“We [NKVD] never make mistakes, our work doesn’t have defects… If the [arrested] person is honest, but has been beaten, we can’t release him […] since he will discredit the organs [i.e., NKVD].”
—Ye. I. Abramovich, NKVD Interrogator, the city of Odessa, 1938
“You should understand, FSB officers always achieve their goals! In any way, it will be as we decided! “
—A. Bondarev, FSB interrogator, St. Petersburg, 2018
“Now the uncovering of ‘sleeping cells’ of terrorist and extremist organizations, as well as countering single-player militants, whose attacks have recently occurred in many countries, are among the [FSB] priorities.”
—V. Bortnikov, FSB Director, Moscow, 2018
“It’s like the year 1937 now.”
—Vakhterov, attorney, the city of Penza, 2018
Almost every day Russian news sites report the beating and torture of people detained or arrested and of convicted prisoners by all types of the silovik (law enforcement) services. The methods of torture are barbaric, and torture by electrical current or using electrical shockers has become the most popular among the silovik officers. A cased developed under the code name “Network” (“Set’” in Russian), supposedly uncovered (in fact, falsified) by FSB operatives (“opery” in the Russian slang), shows that Checkist practices have returned to that of the time of Stalin’s NKVD (Internal Affairs Commissariat) and MGB (State Security Ministry) in the 1930s-50s. The detained “suspects” and “witnesses” are tortured until they “confess” and sign false “testimonies” written by FSB officers and after that, they are charged in courts with FSB-invented crimes. The “Network” detainees’ reports to their relatives, lawyers, and human rights activists expose the mechanism of FSB falsifications. To understand the current FSB methods, it makes sense to describe this developing case in detail.
In the city of Penza (391 mi southeast from Moscow)
The “Network” case started in October 2017, when officers of the local FSB branch arrested six young people in the city of Penza. According to FSB investigators, a cell of a “terrorist association” exists in their city and this cell is connected with similar cells in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and even Belarus. The Penza FSB Directorate investigator Valery Tokarev heads up the FSB group that investigates the “Network.” One of his previous victims, the Penza businessman Alexey Shmatko, who escaped from Russia in December 2014 and asked for political asylum in England, stated in a letter to President Vladimir Putin that during interrogations by Tokarev he was not only severely beaten, but Tokarev also threatened to rape his wife and sent his 6-year-old daughter to a state foster home. Shmatko was arrested in 2010 by the local FSB operatives after he refused to give half of the ownership of and profits from his successful Penza region family business to Nikolai Antonov, then deputy head of the Penza FSB Directorate. As Shmatko described, he was released after bribing the FSB interrogators and the judge Vyacheslav Sarvilin, former FSB officer: “For my release, my relatives paid 500.000 rubles [about $17.000 at the time] to the investigator [in fact, the payments were given to two FSB investigators, Tokarev and another one – V. B.] and 500.000 more to the judge. I had to write a confession, and they let me go with a suspended sentence. I collected my belongings and left [Russia] in 2011. At first, I was with my family in North Cyprus, and in 2014 I sought asylum in the UK.”
According to the FSB version, the “Network” participants planned to “shake the masses for further destabilization of the political situation in the country” by terrorist acts against the officers of security agencies and the heads of local administrations.. They allegedly intended to arrange explosions during the presidential elections in Russian in March 2018, and the World [Soccer] Cup in June-July 2018, as well as raise an armed insurrection.
The FSB presented a the alleged sophisticated structure of the plot. Supposedly the “Network” was created in 2014 by a resident of Penza, Dmitry Pchelintsev, who met with other participants at music events. Since the end of 2015, each of the members of the “Network” had its own role: Pchelintsev was a leader and an ideologist; his deputy, nicknamed “Red” was a scout and recruited new members; Arman Sagynbaev (“Andrey-Security”) is an engineer who was supposed to manufacture and lay explosives; Ilya Shakursky (“Spike”) is a tactician who taught combat fighting skills; Andrei Chernov (“Twin”) is a signalman who provided communication between his comrades-in-arms; Yegor Zorin (“Grisha”) is a shooter, “in the event of a martial law, he participates in armed clashes with law enforcers”; “Boris” is another coordinator and ideologist.
Allegedly, in the summer of 2016, several more cells entered “The Network”, the Moscow cell “MSK” of two or four people, and two St. Petersburg ones, “Mars Field” of six people, including Viktor Filinkov, and “Jordan-St. Petersburg”, including Igor Shishkin. In addition, a “Network” unit supposedly exists in Belarus. According to the FSB, the leadership of the cells was carried out from the Penza cell, called “5.11” or “Voskhod” (“Sunrise”). The FSB considers all alleged participants as anarchists and claims that congresses of “The Network” took place several times.
In Penza, Yegor Zorin was arrested on October 18, 2017. The next day the antifascist Ilya Shakursky and his friend Vasily Kuksov were detained, and on October 27, Dmitry Pchelintsev when he had just gone out to the street to meet his grandmother. In early November, Andrei Chernov was detained in Penza, and Amran Sagynbaev was detained in St. Petersburg and brought to Penza. Five people are kept in jail, and Zorin is under house arrest.
During the search of Dmitry Pchelinsky’s apartment by FSB operatives (Pchelinsky was brought to the search in handcuffs), the operatives found two registered hunting rifles (Pchelintsev is a shooting instructor) and two registered pistols, and in his car the FSB officers supposedly found two grenades under the back seat. Pchelintsev says they had been planted. The same day Pchelintsev’s wife Angelina was called to the local FSB office, where two FSB officers threatened that her husband would be given a life sentence.
After the arrest Vasily Kuksov was also brought home for a search; his wife Yelena saw that his pants and jacket were torn and with bloodstains, and his forehead and nose were broken. After the apartment was searched, FSB officers also examined Kuksov’s car and allegedly found a pistol there. Kuksov, who had been calm before, began to shout that the gun had been planted.
The FSB investigators in Penza are convinced that their version of events is supported by the fact that the detainees played First Strike, a game in which pneumatic guns are used, and thus allegedly were preparing for terrorist acts. Angelina Pchelintseva said: “All they [the accused] did was learning to provide medical assistance in the field and how to survive in the forest, is it illegal?” Aleksandr Fedulov, Kuksov’s attorney commented: “There is no need to ask for a permission for this. But the FSB investigator stated [in the court]: “They were engaged in illegal learning of survival skills in the forest and provision of first aid.”
In December 2017, Pchelintsev told his wife that he has been tortured every day after being detained: he was hung upside down and tortured with electric shocks to various parts of his body. “I’m afraid that my heart won’t survive, and I’ll not get out of here alive. This is hell,” Pchelintsev said. In a letter to his wife from prison, Pchelintsev wrote that he was being injected with “tranquilizers”, given pills and this is “worse than death.” He continued: “Do not write me, do not bring anything to me, go away as far as possible, do not ask about me, it’s all over with me.”
