Cross the border before it's not too late - escape story of Denis Solopov in his own words

I am often faced with one basic question: whether, if knowing the consequences I would still take the same actions I did last year. Of course I would. Yes, we all suffered the consequences, but we also proved that average people, when united are able to scare insolent bureaucrats. Nowadays in the Russia this is worth the effort. Who are the police investigators and field operatives? TThey are subordinates who are generally too frightened to admit that they are the slaves of their bosses, deceiving themselves that things are otherwise. Many of them have clearly understood that they have to make some junk and invent a sort of extremism. Maybe there are also sincere stupid people who believe in their work. These fools do not see the extremists in officials and instead search for them in housing districts.

- Now, at last all of the «Khimki hostages» are free. Only days ago you were imprisoned in the most famous Ukrainian jail, and now you are packing your luggage to go to the Netherlands. To begin with tell us in detail about the conditions according to which you were set free.

- A week before my release I was visited by an official representative of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) who told me that I would be released soon because a country had been found which would accept me(give merefugee status). He said that I would be freed the same day, probably after dinner. I was finally released a week later. The building guard told me to go get my photo taken for the discharge papers, and the hall guard told me to pack up my things for release. At that moment I was alone in the cell, because Ivaschenko (Solopov's cellmate, ex-acting Ukrainian Minister of Defence – OS (“Open Space” website with editorial notes where it was first published – transl.)) had been transported to court. I started to pack up my things: clothes, documents. I still left four bags of items and food in prison. Partly with the «goat» (goat is the literal translation from prison slang used for prisoners working together with the administration - transl.) in the depot, partly in the quarantine area for recently arrived prisoners. In quarantine where it's mostly newbies you can never find basic items.

The building guard gathered some people, one guy who was sick with tuberculosis needed to be hospitalized, another one had to be deported. We were going through the dungeon. There, in Lukjanovka, the buildings are connected with a complex dungeon, it is an old jail, a legacy from tsarism. The guard first led the others, then went with me to the «mistress» (the warden of the remand prison - OS). I didn't go into the office, the warrant officer went in alone to sign some documents. The guard asked me why I'd been released (he didn't know who I was) and I answered that they had simply decided to free me without reason. Maybe he could be happy for me.

I was then led to Dombrovsky, the sub-warden of the remand prison. By the way, I was frequently asked where I would go. They had to write it in the documents, including the discharge papers. As a result they wrote in my Moscow address. Then I started to argue, because I obviously did not want to find myself in the hands of the Moscow region policemen. In practice, there was that chance, that I would be met at the gates of theKiev prison and would be transported to the Khimki department of interior, for example. They started to persuade me that the information in the discharge papers was only a formality, and I would not be forced to go to Moscow. Then I demanded to make a phone call and money for the public transporation fare, which one is supposed to receive according to the law. I just wanted to let the lawyer know about my release, and that I would be met by my friends, not by the police. They laughed about the money, as I'd expected. And they didn't let me use the phone saying that they didn't want to take that responsibility onto themselves. Then I told them, smiling, that they were driving me to crime, because I would be forced to take a mobile phone away from somebody at the gate and return to prison. We exchanged some more jokes but they still didn't let me use the phone.

At the security-check point I asked to use the phone one more time. My attendant offered to go outside together with me and ask for a phone from one of the passers-bye. He understood that near Lukjanovka most people would not give their phone to the bald-headed young man with the sports bag, pale from a long imprisonment. He came outside with me but silently vanished when I was persuading a random passer-by to let me use his phone. Then there was the scene that many of us know from the cinema: the prison gates behind, the bag in hands, the discharge paper in the pocket. No money, no phone. About an hour later I realized that I was free, looked around and planned what to do further.

The discharge papers not only substituted all other documents but also gave me the right of travel in public transport. I decided not to go for a bus because I didn't want to prove to some cunning conductress (in the ex-USSR it's usually a women's job - transl.) that I had the right to travel. But I was forced to explain myself to the «turnstile-watching» woman in the metro who had exceeded her duties giving me a detailed examination. I then went to the flat of my Kiev friends where I could get in contact with the lawyer and representatives of the UNHCR. After that I only needed to avoid any troubles while the documents for my departure to the third country were issued by the UNHCR.

