian society. Since 2015, members of the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/human.rights.fund.rozvitok/?eid=ARC8y-u0mrqsPmlcW6CRm4GMg1xEM3x4IiIZs1RdG_Ad982nOpbguRFnPDpTJHMLZgBOgZK-c42cTMNo&amp;timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&amp;timeline_context_item_source=100001530154741&amp;fref=tag">Rozvitok</a> (“Development”) charitable foundation and the Mukachevo Human Rights Centre have been helping to set up Roma self-government – representative bodies created by local residents to resolve everyday social and cultural issues. Roma are coming together in their settlements to talk to the local authority about the needs and aspirations of their communities. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, local Roma representative bodies were set up in the town of Svalyava and the villages of Velyki Luchki, Pavshyno and Chomonyn. It’s too early to talk about results, but this spring, the Roma community in Velyki Luchki collected money and built a road, which the local civil society campaigners see as an achievement. </p><p dir="ltr">“I am really proud for the Roma: they have understood what self-organisation means and are beginning to take independent steps towards the creation of a safe social infrastructure, and the enforcement and maintenance of their space in an appropriately clean and tidy state,” <a href="https://www.facebook.com/oleg.grigoryev/posts/1732371946823794">says</a> Oleg Grigoryev, a representative of the Rozvitok foundation and the Mukachevo Human Rights Centre, who sees this type of development as the only effective way of integrating this ethnic minority.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/30420416_1732370686823920_1760772717266410156_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/30420416_1732370686823920_1760772717266410156_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="317" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>April 2018: improving the village road at Velyki Luchki. Source: <a href=https://www.facebook.com/oleg.grigoryev?__tn__=%2CdlC-R-R&eid=ARBar4WtR15-_Ae2ZxS8QYV0hMxfwRCFL1AuuskyKMQvctGJMHafV0o8oZgbJgQeCoyBBYixwUVyuaC_&hc_ref=ARSV4QKUgyBh9vQVA77FZhFZx_xsUaVi4oJ_jNfj9mhbDIH-SAxrLToiAS0I4Err940>Oleg Grigoryev</a>.</span></span></span>Different sources put the number of Roma living in Ukraine at between 47,000 and 260,000, with the largest populations in the Zakarpattya, Donetsk, Dnipro and Odessa regions. In 2013, the Ukrainian parliament <a href="http://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/201/2013">approved</a> a “Strategy for the protection and integration of the Roma ethnic minority up to 2020”. Then in 2016, Aksana Filipishina, a representative of the Parliamentary Ombudsperson on Human Rights, called the strategy a “formal document”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Different sources put the number of Roma living in Ukraine at between 47,000 and 260,000, with the largest populations in the Zakarpattya, Donetsk, Dnipro and Odessa regions</p><p dir="ltr">“This document relates to European integration, it is supposed to demonstrate that the state is taking some action aimed at regulating the Roma issue,” <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXdBHNoya7Q">said</a> Filipishyna in an interview to Hromadske TV. “The Strategy was approved without any initial analysis of the situation, no research was carried out. This is a document that contains the unusable slogans such as ‘foster’ and ‘perfect’. These are abstract words.” </p><p dir="ltr"> At the same time, Roma human rights activist Zemfira Kondur believes that Ukrainian public officials are indifferent to Roma problems – more often than not, it’s the voluntary sector that works on these issues. The UN is nevertheless calling on the Ukrainian government to protect the country’s minorities, and the Roma among them, from discrimination and persecution. </p><p dir="ltr">“The lack of accountability in violent attacks against minorities and evictions of Roma in previous years has fuelled impunity,” <a href="http://www.un.org.ua/en/information-centre/news/4373-ukraine-un-urges-the-government-to-effectively-investigate-all-attacks-against-minorities">said</a> Fiona Frazer, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. “We urge the Government to demonstrate zero tolerance by publicly condemning such acts, by investigating all attacks against minorities, by bringing perpetrators to account and by guaranteeing the right to non-discrimination and equality.”</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-bezruk/yevgenia-belorusets-interview">“We can’t use the war to justify anything”: photographer Yevgenia Belorusets on documenting Ukraine&#039;s most vulnerable groups</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/yulia-abibok/decentralising-ukraine">Decentralising Ukraine: the view from Khmelnytsky</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-tucker/old-hatreds-rekindled-in-ukraine">Old hatreds rekindled in Ukraine</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/aleksei-arunyan/how-kyiv-and-budapest-fell-out-over-zakarpattya">How Hungary and Ukraine fell out over a passport scandal</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ganna Sokolova Ukraine Tue, 13 Nov 2018 08:01:55 +0000 Ganna Sokolova 120533 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kyrgyzstan survives on money made by migrant workers, but it doesn’t know how to spend it https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kyrgyzstan-survives-on-money-made-by-migrant-workers-but-it-doesn-t-know-how-to-spend-it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>No country in the world is as dependent on remittances as Kyrgyzstan. But this money is often used by families to survive, and allows the state to avoid its obligations to its citizens.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/migr_inv_main-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/migr_inv_main-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Daria Udalova. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article was <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/08/23/strana-na-izhdivenii-kyrgyzstan-vyzhivaet-na-dengi-migrantov-no-ne-umeet-ih-tratit/">originally published</a> on Kloop, a Kyrgyz investigative website. We translate it here with their permission.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Altynai, 24, doesn’t know what she will do if her parents stop sending money from Russia. She’ll be in a hopeless situation without those 20,000 soms (£220) a month — this money is her only way of surviving. For the past three years, Altynai (name changed) has been living with her grandmother, whose pension isn’t enough to buy anything.</p><p dir="ltr">She says that residents of her village in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan frequently leave to work abroad. There’s never enough jobs here in Leylek district, which is bordered by Tajikistan on three sides. There are no new enterprises being opened. Most people work for low wages in state institutions.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, over the past decade, more and more people have been leaving Kyrgyzstan to work abroad. In Russia alone, there are more than <a href="https://mvd.ru/Deljatelnost/statistics/migracionnaya">800,000 Kyrgyz citizens on the migration register</a>. Most of them come to work. In 2017, they made money transfers to Kyrgyzstan totalling $2.5 billion — which was more than the <a href="http://www.minfin.kg/ru/novosti/godovoy-otchet-ob-ispolnenii-byudzheta/otchet-ob-ispolnenii-gosbyudzheta-kr-za-2017-god-.html">total state annual expenditure</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><iframe id="datawrapper-chart-dIGz1" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/dIGz1/2/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" height="360"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["dIGz1"]={},window.datawrapper["dIGz1"].embedDeltas={"100":360,"200":360,"300":360,"400":360,"500":360,"700":360,"800":360,"900":360,"1000":360},window.datawrapper["dIGz1"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-dIGz1"),window.datawrapper["dIGz1"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["dIGz1"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["dIGz1"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("dIGz1"==b)window.datawrapper["dIGz1"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});</script></p><p dir="ltr">This is the second year in a row that Kyrgyzstan ranks first in the world in terms of percentage of remittances to GDP, overtaking Tajikistan and Tonga.