Category Archives: Russia

Eric King Speaks | 2 Radical Ukrainian Voices

Eric King Speaks | 2 Radical Ukrainian Voices

This week, we’re sharing 3 audio segments on this episode.

Eric King Transferred To High Security Prison in VA

[00:04:08 – 00:23:50]

Info on Eric King + an image of Operation Solidarity in Ukraine
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First up, you’ll hear Eric King, anarchist prisoner whose recent legal victory against the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the US was featured on our episodes from the week of March 27th, 2022. Last week, Eric was suddenly transferred out of Colorado toward United States Penitentiary Lee in the southwest portion of Virginia near Johnson City, TN. This is in spite of the fact that Eric should be held at a medium security facility according to BOP standards, unlike the high security and max prisoners at USP Lee. We caught up with him mid-transfer while at Grady County Jail in Oklahoma where many Federal prisoners stop during cross-country transfers. Eric and his supporters are afraid that he’ll be facing time in the SHU, or Secure Housing Unit at USP Lee for no reason other than punishment for his legal case and his supporters are putting together a call-in campaign to raise Eric’s visibility to keep him safe. There is information about this in our show notes at TheFinalStrawRadio.NoBlogs.Org and hopefully soon at https://SupportEricKing.Org .

This is followed by Sean Swain’s segment [00:23:53 – 00:32:42]

Maria of Anarchist Black Cross Kyiv

[00:33:06 – 01:07:52]

Then, you’ll hear Maria, a member of Anarchist Black Cross Kyiv, just returned from Ukraine and currently in Warsaw, Poland. We talk about ABC Kyiv, mutual aid and refugee support, border crossing, some information about anarchists participating in the territorial defense, NATO, non-violent as well as armed resistance to the Russian invasion, Russian forcibly moving Ukrainians from Mariupol into territories they control and other recent news stories. You can find more on how to support Operation Solidarity at linktr.ee/OperationSolidarity and the Resistance Committee of anarchists participating in armed resistance to the invasion at linktr.ee/TheBlackHeadquarter. You can also find a benefit for ABC resistance to the invasion at ABCMusicalSolidarity.Bandcamp.Com, written up at North Shore Counter-Info.

Mira, leftist punk from Kharkiv

[01:09:06 – 01:41:14]

Finally, you’ll hear a conversation recorded on Sunday, April 3rd with Mira, a member of the street punk band Bezlad and a show booker in the hardcore scene of Kharkiv near the Russian Border. Mira talks about his leaving of Kharkiv to L’viv to aid leftist and punk territorial defense fighters getting protective gear, his experience of the devastation of war on the city he loves and the breakdown of solidarity with antifascist and punk communities across the border between Russia & Ukraine since the war in the Donbass and intensifying today. We’ll play a song by Bezlad after this interview and will link them in the shownotes.

Announcements

Libre Flot’s Hunger Strike Continues

As a continuation of our recent announcement of the former YPG volunteer on hunger strike against unending detention by the French government, there is a call for a day of solidarity for Libre Flot for what is both his 36th day of hunger strike and his birthday. Libre Flot was hospitalized in relation to the hunger strike on March 24th but has continued due to his more than 15 months of pre-trail detention. On April 4th, 2022, the supporters are asked to make some noise at French embassies, consulates and other institutions to raise awareness of his plight. More info at SolidarityToDecember8.wordpress.com

Eric King Call-In

Alongside a recent post showing photos of the scene of Eric’s assault in the broom closet, there will be a post with phone numbers and talking points  up at SupportEricKing.Org by Monday. Below are some contacts you are suggested to reach out to to check in on Eric’s condition and talking points to help ask why he’s being treated this way despite his noted security level leading into the embarrassing trial loss by BOP:

  1. Why is Eric King, who is at a medium level according to the BOP, being moved to a high security facility across the country?;         
  1. Why is this move coming so quickly after Eric successfully won a lawsuit showing that the BOP was closing ranks to set Eric up for 20 years of additional prison as he approaches his out time?;         
  1. What will you, as a public official, do to challenge the impunity of the federal prisons to persecute prisoners and violate their human rights?;
DRAFT MESSAGES / TEMPLATES

 

Hello Senator _____,

I am writing about my friend who is a prisoner in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. His name is Eric King, inmate number 27090-045. He was recently found not guilty on all counts at a trial in the U.S. District of Colorado. Eric was moved from FCI Englewood and is currently being held in a private facility, Grady County Jail in Oklahoma. He has been told he is en route to USP Lee, a maximum security prison in Virginia.

I am writing because I believe Eric should not be sent to USP Lee, and would be in danger if he were sent there. He is scheduled to be released from prison in December 2023, and wants to avoid anything that would infringe on this release date.

There is an active threat against his life. A few years ago, before being sent to Colorado, Eric was held in the Segregation Unit at USP Lee for approximately two weeks. Before that, at USP Atlanta, a white supremacist gang member told him he would be killed at USP Lee if he was released into general population. This was documented at USP Lee.

It is imperative that Eric not be put in harm’s way. I am asking that you not send him into a situation that is so dangerous. The Bureau of Prisons knows this and there is established case law regarding the BOP sending someone into dangerous and life threatening scenarios. See Fitzharris v. Wolf, 702 F.2d 836, 839 (9th Cir. 1983); Gullatte v. Potts, 654 F.2d 1007, 1012-13 (5th Cir. 1981); Roba v. U.S., 604 F.2d 215, 218-19 (2d Cir. 1979).

Additionally, Eric is in this situation because of a bogus maximum management variable on his security profile. This has him erroneously being sent to a facility beyond his actual security level. He has no pending charges and no incident reports. He intends to be released to Colorado to live with his wife and his two children in just over a year. I ask that this management variable be removed so that he can be sent to a medium- or low-custody prison close to home and begin preparing for release.

I am afraid for my friend Eric’s life if he is sent to USP Lee and I am asking that you intervene with the Bureau of Prisons and ask them not to send Eric King into harm’s way by sending him to USP Lee.

His lawyer is Lauren Regan and can be reached at 541-687-9180 or lregan@cldc.org. Please help my friend.

Sincerely,

_____

CONTACT INFORMATION
DSCC Office Designation & Sentence Computation Center U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Complex

346 Marine Forces Dr.
Grand Prairie, TX 75051

Mid-Atlantic BOP Regional Office

302 Sentinel Dr,
Annapolis Junction, MD  20701

BOP National Office

320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC  20534

Virginia Senators to Contact

231 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

703 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

. … . ..

Featured tracks:

. … . ..

Transcription (Maria)

TFSR: Thank you so much for taking the time and the space to have this conversation with me. First off, would you please introduce yourself to the audience with a name, even if it’s a pseudonym, any gender pronouns, where you’re from, or where you’re at now?

Maria: I’m Maria, from ABC Kyiv, and I’m staying in Warsaw right now, just coming from Lviv where I visited comrades and had some meetings.

TFSR: Can you tell a little bit about ABC Kyiv and the history of the group? What work you’ve done before? What does it look like now? How the invasion has changed it?

Maria: We are a relatively old collective, 10+ years old. We used to mostly help political refugees from neighboring countries who escaped from Russia and Belarus. It’s not that many of them were in jail, but we were helping them with the refugee-seeking procedure and getting into politics in Ukraine. Now we changed because I expected they will go to Warsaw or whatever. But they mostly joined the territorial defense units in Kyiv. So we don’t have clients anymore, you know?

TFSR: Yeah. The history of the Anarchist Red Cross at one point included militant support of combatants too during the Russian revolutions. Right?

Maria: Actually, in the Makhno army, I think it appeared first.

For now, we are trying to do several types of work. First of all, we work with another collective that provides the same kind of help to people who decided to join the resistance, take up arms, and to fight for people and freedom at home. It’s different kinds of support. One is that we need to collect money, we need to buy things, humanitarian aid, medical aid, and different stuff that people who fight need. Another part is taking care of comrades who are relocating or choose not to because not a lot of people lost their jobs in Ukraine. And help with relocating people to other countries, they also may need help with a place to stay, money to live, possibilities to find a job. That’s a lot of work. For sure, we are taking part in it. We are not doing it as a separate collective, but rather with other ABC collectives, and with the group called Operation Solidarity from Ukraine.

TFSR:Awesome. I know that ABC Dresden in Germany has been one group that’s been able to funnel money towards mutual aid and defense funds, which is pretty cool. It’s amazing to see ABC groups – just from the outside, I’m involved with an ABC group here, but we’re still pretty focused on prisoners in the United States – to see the work that groups are doing in Europe is pretty impressive.

What’s the situation getting back and forth with Poland if you can talk about it? Has it been difficult because there is a long wait at the border? How have you been received in Poland at least with the government?

Maria: Surprisingly, with Poland, I crossed already twice, it was no problem at all, both times. In Ukraine, it was much more problematic months ago, but at the moment, it’s quite slow. Transport is late, but it’s not super difficult. I think it is difficult only for male assigned people. In Lviv, it’s also relatively calm, which is the new calm – they have 3-4 air raid alerts per day, which means that they expect air attacks. Sometimes there are air attacks but the air defense systems work well. I’m actually not an expert in weapons because I hate it. But the situation is like it is.

TFSR: Some of the questions that I’m going to be asking are related to either the war or the armed groups because that’s an area I think that a lot of anarchists elsewhere are interested in. But if you can’t answer them and don’t have an answer, I understand totally.

One thing that I’ve been seeing in the news here is that Russia may be pulling back, withdrawing troops, at least in the areas near Kyiv, back across the border to Belarus. Is that a thing that you’ve heard about or do you have an understanding of what’s happening with that?

Maria: I also read today that pulled back some troops, but not all of them. Actually, they say on the news that we expect more intense fights in the next few days. I hope that’s not true. But it can be. Also, they still attack Kyiv and other cities from the sky. With the army, they at least stay somewhere. But with these air attacks, it’s not clear where it will hit next time. Withdrawing troops doesn’t mean that they will stop bombing us.

TFSR: Sure, pulling back the army could actually mean more bombing, hypothetically.

What’s your impression, having been back to Lviv, of what it’s like to try to organize there or to be an anti-authoritarian, anti-nationalist group that’s trying to do organizing in the midst of an invasion and a time that almost necessarily leads to heightened levels of nationalism?

Maria: I didn’t see that much nationalism. I was there just for a couple of days meeting with comrades. I was not really in the streets. I know that the Operation Solidarity group there is very well-organized.

There was one stupid small attack by young Nazis on our comrades near a shop, where they were waiting in line to buy stuff for guys from the territorial defense. It was shocking, but they were some small idiots. It’s not that they really hunt there or whatever. I think Nazis are busy, the same as leftist people. We are not very much interested in each other, at this point, at least.

TFSR: What I’m seeing from the Telegram channel from Operation solidarity is that the attacker was from Misanthropic Division, and the comrade had a broken finger out of it.

Maria: He had a broken finger on his hand was wish he was packing medical supplies and other things for the army. It seems very unpatriotic to do it. It’s sabotage, in my opinion. I’m very surprised. I already started thinking about some conspiracy. Maybe they’re paid by Putin because it seems stupid to do it.

TFSR: Well, Nazis are stupid.

In your experience, how is the support from abroad into Operation Solidarity been going? There’s still a need, but they’ve been listing on their social media that they’ve been receiving– They went out and bought helmets, they went out and bought various forms of armor. Is the fundraising still going on? Has that been successful so far?

Maria: I would say it’s quite successful. But it always can be that if we have more money, we will buy better stuff for people, if we have more people, will still need to buy new things for them. Also, most people cannot work, renting rooms in Western Ukraine is very difficult, it is crazy expensive. Because so many people came there. Prices went high. There are still people there, their families and in the worst situation, you can expect that most of the people will lose their jobs. We also help with this part.

With medical things, you need to buy new ones from time to time, and we hope to have much more people. We have more people now compared to two months ago. I hope it will be much more, that is why for sure they still do fundraising and we still do fundraising for them. Other groups also do fundraising. I’m very satisfied with working together with them.

TFSR: I want to talk again about the armed organizing that people are doing, but there have been stories of lots of examples in this conflict of people taking unarmed actions against the war effort, for instance, the mutual aid and the medical support that you’re talking about, or blockades to slow the advance of tanks outside of major cities, massive street protests, including those that have been fired upon by Russian troops, the Belarusian anti-war sabotage on train infrastructure that’s been supplying Russian troops. Are there other examples or any that stand out to you of the unarmed mutual aid that you’ve been impressed with, that people should know about?

Maria: I’m not sure I understood all the points you mentioned. Because if your English is too perfect for me.

With the sabotage in Belarus, it is not militant, but for Belarus, it’s already a lot. For us, I think that we are not concentrated on these points. For me, it’s literally like fascists in the 30’s and 40’s are coming. People want to have arms and to fight back. I would not say that we are working on any anti-militant or whatever actions. We have a consensus that we need to fight with arms.

I know that there are protests in occupied cities. I don’t think that they decided to be very anti-militant, they just don’t have a choice. But the Russian army may actually shoot this protest. It’s only peaceful from one side.

TFSR: One of the groups, to my understanding, that’s been organizing in Ukraine for the armed self-defense is Black Flag (Chernyi Prapor)? Can you talk a little bit about the organizing and training that they’ve been doing that you know of, and as an anarchist grouping, how they’ve been relating to the territorial defense of the Ukrainian military?

Maria: I’m not that much in contact with them, it is a group from Lviv, as far as I know, a relatively small one. I’m not in personal contact with these people. That’s why I don’t really know how they do it.

I think one of the biggest collectives is the Resistance Committee. They’re also groups of people here and there in different territorial defense units trying to organize together, like three-five people. I know this better.

I also know about people from Kharkiv, I knew them before, but I’m not in contact at the moment. I know that there is a group in Kharkiv that is fighting in the territorial defense unit in Kharkiv, which is a hot spot. I also know anarchists who individually went to the army, for example, my friend, who is actually also one of these refugees, a non-Ukrainian citizen, went to fight the first morning, and he is stationed separately from us, but we still support him.

TFSR: Do you have a sense of how it is for them to relate to the fact that the territorial defense has a relationship with the Ukrainian military? How much autonomy they’re able to keep in that or any lessons that you’ve heard about how they’ve been able to try to keep that autonomy?

Maria: From talking to people, it seems it works quite well. They are not pressuring much and it feels like for other people there is a possibility for some autonomy. They are much less hierarchically structured. The army might pay less attention to this. But officially, they are part of the army. But there is actually no other way to organize because if you just take a gun and go to the street, they will think you are a subversive and kill you. Even historically, with the partisan movement, they’re actually always connected to the army to some extent. I don’t think it’s possible to really do it in parallel without any agreements.

TFSR: A few weeks ago, I was seeing stories online about foreigners coming to Ukraine to try to fight and defend it, getting shuffled into the military, or being pressured to sign contracts of service similar to conscription. Have you heard about this being the case for folks that have tried to join anarchist formations? Are they able to get in? Or do they just get funneled into the general military or territorial defense of Ukraine?

Maria: I think the problem you’re talking about is more about people who are going to the International Legion. I heard that people went to join a Belarusian unit, but I was not following the topic. Because I’m trying to concentrate on people I know, comrades, and things I can influence. I came across something like this in the media, but I haven’t heard any people I know who complained about it. But for people from the International Legion, which I think is separate, maybe it’s a problem for them.

TFSR: Another thing that I wanted to ask about, and it’s okay if you don’t have a comment on it or an understanding, but there was a video released recently that appeared to show the Ukrainian military shooting Russian prisoners in the legs extra-judicially. Have you heard about this or heard sentiments from other Ukrainians or people in the region about captured soldiers getting shot in that way?

Maria: I even didn’t hear about it, to be honest. I can imagine it can happen. For example, a friend of mine was telling me that when he was taking part in the evacuation of the occupied and besieged cities around Kyiv. It was the third week of war already and before he was rather in a better mood. But at that moment, he was really like “They are murdering kids. They’re raping women.” He saw the bodies of women on the streets. They [Russian troops] don’t want to fight with the army, they want to fight civilians. My friend was angry and didn’t feel mercy for them anymore. But then you just go out from there thinking and feel that you are a human and you should follow the humane way of thinking and acting. But I can imagine that after everything people saw. But I didn’t hear about what you mentioned.

I’m sad, I don’t want that to happen. But it’s very complicated. When you talk about these things theoretically from somewhere abroad, it’s one thing, but when the war is coming to your place, it’s totally another thing.

TFSR: That makes sense.

You mentioned children being killed. Some stories were circulating, I think they were sourced from the Ukrainian government about Russia importing thousands of civilians and children from occupied territories within Ukraine into Russia. Have you heard of this?

Maria: Yes. Many people from Kherson, which is the biggest occupied city, and Mariupol which is besieged. My friend’s parents were sent from Mariupol to Donetsk or Russia, she lost contact with them. It’s been five days now. They just put them on the bus. The besieged Mariupol and people couldn’t have access to drinking water and food. I think they demoralize them, but the people still didn’t want to go. They just take them to the bus, some of them could call and say, “Your parents were forcefully put on this bus, they will get in touch when they can.” But no one is reaching out these days. Then they’re sending a message that they’re in Russia. Today at the train station, I talked to people from Kherson, they’re telling the same, the few people who managed to escape.

TFSR: You can’t really guess about the strategy or the reasoning behind that, whether it’s to just depopulate areas, to make them easier to occupy, or if it’s about trying to forcibly settle people to new areas.

Maria: They’re not deporting all the people. For me, making the city empty is not the reason. As for Bucha and Hostomel, I heard the opposite – they don’t let people out. They make them too afraid to try to go out by bombing the humanitarian corridor, for example, because they actually want them to stay. Then it is difficult for the Ukrainian army to shoot because they’re inside together with civilians. Maybe there are other reasons, but they also try to use them for propaganda. They are filming people, they’re giving them a text to read. A woman was complaining about Azov and Medusa published several videos, and you see that she’s actually telling the story they forced her to tell because they didn’t do it in one shot.

TFSR: Forcing some of the people that they’re holding to act in front of the camera to say, “Oh, yes, I’m so happy that the Russians are here”, something that the Russian government can show back in the media.

Maria: Mostly they want their people to see that look, here are refugees from bad Ukraine coming to good Russia. Today I heard several stories from people who were going to stay with families in Belarus. If they did it the same day, I think it was something on the media in Belarus, that you should care about your Ukrainian relatives. Relatives from Belarus are calling to say that they should come over. “Here you at least will speak your language, blah, blah, blah.” And people are coming because it’s their families, not because they want to move to Belarus.

