Tag Archives: The Other Russia

International Women’s Day Special: Taisiya Osipova, Political Prisoner

March 8 marks the hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day celebrations in Russia. This is the second in a series of posts focusing on the work and plight of several different women involved in political and social activism in Russia today.

In August 2012, Taisiya Osipova, an activist in The Other Russia opposition party, was sentenced to eight years in prison on drugs charges. She and her supporters have always maintained her innocence, claiming that police planted the drugs found in her apartment in Smolensk during a search in order to pressure her into cooperating with them and testifying against her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, a senior party activist.

In sentencing her to eight years in prison, the court not only failed to take into account the evidence of her innocence, but also ignored the fact that Osipova is the mother of a young child and suffers from several chronic illnesses, including diabetes.

Sergei Fomchenkov recently posted the following text on Facebook. In it, he describes the extreme difficulties Osipova and her fellow inmates at the women’s penal colony in Vishny Volochok have getting decent, humane medical care, and the recent family visit that he and their daughter Katrina made there. 

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“Scalding hot! Torzhok!”
By Sergei Fomchenkov
March 1, 2013

The title of this article is a partial quotation of a bit of prison humor at the women’s penal colony in Vyshny Volochok, where Taisiya Osipova is an inmate. This dark humor is associated with the medical unit, to be more precise, with its head doctor, Valery Moskvin, a colorful character and one known well in town, beyond the premises of the penal colony. The full version of the phrase goes like this: “Scalding hot! Torzhok! The way our medicine works, I can’t promise you Torzhok!” It is uttered by the women prisoners, every one of whom before work in the morning walks down the aisle between rows of beds carrying a liter mug full of boiling water. There is not so much time to get ready for work, and the women have to manage to drink a cup of tea or coffee before going, so they do everything quickly. Rushing down the narrow aisle between rows of bed to her section, the female inmate risks pouring boiling water on other women straying into her path. To keep this from happening, the person carrying boiling water is supposed to loudly repeat the phrase, “Scalding hot! Torzhok. . .” Its meaning is clear only to the local inhabitants, who have encountered the specific form of prison medical care at Correctional Colony No. 5. The fact is that the town of Torzhok is home to the Federal Penitentiary Service’s Tver Regional Hospital. Since the means available to the medical unit at the penal colony are quite limited—they do not have the necessary equipment, specialists, and so forth—comprehensive medical care is impossible. This is a problem common to such medical facilities. But the regional prison hospital in Torzhok has more means at its disposal (although things there are not ideal, either) in terms of equipment and specialists, and they say the staff there has a better attitude about doing their jobs.

“We’re all going there. Some sooner, some later”

Mr. Moskvin really hates referring sick inmates to the regional prison hospital. This isn’t simply a matter of the prejudice, often held in his profession, that inmates feign their illnesses. It also has to do with Mr. Moskvin’s personal character.

The following story characterizes this scion of Hippocrates. Upon her arrival at the camp, an inmate named Elena told him she had a history of cancer, and had undergone multiple surgeries for the removal of tumors. Moskvin responded, “Where did you get that idea? You make something up, and then you end up believing it.” She didn’t know what to say to that. Some time later, a growth appeared on Elena’s back, and she went to Dr. Moskvin to ask to have it looked at the prison hospital in Torzhok. Instead, without doing any tests, this man of medicine prescribed the following course of treatment: for a month, iodine was rubbed on the tumor. But since that didn’t help, he ordered the ointment Levomekol rubbed on it, again for a month. The tumor continued to grow, and the pain got worse. Three months after her initial request, Elena once again visited the head doctor, requesting that something be done. Moskvin once again suggested iodine. Elena asked him, “Will it help?” “It won’t get any worse,” was his reply. In the end, Elena was finally sent to the hospital in Torzhok, where they surgically removed the tumor.

This is just one story of many. I am quoting Elena verbatim, because I spoke with her personally. I am not a doctor. But the stories I heard during my prolonged visit with Taisiya confirm Elena’s account. For instance, when another inmate with cancer asked Moskvin to send her to the Torzhok hospital, he told her, “Why bother? Nothing will save you now.” The most proverbial of his sayings, which he likes to repeat to the female inmates who come to him for help, is, “We’re all going THERE. Some sooner, some later.” This is his way of saying that there isn’t much point in doing tests or getting treatment.

High-Ranking Commission

Several days after Taisiya was deprived, in January, of the pills she needs, and this was reported on the Web, a commission of high-ranking officials from the Federal Penitentiary Service came to visit the penal colony. On the day of their arrival, January 29, 2013, Taisiya was taken to the regular municipal clinic for an appointment with an endocrinologist.  There is no endocrinologist on staff in the penal colony’s medical unit, and even the glucose tolerance test done before she was sent to the municipal clinic was done incorrectly. The endocrinologist confirmed this to Taisiya. She also explained that Taisiya needed a full slate of tests at a regular in-patient hospital. Upon Taisiya’s return to the penal colony, she found out that high-ranking authorities were visiting, which explained why she had suddenly been sent to an endocrinologist. Only one member of this “commission” met with her. This official admitted that the colony lacked the necessary resources for treating her illness, but promised her that by mid-February she would be taken to a real hospital, regardless of what head of the medical unit Dr. Moskvin wanted. At the same time, the official also expressed doubt that this would in any way benefit Taisiya, saying that with illnesses like hers it was “quite possible to live without receiving treatment.” Unfortunately, Taisiya did not remember his name.

Maximum Security Family Living

Almost everything recounted above I found out during my prolonged visit with Taisiya, from February 4 to February 7. Our daughter Katrina and I had come to the penal colony for a visit. The building where the visit was held was on the premises of the colony. It had four rooms, a common kitchen, and a bathroom. We had registered for the visit in advance. A prolonged visit, which entails living together for three days, is allowed once every three months. A short visit is allowed once every two months, through glass, and lasts four hours.

During a prolonged visit, each inmate and her relatives (only close relatives are allowed the privilege of such visits) are given a single room to share. In it, there are two beds, a refrigerator, and a television. Food is prepared in the common kitchen. Visitors and their groceries are thoroughly searched before entering the visitation building. A search is also conducted upon departure. During the visit, a check is made twice daily to ascertain that the inmates are in the building. At night, the building is locked from the outside.