In another letter Pchelintsev ironically wrote:
The light [in the cell] is turned on 24 hours a day. If they do not release me as an innocent person, they will let me go because of Alzheimer’s. Humidity is such that they will release me because of tuberculosis, but it is so dirty that they will let me go because of hepatitis. And I smoke so much that they will release me because of cancer. And so much chocolate you tell me that they will let me go because of diabetes. I’m kidding of course. Nobody will let me go.
On February 6, 2018 Pchelintsev described in detail to his attorney Anatoly Zaitsev the torture he was subjected to soon after he was brought to the detention prison SIZO, an investigation prison that belongs to the Federal Penitentiary Service, FSIN, that reports to the Russian Ministry of Justice):
Six or seven men came into the cell, half of them were in camouflage uniform, the other half were in civilian clothes, but they all had balaclavas on their heads. Despite these hats hiding faces, I can recognize part of these men by their voice, physique and clothes. […] Following their commands, I undressed to the underwear, sat down on the bench, extended my hands back, with my head tilted down. […] Then they tied my hands behind me with tape, and also tied my feet withtape to the foot of the bench, and put a piece of fabric in my mouth.
One of the men in white medical gown and rubber gloves on his hands took out a electric machine and put it on the table. He stripped two wires with a knife, them told me to stick my big toe. With another hand he touched my neck, and later he did this more than once, controlling my condition. He was surprised that the pulse normal and I was not excited. This was because at first, I did not understand what was happening.
Then the man in gloves began to rotate the handle of the electric-machine. The current went through the knees, my muscles on the feet began to contract, I became paralyzed with pain, started screaming, began to beat my back and head against the wall; they put my jacket between my naked body and the stone wall. All this lasted about 10 seconds, but the time of torture seemed to me as an eternity.
One of them began talking to me. He literally said: “You must forget the words “no”, “I don’t know”, “I don’t remember”, you understand me?” I answered: “Yes.” He said: “The right answer, well done, Dimochka (a nickname for Dmitry – V. B.].” Then they put a piece of fabric in my mouth again and four times repeated the torture, each time for three seconds. […] Then they threw me to the floor. I seriously hurt my knees and they began to bleed heavily. While I was laying on my belly, the men pooled down my underwear and tried to attach the wires to my genitals. I began screaming to stop mocking me.
They began to repeat: “You are the leader.” To stop the torture, I answered: “Yes, I am the leader.” “You were going to arrange terrorist acts.” I answered: “Yes, we were going to arrange terrorist acts.” One of those who measured my pulse on the neck, put a balaclava on my head so that I wouldn’t see them. […]
The next day, on October 20, 2017, to prevent the continuation of the torture, I broke the tank from the toilet [in the cell] and cut my hands and neck with splinters. There was a lot of blood from the cuts on my clothes, on the floor, and I fell to the floor. […] The prison guards came to the cell and provided me with medical assistance. Then a psychologist of the prison […] came to see me. […]
I heard Sagybaev’s screams. I realized that he was being tortured. Afterwards, when we met, he asked for my apology for having testified against me.
On November 8, 2017 a prison guard with the rank of Lieutenant approached the door of my cell. I wrote on a sheet, addressing to him: “Can I be safe here?” He wrote back: “Yes.” After this, I showed him huge bruises on my chest and stomach, letting him know that I had been tortured. After a while he opened the door of the cell and four men in prisoner robes rushed in; however, civilian clothes were seen under their robes [i.e., these were FSB operatives in disguise – V. B.]. The men had masks on their faces […]
They began beating me with their hands and feet on my stomach, kidneys, head. I had bruises and scratches after this attack. They beat me up the way that there would be minimal traces. They told me that they represented “the committee of high criminals” who had been punished because of me and that they would give me a week so that I would solve my problem with the “musora” [“garbage”, a criminal lingo for the police – V. B.]. If not, I’d be raped. One of them recorded everything on his smartphone. During all of this, the Lieutenant was standing behind the door. Four FSB officers from “the committee of high criminals” left. Later, I recognized some of them when they escorted me. […]
After this, FSB operatives talked to me many times without masks, each time exerting psychological pressure. They threatened, blackmailed and manipulated me. […]
After I attempted to commit suicide by opening my veins, special treatment was applied to me. Handcuffs were not removed from my hands even when I signed transcripts [“protokols” of interrogations in Russian—V. B.].
I want to add that when I was tortured with the electric current, my mouth became full of crushed teeth since I was clenching my teeth because of severe pain. My tongue was torn, my mouth was full of blood, and at some point, the torturers stuck my sock in my mouth. During the beatings, my head was wounded.
On February 15, Lev Ponomarev, head of the “Movement for Human Rights”, announced in Moscow that Pchelintsev was forced to denounce his statement about torture. Human rights activists considered this to be a proof of new beatings and torture: “There are reasons to believe that they continue to be tortured and were forced to give up their own testimonies and statements about torture.”
Another detainee, Ilya Shakursky, told his attorney, Anatoly Vakhterov, how he had “confessed”:
According to my client, all [the detainees] were tortured […] by [FSB] staff in masks, in camouflage uniforms. They […] forced the detainees to undress, attached electrodes to the tips of their fingers, and turned on the so-called electric machine. He [Shakursky] simply said: “I could not stand it, I broke down.”
Torture was also applied to Pchelintsev, […] Sagynbaev was also tortured. It’s savagery, you know? It’s like the year 1937 now.
In other words, it’s like the Great Terror time, unleashed by the NKVD from 1936-38.
Later Shakursky described more details about his arrest:
On the morning of October 19, I received a call from [Yegor] Zorin’s friends. They told me that Yegor had not come home for a day and nobody knew where he was. A few hours later I met with them to start looking for Zorin. After numerous calls to common acquaintances that did not bring any result, I went home by a shuttle minibus.
[The bus stopped,] and after I walked for 10 meters from the bus, I got hit on the legs, and several men twisted my arms while I was lying in a puddle. They threw me in a car while constantly shouting: “Why are we detaining you?” At that moment, I did not know what to answer. I did not understand why they were detaining me. They asked something about drugs and offered to go for an examination for the presence of drugs in my blood. I agreed. Then I felt a few blows on my kidneys and in the back of my neck, this was the way these men demanded my password to the phone. I gave the password. At the same time, one of them pulled out a grasp of my hair.
We drove for twenty minutes, and all the time I was lying in the back seat, surrounded by these men. My leg was constantly numb […]
I was brought to the office, where FSB officers were waiting for me. They told me that I was accused of organizing a terrorist association, and said that it was better for me to admit that.
I was very surprised and did not believe the operatives. Then they talked about our training in the forest and said that we were preparing for terrorist attacks and attacks on police officers. I categorically denied this, and as for training, I tried to explain them that we were just engaged in the First Strike game. The operatives did not want to hear this, so I started receiving their punches on the back of my head and on my back, as well as threatened me with rape and sentence for life. Then a man in a mask came in. He had a handkerchief in his hand, full of blood, and I heard Kuksov’s name. It was then that I realized whose screams came from the next room, before that I thought that Zorin was there.
I realized that the operatives could do with us anything they wanted. One of them told me with a smile: “Don’t expect that we’ll deal with you honestly.”