Today I met a woman, she said, “My daughter and grandchildren are there. It’s my chance to see my two-year-old grandson.” On the one hand, she is going to this place from which we are bombed, on the other hand, we all mixed, for the older people, it looks fine. And then in the media, they create 100 people from 10 people saying that thousands of refugees from Ukraine are coming from Ukraine to Russia and Belarus.

TFSR: A lot of people in the last six weeks have left Ukraine, and have withdrawn to find other safer places to go to. But I’ve also heard reports that people are coming back to Ukraine for defending it from the invasion or fighting back or trying to collect what they left behind. Is this a thing that you’ve heard about too?

Maria: I know several people who went back because, when they came here, they put them to live in a stadium, and then you leave with 500 people after being shocked and bombed. I think your psychological condition is not very stable. There is already a lack of places. I know that Germany and Poland and today I asked a person who stayed in the Netherlands, she said the same that they actually stayed in barracks or whatever. Volunteers do care about them and give them food, but they cannot live there forever. And they read the same news as me and you.

I know a person who wants to go back to Kyiv to my district and I know that it’s been very loud there the last few weeks. But she has animals, she cannot let them out and she lives in a barrack. She has them in transporter cages. I think it’s very different for different people. But some people just cannot live like this. For some people, it’s better to go with the risk to die rather than stay in a camp.

TFSR: Switching topics a bit, they’re far-right elements, since the Maidan, have been coalescing and doing arm training and participating on both sides in the war in the Donbas. As we’ve talked about, there are armed formations that are anti-fascist and anarchist, and that have been trying to hold that space separate from the far right, and I guess push back against that being normalized and also make safer spaces. But one thing that was happening at the start of the war that I read about was that supporters of the Arsenal Kyiv football club, the Hoods Hoods Clan were starting to support armed resistance. They were known by some as being a more anti-fascist football club. But as I understand, they’ve begun working more with right-wing nationalist formations. I’ve seen pictures of members throwing up the Svoboda three-finger salute. Are you aware of this? Can you talk about what your understanding is among the folks that are staying back and doing armed defense? How difficult it is to hold your ethics in this situation when you’re being shot at?

Maria: I’m not in direct contact with those people, because my comrades are mostly anarchists. There are some anarchists among them, but it’s not an anarchist group. I hope that it is some individuals who are doing it, I don’t think it can be the whole group, but I should check. The group is quite big, and from time to time, new people join. I don’t think they can control people that much. I would ask today, that’s interesting. As I was on the way, and I was in the Lviv without Internet, I don’t know all the news. But it sounds problematic for me is if it’s true, I would not be happy.

TFSR: It’s pretty clear to me that the aggressive invasion of territory and bombing of cities by the Russian military is a terrible thing that should be fought against. I totally respect people defending their territory and defending the spaces they live in, their families, the people around them, and their communities. In the West, it’s difficult for people in countries that are NATO countries to figure out how to relate to this in a way that puts us aside from supporting NATO intervention. I know the weapons that are getting sent in are helping territorial defense fight back the invasion. But do you have any thoughts about how people in countries that are NATO nation-states, besides sending funding, should be helping to resist the invasion without simultaneously working in a way that justifies imperialist Western militaries?

Maria: Sending money is nice. People can go to fight against fascists themselves. It’s an individual decision, but it’s always possible. With this NATO question, I’m very surprised how often I hear it because do you really think that all these leftists have an influence on these decisions?

TFSR: As far as influencing the way that NATO operates? No, but also, in the United States, the position that the US takes is that the Ukrainian government should be supported. It’s not about creating space for an anarchistic society there but those two things overlap in terms of stopping people from dying. The US for instance, where I’m living, and where I’m from uses humanitarian intervention regularly to justify the continued growth of the US military. It’s not just about necessarily helping people defend themselves from an invasion or from a terrorist group or from whatever. But it becomes a part of a larger plan that fuels the big industries of war in this country. That’s what I’m getting at in wondering if you have any views about it.

Maria: Russia openly says on the propagandist TV that they should bomb Washington. I’m not sure that the US TV says something like this, that they should throw somewhere a nuclear bomb. I think was these two, one went much more aggressive, at least with the rhetoric. I think that thinking about geopolitical is just practically totally not useful. Because that’s actually the context they’re given to people to distract their attention. For example, I hear the question about NATO much more often than the question if all the comrades are alive. Maybe it’s because I’m not that good with the theories. But for me, it’s a very strange situation, when people want to talk about this NATO thing that much in a situation where they can actually not really influence it. I think that as anti-authoritarian leftists and anarchists, we should be much more focused on the things we can influence in our lives, and less on the topics given to us from the top, on TV. It is just my opinion, but I feel like this.

TFSR: Super helpful. Do you think it’s useful for people who can take off and maybe a train or whatever to come to join territorial defense and try to support anarchist groups?

Maria: Yes. You can contact all the groups we discussed online, they have websites, Telegram channels, etc. You should ask them, not me. But I think there is a possibility, people who are looking for it can find it without my help.

TFSR: Maria, also would it be helpful to share any information further about how to contact ABC Kyiv, or you’ve mentioned operation solidarity, I can put more information in the show notes and announce that.

Maria: The Operation Solidarity has a chatbot if you need to contact them.

TFSR: Is there anything that I didn’t ask about that you want to say right now?

Maria: I think we all start to think about how this happened. With Russia, with what is going on? How we have new fascism, because all my life I was asking questions about what happened to Germans in the previous century? I’m asking myself what happened, and how we didn’t see it before they attacked so many countries. Now they also attacked my city, because the country was attacked already eight years ago. I think we should really work somehow that it will never happen a third time, or whatever time is next time?

I hope we will win. I hope my comrades in Russia and Belarus will be released from jails. I do hope we will find a way to stop these things from happening. Because for me, one of the most problematic parts is that actually, the Russian society supports what is going on.

TFSR: I hope for those things, too. Again, thank you very much for taking the time to have this conversation.

Maria: Thank you for asking.

. … . ..

Transcription (Mira)

Mira: Some people know me by the name Mira. I’m from Kharkiv city, which is in the east of Ukraine. Right now, I’m in Lviv.

TFSR: You’ve been in Lviv for a little bit now, like a month or so, right?

Mira: Yes. For the first 11 days of the war, we stayed in Kharkiv. Then we moved to Dnipro using suburban trains with transfers and spent some time in Dnipro and then went to Lviv using an evacuation train. It took like 21 hours to get here. Some of our friends were just staying in the vestibule of the train without a seat because was all crowded. It was a long, long way. We made it to Lviv. Lviv is a much better place to stay because we could do something here. It feels more like a regular peaceful place. We have some air raid alerts from time to time, and sometimes missiles get here too. But for the most part, it feels like a regular peaceful time. From here, it’s easier to coordinate the different types of work, volunteer work, and mutual aid work. It’s more productive and successful to be here, to get stuff, to meet people, and to send all the stuff further to other parts of Ukraine.

TFSR: Kharkiv, where you’re from and where you left is just right across the border from Russia. I know it’s been the center of a lot of really intense battles between the Ukrainian military and lots of shelling and cluster munitions from the Russian military. Is that right?

Mira: Absolutely. Honestly, when a few years ago, in Kharkiv, I and my friends did lots of punk and hardcore shows, including one of the biggest events in our country, Kharkiv Hardcore Fest, which is a few days event, and some bands from abroad that would come to play in Kharkiv were asking, “Aren’t you afraid that you are really close to Russia?” While we already had the military invasion in the eastern part of Ukraine, part of Donbas, it was already occupied, but we still were sure that it won’t go deeper into the country. When people from Finland, and Poland asked us that, we said, “Yes, we are okay.” We didn’t believe that Putin and the Russian military government would really be so crazy to start a full-scale war. Actually, we were surprised to witness what started on February 24.

TFSR: I’m glad that you and your friends were able to make it out. That sounds really, really scary.

Mira: Actually, I just want to add a few words, that since the beginning of the war, the police and army were trying to keep some order at the railway station, because so many people come in, they panic, and the place is too crowded and too many people stayed at the railway station. There were a lot of police and army to make things go smooth and try to keep some order.

That’s why we tried to use suburban train stations because we didn’t want to spend and unbelievable amount of time in the line. Because children, women, and elderly people, go first. If you are military age between 18 and 60, you are the last one to get on the train. We decided not to even try to go to the main station. We preferred to walk with our backpacks and stuff to the nearest suburban train station and get on the suburban trains. One day, we just went to see how it goes, if the trains actually pass by. Just to check it without backpacks, how it goes. When you’re staying on the platform and it’s a pretty open space and you can hear the air raid alerts and the sounds of explosions. It’s not comfortable to stay there, because you never know where the next missiles going to drop.

We made it there, we took one train, we made it to Krasnohrad and spent four or five hours there waiting for another train, and then go to Dnipro right before the curfew time. My friend from Dnipro met us with the car and brought us to the apartments just five minutes before the curfew time. That’s how we made it to Dnipro. Then we took the evacuation train from there for Lviv, 10 days later.

TFSR: You were there after the war started in Kharkiv. And you’ve been to some of these cities before, I would imagine, as a traveling musician, among other things. Can you talk about what it’s been like to see places that you’re familiar with suddenly devastated in these ways?

Mira: That’s really hard to express the feelings, which you get when you see the city you love, the city that you have lots of stuff in common, which you associate with yourself, and you see that everything around is being ruined by the air raids, by multiple launcher systems. To see the historical city center being ruined, and to see regular residential neighborhoods being ruined. You can’t look at it without tears. That’s really tough. Every day, we hoped this will be the last day when they do the bombing and shelling and dropping air bombs. But the following day, it was just getting worse and worse. When we were thinking about how long it could take to rebuild everything which was destroyed, hoping that will end soon, the next day is coming and we see even more destruction. That’s really painful and tearful to see.

Honestly, the first two days we were scared, then the fear changed for hate and anger toward the people who are doing this. We tried to find the ingredients to do Molotov cocktails and stuff like that because we thought they would be in the city soon and we might need that stuff. But actually, the armed forces you’re doing a pretty good job defending the city on the ground. Even those groups of Russian troops who managed to get into the city were eliminated. The main threat was coming not from the troops on the ground, but from the launchers that launched rockets and from the air bombing. The Molotov cocktails wouldn’t really help. We were sitting without any possibility of resistance, because in my group, we have five people, and none of us has military experience. The territorial defense was accepting volunteers only with military experience, so you’d be more useful for the defense. Since none of us had that, we were not accepted. Actually, the territorial defense was pretty full of people, and they didn’t even need more, because a lot of people were willing to defend their city, their land, and their country against the aggressor. That’s why the territorial defense pretty much all over Ukraine is packed with volunteers. They’re not really accepting new applicants for that.

So we were just sitting without really any use. Since every day it was getting tougher and tougher, we decided to go somewhere else, to leave the city until it gets a bit better because the missiles started getting all around the city, not just the suburbs, not just the neighborhoods closer to Russia, to the ring road, but also in the center, all the neighborhoods, including mine, which is close to the city center. There was already some destruction in my neighborhood as well. That’s why we decided to move to be useful in something else, not just sitting in the basement and listening to the sounds of the explosions.

TFSR: What activities have you been up to since you’ve been in Lviv? Is that at all connected to the work that you were doing before the war started in your community? I know some people start off doing, before the pandemic, for instance, were doing mutual aid work of one sort, like feeding people. Then after, in the US at least, have changed. They’ve just modified what they’re doing. Was there any connection between what you’re doing now and what was going on before?

Mira: We are doing totally different things now, because being a booker for shows is not something we would do here, and I had some small business rental for live events, I had my equipment in several clubs, and that is what I was doing besides booking my shows. Definitely, that’s absolutely not timely, nobody needs that. We just do what people actually need. While organizing the shows and the festival in Kharkiv, we have pretty much a big following on our facebook page and Instagram. I know that some people we met in shows, now are in territorial defense or in the armed forces, and I know that some people are lacking protective gear and lots of other items, not just knee/elbow protectors and bulletproof vests, but a lot of other stuff needed to be alive and to be productive in their defensive activity. Right now, the only thing that we are doing is trying to find the stuff our friends need and buy it and send it to them. It is just volunteer work, and it’s definitely not anything close to what we did before the war started.

TFSR: Especially in a war zone, I’m sure it’s really difficult. Here, it’s difficult to find some of that stuff at reasonable and affordable prices. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to source night vision gear or thermal imaging stuff in the middle of a war. From what you can talk about with it, is it just the prices that are really difficult? Or is it getting it off of captured or fallen Russian troops? What does it look like?

Mira: Most all the Russian troops that I’ve seen online don’t have that stuff, either. Since I toured with my bands a lot, I met people in Europe, with whom we stayed in touch till now. After the war started, some people started sending me messages, asking what was going on, and offering some help. That really saves lives now. With these contacts, we managed to work on the logistics of buying stuff, collecting money, and sending that to people who can buy that. Some of the volunteers are coming from Germany, and Poland to Lviv where we meet and get the stuff and send it further. The personal contacts, which I got in peaceful life before the war now really help to get what we need.

TFSR: So you’re mentioning booking gigs and shows and playing shows in the punk and hardcore scene in Kharkiv. Touring. Just looking back to what that scene in that community has been like for you – it’d be interesting to hear what the music scene was like?

Mira: Well, it’s pretty much a copy of a Western scene just on a smaller scale. Since the scene was born here much later than in the US or Europe, it’s younger but it shares the same ideals. I know that in the United States, some micro scenes just don’t care about anything. Some are really political, pay attention to political issues, and some are there just for music. When in Ukraine, they started to develop, it was very political starting in 2005 to 2015. Now, it was getting less, but we always were paying attention to who is in our shows, because we were always against any discrimination practices. We were not happy to see anyone with any Nazi symbols, in 90% of our shows, we specifically mentioned that Nazis are not welcome. Such people even don’t come because in most cases, they understand what views we have, so to avoid conflict, they just don’t come to our shows. There was a lot of physical confrontation in Kharkiv as well, years before, after the Maidan in 2014, actually, the number of confrontations got smaller and since 2014, it’s just calmed down. We didn’t really have big problems. There were some people wearing Nazi streetwear brands and stuff like that, trying to come to shows. They were just turned off at the entrance and didn’t get in. Years before, we had big fights in 2009-12. Sometimes we had fights with 40 people on one side and 50 people on the other side. But it’s calmed down with time.

Actually, at this moment, Nazis have their own hardcore scene developing. The fun fact is that they listen to a lot of good bands, but they do shows and they play and they support ideas, which those bands actually absolutely don’t support. I know some Nazis from Dnipro were traveling to Poland to see the band Backtrack and Agnostic Front, Madball, and stuff like that. When they go to Europe to see these bands, they shut the fuck up and don’t even show that they are right-wing sympathizers. But when they are back in Ukraine, in Dnipro, they have such symbols and T-shirts at their shows. But that’s an absolutely different scene and we don’t cross our paths. They don’t come to our shows. We don’t come to their shows.

TFSR: I saw Stiff Little Fingers once perform. They stopped the performance partway through and just started railing against Nazis and saying that “If any racists are here, you need to understand that you don’t understand the lyrics that we’re singing. Because we hate you. You need to go. You’re not welcome here.” I’ve seen like recordings a few times of Dropkick Murphys in the US also making that statement or going down and beating up Nazis that are in the crowd. I think it’s really important and really impressive when people use that platform to be very clear that that is not what they’re about.

Mira: At our shows frontmen of some bands clearly talk about that. Even if there is some person in the audience who also goes to some Nazi shows. That happens, we don’t know everyone. They just stay in there listening and don’t show who they are. But maybe that will help them realize someday what real punk and hardcore are about and what it is against. Maybe when some people accidentally get to the show with some friends, big shows where you can’t recognize everyone. Maybe these people see how hardcore punk bands play and what they are saying, and what are their views on racism, homophobia, and stuff like that. Maybe they change their minds. The time will show, you never know.

TFSR: Do people at your shows or at the shows in the Kharkiv hardcore scene table literature and stickers and stuff like that?

Mira: We don’t have sticker culture, we don’t have our clubs or something. It could be five shows in five different locations. It’s not really popular to put a lot of stickers around, because people in the clubs don’t like any political stickers, just to avoid losing clients. There is one club that we boycott, and we don’t do shows there. We don’t come there, because they allow right-wing bands to play there. It’s conveniently located. It’s a pretty good sound. But the owner is weird and we had conversations before. He was saying that he’s against any politics and that fascists will never have an event at his club. Then later, we have videos of people doing Nazi salutes there. It is just one instance, he says it is just business, he is doing business and doesn’t care about anything else.

TFSR: That sounds like stuff here.

Mira: I believe that happens, often, everywhere.

TFSR: If people here want to support– In the other segment that we’re airing from Maria, who’s currently in Warsaw, we mentioned Operation Solidarity, and also the Resistance Committee. A lot of their work is based out of Kyiv. Are there any other groups that you would suggest people send money to distribute, to get defensive implements, like helmets and vests out to the Lviv? Or do those groups work with you all in Lviv?

Mira: Yes, Operation Solidarity works in Kyiv and Lviv. We cooperate on some issues. We know each other, but they have a bigger following and more people. They are concentrated mainly on helping left-wing people in the scene whom they know. At Kharkiv Hardcore, we don’t check how left you are, if you call yourself an anarchist, or just if we know the person and if you know this person was at our shows, and you know the person is fighting or is going to fight soon, we help this person. That’s the difference. But we share the same values, we share the same views. We cooperate also on some issues. I think we’ll just develop this cooperation further.

TFSR: Is there anything that I didn’t ask about that you want to talk about?

Mira: Maybe just the thing that I need to mention is that 10 years ago, I would say before the Maidan 2014, before the Russian invasion, the first Russian invasion started in 2014 when they occupied the Crimea and part of Donetsk and Luhansk Region. Before that, we considered our scene – of Ukraine and Russia – as one scene. I mean the scene in music and ideological terms, the antifascist scene, and the music punk hardcore scene. But after that, our paths started to go in different directions. We have fewer connections and less and less understanding of what’s going on in Ukraine. I had lots of contacts in Russia. After this full-scale war started, I got messages just from a few people from Russia. I understand that they now have a dictatorship, and they’re not allowed to say anything publicly and to voice their opinion if it’s against the official line of the government. But anyway, still, some people have a really weird position. Some people don’t say anything, some people say something that demonstrates they don’t understand at all what is going on in Ukraine, but they still keep trying to hold some position.

