Tag Archives: Artem Loskutov

The Storming of the Aurora

Power to the people
One of the people to ‘storm’ the Avrora last month discusses the message behind the stunt.
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
November 9, 2011

Yevgeny Schyotov recently spent seven hours on the mast of the Cruiser Avrora — one of St. Petersburg’s main tourist attractions and an iconic Soviet symbol — and 10 days in prison in the name of art and revolution.

Better known as Flor, Schyotov is a member of Narodnaya Dolya (The People’s Share), a new anarchist art group calling itself a party, which occupied the cruiser, now a museum, to protest against poverty, corrupt authorities and oligarchs.

While three activists climbed up a mast using mountaineering equipment to unfold a modified Jolly Roger (the logo of The People’s Share) and another fired a large firework from the Avrora’s cannon, (which in October 1917 fired a blank shot to signify the start of the Bolshevik Revolution), the anarchist movement Food Not Bombs distributed free vegan food to the homeless onshore.

Called “Memorable October, or the Resurrection of the Avrora,” the event took place on Oct. 16 to mark the International Day to Eradicate Poverty.

Television reports and videos show Avrora’s crew — consisting of naval conscripts — attacking the activists and trying to knock them off the mast with two high-pressure water hoses.

“The nozzle on one of the pressure hoses came free and the conscript operating it got water all over himself; they also sprayed some casual visitors,” Flor said.

“It looked ridiculous; they did a great job of adding more absurdity to what was happening.”

Flor, who was on the mast with two other activists, said they climbed down to be arrested seven hours later, after their demand was met that activists being held by sailors in the ship’s hold be brought out where they could be seen. Efforts by the crew, OMON special task police, a team from the Ministry of Emergency Situations and river police to talk the activists down from the mast proved futile, he said.

The police arrested 15 activists out of about 40, but two of them escaped from the police precinct, so only 13 ended up in court. Flor was sentenced to 10 days in prison, while three other activists were given five days each. Several others were fined and the rest had their hearings postponed due to the lack of a lawyer.

“The hearings were postponed to Oct. 20, but as far as I know, none of the activists turned up,” Flor said.

The police, who charged the activists with disorderly conduct, wrote in their reports that those arrested had been swearing and swinging their arms and refused to react to reprimands. Flor says he contested the charges but was overruled by the judge, who he believes was pressured to find the activists guilty.

One of the Avrora event’s more obvious references was to an infamous party held on the historic ship — which officially belongs to the Navy and is a branch of the Central Naval Museum — by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and attended by then St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2009.

Described by the media as “debauchery,” the glamorous party was attended by the forum’s VIP guests, who were entertained by performances from Leningrad frontman Sergei Shnurov, ballet dancers and suit-clad actors who jumped into the waters of the River Neva.

“We considered jumping into the water, but couldn’t get wetsuits due to a lack of funds,” Flor said. “We could only use the little money that we had.”

Before the Avrora event, Flor was known as a member of the Affinity Group, which was originally created to hold a May Day anarchist event as part of the official May 1, 2009 demos, which were broken up by the police, who arrested nearly 200 participants and charged them with crossing the road in the wrong place.

Flor was later seen participating in an artists’ hunger strike near City Hall calling for the release of imprisoned Novosibirsk anarchist artist Artyom Loskutov, and in a series of art exhibitions focusing on police lawlessness. More recently, he was involved in vandalizing “Media Strike,” an exhibit of protest art set up as part of the 4th Biennale of Contemporary Art in Moscow in September.

“We essentially buried the Affinity Group by vandalizing the Biennale’s opening in Moscow,” he says.

“[The exhibit] was ridiculous and idiotic, so we wrecked and ruined everything, and I think that the Affinity Group will never be invited anywhere again. The exhibit was absurd; you can’t institutionalize protest, which they were doing, with such a number of state sponsors.

“They threatened to call the police, and it’s a pity they didn’t, because it would have been the apotheosis of the absurd: To display art that opposes the law, and call the police at the same time! So it was the conclusion of a project that had grown rather institutionalized itself, to a certain degree.”