Katrina and I arrived for the visit early in the morning. Leading us to the visitation building, the prison staff searched us (this was probably the first time Katrina had ever been frisked, although she had been present for two searches involving police in balaclavas), and they checked the groceries we’d brought. Everything was done politely and carefully. After that, Taisiya was led in.

Katrina glued herself to her mother for three days straight. She was jealous of every moment I had Taisiya’s attention. Katrina followed her mother from room to room, even to the kitchen and back. Taisiya promised her daughter she would be released soon. We only talked about what our life would be like after her release.

In moments when Katrina was either distracted or sleeping, we had the chance to talk. Taisiya told me all about her life in the colony, about being transported to the penal colony and her hunger strike in solitary confinement at the Tver pre-trial detention center. It had been impossible to drink the tap water in the cell at the detention center because of its high level of chlorine. Thus, her hunger strike was practically “dry.” As a result, upon being released from solitary confinement, her kidneys started to shut down.

Taisiya recounted the story of her arrest, and how Center “E” (“anti-extremism”) police, led by Savchenkov, visited her in jail, demanding she testify against herself and me as well as squealing on the [Other Russia] party. They threatened to deprive her of parental rights and put Katrina in an orphanage.

We were able to discuss the plans for appealing the verdict. Taisiya has high hopes for the supervisory appeal and the complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.

The most difficult time for Taisiya came when two days had passed, and only one remained before she had to return to the penal colony. That was when Katrina, just like an adult, in turn tried to calm Taisiya down, explaining to her mother that she would soon be released and telling her about how good everything would be when that happened. It wasn’t a scene for the faint of heart.

The next morning, the guards took Taisiya away. Katrina and I were searched and escorted to the penal colony gates.

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P.S. Taisiya really was sent to the hospital in Torzhok on the night of February 16. She managed to write a letter where she said that, “As it turns out, there is no endocrinologist in Torzhok. And they’re not going to affirm my request, anyway. It’s all the doing of the Federal Penitentiary Service.”

On February 26, journalists were able to get in touch with [Taisiya’s] lawyers, who told them that the Smolensk Regional Court had refused to reexamine Taisiya’s verdict, but had not even informed her lawyers of this decision.

Translated by Bela Shayevich and Chtodelat News

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Wikipedia and “Psycho-Hermeneutics” as Tools of Judicial Repression

‘Experts’ Use Wikipedia as Case Evidence
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
October 3, 2012

The defense said it would demand the exclusion of an expert analysis from the case as the hearings of the Trial of the Twelve continued after a two-week pause Tuesday, dismissing the prosecution’s experts as utterly incompetent and unqualified.

The defense exposed large sections of Wikipedia articles copied by the “experts,” complete with hyperlinks and formatting, a lack of specialist education and ungrounded claims in the text of the analysis, which described the secretly recorded videos of meetings of The Other Russia activists as meetings of the banned National Bolshevik Party (NBP).

If found guilty, the activists could face between two and three years in prison.

Vitaly Batov and Natalya Kryukova, who analyzed the videos for the prosecution, came from Moscow to testify in St. Petersburg’s Vyborgsky District Court, where the case is being heard. Batov was also responsible for the linguistic and sociological analysis that supported the case for prison sentences for the feminist punk band Pussy Riot this summer.

Vitaly Batov, Psycho-Hermeneuticist. Photo by Sergey Chernov

Batov and Kryukova, from the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, found that the slogan “Kill the Slave in Yourself” was a call for violence, while during the recent Pussy Riot trial, Batov found that the group’s “punk prayer” was motivated by “political and religious hatred and enmity.”

The investigators in the Trial of the Twelve turned to Batov and Kryukova, dubbed “call girl experts” by critics, after the original expert analysis conducted by St. Petersburg State University history professor David Raskin concluded that it was impossible to determine from the evidence whether the group in the videos was the NBP or any other similar group.

Kryukova spoke more than Batov, who made occasional remarks.

“I am not interested in the vids,” Batov said, when asked whether he had compared the investigators’ transcription with what was actually heard in the videos, adding, “In this respect I always take my lead from the [person commissioning the analysis].”

In his analysis, Batov said, he used software called Lingvo Express, which he created on an IBM System/3 computer in 1974. The software determines psychological peculiarities and flaws in a person from examples of their speech, he said, adding that it surpasses Western equivalents because, while they require tens of thousands of words to be able to give an accurate result, his own software can do so on the basis of just 200 words.

In addition to the software, Batov used a “psycho-hermeneutic” method that he had also invented, he said, though he admitted that the term had not taken root.

When asked whether his method is used by any other researchers, Batov, who is the author of a book called “Vladimir Vysotsky: The Psycho-Hermeneutics of [His] Work” compared the scientific community to a “zoo.”

“Innovations are only recognized after their rivals die out,” he said.

Batov said he had not undergone professional reevaluation since 1974.

While Batov said he has degrees in psychology and cultural studies, Kryukova is a math teacher.

When asked how she could conduct linguistic, psychological and sociological analysis, she said that she had taken group psychology at university for three terms.

In answer to a question about her qualifications in political studies, Kryukova replied that she had studied the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as a compulsory course at university before graduating in 1981.

Asked how the experts were able to confirm that the flag in the black and white video was the NBP’s banned red flag, Kryukova explained that black appears as black in a black and white image, while any other color appears as gray.

“This flag is definitely not black, which means it is red, because these groups use only black and red flags,” she said.

The experts saw a “call to, and a justification of, the ideology and practice of violence” in defendant Andrei Dmitriyev’s words, when he said at a secretly taped meeting that if the activists gained the support of many small organizations, City Hall “will be forced to take us into consideration.”

When asked how his words could be interpreted as a call to violence, Kryukova replied that it contained the “intention to put pressure” on the authorities, which, in the context of the group’s activities, constituted such a call.

The indictment does not contain any charges of violence.

Kryukova initially claimed that she had used various dictionaries for definitions in the expert analysis, but later admitted using Wikipedia, an anonymous online resource to which anyone can contribute.

“So what, is that a crime?” Kryukova said.

“First-year students are told not to use Wikipedia!” defense lawyer Olga Tseitlina said.

Despite the contradictions and inconsistencies of the evidence offered by Kryukova and Batov, Judge Sergei Yakovlev openly helped them by dismissing some of the defense’s questions and sometimes even answering on their behalf when they appeared to have trouble finding the right word.

