Tag Archives: persecution of Russian political activists

Solidarity with Alexey Sutuga!

Anarchist Alexey Sutuga has been arrested and remanded in Moscow — your help is needed!

Alexey Sutuga, anarchist, anti-fascist and member of Autonomous Action, was arrested on Tuesday evening, April 17, in Moscow. The arrest took place during a fundraising effort in support of anti-fascist prisoners. It was learned almost after a day after the arrest that Alexey is now in Remand Prison No. 2, also known as Butyrka Prison.

The police accuse him of the same crime as anti-fascist Alexey Olesinov, who has already been in custody for a month — complicity in the incident at the Moscow club Vozdukh, on December 17, 2011, when neo-Nazis working security attacked concert goers and then blamed anti-fascists for this assault.

Voluntary donations for the support of anti-fascists in detention, particularly Alexey Olesinov and Igor Kharchenko, were collected in downtown Moscow on April 17. The event was organized by activists of the anti-racist human rights initiative Direct Help. About fifteen people, including Alexey Sutuga, showed up for the event. Two police officers approached the group at 8:30 p.m., according to witnesses. They identified themselves and asked why there were so much garbage around the bench where everyone was gathered.

The police then asked everyone present to show their documents. When people refused to show them, two plain clothes officers appeared instantly out of nowhere, followed shortly by five or six of their colleagues.

One of them presented his ID, muttered something to the effect of “Criminal Investigation Department, guys,” and said, “Get him!” Police officers obeyed him, grabbing Alexey and leading him off towards the highway.

The plain clothes officers immediately followed them, no longer paying any attention to the rest of the crowd, although they had promised to arrest all those who had no documents and take them to a police station. Among those who arrested Alexey was the well-known Moscow FSB agent Yevgeny Platov, better known as “Zhenya the FSB Guy.” (You can read more about him and his persecution of Moscow anarchists here, in Russian: http://avtonom.org/news/feisy-vs-anarkhisty-kak-boitsy-nevidimogo-foront…)

It’s worth noting that a group of anarchists, including Alexey, had been detained a week earlier by the same plain clothes officers, but were released without charges.

Sutuga’s family and friends did not know of his whereabouts for almost twenty-four hours: he didn’t answer his phone. Information about his whereabouts was only released on the evening of April 18. It was reported that he is in Butyrka Prison and, apparently, Basmanny District Court quickly sanctioned his pretrial detention.

He has been charged with “hooliganism” (Article 213, Part 2 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code). The press service of the Moscow police reported that Alexey Sutuga has been charged in connection with the same case as Alexey Olesinov.

Recently, it became known that police are attempting to fabricate a second criminal case against Olesinov. On April 17, police confronted him with a young man who claims to have been attacked by Alexey on December 4, 2011, although on this day Olesinov was posting articles on the Internet. (For more details, in Russian, see: http://ru.indymedia.org/newswire/display/26512/index.php.)

As a member of Autonomous Action has explained, “The case against the well-known anti-fascist Alexey Olesinov, now remanded, has been investigated for several months and is now collapsing. It seems that the human rights campaign in support of Olesinov has begun to irritate the police. If they had something on Sutuga, they would have followed the legal procedures for this case. And it turns out that they have just arrested a person and held him incommunicado for almost a whole day. It looks as if the police have wild imaginations.”

For more information about the incident at the Vozdukh club, see:
https://avtonom.org/en/people/aleksei-olesinov

For information about persecution of other anarchists and anti-fascists in Moscow, see:
https://avtonom.org/en/people/antti-rautiainen
http://anarcho-news.info/news-534 (in Russian)

Funds are urgently needed to defray Sutuga’s legal expenses. You may donate through Anarchist Black Cross of Moscow. Instructions are available here:
http://wiki.avtonom.org/en/index.php/Donate

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Editor’s note. This appeal was originally published, in English, on the Autonomous Action web site. It has been slightly edited to make it more readable.

