Tag Archives: Russian political prisoners

Alexei Gaskarov. Bolotnaya Square, Moscow. May 6, 2012

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This is what our comrade Alexei Gaskarov looked like after riot cops got done with him on May 6, 2012, on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow. Yesterday, almost a year after the ominous events that took place there and the arrests, persecution and, in some cases, exile of several dozen opposition activists and ordinary citizens who were also there that day (and some who weren’t), Gaskarov was arrested while out buying food for his cat, transported to the Investigative Committee for questioning, charged with “rioting” and “violence against authorities,” and jailed. A Moscow district court will hear his case today and decide whether he will remain in police custody.

Thanks to an anonymous Facebook comrade for the photo.

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www.rferl.org

April 23, 2013
Russian Commission Blames Authorities For Bolotnaya Protest Violence
by RFE/RL’s Russian Service

MOSCOW — An independent investigation has blamed the Russian authorities and police for the violence that erupted at an opposition protest on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square last year.

The investigative commission, composed of leading public figures and rights advocates, released its findings late on April 22 at a public event in Moscow.

The report blames riot police for “excessive use of force” against demonstrators on May 6, 2012, resulting in numerous injuries.

Authorities have only recognized injuries sustained by police officers.

More than 20 demonstrators have been charged with participating in “mass unrest” and assaulting police.

Fifteen remain in pretrial detention and four are under house arrest. All face prison if convicted.

Georgy Satarov, the head of the INDEM think tank in Moscow and a former aide to Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, co-authored the report.

He told RFE/RL that the demonstrators’ reactions were understandable.

“They defended themselves and they defended others. Many of those who were not arrested and are now free would have done the same,” Satarov said.

The report says riot-police officers beat up “helpless, unarmed people,” including women and elderly people.

It blames police for deliberately creating bottlenecks by blocking the protesters’ path, contributing to tensions.

‘Agents Provacateurs’

It also accuses the authorities of sending a “significant number of provocateurs” into the crowd to spark clashes — a claim backed by witnesses as well as the Kremlin’s human rights council.

Satarov said the pieces of asphalt that some the defendants are accused of throwing at police had been placed on the square ahead of the rally.

“Bolotnaya Square was cordoned off overnight, it was surrounded by a tight fence inside which the asphalt was cut into pieces,” Satarov said.

“This circumstance was fully used by provocateurs. There are a multitude of other signs that indicate a planned provocation by authorities.”

One of the defendants in the so-called Bolotnaya case, Maksim Luzyanin, has already been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty and cooperating with investigators.

Authorities say their probe into the other defendants is nearing completion.

Investigators are still tracking down some 70 other protesters they suspect of disruptive behavior at the rally.

The investigative commission plans to send its report to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Parliament, and the United Nations.

It was formed by the opposition party RPR-PARNAS, the December 12 Roundtable civil group, and the May 6 Committee. It includes top rights activists like Lyudmila Alekseyeva and a number of prominent public figures such as economist and former Economy Minister Yevgeny Yasin.

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Maria Alyokhina: “Our protest has raised the issue of the fusion of the Russian Orthodox Church and the security services”

Zoya Svetova
Maria Alyokhina to The New Times: “Our protest has raised the issue of the fusion of the Russian Orthodox Church and the security services”
newtimes.ru

The three defendants in the Pussy Riot case have been held more than five months at Pre-Trial Detention Facility No. 6, near Pechatniki metro station. The prison is dubbed the “Yellow House” [in Russian, a synonym for an insane asylum] because of the color of the towers in which it is situated. This past weekend, a New Times correspondent was able to talk with [three of] its prisoners—Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

24-year-old Masha Alyokhina sits on an iron bunk dressed in the same brown polka-dot dress in which she goes to court. On her feet are flip-flops that are clearly too large. She is preparing for an hour-long walk: the guards have promised to take her outside, as they are supposed to after lunch. She answers our questions in detail and good-naturedly. She chooses her words carefully so that she is properly understood.

During the trial, you filed an appeal over the torturous conditions of your transportation to court. What did you mean?

