In February 2018, a campaign was launched in Russia to support those accused in the Network case. Among the main goals of the campaign were fundraising for legal costs, organizing humanitarian support for the arrested and offering support to their relatives. The resources gathered have so far been distributed according to the financial circumstances of the respective families and the needs of the arrested. Further financial support is being distributed according to the choices made by those the arrested throughout the investigation.
Currently two of the accused, Igor Shishkin, and Yegor Zorin, are firmly siding with the investigation.
Igor Shishkin has not filed a torture complaint, although traces of torture were reported on his body by the independent Public Oversight Committee (ONK). He has signed agreement prior to being present in court, which means that he has fully admitted his guilt. He is actively cooperating in the investigation of the criminal case, and also giving testimony against other suspects. If the case by the prosecution is substantiated with the testimony given by Shishkin, his sentence will be reduced (as defined in the chapter 5 of the statute 317.7 of Russian Codex of Criminal Prosecution, UPK RF). Igor is the only accused to have been visited by official Russian Ombudsman for human rights Tatyana Moskalkova, but he did not report any torture during the visit. Since then he has sided with the prosecution during a cross-interrogation with another defendant. This position is detrimental to co-defendants, and results in additional pressure for everyone struggling for themselves and for justice.
Yegor Zorin, in the autumn of 2017, after being tortured, admitted his guilt and has cooperated with the investigation ever since. He never filed a torture complaint.
In the framework of the support campaign, we do not consider it possible to support defendants cooperating with the investigation, against the interests of the other co-defendants. Thus, financial support for these defendants is not provided from the common fund. In case you want to support Shishkin, you may do so via his relatives (link).
All the defendants in the case, Shishkin and Zorin included, have been tortured and manipulated by the authorities. We are ready to provide support for Shishkin and Zorin, when they choose to take part in a collective strategy of defense, instead of an individual one.
In the United States, a practically unprecedented prison strike is underway, setting new precedents for coordination between struggles in prisons and detention centers and for solidarity from those not behind bars. Meanwhile, August 23-30 is also the sixth annual week of global solidarity with anarchist prisoners, when anarchists around the world coordinate solidarity struggles between different countries and continents. We strongly believe that every prisoner is a political prisoner, and that the best way to support anarchist prisoners is to build a movement against the prison-industrial complex itself. At the same time, the week of global solidarity is an excellent opportunity to get context from our comrades in other parts of the world about the different strategies of repression that various governments are employing today and how to counter them.
In the following text, we’ll explore contemporary patterns of repression targeting anarchists around the world and some of the ways that movements have responded. Looking at this as a microcosm of the way that repression functions in relation to the broader population can give us a way to understand prisoner solidarity as one part of wider struggles against prisons and towards freedom for all people. As anarchists, we aim to analyze state tactics of repression in order to develop better security practices, build international connections, and become more skilled at supporting and caring for each other.
Waves of Repression, 2017-2018
The first two decades of the 21st century have seen steadily intensifying repression directed towards anarchists and their comrades. Some of the most widely known examples of the past few years include the Tarnac case in France, an investigation of “terrorism” that started in 2008 and concluded this year with the defendants completely exonerated; Operations Pandora, Piñata, and Pandora 2 in Spain, which began in December 2014 and concluded this year; Scripta Manent in Italy, since 2017; Operation Fenix in the Czech Republic, since spring 2015; the raids the police have been carrying out across Europe since the battle of Hamburg in summer 2017; the Warsaw Three arson case in Poland, 2016-2017; and mass repression in the United States resulting from the occupation of Standing Rock and the resistance to Trump’s inauguration, the latter case finally having concluded this past July. We are also witnessing ongoing repression in Belarus dictatorship and Russia, most recently with the “Network” case.
All around the world, states and their police forces choose from the same assortment of tactics to achieve the same ends. The specific choices they make vary according to their context, but the toolbox and the fundamental objectives are the same.
