Through the Looking-Glass and through the hell

In August, Pyotr Silayev was arrested in Granada, Spain by anti-terrorist special forces. He was then moved to Madrid, where the Audiencia Nacional was to make a decision about his extradiction to Russia. All this based on charges stemming from a demonstration organized by anti-fascists and enviromentalists against the city administration of Khimki, Moscow region. He was released after 8 days, but he is still stuck in Spain, pending the decision of his extradiction to Russia. In the article below, he goes back to the events of autumn of 2010, in order to explain why he should not be extradicted to Russia.

Through the Looking-Glass and through the hell

"And in Melitopol I had to dress up in a prisoner's robe"1)

I was asked to write about my time in a Spanish prison, but I have not much more to say, except that every second I praised the lord that I am not in a Russian prison.

In Spain, we criss-crossed the concrete floor every day together with drug dealers and robbers. We played ping-pong and black jack, chewed apples, but my thoughts were far away. I was thinking about the hell covered in eternal snow, which is the Možaisk remand prison; where bandits and villains want to torment me for the following 13 years.

Why? Why do these people exist in the first place? They arrest me. Strela (ed. Vladimir Streltchenko, the former mayor of the city of Khimki) offers them bounty, and then what? What would they do with it? They would have a barbeque, get some booze, food, travel to Israel, buy a house in the Czech Republic, maybe here in Spain. In order to travel there, and not be able to do anything, not know anything. Only talk with people like themselves, with thugs, not knowing any language, lying down, missing Russia.. and then, only to come to back to Moscow as fast as possible, in order to further torment, break and put pressure on poor Russians, defenceless, hapless and timid. No, no way should I go to Možaisk, to go to prison and to die in Russia - it is a shame, to paraphase Yegor Letov.

When I was released from prison, I didn't know what to do and for a few days I was just wandering around in Madrid. I walked in the parks, slept on benches, fed the carps which were swimming in the ponds, and I got a phonecall from Alexey Gaskarov. He had been taken hostage by Strela two years ago.

He had come to Spain to have a holiday at the sea – and the next day I met him at the bus station. We hadn't seen each other for three years.


"How was your time in prison?" he asked me.
"Nothing special. The only thing I learned was where to get a half ton of cocaine. How was your time in prison?"
"Not very nice," answered Lyosha. This is the story he told me.

When he got arrested I wasn't too worried. Alexey went voluntarily to interrogations. He came to Khimki as a reporter for the "Institute of Collective Action". Several photographers and cameramen recorded the whole action, and none of the footage has recorded Alexey being involved in any crime.

Of course, four years ago Alexey had already gotten used to police yelling and promising "you won't make it out of this place alive." Cops themselves were aggressive and perplexed at the same time. There was a demand for decisive measures, but they had no idea how to act in such situations. Obviously, to them the main question was "who had paid for this." Moscow region authorities were suspecting Moscow city ones, cops were suspecting the FSB, Russian leaders were suspecting foreign spies.

Alexey had nothing to answer to such accusations. He remembered, how in the Khimki railway station some local, an old man, had shown up and volunteered to show the way to the city administration. Two years later, we still don't know who this fatal pensioner was. No surprise, that the cops did not buy this story.

All of this: a cancelled punk concert, anti-fascists, environmentalists, Russian forest. For them it was something from another galaxy, completely incomprehensible. Alexey was put into remand prison, the only place where Russian investigators are able to proceed with their cozy "investigative actions."

It was a strange piece with one protagonist. It lasted for the first days in prison. The actors changed from time to time, but not the topic. They brought some guy to the jail cell where Lyosha was. He introduced himself as "blatnoy"(criminal), "an authority of the prison world," and asked Alexey straight up how much he was paid, and who should answer for the bespredel (violation of the rules of the underworld). Alexey, who has two higher education diplomas, would not put up with this charge. He had never listened to criminal songs, nor hung out in staircases with hobos, and he could dot figure out why he should answer for the "bespredel" to some random guy.

