Tag Archives: 2011 Russian parliamentary elections

Revolution in the Net (Helsinki)

www.kaapelingalleria.fi

8.11 – 2.12.2012
Revolution in the Net

The exhibition Revolution in the Net deals with social and political conditions in contemporary Russia, focusing on the political events surrounding the presidential election in spring 2012. It includes works by Russian artists and artist collectives: Olga Zhitlina; Factory of Found Clothes (FFC) represented by Natalya Pershina Yakimanskaya (Gluklya); and the collective Gentle Women (Nezhnue Babu, Evgenia Lapteva and Alexandra Artamonova). The exhibition is curated by St Petersburg-based curator Anna Bitkina.

The election of Vladimir Putin for a third term as president prompted profound disagreement among the politically engaged citizens of Russia. A series of actions that included huge demonstrations, protest meetings and concerts took place prior to and after the election. The demonstrations were followed by large-scale arrests (including that of Pussy Riot band members) and police raids. “Political tension is growing. The Russian Police and the Federal Security Service are building up a control net across the country that can catch anyone who wears a balaclava mask or holds up a protest slogan. Another controlling body is the Orthodox Church in Russia,” says Bitkina.

“The most immediate reactions to the current political situation continue to take place on the Internet, which is still a semi-free space where freedom of speech is less curtailed. This online revolt has created a network of people who care about the future of Russia, and has divided the country into those who are for and those who are against the Putin regime,” says Bitkina.

The exhibition artists express views on the current situation and convey the general mood of Russian society today. In her documented performance Political as Personal Olga Zhitlina tries to engage bored, lonely, apathetic Internet users in political discussion by showing them documentation of political actions recorded on her cell phone. Her other work, Week of Silence, a new online play in seven parts, deals with young Russian women’s experience of gender and global politics, and will be shown at the Cable Gallery on November 22, followed by a discussion between the exhibition curator Anna Bitkina and the artist. Factory of Found Clothes have worked with the main features of Pussy Riot’s outfit (colourful dresses and balaclava masks) and have constructed a net-like installation out of women’s stockings and dresses. Gentle Women, a young collective from Kaliningrad, presents Dirt, a video work in the style of a Tarkovsky film. “This rather abstract, yet romantic video loop could be interpreted as a revolutionary act of opposition by brave, strong young Russian women,” Bitkina concludes.

Zhitlina’s performance and FFC’s installation have been produced for the exhibition at the Cable Gallery. Olga Zhitlina will be on a residency at HIAP Suomenlinna for the exhibition period, and curator Anna Bitkina from November 11 until December 16.

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What Happens to You in Petersburg if You Blow the Whistle on Vote Rigging

www.zaks.ru
June 1, 2012

Vasileostrovsky District Court [in Petersburg] handed down a decision in the [defamation] suit filed by district education department head Natalya Nazarova against teacher Tatyana Ivanova. The court ruled partly in favor of the plaintiff: for her interview [published in Novaya Gazeta], Ivanova must pay the plaintiff compensation of 30 thousand rubles [approx. 720 euros], and Novaya Gazeta and Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge must publish a rebuttal, our correspondent reports. However, lawyers for the newspaper’s Moscow and St. Petersburg editions, Natela Ponomaryova and Ekaterina Sedova, have already promised to appeal the decision of the Vasileostrovsky court.

Tatyana Ivanova was supported in court today not only by her students, but also by [Petersburg] Legislative Assembly deputy Boris Vishnevsky and Moscow journalist Olga Romanova. The verdict was greeted with cries of “Shame!” Ivanova’s students stood at the entrance to the courthouse with a placard that read, “Parents, protect your children from Nazarova.” Ivanova herself does not agree with the decision of the court, although she expected this outcome.

“I don’t know how the judge is feeling. But if I were in the judge’s shoes, I would be ashamed to make such a decision,” Ivanova told journalists after the verdict was announced.