For example, the same computer programs are used in many different countries to carry out online censorship. In some countries, they are only used to shut down a few websites, while elsewhere, they block a vast array of content; but the same principle is at work in both cases, and all it would take for the former situation to become the latter would be for the authorities to check a few more boxes in their repression software. The same goes for other forms of police repression. This shows how the difference between a supposedly permissive liberal democracy and an autocratic dictatorship is quantitative, not qualitative.
When police in one part of the world develop a new strategy or begin to employ a specific tactic more often, that often spreads to other police agencies around the world. For example, we can draw a line between the various entrapment cases in the United States—Eric McDavid, David McKay, Bradley Crowder, Matthew DePalma, the NATO 3, the Cleveland 5—and the subsequent Operation Fenix case in the Czech Republic, in which agents provocateurs attempted to seduce people into planning an attack on a military train and attacking a police eviction squad with Molotov cocktails. In the beginning, Operation Fenix was framed as a campaign against the Network of Revolutionary Cells, a network that had claimed responsibility for various arsons against police and capitalists; at the end, it concluded as an unsuccessful attempt to stigmatize anarchists and restore the legitimacy of the Czech police in the eyes of the public.
Likewise, we can also understand Operation Fenix in the context of decades of efforts from police in Italy, the US, France, Spain, and elsewhere to set a precedent for fabricating terrorist conspiracy cases with which to discredit and imprison anarchists. Viewed individually, the Marini trial in Italy, the Tarnac 9 case, Operations Pandora and Piñata, and Operation Fenix are nothing more than perplexing examples of prosecutorial overreach. But when we consider them as part of a global pattern in which the repressive forces of the state have been seeking a new method via which to neutralize the networks that connect popular social movements, we can recognize what they all have in common. In this context, it also becomes clear how the Russian tactic of torturing arrestees into signing false confessions could spread to other countries, if we don’t take steps immediately to publicize it. This is why it is important to take a global approach to studying state strategies of repression.
Growing International Police Cooperation
Across the globe, police forces are cooperating more than ever before. Continent-wide repression in Europe shows international police collaboration and the extremist and terrorist laws in action.
The recent Aachen bank robbery case in Germany illustrates this: a European arrest warrant, the sharing of intelligence between police forces, and the intensification of cooperation between various legal authorities following two bank expropriations in 2013 and 2014. Spanish and German police cooperated in obtaining the DNA of the alleged expropriators, who were convicted of robbing the Pax Bank, the bank of the Catholic Church.
We can also see evidence of this trend in the last case connected to the SHAC campaign (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty), which targeted current animal liberation prisoner, Sven van Hasselt. Six European states collaborated in his arrest.
We are also seeing police in different countries exchanging education and experience on a more organized basis. For example, the College of European Police (CEPOL) held a seminar about terrorism in Greece in July 2012, at which the Italian authorities offered an in-depth overview of the repressive measures they have used against the insurrectionary anarchist movement. The European Police Office (EUROPAL) publishes an annual report, the Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT), in which you can find a chapter dedicated to supposed left-wing and anarchist “terrorism.” This kind of collaboration has gained momentum in other venues, such as the European Union Intelligence and Situation Center (SitCen); European Union Member States also cooperate on the legal level through institutions like Eurojust.
Governments in the Global North routinely equip and train states in the Global South to employ their technology and repression strategies. For example, Germany and Israel made a fortune equipping Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup. In an extreme example of this Great Britain is now looking to outsource imprisonment to Africa, building a new prison wing in Nigeria. All of these are good reasons to interlink our struggles.
Terrorism Discourse and Legislation
Laws and rhetoric against “extremism” and “terrorism” are some of the most powerful contemporary tools to criminalize and delegitimize social struggles. Many states developed anti-terrorist laws as a result of the previous generation of political movements, such as the Basque independence groups in the Spanish State or the Red Army Faction (RAF) in Germany in the 1970s. In a way, this can make the framework of “terrorism” somewhat outdated when it comes to contemporary social movements, which usually lack formal hierarchies like the RAF.
