Team 29: 📼 When all the songs go quiet

13 June 2020

Hi, this is Tanya Toroheshnikova

I used to adore Nautilus. I had the bridge of ‘Goodbye, America!’ as a ringtone on one of my first touch-tone phones.  Ten years have passed since then.  Putin’s given Vyacheslav Butusov the title ‘Honoured Artist of Russia’, Channel One is showing scenes of the protests in America set to the ‘Brat 2’ final credits, and my phone hasn’t been a touch-tone for ages now (although I wouldn’t be surprised if that Nokia is still working).

But today, we’ll be talking about other songs

Gennady Kravtsov has served six years in a Mordovian prison camp. He had worked in the GRU as a radio engineer. In the late 1990s, he became disillusioned, left to become a programmer in a private firm, and later sent off his CV to a Swedish organisation.  But, instead of work, he got a criminal case.

In 2013, some FSB bods came to see Kravtsov.  In 2014, they arrested him on suspicion of treason.  In 2015, he was locked up.  He got the shortest possible term – the charge that he’d disclosed a state secret on his CV had been simply absurd, but, by that point, there was no question of letting an innocent person go free.

Kravtsov was released on 26 May.  We paid him a visit to make a short video interview.  In Kravtsov’s home live his wife, Alla, who’s been working all these years to get her husband released; two children; and a cat, which Alla picked up when Kravtsov was in the camp.

“I worked in clothes manufacturing.  They sat me behind this clapped out machine from 1990.  Everything in there was rattling around: a rickety rack, all coming loose, cotton breaking all the time,” says Kravtsov, “And this one time, the management locked me up in ‘the hole’ [a room where searches are carried out] for non-compliance with the workplan.  When it happened a fifth time, I went to the prison director and asked, “Why are you doing this?”  And he replied, “Because you betrayed your country.  You’re a traitor.  That’s how we see you,” says Kravtsov.

When the interview was over, we needed to take a couple of pictures of him.  The cameraman notices a guitar and asks Kravtsov to pick it up.  Kravtsov takes it and starts singing Yury Naumov:

Music is my only friend.

It’s the only thing that can cure me,

When medication no longer works.

He has a good voice, and you can see that holding the guitar comes naturally to him.  It’s also clear that he and his family are incredibly nice.  You just want everything to be ok for them, despite the past six years, which turned out to be for absolutely nothing, you want them to be erased from their lives.  Read this interview with Kravtsov.  It doesn’t have any songs in it, of course, but what it does have is a decent human being who didn’t fall apart and can now, finally, go back to his normal life.

But there’s still no telling when another of our clients, Karina Tsurkan, will be able to go back.  This week, the court extended her pre-trial detention until 24 August.

Tsurkan was detained two years ago and charged with espionage.  As the investigation would have it, she handed over documents about a Ministry of Energy project to Moldovan intelligence.  Our lawyers analysed the documents and concluded that they were fakes, and, what’s more, that they’d been faked after the dates recorded on them.  Tsurkan was taken into custody, had her detention extended several times, and was then suddenly sent home.  But, three weeks later, she was sent back to the remand centre again.  This music will go on forever.

Stay tuned!

Tanya and Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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