Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Voina art activist Natalia Sokol (Kozlenok) and son Kasper arrested today in St. Petersburg

Natalia Sokol (Kozlenok) and son Kasper: Arrested, detained by Russian police today, 18 October

According to Voina Group attorney Dmitri Dinze, Kozlenok (Natalia Sokol) was approached by an unmarked car while walking down the street in downtown St. Petersburg. Four plainclothes police operatives then exited the car to make the arrest. Kozlenok is currently being held in custody at police station #1 at16 Yakubovicha St., St. Petersburg.

Natalia Sokol is wanted by the Russian police country-wide since August for allegedly sprinkling police officers with urine during the 31 March 2011 protests in St. Petersburg.

A few days after Russia dropped charges of hooliganism (a hate crime carrying a seven-year prison sentence) against two Voina Group street performance art activists, four plainclothes Center E police arrested Voina co-founder Natalia Sokol (Kozlenok) and her 2.5 year-old son Kasper near a St. Petersburg Hotel.

The state dismissed malicious hooliganism charges against Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolaev this month stemming from art prankster antics called “Palace Revolution” in a 2010 art action in which Voina tipped over police cars as an metaphor demanding Russia to reform its justice system.

Their arrests came in a bust on 15 Nov. 2010 about two months later.

Until early this month, Vorotnikov and Nikolaev and other Voina have been on the run, hiding from police.

And they still are, and for good reason.

Fast-forward to about 9 p.m. on 17 October at the Alexander Haus Hotel in St. Petersburg.

Kozlenok and Vorotnikov planned meeting with journalists Ulf Kalkreuth and Igor Nedorezov, from the German ARD television at the Alexander Haus. 

They initially met at about 9 p.m. at the hotel. The arrest of Kozlenok and Kasper happened at 0:15 on 18 October—today.

Oleg Vorotnikov, who managed to escape, provided this account to ArtTraveler of the latest police action against Voina Group:

Kozlenok, Kasper and myself approached the hotel on bikes. There were expensive cars parked in front of the hotel.

Right at the entrance, blocking it, was a silver-colored car with a southern looking guy inside.

Kozlenok felt nervous about that. She pointed out the guy to me and we had a closer look at him. He was a bit twitchy, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Igor Nedorezov was standing at the porch.

He was an aging man with long grey hair. “You must be who I’m waiting for,” he told us.

We made another lap around the hotel and stopped right next to Nedoresov. “It’s all cool,” he said. “We’ve owned this hotel for 18 years. The owner is my friend.”

We came inside.

Nedorezov went and fetched Ulf. A German guy, aging, stout, with a short haircut to mask his balding, and with long arms and long, well-groomed fingers.

We went to the inner courtyard, which had an ornamental garden. We stayed in the garden for a long time, discussing the preliminary filming.

Nedorezov left and later came back with a camera. He told us he had to go to his apartment on the Petrograd Side to fetch it. After giving the camera to Ulf he left again.

We had previously agreed that Ulf would be filming alone.

We then had dinner at the ground floor restaurant.

After Ulf had paid for the room and rolled his wheeled suitcase out, we went outside. Ulf filmed our exit very thoroughly, which only looked mildly strange.

We started walking along the channel towards Sadovaya Street.

We did not put Kasper into the backpack baby carrier, which I always do when I take him on bike rides with me.

Instead, he was walking along, holding onto Kozlenok’s bicycle. Kozlenok and I were walking very slowly alongside our bicycles, pushing them.

Ulf was walking behind us, filming constantly.

He was carrying the camera in one hand, holding onto his wheeler suitcase with the other. The wheels rattled on the pavement.

“Neigh! It’s a horse,” commented Kasper.

A car made a sudden u-turn from the other side of the street and stopped abruptly next to us.

It was silver-painted and looked like a VAZ 2110.

“Oleg,” Kozlenok calmly said to me. We had planned for a situation like this, and I was supposed to flee.

I hopped on the bike and made a rush forward, towards the Sadovaya. Heard several people running after me, did not look back.

I was sure at the moment that I wouldn’t get away, because I couldn’t pick up speed fast enough.

Behind me I head someone shout, “Stop or I will shoot!”

I thought that was pretty funny.

“Go right ahead,” I replied in my mind.

I’d already gained speed and was surprised that the car wasn’t following me. That could only mean they’d captured Kozlenok.

There was no time to look back.

I crossed the Sadovaya without looking around for cars, hoping that I wouldn’t get run over.

From there I proceeded along the Griboedov channel, then through alleyways and courtyards.

No one was chasing me. I stopped and waited for about 15 minutes.
No sign of trouble. I then left my hiding spot. The traffic on Lermontov Prospekt looked normal.

I rode the bike home.

--By Oleg Vorotnikov, 18 October 2011

At the same time when charges were dropped this month against alleged hooligans Vorotnikov and Nikolaev, plainclothes cops tried to break into Leonid Nikolayev’s Moscow flat, interrogated his neighbors and shadowed the building, Voina told ArtTraveler today by e-mail.

Islamic art and design at Granada´s Alhambra, photograph by Stefan van Drake (2009)
Rock on and practice peace and love.
Stefan, the ArtTraveler (TM)

Visit Andalusia for a walking holiday or week-long sculpure or mosaics workshops. See: www.spanjeanders.nl. and www.competafinearts.com.

Contact me about arts happenings: stefanvandrake@gmail.com or call (34) 951 067 703 or from the UK at BT landline rates, 0844 774 8349.

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