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.
Here is Yaroslav Nikitenko in a video appeal (in English), taped in May of this year in the Khimki Forest:
August 26th, 2010, is a historic date for the grassroots protest movement in Russia.
That is the day, just one year ago, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev halted construction of the Moscow to St. Petersburg highway because it would destroy the Khimki Forest, one of the nation’s few protected old-growth forests.
His action was forced by a massive outcry of thousands of people who said “no” to more environmental degradation and “no” to the corruption, intimidation, violence and arrests.
Back, then a year ago, the Khimki Forest defenders were credited with sparking one of Russia’s “broadest protest movements in years” and the fact that the President listened was very important. Medvedev even admitted that the selected route through Khimki happened because of corruption — where officials got to profit from the selling of valuable undeveloped forest land.
A lot has changed in the last year.
Medvedev had promised public and expert hearings on the project. Instead, without public input, he has allowed construction to begin again. Trees are being cut, and protesters in the forest are confronting bulldozers every week.
The shameful company benefiting from this corruption is Vinci, the transnational company based in France that is leading the concession to build the highway.
This company has pressured the Russian government to begin construction quickly, which has led to more violence in the forest. Vinci is complicit in human rights abuses with its involvement in this project and investigations reveal its offshore tax havens, which is why 25,000 people have signed another protest petition against Vinci and international demonstrations have been made.
Please join us in solidarity as we work to halt construction again and save this forest. Sign the petition, and email us at email@example.com if you can hold a solidarity protest on August 26th, 2011.
July 28 marked a year to the day since the famous demonstration in Khimki during which 300-400 young anarchists and antifascists from Moscow and the Moscow Region marched from the train station to the Khimki town hall (to the applause of local residents), where they set off smoke grenades, pelted the building with stones, and spray-painted several slogans on its walls.
It was a protest not only against the blatant clear-cutting of the free Khimki Forest to make way for a Moscow-Petersburg paid highway of dubious worth, but also against the methods the woodcutters employed to shield their actions from public protest. Environmentalists who tried to get in the way of the construction equipment were dispersed not only by police but also by masked soccer hooligans. When their masks slipped off, the protesters recognized several of them as ultra-rightists.
The demonstration was spontaneous: it was held instead of a concert by two Moscow hardcore groups. During the demonstration, Pyotr Silayev, the singer for one of these groups, Proverochnaya Lineika, encouraged the demonstrators with chants shouted into a megaphone. The megaphone is one of Silyaev’s traditional “musical instruments”; you can find old videos on the Web where it is clear that he is shouting his fight songs into a megaphone: “It’s time to take the consequences for your culture! It’s time to take the consequences!”
Another of the “defendants,” Muscovite Denis Solopov, an antifascist activist, artist (the first exhibitions of his paintings took place recently in Kyiv and Moscow), and a jeweler by training, was held in Lukyanovsky Prison, Kyiv’s notorious pre-trial detention facility, from March 2 to July 13 of this year. During this time he managed to catch pneumonia and spent Victory Day, May 9, in solitary confinement. Denis was meanly arrested outside the offices of the Kyiv Migration Service, which had rejected his asylum request. The fact that at the time he had already been recognized as UN mandate refugee and that this status had been confirmed by the Kyiv office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, did not stop the Ukrainian jailers: they had in hand a request to extradite Denis to the Russian Federation. However, all the protests actions organized by comrades in Kyiv, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and other cities were not in vain: on July 28, 2011, Denis Solopov left Ukraine and went further into exile, traveling to a third country [the Netherlands] which had agreed to admit him as a political refugee.
Two more participants in the Khimki demonstration heard the Khimki city court’s verdict in late June. Alexei Gaskarov, a correspondent for the web site www.ikd.ru (the Institute for Collective Action has specialized in coverage and analysis of social protests in Russia for nearly seven years, and Alexei has worked for them most of that time), was acquitted, while Maxim Solopov, a student at the Russian State University for the Humanities, was given a two years of probation. It was a surprising decision, considering that one and the same witnesses gave contradictory testimony against both of them, and that the defense had challenged claims that these witnesses had actually been in Khimki during the demonstration.
This largely “vegetarian” sentence was preceded by the stint Alexei and Maxim spent in the Mozhaisk Pre-Trial Detention Facility during the first phase of the preliminary investigation (from late July to mid-October 2010), as well as a vigorous public campaign for their release. Thus, during the first international action days on their behalf (September 17-20, 2010), thirty-six protest actions were held in thirty-two cities in twelve countries in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as in North America. Protests also took place in Russia, Siberia, and Ukraine, of course. The Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages managed in a short time to mobilize not only people in Moscow, Petersburg, and Kyiv in support of the young Russian activists, but also people in Krakow, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, London, and Berlin. In Athens and New York, protests for the release of Alexei and Maxim took place on two occasions in late September.
Political refugees from Moscow who (unlike Denis Solopov and Pyotr Silayev) have not made official asylum requests, continue to take the consequences for the Khimki demonstration, as well as for their protest culture, including the stones, smoke grenades, and spray-paint cans. They have dispersed to various cities and countries. They have not seen friends and relatives for a year now, and they are still afraid to return home. They were forced to flee Moscow a campaign of mass intimidation unprecedented in recent Russian history. The campaign has focused on the youth subculture scene to which many of them belonged – the antifascist punk/hardcore community. Arrests, searches, interrogations, and beatings took place throughout most of August 2010 not only in Moscow and the Moscow Region, but also in other regional capitals, including Nizhny Novgorod and Kostroma. In Zhukovsky, a town in the Moscow Region, seventy people were arrested before a concert, while in Kostroma more than 260 people were arrested in similar circumstances. The police officers who interrogated antifascist Alexander Pakhotin promised to cut off his ear, and it took him several weeks to recover from the beating he suffered at their hands. But they haven’t left him alone even now, a year later. In early July of this year he suddenly got a phone call inviting him to report to Petrovka, 38 [Moscow police HQ], for an informal discussion. Alexander reasonably replied to the caller that he preferred to talk with police investigators only after receiving an official summons. For Moscow police investigators, however, an official summons is, apparently, something incredibly difficult. It’s probably easier for them to hunt down and beat up obstinate witnesses – which is exactly what happened to Alexander Pakhotin.
Further evidence of the secret police’s abiding interest in the people who took part in last year’s Khimki demonstration is the canard that circulated in the Russian media in late June: Pyotr Silayev had allegedly been arrested in Brussels by Interpol at the request of Russian law enforcement authorities. Antifascists quickly refuted this lie: at the time, Pyotr was fishing, and he was not in Brussels. Apparently, the authorities were trying their best to patch up their reputation after losing the casing against Gaskarov and Solopov in the Khimki court.
