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Letter to European Parliament: Support Prisoner Alexei Pichugin!

54-3 Michurinsky Ave., Apt. 238,
Moscow 119192, Russia
Fax: +7 (495) 367-2706

March 4, 2008
To: European Parliament
Subject: In defense of a Russian prisoner Alexei Pichugin, a former employee of YUKOS, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s oil company.

Let me introduce myself. I am a Russian (Moscow-based) journalist, correspondent of the human rights web portal “Human Rights in Russia” ( I am seeking your attention with respect to the case of a Russian prisoner named Alexei Pichugin, a former employee of YuKOS, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s oil company. The reason that prompted me to write to you is the following. In the Russian Federation, a special, exclusive justice has been used for the former employees, managers, and shareholders of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s oil company. The name of Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, where Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s case was initially tried, even gave birth to a new term — “Basmanny justice,” meaning an unfair, inequitable, wrong administration of justice, which breaks principles of law. Or, in other words, rampant , runaway judicial injustice.

The underlying causes of the so-called “YuKOS case” are political ones, related to the conflict between Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Russia’s (now former) president Vladimir Putin. That it is so, no one has the least doubt: neither Western observers, nor the PACE rapporteurs, nor the courts in Israel, Great Britain, Germany, Estonia, and other Western countries, which turned down Russia’s claim to get extradited some of the former YuKOS employees staying in those countries as forced emigrants. Also of this opinion are former Soviet political prisoners, who have a clear memory of criminal cases being filed in the Soviet Union against dissidents.

In October, 2007, the European Court of Human Rights considered and satisfied the first (of the three) complaints filed by Platon Lebedev, a former top manager of the bank “MENATEP” and oil company “YuKOS.” The European Court pronounced illegal Lebedev’s detention and incarceration from March 31 to April 6, 2004, which was not sanctioned by any court in Russia. As of date, more than forty people have been victims within the framework of the “YuKOS case.”

The name of Alexei Pichugin, unlike the names of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, is virtually unknown to the international community, so in Appendix 1 to this letter I will state the main facts of his biography and the principal points of his case.

Being an ordinary employee, Alexei Pichugin became a hostage in the “Big Game” of the Russian authorities against the YuKOS senior management. He found himself under immense pressure, when investigators tried to force him to give evidence against Leonid Nevzlin and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former top managers of the disgraced oil company. However, Alexei Pichugin refused to give false evidence, and, as a result, was convicted.

On January 31, 2008, Alexei Pichugin’s life imprisonment sentence became effective. During the trial, the prosecution and the court committed multiple and gross violations of the Russian laws and international covenants (See Appendix 1). I can attest to that, as I was present at the trial. Alexei Pichugin’s lawyers filed complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, in which they mentioned, in particular, the violations, with respect to their client, of Articles 3, 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Ksenia Kostromina, Alexei Pichugin’s lawyer, said February 28, 2008, at a press conference:
“Alexei Vladimirovich [Pichugin] asked me to say on his behalf that he has never been under the investigators’ girdle, has never agreed to give evidence slandering himself or anyone else, and does not intend to agree to any offers like that in the future.”

The lawyer said that Pichugin often had visits of officers of law-enforcement agencies. “Despite his reiterated refusals [to give any slandering or defamatory testimony], they continued to try and trade with him, demand from him slandering evidence against himself and other people from among the YuKOS top management. Certainly, for the greater part, they meant [Leonid] Nevzlin, because Alexei Vladimirovich [Pichugin] and Leonid Borisovich [Nevzlin] are basically charged with similar counts.”

At the same press conference, Lev Ponomarev, a well-known Russian human rights advocate and head of the movement “For Human Rights”, said:
“As compared to the other victims in the “YuKOS case,” Alexei Pichugin cuts an especially tragic figure. Tragedy is accounted for by the fact that he is actually sentenced to death, it’s a life imprisonment. He was pressurized, and, as likely as not, he would have been able to avoid that sentence, had he given the “required” evidence, which investigators and, in fact, the authorities, had been demanding from him. He did not do it. This is one thing.

