Further reprisals against Russian blogger jailed for reposting that Crimea is Ukraine
Andrei Bubeev, the Russian blogger serving a 2.5 year sentence for social network reposts of an article entitled “Crimea is Ukraine” and a picture of a toothpaste tube with the caption “Squeeze Russia out of yourself” is being moved to a prison with harsher conditions. The reasons appear to include ‘bad influence on other prisoners’, with this based on him encouraging them to read.
He is currently in a punishment cell and cannot receive or send any letters. His wife Anastasia does not even know for certain where they will be taking him after the court ruling from Dec 12 comes into force on Dec 23. Such punishments have been imposed on many of the Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russian prisons, so the claim that Bubeev had 62 ‘infringements’ on his records from the remand prison, and that a further one had turned him into a ‘malicious offender’ should be treated with caution.
Andrei and his wife have two children. 11-year-old Polina and Ognear, who is just 4 years old, have not seen their father since his arrest on May 24, 2015. Both children find it desperately difficult not having their father there. Little Ognear understands only that Papa is a superhero who is being held prisoner for telling the truth. He’s right.
Bubeev, a mechanical engineer from Tver, was charged over two pieces of material written or drawn by others which he had merely reposted on his VKontakte social network page.
In virtually all cases involving imprisonment for material on social networks, there is a ‘Ukrainian component’ and this one is no exception. Bubeev had reposted a text criticizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In his article ‘Crimea is Ukraine’ , Boris Stomakhin, who is himself now serving a politically motivated prison sentence, called Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea the final straw, the border dividing this world from that, good from evil. Stomakhin wrote that the return of Crimea to Ukraine should serve as a unifying idea for all Russians holding anti-imperial views, and that Russians should paint the word “Russian occupiers out of Crimea!” on every wall in every Russian city”. Stomakhin however believes that Crimea can only be returned to Ukraine if the Russian Federation is dissolved, and he suggests in the text that the latter’s collapse is inevitable.
Both the Tver City Court on May 5, 2016 and the Tver Regional Court, in rejecting the appeal, chose to agree with the Russian prosecutor that this constituted a ‘public call to action aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation’ (Article 280.1 § 2).
Bubeev was also convicted of a ‘public call to extremist activity’ (Article 280) through his repost of a cartoon by Anton Myrzin, otherwise known as Paperdaemon Chaognostic called “Squeeze Russia out of yourself”. The phrase hearkens back to a letter from Anton Chekhov to a friend in which he spoke of needing “to squeeze the slave out of us, drop by drop”. Here it is Russia that needs to be squeezed out – as though from a toothpaste tube. This was reposted together with a text from ‘Український Наступ’ [Ukrainian Offensive], a social network page. The text criticized the Russian opposition for being indecisive and said that the only appropriate slogan should be “Russia should not exist”.
Since this was a repost, it is likely that Bubeev was sharing the image, rather than the text. In any case, the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre had no difficulty in recognizing Bubeev as a political prisoner. It pointed out that neither of the texts had made any calls to violence or given specific proposals on destroying the Russian State. This had been confirmed by the expert who stated that the ‘incitement’ had been expressed in an oblique way.
This is Bubeyev’s second prosecution, with the first, initiated at the beginning of 2015, also over material about Russian aggression in Ukraine. He had then been jailed in a minimum security prison for supposed incitement to hatred and enmity (Article 282 § 1) and for possession of cartridges for his hunting knife (Article 222 § 1). Most tellingly, he was convicted of having denigrated the dignity of Russian military servicemen, with Memorial noting that the court had seen no reason to differentiate between so-called ‘fighters for Novorossiya’ and Russian soldiers.
Andrei Bubeev is one of a number of Russians placed on Russia’s ‘List of Extremists and Terrorists’ for writing or merely reposting material on social networks critical of Russia’s invasion of Crimea and military involvement in Donbas. In all cases, they have been added to the list long before the official court ruling.
Fears were expressed from May 2014 when a new article 280.1 of Russia’s criminal code punishing for so-called ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russian territorial integrity’ came into force that it would be used primarily against critics of Russia’s annexation in occupied Crimea or Russia
This is increasingly the case
Russian Tatar activist Rafis Kashapov is serving a 3-year sentence for posts on VKontakte criticizing annexation and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime (details here)
Darya Polyudova got a 2-year sentence for criticizing the Putin regime and its aggression against Ukraine (details here)
35-year-old Vadim Tyumentsev from Tomsk (in Siberia) was sentenced in December 2015 to 5 years for calls to peaceful protest and critical comments on the Internet regarding Russian military aggression in Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists (details here)
Yekaterina Vologzheninova was convicted in February 2016 of ‘inciting enmity’ for criticizing Putin’s war against Ukraine. The case had gained huge publicity since she was effectively prosecuted for social networks ‘likes’, and she was sentenced ‘only’ to compulsory labour (details here)
Alexander Byvshev was convicted of ‘inciting enmity’ and sentenced to 300 community labour, thrown off Russian Wikipedia, added to the List of Extremists and Terrorists and dismissed from his teaching posts for poems in support of Ukraine (details here).
Such prosecutions are now on the increase in Russian-occupied Crimea, with Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov and journalist Mykola Semena both facing possible 5-year sentences for insisting that Crimea must be returned to Ukraine.
Russia is also resorting to punitive psychiatry, with this, like in Soviet times, used against dissidents. If Ilmi Umerov was ‘only’ forcibly placed in a psychiatric clinic for a limited time, Russian Alexei Moroshkin is being held against his will in a Russian psychiatric clinic after being convicted of ‘public calls aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity’. He too had criticized Russia’s war against Ukraine (details here).
There is also no time limit to such persecution. Another Russian - Roman Grishin – is now facing prosecution on ‘extremism charges’ for reposting a video two years ago. Once again the video involved condemns Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine (details here)