And all this time the saga of the Khimki Forest per se has continued. There was last year’s big demonstration on Pushkin Square [in Moscow] with headliners music critic Artemy Troitsky, rock musician Yuri Shevchuk, and Maria Lyubicheva, lead singer for the popular group Barto. Then was there the temporary halt to the logging of the forest. This was followed by a vicious musical parody of the activists by a musician [Sergei Shnurov] who had been previously seemed like a member of the “alternative scene,” but now turned out to be singing almost with the voice of the Ministry of Truth. There was wintertime tree-hugging and springtime subbotniks. And finally, there was Russian president’s meeting with public figures and his announcement that the highway would go through the forest after all. Subsequently, we’ve witnessed the Anti-Seliger forum, to which two of every species of oppositional beast came (where were all of them during the constant demos and clashes in Khimki?), and their using the misfortune of the Khimkians to grandstand in the run-up to the 2011-2012 election season. Finally, there is the tent camp set up by the Rainbow Keepers and other eco-anarchists, which opened on July 27, 2011, the eve of the first anniversary of the famous demonstration.
What has this past year shown us? That in our country, any project, even one that is obviously directed against society, will be forced through all the same if big money and the authorities back it. That there is still no control over criminalized local authorities: not only have none of the officials mixed up in dubious affairs been put on trial, but none have even been fired. That the power of social solidarity still counts for something: if it cannot stop harmful projects, it can at least defend activists who have fallen captive to the penal system and get people out of jail. That radical political action (of which last year’s demonstration was an instance) is quite effective at drawing attention to acute problems, but that it must be effectively deployed and backed up with infrastructure, however informal; otherwise, the emotional, political, and physical toll on the movement will be too high and may jeopardize its very existence. This, perhaps, is the most important lesson for the social movement, but it bears repeating. As you know, in our country, even if you have brains and talent, it takes a huge effort to roast your enemy over the fire. For if you relax for just a second, lo and behold, he’s already roasting you over the fire. But there is hope, and the future still hasn’t been written.
In the early hours of May 14, around 3 a.m., one of the members of the environmentalist camp [in the Khimki Forest], Yuri Petin, was subjected to a vicious attack. Around three in the morning, Yuri was near the grocery store on Vashutino Highway (in the Khimki municipal district), trying to hitch a ride in order to go home. Right at this moment a black Hyundai sedan (whose license number was either х531см or х513см) pulled up. Four men got out of the car and rushed towards Yuri, crying, “Now we’ve got you!” They began to beat Yuri. They threw the activist to the ground and ordered him not to look at them, threatening him with bodily harm.
A man wearing a uniform from the private security firm Vityaz approached the assailants, who began to give him orders in a commanding tone. “I got the impression that they were coordinating the actions of the security guard. Concretely, they told the security guard the following: ‘Tell the police that he [Petin] was tossing firecrackers in the Khimki Forest.’ Then the police drove up. The policemen began chatting with the men who had been beating me and security firm employees. I was then taken to police precinct No. 2, at Kudryatsev Street, 4, in the town of Khimki,” Yuri recounts.
[Petin] was delivered to the police station at 5:30 a.m. and taken to the on-duty interrogating officer. The officer refused to let Yuri file assault charges and began accusing him of setting off firecrackers in the forest. The officer then took a statement from Yuri and questioned the security guards. Police attempted to photograph Yuri and take his fingerprints, threatening to send him to a pre-trial detention facility, but he refused to let them do this. Yuri was held in the police station until 12:00 p.m. At noon, Yuri was sent home, accompanied by police officers, to retrieve his [internal] passport, and at 1:00 p.m. he returned to the police precinct. There Yuri was turned over to a second interrogating officer, who drew up an arrest protocol alleging that Yuri had violated fire safety rules. The officer told Yuri that the protocol would be sent to the fire inspectorate. The accused activist was not given a copy of the protocol. “The interrogating officer told me that he could do with me anything he wanted, that if he wanted he could plant narcotics or a weapon on me and send me to prison,” explains Yuri.
The victim has petitioned the prosecutor’s office, demanding the arrest of the people who attacked him. He has also demanded that the prosecutor take measures against the assailants and Khimki police officers, who violated the law on the police and refused to file assault charges, as well as against the private security guards who gave false testimony to police officers.
Yesterday (May 15), a dozen or so activists from the Russian Socialist Movement, Left Front, and the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA) carried out what is fondly known in Russia as an “unsanctioned” march to protest the new round of illegal felling in the Khimki Forest. Five activists were almost immediately arrested by police, and four of the arrestees were later charged with “disobeying the police” and released with a summons to appear later in court. IKD has the details (in Russian).
How to help the Khimki Forest defenders, who are risking life and limb in the forest
The situation in Khimki Forest near Moscow is very serious. Several times during the last month activists have succeeded in stopping illegal preparatory works for a motorway being carried out at the site, but at the price of repeatedly being beaten and arrested. Every day, activists get beaten up and injured. This morning, Yevgenia Chirikova suffered a leg injury which doesn’t allow her to move for the next 2 days.
Despite all these attacks, the camp in Khimki Forest is still continuing.
Please help and protest:
Ask the Russian government or the Russian embassy in your country to stop immediately this shameful involvement in illegal forest destruction and covering up of criminals! Attacks against activists must be stopped and investigated.
Ask the involved French international construction company Vinci to stop being involved into the Moscow-St.Petersburg road construction project which is clearly associated with violation of civil and human rights, corruption, arbitrary and unlawfulness.
Russia’s Khimki Forest is not the peaceful place it used to be, back when it was a 200-year-old oak forest known for its ecological importance to the Moscow region.
Today, it is filled with the roar of bulldozers, and the screams of activists at night. For the last week, the Khimki Forest defenders, many of whom I have been corresponding with for 2 months, have been taking turns camping out to defend the forest from illegal cutting. Each night, they put their lives at risk and every day they have experienced escalating violence, including violent attacks by private security forces and unknown thugs. There have been injuries too—broken noses, head traumas—but it is not for naught. They have been somewhat successful in stopping the logging, at least temporarily. But that can change day by day.
It is a disturbing scene, as you can tell from news articles describing the violence published this week in outlets including AFP, Radio Free Europe, and The Moscow Times. I also encourage you to read Yaroslav Nikitenko’s account of just one night in the forest, published on the Save Khimki Forest blog. The dramatic account begins:
“Dear all, as I suspected, many bad events happened. When it got dark, they turned on the harvester. They moved fast into the dip of the clearing. We ran after them from the camp. The securities did not let us go, they caught us by clothes and pushed us. But we went further and further, though slower. Then the harvester started to fell down the trees. We rushed through the guards to it. On a narrow place the guards stopped us again. We called Russian media, the members of the President Council, the deputies, and of course the police….”