Tatyana Ivanova was forced to resign from her position at School No. 575 after she gave an interview to Novaya Gazeta in which she described Natalya Nazarova’s alleged direct involvement in vote rigging during the December [2011 Russian parliamentary] elections. Nazarova responded by filing suit against the teacher, as well as the media that published the interview and the journalist who conducted it, for allegedly defaming her professional reputation. Nazarova demanded 100,000 rubles as compensation for moral damage.

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Backlash: Other Russia Activist Taisiya Osipova Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

Taisiya Osipova

lenta.ru
December 30, 2011
Backlash: Other Russia Activist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
Ilya Azar

As 2011 came to a close, Other Russia activist Taisiya Osipova was sentenced in Smolensk to ten years in prison for the sale and possession of narcotics. Osipova, who suffers from several serious diseases and has a five-year-old daughter, was kept in detention for over a year before hearing the verdict. The opposition and human rights activists consider the Osipova case political and symbolic for Russia.

“After Taisiya Osipova’s verdict, the opposition’s struggle for power in Russia has turned into a struggle against pure evil, into a fight on the side of good,” wrote Sergei Aksenov, a former National Bolshevik and a leader of The Other Russia, on his Twitter account. And he’s not the only one: on the evening of December 29, the Runet seethed with indignation, and the word “bitches,” addressed to the authorities in general and the judiciary in particular, was one of the mildest epithets.

According to oppositionists, the main representative of evil in the Taisiya Osipova case is Yevgeny Dvoryanchikov, judge of Smolensk’s Zadneprovsky District Court. It was he who on December 29 sentenced Osipova to ten years in prison for possession and sale of drugs under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code. The fact that Osipova has diabetes, pancreatitis and chronic pyelonephritis, and that she has a five-year-old daughter, Katrine, made no impression on him. (The World Organization Against Torture had twice appealed to Russian authorities to release Osipova.)

True, Dvoryanchikov still did not have not an easy time making the decision: he retired to chambers to write the verdict at twelve noon, returning to the courtroom at around midnight (he began reading out the verdict at 11:15 p.m.). It is not clear why Dvoryanchikov took so long to write the verdict and what was going in his chambers during this time. Other Russia leader and writer Eduard Limonov has already labeled the judge’s actions “vile” and an attempt to conceal the verdict from the public.

The general public does not know about the Osipova case, despite the fact this past summer (when the verdict was supposed to have been rendered), Other Russia activists staged a sit-down strike over several days at the Solovki Stone in downtown Moscow. The police confronted the strikers as best they could, surrounding the square and detaining the harmless activists as they made their way to the stone.

Osipova was arrested on November 23, 2010, when five packets containing an unknown substance and marked bills were found in her home. Osipova was charged with possession of narcotics possession under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code.

According to police investigators, Osipova had sold four grams of heroin for three thousands rubles, and an additional nine grams were found in her home. Defense attorneys and journalists were alarmed by the fact that the witnesses during the controlled buys [staged by police] were three young women associated with pro-Kremlin youth movements. At the same time, the [packets containing the] seized substance were not fingerprinted: defense attorneys are thus certain that the heroin was planted in Taisiya’s home.

Other Russia activists have always maintained that the Osipova case is utterly political. Her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, is a member of The Other Russia’s executive committee. Osipova claimed that the police investigators who detained her told her directly that they were not interested in her, but in her husband, who lives in Moscow. Fearing arrest, Fomchenkov never once traveled from the capital to Smolensk to visit his arrested wife.

Alexander Averin, a representative of The Other Russia and ex-press secretary of the banned National Bolshevik Party, told Lenta.Ru that police had immediately promised to give her ten years if she did not testify against Fomchenkov. The guilty verdict was not a surprise for the opposition, although few had expected such a harsh sentence (despite the fact that the prosecutor had asked the judge to sentence Osipova to twelve years and eight months in prison).