- Everybody saw the Khimki action video footage and photos. Arrests, trials, etc. were closely and detailedly reported in the press. Petya Kosovo published stories about his travels around Europe. Tell us how you managed to get away.

- After you had gone into the building of the Moscow region state department of interior I waited for you in the Alexandrovskiy garden. I waited for your call. After an hour you phoned me and said «All right» which meant, according to our agreement, that the situation was unfolding in the most unfavorable manner. I threw away my mobile phone to escape detection. I then connected with friends using the new, «blank» phone which I had bought in the subway, explained the situation, and asked for enough money to live on the run. They obtained the necessary sum that very evening. I decided not to go home, not to phone any of my relatives. Lastly using my sources in law enforcement agencies I found out what the situation was, partially confirming the plans of the «police investigative measures». When I realized that you would be imprisoned anyway, and I would be found and arrested immediately or put on the wanted list if I wasn't found me, I decided to cross the border before it was too late. The next day, July 30, I called a taxi via public telephone and asked to be taken to the suburbs, to one of the railroad stations going in the direction of Belarus. Naturally, I went with the regional electric train in order not to buy a ticket with my passport.

- You went to Minsk? Did you pick it for a particular reason?

- No. At that time the only thought I had was of escape, of crossing the border. I literally escaped in the clothes I had left home with. Where to go and what to do later on I couldn't even imagine.

- The trip to Belarus by regional train lasts a couple of days. What are your brightest memories of your escape route?

- When I was in one of the towns closer to Belarus, I had to spend the night somewhere. In hotels I was asked for a passport. I decided to go to some 24-hour bar. I found a pizzeria. There, some local guys and girls were celebrating something. I asked if they knew where I could rent a flat or room for a day. I explained that I had trouble with my documents. I just generally chatted with them. The guys promised to think about my problem, then suggested to go to the birthday of one of their friends. As a result we all danced in some yard. But I still had to clean up and sleep to look normal at the border. Then, a total stranger who was going to go for the night to his girlfriend's, offered me the keys to his flat and suggested I sleep there. The most ridiculous thing was that he said no one was at home but in fact his mother was. I was forced to apologize for the late visit and introduce myself as her son's friend from Moscow. As any true Russian woman would, she fed me borscht and all sorts of savory foods till I could barely move, before she headed off to sleep. In the morning I called a taxi to take me to the train. I went by train to a station close to the Belarussian border, but I decided to cross over with the bus going to Vitebsk. I did it without any problems. The passengers' documents were not checked properly.

In Vitebsk I first went to find Internet access and found out that in Belarus you are asked for your passport in Internet-cafes. I managed to haggle over this and get in without it. I bluffed something about having forgotten it in the hotel and being too lazy to return and that I could dictate my passport data from memory. As a result I sat at the computer for five hours, browsing news and writing down all the information I needed about hotels, transport and renting flats. I took the cover and photo from my old student id card and on the computer made up a new card with a new name, so I had a somewhat secure document. It became easier to explain who I was with it. Under the pretense that I had left my passport with my relatives who would come later I could get a room in a hotel in the city center for a several days. There, I more or less planned my next steps. I decided to go to Minsk. In a large city it is easier to go unnoticed.

In Minsk I rented a flat from a woman who had stood on the railway platform with the sign «flat for rent». It was much safer than trying to go to some Minsk hotels without a passport, or to go to a rental agency. The weekly rent was low. In Moscow I had been a realtor for some time so I could assess the price. I had a look at the flat and decided that suggested cost was fair. Everywhere I went I inspired confidence in the people around me. As a bonus, the landlady left me food and a local SIM card. My friends from one Russian town made me, by my request, a Skype account with enough money on it. Throughout that entire period I tried not to contact anyone, even trusted friends. Nobody knew, where and how I was. Later I changed several accounts just in case. For all my relatives I had already disappeared for half a month. Friends let me know that our house in Moscow was under external observation, from the news I learned about the roundups and all kinds of madness done by Moscow region policemen. I first called my father, and told him literally a couple of phrases: «I am not in Russia. I'm OK. Don't worry, concentrate on Max.» Daddy answered: «Well done! Good that you phoned.» Then I called my friend who was supposedly tapped. I joked with her about my location a little for the benefit of the cops. I wanted to intrigue them to search for me further from Moscow, in the opposite direction of where I was. The joke turned out well, they searched for me in all kinds of places... At that point I felt more or less confident in myself. A last unclear thing was what to do further.

