“Deprivation of Liberty” – Viktor Shenderovich on why he has left Russia

10 January 2022

By Viktor Shenderovich, writer, journalist, laureate of the Mosocw Helsinki Group

Source: Facebook


I have always shown up when I have been summoned for questioning or to appear in court. This has been partly out of curiosity and partly as a result of trust in fate and the belief that I happily acquired as a child in the ultimate triumph, if not of goodness, then at least of common sense.  That’s how it has been since my first prosecution over the television programme Kukly [“Puppets”], through all the times I was detained and put in police vans, faced administrative charges and new criminal cases in the early 2000s, down to the million-rouble fine relating to the “conquest of Crimea” and more trips in police vans …

But, perhaps, I may refrain from personally participating in the criminal case being brought against me by the “Kremlin chef” Evgeny Prigozhin, and for reasons of common sense.

This is not a dispute requiring a new court hearing – just as there has been (and for a long time) no real courts here.  The “victim” has openly declared his desire to shut my mouth, and at the same time to intimidate all those who are unhappy about the bloody, thieves’ trail of impunity that follows his name. Realising that journalists cannot be deterred by fines, the “Kremlin chef” has turned to blackmail by threatening me with criminal prosecution.

For me, the dramatic shift in the situation is not so much the hypothetical change in the time frame (until this potential criminal case reaches fruition, I would at least have a certain amount of time), but in the pre-trial restrictions.  Unfortunately, Article 128.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation provides for the imposition of restrictions on freedom during an investigation, and I have little doubt that this rule would be applied in my case.

As for the essence of the matter, it is absolutely straightforward, and this is George Orwell incarnate, banal though it sounds.  Speaking the truth about Prigozhin has now been defined as slandering him.

I was already tried on this charge last year, and I didn’t hang about – I delivered literally an entire pound of evidence to the Primorsky district court in St. Petersburg showing that Prigozhin has no reputation other than that of a criminal and a murderer.  I also provided a linguistic assessment, favourable to me, carried out by forensic experts registered in the Russian Federation…

The court did not even consider the essence of the matter, it ignored the legal procedural requirements and, in its judgment, it sided with the plaintiff and his expert – someone who was educated on a correspondence course and had some kind of a letter instead of a diploma (taking after his boss, one might say).  Yes, criminality is what we’re talking about.

So you see, any debate about justice is off the table before it’s begun. Now, it just comes down to whether I should submit to house arrest and allow myself to be locked up with a muzzle on for the amusement of that whole cabal or get away from the whole bunch of them and their mob rules. And I’ve decided to sit it out on the outside.

I might be upsetting someone with my unwillingness to spend the rest of my life proving the basic axiom of Putin’s justice system (in my mind, that ship sailed long ago). Of course, getting me to leave is what the Kremlin has been driving at, day in, day out, for the past twenty years, with the endless, aggressive criminal actions they have brought against me: breaking and entering, surveillance, nuisance calls, smears, invasion of privacy, and even direct threats against my life… Not one of my statements to the police has elicited a response. Putin’s Russia has reserved a special place for me in the nation’s latrine.

Now, metaphors aside, I’m faced with the prospect of being jailed. Although, admittedly, being forced to leave my homeland is also a loss of freedom…

There’s no use complaining in my situation: I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last – to say to say nothing of what happened to Nemtsov or how things turned out for Mokhnatkin, Navalny, Dmitriev, and hundreds of other political prisoners. Then there are all the wars and armed interventions that Russia’s waging…  But for all my offences against the authorities of Viperville [Gadiukino – a fictional provincial location created by Shenderovich], all they did was to declare me persona non grata and finally, kick me out for good, threatening to lock me up – those good, kind, tolerant people…

I’ve had lots of different things going on in early 2022: a literary evening in Moscow, the filming of a new YouTube production in Petersburg, and in the same city ‘Diletant readings’ [part of a lecture series organised by the media publication Diletant and the radio station Ekho Moskvy – transl] … It’s such a shame! From now on, we’ll be scaling back our plans. Perhaps one day, all those things will happen, but not, I imagine, before law enforcement agencies start going after the previously convicted E. V. Prigozhin (DOB 1961) again (well, one of the two of us clearly presents a danger to society).

So long as that Prigozhin is part of the elite, I’ll go on ‘performing the functions of a foreign agent’. It will be outside my homeland, but at least I won’t be muzzled. It’ll be better for me that way, and more fun for all of you.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel, listen live to Ekho Moskvy, and watch on Dozhd and RTVi! I certainly have no intention of giving up on any of these. And generally, well, I’m hoping we’ll live to see another day.

Translated by Elizabeth Teague and Lindsay Munford

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