And another is connected to the fact that his life sentence Pichugin got on the basis of circumstantial evidence, that is to say, virtually without any evidence at all that he had been the mastermind behind the murders ascribed to him. For me, and I have seen criminal cases in my life, this is a totally new thing. I have never seen such a heavy punishment based on so indirect proof. It is clear why the masterminds behind the “YuKOS case” wanted to do this: they need to lay their hands on Nevzlin first, and then nail Khodorkovsky.”

As I mentioned above, the complaints of Alexei Pichugin’s lawyers were filed to the European Court of Human Rights. However, it will take a long time before they start to get considered.

Meanwhile, Alexei Pichugin’s fate requires immediate interference. After the sentence became effective, Alexei Pichugin’s very life is threatened: on the 4-th of March he was sent away to a detention facility for convicts sentenced for life. In Russia, placing people in such a facility is in violation with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Not to do any naked assertions, I give as an example in Appendix 2 an article from the Russian daily Izvestiya describing the typical conditions of such facility. I would like to stress that the article does not write about anything out of the ordinary, like some exception for which responsible parties got prosecuted at law, but a typical state of things. Being a journalist covering matters related to human rights I can maintain that for a fact.

This is also confirmed by a documentary movie made by the Russian television company NTV “Sentenced to live,” which lawyer Ksenia Kostromina sent to the European Court of Human Rights as attachment to her petition to give the Pichugin case a priority status. She also called on the Strasburg court to urge the Russian Government not to send Alexei Pichugin away to a camp prior to the hearing of his case in Strasburg.

Even a real criminal must not be treated in this cruel way. And all the more so, an innocent person must not be put in a detention facility, especially one where his life is under constant threat, and he himself is a subject of violence, and humiliating and degrading treatment.

So, therefore, I call on you to use all the means and instruments within your reach, to exercise all your authority, all your influence in order to exert pressure on Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s new president, and urge him to stop illegal persecution of Alexei Pichugin and other victims of the “YuKOS case.”

Best regards,
Vera Vassilieva.


Appendix 1. Facts of Alexei Pichugin’s life and circumstances of his case.
Appendix 2. Article “The Posture ‘Koo,’” by Dmitry Sokolov-Mitrich. Izvestiya. June 30, 2002.
Appendix 1. Facts of Alexei Pichugin’s life and circumstances of his case.


Alexei Pichugin was born in the town of Orekhovo-Zuevo of Moscow region in 1962.
From his childhood, Alexei looked forward to a military career, so after leaving school in 1979 he entered the Interior Ministry’s Higher Command School in Novosibirsk.

Alexei Pichugin graduated in 1983 and was sent to an Interior Ministry unit in Tula region.
In 1986, Alexei Pichugin enrolled into a KGB school in Novosibirsk. From 1987 to 1994, Alexei Pichugin worked at the KGB Military Counterintelligence Directorate.

On the whole, Alexei Pichugin had devoted 15 years of his life to the service in the military forces and the Russian special services. In 1994, after a number of reorganization efforts in state security, Alexei quit the FSB being in the rank of Major.

On quitting the FSB, Alexei Pichugin joined the security service of the bank “MENATEP.” In 1998, when the bank “MENATEP” acquired the YuKOS oil company, Alexei Pichugin started to work for YuKOS. He was eventually promoted to the head of a section within the security service.

Being head of the YuKOS Internal Economic Security Department, Alexei Pichugin paid most attention to protecting the company’s property and preventing theft and plunder at the company’s enterprises. The colleagues who used to work with Alexei consider him to be a real professional and stern but fair as a superior.

Alexei Pichugin is married. He has got three sons. In 2003 his youngest son Sergei was only 5.
Alexei Pichugin was more than once awarded for irreproachable service in the units of the Interior Ministry and FSB of Russia.