Forming the People’s Share as a party was an attempt to break out of the limitations of a small art group, according to Flor.

“In activist art, it’s activism that should be at the forefront, rather than art; it should draw attention to social problems,” he says.

“There are too many art groups that have become institutionalized, and I don’t think this is right.”

The People’s Share party was formed at a congress in Moscow on Sept. 1 and held its first event the same day, bringing six live piglets to the Ministry of Education as protest against educational reform. The piglets had the names of state corporations such as Gazprom, Aeroflot and Sberbank written on their backs.

“[The piglets] defecated all over the place, and got a lot of coverage, so that the Minister of Education [Andrei] Fursenko had to comment on the event,” Flor says.

The group’s name is a reference to Narodnaya Volya (The People’s Will, or The People’s Freedom), the late 19th-century illegal revolutionary organization responsible for killing Tsar Alexander II with a bomb on March 1, 1881, and for a series of other attacks and assassinations of state officials. Five members of the People’s Will were hanged and many imprisoned.

The logo of The People’s Share is a skull and bones, but the skull has its frontal lobe removed, while the motto calls for the people’s freedom from tyrants and for the people to get their share of oil and gas profits.

“The flag with our logo was mistaken for the Jolly Roger, but we didn’t even try to point that out, because the aspect of piracy was also apparent in the Avrora event,” Flor says.

The activists also hung a sign with the word “Restoration” on it as a comment on the changed political situation, after President Dmitry Medvedev announced in late September that he would not run for presidency in 2012 and invited Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to return to the post.

“Of course, Putin helped us a lot, because Medvedev declared modernization, but Putin forced him to drop his claims to the presidency,” Flor says.

“The modernization epoch has ended and been substituted by the post-modernization epoch. Real postmodern!”

According to Flor, the media reaction to the Avrora event surpassed the group’s expectations.

“I didn’t expect that we would be shown on Channel One,” he says.

NTV Television’s report showed St. Petersburg police chief Mikhail Sukhodolsky criticizing the activists, saying that while they were fighting “for freedom and rights, the rights of other citizens who wanted to visit the Avrora were infringed.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In reality, the group boarded the Avrora several minutes before entrance to the ship closes at 4 p.m., Flor said. “They also claimed that the Avrora lost money, which is also not true, because entrance is free.”

Although many media reports described the activists as “hooligans,” Flor says that exposure probably made people read the group’s original materials on the Internet, adding that a blog entry about the event made No. 4 in a Russian blog rating last week.

“Even policemen say that television lies, so people should want to have independent information,” he says.

“We described in great detail how drastically living standards have dropped in Russia, while the number of billionaires has increased. People understand this on the level of class feelings, but exact figures are seldom available.”

While preparing for the event, the activists agreed not to use violence, which, Flor says, they later regretted, because the sailors behaved aggressively, attacking and beating activists.

“One activist tried to defend himself with a large plush cat,” Flor said. “We tried to bring the situation to the totally absurd. Our speaker wore a black ski-mask — like an aggressive radical — but with a red pompom.”

The detention center Flor was put in was, symbolically, a 19th-century political prison on Zakharievskaya Ulitsa, where Vladimir Lenin and members of the People’s Will were once held.

“On the first day, the guards who were on duty called me in and said, ‘Tell us how it was in reality, because we know that what they are reporting on television is all lies,’ so I spent the whole day giving political classes to them,” Flor said.

Flor believes that the authorities and oligarchs may underestimate the people’s potential.

“The Russian people keep silent and endure as they are bent further and further, but when they find themselves with their faces in the dirt completely, they will snap up all of a sudden,” he says.

“In January 1917, Lenin said that only the youth of that era would live to see the coming revolution. He couldn’t even imagine what would happen in February.”

While the People’s Will made bombs, the new art group works with the media and information, Flor said.

“I am not going to get involved in terrorism of any sort, except for the informational kind. In our times, bombs are different. There’s no point in blowing up anybody. We should blow up information space; it’s more effective.”

On Monday, Interfax reported that individual visitors were temporarily unable to visit the Avrora, which was only open to guided groups. The restrictions were explained as being “winter measures.”

