Political Prisoners in Today’s Russia: The Natsbols By Grigory Pasko, journalist At the second All-Russian Civic Concress that took place in December of last year in Moscow, among others a resolution was adopted about political repressions in Russia. In part, it says:
“We protest against political repressions in Russia. We demand the repeal of the guilty verdicts of lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin, the scientists Valentin Danilov and Igor Sutyagin, issued under the pressure of the procuracy and the FSB with gross violations of legality.” “We demand the cessation of the repressive policy of the state and the hounding of employees of the ‘YUKOS’ company.” “We demand an immediate conducting of an independent medical examination of Platon Lebedev. We demand an immediate change in the measure of restraint with respect to Khodorkovsky, Lebedev, Pichugin, Malakhovsky, Agranovskaya and Bakhmina, and with respect to the arrested members of the National-Boshevik Party, charged with infiltrating the building of the Ministry of Social Security and Health.” “We call on the organization ‘Amnesty International’ to recognize the status of political prisoners for all arrested employees of “YUKOS”, inasmuch as all of them are being prosecuted for political reasons.” “We demand the release of the unlawfully convicted members of the organization “PORTOS”: Yuri Davydov, Irina Dergunova, Tatiana Lomakina, Alexey Merkulov, and Yevgeni Privalov”. While the public knows at least something about many of the people on this list, not even all human rights advocates know about the Natsbols and the members of the organization “PORTOS”.
First, about the members of the National-Bolshevik Party. Their leader, Eduard Limonov, recently wrote in one of his articles: “In the Butyrki jail are found National-Bolsheviks who defended my life by the Tagansky courthouse on 13 April – Roman Popkov, Nazir, Mahomedov, Sergey Medvedev, Volodya Titov, Alexey Markov. And in the 6th women’s jail of Moscow is held Yelena Borovskaya. She passes in the same case. “It is high time that international human rights organizations finally recognise the imprisoned National-Bolsheviks as political prisoners. By not doing this, human rights advocates are sullying their robes, which have to be as white as snow. This is the main thing I wanted to say in my article. Stand up for the Natsbols – numerically the largest group of political prisoners in Russia.” Limonov is right: as of today, the Natsbols are numerically the largest group of prisoners being persecuted by the authorities with political motives. And although many, including human rights advocates themselves, may have issues with these motives, nevertheless, as I see it, the persecution of this group of people who do not agree with the course of Putin’s regime is taking place precisely with political motives. Other than the members of Limonov’s organization whom he named. At the present time, several other criminal cases initiated at various times with respect to the National-Bolsheviks are known. In August 2004, around thirty members of the NBP entered the building of the Ministry of Health of Russia and occupied three offices that were vacant at the time, protesting against the ministry’s policy with respect to the question about the draft law on social payments (better known by the name of “the law on monetization”). On 20 December 2004, the Tverskoy Court of Moscow found seven participants in the action guilty of hooliganism with the use of weapons and of intentional destruction of property, entailing grievous consequences, sentencing each of them to five years of deprivation of liberty in a general-regime penal colony. In March 2005, the Moscow City Court changed the sentence: Sergey Yezhov and Anatoly Globe-Mikhailenko had their term reduced from 5 to 2.5 years. Maxim Gromov, Anatoly Korshunsky, Oleg Bespalov, and Kirill Klenov – from 5 to 3 years of deprivation of liberty. On 8 December 2005, the Tverskoy Court of Moscow issued a verdict with respect to the participants in another action – the “infiltration” by forty NBP members into the public reception office of president of Russia Putin (they demanded a meeting with Putin or with the deputy head of his administration). The court sentenced Marina Kurasov, Yulian Ryabtsev, and Denis Osnach to 3.5 years of deprivation of liberty in a general-regime penal colony; Sergey Reznichenko, Alexey Tonkikh, and Natalia Chernova to 3 years; Yuri Bednov and Alina Lebedeva to 2 years. The remaining participants in the action (31 persons), who had already spent nearly a year in jail by the moment the trial ended, were sentenced to suspended terms and released in the courtroom. The initiative group «Common action» recognized all the participants in the action to be political prisoners on the strength of the fact that criminal offences were imputed to them for non-violent actions, as well as an inappropriate punishment being appointed for an act which in the worst case could be assessed merely as an administrative offence. It is noteworthy that participants in an analogous unsanctioned action in February 2006, who committed a symbolic “takeover” of several premises in the Savelovsky Rayon Military Commissariat [conscription facility—Trans.] of the City of Moscow, were rightfully and lawfully held administratively liable – and not criminally liable, like the members of the NBP. This circumstance underscores the political character of the repressions with respect to the members of an opposition party. … At the end of last year, I was a participant in a protest rally in Irkutsk against the construction of a center for enriching foreign uranium in Angarsk. Among the participants in the rally were many members of the local NBP organization. The police, which may actually have numbered more than the participants in this strictly environmental rally, was taking videos and photos – primarily of the NBP members. I heard how one high-ranking police officer told his subordinates: “The Natsbols, film the Natsbols…”. Apparently, the power is so scared of the Natsbols that it’s trying to monitor their actions throughout the entire country, and, when the occasion presents itself, is ready to put them behind bars under any pretext. Such “special treatment” is yet more proof of the political character of the persecution.