The First Alexei Pichugin Case: Murder (?) Without Corpses

Alexei Pichugin was detained June 19, 2003, as a suspect in the murder of Tambov business people, Sergei and Olga Gorin. His arrest happened during a search of Pichugin’s apartment performed by officers of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, who were assisted by FSB officers. The search was performed in Pichugin’s presence, but the chief investigator did not allow Pichugin’s lawyers, who arrived 30 minutes after the start of the search, to be present there.
Taking into account the gravity of the charge, the Prosecutor General’s Office’s “probative base” raises many questions.

The bodies of the murdered people were absent, not everything is clear with the forensic results. The first investigation, performed in Tambov, stated that the blood found in the yard of the Gorins’ house belonged to some unknown thirds parties. And only a second examination of the blood samples, which was done much later in Moscow, revealed all of a sudden that the blood was supposedly Gorins’. During the entire period of the investigation, more than 30 examinations were carried out. Very often Pichugin and his legal counsels got to know about orders to conduct an examination after the latter had already been completed. All experts’ statements regarding the case had been given to Pichugin and his lawyers only 8 to 10 days before the case investigation was over.

During the trial, the defense was not allowed to find out circumstances that would lead to the conclusion that Pichugin had not committed any crime. The court hearings were conducted behind closed doors, although not a single secret documents was read out there.
It is very strange and unusual that the first jury, which was obviously inclined to give a “not guilty” verdict to the defendant, was dismissed. The members of the second jury, according to Pichugin and his lawyers, were under the influence of the Prosecutor General’s office. This was indirectly confirmed by state prosecutor Kamil Kashayev, who let it slip at a press conference that the jury were brought to court by a special bus. The defense was not given the lists of those jurors, in violation with the law.

The prosecution concealed from the defense and jury that the main “witness” for the prosecution, named Korovnikov, was sentenced for life for 8 murders, 5 rape cases (including those involving minors), kidnapping, manufacturing of explosive devices, and other crimes.
In violation with Art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“Prohibition of Torture”), while incarcerated at the FSB pre-trial detention center “Lefortovo,” Pichugin was July 14, 2003 handed over to two still unknown people, presumably FSB officers. In an interrogation room, they gave Pichugin an injection of some unknown substance, presumably of the so-called “serum of truth.” There is information that they used hypnotism against Pichugin. And then they “interrogated” him, while he was unconscious.
Pichugin was subjected to coercion and psychological pressure by these people, in order to be made to give self-slandering evidence, and information about the management of the oil company “YuKOS” that the FSB officers wanted. It must be stressed that the case is investigated by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office, so involvement of employees of the FSB in the investigating activities is illegal.

Pichugin told his lawyers that about 2:30 pm he was brought to an office of the pre-trial detention and interrogation center of FSB, where he saw two FSB officers; a tape recorder was sitting on the window sill. He asked these people to name themselves and their positions, to which both said that at FSB they were dealing with economic crimes, but refused to give their last names. After that, they started to ask Pichugin questions about the substance of the crimes he was charged with, inquired about the YuKOS management as a whole, and Alexei Pichugin’s superiors, in particular.

During the interrogation, the FSB officers offered Pichugin some coffee. At first he declined, but half an hour in he made a few sips of the coffee, after which he felt numbness in his legs, and his head was pounding. He does not remember what happened afterwards.
Pichugin came to about four to five hours later (at about 8:30 pm). He was brought back to his cell. Since he was not feeling well, Pichugin asked to call for a doctor, who took his blood pressure and said that it was normal. He was not given any medical assistance. After the interrogation, Pichugin discovered two injection marks (one on the interior part of the left elbow bend, and the other on his right hand between the thumb and the index finger).

Pichugin’s lawyers tried on that day to get a visit with their client, but their solicitation was declined under the pretext that all interrogation rooms at the FSB pre-trial detention and interrogation center were occupied on that day.

Alexei Pichugin’s mother and wife say that on the next day after the “interrogation” he was pale, very weak, looked sick.

Notwithstanding the demands of the lawyers, Yu.A. Burtovoy, head of the interrogation group and a Prosecutor General’s Office interrogator for specially important cases, did not allow Alexei Pichugin’s immediate medical checkup. Only later a doctor saw the prisoner and said she “did not find” any injection marks on his body.

