Is the Year 1937 Back in Russia? Part II of the FSB “Network” Case

In January 1938, in the Usolsky Labor camp of the NKVD the USSR traditions were laid, which have value in the present time. [In 1938, up to 19-24% of prisoners died in that group of camps]

–Sergei Yerofeev, deputy head of the FSIN veterans, 2013, at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Usolsky Labor Camp

Later I indifferently looked at the horrific photos in Buchenwald – in our camp the same happened, the same withered skeletons wandered and fell dead. I was so thin that I used to fall down under a strong wind, like a blade of grass.

–Academician Boris Rauschenbach, from 1942 to 1946 kept in a labor camp in Nizhny Tagil without a trial as a Russian German

The “Network” case, created by FSB operatives in the cities of Penza and St. Petersburg, that I discussed in Part I, continues to grow. In October 2017-January 2018, five young anti-fascists living in the city of Penza and three living in St. Petersburg were detained on the charge that, according to the FSB, they allegedly created a terrorist organization and were preparing terrorist acts in Russia. All eight were tortured with electric current in an attempt to force them to “confess”. Three of them, Viktor Filinkov, Dmitry Pchelintsev and Iliya Shakursky made statements about their torture. Recently it became known that one more young antifascist, Yuly Boyarshinov, has been arrested in St. Petersburg as part of this case.

Yuly Boyarshinov

The last few years the 27-year-old Boyarshinov worked as an industrial climber (he washed windows in skyscrapers). From 2010 to 2015, he was one of the organizers of the “Free Fair” in St. Petersburg, an event at which they collected and then distributed things free of charge. Boyarshinov also played drums in the Samba band “Rhythm of Resistance” and helped shelters for animals.

On the evening of January 21, 2018, when Yuly walked down the street, a police patrol car pulled up next to him. In his backpack, policemen found about 400 grams of black powder. This is a mixture of charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter that is used mostly to make fireworks. Later Boyarshinov’s lawyer explained that he could not say for what purpose the powder was because he was forced to sign a nondisclosure document.

Boyarshinov was taken to the 53rd police precinct, where he refused to answer questions, referring to Article 51 of the Russian Constitution (“no one is obliged to testify against himself, his spouse and close relatives, the circle of which is determined by federal law”). He was struck several times in the stomach and on the face (later, when Boyarshinov was placed in the SIZO-1 prison, the prison doctor would record traces of blows to his abdomen and head, and a bruise under his eye). The next day the apartment where Boyarshinov lives with his parents was searched by the police. They seized electronic equipment, books and copies of the anarchist magazine in Russian “Autonom“.

The police brought Boyarshinov to the Elizabeth Hospital, where a doctor took a blood sample and made an MRI scan of his brain. During the medical examination, a hematoma and an abrasion on the face were also recorded.

On January 23, the court of the Primorsky Region ruled to keep Boyarshinov for 30 days in custody on a charge of illegal possession of explosives (Article 222.1, pt. 1 of the Russian Criminal Code: “Illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation or carrying of explosives or explosive devices shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of up to five years with a fine of up to one hundred thousand rubles or in the amount of the salary or other income of the convicted person for a period of up to six months”). At that time, Yuly had an appointed lawyer, and his relatives were not even notified about the court session.

A week later two men came to Kresty-2 Prison, where Boyarshinov was kept. They introduced themselves only by their nick first names, “Kostya” and “Dima”; they left the phone number of the St. Petersburg FSB Branch for communication. “Kostya” and “Dima” were interested in the possible connections of Boyarshinov with members of the “Network.”  Boyarshinov refused again to answer questions referring to the Article 51.

On February 12, Boyarshinov was transferred to the SIZO-6, a prison for arrestees infamous for torturing his inmates, where Viktor Filinkov and the other arrestees charged within the “Network” case, are kept. According to the lawyer Olga Krivonos, representing Boyarshinov, the latter was placed there in a cell with 40 prisoners (which has a capacity of 35). The next day “Kostya” and “Dima” visited Boyarshinov again. They tried to explain clearly that this is only the beginning, they threatened that things would get worse. Boyarshinov refused to answer their questions again.