This guy claimed, that he had been sent by "thieves' assembly," which was very concerned with the "kipež," disorder in Khimki. It had provoked increased police activity due to which profitability of their own activities had dropped. He insisted for compensation for the losses, either from Gas karov or from whoever had ordered the "kipež". Alexey remembers, that it was as if he had gone through the looking-glass.

The year was 2010, and someone was telling him some bullshit in the style of Friedrich Neznanskoy's detectives. The most incredible thing was, that the criminal investigators of the Moscow region were certain that this was how they would get him to crack. As if they were stuck in some psychological past and were certain that all other people would behave and respond in the same way.

The next person introduced himself as a wholesale drug dealer. He complained that due to the Khimki protest, he had lost out on a major deal. And Alexey, or whoever had ordered the demonstration, should answer for this. Alexey proposed to the dealer that he should drink better vodka.

The dealer was taken away, but soon he was returned to the cell. This time with a mobile phone. "My lawyer gave this to me. Use it as you like, I will soon be transferred anyway." Suddenly, rage was replaced with gratitude. Alexey decided that one phone call would indeed be necessary. He called one common friend of ours, and uttered just three words, "Leave country now!" Then he hung up and the first chance, passed it on to the next cell, where some hillbilly thieves were held. The next day, Lyosha was transferred to the central remand prison of the region. Outside his cell, there was a pack of guards. A strip search - first they checked his pockets, then they undressed him and asked him to squat. "Where is the phone?!" the investigator lost his temper. "What are you talking about? We are in a prison" countered a naked Alexey. The guards and investigator were very frustrated.

Alexey was then, transferred to the central remand prison of Možaisk, to a cell with some strange characters. A Romanian, and two Georgians, one of them had eight-pointed stars tattooed on his clavicles 2). All three were methadone junkies. Their daily rhythm was defined by speed, doses of which arrived to the cell through the "roads," that is, wires stretched between the windows of the cells. They met Alexey politely, gave him a bed, did not harrass him with any questions. Alexey also decided to behave accordingly, cautiously, did not talk and did not ask for sugar. But this was just the beginning.

One day the guy with the star tattoos, who was the boss of the cell, said to Alexey that they had received a cellphone through the "road," and that he could make a call. Alexey thought that this was a plausible story (each prison has plenty of smuggled mobile phones), took the phone and typed a number. At the same moment, guards began to open the door. As the door opened, Alexey could only throw the phone under the mattress. Everyone was taken out into the corridoor, the guard entered the room and the next second came out with the phone. Everyone was put in again.

And so the series of events began. All three surrounded Alexey immediately, and began an endless discussion, which went on for the whole week. That it was his mistake that the phone from the "thieves' fund" was lost, and he should compensate this, and come up with at least 6000 dollars. That is a lot of money, and Alexey would now have to sell his real estate or contact his "master," who had ordered the action in Khimki, in order to pay his debts to the "thieves' fund." Alexey fell into a depression. This time there was an obvious mistake; a common phone had been lost, and somehow, the problem had to be solved. Of course, all the phones are smuggled into the remand prison by the guards
themselves. With his contacts, Lyosha found a way to smuggle the same exact type of phone as the confiscated one, with cost 300 dollars. The boss of the cell did not like the proposition; the phone itself was not the issue, but the contact list, which had the numbers of “Dried Thief,” “Cooked Thief,” and “Baked Thief.” The whole criminal network was now uncovered due to Gaskarov's heedlessness. From now on, Alexey began to figure out what was going on. The endless discussion about the "thieves' code," "thief authorities" and "thief assemblies" began - and all of them ended in the the same conclusion, that Alexey should finally contact his masters for financial aid. Meanwhile, he should make a contribution to the "thieves' fund." Lyosha contacted his mother and told her to to put 5000 euros in a given bank account. The next day, so much methadone arrived to the cell via the "road" that all three specialists in the "thieves' code" were high for several days in a row. When they recovered, they were even more energetic, harrassing Lyosha even more, asking further contributions to "thieves' fund" in a more and more direct tone. Alexey stopped answering questions. He no longer sat at the common table. Something smelled rotten.