“The expert analysis is the prosecution’s only evidence and we’ll be demanding it be excluded from the case at the next hearing,” Tseitlina said after the session.

The hearings in the cases of a group of The Other Russia activists opened in St. Petersburg in April. Last month, cases against four of the twelve activists were dismissed on the grounds that two years had passed since they were last detained for participating in a protest.

See Sergey Chernov’s most recent articles on the Trial of the Twelve here, here and here.

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The Osipova Verdict: “They Want to Murder Taisiya”

limonov-eduard.livejournal.com
Eduard Limonov
August 28, 2012
They Want to Murder Taisiya

I was running errands in the car when I heard about the Taisiya Osipova verdict. They gave her a savage sentence. Eight years behind bars for a women with diabetes is the death penalty.

They want to murder Taisiya.

Who among them is the chief sadist and flayer, I don’t know. Did Smolensk propose eight years, and Moscow said, “Well, we don’t mind”? That’s most likely how it was.

It is noticeable how the sentences given to National Bolsheviks are harsher than simple reprisals. Many times over.

We will not forgive.

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www.huffingtonpost.com

Taisiya Osipova Jailed: Wife Of Russian Opposition Sentenced To 8 Years In Prison
By NATALIYA VASILYEVA 08/28/12

MOSCOW — A Russian opposition activist was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison in a review of her drug-related case – twice as long as prosecutors had requested in a ruling that drew immediate opposition outrage.

Taisiya Osipova and her supporters have maintained that police planted four grams of heroin in her home in 2010 in revenge for her refusal to testify against her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, also a senior figure in The Other Russia opposition movement. A witness for the defense testified at the trial that he saw a police officer put the drugs in Osipova’s apartment.

Osipova had originally been sentenced to 10 years, but a higher court ordered a review of her case.

Tuesday’s unexpectedly harsh verdict comes two weeks after three members of punk provocateur band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for a surprise anti-Vladimir Putin performance in Moscow’s main cathedral. The decision sparked criticism in Russia and abroad as disproportionate.

It’s also being viewed as an ominous sign ahead of the trial of 11 people who were arrested on suspicion of taking part in clashes with the police at a protest rally in May this year.

Eduard Limonov, the leader of The Other Russia party, told Interfax on Tuesday that “this verdict is not only a political one, it’s also terrifying revenge.”

Fomchenkov reported the verdict on his Twitter account. The court in Smolensk was not available to confirm the verdict.

Prosecutors had asked for four years in prison for Osipova.

Osipova, 28, has been in jail since her arrest in 2010 and was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2011. A higher court in February overturned that decision, ordering the review of her case, while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview that the sentence was too harsh.

Left-wing opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov described the verdict in his Twitter as “a triumph of lawlessness and cynicism.”

Osipova was one of the most prominent names on a list of people activists described as political prisoners submitted to then-President Medvedev in February.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential council on human rights, in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Tuesday described the verdict as a “legal mistake.”

Like her husband Osipova is a member of The Other Russia, although she hasn’t been active since her daughter was born in 2006.

Opposition activists have staged regular protests against Osipova’s prosecution, arguing that charges against Osipova were aimed to pressure her for information on her husband, Limonov’s right hand man, who was trying to get the movement officially registered as a political party at the time of her arrest.

Osipova’s supporters also said that witnesses confirmed police discovering drugs at Osipova’s place were members of pro-Kremlin youth groups.

Police searched Fomchenkov’s Moscow apartment shortly before Osipova’s arrest in connection with “an economic case,” details of which were never communicated to the Other Russian functionary.

Osipova’s lawyers on Tuesday pledged to appeal the ruling. The Other Russia activists are planning one-man pickets across Moscow on Saturday to protest the verdict.

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politzeki.tumblr.com

16 August 2012
Dreaming of justice: The Taisiya Osipova case turns into an absurd and cruel farce
By Oksana Chelysheva
Translated by Jonathan Bridges

Roughly a year ago, in one of my articles on the fate of Taisiya Osipova, ‘the Smolensk hostage’, I wrote about the case’s media coverage. At that point in time there were few publications that even hinted at fact that the case had been fabricated.

At the time the situation was being covered on a site created in Taisiya’s defence. The site was maintained largely by Sergei Fomchenkov, Taisiya’s husband. The blog of the art group (‘War’) was still the only source of information about the case. One of the members of the group, Leonid Nikolaev, still managed to pay occasional visits to Smolensk, where Taisya’s absurd trial, presided over by Judge Dvoryanchikov, started to unfold like a scene from Homer. I would like to offer my thanks to the international network of human rights organisations – the World Organization Against Torture – who even at this early stage took up Taisiya Osipova’s case and began questioning the Russian authorities on a regular basis.

A lot has changed in the last year.

Taisiya Osipova’s case has been covered by practically all of the Russian media, with the exception of Rossiyskaya Gazeta (‘The Russian Newspaper’). Even foreign media has managed to keep up with the case. Over the last year, articles about Taisiya have appeared in respectable American, Italian, Spanish, Slovakian and Finnish publications.

A campaign started by Maksim Gromov to support political prisoners’ children played a crucial role in the matter. The story of Katrine, Taisiya and Sergei’s daughter, told in photographs by Vladmimir Telegin, found sympathy amongst many people. In the spring, Vladimir Telegin put on a photo exhibition of Katrine with members of the Voina group and Yuri Shevchuk in Helsinki.

A campaign emerged from the positive response to this modest exhibition. As part of the campaign, photographs were sent to the President of the Russian Federation in the form of postcards containing short demands on Katrine’s behalf, such as ‘Let my mummy go’. Influential human rights organisations were not responsible for the hundreds of photographs. The whole thing was started by one Finnish woman who heard Taisiya Osipova’s story at the exhibition.

Information concerning Taisiya’s case even reached Dmitry Medvedev, Russian president at the time. When Medvedev was asked about Osipova at a meeting with students from MGU (Moscow State University), it emerged that the president had heard this surname in context before: “Ah, yes, sometimes rather severe sentences are given”.

The presidential council on human rights, headed by Mikhail Fedotov, has put Osipova’s name on a list of persons eligible for pardoning. On Medvedev’s orders, the Prosecutor General’s office checked all thirty cases. But, given the way these checks are normally carried, our confidence in them has been reduced to zero. Nevertheless, in Osipova’s case, the procedure adopted by the prelimary investigation and that implemented by the lower court were both so odious that even the Prosecutor General’s office was obliged to acknowledge “the obvious flaws and violations in the conduct of the preliminary investigation”.