</p><p dir="ltr">Batken region, where Altynai and her grandmother live, is the poorest in the country. Here, forty percent of the population live below the poverty line, with no more than 2,600 soms (£28) per month. Without payments from abroad, the percentage of people living below the poverty line would reach a staggering 60%.</p><p dir="ltr">Using data provided by the <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ALRYPi_njFBCCQXN41VOolXWajbZjMX7fRv4NCMp4bU/edit#gid=993226123">National Statistics Commission</a>, Kloop rated the most vulnerable regions in Kyrgyzstan — the poorer a region is, the more it becomes dependent on remittances from abroad. This concerns, first and foremost, the Batken, Jalalabad and Osh regions.</p><p dir="ltr"><iframe id="datawrapper-chart-v3wJz" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/v3wJz/3/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" height="322"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["v3wJz"]={},window.datawrapper["v3wJz"].embedDeltas={"100":322,"200":322,"300":322,"400":322,"500":322,"700":322,"800":322,"900":322,"1000":322},window.datawrapper["v3wJz"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-v3wJz"),window.datawrapper["v3wJz"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["v3wJz"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["v3wJz"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("v3wJz"==b)window.datawrapper["v3wJz"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});</script> </p><p dir="ltr">According to Kyrgyzstan’s National Bank, remittances “help the state to ease tension in society”, lowering the unemployment rate and the poverty level. Emil Nasritdinov, an expert on migration, believes that this allows the state to avoid its responsibilities. “Migration simply helps people to survive, not to die from hunger. This is all that the government needs — it shirks the responsibility [to take care of] the population and transfers it to migrants.”</p><h2>Basic goods</h2><p dir="ltr">Remittances definitely help to save poor Kyrgyzstanis from hunger, but nothing more, as most of this money are spent on basic necessities. “[We buy] food, clothes. I have a sister, she’s a student in Bishkek, she also receives money from abroad,” Altynai says. “It’s impossible to save money. Sometimes I manage to save 1,000-2,000 soms [£11-22], but the money just goes.”</p><p dir="ltr">In 2015, the National Bank examined data from a survey <a href="http://www.nbkr.kg/DOC/20012016/000000000039978.pdf">of 2,800 families in Kyrgyzstan</a> and concluded that three quarters of remittance recipients spend this money on consumer goods — food, clothes, household items. This money more often goes on weddings than education or health care.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Altynai, many families in Leylek not only live on the money of migrants, but also take loans, which they then use remittance payments to pay off. “Every family has two or three micro-loans. People usually take loans for weddings. Some take loans for home improvements, sometimes to buy cars [...] Even when people leave, they take a loan to buy their ticket, buy it and then their relatives pay it off.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/migr_inv_01.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/migr_inv_01.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Remittances are often used to save families in Kyrgyzstan from hunger. Illustration: Daria Udalova. </span></span></span>According to <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1dYLHwO8iBWEXs75hxtVVArinxwaIKNKeOVC3HnzYw4A/edit#gid=620625839">calculations</a> by Kloop, every tenth wedding in Kyrgyzstan is paid for with labour remittances. “Several experts believe that weddings are a waste of money, because everything that migrants earnt with hard work is just spent on a single day,” says Emil Nasritdinov. “There are analysts who instead consider weddings an investment in social capital, which can, with time, bring some kind of dividends. But I tend towards the first position.”</p><p dir="ltr">Analysts with the National Bank believe that spending labour remittances on consumer goods “isn’t a bad thing”. For them, buying consumer goods stimulates the economy, helping local producers sell more goods. Of course, money from abroad is used to buy not only Kyrgyz-made goods, but also imported ones.</p><h2>Dead end</h2><p dir="ltr">For Kyrgyzstan to experience significant economic growth, it needs investments. Labour remittances could be used to invest in business, banking or securities. But according to a study by the National Bank, only 0.3% of the population do this.</p><p dir="ltr">Meder, from Batken region, is one of these enterprising people. For five years now, Meder, together with his partners, has been selling construction materials in the town of Isfana. He makes more money now than he did in Russia, where he worked for three years as a builder and loader — often for days at a time, and without holidays.</p><p dir="ltr">“I went to Moscow because I was in a dead-end situation, there was no work here [...] I had [a loan] at that moment. My mother was seriously ill, and my brother is an invalid. I had to go,” Meder recalls.</p><p dir="ltr">While he was Russia, Meder dreamed of setting up his own business (“so I wouldn’t have to be a migrant worker”), which is why his parents began saving the money he sent them. It was thanks to these savings that Meder managed to set up his own business.</p><p dir="ltr">The Kyrgyz state is yet to start programmes to support labour migrants and attract their money for investment in business. Emil Nasritdinov confirms this: “The level of corruption is very high. I don’t see any large-scale investment in developing small or medium-sized businesses by migrants.”</p><p dir="ltr">The National Bank believes that commercial banks could attract migrants into the financial sector by creating deposit accounts with special conditions, conducting consultations on financial literacy or giving business loans to returning migrants. But the banks themselves <a href="https://www.adb.org/publications/financial-inclusion-regulation-literacy-education-kyrgyz-republic">are not particularly interested</a> in this, preferring to earn money on loans to large businesses, commissions on money transfers and serving clients.</p><p dir="ltr">The National Bank sees its role as “guaranteeing macroeconomic stability” and “supporting stable prices”. Together with the government, the Bank tries to teach Kyrgyz citizens how to use their money more effectively.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/migr_inv_02-1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/migr_inv_02-1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Remittances help reduce poverty levels — and the state avoid its responsibilities. Illustration: Daria Udalova. </span></span></span>As he continues to develop his business, Meder sees how more and more of his countrymen are leaving to work abroad. “Many people stay abroad because the situation here doesn’t improve.”</p><h2>What future?</h2><p dir="ltr">No country in the world is as dependent on labour remittances as Kyrgyzstan. If 10 years ago, remittances made up 20% of the country’s GDP, then today they’re nearly 40%.