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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

- 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

- 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

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

- 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.

Posted in english language, ex-soviet region.

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