Later I was frequently brought to this same room, threatened and exerted strong pressure there. I also saw Kuksov with a bruised face in that room. The operatives often told me complete nonsense about funding [of our group] by Iran and supposedly that Pchelintsev had already admitted that he had committed terrorist acts in 2011. In addition, they said that we planned terrorist attacks during the [future] presidential elections and the World [Soccer] Cup. The more I denied, the more I received blows and threats.
Our meetings continued in the SIZO. I thought that a lawyer would come to see me, but instead two operatives came into the room. They brought my already typed “testimony” against Pchelintsev and a “confession” of participation in a terrorist organization. It was then that they explained to me that if I continue to remain silent, they would visit me in a punishment cell. […] After the next interrogation [at the FSB], I was placed in the punishment cell of the SIZO. They told me that I would be put in the punishment cell for five days for supposed failure of getting up in time from my bed in the cell. I did not know where the punishment cell was, so I calmly followed them to the basement of the prison building. [According to Shmatko, this cell does not have a security camera – V. B.]
I was brought in a cell with a few beds, ordered to sit down and not move. After some time, three men in masks came in. They ordered me to turn to the wall and take off outer clothing. At that moment a thought flashed through my mind: “They’ll kill me.” I was ordered to sit down on the bench without looking up. They blindfolded me, tied my hands and put my sock into my mouse. I thought they wanted to put my fingerprints on something. Instead, they attached wires to my big toes. I felt the first charge of the current, and I couldn’t restrain myself from moaning and trembling. They repeated this procedure until I promised to say what they would tell me. Since then, I forgot the word “no” and said everything that the operatives wanted me to tell.
According to the lawyer Vakhitov, the accusations of the detainees are preposterous:
There can be no talk of any terrorist activity at all. And […] in court we’ll try to prove this. The guys just played games, they were engaged in the First Strike game and ran in the woods. Yes, the guys gave each other nicknames, this way it was easier for them to keep up with the game. All this is nothing but children’s fun. Yes, there were nicknames, yes, the roles were distributed. Why not? In our childhood we played in a war, we portraited orderlies, sappers and snipers. Everyone [among the detainees] was responsible for his role. This was a role-playing game, nothing else.
They had their own band, their own music. They participated in the antifascist movement, were involved in environmental activity. They [FSB officers] are trying to imply that they [detainees] preached anarchism, but the fact is that my client and his comrades are all antifascists. A person who opposes Nazism, can’t preach the ideas of Nazism, chauvinism, propaganda of any kind, [especially of] overthrowing the social order.
On March 13, a judge of the Leninsky Regional Court of Penza ruled in favor of the appeal of the head of the local FSB investigative group, Valeri Tokarev, to hear Pchelintsev’s case in a closed court session. To the question of Pchelintsev’s attorney Zaitsev if the case involves a state secret, Tokarev answered “no.” He added that there is secrecy of investigation, and the attendees in the court room did not sign a non-disclosure agreement.In answer to Zaitsev’s next question of what, in fact, the attendees can’t disclose, Tokarev replied: “Do you want me to tell you now about what we [i.e., FSB – V. B.] do not want to disclose? Submit your application in writing, I’ll answer you.”
The session continued as a closed hearing and the judge ruled to prolong Pchelintsev’s arrest until June 18. Later the same court ruled to prolong the arrest of Vasili Kuksov to the same date. The next day, March 14, the same court also in a closed session ruled to prolong the arrest of Andrei Chernov and Ilya Shakursky until June 18, 2018.
In St. Petersburg (391 mi northwest from Moscow)
In the meantime, on January 23, 2018, the programmer Viktor Filinkov disappeared in St. Petersburg. The next day it became known that his arrest was ordered by the St. Petersburg Dzerzhinsky Court on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist group (part 2 of Article 205.4 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code).
Filinkov and two other activists detained later by the FSB in St. Petersburg belong to the antifascist movement in Russia that unites representatives of various political groups in their resistance to the Russian extreme nationalism. The war between these neo-Nazis and antifascists in St. Petersburg has a long story.
On November 13, 2005 two university students, the antifascist Timur Kacharava and his friend Maxim Zgibai, were attacked in front of a bookstore on Ligovsky Prospect in the central part of St. Petersburg. A group of young skinhead men with knives rushed at them, shouting “Anti-Antifa!” Kacharava received six stab wounds to the neck, from which he died. Zgibai received brain and chest injuries, but managed to escape and was hospitalized in serious condition. Kacharava, who was also a rock musician, often received threats from the neo-Nazis because he was one of the organizers of the movement “Food Instead of Bombs” in St. Petersburg, whose participants were preparing food for the homeless and fed them in Vladimir Square. “Previously, they [the neo-Nazis] were killing those who we could not protect. Timur was one of us. This was the beginning of a war against us,” explained the well-known Russian antifascist Alexei Sutuga, nicknamed “Socrates”, who spent three years in a detention camp for provoking a fight with the neo-Nazis.
In August 2007, a court in St. Petersburg sentenced four defendants in the Kacharava murder case for a term from 2 to 12 years, the rest received suspended sentences. “The accused do not even deny that they were ready to attack any group of antifascists. Kacharava and Zgibai were the most convenient victims,” Deputy Public Prosecutor of St. Petersburg Alexei Mayakov said in the court. The organizer of the attack, now 33-years-old Alexander Zenin was arrested only on February 22, 2018.
Since the murder of Kacharava, at least eight more antifascists have been killed by the neo-Nazis. Apparently, now Petersburg’s Chekists have decided that antifascists are a group that is easy to define as terrorists.
Viktor Filinkov, a citizen of Kazakhstan, was detained at the airport Pulkovo while he was waiting for a flight to Minsk (Belarus), where his wife was waiting for him. Later Filinkov wrote:
My plane should have taken off at 8:05 PM. For a half of an hour some men in civilian clothes were walking around the waiting area, clearly showing that they were not going to fly anywhere. I was surrounded by five or six men, in front of me a middle-age man appeared, he was dressed in a plaid pinkish shirt. He unfurled his ID with a brown cover and introduced himself: “FSB Major Karpov,” I’m not sure about the name, I couldn’t see the ID clearly. He said: “Come with us.” I was surprised, asked what was the matter. Behind him I heard: “Take the phone from him!”. “Give the phone, come with us,” said the man in the shirt. I handed the smartphone over to him. “All the phones!”, I heard again behind my back. “All right, we’ll sort it out.” It was the only FSB officer in my memory who introduced himself at the meeting.