I don’t want to name the bands we have some questions to. But the main thing is that, unfortunately, after this conflict, the relations, and the attitudes to the Russian people would not be the same, because officially, 70% of the population of Russia supports their president. I understand they eat a lot of propaganda and are pretty fooled by it. But anyway, the result of it is the real war which we have right now. Unfortunately, all big bands, even in the punk and hardcore scene of Russia, didn’t show any position. They don’t call the aggressor aggressor. That’s really disappointing. I don’t know if we are able to communicate after this war is over.

TFSR: That makes a lot of sense. I guess it’ll take a lot of work on the Russian side, the Russian hardcore and anti-fascist scene to try to– It seems really complicated over there. But that’s not to make any apologies. As you said, they live under a dictator. That’s hard, but I hope that they do the work to recognize and listen to your voices.

Mira: I just want to add that there are bands in Russia, that tour in Europe, and they try to sit on two stools at the same time. They don’t want to call the aggressor the aggressor. They also try to show that they are for peace, but they’re not saying who is ruining the peace. That’s a problem.

When these bands announced European tours, I am afraid that the agenda wouldn’t be correct. Because some people in Europe hate the United States so much that they refuse the right of Ukraine to subjectivity. They call it the concept of the United States and Russia, two empires, and they don’t care about Ukraine. They hate the United States so much that they don’t give a fuck about Ukraine at all. That’s why some people in Europe are supporting and eating it and spreading Kremlin’s propaganda. They’re so anti-imperialist, that they are okay with Ukraine being destroyed.

TFSR: Yeah, it’s a funny way to identify an empire, not as someone going in and invading another place because they say that they have a historical relationship and that that other place actually belongs to them, which Putin has done by saying, “Lenin was wrong. The Tsar was right. Stalin was right. Ukraine is a place for us to make decisions about.”

Mira: Yes.

TFSR: Mira, thank you so much for this conversation and I am excited to share it. Are there any other links, do you want to mention your band name? It’s okay if you don’t. Or anything that listeners might follow.

Mira: Well, if you’re into punk rock, if you like street punk and oi, you should check out the band I am in right now. It’s called the Bezlad. While in Lviv, three of us are here out of five people, and we’ll try to make some new songs about current events. With the help of local folks who will fill in, we will try to record something. Also, we have a plan to play at a bomb shelter. That’s something new that we never experienced. Hope that will work. If you’re interested in punk, check it out, and stay in touch if you feel like it.

TFSR: We’ll be featuring a song at the end of this interview so folks can listen in to one track by that band. All right. Well, thanks a lot. I hope you keep safe and good luck to you and yours. I hope the war ends soon.

Mira: Thank you so much. Thank you for your attention. Thank you for speaking out about this. For spending your time to let people know what’s going on and let them hear Ukrainian voices on what’s going on here.

A Russian Anarchist Against The Ukraine War

A Russian Anarchist on the Ukraine War

Antiwar protestor in Russia being arrested
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This week, we spoke with Petr, a Russian anarchist member of the group Autonomous Action, who is living in Europe right now. For the hour we speak about the invasion of Ukraine, a bit about the resistance inside of Russia to the war drums and the Putin regime, the dangers of a nuclear conflict, the impacts of increased sanctions and anarchists organizing across the borders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus against the war and against tyranny. You can learn more about what’s going on by visiting Avtonom.org and finding the English tab, or using tools like google translate to read articles from the Russian there.

If you’d like to support anarchist organizing against Putin and the war in Russia, below you’ll find links to some crypto-currency wallets:

  • Ethereum 0x5DF79A64A9CE5B630B50E490F586716522B746d9
  • Bitcoin bc1qpr0dcvhar5fmysqkg4wuk8p6h0hl7ln20dmjwc
  • Zcache t1SqHUbGW8KDRp1hddNAYoVvYHBZoAfG3oc
  • Monero 49eZzSF4uhni3DYnVPCeBPGFZ7cXrbPnWBJuQVYKUNNg7aDxRz6L87fbh9ZQtVNUn87kpSgNgHadAjKthZWmor7yHq9SkTP

Also, a reminder that you can find links to anarchist solidarity and defense organizing and fundraising as well.

To hear our past interviews, including histories of Antifascist organizing in Russia, queer organizing, state repression, ecological resistance and other topics, we’re linking them here as well: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/post/category/russia/

Announcement

Ex-YPG French Anarchist Prisoner Hunger Strike

On Tuesday, December 8, 2020, 9 comrades were arrested by the DGSI, the French anti-terrorist police unit, across France. In Toulouse, in Dordogne, in the Paris region, in Brittany, and in Rennes. Anarchists are accused of being “the criminal association planning a terrorist attack”. All but one comrade were released, some after months in pre-trial detention. They are awaiting trial and are placed under the judicial control. The defendants, not all of whom know each other, have been under surveillance for a long period of time, including digital surveillance such as planting recording devices in vehicles as well as physical surveillance.

On March 4th, 2022 it was announced that it was six days since our comrades started the hunger strike. He did so at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine knowing very well that this information would drown in the news about the war. That all efforts would be focused on supporting the resistance in Ukraine and the people fleeing from there. It’s amazing what support for Ukraine has gathered, even thought it also came with shortcomings and contradiction; racist sentiment and nationalist visions for the future to name but two of them. Our comrade would in the same way support people fight for freedom. He is in isolation, the method the state use to deprive us of connection and communication with others. He needs us in the same way we need each other, we can never win alone. A person with their body can resist the repression of the state, but without the access we have on the outside his voice will not be heard.

There are suggestions of steps to support the comrade and more information at the blog, https://solidaritytodecember8.wordpress.com/category/english/

Statement from Sanctuary Camp Defendants

retrieved from BRABC.BlackBlogs.Org:

The following is an update from the now 15 defendants facing charges in Asheville, NC as a part of the city government’s attempt to repress food sharing and mutual aid organizing.

“Since our last statement at the beginning of February, the state has targeted 8 more community members in connection with the December demonstration in Aston Park criticizing the City government’s inhumane treatment of homeless folks. We are now a group of 15 locals facing multiple felony charges for participating in mutual aid efforts in our community.

The city government claims we are each responsible for leaving behind more than 500 lbs of trash following a peaceful protest. APD claims this resulted in a 100 hours of “clean-up efforts”, the use of heavy machinery, and a cost of $2,680.

Over the past three months, the taxpayer dollars and time expended surveilling, harassing, arresting, and now prosecuting the defendants vastly exceeds the damages claimed by APD. How many of the same resources and heavy machinery have been employed by the city and county government to remove and destroy homeless camps in the last year alone?

These actions are not an effort to make our city safer, they are an attack on mutual aid. We remain committed to ensuring all members of our community have a safe place to live, a community around them, and agency over their own lives.

We still need your help as we face state repression and attempts to shut down our networks of care.

“Keep sharing food and care and solidarity with one another. Keep delivering groceries, cooking meals, sharing funds, and showing up in the parks. Keep standing with your community. Keep building this beautiful, transformative mutual aid movement. Keep sharing our story. In solidarity and community, the Sanctuary Camp Defendants”

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Transcription

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself with whatever name, location, preferred gender pronouns, or affiliations that you can give us?

Petr: My name is Petr. I’m located in Europe, I would prefer not to disclose the particular location. I associate myself with he/him.

TFSR: Cool. Are there any projects that you’re involved with for the sake of this conversation?

Petr: I guess, the most important for this conversation is that I participate quite heavily in what the Autonomous Action is doing. This is one of the largest or maybe even the largest organizations of anarchist, libertarian communists in the ex-USSR countries. I’ve been involved in Autonomous Action quite a lot before I moved to Europe. I am still involved while being here. There are lots of projects going on. But mostly, spreading information, organizing more or less a stream of anarchist views, anarchist analysis of the current events for as wide an audience in Russia and neighboring countries as possible.

TFSR: I’m familiar with avtonom.org as a website where I can occasionally find English translations, updates of stuff, and ideas going on in the Russian language sphere. Would you share a little bit about the history of that group Autonomous Action more widely, the shared values and beliefs, like you said, that most people identify as anarchist or libertarian communists? Where the members are? What stuff do the projects do?

Petr: The Autonomous Action was established quite a long time ago, 20 years ago, in fact, in 2002-2003. It used to be an organization with quite solid, libertarian communist and anarcho-communist platform, based essentially on Kropotkin, Bakunin, and Bookchin. But it was not very picky, meaning that we cooperated with all sorts of the progressive left, but still, our opposition towards the state and towards the statist left was quite pronounced always, all the time. During the first 15 years of its existence, Autonomous Action was quite active on the streets. We really organized hundreds of various street actions. We also were quite integrated with the Antifa movement in Russia, I think the Autonomous Action was a major player in the anti-fascist movement on the streets. But then in recent years, since the state repression is constantly increasing, it becomes more and more difficult to actually organize something on the streets openly by anarchists, which means that we are increasingly trying to become a stream of information. That’s why we nowadays don’t call ourselves an organization anymore, but a media project. We’re on our website. We’re on all sorts of social media networks. Those members of Autonomous Action who are still in Russia — and most of them are — participate in street protests and grassroots initiatives, from environmental to political stuff, like the current anti-war protests.

TFSR: You’ve mentioned that you’re in Europe right now. But I wonder if you have a sense, at least among Russian anarchists and Russian-speaking anarchists that you’re in contact with, what are the reactions to the escalation that the Russian government’s been building, but in particular, the invasion of Ukraine, and the justifications behind it? We’ve heard of several marches around Russia with many arrests and beatings, as well.

Petr: It probably will come as no surprise that all the anarchist organizations or movements or projects that I know about in Russia pronounced quite explicitly their position against this war and against Putin’s regime which started this war, and I guess for us as anarchists, it didn’t come as much as a surprise as, for example, for liberals. We were not surprised that Putin will start another war. Wars accompany capitalism, always. Even more, they accompany capitalism in this flavor, which we observe in Russia, this strange mix of neoliberalism, authoritarian regime, and patriarchal propaganda for the crowds. We were not much surprised. But we were a bit surprised by the scale of it. Nobody seriously believed that Putin would really decide to occupy or at least try to occupy the whole of Ukraine. Our guess was that only the Eastern and maybe some southern parts will be under attack. The scale was surprising, but not the war itself.

There were lots of protests around the country. The protests are still ongoing. People still go out in the streets every day. Anarchists, participated quite a lot in these protests. But the protest is quite disorganized. Because, as I’ve said, it’s really difficult to really organize a real demo in Russia, because, it’s just those who will call people to come to some particular place and time will be probably arrested long before it started. It’s really just the spontaneous organization of people via social media, etc. But still, indeed, in the first days of the war, some groups of anarchists in Moscow, for example, and then in St. Petersburg as well, did manage to gather in crowds with banners and with anarchist slogans, etc. But most of the times anarchists were just part of the crowd without any banners or flags because if you have a banner, or if you have a flag, you will be just the first one to be arrested, of course. But the attitude of all anarchists in Russia is anti-war and anti-Putin.

TFSR: From what I hear in the Western media, the Russian government has criminalized media outlets and organizations that call this an invasion or a war. Do you have the impression of if the population in Russia knows what’s going on with the battles, with the shelling of cities, and the refugee crisis that’s building? Do you get the impression that this will be the new Chechnya to bring the country together into Putin’s arms?

Petr: That’s true. Indeed, in the best spirit of George Orwell, the Russian government criminalized calling this war a war. Officially, it is a special military operation. Indeed, even for carrying, for example, a sheet of paper with the words ‘NO WAR’ in it, you can get a fine, you will be penalized. If you do it for the second time, at least in theory, you can get a prison sentence, which is a significant step towards— Putin’s regime was being harder on anyone who has been protesting all the recent years. But this is a really strong step, even for Putin’s regime. Because it’s especially ironic, given that the state propaganda all these years was based essentially on this memory of World War II, and on declarations that “we are peaceful people, and we don’t want war”, etc. This is the reason why Putin and the authorities decided to ban the word “war” because otherwise, it would sound too crazy for the majority of the Russian population.

The question about whether the population knows what’s going on. It is a difficult question. It’s a difficult issue. The urbanized population, which was critical towards Putin even before the war, more or less have the means of accessing Western media, accessing some remaining independent Russian media, they know how to use TOR, VPNs to access blocked websites, so they definitely know what’s going on. About the rest of the population, I’d say that the majority understands what’s going on because nobody really believes the authorities that bombings are aimed only at military facilities, etc because nobody believes Russian authorities in anything. The trust in the government is really low. But it’s just the case that it’s difficult to leave with a feeling that you are a citizen of an aggressor country because the historical memory of people in Russia is that the Soviet Union was under an attack by Nazi Germany. There is this whole myth about a brave country defending itself from the aggressors, and now Russia is this aggressor. I guess many people just try to close their eyes and forget about this. They happily catch on any piece of propaganda on the TV or the Internet, which says “It’s the Ukrainians who are bombing themselves, or we are freeing Ukraine from the Nazis” or that Ukraine was developing biological weapons to destroy all Russians. This is a real claim by the Russian military. It becomes crazier. I think still, people often try to believe that, just because it’s difficult to see the reality often, unfortunately. I think that the role of anarchists and other progressive political movements is to try to open people’s eyes.

The next question of yours, whether this will be the new Chechnya, the idea of Putin definitely was that it will be a quick victory, which would improve the political situation inside the country because people when the wars are won by an authoritarian leader. But now that there is no quick victory — two weeks have passed, and no significant military success up to now — unfortunately, it seems that it could be the new Chechnya in the meaning that it will be just senseless bloodshed for many months or years, which will be horrible. This is definitely a very grim perspective and future. We should do everything that we can to avoid this. We probably can talk later about what we are doing for this and what anarchists and other progressive left can do for this.

TFSR: Thank you.

The claim about the chemical weapons development is kind of a newer one that I’ve just seen popping up over the last few days. Can you describe what that claim is that’s being made by the Russian military?

Petr: Essentially, they invent a new reason to invade Ukraine every day. And at some point, they claimed that they found some documents with the names of some chemical substances, somewhere in Ukraine, in the conquered cities, and based on this, they stated that Ukraine, with the help of the US and NATO, was developing biological weapons to target Russian people. They even claimed something that this weapon will be specifically aimed at the Russian DNA, which is absolute nonsense from the scientific point of view. But it’s just the case that we’ve observed this for many years that Putin and Kremlin propaganda, just their strategy was always just “say as many crazy things as possible so that the truth is just drowning in the sea of shit essentially”. They don’t care about whether what they claim is consistent because one day they say that we invaded Ukraine because we want to defend the people of the East of Ukraine. The next day they say that we invaded Ukraine because it wanted to become a member of NATO, the next day, they say that it was because of nuclear weapon which was being developed there. It’s just a constant stream of nonsense, which nobody actually believes in Russia, except maybe some hardcore patriots, which are definitely the minority of the population.

TFSR: I also wonder, since we’re going back into reasons for the invasion that have been given… The de-nazification makes sense with what you said about the Russian government playing off— The massive amount of people that died during World War II fighting the Nazis, but talking about this as an extension of the Patriotic War for the Fatherland. The de-nazification — and we know that there are militias that are connected to or integrated into the Ukrainian military that have white supremacist connections or have indeed Nazis within their ranks — I’ve been hearing some other anarchist sources talk about okay, “ there’s Nazis involved in the military of Ukraine. There are Nazis involved in the military of the US. There are Nazis involved in the military alongside Russian troops.” One group, for instance, that’s been mentioned, is the Wagner group? Can you talk a little bit about it, just to even the playing field and to point out that states are bad and Nazis using state militaries? Can you talk a little bit about some of the Nazi groups that are involved in the Russian military?

Petr: Well, the whole business of this de-nazification is of course total bullshit. It doesn’t have anything to do with reality. Of course, there are Nazis in Ukraine, and of course, they are some militias that are somehow associated with the Ukrainian army. But it’s definitely not the real aim of invading Ukraine. Putin doesn’t care at all about Nazis, what he cares about is whether he can order these people or not. Definitely, Nazi mercenaries are fighting on the side of the Russian Army. They were involved in armed conflicts in the east of Ukraine, they were involved in Syria, in many other regions of the world. But actually, it doesn’t matter much that they’re Nazis. They’re much more just soldiers of Putin than Nazis. Because the Nazi groups in Russia have been mostly eliminated or totally subjected to the state about 8-10 years ago. Nowadays, there are no independent Nazi parties or groups that are active on the streets. They are either dead or in prison, or they are part of more or less pro-Putin, pro-regime movements. Nazis are not political players anymore in Russia at all. It doesn’t make sense to even to talk about them. Maybe if you have some, specific questions, I probably can give some answers, but they do not play any significant part in what’s happening in Russia now.

TFSR: Okay, that makes sense. I’ve heard Russian people describe that Nazis aren’t fighting you on the streets. But when you get pulled into a police station, there’s going to be a Nazi with a boot to beat you. It seems like one thing about the way that Putin’s regime operates is to destroy autonomous power that could exist, anything that could destabilize and integrate it into their own power base, which is why it’s hard for Western people sometimes to take a read on Putin’s politics, because they presume it’s left or it’s right or something like that when actually it’s just neoliberal authoritarian.

Petr: I agree. Putin doesn’t care about whether this particular group is left or right, Nazi or Antifa. He cares about whether they pose a threat to him or not, that’s what matters. That was the reason behind crushing the Nazi movement about 10 years ago, and actually, about the same time they started crushing the Antifa movement. Then it was more or less finished by 2014 when it was split along this conflict in the Crimea and the eastern parts of Ukraine because some part, some members of the Russian Antifa movement went to fight on the Ukrainian side, and others went to fight on the side of this newly-established so-called republics. Both sides considered themselves to be anti-fascists. That was sad to observe. But I guess that’s what you expect more or less in such political conditions.

TFSR: Yeah.

Putin has made the argument that Ukraine is a part of Russia, we’ve talked about the claims of genocide and Russian speakers and Donbas. Just as a note, war times are a time of increased nationalism. Have you seen the idea of who is Russian changed shape recently within Russia or to your experience? Where does this leave people of Chechen or Uzbek or other backgrounds or African backgrounds who may or may not be considered as Russian as others right now? How does the race work inside of Russia, basically? Do you get the impression that this has changed around the time of the war drums beating?