On March 30, 2005, Alexei Pichugin was convicted of arranging the Gorins’ murder and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment at a strict security camp.
Alexei Pichugin became a “guilty” convict because he knew Gorin and worked for YuKOS.
At present, a complaint related to that case is filed with the European Court of Human Rights. The lawyers mentioned violation of Art. 3, 5 (“Right to freedom and personal immunity”), and 6 (“Right to a just and equitable trial”) of the European Convention.

The Second Case: All Evidence of “Witnesses” for the Prosecution from Words of Third Parties

On August 6, 2007, Pyotr Shtunder, a justice of the Moscow City Court, sentenced Alexei Pichugin to a life imprisonment at a special security camp.

Within the framework of that case, Alexei Pichugin was charged with arranging murders in 1998 of Nefteyugansk Mayor Vladimir Petukhov and of Valentina Korneeva, director of the Moscow company Phoenix, as well as arranging in 1998 and 1999 assassination attempts against Evgeny Rybin, executive manager of East Petroleum Handels, an Austrian company. According to the state prosecution, Pichugin acted on commission from Leonid Nevzlin.

On August 17,  2006, the Moscow City Court had already convicted Pichugin of those crimes and sentenced him to 24 years of imprisonment. But the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation reversed that sentence and sent the case for a re-trial by a new composition of court. It is of note that although the Supreme Court vacated the verdict according to the defense complaints (the court enumerated many abuses of law revealed by the defense), but, nevertheless, specified the need to assign a stricter punishment to the defendant. Thus, according to the defense and Alexei Pichugin himself, the new trial from the very beginning was biased for the prosecution.

During the trial, Judge Shtunder brushed aside groundlessly those proofs which did not fit with the indictment. For example, the evidence of the convict Ovsyannikov was not taken into consideration; he stated that the investigators from the Prosecutor General’s Office had forced him to give false evidence against Alexei Pichugin, exerting psychological and physical pressure. Ovsyannikov suffers from hydronephrosis and, according to the evidence of this witness at the trial, provision of medical aid to him depended directly on his giving confession necessary to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The evidence of the witness Kondaurov, head of the analytical subdivisions at YuKOS and at the bank “MENATEP,” was ignored by the court. During the interrogation at the trial he stated that Alexei Pichugin had reported to Shestopalov, head of the Security Department, and could not get instructions from Leonid Nevzlin.

Justice Pyotr Shtunder rejected the defense’s petition for a handwriting review by an expert of the note with Evgeny Rybin’s address, which the prosecution said had been written by Alexei Pichugin, although such an examination would help establish the truth.

The principle “witnesses” for the prosecution, convicts Tsigelnik and Reshetnikov, gave evidence about Pichugin and Nevzlin’s implication in the crimes based on the words of third parties, Gorin and Goritovsky. And it is now impossible to verify whether those had ever actually said the words ascribed to them (Goritovsky was killed, and Gorin disappeared together with his wife).

The place and time of the crimes are not specified. It is specified in the sentence that Alexei Pichugin committed them “in an unascertained place” and “at an unascertained time,” in collaboration with “unascertained parties from the YuKOS top management.”

The court did not take into consideration that Alexei Pichugin had no reasons for committing the crimes. The statement of the public prosecution that these crimes were advantageous for YuKOS does not find any confirmation in the files of the case, according to the defense lawyers.

On January 31, 2008, the Supreme Court threw out the defense’s appeal. So the life sentence took effect.

Alexei Pichugin’s “fault” is that he is an honest man who did not want to slander the YuKOS management.

Appendix 2. Article “The Posture ‘Koo,’” by Dmitry Sokolov-Mitrich. Izvestiya. June 30, 2002.

