I´ve covered this saga of art activists in Russia for 10 stories in October.
As Russia´s art activist charade failed to convince the world that authentic democracy exists at the Duma, the face of Putin´s oligarchy shows itself once again.
Leonid Nikolaev and Oleg Vorotnikov
2 November 2011 – The decision to drop the criminal charges against Leonid Nikolaev and Oleg Vorotnikov in relation to the Palace Revolution action has been overturned, according to Voina attorney Dmitri Dinze.
The charges of aggravated hooliganism against Oleg and Leonid were dropped by investigator Vadim Rud’ in a decision dated September 1st, 2011.
Rud’ cited expert opinions indicating that the police do not constitute a social group, and thus the overturning of police vehicles could not be regarded as a hate crime.
The damage to the vehicles was deemed not significant enough to warrant criminal persecution.
However, according to Rud’, that decision has now been annulled by City Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Voina attorney Dmitri Dinze:
The criminal investigation against Nikolaev and Vorotnikov in relation to The Palace Revolution action is now continuing. It was resumed just a few days ago by St. Petersburg City Public Prosecutor’s Office. It is my understanding that they will now try to find experts who would give a completely opposite opinion, declaring the police a “social group”, i.e. an especially vulnerable minority. I think that the powers behind this criminal case are trying to make it clear to Nikolaev, Vorotnikov and Sokol that they will not be left alone. Those powers want the three activists, with the kind of interests they have and the stance they have taken, to be kept under constant pressure. In all honesty, this is starting to look more like repressions. It’s not a secret to anyone that there’s no one opposing police lawlessness, whereas the lawless police oppose everyone. They couldn’t care less about the law, legal principles or the presumption of innocence. Police lawlessness is exactly what’s going on in this case. There are specific individual police officials who work this situation so that the criminal investigation goes on, and is resumed even after being called off. From a legal standpoint, the decision to end the investigation was formulated perfectly, and I don’t think they could’ve found any flaw in it. So the cops decided to hit the activists with another expert opinion. Once again they’re trying to make fools of Nikolaev, Sokol and Vorotnikov, along with the esteemed professors from St. Petersburg’s oldest university, the Gertsen University [who gave the original expert opinion]. Voina has effectively been outlawed. That’s the reality. I’m sure that it is the police who are working this situation. Most likely it’s Trifan and his superiours, who are eager to add Voina to their portfolio. And I feel sad about certain Public Prosecution officials who allow themselves to be manipulated in this way, despite their obligation to maintain the law and to adhere to legal principles. I think that we will soon know who those “heroes” are, and will be able to appreciate their contribution to the ongoing repression against the defendants.Leonid Nikolaev’s comment:
When they dropped the charges, we knew it would not be the end of the persecution. This is nothing more than the old good cop, bad cop game. The case may have been closed but the pressure is still strong. There’s an international arrest warrant out against Oleg. There’s a country-wide police search for Kozlenok. In the morning of October 18th, she was abducted from the street by Center E operatives together with her 2 year old son Kasper. The system has been working towards taking Oleg and Kozlenok’s son away for a year now. Kasper has been detained three times so far in connection with our activity. He is the youngest political prisoner in Russia. We’re seeing more and more charges being brought against Voina members. The good cop closes the case because he could not obtain any incriminating evidence. Meanwhile, the bad cop is trying to dig up any cause to get the repressions rolling again. Because what we see at this point is repressions, not criminal cases. And once we do our next action, the cops will be sure to bring a bunch of new charges against us. Proof of this is the fact that our activists in St. Petersburg are being abducted from the street and detained on a regular basis, their homes are invaded by cops who destroy their personal possessions in faux searches. Just two days after it became known that the charges against me had been dropped, two plain-clothes cops (most likely Center E agents) broke into my home in Moscow. This was despite the fact that I was clear of any charges at the time. The majority of our members have already abandoned their homes and resorted to an underground existence. In other words, the good cop, bad cop game goes on with no end in sight.Oleg Vorotnikov:
When the charges against us were dropped, the Investigations Committee expected us to surface and start making mistakes. I.e., they hoped we would leave the underground, have a press conference and start living a public life. That didn’t happen. We are leading an underground life and we like it that way. The OSD and Center E cops failed to arrest us during our meeting with German journalists on October 18th. They displayed apalling unprofessionalism, whereas we acted with our usual professionalism. I managed to get away. Kozlenok and Kasper were detained for the night, but the cops still failed to take Kasper away from her, which was their objective. Eventually they had to release Kozlenok without even questioning her. So now they are mad. Out of powerlessness, the Prosecutor’s Office decided to resume this old, failed criminal investigation. They’ll have to do better than that to scare us. We are used to living under pressure and we have the skills to do it. When I’m being persecuted, there’s a constant feeling that I have no room for error, and it somehow makes me feel more comfortable.