One time, the guy with the star tattoos once again began the chat about money with Alexey. When he did not answer, the guy cursed out loud. Alexey understood that this was the end, he clenched his teeth and punched the "thief authority" in the face. Alexey was immediately jumped by all three, but they were so weakened by the drugs that in the end they were unable to maim him. Alexey succesfully defended himself several minutes, until the guards finally entered the cell.

That day Alexey had an appointment with his lawyer. He showed up battered, bloodied, brusied, with his eyebrows torn up and bleeding. This impressed everyone. That evening, Alexey was taken back to the same cell, but his co-habitants had changed drastically. They stepped aside kindly, served him tea, and the beaten up "thief authority" told him that he'd shown himself to be a true man, he had paid his dues to the underworld, and from now on he owed nothing to anyone. Alexey understood that he was a doomed man.

From then on he only slept when the other inhabitants of the cell were high on methadone. At night they woke up, and Alexey woke up as well; he was waiting for an attack at any moment. He and his lawyer wrote endless appeals to the administration of the remand prison, but all of them were ignored; Alexey was kept in the same cell. He has difficulties remembering the events during the two weeks that followed, as he was wandering in the middle ground between dream and delirium. He remembers, that during their time awake the "thieves' committee" was mostly busy scamming the rest of the prison population by wire. For example, when a packet of methadone was passed from a cell to another through their cell, the "committee" immediately consumed it and sent back a note claiming that the next cell had stolen the drugs. A conflict would start, and in one of the cells there was always some gullible boy who had to pay for all the lost drugs - 300, 600 or 1500 dollars. Alexey was waiting.

At last, somewhere in between dream and reality, he saw a spark of hope – the metallic shine of a screwdriver. He quickly jumped up from his bed, kicked the Georgian and jumped on the upper bunk. All three were armed and surrounded him, they attempted to reach him with blades and cut a tendon. The upper bunk was the best place from which to defend oneself, and he felt that the strange dance continued for ages. He remembers, that in the end all of it seemed completely surreal; like some kind of addictive game, king of the hill with blades. After five minutes, when the attackers were already feeling more tired, the guards entered the cell.

Alexey went to the head guard of that shift, and said that was it, unless he was moved to another cell, there would be a corpse in the cell the next day. Either him, or some of the others. Finally, Gaskarov was moved to another cell with an old man and a junkie. No more "thieves' funds," and other such types. As if none of it had ever existed in the first place. After some days, Gaskarov felt more secure and he joined the exchange the between "roads" in order to figure out what had happened. No, no way should I end up in Možaisk, to go to prison and to die in Russia - it is a shame, to paraphase Letov.

He found out, that the whole prison was controlled by ten Georgian methadone junkies, all in cooperation with the administration. Their business was to cheat inexperienced prisoners and their relatives; tricks such as the lost mobile phone or dose were some of many. Most of the people, who end up in prison for the first time, are shocked, and their picture of prison life is heavily poisoned by the distorted image constructed by the mainstream media and tabloids. As incredible as it sounds, many of these kids (and most of the people doing time) are in for breaking statute 228 of the criminal codex – posession of a few grams of weed or a piece of hashish. They are so naive, that they really beg their parents to sell their homes in order to "pay their dues" to the "thieves' fund." All, in order to avoid immanent punishment. And their fear is not ungrounded. Most of the money, received via blackmailing, is passed to the administration of the prison, which is paying the "thieves' committee" with drugs, and is using "thieves" as enforcers. One is taken out for a walk in the yard, where 10 armed Georgians are waiting, ready to break his spine if the administration asks for it. Gaskarov began to wait for his turn, and soon he received his ticket through the cell window .