We have been taken to court every day since July 20. We are given no breakfast. We drink tea while waiting for the paddy wagon. We are returned to the jail very late and managed to sleep four hours or so, no more. I am horribly exhausted. Before we’re put in the paddy wagon, our blood pressure is measured. The last few days my blood pressure has been ninety over sixty, while it is usually one twenty over eighty. As a rule, the trip to the Khamovnichesky District Court takes thirty minutes to an hour, depending on the traffic jams. We’re transported differently every time—now in big vans, now in little ones. We are taken to the court building, where we spend twelve hours a day. The judge orders a lunch break—half an hour. Two times a day we’re taken to the toilet for five minutes. We have no complaints with the jail, only with the judge. Judge Syrova doesn’t give us a normal break either for lunch or dinner. I demand that the break last an hour. According to the Criminal Procedural Code, a court hearing cannot last more than eight hours [a day], but in our case all the norms in the code are being violated. I don’t even have time to eat the dry cereal that I pour boiling water over in the escort guards’ room. We spend all day in court, and I don’t have the chance to take a shower, although I’ve paid for the paid shower. The bursar has the receipts, but he is incapable of sending them to the prison’s administrative office. It is very hot in the paddy wagon, like in a microwave. It can take us several hours to drive from the courthouse to the jail. We don’t drive directly to our prison, but stop by Moscow City Court and Matrosskaya Tishina prison, where we drop off prisoners, and we arrive in Pechatniki quite late. So sometimes we’re riding around for three or four hours.

A Rottweiler accompanies you everywhere. It is even present during the court hearings. Aren’t you afraid of it?

I am afraid. The dogs are constantly changed. On Friday, a very nasty, aggressive dog, a mentally unbalanced dog, guarded us. The dog is also with us in the guards’ room at the courthouse. For example, I ask to be taken from the cell to the toilet: the dog almost jumps its leash, and the dog handler has to make a huge effort to restraint it. You can imagine that if the dog handler didn’t restrain it, it could easily rip me to shreds. The guards explained to us that the dog can tell from the color of our clothes and our scent that we’re prisoners, and so it is particularly aggressive towards us.

How do you feel about what is happening in the trial?

The judge tosses out all our appeals and ignores our requests. She allows herself gibes that demean our honor and dignity. We are not given confidential meetings with our lawyers. This is done to prevent us from working out a joint defense. On the morning of July 27 we were brought to the Khamovnichesky District Court, [where] we signed a document: Judge Marina Syrova had permitted us to meet with our lawyers. But instead of taking us back to the jail to meet with our lawyers, we were first held in the guards’ room at the courthouse, and then for some reason taken to Moscow City Court. We ended up at Pre-Trial Detention Facility No. 6 only at 4:30 p.m. This was a Friday, and so there short visiting hours at the jail. Lawyer Mark Feygin was there and was able to talk with Nadya Tolokonnikova for literally twenty minutes. But neither Katya Samutsevich nor I was able to meet with our lawyers.

Maria Alyokhina on trial, August 6, Moscow. Drawing by Victoria Lomasko

During the trial you asked the injured parties whether they forgive you. Why is this so important to you?

A few months ago I wrote a conciliatory letter, in which I stated that I wanted a dialogue. I wrote that our performance was not directed against the Christian faith. Through our lawyers I asked that a priest come visit me in prison. I would really like to talk with Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev, who, for example, in an interview with Novaya Gazeta said some people from the Kremlin had commissioned our action. This really got to me. I would like to explain to him that we are not people who have been “commissioned.” This is an action that comes from the grassroots.

Is your punk prayer, which lasted a little longer than five minutes, worth five months of imprisonment in jail and separation from loved ones?

Yes, I think it’s worth it. It seems to me that the power vertical system in each institution has to be disclosed and have light shed on it publicly. And it’s very important that each stage of our case is analyzed in detail, because it gives people an idea of how the prisons, the courts and transparency [glasnost] work. It becomes clear whether civil society can influence the authorities.