</p><p dir="ltr">This dependence is dangerous for Kyrgyzstan’s economy, as shown by the Russian crisis of 2014-2015, when payments dropped and the number of people living in poverty rose by 1.5%.</p><p dir="ltr"><iframe id="datawrapper-chart-aOyAj" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/aOyAj/2/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" height="400"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["aOyAj"]={},window.datawrapper["aOyAj"].embedDeltas={"100":570,"200":475,"300":425,"400":400,"500":400,"700":375,"800":375,"900":375,"1000":375},window.datawrapper["aOyAj"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-aOyAj"),window.datawrapper["aOyAj"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["aOyAj"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["aOyAj"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("aOyAj"==b)window.datawrapper["aOyAj"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});</script></p><p dir="ltr">“The future doesn’t good for Batken,” says Nasritdinov. “Another crisis in Russia will make the situation even worse. [...] It’s very unstable and unreliable, a crisis can hit at any moment.” He thinks that the latest <a href="https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0410">US sanctions against Russia</a> and <a href="http://kremlin.ru/acts/news/57883">tougher laws on registration for migrants in Russia</a> could have an impact on money transfers.</p><p dir="ltr">The Kyrgyz authorities are planning to solve this problem in their own way&nbsp;— in the draft National Strategy on Stable Development for 2040, they’re planning on expanding the number of locations that people travel to for work. This is why the state plans to help people leave to work abroad and raise their ability to compete abroad. It seems that Kyrgyzstan will continue to survive on the hard-earned money of migrants for a long time to come.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article was prepared as part of the Data Fellowship programme of Internews Media-K Project, which is funded by USAID in Kyrgyzstan and supported by the World Bank, IDEM Institute and the School of Data - Kyrgyzstan.</em></p><p><em>Illustrations by Daria Udalova.&nbsp;</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/paolo-sorbello/ayka-film-migrant-screen">A new tale of migrant struggles in Moscow puts poverty, motherhood and hope on screen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/fergana-news/listening-russia-female-migrants-gul-magazine">Listening to Russia’s female migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-rocheva/keeping-welfare-russian">Scaling back on healthcare may start with Russia’s migrants. But it won’t end there</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elnura-alkanova/how-social-media-users-in-kyrgyzstan-are-turned-into-extremists">How social media users in Kyrgyzstan are turned into “extremists”</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Anna Kapushenko Savia Hasanova Migration matters Kyrgyzstan Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:36:12 +0000 Savia Hasanova and Anna Kapushenko 120501 at https://www.opendemocracy.net One year on from a planned “revolution” in Russia, dozens of people are facing jail time https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elizaveta-pestova-anna-kozkina/artpodgotovka-russia-vyacheslav-maltsev <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">In November 2017, hundreds of Russian citizens were involved in an <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-inside-story-of-russias-failed-social-media-revolution">apparent attempt to organise a new “revolution”</a> in Russia. Thirty of them are now facing serious charges.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><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_2017-11-17_at_10_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen_Shot_2017-11-17_at_10_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian politician Vyacheslav Maltsev. Source: YouTube. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>One year ago, Russian law enforcement began a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-inside-story-of-russias-failed-social-media-revolution">campaign against opposition politician Vyacheslav Maltsev and his supporters</a> ahead of their planned “revolution” on 5 November 2017. According to Maltsev, members of his Artpodgotovka movement would unleash spontaneous protests across the country before storming the Kremlin. They would then hold a referendum and vote for the overthrow of Russian president Vladimir Putin.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>The revolution did not happen, and 30 people have found themselves under criminal prosecution as a result — they are accused of extremism, creating terrorist organisations, preparing acts of terrorism and mass unrest.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Russian news organisation <a href="https://zona.media">MediaZona</a> has collected all the known information about these cases — where we can see signs of FSB agents working undercover, the defendants reveal how they were tortured and where setting a hay bale alight is considered an act of terrorism. We translate their <a href="https://zona.media/article/2018/11/05/5/11/17-year-after">article</a> here.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><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 2018-11-09 at 16.15.28.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 16.15.28.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sergey Okunev, who is now based in Kyiv, Ukraine, is an active YouTube blogger. Source: YouTube. </span></span></span>“Can somebody explain what this organisation is? Who’s the organiser? Who are the members? Where are the offices? The finances? It’s hilarious, to be honest,” this is how Sergey Okunev, an ally of Vyacheslav Maltsev, <a href="https://twitter.com/Okunev64/status/923452347027742720">responded</a> to the news that the Artpodgotovka movement had been banned in late October 2017. “If the information on the ban of Artpodgotovka is confirmed, it’s the Artillery Forces who will suffer the most,” Okunev <a href="https://twitter.com/Okunev64/status/923459677010251776">joked</a> on Twitter.</p><p dir="ltr">By that time, Okunev had known Saratov politician Vyacheslav Maltsev for two years and, according to Okunev, had conducted several hundred live broadcasts with him on YouTube.</p><h2>“We’re not waiting, we’re preparing”</h2><p dir="ltr">Vyacheslav Maltsev, 54, rose to national prominence in Russian politics in spring 2016 after winning the primaries for the PARNAS opposition party. This victory, which many put down to Maltsev’s populism and nationalism, <a href="https://www.rbc.ru/politics/02/07/2016/5777d08e9a794785461fc25a">provoked fierce arguments</a> in the party, but Maltsev still made it into the top three candidates for Russia’s parliamentary elections — though PARNAS still only received 0.73% of the vote, and failed to get into parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, Maltsev’s “Artpodgotovka” channel on YouTube helped him win in the PARNAS primaries. Before it was banned in Russia, the channel’s videos — which hosted Maltsev’s opinions and current news — regularly received 100,000 views, with some videos reaching up to two million. Back then, Maltsev would repeat on every broadcast that there would be a revolution in Russia on 5 November 2017 — and that people should prepare for it. In several videos, Maltsev spoke with a banner behind him that read: “5/11/17 - we’re not waiting, we’re preparing”. This phrase later became a meme on the Russian internet — and the slogan of Maltsev’s supporters.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/M8Crcr4imH0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/M8Crcr4imH0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vyacheslav Maltsev and Russian anti-corruption politician Alexey Navalny, April 2017. Source: Vkontakte. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Sergey Okunev, who, like Maltsev, is originally from the Volga city of Saratov, says he met Maltsev just before the PARNAS primaries. At the start of 2o17, they began talking about forming a political party together. Initially, they wanted to take over a small party already registered with Russia’s Ministry of Justice, but these negotiations were unsuccessful. Instead, they came up with the idea of setting up a “Party of Free People” — and they opened a party office in Saratov on 26 May 2017, even before they’d made their first attempt at officially registering the party. Together with the Nationalists’ Party, supporters of Maltsev spent their weekends in towns across Russia, holding “walks for free people”. These actions often ended in arrests. “And there never existed any movement named Artpodgotovka as an organisation,” Okunev insists, adding that Maltsev came up with the date of 5 November 2017 back in 2013. Originally, though, this was supposed to be a “non-stop peaceful protest”.</p><p dir="ltr">Okunev believes that the campaign against Maltsev supporters before October 2017, the last month before the “revolution”. He recalls the case of Alexey Politikov, a businessman from the far eastern city of Ussuriysk and a close associate of Maltsev. Politikov was arrested at the beginning of June 2017 on charges of assaulting a police officer during the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/26-march-russia-protest">26 March anti-corruption protest</a> in Moscow. (Politikov was sentenced to two years in prison in October 2017, his sentence was reduced to 18 months on appeal.)</p><p dir="ltr">Investigators also carried out house searches in this case and, according to Okunev, including at his apartment in Saratov. “I told the investigators: ‘Respectfully, I don’t have anything against [this search], but I spent the whole day and night on 26 March in a Saratov police station. Forgive me, but what do you want to find here?’ They couldn’t tell me. Of course, this was a made-up reason [to search the flat].” Okunev adds that after the search he was taken to the Investigative Committee’s regional office for interrogation. None of the questions he was asked there “related to events in Moscow”; instead, Okunev was questioned about Maltsev and Artpodgotovka.</p><p dir="ltr">In summer 2017, Okunev says, Vyacheslav Maltsev received an “anonymous warning” that he was going to be investigated. “There were reasons to believe that these people were not joking. I remember it well: we were driving along Kutuzov Avenue [in Moscow], we were discussing the situation. There were three of us in the car and we were trying to convince Maltsev to leave the country. It wasn’t that he resisted this idea particularly, but he was weighing up all the pros and cons. We explained to him that it would be much better if he didn’t go to prison. Back then we didn’t realise that the attack on us was going to be so strong.”</p><p dir="ltr">Maltsev left Russia on 4 July 2017. On 11 July, Russian law enforcement <a href="https://zona.media/news/2017/07/11/lohino">searched the movement’s apartment</a> in the Moscow suburban town of Lokhino, as part of an extremism investigation. At the end of August 2017, it was <a href="https://zona.media/news/2017/08/15/malts">reported</a> that Maltsev was accused of making calls to extremist activity during a public meeting on 6 May, and in November, he was accused of creating a terrorist organisation. Maltsev has since requested political asylum in France.</p><h2>“They planted TNT on Seryozha”</h2><p dir="ltr">Krasnoyarsk Regional Court banned Artpodgotovka on 26 October 2017. In the days that followed, supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev were arrested in Krasnoyarsk, Volgograd, Saratov, Kazan and Tomsk. On 1 November, four days before the planned “revolution”, Sergey Okunev found out that his friend and comrade Sergey Ryzhov had been arrested — today Ryzhov is under arrest on terrorism charges at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.</p><p dir="ltr">“The lawyer rang me. I remember the moment well, it was about seven in the evening. He tells me: ‘They planted TNT on Seryozha [Ryzhov], a pistol, they blew opened the windows to his apartment and opened a terrorism case against him,’” Okunev remembers. “It’s hard to describe my reaction. And the lawyer, who was always completely calm, says: ‘Well, you know, you probably should be somewhere else. Do you understand the risks?’”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/kmo_111307_19310_1_t218_160105.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/kmo_111307_19310_1_t218_160105.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sergey Ryzhov. Source: <a href=https://memohrc.org>Memorial Human Rights Center</a>.</span></span></span>Half an hour later, Okunev received a call from the Saratov branch of Alexey Navalny’s campaign, who told him that the police were looking for him. Fifteen minutes later, Okunev’s landlay rang him: “They’re almost breaking the door down, I don’t know if this is connected to you or not.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I was simply lucky that I was in a suburb of Saratov, in a place that’s difficult to get to,” Okunev says. “I had literally an hour, and I decided that I was going to leave the country. I had a shirt, jacket with long sleeves, shoes, keys to the apartment, a press card, a telephone, which I instantly dismantled, and 1,300 roubles [£15] in my pocket. I got to Moscow and then teleported to the place I am now.”</p><p dir="ltr">Okunev currently lives in Kyiv, and is waiting for a decision on asylum.</p><h2>“We’re waiting for the revolution”</h2><p dir="ltr">Despite the preventative detentions and arrests, many supporters of Maltsev still decided to gather on Manezh Square in Moscow on 5 November 2017.</p><p dir="ltr">Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the <a href="https://www.sova-center.ru/en/">Sova Center for Information and Analysis</a>, also went to central Moscow to take a look at the “revolution”. “There were some men there, mostly middle-aged, but there were a few young people too, only a few. They were standing close to the wall of the Moscow hotel. Everything was barricaded off. And they stood there, it was full of journalists, it was easy, even with an untrained eye, to see the revolutionaries. Journalists would go up to them and ask why there were standing there. ‘We’re waiting for the revolution’ - ‘What will you do?’ - “Well they told us, we’re waiting for 12 o’clock’. Twelve o’clock came and nothing happened.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to Verkhovsky, normal police officers were the first to come to the square, but then were followed by riot police. But none of the protesters tried to resist them. Verkhovsky notes that he didn’t hear any slogans or see any banners, or “even a button of any kind”.</p><p dir="ltr"><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 2018-11-09 at 16.55.58.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 16.55.58.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>5 November 2017: Echo Moscow journalist Andrey Ezhov is arrested alongside other people in central Moscow. Source: Andrey Ezhov / Twitter. </span></span></span>“Of course, this kind of movement inevitably attracts a certain number of inadequate people,” Verkhovsky says. “But Maltsev himself doesn’t look like a marginal, [he] has completely established himself in politics according to Russian standards. But some participants, not all of them, will definitely be marginals. And the main thing is that their behaviour was marginal. I can’t even imagine what these people were thinking when they gathered there. It seems they really thought that the leader knew, that he had some kind of clever plan.” Verkovsky categorically denies that there was any chance of Maltsev’s supporters organising a revolution.