Team 29: 💸 The rules of the shell game

8 February 2020




Hi, it’s Natasha Korchenkova

Nothing catastrophic happened this week (by Russian standards, at least). Everyone was talking about the Coronavirus and the amendments to the Constitution, both of which are heading inexorably towards Russia, and, in both cases, everyone seems to have resigned themselves to it.

But on Friday afternoon, there was disturbing news: our client Karina Tsurkan was sent back to the remand centre after 23 days on the outside. Not that long ago, on 16 January, she was released from Lefortovo after a year and a half of incarceration but was prohibited from leaving the house during evening and night-time hours. She was also banned from talking to witnesses in the case and to foreigners. The espionage charge against her wasn’t dropped, but there were no signs of the downward turn that things would take. Often, being released from custody means that the case will fall apart or at least will end in probation. But on Friday, following an appeal by the Deputy Prosecutor General, Karina arrived to challenge the pre-trial restrictions in place, bringing her stuff with her. And, with unbelievable cruelty – such a travesty – the court decided once again to take her from her home and to the remand centre.

That’s how the system works: like a deranged monster, at times relaxing its jaws before then snatching a person away again, its actions each time defying logic and common sense. It’s scarier that way, because if the repression is indiscriminate, you never know who will be next, and when.

While Karina Tsurkan is spending the night back in the remand centre again, today we have the first broadcast of a podcast about how Russian isolation cells are run. “What happens in remand centres usually stays there, and no one apart from the detainees themselves and the guards gets to know about it,” says my colleague, the podcast’s producer, Aleksey Yurtaev. “What’s more, there are over three hundred remand centres in the country, holding almost 100k people. Human rights defenders are trying to get the system to open up, but so far this hasn’t been possible. Together with lawyers, members of the Public Oversight Commission, and former inmates, we want to tell you how isolation cells are run in Moscow and the regions, whether there are rules of conduct, as such, in remand centres, and what a person who has been placed in isolation for the first time will be up against.

Also have a read of our detailed reference guide on how to survive in a remand centre. In there, you can find out what to do if you are suddenly arrested. For example, when you’ll be able to contact family members and meet with a lawyer, what goes on in your cell, how to deal with falling ill, and whether there’s any chance that you’ll be able to stay in touch with the outside world. And be sure to install our Gebnya [Гэбня] app – it has a chapter in there on how to defend your rights in the remand centre. You can download it for iOS and Android.

Remember, you can’t learn to follow the rules of the game when it comes to shell games, because they simply don’t exist. That said, it’s always safer to be ready for anything, and this we really can help with.

Have a good weekend!

Natasha and Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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