The FSB operatives put Filinkov in a special room at the airport to enter which one needed to have a pass. A clock on the wall showed 7:35 PM. In an hour two new FSB officers appeared and asked Filinkov numerous questions. Filinkov continued:
An hour later two more [FSB operatives] came. “Well, Vitya [a nickname for Viktor – V. B.], did you understand what is going on, why you are detained?”, asked one of the newcomers. I answered: “I do not understand, what is happening?” […] Before I was told that this is a simple check, that the flight will be postponed and the like. […]
I was told to turn out the contents of my backpack. Among other things, photos of my spouse and acquaintances dropped out, one of whom was in a police cap: “Who is this? Is he a policeman?”, they asked, looking at my personal belongings. They turned on my mobile, started to look through SMS, calls and the contact list. They took my passport, a certificate of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and tickets. They won’t return the documents, while the tickets and all other things I carrieduntil a search in the jail. They also thoroughly studied my smartphone, asked about the photo on it, photographed something with their smartphones, directing the camera to my display. […]
Things were put back in my backpack and I was taken to the police department [at the airport]. […] They unsuccessfully tried to take my fingerprints. […] Then they picked up my luggage. […] Just before leaving, FSB operatives discussed where they would go next, and decided not to leave the airport and go to a McDonald’s [“makdak” in the Russian slang – V. B.] at the airport.
Filinkov was taken to a minivan with tinted windows, where he was guarded by two operatives, a tall and a short. Filinkov continued:
Both were dressed in military trousers with patch pockets, jackets, dark gloves in the paramilitary style. The tall one cuffed me in front, not tight, and, after pushing me into the van, began a search. Someone told him: “Do not do that”, to which he replied: “Well, how do I know, maybe he has a razor blade hidden there!” […] We left the airport area.
The operatives brought Filinkov to the regional police office, where fingerprinting was successfully done this time, and then, to the Leningrad Hospital no. 26. At the hospital, the operatives said to the staff that they needed Filinkov to be examined. Despite complains of patients who were standing in a long line, the exam was done immediately. A doctor examined Filinkov, blood was taken, and X-rays exam was done since Filinkov said that he had pain in his knee. The operatives were happy. As Filinkov recalled, “while coming up with documents, the operative exclaimed: ‘He is healthy! There is nothing on the X-ray!” But I was not happy, I felt pain [in the knee]. They put my phone back in the backpack, and we headed for the exit.”
The meaning of the medical examination became clear for Filinkov just after that. The operatives took Filinkov to the minivan, which appeared to be a torture chamber on wheels. As Filinkov found out, in the FSB lingo the minivan was called “a vehicle with specialists” (“mashina so spetsami”). FSB officer Konstantin Bondarev controlled the process of torture that followed. He told Filinkov: “You should understand, FSB officers always achieve their goals! In any way, it will be as we decided!”
In the minivan a tall man in a mask cuffed Filinkov behind his back, pulled Filinkov’s hat on his face and forced him to the back seat. Then the torture began:
It was difficult to breathe, and I decided to free my face from the hat. I began to move the hat slowly, but I could release only my nose. After this the man in the mask pressed me to the seat with his left hand, and, I think, with the right struck twice in the right part of my chest, then in the lower part of my pectoral muscles. I squeezed my jaw, expecting blows in the face so that he did not knock out my teeth, but he jabbed me in the previous pose with my head lowered towards my knees. […] When later he repeated blows to my chest, […] I saw that he was beating me with his fist. […] Then he began hitting me in the back. […] I moaned through my clenched teeth.
“Do not jerk, I even haven’t started yet,” said the man in the mask. Bondarev K.A. [who was sitting on the front seat] said something like: “Vitya! Vitya!”, — and struck me several times on my head. […]
I was in a panic, it was very scary, I said that I did not understand anything, after which I received the first electric shock . […] It was unbearably painful, I cried out, my body straightened. The man in the mask ordered to shut up and not to jerk. […] I tried to turn my right leg away and to face him. He recovered my position by force and continued to apply electric shocks.
He alternated electric shocks to the leg with the shocks to the handcuffs. Sometimes he struck me with the current in the back or the back of my head. When I screamed, they squeezed my mouth and threatened to gag me, put tape or stuff my mouth. […]
I gave up almost immediately, in the first ten minutes. I shouted: “Tell me what to say, I’ll tell you everything!” But the torture did not stop. […]
They asked me questions, and if I did not know what to answer, I was electrocuted. If I hesitated with my answer or my answer was not what they wanted to hear, they used the shocker, and if I forgot what they said, they used it again.
There was no break, only blows and questions, strikes and answers, blows and threats. Mainly Bondarev repeated: “You’re going to go to the frost naked, do you want to?”, “Now we’ll strike you in the balls with a shocker”, and other threats. The man in the mask was interested mostly in my body position and screams, he tried to break me, grabbed me by my neck, […] and hit me in the back, chest, neck and occasionally my face. […] To some questions they didn’t have an answer themselves. […]
“Now, you’ll repeat after me.” A list of topics they wanted me to remember followed. The list was long, and at the end […] I forgot it almost entirely. […] I tried to justify myself, and I was shocked by a higher current than before. The threats were constantly repeated: frost, balls. […]
One of the operatives screamed: “Password! Password to your laptop!” I hesitated while trying to recall, so I got an electric shock. “I remember!” I cried out.
After a short stop again at the police office, the FSB operatives took the cuffed Filinkov to the apartment that he rented in St. Petersburg, sharing it with a man called Stepan. The operatives called him “Stepan Bandera”, meaning the infamous Ukrainian nationalist. Since Stepan could not understand what was going on and why the FSB operatives were searching the apartment, he was taken to the FSB office.
Finally, Filinkov was brought to the office of the St. Petersburg FSB Directorate. In a room a new FSB officer asked him many questions, basically the same, as the operatives in the minivan, when they ordered him to memorize questions and answers. Filinkov recalled:
There were clarifying questions and I was asked to sign [the transcript]. […] The first page that was on the table said that I was a witness in the case. There was a surname Pchelintsev mentioned [in the text]. I asked where my lawyer was. With a grin, the man replied: ‘Counsel? You are a witness, you are not allowed [to have an attorney]. Do you have him? I can call. Will you give me the number?’ I did not know the numbers of lawyers.
Filinkov was ordered to wait in the corridor. The investigator took Filinkov’s typed “testimony” to another room, and Filinkov heard that “behind the door there was a discussion of my ‘testimony.’” The interrogator brought Filinkov back to his room and offered to check and sign the six pages that he had taken to another room and brought back. Bondarev was also present in the room. Filinkov signed the pages.
After this the interrogator several more times took pages with Filinkov’s “witness testimony” to another room and Filinkov understood that the whole story had other “main authors” who edited the “testimony.”
Filinkov was kept at the FSB office for a long time. There was no conversation about torture. He recalled:
My attempts to say that torture is inhumane, that I signed the pages because there was no choice, because I did not want to be tortured anymore, were sharply stopped: ‘‘Have you been tortured? You yourself hit the car! Do you understand?” […]
Someone who was called “the general himself” came in. A thin old man, his clothes looked like a military uniform, but it seemed to be an expensive civilian suit. Inside [the FSB office] I saw only men in civilian suits. The “General”, as far as I remember, also wondered why I was there for so long. […] He was also told that they were waiting for a lawyer.
