7 March 2020
Hi. Natasha Korchenkova here.
This week, everyone has been wondering what the text of the new Constitution means and, most importantly, how it will ultimately help one person to remain in power. And I’ve been thinking about how all we do is puzzle away at something constantly, out of necessity. Where you have a situation in which decision-making mechanisms are pretty much closed off altogether, the art of reading all possible signs and signals coming from on high assumes cult-like proportions. Some purport to have sacred knowledge, while others hone their skills as an interpreter on national TV. The process takes on a particular kind of lunacy because often the way the system operates is completely illogical.
In such a situation, it’s even harder on those who are held hostage by that system. Take, for example, Konstantin Kotov, who got four years in a prison camp for taking part in four peaceful protests. He was arrested on 12 August last year. The investigation into the case was packed into three days, and the hearing itself took only two, after which Kotov was dispatched to the prison camp. But this week, the Second Cassation Court reversed the decision of Moscow City Court, which had refused to commute Kotov’s sentence. Kotov’s detention on remand was extended by a further two months, and the case was sent for a new hearing. What’s all this about, damn it?
Our lawyer Evgeny Smirnov, who is a member of Kotov’s defence team, believes this to be a good sign – despite the fact that the court could halt proceedings against him at any time, but has not done so. “The court has strongly hinted that in a year and a half, subject to a review of sentencing, the year’s imprisonment will be up and, once Moscow City Court has reduced Kotov’s sentence to one year, Kotov will be freed,” believes Smirnov. “All the lawyers are pushing for Konstantin’s complete exoneration and will be seeking for the criminal case to be dropped and for him to be pardoned. In light of decisions made by the Constitutional Court of Russia, the ECHR, and plain common sense, this decision seems to be the only one possible.”
We’re also picking up signals from the camps, where we are trying to find one particular prisoner. Almost nothing is known about his case, and the person himself simply disappeared several years ago. It transpires that the answers we are getting in response to completely straightforward questions also need interpreting. Just listen to this:
According to Art. 7 of the Federal Law on Personal Data No. 152-FZ dated 27 July 2006, persons who have access to personal data shall not disclose to third persons and shall not disseminate personal data without the consent of the subject of the personal data, unless otherwise provided by a federal law. Considering that prisoner [N] is not being held in [given correctional facility] and his consent cannot be obtained, the information requested by you cannot be disclosed.
How can you stay sane when the government talks to you like that?
Alas, trying to decipher the signals put out by the system may, for now, be the most constructive way to communicate with it.
And if you need a sign, then this is it.
Natasha and T29
Translated by Lindsay Munford