“The main thing is to pass on what we know”

On 26 December 2021, the day before the hearing, I wrote to Yury DMITRIEV (says Olga Nosenko on Facebook today). I had my doubts. Wasn’t this a silly thing to do? But I posted my letter with no great expectations, sending him New Year’s greetings and the tale of my forbears.

And this is what I received today after DMITRIEV had already heard the new sentence. I’ll quote two excerpts:

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Dmitriev: “It’s normal to be persecuted” (December 2021)

Before sentence was again passed in Petrozavodsk, and demands for the closure of Memorial were heard in Moscow, Yury DMITRIEV replied to questions from Anna Yarovaya, who published some of the earliest articles about the Karelian researcher.

They communicated via the Letters service of the Federal Penal Agency; she did not receive replies to many of her questions.

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HOW I JOINED MEMORIAL

In 1988, interested citizens formed an action group to set up a Popular Front of Karelia (PFK). I was invited to join the Front after it had existed for 6-7 months:[1] Vova B. came to see me at work and asked me to attend their meeting. I went and gave them some practical advice. Without noticing I became an active PFK member.

Yury A. Dmitriev, 1998

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WHY DMITRIEV? (2)

See Why Dmitriev? (1)

On 27 December 2021, the Petrozavodsk City Court in Karelia will deliver its third verdict in the case of Yury DMITRIEV. The highest court in the land remains silent; lawyers from Memorial’s Human Rights Centre have submitted an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“Child Pornography”

The court in Karelia will be serving an “unprecedented” third judgement on issues thoroughly aired at Dmitriev’s two previous trials where he was twice acquitted of the self-same charges.

Yury Dmitriev and Victor Anufriev, March 2018

The republic’s High Court decided otherwise, quadrupling the sentence for sexual abuse of a minor, and returning the charges of child pornography and non-violent abuse to be considered a third time.

Dmitriev’s defence attorney Victor Anufriev has demonstrated, twice, that his client has no charge to answer. Meeting the accusations head on with testimony from a succession of experts, Anufriev has shown within the framework of current legislation and the procedures of the Russian judicial system that Yury DMITRIEV is innocent. If he is now convicted the decision will be based not on the rule of law or established procedure but on other extra-judicial criteria.

Much of the discussion in the first two cases, as journalist Nikita Girin showed, concerns the kind of photos and parental behaviour to be found in any family. So what has driven this relentless persecution? Earlier events and the timing of the last few days, as the Memorial Human Rights Centre and the Memorial Society themselves face liquidation by the courts, offer a further suggestion.

Pursuing a Loner

Dmitriev and the evidence against him “fit the bill” like none other.

Potential supporters in Russia, not to mention the West, would have second thoughts about anyone accused of “child pornography” or the “sexual abuse” of a minor – offences regarded in the West with a strong and barely rational horror.

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WHY DMITRIEV? (1)

In 2002, five years after the tragic death of Ivan Chukhin, Yury DMITRIEV published the Commemorative Lists of Karelia. This Book of Remembrance named 14,308 individuals — most of them shot (11,275); others sent to the Gulag (1,958). The task on which Chukhin and Dmitriev had embarked almost a decade earlier was completed.

Why we should admire Yury Dmitriev

Police investigator and Duma deputy Chukhin also gained access to detailed execution reports in the local FSB archives. These indicated the approximate location of thirteen execution and burial sites scattered across Karelia.

Most were small but two were of particular size and importance. Over 3,000 had been shot, “near Petrozavodsk”, the capital of Karelia. The other site, “near the Medvezhya Gora rail station”, accounted for several thousand more and was located not far from the headquarters of the White Canal camp system (Belbaltlag). Shortly after Chukhin’s death, Dmitriev together with Irina Flige and the late Veniamin Joffe found and identified the killing field near Med Gora, today famous as Sandarmokh. Soon afterwards locals led him to a similar site 20 miles from Petrozavodsk: this became the Krasny Bor memorial complex.

30 October 2021, Krasny Bor

Dmitriev’s achievements could not be gainsaid. Russian and foreign awards followed: in 2005 he was given the new Golden Pen of Russia award; in 2015 he was awarded Poland’s Gold Cross of Merit; and in November 2016, the month before his arrest, he received the Honorary Diploma of Karelia, the highest award in the gift of the head of that Republic.

Why the FSB hates and detests him

Long before 2016 there were signs of official irritation with what Dmitriev did and said.

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Sergei Prudovsky vs. the FSB

Whilst we wait for the Supreme Court to continue its hearing of the case against the Memorial Society, and to decide whether it will make any response to Yury DMITRIEV’s appeal (19 October 2021), the court will today consider the case brought against the FSB by researcher Sergei Prudovsky.

Thwarted by the Tula and Ivanovo Region departments of the FSB in his pursuit of access to files and names from 80 years ago, Prudovsky is demanding a clear response to two questions:

  • Does the FSB consider itself the successor to the Stalin-era NKVD?
  • Can it lawfully conceal the identity of those NKVD officers who carried out the Great Terror in 1937-1938?

He will be supported in court by Memorial lawyer Marina Agaltsova.

Sergei B. Prudovsky and Memorial Society casefiles

Exactly a year ago the judicial board of the First Appeal Court (Central Region) ruled that the rank, title, surname and signatures of the Moscow Region’s NKVD officers at the time were a State Secret. This was specifically in reference to officers Yakubovich, Sorokin and Wolfson who had fabricated criminal charges, and used unlawful means (application of force and brutality) in the conduct of their investigations. They were subsequently convicted of such behaviour and had not since been rehabilitated.

I wonder, Prudovsky added then: could this decision itself be qualified under Article 316 of the RF Criminal Code, “Concealment of a crime”?

JC