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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Novaya Gazeta on Yuri Chervotchkin: "Putin is my Supervisor"

Novaya Gazeta's Rostislav Bogushevsky reports (we have edited them for linguistic and explanatory issues):

Few remember, from Soviet days, what horror the funeral of an "undesirable person" can be, accompanied by a police cordon, with only civil funeral rites, where eulogies are recorded by inconspicuous people with grey faces. On 14 December such an event took place at Ivanovskoe Cemetery of the City of Serpukhov. [LR: Oleg's Kozlovsky's blog has photographs of these gray faces]

It was burial of Yuri Chervotchkin, who had been beaten to death by a “group of unidentified people” on his way home. On 10 December he died in Burdenko Hospital, never having awakened from his coma. His friends and family are sure that his death was the result of his politics: He was a member of Other Russia and the banned National Bolshevist Party.

One might think that political views would no longer matter matter when it comes to two carnations on the tomb and the buses in a funeral procession. Nonetheless, as soon as those buses went beyond the Moscow Ring road, they were stopped by disgruntled traffic police.

How Yuri Chervotchkin was Buried

Three individuals boarded the lead bus, and they were not traffic police. Two were OMON officers [the Kremlin's fearsome, heavily armed stormtroopers widely used for intimidation], and they stayed near the door without showing much interest in what was happening, just talking to each other in low voices. But the third, a plain-clothes figure, ordered that everyone stay in their seats. He said that an operation called "Bus" was being carried out and they were looking for bandits or terrorists, it was just a preventative measure, but he was going to check everyone’s passport.

I wasn't surprised, but disgusted. When my turn came, I asked the officer to show me his badge and wrote down the pertinent details. He was a police captain and agent of UBOP [the organized crime task force relied upon the Kremlin to repress dissent] of Moscow oblast. His name was Kiryl Gritchanin. His employer caught my eye: Chervotchkin had been repeatedly harassed by UBOP. And then, when I overheard the OMON officers mention the names of the very people who had examined Yuri repeatedly, my suspicions strengthened that UBOP was not just executing an order from above but rather they had their own interest in this case.

Well, those who didn’t have Moscow registration had their passports taken for "checking in the database." The obvious indications that the passengers were going to a funeral did not prevent the officers from doing their "duty." Some of those present began to call to newspapers offices and Echo of Moscow radio. “You are welcome to call,” Gritchanin said, and he smiled.

Then some of the passengers had to go the special traffic police post to get their passports back. Gritchanin called them to enter his office one at a time. He wrote down their passport details and asked not to interrupt him with questions after one of those being checked asked him “who is your supervisor?” He replied: “Putin is my supervisor." In the meantime, traffic police officers went on stopping all the other passing buses, though they just checked the drivers’ documents quickly and let them pass. OMON was present only in our two buses.

In spite the fact it had been promised that the whole procedure would take ten minutes, in reality it took an hour. Of course, everyone was let go and wished to “have a good trip.” Ten minutes later we were stopped at another traffic police post. Our driver had his credentials checked and we were allowed to go continue.

We were late to the funeral. There were about 200 people present. Kasparov and Limonov came under guard, having arrived discretly. The road to the cemetery was cordoned off and the neighboring roads were barred for passing as well. There were about 15 persons in plain-clothes with transmitters. I heard a man who appeared to be in charge give the following instructions: “If it looks like trouble, try to calm people down and persuade them to break up. Don’t twist anyone’s arms. We don’t need it today. ” Someone was shooting a video. I tried to learn what TV channel it was and got unprintable answer.

That same evening I was summoned to come to the prosecutor’s office for interrogation about the killing. I didn’t ask them how they had got my cellular phone number. It seemed to me that Oleg Tselepotkin, the special investigator at the investigative department of the Serpukhov district prosecutor’s office, really wants to get to the circumstances of Yuri Chervotchkin murder.

What is Known about Yuri Chervotchkin's Murder?

The circumstances of Chervotchkin's murder such as are known come from the accounts given by friends and the boy's mother, Nadejda Genadievna, who had been trying desperately to get money for her son’s treatment during prior two weeks. When we talked in the hospital, she told me that police officers been persecuting her son.

The 23-year-old Chervotchkin began to have troubles after the election to the regional Duma which took place on 11 March 2007. He and his friends did something foolish then: they went to a polling station and set some fires as a protest against an unfair, in their opinion, election campaign. They were arrested. Chervotchkin spent a month in the pre-trial prison being investigated under Clause 141 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (obstruction of the execution electoral rights or the work of electoral commissions). He was released after he gave a written cognizance not to leave. He was summoned repeatedly to have “talks” with officers from oblast UBOP. As he said, after those talks he began to fear not only for his own life, but also for his girlfriend and acquaintances. The names of the operative agents, who showed such great interest in Chervotchkin, are known to Chervotchkin's friends, but they do not want to expose them while the investigation is underway.

On 22 November Chervotchkin was detained again. A spokesperson for the banned National Bolshevist party, Alexander Averin, says that Yuri called the editorial office of the internet periodical Собкор@ru and said he had been brought to a police station in Serpukhov. He was not charged with anything but he was ordered to give a promissory note that he wouldn’t take part in the Dissenters March scheduled for 24 November. He knew the people who had been having the preventive talk with him; they were same officers from UBOP who had detained him before. Then he and other detainees were taken to a remote corner of the town and "advised" to quit their political activity.

At 8 p.m. Chervotchkin told his girlfriend by phone that he was being watched and he knew his pursuers. They were from the militia and they had arrested him previously. At 9.40 p.m. Chervotchkin was found near his block of flats in the state of coma. A baseball bat was lying near him. No clothes or money was stolen from him.

After her son’s death, Nadejda Genadievna could not get permission from the prosecutor’s office to take the body from Burdenko Hospital. She had to say she wouldn’t leave until she was allowed to bury her son. After that, they allowed the burial.

Some of the nationalist sites have mentioned Yuri’s story as a good example of solving the problem how to deal with those who “impede Russia’s revival.”

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