It was obvious that the “general” really had a high rank and could coordinate, among other things, my testimony. […] He was uncommunicative, I do not remember his voice, or why he came. He sat for a while in the corner […] and withdrew. […]
I was asked a few more clarifying questions, these were the same questions Bondarev asked me [in the minivan]. Mostly they concerned the issues that I myself invented during the torture, when the operatives did not believe that I did not know someone or something. It was difficult for me to maintain the truthfulness of the stories, I no longer remembered what I was saying. […]
The second version of the questioning was typed and I was ordered to sign it, and I don’t know what was written there. Surprisingly, the number of pages was small. […] I was told several times that everything will be fine if I cooperate.
[Bondarev] told me that I could believe the operatives’ promises: “Because the FSB officers always keep their promises! Always! Understood?” This was the second time during that day when he said, “the FSB officers always.” It was spinning in my head, often supplemented by the word “torture.”
Finally, an appointed state lawyer came in. Filinkov was in the room of the FSB investigator Gennady Belyaev:
I was sitting in front of him. “Now we will record your formal detention, conduct a search, then you can talk to the lawyer before an interrogation,” he said. The appointed defender came in, the witnesses, and the interrogator conducted a search. Of course, I did not have anything. The lawyer noted that it was not necessary to conduct the search. […]
To the question if I agree with the detention and pleaded guilty, I answered negatively. “No? Are you sure?”, said the interrogator. I confirmed that I did not consider myself guilty, I did not violate law, I knew nothing about preparing and committing crimes. Officially, my detention occurred on January 24 at 23:30, 28 hours after the moment when my smartphone was taken away from me [at the airport].
[After Belyaev left,] I had just one question to the appointed lawyer: “What should I do?” He replied: “To be honest, I do not really understand what’s going on here …”
I briefly told him that they wanted to charge me with the article according to which the punishment is from five to ten years of strict prison regime, and what “testimony” I had already signed, although I had not violated any law at all. […] I realized that the appointed defender did not understand where he was and what was happening. […] I did not tell him about the torture, losing the hope that he can help. He told me that the investigation would sort everything out and I needed to cooperate with it.
“Well, are you finished?”, Belyaev asked, while opening the door. We went inside. The defender asked which jail they would send me to. “Well, […] it depends on many circumstances,” Belyaev answered, looking at me. “Well, will we cooperate?”, he asked me. “We will,” I answered. “Do you admit being guilty?” “I admit,” I answered, deprived of choice and hope. […]
Again, nonsense questions followed. The investigator was interested in the details of my “stories.” […] The defender asked him to “leave a place for the pre-trial procedure.” […]
The interrogation was over. […] I signed the “transcript” and gave it to the lawyer. Belyaev said: “I will notify the consulate [of Kazakhstan].” Of course, the consulate was not notified, as it turned out later.
After the interrogation, I asked the lawyer to contact my wife and tell her what happened to me and where I was. […]
I was escorted on foot to the Isolator for Temporary Detention [IVS in the FSB building]. During the examination, a doctor came in, he stood a couple of meters away from me. He asked me about my [bruised] chin, and I said that I hit it. “What are these spots?” [from electrical current – V. B.], he continued to ask.
I looked at the operatives, they looked at me. “I do not know,” I answered. “Are they sore?” “No…”
After the next [doctor’s] question, the operatives handed a certificate from the hospital over to him. […] “He’s healthy,” they explained. “He was examined on January 24” […] I think now it was the first hour of January 25.
In the morning, Filinkov was brought to the court. He recalled:
Everyone who escorted me knew me. […] They tried to communicate informally with me on abstract topics. I was still depressed and did not say much. […] I was put in a cage [in the court room], and the trial began. […]
The judge asked if I agree with the investigation. I replied that I did not know what to say. “You leave this at the discretion of the court?”, she asked. “Yes,” I answered. The lawyer repeated: “At the discretion of the court.”
In a few minutes the appointed defender came up to me and said: “Well, I’m leaving.”
Before the judge left for her chamber, she declared that her decision would take 40 minutes. At some point, [while waiting,] I laid down on the bench in the cage. The FSB investigator Belyaev approached [the cage] and told me that this was not a brothel and I couldn’t lay there. […]
The decision of the judge said that the court examined the case materials, among them there was a report of the senior officer of St. Petersburg FSB Directorate K. A. Bondarev about the detection of signs of a crime.
After reading her decision, the judge went to her chamber and returned in plain clothes. “If you refer to the report [of Bondarev], you must present it to the court!”, she said [addressing to the FSB operatives]. To which the FSB officers answered that “there was always no need to bring a report and always everything was normal.”
On the judge’s order, Filinkov was arrested for two months as a suspect. After the court session, FSB operatives escorted Filinkov to the SIZO-3 of St. Petersburg. On January 26, members of the independent Public Monitoring Commission (ONK) that monitors the situation with human rights in penitentiary institutions visited Filinkov in the SIZO-3, and Filinkov told them about the torture. The observers saw a lot of burn marks from the electric shocker on his body. They sent a report to the Investigative Committee (SK) about the torture of Filinkov, demanding an investigation, but received no answer.
Filinkov’s lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov from the “Agora” group managed to meet with Filinkov in jail on January 26. “The guy was drooping, with an absent look, a trembling voice, he immediately told me that he had been tortured. […] When I asked him to show signs of torture, I was horrified: There were on his body, especially on his right thigh, numerous spots from burns from electrical shocks, probably more than 50”, said the lawyer.
The next day, on January 27, another judge of the same court, Vladimir Vasyukov, considered the case of the 27-year-old antifascist Igor Shishkin. Shishkin disappeared the day before, he left his apartment at about 5 PM to walk his dog, but did not return home. The dog was brought back by FSB officers who searched the apartment where Shishkin lived with his wife; a few more antifascists also lived in that apartment. FSB operatives took the wife and all the other inhabitants to the office of the St. Petersburg FSB Directorate. After intense interrogations, they were released.
Judge Vasyukov did not allow journalists to come into the court room. To the court room, Shishkin was brought with bruises on his face, partially covered with a hood and a mask. The judge ruled to arrest Shishkin for two months as a suspect.
Mostly Filinkov informed the ONK members what had happened to Shishkin, Filinkov and Shishkin were kept in the same SIZO-3 and had an opportunity to communicate. The ONK members were totally shocked:
It is generally impossible to imagine what Igor went through. Even according to documents, his interrogation lasted for 24 hours, of 48 hours that he was in the hands of those [FSB] people, 24 hours he was tortured, from 3:00 AM to 3:00 AM of the next day. When we visited him, he looked frightened, asked the security officers who were present at our meeting for permission for everything. Later he became better. But he did not make a statement about torture, he said that he received injuries while training and supposedly did not remember who burns on his body appeared.
After the court, ONK members registered numerous bruises and hematomas on Shishkin’s face, traces of handcuffs on arms, he had a big burn on his left palm. Later Shishkin demonstrated numerous burns on his back. He also had a slight concussion of his brain.
The third young man, Ilya Kapustin, an industrial climber who in the FSB scenario of the case would be a witness and not a perpetrator, on January 25 was detained near the building where he lives. Two days later he made a statement to the press described what happened:
In the evening, when I was returning home and was not far from home, five men in black uniform and masks attacked me from different directions. They pushed me to the ground and, kicking with their feet, dragged me into a minivan. I tried to shout for help, yelled, but it did not help. I was knocked down on the floor of the van and, while continuing to kick me, they searched me and then tightly handcuffed me, so that I still have cuts on my hands.