The situation we created with our protest action helps people understand more precisely for themselves the fusion of the institution of the [Russian Orthodox] Church and the security services, of the Church and the authorities, of the Church and Putin. It has all come to the surface.

Can civil society influence the verdict?

I don’t know.

Is this a political trial, in your view?

Yes, but the political aspect is deliberately hushed up at the trial. The judge and the prosecutor have a very violent reaction any time the surname “Putin” is uttered. Although questions about Putin have a direct bearing on the case, because all our group’s actions were political.

A witness named Motilda Ivashchenko was supposed to testify during the trial. At the last minute, before she was summoned into the courtroom, she got frightened and ran way. Do you know her?

I don’t know her very well. We have two mutual acquaintances. I was really offended that she told the investigation that, allegedly, I don’t take care of my son Filipp. In the case files there is testimony by kindergarten workers that I pick[ed] up my son every evening myself.

What do you think the verdict will be?

I am counting on the reasonableness of the authorities, the court and the Russian Orthodox Church, which is obliged to react to our criminal prosecution. The fact that the Russian Orthodox Church is silent [on this point] is a blow to its authority. Christ’s first commandment, after all, is to love your neighbor as yourself. If the priests who signed letters in our defense would testify at the trial, that would be very important.

What message would you like to send to your supporters?

Thank you for your support. Mutual understanding is quite important: one needs to pursue constructive things. Cooperation is vitally important. Look at our example: it shows that a few people can raise an issue that is then widely discussed in society. And this discussion is much more important than the tons of filth that have been poured on us. We are accused of misleading people. But the people who accuse of this are themselves involved in misleading people. The Russian Orthodox Church has a monopoly on talking about God and any dissent is criminalized.

What will you do when you get out of prison?

When I get out, I’ll have a story to tell. And if I’m sent to prison for a long time, I’ll also have a story to tell. It’s very important to tell this whole story.

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Petersburg Activist Filipp Kostenko Sentenced to Another 15 Days in Jail

memorial.spb.ru

The Persecution Continues: Filipp Kostenko Sentenced to Another 15 Days in Jail

December 22, 2011

On December 22, Judge E.K. Yermolina of the 153rd Judicial Precinct [in Saint Petersburg] sentenced Filipp Kostenko, an activist and employee of the human rights organization Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, to another fifteen days of administrative arrest. For his involvement in mass protests against the rigged elections, Kostenko had already served fifteen days in jail, but in violation of procedure he was not released [as scheduled, on December 21].

As we have previously reported, the decision for Kostenko’s compulsory delivery to court was sent to the administration of the detention facility [where he was serving his first sentence] a few minutes before his anticipated release. This decision was made due to the fact that Kostenko had failed to appear in court [on December 9], although at that time he was serving fifteen days of administrative arrest.

This time, the activist was charged under Article 20.1.1 (petty disorder) for allegedly using foul language two months ago, on October 16, outside the 43rd Police Precinct. According to witnesses, on this day Philip had brought food parcels for detainees [at the precinct]. He was arrested and taken into the precinct building, although he had not disturbed the peace. There are a number of witnesses who can confirm this, and a video of his arrest also exists.

The court hearing lasted four hours, including recesses. An officer from the Extremism Prevention Center [Center “E”] was in attendance as a “spectator” the entire time, and from the very outset there was the sense that the most adverse ruling was a preordained outcome. For no reason at all, the judge rejected all motions made on behalf of the defendant, including motions to give the defense adequate time to prepare its case and to call witnesses. The judge granted only one motion by the defense: to admit V.V. Kostyushev, a professor at the Petersburg branch of the Higher School for Economics, as a public defender.

Because, in the court’s opinion, there were no grounds for “not trusting the reports filed by police officers that Filipp Kostenko had disturbed the peace by expressing a clear disrespect for society, which was accompanied by swearing in a public place,” the judge also rejected a motion to summon the [arresting] officers to verify their testimony and cross-examine them. In contrast to the reports filed by the police officers, the oral testimony of defense witnesses, who personally appeared in court, was not acknowledged as credible by the judge.

