Tag Archives: Alexander Cherkasov

One Sixth of a Revanchist Planet

The brilliance of revanchism in its early twenty-first century incarnation is its universal ambition to terrify the populace into self-discipline and compliance. But it does not do so equally or evenly. Some are targets of bombs and bombers, while others use security systems to fortify their houses and airports against them. Some are permanently subject to arrest, torture and rape even while innocent, while others inveigh with ontological spleen against Muslims, Jews, strikers, workers, immigrants, women. Those carrying out the bombings, rapes and torture in the name of anti-terrorism are generally the ones who get to fortify themselves, or at least they fall on the same side of the political equation, while those bombed are the ones most likely to be attacked in their homes. Whether one is revanchist or recipient has everything to do with existing power structures including especially, but by no means exclusively, class. I emphasize class here because although the contours of the revanchist city are fairly well discussed, the class aspects of more global conflicts are not, and need to be revealed. The war on terrorism is, like the revanchist city, a war of the rich against the poor, in which the poor often dies.

— Neil Smith, “Revanchist Planet: Regeneration and the Axis of Co-Evilism”

United Russia promises to hold thousands-strong demonstrations against terror in both capitals

On Wednesday, December 2, United Russia will hold thousands-strong demonstrations in Moscow and Petersburg under the slogan “Russian against terror!” the party’s press service has informed Zaks.Ru.

The events will begin at 3:00 p.m. In Moscow, the United Russians will assemble on Poklonnaya Gora, while in Petersburg they will gather on Sennaya Ploshchad. Participants in both capitals will be connected by a direct video link.

“We are profoundly outraged by the barbarous act of violence whose victims were civilians. Society has been challenged once again. Russian citizens have been victims of terror on more than one occasion. And there is no doubt that such inhuman actions should not go unpunished. Today all of Russian society must unite in the struggle with terrorism,” reads the text on the website of the party’s Moscow branch.

Smolny orders residence checks for children traveling in the metro

The Petersburg administration has amended its decree on “On the Travel Regime of Children and Young People on Municipal Public Transportation.” According to the amendment, ticket inspectors in the metro and ground transport have the right to demand documents from children and accompanying adult verifying the child’s age and place of residence.

Moscow Fans Hit by Mass Arrests on Way to Stadium

Hundreds of football fans were arrested and many reportedly beaten by the OMON special-task police in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

A large group of supporters of Spartak Football Club fans who came to St. Petersburg to see the Moscow football club play against the local team, Zenit Football Club, on the final day of the Russian Premier League season was on its way to Petrovsky stadium on the Petrograd Side when the OMON police started making large-scale arrests. The fans were detained just before the stadium, on the Tuchkov Bridge that connects Vasilyevsky Island to the Petrograd Side.

One Moscow politician protested what he called “illegal mass detentions” in an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev, while the Russian Football Fans Association (VOB) said it would gather evidence and pass it to the Interior Ministry for investigation.

YouTube video footage shows helmet-wearing camouflaged officers dragging young men and women, many of whom appear to be teenagers, out of the crowd. An officer dragging a young man is shown to knee him in the stomach, while another officer passing by hits the same young man with his baton across the chest. A girl who was carrying a drum is shown lying on the ground with policemen dragging and kicking her.

From 400 to 600 people were detained on the spot, according to various estimates. The police said 400 fans were detained and charged with disorderly conduct and the violation of public events regulations, while 24 more, including seven Zenit fans, were detained inside the stadium during and after the game and charged with disorderly conduct. The police said pepper sprays, brass knuckles, sharpened metal bars and flares were confiscated, Interfax reported.

Anton Orekh: “Our Work Is Dangerous and Harmful”

I believe that it will come to war. Until now it was an occupation, but now there will be war. If you had a look only at certain newspapers and websites for just the past week, you would have found out  the details of [lawyer Sergei] Magnitsky’s death; how three drunken cops beat a guy to death in Moscow; how in Petersburg the cops also killed a passerby and beat up a well-known artist. Also, a cop who got tired of waiting in line at a health clinic just took out his pistol and opened fire!

I didn’t read all the papers from cover to cover. I didn’t study the Internet from end to end or sit in front of the TV or radio following all the news bulletins. All these cases are just the ones that surfaced. How many people suffered from police ugliness only over the past week? And how many have suffered during the previous weeks, months, and years? Only an army occupying enemy territory would behave this way.

