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Maksim Smolnikov, a street artist known as Hadad, from Khabarovsk has been remanded for two months due to his 2018 VKontakte post about the explosion at an FSB office in the Arkhangelsk region. Smolnikov is accused of "justifying terrorism." During these two years, the security officials had no complaints against him.
Crowbar to the door
- We had just returned from a trip. I had gone to pick up the children, from my first marriage, from Vladivostok. I returned on the 10th of May and Max picked us up from the train station, and we went to bed. On the 11th, at about seven in the morning, I woke up due to an insistent knocking at the door - says Svetlana Gordienko, common-law wife of Smolnikov.
She did not think that the security forces were interested in her family.
- I thought a drunken neighbor was at our door, but then they yelled: "Open up! Police! To Smolnikov, immediately!" While she was putting on her pants, they began to hit at the iron door with a crowbar. I opened up and they burst in, Max was dragged into the hallway, and made to face the wall. I didn’t know how to behave - I tried to take pictures with my phone, but the OMON officer began to pull it out of my hands. At the time one child was on their way to school, and another to hockey practice.
.They came after Maxim Smolnikov, known in Khabarovsk as graffiti writer Hadad, because of VKontakte (Russian facebook) post from 2018. The post (translated in end of this text) was dedicated to Mikhail Zhlobitsky, a 17-year-old anarchist from Arkhangelsk, who blew himself up in the building of the regional department of the FSB (Russian security services) in 2018. Several intelligence officers were wounded and Zhlobitsky died on the spot.
Hadad is charged with article 205.2 of the Criminal Code: justification of terrorism, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison. According to OVD-Info. According to OVD-Info, more than 20 criminal cases were initiated under this article for statements that the security officials considered to be excuses for Zhlobitsky's act.
Gordineko says that there were eleven people present during the search, but only seven were indicated in the protocol. They took Smolnikov's computer, Smolnikov's and Gordienko's phones, and studied her Telegram correspondence with her husband. For some reason, they were interested in Smolnikov's notes on social networks on the 9th of May.
In the computer (Max was logged into his gmail account) they happily included to the protocol that he had liked on youtube the lecture of Alexander Shubin ( Doctor of Historical Sciences, publicist of leftist views - S.R. ) on nationalism, she continues.
The next day, a remand hearing was held. Gordienko says that her husband's defense insisted that at the time Smolnikov wrote the VKontakte post, Zhlobitsky's act was not qualified as a terrorist attack. Investigators demanded that he be placed in a pre-trial detention center, arguing that Smolnikov is an IT specialist, and if he is not deprived of his freedom, he will be able to obstruct the investigation through the devices in his household.
Gordienko told Sibir.Realii website, that Smolnikov works as the head of the information support department in the regional center for assessing the quality of education: this is the structure that conducts the USE (Universal State Exam ЕГЭ, similar to A-Levels in England and Abitur in Germany).
- The investigators talked about some kind of preliminary study of the text, but they mumbled so much that I could not make out anything. Max in his last words said that in order to evaluate his post as an excuse [of Zhlobitsky's act], one must have some kind of perverted understanding: he just condemns this act and says that it is not necessary to do so, - says Gordienko.
The court sent Maxim Smolnikov to a pre-trial detention center for two months. The graffiti artist's lawyer Konstantin Bubon told Sibir.Realii that he won't comment on the case yet - he has signed a non-disclosure agreement. At the same time, he stressed that he would appeal the court decision.
Hadad posted his works on Instagram. Almost all of them are on political topics, the constant heroes of his graffiti are men in masks and often with weapons. But the Khabarovsk police authorities made no reference to the work of Hadad.
- He had no problems with the police. The general public reacted positively to his graffiti, many took selfies in front of his work. Nazis didn't feel the same. For example, he painted something in memory of Socrates (antifa activist Aleksey Sutuga who died in the fall of 2020 - S.R. ) which was almost immediately vandalized. The police made no complaints because he did not paint on houses. He painted, for example, on garages. He would finish a piece, and the owner of the neighboring garage would say: "Can you do it for me too?" Last year he was invited to the "Artservatory", this is our center for contemporary art: street art artists "bombed" (painted) inside the space. - says Gordienko.
Aleksey (he asked not to share his last name), a friend of Hadad, noted in a conversation with Sibir.Realii that Smolnikov was repeatedly interviewed by local media. The artist has never been charged with any misdemeanors or felonies.
In 2019, Smolnikov was already interrogated directly in the case of the terrorist attack in Arkhangelsk: the investigation suspected that Zhlobitsky was interested in Hadad's drawings on social networks.
After the interrogation, Smolnikov had no problems with the security forces. Gordienko says that in February 2021, a summons to an interrogation came again to the E-Center due to the Zhlobitsky case. Maxim went there with a lawyer, but for some reason they did not interrogate him.
Finding an excuse
Smolnikov's post about Zhlobitsky is still available on his VKontakte page (English translation provided in end of this article). In the text, Smolnikov expresses that the 17-year-old teenager in Arkhangelsk did not find another way to protest. The initiation of a criminal case in Khabarovsk was condemned by the SOVA Information and Analytical Center, which monitors problems of nationalism and xenophobia.