Despite numerous procedural violations, the lack of any real evidence (except for the evidence of the police reports, which Judge Yermolina found “compelling”), and an energetic defense, it was obvious to all present that the judge would give Kostenko the maximum possible sentence. The judge was not even troubled by the presence in the courtroom of numerous spectators and journalists (who, incidentally, were strictly forbidden from photographing anything or even making audio recordings).

Consequently, Judge Yermolina sentenced Kostenko to another fifteen days of arrest, and he has again been delivered to the detention facility at Zakharievskaya, 6. In the coming days, his attorney will file an appeal against this decision, as well as filing a new complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in connection with this new, illegal arrest (a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights) [see below].

After this latest court decision was announced, Kostenko ended his sixteen-day hunger strike because all those detained during the post-election demonstrations in Saint Petersburg had been released, with the exception of Kostenko himself.

In the absence of an independent and impartial judiciary, the continued detention of Filipp Kostenko is obviously politically motivated. For all intents and purposes, [the state] is continuing to persecute Kostenko for his involvement in protest actions.

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Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights reads as follows:

1.In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgement shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

2.Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

3.Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;

(b) to have adequate time and the facilities for the preparation of his defence;

(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;

(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

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From a report on the hearing published on Free Voina:

Oleg Vorotnikov comments:

[Filipp] is one of the rare few who never use profane language at all.

Leonid Nikolaev, who also attended the hearing, reports:

The judge was biased. It was obvious from the beginning. Everyone was shocked by the incredibly rude manner in which she conducted the hearing. At one point, a defense attorney pleaded that [Filipp] was unable to participate in the hearing due to poor health (because of his 15-day hunger strike). In response, the judge inquired whether it was the jail personnel who starved him, or if he did it on his own accord. This is a gross violation of the procedure. The judge is only supposed to take into account the defendant’s present condition, not the reasons that caused it. [Filipp] was definitely unfit to participate in court proceedings. He was weak, did not ask questions nor make motions to the court, and when giving his testimony, he could barely stand.

The last witness of the defense was this pleasant, very civilized fellow. He somehow managed to induce rage in the judge even before he had a chance to open his mouth. She was incredibly pushy with him, especially because whenever she demanded something from him, he replied with “all right”. For some reason, she chose to interpret that as though he was making a judgement on whether her demands were right or wrong. The poor fellow almost got thrown out of the courtroom because of this.

I kept looking for a way for [Filipp] to escape. At one point the guards got distracted, so I suggested that he go downstairs, hop on my bike and get out of there. Turned out he was too weak for that. Damn hunger strike.

When the judge left the room after announcing her decision, the public started expressing its outrage out loud. Suddenly the judge barged back in and commanded the court guards to “write them up”. The guards grabbed a frail girl, activist of the Parents of St. Petersburg movement, and took her away. They are writing her up right now, and chances are she will be in jail with [Filipp] before the end of the day.

The arrested girl is Leda Garina, a film director and a friend of [Filipp]. She is reported to have been released after being fined 1000 RUB (30 USD).

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Waging War (Sergey Chernov interviews Oleg Vorotnikov)

The St. Petersburg Times
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Waging War
Now in hiding, the award-winning, politically minded Voina art group is preparing a new stunt
By Sergey Chernov

The state’s pressure on the radical art group Voina — famous for its spectacular stunts spoofing the Russian authorities and the police — has increased in recent days, despite the broad recognition the group garnered after winning an important state-sponsored art prize, invitations to high-profile international art events, and the worldwide attention they have attracted.

Late last week, a local Petersburg court confiscated the bail money deposited for the release of Oleg Vorotnikov, the group’s de facto leader. The money (300,000 rubles, or $10,800) had been donated by British street artist Banksy from the proceeds of a special print sale in support of the group’s arrested members. The court ruled that Vorotnikov should be detained and placed in a pre-trial detention center for two months; it also issued an international search warrant for him. A national search warrant for Vorotnikov had been issued in May.