More than 20,000 people have signed the Save Khimki Movement’s petition in solidarity with these brave activists. If you have not heard about it already, you can read more about their background, their recent progress here, and then sign their petition.
They are targeting Vinci, the translational corporation that heads the construction concession that is working to destroy this forest to build a toll highway. Currently, in its demand for 100,000 Euros as a fee for construction delays, the company is directly contributing to the violence and attacks happening this week. As Mikhail Matveev, one of the movement’s leaders says, “Thus, Vinci directly motivates perpetrators of the project to use all measure of pressing activists.”
The battle over the Khimki highway took a new turn this week as environmental activists petitioned French company Vinci’s Paris headquarters and demanded that the FSB investigate who really owns the Russian contractor tearing down the forest.
Meanwhile, in Khimki Forest, a new summer protest season is now underway, as campaigners were attacked by private security guards, and one Greenpeace activist was beaten up. The demand for an investigation into possible corruption came as the Defend Khimki Forest campaign and international NGO Bankwatch published a report questioning who will profit from the $8 billion Moscow-St. Petersburg highway, which is one of Russia’s first public-private partnerships in infrastructure.
The leader of the environmental campaigners, Yevgenia Chirikova, took a petition to the Paris headquarters of Vinci, the French company overseeing construction, and passed on the Bankwatch report to the Federal Security Service with a request that it investigate the web of offshore companies that stand behind the main Russian contractor, North West Concession Company.
The FSB’s press service said it had “no such information” about a request from environmental activists. Vinci’s Paris press office did not answer e-mailed questions by press time.
French-Russian joint venture
The complex structures surrounding Vinci’s joint venture with Russian contractors are aimed at hiding the true beneficiaries of North-West Concession Company’s lucrative contract, Pippa Gallop, a researcher from Bankwatch, told The Moscow News.
According to the report, North West Concession Company is 100-per cent owned by Vinci Concessions Russie SA Rueil Malmaison.
Vinci Concessions Russie SA Rueil Malmaison, together with Russian company N-Trans, established NWCC after the road was commissioned by the Russian government in 2008.
NWCC has recently reshuffled its top managers, with previous CEO Viktor Saveliev making way for Frenchman Pierre-Yves Estrade.
“We are in the transition period now and we are changing our CEO,” NWCC spokesman Sergei Ilinsky told The Moscow News on Thursday.
Opaque ownership structure
According to Gallop, NWCC is linked to a series of opaque privately-held companies, several of which are registered in tax havens such as the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands and Cyprus.
Activists claim that this means large sums of Russian taxpayers’ money, funnelled into the public-private partnership, are ending up in offshore accounts – with no reliable way of knowing who the ultimate beneficiaries are.
Environmentalists have been fighting against the project to build a highway through Khimki Forest since 2004, and see Bankwatch’s report as more ammunition in their ongoing struggle.
But the Russian government insists that the highway is desperately needed to improve road infrastructure between the country’s two biggest cities – and says the road should go ahead, regardless of whether it is destroying environmentally sensitive forests.
Chirikova flew to Paris on May 2 to deliver Bankwatch’s report and a petition of 20,000 signatures against the road’s construction to a meeting of Vinci’s shareholders.
She told The Moscow News that Russian eco-activists were now spreading their campaign internationally with the help of their European counterparts.
“The French are using our country to get even richer – it’s clear that the law doesn’t work here, therefore Vinci has all the means to receive even more money from this project,” she said.
New protest camp
Chirikova said that, after half a year of trying to persuade authorities to change the route of the highway, she and other campaigners were now determined to fight on through a new protest camp at the construction site.
The camp was joined by local residents, representatives of Greenpeace, activists from the Left Front and Just Russia State Duma Deputy Gennady Gudkov.
Activists managed to stop further works at the site with the help of Gudkov, who joined the campaigners and asked contractors for their permit papers, RIA Novosti reported.
Since the camp was set up this week, two activists were beaten up, with one having his nose broken, Chirikova told The Moscow News.
State highway company Avtodor had a complaint about the activists, however, alleging that “some of the activists set expensive tree-harvesting equipment on fire, which damaged it greatly,” RIA Novosti reported.
“Ultimate Fighting in Khimki Forest,” 19 April 2011, Khimki Forest, Moscow Region. Video by Oleg Kozyrev, special for Echo of Moscow Radio
Russian Anti-Corruption Movement, Backed By 20,000 Worldwide, Demands Major EU Corporation Pull Out of Illegal Forest Clearing
Before its annual shareholders meeting, individuals in 161 countries call on Vinci, one of the EU’s largest corporations, to end its involvement in Moscow-St. Petersburg Highway project until human rights abuses and environmental destruction are addressed.
27 April 2011 — Russian activists leading one of their country’s biggest protest movements in years are accusing Vinci, a Paris-based global construction firm, of complicity with human rights abuses and corruption perpetuated by government officials.
More than 20,000 people from 161 countries have signed their petition, started on the online social action platform Change.org, to denounce Vinci’s involvement in the toll highway project through Khimki Forest. Supporters plan to present the petition at Vinci’s annual shareholders meeting in Paris on May 2. They are asking Vinci to end its involvement in the project, unless Russian officials will reconsider several available alternative routes that go through industrial areas and would spare the legally protected forest land.
Police arrested and temporarily imprisoned 11 members of the Save Khimki Forest Movement last week as they peacefully protested ongoing illegal clearing in Khimki. Four days later security officers beat and robbed a local journalist on the scene. The ancient forest in the outskirts of Moscow is the site of an unlikely four-year battle to stop construction of a €1 billion toll highway through this forest.
Vinci, the only foreign firm involved in the concession deal to build the highway, is party to a new agreement that could allow construction of the controversial Khimki segment to proceed within weeks or even days.
The Save Khimki Forest Movement’s campaign has, in just one month, become one of the most popular global petitions on Change.org and has garnered additional support from Avaaz, the largest activism community in the world, as well a number of civil society organizations throughout Europe. This week, protest actions are being held by supporters around the world, including in Moscow, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Bremen, Prague, Mexico City, Klin, and Khimki, before Vinci’s shareholders meeting.
So far, Vinci has washed its hands of responsibility for the litany of documented abuses surrounding the project. In just one example, two journalists who exposed the corrupt officials involved were beaten badly in 2008 and 2010; one, Mikhail Beketov, is today in a wheelchair and unable to speak.
“We are asking Vinci to demand President Medvedev spare the forest and seriously address the abuses that have occurred. There are many alternative routes available. By doing nothing, Vinci will destroy a more than 200-year-old forest against the will of the Russian people,”said Khimki resident Yevgenia Chirikova, the leading figure of the movement. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden personally awarded her a “Woman of Courage” award in his visit to Russia this year.
“Sixty six percent of Russian citizens are against the project. But no one hears them. Vinci is also supporting outrageous corruption among our government officials that led to this selected route,” said Yaroslav Nikitenko, one of the leading activists.
Their work to save Khimki Forest gained national momentum as it became symbolic of larger issues of corruption, human rights abuses and environmental degradation in Russia. Last summer, about 5,000 protesters demonstrated in Moscow, spurring President Medvedev to halt the project until he approved it again in December.
French MEP Michèle Rivasi, a member of Green-EFA Group, also called on Vinci to take action this week. “The battle for Khimki forest in Russia is a symbol for the green movement. Russian activists are not only fighting to protect their forest and their environment, they are also fighting against corruption, censorship, violation of laws and human rights, oppression against civil society… Since the beginning, this project has been done without any real public participation, what is going against essential and basic rules of democracy. The Green-EFA group in the European Parliament has supported them since the beginning, and it’s particularly shocking to see a French company – Vinci – participating to this harmful project. I ask Russian authorities to stop violence against activists and Vinci to withdraw from this project,” she said.
Vinci is holding its annual shareholders meeting in Paris on May 2, and this effort is timed as a last-ditch appeal to the corporation to take a stand before the old-growth Khimki Forest—an area ecologists say is crucial to the environmental health of Moscow—is lost forever.
Save Khimki Forest Movement (MOSCOW): Yaroslav Nikitenko
+7-916-743-3759, firstname.lastname@example.org, (Russian, English)
Save Khimki Forest Movement (MOSCOW): Yevgenia Chirikova
+7-925-500-8236, email@example.com, (Russian, English)
Russian activists and journalists have survived beatings, arrests and intimidation during our campaign to save one of Moscow’s last old-growth forests from destruction. Our movement to reroute the toll highway that would cut through Khimki Forest has become Russia’s most inspiring and largest activist movements in a long time.
It is about more than just a forest.
We are fighting a legacy of corruption and bribery among government officials, law enforcement and industry that has allowed this project to move forward. Last year, after thousands of citizens protested in Moscow’s center, we won a huge victory when President Dmitry Medvedev temporarily halted construction. One of our lead organizers, Yevgenia Chirikova, is a mother of two who lives in Khimki and who has bravely spearheaded this campaign since 2007 at direct risk to her family’s safety.
Now construction is set to begin again.
As soon as this month, the French multinational construction company Vinci is authorized to begin the first phase of the highway.
This is the best chance for us to stop the project before construction crews arrive. We are turning to you to increase our international support.
Since the Russian government has failed us, we are targeting Vinci, which could make a huge profit from this project. It is the only Western company involved in the construction.
We are asking Vinci to end its involvement in the Moscow to St. Petersburg highway until an alternative route can be found that spares Khimki Forest.
We are also organizing an international week of action from April 24th to April 30th. We hope cities around the world will participate in demonstrations in solidarity. One action you can take to stand up for the environment and human rights in Russia is to support this petition.
Please sign now. You may also leave a personal message when you sign. And for more information on how to get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow this Facebook page. Please tell us if you represent an environment or human rights group and want to sign a coalition letter of support.
I am writing to express my extreme disappointment with Vinci for its involvement in destroying Russia’s Khimki Forest.
We are asking Vinci to live up to its UN Global Compact commitments. By joining the Compact, Vinci has committed to “support and respect internationally proclaimed human rights” and to make sure it is not “complicit in human rights abuses.” One glance at the list of human rights abuses against Khimki Forest activists, and it is clear that Vinci is violating its compact with its involvement in the project.
Ecological nihilism and human rights abuses, including beatings, attacks on the forest defenders by people wearing Nazi symbolics, who were officially hired by the construction company, and unlawful arrests and intimidation, have occurred against activists who are protesting the plans.
As the only Western company involved in the highway building, I ask that you pull out of the project or refuse to begin construction until the Russian government chooses an alternative route and addresses the human rights abuses that have occurred.
Last summer I wrote an op-ed describing the unlikely battle between Yevgenia Chirikova and the Kremlin. Yevgenia is a young mother of two with no background in political activism, but over the past three years she has become one of Russia’s most outspoken — and effective — environmental activists. This morning I received an e-mail from a member of her team telling me that Yevgenia’s fight is now taking another nasty turn.
The fight is over the future of Khimki Forest, a dense oak forest that is supposed to be an environmentally protected green space under Russian federal law. Nearly 10 years ago, Yevgenia and her husband moved to Khimki — a small suburban community outside of Moscow — to raise a family. While on maternity leave with her second daughter, Yevgenia unexpectedly found signs posted in the forest indicating that the oaks were to be clear cut. She later learned that the minister of transportation, Igor Levitin, along with local officials, intended to bulldoze the forest — in contravention of Russian law — in order to build a motorway that would connect Moscow and St. Petersburg, with a loop to Sheremetyevo Airport. These officials stand to benefit handsomely from the road’s construction. (According to a Russian anti-corruption group, new roads in Russia cost roughly $237 million a kilometer; in the United States, it is about $6 million for the same distance.) When Yevgenia raised objections to the project, Russian officials told her to mind her own business.
She didn’t. Instead, she began to talk to people in her community, organize rallies and stage protests. The authorities did not welcome her involvement. Members of her group, In Defense of Khimki, were threatened, harassed and intimidated. Mikhail Beketov, a local journalist and member of the movement, was brutally attacked outside his home. Left for dead, Beketov suffered permanent brain damage and is now confined to a wheelchair. But, at this moment, because of Yevgenia’s efforts and those who have joined the fight, Khimki Forest remains.
But the regime is now employing new tactics. If it can’t scare Yevgenia into submission, then it will put pressure on the people she loves. This morning I received e-mails from Yaroslav Nikitenko and Ivan Smirnov, members of In Defense of Khimki. They described how the new pressure point for the regime has become Yevgenia’s family — specifically her husband and two daughters.
Recently, representatives of the municipal department of guardianship “dropped by” to check on Yevgenia’s apartment. The officials alleged that they had received a letter from one of her neighbors claiming that she “beats” and “starves” her daughters, Liza and Sasha. The charges are absurd. Afraid that they would attempt to take her children from her, Yevgenia refused to open her door. Later, the department admitted that none of her neighbors had written such a letter, brushing off the whole encounter as simply their “duty” to check on the children.