Photos by Sergey Chernov and The People’s Share.

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Free Voina!

FREE VOINA!

When, during the course of an act of civil disobedience in September of this year, the art group Voina (“War”) overturned several police cars in Saint Petersburg, the Russian people’s unhappiness with the actions of law enforcement agencies acquired not only a verbal but also a visible expression.

Approximately two months later, on November 15, Voina activists Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev were seized by police in Moscow, transported to Petersburg, and tossed into a pre-trial detention facility. They have now been charged under Paragraph b, Part 1, Article 213 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code (“criminal mischief motivated by hatred or hostility toward a social group”).

The authorities are attempting to pin the motives of hatred or hostility towards a nonexistent social group (in this case, the police) on the two activists in order to increase the potential term of imprisonment to five years. The activists have been subjected to physical coercion while in detention. We thus see that the power of the law enforcement system is being used outside the limits and aims of the law; it is being used arbitrarily and in order to squash protest. Vorotnikov and Nikolyaev are charged with “criminal mischief” only because several of the Russian police’s innumerable cars were lightly damaged. The people who took part in the riot on Manege Square in Moscow on December 11, who fought with the OMON and beat up dozens of people in the Moscow subway, were released from police custody the very same day. Why, then, it is the two Voina activists, who caused no physical harm to any human being with their action, who have been charged with “criminal mischief”?

Today, the Russian state does not try to convince anyone that its laws apply equally to everyone. Notorious “cases” like the one against Voina should in fact prove that the reverse is true: they are meant to show everyone else not WHAT actions are unacceptable, but rather WHO is not permitted to commit such actions. To have the right to overturn cars or beat people, for example, one has to be a member of the group that Voina has now been charged with inciting hatred towards. Each case like the criminal case brought against Voina has nothing to do with obeying the laws: no one has given a damn about these laws for a long while, especially the people who draft them.  The case against Voina is a battlefield where our freedoms are being fought over. If Voina is convicted and sent to prison, the space of THEIR freedom will become a little bit larger, while the space of OUR freedom will shrink. If this “case” falls apart, then it will be the other way round.

We appeal for solidarity with all those who have suffered in this battle: Seva Ostapov, who was given a one-year suspended sentence for being beaten up by police at the Sokolniki precinct station in Moscow; passerby Sergei Makhnatkin, who was sentenced to two and half years in prison because he defended a 72-year-old woman who was being roughed up by the police at a demonstration in Moscow; Left Front activist Grigory Torbeev, who is now threatened with ten years in prison for lighting a flare at the last Day of Rage protest in Moscow; artist Artem Loskutov, who “insulted” police officers in Novosibirsk by making critical remarks about their methods when they attempted to drag him and two female friends into a police truck; Belarusian anarchists, one of whom was practically kidnapped in Moscow and delivered to the Belarusian KGB, in violation of all extradition procedures; and the victims of police major Denis Yevsyukov and their loved ones.

1. We demand the immediate release of the Voina activists from pre-trial detention.

2. We demand that the court regard the act they committed not as criminal mischief, but as a public statement meant to draw society’s attention to the situation that has arisen around the country’s law enforcement agencies, as a desperate attempt to remind society of the police lawlessness that has become a fact of everyday life, lawlessness against which no one is safe.

3.  We call for an open trial in this case and demand that it and all other cases involving lawlessness and violence committed by police officers be tried before juries.

By securing the freedom of the Voina activists, we secure our own freedom from this lawlessness!

At the demonstration anyone who wishes can join Voina!

We likewise invite everyone to bring along their own artworks on the theme of War – that very same War in which everyone is involved, even if everyone doesn’t admit it. In addition, we will be collecting money at the demonstration o support the arrested activists.

The officially permitted demonstration in support of Voina will take place at 3:00 p.m., December 18, on Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow.

Free Voina! Initiative Group

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In this video, various well-known Russian cultural figures express their support for Voina. Here is a very concise summary of their remarks.

  • Artemy Troitsky (music critic, journalist). If the majority of young people in Russia joined Voina, then the most peaceful cultural revolution in human history would ensue. Even if you don’t join Voina, you can support them virtually, via the Internet, or by going to the demonstration in Moscow on December 18.

