Editor’s Note. Below, you will find a call made by a friend of our platform, artist Nika Dubrovsky, to participate in a very worthy initiative in support of Mikhail Beketov, the independent Khimki journalist who was left severely crippled after he was attacked by unknown assailants two years ago. Nika’s initiative has been under way for a while and formally wraps up on Saturday, but everyone should feel free to write to her (at her blogs, listed below) to express their support or, better yet, donate money the Beketov assistance fund to pay for a rose or for his continuing medical treatment.
At 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 27, we are going to give roses to Mikhail Beketov. The flowers will be given to him by Rada (Rada & Ternovnik) and several LiveJournal users (if anyone wants to join them, write! For the time being we have only two people who are in Moscow).
Over the course of the next two days, the fund’s volunteers will add a Web Money account and will also add a special page where the names (or usernames) of all users who participate in the flower action will be entered daily.
Therefore, when you send money, don’t forget to immediately send a letter to the fund’s e-mail address: email@example.com. The volunteer handling this is named Vika. She has informed us that she will reply to all letters; if you do not receive a reply, send your letter again.
While the fund still does not have a PayPal account, I will provide my own: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will account for the payments made and publish the nicknames (or surnames) of the people who support Beketov. You should also send me an e-mail (email@example.com) with your surname or username.
All the money collected will be taken to a flower shop that has agreed to roses from suburban Moscow at the cost of one euro per rose.
Each flower will bear a little name tag (“To Mikhail Beketov from…”). For us, the principle one rose-one person is important.
After my first post, some people offered their help in organizing the action, while other, indignant users demanded that the money be gathered not for flowers, but for food or a wheelchair.
It is my opinion that the Beketov fund definitely needs money. Beketov will soon be visited by a German doctor, who will arrange to continue Beketov’s medical treatments in Germany.
Everyone who feels that one euro for a flower is a blow to their budget can transfer one euro to the fund’s account with the note “not for flowers.” But, since we are on the topic, you could also send one euro for a flower, along with another ten euros for food and to pay for medical treatments.
However, we should remember that Beketov was not crippled by random hooligans. While we worry about how to spend our hard-earned euro, the people who commissioned this crime not only are still at large, but they also continue to engage in robbery. Even a superficial search in the Internet turns up evidence about the millions of euros received through kickbacks, bribes, and threats to foreign and Russian companies.
A thousand roses at one euro each might give voice to this demand. That same thousand euros, if spent on his medical treatments, will disappear almost instantly.
Please donate one euro and (or) link to this post and (or) write your own post.
If you do not have money or a way of sending money, but you are also in solidarity with Mikhail Beketov, leave your username or name in the comments. I am certain that people will come forward who will send in 2, 3, 5 or 10 euros and will be glad to inscribe you at their own expense. That is the point of “one euro, one flower”: so that we can pay for each other.
In July and August 2010, as forest fires blazed all across Russia, the French construction company Vinci and its Russian partners were engaged in destroying a forest near the Moscow suburb of Khimki. The town administration backed their actions using a combination of lawlessness and direct violence: forest defenders were attacked both by local police and extreme right-wing thugs. The coordinated actions of grassroots activists have put a temporary halt to construction of a planned Moscow-Petersburg toll highway through the Khimki Forest. However, two active defenders of the forest, antifascists Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, remain in police custody on fabricated charges. In essence, they have been taken hostage by local authorities and police officials. If they are tried and convicted they could face seven years in prison. Meanwhile, police and other law enforcement agencies continue their hunt against other activists, especially those with connections to the antifascist movement.
The next pre-trial detention hearing for the two young men is scheduled for late September. Join our International Days of Action –September 17–20, 2010 – to demand their release. Our main slogans are Freedom for Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov! and End the Persecution of Forest Defenders and Antifascists! For more details, go to our web site.
The Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages calls on people from around the world to fax messages of protest to the Khimki municipal court and Russian law enforcement agencies on September 20, 2010. You can find the details here.
What You Can Do Right Now
1. Repost our appeal and your own opinion about the case on your web site or blog. Forward these texts to friends, comrades, and anyone else you think might want to participate in this solidarity campaign.