- How was it that you found yourself in Ukraine at last?

- In general, I spent some time in Internet cafes, learning useful information and planning what to do next. It was in the very center of Minsk. Unexpectedly, two of my closer friends from Moscow came to this cafe. Of course, their troubles had not been as great as mine, but they had decided to leave Moscow for the period of the roundups. It was a very nice meeting, furthermore they had reliable friends in Minsk. Hiding became more cheerful. Together we decided to leave for the Ukraine. In Belarus we couldn't have a normal life. After all, the special services in Belarus work more effectively, as opposed to the Russian ones. You cannot do anything without a passport, and the local people are oppressed. We decided that we should go to Crimea while it was still warm, rest at the seaside and feign at being tourists. We went to the border in buses. Understanding the level of control we decided to cross the border legally, with our passports. At that point we separated, so my friends would not run the same risk as me. We all made it over the border by bus.

Next up we bought tickets to Eupatoria without a problem. Once there we first went to swim in the sea. We behaved like tourists. There were no troubles, and we just relaxed. We decided to find cheap accommodation in the private sector. Asking the shop girls, we found different options in several villages. One of them was called Krasnoe. We decided to go directly there, in the village with revolutionary traditions ("Krasnoe" means "Red" in Russian - transl.). We rented the second home of a certain uncle Kolya. He had his own farm: goats, pigs, melons. For us the cost of living was very low, and in addition to this he fed us fresh milk, eggs, vegetables. However, after some time uncle Kolya understood that we were staying suspiciously long. Usually people arrived for a week, but we had already stayed an entire month. Apart from this we did not drink like the usual tourists do, but instead jogged in the mornings and exercised at the horizontal bars. We only swam, ate watermelons, and played sports. Kazantip was nearby, and local people were used to seeing the young tourists constantly intoxicated, and we didn't fit. Of course, we went to some of these parties on the coast, but there we stood out as well, by not consuming alcohol and drugs. We found out the news on the Internet at the post office, when we went to the city for food. We tried to find a possibility to leave for Europe, got in contact with trusted people about different options, legal or not. But we couldn't find a suitable one. The best option was illegal, with a fifty-fifty chance of success, and for a rather large sum. It did not suit us.

And so the holiday season came to an end. Uncle Kolya started to tell tales about guys who had robbed some metallurgic factory, or whatever, and had hidden at his farm. He clearly hinted that he wanted to hear our criminal story too. We, however, feeling our finances dwindling, started to joke about robbing the postal service.

After about a month of rest we received exact information about our cases from our sources; who was of greater interest and who less so. In general, as we expected, my friends had nothing to be afraid of, only I was wanted by the police. I was also put on the Interpol search list. We then decided to separate. The guys returned to Moscow, where all was calm, and I went on to Kiev.

- How did you decide to ask for refugee status in Ukraine? Didn't that seem to be the more dangerous thing to do rather than living there illegally?

- After arriving in Kiev I carefully got in touch with my reliable local friends, who were ready to help. These friends knew people who are working in the field of legal aid to refugees. I began sorting out the details of the procedure to get refugee status. As a result, I once again considered all my options, and made the decision to go via the legal route. Anyway, I actually hadn't committed any crime, hadn't killed anybody, hadn't robbed anybody. I was advised to meet and consult with a reliable expert in the field. There aren't many similar situations with Russian refugees in the Ukraine. My case was similar to the ones with the National-Bolsheviks. I was advised to consider their experience and take their mistakes into account. First I went and addressed the UNHCR and their partner organization HIAS which allocated me a lawyer. All these competent moves were possible thanks to the very qualified help of my friends. These procedures are very difficult and demand a heap of papers which are not easy to gather whilst being wanted.

