20 June 2020
Lev Ponomarev, chairof the national NGO For Human Rights, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Quarantine restrictions in Moscow and a number of other cities have largely been lifted. Parades and a nationwide vote are scheduled, with veterans and members of election commissions preparing to take part.
But people out on the streets with banners continue to be detained. On the streets of large cities, you don’t even need to be noticeably protesting, for the police, sweating and blundering, to take care of the matter.
Solo picketing, which is permitted by law, does not require advance notification and is not subject to any prohibitions, in most cases ends up with arrest and an offence being recorded – if not for one thing, then for another. If not for an ‘unauthorised picket’ then for ‘disobedience to the police’, or even some old offences.
So what do you think of this? Some guys arrived in St Petersburg on the train. They were going to the announcement of the verdict in the trial of Viktor Filinkov and Yuly Boyarshinov in the Network case (Network [Set] is an organisation banned in the territory of the Russian Federation), which was taking place on 22 June.
The police were waiting for them at St. Petersburg’s Moscow train station.
First, they detained Anna Loiko. Detectives in plain clothes, along with police officers, entered the train, blocking the exit, and ordered all the women inside to get out their passports. When Anna’s turn came, her passport check was over. They questioned her about the purpose of her visit to St. Petersburg and her intended place of residence, and gave her to understand that she was under suspicion as a potential extremist.
Then they detained Dmitry Ivanov, Emil Yunusov, Alan Leongard and Anastasia Cheretanova. The police needed to check if these young people were “wanted, or on the lists of missing people.”
All detainees were released after this ‘survey.’ It is clear that they were being monitored – why did they attract such close attention? Maybe, like the guys from Network, they like to play airsoft? But no, in that case more would have been done to them – they’d have been shoved into an FSB van and taken off to be tortured with electric shocks. It seems that their names are simply being added to FSB lists by means of which law enforcement officers track everything that moves in the realm of young people, in order to find out what to latch on to for the purpose of initiating proceedings. They haven’t found anything yet.
This story no longer looks like something insignificant against the background of criminal cases that are now springing up all around. They clearly indicate what Patrushev and Putin are offering us by way of spiritual and moral values. There is no place in these values for compliance with the law and human rights.
Total surveillance, total lawlessness and the omnipotence of the secret police – these are the values we are talking about. Plain-clothes detectives meeting young people at the train station and sentences for people who have been tortured with electric shocks in order to obtain a confession – that’s Russia’s national security strategy these days.
‘The adoption of amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation opens a new page in the history of the Russian state,’ Patrushev proclaims pathetically. It’s hard to disagree with that. This unconstitutional coup really opens a new page. But do citizens of Russia really need such a page?
If you don’t want state operatives and police officers meeting you at the station, vote against the constitutional amendments.
Translated by Anna Bowles