“I see Dvoryanchikov’s face: he knows there is nothing to the charges. He’s just carrying out orders. It’s not his decision, but he’s an ambitious careerist, and doesn’t want problems. So I just have to get to the appeals stage and keep working,” Osipova herself said in an interview with Grani.Ru in December.

Svetlana Sidorkina, an attorney with the human rights association Agora who, along with Smolensk lawyer Natalya Shaposhnikova, served as Osipova’s defense counsel, told Lenta.Ru that, in the wake of the verdict, defense attorneys intend both to file an appeal and petition the [European Court of Human Rights in] Strasbourg. Sidorkina has no illusions about the prospects of an appeal. “We definitely hoped for the best, but we also didn’t rule out such a [harsh] outcome. I assumed that the sentence would be six and a half years, while Shaposhnikova [thought it would be] eight, but unfortunately we both guessed wrong,” said the lawyer.

The Other Russia now intends to fight for Osipova, and is counting on public support. In December 2011, civil society in Russia, especially in Moscow, suddenly and powerfully made itself heard. Tens of thousands of people came out for the fair elections rallies on Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Boulevard, and almost a thousand people came to a protest in defense of [arrested] Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov.

“This is a slap in the face of civil society. People came out and demanded honesty and justice from the authorities, and this was the response — Judge Borovkova, the arrests of Udaltsov and Nikitenko, and, to top it all off, a ten-year sentence for Osipova. The state has recovered its senses and delivered a counterblow. I wonder how society will react to this — will it go celebrate the New Year or will it defend the freedom of political prisoners?” Averin put it emotionally last night.

He added that the traditional Strategy 31 rally on Triumfalnaya Square on December 31 would be dedicated to Taisia and political prisoners in general. “Lots of people are indignant over this verdict. Different people have been calling me who weren’t planning to come out on December 31 but who have now decided to go,” said Averin. On the night of December 30, there in fact were appeals on the Internet to go to the unauthorized rally in support of Osipova on Triumfalnaya Square.

A year ago on December 31, Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, leaders of the Solidarity movement, were arrested at a Strategy 31 rally. They both rang in the New Year behind bars: Nemtsov was sentenced to fifteen days in jail, while Yashin was sentenced to five. In 2009, Sergei Mokhnatkin was arrested during a New Year’s Eve rally: he was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison for [allegedly] assaulting a police officer.

It is a big question whether “enraged city dwellers” will take to Triumfalnaya Square over the harsh verdict handed to ex-National Bolshevik Osipova. Or are rigged elections the only thing that, for the time being, can really enrage them?

Photo courtesy of Free Voina. See their coverage of the Osipova case here (in Russian) and here (in English).

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Petersburg Court Rejects Filipp Kostenko’s Appeal

Kostenko Loses Release Appeal
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
December 28, 2011

An appeals court on Monday refused to free Filipp Kostenko, who after serving 15 days in prison was sentenced to another 15 days last week in what his lawyer describes as a “political reprisal.”

Originally, Kostenko, an activist and employee of the human rights organization Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, was arrested amid spontaneous protests against electoral fraud near Gostiny Dvor on Dec. 6. The following day, the court sentenced him to 15 days imprisonment for an alleged failure to follow a police officer’s orders, the maximum punishment for such an offence.

On Dec. 21, Kostenko was not released after serving his term. As around 20 friends were waiting for him outside the prison on Zakharyevskaya Ulitsa, upon leaving his cell he was detained again by officers from the counter-extremism agency Center “E”, who took him to a police precinct, his lawyer Olga Tseitlina said.

Kostenko’s political views have been described as anarchist and anti-fascist, which would make him a “person of interest” to Center “E”.

The arrest was made on the basis of the fact that Kostenko did not appear in the court for a prior alleged offense, although at the time he was actually in custody.

This other case involved charges that Kostenko allegedly used foul language when bringing food parcels to arrested friends on Oct. 16.

