14 March 2020
Hi, this is Tanya Torochesnikova,
Do you remember the game show ‘Fort Boyard’? If reading this in your head you hear the music from that game show, forgive me, it wasn’t my intention. 😊
You see, one of the most dramatic moments of this game show was always the final when those few who had overcome the endless obstacles and answered the question of the Old Man had to gather up as much gold as they could and escape from the cell into which tigers were going to be released, rushing in the last moments beneath the iron bars that were slowly coming down.
This week, as one after the other the borders of European countries are being closed, I want to talk about Anton who managed to escape from the cell.
Anton Kolomitysn, from St. Petersburg, is someone whose hobby has been to search for the remains of soldiers who perished in the Second World War. Both of his grandfathers fought in the war, his grandmother lived through the St Petersburg blockade, and from his childhood he knew and loved history. Together with a team of similar enthusiasts, Anton travelled around Leningrad region in order to restore this history of the Fatherland War. He found the remains of several Red Army soldiers, making it possible for their relatives to bury their heroes. Anton also raised the alarm when he found children playing in a radioactive bunker. By January this year all radioactivity had been removed from the bunker.
Anton has travelled round half of Russia conducting digs, checking archival documents with the topography of particular areas and gathering historical evidence about both the Second World War and the Civil War. He has also built up a collection of old Soviet maps. By comparing these with contemporary maps, he has been enable to identify promising areas for searches.
But one day they came for Anton. After a search of his home they took him away for questioning, and then charged him with unlawfully obtaining state secrets because of a map from the 1970s that had belonged to the General Staff, a map that had contained no secrets for a long time. Anton thought that it would be wiser to watch the on-going investigation into his case from abroad, rather from a remand prison. So he left Russia for the Netherlands on 26 January 2020.
And in good time. A couple of weeks after he left, a court in St Petersburg ruled that instead of pre-trial restrictions on his movement, he should be remanded in custody.
True, in a certain sense because of the Coronavirus we are all a little in detention these days, but I am glad that at least Anton is on the safe side of the border. Our lawyers have taken on this case and are defending Anton, so he is in good hands. Anton’s wife, Dasha, however, has remained on this side of the border, in St. Petersburg. It was she who told us the story of Anton, that you can read here (Anton himself has added some information).
In what happened to Anton there is one not unimportant detail. Not long before the investigation against him began, his emails were hacked. Anton thinks it was by this means that FSB officers discovered other collectors of old Soviet maps. So that nothing of this kind should happen to you (even if you collect old maps), pay attention to the security of your email and social media accounts. Our lawyer Lera Vetoshkina has explained in brief how to protect them. Check your knowledge and make sure it won’t be easy to hack your accounts.
Take care and wash your hands. And make sure you are secure on the Web. Who knows, perhaps for you – for those who read our weekly mailing – this can sometimes be more important than hygiene?
Tanya and Team 29
Translated by Simon Cosgrove