The van drove off, and I was interrogated. When I did not know the answers to a question, for example, when I did not understand who or what I was asked about, they electrocuted me in the groin area or in the side of my stomach. They tortured me with an electric current, so I said who of my friends were going to arrange something dangerous. There were questions about whether I was a participant in an organization, where I went, whether I was in Penza, they asked me about details my friends’ lives.
From time to time they poked me with a shocker. At one point, one of them said that they could throw me somewhere in the woods and break my legs. I was already beginning to wait for this moment because it would end the torture, I was tortured for so long that it became unbearable.
I had been in the van from about 9:30 pm to 2:30 am, when I was brought, apparently, to the FSB office. When they were taking me out, they pulled my hood down took me out, they pulled the hood and forced me to look down, and I did not understand where we were, but then, when I was taken home for a search, I realized that it was the FSB building at Shpalernaya Street. Inside the office, I saw about the same number of the siloviks, only without masks and in civilian clothes. For about an hour an investigator asked me questions. Sometimes the other siloviks came by into the room; one of them told me that if I do not want the second round [of torture], I must answer all questions.
Then they took me to the apartment where we live for a search. There they gave us to read the order of the Penza court for the search. When during the search I refused to turn on my laptop and phone, they began to behave very aggressively, throwing things, threatening me that they would hide a grenade and in a couple of days they would come again for a search. As a result, they confiscated my laptop, phone and the hard drive.
When they left, I went to the emergency medical department, where traces of beatings and burns from electrical shocks were registered. They gave me a certificate, which lists all the damages. Now I’m looking for a lawyer to file a complaint. I’m not involved in anything, but I’ve been tortured for hours without a reason.
It would be interesting to know if the minivan in which Shihkin was tortured was the same “vehicle with specialists” in which Filinkov was tortured.
The FSB investigators continued their pressure on two now arrestees, Filinkov and Shishkin, in the SIZO-3. On January 29, 2018, FSB officer Bondarev, who had controlled the torture of Filinkov, visited the SIZO-3 and tried to press him into “cooperation.” Filinkov reported about this event to the SK, demanding to open a case against Bondarev and other FSB torturers. His described the event, which gives additional light on how the FSB operatives work:
On January 29, 2018, when I was already held in a cell of the SIZO-3, I was summoned to the investigative room, where two men were waiting for me, one of I recognized as Bondarev. At my request, only Bondarev said his name, the second person said nothing. During the conversation with me, mainly the first of them spoke. During the conversation, Bondarev said that “the swings with the OMK [meaning conversations with the ONK members – V. B] are playing against you”, from which I realized that he knew about the ONK members’ visits, during which I told them about the torture.
During our conversation, Bondarev again exerted psychological pressure on me, saying that if I don’t cooperate with them [i.e., FSB], I would have problems. More precisely, he did not say, but hinted that I was sitting in the best jail of St. Petersburg, but there are also “Kresty-2”, where a thousand people are sitting. […] If your cellmates will beat up you there, no one will hear. Bondarev persistently suggested that I would cooperate in the criminal case, asked me to “confess” and name my “companions in arms.” In exchange, he promised to influence the investigation, and if the information is confirmed, a pre-trial agreement will be concluded with me, which will allow me to receive a term below the lower limit, three years.
Bondarev was offering Filinkov the following. According to the Russian Criminal-Procedure Code, an arrested person can submit a motion for a pre-trial cooperation agreement with the investigators. The pre-trial cooperation agreement implies that the applicant will “assist the investigation in the detection and investigation of the crime, the exposure and prosecution of other accomplices in the crime.” The investigation against the applicant can be separated into a separate proceeding; the court will be held in a special order, and the judge will be able to assign punishment below the lower limit provided for in the Criminal Code article.
Filinkov continued his appeal to the SK:
During the conversation, I told Bondarev that during the detention on the night of January 23 to 24, FSB officers used violence against me. To which Bondarev replied: “You understand that it’s not me.” In response, I said: “You were there and were in charge.” Bondarev replied: “I myself do not like what I’m doing, I appeal to you as a person to the person, I apologize to you.” After these words, he gave me his hand for a handshake, but I replied that I can’t now accept these apologies.
Today, on January 31, I submitted my statement to the SK […] demanding to initiate criminal proceedings against FSB officers, including Bondarev, who tortured and abused me. […]
In addition, I do not want these [FSB] employees, including Bondarev, to be able to visit me in SIZO-3 to exclude further pressure on me. […]
In the meantime, in a letter dated January 29, the day when Bondrev visited Filinkov in jail, the St. Petersburg Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) informed Filinkov’s wife, who lives in Minsk (Belarus) that allegedly Filinkov flew to Minsk on 23 January.
General Consulate of Kazakhstan in St. Petersburg received the official information from Russian authorities about detaining Filinkov only after 9 days, instead of 3 days according to Russian law. By March 2, Consulate officials still were not allowed to visit Filinkov in SIZO-3.
FSB investigators were more successful with Shishkin than with Filinkov. According to his brother Andrei, on February 8, 2018 Igor Shishkin filed a motion for a pre-trial cooperation agreement with the FSB investigation. Shishkin’s lawyer, a member of the international human rights group “Agora” Dmitry Dinze, confirmed this information. Apparently, Shishkin was completely broken by the first round of torture. Despite “good” behavior of Shishkin, on February 20, the St. Petersburg City Court left in the SIZO and extended the period of his arrest until March 22.
On February 21, Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the Civil Dignity Committee and Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the For Human Rights Movement, picketed outside the main FSB building in Moscow protesting against torture in Penza and St. Petersburg of antifascists accused of participating in the “terrorist plot.”
The same day Filinkov’s lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov wrote on his Facebook that a SK representative had notified him of the beginning of consideration of his complaint about the torture of Filinkov. As Filinkov informed him, a SK representative visited him for the first time since the detention. This was deputy head of the SK Military Investigation Department for the St. Petersburg Garrison, and he began the conversation with the phrase: “We finally got it. A check has been started.” This SK department investigates crimes committed by FSB officers, as well as checks complaints on alleged crimes committed by counterintelligence. Cherkasov commented: “The investigation was started on the 27th day after injuries were inflicted on Viktor’s body. Before that we received only meaningless formal notes.” Previously, the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Western Military District refused to check the report on Filinkov’s torture, redirecting the lawyer’s appeal to the FSB, whose employees Filinkov accused of torturing.
On February 25, human rights activists protested in St. Petersburg against the torture of the arrestees by FSB operatives in Penza and St. Petersburg. One-person pickets of people with home-made posters stretched along Nevsky Prospect, the main city street. The action “Freedom to Antifascists” began at 3:00 pm and lasted exactly one hour.