The Posture “Koo”

This is how people convicted of terrorism are spending the rest of their lives

Dmitry SOKOLOV-MITRICH, Orenburg region, the town of Sol-Iletsk

Six months ago Salman Raduyev, a Chechen bandit, got his conviction. The sentence, which was remained unaltered by a chamber of the Supreme Court, has taken effect. Now Raduyev is getting transported to a camp for life imprisonment. Raduyev is not the first and, help us God, not the last [such prisoner]. Izvestiya correspondents went to the town of Sol-Iletsk, Orenburg region, where five terrorist serve their life sentence at Camp Yu-K-25/6, among them Salautdin Temirbulatov who goes under the nickname Tractor Driver. This report is an attempt to make public the punishment the terrorists are taking. It was done in the Middle Ages, it is done in the U.S. Although it is not capital punishment, society has the right to see that those people are being punished, and how exactly they are being punished. To see and get moral satisfaction.

Black Dolphin

When you pass by the camp’s administrative building you can get an impression that the small town of Sol-Iletsk has a dolphinarium, as in front of the porch two man-size black iron dolphins stand still as though frozen in their leap. They look ominous and odd. Why dolphins?
Back in the 1980s, when the place served as a special security camp for consumptive prisoners, one crafty inmate made two small fountains in the form of black dolphins. They are still there, in the high security area. Those are not that sinister as the new ones out there at large. But the impression is like iron scratching glass. The dolphins are black, and the balls they stand upon are red. Resort style.

“The name stuck by analogy with ‘White Swan’,” told me the warden, Rafis Abdyushev. “White Sawn is the name for a camp at Solikamsk of the Perm region, where they also have now an area for life imprisonment. We went there on an exchange visit, to share experience.”
“And what’s the meaning of the dolphin?”

“Since we became a camp for life imprisonment, there is a meaning. A black dolphin is a convict who dives here but does not come back to the surface. And people also say that all convicts here live in the posture of a black dolphin. Sometimes, they call this posture differently, Koo.”
“Like in the movie ‘Kin-Dza-Dza?’”



At the “Black Dolphin” lives the colonel of [late Chechen president Dzhokhar] Dudayev’s army, Salautdin Temirbulatov, aka Tractor driver. On another floor, Alisultan Salikhov and Isa Zainutdinov, two people who blew up a house in [the Dagestan town of] Buinaksk Sep. 4, 1999, where 58 people died in the explosion. In the same cell with them, Tamerlan Aliyev and Zubairu Murtuzaliyev, convicted for aiding and abetting authors of a terrorist act in [Dagestan capital] Makhachkala, at Parkhomenko street Sep. 4, 1998, where 18 people died. Their neighbors in the camp are one Rylkov, who committed 37 rapes and four murders, one Bukhankin who considers himself the disciple of [notorious rapist] Chikatilo, one named Nikolayev and one named Maslich convicted for cannibalism. And 540 inmates more.

“Here’s how we meet every new group of convicts,” says Alexei Viktorovich Tribushnoy, zampolit [deputy warden for morale and attitude development]. “They run a gauntlet: go blindfolded through an array of hounds attached to leashes, and the hounds bark virtually right in their ears. From the vehicle to the cell. The convicts don’t know that the hounds are on a leash, so they expect carnage any minute. After this procedure we almost don’t need to use blackjacks or tear gas. But all the same, when they get here, every convict undergoes a 15-day attitude-changing period.”

“You teach them ‘rubber’ ABC?”

“We rarely use special devices now. Back in 2000, during the first stages [of the camp establishment], we had to teach and instruct full time. People just did not have a clear idea of what’s life imprisonment. Take Temirbulatov, for instance. He didn’t understand any Russian in the beginning. We call Alexander Gnezdilov, chief of the regional UIN [Directorate for Execution of Punishments], ‘Comrade General, he doesn’t understand Russian!’ — ‘How come he doesn’t understand Russian? Get him to understand by tomorrow morning!’ Two hours later we call back: ‘Comrade General, it’s all right, we’re doing conjugations already!’ Now the newcomers just mix in with the existing system. These 15 days they need just to learn all commands and responses and learn to take the posture ‘Koo’.”

