Oleg Kozlovsky: How the Chekists Keep a Watch on the Opposition

Oleg Kozlovsky’s name should be familiar to regular readers of this blog. I recently visited his website and read his wonderful stories about his arrest and trial. Oh well, yet another one of Those Who Disagree with Putin and his “team” has undergone the baptism of jail. I am amazed by the stupidity of the Russian power: after all, it is known that Russian jail only toughens a person, especially a person with firm convictions. And all the more so if this person is a political prisoner. I, for example, do not know of one person from the National-Bolshevik party, which has been prohibited in Russia, who, after having done time in a camp (and there are already very many like this), has abandoned his or her convictions.


The arrest of Oleg Kozlovsky (photo from the archive of Grigory Pasko)

Below we offer an excerpt from an article by Oleg Kozlovsky, and soon we will post up an interview I did with him. – Grigory Pasko

How the chekists keep a watch on the oppositionBy Oleg KozlovskyOn 24 November in Moscow, there took place a March of Those Who Disagree – the largest action of the democratic opposition. I was one of its official organizers, and during the time of this March was detained by employees of the police upon the instructions of an UBOP [Administration for the Struggle with Organized Crime] operative. The court, which tried me in express mode without a lawyer and witnesses, issued a verdict – 5 days of arrest. Soon after leaving the special intake centre of the GUVD [City Administration for Internal Affairs] of Moscow, I noticed that outdoor surveillance of me had been established. The first time I uncovered it in the metro on the next day after release and two days before the elections – on 30 November. A tall man in a coat and with a bag on the shoulder was following me along the road from my home to the home of Garry Kasparov, with whom I was supposed to meet then.On the next day, 1 December, a meeting of activists was taking place in the headquarters of «Oborona», dedicated to observing at the elections and to the actions planned for the next few days. Yulia Malysheva noticed a VAZ-2111 automobile of dark-green color with tinted windows (license plate P548PB97), in which two men were sitting. The car stood the entire evening adjacent to the entrance to the building where the headquarters of Oborona was found, while the men observed everyone entering and exiting from the door. After the close of the meeting, we decided to discuss certain questions in another place, inasmuch as the space of the headquarters, perhaps, is being bugged. Part of the people went there on foot, while I, Yulia, and another three of our activists rode there in Yulia’s car. A suspicious «Lada» drove off after us. In order to check if this was indeed surveillance, we did several circles and loops, in so doing the car did not stop following us. Any last doubts dissipated when we and they were standing at a traffic light, the light turned green, and Yulia decided to slow down. All the surrounding cars drove off ahead, while the car suspected by us stayed to wait for our maneuver.After around half an hour of “confusing our tracks” we apparently managed to shake our tail. Just in case, we decided to make one more circle and noticed another car — a Daewoo Nexia of a silvery color with tinted windows (the numbers on the license plate were 791, region 177). It was driving behind us at a certain distance and several times pretended that it was parking: it would drive up to the sidewalk, reduce speed, lag behind us, — and suddenly would catch up to us once again. When we stopped not far from the metro, this car also stopped alongside. After this, we split up: Yulia went to converse with activists of the NDSM [People’s Democratic Union of Youth] to one café, and I with our guys to another. It is interesting that two men of characteristic appearance sat down next to us there as well. Maybe this could have been a coincidence too, but in the words of Yulia, the same kind of “couple” turned out to be next to their table concurrently as well.On 2 December, Yulia and I were supposed to organize a mobile group and drive around to voting stations where violations had been recorded. Towards 13:00, we arrived at the Frunzenskaya metro station, adjacent to which Yulia had left the car after all the adventures described. The night hadn’t passed for the automobile without cost: all four wheels turned out to have been punctured, and the police later discovered 7-centimeter slashes on them. We were forced to move further by metro. On that same day, Yulia filed a complaint at the Khamovniki OVD [Department of Internal Affairs – police station] on the basis of the fact of the puncturing of the wheels. In the complaint, she made mention of the surveillance that she had noticed on the previous evening, but at the police they obviously did not believe her. Nevertheless, the policemen together with Yulia drove to the scene of the incident, while I set off there as well on the metro (there wasn’t enough room in the car). I got there a bit later and saw that two policemen next to Yulia’s car are conversing with three young people in civilian dress. The young people until then were sitting in a VAZ-2115 Lada of a silvery color with tinted windows (license plate M992OA177) and were watching Yulia’s automobile. The policemen just in case decided to check their documents, to which they got an unexpected reply: you can’t check us, talk with our bosses, they’ll explain everything to you. In so doing, the young people were extremely self-confident and aggressive, and at least one of them was obviously drunk. He kept writing down the license numbers of the police cars and was loudly promising the policemen that they would pay for their impudence. When I started to shoot what was taking place on video, the men hid in the car, and then began to shoot us on video. By this time, reinforcements that had been called in had arrived: two «Gazelles» with armed employees of the police. However they could not bring themselves to detain the three aggressive men: apparently, the threats had seemed real to the policemen. Ourselves, we decided not to tempt fate, and drove off from there.