Petr: This, I should admit, is a very complicated issue. It probably would require a separate interview or a separate podcast to talk about this in-depth. But in general, on the one hand, Putin and his elite would probably want to establish some ethnic Russian domination or something similar to that. But on the other hand, they understand that they rule a country, which is really multinational and multiracial and multi-ethnic, and pronouncing one ethnic group as a dominant one has its dangers. On the other hand, another thing that stops them from going full Nazi or fully nationalistic is that, I already mentioned, this myths of The Great World War and the fighting against German Nazis, and these myths, these sorts of archetype supports Putin because he and the regime as a whole always claim themselves to be the descendants of these brave Soviet warriors who fought Nazis. That’s why they avoid directly discriminating against ethnic groups, or at least stating this explicitly, although, probably personally, they would these to happen. But politically, they are trying to avoid this. We have no evidence that the situation of ethnic minorities in Russia changed a lot since the war started.

There are problems, but it’s not that there is any apartheid or something like that. We know that the Ukrainian citizens in Russia are now often subjected to questioning. They have visits from the police, because citizens of the country with which Russia is at war right now, even when Russia itself doesn’t mean that it is in a war, up to now at least, it was just questioning. Essentially, the police come to a Ukrainian family and ask them: “Are you going to commit any terrorist acts? Do you have relatives in Ukraine?” It’s relatively soft, up to now, but we closely monitor the situation. We don’t know what might happen next.

TFSR: Because we’ve talked about the censorship that’s occurring around the information getting to parts of the Russian population, do you have a sense of what the morale might be inside of the military? Can you talk a little bit about the universal military obligation or draft in Russia and who gets out of it and how they can do that?

Petr: There is a draft in Russia. Every male after turning 18 has to serve for one year in the army, except when he starts studying at the university and it’s a long and venerable Russian tradition to avoid the draft. It’s been like that in the Russian Empire, in the Soviet Union, and it’s still like this in the Russian Federation. No one or almost no one wants to serve in the army. That’s almost universal. That’s why people try to avoid the army, by all means possible, even before the war, by paying money to the officials, by entering the University, even if they didn’t want actually to study, etc. Of course, now, when there is a real danger of being sent to a real war, even fewer people actually want to serve. Since currently, Russia seems to be losing this war, and there are rumors of actually announcing this total mobilization and sending all the conscripts to the war to Ukraine, we expect that there certainly will be protests or at least conflicts concerning this. We are trying to observe this and once we noticed that anything is happening try to help the protesters, help those who are trying to organize against this conscription, etc.

About the morale inside the military. It’s difficult to say because we don’t have any spies in the Russian army. Judging by the news, I guess, you more or less read the same news as us, it seems that the morale is not that high. Also, because as I’ve said, it’s some a mind-blowing fact to any Russian soldier that he is now serving the role of an invader. Because all his life he was taught that his role is to defend his country against invaders. Now he’s the invader. Also because no one actually wanted to really play a part in the war. All these soldiers didn’t want to really risk their lives in real battle. I’d say that the morale is low. There were some rumors about soldiers rioting somewhere near the border against sending them to Ukraine. But there were no independent confirmations about this. It’s still just some rumors. We definitely expect that there will be some riots, some soldiers rejecting the orders, etc.

TFSR: I guess on Telegram loops and on social media I have seen a video of captured Russian soldiers explaining why they’re there. That sounds also like a terrible situation to be in. But I can’t blame someone for capturing an invading soldier. Or a video of older women confronting soldiers and saying, “You should really put some sunflower seeds in your pockets so that when we kill you, at least something good will grow”. I’m sure the vitriol that they’re facing has done quite a deal on them when they’re being told that if anything they’re going to liberate people or to defend people. It makes me wonder if they’re not doing so well in this facet of the war — this is speculation, but if the Russian government might decide to focus more on the aerial bombardment because it’s easier to push a button and kill a bunch of people than it is to go in and face snipers who know the territory.

Petr: I guess that’s more or less what everyone now agrees on. That it seems that indeed, this is the tactics that the Russian army or the Russian government has chosen now. If we can’t win by conventional weapons, then let’s just bomb them. Because I guess they use more or less the same tactics in Syria and Chechnya. It seems to them that it brings them victory. Why shouldn’t it be used here in Ukraine? Of course, Ukraine is a bit different, because it still has its military, more or less, well, not intact, but still in an operational state. Also, unfortunately, the world didn’t pay so much attention to cities being bombed in Syria, the world does pay a lot of attention to cities being bombed in Ukraine. From this point of view, I’m not sure that these tactics will be actually profitable for the Russian army. But they certainly starting to do something that, they’re bombing more and more civilian buildings, residential buildings, etc. Unfortunately, that’s definitely the case.

TFSR: The last few decades, since the end of the Cold War, and since the end of the Soviet Union have brought a few shifts and changes in international arms treaties. I know, in the last six years, the US has stepped aside from anti-nuclear proliferation treaties that included Russia, as a signatory, and now there’s a lot of concerns that if NATO or US (as a more active element within NATO) decided to escalate participation, or actually start participating on the ground that it could spark a nuclear war. Do you have a sense of people seeing that in Russia as a possibility? How do you feel about that?

Petr: People in Russia definitely do see this as a possibility, especially because Putin himself mentioned that in his speech, when he actually announced the start of the war, he mentioned that we have nuclear power, etc. Also, many people, especially those who are older still remember the Soviet times when the expectation of nuclear war was more or less permanent. It’s not something entirely new.

I’d say that many people that I know at least, definitely are afraid of this. Also, there is a lot of evidence that Putin is not entirely in his mind. He definitely has some mental problems, which means that probably there is not much to prevent him from starting a nuclear war if a demon in his head tells him to do so. Or angels? I don’t know what he has in his head. People are definitely afraid of this, they hope that these are still just hollow threats. But you might never know. I personally think that we should be afraid of this, that, indeed, the Russian nuclear power is now in the hands of, first of all, a person who is definitely a bit mentally unhealthy, second of all, his state apparatus, which is fine-tuned to obey its head and to essentially just tell its head, which is Putin, whatever Putin wants. In this configuration, there is not much resistance to possibly pressing this nuclear button. I think that the danger is real, unfortunately.

TFSR: There’s been a lot of talks of NATO states avoiding sending troops so as not to escalate in that way, but sending weapons instead and imposing further sanctions on the Russian economy, including the ending of purchases of oil, or the capping or slowing of those purchases, which is a major part of the Russian economy, the exporting of petroleum products. How does this affect regular people inside of Russia? How much do you think that it actually affects the rich and the bureaucrats directly?

Petr: It definitely affects regular people. Exchange rates just increased twice or three times over a couple of days, which means that essentially people lost half of their salaries. There are already lots of problems with the goods in the shops, with logistic chains, etc. It’s really a large, profound systemic effect on the Russian economy, even if some people do not yet see it immediately, but it’s definitely there. It definitely will affect regular people a lot. They will become much poorer than they were before that.

How does it affect the rich and the elite class? That’s a good question. It definitely affects them to some extent. We see all these boats being captured all around the world, and we see assets, frozen, etc. The businesses that they own also suffer because of all these sanctions. It’s difficult to estimate whom it affects more, the regular people or the rich. I don’t even know how it can be measured. All I can say is that it definitely influences people.

Some of the sanctions, I guess, make sense in terms of stopping this Putinist military machine and essentially, just slowing down the military part of the economy. But other sanctions, for example, this Visa and MasterCard payment systems blocking transactions of Russians abroad, essentially prohibiting them to use payment cards issued by Russian banks abroad. This makes sense maybe from the pure ethical point of view, but from the point of view of at least allowing people to flee the country and then use their money abroad, this is not that good. I know many people who fled the country because they were some anti-Putin activists, but then their payment cards were blocked, and they essentially were left abroad without any money at all. There are very contradictory opinions about sanctions. I don’t have any clear answer, whether they’re beneficial or not, but definitely, people will suffer. They’re suffering already.

TFSR: Do you think that anti-state, anti-capitalist, libertarian leftists, and anarchists are poised to make good use of the momentum against the war and the increased pressure within Russia to bring about some change? Even if it starts from a small place, including the anti-militarist, anti-draft sentiments?

Petr: The short answer is that I would like to believe it. The long answer is that, as I’ve said, there were literally two decades of destroying the protest landscape, including anarchists. There are very few anarchist or libertarian left organizations that are still capable of actually organizing something massive or mobilizing significant numbers of people.

Having said that I still think that the current situation is somewhat promising as well. It’s bad, but it’s there is some silver lining in this cloud. Because lots of people, including those from the anarchist movement, actually think that based on what we see now, the Russian Federation, as we know it, probably will not survive in the next several months or several years. Because, indeed, the economic situation is quite tough now and it’s really catastrophic, because of the sanctions. And because of the war, war is an expensive business as well. also because of purely political things, because, as I’ve said, Putin probably planned to finish this war very quickly, in a couple of days. But he failed in this. And within the circles of his friends and henchmen and military generals, top hats, etc… they do not do it very much when someone fails. It’s not something tolerated. We expect definitely that the power struggles at the top of the Kremlin chair will intensify. Probably, the regime will somehow collapse in this or that way, comparatively soon, we cannot announce any particular date, but there is this feeling.

In this situation, we probably have good chances to establish or at least help to establish something more decentralized and more libertarian on the ruins of this collapsed regime. It’s still a good question to what extent we’ll be able to do anything meaningful. But at least nowadays, we’re trying to spread the word, spread the libertarian and anarchist ideas, and trying to push gently these anti-war vibes, anti-war protests into a more anti-authoritarian channel. To explain to people that to stop the war, it’s not enough to simply get the troops back, you also have to remove Putin from the Kremlin. We also need to make sure that no second Putin arrives there. I’d say that we can make good use of this moment, we have to try.

TFSR: How have Russians and anarchists in particular reacted to the recent military interventions in Kazakhstan and the backing of the Belarus dictatorship?

Petr: Here the answer is simple, we definitely stood in solidarity with the Belarusian protests. Lots of our comrades, anarchists from Belarus participated in these protests, lots of them are jailed for this, some of them for really long sentences. We supported them and lots of Russian anarchists actually went to Belarus to participate in these protests. The events in Kazakhstan are more complicated, meaning that there is still some fog of war there, it’s still not entirely clear what happened in Kazakhstan. Was it a military coup d’etat or was it a folk revolution? Was it something else? I guess we’re still trying to find out. But we definitely supported the protests in the western parts of the country against gas prices increasing. We definitely tried to resist, to protest against sending Russian troops to Kazakhstan. Because this is all parts of the same chain, sending troops to Ukraine, sending troops to Kazakhstan is part of this empire politics by Putin, by the Russian state. It looks at Kazakhstan and Ukraine and Belarus as its sphere of influence, which they should rule. We as anarchists may surely oppose this way of thinking, in general. We do not think that any empire has the right to tell the people what to do.

TFSR: Do you get much of a sense of Russian sentiments from the wider population about those two interventions or are they kind of hard to gauge?

Petr: In Belarus, there was no military intervention. Russian troops did not enter Belarus, or at least officially didn’t enter. Russia helped the Belarusian dictatorship only with money, lots of money. They also sent some TV propagandists, media managers to help the Belarusian propaganda. There was no clear military intervention, although, Russian troops, are now in Belarus, and they actually attacked Ukraine from the territory of Belarus. But that’s just because they signed lots of agreements. Putin and Lukashenko are best friends now. That’s happening all the time, but there was no intervention.

The general opinion of the Russian public about Kazakhstan, people just didn’t have enough time to actually understand what’s happening. It happened in 10 days, or even less. I don’t think that there is any sentiment, which is shared by a large part of the Russian population about this. Most Russians just don’t care a lot about Kazakhstan in general. It’s difficult for me to give any clear estimate about this.

About Belarus, the Russian society was polarized by the riots and protests in Belarus. Those who were more conservative have this nostalgic feeling about Belarus reminding them about Soviet times. They believed that these were protests inspired by the West, which is poised to destroy this island of the Soviet Union. They definitely were against the protests and they supported Lukashenko. Other parts of the society, more liberal, were unilaterally against Lukashenko and they supported the protests by whatever means possible. It’s very polarized.

TFSR: Do you have any words for comrades internationally or who are in Ukraine, who might hear this? How can anarchists abroad support the efforts of dissidents within Russia, and everyone living under the Putin regime who are resisting?

Petr: We are in contact with our comrades in Ukraine. It’s not like we are disconnected, there is a constant flow of information from here to there, and from there to here.

But anyway, the main words that we can send them is that they are fighting not just for themselves, or for Ukraine, they are fighting for Russia as well, because we really believe that, as it happened a lot in historical times, a lost war often meant the fall of the regime in Russia. We definitely believe this will be another case of that. Stay strong. Defeat Putin. We in Russia, or internationally, will help you to do this as much as possible.

About the question how can anarchists abroad support the efforts of dissidents in Russia? The best way to do this is to spread the information, spread the word that it’s not the case that the entire Russian population supports this war, there are dozens of thousands of people on the streets, thousands of those who are arrested. There are political organizations or groups, even if not that large, but still dozens of people who are actively working against war and organizing protests, meaning designing leaflets, printing leaflets, starting websites or groups in social media, etc. All of this is extremely important. If you want to support people with something else, not just with the word, we have several cryptocurrency wallets, I can send you privately the numbers. If someone wants to give money to printing leaflets, paying for websites, paying for the fees which our comrades have after being arrested in the street protests, please do. We will be grateful for that.

TFSR: Yeah. Is there anything that I failed to ask about that you want to talk about?

Petr: I guess we covered all the important topics. The only thing is probably that in the current situation, it’s quite important not to fall victim to propaganda from both sides. Both from the Russian side, and from the Ukrainian and broadly, the general Western side. Unfortunately, we sometimes see in the Western media some anti-Russian vibe, which is probably understandable in times of war. But at the same time, it’s quite dangerous, I think. As I’ve said, it’s really important to always separate the actions of the Russian government, which Russian people didn’t elect, to begin with, and the actions or the opinions of those who actually live in Russia, and who suffer from the actions of the Russian government. The Kremlin does not occupy just Ukraine, it actually occupies Russia as well. I think that is an important thing to remind people about.

TFSR: Absolutely. Petr, how can people follow your work and the work of Autonomous Action?

Petr: We have a website avtonom.org and it has an English section. We don’t have enough resources to translate all the materials into English but we try to translate at least the most important ones. You can also find the links to our social media there. We have all sorts of channels that you can expect, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, even Instagram. You can follow us on whatever channel you prefer.

TFSR: VK?

Petr: VK, you mean this Russian social network VKontakte? Yes, we have a page there. But we do not recommend using it. It’s owned by the Russian state. Don’t use VK.

TFSR: If listeners do speak Russian, or besides the written content on the website and on social media, you’ve also got a podcast on Sound Cloud, right? But it’s in Russian.

Petr: Yes, it’s in Russian, it’s weekly. People definitely can subscribe to it on YouTube, Sound Cloud, or whatever, or just listen to it from our website. We are trying to give a weekly anarchist analysis of what is happening. We see that many people actually subscribe. It seems that the format is convenient for the audience. We’re quite proud of it actually.

TFSR: I see that some of the notes from those are getting translated. I imagine if someone does have those language skills also and wants to contribute offering to do translations of some of the stuff published on the site might be helpful?

Petr: That would be great. CrimethInc. actually, did some translation on their own initiative. But we definitely need translators, so if someone feels they have these skills, they’re definitely welcome to contact us by any means possible.

TFSR: It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and thank you again for taking the time and for all the work that you’re doing.

Petr: Thanks for having me and hope that the war will be stopped.

TFSR: And then the states.

Anarchists in Ukraine Against War

Anarchists in Ukraine Against War

"No War Between Nations! No Peace Between Classes!” A mural in Moscow promoting Autonomous Action.
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On Thursday, February 24th, I spoke with Ilya, a Russian anarchist living and organizing in Kyiv, Ukraine. We spoke about the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, the Maidan uprising and war in the Donbass, resistance to the invasion of Ukraine and the Putin regime, conspiracy theories about Ukraine promoted by Russia and Russian-aligned media outlets, critiques of the Ukrainian state, and anarchists choosing their own path of self-defense and revolutionary mutual aid in the face of invading armies.

You can learn more, following anarchists organizing resistance on the ground in Ukraine and find out how to donate to their initiatives and share your solidarity by visiting https://linktr.ee/operation.solidarity .

To hear interviews about resistance and repression in Russia from the last decade, check out our past interviews. You can also find an interview from the period of the Maidan protests as well as experiences from Belarus.

We’re releasing this episode a little early to get this voice out at such an important moment. No war but the class war, y’all!

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Featured Track:

Лютая погодка by Граница from their 2012 album Знамя Цвета Ночи (written by Fedir Shchus of the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine / Makhnovichina)

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Transcription

TSFR: Would you please introduce yourself with whatever name, preferred gender pronouns, location or political affiliations that make sense for this conversation?

Ilya: Yes, my name is Ilya . I am an anarchist from Russia, currently living in Kyiv and staying in Kyiv.

TSFR: I’d like to ask you a bit about what’s been going on in Ukraine for the last few months, with international tensions. But I kind of feel like a brief rundown of the sort of the relationship between Ukraine historically and with Russia would be kind of helpful. Could you speak a little bit about the historical relationship? Or the Soviet Union as it was at one point? What sort of like emotional or nationalist claims does Russia make for occupying Crimea or for occupying Ukraine?

Ilya: Oh, yes, sure, we have some, like big tensions at least from the autumn. But it also happened through past several years, several times already, where some threat of war was believed to be in the air. But as we see only now, it really came into reality at full scale.

So this is… how to say, this strategy of blackmailing and of pressure, which was made by the Putinist government on the local authorities, also on the local system. And the relations are very bad between the two countries since 2014. Since after Maidan protests of 2013-14 and removal of the pro-Russian President Yanukovych, Russia invaded Crimea and annexed it and also invaded the Donbass region, using some more loyal parts of the local population to Russia. So historically, I guess maybe it doesn’t making a lot of sense to go really deep into the historical context. So we can say briefly that in the very old times, maybe around 1000 or 700 years ago who are today Ukrainians and Russians (then just Eastern Slavic peoples) were a part of common political entity and also have common linguistic group. We are all still in the Eastern Slavic group, both Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, which speak pretty close languages. But then their historical ways, they really separated for some reasons. And then by the end, it started already in 17th century and finished in late 18th century, when the territory of modern Ukraine was incorporated into the Russian Empire. And since then, we can speak actually about colonization of local territories by the Russian empire. With the Soviet revolution, labels changed, the equality of peoples was declared and also internationalism as a main policy, but still actually we can say that Soviet Union in many aspects, was still a very imperially designed state, with the center in Moscow with the predominance of Russian language. And in many different ways centered the political and economical system of Moscow, of Russia.