We got up to the third floor of the prison that was built way back during the times of Catherine the Great. Here [late 18th century peasants’ revolt leader Yemeliyan] Pugachev’s “fighters” used to stay, who had worked at the local salt mines. I glanced through a peep hole into a cell. Inmates in black overalls with striped pants, sleeves and caps were sitting in their cells, two to four people per cell. Well, not so much sitting, but walking back and forth: three steps here, three there. Some of them were jogging. Many were washing the toilets or the floors: from boredom they do that three to four times a day. I walked up and down the corridor both ways and peeped in each cell, everywhere I saw the same. The zampolit rattled the lock, and the prisoners, as though shocked by electricity, rushed to the walls.

“What’s happening with them?”

“When the door opens, all of them must be in the Koo posture.”

The door opened, leaving in front of it bars from floor to ceiling. To the right and left along the walls people stood frozen. If you want to get an idea of the Koo posture, stand facing a wall so that you can reach it with your hands. Part your legs two shoulder widths. Now bend yourself in a way so that you would lean on the wall not with your forehead, but the back of your head. Raise your hands behind your back as high as you can and spread apart your fingers. However, that’s not all. Close your eyes and open your mouth. Now, that’s it.

“And why open the mouth?” I asked the zampolit.

“They can hide something sharp in their mouth. Don’t think we invented this for fun. All instructions here are written in blood. Life-termers are the most dangerous. You know the word ‘okay.’ It’s when you don’t get to be afraid of anything. There’s no capital punishment, and whatever you do, you don’t get worse than life imprisonment.”

The question and answer came later. Because right after the door opened, one of the inmates rushed to the center of the room, bent himself in the Koo posture and started to jabber in a very loud and very happy voice:
“Good afternoon, Mr. Warden!!! Convict Sviridov on duty reporting!!!”
After that followed a fluent read-off of the full list of counts for which Sviridov was convicted, including an assault related to robbery, premeditated murder with aggravated circumstances, theft within an organized group and involving a minor into criminal activities, information which court and when pronounced the sentence, decisions passed on appeals. All of these without any stumble and everything with three exclamation marks.

“Got any complaints, statements?”

“Certainly not, Mr. Warden!!!”

“Back to your station. Second.”

The first glued to the wall with the back of his head, a second rushed to the middle of the room.
“Aye-aye, Mr. Warden!!! Good afternoon, Mr. Warden!!! Convict Barbaryan reporting!!!”

From what he said followed that Barbaryan is serving his time for the murder of four people.
“Back to your station. Third.”

“Aye-aye, Mr. Warden!!! Good afternoon, Mr. Warden!!!”

The last report lasted especially long. Just the enumeration of the articles [of the penal code that the prisoner violated] took half a minute: 102, 317, 206, 126, 222, 109, 118, 119, 325, etc.

The zampolit closed the cell and switched on the light there.
 “Thaaaaanks, Mr. Warden!!!”
The zampolit switched off the light.
“Thaaaaanks, Mr. Warden!!!”
“Post No. 15, any questions, complaints, statements?”
A small pause, and then a unanimous roar from all cells at once:
“Certainly not, Sir, Mr. Warden!!!”
Unless the zampolit told me, I never would have guessed that the third report was pronounced by Temirbulatov aka Tractor Driver. In the Koo posture all people look alike. The camp administration even did not get from the start what other terrorists besides Temirbulatov could be meant.

Cell No. 141

On another floor, in a special corridor cage we were awaited by Alisultan Salikhov and Isa Zainutdinov convicted for blowing up a house in Buinaksk. Their profiles with open mouths looked like those of fish washed out on sand. In the same posture they were convoyed to a cell for talk, sat on a stool fixed in the floor and buckled by the handcuffs to a special lug. Again reporting and order to open the eyes. Alisultan Salikhov started finally to look like a human being, not a robot, but his eyes darted past me like crazy.
“What’s with him?”

“They are forbidden to look people in the eye. So that they would not remember faces.”
Salikhov and Zainutdinov got their life sentences for organizing an explosion of a house in Buinaksk in September 1999. It was the first in a series of monstrous terrorist acts, after which the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya had restarted. 58 people died under the ruins. Salikhov personally drove the truck loaded with explosives to a house in Levanevsky Street. He still does not admit his guilt.