This was followed by a statement from Medvedev in which he said he was “prepared to consider the possibility of pardoning Osipova on the condition that she write the request for pardon herself and plead guilty”. Notice the president’s wording, himself being a law graduate and a campaigner against legal nihilism.

He deliberately stressed the necessity for Osipova to plead guilty, which is not a legal requirement.

Since the very first day of her detainment in November 2010, Taisaya has refused to plead guilty, insisting that she did not commit the crime she is charged with. Having refused such mercy, Taisiya’s decision has undoubtedly been an agonising one. Bargaining with her conscience was something that she could not do and living with this slanderous lie would have been practically impossible for her.

On 15 February 2012, the penal chamber of the Smolensk Regional Court, made up of chairman Bezykornov and Judges Rumyantseva and Elizarova, revoked Judge Dvoryanchikov’s decision to sentence Osipova to ten years’ imprisonment. The case was sent to the Zadneprovsky District Court (where Osipova had previously been sentenced to ten years) for re-examination by a different set of judges.

Roughly a month after Judge Dvoryanchikov‘s ridiculous sentence had been revoked, I received a letter from a colleague of mine. In response to a question on how to free Taisiya, he wrote: “The case has after all been won. Even the president spoke about her. The sentence has been revoked. Is there any point in making a fuss about it?”

Yes, there is. There is every reason to make a fuss about it. As long as Taisiya Osipova is behind bars, the case will not have been won. Can her defence campaign be called a success if a new judge shouts at the lawyers and at Osipova herself during the court sittings? Taisiya Osipova is still in Pre-trial Detention Centre (SIZO) no. 1, in Smolensk. The possibility of another ‘guilty’ verdict cannot be ruled out entirely.

Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find people to sit in on Osipova’s court case.

Summer 2012 was marked by disasters and violence. After the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin, the number of political prisoners has been increasing not by the day but by the hour. Some of those who used to go to Smolensk to sit in on the hearings at Zadneprovsky Court are now being investigated in connection with other criminal matters themselves.

Appeals made to EU embassies and international human rights organisations for assistance in monitoring the court proceedings in Smolensk have not yet been successful. Either the court hearings coincided with Christmas and Easter, which made immediate decision making impossible, or strange explanations were given in response to Fomchenkov’s appeals as to why this or that “organisation did not have the financial and human resources to send a diplomatic mission to Smolensk”.

Fine then, let’s put it another way. Having the available resources is difficult. But there are documents available: court rulings, appeal court rulings, publications by journalists who have managed to get far away from Moscow and Smolensk. Ultimately, it would be possible to meet with Taisiya Osipova’s lawyers and find out what is happening and why an increasing number of people, familiar with the evidence put forward, think that Taisiya Osipova is not only an innocent victim of arbitrary rule but also a prisoner of conscience.

On 31 December 2010, the public prosecutor of the Zadneprovsky district of Smolensk signed Taisiya Osipova’s bill of indictment: “In Smolensk, at some point before 21 October 2010, a precise date and time were not established during the preliminary investigation, Osipova intentionally and of her own accord sought out an individual, unidentified during the course of the investigation, from whom she unlawfully obtained a narcotic substance, namely heroin, on a regular basis in an unidentified location with intent to illegally sell. She subsequently kept the aforementioned substance at her place of residence out of mercenary interest in material gain by dealing in narcotics. . .”

In other words, Osipova was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment on the basis of this “drug dealer”. The time and place of the crime have not been established, nor has the identity of the drug dealer. Osipova received time not for drug dealing but for having “the specific intent to commit a crime”. Bearing in mind that proving intent is one of the most difficult tasks of any investigation, we can consider the employees of the Smolensk Centre “E”, who organised and handled Taisiya Osipova’s case, to be true investigatory champions.

They put this woman behind bars based solely on the fact that she had “the specific intent to commit a crime”.

The same people’s testimonies make up the evidential basis: the ‘anonymous’ witnesses Ludmila Timchenkova and Denis Zvyagin (their names were changed supposedly to protect their identity), Semenistova and Kazakova, members of the pro-Kremlin youth organisation Nashi, and Savchenkov, a police investigator from the Centre for Combating Extremism, otherwise known as Centre “E”.

At the very start of this cynical epic, Captain of Justice S. A. Ivanova, an investigator for the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Smolensk, compiled a list of people who needed to be brought in for questioning. And a separate comment reads: “There are no witnesses for the defence.”

It all seemed so simple for the staff at Centre “E”: no one will ever notice that the witnesses and court have been trained to perform like circus animals. They had every chance of pulling off ‘Action Revenge’ on Fomchenkov smoothly and swimmingly.

It was apparent, even at this point, that both the search protocol and list of ‘witnesses’ were nothing but a pure fabrication. For a start, the search protocol states that Taisiya was home alone when the search was carried out – yet the video footage clearly shows another person in handcuffs sitting next to Taisiya. This person is Anton Mandrik. But for Centre “E” he was just another superfluous detail, which is why police investigator Savchenkov asked him ‘to sit quietly if he [didn’t] want to end up behind bars as well.’ When the court asked about witness Mandrik, Savchenkov simply said that he had forgotten about him.

At the hearing on 11 July 2011, Taisiya Osipova said that while her property was being searched on 23 November 2010, she had asked Savchenkov: “When will this drama end?”, to which he had replied: “Get your husband to come here and then this drama will end.”

Savchenkov made sure that there was as much drama as possible. His statements are included in Taisiya’s indictment: “Since I had police information about the fact that there were three fighting dogs in the house and that Osipova possessed weapons which she could have used at any time without warning, we decided to arrest Osipova with the help of the special forces unit.”

Evidently, Savchenkov had done his homework on Osipova and had reason to be wary of entering her property, where he ran more than just the risk of being hit in the face with a bunch of carnations, as happened to the lucky governor of Smolensk. And that’s why this terrorist-fighting ‘hero’ went into Osipova’s house with the protection of the special forces unit, shielding himself from the threatening National Bolshevik ‘drug dealer’ who knows how to use a gun, how to throw a punch and who was surrounded by French bulldogs, almost as if she were surrounded by a stone wall.