So after Soviet Union collapsed, all the republics which constructed the Soviet Union in general, they got actual state independence. But then after Putin came into power in 1999, he started this, I would say, neo-imperialist or neo-colonialist organizational politics of restoring the Russian State influence on the former Soviet Union area. His politics about helping pro-Russian presidents to come into power like with Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, and then harsh reaction in situations like when these presidents were overthrown, especially by the popular uprising, such as the Maidan uprising. It was even not electoral protest process, it was a really popular movement which threw Yanukovych out of power and kept him out. Since then, I think we can count the start of the modern stage of Ukrainian-Russian relations, since 2014 with the Yanukovych ousting and Crimea annexation.

TSFR: There’s definitely some people in the quote unquote anti imperialist left in other parts of the world that are saying that the territorial integrity of Russia and its border is being threatened by the de facto participation of Ukraine in the EU or relationship to the European Union or relationship to NATO, as if Ukraine is necessarily it’s either a part of the Russian Federation in the restoration of historical Russia or historical Soviet Union of the Stalin era, or it is gobbled up and controlled as a puppet state by the European Union and and by NATO, by Western capitalist powers or imperialist powers. I’m sure a lot of our conversations going to sort of play with that idea and break it down. But can you talk about that idea, or how that relates to the the Maidan movement and the annexation of the Donbass and Crimea, and what what’s happened in those territories?

Ilya: Yes. So maybe first we can touch on this nationalist sentiment, which you mentioned previously. Because our peoples, Ukrainians and Russians are historically close and also linguistically and culturally close. It’s also because of years of some imperialist role that there is widespread of usage of Russian language around here, especially eastern and southern parts of the country. They speak predominantly Russian. And this gives space for speculations that actually we are one people as, for example, Putin likes to speculate. And that there is some somehow historical reasons for our so called “geopolitical integrity.” Which is, of course, just a propagandistic tool for some authoritarian power with some geopolitical ambitions to use these historical and cultural toys for their own benefit to make some speculative ground for their invasions.

So if we then jump to this problem of NATO and the EU, bringing Ukraine into their zone of influence by NATO and European Union. Of course, it’s really it really takes place, especially since 2014, because new authorities which came into power after the Maidan uprising. They were clearly pro-Western and its’s also hard to deny that a lot of locals have some pro-Western sentiment. Because for people in Eastern Europe, and in all post-Soviet nations, the Western world still creates a role model of lifestyle. I would say, because European Union is very close [geographically] and is not that culturally distant. And still they have this, how to say, nice and comfortable Western life. And many people think in our regions, not only in Ukrainian, Belarusian in Russia, as well, in every corner of post Soviet space… People dream about having a life like this. And this is also a matter to be used by some political manipulators of so called pro-Western orientation. And Ukraine is not excluded or even a bright example of that. However still, any expansion of NATO and European Union is actually superficial, because there were not really even any suggestions or proposals for the Ukraine to join these organizations.

So this, let’s say, very chimerical, artificial threat for Russian statehood is once again used as a tool to justify pressure and invasion. These attempts to make, as you said already, Ukraine [into] a puppet state for Putin’s regime, or to wage war, as we see today.

TSFR: You‘ve mentioned that there are more people in the east and the south who speak Russian, maybe are in the Orthodox Church, or, in some ways identify with Russia. Can you say a few words about the quote unquote People’s Republics in Donetsk and Luhansk. And their relationship to Russia. The Duma just asked Putin to recognize the independence of these states and he said that it was years late, that he should have done this before. But to your understanding, is there any truth that these are republics?

Ilya: How to say… Ukrainian society is a very multi layered in the cultural aspects. So linguistic affiliations, as well as religious affiliations, they don’t necessarily at all construct some political loyalties, especially in terms like pro-Russian or pro-Western. Yes, southern and eastern regions, they are very much Russian speaking. But in no way at all does the majority of the people or even a considerable number of the people support the integration with Putinist Russia. No way! It’s just not like this. Also the Orthodox Church here is separated into different factions. We have here both the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and also Ukrainian branch of Moscow Orthodox Church. This separation somehow influence the political loyalties, but also not totally. Even if a person is Russian speaking, and go into Ukrainian branch of Moscow Orthodox Church, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this person is loyal to the Russian government. But still yes, in Crimea, and in eastern and southern regions, there are more sympathizers for Russian state and also for the Putinist regime. And for example, so called Oppositional Platform, the party which is still present present in Ukrainian parliament, holds clearly pro-Putin positions, and still mostly supported in southern and eastern areas. But by no way by the majority of the population.

So what I want to say briefly that a lot of people who speaks mostly Russian here, they still don’t want to be integrated in some new Russian new empire, or to be subjugated by Putin’s regime.

And about the political nature… Crimea is another story. A lot of people, I would say, actually associated themselves with Russia in this territory. But it is also far from being the social consensus in Crimea. For example, the indigenous people of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars, are a large part of the population and are really unhappy and disloyal to the so called new [Russian] authorities in Crimea. And they even try to resist it somehow. So there is also a split within Crimean community, I would say, would be correct to say.

About so called to popular Republic’s, of course, they are not Republic’s at all, they could never exist without direct support from the Russian state, both in economical conditions and more important by military conditions. So of course, we need to say that there is some support from the grassroots for this republic, but is not not even nearly enough to hold any anti-Ukrainian separatists insurgency. So this is not an authentic, separatist movement. Actually, this is totally orchestrated by Russian state and military. These are not republics at all. Actually, I would say, they’re criminal quasi-states, ruled by some sort of mafias, which is called governments of this so called “republics.” And these mafias hold the power, since they are fully controlled and fully loyal and fully manipulated by Kremlin.

TSFR: In the past month, and particularly, it’s been escalating, you’ve seen more than 100,000 Russian troops along the eastern border with Ukraine, the participation in impromptu drills and war games involving 10s of 1000s of aligned Belarusian troops to the north, naval deployments in the sea south of Ukraine, and the activation of troops in occupied Moldova. There have even been nuclear training exercises in recent days. And as I’m hearing, there’s been shelling already in the Donbass, but I’ve heard that shelling has actually started in other parts of Ukraine, the parts that aren’t occupied.

There’s also this this issue that Western governments and the Ukrainian government saying Russia is going to do a “false flag” activity to claim a reason to do an invasion. And there was in fact, a car bomb of the head of security forces in one of the quote unquote People’s Republics that Russia was claiming was a terrorist act and an activity by the Ukrainian government. I guess we’ve sort of already talked about how this is just Russian expansion.

Is there any sort of activity any sort of truth to these, what’s been called false flag activities? Or or the claims of active genocide in the eastern part of the country against Russian speaking peoples, which the Putin administration regime has been using as an argument of why they needed to defend them?

Ilya: First of all, you’re absolutely correct. Today, early morning, we got up because every parts of Ukraine were actually bombed by heavy airstrikes from the Russian side. As far as I can estimate up to now, their main targets were both civil and military airports, and also other military targets. But they bombed pretty near to the civilian inhabited places, and as far as I know, up to now dozens of civilians already killed by Putinist forces from the sky.

About your question… In no way do I want to whitewash the Ukrainian state. First of all, I would not call Ukrainian state “super nationalist”, even though this is, of course, a classic nation state, actually, with all its obvious shortcomings. And also with some politics for ethnic and national unification, which is unjust, of course. So what else should be said about it? This is also very neoliberal and poor state, providing continuously and extensively neoliberal reforms which are reducing social help and safety for the working people, for the poor people of this country. And some nationalist sentiment, of course, is present in this society. Some people believe that people here should speak only Ukrainian language, because the Russian language was absolutely the colonizer’s language. But this is, of course, nonsense, from my point of view, because millions of Ukrainians prefer Russian language. All this creates splits within this society, and creates tensions and create a space for some political advances of certain political forces.

But of course, there is no ethnic cleansing, there is no genocide. This is absolutely over-exaggeration, which is used consciously by Russian forces, by Putinist forces, I would prefer to say, to play this card of military invasion and of their political expansion. There is no, how to say, forcing people to speak another language, for example, and there is no really repression and violence against people who may not fit well into Ukrainian nation state frame. There are certain problems, of course, but what we see today, is just an attempt to over-exaggerate all the problems and to instrumentalize these problems for clearly imperialist aggression.

Just now curfew is declared in Kiev from 10pm, but we still have a lot of time before it. Okay?

TSFR: Okay. So we see with the air raids, with the bombings that are happening, it’s clear that Russia is not just about saber-rattling, which a lot of people were proposing beforehand… that it was more about getting international attention and proving itself that it can destabilize the Ukrainian economy and bring a lot of other world powers to the table. This was kind of an assumption of Putin’s logic. But at this point, obviously, it’s it’s more than that. A lot of people were saying beforehand that it didn’t seem likely that the Russian regime would end up invading because the military force that they could muster probably wouldn’t be enough to actually occupy Ukraine. Between all of the aid that’s been coming internationally, the buildup of NATO and US troops and neighboring countries, the training of the Ukrainian population in Civil Defense forces that seem to be preparing for the possibility of guerrilla warfare against an occupation… But all of that aside, Russia’s doing what it’s doing right now.

Did trying to figure out what was going on with the Russian administration and where their decision making was.. was that helpful, do you think or was that kind of a distraction, to actually preparing for the real possibility of what we’re seeing now?

Ilya: Well, if I understood your question correctly, I would think that the Russian government… I am far from thinking that they are like stupid or crazy or something, but somehow they are really going wild. Because they feel that they are somehow facing the final battle now. They have lost popularity within Russia actually, and they need some more doping, I would say, to make it increase again, internal popularity. They also feel that the so-called “international community” is actually a weak and fragmented and they try to use these holes within the international community, and with this world establishment consensus, to make some game change and to provide their authoritarian interests. I think we can compare it fairly well with the behavior of Turkish state, which has their own, let’s say, “popular republics” in Syria, for example, and also extending their influence abroad its borders. So I think these two new imperialist states, they make actually very similar politics.

So for me, it seems that they understand… And also we need to do remember that since 2014, when European sanctions were imposed, the economical situation in Russia has been worsening from year to year, which also contributes to a growing unpopularity of this regime, in Russian minds, I would say. Because of this, I think that the Russian authorities feel themselves still very powerful, and they are actually, but at the same time they feel themselves a little bit like in the “Ragnarok” film, like in some final battle for them to protect their privileged position and their full control over the country and abroad. And that is the reason why I think they play such wild games, both inside Russia and abroad.

TSFR: Are you aware of anti militarist opposition inside of the Russian Federation, like this building conflict has been simultaneous to Russia aiding suppression in Belarus by Lukashenko as well as putting down the Kazakh unrest?

Ilya: Oh, yes, I am. I know that a lot of people in Russia don’t like war at all. I know this, I’m pretty sure about this. This is obvious for me. At the same time, you need to know that all political opposition, from liberal, far right, and anarchist and leftist side were extensively smashed during the last year’s. For example, you probably heard, even in the the US about the so called “Network Case” against Russian anarchists, and a lot of different cases like this were going on. So they also killed opposition leaders, like Liberal leader Boris Nemtsov, they have imprisoned Alexei Navalny, who is one of the biggest populist liberal leaders in Russian opposition.

So they did work well to destroy all the opposition forces. Since 2011, we had several sparks, I would say, sparks of a resistance, of really broad protest movements. But they didn’t succeed finally, they were more or less co-opted or smashed by the state or they just died because time passed away and they still gained no results. And after each of these sparks, the government use their opportunity to suppress more and more the opposition. One big last increase of the protests we saw last winter in January 2021 when this populist Navalny returned to Russia and many of his supporters. But also even more of just people unhappy with the situation in the country, they really came to the streets in many, many Russian cities to protest Putin’s politics. But they are all were suppressed. And then repressions became even harder and dozens of people were imprisoned. So now human rights defenders, speak about at least of 1,000 political prisoners in Russia. And we need to know that actually, there are many more because human rights defenders, they do not recognize all the people who are being imprisoned for their political activities.

Because of this now, there are a lot of unhappiness with this war in Russia, but there is no organizational tools, some movement tools, which could mobilize the people of Russia to protest against it. We already saw today, several separate actions against the invasion and against the war in Russia in different cities of Russia, but it’s still not a massive and organized movement. For example, we see no big demonstrations, as far as I know. I still hope to see them and maybe if war continues it will happen. But up to up today, it doesn’t exist, because this government made conscious work to destroy an internal opposition. But still for example, it is interesting that when Coronavirus, vaccination started, this anti-vax movement, they gained also big grounds in Russian society. And authorities even had to go several steps back with this vaccination and certifications programs. You hardly expect from Putin and from Russian authorities to have to go any steps back, but at that time they had to because they really saw a large unhappiness growing within the population. So I’m still far from thinking they are almighty, even internally, not at all. There is some, how to say, some ghosts of protest and revolutionary movement within Russia, which still didn’t take its forms. But it definitely is present. It definitely exists. And this is one of the factors which is making the Putinist government wild enough to make such initiatives, let’s say, as they are today.

TSFR: I kind of a side note, and a question that I have in relation to COVID in Russia is… In the West, media has represented a lot of protests around COVID to be around a distrust of the quality of the shots that the Russian government was making. And maybe that’s a misrepresentation. And maybe it actually is antivax overall, in similar conspiracy-theory-ways that we have in the West too, but is that is there any truth to that? What do you think was motivating the antivax movement in Russia?

Ilya: Well, I think there is actually a lot of how to say, this so called COVID skepticism, and a little bit of being skeptical about medicine, as well as which we can treat as some sort of ignorance which actually exists within the population. But at the same time, another portion of this antivax motivation, which may differ from what we have in the West, but I’m maybe mistaken, is that Russian population highly doesn’t believe the authorities, it doesn’t believe that any good will come from above. They want to resist any invasion of the state programs within their private lives, because they know that the write a lot of lies, going from TV channels, and from the heights persons of the state. They have experienced many tricks from there and because of that they just don’t believe the authorities. And this was one of the factors for why antivax sentiments blossomed in in Russia.

TSFR: So as I understood, the Maidan protests, in part were a push against the rule by Ukrainian oligarchs, although maybe it was in favor of some oligarchs over others. And they had vast control, in many ways parallel to the Russian oligarchs, who Putin rules alongside. Some people, at least, who are arguing against the Russian invasion are positing it as supporting Ukraine, you’ve already laid a critique that it’s a poor neoliberal state, a capitalist state. Can you can you talk a little bit more breaking apart these ideas of being against the invasion and in favor of self-defense of the population versus supporting Ukraine as a political project or state?

Ilya: Yes, I do it with pleasure, actually, because this is, I believe the most important point.

But first of all, some preliminary words. Actually, the Russian system and Ukrainian systems are very different because all the Russian oligarchs are more or less subjugated to this unified authoritarian rule of Putin and his clique, which originates more in former Soviet secret services of which Putin is a former member of. So this is a pretty unified model of control from one center, which is this, we call “Silovic.” I know that even in the West, this word is in usage now, like with this secret services set as the political center. Now in Ukraine situation is another there, there is really competing oligarch clans struggling for power and for bigger zones of economical and political influence.

You’re absolutely correct. Maidan uprising had a lot of anti-oligarchical intention, because this oligarchy rule is really something which makes this country very poor and vulnerable. At the same time, surprisingly, both countries are absolutely neoliberal. Even though Putin has some social populism, year after year for decades now already, he has provided neoliberal reforms. And also, the strengthening social vulnerability of the working people of the ordinary people. And the Ukrainian society is still much less state controlled. That is an important point. The Ukrainian state is not better than other states. But it just has much less tools to control and to subjugate its own population. This is still somehow pluralistic, absolutely unlike the Russian situation. And I would say there is still a much more free atmosphere around here. This is not a coincidence that, for example, many comrades from Russia and Belarus they find shelter exactly here. Because much less political repression and state violence is present here. So here, we still see a lot of grounds for making some grassroots initiatives, direct democracy projects, and any, I would say, even social revolutionary developments. While in Russia, we see just this authoritarian hammer, I would say, which smashes everything which it meets in its way. So this is one of the big reasons why it needs to be confronted. The Ukrainian state has a lot of disadvantages. But the Ukrainian society really should be protected from this totalitarian threat that it faces today and that it has actually faced already for decades, since Putinist expansionist politics are starting to be implemented.

So this is exactly our reason, or why to participate in it. We believe in radical social changes within Ukrainian society. But for this, exactly for this, and not for protecting some state sovereignty, which doesn’t make sense for us. Exactly for the possibility for positive social changes should the Putinist invasions should be severely confronted. And I would say that this is the moment of truth, because in worse situations the grassroots very often is killed off. And self-organization, solidarity, mutual aid really take ground within the population, especially when elites betray the population. Several days before the invasions, many politicians of Ukraine, they just flew away on their private jets. So we see pretty clearly that the state is not a friend at all for the Ukrainian people. So this is our fight! Our fight is for the people is for protecting the grounds for the future revolutionary changes, which is now being deadly threatened by the Putinist threat.

TFSR: So one of the conspiracy theories that has been promoted by authoritarians in the so called “anti imperialist left,” often not promoting leftist values on social justice, but often aligned with Russian regime and others viewed as being oppositional to the USA, has been that the Maidan movement was a CIA operation to promote the far-right groups such as Pravyi sektor or Svoboda into taking power in a bloodthirsty drive to ethnically cleanse Russians in the Donbass. Can you talk about this view of what happened or this view of the Ukrainian state or culture in terms of the far-right influence?

Ilya: Yes, well as the good teacher of the authoritarian propaganda, Göbbels, said that if you want your lies to be believed in, you should use some kernals of truth in it. So yes, the far-right, had a strong presence in Maidan uprising, because they were organizing pretty well before it, like for four years before it. And it was also somehow affiliated with the authorities, with the secret services as far as we can estimate, and also with some criminal business and so on. Because of this, they faced this Maidan uprising on a pretty good footing, which gave them an opportunity to develop somehow their organizations within Maidan upgrising and after it.

But still, in first approach, this is the lie that the Ukrainian far-right took more grounds for ethnic cleansing of the Russian speaking population, because there is still no actually ethical cleansing of this population. And also, really far-right nationalist parties are not even present in Parliament. Because, honestly, I don’t give a lot of shit who is present in Parliament. But more important for me, when I participated in Maidan uprising, I saw by my own eyes 100,000s of just ordinary people, of grassroots people rebelling against the oligarchical rule, against their humiliation imposed by the uncontrollable criminal President Yanukovych. Of course, many powers tried to intervene and tried to influence this. Not only from the Right, it was Liberals, some fake opposition parties created by different local oligarch clans, which we already mentioned today. All of them tried their best to influence the movement. And I would say, oligarch Poroshenko, which became next president, was pretty successful in it. And we can say that Maidan is once again a betrayed revolution, like a revolution which was stolen from the people by the oligarchs. But the Maidan uprising itself was definitely less of a nationalist movement and much more of grassroot popular movement against the authorities, against the government. This I would say.

