[See Part 1 of Pasko’s interview with the former FSB officer and newly freed political prisoner, Mikhail Trepashkin.] Mikhail Trepashkin Freed – Part 2 By Grigory Pasko, journalist In an exclusive interview with Grigory Pasko, former political prisoner Mikhail Trepashkin talks about the purpose behind Patrushev and Putin’s spy-mania campaigns, his relationship with Alexander Litvinenko, and his view on the Khodorkovsky case. (Photo: Grigory Pasko)
Your opinion about the judicial system in Russia, the one created under Putin already.
The whole judicial branch of power has already been built into a vertical. The vertical is in strict subordination – no, not to laws, but to the executive power. In every court, they’ve put “their people” in at the leadership positions, people who are loyal to the system built under Putin. And it’s like this in the whole country.
So how do you go about fighting such a system, where everybody covers everybody else, where the procurator and the judge are one and the same, in essence? Where the defense lawyer has been relegated to the role of nothing more than a walk-on bit player?
There were moments when I lost heart. But I’m a fighter by nature. Even if it takes 20 years, I will strive for justice. If you don’t work at this, then nothing will change. You need to fight yourself and to pass on your experience to others. I don’t consider myself the greatest victim. That’s why there is the desire to defend others as well, to help them. I haven’t lost interest in creating a website where information would be gathered about how and what a person should do if he’s gotten in trouble: fallen under the wheels of investigative-and-judicial repressions. So that, having read the necessary information, he could strive for the observance of his rights at all stages of the investigation and trial. Concrete steps are needed, so that all would understand. Such a live site for many.
How did the jailers treat you?
Variously. Here and there I even managed to achieve some changes for the better. For example, because of my complaints, the SIZO [investigative isolator prison—Trans.] in Dmitrov was rebuilt; the system of the organization of the intake of convicts was changed; the conditions of detention at the SIZO of Volokolamsk of Moscow Oblast were improved; they did repairs at «Matrosskaya Tishina». There were changes too at IK-13 in Nizhny Tagil… Although there, the member of one of the inspection commissions actually said to me: the more you write, the longer you’ll stay inside.And also they, the jailers, very much love the phrase: not a single zek has ever destroyed a jail, but any jail is capable of destroying a person. It looks like this is not only their favorite phrase, this is – a motto, a guidance for actions, aimed specifically at destroying a person who has fallen into this system.
What are your attitudes towards colleagues from the FSB? I’m not saying “former colleagues”, because, as they themselves express it, there’s no such thing as “former” over there.
Still during the time of the trial, many of my colleagues appeared in my defense. Employees of the FSB dismissed into retirement, 35 persons, all spoke out positively about me. Including 5 generals. Colonels Zhuchkov and Ogibalov even came right out and said that they could not be prosecution witnesses, but could only be defense witnesses. They, by the way, confirmed the non-secrecy of the documents. But their words did not find their way into the trial transcript.After my release, many have already phoned to congratulate me with coming out to freedom. Employees of the subdivisions «Alfa» and «Vimpel» also congratulated me… There are generals who are afraid to say it out loud, but they support me.
And they’ll keep on being afraid, those generals of yours, and in the meantime, the power of these villains is going to entrench itself even more…
I think that they will not carry out a felonious order.
Your opinion about the poisoning of Litvinenko?
Sasha was my friend. True, to speak in detail about his death is difficult for me, because in this time I was already behind bars. Nevertheless, there are facts that allow me certain conclusions to be made.Already back when I was meeting with Shebalin, it became known to me that at that time a special group had been formed and approved at the highest level and that it was working against Berezovsky and his associates, including against Litvinenko, as well. Shebalin said that “we are going to really fuck everybody who is connected with them”. Also named was one of the variants of what manner this can be done in: in that time in the west there was such a phenomenon as letters with white powder. One such letter, it is possible, they planned to send to Litvinenko. But then, apparently, they chose another variant – with polonium.
What kind of a person is this Shebalin?
The boys picked on him as a child. He grew up, went to serve in the KGB, took up karate. Then, having attained a certain position in “the office”, he went off to take his revenge on those who had bullied him.
