Translated by Sean Guillory
Update from LeftEast editors: The security forces in Izhevsk (the capital of the Udmurt Republic of the Russian Federation) yesterday had second thoughts about launching a criminal case against the co-ordinator of the Russian Socialist Movement Dmitry Morozov (real surname Tsarenko, aged 21). Until that point, the activist had been questioned twice by the Center for Countering Extremism E and the Investigative Committee (CK), which had been trying to accuse him of alternately attempting to set fire to a local United Russia (‘hooliganism”) and “justifying terrorism” when speaking out at a rally in support of political prisoners of the Network case. Here is what Dmitry writes: “I was supported by a vast number of people, social and political organizations, even international ones. This act of solidarity has worked! CK and the prosecution spent two weeks deciding whether to start a criminal case against me. I just received a paper that they won’t: apparently, they don’t have any evidence. It’s time to return to the struggle. I want to thank everybody who helped!” And here is the background story, very typical of how opposition is suppressed in provincial Russian cities, prepared by Anton Kass of News.ru and translated for LeftEast by Sean Guillory.
Interrogation Without Cause
Dmitry Morozov says he was called to the republic Investigative Committee on May 18 after the police conducted a preliminary investigation into whether his speech at a March 22 protest in Izhevsk against the “zeroing” of the presidential term violated Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (On the justification of terrorism). In a video of the protest posted on social media, the Russian Socialist Movement (RSM) activist spoke about the Network case and the torture of its defendants.
I was an organizer and a speaker at the March 22 protest. About 500 people showed up. During my speech I chanted “Free Network!” in that the guys were illegally imprisoned. Nothing happened to me after that. But then someone committed arson against the United Russia office in April. After that, Center E agents hounded me for two weeks. They went to my house, and wrote to all my friends. I didn’t respond. I ignored them. Then I was stopped and handed a summons to come to the CK. To this day no one at the CK has asked me about the arson. They asked only about the protest, what I know about the Network Case, if I know that it’s a terrorist organization, and so on. Neither then or now has the CK said whether I’m a witness or a suspect.
–Dmitry Morozov, activist in the Russian Socialist Movement.
Four days earlier, Center for Countering Extremism (TsPE) agents questioned a young man in the attempted arson case. According to Morozov, the security forces told him that a certain Dmitry Kalashnikov, who had been arrested on suspicion of arson, said that he “is a member of the RSM under Morozov’s leadership.” According to Morozov, he is neither a suspect nor a witness in the arson case.
“The suspected arsonist allegedly told them my last name, but he didn’t. My lawyers told me that the same Kalashnikov didn’t mention me. It was probably an excuse to get me to come to the CK and give evidence about the protest.” – Dmitry believes.
The arson occurred on April 18 near the United Russia office, which is next door to the Udmutia’s State Council. A masked man threw a Molotov cocktail into the building that set a small fire. At first, the Interior Ministry denied the incident, but opened a criminal case under the crime of “hooliganism” According to NEWS.ru, the charges could later be changed to “the deliberate destruction or damage to property.”
In connection to the arson, the security forces also looked into Timofey Klabukov, the Editor-in-Chief of the local online newspaper Strizh. They searched his apartment and confiscated all his equipment.
The arson occurred on April 18 around two o’clock in the morning. Information about it was leaked to the media on April 20. That day I went to the scene as a journalist. I took photos and videos for a report on it. You could see the door was charred at the bottom. That same day, at 11 p.m., the police came to my apartment with a search warrent. I wasn’t home, but my mother and girlfriend were there, and they confirmed my alibi that I was home the day of the arson. Despite this, the police still searched my place and seized two computers, mobile phones, and all the flash drives and discs. The equipment was returned only on May 9. I was questioned at the police station and was given a DNA test. I wasn’t even a suspect in this case since they would didn’t take my clothes and shoes in the search. Usually particles of fuel remain on the arsonist’s things, after all. They must have wanted to find out my sources for information about the arson.
–Timofei Klabukov, Strizh Editor-in-Chief
Earlier, he reported that he was a witness in the arson case. The suspect in the arson of a United Russia office is employee of a private security company and currently under house arrest. In an interview with NEWS.ru, Klabukov added that the suspect was an Izhevsk resident and an alleged Communist Party supporter.
On the VKontakte page of the alleged arsonist is a picture of him with the leadership of the republic’s Communist Party. All that is known about Kalashnikov is that he is 33 years old and a veteran of the Airborne Forces. Dmitry Morozov is not among his social media friends.
Between Ecology and Politics
This is not the first time Dmitry Morozov, the RSM organizer in Izhevsk, has been harassed and threated by the security services. On March 18, he was fined 10,000 rubles for calling for the resignation of Alexander Brechalov, the head of Udmurtia, during a March 7 rally dedicated to the “factory of death.” These were protests against the repurposing of a chemical weapons destruction plant in the city of Kambarka. The protest’s organizing committee includes both Morozov and the aforementioned Timofey Klabukov, who was searched in the party office arson case.
The action’s participants opposed the creation of an industrial complex in Kambarka to process, recycle, and dispose of first (explosives) and second (gases) class hazardous waste. This includes mixtures of inorganic salts, oxides, hydroxides and acids, refuse containing mercury, as well as waste from metallurgical, processing and manufacturing companies, and solutions with various salts, slags, solvents and heavy metals. The project is being carried out by the Federal Environmental Operator (previously RosRAO), which was established by the state corporation Rosatom.