During the hearing the following day, Judge Yelena Yermolina did not agree to summon the police officers on whose reports the sentence was based to testify as witnesses and be cross-examined, according to Tseitlina.

The testimonies of defense witnesses were dismissed by Yermolina, who said that she trusted the police officers’ reports.

In doing so, Yermolina deprived Kostenko of the right to a fair court hearing, which is a fundamental violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Russia is a signatory, Tseitlina said.

“The entire prosecution is based on the policemen’s reports,” she said. “If a prison term is a possible punishment [for a crime], one of the fundamental rights is to examine the witnesses who testify against you.”

Tseitlina described the charges as “absurd.”

“Why should Kostenko come to a police precinct and swear in public?” she asked.

“Also, it was 11 p.m., with nobody around, so how could he have disturbed the peace? If we look at judicial practice, such an offense is never punished that strictly. Usually, it is punished with a fine.”

For the first 16 days of his detention, Kostenko held a hunger strike, which led to deteriorated eyesight. He ended it when the people who were in prison with him on the same charges were released.

“This is revenge, political reprisal and a measure to stop Kostenko from his protest activities,” Tseitlina said.

“Even if we allow that Kostenko did use foul language – which is not the case, because he’s not that type of person – the punishment is disproportionate. And we cannot rule out that something like this will happen when he is released next time.”

In a recent statement, Memorial described the continued detention of Kostenko as “obviously politically motivated.”

“For all intents and purposes, [the state] is continuing to persecute Kostenko for his involvement in protest actions,” it said.

Tseitlina would not give the expected date of Kostenko’s release, but said that he would see in the New Year in custody.

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Khimki Forest Defender Yaroslav Nikitenko Sentenced to 10 Days in Jail

www.novayagazeta.ru

December 26, 2011

Yaroslav Nikitenko, Activist with the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, Gets 10 Days in Jail Today

The sentence was handed down in the absence of the defendant’s lawyers, witnesses, and journalists. The reason for this was that officers at the Kitai Gorod police precinct, from which Nikitenko was transported to court this morning, gave his lawyers the address of one courthouse, while Nikitenko was taken to a different address, Elena Nadezhkina, a civic activist, told Novaya Gazeta.

She reported that the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest activist had been detained yesterday evening [December 25] on Novaya Ploshchad outside the entrance to Judicial Precinct No. 370 in Moscow’s Tverskoi District, where he had come to support Sergei Udaltsov, who yesterday was also sentenced to ten days of administrative arrest. Yaroslav Nikitenko was charged under the very same article of the Administrative Code (Article 19.3, “Failure to obey the lawful command of a police officer”) as Udaltsov. Nikitenko’s arrest report alleges that he shouted the slogan, “Judge Borovkova should be put on trial!”

We should note that on December 22 of this year, civic activist Gennady Stroganov and Oborona activist Fyodor Khodkov, also charged under Article 19.3, were sentenced to six days in jail by Judge Borovkova for their involvement in the protest action “Deputies, Turn in Your Mandates!” near the State Duma. Other Russia activist Sergei Aksyonov was also sentenced to five days in jail at this same time.

Moreover, their trials were conducted with numerous procedural violations, in particular, their lawyers were not admitted to the proceedings.

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Here is Yaroslav Nikitenko in a video appeal (in English), taped in May of this year in the Khimki Forest:

A Facebook group, Freedom for Yaroslav Nikitenko, has been set up to discuss how to support him during his imprisonment.

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Left Front Leader Sergei Udaltsov Sentenced to 10 More Days in Jail

Udaltsov’s release has become one of the main tasks of the moment. This is not just a matter of countering repression and judicial fraud. Today, when we stood in front of the courthouse, whose front door was rudely shut in the lawyer’s face, and “witnesses,” their faces covered, were led into the courthouse surrounded by riot police specially brought in for the occasion, the authorities once again vividly and defiantly demonstrated the political boundaries of protest.