This story reminded me of yet another unassuming little personage who used to get picked on as a child. But he seems to be taking his revenge not only on some concrete bullies, but on the whole country…
Yes, I understand who you mean; they are similar in some ways. Nowadays, Shebalin is officially numbered as retired.
In your letter from the colony, you wrote me that you had met with Shebalin in August 2002 and had reported to him data on possible preparations for a terrorist act in Moscow. This was before the events in the «Nord Ost» theater?
Yes, precisely so. I says to him: What are you wasting your time on Litvinenko for? Look at what’s going on right under your noses. The terrorist Abdul – the bloody, who has appeared once again in the Caucasus – has got connections in Moscow. Take a look at my dispatches within the framework of cases of operative elaboration [KGB-speak for “surveillance”—Trans.] (they confiscated them from me together with my computer)… But no, they didn’t listen. Then the tragedy at «Nord Ost» happened.
Why, in your view, do people vote for such a power, about which they know that it is criminal?
Yes, that is a phenomenon. It seemed to me that ordinary people, in their majority, revile this power. But it turns out that this doesn’t hinder them from voting for this power. The reasons for this, in my view, are several. First, through television and the state mass media outlets, the thought was put out there that Putin doesn’t know about certain problems because bad officials aren’t reporting them to him. Second, Putin has strangled the opposition. This is a tragedy, that there is no single leader of a united opposition. Here, it is true, there is also the fault of the opposition itself, that at the end of the day, it could not nurture, cultivate someone, prepare him, show him to the people, unveil him.
Unveil? On state pro-Putin television? How about you – might you go into politics yourself?
Myself, I don’t want to go into politics, although there have been offers. I am a lawyer, and I am going to defend people.
But lawyers become politicians too. Kurchena, Barshevsky, Astakhov…
That’s a show. With Barshevsky, the situation’s a little bit different than with the others. I’m ready to be an assistant to a parliamentary deputy…
But not for Lugovoy, I assume… But seriously, I don’t see in the Duma of the new convocation anybody who isn’t brain-dead or who is even potentially critically disposed towards the quality of legislative work, let alone towards the power.
This is probably true…
Your attitude towards the YUKOS affair?
I support Khodorkovsky, because he, as is said, was convicted lawlessly. I don’t know the whole essence of the case. And many don’t know: for some reason, a mass of materials with respect to the case is not openly accessible. So that people could read, understand, compare, and think… But the selective approach of the power to him is evident.
Why, in your view, does today’s power need “spy cases”?
Patrushev, just like many from the Putin team, is not a specialist in the area of ensuring the security of the country. But he needs to score points for something. So he scores points with phony cases. He thinks up non-existent spies, phony terrorist acts. In order to show how busily he’s working. It’d be great if terrorist acts would be averted, but no, they’re not! The motive: let these acts be committed, and then we’ll solve them and receive medals for it. Everything’s only to demonstrate how important they are. But to organize preventive measures – that they don’t know how to do. By the way, Putin needs these cases too: in order to show the whole world that he’s fighting the terrorists, and to show his country that internal enemies are getting in the way of his building a bright future.
But if Patrushev is serving up this phoniness to Putin among others, then what kind of competence does Putin himself have?
Well, what kind of competence can Putin have? He used to work in political investigation. They brought him back from Germany because he was a second-rate specialist. The good ones they left in diplomatic representations, the branches of banks… And the bad ones they sent back, into the country: into the institutes, into the customs service. After Germany, he ended up at Leningrad University. Where his job was to gather kompromat about everybody. And then Sobchak took him onto his team.
If you analyze the statistics, you can come to the conclusion that convulsions in the country arise during critical turning points: for example, before presidential elections. If one has in mind such a logic of the actions of the powers, then one could make the assumption that something bad is going to have to take place in the country in the period from January to March of next year… What do you think in this regard?
It’s quite possible. At the very least, so that those lobbying for a third term for Putin could present him as a hero and the only savior of Russia. No doubt the team is already busy working on such an operation.
Are you not afraid that your activities, if they’re noticed, will be suppressed a second time, but already in a more cardinal manner?
Of course, I’m vulnerable. But, I think that they’ll give me at least some period of time to do my work.