A resolution from the protest RSM organized on March 7 noted that “in its current form, the implementation of the federal infrastructure plan for the treatment of class I-II hazardous waste will have terrible consequences: environmental genocide for the surrounding areas and on the lives and health of residents of the affected areas, including in the Kambark and Kambarskii districts.”
The protesters also drew attention to the fact that the plan to create the plant’s infrastructure “is unjustified, since according to the Rosprirodnadzor’s official statistics, more I-II class hazardous waste will be recycled and decontaminated than is produced.” According to the agency, the Federal Environmental Operator does not have the technology to dispose of hazardous waste.
In addition to environmental demands, the participants of the March 7 protest put forward political demands that called for the resignation of Alexander Brechalov, the head of the republic. Moreover, the protesters considered that “the president and the his government are not fulfilling their duties to protect the constitutional right of citizens to live and have environmentally-friendly environs.”
Their opponent, on the other hand, positions itself as a protector of nature and calls the facility in Kambarka an “Ecotechnopark.”
“Ecotechnopark is a waste processing, recycling, and disposal company. Today, there are problems with waste processing throughout the country thanks to the insufficient number of sorting and processing plants. The Ecotechnopark “Kambarka” will not only recycle waste, but will also return their useful components back to economic use as much as possible,” says the company’s website.
The website also states that Kambarka “will use modern Russian and foreign equipment and modern multiple safety systems,” and the technologies “will be linked in a single production cycle—waste from one stage will be raw materials for another.”
It’s expected that the project of repurposing the plant will be opened for public discussion and will conduct a state environmental assessment in 2020.
After the protest in Izhevsk, RSM activists held a picket with similar demands in Kambarka on March 28 with the promise to “start permanent protests in all the cities in Udmurtia.” Also at the picket, they staged a symbolic shutdown of the bridge over the Kama river to protest against the tolls charged to cross it.
“Kambarka, Neftekamsk and Sarapul are all connected by a toll bridge over the Kamа River that costs 270 rubles. Residents of these cities have rather low incomes and it is extremely difficult for them to pay the toll on a regular basis. And the bridge’s builders feel justified since they allegedly spent too much money ( that is, taxpayer money) on its construction and are forced to recoup their costs,” activists say.
Activists strongly condemned the tolls and “blocked” the Kama Bridge using “their legal right to move in a pedestrian crossing.”
“With this, we expressed people’s dissatisfaction and reminded them of how the cruel capitalists are mocking the downtrodden of Kambarka,” the RSM stated.
Later, Dmitry Morozov’comrades supported the medical workers union “Action” by staging street rallies against cuts to ambulance personnel and overtime for emergency workers, as well as reassigning some hospital nurses as janitors. In April, RSM activists held a series of pickets demanding compensation for all workers furloughed because of restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The capitalist system is bursting at the seams and exposing the main problems in Russian society: poverty and the state’s inability to give the population social support. The bottom line is: part of the country’s residents are left without the means of subsistence, bankrupt small businesses, the incapable of suspending the country’s economy even to fight the pandemic. The oligarchs do everything possible to protect themselves, but who will think about “ordinary” workers, shopkeepers, and students?” activists from Izhevsk wondered.
Steamrolling the Opposition
Dmitry Morozov believes that one reason he caught the attention of the security services was his status as one of the leaders of the Udmurtia’s non-systemic opposition. “We are an eyesore to them.”
I’m constantly harassed in every way, but it’s usually administrative and all sorts of community service. And now something serious has arrived,” says the activist.
He also doesn’t rule out that the security services could intentionally be stepping things up during the quarantine when people aren’t able to gather en-masse to support him. “It’s convenient for the authorities to steamroll the opposition while we’re locked up at home.”. In addition, Morozov suggests that his misfortunes may be the result of a recent conflict with a police officer.
“I used to have normal relations with the police. They started charging me more often, and I started yelling at the cops in court. Then I wrote a harsh post on social media about the head of the municipal police. I had my reasons for that. Then I was told that I was square in the cops’ sights, and maybe now they are taking their revenge on me,” says the activist.
NEWS.ru has sent two official requests to the regional and the central CK for comment on the circumstances of the case they interrogated Dmitry Morozov for. However, Vera Filippova, the senior assistant to the head of the Udmurt CK’s public relations office, said she couldn’t comment because she “doesn’t have such authority at the moment.”
It is worth remembering that the arson at the United Russia office in Izhevsk is not the first alleged attacks on the offices of the party of power. A mathematician named Azat Miftakhov has been under arrest for over a year on charges he attacked a United Russia office in the capital’s Hovrino district. He was charged under the article “conspiracy to commit hooliganism.” The investigation was completed at the end of 2019. The young man has repeatedly declared that he was abducted and tortured by the security services, but the CK has time and again refused to bring a case against his perpetrators. In addition, Miftakhov has also said that at pre-trial detention center he was threatened with a second criminal case after refusing to talk “informally” with the authorities. Miftakhov’s relatives in Nizhnekamsk have also reported threats from the police.