In the run-up to presidential elections and the FIFA World Cup, repressions against antifascists and anarchists started in Russia. In Autumn 2017, 6 people were arrested in Penza; several of them had weapons and explosives planted on them. FSB officers then tortured the antifascists right in the detention facility: they applied naked wires to the activists’ various body parts and turned the electricity on, they beat them up, hanged them upside down. While torturing them, the agents made the activists learn by heart the story the FSB needed: they were supposed to confess of having founded and belonging to a terrorist organization called “The Network”. In late January 2018, two more antifascists were arrested in Saint-Petersburg. They, too, were beaten up, tortured with electric current, and forced to incriminate themselves by confirming they were members of the “Network”.
PENZA. THE ARRESTS
In October and November 2017, five antifascists were arrested in Penza.
Egor Zorin, a Penza State University student, never came home on October 18 and his friends started to worry. It later turned out that FSB operatives had him. Apparently, it was his testimony that was used as a formal ground for initiating the case of the antifascist “terrorist organization”. It is most probable that Zorin was brutally tortured just as the rest of the detained. However, he hasn’t since contacted either his friends or journalists. According to available information, Zorin is currently under house arrest. All the other defendants in the case are held in pretrial detention facilities.
On October 19, Ilya Shakurskiy, a prominent local activist and Zorin’s classmate at the university, started searching for him with a group of friends. He found no trace of Zorin and went home. As soon as he descended from his bus, he was knocked off his feet, and in a couple of seconds FSB officers shoved him into their car. They beat Shakurskiy up and pulled him by the hair to force his phone password out of him. He ended up telling them the password.
20 minutes later, the antifascist was brought into a building where more FSB officers were waiting for him. They told Shakurskiy he was suspected of organizing a terrorist group. When the activist denied the accusations he was beaten on his head and back, threatened with rape and a life sentence. All the time he could hear someone scream next door. At some point, a masked man walked in with a bloody scarf in his hands. One of the FSB officers mentioned the name: “Kuksov”.
Vasiliy Kuksov was also detained on October 19, probably almost at the same time as Shakurskiy. Kuksov’s wife, Elena, came back from work to an empty home and called her husband on his mobile phone. She could hear the ringing signal but nobody picked up. After a couple of hours she heard somebody open the door with a key. Ten FSB agents stood before her. One of them was holding a beaten up Vasiliy by the neck. The antifascist could barely stand, his forehead and nose were badly bruised, his pants and jacket torn and bloody. The FSB agents quickly searched through the apartment and went over to search Kuksov’s car.
They told Kuksov to open the car door. He noticed straight away that the car door lock was broken and stated this loudly. When the FSB agents took a gun out of the car it became clear who had broken the lock and why: the gun had been previously planted there by the operatives. After this Kuksov was taken away, probably to the FSB bureau, where they started beating him up. It was his screams that Shakurskiy heard in the next room.
Dmitriy Pchelintsev left his home to pick up his grandmother and was arrested on October 27. Four FSB agents attacked him by his car, beat him up, threw him on the ground and took his apartment key.
They opened the door and broke into his apartment. During the search they turned everything upside down. They took smartphones, all data storage devices, two hunting rifles and two nonlethal pistols. All the weapons had been officially registered by Pchelintsev who worked as a gunnery instructor.
After the search, the agents got down to Pchelintsev’s car which had long had no functioning instrusion alarm and took two grenades from under a seat. It would not have been any trouble for them to plant grenades in an unprotected car.
At first Dmitriy Pchelintsev was not beaten up, even though he refused to incriminate himself. On the next day, he was arrested as a member of a “terrorist organization”. On the same day, his wife Angelina was called to the FSB, supposedly to witness her husband’s interrogation. In the bureau, two officers met her, one of them playing meaningfully with a stab awl in his hand. Another mentioned they “needed to shoot somebody in the leg” to make Pchelintsev confess.
In early November 2017, Andrey Chernov was arrested in Penza, and Arman Sagynbaev around the same time in Saint-Petersburg. The latter was subsequently brought to Penza. Their comrades have as yet no information on the circumstances of their arrests. Sagynbaev who has several broken ribs refuses all contact with his comrades, journalists and human rights activists; having met Pchelintsev by chance, he asked for his forgiveness for having incriminated Pchelintsev and others under torture. We have virtually no updates on Chernov.