On March 16, one day after Yevgenia led a protest calling for the minister of transportation’s removal, officials paid a visit to her husband’s company, en electrical engineering firm called EZOP. Her husband, Mikhail Matveev, founded the company years ago. Even though the police brought no charges with them, they raided his office, interrogated him and several of his employees, and seized company documents and paperwork. Mikhail had already learned that the authorities were calling his clients, alleging that there was a criminal case against him (when there is in fact none). Nor was the raid a complete surprise. A few days earlier, someone had left a comment on the In Defense of Khimki Web site, writing, “We’ll raid your company EZOP in the nearest future, prepare your papers!” It is clear to Yevgenia and her husband that this harassment is payback for her unwillingness to stop fighting.
The battle to save Khimki Forest may be about to enter another chapter. The government and business interests behind the construction project claim that they will begin cutting down the oaks in late April. In the meantime, Yevgenia and her supporters intend to hold protests and rallies to raise awareness that the construction crews are coming. They also intend to put public pressure on the French construction company Vinci, the only Western business group that supports this highway project.
Last April, when I first met Yevgenia, she took me on a walk in these woods that she is fighting to protect. It was clear to me that she now sees her activism as something much bigger than simply defending Khimki Forest; she sees it as a struggle against an authoritarian system that runs roughshod over its citizens. While we were walking through the forest, I asked if she was ever afraid that the authorities would try to harm her. After what had happened to Mikhail Beketov, it was an obvious question. She told me that if she thought about it too much she would go crazy. “My tactic is complete openness,” she told me. “Whatever I undertake, I try to somehow to reflect it or publish it in all kinds of media.” Yevgenia believes that the more people know about her and her fight, the harder it will be for the authorities to strike out in violence. It isn’t a guarantee, but she knows that it is easier for the regime to harm those who remain in the shadows.
If you are curious to know more about In Defense of Khimki Forest, you can find them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/khimki.forest). Also, look for the petition they plan to issue on Change.org next week.
Near the end of our walk, she said, “If something bad happens to me, then my activity was not useless. Other people will continue, and it will be impossible to make people shut up.” Hopefully, people will raise their voices sooner, not later.
November 12–15, 2010: New International Days of Action
We Demand that the Russian Authorities Close the Khimki Case and Drop All Charges against Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov
In late October 2010, Russian social activists Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov were released from police custody on their own recognizance by the Khimki Municipal Court. They had been arrested a day after a protest in defense of the Khimki Forest on July 28, 2010. Now they are free pending trial, but the criminal case against them has not been closed. They have been formally charged with disorderly conduct, and if convicted, they could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. The dates of their trials have not been set, but meanwhile prosecutors are demanding that Alexei and Maxim be returned to police custody. Aside from Alexei and Maxim, there are two other people who have been charged in the case, and prosecutors might bring charges against even more people in the very new future. Since Alexei and Maxim were arrested in late July, police investigators have been stubbornly fabricating arrest protocols, evidence, and eyewitness testimony and using force to extract statements from the hundreds of people they have hunted down and detained. What will happen to all these thick case files filled with fabrications? They will form the basis of the prosecution’s case in court. And so the fact that Alexei and Maxim have now been released from jail is not the end of the battle but a signal that we must continue to act decisively on their behalf. We will not allow the authorities to cover up the illegal destruction of the forest and the persecution of its defenders with the soiled robes of counterfeit justice. We will force the authorities to close the Khimki Case and drop charges against all activists!
Why do the Russian authorities insist on turning activists into criminals and demanding prison sentences for them? For the same reason that they have either not launched or halted investigations into the near-fatal beating of journalist Mikhail Beketov, the murder of newspaper worker Sergei Protazanov, and the numerous attacks on Khimki residents. The policemen who beat up environmentalists defending the forest and arrested people participating in legal pickets have not been punished. The police investigators who tortured witnesses in the Khimki Case have not been punished. Can we expect fair trials for Alexei and Maxim when we have witnessed lawlessness and injustice so many times? Khimki judges have on numerous occasions shown all of us that we cannot count on their respect for the law and common sense. We demand that the case be closed!
The protest action that took place in Khimki on July 28, 2010, was a response to the lawlessness and violence perpetrated against local residents, journalists, and activists. It was a highly emotional response to the fact that all previous protests had not just been ignored by the authorities but had been cruelly suppressed. As a result of this protest, the Russian authorities began heeding the voice of the forest’s defenders. The campaign to defend the forest caught this gust of hot July wind and continued to act using other means. The authorities must end their persecution of the people who took part in this protest and the forest defenders. All charges against Alexei Gaskarov, Maxim Solopov, and other activists must be dropped.
What You Can Do
1. During the international days of action on November 12–15, 2010, hold eye-catching protest actions in your cities at official political and cultural events organized by the Russian authorities as well as outside Russian Federation embassies and consulates. Demand to meet with official Russian representatives and give them your petitions. Any Russian company, product or event can be a successful occasion for your protests.
2. Send faxes to the Khimki Municipal Court (+7-495-572-8314), the Moscow Region Prosecutor’s Office (+7-495-621-5006) and the President of the Russian Federation (+7-495-606-2464), demanding that the case be closed and all charges against Alexei Gaskarov, Maxim Solopov, and other activists dropped.
3. Continue to send letters to such international organizations as the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the UN, asking them to investigate the abuses by Russian authorities and intervene in the case. You can find contact information for these organizations here: http://khimkibattle.org/?p=650.
4. Work to get articles published in your local and national media that will inform the broader public about the case of the Khimki hostages and the new threats to civil liberties and the rule of law in Russia. Invite neighbors, friends, and colleagues to your solidarity actions in support of Alexei and Maxim, and ask them to join you in demanding that this fabricated criminal case be closed.
Send information about your solidarity actions as well as copies of letters, faxes, and media publications to our e-mail address:email@example.com
We were about to publish a summary of the recent international days of action in solidarity with Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov issued by the Campaign for the Release of Khimki Hostages, when we received word that this morning the court in Khimki extended the police custody of Alexei Gaskarov for another two months. The web site of the Russian edition of Newsweek has the details (our comments are in square brackets):
A Kommersant correspondent has informed Newsweek that antifascist Alexei Gaskarov’s term in a pretrial detention facility [in Mozhaisk] has been extended by two months. The court hearing was held in open chamber. However, a small room was chosen for the hearing, and therefore only one journalist and Alexei Gaskarov’s mother were admitted inside.