The chief function of the “terrorism” framework is to legitimize the suspension of legal rights, in order to empower police to employ unlimited surveillance, indefinite detention without charges or trial, total isolation in prison, torture—all the tactics that were once used to maintain colonial regimes, monarchies, and dictatorships. Since September 11, 2001 and the declaration of the so-called “war on terror,” anti-terrorist laws have been upgraded all around the world to make these tactics available to repress anyone who might be able to threaten the stability of the reigning order.
This is why the most liberal European democracy can concur with the authorities of a virtual dictatorship like Putin’s Russia that the same legal framework should be used against both anarchists who defend the public against police violence and fundamentalists who carry out attacks on random civilians for the Islamic State. These two cases have nothing in common in terms of tactics or values or goals; the one thing that connects them is that they both contest the centralized power of the prevailing government.
Repression: An International Language with Local Dialects
“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”
There are some new developments in the field of state repression. For example, we see an rapid development in repression tactics in Russia with the example of the “Network” case, in which many activists have been kidnapped, threatened, beaten, and tortured via electroshocks, hanging upside down, and other methods. Using these tactics, the officers of the Russian Security Forces (FSB, the successor to the KGB) have forced arrestees to sign false confessions corroborating the existence of an invented group called “the Network” which was allegedly planning to carry out the terrorist attacks during the presidential elections in March 2018 and the FIFA World Cup. These tactics created an atmosphere of fear, isolation and uncertainty in Russia, making it very difficult to mobilize solidarity.
The innovation here is using torture to confirm the existence of a “terrorist network” invented by the state. Torture itself is not a new thing to anarchists and other prisoners in post-Soviet countries; it remains one of the most powerful tools in the context of a penal system that is notoriously corrupt and permissive towards the police, giving them even less legal oversight than police experience in places like the United States. The Russian and Belarusian contexts are distinct in that in both cases, the state is openly authoritarian, not hesitating to crack down violently even on basic forms of expression such as banner drops.
Currently, this strategy seems to be working in Russia and Belarus, but in the long run heavy-handed oppression makes the authorities vulnerable to sudden outbursts of pent-up anger. In Belarus, for example, despite tremendous pressure from the totalitarian government, anarchists were at the forefront of one of the most powerful social movements of 2017.
By contrast, in the “Western” countries, we see more legalistic strategies of repression, such as extreme bail and release conditions that function to isolate and pacify individuals via attrition. This presents subtler forms of repression that are more socially acceptable to those who like to think of themselves as the citizens of a democracy. One police research report described the repression of the SHAC campaign as a process of “leadership decapitation” achieved through lengthy prison sentences and extreme bail and post-prison conditions aimed at absolutely isolating people from their movements.
Police cooperation between different European states does not always take the same form. For example, while Greek, Italian and German conferences take place regarding anarchist “terrorism” and “extremism,” countries that have experienced fewer militant actions and less popular unrest employ different approaches. Many states carry out intelligence gathering in the guise of academic research in “extremism and terrorism studies,” in order to monitor the presence of particular ideas or tactics. This was clear in the Czech Republic, where such studies were used to analyze the local anarchist movement. For example, despite lacking any demonstrable links to the FAI/FRI or Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, recent anarchist actions in Czech Republic from the aforementioned Network of Revolutionary Cells were described and charged mostly via academic and police research that presented them as a manifestation of the former groups.
Learning from Successful Support Campaigns
“We learn a thousand times more from defeat than we do from a victory”
-Ed Mead, member of George Jackson Brigade and Men against Sexism, long-term prisoner and gay liberationist
It’s not easy to measure the effectiveness of repression. A campaign of repression could be said to succeed if the targets receive prison sentences—or if the movement they are associated with is effectively divided, pacified, or destroyed—or if the social struggle that the movement is engaged in becomes co-opted.
So, for example, you could say that Operation Fenix was unsuccessful because the legal charges that were pressed did not succeed. However, Czech police were able to collect an enormous amount of data on the anarchist movement in the Czech Republic—and despite failing to win the case against the defendants, they succeeded in implanting anti-terrorist rhetoric and “anti-extremism” sentiment in the public discourse. Yet, despite this, Czech anarchists gained a lot of support from all around the world, which was very important for the people who were behind bars, isolated and charged with extremism.