TFSR: Yeah, and that, I mean, that makes absolute sense. When I think to something similar in the United States, like the Occupy movement, in some areas it was all sorts of different people coming for their own political reasons to be in that space because they had shared experience of misery under capitalism and alienation. And in some places, the Democratic Party was able to harness some of the energy. It definitely tried all over to either harness it or destroy it, if it couldn’t. And also, yeah, the relationship between the far right and and security forces is ubiquitous and international.

So, on the same topic, can you talk about the participation of groups like Azov battalion and fighting in the war in the Donbass that’s been happening since 2014, the training of far right foreigners and in paramilitary skills and the allowance of their existence in or alongside of the armed forces in in the Ukrainian military?

Ilya: Oh, yes, Azov voluntary battalion was formed soon after Maidan and really was a Nazi initiative to intervene in this conflict in Donbass. Soon after, they became a regular regiment of Ukrainian army and somehow integrated within the military hierarchy. So, now, they are not clearly “political” because as a part of the army which, it must be declared to be apart from any politics. But of course, it was a Nazi-originated, Nazi-built structure, these people, these Nazis, still really have a core presence in there and leadership within it. I have no strict information, but I heard many rumors but from believable sources that yes, lots of Western Nazis came, and also Russian Nazis actually, even more Russian Nazis, they came here to participate in Azov and also to train. Yes, this really exists and not only Azov battalion, they organize their civil branch which is called a National Corps Party which intervenes actively in Ukrainian political life but is also is very much discredited because its affiliation with criminal activities and also affiliation with the Interior Ministry of former Interior Minister Avakov. And all this is called Azov Movement, which is a pretty far right movement even now, even though they’re now trying to play somehow that “we are not Nazis, we are not fascists, were just conservative nationalists.” But from origin, they’ve been Nazis. They are really in. Still I honestly honestly no information about any ethnic cleansing performed by them, surprisingly!

There are many Nazis here, for example, Dmitro Yarosh from Pravyi Sektor you mentioned, they originate, or many of National Corps. Dmitro Yarosh is from Dnipro city, and many of National Corps leaders, they’re from Kharkiv, from eastern cities, which are predominantly Russians-speaking. So here you can have a lot of Russian-speaking Nazis actually. So when somebody tries to portray that this is Ukrainian-speaking population against Russian-speaking population, this is a pure hoax and tricks.

So yes, as I said already before, Nazis are present a lot in local political life, this is true. But they are still much more weak than for example, just Oligarchical forces. Like, they are visible, they are horrible, but when somebody tries to manipulate that Ukrainian somehow a “Nazi state,” or a fascist state, this is of course, this is just a lie. This is just not true. And this is just a tool of manipulation for pro-Putinist forces, which unfortunately, too, grounds also in Western so-called “Anti-imperialist Movement,” because, a really anti-imperialist movement needs to be today with us here confronting this purely imperialist aggression.

TFSR: It seems like the opportunity is present, with the recognition that Nazis have been able to organize, far-right has been able to organize, and also that the Putinist forces are simultaneously trying to, they’re taking ground quite literally… It seems like an opportunity for anarchists and anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalists to reach out to their neighbors, provide alternatives, offer what you mentioned with mutual aid and also coordinating. Obviously, people tried to do that during the Maidan and got outflanked, basically.

Can you talk about the situation of anarchists and anti-authoritarian movements in Ukraine at the moment? I just saw messages this morning on social media of many anarchists, who had had to flee Belarus, for instance, to Ukraine deciding to stay and to try to defend the population against invasion. And it seems like a lot of people are sort of hunkering down and making that decision to stay. Can you talk about what that anarchist movement looks like?

Ilya: Yes, of course, I would say that Maidan was a really hard blow and the source of depression for the anarchist movement, because it provided a lot of splits about attitude and position about Maidan. Some comrades took one ground, other comrades took another one. And this provided a lot of quarrels. But even more was the negative influence that Maidan actually appeared as this “betrayed revolution,” as I already said before. Some people really believe that it would lead to some positive political changes, but it hardly led to any good changes within the society. So the anarchist movement, and I would say leftist movement in general, found itself in depression in Ukraine for years. But in the last few years, I think, we can speak about restoring movement because a lot of old participants and also new participants as well, are really making some analytical work around what needs to be done for the movement to reconstruct itself, to organize better and which alternatives we can provide for the society.

Of course, we need to confront a lot this nationalist sentiment, like about “our state of Ukraine,” this national sentiment, of course, is widespread within the society. This pro-Western sentiment I already mentioned about people dreaming of a good Western-like life. This is something we really need to work with and fight against. But this is possible. And of course, this, how to say, this “gray zone of Europe,” this weak state… Because Russia looks pretty stable, even though I believe that it’s not like this, actually. I don’t know, good English words for it, but the Russian Putinist regime is something super big which will collapse very quickly finally, i believe. The European Union, of course, looks as well pretty stable. And Ukraine is not like this. So of course, this is naturally the ground for the grassroots organizing and for some really very different political alternatives to be developed and presented, including our ones.

TFSR: So I guess in your view, and I know you’ve kind of addressed this already, but how have anarchists abroad been reacting to these developments? Not knowing what’s coming, for sure. But I mean, since the shellings already started, it seems kind of clear, but the situation might change… What forms of solidarity would you like to see coming from abroad?

For instance, Crimethinc just put out a tweet about calling for tonight at 7pm or 6pm everywhere for there to be demonstrations at Russian embassies. Is this one of the things that you’d like to see, is there more than that, that you’d like to see?

Ilya: Oh, yes.

First of all, I want to greet my comrades in Moscow, which yesterday held their actions against the invasions. It was anarchists who organized them and several were arrested. It means that actually anarchist comrades and some anti-war actions there actually already exist in Russia.

So the situation here now is actually first of all, a challenge for us… Will we be able to develop the narrative, the concept of libertarian participation, meaningful participation in this anti-imperialist resistance. It needs to be anti-imperialist resistance with some really social-revolutionary goals and prospects. Also, the next challenge to us if we will be able to form our structures, both in terms of self-defense, and of civil organizing, and as long as we will be able to do it, we need growing support informationally, and also by the actions of solidarity, and also maybe by some material support, of course, from our Western comrades. So any expression of solidarity already now is extremely appreciated and extremely needed throughout all the world.

If you want to make graffiti, do it, if you want to make demonstration against Russian or Belarusian embassy, do it. This is also a good point to support anarchists political prisoners, of which there are a lot of in Russia and Belarus. If you want to collect some money, do it, if you want to spread our information (which I hope will be extensively translated, like published first and translated into English as well), this is also a very good way to express your solidarity. So I believe solidarity actions are media and information will help. And also providing material support an infrastructural support for us, for anarchist movement here, for libertarian movement here, would be really good grounds for us to rely on.

TFSR: I guess one more question is… So, I’ve seen this discussed a little bit, not not the perspectives of people in Ukraine, but other anarchists elsewhere, talking about the difficulty of being engaged in or around official State organizations of defense, while keeping autonomy and keeping an anti-state, pro-social perspective. Can you talk a little bit about that balance? And what sort of discussions, anarchists and anti-authoritarian leftists in Ukraine are having about that?

Ilya: Yes, I think I can do it. Of course. Especially, this is the hard question in terms of self-defense because every authorized self-defense is coming from the state, more or less. So there is a challenge, like if we want to have self-defense and not be confronted on every front as we are a very few, so we need to collaborate somehow with the state military structures. And the question is, how not to assimilate to these structures, but still collaborate somehow having some sorts of autonomy and our own vision and perspective.

Well, I don’t want to lie to say that we have a perfect plan how to do it, but definitely we realize this problem and we will work and find some, I would say, tricky ways to do it to really have self-defense as independent from the state structures as possible. And I think this is what really political movements should do, like we see it a lot in Kurdistan, for example, this maneuvering to protect their own perspective and sovereignty. And this is at least in much less chaos than in Kurdistan, but in principle is the same as we are trying to do here.

Another important problem is, I will say ideological assimilation to the State discourse, because many people even who associate themselves with the anarchist movement, starting to say, “okay, we are not now just need to defend our country.” Well, in this situation to defend your country is pretty good, but this is not enough at all for the anarchist revolutionary. You need to develop some perspective for changes, like some ideas on how you want to influence political and social situations within the country. And this is also the matter of discussions of, somehow even very hot discussions, and our continuous thinking here. But more or less , most of us agree that we need within this struggle, anti-imperialist struggle, our participation in it. We need to express, to develop and express our anarchist narrative and program and ideas.

TFSR: Thank you so much Ilya, for having this conversation with me. And we’ll be sure to provide the the links that comrades in Ukraine have shared to keep up and I hope that this conversation helps get more people in the streets and good luck.

Ilya: Thanks a lot to you. Good luck. We’re staying in contact.

TFSR: Please. Yeah, and solidarity and share my love with the people there. I’ll let you go now. But take care.

Ilya: Yeah, thanks a lot. We are now here with the comrades finding out ways to do and we say greetings to you. Thanks for your support.

TFSR: Solidarity. Ciao.

The Russian Political Landscape and Anarchist Prisoners

The Russian Political Landscape and Anarchist Prisoners

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This week we’re featuring 2 guests speaking about Russia. First up, John spoke with author and journalist Dmitry Okrest about the state of anarchist and antifascist movements in Russia, the politics of Putin’s United Russia party, nazis and the far right in Russia and successes of the Communist Party in electoral politics. Then, Moscow Anarchist Black Cross member-in-exile, Antii Rautiainen, adds some more detail on repression in Russia, including the hunger strike of Network Case prisoner, Victor Filinkov, calls for solidarity from mathematician Azat Miftakhov and others.

Rad Russia-ish Links:

Dmitry Okrest’s Books:

Russian Limbo, Podcast about prisons: https://open.spotify.com/show/3tyBLCEQnvkY9L3DdrGry1

Antii Rautiainen’s podcast links:

Past interviews on repression in Russia:

Announcement

Keith “Comrade Malik” Washington

In a quick announcement, we want to note that The SF Bay View National Black Newspaper editor Nube Brown just published an article showing that Keith Washington, aka Comrade Malik, admitted in a letter to a prosecutor in 2011 (while throwing a prisoner seeking legal support to the wolves) that he had and would gladly work with law enforcement and the FBI to snitch on inmates or whoever as a source or informant. Malik was then incarcerated in Texas and became involved in organizing with the New Afrikan Black Panther Party and participated in the 2016 nationwide prison strikes, gaining notoriety. Malik came to play a prominent role in the prison movement and was in 2020 released to a halfway house in San Francisco after a surprising parole from Texas and brief stint in Federal prison. Malik helped to run the SF Bay View upon release but has since left. I think a lot of facts on this still need clarification, but some things just don’t add up with Malik’s situation. Check out the piece by editor Nube Brown with an addendum by former editor Mary Ratcliff at SFBayView.Com and likely in the print edition of the paper.

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Featured Track:

  • Set Adrift On Memory Bliss (Extended) by PM Dawn from eponymous single

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Transcription

Dmitry Okrest

TFSR: Hello and welcome to the Final Straw. My name is John and I’m going to be conducting an interview today with Russian independent journalist Dmitry Okrest about the recent repression of leftists and anti-fascists in Russia. Welcome to the show, Dmitry.

Dmitry Okrest: Nice to meet you.

TFSR: Nice to meet you. To start with, could you give our listeners some context on yourself and the work you’ve done as an independent journalist in Russia?

DO: Just a few words, I have been a member of a punk hardcore scene in Moscow for the last 15 years. I had been more involved like 10 years ago, and I made my fanzine, organized freemarkets, music label, a book publishing house, and discussion forums. There was one generational change, I tried to work at first in a historical publishing house, and then I moved to work in the media. And as a journalist, I worked for a long time in a society department. I write more about street politics, human rights, police, prisons. And I have also written about a lot of political radicals, including Nazis, jihadists. I’m now a co-author of two books about how the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc moved from their version of socialism to capitalism. The books are in the spirit of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, and I’m also the author of a book about Rojava, where different researchers, activists, fighters talk about this project and their own experience. I’m currently preparing a book about the anti-fascist movement in Russia. We’re looking for an opportunity to translate some of it into English.

TFSR: That’s great. Those books all sound really fascinating. You said they’re only in Russian currently.

DO: Unfortunately, only in Russian. But we wanted to translate it into English, too.

TFSR: That’s really interesting. All three of those sound fascinating. And just for context, as most of the listeners live in the United States, and we’re ignorant about the world in general, or at least many of us are. How old are you? Where does that place you as far as your experience with the Soviet Union, and the years in between? Do you recall that experience of the Yeltsin years and all this?

DO: I was a child when the Soviet Union collapsed. So I really don’t remember anything. But I remember a lot of details after the Soviet Union crashed. So it was the time of economical crisis, most of the people didn’t have any money at all, no jobs. There were a lot of local wars. But on the other hand, there was much more freedom, freedom of speech, freedom in politics, and there was no big punishment for any activity. Now it’s a nostalgia war about what was it? Was it a good time, or not a very good time? And now, there are much more political wars over this period. Most people have a very selective memory for it. So now, it’s a very political question.

TFSR: Interesting. When you’re saying more like freedom of expression, you’re saying as in contrast to today, right?

DO: Yeah, because Putin has been the president for 22 years. He became prime minister in 1999. So we had like nine years of so-called freedom, and then a 21-year period of the so-called stability, but in fact, there is no stability, it’s just a mask, imagination.

TFSR: A question I wanted to sort of start off with: Could you, to the best of your ability, give us a brief overview of recent anarchists and anti-fascist movements in Russia, and the repression that has been facing them? Because I’m aware of a bunch of trials in the last 10 years or so of supposedly anarchists terrorists or whatever.

DO: Maybe the most well-known case is the so-called Network terrorist group. It started four years ago before the World Cup Championship. Activists were kidnapped, beaten, tasered, forced to sign a piece of investigation evidence. These are 11 men from different cities, and secret services incriminated them with the participation in this mythical terrorist organization. There were a lot of accusations of them being terrorists, but no real evidence. In this case, the political police made a lot of work. A lot of people moved from Russia because there was a dangerous situation.

There are also other terrorist cases. Three years ago, a 17-year old anarchist went into a local political police office with a bomb, but he killed only himself. And he said that he tried to support the Network case defendants. And after that, more than 200 people were arrested, cases started against them. They commented that he was a hero to do it. Some of these persons are anarchists or anti-fascists. That played badly against the anarchist movement. Also the people in Kaliningrad, in Crimea, that used to be part of Ukraine, there were also terrorist cases. So now a terrorist case is the best way to put anybody in prison because no one really wants to support terrorists. Because, you know, it sounds like they wanted to kill everyone. But now people understand that it wasn’t really a terrorist, but something that political police called like that.

TFSR: I see. I know that there is or was a big-ish movement of anti-fascism in Russia. And in my mind, that was a response, I assume, to a rise of hard-right violence on the streets. Is there… it’s hard to say a brief history of that because that’s many years. But in my mind, the reason I could assume that the far-right gained power or popularity in Russia in the last…

DO: Fortunately not now, but 10 years ago, hundreds of migrants and ten street anti-fascists were killed. But when the Nazis tried to seize the monopoly of power and become the power themselves, all violence was stopped pretty quickly. There was quite a lot of information about provocateurs in the Nazi movement. Now, there are a lot of Nazis in Russian prisons and they wanted to do something like Aryan Brotherhood, but most of them just cooperate with the prisons administration in exchange for any help, indulgence. On the other hand, a lot of right-wing football fans became demonstratively apolitical last year in exchange for opportunities to control their territories. Some of them attacked political opposition actions and now, they try to be very silent, especially before and during the World Championship in Russia four years ago.

Now it’s not a really big problem but last summer, political police arrested three groups of neo-Nazis. It looks like they became more popular, the memory of those events pops up amongst the younger generation, but the intensity of passion is not the same at all. So, police forced these Nazis to admit on camera that they renounce nazism, but I think they were not ideological, it was rather street violence, nothing more. But they will be in prison for the next 10 years or so. So in my mind, now we can expect a consistent evolution of the right into the people hate – open misanthropy. Some Nazis hope for disparate revenge, and therefore they can commit terrorist attacks. But I think they will inevitably be crushed by the state and police.

TFSR: I know that this conversation is sprawling, but that brought up an interesting point for me. I personally don’t really understand what Putin’s and United Russia’s politics are. I think a lot of American liberals see them as being right-wing, but in my mind, it seems like they just work with whomever against whomever. I don’t really understand what United Russia’s politics are, other than just like power.

DO: I think that nobody knows, in fact. It’s something quite conservative. But inside Russia, the state just uses different political science and young politicians. When they need, they use Nazis. But in this case, they’re not a Nazi state, they just use it for several years. For example, they tried to communicate with the left-wing movement 10 years ago, but nobody wanted to do it. And they said, okay, but they tried to do it. Now they say a lot of things against tolerance, about transgender, etc. They seem to be much more right-wing, but in fact, in the next five years, it could change again.

TFSR: It’s just cold power or something like that? Interesting. I guess, speaking of politics, more macro politics in Russia, we saw really large protests last year, in theory, in support of the opposition political figure Navalny. And the United States media and liberals championed him as a liberal democratic icon, but some of what I’ve read is that he’s somehow a Russian nationalist, or has sketchy racial beliefs of other groups in the Russian Federation. I guess I’m curious about how leftists and specifically anarchists engaged in those protests, and also what your take of Navalny as a political figure is.

DO: As I said before, the Russian government doesn’t use any political terms. And usually, people in Russia also don’t use any political terms. Most people really don’t know the difference between a liberal, democratic, authoritarian, etc. When you talk about liberal, Western, etc., usually people don’t understand what it means. Navalny originally was known as a blogger who writes about corruption. He is was originally from the Democratic Liberal Party, but he tried to cooperate with nationalists. He tried to communicate with them when they were popular 10 years ago, but Nazis and other nationalists didn’t accept him. So as a result, now Navalny tries not to answer this question, he tried to ignore it. And for a long time, he was out of danger, although he had several criminal cases, then he was poisoned last year, he was taken to Berlin, then he returned despite a prison term. Now he’s in prison.