PENZA. THE TORTURES
All the arrested activists were most probably tortured, but only two of them have until now chosen to talk about it openly and in detail: Ilya Shakurskiy and Dmitriy Pchelintsev. What happened to them only became known in January 2018, because prior to that their families were afraid that public disclosure might make their situation even worse.
Shakurskiy has accounted of several times he was brought to FSB operatives who would beat him up, requiring that he sign the confession of membership in a “terrorist organization” made up by the agents. Not only did he hear Kuksov scream there, but he also met his comrade and saw blood on his face. Shakurskiy refused to confess of what he never did for a long time. Then one day he was taken out of his cell in the detention facility and brought into the cellar.
“After a while, three masked men came in. They told me to face the wall and take off my jacket. A thought crossed my mind at that moment: “They are going to kill me.” They told me to sit down on a bench without raising my head. They tied my hands, blindfolded and gagged me. I thought they were going to make me touch something to get my fingerprints on some object. But then they attached wires to my big toes. I felt the first electric discharge and couldn’t help but groan and shake. They did it again and again until I promised to say what they told me. Since then I forgot the word no and said everything the operatives told me,” Shakurskiy told afterwards. He signed everything the FSB agents gave him.
Dmitriy Pchelintsev said that on October 28, immediately after the court ruling on his arrest, he was brought into the detention center cellar. Seven masked FSB officers came in after him and ordered him to undress. They tied his hands, cellotaped his feet to a bench and gagged him.
An FSB operative in white medical gloves took out a generator and put it on the table. He took a box cutter and stripped the two wires coming out of the device with well-practiced movements. He told Pchelintsev to stick out his big toe, attached the naked wires to it and turned the generator handle. The current went through Pchelintsev’s body. He felt terrible pain, started to scream, thrash and beat his head against the wall. The operatives took the precaution to put his jacket between his body and the wall to prevent him cracking his skull open. During the tortures one of them stood next to Pchelintsev and watched his pulse. They took 10 seconds to subject him to the first discharge. To him, it seemed like an eternity.
After the first discharge one of the officers told Pchelintsev he had to forget the words “no”, “I don’t remember”, “I don’t know”. After that they gagged him again and subjected him to electric discharges four more times. The pain was so terrible that Pchelintsev’s teeth crumbled as he was clenching his jaw. The frenum of his tongue tore, his mouth was full of blood. The operatives gagged him with a sock.
«“When they tortured me with electric current, my mouth was full of tooth crumbles because I had clenched my jaw so much with pain, and the frenum of my tongue tore, my mouth filled with blood, and at some point one of the torturers put a sock into my mouth.” Dmitriy Pchelintsev “Then I was thrown to the floor, and because one of my feet was tied to the bench foot, I fell down, hurt my knees and bled profusely. They pulled my pants down, I was lying with my belly on the floor, they tried to apply the wires to my genitals. I screamed and asked them to stop hurting me. They were repeating: “You’re the leader.” To make them stop the tortures, I answered: “Yes, I’m the leader.” “You’ve been planning terrorist attacks.” I said: “Yes, we’ve been planning terrorist attacks.” The one who had checked the pulse on my neck put his balaclava on me so I wouldn’t see them. At some point I passed out for a while. <…> After they left, a detention officer came in and told me to dress, he brought me back to my cell,” Pchelintsev told his lawyer.
On the next day, to stop the tortures, Pchelintsev smashed the toilet cistern and cut himself at the elbow creases and at the neck. “Caring” wardens gave him first aid.
Pchelintsev was tortured in the detention center for over a month and sometimes he heard Arman Sagynbaev scream. The screams made it clear to him that Sagynbaev was being tortured too. Pchelintsev was still subjected to electric current, sometimes hanged upside down or given unknown injections and pills. He wrote to his wife Angelina that it was “worse than death”. Pchelintsev and his lawyer told journalists about the tortures and filed an application at the Investigation Committee. A few days later FSB agents tortured Pchelintsev again and forced him to retract his words.
THE FSB’S ACCUSATIONS AGAINST THE ANTIFASCISTS
Due to these methods, five out of six activists arrested in Penza pled guilty. Kuksov is the only one apparently refusing to testify.
It seems that the grounds for the FSB manufacturing a “terrorist organization” case against the activists was the fact that all of them played airsoft. They trained together in the woods, learned how to provide first aid and survive in the wild. However, not all of the arrested were actually friends (Pchelintsev and Shakurskiy, for instance, had long had a personal conflict) and they even played in different airsoft teams: one of them was called Sunrise (Voskhod), the other 5.11 (after a popular outdoor sportswear brand). In the FSB version, the teams’ names turned into codenames for “cells” of a supposed “terrorist organization” named “The Network”. According to the FSB, it also had cells in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and in Belarus.