  • Andrei Erofeev (curator). Voina allowed themselves to commit minor acts of vandalism, but in fact society is filled with useful professions that involve “vandalism” as well: firefighter, policeman, forester, surgeon. All these professions involve a certain amount of destruction, but this destruction is useful to society, nature or the life of the individual. The profession of public artist also involves this sort of positive destruction, and the trial against the Voina activists should take this into account.

  • Alexander Ivanov (publisher). Voina should be released and reunited with their families. Only then can a discussion of the group’s artistic and other merits begin. Voina is reminiscent of the Belgrade students who brought down the regime of Slobodan Milošević in the nineties: an attempt to carnivalize political history in order to deal with painful social issues and show that the “king” (certain politicians and institutions) is naked. We live in a shell of words, and Voina’s carnivalization is a way of breaking through this verbal shell. The attempt made by many cultural commentators and art world figures to discuss whether what Voina does is contemporary art is quite unproductive because most of these people do not ask whether what they do themselves is art.

  • Boris Kuprianov (bookseller). When we talk about Voina, this discussion should not involve our own aesthetic preferences. The case of Voina is an important test for society: will it stand for such things (as the arrest of the group)? Everyone should go to the demonstration on December 18 because everyone is vulnerable to such persecution.

  • Andrei Kovalyov (art critic). Voina is one of the most progressive phenomena in contemporary Russian art, which to a large extent has given itself over to pseudo-formalist experiments. Voina, which has nothing to do with the market and art institutions, is thus a positive example. Most of the great art projects of the past also had nothing to do with commercial considerations.

  • Alexander Kosolapov (artist). Voina’s work is reminiscent of the work of American artist Chris Burden, who (despite obvious differences owing to geography and period) also used the artistic means at his disposal to protest social ills, in his case, the US war in Vietnam.

  • Andrei Loshak (journalist). Voina is not simply an art group; it is a civic resistance society. They are not the ones who declared war; it was the regime that declared war on us. It is not Voina who race down the roads in cars with flashing lights, killed peaceful, law-abiding citizens. It is not Voina who accepts bribes and protects criminals, like the Russian police do. Voina is simply an emotional reaction to injustice, but this emotionalism only speaks to the level of injustice in Russian society. Voina expresses the public’s indignation, as shown by the popularity enjoyed by videos of their recent actions on the Internet.

  • Sergei Pakhomov (artist). Remarks of a humorous nature that cannot be summarized, much less translated.

  • Oleg Kulik (artist). Real art is always a matter of individual responsibility, and Voina consciously bears full responsibility for their actions. These actions might seem infantile, but it is precisely this creative “infantilism” – this desire to match words with deeds, even in the most extreme and egoistic way – that Russian society lacks. In this sense, Voina might be the only honest people left in Russia. If the authorities want to make Voina famous, they should sentence them. If they want to make trouble for the rest of the art world, they should let them go.

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To find out more about the work and history of the Voina group, the story of their arrest and updates in this case, and how you can help the arrested activists with their legal defense and in spreading the word, go to Free Voina.

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Filed under activism, contemporary art, film and video, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

Artem Loskutov: Convicted in a Frame-Up

We have written about the case of Novosibirsk artist Artem Loskutov and the international solidarity campaign it provoked on several occasions. On March 18, a court in Novosibirsk found Artem guilty of possession of narcotics and sentenced him to pay a fine of 20,000 rubles (approximately 500 euros). This might be construed as a victory of sorts because the prosecutor had asked for a one-year suspended sentence and one year of probation, and the judge threw out another charge (purchase of narcotics). On the other hand, it is not a victory in that the court rejected the substantial claims by Artem and his defenders that the local “anti-extremist” police had framed him in revenge for his role in the annual Monstrations in Novosibirsk. In fact, the judge got straight to the heart of what is wrong with the criminal justice system in Russia (and elsewhere, it has to be admitted) by declaring that Artem’s testimony was false because it didn’t gibe with the testimony given by the cops. No wonder that the conviction rate in Russia is way over ninety percent: the cops are never wrong (even as they continue to sow murder and mayhem with alarming frequency).