As for the three fighting dogs, the dog experts from Centre “E” are clearly useless. Only a complete idiot would try to pass off a French bulldog as a security threat . . . to his trousers. They also forgot the potential danger posed by the bunny rabbits Taisiya was holding and the ferret in the kitchen with its sharp teeth.

A list of the following confiscated items figures in the search protocol of Osipova’s property: five bags of heroin, ten syringes, a bottle containing the residue of a dark-coloured liquid, mobile phones, a computer and also a marked 500-rouble note. It is significant that according to the case evidence, the search was a result of a routine test purchase, which included Timchenkova giving Osipova 3000 marked roubles.

Sergei Fomchenkov commented on this mysterious detail: “The notes weren’t even marked. According to police files, the police just wrote down the serial numbers beforehand. If they had really wanted to catch the dealer, the notes would have been covered in a special substance which leaves traces on the hands of whoever handles it. That would have been objective evidence, but this was not what was done, since no drugs were actually sold. A single note had been put in the same set of chest of drawers that the drugs had been put in. According to the records on the test purchase, Timchenkova supposedly gave 3000 roubles to Osipova, in the following denominations: ten 100-rouble bills, two 500-rouble bills and one 1000-rouble bill – 13 bills in total. The search protocol states that only one 500-rouble bill was found at Taisiya’s address. The police investigator and attesting witnesses testified that no one had entered or left the address in the interval between the drugs being purchased and the property being searched. At the previous hearing, police investigator Smolin was asked: ‘What happened to the remaining twelve banknotes?’, to which he responded: ‘I don’t know. Perhaps she ate them.’ It would be funny if the situation weren’t so tragic. A question occurred to me: if Taisiya ate twelve banknotes, then why did she put the thirteenth one in the chest of drawers. That’s black humour for you.”

The regional court of appeal decided that both the investigation and the lower court had failed to overcome the obvious contradictions. The forensic report from 24 November 2010 states that the confiscated substance was heroin. However, the five bags confiscated during the search and the bags of drugs, which Timchenkova and Zavyagin – the undisclosed witnesses – supposedly got from Osipova during ‘the test purchases’ organised by Centre “E” from October to November, contained different kinds of heroin – both natural as well as synthetically manufactured. There is no explination as to why the forensic examination of the substance only took place after Taisiya’s arrest and not immediately after Zvyagin and Timchenkova had supposedly obtained it from Osipova.

The anaylsis of this substance was conducted by forensic experts without any witnesses present and at a time when it was being transferred from bag to bag. This suggests that the evidence was tampered with.

The investigators asked the team of experts carrying out technical assessments on the confiscated computer a question, the relevance of which is not entirely obvious to a narcotics investigation: “Does the computer in question contain information regarding the activity of the National Bolshevik Party which might incite national and religious discord, and furthermore, are there any symbols on the computer which bear resemblance to the Nazi swatstika or any corruption of it (most frequently used words and phrases: illegal immigrants, Russians, illegal residents, ‘Strategy-31’, ‘The Dissenters’ March’, manifestation, protest) . . . ?”

There was no clarification as to why police investigator Savchenkov helped himself to some of Limonov’s books during the search, which he also subsequently ‘forgot’ about just as he had forgotten about the witness for the defence, Anton Mandrik.

On 12 January 2010, Judge Voitenko of Smolensk’s regional court signed a court order allowing Osipova’s phone calls to be monitored. The order says, among other things, that: “The information we have acquired tells us that Osipova is Sergei Fomchenkov’s wife, through whom he is passing on monetary funds in order to set up a National Bolshevik Party in Smolensk.”

On 31 August 2010 the same judge signed another court order allowing Ospiva’s phone to be tapped. This one is much more informative: “Osipova uses the illegal revenue she gains from dealing drugs to help fund demonstrations planned and carried out by former supporters of the National Bolshevik Party, including the opposition party The Other Russia.”

Nonetheless, no explanation was given as to why the judges refused the defence’s request to play the phone call recordings in court. Moreover, this was not the first time the defence had submitted similar requests but in fact the fifth time: 3 May 2011, 11 August 2011, 26 August 2011, and 21 October 2011. Evidently, the Zadneprovsky Court knows perfectly well that allowing Taisiya’s telephone conversations to be presented to the court in detail would cause quite some embarrassment.

At least then we would have proof that on 22 November 2010, the day before her arrest, Taisiya received a threatening phone call from her acquaintance Khovrenkova, whom Osipova suspects of later becoming ‘witness Timchenkova’, warning her of the impending incident involving the drugs.

The regional court of appeal did not pay particular attention to the ‘anonymous witnesses’ for three reasons. First, the panel of judges did not believe that the witnesses’ “life and safety would be endangered”, as Grani.ru reports. Second, Taisiya Osipova recognised in ‘Timchenkova’ the drug addict Khovrenkova. Third, Osipova saw ‘witness’ Zvyagin owing to an oversight on behalf of the staff at the Department of the Federal Drug Control Service and said that she had never seen the man in her life. The court seriously breached procedural measures by allowing the ‘witness’ to see Osipova in the dock before confirming the defendant’s identity in court. The panel of judges noted in their decision to revoke Osipova’s sentence that “under section 5, article 278 of the Russian Federation Code of Criminal Procedure, the court shall have the right to conduct its cross-examination without making public the identity of the witness to protect his or her safety under conditions, precluding a visual observation of the witness, but which do not, at the same time, exclude his or her immediate participation in the trial. The cross-examination of the anonymous witnesses was carried out in the absence of the accused and thus prevented her from exercising her right to defence.”

The panel noted that significant contradictions in the testimonies given by witnesses for the prosecution had not been resolved, in particular descrepancies in the description of the woman from whom Timchenkova obtained the drugs. The phone calls of those supposedly present at the police search at Osipova’s address have been traced. They prove that it would have been physically impossible for them to have been there at this time, since mobile phone tracking reveals that they were on the other side of town.

The crime and the search protocol were not the only things falsified in Osipova’s case. Documents were also completely falsified, for example the local police officer Pisarev’s character reference for Osipova. Pisarev himself testified in court that he could not possibly have signed the character reference because he had already resigned from the police force when it was issued.

What we have here now are grounds to take legal action against police investigator Savchenkov and his colleagues not only for planting drugs and for the theft of six of Limonov’s books but also for giving false evidence in court and forgery. But in Russia we can only keep dreaming of justice and this time, in Osipova’s case, these dreams are getting smaller and smaller.