Despite attempts by officials to exclude Voina from the list of nominees, the Innovation Prize was awarded to them for “Dick Captured by the FSB” – a huge image of a penis painted on Liteiny Bridge, near the local headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), in June 2010. The artists, however, are facing criminal prosecution for another stunt, “Palace Revolution,” which reportedly involved the overturning of one or more police cars in St. Petersburg in September 2010.

According to the artists, the action was a metaphorical demand for reform of the Interior Ministry and an end to police lawlessness.

In November 2010, Voina’s Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev were arrested in a Moscow apartment and taken in a bus, handcuffed and with plastic bags over their heads, to St. Petersburg, where they were charged with criminal mischief motivated by hatred toward a particular social group (in this case, the police) and remanded to a pre-trial detention center for three months. The offence is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

After Vorotnikov and Nikolayev were released on bail in February, the group became seriously involved in civil rights activism by helping prisoners whose sentences or lengthy pre-trial detentions appear to be connected with their political activism.

The artists have used the remainder of Banksy’s donation (4.5 million rubles, or $160,735) to help a number of political prisoners such as Taisia Osipova, a woman from Smolensk, in western Russia, who has been charged with drugs possession. Her supporters claim that police planted the drugs they allegedly found in her apartment during a search. Osipova is in her ninth month of pre-trial detention despite the prosecution’s dubious case, and despite the fact that she suffers from diabetes and has a young daughter.

Human rights organizations see her imprisonment as an attempt to halt the political work of her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, an activist with The Other Russia opposition party.

Voina members also did a photo session with Osipova’s five-year old daughter Katrina to raise public awareness of the case. They have sent various sums from Banksy’s donation to support other imprisoned activists, including Petersburg anti-fascist Rinat Sultanov, who was sentenced to two years in prison in April for his alleged role in a street brawl with neo-Nazis in November 2008.

Oleg Vorotnikov and Katrina, daughter of the imprisoned Taisia Osipova. Photo by Vladimir Telegin

Earlier this month, Voina donated 400,000 rubles ($14,400), the entire sum of their Innovation Prize money, to the Agora Human Rights Association, a Moscow-based organization whose lawyers have provided legal assistance to the group and other activists.

A new criminal case against Vorotnikov was launched in April after he and his wife, Voina member Natalya “Kozlyonok” Sokol, were arrested during a March 31 opposition rally. He faces up to five years in prison for alleged disorderly conduct, violence against a police officer, and insulting a police officer.

Earlier this month, Sokol was also named as a suspect in the case. Investigators claim she insulted a police officer, an offence punishable by up to one year of correctional labor. Vorotnikov and Sokol have a two-year-old son, Kasper.

Despite this persecution, Vorotnikov — who is now in hiding — said in a recent exclusive interview with The St. Petersburg Times that through its clandestine practices Voina has helped art to stay alive and brought it back into the limelight.

After winning the Innovation Prize, Voina was harshly criticized by sections of the media and the public. What is your reaction?

I don’t expect sympathy toward our art from anybody. And I’m always surprised when people say they like Voina. I then take a closer look at those people. Almost all of them live hard lives, and many have grief, losses, and disappointments in their past. The passions that have injured those people! But they’re still full of hope. These are the most interesting people in the world. It’s their scars and defects that make them lovable. I can imagine how, during sex, they touch and kiss the scars on each other’s bodies. There’s no other reason to love someone in this life. Kasper already has scars from the cops.

Voina’s work and political activities have unexpectedly drawn criticism from some people who see themselves as leftists.

The thing is that Voina reveals certain concealed and, say, reactionary qualities in people. I agree with observers who have noted that, compared to Voina, many leftists are not leftists at all, but rather centrists, maybe even rightward-leaning centrists. Before Voina, they were extremely leftist, leftist radicals, and then suddenly it turned out that they were simply philistines. They’re people who live on grants and write articles, and who imitate real protest work with such activities. So with the emergence of Voina, all of a sudden they’ve moved from the left flank toward reaction.