On March 2, members of the regional Public Observation Commission visited the SIZO-6. As Boyarshinov told his lawyer, prisoners communicated with the Commission in the presence of the head of the prison. After this FSB officers came again. On the same day, Boyarshinov was transferred to a cell containing about 150 people. There were only 116 beds in the cell. There were murderers, rapists, and robbers, who had already served time. Smoking prisoners are not separated from non-smokers. At first Boyarshinov had to sleep on the floor.

On March 16, Sergei Shabanov, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Leningrad Region visited SIZO-6. His official report said: “There were no complaints or statements from persons held in custody.”

Boyarshinov’s lawyer Krivonos commented: “During almost two months of being kept in the SIZO-6, no investigative actions against Yuly were conducted. Due to the conditions of my client’s detention […], his psychological state has deteriorated significantly. […] They do not apply electric shocks to him, but the conditions in which my client is kept are torture.”

As it became known later, Boyarshinov was detained only because he was acquainted with his colleague, also industrial climber Iliya Kapustin, who was detained on January 25 as a witness in the “Network” case. On January 21, a few hours before Boyarshinov’s arrest, Kapustin called to say there was work. On January 25-26, Kapustin was tortured by FSB operatives, and on March 10, he legally left for Finland and asked for political asylum there.

On April 11, Boyarshinov, who continued refusing to answer questions of FSB operatives was charged as an alleged member of the St. Petersburg “Network” group. Now FSB operatives consider Boyarshinov a participant in it under the pseudonym “Yura”. In the same group, according to FSB’s version, was the wife of Viktor Filinkov, Aleksandra, and several others.

On April 20, a court ruled in a closed session that Boyarshinov should stay in the FSB custody.

The same day the NTV channel of the state TV showed a propaganda “journalist investigation” called “Dangerous Network.” The “investigation” is available on YouTube.

In the meantime, on April 10, relatives of the arrested, with the help of human rights activists, formed the “Parent’s Network – Committee of Detained Anarchists.” The first meeting took place in Moscow at the office of the organization “For Human Rights.” Lev Ponomarev, head of that organization, presented information about actions in defense of the detained, while the relatives presented information about the pressure the FSB put on wives and parents.

 Two days later the new “Parent’s Network” made a statement on FSB’s blackmail of the mother of one of the detainees. The statement describes the mechanism of FSB’s actions.

Iliya Shakursky

 On April 10, the FSB investigator summoned Yelena Bogatova, the mother of the arrested anti-fascist Iliya Shakursky, and recommended her to give an interview to the state NTV television company. He gave direct instructions to state in the interview that her son, in fact, is a member of the organization “Network”, which the FSB calls terrorist, and in no way to mention that the group of young people was going to just play a game.

The film crew, accompanied by the FSB operative, came to Yelena’s home and stayed with her until 11:00 pm. In addition to questions about the organization in which the son is a member, the NTV staff were interested in her interaction with human rights defenders. They insistently offered to say that human rights activists promised something to her. The stressed-out mother was asked provocative questions, she lost track of what was going on, she was crying. She does not know what they recorded.

Ms. Bogatova intends to demand that her interview does not air. She appealed to the “Parents’ Network” with a request to publicize the events. She said: “If something happens to me or Iliya, then those people in whose hands my son is and who put pressure on him and me will be to blame.”

The “Parents’ Network” stated that if the NTV released a video or a film featuring Bogatova, everyone should know that what she said in the interview was said under pressure, with the use of psychological torture, in which the FSB investigator and a group of citizens who called themselves “journalists” participated. The “Parents’ Network” demanded to leave relatives of the detained young people alone and stop trying to influence them through threats and blackmail.

On April 16, members of the “Parents’ Network” met with Mikhail Fedotov, Adviser to President Vladimir Putin and Chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. The parents informed Fedotov about the torture by the FSB reported to them by children and their lawyers and the interviews the NTV television forces them to give. Despite FSB and NTV pressure, the mothers still refused to admit the guilt of their sons. So far, nothing changed after this meeting.

On April 19, it became known that Captain Konstantin Bondarev, the senior operative of the St. Petersburg FSB, who in January was involved in the torture of Viktor Filinkov, two months earlier received praise from the City Assembly (the legislative body of St. Petersburg) “for special merits in ensuring security, law and order in the territory of St. Petersburg, professional qualities, initiative and perseverance.”

