Three prominent Russian leftist organizations have published an open letter calling for solidarity in the fight against Russian political prisoners. The letter, reposted in part below, brings much-needed attention to the plight of more than a dozen arrested activists whose cases were largely overshadowed by the massive media attention paid to the Pussy Riot trial this past summer. In the face of the Putin regime’s current brutal crackdown on opposition activists and fledgling members of the country’s burgeoning civil society, these political prisoners need all the help they can get.
So far, nineteen people have been accused of participating in those “disturbances”; twelve of them are in jail in pre-trial confinement. Here are some of their stories:
⁃ Vladimir Akimenkov, 25, communist and activist of the Left Front. Arrested on June 10th, 2012, he will be in detention until March 6th 2013. Vladimir was born with poor eyesight. In jail, it is getting even worse. In the last examination, he had 10% vision in one eye, and 20% in the other. This, however, was not a sufficient cause for the court to replace detention with house arrest. At the last court session of the court, the judge cynically commented that only total blindness would make him reconsider his decision.
⁃ Michael Kosenko, 36, no political affiliation, arrested on June 8th. Kosenko, who suffers from psychological disorders, also asked for his stay in jail be replaced with house arrest. However, the court declared him “dangerous to society” and plans to send him for forced treatment.
⁃ Stepan Zimin, 20, anarchist and antifascist, arrested on June 8th and placed under detention until March 6th 2013, after which date his arrest can be extended. Stepan supports his single mother, yet once again the court did not consider this sufficient cause to set him free under the obligation to remain with city limits.
⁃ Nikolai Kavkazskii, 26, socialist, human rights activist and LGBT-activist. Detained on the 25th of July.
Investigators have no clear evidence proving the guilt of any one of these detainees. Nevertheless, they remain in jail and new suspects steadily join their ranks. Thus the last of the players in the “events of May 6th,” the 51-year-old liberal activist and scholar Sergei Krivov, was arrested quite recently, on October 18th. There is every indication that he will not be the last.
If the arrests of already nearly twenty ordinary demonstration participants were intended to inspire fear in the protest movement, then the hunt for the “organizers of massive disturbances” is meant to strike at its acknowledged leaders. According to the investigation, said “disturbances” were the result of a conspiracy, and all the arrested were receiving special assignments. This shows that we are dealing not only with a series of arrests, but with preparations for a large scale political process against the opposition.
On October 5th, NTV, one of the leading Russian television channels, aired a film in the genre of an “investigative documentary,” which leveled fantastical charges against the opposition and in particular, against the most famous representative of the left, Sergei Udaltsov. This mash-up, made in the tradition of Goebbels’ propaganda, informs of Udaltsov’s ties with foreign intelligence, and the activities of the “Left Front” that he heads are declared plots by foreign enemies of the state. By way of decisive proof, the film includes a recorded meeting between Sergei Udaltsov, Left Front activist Leonid Razvozhaev, Russian Socialist Movement member Konstantin Lebedev, and one of the closer advisors of the president of Georgia, Givi Targamadze. In particular, the conversation includes talk of money delivered by the Georgians for the “destabilization” of Russia.
Despite the fact that the faces on the recording are practically indiscernible and that the sound is clearly edited and added separately to the video, within just two days the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office (the agency today playing the leading role in organizing repression) used it to launch a criminal case. On October 17th, Konstantin Lebedev was arrested and Sergei Udaltsov released after interrogation, after having signed an oath to remain within the limits of Moscow. On October 19th, a third participant in the new “affair,” Left Front activist Leonid Razvozhaev, tried to petition for refugee status with the Ukrainian delegation of the UN. As soon as he stepped outside of the delegation building, unknown parties violently forced him into a vehicle and illegally transported him across the Ukrainian border onto Russian territory. Once in an undisclosed location in Russia, he was subjected to torture and threats (including regarding the safety of his family) and compelled to sign a “voluntary submission of confession” and “statements of confession.” In these “statements,” Razvozhaev confessed to ties with foreign intelligence and to preparations for an armed insurgency, in which Konstantin Lebedev and Sergei Udaltsov were also involved. Afterwards, Razvozhaev was delivered to Moscow and placed in jail as a criminal defendant. At present, Razvozhaev has asserted in meetings with human rights activists that he disavows these confessions obtained under duress. However, he could not disavow their consequences. “Razvozhaev’s list,” beaten out of him by torture, has become notorious: it contains the names of people who will before long also become objects of persecution.