The most dangerous thing was addressing the Kiev immigration services. Despite having a legal duty to maintain confidentiality, they share the information they receive with the criminal investigations' department. However, I had already gone via the legal route, so I had no choice. According to international procedure, I was obligated to ask for refugee status in the country where I was. Of course I took precautions and did everything as carefully as possible, consulting with the lawyer. Everyone at the Kiev immigration services was shocked by my visit and my story. The employees there are quite shameless idlers who aren't prepared to do their job. Nevertheless I carefully stated everything, and they were obliged to consider my case right away. I explained that I had no phone number, but that I would call them periodically, to learn, how things were progressing and being processed. It lasted four months, all the while I was collecting documents for the UNHCR.

- Nevertheless you were still under international warrant and being searched for, besides the fact that you were in the Ukraine without proper documents. Were there times when you were stopped casually by police officers? When they tried to detain you?

- I basically did whatever I could in order not to attract attention. I grew my hair out, wore a suit with ironed out trousers and polished shoes. I also wore glasses with zero lenses for the additional image of intelligence. When you look like that, you won't be stopped for id checks. Obviously you are either going to work, or coming from work. Just in case however, I always had enough money for a pay off in case such a situation came up. It's important to say that in Ukraine the police is overly corrupt and that played right into my hands. There was only one time when I broke my own rule and went out to a shop after midnight. I wanted to buy kefir. The district was restless, and late in the night with kefir in my hands I stirred the suspicion of patrolmen. But I managed to tell them the exact address of the house next to mine and pointed to it with my hand, proving that I lived there, and convince them that I had left my passport at home.

- Were there any specific attempts to catch you? What do you know about the steps taken by investigators? How did you assure your own safety?

- Of course, after asking for refugee status I didn't relax and lived as I had before. I didn't tell anyone about my location, even my parents didn't know the country and the city where I was hiding. Though my father certainly guessed. Lots of my friends in Kiev found out that I had been hiding in their city, only after my arrest. So I didn't relax. On the contrary, I was always vigilant. I was watching the address which I had left at the immigration services. Both the local Kiev police as well as the Moscow region police showed up in the area around this address. My Moscow sources had informed me that Moscow region police had gone after me. And it was true. They showed up, and decided to visit the address I had specified at the immigration services. Having guessed in advance that such a situation was likely to take place, I had left the address of a girl I actually knew though I never went to her flat. I asked the girl to convince cops in such a situation that I really lived with her in her apartment, just that I'm not there at that particular moment.

When they came to the apartment asking her whether she knew where Denis Solopov was living, she let them in the house and even showed them my presumed room. Then she wrote me all about it over e-mail and said that she had been questioned by Kiev police, but that she also recognized Moscow cops. Though they had been silent the whole time in order not to squeal on their Moscow accent. Then, she had looked out the window and had seen two cars with four people each, and the small bus with curtains at the windows.

The second time around only local police came led by the colonel. Everything was the same, only this time they left some nonprofessional surveillance all over the house. I was informed about that, and I decided to go there to observe them from the house next door. Then I called my friend and asked her to leave the house and to go to a cafe so that the cops would reveal themselves for certain. It was amusing. To watch those who watch.

- So you clearly understood the risk involved in going to the immigration services. Why did you go there to get a rejection? You were arrested there, eventually.

Yes, I went there even though I knew I would get a rejection. Regarding the risk of getting arrested, it was fifty/fifty. Still, there was the hope that the Ukrainian cops would simply decide not to mess with a scandal waiting to happen. However, when I walked out the door, having gotten the rejection, I realized immediately that they had surrounded the building from all sides. I didn't have any desire to run away, so I decided to stay calm. One of them, in a gray hood, approached me, presented himself and asked for my documents. Immediately, some more of them came close to me. They came out of two cars. Then even more of them appeared. There were lots of them and all were in civilian clothes. I was even pleased by such serious concern. Some of the young ones, as always, had started to show off, trying to break my arms. They put me in handcuffs, put me in the car, and sat down close to me, one on each side. Well, as it usually goes, they started to ask the standard ridiculous questions: «What did you really do? Why were you so high on an international wanted list if it was just about hooliganism?» They took photographs for themselves with their phones.