It is they, the people who give orders to Judge Borovkova, who are deciding who will lead the movement for democracy and fair elections (a movement that has already won over nearly everyone, including Alexei Kudrin and Vladislav Surkov) and who will die in prison, deprived of the elementary right to a fair trial.

Taking to the streets on December 29 and demanding the immediate release of Udaltsov is just as (if not more) important than it was to take to the streets on the 10th and 24th. This is a test for all of us: whether we are honest with ourselves and consistent when we confront the freaks in power.

— Ilya Budraitskis

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abcnews.go.com

Russia Opposition Activist to Be Held 10 More Days
MOSCOW December 25, 2011 (AP)

A prominent Russian opposition activist had barely half an hour of freedom Sunday before being sentenced to 10 more days in jail — making it the 14th time this year he’s been detained.

The decision by a Moscow court late Sunday to find Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov guilty of a charge of resisting police came a day after Russia witnessed the largest protest rally in its post-Soviet history. As demonstrators vented frustration Saturday with the scandal-marred parliamentary election of Dec. 4 that left Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in control, many prominent figures called for Udaltsov’s release.

How the Kremlin chooses to deal with Udaltsov could prove a litmus test for how it approaches the opposition in the coming days. During Putin’s decade-plus long tenure as president and prime minister, opposition activists have faced numerous crackdowns, but their cause appears to have been boosted by allegations of fraud during the recent election.

The Left Front leader was due to be released Sunday from a hospital, where he was being treated as he served the final days of his previous sentence. Udaltsov, who had been held since election day on claims of staging an unsanctioned rally, had spent much of the month on a hunger strike.

Found guilty of resisting police, Udaltsov was escorted back to the hospital Sunday night after he felt unwell in court.

“He was so stressed out that he fell ill,” Udaltsov’s lawyer, Nikolay Polozov, said.

Prominent opposition leaders came to the court to support Udaltsov. Many have referred to his constant detentions as political harassment. The Left Front leader has spent at least 50 days in jail this year.

The court on Sunday found that Udaltsov resisted police on Oct. 24 while being detained outside the Central Election Committee’s building.

A video of his detention, filmed by the Associated Press Television, shows the activist arrive on a bicycle and later talk to reporters.

Udaltsov was telling the press that he had come out to the election committee’s headquarters to stage a one-man picket, which requires no sanction from authorities. Shortly afterwards, police came and took Udaltsov away. Udaltsov did not appear to be putting [up] resistance.

Udaltsov’s lawyer said they would appeal the verdict.

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State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov and a group of journalists attempt (unsuccessfully) to get into the Moscow courtroom where Sergei Udaltsov was sentenced to another ten days in jail on December 25.

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Petersburg Activist Filipp Kostenko Sentenced to Another 15 Days in Jail

memorial.spb.ru

The Persecution Continues: Filipp Kostenko Sentenced to Another 15 Days in Jail

December 22, 2011

On December 22, Judge E.K. Yermolina of the 153rd Judicial Precinct [in Saint Petersburg] sentenced Filipp Kostenko, an activist and employee of the human rights organization Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, to another fifteen days of administrative arrest. For his involvement in mass protests against the rigged elections, Kostenko had already served fifteen days in jail, but in violation of procedure he was not released [as scheduled, on December 21].

As we have previously reported, the decision for Kostenko’s compulsory delivery to court was sent to the administration of the detention facility [where he was serving his first sentence] a few minutes before his anticipated release. This decision was made due to the fact that Kostenko had failed to appear in court [on December 9], although at that time he was serving fifteen days of administrative arrest.

This time, the activist was charged under Article 20.1.1 (petty disorder) for allegedly using foul language two months ago, on October 16, outside the 43rd Police Precinct. According to witnesses, on this day Philip had brought food parcels for detainees [at the precinct]. He was arrested and taken into the precinct building, although he had not disturbed the peace. There are a number of witnesses who can confirm this, and a video of his arrest also exists.