One the most inspiring recent support campaigns was the defense of the J20 arrestees in the US, a case that ended in almost complete defeat for the state. We can see another inspiring example under much less favorable conditions in the campaign against the ongoing “Network” terrorist case in Russia, where defendants’ parents have created a “Parents’ Network” supporting their children and opposing the totalitarian regime.
Undertaking Movement Defense
Repression often imposes isolation and other hardships. Everyone is unique, but in general, those on the receiving end of repression need some of the same things: financial support, emotional support, support for the family and friends of defendants, secure or at least reliable channels of communication, publicity about the case, and—most importantly—continuing the struggle.
Different groups can play different roles in the fight against repression. There are groups that form in order to react when repression hits, such as the campaign to support the J20 defendants, or Solidarat Rebel, which spreads information about the Aachen bank robbing case, or the Antifenix initiative, which promotes analysis and resistance against Operation Fenix in the Czech Republic. These projects are very important in that they respond to an immediate and urgent need for support. There are also groups that maintain consistent long-term anti-repression organizing, such as the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC). The Anarchist Black Cross is an international network of anarchist groups engaged in practical solidarity with prisoners that is now a century old.
We can work to counter repression on several levels. We can raise awareness about the usefulness of security culture and the different tactics of repression so as to prepare for the inevitable response of the state to our efforts to create a better world. We can also build up material resources—raising money to pay legal fees and related expenses such as travel costs and to support prisoners during their sentences and when they are released. This can involve organizing fundraising events or seeking donations in other ways. Most importantly, we have to provide care and emotional support to the targets of oppression and to others who support them.
Finally, we can spread information about legal cases and prisoners and how to do support work through various media channels including websites, pamphlets, podcasts, books, speaking tours, and social networks both virtual and real. For example, this zine composed by various ABC groups around Europe introduces the basics of Anarchist Black Cross organizing.
We have to understand our efforts to support specific prisoners as part of a much broader struggle against prisons themselves. If we are already organizing in solidarity with prisoners in general, anarchist prisoners will be in a much better position. That means supporting prisoner organizing, sending reading material and resources to prisoners, acting in solidarity outside the prisons when prisoners revolt, and spreading a popular discourse that identifies what everyone stands to gain from dismantling the prison-industrial complex.
From a Week of Solidarity to Prison Abolition
Anarchists are fighting on the front lines of the struggle against prison society alongside other poor people, people of color, indigenous people, and everyone else who is targeted by the prison system worldwide.
The sixth annual week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners is one of many opportunities to connect all these different struggles, seeking to set an example of what long-term coordinated anti-repression work might look like. The date of the beginning of the week is the anniversary of the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian-American anarchists, in 1927. They were convicted with very little evidence, punished above all for their anarchist views.
Anarchists are not always the chief targets of the state, which often prioritizes attacks on people of African heritage, migrants, Muslims, and other ethnic groups on the receiving end of colonial violence. Nevertheless, we are almost always somewhere on the list of targets because our values and our actions threaten the hegemony of the state. Prison is the glue that holds capitalism, patriarchy, and racism together. As we strive for a society based on cooperation, mutual aid, freedom, and equality, we inevitably come into conflict with the police and the prison system. Let’s build a broad movement against them.
So long as there are prisons, the most courageous, sensitive, and beautiful among us will end up inside them, and the most courageous, sensitive, and beautiful parts of the rest of us will be inaccessible to us. Every one of us can become a prisoner. No one is truly free until all of us are free.
Till All Are Free—the hub organizing the International Week of Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners
We are coming back with global week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners. Since last year, a lot has changed in our countries, but the general tendency is going in the worse direction with more repressions applied against anarchists not only in Europe but worldwide. With this in mind, we are calling for sixth annual week of solidarity!