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Petersburg: Where Freedom of Assembly Is a Crime

http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=32853

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1623 (84), Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Strategy 31 Rally Hit With Criminal Case
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

The authorities stepped up repressive measures against Sunday’s Strategy 31 rally in defense of freedom of assembly in St. Petersburg, holding detained activists at police precincts overnight, searching activists’ apartments and investigating several participants for suspected extremism. If they are found guilty, they will face up to three years in prison.

Andrei Pivovarov, the local leader of the People’s Democratic Union (RNDS) and one of the rally’s organizers, was detained almost immediately after the start of the rally, taken to court three hours later and sentenced to 27 days in prison Sunday. The Other Russia’s Andrei Pesotsky was sentenced to 14 days in prison Monday.


Alexander Belenky/SPTPolice arrest a demonstrator by Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt on Sunday. A total of 112 demonstrators were detained.

Andrei Dmitriyev, the local leader of The Other Russia party, was sentenced to five days in prison Monday after spending the night in a police precinct. They were all charged with violating the rules on holding public events and failing to obey a police officer’s orders.

Speaking on his cell phone from a police truck where he was held before the court hearing on Monday afternoon, Dmitriyev said that his apartment and those of two other activists were searched by the Center E anti-extremism state agency on Monday morning. The officers showed his parents documents stating that a criminal investigation had been opened into suspected participation in the activities of a banned organization.

The three activists whose apartments were searched — Dmitriyev, Vadim Mamedov and Alexander Yashin — are all members of The Other Russia, the party formed by author and oppositional politician Eduard Limonov earlier this year. Limonov’s previous party, the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), was banned as “extremist” in 2005.

Dmitriyev said that Center E is claiming that the NBP has been active in St. Petersburg during the past 18 months.

The police detained 104 people near Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main street, and another eight at a separate, smaller rally on Palace Square, organizers said. About 30 were held at three different police precincts throughout the night and taken to court on Monday.

Five activists, including The Other Russia’s Ravil Bashirov, had their cases postponed, but upon leaving the court, they were seized by plainclothes men and taken in for interrogation, The Other Russia activist Andrei Milyuk said by phone Monday. According to him, the interrogations were part of the investigation into the “extremism” case.

The OMON special-task police, whose faces were hidden behind ski masks and helmets, charged the crowd and detained speakers promptly, preventing them from speaking for more than a minute on Sunday. Pivovarov, who opened the rally, was among the first people to be detained, at 6 p.m. One of the last, Sergei Kuzin of the Solidarity democratic movement, was detained at 7:15 p.m.

During Sunday’s event, activists hung a large banner featuring anarchist symbols and the slogan “Any form of authority is shit. It’s forbidden to forbid,” from the roof of Passazh retail center directly opposite the rally’s location.

RNDS spokesman Pavel Smolyak said he believed that Pivovarov’s sentence was predetermined.

Smolyak said that Judge Alexei Kuznetsov declared the hearing “closed,” and Smolyak was not allowed into the courtroom during the hearing, which lasted two hours. “The policemen in the corridor reported [Pivovarov’s sentence] by phone before it was even announced; it was all obvious from the very start,” Smolyak said by phone Monday.

Strategy 31 is a nonpartisan civil rights campaign demanding that the authorities obey Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which states that “citizens have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons.” Proposed by Limonov last year, the events have been held on the 31st day of months that have that many days.

First held in Moscow on July 31 last year, the Strategy 31 events have been held in St. Petersburg since Jan. 31.

Sunday’s rally was not authorized by City Hall on the grounds that “planned maintenance work” would be in progress on the site near Gostiny Dvor at the time of the planned rally, organizers said. No work could be seen on Sunday.

The Strategy 31 events were held in 67 Russian cities, with support events in New York and London, The Other Russia’s spokesman Alexander Averin said Monday. Thirty-eight were detained in Moscow.

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The Khimki Hostages Need Your Solidarity!

http://khimkibattle.org

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 ActionSeptember 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:

info@khimkibattle.orgcollaboration@19jan.ru,19jan.solidar@gmail.comecmoru@rambler.ru

How Things Are Done in Khimki

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.