2.Write e-mails to international organizations, Russian government officials and the development companies involved in the toll highway project: they all either are in a position to help secure release of the Khimki hostages or bear indirect responsibility for their continued imprisonment. Please take twenty minutes right now to send your letters and petitions to the organizations listed here, as well as to inform your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Your help might prove decisive in saving the Khimki Forest and its defenders.
3. If you are prepared to help the persecuted activists in other ways or would like to share advice on how to deal with European and Russian official organizations and companies, please write to us at:
Since the launch of the project to build a toll highway through the Khimki Forest, the Khimki town administration has become infamous for its gangster-like methods of “working” with local residents. Over the past three years, forest defenders have suffered numerous arrests and other forms of harassment by local police, as well as physical attacks carried out by “anonymous” hired thugs, including neo-Nazis. These actions by the Khimki administration and its partners are explained by the significant commercial interest they have in seeing that the highway construction project is completed. The planned highway would be the first such toll road in Russia, connecting the country’s two largest cities, Moscow and Petersburg. Along with the highway itself, the project includes plans for the construction of service and maintenance infrastructure, hotels, and residential buildings. The project thus promises enormous profits if realized, and that is why its backers are so keen to ignore both the law and the value of individual human lives. The lives and freedom of two forest defenders and antifascists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, are today threatened. They were arrested and falsely charged in revenge for a spontaneous demonstration that took place outside the Khimki town hall on July 28, 2010. Practically speaking, Alexei and Maxim have been taken hostage. At the same time, the Russian police and other law enforcement agencies have unleashed an unprecedented campaign of persecution directed against all antifascists. In violation of all legal norms, these activists have been forcibly detained and taken in for questioning by police, who have used physical and other methods of coercion to obtain the testimony they want to hear. The police have also conducted illegal searches of antifascists’ apartments. Under such circumstances there can be no doubt that the Khimki administration and the police intend to take new hostages who will join Gaskarov and Solopov behind bars.
The entire story of the Moscow-Petersburg toll road project has been punctuated by threats and dozens of physical attacks against activists, by the arsons of their homes and cars. Mikhail Beketov, editor of a Khimki opposition newspaper, was severely beaten and left for dead. He miraculously survived but he is now confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. The editor of another local newspaper, Anatoly Yurov, has been beaten three times, suffering various injuries, including a brain concussion. The last time he was attacked, he suffered nine knife wounds. Newspaper layout editor Sergei Protazanov was cruelly beaten by persons unknown and died from his injuries the following day. After receiving numerous threats, local civil rights activist Albert Pchelintsev was kidnapped; his kidnappers shot him in the mouth with a pneumatic pistol and threw him out on the street. Albert survived this attacked, but his vocal chords were severely damaged. Pensioner and forest defender Alexander Parfyonov was attacked outside his home; his assailants wounded his arm. Two attempts have been made on the life of activist Vitaly Kapyttsev: an unknown assailant attempted to stab him to death outside Kapyttsev’s home at night, and later a bomb was thrown through his window. Activist Yevgenia Chirikova has been a constant target of crude harassment on the part of the police and attacks by unknown assailants: a person unknown tried to run her over with a car, and her husband has been physically attacked. There has been no official reaction to most of these attacks and in many cases the police have not even opened investigations. Local journalists and activists know of many other instances in which the Khimki administration has broken the law, as well as of its connections with the criminal world and neo-Nazis.