Artem and his lawyer intend to appeal the decision. As does, apparently, the prosecutor, who claimed to be unhappy with the sentence. (And since the principle of double jeopardy does not apply in Russian law, he can appeal for a harsher sentence.)

You can contribute to Artem’s defense fund through his WebMoney account: R371097971630. You can also help Artem by publicizing his case and sending protest letters to the Russian authorities. There is no doubt in our minds that the spirited campaign that erupted throughout Russia and around the world after his arrest in May 2009 made a huge difference in determining even last week’s (somewhat disappointing) outcome.

On March 15, Artem made a closing statement in his trial. He recorded and transcribed the statement, and posted it on the Kiss My Babushka website. We have translated excerpts from this remarkable text, below, along with excerpts from an interview Artem gave to Radio Svodoba the same day.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I will not touch on the legal aspects of the prosecution’s case because in his closing remarks my lawyer has already demonstrated the utter groundlessness of this case, and I am in agreement with all the points of his defense.

I will say something else: the reprisal against me was in the works long ago, and I knew about this. On May 1, 2008, officers of the UBOP (Anti-Organized Crime Directorate), which had not yet been renamed Center “E” (Center for Extremism Prevention), attempted to kidnap several participants of the Monstration, a peaceful holiday march that had been cleared with the municipal administration [of Novosibirsk]. For several years running, young and not-so-young politically conscious people had produced their own history during this march by making appropriate demands to our absurd reality. UPOB officers photographed and copied down the passport information of the Monstration participants they illegally transported to [the police station on] Oktyabrskaya, 86. According to Alexandra Popova, they promised to “find narcotics” on anyone who again participated in the Monstration. Despite the defense’s repeated appeals, the court declined to question this witness.

In April 2009, the UBOP (which was now already called Center “E” and was combating “extremism” — i.e., all criticism of the actions of the authorities, exposure of corruption on the part of bureaucrats, the struggle against police abuse, and even the use of Maxim Gorky’s line “Rights are taken, not given”) renewed its interest in Monstration participants. Under pretenses that were false, outrageous and had no connection to reality, [Center “E” officer] Oleg Trofimov, who was questioned by the court, made phone calls to my university and my mother, demanding that they persuade me to report for a “discussion.” He referred to statements, allegedly in his possession, that I was a member of a Satanic cult and that I set fire to cats and dogs. I recognized the illegality of these summonses, but the cup of my patience had run over, and so, in order to put an end to this madness, I went to Center “E” on May 1 [2009] for a “discussion” and presented myself  to Sergei Miller, who was questioned by the court. During our discussion, Miller indicated his own negative attitude to the Monstration and made it perfectly clear that the criminal code contained many articles that, given the will, could be applied to Monstration participants and, in particular, to its organizers, in whose number he included me. On this note we parted company.

At that moment the regional court had already authorized a wiretap of my phone. The reason given for the wiretap request was that I was the “leader of a criminal group, which plans to organize mass riots accompanied by violence, pogroms of stores and offices, arson and property destruction, as well as possible resistance to the authorities, and plans to block the movement of surface transport during the May holidays.” My actions were allegedly in possible violation of Article 212, Part 1, and Article 268, Part 1, of the Russian Federation Criminal Code.

On the morning of May 15, after the May holidays were already over and no mass riots had taken place, Miller suddenly telephoned me and once again attempted to summon me for a “discussion.” He refused to send me the written summons required by law in such cases, just as he refused to indicate the purpose of our meeting. I was juggling my job at the university with my studies, and that particular day a pre-defense of my thesis project had been scheduled; I did not intend to skip this without a good reason. I told this to Miller, and in response I  heard what appeared to be an absolutely real threat that I would be detained during the course of the day by Miller’s subordinates. “Y0u are cheeky. I’m going to send a car with dogs to get you,” he promised. Miller kept his word: on the evening of the same day I was kidnapped by officers of the Center for Extremism Prevention. I should note that Friday evening was a quite convenient time to kidnap me. No one would have missed me at work for at least two days, and it would have been practically impossible for me to collect the necessary character references for the custody hearing. Everything was supposed to happen as quietly and unobtrusively as possible.