Via the "roads" he received an official announcement, that a "serious talk" was awaiting him in the prison yard that very same day. Alexey looked around his cell. It was stupid, ridiculous and disgusting at the same time. Was he really going to die like that? It was so pointless. The guard came, and announced pompously, that today he was going to the yard at 4 PM - alone. From then on, Alexey started counting the hours.

Sometimes it happens like this, just by coincidence. Right then, on the third week since the arrest of the "Khimki hostages," a wide campaign for their release was launched internationally. There were actions in Paris, Helsinki, New York, Jerusalem, Berlin, everywhere. That was indeed a loud case - and thank you everyone around the world, it was a big show of solidarity. Slowly, the echo reached the distant brains of the Russian prison system, who understood that this particular person could not be crushed so simply and quietly. That it was not just the issue of Khimki, but a far wider one, with far more threatening legal implications. That they were no longer playing in their own backyard, and perhaps, during those very hours Ivan Semenych called to Vladimir Stepanych said that this guy should not be killed. The guard did not come again that day. That was end of the methadone story.

There were no further adventures during the remaining three months of Alexey's imprisonment. Most of the time he was jut reading. But there were a couple of other strange coincidences. Once, a deranged man was brought in to his cell. Later on they figured out that it was singer-pedophile Konstantin Krestov. During his time in remand prison, something bad had happened to him. Now his head was half shaved, and there was a crazy smile on his face. He clung to the last straw, and pretended to be crazy. When he entered the cell, he headed straight to the TV set, grabbed it and attempted to throw it to the ground.
Everyone in the cell was stunned for a second, and then they began to kick him towards the door, so that guards could move the singer to another cell.

A second time, Alexey woke up in the morning and figured out that someone was sleeping under his bed. He thought this was weird, so he asked his cellmates what was going on. At that point, his neighbours were a pack of young junkies, and they told him that the new inhabitant of the cell was accused according to statute 135, "debauchery with a minor." They immediately demoted him to the lowest outcasts of the prison, and he was kicked under the bed. Guard were supposed to move him to another cell in a few hours. Later on, Alexey asked guards about the guy, and was told that he was in prison because his wife had attempted to take over their property by informing authorities that he had been walking around naked in his home in front of a child.

One month later, the same man appeared in the story of the other "Khimki hostage," Maxim Solopov, who was held in the same prison. At some point, the prison administration decided, that it would be a good idea, which would not demand any further physical harm, to make him a prison outcast. He was moved to a cell alone, and after a few hours this same nudist was put into his cell. He looked around, saw an unsuspecting Max and said, "this is some kind of mistake, an outrage. The prison administration wants to entrap you – they are doing something very bad to you. I see that you are a new person here - do not come close to me, I could mean trouble for you. Let us do it this way. I will now start to hit the door and to shout, do not worry, everything will be alright." He immediately jumped to the door, began to kick it and to yell that he was about to be killed. Max watched his performance with eyes opened wide. The guards came, the "debaucher" was taken away, Max was beaten up a bit but with approval. "The lad did not fuck up."

Alexey travelled back to the coast, and I was sitting down in the bus station and wondering. What kind of SHIT is all of this? What could be a suitable punishment for those, who are able to do this to their fellow human beings for a barbecue and a summer cottage in Czech Republic? Or to people who are fine with living that life?

A long time ago, when I was still a young man, there was a little fellow in the city of Kirov with the surname Ryabinkin. He was 14 years old and he had a punk band in which he was singing. In one of their songs, ther was a chorus, which went like this

"Why do these people live - they rather should die".

On this, I agree with him completely.
Pyotr Silayev


1) This is a line from a famous prisoners' song, which was performed by Arkadi Severi and Vladimir Vysotski. You can listen to Vysotski's version here:

2) The eight pointed star is a Russian prison tattoo, which marks a total commitment to blatnoy (criminal) way of life and a total refusal of prison authority.

Russian original

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