And here is how Bondarev, awarded for “professional qualities”, talked to the detained Filinkov on the way to the SIZO-6 in January 2018:

Bondarev asked: “Well, Petukhov [by calling Filinkov “Petukhov” [Bondarev made a hint that Filinkov was considered as having been raped. “Petukh” (“Rooster”) in Russian is one of the nick names for gay people – V.B.], has somebody already cracked your ass?” Then he said:

Now I will bring you to Cherkasov [another FSB officer], he will make a name on your case. And you and the “Agora” [i.e., Filinkov’s lawyers] will rot in prison! And you’ll be sitting [in the North], over the Arctic Circle, in Murmansk or Karelia! Life has taught you a lesson, and then it gave you a chance to cooperate with the FSB. Do they know in the SIZO-6 that your lawyer defends members of the LGBT community? [another hint that Filinkov will be raped – V. B.]

At this moment someone of the operatives who were in the car, responded: “Apparently, the lesson was not learned [by Filinkov].” Bondarev replied: “If it did not come through his head, so it will come through his legs.” The second operative added: “It will come through his ass!” After this they laughed gaily. I also remember that one of the operatives said that “it’s possible to get married well in Gorelovo” [meaning that after the rape Filinkov will be a “wife” of his rapists – V. B.]

Viktor Filinkov

On April 20, Sergey Valentinov, investigator of the Military Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee (SK) of Russia refused to initiate a criminal case based on the complaint of Viktor Filinkov about the torture by FSB operatives. The investigator did not find any violations in the actions of FSB operatives. He stated that the FSB explanation that they shocked Filinkov in an escape attempt “completely refute” the Filinkov’s version that he was taken to the forest and was beaten and tortured for several hours in a minibus. Filinkov’s lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov assessed the results of the SK “investigation” as “outright sabotage and willful inaction,” which resulted in “the loss and destruction of evidence in the case.” He intends to appeal the refusal in court.

On May 11, the same Valentinov refused to initiate a criminal case of torture based on the complaint of  Iliya Kapustin. This time Valentinov ruled that the damage to Kapustin’s body was a result of the “lawful use” of force by FSB officers, as a young man allegedly tried to escape. And, according to the cynical invention of FSB operatives, the marks on Kapustin’s groin and abdomen were not induced by the electrical shocker but were “bed bugs bites.”

It makes sense to rmember how these “bedbug bites” appeared. On January 25, 2018 Kapustin wrote in his complaint:

[In the minibus] they continued to beat me up (they kicked me in the body), they placed me in a lying position on my stomach on the floor, my hands were tightly handcuffed, and they searched the contents of my pockets. Then the bus started moving.

The kidnappers introduced themselves as officers of the special services (which they did not specify). After that at least one of the officers stood on my feet, pressing me to the floor in the area of ​​my knees.

My body was exposed from the top of the abdomen to the middle of the thigh and they began to administer electric shocks (turning me to the left side), to the area of ​​the right side of the abdomen, the upper part of the right thigh and groin, and several times to the region of the penis (on the whole, about 40 shocks) […]

They asked me about my friends and people whom I do not know … After about three hours of torture, one of the kidnappers said that they could break my legs and throw me in the forest, where no one would help me, I was still “questioned” a little bit. […] After that the bus went for a long ride (I think, for half an hour) with great speed.

We did not arrive in the forest, but to the FSB building, stopped at the Shpalernaya Street [headquarters of the St. Petersburg FSB] and I was taken to the investigator for interrogation.