Last year lots of people sent us their reports from different parts of the world and we hope that this year the tradition will grow even bigger. We need to support our comrades! Use this week to spread the information about anarchists behind bars. Don’t have prisoners in your country? No worry, support prisoners from other countries in your region or use those days to raise awareness of repression mechanisms and how anarchist communities can fight against them!
Build up security culture, support your local anarchist prisoners and fight back.
Do not hesitate to continue sending your reports to email@example.com!
Since the last July 25th International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners, the worldwide struggle against the nightmare of fascism and the far-right has grown and intensified. The news bulletins steadily report the racist and bigoted attacks, the harassment of journalists, the demonization of refugees and migrants, and the increasing presence and violence of organized fascist and far-right groups. While the bigoted, nationalist imagination reproduces itself on a global scale, it also attempts to turn us all into prisoners of the border.
Originating in 2014 as a Day of Solidarity with Jock Palfreeman—an Australian man serving a 20-year sentence in Bulgaria for defending two Romani men from an attack by fascist football hooligans—the International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners aims to break down the borders and build an international response against fascism. By having an event, raising money, or dedicating an action to these comrades, we can simultaneously strengthen our local movements by ensuring that those who have acted to protect our communities against the fascist threat are never forgotten, as well as create the links of a powerful international solidarity which can transcend both the prison and the border wall.
This July 25th, we call on antifascists worldwide to act in solidarity with antifascist prisoners—the comrades who have been behind bars for many years, the friends who have just begun their sentences, the mates still awaiting trial—because they are in there for us, and so we must be out here for them!
Until All Are Free!
USE THE HASHTAG: #J25antifa
««««««Global List of Antifascist Prisoners»»»»»»
Below is a list of global antifascist prisoners who are currently imprisoned. Hundreds more have been arrested but have not been convicted; we encourage local groups to support the antifascists of their choosing who are in legal trouble. If you are not donating to a specific person, a good option is to support the International Anti-Fascist Defence Fund.
Please contact us: if you know an antifa prisoner who is missing form the list (include their details, and what languages they can read); if you can help translate the call; or if you are planning an event that, so that we can help publicize it: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belarus Roman Bogdan
Roman Bogdan was arrested on April 15, 2015, as part of the long-going state repression of anti-fascists in Brest, stemming from a fight between anti-fascists and fascists on May 8, 2013. In October, Roman was sentenced to 8 years in a penal colony and must pay 3500 Euro in damages. On December 15, 2015 a regional appellate court commuted his sentence by 2 years.
He can read Russian and simple English phrases.
ul. Pervaya Zavodskaya, 8,
IK-17, otryad 12
Vadim Boyko was arrested on March 22, 2016, on suspicion of participating in a fight that took place on June 29, 2014 between anti-fascist supporters of FC Partyzan and right-wing soccer hooligans from FC Torpedo. The arrests in 2014 were not followed up until 2016, when a special political department decided to start the case with a series of police raids on the antifascists who were alleged to have been involved. On March 10, 2017 Vadim Boyko was sentenced to 4 years of jail, and was re-arrested in July for transfer to a penal colony.
Vlad Lenko is an antifascist from Ivatsevichi (Brest region). He was arrested on December 27, 2014, and accused of taking part in a fight against local neo-Nazis earlier in December. Vlad was charged with group hooliganism and aggravated bodily harm, and in September 2015 was sentenced to 6 years in a penal colony.
Jock Palfreeman is an Australian anti-fascist political prisoner serving a twenty-year prison sentence in Bulgaria for the rather mysterious death of a neo-Nazi football hooligan who was part of a group attacking two Romani men in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2007. Jock came to the aid of the Romani, and quickly found himself the focus of the attack. Bulgarian authorities did everything they could to ensure that Jock did not receive a fair trial, and after his sentencing have refused–in contravention of their own treaties–to transfer him to Australia to serve the rest of his time closer to his family. Jock wants donations for him sent to the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, which he is part of.