On March 6, the St. Petersburg City Court considered Filinkov’s complaint about the decision of the Dzerzhinsky Regional Court of St. Petersburg to arrest him for two months on suspicion of involvement in a certain terrorist group “Set’” (“Network”) (Part 2 of Article 205.4 of the Russian Criminal Code). The City Court left unchanged the Dzerzhinsky Court’s ruling.
On March 8, Vitaly Cherkasov, Filinkov’s lawyer, filed a complaint to the Head of Investigation Service of the St. Petersburg FSB Directorate, demanding the withdrawal of the FSB investigator Gennady Belyaev from the investigation of Filinkov’s case. The lawyer pointed out that, in particular, the investigator falsified Filinkov’s detainment time, by writing January 25, 0:15 am instead on January 23, 8:00 pm, as it was. Cherkesov concluded:
From the moment of actual detention and initiation of a criminal case against my client, gross violations of his rights were allowed, including by the investigator G. A. Belyaev, who initially showed interest in the outcome of the criminal case no. 11807400001000004, including in the form of actions that fall under the signs of falsification of the materials of the criminal case. These actions raise doubts about the objectivity, honesty and integrity of the investigator, in his desire to strictly follow law, respect the rights and freedom of my client V. S. Filinkov, and also discredit the bright image of a Russia’s FSB officer.
On March 14, Finish press reported that Ilya Kapustin had left Russia and asked for asylum in Finland. He left Russia legally, receiving a Finnish visa. Before leaving for Finland, Kapustin appealed to the SK with a request to provide him with state protection, which was not given to him. As Kapustin put it, he feared persecution from the FSB after he talked about the torture by the FSB officers. “When I was put a stamp on my passport and the journey continued on the Finnish side, I felt like a mountain fell from my shoulders,” he said.
On March 16, it became known that the threat of the FSB investigator Bondarev, that he expressed while visiting Viktor Filinkov in SIZO-3, was implemented. Filinkov was transferred to the worst pretrial jail of St. Petersburg, SIZO-6. Filinkov’s wife Aleksandra told the press: “This isolator is known as ‘torturous’ […] This is exactly what the FSB agents threatened [Filinkov] with, a transfer to the SIZO, where if something happens to him, no one will notice.”
SIZO-6 is infamous in St. Petersburg. In 2009, six senior officials of the St. Petersburg Branch of FSIN, the deputy head of SIZO-6 and several prisoners tortured and raped two fugitives, filming the event on video. After this the former head of the local FSIN Vladimir Malenchuk lost his post, and his deputy Vyacheslav Tippel, who participated in the torture, went to prison for seven years. In his speech in the court Prosecutor said: “During the investigation [of these atrocities] it was found out that the head of the operational management department [of SIZO-6] Yevgeny Petrov had previously committed similar acts against the convict: as a punishment, he himself raped the prisoner and forced the other convicts to rape the prisoner. All this was video recorded.” After the torture, the prisoner died. The criminal prisoners who cooperate with the prison authorities (so-called “activists”) who raped the prisoners on the orders of the administration, were acquitted in 2011 due to “the absence of a crime in their actions.”
Despite sentences, tortures in SIZO-6 continued. Here is what was going on in June 2017. The wife of one of the prisoners told the press: “His arms and legs were tied up, a gag was put in his mouth so he would not shout. He was strangled with sheets, beaten with plastic bottles filled with salt (such bottles are used by the “activists” instead of weights for body building), and with a heel from a shoe. He lost consciousness several times.” A convicted criminal with the nickname Corporal supervised the “punishment.” From 10 to 15 of “activists” took part in the beating.
On March 13, 2018, Filinkov was brought to SIZO-6. According to his note (he gave the note to his lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov), in SIZO-6 Filinkov was placed in a “quarantine” cell with 16 criminal cellmates, 12 of them are smoking, while there is no ventilation. One of the prisoners is definitely insane. There is only one toilet for the whole cell. Filinkov writes: “In the next few days they will move me to a regular camera, where the situation, according to the stories, will be even worse. There are more cellmates, and not everyone has a bed, they sleep in turn.”
In the meantime, on March 21, judge of the Dzerzhinsky Regional Court of St. Petersburg, Alexander Kireev extended the detention period of Filinkov in jail until June 22. On the request of a FSB representative, this was a closed session of the court. The next day, the same court in a closed session ruled to prolong Shishkin’s detention also to June 22.
On March 21, St. Petersburg’s newspaper “Fontanka” published information that the FSB operatives who tortured Filinkov, while interviewed by the Investigative Committee confirmed the use of shockers ton Filinkov. The operatives explained that the suspect allegedly resisted and attempted to escape, and nothing else but the shockers could stop him. Lying during testimony has become the norm for all Russian security services.
On March 24, Filinkov’s lawyer Cherkasov wrote in his Facebook:
The UFSB commanders did not remove the officers who had used the electric shocker [on Filinkov] from the operational work within the criminal case opened against Viktor Filinkov, as they said, “due to moral and ethical reasons.” And what is this? No, we’ve never heard [about such reasons].
But the St. Petersburg UFSB simply refused to prohibit access of the operatives who had tortured Filinkov to him in the SIZO-6.
It becomes dangerous to continue being a human rights or opposition activist in Russia, in particular in St. Petersburg. On January 28, 2018, just when the FSB operatives were busy with the detained antifascists, Alexei Navalny’s action “Strike of Voters” took place in many cities of Russia. Ildar Idrisov, the prominent St. Petersburg human rights activist, was attacked while he was making photos of the huge march of the protesters. Three men attacked him in the hallway on the first floor of a building at the corner of Tverskaya and Odesskaya streets. Idrisov was passing by the men, when one of them tripped him. Idrisov recalled: “I fell on my knees and immediately after that I got a blow to the temple. They looked like operatives, beat me up as operatives, broke communication means [mobile phone] as operatives and were silent as operatives.” Idrisov thinks that they were FSB operatives, and the attack was a revenge for his publications, in particular, about the arrest of St. Petersburg’s antifascists. Idrisov went to the emergency medical department, where doctors diagnosed that he had a fractured left cheekbone, a hematoma in the temporal region, a closed craniocerebral injury, and concussion. The left arm was also broken.
The attack on Dinar Idrisov was one of the latest in the series of similar attacks in St. Petersburg during last months. In October 2017, Vladimir Shipitsin, a member of the pacifist “St. Petersburg Solidarity” movement, was beaten up in the entrance lobby of his house; before that, he received anonymous threats on the Internet. On December 27, 2017, Vladimir Ivanyutenko, a constant participant in the protest actions was attacked by two men while he was walking to his work. One man used an electric shocker and the second pierced Ivanyutenko’s liver and spleen with a hunting knife. The second hit with the knife was to the heart, but the attacker missed and Ivanyutenko survived. On January 26, 2018, one more political activist, 53-years-old Konstantin Sinitsin, was beaten to death. According to human rights activists, most likely Sinitsin’s political activity was behind the attack.
According to the opposition websites, in 2017 at least 10 members of anarchist and other “radical” groups were killed in St. Petersburg and its suburbs.