“I was in private driving business. My elder brother called me, said his car broke down and told me to come round and help him. I took the car where he said, but I did not know that it had explosives in it!”

“Are you feeling remorse?”

“What remorse can there be, if I don’t considered myself guilty?”

“What are your relations with cellmates?”

“All right. They are all there on the same count.”

“Are you reading anything?”

“Now I’m reading the Qur’an. And before that I used to read Orthodox Church newspapers.”

“How come you read both?”

“I want to know. A person must know everything.”

“Do you worship?”

“Five times a day?”

Isa Zainutdinov looks almost like an old man, although when he was still at large in his description “athletic constitution” was mentioned. He does not speak Russian very well yet, but says his report without accent. He also does not consider himself guilty.

“This is all politics. Our authorities were disturbed by religious people who were putting hindrances to their corruption, to their business. And to dispose of them, the officials did not shrink from blowing up. And as for me, I was in debt, and I wanted to sell my car. I did not know what it was for. I can swear on the Qur’an.”

“Your first impressions about this facility? In such strict conditions, is it possible to remain human?”

“I will tell you this. While I was being transported here, I met people who killed three, four, five people. For money. Those people can’t be made human. In our cell we did not kill a man. We have quiet, good, normal people.”

“What are you laying your hopes on?”

“On the Almighty. And I also hope that some day those currently in power will go away. A year, or two, or three — and they will be gone. Brezhnev is gone, Putin will go, another one will go.”

I am reading personal files, and doubts in their innocence vanish away. At the trial Zainutdinov admitted that his son Magomedrasul worked for Khattab [Arab terrorist who used to fight in Chechnya, and was eventually killed], and that he came to visit him in Chechnya where he met Salikhov, a regular visitor of the Wahhabite mosque in Pirogov Street in Buinaksk. The investigation proved that on their way back from Khattab they acquired two vehicle for the terrorist act (the second truck parked near another house did not explode by pure accident). After that, Salikhov parked a truck where he was told to, and after the explosion both of them went away to Khattab, then based in [Chechnya capital] Grozny. There they carried arms for a long time, but both claim they had never made a single shot. Then Khattab provided them with false IDs and tried to take them across to Azerbaijan. Zainutdinov was detained in Makhachkala, and Salikhov in Baku.

Now they are inmates of cell 141. Also there are Tamerlan Aliyev, chief commissioner of the Pension Fund for the Buinaksk District, and Zubairu Murtuzaliyev, police lieutenant colonel, who organized an assassination attempt on Makhachkala Mayor Sayid Amirov, as a result of which 18 people died. The first two have been here just for three weeks, the second two for a month and a half. Aliyev and Murtuzaliyev are also innocent, of course. Aliyev is especially good in looking genuinely innocent. He is a person with university education and ingratiating manner.

After a lunch break (pea soup, potatoes, soy meat) Temirbulatov was brought in. It was more interesting to talk to him, because he could not prattle about his innocence. Everybody remembers the video where he shot in the back of the head and killed a Russian soldier.



“Temirbulatov, do you want to talk to the press and do you allow to take pictures of yourself?” asked the zampolit when Tractor Driver fastened by handcuffs to the stool opened his eyes.

“Mr. Warden,” said Temirbulatov in a hoarse and whining voice. As compared to the man we saw in the video of shooting soldiers he seemed half his size. “Thank you, Mr. Warden, for asking. If I can answer the questions I will. The pictures I’d rather not. Because... May I say why?”

“You may.”

“On March 20, 2000, photo journalists made of me what had never happened to me. They made of me, how do I say, Santa Claus, they did. Thank you, Mr. Warden.”

“What does it mean, Santa Claus? A paste-up?” I did not get what he meant.

“No, they just made a clown of me. After all, if you treat me fair, I’m nobody.”

“What does it mean ‘nobody?’”