Yes, we fight the regime, because the powers that be are philistine and narrow-minded in the same way. All their ideals begin and end with a helicopter and a villa. Then they go for two helicopters, four villas. And that’s it: they don’t go any further; their ambitions don’t soar any higher. In that sense, we are against philistines. The philistines are our enemy. The regime is just a particular problem of our war.

So the philistines have taken up arms against us: they’ve seen that we’re against them. There are a lot of philistines: all of society has become philistine; the nation has become almost wholly philistine. In this sense, our struggle is quite an idealistic one. Because everybody sees it as an attack on themselves, an attack on the cozy aspects of their lives.

The critics seem especially annoyed by the fact that you take Kasper to your stunts and protest demos.

They get so hysterical over Kasper because it’s an affront to the cozy aspects of their lives. They’re used to handing their kids over to someone else and going out to make money. For Koza (Sokol) and Kasper, it was a shock when the cops separated them for over twenty-four hours: they had never been apart for so long.

But the public object. They say, “If they’re together all the time, what do they live on? It means they’re not poor. It means they’re well-off people or bohemians.”

They can’t even imagine a different situation. That we stick together not because we have a lot of money, but for different, ideological reasons. So our life is based on that. We’re with Kasper [all the time], and so Kasper makes us bend to his life.

Now many people have begun to realize that our war is endless, that it’s broader than just a war against some absurd criminal, gangster regime. It’s more a struggle against an abnormal attitude to life.

The fact that the prize, founded by the Culture Ministry, went to “Dick Captured by the FSB” did shock and upset many people.

Everybody went into hysterics. How can this be? A dirty dick is getting a prize! It was kind of an insult to them, to their finest petit-bourgeois sensibilities.

It’s wonderful that it happened, really. This is a real slap in the face of public taste! The joke was played out to the end: it didn’t remain on the level of marginal manifestos or underground exhibitions – although we are against officialdom, of course.

The joke is that they [the public] did not see the Dick before [it was awarded the prize]. They could allow themselves to turn a blind eye to it, because it was not approved at the top.

But now it’s like matchsticks have been stuck in their eyes and they just can’t close them. In the shape of the award, of the statuette, the Dick is always before them. They cannot help but see it, even if they would be glad not to. That drives them crazy.

I think art is also didactic and has educational goals. By struggling against the authorities, we’re also educating the people. It’s all very Russian.

Can you explain your method of working illegally?

It’s very important to work outside the institutions. They’re trying now to herd art into institutions, and many leftists such as [artist Anatoly] Osmolovsky welcome it. They simply think that the main problem of contemporary Russian art is the fact that we are not educated, that we have no degree programs in [contemporary] art.

But we show that the opposite is the case: that our salvation lies exactly in the fact that we don’t have these degrees. That we are cut off, not tied down, that we don’t walk like cows or calves on a lead. If we were on a leash, we wouldn’t be able to carry out our actions in the way we have. We would do something pathetic, something “creative” in the worst sense of that word. That’s why art should try as hard as it can to stay independent — even if it’s bad for your health, even if you might wind up with a prison term. Although it might be fraught with hardships for the individual, it’s the only way for art to survive.

The authorities began to persecute artists as early as the Yeltsin years, didn’t they?

Formally, it’s true. They started to persecute Avdei [Ter-Oganyan] for hacking up icons in 1998. But now I think we have recaptured a lot of space, because contemporary art — partly because of us — makes news. Before that news came from political life, public life, war, statements by prime ministers and maybe sports.

But now art is on an equal footing. If you look at the headlines, art makes news [as much as any other topic]. I don’t think there has been anything like this since the days of Leo Tolstoy or Solzhenitsyn. Art hasn’t been a newsmaker for a long time. That is a big achievement.

Your art stunts appear to be firmly linked to a specific city.

Yes, our actions are always linked to a concrete location. It would be wrong to say that they’re universal, that they could be taken to any city and performed there. On the contrary, we arrive at a location and have a look around.

Our Moscow actions were very Moscow-oriented, like “A Cop in a Priest’s Cassock,” where I dressed up as a “priest cop” and shoplifted an expensive supermarket. There are simply no such shops in St. Petersburg, the insanely posh ones. So I went into one of those unbelievably posh supermarkets and shoplifted it. It was a very Moscow thing.