The court hearing lasted four hours, including recesses. An officer from the Extremism Prevention Center [Center “E”] was in attendance as a “spectator” the entire time, and from the very outset there was the sense that the most adverse ruling was a preordained outcome. For no reason at all, the judge rejected all motions made on behalf of the defendant, including motions to give the defense adequate time to prepare its case and to call witnesses. The judge granted only one motion by the defense: to admit V.V. Kostyushev, a professor at the Petersburg branch of the Higher School for Economics, as a public defender.

Because, in the court’s opinion, there were no grounds for “not trusting the reports filed by police officers that Filipp Kostenko had disturbed the peace by expressing a clear disrespect for society, which was accompanied by swearing in a public place,” the judge also rejected a motion to summon the [arresting] officers to verify their testimony and cross-examine them. In contrast to the reports filed by the police officers, the oral testimony of defense witnesses, who personally appeared in court, was not acknowledged as credible by the judge.

Despite numerous procedural violations, the lack of any real evidence (except for the evidence of the police reports, which Judge Yermolina found “compelling”), and an energetic defense, it was obvious to all present that the judge would give Kostenko the maximum possible sentence. The judge was not even troubled by the presence in the courtroom of numerous spectators and journalists (who, incidentally, were strictly forbidden from photographing anything or even making audio recordings).

Consequently, Judge Yermolina sentenced Kostenko to another fifteen days of arrest, and he has again been delivered to the detention facility at Zakharievskaya, 6. In the coming days, his attorney will file an appeal against this decision, as well as filing a new complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in connection with this new, illegal arrest (a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights) [see below].

After this latest court decision was announced, Kostenko ended his sixteen-day hunger strike because all those detained during the post-election demonstrations in Saint Petersburg had been released, with the exception of Kostenko himself.

In the absence of an independent and impartial judiciary, the continued detention of Filipp Kostenko is obviously politically motivated. For all intents and purposes, [the state] is continuing to persecute Kostenko for his involvement in protest actions.

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Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights reads as follows:

1.In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgement shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

2.Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

3.Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;

(b) to have adequate time and the facilities for the preparation of his defence;

(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;

(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

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From a report on the hearing published on Free Voina:

Oleg Vorotnikov comments:

[Filipp] is one of the rare few who never use profane language at all.

Leonid Nikolaev, who also attended the hearing, reports:

The judge was biased. It was obvious from the beginning. Everyone was shocked by the incredibly rude manner in which she conducted the hearing. At one point, a defense attorney pleaded that [Filipp] was unable to participate in the hearing due to poor health (because of his 15-day hunger strike). In response, the judge inquired whether it was the jail personnel who starved him, or if he did it on his own accord. This is a gross violation of the procedure. The judge is only supposed to take into account the defendant’s present condition, not the reasons that caused it. [Filipp] was definitely unfit to participate in court proceedings. He was weak, did not ask questions nor make motions to the court, and when giving his testimony, he could barely stand.

The last witness of the defense was this pleasant, very civilized fellow. He somehow managed to induce rage in the judge even before he had a chance to open his mouth. She was incredibly pushy with him, especially because whenever she demanded something from him, he replied with “all right”. For some reason, she chose to interpret that as though he was making a judgement on whether her demands were right or wrong. The poor fellow almost got thrown out of the courtroom because of this.

I kept looking for a way for [Filipp] to escape. At one point the guards got distracted, so I suggested that he go downstairs, hop on my bike and get out of there. Turned out he was too weak for that. Damn hunger strike.

When the judge left the room after announcing her decision, the public started expressing its outrage out loud. Suddenly the judge barged back in and commanded the court guards to “write them up”. The guards grabbed a frail girl, activist of the Parents of St. Petersburg movement, and took her away. They are writing her up right now, and chances are she will be in jail with [Filipp] before the end of the day.

The arrested girl is Leda Garina, a film director and a friend of [Filipp]. She is reported to have been released after being fined 1000 RUB (30 USD).

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