Podcast No. 57: Simon & Sergei – with Aleksei Minyailo

This week our guest on the podcast is the Russian civil society activist Aleksei Andreevich Minyailo. Aleksei Minyailo’s many roles include those of entrepreneur, election observer and philanthropist. He has also been a trainer of election observers – a role he played in Crimea in 2014 when he created a network of independent observers for the referendum. Aleksei Minyailo was also involved in the 2019 Moscow City Duma elections when he was part of Liubov Sobol’s election team. Together with Sobol, he went on hunger strike in protest at the authorities’ refusal to allow her to stand in the elections. On 2 August 2019 he was arrested on charges of inciting riots on 27 July 2019. After two months in pre-trial detention, the charges against him were dropped and he was released.

The podcast is in the Russian language.

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The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “You started writing a book in prison, thought up two training programmes and wrote letters to people in prison. How is it possible that people on the outside were discouraged while you, who were in prison, tried to cheer them up? What helps you to be free a person in any circumstances?” Today we tried to get answers to these and many other questions. The hero of today’s podcast is a man who makes the world a better place. In the past he managed to do this when working and volunteering in elections. He also did this when he worked help young people who who have been in orphanages to adapt to the difficult business of life outside. A defendant in the so-called Moscow case, he even made the world a better place when he was behind bars, cheering others in his letters from prison. Aleksei Minyailo was was released from custody in the courtroom when charges against him under Article 212(2) of the Criminal Code were dropped. Today, Aleksei Minyailo is making the world a better place by helping all those who have taken to the streets and squares of Russian cities to protest. He, along with more than a hundred volunteers, staffs a hotline listening to callers who are in difficulty, reassuring them, telling them what to do. Aleksei told us that the state terrorism we are seeing now makes him say to those serving in the Federal Guard Agency, the FSB or other such organisations: “Come to your senses and get out as quickly as possible. Run away from there, because this gang will not be in power forever and you will have to answer for what is being done.”

The questions we discuss with Aleksei Minyailo include: How do you primarily see yourself today – entrepreneur, election observer, civic activist or philanthropist? How do you rate the quality of elections in Russia? What success have you had in getting businesses to cooperate with community activists in the field of socialisation of young people who have spent time in children’s homes? How did it happen that the charges against you were dropped when you were prosecuted and remanded in custody for an offence under Article 212 (Part 2) of the Russian Criminal Code as part of the Moscow case? How was it possible that after you were remanded in custody people at liberty were discouraged and you tried to cheer them up from behind bars. How do you see the protests of 23 January 2021 differing from those of August and September 2019? Do you still work with Liubov Sobol? How do you see the prospects for Aleksei Navalny? How do you see the future of human rights in Russia?

Simon Cosgrove adds: If you want to listen to this podcast on the podcasts.com website and it doesn’t seem to play, please download by clicking on the three dots to the right. A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.

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