Source: Kasparov.ru

Editor’s Note. This translation has been slightly edited for republication here.

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Backlash: Other Russia Activist Taisiya Osipova Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

Taisiya Osipova

lenta.ru
December 30, 2011
Backlash: Other Russia Activist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
Ilya Azar

As 2011 came to a close, Other Russia activist Taisiya Osipova was sentenced in Smolensk to ten years in prison for the sale and possession of narcotics. Osipova, who suffers from several serious diseases and has a five-year-old daughter, was kept in detention for over a year before hearing the verdict. The opposition and human rights activists consider the Osipova case political and symbolic for Russia.

“After Taisiya Osipova’s verdict, the opposition’s struggle for power in Russia has turned into a struggle against pure evil, into a fight on the side of good,” wrote Sergei Aksenov, a former National Bolshevik and a leader of The Other Russia, on his Twitter account. And he’s not the only one: on the evening of December 29, the Runet seethed with indignation, and the word “bitches,” addressed to the authorities in general and the judiciary in particular, was one of the mildest epithets.

According to oppositionists, the main representative of evil in the Taisiya Osipova case is Yevgeny Dvoryanchikov, judge of Smolensk’s Zadneprovsky District Court. It was he who on December 29 sentenced Osipova to ten years in prison for possession and sale of drugs under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code. The fact that Osipova has diabetes, pancreatitis and chronic pyelonephritis, and that she has a five-year-old daughter, Katrine, made no impression on him. (The World Organization Against Torture had twice appealed to Russian authorities to release Osipova.)

True, Dvoryanchikov still did not have not an easy time making the decision: he retired to chambers to write the verdict at twelve noon, returning to the courtroom at around midnight (he began reading out the verdict at 11:15 p.m.). It is not clear why Dvoryanchikov took so long to write the verdict and what was going in his chambers during this time. Other Russia leader and writer Eduard Limonov has already labeled the judge’s actions “vile” and an attempt to conceal the verdict from the public.

The general public does not know about the Osipova case, despite the fact this past summer (when the verdict was supposed to have been rendered), Other Russia activists staged a sit-down strike over several days at the Solovki Stone in downtown Moscow. The police confronted the strikers as best they could, surrounding the square and detaining the harmless activists as they made their way to the stone.

Osipova was arrested on November 23, 2010, when five packets containing an unknown substance and marked bills were found in her home. Osipova was charged with possession of narcotics possession under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code.

According to police investigators, Osipova had sold four grams of heroin for three thousands rubles, and an additional nine grams were found in her home. Defense attorneys and journalists were alarmed by the fact that the witnesses during the controlled buys [staged by police] were three young women associated with pro-Kremlin youth movements. At the same time, the [packets containing the] seized substance were not fingerprinted: defense attorneys are thus certain that the heroin was planted in Taisiya’s home.

Other Russia activists have always maintained that the Osipova case is utterly political. Her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, is a member of The Other Russia’s executive committee. Osipova claimed that the police investigators who detained her told her directly that they were not interested in her, but in her husband, who lives in Moscow. Fearing arrest, Fomchenkov never once traveled from the capital to Smolensk to visit his arrested wife.

Alexander Averin, a representative of The Other Russia and ex-press secretary of the banned National Bolshevik Party, told Lenta.Ru that police had immediately promised to give her ten years if she did not testify against Fomchenkov. The guilty verdict was not a surprise for the opposition, although few had expected such a harsh sentence (despite the fact that the prosecutor had asked the judge to sentence Osipova to twelve years and eight months in prison).

“I see Dvoryanchikov’s face: he knows there is nothing to the charges. He’s just carrying out orders. It’s not his decision, but he’s an ambitious careerist, and doesn’t want problems. So I just have to get to the appeals stage and keep working,” Osipova herself said in an interview with Grani.Ru in December.

Svetlana Sidorkina, an attorney with the human rights association Agora who, along with Smolensk lawyer Natalya Shaposhnikova, served as Osipova’s defense counsel, told Lenta.Ru that, in the wake of the verdict, defense attorneys intend both to file an appeal and petition the [European Court of Human Rights in] Strasbourg. Sidorkina has no illusions about the prospects of an appeal. “We definitely hoped for the best, but we also didn’t rule out such a [harsh] outcome. I assumed that the sentence would be six and a half years, while Shaposhnikova [thought it would be] eight, but unfortunately we both guessed wrong,” said the lawyer.

The Other Russia now intends to fight for Osipova, and is counting on public support. In December 2011, civil society in Russia, especially in Moscow, suddenly and powerfully made itself heard. Tens of thousands of people came out for the fair elections rallies on Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Boulevard, and almost a thousand people came to a protest in defense of [arrested] Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov.

“This is a slap in the face of civil society. People came out and demanded honesty and justice from the authorities, and this was the response — Judge Borovkova, the arrests of Udaltsov and Nikitenko, and, to top it all off, a ten-year sentence for Osipova. The state has recovered its senses and delivered a counterblow. I wonder how society will react to this — will it go celebrate the New Year or will it defend the freedom of political prisoners?” Averin put it emotionally last night.

He added that the traditional Strategy 31 rally on Triumfalnaya Square on December 31 would be dedicated to Taisia and political prisoners in general. “Lots of people are indignant over this verdict. Different people have been calling me who weren’t planning to come out on December 31 but who have now decided to go,” said Averin. On the night of December 30, there in fact were appeals on the Internet to go to the unauthorized rally in support of Osipova on Triumfalnaya Square.

A year ago on December 31, Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, leaders of the Solidarity movement, were arrested at a Strategy 31 rally. They both rang in the New Year behind bars: Nemtsov was sentenced to fifteen days in jail, while Yashin was sentenced to five. In 2009, Sergei Mokhnatkin was arrested during a New Year’s Eve rally: he was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison for [allegedly] assaulting a police officer.

It is a big question whether “enraged city dwellers” will take to Triumfalnaya Square over the harsh verdict handed to ex-National Bolshevik Osipova. Or are rigged elections the only thing that, for the time being, can really enrage them?

Photo courtesy of Free Voina. See their coverage of the Osipova case here (in Russian) and here (in English).

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Amnesty International: Hundreds held in Russian election protests

www.amnesty.org

5 December 2011

Hundreds held in Russian election protests

The Russian authorities must release all of the peaceful protesters detained over the weekend amid allegations of fraud in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, Amnesty International said today.

