5 October 2022
by Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of the Golos movement for the defence of voters’ rights and laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group Award
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
It’s a service that can come across as rather forced; though it’s rendered quite professionally, the reasons for getting it can be utterly absurd. In this case, that reason had nothing to do with me or with my colleagues at Golos, who got it as well. Instead, the basis for our treatment was a criminal case brought against an activist in Ivanovo who has been charged with discrediting the armed forces in a post he made on some Telegram channel.
It’s worth noting that this procedure can start quite early: at six in the morning, which is fairly inconvenient, both for the citizens offering the services and for the ones on the receiving end of it.
The tone of the process is, on the whole, polite, apart from the rather excessive demand at the beginning to get down on the floor. But later on they let you get up.
The service providers were consummate professionals who left no stone unturned: they didn’t miss a single telephone, computer, storage device, passport, credit or debit card – they didn’t even overlook so much as a camera. Everything was carefully packed up, sealed, and inventoried. One of the positive effects of this service is the opportunity to immerse yourself in a world free of electronic devices.
Counting the security officials, journalists, and witnesses – not to mention the unidentified individuals – all told, there were about fifteen people involved in rendering me this service – which indicates that the state wanted to make sure that I was getting the best experience possible.
However, the service might come accompanied by force, as it did for Vladimir Egorov. Egorov was present for the office search and, according to his lawyer, he was beaten during the detention process. His ribs received a good kicking and afterwards he was given a ride to the hospital. The service might also include a broken-in door, as it did for Sergei Shpilkin.
Now, you might ask: why is this latest escalation happening right now, in October 2022? Perhaps there’s no one left among the major human rights organizations to terrorize, and so they’ve decided to do away with Golos once and for all. Perhaps some of the deterrents that had prevented Golos from being totally destroyed over the course of its twenty-year existence (though it existed under constant pressure) finally fell through. I would suggest that the authors of this campaign believed that the special military operation would provide the perfect cover for it. It is truly unfortunate that peaceful, intelligent professionals and experts in their field, Russian citizens who have acted as independent watchdogs, whose only goal is fair elections, are now being classified as enemies.
We send our support to those who have been subjected to searches in their capacity as witnesses to a ‘crime’ on some unspecifed Telegram channel: Golos board members Vitaly Kovin, Arkady Lyubarev, and Irina Maltseva, director of Golos’s regional office in Chelyabinsk Oblast Natalya Guseva, electoral expert Sergei Shpilkin, and activist Vladimir Egorov.
Translated by Sarah Vitali