In court, Miller testified that he had nothing to do with the kidnapping and the filing of criminal charges. It is obvious, however, that after the case had already been opened, his direct subordinate Trofimov collected personal information about me that was entered into the record at the custody hearings. This included copies of certain texts and photographs of unknown origin that bore his signature and surname. He also interrogated my neighbors and summoned the parents of defense witnesses for “discussions,” and he visited me in the temporary detention facility to have another such discussion. Moreover, in the report that served as the basis for the filing of criminal charges, it is stated that, according to intelligence, I had allegedly been distributing narcotic substances in a nonexistent university. It is clear that this information was cooked up that morning so quickly that there wasn’t even enough time to retype it. The threads that hold [the state’s case] together are apparent to the attentive observer, and they are there to see during the entire course of this fabrication.

[….]

In January, NTV broadcast Katerina Gordeeva’s documentary film “We Are Not Vegetables.” The film [inserted, below] is about people who cannot reconcile themselves to injustice, and it also talks about my trial. The prosecutor voiced the opinion that that the defense’s witnesses were shielding me, that they were aiding me in escaping responsibility. He has apparently forgotten, however, that among these witnesses were Antonina Proshkina, Danil Shatalin, and Ilya Egipko, who were absolute strangers to me and were only interested in seeing justice done.  They were not too lazy or afraid to appear in court and give honest testimony, and that is because they were outraged by the flagrant injustice they had witnessed. This injustice also outraged the hundreds of people who participated in support actions not only in Novosibirsk, but also in Barnaul, Tula, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Saint Petersburg, Berlin, Leipzig, and other cities. These people not only signed petitions, held pickets, wrote songs, and made films, but [some of them] also even went on hunger strike. If you think for a second, that meant they risked their lives. I was in jail, but I was happy because I knew how many worthy people supported me, from schoolchildren and university students to Nobel laureates.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

All of Russia (and not only Russia) knows that the attempts to pin any crimes whatsoever on me were a flagrant farce from the very beginning. Even the prosecution’s witnesses practically testified on my behalf.

What was the purpose of all these provocations and crude procedural violations, these slanders and false, baseless accusations? Why was this trial necessary? Was it all meant only to punish me? No, there is a “principle” at work here, a kind of “philosophy.” Behind the stated charge there is another charge that is unstated. By prosecuting me, the authorities are pursuing the goal of concealing their own crimes.

I have no doubt that the only correct and legal verdict [in this case] is an acquittal. I know the law. But I also know [current] legal practice, and so today, in my closing remarks, I ask nothing from the court.

Everyone knows that I am not guilty of the crime I am charged with committing. And therefore I do not intend to ask the court for mercy. It is a disgrace for me and for my country that the prosecutor’s direct and flagrant deception of the court is essentially deigned legal. It is a misfortune that the entire country is convinced that the courts act at the behest of bureaucrats and the powers that be.

You can give me a suspended sentence or send me to a prison colony, but I am confident that no honest person will condemn me.

The sentence and the trial itself are tacit admissions of the significance of the things I have done and said. And my future rehabilitation [i.e., the overturning of the conviction] is as inevitable as today’s conviction.

As many times as merchants and tyrants murder prophets, so many times Socrates will die on this earth. He will be born again in a new genius or prophet, who will discern the merits and vices in his own world, and tell people about them with his living speech, whether as a sermon or a poem.

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Here are some excerpts from an interview with Artem published (in Russian) on the Radio Svoboda website. The interview was given before the verdict in his case was announced.

[Artem Loskutov:] The prosecuting attorney asked for a one-year suspended sentence and one year of probation. The prosecutor believes my guilt is proven, that the police detectives corroborate each other in their testimonies. He had no problems with what they said. During closing arguments I objected to this, and my lawyer objected even more strongly. In my closing remarks, I catalogued the obvious falsifications the police officers made in their testimonies, and I recounted my long relationship, beginning on May 1, 2008, with the UBOP, which later became Center “E”.

