Cameron Evans: Dismantling the ‘Network’

19 November 2020

By Cameron Evans

In June 2020, two leftist Russian activists, Viktor Filinkov and Yury Boyarshinov, were sentenced in St Petersburg to seven and five and a half years of penal colony respectively, following the February 2020 convictions in Penza of seven other activists to prison terms of various lengths – these convictions were for purportedly being part of a terrorist organisation called Set’ (Network)[1], and illegal possession of weapons and drugs – in a close parallel to the New Greatness case whose defendants were sentenced in August 2020.

The group members were originally arrested in October 2017 for allegedly creating a terrorist group with cells in Moscow, St Petersburg, Penza, Omsk and Belarus. According to the FSB’s version[2], each member of the group had individual roles such as ideological officer, leader, communications, and sapper. The goal of the Network was allegedly to organise bombings during Russia’s March 2018 presidential elections and the Football World Cup, and to launch an armed uprising, stirring up the masses for further destabilisation of the political situation in the country.

However, in a report on the case, Amnesty International describes how Aleksei Poltavets (a member of Network who fled abroad before being arrested) attested to him and Maksim Ivankin being tortured by FSB operatives. In fact, Filinkov, Sagynbaev, Pchelintsev and Shakursky all complained that, in addition to unlawful psychological pressure and the intimidation of family members, investigating officials had subjected them to torture such as electrocution to extract confessions, as did Kuksov, Boyarshinov, Chernov and Ivankin. Others that the FSB were interested in in connection with the case such as Ilya Kapustin were similarly interrogated.[3] Pchelintsev, after slashing his arms and necks with fragments of a toilet tank that he broke, went on hunger strike due to this inhumane treatment and conditions, such as electrocution, being hung upside down and being given tranquilisers. He was forced to retract an initial statement about this torture through similar means. Additionally, Amnesty’s researcher’s interviews with some of the parents of the accused made allegations how, in some cases, ammunition and weapons had been planted by FSB operatives. Furthermore, the trials were completely closed, and the FSB demanded from the beginning that the defence lawyers sign an official undertaking not to divulge information.

It is a complicated case, however, due to the possible involvement of some of the Penza defendants in the murder of two fellow activists.[4] An internal investigation by two associates of the Network group following the initial February sentencing alleges that Artem Dorofeyev and Katya Levchenko, a couple from Penza involved in Network who went missing in Ryazan province in 2019, were murdered by Network members Aleksei Poltavets, Maksim Ivankin, and Dmitry Pchelintsev. However, the FSB who were apparently aware of the potential murder involvement failed to tell the Federal Investigative Committee about it due to not wanting to share a high-profile case and the possibly weak evidence of terrorism in the FSB documents).

In spite of the possible complications of the possible participation of a defendant in the murder of two of its members, the news outlet Meduza calls the case “fabricated”, saying that there is a situation of “lawlessness” where “everything depends on the will of Russia’s security forces”. It hopes for the possibility of an “objective investigation”[5]. Similarly, Amnesty International declared before the sentences that the terror charges are completely “bogus”, “a figment of the Russian security services’ imagination that was fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists.” Amnesty further stated that this is the latest politically motivated abuse of the justice system to target young people”[6], and called for their immediate release and for all charges to be dropped.[7]

Sentences [8]:

Dmitry Pchelintsev – 18 years in a strict regime penal colony (February 2020)

Ilya Shakursky – 16 years of penal colony (February 2020)

Andrei Chernov – 14 years in a strict regime penal colony (February 2020)

Maksim Ivankin – 13 years in a strict regime penal colony (February 2020)

Mikhail Kulov – 10 years in a strict regime penal colony (February 2020)

Vasily Kuksov – 9 years of penal colony (February 2020)

Viktor Filinkov – 7 years of penal colony (June 2020)

Arman Sagynbaev – 6 years of penal colony (February 2020)

Yury Boyarshinov – 5 ½ years of penal colony (June 2020)

Igor Shishkin – 3 ½ years in penal colony (January 2019)

Egor Zorin – house arrest (September 2018)




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[7] Ibid.


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