Dmitry Pchelintsev and his wife Angelina

In the meantime, 25-year-old Dmitry Pchelintsev, one of the main defendants of the case in the city of Penza, told his lawyer Oleg Zaitsev about how FSB officers tortured him after he reported his first torture session. They ordered Pchelintsev to drop his charges against the FSB officers. At first, he succumbed to this pressure and the video was recorded by the FSB in which Pchelintsev said that he invented the story about the torture. Now he stated to the lawyer that he intends to stand up to the end rejects his confession given earlier under duress. Here is what he said to the lawyer Zaitzev:

On February 10, 2018 [after the publication in the media of his statement about torture] in the afternoon, a member of the FSIN led me to a cell. There were three FSB officers in the cell […] They tried to put me on the floor, but I resisted. After a minute or two of the struggle with these officers, I felt a blow to the back of my neck, back of my waist and ankles. One of these blows knocked me off my feet, and they pressed my head to the floor. I hid my hands under my body. They put a [polyethylene] bag on my head up to my chin. It was hard to breathe, and I was becoming weak. I released my face from the bag. They beat me on the back of my head, and I each time my face hit the floor. […] Then they connected my elbows with tapeand put the bag back up to the chin. […]

They turned me over on my back, but […] I laid, more likely, on my side. […] They removed my socks and pulled my pants and underwear to my knees. They put a tightly fitting hat on my head and buttoned it under my chin. The guard wrapped my toes with wires. They tried to put a gag into my mouth, but I resisted to open it, so they attached it with tape. The last time [when he was tortured – V.B.] a lot of teeth broke because of the gag. During the struggle, we almost did not talk. When they stopped beating me in the face and stomach, I was electrocuted […]

They communicated among themselves: “Contact is bad, the current is weak.” I yelled that I did not need it to be stronger. All the time the third officer was pushing my chest with his knee and squeezing my genitals […]. [They said:] “What will we do with your wife? Let the Tajik men rape her by the crowd, since she is so talkative [previously, she talked to the press – V.B] … You are an enemy and a terrorist. That’s the truth. . .” I repeated everything they said. [They continued:] “So, are you giving up on your wife? Or will you find the words so she understands?” I replied that I would find them for sure. They told me after another couple of electric shocks: “You will disavow your testimony, you ‘ll say you’ve told lies about torture.”

In breaks between the phrases, I was electrocuted […] [They continued:] “Then you’ll do what the investigator says. If he shows you white color and says that’s black, you say black. If he cuts your finger and says to eat it, you’ll eat it.” After this they electrocuted me a few more times so I wouldn’t forget.

At least one of the torturers was the same FSB officer who tortured Pchelintsev previously. Pchelintsev described him:

I saw in the cell a FSB officer who had tortured me on October 28, 2017 and participated in my beating on November 8, 2017, and also, possibly […] escorted me on [to the court] and sat in the court room next to my wife. In the cell, he was in a black training compression T-shirt and a balaclava with one slot. He had medical gloves on his hands.

Four days after the torture, when the signs of electric shocks began to fade, Pchelintsev was taken for interrogation to the FSB investigator Valery Tokarev. Pchelintsev said: “At the interrogation, I disavowed my previous testimony, as they wanted, but made adjustments that the investigator Tokarev did not like, and after the interrogation he came to me [to the cell] and said that it was necessary that I should invent such goals and objectives of our [sport] trainings in which there was a crime. During the interrogation I was videotaped, and one can see marks of beatings on that tape. My wife also saw them the same day.”

Pchelintsev declared to his lawyer:

If I again give up my testimony that they tortured me, again confess to my guilt to an absurd accusation, and talk about the guilt of the others, or if something happens to me in the SIZO or FSB, it means that I was tortured again.

Pchelintsev’s lawyer Zaitsev has appealed against the court’s refusal to initiate a criminal investigation into the facts of torture by FSB operatives.

On May 20, 2018, there was a meeting in St. Petersburg in solidarity with the arrestees in the “Network” case.

On May 23, 2018, Alexei Poltavets’s girlfriend Viktoriya was detained on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Viktoria and Alexei Poltavets are Penza antifascists, who are acquainted with many of the defendants in the “Network” case. Alexei is a friend of Viktor Filinkov. Before the incident with Viktoria, Alexei told the press the story about how he, along with Maxim Ivankin and Mikhail Kulkov, were detained in Penza in March 2017, and then tortured and beaten, trying to force his to him to confess to possession of drugs. All three appear in the FSB-concocted scenario of the “Network“ case under their real names or pseudonyms, “Red”, “Iliya” and “Boris”, respectively. After their detention, all three have left Russia.