I actually even felt a kind of relief. Now, I no longer depended on myself. The measures that I had taken in advance, now had to work for me. The main thing was to inform my lawyer of what was happening as soon as possible. I even fell asleep in the car on the way to the police station. There, they took my fingerprints, photographed me and filled out some forms. For sure their Russian was really bad, even worse, than the Russian of our police force. I had to try hard to complete everything fast and without any mistakes.

You remember what happened next. I was sent to the office of the deputy chief of the investigatons' department of Solomensky ROVD. He asked me some questions and told me he didn't wish me any harm. He told me there'd been rumors that I might be killed while in prison. «You disturbed someone very important». Well, there had been quite some rumors going around about me. Eventually all of them left and I was alone in the office. At that moment the door slammed, and it broke. While they had a meeting about the door lock and were swearing, accusing me that I'd slammed the door intentionally, I used their computer and found out that it was connected to the Internet. I then went on Facebook and informed you and several other friends about the situation. This information reached the lawyer immediately. He arrived quickly and began working on the necessary documents. I did nothing.


-Tell us your impression of the first days in prison. What do the convicts of Lukjanovskaya prison look like?

-A police paddy wagon arrived to the office and I was transferred to the temporary detention facility. It appeared quite flashy: it was clean, bright, with hot water, edible meals and clean linen, almost like a spa resort. Later I learned that it had been built especially to show off in front of Europeans. There I met different criminals: one murderer, a con artist and a professional athlete, who was seriously beaten up by the police, I don't remember for what. Then I was transferred again to Lukjanovka. There were a lot of people, we talked a little, I became acquainted with some of them. At first they separated ex-police officers from us and the snitches, searched everyone and eventually put us in quarantine. It was a big room for forty people, mostly first-time convicts. Conditions were awful there: dirty, humid, most packages never reached people. Everyone had to sit there for several days. It was quite cold, but the plank iron beds had no mattresses on them. I caught a serious flu, was lying there with a high temperature. But I also became acquainted with a lot of people.

The overwhelming majority had been sentenced for nonsense. There were a lot of addicts, mostly methamphetamine addicts, not heroin. They gathered in groups to discuss their experiments on how and what to cook into drugs. To tell the truth, I was enraged by these conversations. But most of the convicts were not even addicts but just poor guys. Small robberies, ridiculous hundred grivnas thefts from supermarkets, well, different drunken assaults and murders. A perfect example was a homeless guy who'd broken off a huge litter-bin and dragged it to scrap metal yard for several kopecks. For such things they put people in prison too. I suppose it's being done this way to make sure the prisons are always full.

There were also very interesting people. It's interesting to talk about many of them. My first cell was filled with con artists sentenced for economic crimes. That cell was considered very civilized. In general, there were quite a lot of interesting people. Then a guard came, I still remember his surname, Berezovsky. He called me and said: «I have to transport you to a special block». I didn't want to go, though I knew that the special block is quite normal too, and in general there were vip-convicts. But anyway I didn't want to move, because I was already acquainted with everyone. One of them was a tattooer from Zhukovsky, Russia. I told him that I draw too. Together we drew sketches on bed-sheets with a gel pen. In the evening a guard came and told me I was going to move.

I came into a new cell. The room was small (three places), clean, very tidy, there was a refrigerator. There was one quiet old intelligent guy making a salad. He immediately started to talk to me on a first-name basis. He introduced himself: "Valery Vladimirovich". We greeted each other. I told him that I was awaiting extradition to Russia according to the article on "hooliganism", but that in fact it was a political case. He named his articles: «excess of official powers» and «misappropriation of state property».

I thought that the colonel was probably quite important, and later I saw on TV that he was the vice Minister of Defense Ivaschenko. I told him about Khimki. Now we understood that neither of us was a liar. We communicated normally though we were people of different age and social status. He taught me how to play chess. I left him my drawings. The worst thing in the special block is the lack of communication. Communication with relatives is only possible through the lawyer.