His arrival was a strong sign that inspired many people, not only his supporters. Navalny’s actions look rather like a civil protest in which anarchists also took part and two of them ended up in prison. One guy is still in prison, there was a case with policemen. The current protests are connected with the name of Navalny. Now he’s been recognized as an extremist organization. And nobody can say that he supported Navalny without a punishment. There were mass actions against putting Navalny in the prison but then the most massive repression began this January, and now most of the employees of Navalny’s campaign team have immigrated. Many media outlets are in crisis and under sanctions, and a lot of people are in prison because it’s very easy to be in prison for being detained several times at a legal demonstration. And now we don’t have any legal demonstration because of the pandemic, it’s illegal to make any demonstration at all.

Another thing, economic conditions have been deteriorating in Russia. Lately, Navalny has made it visible how officials are living richer and richer. So people were really angry in this case, because they don’t have a lot of money, but they see a video with officials and their palaces. So for me, it’s a good position when we can see the result of such corruption. But as I said before, most people don’t use any political terms. They don’t have any political education. And in this case, the main problem is that they don’t know what is going to happen afterward. And there is no opportunity to understand what will happen after this government.

TFSR: So there are recent elections in Russia. And I know that something that came out of them was also this law against foreign agents or something like this. That that has led to the repression of journalists and other people, but specifically leftists. Could you speak about the most recent wave of repression? As well as stories that I’ve read about people leaving Russia for Georgia or other areas, having to flee basically, based on the repression.

DO: It’s true. Since the beginning of 2021, the Ministry of Justice has added 11 media outlets, 42 journalists, and 9 NGOs to their register of so-called foreign agents. Every Friday someone else gets on this list. Now there are 223 foreign agents. If we think in terms of liberal democracy, it is an act of state pressure on the media or public organizations, because there is the destruction of any infrastructure and control by authorities. We’re talking about projects controlled by the Russian authorities. These organizations get grants from different funds – from the US, from United Nations, and the European Union. But the problem is that these organizations, these NGOs, and these media are the only ones that try to do anything with corruption, protests, or tortures in the police departments. The danger of criminal liability constantly hangs over foreign agents – from fines to imprisonment up to five years. It led to really big fines and bankruptcy of organizations. You can go to prison for five years if you don’t do good paperwork for the ministry, but no one knows how to prepare it. And society understands it. People sign a lot of petitions against this foreign agent law. So now it’s 150,000 signatures. But as usual, there are no street actions because people are afraid. As I said before, detentions at a rally can lead you to prison. So people try not to be in this area.

TFSR: I’d seen an article about specifically Russians fleeing to Georgia. And I imagine it’s because Georgia is aligned with the United States.

DO: Russia and Georgia, there was a war between them 12 years ago, so we don’t have any diplomatic contacts. There are a lot of American NGOs that are based in Georgia. 20% of Georgia’s territory is under the control of the Russian army. This country is relatively safe, sorry for such a comparison, but it looks like an American activist would go to Cuba, for example. But basically, everyone connected with politics in Russia is going to Georgia now: journalists, human rights activists, supporters of Navalny, liberal activists, leftists, anarchists. During the pandemic, there are not a lot of states where we can go. The border with Georgia is closed, we can go to Armenia, and then from Armenia, which is a friend of Russia, we can go to Georgia, but most states now are closed for Russians. So Georgia became a state where it can be maybe safe, maybe not, I don’t know exactly.

TFSR: I see. Along the lines of talking about Georgia, and then also right-wing violence that we were talking about earlier. Has there been a lot of repression of queer and trans activism and life in Russia, or how that has been because you mentioned that anti-trans stuff had been popping up?

DO: It looks like no people – no problem. Now a lot of such people are invisible, because of the law against the so-called “gay propaganda.” So most people prefer not to say about themselves, for example, most gay people I know, I really don’t know if they’re gay or not, because there is no one coming out and sometimes I hear about someone, but usually people prefer not to say anything about it. So most people prefer to be “normal” because if you say that you are gay, it will be not a very good situation in prison if you get arrested and there is a lot of homophobia. Most people, including gays and trans persons, prefer not to show themselves in many cases, especially in a demonstration, etc. So there are no open street manifestations or something like that. Most people show their sexual orientation only in talks at home. And in Georgia, it is the same situation. In Georgia and Belarus, in Ukraine, the situation is a bit better. But in fact, there are a lot of Nazis also, so most people prefer not to show themselves during ordinary life.

TFSR: That’s pretty grim.

Speaking of Belarus, maybe a week or two ago on The Final Straw, we aired an interview with several Belarusian anarchists about the uprising and repression by the Lukashenko regime there. And I was wondering, because, in our talks, we discussed Belarus and Belarusian anarchists quite a bit. And I was wondering, without making this a conspiracy, how much interaction and solidarity is there amongst anarchists in former Soviet and Eastern European countries? Because I know that there’s been a really strong anarchist movement in Belarus for as long as I’ve been reading the Abolishing Borders From Below magazine about Eastern Europeans. So I was wondering what influences go between these countries?

DO: Belarus is the closest country to Russian, in linguistic and cultural terms. I’ve never been to Canada and US, but it looks the same. So the before the beginning of the war in Donbas, Ukraine was the same country. But now, xenophobia is unfortunately on both sides. So there were many common organizations in post-Soviet space, and activists always went to each other during demonstrations or gatherings. A lot of people from Russia helped local activists, for example, many of my friends are banned from entering the territory of Belarus for the next 10 years. The reason was that they participated in street actions, and now activists left for Russia when the repression started in Belarus because neighboring Poland didn’t open any humanitarian escapes.

At the same time, the territory of Russia is not very safe for the Belarusian people. For example, one Belarusian journalist was detained in Moscow and brought to Belarus, and now he’s in prison. An anarchist from Belarus is in jail in Moscow, he took part in so-called mass riots in Belarus and the Belarusian state wants to extradite him. But he’s still in Moscow. Right now, over 1000 people are in the prison for political reasons in Belarus and about 30 anarchists and anti-fascists are among them. Some of them were tortured by suffocation, electricity. We don’t have any quality communication with them, because it’s a big problem with lawyers now. They can’t share information about the case. I think that same situation will be in Russia in the next maybe two-three years because usually, Belarus looks like a [testing ground] where the state tries to do something and to understand if it works or not? A lot of people think that now we will have a similar situation in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

TFSR: Has that happened in the past where forms of repression… Have authoritarian government policies happened in Belarus and then later happened in Russia in the past, or is that just a fear?

DO: The most updated information, you can read on abc-belarus.org. It’s the website of the Anarchist Black Cross Belarus. But what I see now, most people don’t do any street action, but they are still angry, they stayed, and they try to help people in prison, they try to support each other, there was a lot of solidarity between people, they help each other in medical cases, in cases of mental health. So in my opinion, it is the best option for people now to help each other and try to support each other in this dangerous time. So the best time is to save their resources.

TFSR: Thank you for that. I mean, it’s just a horrible situation.

Well, this isn’t really related to the anarchist movement or anarchy at all. You sent me an interesting article in Jacobin, about the recent elections and electoral gains by the [Russian] Communist Party, and also that article was posing that there is a shift within that party towards a more social-democratic opposition, and I was curious about if that in itself could lead to a resurgence in leftist politics in general. And also, if the recent gains in the election are significant, or if it’s just a weird apparition?

DO: Well, there was a very interesting case of Mikhail Lobanov, he is a professor. He’s a mathematician. He took part in a trade union, he’s a real good activist. And he is not a typical communist from this party but in fact, this Communist Party is not a real communist party. It’s not a Marxist party. It’s more conservative, they think about how the Soviet Union was a really great state. And for them, it’s more important to know that the Soviet Union was Imperial than an actual communist state. So the campaign of professor Lobanov, I think was the best thing that left activists have been doing for a long time in the entire post-Soviet space because the degree of penetration of leftist ideas, slogans, problems to the masses was unprecedented. People really were surprised that there is someone who could say anything smart about society without any problem. He didn’t say he is a communist or a socialist, in fact, he looks like a left-wing democrat. But for a lot of people, it was really surprising, because they usually see people who are more Stalinist than communist. So in Lobanov, they just saw a very smart person who can tell smart things about society, about taxes, about different repressions with a left-wing optic, and in this case, it was really interesting to see the reaction of people. He won the election, but in fact, now he’s not a deputy in the Parliament, because the state preferred to change the results. In this case, it was interesting how he made a political machine. There are a lot of left-wing activists who decided to help him. He preferred to be a mouthpiece of a lot of people. He preferred to be not like a typical parliamentarian, but a man who takes a recommendation from people to the state, and for the political system in Russia, it’s looks really exotic. So maybe for people in the US, it looks like nothing special, but for the Russian political movement, it was special, like “Wow, how did that happen?!” People were really surprised, and that’s why a lot of people helped him.

TFSR: Do you think in some ways that his popularity or the popularity of the things he was saying shows that there is some left-wing or more liberatory desire in Russian society? Also, do you think he’s actually speaking to material needs? Do you think there is a left potential in Russia?

DO: I think that it shows the request for left-wing ideas because people see the crisis, economic crisis, political crisis, ecological crisis, electoral crises, but people don’t see any solution. There is no way to protest. A lot of people went to this election because they just wanted to show they don’t agree with the state, they wanted something to change. But they’re really afraid to do anything, to take part in any street action, in any organization, because a lot of organizations now are under punishment, under repressions. So, I think that it could be a good chance to show that there are such ideas that they can be popular, but no one knows how to use that effect.

TFSR: Have there been any sort of attempts from more autonomous or anti-authoritarian left groups to, not piggyback, but exploit the fact that these ideas are becoming more mainstream, or work on spreading those?

DO: In fact, we don’t have any polls to understand what people really think. And we don’t have time to grow politically or to raise any activist, because it’s a really big risk for such people. Only in their kitchens [in private] do people say what they really think. And in this case, we have a lot of informal networks between people. But there is no real formal actions and formal organizations for any movement, and most people prefer to put their ideas, their activity in a secret.

TFSR: Does it feel like when there are large-scale demonstrations, that’s the only moment when people can be open politically? Like when there are enough people in the streets, that it’s hard for the police to pick off individuals?

DO: I think that really nobody knows the answer to this question. Because there is no data, no information. And it’s really hard to make any researches and now the state tried to do something with independent researchers, with independent education, with people who know how to make a study. We don’t have any tools to understand what we can do in the next year, in the next five years. There is a very good term to describe this. It’s “forced helplessness,” people don’t know about their power, and there is no opportunity to check it. The same situation is for the left-wing movement and anarchist movement because they don’t know what power they have and how to use it. There is no space for practicing it.

TFSR: I assume you probably didn’t listen to it, but in an interview, my colleague did with the folks from Belarus about the uprising there, was interesting, because while so many of their comrades are in prison and facing really horrible odds, they also seem somewhat more positive about potential future stuff in Belarus. It takes me by surprise, the attitudes of those folks being hopeful about the future. Whereas it seems like in Russia, it’s not so hopeful at the moment, which is just the reality, obviously. But it was interesting to hear the differences, obviously, it’s very different countries in different contexts.

DO: I can’t say that I am an optimist because I think I’m more realist. I really don’t think that it will be better after Putin, because I really fear that different police departments, Nazis, etc. can use their power. But on the other hand, I see people around me, I see a lot of good vibes between people. I hope that it will be better because people can say something without being repressed. But it’s just a hypothesis, I really don’t know.

TFSR: I wanted to first thank you, and really appreciate you being in touch with me and doing this. But I also wanted to ask, is there a way that you can think of that anarchists or anti-fascists in the United States could show solidarity with their comrades in Russia that are facing repression right now, or any kind of meaningful solidarity?

DO: There is the Anarchist Black Cross Moscow, which supports the repressed activists, and Russian and Belarusian anarchists often call for solidarity. So the best way is to make any demonstration or help. So you can check like Avtonom.org or Rupression.com for any information in English because these organizations provide legal and material support, medical care, food parcels, etc. I know that the Russian state really doesn’t like to see any solidarity in different states they get very angry. And for us, it was really interesting to see how American anti-fascist and anarchists took part in different demonstrations last year or two years ago, it was really exciting for us. But my recommendation is that everyone needs to know how to support each other, like to know how to take medical care, how to sustain good mental health, and how to be in a good healthy condition because when we had that street violence 10 years ago, only training with guns and knives helped people from the anarchist movement to survive. So in my mind, it’s really good knowledge how to protect yourself, and I hope that people from the US also know how to help themselves and to protect each other.

TFSR: I like you mentioning that you need to do mental health stuff but also learn how to shoot guns. I didn’t expect it to go there but it makes a lot of sense. I really appreciate you talking with us. Where can people find work that you’ve written and stuff that are translated into English?

DO: I have some publications on OpenDemocracy.net. It’s a site with a lot of materials on the situation in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine in English. We made a podcast in English about Russian prisons, and we called Russian Limbo. We usually don’t have any possibility to make articles in foreign languages, unfortunately.

TFSR: No, that’s great. We will put these different websites you’ve mentioned, and podcasts in the show notes so people can click on those. And that podcast about the Russian prison sounds fascinating. I appreciate it. Thank you for negotiating the time difference with me.

DO: Thanks a lot. And thanks for your questions and interest. It was really nice to talk with you.

. … . ..

Antti Rautiainen

TFSR: Can you identify yourself for the audience with any names, pronouns, or affiliations that make sense for this conversation?

Antti Rautiainen: Yeah, my name is Antti, I’m working with ABC-Moscow. Even so, I’m in exile currently, haven’t been able to visit Russia for almost nine years.

TFSR: So I was hoping that a chat with you could accompany the interview that we just heard with Dmitry Okrest, about the situation for anarchists and anti-fascists in Russia by making space for more specific updates from Moscow ABC. So thank you so much for making yourself available for this. Off-mic, you had mentioned that there was a hunger strike of Viktor Filinkov. Could you tell us more about his situation, remind us of his case, and how he’s doing?

AR: Viktor Filinkov was in prison as a part of the so-called Network case, which was started around 2017-18. It was a number of anarchists and anti-fascists, and just their random friends from the city of Penza and the city of St. Petersburg, who were framed up to be some underground terrorist organization. I was a part of a support campaign for them which united many different people all around Russia and also internationally, but it didn’t succeed to have this case collapse, and everyone was sentenced. And Viktor Filinkov was one of the people sentenced, they started doing their terms this year and the previous year they have been appealed without any changes. And now they have been sent to prison colonies. Viktor Filinkov arrived in his colony in August. It’s in Orenburg, close to Kazakhstan. And they have been putting huge pressure on him in this colony. He’s been basically sent to the hole more than 10 times, he hasn’t been a single day in the general prison population, maybe he was in some common cells for a couple of days, but in general, he has been kept in complete isolation.

And currently, he started a hunger strike on the 30th of October. This is a traditional day of political prisoners, of first Soviet dissidents, and then political prisoners in the Russian Federation since the 70’s. There were hunger strikes of political prisoners already in the 70’s. So Viktor joined this tradition, but also, he is stating his own demands, which are that he wants to be released to the general prison population to escape the isolation. And he also demands to get written materials, like books, papers, and materials of his own case, because currently, he is not even allowed to read his own case. This is an ongoing thing, the hunger strike has been on for around one month and Victor is struggling for some basic things. Probably, it’s the prison administration who wants to frame him up, every time he is sent to a hole for a minor violation, like laying down in his bed, which basically is not allowed in the Russian prison colonies in certain hours or not dressing completely, according to prison form rules. Just general bullshit things. And probably the goal is to railroad him to higher security prison called EPKT, which is basically the highest security prison.

TFSR: A hunger Strike is a really intense method of struggle that can cause extreme deterioration of some of the body’s systems, long-lasting effects after the actual hunger strike. It’s a choice of the last tactic for people. Is there much history recently of the prison administration’s responding to this? Or is there much discussion in Russia right now about Viktor’s case?

AR: Filinkov’s case doesn’t seem to be super high profile. But it’s not only anarchists but also some human rights defenders or liberals supporting him to some extent, especially the Novaya Gazeta, which got the Nobel Prize in literature, they are covering his struggle. So I wouldn’t say that he’s completely isolated but also these demands are super moderate. He’s not demanding Putin to give up power or something. So I think there are certain chances for him. Quite a prolific hunger strike was around 2018-19, Oleg Sentsov, one of the Crimean prisoners, together with Alexander Kolchenko were accused of organizing underground activities against the Russian occupation of Crimea. Sentsov himself was not an anarchist, but his co-defendant Kolchenko was, and Sentsov was in some very long hunger strikes, and eventually, he was released as part of the prisoner exchange. Of course, not only because of the hunger strikes, but I think the hunger strikes may have played some role that he was included in the prisoner exchange, which was originally meant to be just prisoners of war. So, I think hunger strikes are pretty popular in Russia, even with some liberal and environmental struggles, maybe even too popular, if you asked me, but I wouldn’t say that they are completely useless. They also can achieve some results. Sometimes it might be that risks are heavy, but also sometimes you don’t have so many other options. I hope Filinkov’s strike will succeed.

TFSR: Yeah, me too. Are there ways for people outside of Russia to support his case?

AR: I asked about this for people who are more closely involved in supporting Filinkov. Our group, the ABC Moscow, we have been diminishing during the years, and half of our group has been forced to migrate for different reasons, as I was deported and others have become refugees. There are still people in Russia involved but we are not, in this particular case, super active. But there are people in, for example, in the Rupression campaign for the Network prisoners, and they are currently organizing letter-writing, but they have only resources to organize this in Russian. And of course, you have to send the letters in Russian but I think in the show notes, we can share the links to online forms in Russian and a petition text. With Google Translate people who might want to contribute can try the join this campaign, but also, as usual, just in general information coverage would be needed and letter-writing. On ABC-Moscow’s site, you can find Viktor’s prison address. Of course, if you send mail to prison, it doesn’t necessarily reach Viktor. Actually, as far as I know, around one month ago, he hadn’t received any mail. Everything was just stored somewhere or trashed but at least the prison administration knows that is not being abandoned, that people are following the situation. And also the support campaign has to pay the lawyer bills and so on because if they put this heavy pressure on Viktor, he will be in constant need of lawyer support for all time he serves in prison, which will be the following four years. There are also instructions on our website on how to donate to the Network case prisoners.

TFSR: I know that that website has a lot of information about other people in the Network case and also other prisoners that are being supported. Are there any individuals or cases that you’d like to mention that should be particularly or generally supported by listeners?