“You might have heard, I was nicknamed Tractor Driver. I’m a mechanic by profession. But I have never had such a nickname. The journalists who took a picture of me for the first time, asked who I was by profession. I said, a tractor driver. From that day for three years everybody has been calling me Tractor Driver. You make a dozen words out of one.”

“What are your conditions here?”

“I cannot say anything against the rules here. The conditions are normal, I’m treated normally, the food is normal, I have no complaints.”

“I’m not talking about the compliance with the rules, but about strictness.”

“I have no complaints about strictness. Whatever I must do, I have done and will do, I have nothing against it.”

“You have been staying here since August 27 of last year. Do you feel any out of the ordinary changes within yourself?”

“No, I can’t say that. As compared to what they did to me at SIZO [the pre-trial detention center], here it’s very good.”

“And what was at SIZO?”

“Don’t you know? I will tell you then. How I got here, I really don’t know. Most of the time I was unconscious. Everything was with me, everything. Just why I did not kick the bucket, I dunno. Here in this place I came round a little, to tell the truth. Here they treat me well, give decent food, I don’t have complaints against this facility.”

“They say you contracted consumption here?”

“Yes, even back at SIZO. I have a closed variety.”

“Do you communicate with your cellmates?”

“We’re there together, staying together. We listen to the radio, read books, newspapers. At first I did not read very well in Russian, but then I learned all right. I don’t read the Qur’an, because I don’t know Arabic, but I read the ‘Talisman,’ those are prayers.”

“Do you feel remorse?”

“I don’t get you.”

“Do you feel sorry for what you did?”

“To tell the truth, I did not commit any crime. Those who drove us to that, they must answer for this. We had an elected president, parliament, ministries, we had everything, we reported to them. People don’t know anything, people submit to power. I killed at the time when we had Dudayev as president, Dzhokhar Dudayev.”

“Do you have visits with your family?”

“Yeah, they write letters, send parcels. My wife came once, and my uncle.”

“What did you talk about?”

“The main thing is to see each other. Well, as a matter of fact, I consider myself a dead man now. They do not think that, they still hope.”

“Do they give you a good enough medical treatment here?”

“Yeah... medical treatment... enough...”

When Temirbulatov stood again in the Koo posture,” I saw his tears on the floor.

The Selye Curve

Zampolit Alexei Tribushnoy, with his background of a medical professional, gave his diagnosis to what we had seen, from the viewpoint of the theory of stresses.

“There is a Canadian scientist, Jean Silye. [Translator’s note: He means Hans Selye (1907-1982), an Austrian-Hungarian-born endocrinologist who studied the effects of stress on the human body.] He made conclusions about the general effect of stress on the human body, and represented them in the Selye curve. Everyone here goes along this curve. In two years, 30 people died. During the first year, normally, a person lives by getting to know these conditions and himself in these conditions. Then three years are a stabilization period. During that time humans start to look like robots, they obey commands without thinking. Then there are two ways. If people adapt themselves, they will be able to continue to live like robots. If not, a fast decline happens. Both intellectual and physical. Glandular fever, ulcer of the gastrointestinal tract, growth of the cortical layer of the adrenal gland. Those four are still at the learning stage. They hope and believe. Temirbulatov has entered the stabilization phase, reached, so to speak, the full Koo.”

“Are you sorry for them?”

“No. You know, I had pigeons in my childhood. I took care of them, coddled them, loved them. And so, one day my pigeon house got broken into, pigeons were stolen, and the baby birds left without parents died before my eyes. It was such a shock for me! Why? I groomed them, fed them, loved, and someone who did not care about that came there and did what they did. It is probably the reason why I came to the penitentiary system. And when pity and sympathy arise in me, I recall those birds.”

“It’s serves no purpose, your visit here and that you want to write about them,” said in a way of partying Rafis Abdyushev, the camp’s warden. “They mustn’t be written about, they just must be forgotten. Just write this: ‘That’s all, forget.’ Out people who work here for two thousand rubles a month know their duty and will not let anyone out of here. Just one thing is required of you: strike these people out of your memory. Think that they are no longer on the Earth, think that they are already in the outer space.”