But now I expect a war. I don’t known whether it will be a civil war or a guerilla war. What else can you expect after the country’s head policeman gave citizens permission to hit the police? Up until now police officers were absolutely untouchable. They could do whatever they liked. Drunk or sober, acting lawfully or abusing their powers, they always turned out right. Even Yevsyukov’s situation is not so hopeless. You just wait and see: he will get out of prison while still a young man. The essentially bandit-like existence of the police is based precisely on this impunity, on the freedom to do what one wants with someone else’s life. It’s like a joke: here is a pistol, sink or swim. It is terrifying to imagine what will happen if citizens are even given the hypothetical right to give as good as they get.

[…] After Andrei Makarov proposed “liquidating” the Interior Ministry, I was on the air the following morning discussing the [State Duma] deputy’s speech with my colleagues. Listeners sent us SMSes. You cannot imagine what they were like! We couldn’t quote 90% of them [on air]: they were a steady stream of foul language and loathing! Makarov proposed reducing police personnel by half, and we asked [listeners] what to do with the other half. The most tempting proposal was to send them to the Far East to work in casinos. In the main, listeners [proposed giving laid-off police officers] the most dirty and humiliating jobs — as janitors, ditch diggers, and male prostitutes.

Fear and loathing: such are the emotions that the police arouses amongst the vast majority of our fellow citizens. I say “vast” because 96% of our listeners voted on air for the liquidation of the Interior Ministry. People believe that it would be better to have no police than to have the police we have now or a reformed police. That is, the police are a public enemy. How has it come to this, that society’s principal defenders have become its principal enemies?


We live in a country where the authorities formally have the absolute support of the populace. The country is not threatened with territorial collapse. And yet all the preconditions for a war are present: a war of the people against the police.

Alexander Cherkasov, Memorial:

Kidnappings, torture, murders, concealment of the bodies of kidnap victims: this system has been functioning in Chechnya for almost ten years now. At first, federal security forces engaged in such things. Then the authority to commit unlawful violence was transferred to the local security forces.

According to our data, from three to five thousand people fell victim to this system. Practically no one has been punished for this. There was a single, widely publicized case when a person who was guilty of kidnapping and torture (and, most likely, was also involved in the murder and disappearance of Chechens) was judged for his crimes. This was the so-called Cadet Case, in which Sergei Lapin, a police officer from Nizhnevartovsk, was sentenced to eleven years in prison.

The Cadet Case was made possible by three people: Natasha Estemirova, who worked in Grozny; Anna Politkovskaya, who published articles about it; and Stanislav Markelov, the lawyer who managed the trial in such a way that Lapin was unable to appeal the verdict. All three of them are no longer among the living. Think about it! Against thousands of kidnappings and disappearances (which in fact also involved torture and murders) one or, well, a handful of sentenced criminals. This is a system of organized impunity.

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Stanislav Markelov: On the Frontlines

mos14_russia-chechnya-lawyer_0120_11We continue our series of publications on the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova with a translation of an obituary of Markelov written by Alexander Cherkasov.

For more information on the background to this shocking case, we recommend “Double Murder in Broad Daylight,” by Roland Oliphant, on the Russia Profile website. For more information on Stanislav Markelov’s work as a lawyer, please go to his biography on the website of the Rule of Law Institute, which Markelov founded.

Alexander Cherkasov
“On the Frontlines”
Ezhednevyi Zhurnal (Daily Journal)
January 20, 2009

Stanislav Markelov has been murdered. I would really rather not believe it, but that is how things go.

It has to be said that there had been a bullet with his name on it ever since the day he and I met, October 3, 1993. Stas was running around Moscow, caring for the wounded. What else was there to do among the general madness? A group of leftist youths recalled the poet Maximilian Voloshin, and organized a medical brigade. Markelov was one of these young people. He still wore a ponytail then. None of the “Voloshinites” got hurt during those days.

People from the Memorial Society were also on the streets then, for the same reason. That is how Stas and I met. In the summer of 1994, Stas even traveled to Inghushetia, which had recently seen armed conflict.

Stanislav, however, did not become a “human rights activist” (a term that sometimes conceals a person’s backwardness and incompetence), but a lawyer, a defender of rights in the strict sense of the word. He left the “informal” scene.