-Who else would you like to talk about from the special block?

I met a lot of different people in the special bock of the prison. For example, I met the director of "Kievgorstroj-2" Sergey Ivanovich Kushch, who supervised over many building projects. I presented him one of my paintings on his Birthday. One week prior to my release, Sergey Kostakov was also released. He was sentenced for disorder during the «Tax Maidan» in Kiev. He wasn't in the special block, but close to us. I got acquainted with him, while we were being taken to court. A lot of people supported him, including 20 deputies. He had heard about Khimki as well, when it had been shown on TV among other current events. Not as detailed as in Russia, of course, but Ukrainian people knew about the situation. Kostakov is a very calm person. I also often saw a fat amusing American Fletcher, the millionaire who created a financial pyramid. He didn't speak to anyone, but I saw him frequently. In general, the elite walks in the prison-yard. In comparison to the regular prison standards, our sports court was really huge.

-What is your impression of the political situation in Ukraine after talking to some of the main characters in various scandals?

-Most information I just heard from ordinary convicts. In general, in prison, Yanukovych is considered an unworthy president. He was a «goat», and he was sentenced for having almost raped someone. It is said that the real power in Ukraine is with the Donetsk clan and he is just one of their puppets. When he came to power even drivers in the government garage, old professionals, had been replaced by Donetsk drivers. There are a lot of stories about takeovers of small and medium businesses by Donetsk clan members.

-Tell us the story of your sentence in the segregation cell. What were you locked up there for on the 9th of May? And don't forget to tell about how you painted it.

-Well, it was the 9th of May. A holiday. Suddenly the guard comes in the cell: «Gather your things for the segregation cell». «What for?» I asked him. «It's none of my business. My business is to take you there. Ask officials about the reason».

I gathered my things, and then I was taken away. Everyone who was to be closed up in the punishment cell was gathered up. Then they took me for a search. There they took everything we had. We weren't allowed to take anything: neither cigarettes, nor books. We were then taken to warden. The chief warden and his deputies were there. There was a queue for the segregation cell. One of his deputies asked me:

- Do you know, what you are being punished for?

- No.

- How? Your phone was taken from you in the cell.

And he told me the date.

- We hadn't been searched on that day, and no phones had been taken from us. Show me the report.

- Here's the report, sign it. And he gave me the paper.

- I won't sign.

- You will regret it. Ten days of segregation cell.

The warden was looking at it silently. Then he said:

- What cell are you from?

- The fifteenth.

- Who else is there?

- Ivaschenko.

- To figure it out, - he told the deputy.

Convicts advised me not to argue. If I argued I would get the maximum sentence. Suddenly, before transferring us to the segregation cells, the guard entered and said: «Solopov, go home» (in the direction of my cell). It appeared, that I was to return to my cell because I hadn't signed that report. The next day the prison warden called me and kindly told me in private: «Well, I have decided not to punish you severely. I'll punish you with a sentence in the segregation cell. Just two days in order that you understand what it's like». So they punished me. I still don't know what for. Later they even apologized.

Well, the segregation cell had naked concrete walls, a concrete bowl and a hole in the floor as a toilet. The most pleasant thing was the wooden floor, because the cot was screwed to the wall during the whole day, so you couldn't sit on it. There was nothing to do in general. You couldn't have a normal meal. Meal in segregation is a mixed fodder that you can only eat if you're starving. The only edible thing was bread, and only with tea.

Being bored, I broken off some kind of stalactites from plaster, and it became a piece of chalk for me. Besides that I took a piece of crude crumbly black concrete. I had two colors. Using them I drew a sofa on the wall, where there was the cot, two pictures in frames and on the blank wall a slightly opened door. I tried hard and the result was not so bad. I worked conscientiously on the perspective. The next day security guards were delighted and they took pictures on their mobile phones. They verbally abused me, as was their duty, but in fact they called everyone to come and have a look.

- You mentioned your paintings. How many works did you create while you were in prison?