</p><p dir="ltr">OVD-Info, an NGO which monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia, <a href="https://zona.media/chronicle/5-nov%2315809">calculated</a> that more than 400 people were arrested on 5 November 2017 across the country — and not only supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev, but also random passers-by. Most of them, roughly 300, were arrested in Moscow.</p><p dir="ltr">In the end, at least 31 people have or are facing criminal charges in connection with this “revolution”. Here’s everything we know about these cases.</p><h2><strong>Saratov</strong></h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendant: </strong>Sergey Ryzhov (34)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charge: </strong>preparing an act of terrorism (Articles 30.1, 205.1)</p><p><strong>What happened:</strong> Sergey Ryzhov, an activist with the Party of Free People, was arrested on 1 November. The FSB <a href="https://zona.media/chronicle/5-nov#15820">published a video </a>of Ryzhov’s apartment being stormed, where you can see security forces blowing off the windows to the first-floor apartment, running up the stairs and entering the premises. In the following scenes, two men are shown before the camera — one of them is Ryzhov — as well as bottles on the floor, and a pistol. Ryzhov insists that agents planted 200 grammes of TNT and molotov cocktails in the apartment.</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_2017-11-17_at_10.28.58_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen_Shot_2017-11-17_at_10.28.58_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>FSB storms apartment of Artpodgotovka members, November 2017. Source: Tass. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ryzhov is charged with preparing an act of terrorism, which was due to be carried out on Theatre Square in Saratov. He was arrested by Frunze district court in the city on 3 November 2017, and was then transferred to Moscow at the end of the month: his case was transferred to the FSB’s main investigation directorate.</p><p><strong>Sentence: </strong>A sentence has not yet been issued in this case. Ryzhov is currently in Lefortovo Pre-Trial Detention Facility, Moscow.</p><h2>Moscow</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants:</strong> Vyacheslav Maltsev (54), Alexander Svishchev (55), Andrey Tolkachev (41), Nadezhda Petrova, Yuri Kornyi (49), Andrey Keptya (42)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charges:</strong> organising a terrorist organisation, participating in it (Parts 1 and 2 of Article 205.4), preparing an act of terrorism (Part 1 of Article 30, Point A, Part 2 of Article 205)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened:</strong> at the beginning of November 2017, the FSB opened a terrorism investigation into Vyacheslav Maltsev, who had left the country. His associates Alexander Svishchev, Andrey Tolkachev, Nadezhda Petrova, Yuri Kornyi and Andrey Keptya were also accused of participating in Maltsev’s terrorist organisation. Tolkachev, Kornyi and Keptya are also accused of preparing an act of terrorism — they are currently in pre-trial detention, while Svishchev and Petrova managed to leave the country.</p><p dir="ltr">According to investigators, Artpodgotovka aimed to “violently change the constitutional order” of Russia, and Maltsev ordered Petrova and Svishchev to plan acts of terrorism, while the rest were to carry them out. On 11 October, Tolkachev gave a canister of petrol to Kornyi and Keptya, which they were to use to set alight some hay and pallets on Manezh Square in Moscow. On 5 November, Svishchev was meant to disrupt some electricity sub-stations in the Moscow area, and Petrova - to carry out arson attacks against state buildings. </p><p>One source familiar with the investigation told MediaZona that Andrey Keptya had refused the services of his lawyer and confessed to the crimes he is accused of, including giving evidence against other defendants. Kornyi and Tolkachev have not confessed. According to the source, this case is under control of the same investigators who worked on the case of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence: </strong>This case is yet to go trial.</p><h2>Saratov</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants:</strong> Fyodor Martynov (23)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charges:</strong> illegal trade in weapons (Part 1, Article 222), illegal preparation of explosive substances (Part 1, Article 223.1), illegal possession of explosives (Part 1, Article 222.1)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened:</strong> Agents of Saratov FSB detained Martynov on 1 November 2017, the same day as Sergey Ryzhov. According to the FSB, during the search of Martyov’s apartment, they found ammunition for a rifled weapon, improvised explosive devices and explosive substances. A video released by the FSB shows that they found a book called “Russian kitchen: A-Z of home-made terrorism” on Martynov’s computer. Prior to trial, he was held in pre-trial detention in Saratov.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence:</strong> On 9 September, Saratov’s Kirov district court sentenced Martynov to 2.5 years and a fine of 100,000 roubles. </p><h2>Kurgan</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants:</strong> Evgeny Lesovoy (51).</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charges:</strong> Public calls to extremist activity (Part 2, Article 280)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened:</strong> According to media outlet <a href="https://oblast45.ru/publication/22550/">Oblast 45</a>, Lesovoy was detained on 7 November 2017. Law enforcement found a mobile phone with the Telegram application installed. According to investigators, it was on Telegram that Lesovoy joined the “Artpodgotovka” chat, where, until 5 November, he wrote messages containing calls to mass unrest and extremism. The investigator in this case told journalists that there were more than 20 people in this chat. Lesovoy remained in pre-trial detention during the investigation, and did not admit to the charges against him. </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 2018-11-09 at 17.05.32.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 17.05.32.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Evgeny Lesovoy is detained in Kurgan: Source: Investigative Committee / NTV. </span></span></span><strong>Sentence: </strong>On 7 August 2018, Kurgan city court sentenced Lesovoy to two years of prison colony and banned him from administering websites for the same period. On 26 October, Lesovoy’s legal counsel told MediaZona that his client would be released “in a month”.</p><h2>Saratov</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants:</strong> Dmitry Kostin (33)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charges: </strong>recruitment for an extremist organisation (Part 1.1, Article 282.1)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened:</strong> On 28 March, Dmitry Kostin, a captain in Russia’s Rocket Forces, was, according to his statement, summoned to Saratov FSB, where he was put into a car and was presented with a warrant to search his home. Previously, Kostin had posted online a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV6CAI7hYg0">video-address by Vyacheslav Maltsev to Russia’s army and police</a> (this video is not listed on Russia’s Federal Register of Extremist Materials), and this was used as the reason for the search. During the search, FSB officers found a banned book (Restrukt) by Russian neo-nazi Maxim Martsinkevich. After the search, this book and Kostin’s electronic devices were confiscated.