AR: I think all the cases are important, especially the network has prisoners because they have very long sentences. A number of them have more than 10-year prison sentences, but also the Network case was at least lucky that it managed to get good international support and attention of many anarchists and anti-fascist, but there are obviously many other cases.

For example, there was an anarchist couple from Chelyabinsk who just got crazy two-year sentences for a simple banner drop, which was done in solidarity with the Network case. Also, there is artist Pavel Krisevich who is an artist and not an anarchist, but he was doing many actions to support the Network case and for one of his performances, he is now in this famous Butyrka prison in Moscow, where many anarchists were jailed even before the Revolution. Also, a very important case is the case of Azat Miftakhov, the mathematician. He was sentenced for another support action for the Network case prisoners to six years in prison, for just breaking a window of the ruling party office. And he’s been put on pretty heavy labor condition, but at least he can receive mail. So it’s important to support him by letters at this point. And also, there is an international campaign to have the International Society of Mathematicians involved. So if any of the listeners are working or enrolled in mathematics departments in any of the universities, you can check on our website how to join the efforts to have the International Association of Mathematicians support Miftakhov, because, in Russia the support campaign is actually mostly organized not by anarchists, but by the community of mathematicians. Because that’s Miftakhov’s profession.

TFSR: Dmitry also mentioned in the prior interview dropping banners and posting solidarity images is something that embarrasses Putin’s administration and has a deep impact. Are there other methods that come to mind, like you’ve mentioned the mathematician society and supporting them and applying pressure? But are there other methods that come to mind that folks can engage with from abroad to show solidarity with anti-fascists and anarchists, as well as oppressed identities in Russia, particularly well, not whitewashing the repression and cruelty of our own governments that are repressive institutions?

AR: A very important thing is just to spread information. Also, many of the campaigns, especially before the sentences, need to pay the lawyer bills, which can be quite expensive, because there are not really many activist lawyers in Russia. Occasionally, especially if there are no terrorist charges, you can have some human rights organizations sponsor lawyers but this is not always the case, if there is some radical politics involved, that doesn’t necessarily happen. I will say also that basically maintaining horizontal contacts, I think it’s very important to be involved in the local struggles but I think the anarchist movement is not only about the local struggles, it’s also about international solidarity. And in Russia, and even more so in Belarus, the movement is now in a pretty difficult situation so it’s good to just maintain contact and discussion not only on the repression work but general strategies and perspectives. So especially when this COVID era is beginning to end, it’s more important than ever also to have international meetings and discussions and not only meet in some discussion forums, social media or Twitter or whatever, but also to have face-to-face meetings and to create more solidarity.

TFSR: Awesome. Is there anything else that you’d like to mention that I didn’t ask about?

AR: This was pretty much what I wanted to say on this. Avtonom.Org website is hosting the ABC Moscow news, but we can put all the relevant links and so on to this episode information.

TFSR: Does it make sense to mention the podcast project that you work on since it does bring a lot of opportunities for international understanding of situations?

AR: Yeah, I could mention it. I have my own podcast, but it’s mostly in Finnish and dealing with some local discussions, but I will also put in Russian episodes, and occasionally, there will be also English texts. I hope to have an episode this week or next week about a project called FemDatcha, a feminist shelter for burnout activists that was organized by feminist activists in the Moscow region. So this was an example of a creative and positive project in Russia because it’s not only suffering and repressions, people also have some new and interesting concepts and ideas and I would also like people to pay attention to these things. You can find my podcast with my own name Antti Rautianen, which is a bit tricky for an English speaker I didn’t figure out any fancy name and also wanted to keep my content eclectic, I don’t have any special topic. It’s just basically for my own rants about various stuff. But we can link it to the episode description so people can find it. I have a couple of English episodes and in the future, there will be more. This one about a feminist cottage FemDatcha will also be in English.

TFSR: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for having this conversation, Antti. I really appreciate it.

Antti: Thanks. This is my favorite podcast because others in the States don’t seem to have so much international perspective. I think it’s very important that you are pushing this direction because America is so big that people often tend to watch mostly inside.

TFSR: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really easy for us to just think about ourselves as the world. Thanks so much for the kind words and take care of yourself.

AR: Okay. See you I guess in five years, we will have a third podcast.

TFSR: Anarchy will reign by then, so it will be a less depressing conversation.

A: Yeah.

Anti-Fascist Struggle in Europe and Repression in Russia

The bookcover for "Alerta! Alerta!"
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This week, we feature two segments on the show: an interview with a Russian anarchist about the recent ramping up of torture and repression by the FSB in Russia against anarchists and anti-fascists  (00:14:13); and a chat with Patrick Strickland, author of “Alerta! Alerta!: Snapshots of Europe’s Anti-Fascist Struggle” (00:34:17); plus anarchist prisoner Sean Swain on his bid to “Build The Wall” (00:08:27)

FSB Torture of Radicals

First up, Bursts spoke with Tania, a Russian anarchist, a member of the crew who runs the RUpression website documenting Russian state agencies like the FSB’s use of torture to extract stories to build conspiracies to legitimize their tightening of restrictions on public gatherings, chill the political and media landscape, and sustain a state of sense of fear among the populace. We discuss the death of Mikhail Zhlobitsky in a bombing of an FSB office in October, the current state of anarchist organizing in Russia, and the past political repression since 2012 and the cases in Pensa and the 2017 “The Network” conspiracy case (which we’ve spoken of in this show in the past here and here). In February 2019, a situation unfolded where Azat Miftakhov disappeared, came back tortured, and accused of taking part in an anarchist terrorist plot. Azat was released by court order only to be re-arrested by another police agency (well documented in this crimethInc article, alongside some downloadable posters for pasting around your town).

You can learn more about the case by reading and following rupression.com

Patrick Strickland on European Anti-Fascism

Secondly, William had the chance to interview Patrick Strickland, who is a journalist and author, about his recently released book “Alerta! Alerta! Snapshots of Europe’s Anti-Fascist Struggle”. This book follows the stories and lives of 5 European people who do broadly defined antifascist work or struggle. For this interview we talk about Strickland’s journalism, the experiences of compiling this book, and about understanding elements on the far right that might enhance anti-fascism, in the so called US, Europe, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @P_Strickland_ for news and upcoming projects!

Announcements

Show Up For Rayquan Borum!

If you are in Charlotte NC tomorrow, Monday the 11th, consider showing up to support Rayquan Borum, who is a Black activist arrested during the Charlotte Uprising, a days long protest to mourn and rage against the police murder of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016. From charlotteuprising.com/statement : “The uprising in Charlotte is a direct response to sustained police and vigilante violence against Black people in this city and across the country: Keith Lamont Scott, Jonathan Ferrell, Aiyana Stanley, Jones, Tyre King, Korryn Gaines, Janisha Fonville, Terence Crutcher and so many more. These are names of victims we know and deeply mourn, understanding there are so many other people who have been unnecessarily taken from us.”

The arrest of Rayquan Borum was a direct attempt by police to frame Mr. Borum, and he is finally going to trial after 2 years being held in and out of solitary confinement. The trial will be held starts February 11th, and will start at 9:30am in room 5370 at the address 832 East Fourth Street Charlotte, NC, which is the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. You can follow the Charlotte Uprising on twitter, facebook, and tumblr for more ways to get involved and support the folks facing ongoing repression from the Uprising. And here is a link to a useful court support quicksheet made specifically for this trial! Court solidarity needs for Rayquan are ongoing, so plug in when you can.

Federal Prison Postal Changes Survey

Lawyers & activists doing prisoner support have been concerned with new Federal Bureau of Prisons’ rules limiting the type of mail people in prison can receive — for example, rules that people in federal prison can only get white paper / envelopes, and no cards or drawings.   There is work being done to look into what is going on across the country on this issue. If you have heard anything, they’d love to hear about it.

They are also trying to collect evidence of what is happening at all the different federal facilities.  If you have any of the following (or if you feel comfortable asking for any of these types of things from people in prison you are in contact with), that would be super helpful, including:

  • Any memos from federal prisons detailing new mail restrictions
  • Any program statements from BoP detailing new mail restrictions
  • Any Institutional Supplements from BoP detailing new mail restrictions
  • Scans of federal mail rejections based on new restrictions (color of letter, color of envelope, use of mailing label, greeting card etc)
  • Scans of envelopes with rejected stickers detailing reason for rejection
  • Scans of grievances from prisoners regarding the mail restrictions

If you are interested in potentially working with us around this issue, let the folks at Certain Days Calendar know, and they can reach out with info about their next meeting. Get in touch at: info@certaindays.org

Free Tibet celebration in Scotland and around the world

If you’re listening in Edinburgh, Scotland, there’ll be a March on Sunday March 10 from The Mound in support of 60th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising to the invasion and occupation by the Chinese communist regime forces. On the subject of resistance and the Tibetan Diaspora, there’ll be guest speakers making speeches and then a march to Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. TBA there may be a film screening afterwards. The event is scheduled from 12-2pm UTC More can be found on fedbook by searching “Tibetan Community in Scotland”.

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Playlist

FSB Is The Real Terrorist: Intl Solidarity with Russian anarchists & antifa

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In this podcast special, I spoke with Antti, Antti is a member of Moscow Anarchist Black Cross, which does anti-repression work for anarchists and anti-authoritarian antifascists. Many members of Moscow ABC are now living abroad and doing their work from there due to intense repression by the government of Russia and it’s client states.

For March 11-18 there has been a call out for international solidarity with Russian anarchists and anti-fascists facing repression, and Moscow ABC has specifically called for solidarity on March 18th, which is the first round of elections for the Russian Presidency. During this hour, Antti will speak about the cases of anarchists repressed in Penza, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Crimea, Sebastopol and elsewhere as well as the situations of imprisoned Russian anarchist and anti-fascists. For more information on the work of Moscow ABC, organizing and resistance in Russia, check out the website avtonom.org

If you like what you hear on The Final Straw, please consider making a donation to us via Patreon to help us expand our reach and increase the quality of this podcast. Other donation methods will follow soon.  We won’t create a content paywall for our materials, but any dough you can share would be appreciated!

News sources mentioned in the episode include:

https://therussianreader.com/

 
 

Intl Solidarity with Russian Anarchist and Antifa Prisoners

Moscow ABC on Solidarity w Russian Anarchists & Antifa

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This week’s episode features a conversation with Antii, a member of Moscow Anarchist Black Cross about the call-out for solidarity with Russian anarchists and anti-fascists. This starts off with a description of the cases of: Dmitry Buchenkov (accused of participating in anti-Putin protests in Bolotnaya square on May 6th, 2012); Alexei Gaskarov (accused of anti-police violence and riotting in anti-Putin protests in Bolotnaya square in 2012); Alexei Sutuga (a Siberian street-level antifascist accused of brawling with neo-nazis); Ilya Romanov (anarchist former prisoner accused of attempted terrorism to stop the development of Kulibinsky park in Nizhny Novgorod); Alexander Kolchenko (Crimean antifascist accused of attempting to resist the Russian takeover of the region formerly of Ukraine); & Elizaveta Tsvetkova (accused of hate-crimes against police for posting up anti-police leaflets). Each of these prisoners are inside because of their activism and are considered political prisoners locked in the Putinist prison system.

During the hour Antii, who was exiled from Russia, talks about the cases of these 6, a more general context of anarchist and antifa action in Russia these days and about the prison system Russia.

The original callout can be found up at the Autonomous Action in English, Spanish and other languages here: http://avtonom.org/en/news/anarchist-black-cross-moscow-1st-10th-july-2016-join-international-days-solidarity-russian

Announcements

Kara Solidarity

Kara Wild is an artist, comrade and resilient force of nature, currently being detained in France for her alleged participation in a protest against draconian labor reforms and police repression. She is a trans woman and is currently being held in a mens jail without access to hormones. She is also a U.S. citizen and has been denied bond because French authorities consider her a flight risk.

On May 18th, thousands of people converged in Paris to defy an ongoing siege of police violence and to oppose a new neoliberal labor reform. During one of these marches a police car was attacked and set on fire. Kara was brutally arrested in connection to this incident more than a full week later, at a separate event. She is currently being accused of attempted voluntary manslaughter of a person holding public office, destruction of property, group violence and participating in a masked armed group.

Kara is among 6 people currently facing charges in connection to this incident. To make matters worse, Frances Prime Minister, Manuel Valls is vowing to execute unrelenting punishment, in order to set an example and de-mobilize protests.

You can learn more about this situation and donate to Kara Wild’s support effort by visiting the website https://freekarawild.org/

Eric King Sentenced to 10 Years

Eric King was sentenced to 10 years in prison this last week. His sentencing statement and updates can be found here: https://supportericking.org/2016/06/28/statement-from-the-eric-king-support-crew-regarding-his-sentencing/

Migrant solidarity and squatting in Calais, France

http://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/
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Calais is a port city in France that sits as the major nexus of migrants attempting to leave the French (and thus European) mainland to reach the U.K. in seek of asylum. These migrants are fleeing the effects of imperialism (sometimes war, always capital) in their home countries. They hail from Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Chad, Nigeria, Sudan and many other places and seek peace and stability in the EU. The irony is that the EU, like the U.S., is a major exporter of the troubles the migrants seek to escape. In many ways, the “immigration crisis” in the U.S. mirrors the reality of the “immigration crisis” in the EU.

This week’s episode of the Final Straw features a conversation with Greta, a No Border Activist living in the UK about struggles of immigrants in Calais, where over the last 2 months there have been raids that have netted hundreds of migrants seeking to leave the mainland and land in the UK with expectation of receiving a refugee status. Greta tells us about the immigration structure of the EU’s Shengen Zone (of which the UK is not a part), about the recent raids and squat evictions in Calais, and the new squat “Impasse de Saline” outside of the city. She also touches on the plight of immigrants in the UK.
http://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/

The second half of the episode features a segment recorded by our audio-comrades at A-Radio Berlin, entitled “Europe and beyond: the resistance against mega-projects”. From the A-Radio blog:

“We pre­sent an in­ter­view with Bog­dan, an ac­tivist from Ru­ma­nia. The main topic is the re­cent 4th Forum against un­ne­cessa­ry im­po­sed me­ga-​pro­jects, a net­work of major strugg­les against in­fra­struc­tu­re, mi­ning and fra­cking pro­jects (in Eu­ro­pe an bey­ond). The last mee­ting took place in May in Rosia Mon­t­a­na, Ru­ma­nia. The pre­pa­ra­ti­on, the sub­ject of the in­vol­ve­ment of po­li­ti­cal par­ties in such mo­ve­ments as well as the fu­ture per­spec­tive of this par­ti­cu­lar co­or­di­na­ti­on are at the heart of the in­ter­view, but it also gives a quick over­view of the de­ve­lop­ment of the local strugg­le against the pro­po­sed big­gest open-​cast gold mi­ning pro­ject in Eu­ro­pe.”
More at http://aradio.blogsport.de/

For past shows dealing with anti-dev struggles like the ones mentioned above, see the following links:
Hambach Forest Defense: Germany
Zone À Défendre (ZAD): Notre Dames de Landes, France
No-TAV: Turin, Italy

Playlist

Interview with Volodya: Anarcha-feminism + LGBT in the former-USSR today

http://freedom.libsyn.com/
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This week William talks with Volodya, a Russian anarchist podcaster whos podcast Echo of Freedom can be found at http://freedom.libsyn.com. They talk about his experiences working in the anarchist milieu, anarchafeminism, and intersections between the LGBTQ movement in Russia and movements such as antifa.

Sean Swain (website http://www.seanswain.org) discusses Mumia Abu Jamal and class/race struggles as related to police forces. Among other things…

First up, an announcement from the Autonomous Worker’s Union in Kiev, Ukraine, about Russian military invasion of the Crimea and other parts of Ukraine. More info at http://avtonomia.net and http://nihilist.li

Menard Prisoner hunger strike w/ Staughton Lynd and Yaroslav Nikitenko on Khimki, Vinci, Pussy Riot and #Euromaidan

http://khimkiforest.org/
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First, we hear Sean Swain, anarchist prisoner in Ohio’s super-duper-mega-ultra-uber max prison at Youngstown talk about accusations of Utopianism thrown at him for his anarchism.

Secondly, we speak with author, activist and advocate Staughton Lynd. Mr. Lynd speaks with us about the ongoing hunger strike at Menard Correctional Facility’s administrative segregation units in Illinois. The strikes are in response to prisoner complaints of lack of heat and hot water in the freezing facility that was built in the 1870’s, leaks around the windows, rodent infestations and the lack of transparency around how people get put into the hole or get out of it. Upon initiating the hunger strike, prisoners (in particular Armando Velasquez who was witness being beaten, thrown down stairs and stomped by correctional officers/screws) have faced threats of force, including forced feeding for which Illinois law does not require court orders. You can find out more by contacting the Alice and Staughton Lynd at salynd(aat)aol (d ot)com. Also, check out articles at The SF Bay View on the subject.

If you care to call/write officials to press for an end to the torture:
Warden Rick Harrington, (618) 826-5071, P.O. Box 711, Menard IL 62794-9277
Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez, (217) 558-2200, ext. 2008, P.O. Box 19277, Springfield IL 62794-9277
Gov. Pat Quinn, (217) 782-0244, http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/Pages/ContacttheGovernor.aspx, 207 State House, Springfield IL 62706

The final portion of the episode is an interview with ecological and social activist, Yaroslav Nikitenko. Yaroslav has been involved for years in the struggle to save Khimki forest, the only old growth forest in the Moscow area, from development by a public-private construction project between Russian government, companies and VINCI construction (out of France). Yaroslav argues a lack of transparency by government, profit not surprisingly overshadowing concerns for peoples lives or the environment, neo-nazi thugs hired for home invasions and street attacks on journalists and activists working to speak out about Khimki and about how people can do solidarity work with those struggling to save this forest. Yaroslav also did solidarity work for incarcerated members of Pussy Riot, some of whom were involved in social struggles including the defense of Khimki. President Putin, prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics, released a number of political prisoners including members of the feminist punk band, Pussy Riot (albeit 2 month before their release). Lastly, Yaroslav shares his perspectives on the #euromaidan protests threatening the Ukrainian government, threats from the far-right in that nation, and his own fears as a Russian of the Ukrainian civil society coming further under Russian political sway. http://khimkiforest.org

For info on the May 6th 2012 protestors imprisoned in Russia, check out:
http://avtonom.org/en/freenews/prison-united-all-us

As another ecological struggle to pay attention to, Yaroslav points to as important to support in Russia:
http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2213469/mining_russia_thousands_join_the_protests.html