[…]

I talked about my interactions with a certain Mr. Miller, the head of some kind of division within Center “E”, who told me: “Well, Artem, if you continue organizing demonstrations, then there are very many articles in the Criminal Code that we can charge you with. Someone will show up to [your demonstration] and start a fight, and then you will have a riot on your hands. And you as the organizer will be responsible for the whole mess. Or something else could happen: a pogrom could be incited, someone could begin breaking shop windows…”

[Radio Svoboda:] Did you write down your conversation with Mr. Miller?

[Artem Loskutov:] Yes, but I didn’t even bother to make the transcript public. We talked for an hour. He didn’t refer to narcotics directly; he talked about certain articles [of the Criminal Code, as was just mentioned].

In his remarks, the prosecutor said that the drugs were planted [on me] incorrectly somehow: “If they wanted to frame you, then why did they shadow you? They could have just planted the drugs in the morning. Why did they bring the [state] witnesses [required by Russian law in police searches] and wait for hour and a half? They could have simply planted the drugs just like that. And, generally speaking, it is not that easy to plant marijuana. It is much easier to plant heroin. It weighs less.”

According to the prosecutor, it turns out that planting drugs is an everyday fact of life. In my case, the planting of the drugs didn’t appear so obvious: attempts were made to give the case the appearance of authenticity. And so the prosecutor said in court that, if the planting of the drugs didn’t appear so simple and brazen, that meant they hadn’t been planted.

I know the working methods of the Novosibirsk UBO. There is this guy in Novosibirsk named Vadim Ivanov; he was the leader of the Avant-Garde of Red Youth (AKM). In 2006, when the G8 summit was taking place in Petersburg, a large number of activists from various regions headed there, and the authorities removed them from trains. One of these people was Vadim Ivanov from Novosibirsk. Surprise, surprise: it was the very same Captain Lazarev, who detained me, who removed him from the train and discovered 26 grams of hashish on him. He was charged with possession and given a two-year suspended sentence.

[…]

Getting back to my closing remarks, I said that it was not so much me who was being sentenced, that this was an attempt on the part of several Center “E” officers to escape responsibility. Because if you acquit me, then that automatically means they fabricated a criminal case. And that is why this court will probably prove incapable of handing down a verdict of not guilty.

The judge has turned down all our requests to question the witnesses to my arrest. And the prosecutor paid no mind to certain facts:  that my fingerprints were not discovered on “my” packet of drugs; that I am not a drug addict (as a narcological test showed), that I am an outstanding student (how is that compatible with drug use?), etc.

[…]

[Radio Svoboda:] What kind of public reaction does the Loskutov Affair provoke today?

[Artem Loskutov:] Public reaction is already fading, of course. Ten months have gone by: I am already sick of the case myself, and everyone else must be even more tired of it. Nevertheless, on February 23, we carried out a street action, entitled “Drug Planting Championship,” in memory of Alexei Lazarev, the Center “E” officer who supervised my arrest. [See the video, above.] Contestants threw little bags filled with medicinal herbs from the drugstore into my bag, which I held while standing at some distance from them. Then we increased the distance because everyone was hitting the target. We were trying to find the most accurate drugs tosser, and the prize was captain’s stripes. Around eighty people came out in minus 25 weather to join us. I think that indicates that people still care about the case.

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Song of Solidarity: A Video Letter to Artem Loskutov

On June 9, members of the Verkhotura Dance Theater, the Street University, and their friends recorded this “Song of Solidarity” for Artem Loskutov, who was released on his own recognizance from a Novosibirsk jail on June 10.

 
  

Spring has come to the streets, the trees are already in bloom.
And only the lads don’t come to see us,
And only the lads don’t come to see us.
For nowadays they nab the young fellows here, there and everywhere.
For nowadays young fellows,
Artists, the bolder ones,
Are nabbed here, there and everywhere.

It’s moot to ask who is to blame.
Neither the City of  N. nor Center “E” has anything to do with it, it seems.
Neither the City of  N. nor Center “E” has anything to do with it, it seems.
They nab the boys and charge them, and it’s all the same to them.
They nab the boys and charge them,
They force them to confess,
And it’s all the same to them.