As for Viktoria, on May 14 she came to Penza to visit her parents living there. On May 23, at 8:00 am she was detained on a bus that was going from Moscow to the city of Kherson (Ukraine) with a stop in Kiev, where she and Alexei had recently moved to. When Alexei called to the border guards in early morning of May 24, the guards refused to give him information about Viktoria.

Viktoria Frolova spent the night at the border guard center “Troebortnoye”, and early in the morning three guards came for her. They shouted and insulted her and threatened to handcuff her. One of the officers claimed that Viktoria was a terrorist and that she should be shot. He pushed a notebook with the inscription “Terrorism” into her face and shouted: “You, fuck, do not you understand?”

Then they told Viktoria that she would be taken to Penza, and they put her by force in a black car. They drove the whole day, and when she need to go to restroom, they took her out and simply handcuffed her to a tree.

About 7 pm on May 24 Viktoria was brought to the FSB Penza Headquarters. There she was met by two officers, one of whom was the head of the investigative group on the “Network” case Valery Tokarev. They questioned her about her boyfriend Poltavets  and other figurants of the “Network” case. Tokarev threatened her if she did not sign the protocol with the information he wanted to include, then she herself and Poltavets would be behind the bars.

Frolova signed a protocol in which Ilya Shakursky, Vasily Kuksov and Yegor Zorin were named members of the FSB invented group “Voskhod”, and Dmitry Pchelintsev, Andrei Chernov, Maxim Ivankin and Mikhail Kulkov, members of the group “5.11”. The FSB officers called these groups “Network” units.

After the interrogation, Viktoria was released to her parents. The FSB ordered her to come again on May 27, Sunday, to “testify” once again. During the second interrogation officers forced her to say to the camera that she had testified freely, without pressure.

Viktoria got on a train to Moscow, took a bus to Kiev and through the same border guard center  “Troebortnoye” left for Ukraine. At the frontier point the same officer who had detained allowed her to cross the border only after he called to the FSB Headquarters in Penza.

In the meantime, May 23, the Sakharov Center in Moscow hosted a press conference on “The Bedbugs in the Service of the FSB: New Details of the Fabricating of the Antifascists’ Case”, dedicated to the “Network” case. Dmitry Pchelintsev’s mother Svetlana Pchelintseva, mother of Andrei Chernov, Tatyana Chernova, Ilya Shakursky’s lawyer Anatoly Vakhterov, a member of the St. Petersburg Public Observing Commission (ONK) for St. Petersburg, Yekaterina Kosarevskaya, and human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, attended the conference.

Lev Ponomarev compared the methods used by FSB operatives with the methods used in the totalitarian Soviet Union past. Kosarevskaya described the conditions of imprisonment of Boyarshinov and Filinkov. During the investigation into the use of violence by investigators, Kosarevskaya was interrogated. A question from the investigator seemed to be extraordinary: “Did she ever see bedbugs and their bites?” Thus, he wanted to say that she could confuse the electric shock with the bites of bedbugs. Pchelintsev’s mother said that the repeated torture only proves that the investigation has no evidence of guilt, their guilt exists only in the transcripts of interrogations.

On May 25, 2018, the owner of the theater in Saint Petersburg that planned to stage the show ”Torture 2018” based on the reports by the detainees of the “Network” case, received an order from the prosecutor’s office not to proceed with the performance. The director of the theater was also summoned to the FSB Headquarters in Saint Petersburg and threatened with the closure of the theater. The future performance was closed. Later the performance group found another theater, the location of which they didn’t disclose in advance.

On June 7, 2018 Oleg Zaitsev, Pchelintsev’s lawyer, informed the press that two FSIN officials, one of them Andrei Dubinin, assistant to the head of the FSIN, came to the SIZO-6 and tried to encourage Pchelintsev to give an interview to the infamous Russia Today (RT) TV station. Pchelintsev refused, asking for an opportunity to consult a lawyer. As Zaitsev stated, “They told him: ‘Well, there are no lawyers yet, make a decision quickly.’ That is, how they manipulated him.” He added that the FSIN officials characterized the RT TV as anobjective channel. The same proposal was made to Ilya Shakursky.