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Kostin’s interview to <a href="https://fn-volga.ru/article/view/id/519">Free News</a>: “The recruitment charge is down to the fact that two people (out of roughly 10 who were questioned) gave evidence that I had invited them to take part in an ‘opposition walk’, that is, in a completely peaceful event that doesn’t bother anyone.” After the case was opened, Kostin was fired from the army.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence:</strong> A sentence is yet to be issued in this case. Although the case was opened on 10 may, Kostin is yet to face charges, and the method of restraint has not been chosen.</p><h2>Novosibirsk</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants: </strong>Vyacheslav Dobrynin (39), Alexander Komarov (56), Anatoly Plotnikov (51)</p><p dir="ltr">Charges: attempt to organise mass unrest, participation in mass unrest and assisting organisation (Part 1, Article 30; Part 5, Article 33; Parts 1 and 2, Article 212), illegal possession of firearms (Part 1, Article 222)</p><p><strong>What happened: </strong>On the evening of 5 November, the defendants and several dozen other supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev gathered on 1 May Square in Novosibirsk. They had neither firearms, nor banners. After this, the defendants’ homes were searched — according to the investigators, the defendants tried to organise a riot before the protest. The Investigative Committee <a href="http://nsk.sledcom.ru/news/item/1247912/">reported</a> that law enforcement had found more than 20 Molotov cocktails, radios, knives and a smoothbore weapon with ammunition during searches. Taiga.info <a href="https://tayga.info/142160">reported</a> that the main aim of this protest was apparently to seize the Novosibirsk State Television Studio.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The prosecution believes that the organiser of these crimes was Alexander Komarov, a former police investigator, and alleges that he planned to broadcast Maltsev’s appeals on television. As part of this, Komarov had found a map of the television studio complex and a key to an unguarded door in the perimetre fence.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Taiga.info, investigators found Molotov cocktails at Vyacheslav Dobrynin’s apartment. He was arrested on 9 November, while Komarov was arrested only on 22 March 2018. Both of them deny the charges against them and have <a href="https://tayga.info/143012">declared hunger strikes</a> in pre-trial detention. Anatoly Plotnikov, the regional leader of the Party of Nationalists, has admitted the charges against him, and is on travel restrictions.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence: </strong>a sentence in this case has not yet been issued. The case will be heard in camera in Novosibirsk Regional Court, “in the interests of guaranteeing the safety of participants of the trial.” </p><h2>Moscow</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants: </strong>Oleg Dmitriev (39), Oleg Ivanov (41), Sergey Ozerov (46)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charges:</strong> preparing a terrorist act (Part 1, Article 30; Point A, Part 2, Article 205), participating in a terrorist organisation (Part 2, Article 205.4)</p><p><strong>What happened: </strong>On 2 November, Moscow Newspaper <a href="http://mskgazeta.ru/proisshestviia/revolyuciya-zakonchilas---ne-uspev-nachat-sya--v-moskve-zaderzhali-ekstremistov-dvizheniya-artpodgotovka-vyacheslava-mal-ceva.html">reported</a> that four supporters of Vyacheslav Maltsev had been detained in New Moscow — allegedly, these men had been planning to start a riot on 5 November. This same media reported that law enforcement had found 13 Molotov cocktails, three canisters of flammable liquids and equipment for making Molotov cocktails at the apartment rented by Oleg Dmitriev, Oleg Ivanov, Sergey Ozerov and Vadim Mayorov.</p><p dir="ltr">Initially, Ozerov, Ivanov and Dmitriev were <a href="https://www.mos-gorsud.ru/rs/shcherbinskij/services/cases/admin/details/c2eb4241-b2c6-493a-8f9e-28007c3177c0?respondent=%25D0%25BE%25D0%25B7%25D0%25B5%25D1%2580%25D0%25BE%25D0%25B2">arrested</a> for 15 days for failure to comply with police orders — apparently, they refused to present their ID documents when asked. These three men were then sent to pre-trial detention as part of an FSB investigation into alleged preparations for an act of terrorism and membership of a terrorist organisation.</p><p dir="ltr">According to activist Inna Kholodtsova, who is involved in the support campaign for people arrested in connection with the 5 November protests, 27-year-old Vadim Mayorov may have cooperated with the investigation. She notes that Vadim Mayorov may have been introduced to Ivanov and Dmitriev in Almetyevsk by Nadezhda Petrova, another defendant in the Artpodgotovka terrorism case in Moscow. Petrova <a href="https://vk.com/wall12257755_1774">visited</a> the city in July 2017. According to Kholodtsova, it was Mayorov who proposed that the activists travel to Moscow for 5 November.</p><p dir="ltr">“He [Mayorov] suggested blowing something up several times, they refused, of course. They didn’t know that there were bottles in the bag, it wasn’t theirs. When they left the apartment, it seems he [Mayorov] prepared those concoctions,” Kholodtsova says. She makes reference to several acquaintances who were told by other Artpodgotovka supporters in detention that Mayorov had escaped the police van after being arrested. It is unknown where Mayorov is currently located, there’s no information that he has been arrested.</p><p dir="ltr">During a hearing on extending detention, Ozerov, Ivanov and Dmitriev all reported that they had been tortured with electric shocks, says Kholodtsova. The defendants are yet to receive a lawyer of their choosing — their relatives cannot afford their services, and the support group hasn’t managed to collect the necessary amount.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence:</strong> a sentence is yet to be issued in this case. The investigation is complete, and the defendants are reading the case materials in pre-trial detention. They refused to give evidence, citing Article 51 of the Russian Constitution.</p><h2>Kaliningrad</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants: </strong>Alexander Petrovsky (35)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charges:</strong> public calls to terrorism (Article 205.2)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened: </strong>Alexander Petrovsky, a taxi driver from the town of Baltiysk, was detained on 5 November 2017. According to investigators, Petrovsky uploaded two audio files to the Telegram chat “Revolution Kaliningrad” on 31 October 2017. The New Kaliningrad media outlet reported that forensic experts judged Petrovsky’s comments to be “speech acts [calling for] the complete transformation of the whole socio-economic structure of society, leading to a change of the social order in Kaliningrad oblast and Russia.” Petrovsky did not deny that he made these audio files, but denies his guilt in committing a crime. During the investigation, Petrovsky was held in pre-trial detention.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence: </strong>On 21 May, Moscow Regional Military Court sentenced Petrovsky to two years of general prison colony.</p><h2>Krasnoyarsk</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants:</strong> Roman Maryan (40), Pyotr Isayev (19), Alexander Zaitsev (44)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charges:</strong> preparing to participate in mass unrest (Part 1, Article 30; Part 2, Article 212), recruiting others to participate in mass unrest (Part 1.1, Article 212), illegal possession and preparation of explosive devices (Part 1, Article 222.1, Part 1, Article 223.1)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened:</strong> Roman Maryan and Pyor Isayev were detained on 30 October 2017 at Achinsk railway station, Krasnoyarsk region, as they prepared to travel to Moscow to join the “Russian March” event. At the same time, Alexander Zaitsev, 44, was detained in Krasnoyarsk. According to investigators, Zaitsev was responsible for encouraging Isayev and Maryan to participate in an “armed uprising” in Moscow on 5 November.