In February 2018, attacks in St. Petersburg continued. On February 1, 2018, three men attacked Sergei Vinichenko, a municipal deputy of one of St. Petersburg’s regions in the hallway of his house. While he was unconscious, they took his notebook and mobile phone. On February 19, Oleg Maksakov, activist of the “Open Russia”, a political organization founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and then relaunched in Russia in 2014, was attacked by two men, whose faces were covered by scarfs.
On March 18, the day of Putin’s “election” Olga Smirnova, one of two leaders of the group “St. Petersburg Solidarity” (Ildar Idrisov is the second leader) was arrested in St. Petersburg.
Strictly speaking, there is logic in that the FSB returned to the NKVD methods of creating false cases, this practice in various forms always existed in the NKVD/MGB/KGB. And torture with electricity was widely used by FSB and other silovik officers already during the Second Chechen War, 1999–2009 (it started after Vladimir Putin became Russian President). In 2001, the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, wrote in one of her reports from Chechnya (my translation):
Rosita is not young, she has many children and several grandchildren. The youngest, three-year-old, who did not speak Russian before, but saw how her grandmother was dragged on the floor, now constantly yells [in Russian]: “Lie down! On the floor! “Rosita was taken from her house at dawn, when everyone was asleep. […] They threw her into a pit in the ground at the territory of the military unit. […]
With her legs tucked, Rosita sat in the pit for 12 days. One night the soldier who guarded the pit, took pity on her, he threw her a piece of a rug.
“I put it under me. The soldier was a human being,” Rosita said quietly.
“Her” pit was shallow. A meter and twenty centimeters [3.9 ft.] in depth, not more. Without a roof, but she could not straighten up since logs were placed on top. So, [she spent] 12 days, squatting or sitting on that rug. And this was during the winter! During all that time, Rosita was never charged, although she was taken to interrogation three times. Young officers, of the age of her sons, introduced themselves as FSB officers, put “child’s mittens on an elastic band” [as they said] on Rosita’s hands: they attached a wire to fingers of one hand, and the other wire, to the fingers of other hand. And they placed the wires behind her neck.
“I was screaming very loud when the current was applied. But during the rest of their acts I suffered in silence, I was afraid to irritate them even more,” she said.
The FSN officers were saying: “You are not dancing well, ” calling convulsions of Rosita’s body “the dancing.” And they increased the electrical current.
“What did they want?”, [Politkovskaya asked].
“They did not ask anything.”
In the meantime, Rosita’s relatives received an offer through intermediaries from the same officers: to seek money for ransom. The officers explained that the relatives must hurry because Rosita did not tolerate well her placement in the pit, she could die. At first, the officers asked for the amount that the villagers (the money for ransoms were collected by the whole village) could not collect even if they sold buildings of the whole village. Surprisingly, the officers reduced the amount considerably. The money was brought, and Rosita, barely moving her legs, dirty and unwashed, went free. […] She fell into the hands of children.
In 2006, Politkovskaya was shot dead in the hallway of the building where she lived in Moscow, and the murder remains unsolved. And the FSB officers, who participated in the Chechen war, were back to Moscow and other cities. Most probably, currently they have high positions in the FSB system. It is not surprising that the experience acquired in Chechnya now becomes common throughout the whole Russia.
Since the Second Chechen War, The FSB torture with electrical charge became more sophisticated. In 2015, FSB officers tortured then mayor of the city of Feodosia (in the Russia-occupied Crimea), Dmitry Shchepetkov, while music played in the background.
On December 21, 2015 FSB operatives detained Shchepetkov at his working place on the charge of a fictitious bribe, brought him home, searched his home, them brought him to the local FSB office. What happened then, Shchepetkov described himself to the Prosecutor General:
Two FSB special forces officers who carried out my detention handcuffed me at my back, put a bag of dense cloth on my head, and took me to their office in the [so-called] “swallow” position [when handcuffed behind the back arms are pulled up by the handcuffs – V. B.]. [In the office,] I was seated on a chair, legs fixed to the legs of the chair with tape, my face was also tightly wrapped with tape. A twisted wire with a diameter of 2-3 mm was attached to the thumbs of my hands. In a nearby room (or in the far corner of the same room) they turned on a low background music.
Later electric current was tuned on the through the wire approximately 8 times for 7-10 seconds each time. Simultaneously, they beat me on the head, on the trunk, while asking the question: “Who invented the scheme for receiving money?”
In the court, the prosecutor asks for the former mayor 9 years in prison and 64 million rubles in fine. The defense insists on an acquittal.
P.S. In 2016, 99 detainees, of them 94 men and 5 women, died in Russian police precincts during questioning and in isolation cells, as well as in various SIZOs. Officially, 46 of them supposedly committed suicide. From 2015 on, a special site “Russkaya ebola” (“Russian ebola”), created by St. Petersburg’s journalist Maria Berezina, collects information on the deaths and circumstances of deaths of detainees in the hands of police.
Also, in March 2018 human rights activists from the group International Agora analyzed 600 politically motivated searches in Russia in the last 3 years. In just 10 years, Russian courts have approved almost 1,976,021 searches. There are 54,6 million privately-owned houses and apartments in the country. In other words, each 27th apartment or house has been searched, and more than 500 searches have taken place daily.
P.P.S. On March 17, 2018 one more victim of torture, Alexei Shestakovich, escaped from the city of Sevastopol (the Crimea, Russia-occupied territory of the Ukraine) to Ukraine. On March 1, Shestakovich, a member of the group “Anarchists of Sevastopol”, was detained by officers from the Sevastopol branch of the MVD Main Directorate for Countering Extremism, known also as the Center “E”, after a search in his house. At the same time, other members of this group were searched. On the day of the searches, the anarchists were going to file a notice to the occupation authorities about the rally entitled “The post of president is an atavism of the monarchy” they planned in Sevastopol about President Putin’s coming elections. As Shestakovich explained, it was planned as “a reminder of the constitutional right not to participate in the elections.”
Later Shestakovich described to the press and in his complaints to the MVD and Prosecutor’s Office that during the four-hour search he was forced to sit on the floor of his house handcuffed. The front door of his house was opened, and the Center “E” officers did not allow the activist’s mother to close it. After the search, the officers put a plastic bag on Shestakovich’s head, and he began to suffocate. He was taken from the house with this bag on his head.
On the way to the interrogation at their office, the Center “E” officers beat Shestakovich on the legs and head, and tortured him. Shestakovich recalled: “They squeezed the bag, the air ran out, and I began to suffocate. When I tried to breathe, they tighten the bag up even more. At the same time, they picked the handcuffs up behind my back, twisting my arms. They repeatedly told me: “Scream: ‘I’m an animal!’ After I screamed, they let me go. Then they tore my pants on the back and said: “You’ll come into a prison cell with a naked butt [meaning that the other prisoners would be invited to rape him – V.B.].” One of the officers added: “Now we’ll insert a cat’s paw in your rectum.”. . . After all of this, the Lenin Regional Court of the city of Sevastopol sentenced Shestakovich to a 11-days administrative arrest for “disseminating extremist materials.”