More than 300 opposition activists and bystanders were reportedly arrested by police in cities across Russia amid protests against alleged manipulation of votes by presidential candidate Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

“These disgraceful detentions highlight once again the failure of the Russian government to respect its citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

“The vast majority of those arrested since Sunday have sought merely to peacefully express their protest. They are prisoners of conscience and they must be released immediately.”

Across Russia police moved swiftly to pre-empt and disperse potential protests. In Moscow, opposition parties called for demonstrations on Red Square and Triumfalnaya Square against election fraud. Police responded by detaining potential demonstrators and onlookers.

Several well known opposition activists were detained at home or on their way to demonstrations, with some being sentenced to up to 10 days of administrative detention.

“Our staff in Moscow watched as several peaceful people were whisked off the street by police without any provocation,” said Nicola Duckworth.

“Others didn’t even make it to the protests and were instead seized pre-emptively.”

Among the opposition politicians detained is Andrei Gorin from the Other Russia, who was reportedly beaten and sentenced to 10 days’ administrative detention.

Left Front activist Sergey Udaltsov was arrested by plain clothes police officers on his way to a demonstration and has been sentenced to five days’ administrative detention.

Amnesty International is also concerned about the harassment of Golos, an independent election monitoring NGO.

Golos head Lilya Shibanova was detained at Moscow airport and her computer was confiscated, with police claiming its software may pose a security risk.

The NGO was fined for allegedly violating its obligations as an independent election monitor, while its website also came under attack from hackers.

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“Anti-Devil”: “Performance Art” as a Weapon of the Kleptocratic Police State

groupper.livejournal.com

INVITATION
ON DECEMBER 4 PETERSBURG’S SAINT ISAAC’S SQUARE WILL BE OCCUPIED BY “ANTI-DEVILS”

At 8:00 p.m. on December 4, the action “Anti-Devil,” an art house-style theatrical performance based on F.M. Dostoevsky’s novel “The Devils,” will begin on Saint Isaac’s Square. A phrase by the great writer — “The finest people must unite!” — is the action’s leitmotif. We call on people to unite against turmoil and social upheaval, and for the legitimacy of the authorities, as confirmed during the elections.

The stage will be erected on the Blue Bridge, right in front of the Mariinsky Palace [home of the Petersburg Legislative Assembly]. Petersburg actors, artists, dancers and musicians will perform key dialogues from the novel, as well as original numbers and performances dealing with the deeds of devils in Russia. Artist Daniil Tikhonov will present a new, relevant drawing from his acclaimed series “Dostoevsky FM.”

The Russian folk proverb “Stomp your feet, devils, but not in our forest!” will serve as the main slogan of this massive ritual.

The action, produced and directed by Yana Bogdanova, has been initiated by the Angry Artists art community.

The Arts Faculty of Saint Petersburg State University (Valery Gergiev, dean), the New Man Institute (Sergei Bugaev Afrika), and the Saint Petersburg Arts Support Center (Alexei Sergienko) have already expressed their support for the creation of [this] original performance.

Andrei Tatarinov, member, Russian Federation Public Chamber:
“Devils are temptations and the people who succumb to them. It was thus in the Russian Empire, and so it is [today] in the Russian Federation. Greed, the consumerist itch, and unbelief generate provocateurs, traitors and criminals of all stripes. Just like Dostoevsky’s ‘The Devils,” our theatrical performance is about those who for their own benefit or out of confusion fervently desire the collapse of society and state.”

Admission is free for viewers.
The event has been authorized by the Saint Petersburg Municipal Administration.

UPDATE. Not that it should surprise us, but only activists from The Other Russia party had the moxy to challenge this little bit of police-state “artistic” demonism, endorsed by world-famous Petersburg cultural maestros Sergei Bugaev Afrika and Valery Gergiev.

04-12-2011, 22:11:40 // Saint Petersburg
The Protest Action Near Gostiny Dvor Ended Outside the Electoral Commission

At 8:00 p.m. in Saint Petersburg, when voting had officially ended, activists from The Other Russia who had not been detained near Gostiny Dvor metro station appeared outside the Mariinsky Palace, where the city’s electoral commission is headquartered. There, on the Blue Bridge, a pro-Kremlin action sponsored by the Young Guards, entitled “Anti-Devil,” was getting under way.

Two Other Russia activists, Oleg Bespalov and Yevgeny Pavlenko, climbed onto the stage that had been set up by the Young Guards. The activists set off flares and being chanting, “Your elections are a farce!” The protesters were fairly roughly detained by the security hired by the pro-Kremlin youth and turned over to police. Oleg Bespalov was beaten up. After the arrests, police officers summoned one of the organizers of the pro-Kremlin happening and demanded that she file a written criminal complaint [against the arrested activists].

Yevgeny Pavlenko and Oleg Bespalov have been taken to police precinct No. 2. Both were badly beaten and there are fears that they have suffered concussions, but Center “E” officers [anti-“extremism police] who arrived [at the station] are refusing to let doctors take them to hospital.

http://nazbol.ru/rubr1/index0/8986.html

Photo by Vladimir Telegin.

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Free Matvei Krylov!

Water Stunt May Earn 2 Years in Jail
01 November 2011
Alexey Eremenko
The Moscow Times

An opposition activist faces two years in jail for splashing water in the face of a prosecutor who jailed his comrades and allegedly threatened to kill him, the Agora rights group said Monday.

Dmitry Putenikhin, a member of The Other Russia, attacked Alexei Smirnov outside Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court on Friday shortly after it jailed five people, including three fellow activists, for participating in Manezh Square rioting last December.

The verdict has raised eyebrows because the riots were racially charged, while The Other Russia is not a nationalist group. Critics say the authorities chose the organization as a scapegoat.

Putenikhin, also known under the alias Matvei Krylov, did not flee after the attack, explaining to journalists that his actions were “improvised.” A video released by RIA-Novosti showed police brutally detaining him and three other people minutes after the attack.

Putenikhin, who remains in detention, was initially charged with petty hooliganism, but over the weekend, police reclassified the charge to threatening an official on duty.

Police acted on a complaint by Smirnov, who said Putenikhin shouted “death to prosecutors” when splashing the water on him, Interfax reported, citing an Other Russia spokesman.

Putenikhin’s lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, said her client never threatened Smirnov, only telling him “we won’t forget, we won’t forgive,” which does not qualify as a death threat, Agora said in a statement.