“Dick Captured by the FSB” or “Palace Revolution” could have hardly happened in Moscow.

When we’re [planning our actions], we walk around Petersburg, thinking, “This can be done here, and that can be done there.” Say, the installation in front of the Russian Museum (“Palace Revolution”) was not accidental. It’s very important that it was right in front of the entrance.

Few people have noticed that artistically it’s important that we showed that the main work of art is not inside the museum, but outside, near the entrance. It’s very important, you see? That was also decided on right on the spot.

I can hardly imagine what kind of action I would make in London. A funny thing once happened to us. We had an exhibition in Zagreb. We arrived there, and [the organizers] met us with open arms. They said, “It’s great that you came as a group. We’ve already agreed with the mayor’s office that you can do whatever your hearts desire here.” We said, “What the hell! You’ve robbed us of the chance to do an action here.”

But then I took a walk around and realized that even if they hadn’t robbed us of this chance by making an agreement with the mayor’s office, we would have been out of context there anyway.

It’s a totally different life. Our actions can’t be transplanted [to different cities] because they’re specific. The Petersburg actions are very Petersburg. The Moscow actions are very Moscow. Location is an important factor.

Does the radical form your work takes have something to do with the abnormality of the current political situation in this country?

That’s how they see our work in the West. We get letters from American universities (from students and teachers) all the time. They inform us they’re writing an honor’s thesis about our work, which they find very interesting. Then they tell us how they interpret our actions: the abnormal situation in Russia deprives people of the chance to influence events using standard protest methods like pickets whose goal is to directly identify a problem and insist that it be solved immediately. But these don’t work, and so those American students think that the need for this form — for nonstandard protests — was forced on us. It’s an interesting take, but it’s only one aspect of the problem, and somewhat superficial in my opinion. It’s more of a journalistic viewpoint.

If you go deeper, I think our actions are rooted in Russian culture. Russians are like our actions. Russians are precisely just such a people, with a touch of madness.

Your work has been described as “true Russian folk art.” Do you agree?

That’s probably right. We do try to speak on behalf of the people.

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en.free-voina.org/post/6755542565

World Organization Against Torture demands immediate release of Taisia Osipova

Eric Sottas, Director of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) in Geneva, has submitted an open letter to Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, demanding a prompt medical examination and treatment for Taisia Osipova, as well as her release in the absence of valid legal charges.

OPEN LETTER TO MR. DMITRY ANATOLYEVICH MEDVEDEV
PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

Geneva, 21 June 2011

Re: Fear for the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Taisia Osipova – Denial of adequate medical treatment

Your Excellency,

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the largest Network of NGOs fighting against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances and all other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the world, is writing to you to express its concern about the serious health problems of Ms. Taisia Osipova, 26 years old, who is currently detained in poor conditions in the pre-trial detention centre (SIZO) 1, in Smolensk, province of Smolensk. She has been denied adequate medical treatment since her arrest on 23 November 2010, although she is suffering from multiple chronic diseases.

OMCT has been informed by reliable sources that, on 23 November 2010, around 20 policemen and officers from the Department to Combat Extremism entered violently Ms. Taisia Osipova’s house, in Smolensk. The officers reportedly went from one room to another turning everything upside down while forcing Ms. Taisia Osipova to stay with her daughter in one of the rooms. Ms. Taisia Osipova was arrested and brought to the pre-trial detention centre (SIZO) 1, in Smolensk, after the officers allegedly found five packs of greyish substance among her daughter’s clothes and a marked 500-ruble note. Upon arrival at the detention centre, she was examined by a prison doctor only for bruises on her arms that she sustained during the arrest.

Ms. Taisia Osipova was later charged with illegal distribution of drugs by the Zadneprovskiy district court, in Smolensk, and she was remanded in custody pending investigation. On 3 May 2011, the court refused to release her on bail. The following hearing has been scheduled for 21 June 2011.