Gaskarov’s lawyer told Judge Svetlana Galanova that his client had only been summoned for questioning on three occasions over the course of his time in police custody. [Gaskarov has been in police custody since July 29.] He also noted that over the past [two] months no investigative actions had been conducted [with his client], although over 100 people have already been questioned. [Our sources in the campaign say that this figure is closer to 200]. There is therefore no need for Gaskarov’s continued confinement.
He also noted that three State Duma deputies and three public figures had vouched for Alexei Gaskarov’s good character — the first time this had happened in his practice as a lawyer.
Gaskarov said that he does not consider himself guilty as charged, and that he was in Khimki during the time of the events as a correspondent for the Institute for Collective Action. He requested that the judge order him released from the pretrial detention facility because of the onset of cold weather.
The prosecution justified its request for Gaskarov’s continued confinement to police custody by arguing that Gaskarov had acted as part of a group of persons whose identities had not been established. He could not be released from the pretrial detention facility because this might impede further investigation of the incident.
The hearing in Maxim Solopov’s case will take place tomorrow.
So our campaign continues. Swedish activist Tord Björk reminds us what it’s all about:
Go to khimkibattle.org for updates on the case and the campaign, and to find out what you can do to help.
International Days of Action in Solidarity with the Khimki Hostages: Results and Lessons
September 17 marked the start of four international days of action in solidarity with Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, which were initiated by the Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages, an independent coalition of antifascist and non-authoritarian leftist activists and groups. The campaign was organized in response to the arrest of two young activists and antifascist spokespeople, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov after a spontaneous act of mass civil disobedience on July 28 in the Moscow suburb of Khimki. Practically speaking, Alexei and Maxim have been taken hostage by the authorities in revenge for this demonstration. Hence the main slogans of the international solidarity were and remain Freedom for Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov! and End the Persecution of Forest Defenders and Antifascists!
The geographic scope of the solidarity actions has been extremely wide. The destruction of the Khimki Forest has become an event in our new, globalized world. The Khimki municipal administration, the French construction company Vinci, its Russian business partners, and Russian federal ministries and agencies have all been seen to be pursuing narrow commercial interests in this case. When the social and environmental rights of local residents are regularly violated in this globalized world, and national law enforcement agencies take revenge for acts of civil disobedience with the implicit consent of international companies, the response is civic action that is no less global in scale. The days of international solidarity in defense of Gaskarov and Solopov were a vivid confirmation of this: from September 17 to September 20, activists and concerned citizens carried out thirty-six solidarity actions in thirty-two cities and twelve countries around the world, including Saloniki (Greece); Berlin, Hamburg, Bochum, and Düsseldorf (Germany); Seattle (USA); Kraków (Poland); Kyiv, Kharkiv, Ternopil, and Zaporozhye (Ukraine); Lucerne (Switzerland); Istanbul (Turkey); London (Great Britain); Stockholm (Sweden); Rome (Italy), and Copenhagen (Denmark). Paris (France), Athens (Greece) and New York (USA) hosted two actions each. In Russia, protests took place in Izhevsk, Irkutsk, Kazan, Saratov, Cheboksary, Moscow, Petrozavodsk, Petersburg, Omsk, Tiumen, and Yaroslavl, and in some of these cities, two protests took place. We also have heard of three other protests – in Mexico City, Budapest, and Ufa (Russia) – but we have not yet received photos or written accounts of them. We should also note that in late August and early September, before the official launch of our campaign, spontaneous actions in support of Gaskarov and Solopov took place in Tel Aviv, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Kyiv, Minsk, Petersburg, and Izhevsk.
How and why we protested. The key feature of these international days of action was the fact that protesters combined two kinds of demands: against environmental destruction and against police repression. The French construction giant Vinci, which is involved in the destruction of the Khimki Forest and the planned construction of a toll highway through it, became the target of a pressure campaign: in Bochum and Düsseldorf, protests took place outside the offices of its subsidiaries and business partners. In other cities, Russian embassies and consulates were picketed. In Athens, several activists from the Greek Social Forum and a Greek MP picketed the Russian embassy. They succeeded in meeting with an embassy official, to whom they explained that “forests have no boundaries,” that their destruction leads to the degradation of the quality of life in cities all over the world, and that the arrest of the two activists is an outrage. In Kyiv, activists performed a political play outside the Russian embassy. In Paris, activists took their protest to a Russian film festival. Around 150 people attended a demonstration in Petersburg, while between 300 and 400 people came to a rally the same day in Moscow. Moscow protesters were addressed by spokespeople for a variety of different social movements and organizations. They also had the chance to sign a petition urging the authorities to build the Moscow-Petersburg toll highway along a different route and to fill out postcards demanding that the Russian authorities release Gaskarov and Solopov. In all the cities where protests took place, environmentalists, public and cultural figures, antifascists, journalists, leftist activists, civil rights activists, and concerned citizens joined together to call for the release of the two young men.
Another important feature of the international days of action was the fact that information about the case was distributed to the public and published in the national media of the countries that took part in the campaign. This can be gauged not only by the thousands of leaflets handed out during protest actions and the banners hung throughout the participating cities, but also by the large number of media publications that appeared during the course of the week. If before this moment, manifestations of solidarity with the Khimki hostages came mainly from other activists, then September 17–20 saw the start of a wave of publicity about the case in the popular press and responses from the general public. The scope of the solidarity campaign and the variety of people involved in it show that the case of the Khimki hostages is regarded throughout the world as matter of international and public concern.
Observers and activists around the world have been particularly outraged by the repressive actions taken by local authorities and Russian law enforcement officers, who have employed physical torture and mental coercion against activists, sent thugs and ultra-nationalists to attack Khimki Forest defenders, and have thus as a whole destroyed the foundations of civil society and the possibility of dialogue between local residents and state officials. In essence, the crude actions of the Khimki municipal administration and Russian law enforcement have once again reinforced the image of Russia as a harshly authoritarian and repressive country, an image that it had managed to overcome with great difficulty only a relatively short time ago. International observers, journalists, activists, and protesters have made it clear that the taking of hostages by the authorities and their repressive style of dealing with activists are a blight on contemporary Russia’s image. But they are also a reason to seek sanctions against both the Russian authorities and the international companies who are participating in this violent game. In their communiqués, the participants in the international solidarity actions emphasized that it is unacceptable for the Russian authorities to respond to civic protests with repressive measures, for local and federal officials to sanction violence against activists.
The worldwide wave of solidarity and media attention will continue to grow until Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov are released and the false charges against them dropped.