The video of the incident shed no light on the matter because it included neither statement. No date for a court hearing had been set Monday.

Nationalists rallied on Manezh Square in December to protest an allegedly botched probe into the death of a football fan, killed in a brawl with Dagestani natives, six of whom were jailed last week.

The twin rulings in the Dagestani and Other Russia trials were widely seen as a means to placate nationalists ahead of their Russian March rally on Nov. 4. City authorities have sanctioned the event to take place in the suburb of Lyublino, but a co-organizer told Interfax on Monday that the maximum number of participants has now been ordered slashed from 10,000 to 3,000.

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Matvei’s numerous comrades, friends, colleagues, and admirers have organized a vigorous public campaign for his release. The campaign’s virtual headquarters is the web site http://plennik.org/ru/.

There you’ll find information (in Russian) about Matvei’s case, his biography, and suggestions on how to help him gain release from police custody, fund his legal defense, and publicize his story.

If you would like to join the campaign by organizing solidarity actions in your own country or city, or want to know how best you can help Matvei and the campaign from outside Russia, please write to: plennik.org@gmail.com.

Campaigners have already help a number of events and protest rallies in Matvei’s defense and more are scheduled for the coming days, including a rally/concert at 2:00 p.m. on November 27 on Chistye Prudy in central Moscow:

and a group art show at 5:00  p.m. on November 26 at the Zverevsky Center in Moscow (Metro station Baumanskaya; ul. Novoryazanskaya, 29):

Matvei has played a key role in reviving and organizing the sixties tradition of open-air poetry readings at the Mayakovsky monument in central Moscow, as reflected in this article from last year:

Poets rediscover Moscow platform to oppose leaders
AFP, MOSCOW
Fri, Sep 17, 2010

Matvei Krylov perched on a barricade in a central Moscow square and began reciting a poem by a ­Soviet-era dissident as a rag-tag audience, from goths to a headscarfed pensioner, gathered to listen.

Every month a group of left-wing activists and amateur poets gathers to riff on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and problems such as the deadly August forest fires in a rare outlet for criticism of the Russian authorities.

The readings take place on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, also the scene of regular attempts to hold unsanctioned protests on the 31st day of the month, to demand constitutional rights, which are roughly put down by riot police.

Police have also tried to stop the poetry readings and asked that they avoid swearing or mentioning politics, organizers said.

Under the shadow of an immense statue of the great Soviet poet of the 1920s, Vladimir Mayakovsky, famous for his explosive rhymes, the readings recall the dissident poetry of the 1960s that rattled the Communist authorities.

“The police have an order to put a stop to any politics. They warn us not to talk about Putin,” said poet and left-wing activist Vladimir Koverdyayev, a member of the banned National Bolshevik party.

“Last time they tried to detain us, we had to explain for a long time that it’s not political,” said Krylov, a member of the same party. “For them, any gathering of people is a meeting, a protest. It’s extremists, potential enemies.”

At the latest reading, around 50 people, most in their 20s, gathered on a drizzly evening. Some drank cognac and ate chocolate as poets stepped up with typed pages to an improvised oil drum rostrum.

Two curious policemen looked on grinning. One asked a journalist how long the readings would last, but both drifted off after listening to a few lines.

Despite the ban, references to Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev abounded.

Koverdyayev, 36, read a poem that ridiculed the police rules.

“It’s not allowed, but I don’t give a fuck/ I mean I don’t give a toss,” he read.

“It’s high time for Dima and Vova to be sent for a rest,” he said, using the nicknames for Medvedev and Putin.

Another poet, Vladislav Tushnin, mocked Putin’s televised appearances during last month’s forest fires.

“Putin takes a ride on a speed boat/ He and [emergency minister Sergei] Shoigu are raking in the dough/ We’re sick of this, Putin/ We have had enough of this television circus,” he read.

Arseny Molchanov read a protest poem called Country — and almost all the audience joined in with a word perfect recitation.

“Turn on rag-doll Channel One/ Turn it on for even a minute/ The premier says the conveyor lines are working great/ The minister says everything is cool in the army,” he said.

“And my country … she only hears the great songs of Dima Bilan/ She breathes through the scars of Kursk, Nord-Ost, Chechnya and Beslan,” he said, juxtaposing the Eurovision song winner with Russia’s worst modern tragedies.

Some of the poetry is doggerel, but some is powerful. Molchanov is the best known figure, a kind of rock ’n’ roll poet who regularly performs his poetry with musicians at Moscow clubs.

Last month the readings were visited by British poet Alan Brownjohn.

Koverdyayev and Krylov both have plenty of experience of political combat.

Boyish-looking with floppy hair, Krylov risks jail if he gets in trouble with the police since he is serving a suspended sentence for breaking into the foreign ministry’s lobby last year in an attempted protest.

Koverdyayev, dressed smartly and carrying a leather case, leads the National Bolsheviks in the Moscow region. He was briefly held in a psychiatric hospital in 2008 after he was detained on drugs charges. He was later pronounced sane and fined for drugs possession.

Krylov opened the latest reading with a poem by a Soviet dissident who died in a prison camp, Yury Galanskov.

“Beaten to the ground, I spit on your iron city, packed with money and dirt,” Krylov shouted on the square, which has been barricaded off by the Moscow city authorities in an apparent move to deter protests.

Titled the Human Manifesto, the poem became the unofficial anthem of poetry readings on the same spot during the Khrushchev-era thaw. Galanskov and other dissidents including Vladimir Bukovsky were the initiators.

Those readings came to an abrupt end in 1961 when the authorities cracked down on the poets and brought five of them to trial. The new generation of poetry readers sees parallels.

“I think it is approximately the same time,” Koverdyayev said. “People aren’t able to express their opinion openly. People are uniting.”

Watching the poetry reading was a 70-year-old math teacher, who gave her name as Lyubov Alexeyevna, who said she remembered the Soviet-era gatherings although she never went along herself.

But she traveled from a suburb for this event after hearing about it on the Echo of Moscow radio.

“I’m very worried about what is going on in our country,” she said, citing plans to build a highway through forest near Moscow and rising food prices.

“It’s really great. I see they have bright faces, not beaten down,” she said. “I did not expect that so many young people would come along. Now they have revived the readings, good for them.”

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Finally, here is a short video about Matvei’s life and case (in Russian):

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