Patryk is a Polish antifascist recently deported from the UK to Poland to serve a 3-year sentence handed down to him 13 years ago. He was charged with allegedly beating up and robbing a few local fascists. Patryk is only allowed 2 visits per month and one 5-minute telephone conversation a week, and really enjoys receiving letters. There is no limit to the number of letters he can receive.
Aleksandr Kolchenko was arrested in Crimea on May 17, 2014, along with several others, and accused by Russian authorities of participation in a “terrorist group” which planned explosions near the Eternal Fire memorial and the Lenin monument in Simferopol, as well as having sabotaged railway tracks and electricity lines. Aleksandr was also alleged to have carried out two arson attacks in April: against the headquarters of the Russian Unity-Party, and the Russian Community of Crimea. He was transferred to Moscow and kept in draconian conditions. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Russian authorities claimed that Aleksandr was a member of Right Sektor, a Ukrainian ultra-right nationalist organization, but he has no connection to the group—a fact confirmed by relatives and friends. Moreover, Aleksandr is an antifascist and anarchist who consistently opposed nationalistic movements in Crimea and faced constant fascist attacks for his activism. For example, after a film screening about murdered anti-fascist journalist Anastasiya Baburova, he was attacked by thirty Nazis with knives.
Russian Torture Cases
There has been heavy repression of anarchists and antifascists by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). In October 2017, FSB officers arrested six antifascists who played airsoft in the woods. The FSB planted weapons and explosives in some of their vehicles, and tortured them in pre-trial detention–beating them, hanging them upside down, electrocuting them, and threatening them with even worse. This torture was used to force the arrestees to validate forged testimony professing that they are part of an alleged terrorist “network.” At the end of January 2018, two more antifascists were arrested in St. Petersburg. They were also beaten, tortured by means of electrical shock, and forced to agree that they too were members of this invented “network.”
As of now, seven anti-fascists are behind bars and another is under house arrest. All are facing up to a decade in prison. We encourage you to read more about the case in the links below. We have included addresses for those who have them listed.
Boyarshinov Yuliy Nikolayevich , 1991
MO Villozskoe selskoe poselenie
ulitsa Zarechnaya tupik 22
Chernov Andrei Sergeevich, 1989
Penza, ulitsa Karakozova 30
Filinkov Victor Sergeevich, 1994
MO Villozskoe selskoe poselenie
ulitsa Zarechnaya tupik 22
Kuksov Vasiliy Alekseevich, 1988
Penza, ulitsa Karakozova 30
Pchelintsev Dmitry Dmitrievich, 1992
ulitsa Karakozova 30
Sagynbaev Arman Dauletovich 1992
ulitsa Karakozova 30
Shakurskiy Ilya Alexandrovich, 1996
ulitsa Karakozova 30
Shishkin Igor Dmitrievich, 1991
Shpalernaya str. h.25
Please note: Moscow ABC advises that letters in English are seldom accepted in Russian prisons, so please write only in Russian (try using a translation program), or just send photos and postcards.
Rodrigo Lanza is an antifascist from Chile who is living in Zaragoza, Spain. In December of 2017, Rodrigo was out with friends at a bar when they were approached by a man who began insulting Rodrigo, calling him “sudaka” (a derogatory term for Latin Americans) and telling him to go back to his country. As Rodrigo attempted to leave the bar, Victor Lainez, a member of the fascist Falange group with many friends in the local fascist scene, pulled a knife. Rodrigo defended himself and in the ensuing fight, Lainez was killed.
Occurring during the movement for Catalan independence and the accompanying resurgence of hardcore Spanish nationalism, the press worked overtime to vilify Rodrigo as a ‘foreigner,’ squatter, and former political prisoner. They claimed that Lainez was attacked at random for wearing Spanish flag suspenders, and built a bogus narrative of an innocent Spanish citizen murdered simply for showing support for his country.
Rodrigo is currently in prison awaiting trial and faces a lengthy prison sentence as well as expulsion from Spain.
We are currently trying to determine if Rodrigo would like to receive letters.