</p><p dir="ltr">Isayev admitted to preparing to participate in mass unrest, as well as illegal possession and preparation of explosive devices, which were found on him when he was detained. Zaitsev admitted to recruiting the other defendants to participate in mass unrest.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/maryan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="117" height="131" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Roman Maryan. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center. </span></span></span>Maryan, who was accused of preparing to participate in mass unrest, did not admit to the charges against him. His legal counsel Natalya Mons says that the charges against him were based on information gained by agents who infiltrated Artpodgotovka. “They were infiltrated back in December 2016. That is, agents were present at all meetings, they were equipped with recording devices, or reported to FSB officers every week what happened at these meetings. And all actions connected to buying tickets, special clothing, devices — all of this was carried out by individuals cooperating with the FSB.” The Memorial Human Rights Assocation has <a href="https://zona.media/news/2018/03/14/maryan">recognised</a> Maryan as a political prisoner.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence: </strong>On 28 April 2018, Achinsk City Court sentenced Isayev to two years of general prison colony; in July, Zaitsev was sentenced to 2.5 years. In August 2018, Maryan was sentenced to three years and three months. </p><h2>Volgograd</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants: </strong>Vladislav Bondarenko (22), Stanislav Babanov (26), Mikhail Turchenko (26), Oleg Kostik (33), Kirill Litvinenko (17).</p><p><strong>Charges:</strong> Calls to extremism (Part 2, Article 280), calls to mass unrest (Part 3, Article 212), incitement and preparation to participate in mass unrest (Part 4, Article 33; Part 1, Article 30; Part 2, Article 212).</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened:</strong> At the beginning of November 2017, five young men who were traveling to Moscow were detained in Volgograd. The first to be detained was Vladislav Bondarenko, a student of Volgograd State University, who had created several open Telegram chats in the lead up to 5 November — roughly 30 people in total were subscribed. According to case materials, Bondarenko called on subscribers to arm themselves in order to attack law enforcement officials and seize state buildings in Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar and Moscow.</p><p dir="ltr">FSB agents detained the student on 1 November. On the same day, Bondarenko agreed in writing to participate in an experiment of the investigation, during which he, under the control of FSB agents, continued to write messages in Telegram chats and organised a meeting on the outskirts of Volgograd with several people who had agreed to travel to Moscow with him — Stanislav Babanov, Mikhail Turchenko , Oleg Kostik and Kirill Litvinenko. They were arrested at the meeting place. During the search, FSB agents found two safety helmets on Babanov, a crowbar on Turchenko, a stick on Kostik, and a hunting rifle and air pistol on Litvinenko, which belonged to his father. Babanov and Kostik are still in pre-trial detention, the rest are under travel restrictions.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence:</strong> a sentence has yet to be issued in this case. In September, a Volgograd district court began examining the case. Babanov denies the charges. According to Babanov’s family, Turchenko and Litvinenko confessed to the charges, but Turchenko withdrew his testimony in court.</p><h2>Moscow</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendant:</strong> Vyacheslav Shatrovsky (49)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charge:</strong> use of force against a police officer (Part 1, Article 318)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened:</strong> On 5 November 2017, Shatrovsky was arrested in Moscow together with his son. The next day, Tverskoy district court arrested him on suspicion of using a force against a police officer. The Investigative Committee claim that Shatrovsky, on being stopped for a document check, hit the police officer in question several times in the head. Shatrovsky <a href="https://zona.media/news/2018/02/06/shatrovskij">says</a> that he himself received a trauma to the head when the police officer threw him over his shoulder.</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/shatrovskiy_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="121" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vyacheslav Shatrovsky. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center. </span></span></span>According to the activist, this took place after he tried to protect his son, who had attracted the attention of the police. A medical report states that, aside from a head trauma, Shatrovsky was also diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">A criminal case into his assault was not opened. Memorial has <a href="https://zona.media/news/2018/05/28/shatrovski">recognised </a>Shatrovsky as a political prisoner.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence:</strong> In May 2018, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court sentenced Shatrovsky to three years of prison colony, but this sentence was then reduced by three months.</p><h2><strong>Oryol</strong></h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendant: </strong>Denis Stepanov</p><p><strong>Charge: </strong>calls to extremism (Part 2, Article 280)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened: </strong>On 3 November 2017, Denis Stepanov, a resident of Oryol, was arrested for his comments (which “called for revolution”) in an online group connected to newspaper Oryol News. On the same day, the media outlet released a video which shows Stepanov retracting his words: “I called on people to come out onto the streets on 5 November, to overthrow the government and also insulted police officers, FSB officers… I wanted the people to punish them on 5 November, on the day of revolution. I made a mistake. And I regret this. And I believe that police officers carry out their duties and service. And I believe that changes in power should only happen via legal and constitutional means.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence: </strong>On 4 June 2018, Stepanov was sentenced to two years of penal labour, the case was examined according to special procedures.</p><h2>Tomsk</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendant: </strong>Name unknown (26)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charge: </strong>calls for extremism (Part 2, Article 280)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened: </strong>On 3 November 2017, the FSB reported that it had detained Tomsk activists who had allegedly “planned to organise mass unrest in public places”. Artpodgotovka was not mentioned in the press release, but the detainees were called “representatives of a civic destructive movement”. The press release only mentioned that a criminal case had been opened into calls to extremism.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence: </strong>At the beginning of February, a Tomsk city court sentenced this local resident to a 1.5 suspended sentence, according to an FSB press release. According to investigators, the Tomsk resident, who admitted to the charges against him, distributed calls on the internet to “carry out actions on 5 November 2017 that would stir up social tension, prevent the lawful activities of state institutions” and the violent seizure of power.