By the late nineties his skill had even been recognized by the Federal Security Service (FSB). Stas acted as defense counsel in many cases where Russian leftists had been accused of terrorism, ranging from attempts to blow up Moscow monuments to the tsars to an alleged plot to assassinate Governor Kondratenko in Krasnodar. As a result, when the latest such case came up, the FSB hastily interrogated Markelov as a witness—because a witness in a case cannot act as defense counsel.

But Stanislav garnered genuine fame for his involvement in two of the most controversial cases surrounding the war in Chechnya. Markelov represented the families of the victims in the Budanov and Lapin cases. He worked on the Budanov case until the very end, trying to appeal the murderer’s early release on parole.

But the Lapin case—the only instance where the disappearance of a resident of Chechnya resulted in the conviction of a Russian silovik—is less well known.

Sergei Lapin (whose code name was “Cadet”) had been foolish enough to threaten Anna Politkovskaya, who had written about the disappearance of a young Chechen man, Zelimkhan Murdalov, in her investigative articles.

Lapin even signed his threatening e-mails with his code name. That is what led to his downfall: the case became a public affair, and Cadet was arrested and extradited to Chechnya.

During the trial, Stanislav Markelov, who represented Astamir Murdalov, the father of the disappeared young man, successfully filed a motion excluding from consideration illegally obtained evidence. After all, in Grozny, Lapin had been imprisoned in ORB-2, an illegal torture prison. If this place was better than the Oktyabrsky Temporary Department of Internal Affairs, then only by a little. If you were imprisoned there, it was very hard not to give whatever testimony they wanted you to give.

It seemed as if the lawyer was undermining his own case, but in the end the sentence was based only on objective evidence, not on the accused’s personal confession. And a subsequent appeal of the court ruling failed to get Sergei Lapin acquitted. “The rule of law” is not a slogan, but a practical requirement.

In these two cases, Stanislav Markelov had defended the honor of Russia.

For he was practically the only Russian lawyer who worked on controversial cases in Chechnya itself. Until quite recently, Stanislav had acted as defense counsel for Magomedsalakh Masayev, who had sued the Chechen authorities over his lengthy detention in an illegal prison. In August of last year, Masayev was disappeared. That is how things go.

Markelov also represented victims of the Blagoveshchensk Affair, when the Bashkortostan OMON, which had returned from Chechnya, “filtrated” an entire town.

He represented victims in the Nord-Ost Affair. He helped Tatyana Lukashova, the mother of one of the victims, find out whether the body she buried was really that of her daughter. He acted as defense counsel for hostage Yakha Neserkhoyeva, whom investigators had accused of being involved with the terrorists.

You can track many of Stanislav’s cases via Anna Politkovskaya’s articles. True, only until 2006. That is how things go.

Why do we find one and the same man involved in such different cases? Probably because there is so little space on the frontlines.

Stanislav went from being a young leftist to being a lawyer, and he cut off his ponytail, but he didn’t change his convictions.

He took part in human rights conferences and social forums, trying to unite the ideas of human rights and social justice. In this sense, he stood out from other human rights activists and, probably, from other lawyers.

He turned his convictions into actions.

Markelov defended leftist activists throughout Russia.

He defended environmentalists, whose protest camps in various parts of the country were more and more often being scrutinized by local administrations, law enforcement officials, and legal and illegal armed units.

He defended trade union activists.

He defended members of the Belorussian opposition. This, if you haven’t heard of it, is called internationalism.

He defended anti-fascists: after all, being against fascism has also become dangerous. Markelov represented the victim in the Alexander Riukhin case. This young anti-fascist was murdered in Moscow in 2006.

This is how things went, these were the cases Markelov took. You can’t even begin to list them all.

But Stanislav himself had been the victim of an assault five years ago. On April 16, 2004, he was beaten in the Moscow subway. His attackers took a briefcase with legal documents and his telephone.

Who did it? In connection with what case?

These are the same questions we ask now.

Stanislav Markelov was involved as a lawyer in so many hot cases that it hard to say exactly who might have pulled the trigger.

We can say almost the same thing about Anna Politkovskaya. Perhaps I am wrong, but I have the impression that Markelov was just as much an odd bird in the legal community as Politkovskaya was in the journalist community. The paths of these two people had intersected many times during recent years. They did different jobs, but on the frontlines their cause was the same.

Amidst the general madness, to find a meaningful task for yourself—and, perhaps, save yourself and others in the process. Perhaps. . .

Stanislav Markelov would have turned thirty-five on May 20. We will mark this day without him.

The writer is a member of the board of the Memorial Society.


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