When developers began destroying the Khimki Forest in July 2010, environmentalists, antifascists, and political activists joined local residents in defending it. Although they did not have an official permit to clear-cut the forest, the loggers were guarded by regular police, private security guards, and neo-Nazis. On several occasions, groups of “persons unknown” wearing shirts and other clothing with neo-Nazi logos attacked forest defenders while police stood by. After these incidents, OMON riot police arrested the activists, not the hired thugs. The logging of the forest continued despite numerous petitions, pickets, and demonstrations. That is why antifascists and anarchists carried out a spontaneous demonstration in late June outside the Khimki town hall. During the demonstration, a few windows were broken, and demonstrators spray-painted the slogan “Save the Russian forest!” in two places on the wall. This action was widely reported and discussed in the press. None of the demonstrators was arrested during or immediately after the action in Khimki. But the following day two well-known social activists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, spokesmen for the antifascist movement, were detained by police. Their arrests involved numerous violations of procedure and law: their arrest protocols were drawn up to report that they had been arrested “at the scene of the crime” and absurd “eyewitness” testimony was fabricated against them. Since then, the police have been forcing activists detained for questioning to testify against Gaskarov and Solopov. In the meantime, in the face of growing protests against the destruction of the Khimki Forest, the Russian authorities have conceded that the planned route for the toll highway needs to be reviewed. And yet Gaskarov and Solopov remain hostages of the highway, of the Khimki administration and police officials. They remain in prison as the police and prosecutors fabricate a case against them. If they are brought to trial and convicted as charged, they could face up to seven years in prison.
The safety and liberty of members of the antifascist movement are threatened. They very much need your solidarity. In late September, the Khimki court will again decide whether to keep Alexei and Maxim in prison or release them. We ask you to participate in our campaign to force the Russian authorities to release them and end its witch-hunt against forest defenders and antifascists.
On September 17–20, 2010, protest actions will take place outside of official Russian establishments all over the world. Rallies and other expressions of solidarity will also take place, as well as a media blitz to publicize the situation. September 20 is the proposed day for sending protest faxes to the Khimki court, the Khimki administration, and the Moscow Region prosecutor’s office. You can find details on planned actions, fax numbers, and other updated information on our web site: http://khimkibattle.org/.
Chtodelat News has already reported on the recent attacks on Russia social and labor activists. The most serious of these assaults was made on Mikhail Beketov, the editor-in-chief of KhimkinskayaPravda. Beketov has bravely campaigned to save the Khimki Forest from destruction, and has exposed the corruption of the local administration. Now he lies in a coma at Moscow’s Sklifosovsky Institute, badly beaten, one leg amputated, on the verge of death.
Below, we present a translation of a recent article on the Beketov case from the independent liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Elena Kostyuchenko’s investigative report is not, however, run-of-the-mill journalism. Whether she intended it or not, her essay hearkens to the great nineteenth-century tradition of engaged writing represented by Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Vladimir Korolenko. “The Truth in Khimki” is not so much a reporting of facts as it is a portrait in miniature of a society in deep, continuing crisis and riven by violent, often lethal contradictions. Police who are less interested in solving crimes than in squelching “the opposition.” A population that (sometimes) knows the truth but, with few exceptions, is too frightened to speak out or act on what it knows. State officials who can’t be bothered to answer the charges made against the state and are quick to downplay the significance of the journalists making those charges. (Witness Putin’s public reaction to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya.) Neighbors who are so apathetic that they let a beaten man lie on the cold ground for two days before they call the police. Rightless migrants whose humanity is often more easily manifested than that of the fully endowed “citizens” who surround them. (Witness the Uzbek migrant worker who was the only person to come to the aid of a Tuvan journalist attacked by skinheads in the Petersburg subway, in December of last year.)
On a more pragmatic note, we should call attention to the fact that, at the end of the article, the newspaper’s editors provide information on how to donate money for Beketov’s medical care and donate blood for the transfusions he so badly needs. If you have the means or ability to help Beketov in this way, please do.
Novaya GazetaNovember 20, 2008 Elena KostyuchenkoThe Truth in Khimki
The police are afraid to investigate the attempted murder of journalist Mikhail Beketov
As this issue of the paper goes to press, Mikhail Beketov, the editor-in-chief of Khimkinskaya Pravda [The Khimki Truth], is alive. For the past four days, he has been the most serious case in the intensive care ward at the Sklifosovsky Institute. He has suffered a deep skull fracture as well as multiple fractures all over his body. His right leg has been amputated, and doctors are getting ready to amputate his crushed and frostbitten fingers. He is in a coma. His relatives say that Mikhail hears their voices. He tries to open his eyes; he shakes his head, straining to say something. The doctors advise his relatives not to get their hopes up—just muscle contractions, they say. The doctors have no idea why he is still alive.