</p><h2>Rostov-on-Don</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Defendants: </strong>Yan Sidorov (18), Vladislav Mordasov (22), Vyacheslav Shamin (18).</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Charge:</strong> attempting to organise mass unrest and participation (Part 3, Article 30; Parts 1 and 2, Article 212)</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened: </strong>On 5 November 2017, during a picket outside Rostov regional government building, student Yan Sidorov and metal caster Vladislav Mordasov were arrested. Both of them were sentenced to seven days in prison for carrying out a public action without informing the authorities. A week later, they were both sent to pre-trial detention in connection with a riot investigation. The third defendant, Vyacheslav Shashmin, was sentenced to house arrest — he is accused of attempting to participate in the alleged riot, which never took place.</p><p dir="ltr">The defendants have been accused of trying to organise an armed assault of the regional government building and law enforcement officials. This alleged attack was apparently organised by Mordasov in an open Telegram chat called “Revolution 5/11/2017 Rostov-on-Don”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/e05cd3964be83627088c8afb685d4c15.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/e05cd3964be83627088c8afb685d4c15.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yan Sidorov. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center. </span></span></span>Sidorov and Mordasov insist that they only planned a peaceful protest, organising a picket for 5 November via Telegram. Novaya Gazeta writes that, in contrast to other subscribers to the chat, Sidorov and Mordasov proposed beating up police officers and organising pogroms. Sidorov wrote: “We are gathering for a peaceful protest at 12.00 [...] Don’t discredit yourself.” Forensic analysis has not revealed any calls to violence in their messages.</p><p dir="ltr">Vyacheslav Shashmin was not a member of this open Telegram chat and was detained while he walked past the protest. He nevertheless admitted the charges.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sentence: </strong><strong>A sentence has yet to be issued.&nbsp;</strong></p><h2>Krasnodar and Samara</h2><p>In a 2017 press release, the FSB <a href="https://zona.media/news/2017/11/03/artppp">stated</a> that it had stopped the activities of Artpodgotovka not only in Moscow, Krasnoyarsk, Kazan and Saratov, but also in Krasnodar and Samara. There is, however, no open source record of any relevant criminal investigations in these two cities.</p><p dir="ltr">We filed information requests with the Investigative Committee in Krasnodar and Samara. They responded that no investigations into Artpodgotovka had been opened in the past 12 months. In June 2018, Samara FSB reported that it had opened a criminal investigation into calls for extremism into an Artpodgotovka activist. When we filed further requests for criminal cases against Maltsev supporters across the country, neither the Investigative Committee, nor the FSB responded.</p><h2>Glory at any cost</h2><p dir="ltr">Alexander Verkhovsky calls Artpodgotovka “a very strange phenomenon, which arose at a time of complete decline both in Russia’s protest movement generally and among Russian nationalists in particular.”</p><p>“The Artpodgotovka movement is just a weakly organised network of people who like Maltsev, You can’t even call it an ‘organisation’ really, they did nothing in an organised way. The most organised event they did was these ‘walks’, which were co-organised with the nationalists,” says Verkhovsky, who calls Maltsev himself a “right-wing populist”. After the unsuccessful revolution, Maltsev returned to blogging — he currently broadcasts live videos on his <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv5dc2Zi6j5IXQ_NKTZuSLA">“Narodovlastie”</a> (“People power”) YouTube channel. At the time of writing, the channel had 34,500 subscribers.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/20645392_157944214761098_3145851565335400678_o_(1)_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/20645392_157944214761098_3145851565335400678_o_(1)_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"The lack of justice leads directly to revolution": Vyacheslav Ryabkov, an Artpodgotovka member from Chuvashia, has faced criminal prosecution for repeatedly breaking regulations on public meetings. Source: Facebook.</span></span></span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/igor-gukovsky">Igor Gukovsky</a>, who works for the Memorial Human Rights Association, points to the “social demographic profile” of Maltsev’s supporters. Indeed, Gukovsky believes there is a connection between the lack of public interest in this case and Artpodgotovka’s demographics. “Take, for instance, the Rostov case of Sidorov and Mordasov. It became more well-known because Yan Sidorov has a grandfather with a legal education, a former army colonel and active person who began to visit various institutions, human rights organisations, journalists to try and raise this issue [publicly]. And if someone is without a university education or any social connections in Moscow, friendly lawyers or rights defenders, then their situation deteriorates sharply.”</p><p dir="ltr">Gukovsky is concerned that the majority of cases will be examined <em>in camera</em>. “Perhaps society will never find out about the prosecution’s evidence, whether something really was going on or not, and whether the FSB interpreted the activities, which people carried out as part of Artpodgotovka, correctly.” Gukovsky calls the situation of many of those arrested in connection with Artpodgotovka “tragic”. On the request of investigators, courts are examining appeals to extend the arrests of defendants in Moscow terrorism cases in closed sessions.</p><p dir="ltr">Alexander Verkhovsky believes that the prosecution of Maltsev’s supporters led Russian law enforcement to investigate similar cases, such as the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“Network” anti-fascist and anarchist case</a>, and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/interview-anna-pavlikova-new-greatness-case">“New Greatness” activism case</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">“There would be no ‘Network’ case, no ‘New Greatness’ case without Artpodgotovka. This is the case on both sides. It’s clear that there are always some groups of people who like to dream of revolution. But previously our security services used to dissipate these groups, they didn’t try and turn them into anything bigger. And after this huge [Artpodgotovka] case, everyone is hungry for glory. This is why you can take any group, which on the surface looks like a mini-Artpodgotovka, and make a big new investigation out of it. It’s good that we only have had two of these cases so far. To be honest, there could have been 20 of them.”</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/andrey-kaganskikh/the-inside-story-of-russias-failed-social-media-revolution">The inside story of Russia’s failed social media revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-arutunyan/who-ll-make-russia-great-again">Who will make Russia “great again”? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/interview-anna-pavlikova-new-greatness-case">“I wanted to wail, to scream at them: ‘What in the world are you doing to my daughter? Are you human or not?’”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/six-days-to-destroy-movement">Artpodgotovka: six days to destroy a movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sergey-eremeyev/back-in-the-ussr">Back in the USSR: meet the people calling for the restoration of the Soviet Union</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Anna Kozkina Elizaveta Pestova Russia Fri, 09 Nov 2018 16:47:56 +0000 Elizaveta Pestova and Anna Kozkina 120527 at https://www.opendemocracy.net