"We regard the persecution of Smolnikov as unlawful. According to the footnote to Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code, public justification of terrorism should be understood as a public statement recognizing the ideology and practice of terrorism as correct, in need of support and imitation. The artist's text did not express that terrorist ideology or practice is correct and deserving of imitation. We believe that there were no signs justifying terrorism in the post," Sova said in a statement.
The correspondent of Sibir.Realii asked journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva, who was also convicted under 205.2 of the Criminal Code for her publication about Zhlobitsky, to comment on Hadad's case.
- It seems to me that no expert tricks can be used to extract words from this post to imply the justification of terrorism. Smolnikov says that [Zhlobitsky's] act is regrettable, that it is an ineffective method of struggle, that this should not be done. I do not see any other reason for the security officials to engage in posts about Zhlobitsky except for reports, ticks and promotions. In November 2018, they could panic: it is logical, suddenly there is a terrorist organization that will begin to hunt down the authorities. They checked, made sure that it was a lone suicide bomber who blew himself up in the first place. You can also understand why they initiated the proceedings [for allegedly justifying Zhlobitsky's act] in 2018, but why do they still do so now? Everyone has already forgotten about Zhlobitsky, they would not have remembered him, if not for all the new criminal cases.
And it is symbolic that the raid on Smolnikov's house took place on the same day as the Kazan school shooting. While gadgets were confiscated from a graffiti artist in Khabarovsk, a psychopath, who considers himself to be a god, walked along the streets of Kazan with a gun at the ready to shoot the teachers and students of his former school. Where were the police, the National Guard, the FSB, and a whole list of security services with all their praised surveillance cameras and network monitoring programs? The Kazan shooter, Galyaviev, wrote in advance that he was going to kill. In plain text, and words were in line with the actions. All these "E" centers were created to protect exactly against such crimes. So where is that protection? - says Prokopyeva.
Addendum from Moscow Anarchist Black Cross:
We have attempted to track any cases related to repression around the discussion of the Zhlobitsky action, but most of the people indicted in these 20 criminal cases are distant from the anarchist movement, we do not have any contact with these people, and we only know about these cases from the media.
The OVD-Info website has carefully tracked the news around the repressions, and has published it here in Russian. Alltogether 71 people in 22 different Russian regions have faced repression for commenting on the Zhlobitsky case. 20 have faced felony charges.
Sergey Arbuzov from Vologda was given a 5 year prison sentence, after he wrote that Zhlobitsky should be given the ”Hero of the Russian Federation” honorary title. Ivan Lyubshin from Kaluga was given a sentence of five years and two months for calling Zhlobitsky ”hero of the week”, Lyubshin denied that he meant any positive connotation. Alexandr Sokolov received 2.5 year prison sentence in 2019, and has already been released. Alexey Shibanov from Pskov and Lydmila Stech from Kaliningrad still have pending court cases, and may receive real prison terms. Unfortunately, we do not have contact with any of these people.
Three persons from the anarchist movement have been repressed in connection with the Zhlobitsky case. Kirill Kuzminkin from Moscow, who was in contact with Zhlobitsky when he was 14 years old, was given a probational sentence on 9th of April of this year, for preparation and storage of explosives. Vyacheslav Lukichev from Kaliningrad was sentenced to a fine of 300 000 rubles (circa 3000 euros). Queer anarchist Alexandr Merkulov from Saint Petersburg was transferred to home arrest last December, after spending almost half a year in a remand prison. He is still waiting for his court trial to begin, and he is in need of support. The rest of the 20 felony cases have resulted only in fines or probational sentences.
Prison address of Hadad is Smolnikov Maksim Fyodorovich 29.12.1983, SIZO-1 Znamenschikova 6, 680038 Khabarovsk, Russia. Note that mail of remand prisoners is often detained. Letters are much more likely to go through if written in Russian, you may use online translation for that. You may also write to Hadad via form in Rosuznik website.
Translation of the post by Hadad
In Arkhangelsk, 17-year-old student Mikhail Zhlobitsky, a lone anarchist, blew
himself up in the FSB building, wounding several FSB officers.
This suicide act was motivated by the state repression against various political activists, the systematic torture of prisoners by the FSB, Center "E", FSIN, and so on.
Obviously, this desperate act was intended to draw public attention to the arbitrariness happening in the country rather than to commit a military attack. This is more like an act of self-immolation, rather than a guerrilla or terrorist attack.
Mikhail was not a member of any anarchist organization, he shared his views only in open chats. But there is no doubt that the authorities will try to take advantage of the situation, increase the onslaught on existing organizations, most likely the prisoners of the "Network" case will suffer greatly, and, as possible, they will begin to fabricate new cases more actively.
Anarchism in the Russian Federation is not on the rise, active and reasonable people are greatly lacking. Perhaps, if there were a close-knit collective of anarchists in Arkhangelsk, a guy, with the support of his comrades, would find a more constructive forms of struggle for himself. I think this is too high a price and I grieve.
I would also like to express my condolences to the relatives and friends of the deceased.