- Besides the picture I gave you from prison, where I drew the cell, I worked on some other pieces. I gave "Ronald-balanderand" (“balanda” is a Russian prison slang for “meal” and “balander” is a prisoner who delivers “balanda” - transl.) to Sergey Ivanovic Kushch from "Kievgorstroj". It was of Ronald McDonald carrying a meal like a prisoner. But I didn't explain all the meanings I had put into that painting. He with his cell mate, the head of some village council, often philosophized about this work during their walks. I also made one work around the situation in Libya and Gaddafi. I made one about refugees. All my works had some social relevance, connected to my actual circumstances, but I don't want to describe them in words. I hope, they will be available to a larger public in some time.

- You're a participant in the 4th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. Are we going to see your exposition in Moscow?

- Yes, definitely. I will do my best to make it happen. I hope, it will be possible to show some of the paintings I made in the remand prison. Thanks, by the way, to all who made an effort to exhibit my works in Moscow and Kiev while I was imprisoned. I am ready to create more varied and especially controversial works. In fact, the idea of having my own exhibition came up in my head while I was hiding and there was something on TV about an attack on an art gallery. It was situated in the old building of the Khimki administration and, as was explained by one of Khimki officials, was in fact the actual target of the antifa attack - OS. I then decided to draw some pictures on canvases (before my arrest I had finished only one) and with the help of my friends make an exhibition in Moscow. It would be cool: I'm in the international search, and there is my exhibition in Moscow. I also had an idea to arrange an auction after the exhibition, and donate the money to the Khimki art gallery.

- You're a professional jeweler. Your status in a new country would allow you to get an additional education, there is a jewelery industry in the Netherlands. Are you going to work as a jeweler?

- Yes, I will try. I hope, I will have the possibility to find a job, allowing me not only to earn enough money to live happily, but also to help provide my parents a better life.

- You're moving to a prosperous European country, where you will have social security and will be able to get a free education and the chance to work. Are you satisfied with the role of emigrant?

- No, the life of an emigrant doesn't suit me. Thanks, of course, to the Netherlands for the residence permit, but this country is unfamiliar to me, with its specific rules. I'm a Russian person, grew up in my country, with its own culture, and at the first possibility I will return home. The conflict with the state doesn't cancel out that it's my homeland. And, being abroad, I want to influence life in my country. I have left only to go back. I'm not a dissident, dreaming to run away.

- After a year, what do you think? What consequences did the events in Khimki have on you, your relatives and friends?

- Well, on the one hand, many have suffered from the reprisal actions of the Moscow region police. On the other hand, it was the real revolt of thinking youth. It was not an oppositional action, not a banal protest. It was a revolt against Evil, against the people who symbolize true extremism across all Russia.

I'm often being asked such a simple question: «Would you have behaved the same way a year ago if you had known about consequences?». My answer is: «Definitely». Yes, all of us have suffered from the consequences. But we have proved that ordinary kids if they are ready to unite, are capable to put fear into shit-eating officials. In present day Russia this is worth its weight in gold.

- What would you tell the investigators who worked on your case?

- Of course I could say: «Haha, you're losers, I got out of prison and bypassed you». But I don't want to say that. Who are these investigators? They are subordinates who are generally too frightened to admit that they are the slaves of their bosses, deceiving themselves that things are otherwise. Many of them understand that they're forced to be engaged in this mess and make up extremism. Perhaps there are also sincerely ridiculous people who believe in what they do. These fools do not see the extremists in officials and instead search for them in housing districts. I also want to tell such guys that when they catch thinking people, it would be desirable, if they too reflected on this. And I want to wish them to have respect for themselves. Of course if they have any code of honor at all, if not the officers' code, then at least the basic human code of honor.

- Do you have anything to add?

- Thanks to everyone for whom my destiny wasn't indifferent. Thanks to all the people who helped me and my relatives. These are hundreds, if not thousands people in different cities and countries. I have met many of them while I was hiding and when I was in prison, some I'd known earlier, and many of them I haven't met to this day. They are people with different views, often even opposing views, with different destinies and positions in society, but I am sincerely grateful to each one of them. And I hope that with each story such as this one these good people will believe more in their strength.


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