Toadies at the service of the regime By Grigory Pasko, journalist Two messages came to my mailbox at the same time. The first was about a search in Chita in the office of the Chita Human Rights Center. The second – about the intimidation of the leader of the youth movement «Oborona», Oleg Kozlovsky, concerning an apartment he rents. The first thought that came to my mind was: “it’s started!”. “It” being what I had been expecting in the capacity of the first steps of Medvedevite rule. I have written and spoken about how Medvedev is a species of Putin subordinate. (It is another matter that Putin too is someone’s subordinate). Putin’s got lots of subordinates like this: all those Abramoviches, Millers, Vainshtoks, Sobyanins, Zubkovs… Medvedev’s lucky—they appointed him as my next president. Naturally, the appointment wasn’t serious. Sort of like the way a grown-up father sometimes lets his young son hold the steering wheel of the car for a while. But in so doing, the father keeps his feet firmly on the gas and brake pedals, which the little boy’s feet can’t reach anyway: first of all, he’s not tall enough, and second, who would ever let him…? But to allow him play with the steering wheel a bit, under supervision, and not for very long – well, that’s okay.
But in order for the young lad to steer safely, you need to clear the road. And that’s just what they’re doing. Rather, not “clearing”, but “mopping up”. There’s a nice euphemistic word for this process in Russia from the times of the First Chechen War – zachistka.First they mopped up the “grown-up” opposition – they didn’t let the parties «Yabloko», SPS, the Republican Democratic Party, etc. into the legislative organ of power – the State Duma. Then they made impossible the participation in the presidential elections of the opposition leaders Kasyanov, Bukovsky, Nemtsov, Kasparov… After that, they began to isolate the opposition activists in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The leader of the St. Petersburg «Yabloko», Maxim Reznik, is sitting in jail to this day in an obviously fabricated case.Far be it from me to think that it was Putin or Medvedev personally who gave the command to arrest Reznik. After all, Reznik is no Khodorkovsky. But note that neither Putin, nor (all the more so) the already supposedly elected president Medvedev has ever once said that arrests of oppositioneers are bad. And since they haven’t said this, then the local sycophantic toadies in the provinces understood: that means we can just continue acting like this. Which is exactly what they do…Marina Savateyeva [also occasionally spelled Savvateyeva—Ed.] of the Chita Human Rights Committee (she is also a member of the Chita Committee for Support of Mikhail Khodorkovsky) told me by telephone that a many-hours-long search had been conducted in her organization’s office on 14 March. Investigator Kungurov clarified that the search was being conducted within the framework of a criminal investigation into forged signatures in support of presidential candidate Mikhail Kasyanov. As a result of the search, blank signature sheets were supposedly found, a protocol on the conducting of a search was drawn up, and telephone books and the computer were confiscated. What this will all lead to in the future is anybody’s guess. It is completely possible that Savateyeva and her colleagues may have formal criminal charges brought against them, as has happened with Maxim Reznik.Bringing attention to itself is the fact that the gathering of signatures in support of Kasyanov stopped on 13 January. The criminal case involving the supposedly forged signatures was initiated in the middle of February. But they only came with a search to the human rights center in the middle of March. You can’t help but wonder why the organs of repression are showing such lethargy in their work.The building in which the office of the Chita Human Rights Center is located (photo by Grigory Pasko)It should be noted that the office of the Chita Human Rights Center is essentially the closest thing to a headquarters of the opposition in Chita: it’s the gathering place for members of the Center for Support of Civic Initiatives, the organization «Rodnoye Zabaikalye» [which translates rather awkwardly as “Our Own Dear Region on the Other Side of Baikal”—Awk.Trans.], the Chita branch of the United Civic Front, the Chita branch of the «Yabloko» party, supporters of Mikhail Kasyanov, and all manner of other “dissenters”.So it’s highly doubtful that the search was a chance happening and really was only connected with signature sheets.And now a few words about these signature sheets. I’ve been at this office many times myself. If you really wanted to get inside, you could get in from the side of the street in a couple of minutes. To break the locks on the doors – a couple of minutes. To plant some blank signature sheets – also a couple of minutes.Marina Savateyeva told me that the persons who were conducting the search said numerous times to those present that they would lock up both Tatiana Maltseva (another member of the Committee for Support of Khodorkovsky and a member of the Human Rights Committee) and Savateyeva. Marina is convince that all of this is a “contract”, in her words a “purely political case”. And it’s difficult not to agree with her, because this isn’t the first time already that the powers are trying to exert pressure on activists with threats of a judicial lynching. This is not the first time they’ve attempted to hold Savateyeva and Maltseva liable for supposedly unsanctioned rallies in support of Khodorkovsky.Marina Savateyeva (L) and Tatiana Maltseva (R) in their Chita office (photo by Grigory Pasko)Now, on the eve of the latest trial in the «Khodorkovsky case» [most likely the trial will start in May—Author], the powers want to completely shut down any opposition voice in Chita.In Moscow too, as can be seen, not everyone was happy that the activist of the youth movement «Oborona», Oleg Kozlovsky, did manage at last to be released from the embrace of the army, to which they had forcibly and unlawfully taken him away in December of last year and from which they released him only under pressure from the public and after a series of military expert examinations.Here’s what Oleg just told me:On 17 March, the precinct police officer of the Moscow district of Khamovniki, Sergey Nikolayev, “had a chat” with «Oborona» coordinator Oleg Kozlovsky. The policeman demanded that he immediately vacate the apartment where activists of the movement gather and which is lawfully and officially being leased by Kozlovsky. Captain Nikolayev declared directly that the reason for his demands—is the oppositional activity of «Oborona». He reported that he had sent a report to the main administration of the MVD and to the FSB, attaching specimens of the newspapers «Dissenters’ March» and «Oborona» to it.“Here the Kremlin is right nearby and sometimes he drives by”, said the precinct officer, indicating at a portrait of Putin in his office. “Move yourselves to Butovo or even better — to Zelenograd”, advised the policeman. [Butovo is one of the most distant corners of Moscow, while Zelenograd is a separate suburb outside the city limits—Trans.] Otherwise, Nikolayev promised that he would call on the oboronovites every day, organize complaints to himself on behalf of supposedly enraged local inhabitants, and all sorts of “serious problems”. Simultaneously, pressure is being rendered on the owners of the space with the intention of having them cancel the lease prior to its expiry.Oleg Kozlovsky says that «Oborona» will not yield to cynical and brazen blackmail: “Where we have been gathering, there we will continue to gather”.Oleg Kozlovsky in the apartment from which he and «Oborona» are being kicked out (photo by Grigory Pasko)It ought to be noted that in the year 2006, «Oborona» had already been evicted by the efforts of the police from headquarters on Volgograd prospect. Two weeks after the opening, an armed detachment arrived there, while the owners of the space were forced to tear up the lease contract. The procuracy of Moscow, to which «Oborona» had turned then, naturally did not uncover any violations on the part of the MVD.By the way, I was recently in this space in Khamovniki. An ordinary old Moscow one-room apartment. The only thing convenient about it is that it’s not far from a metro station. Apparently, those fighting with the oppositioneers in Russia are even concerned about things like this – the two places the policeman mentioned where the power would like to see the opposition go are far away and not easily accessible. I think that in actuality, the power in its dreams sees the opposition even farther away than that – say, in Magadan and Kolyma… [the location of the most notorious GULag labor camps—Trans.]…This has already happened in Russia’s history. The jails, the deportations, the camps, the persecutions, and even the political assassinations.It looks like it’s all coming back again.