Other highlights of the campaign. Dozens of faxed messages were sent to the Khimki municipal court, the Moscow Region prosecutor’s office, and the president of the Russian Federation from cities around the world. Russian state and international organizations received hundreds of emails pointing out the collapse of the rule of law in Khimki and calling on the addressees to stop these repressions and free Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov.
During protest actions in Russia itself, campaigners collected more than 700 postcards addressed to the Russian president: the signatories asked him to release the Khimki hostages. On September 23, campaigners delivered these postcards to the public reception office of the presidential administration in central Moscow.
Open letters. September 7 saw the publication of an open letter of support for the Khimki hostages signed by representatives of fifteen leading environmental and civil rights organizations from a number of countries: Patrick Bond, Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project, Durban, South Africa; Mark Barrett, Climate Justice Action London, UK; Mark Brown, Art Not Oil/Rising Tide, UK; Carmen Buerba de Comite de Defensa Ecologica Michoacana, Mexico; Nicola Bullard, Focus on the Global South, Thailand; Ellie Cijvat, Friends of the Earth Sweden; Joshua Kahn Russell, Ruckus Society, USA; Tom Kucharz, Ecologistas en Acción, Spain; Maduresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements, India; Marea Creciente Mexico; Adriana Matalonga, Miguel Valencia and Mauricio Villegas, Ecomunidades and Klimaforum10, Mexico; Tannie Nyböe, Climate Justice Action, Denmark; Uddhab Pyakurel, South Asian Dialogue on Ecological Democracy, India; Josie Riffaud, Via Campesina, France; Marko Ulvila, Friends of the Earth Finland; Thomas Wallgren, Democracy Forum Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, Finland.
On September 20, more than fifty Russian public figures and human rights activists signed an open letter to the Russian president. Its authors pointed out to the president that “this kind of lawlessness has no place in a democratic state based on the rule of law.” They called on the president to protect “two socially conscious and publicly active young people from reprisal and to stop the terror against journalists and social activists.” The signatories include Ludmila Alexeeva (chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group), Lev Ponomaryov (For Human Rights), Boris Strugatsky (writer), Oleg Orlov (chair, Memorial Human Rights Centre), Yuri Samodurov (curator), and Gleb Yakunin (Public Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience).
What we should not forget. Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov were arrested on July 29, a day after a spontaneous protest involving hundreds of young antifascists took place in the town of Khimki. This was not a pre-announced, pre-planned or “permitted” action, but a demonstration of civil disobedience. No one was arrested during the action itself. Its aftermath has been twofold. On the one hand, the controversy surrounding the destruction of the Khimki Forest received much more attention from society, the media, and high-ranking Russian state officials. As a result of this attention, the Russian president ordered a temporary halt to the project to build a toll highway through the forest. On the other hand, local officials and law enforcement agencies launched a campaign of intimidation against activists the very next day. Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov were summoned by the police for “discussions” and arrested. Police and prosecutors have falsified their arrest protocols and fabricated eyewitness testimony and other evidence in the case. Over the following month and a half, more than 200 young people were detained and interrogated in Moscow and the Moscow Region, as well as in Nizhniy Novgorod, Kostroma, and Samara. These interrogations involved systematic, extremely crude violations of the detainees’ rights on the part of the police and physical violence, although in the majority of cases these violations and acts of violence have not been documented. However, thanks to the courage of three detained activists – Alexander Pakhotin, Emil Baluyev, and Nikita Chernobayev – we have eyewitness accounts of these crimes. After their interrogations, they sought medical attention (to document their injuries) and filed formal complaints against the illegal actions of law enforcement officials.
The disproportionate, violent response of Russian officials to this act of civil disobedience, whose goal was to criticize the Khimki town administration, continues. Over the past three years, Khimki officials have used repressive police methods against activists and residents and given their implicit consent to violent criminal attacks against forest defenders. As our international days of action have shown, the response to the illegal coercion employed by the authorities will be growing international support for Russian activists, the return of Russia’s negative image, and international sanctions against Russian government agencies and organizations.
The article below, which we have translated from the original Russian, explains in great detail how Russian law enforcement officials have been constructing their case against the Khimki hostages, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov. It is our hope that after you read this you’ll be moved to do what you can to help secure their release.
We now know for certain that another pretrial custody hearing in the case has been scheduled for September 27. So it is imperative that you go now to khimkibattle.org and find out what you can do to support them. The faxes and e-letters you send in the next few days will be crucial in deciding whether Alexei and Maxim remain behind bars or are set free.
Hunting the Antifa. They introduce themselves as FSB agents. They detain young people and force them to testify about the riot in Khimki and demand that they sign cooperation agreements. Several victims of this police abuse have already sent complaints to Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chayka. The New Times has found out about the methods the siloviki are using to achieve their ends.
“When I said I didn’t know anything, they began beating me in the area of my liver and then my kidneys. I told them that I’ve suffered from a heart defect and hepatitis C since childhood, that there are problems with my liver, but they smiled in reply. One of them slammed my head against the table,” recounted 25-year-old Alexander Pakhotin of his interrogation at the police station in the Moscow suburb of Zhukovsky.
A Cage for Detainees
On August 21, antifascist Alexander Pakhotin arrived in the town of Zhukovsky with a large group of young people on a commuter train from Moscow. They were planning to attend a charity concert there. As he explained to The New Times, the concert did not take place that day. Instead, seventy people were detained by police without explanation and taken to the Zhukovsky police station.
According to Pakhotin, police officers copied down the young people’s personal information right in the police station courtyard. They were then herded into a large cage that had been set up outside. When Alexander approached the cage to find his friends, unidentified plainclothes officers grabbed him by the arms and took him into the station building.
“They said that I had been involved in the riot in Khimki and that I would do prison time,” Alexander recalls. “I told them I didn’t know anything, but they put me in a holding cell. There were several locals in the neighboring cell, people who had been detained for some kind of disorderly conduct. They tried to frighten me by saying they would piss on me through the bars. Then I was again taken upstairs to an office and the interrogation continued.” Alexander says that he asked for a lawyer, but his request was ignored. Plainclothes officers who identified themselves as FSB operatives showed Pakhotin as photograph taken on July 28 in Khimki not far from the town hall building. (On July 28, 2010, dozens of people in masks threw bottles and rocks at the building. On August 4, antifascists Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov were formally charged with involvement in this riot and remanded to pretrial police custody.)