On June 14, 2018 in a closed session the judge of the Leninsky district court of Penza, Svetlana Shubina, extended the arrest of Arman Sagynbaev, one of the arrestees in the “Network” case, until September 18. Sagynbayev was detained in St. Petersburg on November 6, 2017, and then brought to the SIZO-1 in Penza. According to FSB investigators, Sagynbaev was an engineer in the fictional terrorist organization. In fact, he only came to Penza several times for first strike paintball training, in which the other defendants participated.

Sagynbaev pleaded guilty and, unlike Dmitri Pchelintsev and Ilya Shakursky, did not claim that torture was applied to him, and did not refuse to testify. Probably, this was because he has serious health problems. During the previous court session, on December 14, 2017, he was constantly vomiting.

On June 18 and 21, 2018, the Garrison Military Court of St. Petersburg considered the appeal of Filinkov’s lawyer, Vitaly Cherkasov, against the decision of the Investigation Committee not to open a case against FSB officers who tortured Filinkov. According to the lawyer, investigators of the Committee did not conduct a real investigation.

Judge Zaitsev supported the decision of the Committee and rejected  the appeal. He declared that the appearance of injuries after the detention were “established on the basis of explanations” of FSB officers who tortured Filinkov. Previously FSB officers acknowledged the use of electric shockso n Filinkov but stated that he allegedly resisted arrest and attempted to escape, this is why it was impossible to stop him in any other way, which is a lie.

During the second day, June 21, the court session continued from three pm to nine pm. Filinkov was connected with the court room by video communication. During the break, he told reporters that his accusation was based on the testimonies of the arrestees of the “Network” case kept in the city of Penza. Then the FSIN officer turned off the connection.

However, before the trial, Filinkov managed to report that another defendant in the case, Yuly Boyarshinov, also imprisoned in Petersburg SIZO no. 6, is under pressure physically and psychologically. Boyarshinov is kept in a crowded cell and he has problems with his cellmates.

Filinkov also described the conditions of his detention: “A very small cell, incredibly stuffy, uncomfortable to sleep since the mattress is incredibly thin, I cannot sleep, I have pain in my liver.  No medicine is given to me.”

At the moment, five figures of the “Network” case are kept in the SIZO-1 in Penza: Sagynbaev , Shakursky, Vasily Kuksov, and Andrei Chernov. As Pchelintsev said, in his cell pop music is played from 6 am to 10 pm so loudly that it’s impossible even to read. During the electrical torture, convulsions of his body were so strong that almost all his teeth were destroyed.  One more accused in Penza, Yegor Zorin, who first testified against the other defendants, before the New Year was transferred under house arrest.

On June 25, Iliya Shakursky was placed in a punishment cell in the SIZO-1 of Penza because he allegedly talked to other prisoners during a daily hour walk. According to his mother, Yelena Bogatova, in protest Shakursky declared a hunger strike.

On July 5, 2018, two more young men, Mikhail Kulkov and Maxim Ivankin, allegedly involved in the “Network”, were detained in Moscow and brought to Penza. Leninsky District Court of Penza ordered to arrest them until September 18 on charge of organizing a terrorist group. Kulkov’s father, who saw his son and Ivankin in the court, noticed that the young men had bruises and scratches. Previously, in March 2017, they had already been detained for a short time. During detention, they were tortured and beaten, and the officers who detained them demanded they would testify against their friends-antifascists.

Three anti-fascists accused in Penza, Andrei Poltavets, Maxim Ivankin, and Mikhail Kulkov have emigrated from Russia. The girlfriend of Poltavets, Victoria Frolova, lives with him in Kiev.

In St. Petersburg, three anti-fascists have been arrested, Viktor Filinkov, Igor Shishkin and Yuly Boyarshinov. According to the court decision, they will be kept in SIZO until October 22. Alexandra Zamniborshch, Filinkov’s wife was also accused of membership in the “Network”. In early April 2018, she fled to Finland and asked for political asylum there.

In the meantime, it seems Putin’s regime, like during the late Stalin’s time, is ready for a “doctors’ case.” On June 29, Aleksandr Bastyrkin, head of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation, ordered his subordinates “to create a joint group that will specialize in providing practical assistance and investigating criminal cases of iatrogenic crimes [i.e., medical mistakes]. At the same time, the task of the forensic-medical research departments should be, in particular, examination of medical documents.”