Since her arrest, Ms. Taisia Osipova has reportedly suffered pressure by officers of the Department to Combat Extremism in order to obtain a confession to the alleged aforementioned crime and information about her husband, who is a senior member of the political opposition party, Drugaya Russia[1].The pressure has reportedly included threats to remove her parental right over her daughter if she refuses to collaborate; poor conditions of detention (she is held in a tiny cell with six more persons although the cell is meant for four persons, with no running water. Despite the temperature of more than 20 degrees, the windows are tightly shut up with two frames. The official Russian radio is reportedly on the whole day which makes it impossible to have any rest) and denial of adequate medical treatment, although she has been suffering from sugar diabetes, pancreatitis, chronic pyelonephritis and chronic toxic-allergic hepatitis.

According to the same information received, Ms. Taisia Osipova was diagnosed with sugar diabetes type 1 in 2005, at the Hospital of Smolensk. She had been under insulin treatment and she had been controlling her sugar level with a glucometer since then. However, she has been denied adequate medical follow-up, including the use of a glucometer, and she has not been provided a diabetic diet since her arrest. In December 2010, she reportedly suffered a hypoglycemic coma but she was neither hospitalised nor examined by a prison doctor. She was only later in the month examined by a prison doctor who reportedly diagnosed a diabetes type 2, although she had been suffering from diabetes type 1 since 2005. Ms. Taisia Osipova was informed about the result only through her lawyer, who himself got the information from the media.

Ms. Taisia Osipova had also been under medical treatment for chronic pyelonephritis, pancreatitis and chronic toxic-allergic hepatitis, diseases that were diagnosed in 2009, at the Uromed hospital, in Smolensk. Nevertheless, she has also not been provided with adequate medical care for these diseases since her arrest. After several requests to the prison administration, an ultrasound scanning was eventually conducted on Ms. Taisia Ospivoa in March 2011. However, she only received the medical report in May 2011 and it reportedly stated that she did not suffer from any of the aforementioned diseases. It is feared that the report was fabricated. OMCT has also been informed that the prison authorities have threatened Ms. Taisia Osipova with reprisals, including solitary confinement, if she would continue to complain about her conditions of detention and the lack of adequate medical treatment.

At the same time, Ms. Taisia Osipova’s lawyer reportedly presented several requests for a complete medical check-up of Ms. Taisia Osipova on the basis of Article 110, paragraph 1.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedures of the Russian Federation, which allows for the provisional release from pre-trial detention of individuals with serious health conditions (including diabetes type 1), but to no avail. Ms. Taisia Osipova’s lawyer subsequently filed a lawsuit before the Leninskiy district court of Smolensk. On 16 June 2011, the court reportedly ordered the prison administration to ensure a medical examination of Ms. Taisia Osipova. To date, no such medical examination was carried out.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Taisia Osipova. OMCT has been informed that Ms. Taisia Osipova’s health has deteriorated. She has lost weight and suffers from accrue pain in the kidneys area. She has also reportedly developed allergy to some unidentified source. OMCT fears that adequate medical examination and treatment are being denied to Ms. Taisia Osipova to put pressure on her. OMCT is concern also about her conditions of detention and the circumstances of her arrest.

OMCT recalls that the Russian Federation is legally bound to effectively ensure the physical and psychological integrity of all persons deprived of liberty in accordance with regional and international human rights law, and in particular, the European Convention on Human Rights, the recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Accordingly, OMCT calls on the competent authorities to ensure that Ms. Taisia Osipova is promptly examined by independent doctors and that she receives adequate medical treatment. OMCT also urges the competent authorities to release her in the absence of valid legal charges and judicial process consistent with international legal standards, or if such charges exist, bring her before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee her procedural rights at all times.

OMCT hopes that the concerns expressed in this letter will receive the attention they deserve.

Yours sincerely

Eric Sottas

Secretary General, OMCT

[1] Drugaya Russia is a non-registered party that was created on the basis of the coalition under the same name after it fell apart. The coalition was the moving force of Dissenters’ Marches held in the period of 2006 to 2008.

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