“There were no people in masks in this photograph,” says the antifascist. “In it, some young woman is standing next to me. They explained to me that I wouldn’t get off with a misdemeanor, that I would be charged with organizing a riot. I really was in Khimki on July 28, but I had gone there for a concert and I wound up near the town hall by accident. My interrogators weren’t satisfied with my answers: they wanted me to tell them that Maxim Solopov (arrested on July 30 – The New Times) and Pyotr Silayev, who is now on the wanted list, participated in the Khimki riot.”
I’ll Cut Off Your Ear
According to Pakhotin, at nine o’clock that evening he was taken to the Khimki police station. “They took me to an investigating officer. The people who had identified themselves as FSB agents were present during the interrogation. The investigator didn’t like how I was answering his questions, and so then one of the officers who had beat me in Zhukovsky placed my head on the table, put a pair of scissors next to my right ear, and said, ‘I’ll cut off your ear right now unless you say what we tell you to say.’ They threatened to take me out into the forest, and since I’m a Belarusian citizen and have no relatives here, no one would search for me.”
After a ten-hour interrogation, Alexander signed what he was asked to sign. Then, at two o’clock in the morning he was taken to the second municipal police precinct in Khimki. Police officers there woke him up at six in the morning and forced him to sign yet another document. As it turned out later, this was the charge sheet for a misdemeanor. It states that at 1:50 a.m. on August 21, at Mayakovsky Street, 13, in the town of Khimki, an inebriated Pakhotin had used foul language, thus disturbing the peace.
Alexander Pakhotin was thus charged with two misdemeanors: first, using foul language on Mayakovsky Street in Khimki on August 21, and second, for participating in an unsanctioned picket of the Khimki town hall on July 28.
The Court Sides with the Antifascist
Alexander finds the charge outrageous. “On the night of August 21 and the morning of August 22 I was in Moscow. I was detained on the afternoon of August 22 in Zhukovsky. But as the lawyers explained to me, the officers at the second police precinct in Khimki backdated my arrest protocol to justify my arrest.”
On August 23, justice of the peace Olga Zabachinskaya of Court No. 258 in the Khimki District of Moscow Region found Pakhotin guilty of “minor disorderly conduct” and fined him 700 rubles [approximately 17 euros]. She also intended to rule on the second charge against Pakhotin that same day. But he requested time to find a lawyer.
A week later, on August 31, justice of the peace Alexander Yatsyk returned a surprising verdict: finding no evidence to corroborate the charge, he declared Pakhotin not guilty of attacking the Khimki town hall.
Now Alexander’s conscience is troubled by the fact that he gave testimony in the investigation of the riot. “They beat the testimony out of me forcibly, but because of me people who are in prison have suffered. That is why I have appealed to Prosecutor General Chayka,” the antifascist told The New Times.
Pakhotin's Complaint to the Prosecutor General
A Signed Agreement to Cooperate
Emil Baluyev does not consider himself a member of the antifa movement. He is an activist in the animal rights movement, and he often takes part in environmental protest actions. Like Pakhotin, he was detained on August 21 in Zhukovsky. “Emil says that he was interrogated by people who identified themselves as FSB officers,” Olga Miryasova, an activist in the Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages, told The New Times. “They were also interested in the details of the riot in Khimki. But on the day of the riot, Baluyev was in Ukraine. During the interrogation he was handcuffed. He was made to bend over and beaten on the head and legs. After that they forced him to sign a cooperation agreement.”
According to civil rights activists, law enforcement officers beat at least ten of the seventy people detained on August 21 in Zhukovsky. Who were these unidentified men in plain clothes that beat the arrestees and also forced some of them to sign cooperation agreements? They did not reveal their last names; they only waved IDs at the detainees and said that they were from the FSB.
One of the detainees recognized a certain Maxim among these men, a person he had seen often at youth protest actions and concerts. This man had videotaped the protest actions of antifascists and environmentalists.
“As far as I’m know, officers from our Department for Extremism Prevention did not interrogate anyone there,” Yevgeny Gildeev, press secretary for the Moscow Region Chief Directorate for Internal Affairs told The New Times. Gildeev was aware of the complaints that antifascists had filed with the Prosecutor General, but he refused to comment on them. Another spokesperson for the Moscow Region police told The New Times in conversation that he did not rule out the possibility that FSB and Center for Extremism Prevention officers had participated in the interrogations. The New Times sent a formal inquiry to the FSB, asking them to inform us whether its officers had participated in the interrogations, but as this issue goes to print we have not yet received a reply from them.
Saving Her Son
Unknown men who also identified themselves as FSB officers searched long and hard for Nikita Chernobayev, a 19-year-old antifascist from the Moscow suburb of Ramenskoye. They went to his mother’s workplace and made inquires about her. On August 26, Nikita was summoned to the local police station on the pretext that he was being drafted into the army. According to lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin, FSB officers were waiting there for the antifascist. Nikita managed to telephone his mother and tell her that he was being beaten. Nikita signed the testimony the men wanted him to sign, as well as a cooperation agreement.
“Nikita told his mother that they hit him in the solar plexus,” says Trepashkin. “They put a plastic bag over his head so that he couldn’t breathe.” Chernobayev was released from the police station at one a.m. The next morning his mother called an ambulance. Nikita was admitted to the Ramenskoye Central Municipal Hospital. According to our information, Mrs. Chernobayeva soon thereafter had her son transferred to a Moscow hospital: a frightened Nikita had phoned her from the Ramenskoye hospital because he saw through the window that that men who had beaten him up at the police station were walking through the hospital courtyard.
Chernobayev's Statement to Russian Civil Rights Activists
In the hospital discharge summary, a copy of which The New Times has obtained, it is stated that Nikita Chernobayev was diagnosed with a closed craniocerebral injury, a brain concussion, bruises, and abrasions to the face.
Nikita’s mother is now preparing a detailed complaint that she will file with the Prosecutor General’s Office.
So this is how the unknown men who identify themselves as FSB officers have been investigating the riot outside the Khimki town hall building. What explains their cruelty towards antifascists? “Earlier, the antifascists stewed in their own juices. They went to concerts and organized protest actions of some sort,” says Olga Miryasova. “In Khimki, they encroached on the authorities for the first time. My guess is that a signal came from the top to deal with them in a serious manner. In any case, a large group of operatives and investigators has been formed to work on the Khimki case. They have to find the guilty parties and witnesses, but that isn’t so easy after all. And while they’re at it, they want to add new information to their database of extremists: all the detainees have been fingerprinted and photographed.”
It is unlikely that a criminal case will be opened against those who interrogated and beat antifascists in Zhukovsky, Khimki, and Ramenskoye. The special agents did not give their last names, and the Prosecutor General’s Office might decide that no one beat up the antifascists, that everything written in their complaints is a product of their wild imaginations or an attempt to escape responsibility.