The FSB claims that the antifascists trained to organize explosions during Russian presidential elections and the Football World Cup, in order to destabilize the situation in the country and “trouble the masses”. Their targets were supposed to be United Russia party quarters, post offices, and law enforcement officers. All the arrested were subsequently accused according to Art. 205.4 Part 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (participation in a terrorist organization).
SAINT-PETERSBURG. THE ARRESTS AND TORTURES
Sagynbaev who was arrested in Saint-Petersburg knew several activists there. Under torture in Penza, he probably was forced to incriminate his Petersburg comrades. Igor Shishkin and Viktor Filinkov must have been among the names he had named. This is how two more “terrorists” were added to the “Network” case.
Late on January 23, 2018, antifascist Viktor Filinkov was waiting for his flight at the Saint-Petersburg airport: he was going to Kiev to see his wife. Just before the takeoff he was accosted by six FSB officers. He was handcuffed and brought to a medical exam for some reason—probably a routine FSB procedure before tortures.
After the exam, the antifascist was put back into the minivan where they immediately started beating him up with their hands. Soon he felt an electric discharge. His body arched involuntarily, he cried out with unendurable pain. He was being hurt with a taser. This first electric shock was followed by more discharges into his handcuffs, the back of his head, his back, then to his leg and the handcuffs again, to the groin. Filinkov screamed and was gagged.
After ten minutes of torture he groaned: “Tell me what to say, I’ll say everything!” But the tortures did not stop. Soon when Filinkov was ready to agree to anything, the FSB officers made him learn by heart a testimony stating that he was a member of the “Network” “terrorist organization”.
Then they mopped up the blood from his face with his hat and brought Filinkov for a search of his home, and then into the Saint-Petersburg FSB Bureau. There he told the investigator the exact phrases of confession he had learned under torture.
On January 25, he was arrested in court and sent to a detention facility. As soon as he was visited by human rights activists and a lawyer, Filinkov retracted his testimony and told them about the tortures. He showed the activists the many traces the taser had left all over his body.
On January 26, three days after Filinkov’s detainment, antifascist Igor Shishkin went missing in Saint-Petersburg: FSB agents took him while he was walking his dog. His family could not find him for two days. The FSB claimed to know nothing of Shishkin—in fact, he was being tortured by special agents all that time.
Visual survey report on Igor Shishkin. Picture source: Public Monitoring Commission findings The court arrested Shishkin on January 28, he looked badly hurt at the hearing, and the FSB officers covered his face with a scarf and a hood. He, too, signed a confessionary statement.
Doctors diagnosed Shishkin with an orbital floor fracture, multiple bruises and abrasions. Human rights activists also found taser burns on the back of his thigh, on his back and arms. However, he did not tell them anything about tortures. According to them, he was very subdued. Prior to that, he was forced to sign a paper in the FSB stating that he had sustained all those injuries while working out. Ten days after being detained and tortured, Shishkin officially stated he was ready to cooperate with the investigation.
Late on January 25, FSB officers detained Ilya Kapustin, an industrial climber. They tortured him with a taser inside a car for several hours and demanded that he tell them everything about the antifascists he knew. They threatened Kapustin to take him out into the woods and break his legs but in the end they let him go after searching his home.
SOLIDARITY. “THE FSB IS THE TERRORIST”
Eight of the nine defendants in the criminal case against antifascists are currently under arrest in detention facilities where they are still in danger.
The repressions against the antifascists became public knowledge only in late January when Viktor Filinkov reported the tortures. Soon Ilya Shakurskiy and Dmitriy Pchelintsev reported the same. The Investigation Committee has finally initiated an investigation—at the moment only into Filinkov’s complaint. Whether this investigation will bring any results remains unclear.
Actions of solidarity with the arrested antifascists and anarchists started across Russia as well as in many other countries under the main slogan: “The FSB Is The Terrorist.”
On the 4th of July two people more were detained in Moscow – Mikhail Kulkov and Maxim Ivankin. On the next day Leninskiy district court of Penza arrested them till the 18th of September. Besides organizing terrorist association they were charged with preparation to manufacture or sale drugs in large quantity (Criminal Code of Russian Federation art.228.1, para. 4, part “g” with the use of article 30, paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation)