On Friday 10th of January Basmanniy district court of Moscow ceased criminal case against Alexey Olesinov, Alexey Sutuga, Alyon Volikov and Babken Guskasyan. All four were accused of “hooliganism”, a criminal offense which is included in the amnesty bill, approved as a PR stunt on initiative of Vladimir Putin himself in advent of the Sochi Winter Olympics – most known amnestied political prisoners being 30 detainees of the Arctic Sunrise ship of Greenpeace, and two imprisoned members of Pussy Riot. Four anti-fascists had also other, less severe charges which fall under statutes of limitations.
Olesinov and Sutuga were released under traveling restrictions last summer, after more than a year in a custody. They, and Volikov who was only released last Friday were accused for having clashed with the far-right security of “Vozdukh”-club in Moscow in December of 2011 during a concert. Guards claimed that guests of the concert had vandalized club property, they expelled audience and took some of the organizers as hostages, where waiting for their associates “to arrive in order to collect compensation for damages”. Organizers attempted to leave the venue, and guards opened fire with rubber bullets. In the resulting clash, guests of the concert prevailed.
Russian political police force “Center of counteraction against extremism”, exploited this case in order to have two known anti-fascists, Sutuga and Olesinov detained. Originally they were also accused of another case, where a 16-year fascist was beaten up having made a Nazi salute, but eventually only Volikov and Gukasyan were charged for this incident. Young Nazi gave testimony against Olesinov and Sutuga, although both had an unquestionable Alibi. This is not the only case, in which a Nazi victim has given false testimony against known anti-fascists when it is unclear who has committed actions. Volikov and Gukasyan were also amnestied for these charges.
Goals of the process which has now finished were much wider than investigation two fights. For example Alina Kosolovskaya, who was interrogated as a witness of the case, was mostly asked questions about known anti-fascist Alexey Gaskarov, who was arrested last April for completely unrelated case of inauguration riot of Vladimir Putin 6th of May 2012. Of those accused of the inauguration riots, only 4 were released under the amnesty bill, whereas 13 are still in custody (Gaskarov amongst them), two in home arrest, five under travelling restrictions and two have been sentenced. Two members of the “Left front” party are facing the most serious charges of “organising a riot”, although video footage and plenty of witnesses have provided testimony that clash had been prepared by the police.
Another Moscow anti-fascist Irina Lipskaya was also amnestied 27th of December. She was accused of two assaults against far-right concerts in years 2011 and 2012. In the same week three anti-fascists from Nizhni Novgorod were amnestied, criminal process against them proceeded for almost three years. However, two activists from Nizhni Novgorod were forced to flee the city and hide from officials, and thus they still face charges and are not amnestied. Also, anti-fascist Igor Hartchenko, who was given a three and half years prison sentence in August in Moscow for having defended a concert against far-right attack in July of 2011 remains in prison.
Of course, not only anti-authoritarians are being amnestied. There are no overall statistics on how many people are being amnestied, estimates vary from thousands to tens of thousands. Many political prisoners of the far right have been amnestied as well. For example 16 Nazis who attacked anti-nuclear protest camp in Angarsk in summer 2007 and beat anarchist Ilya Borodaenko till death were also charged with “hooliganism”, and thus they are now amnestied. Russian officials tend to define far-right political violence as “hooliganism”, which is why even serious crimes of Nazis are often sentenced with hooliganism charges.
But besides all faults, amnesty bill is a proof that the current Russian regime is not immune to a political protest. Due to terrorist threat, Sotchi Olympics will take place in atmosphere of military occupation and economically they are a disaster. But Olympic games and other such international projects are also a reason why Russian government is still worried for its public image, and reacts to political pressure.