…On the evening of 3 December dozens of people set off to the building of the Central Electoral Commission, in order to symbolically pay tribute to the memory of Russian democracy. Some (like myself) put on black armbands, others brought flowers with them, while one girl even put on a mourning dress. Still back on 2 December, all the approaches to the CEC had been blocked off. The situation was reminiscent one-to-one of Manège Square: trucks, cordons, OMON, police, access only by pass. All of Bolshoy Cherkassky per. was blocked off, and several adjacent blocks. I met with journalist acquaintances of the German television company ARD not far from the CEC (or rather, from the cordon that separated us from the Central Electoral Commission, to be more precise). When I started to comment on the action and our attitude towards the elections that had passed, people in civilian dress immediately appeared alongside, listening intently to me, but not undertaking any active measures. It is interesting that despite all the seeming indifference of the power to its reputation, the siloviki are afraid (for now) to act within the sight of journalists.Soon more journalists and participants in the action appeared next to us, and we came up to the police barrier behind which stood so-called “cosmonauts” — OMON in full battle regalia, complete with body armor, helmets, knee pads, and so on. We asked for people to be let inside, but at first received a refusal. After lengthy negotiations the bosses in charge of the “protection” of the Central Electoral Commission nevertheless did agree to pass two people through into the reception area of the CEC. With me went yet another supporter of «The Other Russia», Pavel Zherebin. They checked our documents. Alongside me was standing a young person in civilian dress and saying to another: “That’s Kozlovsky, remember the face”. “Why remember?”, I asked. “You’ve got photographs, after all.” The young person replied: “Yes, we’ve got photographs, we’ve got everything!” Zherebin and I were escorted into the reception area, in total silence, by no less than ten people: the police top brass, OMON, UBOP, representatives of the CEC. Near the main entrance to the Central Electoral Commission stood spetsnaz armed with machine guns (presumably, «Vimpel»). In the yards stood more vehicles with OMON and military people. It was clear from the faces of those protecting the CEC: they had been told to be prepared for armed resistance. To me this seems absurd, after all the Russian opposition has never used methods of force, and besides, it doesn’t really need the CEC all that much. This can be explained, perhaps, only by the peculiarities of the world-view and thinking of the siloviki themselves.On the next day, I first discovered outdoor surveillance near my home. Not far from the entrance stood a Lada of a silvery color with tinted windows (license place P995BA99), in which sat three men. Having stood there until around 13:00, they drove off, and in their place came a blue Ford— and also, of course, with tinted windows (license plate Y381OO177). Sitting in the Ford are three men and one woman. Then at night the cars switched places yet again — and it’s been going on like this for several days already. At the same time, neither the FSB nor the UBOP have not once undertaken any kind of serious attempts to “make contact” with me. Apparently, they consider “elaboration” [Russian intelligence term, meaning roughly “development”—Trans.] of me as a potential informant to be ineffective: I don’t have serious vulnerable places in my biography, while getting me to blow my top or forcing me to blab something inadvertently is also very complicated. By the way, it’s possible they’re being guided by some other considerations. It is likely that the objective of such close surveillance is to force me to get nervous, change my plans, perform ill-considered deeds. It needs to be said that they’re not having much success at this. At any rate, those close to me ascribe far more significance to this than I myself do.I know that in recent days Yulia Malysheva, Alexander Averin (member of the Executive Committee of «The Other Russia»), and Igor Dandin (NDSM activist have all noticed surveillance after them, while a major from criminal investigation came to Mikas Murashev in his home — he wanted to chat about something. Likewise, employees of the law-enforcement organs and special services came recently to our activists in Tula and a series of other regions. There have also been graver situations: for example, on 22 November, two days before the March of Those Who Disagree, an assault was perpetrated on «The Other Russia» supporter Yuri Chervochkin in Moscow-suburban Serpukhov. He managed to report to associates that employees of UBOP familiar to him are conducting surveillance of him, but in an hour was found at his home cruelly beaten. The attackers beat to kill, but Yuri miraculously managed to survive. Now he remains in a coma, and doctors continue to fight for his life. A criminal case has been initiated, but few believe that the investigation will allow the guilty parties to be found and punished. The actions of the special services show that the greatest threat they consider to be the extrasystemic opposition – that is, organizations that reject the political horse-trading for power that is traditional for Russia. This is, besides the movement «Oborona», the United Civic Front, the prohibited natsbols, and the NDS/NDSM. To all appearances, these organizations have been attributed to the category of “incapable of negotiation” [nedogovorosposobnye] and therefore a tactic of suppression has been adopted in relation to them. Activization of the work of the special services with respect to me personally in recent times is explained, in my opinion, by the approach of the elections and adjacent loud actions, in the preparation for which I had participated (several actions by «Oborona» this autumn, the Marches of Those Who Disagree, and others).