25 April 2020
Hi, this is Lesha Yurtaev
While the experts argue over when things will get better, when borders will open, and when we’ll be able to travel abroad again, we decided to launch the ‘Russia shuts down’ podcast. It’s a series of stories about how our country has shut down in the past, not just literally (like now), but metaphorically, too. In each episode, we’ll tell stories from the recent past in order to understand where on our journey we went wrong.
Get this – Tomsk, April 2002, in the office of the then mayor Aleksandr Makarov. In the morning, his deputies dutifully go in to see the boss, expecting a ticking off. But there, in his chair, they are met not by the mayor, but a correspondent from the Tomsk TV channel TV2. In the evening, Makarov himself arrives at the TV channel and, having swapped places with the journalist, becomes a news presenter and then asks whether journalists are facing censorship. 18 years on, and this seems like something from a parallel universe, but no – once upon a time, the authorities were open about things and unafraid to speak to journalists. These days, it hardly seems likely that the mayor of some town would put a journalist in his chair.
In 2014, as war raged all over eastern Ukraine, the TV channel ran into trouble. TV2 was taken off the networks in less than a year. In the first episode of the podcast, we hear from TV2 Editor-in-Chief Viktor Muchnik and journalist Melanie Bachina (the same one who sat in the mayor’s chair) about who would want to trash an independent and profitable media outlet, and why.
If you decide to listen to our podcast somewhere out and about, like on the way to work, at the shops, or taking the rubbish out, then be sure to take your passport along, or you could be fined from one to 30,000 roubles. Our lawyer Evgeny Smirnov talked to Meduza about what other dangers await you outside your flat and how to prepare for yourself for an encounter with the police.
Meanwhile, Petersburgers are fed up with the damaging effects of the high alert status brought in by Governor Beglov. People are forbidden from walking to work, picketing, and taking walks around squares and parks. Together with several claimants from St Petersburg, Team 29 lawyers petitioned the court to invalidate Beglov’s ruling. We talk about why it must be lifted and we unpack the differences between an emergency and a quarantine.
Last of all, two pieces of news: one bad, the other a little better. Let’s start with the latter. Konstnatin Kotov, sentenced under the ‘Dadinsky article’, has had his sentence commuted to a year and a half in a prison colony. He’s already served half of that. The defence, which includes our lawyer Evgeny Smirnov, has been demanding that the sentence be overturned and Kotov’s case dismissed, and it continues to do so. Things are not so good for another of our clients, Gennady Kravtsov, who was transferred to high security detention a month before his release. The management of Mordovia’s IK-5 prison colony has been putting pressure on Kravtsov for over a month now. They placed him in solitary confinement on 19 March, and he still isn’t out of there now, as they’ve extended his prison term three times.
Have a read of our articles, watch the videos, and listen to the podcasts (review them as well – that’s really important!) Ideally, do it all at home – and take care!
Translated by Lindsay Munford