Find more information in the Prehistory of the Case of the Khimki Hostages

The Situation Is Critical

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/.

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Penza: A New Reichstag Fire?

Penza Remembers the Burning of the Reichstag
Dmitry Volchek

Penza civil rights advocates and politicians are disturbed by how an arson at the local office of the United Russia party is being investigated: nearly two hundred members of opposition organizations have been subjected to pressure tactics by the FSB and police.

The building where the United Russian party office is located was torched during the night of November 8. Persons unknown broke a window and tossed in a plastic bottle filled with a flammable liquid and a canister of cooking gas. The windows in several rooms were blown out, and walls and office equipment were damaged. According to Alexei Bulin, secretary of the regional committee of the CPRF, a “witch hunt” has been unleashed in the region. Civil rights advocate Yuri Boblikov told Radio Svoboda how law enforcement officials are searching for the arsonists in Penza.

– After the incident happened, the first person to be detained was the leader of the local Left Front branch, who that day was supposed to be running a previously announced demonstration against worsening social conditions. An hour before the demonstration was to begin, two FSB officers came to his house and led him straight away to the local FSB directorate. Then they detained another colleague of his in the organization, someone that the FSB apparently decided to frighten a bit. [According to this man], one Chekist said to the other, “Well, should we give him an injection?” The other [Chekist] nodded and said, “Let’s do it.” They put on [rubber] gloves, took out a syringe and an ampule, filled the syringe with the liquid in the ampule, and laid it on the desk next to them. Then they said [to the detainee], “Tell us the truth.” Later, I called the FSB and they confirmed that they had talked to Left Front leader Sergei Padalkin, but they denied that there had been anyone else. Moreover, they claimed that their conversation with Padalkin allegedly was about maintaining order at the [planned] demonstration. Everyone knows, however, that such issues are the brief of the police, not the FSB. Padalkin was then released and arrived late for the demonstration. He was again approached by law enforcement officials and hauled away — this time to the Center for Extremism Prevention [Center “E”]. There he was forced to answer questions about what he knew about the arson, whether he knew who did it, where he was during that night. Padalkin was again released, but later that same day he was taken to the criminal investigations department, where he had another conversation about the same topics. This time he was accompanied by one of our lawyers, Dmitry Belyaev.

– Aside from Sergei Padalkin, who else was interrogated?

– When he was at Center “E” he ran into members of the Communist Youth League, the city and regional committee secretaries, who for all practical purposes had been nabbed right at the central office of the Communist Party’s regional organization. The following day their offices [or flats?] were searched; the city committee secretary was searched twice. Members of the Yabloko Party youth organization were searched seven times. [The police] confiscated everything they could get their hands on, but especially hard disks and Yabloko literature. All in all, around two hundred people were brought in for questioning and to make statements or subjected to searches.

– Do you believe the fire was an excuse to clamp down on the opposition of whatever stripe, to shake down everyone involved in politics?

– Yes, a “purge” of all dissenters, opposition activists, and merely active citizens is under way. Events are unfolding according to a scheme reminiscent of the burning of the Reichstag in 1933.

– There had already been an attempt to torch the United Russia office in June.

– Yes, but it was unsuccessful. Then, a mythical organization calling itself New World had allegedly claimed responsibility. We were also asked then what we knew about them. We said we knew absolutely nothing, that we had no information about this organization. It is entirely possible that Penza is just being used as a test site to develop techniques for political purges. Our guess is that [the authorities] want to use our city to try out methods for flushing out and suppressing oppositionists and just-plain socially active citizens and forces. Once they have tried them out here, they can then be applied throughout Russia.

– You’re not sure that opponents of the United Russia party are behind the arson?

– In our opinion, these incidents are beneficial to the ruling party itself: it enables them to extinguish the activities of all other organizations and movements. Opposition forces have nothing to gain from such excesses. We believe that this is all a provocation.

– But Viktor Dolotov, the secretary of the political council of United Russia’s Penza branch, said that this was a carefully planned political crime against the party of power.

– If that is what he claims, does that mean he knows who organized all this? Then he should be the first one they interrogate!

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