Don’t slumber, artist, don’t succumb to sleep.
You are the system’s hostage, a prisoner of the times.
You are the system’s hostage, a prisoner of the times.
Struggle, artist, struggle, don’t confess your guilt.
Struggle, artist, struggle.
You are the system’s hostage.
Don’t confess your guilt.

Lawlessness abounds, and it is impossible to remain silent.
We clench our fists when we hear of fabricated criminal cases.
We clench our fists when we hear of fabricated criminal cases.
Your extremist department is art’s arch enemy.
Your extremist department, on the sidelines, as it were,
Is art’s arch enemy.

We throw aside our paints and brushes, we head into the streets.
When it is forbidden for us to speak, we won’t grow glum.
When it is forbidden for us to speak, we won’t grow glum.
When art is under lock and key, we head into the streets.
When art is under lock and key,
And everyone has forgotten about the law,
We head into the streets.

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Filed under contemporary art, film and video, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests

Artem Loskutov Released!

3613769186_277609293e_o-500x333As the Institute for Collective Action reports, yesterday, June 10, the Novosibirsk Regional Court ordered Novosibirsk artist Artem Loskutov released on his own recognizance. A panel of judges ruled that there was no basis for the Dzerzhinsky District Court’s conclusion that Loskutov would continue to engage in criminal activity were he released pending trial. The lower court had also failed to take into account other mitigating circumstances—Loskutov’s lack of a criminal record, his student status, and the fact that his thesis defense had been scheduled for June.

Upon his release from a temporary detention facility, Artem headed straight to the Novosibirsk State Technical University for his thesis defense, where he was awarded a “B.” He talked about this, his time in custody, and his plans for the near future in an interview with Radio Svoboda:

—My major is cinematography, and my area of concentration is TV camera work. My diploma defense went off without a hitch. When I was released from the detention facility, I managed only to say hello to everyone before getting into a car and heading to my defense. My teachers were aware of my situation. They had already seen my work—that is, my thesis film. I submitted the documentation and got a “B.”

—What were conditions like in the detention facility?

—They were fine: I got fed three times a day and they didn’t beat me once. I was constantly getting news from the outside. It really cheered me up.

—How do you respond to the drugs possession charges?

—The charges are fabricated. The drugs were planted. The inquest showed that I’m not an addict and that my fingerprints weren’t on the drugs. A swab of my hands showed no traces of drugs. Aside from the testimony of the arresting officers, there is no evidence.

—What are your plans for the immediate future? Will you be organizing actions on the order of the Monstrations?

—My problems with school were unexpectedly solved today: they passed my thesis. I have to find out what’s going on at work, whether they still want me there. As for public activism, it’s clear that this is dangerous for me while the investigation is ongoing. On the other hand, all my recent art actions were totally legal. All the actions were legal in fact! At the max, they violated the administrative code, but not the criminal code. I’m prepared to take responsibility for my art actions, but I’m not prepared to take responsibility for the drugs they planted on me.

I don’t know what my plans are. I want to see how this case ends. If it ends with my acquittal, that means these actions, civil society, still function in some form. If the case ends with my return to jail, then it will be obvious that these methods don’t work in our country. And that will mean that either that it’s time to move or that we have to change the law enforcement authorities.

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Filed under contemporary art, interviews, political repression, Russian society

The Worldwide War against Student Protest

Tokyo

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Barnaul

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Brooklyn

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Novosibirsk

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São Paulo

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Petersburg Hunger Strike, Day 12 (Sergey Chernov)

Protests, Hunger Strike Over Artist’s Arrest Are Stepped Up

By Sergey Chernov
St. Petersburg Times
June 9, 2009

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have published an open letter in defense of Artyom Loskutov, the 23-year-old artist and activist arrested in Novosibirsk last month, while the hunger strike led by local artists at City Hall entered its 12th day on Monday. Loskutov, who has been in custody since his arrest on May 15, is due in court again on Wednesday, when it will be decided whether or not he will be released pending trial. Continue reading

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Filed under activism, contemporary art, political repression, protests