The Pryamukhino Readings, an annual open conference, took place on July 7–8, 2018. This year, the conference attracted the notice of Russian law enforcement. Since the conference has taken place in a village school for the last eighteen years, the Pryamukhino village council and the Kuvshinovo district council were informed in advance about the conference, but they made no attempt to prohibit the event.
However, as the conference’s organizing committee later learned, police officers had visited the village council on July 6, 2018, on the eve of the conference’s opening day.
Several men in plain clothes, who showede all the signs of being law enforcement officers, attended the first day of the conference, July 7. They chatted with conference goers about abstract historical and philosophical topics, but they also wondered aloud whether there were any “terrorists” in modern Russia.
On the second day, July 8, two police cars and a car without license plates arrived at the gathering point right when the annual sightseeing excursion of Pryamukhino Estate and Pryamukhino Park was to begin. Eight policemen, including members of the Torzhok Intermunicipal Police Precinct, members of the precinct’s immigration desk, and plainclothes officers who produced no IDs (they were probably officers of Center “E” or the FSB) checked and photographed the passports of the sightseers. According to the police officers, a public nuisance complaint from an unnamed local resident was the grounds for their visit.
As a consequence of the documents check, a conference goer, Artyom Markin, a Belarusian national, was detained. He was informed he was “banned” from entering Russia, a fact that had not been brought to his attention either when he crossed the Russian border or when police checked his papers.
Markin was taken to the Torzhok Intermunicipal Police Precinct. He refused to communicate with secret service officers, since no written charges had been filed against him. He was then taken for a medical examination, because the police, allegedly, suspected him of having used psychoactive substances. After Markin refused to take the medical exam (i.e., his alleged drug use was not certified by physicians), and despite the fact that he had not shown any signs of drug use (conference goers testifed Markin had not used psychoactive substances and did not look out of the ordinary), a magistrate declared him guilty of evading medical diagnosis (Russian Administrative Offenses Code Article 6.9 Part 1) and sentenced him to three days in jail.
At the same time, on the afternoon of July 8, two of the plainclothes officers returned to Pryamuhino, explaining they had come again because, allegedly, they were looking for Markin’s girlfriend. Their presence and the need to protect conference goers from the illegal actions of the authorities generated considerable difficulties when it came to proceeding with the conference. The plainclothes officers left for Torzhok only after four in the afternoon.
After spending three days in jail, Artyom Markin was forced to leave Russia. He was issued a notification from the immigration desk of the Torzhok Intermunicipal Police Precinct prohibiting him from entering Russia until 2022.
We believe that recent events in Belarus (e.g., police roughly detained local anarchists on June 30, 2018, during a gathering in the woods), a possible call from Belarusian law enforcement and security services to their Russian counterparts, and heightened security during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia occasioned such furious actions on the part of the police. The ban on entering Russia, as issued to Artyom Markin, was justified, allegedly, in order to ensure “defense, national security or public order,” as stipulated by Article 27 of Russian Federal Law No. 114 (“On the Procedure for Departing and Entering Russia”), which outlines amendments to the law introduced during international sporting events.
Because the Pryamukhino Readings are an academic conference open to all comers, the organizers make an effort to get to know all of our attendees in order to ensure order and their own safety. However, we do not have the resources to prevent the use of force on the part of the police and curiosity on the part of the authorities.
The Pryamukhino Readings are an annual event run by volunteers. We do not cooperate with the authorities any more than is necessary for holding the conference. We have never supplied the authorities with personal information about our attendees or any additional information about them.
In the event of conflicts like the one described, above, our job is taking care of our out-of-town guests. However, we do not have the resources to provide qualified legal assistance on the spot.
We urge everyone to study the current Russian laws in order to better defend their rights when confronted by law enforcement officers, who often interpret the laws governing their own conduct too freely or falsely.
The Pryamukhino Readings Organizing Committee condemns crackdowns on social movements and independent public events, as well as the framing of social activists and the arbitrary use of administrative and other penalties in the absence of evidence and a demonstrable danger to the public.